Monday 27 July 2015

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

I'm a bit preoccupied and doing things mainly for distraction. Hopefully I can update in a few days with a clear mind.

In the meantime here's something I am hoping to make today: Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins. I'm not particularly domestic and don't usually spend a lot of time researching new recipes, making Pinterest boards, etc. But a couple of months ago I started making these muffins for Mr. Turtle to freeze for breakfast at work. And they are so yummy! I think they are fairly healthy too. Muffins are hit or miss for me but these are always fluffy, moist and full of flavour. I make double batches and help Mr. Turtle eat them. AJ also likes to have bites too.

Here's the recipe

My hacks:

  • I haven't been able to find plain pumpkin puree so I use a can of pumpkin pie filling. Not as healthy I'm sure but it works. I skip the salt,spices and vanilla extract, but I do add the honey or maple syrup.
  • I toss in a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed meal. Can't taste it but it makes it a bit healthier.

Friday 24 July 2015

Pool time with a baby

Swimming pool that is, not billiards.

AJ and I went to parent and tot "swim lessons" this month. They weren't really swim lessons of course; the goal was to have fun in the water and try a few skills, with the child always within arm's reach of the parent. We did these activities:

  • jump into the water (parent always goes in first). The older children (the age range was 6 months to three years old) were able to jump in themselves; the younger babies were supported in some way by the parent.
  • Back and front float (supported). AJ preferred the front float. There is something she likes to do on her tummy!
  • Blowing bubbles (it took a few lessons for me to not be completely grossed out by this. I still am, a bit. Swim diapers don't absorb pee, ya know.)  AJ didn't blow bubbles, but she did like to stick her tongue out and lap up the pool water. Probably that's the reason she liked the front float.
  • Splashing. AJ eventually got comfortable enough to splash about.
  • Face in the water / head in the water. This was in and out. I had to force myself to put AJ under at first, but she quite liked it.
  • Dropping a plastic ring to the bottom and touching/retrieving it. This was more for the older children. AJ wasn't very interested in the ring. She would sometimes follow it with her eyes but when it went under water she'd look around for something more interesting.
  • Singing songs and doing actions (this took up most of the 30 minute class). By the end of the lessons I knew most of the lyrics and I think I deserve a mom star. In some ways I feel like an intuitive parent, in others not. I'm not a natural when it comes to singing nursery songs. I like the clever ones, such as Raffi's songs (this goes through my head all the time. But don't look at the video images. It's much more entertaining if you just listen and picture it yourself.). But it's hard me me to get into "If You're Happy and You Know It" or "Hokey Pokey". I paste on an enthusiastic smile and sing but inside I'm thinking "This is really dumb." Oh well, I knew I'd have to make sacrifices as a parent.  At least it's easier in a group. 
I am glad I signed up for pool lessons. I had been thinking about it for a long time, but it sounded so complicated to me to take a baby to the pool. It wasn't actually that complicated however. In case anyone out there overthinks these things, like I do, here are my tips for taking baby to the swimming pool (solo).

One sturdy tote bag for towels, wet swimsuits and water shoes.
One mini diaper bag with baby clothes and other supplies. I used a backpack sling bag which works great. I can wear it on my back when AJ is in the carrier, and in front when I'm changing the baby for easy access to the contents. (I'm also going to use this idea when I fly for changes in tight airplane washrooms.)

Mini diaper bag (backpack sling): change pad, regular and swim diapers, wipes, comb, baby's clothes, also mom's wallet, car keys, phone, etc.
Tote bag: Towels, pool shoes, the rest of mom's clothes

