Good morning!

Is there a way you can synchronize your kids so that if they both get up in the middle of the night, they at least get up at the same time? (No? Someone should get on that.) Mark O is a pretty good sleeper, however he is only an 8 pound human so his need to eat every few hours is understandable. Inconvenient for my REM cycle, but understandable nonetheless. Laurel has many excuses for waking up, often creative and hilarious. A few nights ago, it was not enough pillows (she had four, and wanted six. Sorry, no, we can't accommodate that request, Laurel.) On Saturday night, she fell asleep in the car on our way home from my aunt and uncle's birthday party. Around 2am, when I was nursing the baby in the rocking chair, she came marching into our room with her entourage of stuffed animals and proceded to tuck them into bed....on my side! Then she said to me, "Sorry, mom, you're going to have to sleep in my room, there's no space for you here." She was still in her party dress and sparkly tights, with disheveled hair, so it made for a particularly entertaining scene. She mimics my catch phrases now..."Here's the deal, mom...." and the lays out why she thinks she should get not just one pink M&M for going on the toilet in the middle of the night, but an entire packet. Despite the fact that she's been potty trained for half a year and isn't going to pee her pants anyway...M&Ms or not.

Obviously, with these sort of antics, I'm really cheerful in the mornings now. Ahem.

This is why children have learned to be especially cute in the morning. It's a survival mechanism to make you forget how many times they woke you up over the previous 8 hours.



"Erp" is what Mark Oliver says when he's faking a burp. "Meh" is what he says the rest of the time. He makes a lot of funny grunting noises and furrows his brow at us. This makes him look more like a disgruntled old man than a new baby and it cracks me up every time. Laurel translates for us. "He wants some milk." "His feet are cold." "He wants to learn how to walk." "He wants M&Ms."

He's 4 weeks old and growing out of newborn sized clothing. His tiny hats don't fit anymore. Laurel was never a chubby baby, and I don't imagine that he will be either, but his legs are filling out a little bit. He continues to be a very easy going baby. I can put him in the Moby wrap when we go out, or he is satisfied to sleep in his car seat. He gets a little fussy in the evening, but calms down immediately when we swaddle him. He really likes to suck on a pacifier and has taken a bottle from my mom.

I am eager to get out of the house and take some walks in the woods with him. Laurel needs the exercise, too. We've been cooped up this winter. Normally the weather doesn't stop us, but the combination of recovering from childbirth and time constraints with 2 working parents have kept us inside or using our car a lot over the past two months. We're trying to figure out how to make this work....jobs and child care and family time and money and balance. It's going to take patience and really good communication, but I think we'll figure it out.


Post-Partum Brilliance

I had the brilliant idea to stop by Target on our way to pick up M from work last week. Real quick, I said to myself. I needed some type of healthy, but not too messy, food to give Laurel as a snack. And a pair of shoes. I had just noticed when I picked her up at daycare that the soles of her shoes were literally falling off. And while you can be forgiven for a lot of things when you've just had a baby, I didn't want to get the reputation around the 'hood that we don't take care of our kids.

Or maybe it was the post-partum hormones. Who knows? I just needed to get her a pair of shoes. Urgently.

Before we get out of the car, I tell her that she needs to listen to me and cannot run away and that we can't get a shopping cart. She tells me that she wants cake. I should have known at that point that she was going to drive a hard bargain once we were inside. Girl knows how to negotiate. It's been a long time since I've had any real physical control of Laurel...I've actually seen her worm her way out of the five point harness in her carseat. She's like Houdini. So, I was going to have to rely on wits and bribery.

We go into Target and actually, it turns out fine. Laurel ended up with lace-up, pink, sparkly, Hello Kitty shoes that basically represent everything she currently wants out of life. They will probably last all of two weeks, but hopefully we can make it to a real shoe store before then. Mark Oliver, of course, slept through the entire excursion. I convinced her to eat a banana instead of cake. She only laid down on the ground once. (By the way, does anyone else's kid do this? Lie or sit down and somehow stiffen their bodies so that they are impossible to move? It's like trying to break up a protest.)

But I cannot tell you how many people approached me while we were in the store. Mostly older women who said encouraging words to me with a hint of nostalgia in their voices. I remember those days, they smiled.

So. Yes. Two kids is a lot more than one kid. Life is a little crazy. I feel kind of like we take a huge breath and then dive under water...when we are submerged, we have no idea what the rest of you are doing. And then, we come up for air and remember that the world exists and lots of people have kids and it will all be ok.


