Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Monday, December 28, 2009

More zzzzz's please

When we first decided to stage a sleep intervention, our primary goal was to improve the quality and quantity of Roscoe's sleep in any way we could. The No Cry Sleep Solution has been my handy reference ever since.

For babies like Roscoe, who wake frequently during each sleep cycle, a trick we read in the NCSS is to intervene with whatever means typically used to soothe the baby (nursing, pacifier, etc.) just before he wakes up in an effort to prevent him from fully waking--now I always have an ear out for the smallest little squeak or rustle, and I've perfected my sprint on tip-toe between his room and ours, which is connected by a long hall. We found that pushing the white-noise button on his swing usually does the trick. As the theory goes, the baby will become accustomed to sleeping for longer intervals and will eventually do so without any intervention. I definitely see this happening at night, but his nap time sleep still requires a lot of button pushing.

Roscoe's naps are much more predictable and he's naturally gravitated toward a schedule of two naps a day, one each at 9:00 and 1:00. Consistent nap times not only offer great structure to the day, but they are a sanity saver since I can count on having a specified chunk of time to get out of the house without worry over disrupting his routine.

Thankfully, putting Roscoe to sleep is no longer a struggle. Gone are the days of efforts greater than two hours to convince him to sleep. I'm more effective at reading his "I'm sleepy" cues, and we've created a calm predictable routine that lets him know that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. A big (and awesome) improvement is that he no longer needs to be nursed to sleep. Nursing is often the last step to our routine, but most of the time he is awake or drowsy when I transfer him to the swing. With a better appreciation for timing, there is little to no fussing involved.

For now, Roscoe takes his naps and sleeps during the night in his swing. Luckily, we didn't have to transition to this arrangement because he was already comfortable sleeping in his swing during nap time. Andy and I have changed our sleeping arrangements as well, and we're currently camped out in our guest bedroom, which is next-door to the nursery, in order to be closer to Roscoe. We also hooked up our baby monitor to help decrease our response time. While I miss my baby's body curled next to mine, and the little dance he does with his toes on my belly, I don't mind the chance to share a bed just with Andy, or to sleep on my back again.

His night wakes have improved dramatically from once every hour and a half to once every 3 to 4 hours, and the past two nights he woke only twice: once at 11:30 and once at 3:30. Andy and I have been side eying each other over this all day. We don't want to get too excited, but this is pretty major!

Overall, Roscoe logs about 13 hours of night and nap sleep, which still falls about an hour short of the range for his age. And he does continue to stir frequently, but I no longer nurse him at every transition--hurray!--and with the help of the button (which isn't needed all the time) he is getting better at falling back to sleep on his own.

In addition to a new sleep routine, we now feed him solids after he wakes from each nap. This gives me a small break, since other people can feed him, and it ensures he gets a larger (hopefully more satisfying) milk meal when he does nurse. Amazingly, in less than three weeks he actually gained 2 pounds which is a big deal for him considering his average weight gain has been about one pound/month since birth.

Most importantly, Roscoe seems much happier. His attention span is greater, and he doesn't require constant cajoling or distraction. He seems to have more energy to invest in reaching milestones, and giggling. I do feel like we've accomplished a lot and I am proud that my effort has made such an impact. Despite feeling miserable much of the time, the payoff is worth it.

Of course, there is still room for improvement so looking to the next 10 days we're going to focus on being even more consistent with a formal nap and bedtime routine, work on transitioning Roscoe from the swing to his crib (because at 7.5 months, his mobility poses a safety hazard), and eliminating the button pushing.

I can't say that Andy and I feel like new yet, but our hopes are high and our fingers are crossed for more zzzzzzzzz's.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Roscoe's 1st Christmas

Christmas Eve began with a visit to the North Pole. Roscoe happily sat on Santa's lap, and intently picked at the furry trim of his coat in between shots. Later that night, donning his christmas pjs, Roscoe and Poppa read some new books while I made batches of eggnog, irish cream, and chocolate cookies. My family joined us at our place after dark and brought with them a lasagna dinner that we enjoyed under the hush of a sleeping Roscoe.

After everyone was gone, Andy and I got to work. We tip-toed around by the light of the tree, strategically placed Roscoe's gifts, filled his stocking with goodies, and left telltale crumbs in place of the cookies we had set out earlier.

The magic of Christmas is back!

We went to bed with visions of sugar plums, and enjoyed three uninterrupted hours of sleep before I heard my name wailed through the dark. Roscoe slept in 3-hour intervals all night, which was a welcome gift.

By 6:00 am we were digging into our stockings, and helping Roscoe to open his gifts. We gave Roscoe a few fun things--a drum, a set of blocks, a puzzle, and a hedgehog push toy. He taste-tested each one and seemed to approve.

It is so much fun to see him play with toys that are not stuffed and don't squeak--suddenly, he seems so much older, more capable. Now we know the fun is just beginning.

