#crewlife

I was supposed to be learning how to use the erg safely.

We have an erg, you see. We got it last year because land workouts at the boathouse on top of three practices a week are a lot to ask of a new dad who needs a ride to and from. Graham really likes rowing, though, and it helps his back more than anything except maybe vast quantities of gin, so it’s got my full support.

The erg also got the entirety of my 2013 fitness subsidy, which may have only covered the shipping cost. Que sera, etc. (Big hooray for tech companies that do fitness subsidies, though.)

So, cut to this year…

Rowing is outstanding exercise — everyone knows that, right? — and this still-new mama needs to build back some core strength in the worst way. (Our kid, powered by yogurt and watermelon, is growing. AGAIN.) Graham, still in his novice period, could show me some form basics, but thought I should learn from someone with more experience.

When National Learn to Row Day came around and East Bay Rowing Club did their thing, I signed up, showed up, and…

Well. This was not unforeseeable.

Credit: Allen Demorest, EBRC

(That’s me in the black tank top.) (It’s pretty much always me in the black tank top.)

After the event, there was a two-week trial. I had a lot of fun at the Learn To Row and I already knew it was a good club full of awesome people; I carry the dubious distinction of being the “wife” most likely to turn up at regattas (which, I’ve gotta tell you, feel a lot like band reviews).

And…I had this sneaky suspicion that this was A Thing I Could Do. Maybe even A Thing I Could Be Good At.

If you’ve been reading along since Junior made his appearance, it may have become apparent that I don’t do a lot in the way of leisure activity these days. We are indoor cats, as a general rule, and I have been very, very tired for a while. It’s been a long time since I had A Thing. Desperately needed pedicures don’t count.

“Sara’s coaching the trial,” Graham told me. “If you want to try this, now is the time. You should learn from Sara. Everyone should learn from Sara.”

He’s right. Sara coaches at Mills, but she’s a native New Englander with a lifetime of experience and a Yankee sensibility I can get behind. Someone as anxious as I about learning as much as possible asked about the consequences of missing practices for work or travel.

“People in masters rowing have lives,” Sara shrugged, very meh about the whole thing. “You drop the oar, push the water, repeat. You’ll pick stuff up at every practice, but it’s pretty simple, really.”

Good advice, that. And handy to keep in the back of my mind, because the first practice after our recent trip back east was the worst yet…after the last practice before vacation had been the BEST! EVER! We got to take out a 4! I got put in stroke seat! WE ROWED WITH ALL FOUR! AT ONCE! NO ONE DROWNED!

It was awesome. Then I came back after a break, stroked an 8, and flailed my face off.

But, next practice, I sat in stroke again and we had our best row yet. Power 10s and all. POWER 10S. It feels an awful lot like racing, or so we were told.

(I like stroke seat. It’s my kind of hard.)

SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE? This shit’s addictive. (They do warn you…) I’ve been doing this less than two months, and what stands out most from the Learn To Row, now, is the member of the women’s team who said, “I wish I’d found this earlier.”

Yeah. I get that. This is beating the crap out of me without actually hurting me.

A little more context: Almost two years ago, a little bit pregnant, I stopped training for what I thought would be my first half marathon, the Healdsburg/Wine Country Half. I got up to double-digit mileage and my right hip quit on me — not a full-blown injury, but a persistent pain that made my OB/GYN tell me I was done training for anything. Boo…but it was sort of a blessing, though, because running was starting to feel like a drag.

For me, learning to row feels like nothing else so much as when I started color guard, when I sort of deliberately fell into an athletic thing that made me want to work my ass off. Running? Nah. I’m just in it for the endorphins and maybe the way my Running Butt looks in jeans…which I suppose is literally working my ass off. But I do not wish to run races or long distances, or with a group. (P.S. I’m running again. On my off days. 30 minutes max, plus some core work.) Knitting? Excellent means to several ends, but not, like, a thing I’ll get up before 5 a.m. to do.

In spandex, no less.

Honestly, the comparison to guard is the most apt I’ve got. It’s a team thing that feels more like art than sport. (Also, spandex.) If you don’t get to the boathouse, some of your teammates might wind up doing land workouts instead of getting on the water, and that’s just mean. There’s accountability beyond the point of “I paid for this and I’m damn well going to do it.” Eventually, anyone who’s not really into it seems to wash out.

Plus? It’s fun. It’s fun in the way that mastering hard things is fun, and fun in the way that shared misery can be fun. Being on the water is great! But the estuary is pretty gross. Having powerful legs is great! But, oh, my hands are getting tore up. Likewise, color guard was fun because I liked doing it, but also fun because hey, d’you guys remember how hard it rained in Victoria that one time when the parade route was uphill both ways? And dude, remember when the bus broke down in France?