The New Sunday

I wake up to this.

"Mom! Dad! I think it is morning! Let me check."

She scrambles up on to our bed, narrowly missing stepping on my face, and lifts the blackout shade to peek out the window.

"Yup. It's day. It's morning. Time to get up! Mom! Dad! Baby boy is breathing! He is moving! He wants milk! Mom! Go and get him! Is it a school day? Can we go to the plant museum? Can I have a popsicle for breakfast? Ok, maybe we should sleep a little more."

She bounces down under the covers and curls up next to me, blonde hair spilling over my pillow. Her dark eyelashes flutter as her eyes open and close. The cuddling doesn't last long. Soon she is standing over Mark Oliver's crib, grabbing his toes and adjusting his blanket, until he is also awake. I crawl out of bed and lift him up. He looks at me through one open eye and something of a scowl on his face. The morning - every morning - is a whirlwind of chatter and making plans and arguing about what to wear or when to use the bathroom. It has been this way for a while, but now it must be punctuated by nursing the baby and diaper changes.

M and Laurel go off to the hair salon. Laurel has an appointment to get her bangs trimmed. She desperately wants to get a piece of it dyed pink or purple. I'm left alone with a sleeping baby and the New York Times. I eat oatmeal. I think about getting dressed and then think better of it. My brain is foggy from getting up twice. I remember that I'll feel this way for a while...five or six months at least, and maybe more. I'll get used to it, and then one day, this phase will pass.

For now, we're trying to figure out the new rhythm. You get that kid dressed, I'll feed this one. You cook dinner and I'll pack lunches. You sleep for an extra hour and I'll entertain the kids. Leaving the house requires precise timing and cooperation from all parties. We are late to everything. The laundry is never done. But still, easing into this life with two kids feels good and right.


How to Treat a New Mom

I am so grateful for the love that has surrounded our family during the last few weeks. From the meals that arrived on our door step to the well wishes sent from afar, every day I had a reminder that Mark Oliver was born not just to us, but to this whole network of people...friends, family, neighbors, colleagues. People that love us, and by extension, love him.

I thought that if I avoided a c-section this time, I'd be back on my feet in a couple of days. But as it happened, I needed a solid 2 weeks of bedrest to recover. I'm finally starting to feel like myself again and looking forward to getting back into a normal routine (even if the new normal means being awake at odd hours during the day and night).

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do to help a family out. Here is my list of the best things people did for us, and what I hope to pass along to others in the future.

1. Send a card. A baby is a cause for celebration! Plus, after I had been peed on twice in an hour, it was lovely to open the mail and see a cute greeting card reminding me how lucky we are to have this newborn in our house.
2. Drop off a meal. I've been especially touched at how considerate people are of my gluten-free thing. With a 3 year old in the house, it was so much easier to not have to worry about cooking and to have minimal clean up. If you aren't sure if they need food, you can always drop off a frozen dish, so they can pull something out of the freezer when needed. (Include a list of ingredients and directions for heating.)
3. If you plan a visit, offer to stop at the grocery store on the way. Or maybe just stop and pick up some fruit, or crackers and cheese or granola bars. New moms eat lots of snacks, especially when they are breastfeeding.
4. I looked out the other night and noticed my neighbor shoveling our walk. In the summer, you could mow the grass. We have very neighborly neighbors, so this sort of thing is commonplace, but I think it's an especially nice gesture to a family with a new baby.
5. Drop off some magazines. My friend just brought me a stack of New Yorkers. Nursing an infant takes up a lot of time and it is nice to have a diversion. Plus it helps with the feeling of isolation.
6. When you visit, don't stay too long. And wash your hands. Don't come at all if you're sick.
7. Bring something for the siblings. (Maybe a dvd or some kind of quiet game to play.) Or the dad. (Beer.)
8. Wait. The first 2 weeks are this blissful period where the newborn is usually not too fussy and the new mom often has help from her parents or in-laws. But when regular life resumes, sometimes that's when it gets tough. If you miss the initial rush, don't fear, all of the above would be appreciated a month or two later.


Gluten Free - for everyone?

The New York Times just ran a story on gluten sensitivity. Different from both celiac and wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity is being looked at by doctors and researchers more closely because of the large numbers of people who claim anecdotal health benefits from following a gluten free diet.

Like me.