  • Put on your swimsuit and baby's at home, and wear clothes on top. Baby and mom wear separates (easier to get on and off)
  • I used a baby carrier. I found this easiest for me, but other parents used strollers or even car seats. I don't know what they did with those while they were in the pool. A stroller seems like more trouble than it's worth to me, and I would not be comfortable just leaving it somewhere.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. I also wear pool shoes (Vibram Five Fingers) because it gives me that extra bit of safety. And I hate warts.
  • Two piece swimsuit for mom. Easier to go to bathroom in. On that topic, go to bathroom before leaving for the pool. I always have to go when I get there anyway, however.
  • Bring less stuff. On one hand it's sometimes a good idea to prepare for any eventuality with a baby. On the other hand you have to carry it around. For short trips I prefer to take the minimum. The first time we went, I packed a personal care kit with soap, shampoo, mini loofah, deodorant, lotion, etc etc. HAHAHA no. That kind of high maintenance was for the pre-baby days. If you really care about being clean it's much easier to have a real shower after you get home.
  • Get a locker, preferably near a surface where you can change baby / leave baby within arms reach. If you have an ambulatory baby however, he or she is probably better off on the floor.
  • Plan for nap time afterwards. AJ was always very tired after swimming.
Pool time was really fun, and AJ even got her first report card afterwards. Woot, she passed! hahahaha. We will definitely be going back as a family.

Monday 20 July 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Family Resemblances

Before having my daughter, or at least at some uncertain but fairly recent time in my past, I was fascinated by family resemblances.

I loved to look at photographs and pick out shared features. One thing I found quite entertaining at parent-teacher interviews was to observe the resemblances between children and parents, both in looks and in mannerisms.

I think my favourite encounter of this sort was between an (occasionally challenging) parent and her (occasionally challenging) son. We were discussing some aspect of his behaviour and appropriate responses to it, and the mother commented with a bit of annoyance that no matter what she asked him, his response was always "Yeeeeaaaaah" (imagine it said through a resigned sigh). We went on with the conversation, and a couple of minutes later, she responds to one of my statements with "Yeeeeaaaaah" uttered in the exact same tone and manner as her son.

Enter AJ. Many people love to look for and comment on her resemblances. I find it amusing how varied these are. In the space of a day I can hear "she looks just like mom!" and then "she looks just like dad!" or even how she resembles someone in extended family. They're all right in a way I suppose: she has our genetic material and by extension our family's, too. But sometimes I feel like AJ is a kind of Rorschach test and everybody sees what they are looking for.  If she was conceived by donor egg, and we didn't tell people, would they all make the same comments with the same conviction? I think they would.


And as for me?

I don't see resemblances to anyone. (Except when AJ yawns: then she looks like Mr. Turtle.) I'm not saying they aren't there; I just don't see them. I see AJ. Also, this may be indulging a privilege because I was lucky enough to have a genetically related child, but so far I don't care. I don't have the same desire to look for family resemblances in my daughter that I used to have with regards to other family members, students, friends and acquaintances.

I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps it is just harder to see resemblances to myself because I don't look at myself all the time. A lot of my mannerisms are habit, and like the mom in my example above, I probably don't notice that I'm even doing them. I do think it is easier to see resemblances to Mr. Turtle than to myself, although even so I don't see them constantly.

As for why I don't care, that's a bit harder.  At least for now (because I may feel differently in the future) I think it has to do with a changed perception of what bonds a family together. Genetics are an obvious bond. However, after going through all the fertility tests which suggested I would probably not be able to have a genetically related child, I had to re-think what bonds a family together. Even though we were able to have a child, that experience still affects my perceptions. I feel like I crossed some invisible line, and things are just different on this side of the line.  So when people comment that AJ is so much like me or Mr. Turtle or so and so, I smile and make an accommodating remark, but I'm not really playing the game.

Because what matters most to me is that I have a child who is her own individual, and becomes more that unique individual every day.

Read more at Microblog Mondays

EDIT: In May 2022, I came back to this entry and wrote about how my feelings and perspective have changes with time.

Monday 13 July 2015

#Microblog Mondays: the have-done list

On days that I feel energetic and optimistic about how much I'll get done, I often write a to-do list.

On days that I feel rather less so, for whatever reason, I like to write a "have done list."

That means I start off the day with a blank sheet (whiteboard, in my case) and as I do things I write them down. The only things on the list are the things that are already done.

It's actually a good system and helps me focus on what I do successfully and efficiently (or less efficiently) on a daily basis, instead of the big tasks that are still undone.

