Go Fly A Kite

Toyin and I took Annika to the annual Zilker Park Kite Festival today for some fun, sun, and toddler running.

She wasn’t that impressed with it. The festival was super crowded. Annika reacts to crowds much the way I do. They slow her down. She gawks at everything. She is overstimulated and can’t really enjoy the festivities. So we didn’t stay very long.

Once we had made our rounds, we headed back to the car. As we picked our way through the crowds of cars, families, dogs and random kite strings in our path, I overheard a snippet from a father who was clearly at the end of his rope. He was semi-chasing his son, who was around 5 or 6, with a candy bar. Shoving it up against is mouth and loudly saying to him, “Just open your mouth and TAKE A BITE!”

As the mother of a picky eater, I had to laugh. Before I had a child, I might have wondered what on earth was possessing this man to try to force-feed his kiddo a candy bar. I may have even given him a dirty look and then spewed things about terrible parents and child abuse.

But not now. I’ve never had to force feed candy to Annika. That’s the one thing she will gladly eat. But I have been known to chase her with food.

This poor dad, he’d probably been trying to get his kid to eat all day then finally broke down and bought a candy bar, thinking his son would eat that and at least he’d save him from malnutrition for another day.

“But I don’t LIKE peanuts!” the son wailed as we passed them by.

“JUST TAKE A BITE! IT’S ONLY PEANUTS!!”

My guess is that dude is having a huge drink right about now.

Anyhoo.

We had parked at Toyin’s office building right up the street. Annika really wanted to go inside and go up the elevator. Figures. Take the kid to a kite festival with junk food and bouncy castles, but she just wants to go press buttons in an office building.

So we did that and then we went to eat Chinese food at our favorite Chinese buffet.

The best part of the day was when Toyin made a mini ice cream cone as we left and Annika stood outside learning how to lick the “cream.”

Thinking about weaning, and thinking about not weaning

I always thought I would let Annika nurse until she was done. When Annika was an infant, I had no intentions of even night weaning.

But this past week I’ve been seriously considering weaning completely.

This topic has been no different for me than all of the other choices I have had to make when it comes to parenting. One minute/hour/day/week I want to go one way, then I think about it and I can’t decide if that might be harmful for my child. So, I put off making a decision. Then I get frustrated with it all and go back and forth, back and forth.

There are no easy answers for these things.

I didn’t read up much on nursing because I thought I knew it all. My mother was a La Leche League leader when I was a kid. Ever since I can remember I heard how great nursing was. I was nursed until I was 3.

I thought my decisions on nursing were set in stone. It was a relief to think that at least ONE thing I didn’t have to make a decision about.

The idea of mama-led weaning seemed laughable to me. Until this week.

Annika still nurses as much as seven or eight times a day. She’s been sick this week and it has been that much or more on the days when we are home most of the day. I did not think that Annika would still be nursing this much at this age. I had always heard that during the second year kids usually drop down to two or three times a day, usually surrounding sleep. I thought that was the natural progression.

Even in my peer group, where most of my mama friends still nurse their toddlers, it’s not typical to see them nursing in public.

Some moms make a point to stop nursing in public in the course of the second year.

I never even thought I would do that. And I haven’t so far.

For the most part Annika rarely asks to nurse when we are out and about, which is why most toddlers aren’t seen nursing in public. They just don’t think about it. If Annika does ask for it, it’s because she sees another kid nursing and even then she only nurses for a minute or two. If we do nurse out of the house, it’s usually in the car before leaving somewhere.

But lately I have gotten so frustrated with nursing that I started thinking about weaning.

I picked up a couple of books (How Weaning Happens and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler) from the South Austin API book library. It’s a local group I’m a member of.

I only read the first page of How Weaning Happens and I started to cry. All of a sudden all my frustrations began to become reality. What got to me was a passage that said weaning was equivalent to a mother’s rejection of her child.

It had taken some time, but I realized that what was frustrating me was not that Annika still wants to nurse. I think it’s that I’m not doing something right or I’m missing something.

I don’t know what it is, or if that’s even the case.

But I wonder if Annika is getting all the nutrition that she needs. She must be missing something if she still wants my milk so much. She also refuses to eat enough solid foods. Or maybe I’m not giving her enough attention, or the right kind of attention. Being with a toddler all day is exhausting. It’s not the same kind of exhausting as a baby.

Babies are at least easier to interpret. Babies need four things. Food, sleep, diaper change, or holding. Toddlers need those things, but they also need mental stimulation. They want you to sing with them or to them. They want you to dance with them. They want you to give them food. Then they throw it on the floor. They want you to play games and read books. They want to leave the house. But then when you are ready to go they don’t want to leave. You spend all day cajoling, helping, stimulating, feeding, dressing and undressing.

And then on top of it all, parenting experts tell you that you have to set “loving limits.” What the hell does that even mean??

So I wonder if I’m setting the “right” limits around nursing. I don’t want to give Annika the wrong signals. But I also don’t want her to think I’m rejecting her.

As I write this I’m still at a loss. A big part of me says that I should just continue down this path and let her determine when she wants to nurse. We’ve night weaned and even though she still asks to nurse at night, she has stopped fussing and mostly it seems to be mumbling in her sleep out of habit, and not actual wakings.

So that’s the one limit I’ve set and I wonder if I should be setting any more limits. After all, they grow out it.

Right?

Right?

A good relationship with Annika is my “good enough”

Over the weekend I met with my Personal Renewal Group to discuss this month’s topic: Good is good enough.

I hastily read the chapter the day before our meeting. It did not resonate with me in the slightest, so I skipped all the questions and journaling exercises. The author was talking about her perfectionist attitudes about always wanting more. Never being satisfied with what was already good in her life.

As I sat listening to my friends talk about how they were hard on themselves, I realized I had misinterpreted the chapter.

In the chapter, the author talks about how she was always wanting more, more, more. How she never felt like she had done enough for a client and always thought the next thing would make her life better.

I am not that much of a perfectionist, so I didn’t think the chapter applied to me. I didn’t get it.

What it was saying, as my lovely friends explained to me, was: My good is good enough. If something in my life that I have labeled as good, is good, then all is well with the world.

I realized I needed to define my good enough so that when I’m getting down on myself for not having things as I would like them, I have something to fall back on.

Right now my good enough is just having a good relationship with my child. I have other goals for the future, but right now my goal is to set a secure base for Annika as she grows up.

I forget that sometimes and I get irritated that I can’t get other things done. Sometimes Annika wants sooo much attention, just sending a quick e-mail or cooking an easy dinner can be an hour-long task.

This week Annika has been sick and it’s been like that times 100. The clinging toddler was really starting to get to me.

Then I remembered that I needed to look at what was good today, right now.

Right now I have a good relationship with my daughter. The reason I chose the path I’m on right now is because I wanted that.

My other goals are on my priority list, but I only have a set amount of time to build my daughter up, construct a good relationship with her, and give her a secure base to hold on to when she approaches the world on her own.

So we left the house, and instead of gritting my teeth, I sang a song, I made faces at her in the mirror. I took her to the park. We played and ate. And when she insisted that she did not want to leave the park even though she was bleary-eyed and yawning, instead of getting angry, I held her close and whispered in her ear as I walked quickly to the car. There have been way too many screaming and struggling trips to the car lately.

So what’s my good enough? It’s always changing. I realize that. But for right now, today and tomorrow and then next couple of years, my good enough is to have a thriving and healthy relationship with my daughter. It’s hard for me because I didn’t/don’t have that. I don’t have a good model. So I need constant reminders and I have to read a lot of books to help me along this path.

As she gets older and more independent, I’ll have time for other things.

But for now, that’s my good enough. The rest of the world can wait. Every day when I get up and I spend time with Annika I remind myself that I’m doing this for a reason.

What’s your good enough?

Just one of the things nobody warns you about parenthood…

I’ve been keeping a mental list of the things that nobody warned me about parenthood. (Okay, okay, I’ve got a long list documented on my computer just in case I ever find someone to blame.) But ANYWAY this one was just too pathetic not to share.

Yes, I drew that. Being a parent makes you revisit all the things you were really bad at when you were a kid. Let’s just say none of my teachers ever told me I should take art classes.

When Toyin stopped by tonight to pick Annika up, he saw this and said, “Oh, Mommy drew a cat.”

No.

It’s a pig.

I was doing okay until I had to draw the body.

Here’s hoping that I never have to write out notes to any of Annika’s teachers when she starts school. I really don’t want to get red penned for my handwriting again.

Holding puke in my hand, a definitive mommy moment

If I wasn’t sure before, I am now. Yes, I am wholeheartedly a mom.