Last year, I got really sick. After multiple ultrasounds, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy and a biopsy of my small intestine, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I lost a lot of weight, got terrible acne, suffered migraines and sinus infections that landed me in the ER, and had every kind of bowel symptom you can imagine. In short, I was a pretty miserable mess. I looked, and felt, like crap.

I ended up on a gluten free diet after following this elimination diet. When I hit the "challenge phase" I noticed a return of my symptoms when I reintroduced gluten. I've made a concerted effort to avoid gluten since then, although sometimes it sneaks in. I can usually tell because my skin breaks out and I get some GI symptoms.

One of the things the article discusses is the use of "gluten free" foods, and how they may not be the most nutritious, mainly because they have less fiber. You may have noticed this label popping up in the grocery store all over the place. Rice Chex, for instance, has always been gluten free and makes a fantastic substitute for bread crumbs. Gluten free breads that actually taste like bread are pretty widely available (usually sold in the freezer section, I like Udi's the best). Trader Joe's has a wide variety of cheap gluten free pasta.

However, one of the changes in my diet that may have helped me to become healthier is that I increased  the amount of vegetables I was eating. Instead of toast with my egg, I made a sweet potato. Instead of pasta side dishes, I ate steamed vegetables or a big salad. Or both. When we have a lot of kale or spinach from our CSA I drink lots of green smoothies.

We've been experimenting with gluten free flour blends and can make some pretty outstanding cupcakes, muffins and waffles. However, if you eat a lot of bread, pasta and baked goods, and you simply replace your glutenous food with GF products you will 1) Spend LOTS of money and 2) probably not be healthier.

There's not yet a blood test you can take to see if you have a gluten sensitivity. Doctors urge patients to rule out celiac disease before trying a gluten free diet, since the tests for celiac only work accurately when the patient is actually consuming gluten.

I suspect that modern, genetically modified varieties of wheat might be to blame for this epidemic. Or it could be the carb-happy diet of the modern American.

I don't care if this is a fad, if celebrities are using it to lose weight, or if there's no current medical research to support it. I'm sticking to my GF ways for the time being.


What happens after....

We got good news at the pediatrician today. Mark Oliver is weighing in at a mighty 6 pounds 9 ounces, which is one ounce more than his birth weight. It is normal for babies to lose a bit of weight in their first days and when we left the hospital last week, he was just under 6 pounds. When you are breastfeeding, you don't really know how much milk a baby is drinking, so one of the ways to make sure they are getting enough is to weigh them frequently. It was especially reassuring because this is one chill baby. He sleeps about 20 hours a day and I often have to wake him up to feed him. And he is so tiny! My friend Sarah dropped off a couple of premie sized sleepers because he was swimming in the newborn stuff.

I am so grateful to be having an easy time with breastfeeding. Because my butt really hurts. I don't want to get too graphic here, but basically Mark O was pulled out with the medical equivalent of a pair of salad tongs. And then I got a million stitches. And the labor bruised my tailbone. I didn't quite realize how serious they were about 2 weeks of bedrest until I went to the doctor today and they offered a refill of Percocet. Yes, please.

Basically it hurts to sit, walk, laugh, or cough. I'm supposed to stay in bed, lying down. That's pretty easy when you have a really chill newborn who is a champion at breastfeeding and sleeping. It's pretty challenging when you also have a three year old who was well prepared for the addition of a new family member, but was not expecting her mommy to be unable to get her a snack or give her a bath. This means that M is responsible for keeping us all fed, hydrated, and in clean clothes. And entertained. Don't forget entertained. Thank goodness for Netflix and the 8,000 episodes of Diego you can watch on demand. We are blessed to have family and friends who show up with food and to play with Laurel and remind us that there is a world outside of Eat Sleep Pee Poo.

Alas, a virus has struck poor M, Laurel's first round of antibiotics did not rid her of strep throat, and I'm generally useless at everything other than nursing Mark O. Laundry periodically piles up. We run out of diaper wipes. We forget to feed Rosie the Cat and she gets mad that she has to leave her basement lair to remind us. (I'm not sure Rosie has yet realized there is a fourth human in the house, but boy is she going to be irked when she finds that out.)

In other words, life goes on. We do what we can to keep up. Every day there are sweet moments of the four of us piled into bed together, or Laurel bringing Mark Oliver something to read. Every day there are frustrating moments when everyone is cranky.

And that's what happens after you have a baby.