Oh! And there’s this:

Credit:

Credit: Jordan Norberg, who’s coaching the EBRC novices until she goes back to coaching college dudes in New Hampshire

Not my boat, but it is my crew. I mean…you know? I’m up before 5 a.m. anyway. This beats the hell out of organizing Duplos.

And just like that, we’re both rowing. Once my current coach goes back to her college coaching gig (and oh, how we will miss her!), Sunday’s the only day no one will have practice. Right now, we have the weekends off and overlap on Fridays; I’ve gotten all the Friday practices because I’m learning, but this week I’m out. Graham’s new interim coach was our assistant coach during my two-week trial, and…well…let’s say my novice group has benefited from such excellent coaching that he’s excited to get schooled a bit. (Sustained coaching for his team has been a challenge this year.)

So! Wine Country Rowing Classic in October. Petaluma. Graham’s last novice race, and my first.

Coach says we’ll be ready.

What’s next

So!

We made it through a year or so of parenting and a year of mommyblogging. I’m fully — FULLY — aware that I’ve posted about practically nothing but my kid for the last 12ish months. And hey, I’m pretty proud that I managed to do a post a month to track my little monkey’s milestones. It’s the closest he’ll get to a baby book, because baby? Mommy’s had a blog so long that her penmanship is painfully illegible and journaling triggers her stupid carpal tunnel/tendonitis/tennis elbow crap.

But now that Grayson is walking and jabbering and manifesting a deeply held commitment to his personal autonomy, what’s next? Does the “Goodness Grayson” category take over 8junebugs until the end of time?

Ennnhhh. I think not. I’ve planned on doing the monthly letter thing since Leta Armstong was a month old, but I also like the idea of stopping at a year. Even those letters, though addressed to my son, are a reflection of my growth as much as his, and I’ve still got plenty of growing to do.

There’s the house. I should capture somewhere what we’ve done with this place.

There’s my ongoing attempt to deal with the effects of aging. I had a date with radiology this week for a biopsy on a nodule of my thyroid — a big but almost certainly benign one. Still, facing this shit comes with Feelings, and this is where my feelings go.

There’s some professional stuff that I would have bounced to the blog on my nextJen Communications site, but that site is all but defunct these days. Even if I wanted to freelance right now, ain’t nobody (in this house) got time for that. But it turns out my knowledge appears to be somewhat useful to some folks, so I’d like to bung it down somewhere.

I’ve also hit the point at which my personal life and my professional life are essentially entwined online. We crossed that bridge years ago, really. At 22, I’d’ve died before attaching my personal journal to a resume, but I can’t lie — being myself online has resulted in work. Paid work and job offers/considerations. And when you do web content for a living, nothing shows your passion more than 2,000-word screeds riddled with profanity an after-hours portfolio.

There’s our Unique Situation. I’m deeply troubled by the lack of resources available online for sighted spouses. I don’t know yet what to do about that, but being open and honest about what our life looks like seems like a good start.

There are causes and issues I care about. The struggle I face with Cause/Issue Blogging is that the internet is much, much more full of brilliant people than it used to be. There once was a time when I wrote because I had something to say that I hadn’t seen said elsewhere. That doesn’t happen nearly as often anymore, and thank heaven for it. There are so many strong voices speaking up, speaking out. But that shouldn’t stop me from adding mine.

And there’s still Grayson, who is growing and learning so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep up.

Onward, yes?

Month 12

Dear Grayson –

We made it! Hooray for us!

A year ago, we were meeting you for the first time after a very, very long few days. You were in no hurry to exit, even after 42+ weeks.

Truly, child, we couldn’t have asked for a better indicator of your personality. You are the stubbornest. But you are also smart and funny and loving and curious and adventurous and…oh, kiddo. You already know me too well.

Let’s talk about this month.

12-mos-post-sicknessWe spent most of this month sick. Boooooo! You and I are still getting over the cold, which is probably the same virus that Daddy had earlier this year…which would explain why he didn’t catch it from us.

He did get the stomach bug, though, and boy, was that one a doozy. I was just back on my feet from the onset of the cold; I was getting ready to go to work that Monday, and you…you didn’t want to get out of bed. (You ALWAYS want to get out of bed.) You weren’t just clingy — you were limp against my shoulder, and you threw up your morning bottle. It was a little weird, but we didn’t know then if you’d thrown up or spit up, and you didn’t have a fever.

Then, before naptime, Daddy was getting your bottle ready, and he turned around to find you lying face-down on the kitchen floor, motionless. When he said your name, you raised your head a little to look at him, then put it back down.