A mom who wipes foul-smelling poop off of another person’s butt and makes jokes while doing it. A mom who doesn’t bat an eye at human feces on my living room floor. And now, a mom, who in the middle of the night, catches a handful of vomit in my hand and instead of being grossed out, happily holds it as proof to my daughter that I am in control and I will always take care of her.

Well that, and giddy with the knowledge that I won’t have to change the sheets.

Annika has a had a nasty cough for the last couple of days so she’s having trouble sleeping. Last night she went back to sleep easily after a couple of night wakings, but around 3 a.m. she awoke and informed me that she wanted food. I was prepared. I grabbed a small bunch of green grapes out of the fridge and we sat in the middle of the bed while she munched them down and drank some cool water.

Then she began coughing again. With the coughs up came everything she had just eaten.

It all happened so fast, I can barely believe that my first instinct was to reach out and put my hand under her mouth and catch the puke as it came boiling back up her esophagus.

But I did.

I grinned to myself as I carried the puke to the bathroom sink and told her I was going to bring a towel. It was such a mommy moment.

Really though, the best part was afterward. She stayed awake for almost two more hours, talking, singing, making requests and fighting sleep. Something about catching that puke gave me a pool of patience. I felt like one of those super patient mamas who only has kind words and cuddles for her babies.

The girl in black: I introduced Annika to Johnny Cash last week. She thoroughly enjoyed his music. Today she picked this outfit out. Kinda spooky.

Sleeping at night, part 50 million

I don’t really know what number post this is about Annika’s sleep habits and I really don’t feel like going back and counting them. Annika’s sleep has changed again. And as a new mom, this is the kind of story I needed to hear. So here goes:

Annika has been a horrible sleeper since about 6 months old. The first few months of her life she awoke twice a night, usually around 1 a.m. and then around 6 and then slept until about 9. It varied occasionally to 2 and 4 a.m. but for the most part it was great. Sometimes I got the feeling that other parents didn’t believe me when I told them that my newborn slept great. But mostly I heard, “Wow, you’re so lucky.” Little did I know that I’d hit a (really long) stage where I got woken up every hour, or even more often during rough patches.

But anyway, we’ve reached a new stage. Finally. From what I’ve heard from other moms and in my own experience somewhere around 18-20 months seems to be a benchmark in sleep changes for babies who are attached and co-sleeping.

Annika is no different. She is finally sleeping harder, more like a real person, without the fluttery light sleep stages that wake up her needing to be comforted back to sleep. She’s rolling over and cuddling up to a pillow, and when I get out of bed she’s continuing to sleep.

It is sheer heaven!

We started night weaning in December. It went really really well.

The first week.

Then she got a cold and I couldn’t say no to her when she asked to nurse in the middle of the night.

When she recovered she was more aggressive about wanting to nurse in the middle of the night. We had several nights, off and on, when she ran around the room screaming. Annika is very intense when she’s pissed. She’s also tenacious. She digs in and insists that she gets what she wants. It’s a characteristic I admire in her; something I hope will serve her well as an adult. As a toddler, however, it’s frustrating. My neighbors upstairs probably think I’m abusing her in the middle of the night.

I’ve had several nights where I’ve felt abusive. I’ve yelled at her. I’ve gotten up and left the room for a few minutes to calm myself down while she screamed.

I’ve beaten myself up over this night weaning crap over and over again. I didn’t ever plan to night wean. I’ve heard stories of attached moms who just kept nursing their kids at night until the kid started sleeping.

More power to them. Rock on mamas. I am not that strong.

My back hurts. My neck hurts. My nipples are irritated. I want to be able to get up to pee without a screaming toddler running into the bathroom and demanding to nurse. I want to sleep.

I’ve also wondered if her own sleep is suffering because she’s waking up just as much as I am. She’s not eating properly. I’ve watched her energy drain quickly and I wonder if she slept better and ate more, wouldn’t she feel better during the day as well?

But something snapped in her this week. It’s like she finally figured it out after being told over and over: “Nighttime is for sleeping. We can nurse in the morning.” It’s become my nighttime mantra.

Last night I put her to sleep without nursing. I’ve done it before, but only after an hour or longer of nursing and no end in sight.

Last night was different. After we read books, I turned the light off and nursed her while I sang a few songs. Then I told her we were going to try sleeping without nursing. She whined and I told her that we were just going to try it out.

To my utter and sheer surprise, she agreed and pushed her back into my chest and started whispering. “Cow, pig, sheep.” She was listing her animals that were sitting on the nightstand watching over her.