After a pitifully short nap, we left for my parent's house where we gorged on breakfast foods galore, and indulged in Christmas number two. Highlights for Roscoe included a five-foot tall giraffe (just ¾ of an inch shorter than me!!), a wagon, and a beautiful quilt designed and sewn just for him by his Grandma—it’s the sweetest blankie I could have imagined with a monkey theme that fits Roscoe perfectly. I lucked out with a massage, and a few other really nice surprises.

He was immediately in love with his Giraffe, as were we!

Roscoe gave Grandma a special plate we made together a few months ago:

Back at home we lounged and waited for Roscoe’s Tippy and Poppa to arrive. We were lucky to have door-to-door service twice this year which made the Holiday completely relaxing—they brought all the fixings for a yummy brunch which we hurried to finish as Roscoe showed signs of getting tired. The Click Clack Ball Track they gave to Roscoe was an immediate hit and offers hours of future fun. He watches the balls intently now and tries to touch them as they roll down the track. It won’t be long before he’s putting the balls at Start on his own.

Andy's dad is an avid photographer and every year he puts together and dedicates to his grandsons a bound book of his favorite photos. In addition, this year he helped Andy's Nan create a memoir of her life which we read together snuggled in bed as Christmas day was winding down. As always, the sentimental and personal gifts are the best ones.

Roscoe brought an extra sparkle to our Christmas festivities this year. He brings us so much joy. I can only guess at how rich the holidays will become as our family grows. Roscoe made out like a little bandit, and we got a taste of what fun it is to bring holidays that are full of magic and surprise.

Christmas Giggles

Chloe loves to unwrap things. We've always found her to be entertaining, but this year she had a captive audience:

Does the sound of a baby's belly laughs ever get old? I hope not.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Silent Night

I wish this post was about how Roscoe miraculously slept through the night. Instead, it is about how he did just the opposite.

Running on 2 or 3 hours of sleep Wednesday morning, I canceled the Nanny, demanded that Andy stay home to help me, and then turned to begin a full days work. I felt like I had hit bottom.

As things go in parenting, "it's not a problem, unless you think it's a problem."
Your kid will sleep only if he's nursed to dreamland? You love the quality time? Thumbs Up!! Your kid demands to be held at all times? You're more than happy to drop everything and tote the little one? Lucky babe! Your kid wakes every hour during the night? Your eyes are burning, your patience is whittled, and you can no longer function as a human being? Understood.

A good piece of advice (parenting or otherwise): if you don't like it, change it.
So we implemented change, and I'm happy to report that progress is being made. But the effort is all-consuming. In fact, I literally have not left the house since last Thursday. SIX DAYS AGO. We did have a snowstorm over the weekend, which accounts for 2.5 days of shut-in, but the rest are a result of an attempt to determine what Roscoe's sleep needs truly are, when distractions like traveling or outings are absent.

For the time being, Roscoe sleeps in the swing in his room for naps and night sleep. I have a philosophy about bed sharing, and I feel that it's being compromised. If all was going well, my preference would be for Roscoe to sleep with us. I also have a philosophy about crying, and I feel that it, too, is being compromised. I'm not talking cry-it-out here, I'm just saying that in an effort to differentiate his needs, he is sometimes left to cry longer than I would like.

The emotional aspect of this whole fiasco is way more than I could have guessed. There's nothing like knowing what your child needs and not being able to provide it or, in this case, coax it into fruition on a reasonable timetable. We're dealing with sleep here, which cannot come fast enough. And the reality is that while Andy is a willing and engaged Poppa, Roscoe's sleeping and eating needs disproportionately demand more of Momma. The demands are persistent, around the clock, and I just can't catch a break. Showering? Gyming? Brushing my teeth? Not happening. Well, maybe every other day, and it's the very last thing I find time to do before my head hits the pillow.

I've been reduced to a ball of stress, anger, exhaustion, and self pity. It's difficult to share our sleep troubles with parenting "values" on one hand, and a long list of complaints on the other. Without sounding like a martyr, I know that I made this bed (no pun intended) with my parenting choices. And hopefully, when Roscoe learns how to sleep better we will be able to go back to what once worked.

When Andy looks me in the eye and says, "I want to make it through parenting without getting a divorce." I know why I married him. And I also get that I'm stretching myself so thin that I'm ready to break.

After the night of no sleep, discouraged doesn't quite describe the way we were feeling.

we suck.

Now that sounds about right.

Parenting FAIL
Also applicable.

I was this close to grabbing Roscoe and tucking him back into bed with us.

But then we decided to be rational. We chose to communicate and we decided to make a list--lists always make things better, right?! We broke down the ways that Roscoe used to fall asleep, the duration of his naps, the number of hours he slept, and compared them to where he is now a little less than 2 weeks later and we couldn't help but pat ourselves on the back because actually, there is improvement in every area except between the hours of 11pm and 7am (the hours during which Andy and I are trying to sleep, of course).

Yes, in a lot of ways we feel worse than we did before we started this experiment. But we should have known that things would get worse before they got better. We'll have a more scientific analysis of Roscoe's sleep, and more quantifiable results after the Christmas festivities have ended. In the meantime, we will continue with our crusade and apologize to our family and friends--who haven't seen or heard from us in weeks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Happy Holiday!!

Last night I sent a letter to the brokerage company explaining the context of the maternity rider situation. This morning at 11:00 I got a phone call from the owner stating that he was able to circumvent the system, and will facilitate the addition of the rider to my policy as long as I retroactively pay for the months of November and December. This also means that I'm covered retroactively and we could get pregnant as early as May--not that we will!

What a relief! And I didn't have to expend nearly as much time or energy as I thought I might.

We won!!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Roscoe's first snow

(Poppa found a snow bunny on the front porch!)

Finders Keepers

For several weeks we had a trip to North Carolina planned for this weekend. We intended to visit Andy's sister and her family, and to meet our newest nephew, Noah. In the trenches of sleep deprivation and ever committed to seeing Roscoe through his sleep challenges, we canceled the trip at the last minute. In the end, a snow storm dumped 2 feet of snow that would have ultimately prevented us from making the drive, which did make me feel better since I was so looking forward to new baby snuggles.

In preparation for our weekend getaway I considered how best to feed Roscoe while away. The food that I've made for him is frozen and perishable, and we don't yet have any containers suitable for packing his meals. While grocery shopping this week I perused the baby food aisle and found these cool bpa-free pouches of certified organic baby food made by Sprout.

There are almost 20 different varieties, with combinations like baked sweet potatoes and white bean, roasted apples and blueberries, and roasted bananas and mango. Each 3.5 oz. pouch is resealable, and you can spoon feed right from the pouch--no heating necessary. I bought several for the road, and also packed an avocado and a banana--both of which can be eaten raw.

Snowed in yesterday, and with a batch of baby food in production, I decided to give Sprout a whirl.

Roscoe devoured the pasta with lentil bolognese. I couldn't spoon it in fast enough. In fact, after that, he ate the entire 3.5 oz pouch of roasted butternut squash--a vegetable I haven't yet been able to find organic at my local grocer. I had to grab my own spoon to try out both flavors for myself--Roscoe and I agree that they are delicious.

These are an awesome alternative to homemade--and they don't include any ingredients that I wouldn't add to his food myself. The flavor combos are appealing, and the format is so convenient and portable. At 99 cents a pouch, I'll definitely be stocking up for future day trips, outings, and road adventures.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ya got me covered?! Oh wait....

When I returned to work after maternity leave I reduced my schedule to a 17.5 hour work-week, and my status changed from full-time to “temporary, part-time, off-site, employee.” I forfeited all paid benefits for the sweet opportunity to enjoy being a mother.

Losing my health insurance stressed me out the most, especially with a pre-existing condition and my complete and utterly compulsive nature when it comes to hypochondria and access to the providers I know and love.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant with Roscoe, Andy and I decided that our first babe would be born at home. Soon after, I left a traditional group practice with physicians and midwives to hire an independent nurse-midwife who continued my prenatal care and later delivered Roscoe. As great as my insurance was at the time, it did not cover homebirth so we paid for the cost out-of-pocket. After verifying that the new policy would be accepted by all my current doctors, my secondary focus was maternity coverage.

Employer based health insurance is relatively comprehensive and straightforward for the consumer; I know very little about private insurance. In September I contacted an expert on the topic, an insurance broker, to learn more about my options. I chose a plan that consists of a base rate with added-on “riders” for extras like dental, immunizations, and maternity. The maternity rider costs an additional $71/month and—as I was told repeatedly—it must be added to the insurance policy at least 6 months before conception, or the pregnancy will not be covered.

On October 31st I said goodbye to solid group health insurance, and hello to a $700 monthly premium for a private individual insurance plan under which the three of us are now covered.

We opted not to add the rider in October when we initially purchased the insurance because we weren't planning to get pregnant until the Summer. Yesterday I called Anthem to request the addition of the maternity rider—we’re 6 months out already!!! I was surprised to learn that open enrollment periods apply to individual insurance too, and that I can only add the maternity rider when I renew the policy (next year!), change policies, or decrease my deductible.

In all the maternity related conversations I had with Anthem and the insurance broker, this fact was never brought to my attention.

Who to blame!?!?

Anthem says it was my broker’s responsibility. When I called him to share that I would be filing with Anthem a formal complaint against him (and actually, I was hoping he would take a stab at rectifying the situation), he attempted to manipulate the truth by insisting that while he did tell me the rider could only be added at certain times of the year, he also considers this information such common knowledge that he shouldn’t have had to explain it to me in the first place…he continued whining that he doesn’t have time (and shouldn't be expected) to explain every little detail written in my contract with Anthem.

American Benefits Planning is so-o customer service oriented!

As it stands, Anthem dictates when we will have our next child. According to them we cannot conceive before July 2011. Lunacy!

Under Construction

Bear with me! My blog redesign is almost complete! Yippee! Do you like it?!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is it the New Year yet?

The New Year Resolution. I've never taken it seriously. It's just a construct, however deeply rooted and everlasting.

Never one to scoff at a clean sheet of paper, this year, January 1 feels like an opportunity. In fact, this year I kind of get it. This year I resolve to lose these last 7 pounds.

I'm two weeks early, but a resolution pre-order is all I can muster. I apologize to myself for being completely unmotivated when the winter chill is extreme, the tree is all a sparkles, and treats are abundant.

Maybe the maternity rider that I just added to our insurance will be the extra kick in the butt that I am clearly lacking.

Yes, I must just get through the next two weeks of food, and festivities. January 1 will be here before I know it, and then I will be ready. I sincerely hope.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sleep Training. kind of. The No Cry Sleep Solution

We are obsessed with sleep. or lack thereof. It's all we can think about. Exhaustion has set in after almost 3.5 months of tending to Roscoe every hour, day and night. The three of us are cranky, dysfunctional, and starting to feel a little crazy as our ability to cope with the demands of our new life has been whittled away.

As a breastfeeding mom it's hard not to beam with smug satisfaction when all goes well, and also feel that I've let Roscoe down now that things aren't. Ever since the Pediatrician suggested that Roscoe's growth may be affected by his constant snacking and poor sleep habits, I can't help but take it personally.

Our parenting philosophy has always centered around Roscoe. Observe the baby. Follow the baby's lead. We didn't seek a schedule and instead tended loosely to a "routine" that varied from day to day, as needed. I never felt it was necessary to manage the way that Roscoe ate or slept in large part because I took extended maternity leave and then did not return to a work schedule that required Roscoe to make any major adjustments. I felt free to go with the flow.

Of course there are any number of variables at play here, but if I had to pinpoint any one event or catalyst, I think that our troubles began when Roscoe was about 3.5 months old and I figured out how to nurse while lying down. During the night, instead of moving to a chair to nurse, or propping myself up to sit with him in bed, I started to nurse him while lying on my side which allowed me to fall back asleep after he latched. This meant more sleep for me--heck neither of us really fully awoke--but it also meant that Roscoe probably missed out on the other half of his meal, which may have contributed to his habit of frequent nursing, and a pattern of frequent wakes.

The more we've tuned into the situation the more obvious it is that that our "routine" just isn't working. At almost 7 months, Roscoe wakes between 10 and 12 times during the night, and his morning "nap" occurs within 30 minutes to an hour after he wakes up. In general, his naps typically last between 30 and 45 minutes and he wakes up from them yawning, fussy, and clearly unrested. It is rare if he is awake for more than an hour before he begins to show signs of fatigue. Some days he acts tired all day.

Every failed nap or sleeping difficulty now triggers a rush of cortisol while a little voice in my head screeches, "this is AFFECTING HIS HEALTH!!" And that is where I draw the line.

The sleepless night saga has unfolded over the past few months and I have resisted implementing any particular sleep training method because I don't really believe in that...but desperation is a great motivator so I decided to take a girlfriend up on her suggestion and bought both the No Cry Nap Solution and the No Cry Sleep Solution. The books arrived last week which coincided nicely with Roscoe's weigh-in, and I read them cover to cover in a matter of days. The more I read the more wound up I became. The dots are connected: we have a lot of issues on our hands.

The No Cry Sleep Solution (NCSS) begins with a detailed nap log, pre-bedtime log, and nighttime sleep log. We completed all three and learned that Roscoe does not get the amount of sleep that a baby his age needs (he gets about 12.5 hours total nap and night sleep, when he should be getting 14-15 hours), he also has a serious suck-to-sleep association, which is no surprise since we cosleep and I have always nursed him on demand. According to the NCSS the fact that he wakes approximately every 30 minutes to an hour indicates that he is not completing a full sleep cycle--in fact a nap less than an hour is considered a "cat nap" and doesn't even count--and that he relies on external factors (i.e., nursing) to help him back to sleep each time he wakes. Those are the biggies, but there is more: our bedtime routine is insufficient, his nap routine is nonexistent, when he is not sleeping with us he sleeps only in his swing--which he is quickly outgrowing. Oy! Where to begin?!

The second part of the NCSS is to choose "solutions" based on what you've learned from the logs. The bottom line is that we now have a plan, and we're taking action instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. The sleep plan we've created coupled with a new approach to feeding will hopefully turn things around for us. I will check back in 10 days after we do another set of logs and hopefully some progress will have been made.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cookie Exchange 2009

After several weeks of planning with some neighborhood girlfriends, the much anticipated cookie exchange was a sweet success!

From greek butterball, to chewy molasses spice, and a savory rosemary shortbread, we had more than 18 different varieties of cookies. Each guest shared their cookies' story which ran the gamut from family recipes, to Washington Post award winners, and ethnic favorites.

Conveniently, the party was just next door to my house so Andy took Roscoe for the afternoon and I enjoyed my first solo event.

I ditched my nursing bra and put on my hostess hat, greeted guests, stuffed myself with sweets and snacks, caught up with old friends and made a few new ones. The biggest prize was the box I carried home that was filled with a tantalizing variety of cookies that will last well into next week... or not!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A breakthrough at 6 months, 3 weeks: The No Cry Sleep Solution

Roscoe's Pediatric office has three locations. The one closest to us happens to be the oldest, the busiest, and the most run-down. We also haven't yet found a provider in the practice who we really like. On recommendation we made an appointment with Dr. Kaplan at the Lorton office which is sparkling new, but because he has such a loyal following, the earliest appointment we could snag was today.

Roscoe's "6 month" appointment (at 6 months, 3 weeks ) was quite eventful.

Roscoe was vaccinated against H1N1 and Influenza (yay!), as well as DTaP, and PCV. They don't like to give more than 4 vaccines at any one visit, so we made another appointment six weeks from now to complete the original 6 month immunization schedule, and the second doses of the two influenza vaccines.

Roscoe now weighs...wait for it... 14 pounds (!). First the 8th percentile, then the 5th, then the 3rd, and now the 1st--which led to a lengthy discussion that covered nursing, solids, and sleep.

The bottom line is that there is value in encouraging Roscoe to go longer between nursings. Specifically, the doc suggested Roscoe nurse approximately every 4 hours--which seems like a stretch to me--but it's a goal that we can work toward, especially now that he is eating solids regularly.

The idea is to feed him solids in between nursing so that he eats every 2 hours, but nurses only every four. This will hopefully translate to Roscoe ingesting a greater quantity of milk (particularly hind milk) at each feed, which will help him stay satisfied for increasingly longer periods of time. And if we are very lucky, this may also facilitate fewer night wakings and subsequent feedings, and result in better sleep for everyone.

Also, the fact that Roscoe wakes up approximately every hour means that his sleep cycles are being cut way short and that he may in fact be overtired much of the time, which could explain his high maintenance tendencies. If we can help him learn to nurse less frequently we may ultimately alleviate several of our problem issues.

Our visit today with Dr. Kaplan was the very first in which we felt respected and supported by our provider, and engaged in a dialogue that had our family's best interests at the heart of it.

The past 6 months have been pretty exhausting and we're the first to admit that we haven't had the energy to implement change even when we wanted to. Our eyebrows are raised with anticipation for what this new approach might mean and we're looking forward to getting started.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas stocking

Roscoe's stocking is complete!

After purchasing the fabric back in October, I followed a pattern I found on The Purl Bee, Purl Soho's sister site. It was an easy project and I asked my mom to help with the sewing since I don't own a machine.

My biggest challenge now is to figure out how and where to hang the stockings this year. Our house doesn't have a fireplace so in past years I've hung them off the ledge of our kitchen island which I recently decided is too contrived. I've considered placing the stocking hangers on the edge of a book shelf, buying a stocking stand that sits on the floor, hanging them off the staircase, hanging them on the wall....

If you don't have a mantel in your home, how do you display your stockings?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekend update

Last week was a busy one, so when snow began to fall Saturday morning we welcomed any excuse to be housebound. I finally found time to complete Roscoe's Christmas stocking (thanks Grandma for helping with the sewing!), wrap a few more gifts for our nephews, bake some peanut butter cookies, and catch up on some reading. Grandma and Grandpa came by for a visit too.

Sunday I braved my first post-baby clothes shopping trip. I'd been putting it off for a handful of reasons to include a need for extra hands with Roscoe in tow, little interest in wasting time and money to buy clothes when I still have 7 pounds to lose, and regrettably letting wardrobe fall to the depths of my priority list as eat, sleep, and workout compete for the tops spots.

Winter rolled in over the past few weeks, and with the colder temps I realized that adding a few new pieces was necessity. Plus, I'm bored with frumping around in clothes that don't fit, and flip flops that are clearly out of season. But my biggest incentive is that I'm co-hosting a party next weekend and I'll be damned if I don't look the part.

I made out with an armful of clothes to carry me through the next couple months, and I'm pleased with how a few cute sweaters and some winter accessories can elevate self image.

This evening we celebrated Anthony's birthday. He turns 21 tomorrow which means that the three of us "kids" are officially adults. Weird. It took becoming a mom at 27 to finally see myself as an adult, but having a 21 year-old baby brother just rubs it in. I can tell time is going to fly from here on out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Can't fight this feeling

As we begin to incorporate solids into Roscoe's feeding routine we take our first step toward weaning. So far our nursing relationship has been a challenging adventure that continues to exceed my expectations. It is sad to realize that reaching this milestone marks the beginning of the end.*

My mom breastfed me, my sister, and my brother. It never crossed my mind to feed my kids any differently. Reinforcing the innate and animalistic nature of mother and child, Roscoe latched on within minutes of being born, but it didn't take long to find out that in this day and age breastfeeding often requires more from both parties, than putting mouth to boob.

The beginning was awkward, and intimate. I was self conscious nursing in the presence of visiting friends and family. Abruptly, the circumstances necessitated a new mindset: my breasts, once a largely sexual--and private--part of my body, were now a means to nourish this tiny, pink, bundle. Anytime. Anywhere. All the time. Everywhere.

Nursing was the one thing that I had not given much thought or research, the only thing I simply trusted would come naturally. With an ex-lactation consultant midwife, and a theoretical community of support via our birthing class, I assumed that if we did happen to run into trouble, certainly someone would know how to fix it.

It took less than 7 days and I was braving the challenges of new motherhood with bleeding, burning nipples.

I cringed with every hunger cry belted from Roscoe's ravenous mouth. At times I wanted to grab my breasts and run far, far, away--in fact, I imitated this very act many times to offer humor to an otherwise emotionally conflicted situation. In one arm I had Roscoe: 7 pounds of newborn with a belly the size of a marble, and an appetite to rival his own mother's. He needed food to grow, and I wanted so badly to feed him. In the other arm I had growing feelings of inadequacy as the task of serving his meals became more difficult and less appealing. I wanted an out, and started looking for the exit.

But what I really wanted was for our breastfeeding relationship to be easier. In truth, I'd never actually watched a baby breastfeed, but from the looks of it didn't babies just open their mouths, latch on, and begin to eat? Why was this so hard for me?

I persevered with the assumption that our problems would resolve on their own, but two weeks went by with no relief, and I was desperate and determined to make this work. La Leche League to the rescue! I wasn't alone after all. My take home message: This is common. Stick with it. It may take as long as 6 to 9 weeks, but eventually breastfeeding will become effortless.

I kept that truth in the back of my mind as I searched the internet for more functional advice. With time I did get the hang of nursing, and Roscoe got the hang of it too. By week six both Roscoe and I were fluent in the art of breastfeeding.

In those early days I did not "recognize" Roscoe, he was so new to me. The only time I felt I truly knew him was when I nursed him. His facial expressions, his grunts, the way his body curled into mine--it was when I nursed that he became familiar. There are qualities of nursing that are difficult to put to words but even in our first days together, breastfeeding inspired me in ways that I had not expected. Never in my life have I gazed into another's eyes as long, or etched so clearly into my mind the features of another human being. The frenzy of feeding is sweet. The rhythmic breaths and gulps come in spurts and I'm completely captivated. My needs as his mother--to ensure his health, and contentment, to meet his need for touch, comfort, and undivided attention, to nurture him, among other things--is largely satisfied during our time spent nursing. Never has his dependency on me been as obvious, or his need for me as blatant.

My body is capable of not only growing and carrying a human being, but also nourishing him exclusively for the first 6 months of his life. I'm a proud momma knowing Roscoe has thrived on my milk alone.

Which brings me back to earlier this afternoon when Roscoe ate with gusto the sweet potato, dates, and brown rice dinner that I prepared for him. I was delighted by his appetite and the apparent pleasure he expressed as he ate. I'm happy knowing that I will still have a role in nourishing my little babe, even after our nursing relationship has ended. And I'm especially pleased that even after he ate a large helping of dinner, he demanded to nurse shortly after.

* Don't worry, I have no intention to truly wean Roscoe any time soon :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Decorating home for Christmas, a light spectacle

In our house, Christmas rolls into town the day after Thanksgiving. It's been that way for years. The advent calendar emerges from storage, the Santas, and candy canes, and other whimsical winter accouterments find their places throughout the house. And every year Andy faithfully sets the stage with his yearly Christmas Light Spectacular.

But free-time is scarce around here of late. So for the past three weeks Andy has been playing mind games about his plans for stringing Christmas lights. I ask him what his design plan is, he responds with, "I don't think I have time this year" or "I'm too tired to get motivated." Ignoring his earlier excuses, I later ask him when he plans to get started on the lights and he responds, "No seriously. I'm not doing them this year."

Andy maintained his position even when his competition began to hang lights the day before Thanksgiving.

Reverse psychology did the trick, and I was practically begging him to get outside and put up those lights! The catch to his whole show was that I had to agree to give him the estimated 15 hours he needs to do it, with no hassling or complaining.

The thought of Christmas without lights was a dark and disappointing one, so I agreed to his terms and Andy got started around 2:30 this afternoon. He's been outside for 7 hours, and remains there as I type.

Stay tuned for pictures!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We're back where we started at 6:30 this morning--lying in our bed. Thanksgiving dinner 2009 has been devoured, the leftovers stashed for a late night raid. Roscoe is sound asleep and we're stuffed to our brims.

Festivities began last night with an impromptu hot cocoa party. The Tahitian Vanilla marshmallows I ordered (a month ago!!) finally arrived, and I made a fresh batch of whipped cream. We also had a little caramel tasting since it seemed Have It Sweet tried to make up for the late delivery by including a bag of gingerbread caramels in my order. No complaints here. We ate an entire log of the salted caramels too.

Today we lounged early, took a drive to pick up some wrapping paper, pulled out all the Christmas decorations to get a head start on tomorrow, and wrapped some of Roscoe's gifts while he napped. It was nice to enjoy a day without chores, or thoughts of work to attend to. Our little email project was testament to how much we have to be thankful for this year, and in the context of Thanksgiving it felt special to do some everyday activities together.

Thinking back to last year when I was just 13 weeks pregnant with Roscoe, and we were free to come and go as we pleased, and stay out as late as we wanted--having a kid does change the tone of the Holidays. This year, we timed our arrival and departure to Roscoe's sleep schedule. On the upside, Thanksgiving has new meaning when a fair hued boy with saucer blue eyes and dimples to melt your heart is part of the deal. Just being out together as a family feels exclusive.