I recommend it. :-)

More blogs - read them, comment, then add it to your have-done list!

Saturday 4 July 2015

The DumbPhone and Deja Vu

I call my phone the DumbPhone. Maybe this will change in the future, but whenever I have to replace my phone I always ask for the free model which is the simplest and least impressive of the lot. I don't like phones; I never have.  I enjoy blogs and other social media to an extent because there is something territorial about them. I feel like I own the space that torthúil occupies, although that's probably an illusion.  Phones on the other hand feel intrusive and outside my control. They ring obnoxiously and interrupt what I'm doing.  I have to talk to people I can't see, which I've never liked. If there's any way to avoid phoning someone, I'll take it. There are a few people I that I truly do enjoy talking with on the phone: I can count them on the fingers of one hand.

I bought my first cell phone in 2005 when I traveled to Europe for a year; altogether I've owned three  phones in the past ten years, including the Dumbphone. The Dumbphone is a flip phone from 2011. It takes calls and makes calls and I have voicemail. I can receive and send texts (keyed in the old fashioned way because there is no keyboard. I don't like texting anymore than I like phones). It's scratched and battered and most recently, my water bottle spilled all over it. I took the battery out and dried it overnight, and lo, the Dumbphone recovered to ring another day.

After the Dumbphone's crisis, however, I decided I should copy whatever media are on it. The Dumbphone has a camera that is about as impressive as its other features, but I have taken a few photos over the years. I actually was able to locate the cable that connects it to my computer, and managed to copy the pictures and one video.

Among the photos were some that gave me unsettling deja vu. I rarely think much about these photos, or consider them of much value. But when I actually looked at them full size, I was surprised by the intense meaning some of them hold.

I give you: Selections from the DumbPhone's gallery.

I wish I could attribute this piece of art properly (if anyone does know the correct name or the artist's name, please let me know.) All I can tell you from memory is that it's a sculpture in the Detroit Institute of Art, and the name is something like Spirit of the Dance. A naked man dances with a tambourine (I wasn't able to fit all of him into the frame). He exudes joy and exalts the physical body.

I took this photo on December 27th, 2011. Mr. Turtle and I were in Michigan visiting my in-laws. We had passed Christmas day and Boxing day (also my birthday) with my MIL and now we were spending a couple of days with my BIL in Detroit, where he had just bought a house. The visit to the Institute of Art was one of tourist activities we did. 

At that time Mr. Turtle and I had been TTC for about 4 months, and it was at the point where I was wondering "what else can we do to make this work." I forget if we had made any special efforts that particular month. I had purchased the Ova.cue fertility monitor and packed it, but hadn't used it yet. I hoped it would turn out to be waste of money. I really, really, really wanted to be pregnant that Christmas. Probably because of the sentimentality of the holidays, and because we'd been married a year and a half, and because we'd been trying for a few months and dammit, it was time. And probably because of an uneasy feeling that if I wasn't pregnant soon, it might mean something was wrong.  I'd been charting and based on my charts so far, the Period was a couple of days late. I woke up full of optimism on the morning of the 27th - and there was the Period.

That day was the first time I was very disappointed that I wasn't pregnant. And on top of that it was an awful period. I felt like a deflated balloon, except I didn't because I was so bloated. All day I was in pain with the cramps. Despite that, I did enjoy the Institute of Art. It gave me plenty to focus on outside of myself, so while I was still unhappy and uncomfortable, I was at least distracted. What I couldn't do was be social. Most of the time I left the rest of the family behind and wandered in the galleries on my own. I didn't want to stand still for any reason. In those wanderings I found the Spirit of the Dance and immediately related to him. I love dancing and tambourines, so he embodies physical ecstasy for me. Although I remember this day so vividly, from the plaid shirt and jeans I was wearing to the heavy disappointment in my core, the image transcends all of it. And until a few months ago, he was the background image of the DumbPhone. Every time I looked at it I saw the Spirit of the Dance.

You're probably wondering: what the heck is that?!