So we listed several things. Animals, Sesame Street characters, Mommy, Daddy, Baltar, Annika, ABCs, colors, numbers. Eventually she drifted off. Her body felt heavy against mine, like a hibernating bear. I don’t think I’ve ever felt her like that before. Her sleep has always been light and airy and just the whisper of noise or movement awoke her.

When Annika was an infant I used to ask moms all the time about sleeping habits. I wondered when they changed, if they just did, or if there was some magical secret.

Then last night as I lay in bed with my sleeping big girl who is no longer a baby (and it still trips me out that she is so big now) I realized the answer to my questions.

As parents it is our job to give our children the openness and security to explore the world. But when it comes to things that they need, it is our job also to guide them toward it in a loving and (sometimes firm) manner. There’s no rule set in stone about when or how it happens. It is our job as parents to get to know our children well enough that we can figure that out.

So, for any new parents out there. It does get better. When you are deep down in it, it really doesn’t help to hear that. But you will come through it, torn and tattered, lean and rock solid, ready for the tougher challenges that lie ahead.

The soothing stirring of homemade soap and sour cream sauce

My love of soap making began when I started making homemade chicken (sometimes spinach mushroom) enchiladas with sour cream sauce.

This may come as a surprise to those who know me best and know that my favorite movie is Fight Club. But my desire to learn how to make soap did not come from Tyler Durden, although, I do think it would be super awesome to sell rich women’s fat asses back to them in the form of cosmetic soap.

But really, I love to make soap because I love to stir. Soapmaking is about four percent ingredients and about and hour or two of stirring. I figure I must have been a witch in a former life (shut up Toyin) because I feel so very at home standing over a simmering pot.

This is not something I figured out early on in life. It actually took many years of stirring that sauce to realize how much I loved it.

My first go around with making those enchiladas with sour cream sauce ended up with way over-spiced enchiladas; a huge fight with my new (now ex) husband; tears; a night out at a bar drinking with a strange man; and watching a middle-aged Japanese woman shoot a cut up banana out of her twat. But that’s a story for another day.

The enchiladas got eaten. My husband and I made up, and eventually got divorced, but not before I continued making those damn enchiladas and stirring the sauce. And stirring it. And stirring it.

Then one day, years after that first time I made enchiladas, I was cooking them for a small dinner party and chatting with my best friend on the phone. It was likely that I was in a mellow state of mind at the time, which was pretty common for me after I got divorced and before I had a child. As I stood over the lovely mixture of sour cream, corn starch, spices and chicken broth I said to her, “Damn, I love to make sauce.”

I don’t know when I had realized it, but I did. I loved making that sauce. There was something so very soothing about watching the mixture glob together, become clumpy and then eventually smooth out. All I had to do was stand there, stare at it, and stir it.

I haven’t made those enchiladas in a long time. Toyin is lactose intolerant so I never made them while we were living together. But I started learning how to make soap.

I made some soap last week. And don’t you know, ever since I’ve had a craving for those damn enchiladas.

Proof that Annika is not just an extension of me

This week Annika has let us know that she’s been paying attention to what’s going on with her life. Out of the blue, she said to Toyin, “Annika two homes.” Then a couple of days later she said it to me. We weren’t talking about Toyin or homes or anything that would prompt it, so clearly, it’s been on her mind.

This completely trips me out. My 21-month-old child has figured out on her own that she has two homes and has been thinking about it completely independent of any discussion.

I know that children are separate people from their parents; that they are not just extensions of us. Before I had a child it seemed pretty obvious.

But ever since I carried Annika in my womb for 9 months along with having her cling to me for literally all of her basic necessities like sustenance, help falling asleep, carrying her before she could walk, and soothing, and as she gained a bit of independence, still helping her transition from one state to another, guiding about 90 percent of her motions throughout life, it was hard to accept the reality that she truly is a whole other person.

Then bam! Just like that, she throws it in my face. “Hey Mom, I have thoughts.”

Annika has her own thoughts.

Wow.

The past couple of months have clearly been difficult for her. She’s apparently been processing our split. Almost three months after we moved into different apartments, she’s figured it out.

“Annika two homes.”

I know at some point we told her that we would not be living together anymore, but at 19 months it must be a hard concept to understand. I mean really, think about it, the concept that you poop and pee in a bowl instead of a diaper is difficult to understand.

I can’t even imagine how she finally came to the conclusion.

Toyin has been telling her that we go to Mommy’s home and then to Daddy’s home. I guess it finally sank in.

The notion that she’s been processing our split and finally come to some conclusions on her own is also proof that sometimes parents really have no idea what kind of stuff their children are thinking about.

It gives me some clarity on why parents are often at a loss as to why their children behave in ways they don’t understand.

It scares me a little to think that already my child has thoughts and problems weighing on her mind that I don’t have a clue about. All I know is that I worried about our split and processed it pretty quickly. I suppose I thought she had done the same.

It’s pretty cool that she told both of us what she’s been thinking about. It’s also proof that kids don’t often make a big deal out of talking like adults do. Parents have to pay attention and snag the big stuff or it will get lost in the chatter.

This divulgence gives me even more incentive to stay connected to her, to stay close to her so that she will feel comfortable enough to talk to me whenever she needs help or clarity in her life.

I wish I had had that growing up.

My Dad told me once that he remembers when I was first in college, I came home one day and was moping around. He asked me what was wrong. I told him I was depressed. He said to me, “Oh, just get over it.”

Yeah.

I’m not going to go there.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the incident. But he does. Or, he did anyway. I guess even when parents don’t say the right thing or know what to say, their kids problems stick with them.

As for me, I hope that even when I don’t say the right thing, it will still be loving and obvious to Annika that I’m at least trying, that I love her unconditionally and that no matter how her life turns out or how she chooses to live, I will love her wholeheartedly.

One thing that I want to do differently than my parents did is to give Annika a secure base to work with so that she will always be on solid ground emotionally. I never had that. And it’s the one thing I needed.

So, just what does an ear infection feel like?

I know you all are just dying to read more about my ear infection.

Okay, okay, I promise will be the last post about my puss-filled ear. In the meantime, kick back, grab a bag of popcorn because this is going to be just like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, minus the sex and angst.

Being naturally curious and also since I am attempting to be a mindful mother, I generally try to see the world through Annika’s eyes as much as possible and it occurred to me that in some ways it might have been a blessing that I had this ear infection, in case Annika ever has one, I will know how she is feeling.

First off, I gotta say, if your kid has an ear infection, keep the pain medication coming! This is not one of those times that you should skimp on the ibuprofen thinking that it’s not that bad.

It is that bad. Hell, it’s worse. I was wishing for some Vicodin during the worst of it.

So here goes:

I started to feel a buildup of pressure on Friday afternoon and by the evening, my ear felt like something had crawled down inside it and was growing, it was clawing around inside my ear canal and scratching me, making me feel highly uncomfortable.

By Saturday, I felt achy, nauseous and had tremendous pain in my ear, and also along my jaw. My outer ear was swollen and red hot as well, but the worse part was the pain that was traveling up and down the left side of my face and shooting me in the gums. I also felt feverish off and on throughout the day. I never took my temperature. I think I only ran a low-grade fever off and on. The infection was sitting hard and clumped up right inside my ear canal. I could feel it in there. It felt like a big ball of gunk that needed to come out so like a little kid who can’t stop picking at her scabby knees, I kept picking at it around the edges until Toyin threatened to take away my Yugioh card collection.

This whole thing started because I used some ear candles, and the jury is still out on whether I think that was a good idea. See, I had some ringing in my ears for several months and the ear candles were the second thing I tried, after using colloidal silver drops, which didn’t seem to help.

I mention this because my ear infection was clearly brought on by something that a child would likely not do, and so some of my symptoms might be irregular.

My theory on this ear infection is that I had something infectious deep down inside my ear canal and the ear candles loosened it up.

By Wednesday the pain was completely gone, but the ringing is still there, it is localized right inside my ear canal where I could feel the infection sitting.

For several days every time I swallowed my ear popped and it felt like I was landing after a three-hour flight to nowhere.

If you didn’t read my previous post about my trip to the pharmacy, I started taking Congaplex last Monday and started feeling tremendously better the next day. The pain is gone and now I just have this damn dead bug ringing in my ear.

So there you have it. That’s what an ear infection feels like. A big hot ball of dead bug that won’t shut the fuck up.

It has now been 10 days and my ear is still plugged up but I am still waiting for all the gunk to come out.

It has been the most annoying and also the most painful thing that has happened to me in a long time. However, if the ringing goes away, which I am keeping my fingers crossed that it does, it will have been worth it.