Roscoe's dinner of chicken, apples, and oats was left behind accidentally, so while the rest of us gobbled on turkey, dressing, and a buffet of trimmings, Roscoe had to make due with mashed banana. He ate some, and dumped the rest on the floor.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Hope yours was as relaxing and wonderful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bulk Baby Food Batch #1: Complete!

In the coming month Roscoe can look forward to filling his belly with:
  • Organic Carrots
  • Organic Peas
  • Brown Rice
  • Bananas
  • Dates
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Organic Apple
  • Organic Chicken
  • Oats
I mashed the fruits and vegetables after steaming when appropriate, and used a food processor to chop the chicken and carrots.

I bought the Beaba Freezer Trays, but I just wasn't patient enough to wait for them!

Instead I lined two baking sheets with wax paper, evenly spaced tablespoon-sized scoops of each food, and put the sheets in the freezer. Tomorrow morning I'll combine two to three scoops in Ziploc bags and store them in larger freezer bags.

Think of combinations like banana/date, sweet potato/rice, and chicken/apple/oat. . .YuM!

UPDATE: Here is the result!

I wasn't sure how easy or difficult it would be to make Roscoe's food from scratch, but after going through the process once, it really could not be easier. While I love to buy baby gear, I learned there is no need for special containers or apparatus. I canceled my Beaba order and saved myself 40 bucks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

There are 7 days until December

Check out this adorable ornament I bought from the Brick Kiln....

Now tell me that doesn't resemble Roscoe!

I've purchased a couple items from the Brick Kiln over the past year. The personalization is what does me in every time. I can't resist it.

The Brick Kiln store is closed temporarily but will open again in February so keep them in mind if you want some seriously sweet (and sentimental) gifts in the new year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes...

I've been summoned for Jury Duty.

Virginia law states that breastfeeding mothers are exempt from their obligation to serve. Yippee! Add that to the list of benefits (if you live in Va or one of the 11 other states with a similar law).

I do have to make a written request within 5 days, but that's a small inconvenience compared to driving, parking, waiting, and possibly being picked as a juror. Not to mention pumping....

Check out the breastfeeding laws in your state here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2 ounces of sanity

Last week I received the breastshields I ordered from Hawaii--they arrived 4 days early in a crumpled box tossed on the back stoop. A brief bolt of fear struck through me as I envisioned my shields cracked, or worse. To my relief, they were in perfect condition.

That night after nursing Roscoe to sleep, I hooked myself up to the pump and immediately realized the difference in having a breastsheild that fits: suction.

Just a few minutes into the expression phase and the milk was flowing. The first let-down! Unfortunately, it was the only let-down. My 20 minute pumping session produced one let-down and a little less than an ounce of milk. One single ounce.

I was panicked. How can I workout if I can't leave the baby? I re-channeled my anxiety and committed to pumping once every night with the hope that my body would begin to make more milk in order to cover the "feeding". I've pumped every night since, and slowly but surely, I've been able to produce more milk--last night, 2 ounces which = 1 feeding.

What's even better is that I've been to the gym 5 times since I joined, and on the night that Andy braved it alone, he fed Roscoe a bottle and lulled him back to sleep. I arrived home to a quiet house, a long hot shower, and another pumping session.

It's hard to describe how it feels when everything works. Roscoe seems to be mellowing out and I'm back at the gym. I think I'm getting the hang of being Roscoe's mom, and I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. My life: different but improved.

Here's another note of thanks--I'm grateful for technology that allows me to mother the old fashioned way, and still keep up with the modern day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just for fun: A Quiz

1. When did you find out you were pregnant?
September 18th, 2008

2. How did you find out you were pregnant?
We had been testing with dollar store tests all week, even though we knew it was really too early. I was getting discouraged, so we went to Wegman's to pick up a pack of EPTs. I tested in the bathroom while Andy checked out, but it was negative. I carried the stick out to the car and all the way home. When Andy stopped to get the mail the car light turned on and I thought I saw a very faint line. When we got home, we held it up to the light in the garage and it was definitely positive.

3. How old were you?

4. What was your reaction?
It was unbelievable because it had been only 2 weeks since we started trying and the line was SO faint! We were laughing and crying. It was surreal.

Can you see it?
5. Who did you tell first?
Within five minutes we were knocking on the door of our friends' house who live across from us. We both went in late to work the next morning so we could tell our parent's in person.
PS. They're pregnant now! Due in April :)

Before 6 in the morning :)

6. Did you want to find out the sex?
Yes! We found out at 17 weeks 2 days...BOY! We had our ultrasound in the morning, but didn't find out until our "Sex Reveal" party later that night. Here's where we opened the envelope!

I thought he was going to be a girl :)

Andy was excited!
7. Due date?
May 31, 2009.

8. Did you deliver early or late?
2 weeks early at 38 weeks 2 days. Roscoe was born on May 19th.

9. Did you have morning sickness?
Nothing that a lot of snacking didn't take care of. I felt nauseated every day for the first 11 or 12 weeks, but by 13 weeks my morning sickness had disappeared.

10. What did you crave?
I ate bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes every morning during the first trimester. But I had only one memorable craving: orange juice with extra pulp. It occurred late one night and required Andy to make a run to three different gas stations to find it.
Sans makeup, 11:30 at bed!

11. What irritated you the most?

The uncertainty. I hated spotting in the 7th and 9th weeks. It put me on edge for the rest of the pregnancy. Oh and the lack of support we had for our home birth.

12. How did you pick the name?
We found it in a baby book and instantly liked it, but it just kept growing on us. Then, when I shared our list of possible names with a coworker, he told me that one of his favorite songs is Roscoe by Midlake. We listened to it on repeat for months, and it sealed the deal.

13. How many pounds did you gain throughout the pregnancy?
Somewhere around 45 pounds.

14. Did you have any complications during your pregnancy?
None other than spotting early in the first trimester.

15. Where did you give birth?
At home!

16. How many hours were you in labor?
5 1/2 hours. My water broke at 2:00 pm and contractions started 30 minutes later. Roscoe was born at 7:54 pm.

17. Who attended your labor?
Andy, my midwife, and doula. My sister and mom were downstairs cooking Roscoe's birthday dinner, and they joined us within a few minutes of his birth.

18 . Did you take medicine to ease the pain?

19 . How much did your child weigh?
7lbs 2oz

20 . What did you name him/her?
Roscoe Ellis Hopper

We kept Roscoe's name a secret until he was born, but we had a newborn gown embroidered with his name. Here are a few photos from when my sister and mom found out what we named him:

21 . How old is your first born today?
6 months tomorrow!

22. Who does your child look like?
He has Andy's fair skin and red hair, but his features are a mix of both of us. He has Andy's brow, and feet, but my lips, dimples and eyes. We're not sure about his nose.

23. Did you get mad at your husband during labor?

24. What do you miss most about being pregnant? I loved carrying him with me everywhere I went, especially during my commutes slugging into the city and riding the metro. In the beginning in particular, he was like a little secret that I carried around with me.

25. What do you miss most about life before baby?
I miss the control I had over the simple stuff like sleeping, eating, working out, and leaving the house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Recipe #9: Linguini with Peas and Butter

This recipe was so simple that if we hadn't made the pasta ourselves, I would feel a little silly writing a post about it. The four ingredients are pasta, peas, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and butter.

Mix them together in a warm bowl, and there you have it!

The simplicity of the dish was part of the reason I liked it so much. And we both thought it was surprisingly delicious, even though it did remind us of a meal you might make for a young child on a busy week night.

You really can't go wrong with noodles, cheese, and butter. The peas add great color and balance out the heavier dairy ingredients.

Oh! And these noodles, made from the same batch as our first pasta dish, tasted so much better, which gives me hope for future attempts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1, 2, 1

I went to my first boxing class Saturday afternoon and it was fantastic!

Roscoe, Andy, and I arrived to the gym 10 minutes before the class started. I signed a waiver, then excused myself to give Roscoe a last minute top-off. I made it quick, and had just enough time to wrap my hands and grab my gloves.

The workout began with jumping rope for 5 minutes, followed by a variety of ab exercises that my poor post-baby body found to be quite a challenge. Next, a series of three minute "rounds" of various combinations of punching, interspersed with opportunities to freestyle on the heavy bag that hung from the ceiling. Push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, lunges, and more abs were thrown into the mix, and a cool down with stretching finished off the hour.

I was SOLD and signed up for a membership on the spot. I haven't been that sweaty, happy, or energized in a long time!

Update: my triceps are so sore and tight that I can't bring my hands to my shoulders. Payoff! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Splish Splash, part II

Since Roscoe was born he has taken his baths or showers with us, or more commonly we use a bath sling in the tub. The sling allows for the bathtub to be filled up with enough water to keep him warm, elevates his head above the waterline, and gives his arms and legs freedom to move around. Tonight his sling was in the washing machine, and he's pretty much outgrown it anyway, so we decided to revisit the Wash Pod.

You might remember the first time we used it, which was a mini disaster, but now that Roscoe can sit up more or less on his own, the Wash Pod has proven to be as cool as I had originally hoped.

With a slip-proof cushion nestled into the bottom, Roscoe was so content and seemingly comfy sitting with his legs crossed, water up to his chest. He stayed nice and warm with plenty of room to splash around, and even had enough space to share it with a few of his favorite bath toys.

Speaking of which, I will recommend these fun sea lights made by Munchkin: they have a soft plastic outer that is perfect for little hands, they float, they stick to the side of the tub, and they have three settings: on, off, and blinking. Roscoe really enjoys them! The only downside is that the batteries cannot be replaced when they die, but ours are still going strong several months after purchase, and at 5 or 6 dollars a pair, I think it's totally worth it!

The only downside to the Wash Pod is that when it was time to actually bathe Roscoe (as opposed to play) I had to pull him out, soap him up, and rinse him in the faucet. It wasn't a big deal, but I didn't get the job done without getting wet.

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