The last week of January 2014 our house was burgled. This happened after a very stressful and emotional couple of weeks where our IVF cycle was cancelled and we were told that further fresh IVF treatments were pointless. I walked into the house after work and found it a mess and most of our valuables gone. Even worse than the loss of our possessions was the sense of invasion. I don't think much about the thefts anymore but the fear of a stranger coming into my space and threatening me still comes back from time to time.

Pictured above is what was our music room.  I'm not sure when I took this photo, but I think a couple of days after the burglary. In the background is a music stand, a chair, my snare drum, and my euphonium on a small table. In the foreground the vacuum cleaner hose and a couple of instrument cases, I think. None of our musical instruments were stolen, although they were the single most valuable items in the house: too large and difficult to turn into cash, I imagine. However, my euphonium was in a backpack case and that was stolen; I assume to carry away the rest of the stolen goods.

There was one thing I found odd. Everywhere else in the house, items were knocked over, thrown about, broken. The one exception was here: after taking it out of the case, someone placed my euphonium carefully on a table, much like it is above. In contrast with everything else, this gesture seemed out of place, almost respectful. When the policeman came to do the report with us, he dismissed the burglars as the "scum of the earth." Almost everything I know and feel inclines me to agree, but because of this gesture at least one of them seems more human. If anything that makes the whole event more disturbing.

I took this photo from my hospital bed a few hours after AJ was born. One of my birth fantasies was to have a picture of the sunrise on the day she was born. However, the photo didn't look very impressive on my phone screen so I never did anything else with it. Yet when I look at it I feel much that takes me back to that moment. I remember feeling like there was so much to do and learn after she was born: I was exhausted but who had time for that? I was served breakfast at about 6:30am and didn't believe I actually wanted to eat, but I did. I remember thinking I would never have time to sleep again, although I did - eventually.

This photo has other little details that I didn't even think of capturing at the time. The glider barely visible on the left was where Mr. Turtle sat most of the time and cuddled with AJ. The papers sitting on the window ledge are the birth registration documents. On one of these we later wrote AJ's name - but when this photo was taken she was not yet named. The ziplock bag has the warm socks I brought for labour but never used. The cup probably has ice water that was partly drunk and set aside. Probably the most significant object for me is the pink plastic bin on the ledge. This has the breast shields and tubing that were meant for the mechanical breast pump. When AJ had one low blood sugar reading, the medical staff immediately recommended formula supplementation and the nurses brought in the breast pump in case I had to pump. But the pump was never used. AJ learned to nurse effectively, her blood sugar readings never fell again, and I was filled with confidence that I could indeed feed and care for this tiny newborn life.

So there you go. Three ghosts from the past, thanks to the fact I didn't have a decent camera at the time. They aren't even good photos. Yet if the purpose of a picture is to capture a memory, these do it better than many prettier ones. I'll be keeping them.

And this is the DumbPhone's current background image.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Eighth months.....whaaaaaaaaaat!

Yes we are here: the age when time seems to accelerate with every passing week. I look at how AJ is growing and developing with something like disbelief, occasionally bordering on dismay.

At the same time, I simply cannot be sad that she is growing up because I am so in love with everything she is and does. I cannot imagine AJ any other way until a new talent or quirk emerges, and then I can't imagine her any way but that. And so on.