And that’s when we called the pediatrician and Mommy left the office. You are never motionless, buster. Never, ever. We’re so grateful that it was only a stomach bug, even if it did rip through the house.

Oh, but then you got your first ear infection, which came with amoxicillin and diarrhea (probiotics helped). Then we had our first Children’s Hospital ER experience when you toppled into the door jamb and put a dent in your forehead (you were fine, but they had us go in anyway). So many firsts! You were just wobbly on your feet for a while after being sick; it’s only in the last few days that you’ve started eating anywhere near your normal intake, kid.

We’d almost forgotten how much you eat…and by “eat,” we still mean “drink.”

11mos-with-bikeYou down at least 32 ounces of formula in a day. At least. You’ll nibble on peeled apples or Puffs or veggie sticks or crackers, but your true, unbridled anti-foodie joy is reserved for freeze-dried fruit yogurt bites, which we refer to as “melties” or “crack.” (Please, dear sweet baby Jesus, don’t let the wrong people overhear when your father says, “I gave him some puffs and crack at lunch.”) The other day, you ate a bit of waffle for the first time in months and I almost cried with relief.

You also like kettle corn, and you prefer red Pedialite to orange. You do not like Cheerios, you adorable alien baby.

We basically offer you whatever we’re eating as well as a few of the things we know you like…but you have no interest in what we’re eating, so it’s hit or miss. Your doctor was going to send us to occupational therapy at 1 year if we weren’t further along than this, but she has since decided that you’re just stubborn and will get around to eating solid food when you’re damn good and ready.

She’s probably right.

This week, you’ve been actually sleeping through the night, rather than sleeping through the night as defined by doctors (five hours at a clip is their rule, but what good is that when Mommy’s still up for the first three of those hours?). You’re in bed around 7 and we don’t hear from you again until at least 4:30…at which point you down 6-8 ounces and go back to sleep until 7ish. If you’ve chowed down during the day, you’re out cold until 7:15am or so, and HOLY GOD IS THAT AWESOME. Don’t get me wrong, buddy, I love spending time with you, but the middle-of-the-night stuff is rough, and you are so much happier in the morning if you get the extra couple of hours.

And a happy you is a very fun you.

12-mos-incognitoYou like to play peekaboo, but what you love most right now is to bring us book after book so we can read to you. You do not necessarily want the pages read in order and we can’t count on you to wait for one story to end before you move on to the next. Most of the time, if I ask you for your favorites by name — “Brown Bear,” “Click Clack Moo,” and “Dear Zoo” — you’ll go get them and bring them to me.

This is the best thing ever, even though Mommy has been hoarse and congested for three weeks.

Today, we gave you your birthday present — an activity table that does a frightening number of things. But it turns out you didn’t need a new toy. You’re old enough for the “I’m gonna get you!” version of “chase,” apparently, and NOTHING is more giggle-worthy than running up and down the basement hall, no matter how many times you fall over (laughing and running at the same time seems hard).

You’re learning the names of many things. You know where your head is, and when asked where hats go, you will press the hat against your head…okay, usually against your face, but it counts and is hilarious (for the last eight months or so, you have heard “Hats go on heads” from me pretty much every day). You also know where your feet are, and I think you know where your nose, ears, and eyes are, too, but you’re just messing with me so I’ll know you’re not my trained monkey.

Last week, when I was folding your diapers on the dining room table, I wanted to see what would happen if I handed you a diaper cover and asked you to put it away. You did it! You toddled into your room and put it on the proper shelf. Then I gave you another one, and you took it in your room and threw both of the covers on the floor, because “NOT A TRAINED MONKEY, MOMMY.”

See also: stubborn.

12-mos-san-diegoBefore (or, possibly, somewhat during) the Whirlwind of Sickness, we held our breath, packed the car, and drove down to San Diego so Daddy could row in the Crew Classic with his team. For a kid who has hated the car since day 1, you were a champ. You handled it all gracefully with the exception of the last 45-60 minutes of the drive in either direction.

It was an 8-9 hour drive on both ends, buddy. You were, as Daddy said, “entitled to a fucking meltdown” after that. Especially with an extremely full and disgusting diaper. The first night, you would only fall asleep in my arms, but after that, you settled right in and greatly enjoyed running in circles around the little condo we rented.

Pro tip, junior: When traveling with kids, try to rent an apartment or condo. How do people do this with one hotel room and kids who are pretty particular about bedtime?

(Also? It was nice to hold you while you slept again. I’ve missed that.)

You and I had lots of quality time together while Daddy was doing Rowing Stuff. We played on the swings and ran around on the grass and avoided napping. We picked up groceries (again, yay for condo rental!) and coffee and smiled at strong, beautiful girls who cooed over you. I got hit with a cookie thrown by one of those girls at a boy to whom she had previously refused to give a cookie as we were strolling past. The wind caught it, and it bounced off my head. I know I should’ve caught it and eaten it, but the best I could manage was shock that she couldn’t have seen that coming.

Seriously. Rowers should pay attention to wind.

We took you to Pacific Beach one morning, but you were not digging it; you were much happier at Fiesta Bay, where you stomped in the water and got mad at me when I wouldn’t let you wade in deeper.

The other thing about the San Diego trip is this: The best way to calm you when you started to get bored and fussy was to put in an old Stanford Harmonics CD. This is entirely my fault — it’s an easy sing-along CD and I used to drive a lot, so it’s lived in my car for over a decade and you’ve heard it pretty often. We listened to clever but questionably mixed covers of 80s and 90s pop music over and over and over again, and your father hasn’t quite recovered yet. (He much preferred Hookslide, but you didn’t.) He’ll still let out a disgruntled “…and gave me a Vegemite…sandWICH” from time to time.

Everyone told us to treasure this time, that it would go by fast and you would never be this little again. That last bit is true, but you know what, buddy? We’re okay with it. Our experience wasn’t that “It all went by so fast,” at least not for the first six months. I think it’s more that, as they say, the days are long and the years are short.

I’m not going to lie — this day last year was pretty long. But it was worth it. We’ve had one year to get to know you so far, and you crack us up every day.

newborn

2013

1yo-birthday-morning-walk

2014

I love you, little man. I love your laugh and your scrunchy face, your dirty little feet and your amazing little hands. I love your cuddles, and I love when you look at me and deliberately turn and run the other way because you’re not done doing whatever it is you’re doing that I’m about to make you stop doing. I love when you try to tickle me, I love how you cross your legs at the ankles when you eat, and I love how you’ve figured out that I will kiss blanky goodnight if you ask me to. I love how you play with Rodney, how you look at Daddy, and how you shriek when it’s time to go outside.

I love you through and through, buddy. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.

Mommy

Month 11

Dear Grayson –

Walking. You are walking walking  walking walking walking walking walking walking walking walking walking!

That settles it. You’re officially a toddler now. You wobbled about for a while, but then, one day, you had the opportunity to tackle the back staircase (with supervision). You climbed one step after another, in a straight line, until you got all the way to the top. First try, kiddo.

After that, walking wasn’t an “almost” anymore. It must have seemed like a piece of cake after scaling the stairs. You went from “I can maybe do this” to “I AM SO DOING THIS RIGHT NOW” without looking back. This has led to a whole series of new bonks and bruises, because you are pretty fearless when you’re running around the house.

11mos_with_rodney

 

Rodney is still the BEST.

 

Aside from the walking, everything else is pretty much status quo. You still prefer liquids to solids, but you do love your apples. (Not applesauce. That stuff is gross.) You had a cold. (That was also gross.)

11mos-full-of-itYou know what “No” means, and you DEFINITELY know when you are being naughty. You reach for things you know you’re not supposed to touch (cords or cables that couldn’t be moved when we babyproofed, mostly) and look at us to see if we’re paying attention, if we will say, “Ah ah ah!” or come right out and say “No.” (Or, “No, no, no, sir!” because we want you to stop but don’t want to sound mad at you.)

You’re really, really strong, and diaper changes are full-on wrestling matches when you’re feeling sassy. You have tremendous timing when it comes to wriggling. Still new to this, I struggle sometimes to restrain you on the changing table — because SAFETY — without hurting you as you try basically put all of weight on your head and use your neck as a lever.

I guess naughty was just your M.O. this month, buster. I’ll be honest — I prefer the running-in-the-other-direction version to the full-back-bend-on-the-changing-table version.

We’ve started using the stroller more and more, at least for longer walks. You weren’t sure about it at first, but then you discovered that there was a cup that could hold Puffs for you to eat at your leisure. Now, you stick your hand in the cup before you’re even locked in.

11mos-stroller-puffWe’ve had a playdate or two and we went to Habitot with our New Mom support group, also known as our Baby Buddies. We’re working on getting to know the kids in the neighborhood, too, but…child, that’s going to be way easier when you guys can just walk down the street, knock on the door, and start playing; coordinating adult schedules is sort of bananas. There’s one little girl down the street who just adores you, though, and always has pets for Rodney, too.

You have more patience in the car now, which is great, because we’ve got a big road trip coming up and we’re dreading the ride. For the most part, though, even though you are feisty and spend a lot of time testing boundaries, you’re not overly fussy unless you’re hungry.

Or bored. Boredom is something I worry about a little bit, because you’re basically confined to the upper floor of the house most days. You’ve explored every inch of it. You’ve looked in the unlocked drawers (and broken at least one), you’ve pinched your fingers in the garbage can, and you make a daily (/hourly) game of strewing your diaper covers around your room. You’re at the stage when playing outside would be awesome, but our yard is all cement and you’re not quite stable enough on your feet yet to run around out there. (And OPD is dealing with the big kids who are trying to claim the park down the street…but that play space is a little too old for you right now.) We’re working on the remaining babyproofs to let you explore downstairs a bit, but frankly, downstairs is sort of boring. We may just need to get better about scheduling some out-of-the-house activities. And, at some point, there will be more that you can do inside the house. Coloring, inside the lines or out, is a little out of reach for you at the moment.

Plus? You’ve got a birthday coming up. I have a feeling your toy collection is about to get upgraded…

I love you,

Mommy

L’allaitement est finis

In early February, Grayson kicked off what we hoped was a nursing strike.

It was just before 11pm on a Friday — his new witching hour. He was reverting to his extra-wake-ups routine just in time for the week Mommy had early meetings, high-level presentations, and deadlines. I knew he didn’t wake up from actual hunger but once a night, sometime between 2 and 3:30. But when he’s teething or Learning Something Big or not feeling well, there’s a wake up before midnight and another around 4:30 or so, just late enough that…

Yeah. Once, maybe twice? He was up FOR THE DAY at 4:45 because it was easier than letting him scream for at least half an hour. Because Grayson.

And things were going on. He was cutting a giant front tooth, and I’d thrown my back out and started physical therapy. There were maybe two days when I could hold him, but not lift him, and a few when I couldn’t get him in or out of the crib. So we tag-teamed night wakings the way we did when he was brand new and I was recovering from the c-section. Graham would go get him while I adjusted to a reclining position, Grayson would nurse in the bed, and Graham would take him back to the crib. (The crib wasn’t part of the new-new-newborn routine, but it took me time to get in position.)

Co-sleeping would’ve been ideal for this, but…nope. Not with this kid. Not until it’s a bit safer and he doesn’t go exploring before his eyes are even open yet. Besides, it was only a few nights and nursing was the most reliable way — the only way, really — to soothe him back to sleep.

But then…

That night, he just stopped.

No weaning. No warning. Just…done. I went in to nurse him back down and he wanted none of it. He’d start to latch, then stop and get really, really upset. This was one of the reasons we thought it was a strike, and probably a result of the incoming tooth. Another reason is that he still wasn’t into solids (and he still isn’t).

That first night was rough. He’d had baby Advil (teeth!), and he wouldn’t eat and refused any other comfort (blanky, skin-to-skin, snuggles…no, no, NO) so we eventually set him back down and tried to let him self-soothe, which was a disaster.

He eventually went back to sleep, but not for long. When he woke around 3 and still wouldn’t nurse, Graham made a bottle and I hooked myself up to the pump and began to fret.

The thing about being obsessed with nursing, annoying though it may seem, is that we knew what to do. (Fretting, however, is a thing you’re not supposed to do. Like that’s realistic.) Keep offering. Try different positions and locations. Get him when he’s groggy or asleep. Pump on his feeding schedule to keep up supply. Bottle feed and supplement as necessary, because, when you get right down to it, “Feed the baby” is the only rule that matters.

Nothing worked. Nothing for days. We wondered if missing me when I went in to the office on Monday would help. Nope. Would being topless and accessible take the pressure off? No way. Bait and switch? Oh, HELL NO. Within one day, he stopped even pretending to latch; within two, he was resisting before we even got to the glider, where we normally nursed. By that day, though, my instinct told me he was done. And having him push me away, over and over again, was killing me inside.

We still did all the things. I was pumping like crazy, trying to keep up. We worked out schedules and plans for solids, but we were supposed to do that anyway. I bought formula to have in the house in case the stress of keeping up with his bottles tanked my supply. And the following week, I had a conversation with the lactation consultant who was so helpful in our first weeks.

What she said surprised me…except that I already knew she was right.

“I think he’s telling you he’s done.”

“Wait, what? You’re supposed to be more gung-ho than I am. Why aren’t you pressuring me to get him back on the boob?” (I can be a little direct. I find it saves time.)

“I’m a lactation consultant, yes, but I’m also a nurse practitioner, and I think we have to honor babies’ needs and desires. Someone has to initiate the weaning process eventually, and I think he just did that.”

Graham maintains that quitting cold turkey should not be called weaning. I am inclined to agree.

Our LC was stunned that he wasn’t on solids at all, especially because he’s mobile and likes to chew on everything, and she told me there’s no way my supply could increase enough at this point to keep up with his caloric needs through pumping unless I was willing to pump in the middle of the night…which she didn’t recommend. I could pump and he could still get breastmilk and all of its amazingness, but we’re at the point where other sources of nutrition are more okay than before. (Which is not to say that formula isn’t okay, but we were at nine months, which means he’d gotten the vast majority of the benefits he could get from being exclusively breastfed.)

I was not ready for this. My spirit crashed. I was a wreck for most of the week, most of which I can blame on hormones and some of which was due to the difference in how Graham and I deal with wrinkles in our best laid plans. (I research the hell out of everything and construct contingency plans, and he takes more of a wait-and-see approach.) I was ready to be done with the pump, not with nursing! And before talking to the lactation consultant, I was pumping when Grayson was eating. I went from always feeding him when we were together to never feeding him, and I was NOT okay with it.

Once we worked out a plan, I had to ask Graham about his bottle-feeding routine. I’d never given my son a bottle. I’d also never had to think about taking him out for a few hours — I was always carrying his food with me. We had one boneheaded episode at Ikea when I realized we’d left right after his long nap and he was clearly getting hungry and we wouldn’t be home for at least another half hour…and I hadn’t thought to pack a bottle. The only thing that saved us was a half-empty snack pack of puffs I’d forgotten to take out of the diaper bag. /mommyfail

So.

I pump. I pump when I get up in the morning, once at midday, and once before bed. Fortunately, this has refilled the freezer stash and kept more than enough milk in stock for his daytime feedings, which are usually around 20-24 ounces. My supply is holding out and we do still want him to get breastmilk, but it’s a little bit less each week (thank goodness for our LC, though, whose pumping advice/schedule helped establish a good supply early). He gets a bottle of Vermont Organics formula before bed and finishes about six to eight ounces.

Solids are still a problem. We’re trying lots of things, but we’re also hoping that the impending time change will help with the scramble between when I get home from work and when he goes to bed; we’ve been having a makeshift dinnertime with him, but I get home at or after 5:30 and he’s out by 7 at the latest — the timing just doesn’t work, especially on bath nights or if my train is late… For a while after the time change, bedtime will be closer to 8 and we’ll have some wiggle room. (We also need to get better about meal planning so there’s something for Graham to start before I get home.)

We were so, so convinced Grayson would like Big People Food…ah, well. He’ll get there.

Grayson_allaitement

In the meantime, I still offer the breast occasionally, especially if he’s upset, but he wants none of it. I’m still a bit sad, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 months, it’s that breastfeeding is hard and unpredictable, and the duration of it, for those of us who choose and are able to do it, just ain’t up to us. It’s so easy, with an infant, especially as new parents, to get into a groove that you think will last forever. It seems so silly, but this turned out to be the nudge I needed to realize that my son will always need me, even when what he needs from me changes.

Ah, well. Au revoir, nursling. Bienvenue, almost-toddler!

Month 10

Dear Grayson –

Okay, February should  barely even count. February is short! Also, it’s Mommy’s busy season at work, so February barely feels like a month. I call do-over.

***

10mos-squawkLet this be a lesson to you, son — Mommy is not actually in charge of time. Thankfully, you won’t read this until after we make it through whatever “Time out” will look like in our house.

This month’s challenge: Feeding you. About a week into your 10th month, you decided you were DONE with breastfeeding. You did not wean down. You did not give any outward signs, aside from being as distracted by ALL THE THINGS as you’ve been since you were three and a half months old. You nursed down for the night, then woke up for your first “comfort nurse,” which is standard when you’re teething, but you would not nurse and you were pretty pissed off about it.

That’s understandable, Grayson. You woke up to do your comfort thing, not realizing that you’d decided not to do your comfort thing anymore.

Also? You were still (and remain) unenthused about solid food. And there was no age-appropriate formula in the house.

One might suspect that you did not think this through very well, young man.

So we scrambled a bit and have given you every opportunity to change your mind. We were planning to carry on for at least the first year, but when you were done, you were done. And that’s okay. (Well. It’s okay for you. Mommy had kind of a hard time with it, but that’s not your fault. That’s just dumb old biology getting in the way again, and that’s a post for another day.)

And you know what? None of this should be a surprise. You’ve got an independent streak a mile wide, emblazoned with neon No Parking signs. You are particular in your habits and desires, to the point of being hilariously predictable.

10mos-swing-face

For example, the plastic shapes are not allowed to stay in the plastic shape bin when you are around to dump them out. THEY MUST ROAM FREE. If you are within earshot when we start to put them back in the bin, you whip around, shoot us a rather dirty look, and speed-crawl over to put them back where they go — on the floor.

I would say you’re a little OCD about it, but only if we can redefine OCD as Obsessive Chaotic Disorder.

You are less invested in the freedom of your squeezy stacking blocks, but I think that’s because you just don’t like them as much. They don’t make nearly as satisfying a “clack” when you bang them together. Your “Free The Toys” campaign does extend to puzzle pieces, however. Those do make a satisfying “clack” upon impact.

Are you seeing a pattern here, buddy? The louder the clicky-clacky sounds, the happier you are.

Which leads me to one other challenge: Fingernail trimming. Nursing was my ace in the hole, the only time I could trim your terrifying fingernails without triggering an epic fit of whiny wriggling. (You are an Olympic-caliber wriggler. Don’t let anyone tell you different.) Without that, what was I going to do?!

Simple. Now I just pull out my phone and open up the video of my old friend Jon‘s recent beatboxing solo. That’s 4.5 minutes of prime clicky-clacky distraction. So far, this works better than anything else we’ve tried. You’ll watch him and smile and forget for a few minutes that I’m removing pieces of you without your consent.

10mos-wine-walking

It’s possible that boots-and-catsing at you for your whole life has…left an impression. Daddy probably won’t mind if you become a drummer, kiddo, but those piano lessons are non-negotiable. (P.S. Pianos count as percussion.)

We spent this month deep in Leap 7, defined by a “knack for destruction.” Honestly? You’ve kind of had that going for a while. I see your understanding of sequences growing more in how you’re learning to walk. You nailed crawling and you never stopped pulling up on everything, and now you’re pushing things around in a way that reminds me of nothing so much as how we kids all learned to ice skate (we pushed wooden chairs around on the pond). You’re more careful in this than in anything else, and I can see you engaging your muscles and balance in order, catching yourself, learning, and adjusting.

And then I see you standing unassisted for longer and longer, and I get so, so excited for you!

Anyway, you do know that some things have to happen in an order, and some things go on or in other things. You sometimes stop drinking your bottle before you’re done so you can practice putting the cap on, and taking it off, and putting it back on, etc. And when you wake up in the middle of the night for a quick 5 ounces, you know to bend down and grab your blanky just as I start to pick you up. (You don’t do this when it’s time to get up for the day.) A week ago, I was picking your blanky up; this is just one of the many, many manifestations of your Do-It-Myself attitude.

This month, we’ve noticed more and more how much you like solo play. There are times when you want to be on our laps and times when you’re all, “See ya!” and you take off to explore until you get bored, hungry, or stuck. You’ll dig into your toys or investigate some drawers or pull different books off the shelf. (These are not books you want read to you. These books are purely for mess-making enjoyment.) You’ll practice walking with your Rocktivity “Walk N Roll” Rider. Eventually, you’ll come back, just to check in or because you’re ready to eat. We didn’t really think about this change that much, though,until someone commented on how well you entertain yourself. It’s fun to watch you play, and we do get down and play with you…but you’re very clear about wanting play by yourself sometimes.

You are a very, very vocal little guy and still love experimenting with volume; the kitchen acoustics that are great for singing are equally great for yelling. You have excited squawks and plaintive whines and syllables that sometimes come out in an order or at a time when it almost seems like you’re saying something on purpose.

You are inquisitive and rambunctious and joyful, from your head down to your toes. You are also determined; when something is in your path, you toss it aside without a second glance and continue toward your goal. You still have fussy moments and fussy periods, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that you’re a person, not just a baby, and all people wake up on the wrong side of the crib from time to time. Mostly, though, you’re only fussy when you’re tired or hungry (just like Mommy, really). And you obey our few safety-based commands rather well for a tiny, still-newly-mobile id.

When you stopped nursing, I worried a little about what would happen to our cuddle times. See, when I say you’re rambunctious and determined, I mean ALL THE TIME. You are not a snuggler, my boy, not even when you’re sleepy. I knew I would miss the quiet, relatively calm time with you. Instead, we now have Reading Time. The week you stopped nursing, you started sitting in my lap for, I don’t know, half an hour at a time?, reading Click Clack Moo and Brown Bear, Brown Bear over and over again, with Moo, Baa La La La added as needed.

More reading? I’ll take it!

I love you,
Mommy

P.S. You have four teeth now, although the top ones aren’t all the way in yet. You will eat some solids, but you mostly stick to puffs, Mum-mum crackers, and the newly introduced freeze-dried yogurt bits. Basically? You only like Baby Kibble.

Reset

The word for 2014 is Reset.

Last year changed a lot of things for me. It shook me to my core…more than once. I’m not the same person I was just 18 months ago. Hell, I’m not sure I’m the same person I was just eight months ago. In fact, I rather hope I’m not the same person I was eight months ago, because that person was shattered. Utterly, completely shattered.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hit post-partum depression running. I saw it coming. I knew it was likely. I knew enough to talk to my OB/GYN in advance, much as I talked to her about an old back injury exacerbated by pregnancy that I figured would also rear its ugly head when Grayson was on the outside (it did).

Most of the time, for better or worse, I know myself pretty well. There was a time in my life — a longer time than I like to remember — that I was depressed enough to need relatively serious medication; eventually, the right dose of Cymbalta lifted me up enough that I could peek out of the hole I was in and climb out of it. The fog cleared a bit and I remembered that there once was a time when I was happy. It literally felt like one of those stupid cartoommercials.

I managed, with a lot of help and support and some of the best friends a girl could hope to have, to get back to happy. Really, really happy.

It didn’t come without a cost — 2008 was probably the most important year of my life so far, but it was also the last year of my mom’s life. The one thing I know for certain, the one thing a little old lady at Ma’s memorial service confirmed for me, is that she died knowing I was better. I was happy. I was me again.

2013 busted me down to my basics, and what I found there was exactly what I’d expected and less than I’d hoped to discover. Pregnancy, blessedly uneventful though it was, wrecked me. I’ve never been so tired and so….god, I was so listless. Childbirth was run-of-the-mill awful and ended the way I’d feared it might. C-section recovery was a terrifying mess of helplessness. The first four months of Grayson’s life were a round-the-clock battle with exhaustion and ineptitude and good intentions and “OMG, this is how people get to the point where they shake babies, isn’t it? This is why that’s a real thing.”

(We did not shake the baby. But there were nights when I felt decidedly uncharitable toward my helpless, squalling infant, nights when I hated myself for just being mostly normal.)

I didn’t get to the point where I felt meds were the right solution. My doctor offered, but I think I was right in my assessment. It was situational and, presumably, temporary. Plus, meds mess with breastfeeding, and that was a huge priority for me. (I fought really hard and got really lucky, which left no room for quitting.) Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the toll breastfeeding and pumping would have on me, either.

Being back at work was a total fustercluck of scheduling nightmares and getting used to being That Person. You know the one. That one co-worker for whom it’s always something. Well baby appointments. Canine glucose curves. Missed ferries, slow trains, and broken water mains. Teething. No scheduling flexibility. Bad colds. Catching up after hours because of pumping, pumping, and more pumping. I’ve never been that person before.

I love — really, genuinely love — my career, and somehow it still rips me apart to be at work instead of with my infant…and I have ZERO illusions about whether I’m cut out to be the full-time parent (I’m not). It’s an apples-to-oranges situation, really. There is absolutely no contest between which is the more important role. In the grand scheme, “Mommy” trumps “web expert,” hands down.

My priorities have shifted and I’m not comfortable with it yet. I still haven’t figured out how we all do this or why we accept it without going quietly mad.

(Or? Maybe we’re all quietly mad.)

Anyway. I’m hoping that weaning, when it happens, will reset the hormones and make it a little easier to deal with spending more time away from my tiny child than I spend with him. I’m grateful for the time I was able to take off without bankrupting our family (thank Maude for the state of California and family-friendly companies), but being away so much while he’s still so little is…hard.

I am stewing in the knowledge that no one in my life is getting what they need or deserve from me. Work is getting the best I can manage while still adjusting to this dual identity (and to a new schedule — we have less flexibility now than we used to*). Grayson is getting the best I can manage in the drastically reduced time that we have together (less flexibility means at least 90 minutes of commuting, per day, at least four days a week, which feels like completely wasted time). Graham and Rodney are getting what’s left when the nursling goes down for the night, my friends are getting used to knowing me only through Facebook, and me?

Well.

I’m…not good at me. Hot baths and the occasional pedicure are all I’ve managed recently, but my goal is to reset how I feel physically in time to start running again in April. It’s a small goal, but that’s about what I can handle right now. Grayson is sleeping (/letting us sleep) more, I’m eating better, and changing my work setup should alleviate some lingering pain. April is realistic.

This is the year for stepping back and resetting expectations — the ones for myself, for my career, and for our family — at least for the short term. What do I need? What do we need? What is more important, or less? What do I want to model for the tiny human learning from me?

Who am I now?

2013: Family

2012: Home

2011: Courage

2010: Whole

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