Here's what AJ liked this month:
  • Faucets are still somewhat interesting, but the toilet flushing is much more so
  • Watching me pick my nose (I get bored sometimes while breastfeeding, don't judge!)
  • Taking her toys out of a container (not yet putting them back)
  • Outside time: We go out with the stroller regularly, and did a short hike with AJ in a back carry one weekend. AJ also enjoys sitting out in the yard on a blanket. It's fun to watch the birds, cars, people and dogs go by. If she's grumpy or not appreciating life for any reason going outside or even looking out the window will almost always make her happy.
  • Wind: AJ likes it when the wind blows on her skin. She sticks out her tongue to "taste" it and squeals and giggles. If there is no wind she likes it when people blow in her face.
  • Thunder and lightning. At least, it doesn't bother her. I like to think she likes it because lightning is one of her totems (and embers and fire and turtles and ammolite). AJ experienced a thunderstorm for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was powerful enough to shake the house and rattle the fixtures. For some reason, AJ was very playful that evening, squirming and flailing about with happiness and excitement . We had not seen her with quite that level of energy before, so we joked that she must have absorbed some of the electricity in the atmosphere.
  • Playing with my necklaces (or other people's). She gets a particular interested expression as soon she sees one.
  • Pulling my earlobes (all the better if there are earrings there). Sticking her fingers in my ears. Pulling Dad's chest hair. (Is it wrong that this makes me laugh?)
  • Crowded, noisy places. Party baby! Kind of. She likes to look around and observe, but she won't smile right away. She has to check people out first and identify any suspicious characters. At least that's how it looks.
  • Head bumps: AJ and I sit facing each other, or she stands on my lap. We rub foreheads together and giggle. Also: Pulling my nose and giggling.This is so adorable; I don't understand how I haven't melted into a puddle yet. 
Other events:
  • The strawberry mark on the back of AJ's neck is mostly gone. It was so big and red for months, and the doctor said it could take two, three years to fade, but it's barely there now. I feel like this marks the passing of her teeny little baby stage. 
  • On the other hand, AJ never lost her hair: it has grown, thickened, and lightened. No haircut yet!
  • When I pick AJ up she grabs my neck with her arm, squeezes it and burrows her nose into my neck. Not sure if she's actually trying to give me a hug, but it feels like it! Love this so much.
  • First nipple bite. Ouch, that was really painful, the little piranha! I yelped and took her off the breast right away. 
  • "Poopmageddon": A few weeks after starting solids (which includes a regular diet of her favourite, lentils, combined with different fruits and/or vegetables) AJ started having poop issues. She hasn't been very dramatic in the poop department, so this was a first. Her poops started to get quite large (I'm surprised how they fit out her tiny butthole: sphincters are amazing) and at one point, a bit on the hard side. This led to episodes of angry, pained screaming and straining. It was difficult to watch. Luckily the problem seems to have been short lived: we started mixing prune puree in most of her meals, and making sure she ate stuff like pears which is supposed to help. And water, lots of water. I offer with every meal but also from a sippy cup during the day.
  • Sitting more solidly on her own. I am slowly giving up spotting for her. I still feel bad when she falls over and bumps her head. At the same time I feel that if I always rescue her she'll get a distorted idea of the laws of the physical universe. I often compromise by sitting her in the middle of our bed so that when she falls it's not painful, although she still gets "annoyed upset."
  • Rolls from belly to back easily, if she leaves one arm under her torso. If not, she's still stuck: except for once that she managed to roll back on her own, but obviously didn't take notes on how she did it. I managed to get photos so I have the proof it happened.
  • When she does get both her arms free, she will push up, and sometimes make swim/crawl motions. She still finds it tiring and will start to complain after a minute or two, but at least now she's practicing and should get more comfortable with it.
  • Likes to stand with support.
  • Manual dexterity took a big leap forward. AJ confidently manipulates objects in her hands. We tried introducing finger foods again (she wasn't into them at six months) and she is now able to pick up food, move it from hand to hand, and get it into her mouth on the first try. She is still more efficient at spoon feeding however.
  • Speaking of eating, AJ is more adept at chewing, and seems to have made the connection that this is something you do with food. She often starts "practice chewing" as soon as she sees us preparing her food. She needs to figure out that chewing and food and fingers at the same time doesn't work so well.
  • Sleep is OK, usually. Most days AJ goes to sleep at around 9pm and then does a 4-5 hour stretch (sometimes more) and then another couple of 2 or 3 hour stretches. Sometimes the reverse of that. She usually has a late morning or early afternoon nap. However, there are certainly exceptions. The heat wave we've been having the past week has messed things up a bit. It's hard for anyone to get to sleep when the house is 28 degrees C (82 degrees F). It's also getting harder to nurse AJ to sleep. This is probably a good thing, because she's putting herself to sleep more often. I have never worked up the nerve to "sleep teach," but she is teaching herself, at least some of the time. Nursing to sleep is not going to work forever, especially not when I'm back at work.
  • Signed up for mom/baby pool time (not really swimming lessons yet). I am looking forward to introducing AJ to the water. I have also booked plane tickets to visit my parents at their summer place in August. Some of our time there will be beach time so I hope AJ enjoys it. Look out for posts about how I am over-preparing and obsessing over a 1 hour flight with a baby. (It's good to have something positive to obsess over, however.)
  • Saw Inside Out for a date night. Very very good movie, but a rather silly choice for a date night where our goal was to not think or talk about the baby so much. Still, I recommend it. You will have rivers of tears running down your neck.
8 months post-partum:
  • No major body changes; health is good. I'm making more of an effort to eat and drink water regularly. I resolved again to remember to take my vitamins.
  • Finally stopped changing my pyjamas every night. I got into this habit after birth because I sweated so much at night. Then having fresh pj's every night became a pleasant luxury. But it does lead to a lot of laundry, which I like rather less. So I bought new pretty summer pj's and am rotating them less frequently.
  • Period has continued to show up. One 30 day cycle so far, one 23 day cycle, one 21 day cycle. The short cycles upset me because I worry about the DOR getting worse, although it is also common to have irregular cycles for a while after giving birth. Realistically I know the DOR will get worse over time but I hope that I might yet get another lucky break, because....
  • Fertility is more on my mind.  I have never stopped thinking about it, but as I get farther from the birth and the rawness of new motherhood, I feel a stronger urge to conceive again. I find myself looking back on pregnancy nostalgically, which is hilarious. If you followed the blog through 2014 you might recall how anxious I was throughout pregnancy. Our minds really do censor life marvelously. At the same time I don't really want to commit to TTC, because of the extra effort of monitoring my body and also because I'm afraid of the disappointment if I can't get pregnant again. Complicated thoughts and emotions....and they are getting stronger.
  • I just adore AJ's baby-ness. Every sight, touch, smell, sound. All her silky skin and squishy flesh and wiggly weight. I know how fleeting this time is and I'm lapping it up like a kitten in cream.
  • I'm pleasantly surprised about how relaxed I am.  I was an anxious person before parenthood and I was a very anxious pregnant person, so one of my concerns was that I'd been an anxious parent. I might be a little on the over-protective side (don't have much to compare to at the moment.)  I still get anxious when I have stressors. And sometimes I fall into anxiety-inducing ways of thinking. But my default state is not anxious, and that makes such a huge difference. I am not quite sure how I managed this. Some of the contributing factors have to be: AJ is a pleasant baby most of the time; Mr. Turtle is a skillful and loving father and husband; nobody around me had been nasty or critical; and I'm probably still enjoying some happy hormones thanks to breastfeeding.  
  • My feelings about going back to work vary. Sometimes I don't think about it much at all and just enjoy the moment. Other times I think it will work out fine. And there are times when I think: This is going to be a f!@#ing, flaming disaster. What was I thinking?! The different states of mind roughly correlate to how much sleep I've had, what time of day/night it is, and how "on schedule" AJ is. I'm not mathematically minded enough to give you the exact ratios, but you can probably figure it out. 
  •  I'm also fighting the feeling that it's now a countdown till I'm back at work. I want to enjoy the summer, dammit! It's funny because usually as a teacher at this time of year, two months feels like endless freedom. But from where I am now it looks like a terribly short time, sometimes. I have to consciously switch off the "countdown."
  • It's true I'm not overly anxious, but I do sometimes still focus on the negative: all the things I could do wrong, all the things that could go wrong outside of my control. I have to switch my thinking to a strength based perspective. I can do it but it does take conscious effort. I remind myself that after all, parenting has to be one of the most optimistic things anyone can do. If you want a child, or have a child, it means that you believe the world is a good place and can be a better place. It means you believe that life is worth living not only for you but for others too.  And it means that if things get tough or just plain awful, you believe you can cope with it and make it through.
So here I am having the courage of my own convictions. And truly loving each and every day.

In pictures: