Friday, May 31, 2013

getting pregnant.

I have wanted to be pregnant for as long as I can remember.

Have babies, oh dear yes. But I am not one of those women who wanted to have a stork magically drop off a baby. I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be round and full and radiant. I wanted that glow a pregnant woman gets as she stops and gently touches her swollen belly, smiling at no one and everyone as her new being kicks and tumbles inside of her. I wanted morning sickness and swollen feet and a sore lower back so I could place my hand there dramatically and sigh as I lowered my giant pregnant self onto the sofa. I wanted every single part of it because every part meant I was growing a new little person. Not everyone is lucky enough to experience pregnancy. I wanted to appreciate every second of it.

I started taking prenatal vitamins in high school. "They have everything a woman needs," I would tell people when they asked. Secretly it was in case I got knocked up. In France I discovered the phenomenal world of herbs. Anything that related to the reproductive system I knew about. I had a binder filled with notes about what plants helped prepare and strengthen the uterus, what helped with pregnancy-related nausea or hypertension, how to stop early contractions, how to induce labor, what herbs helped labor progress and contractions strengthen, what plants helped the body heal postpartum, what magic nature provided to help stimulate the flow of milk or help baby sleep better at night. Every now and then I would sneak the notebook off the shelf and leaf through page after page, almost in tears with excitement that some day I might be able to use all of the information I had so carefully cataloged to help me, pregnant me and my little baby.

I was ready at sixteen to be pregnant. Not in the typical adolescent "Awww, I want babies someday" type of way. But a primal, physical need to be with child. Whenever I was around someone lucky enough to have a baby in their belly I literally felt my uterus pulled towards their fertile body. I sometimes named the eggs I released during ovulation. Often when I bled each month, I wept not because of hormones, but because I was mourning an empty womb; that time symbolized the passing of yet another childless month.

I was ready.

And yet I was patient. When I met my husband, I knew. Not instantly; it wasn't love at first sight, but rather deep intrigue and passion. It was love soon thereafter. It had taken me moving to France to find him and I knew that I could not find a better father for my children in all of the world. But he was young and he was not ready and I did not need to ask him to know all of this. I waited patiently, knowing when he was ready he would tell me and he would give me the world in ways I had never imagined possible.

He knew I had been ready when we met and he did not need to ask me to know all of this. He saw my eyes glance longingly at women with their bellies smooth and round like a bowl of wood. When we got married he whispered gently in my ear, "Now I am going to call you Madame until the day I can call you maman." I blushed and nearly fainted.

Thanksgiving of 2011 he was finally ready.

"It's never going to be the right time," he told me. "And it is always the right time." I smiled. He smiled. "Let's do this. I want to call you maman."

We decided we would start trying in January. I immediately stopped drinking alcohol, crossed the street whenever someone approached smoking a cigarette and drank gallons of herbal teas every day to tone my uterus, all in the name of preparing my body to be with child. Red raspberry leaf; nettles; oat straw. I bought cases of Mommy-to-be and Pregnancy blends from our local co-op. I meditated, mindfully visualizing becoming rounder and fuller with every day. I devoured any literature about pregnancy I could get my hands on, carefully copying down pertinent passages in my ever-growing binder.

The holidays came and went in a foggy haze; we were drunk on dreams of what life would be like the following year with our little miracle. When we kissed on New Years' Eve, it was epic. January had never so fully symbolized a new beginning.

I wanted this baby and this pregnancy more than anything I had ever wanted in my life.

A few months before getting pregnant, I had a conversation with some co-workers about being pregnant. Everyone was jokingly saying if they were going to have kids, they'd want to get it over with all at once by having multiples, twins or even triplets.

"I would never want to have twins," I started, dead serious. "Not because I don't want lots of children, because I do, but because I so want to experience being pregnant as many times as I can!"

Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I am crazy. But how often do you get to be pregnant in this day and age? I am not Catholic and I am not rich. Once or twice, three tops, that's it! How many things that are so mind-blowingly life-altering do you get to do in your life? Why wouldn't you want to experience it as many times as you possibly could?

January came and with it my first ovulation. I knew my body like clockwork from years of family planning, though with opposite intentions. I knew exactly when the egg was released; I could feel a slight pinch. I knew which phase the moon was in during each stage of my cycle. I knew exactly when I was most fertile. I knew the exact window of time in which I could become pregnant.

It made making a baby the least romantic thing I have ever done. It was a daily struggle.

I wanted this baby to be natural. To be the result of my husband and I loving each other in the most intimate way. I did not want this baby to be the result of crazy calculations and heightened expectations. But there I was, upside down on the couch after making love like Phoebe from Friends, trying to let gravity help the best swimmers get to the egg faster.

January came and went. February came and went. Only one pink line on each white stick. I was devastated.

After two horribly long, horribly stressful months I gave up the game. Every day had been the worst day because I was not yet pregnant. Hours felt like years. I bought pregnancy tests in bulk. My poor husband had suddenly found himself married to a crazy person.

By March I decided enough was enough. I concluded the only way I could not know when the time was right was by not knowing the time at all. I hid all calendars, changed the date on my phone and purposefully avoided looking at the night sky so as to not accidentally see the moon. I continued to drink tea and take my vitamins, to exercise and meditate, but I stopped trying to visualize myself getting pregnant and instead focused on relaxing. I returned all the pregnancy books to the library and checked out novels instead. I started drinking the occasional beer (or two or three) or glass (or two or three) of wine. I stopped seeing my husband as a sperm-provider and remembered all the reasons I had fallen in love with him in the first place.

We decided we needed a change and started looking for a new place. We found the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood at the perfect price. And as we starting packing all of our belongings I felt the pinch but ignored it. Put it off as a cramp from heavy lifting. And the next day when I felt a twinge again and frantically started looking for a calender and counting backwards to my last cycle I stopped myself and laughed, relaxing at the thought that I had finally missed count and had no idea where I was. No idea what was my body and what was the influence of the outside world.

Little did I know I knew my body better than I ever could have imagined.

And so, as my husband and I moved all of our belongings by ourselves into our new home, lifting heavy object after heavy object and drinking beer after beer (a necessity to any successful moving day, no doubt), we were completely oblivious to the fact that I was gestating not just one, but two.

Little did we know my deepest desire had come true in ways we didn't think were possible. Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes life delivers on those wishes.

I didn't know it yet, but I was pregnant.


Finding out you're pregnant.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

random acts of kindness.

We are so lucky to live in such an incredible neighborhood. Never in my life have I felt so supported, so loved, so welcome and such a part of a community. In fact, before moving here I never imagined neighborhoods like this could truly exist outside of old Mr. Rogers reruns.

It seems there is a story of how we have been supported, loved, welcomed or surprised by random acts of kindness every month since moving here just over a year ago, but since having our babies in December it has become a weekly occurrence. There are simply too many stories to recount in detail in such a little space (a local restaurant donating and delivering food to help us with crazy postpartum life; dozens and dozens of moms donating and delivering breastmilk when we were struggling to feed our babies; neighbors watching our backs, feeding our pets, repairing our appliances, providing moral support to name a few), but this week's deserves to be told.

My husband works at the local co-op here, and it seems everyone in the whole zip code knows and loves "the French guy"; I run into members of our community daily who know me and my boys by name, who know my story, who followed Owen's struggles in the beginning, who send us their love and wish us well. Stranger is not an appropriate word here in Columbia City/Hillman City/Seward Park. A bit strange as in quirky, perhaps, but we are far from estranged. We are all members of one big communal melting pot of love and there is comfort somehow in knowing you have a place in the hearts of people you have never even met.

A few days ago my husband was making conversation as he always does with a customer going through his check-out line. She was wearing a hiking backpack designed specially for wearing your baby and he asked if she liked it. We have been talking about getting one (or two) for months and months, maybe years, probably since before I was even pregnant. We'd daydream about going on hikes with our baby (yes, singular, as we were expecting only one), how we'd get out of the city every weekend and let our new little person breathe in the fresh mountain air.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how many times that has happened since the boys arrived.

So they had a small conversation about hiking backpacks and the pros and cons and what she liked and so on and so forth. He mentioned we have been considering purchasing one, hence his interest in hers.

My husband is one of the most sincere people I've ever met. He asks questions like these all day because he is genuinely interested. He wants to learn. He wants to know you. People can sense it. They generally open up and truly answer. I thought this type of contact with strangers was extinct; maybe it's my husband, maybe it's the neighborhood, but I am telling you people, it does exist.

He gets home from work later that afternoon and what is waiting on our doorstep? Two baby hiking backpacks in amazing condition. No note, no explanation, just sitting there.

A man comes by and introduces himself.

"You met my wife today," he explains. "You mentioned how you were interested in one of these. We are moving to Denver in two days and don't have room for them and we figured you might find some use of them."

Smile. Shock. Disbelief. Beat.

"But how did you know where I live?" my husband asks.

"Oh, we drove by your house once when you were getting out of your car with the twins. My wife recognized you at the store so we knew where you live."

Amazing the random acts of kindness from "strangers" here, no?

Thank you so much to the family who left us such a thoughtful gift! You are too kind, so much so that it makes me blush every time I see the backpacks sitting there waiting to be used! (Which I have promised ourselves we will on the next day we all have together where the weather accommodates.) I sincerely hope you find in Denver what you are leaving behind here in Seattle.

I've heard it is the most diverse zip code in the nation. I don't know if that's true, but it sure as hell is the most inspiring. May you all continue to amaze and inspire everyone around you! My only hope is to some day feel I contribute even a fraction as much to you as you have all contributed to our well being!

98118 pride!!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

mastitis.

Mastitis is a bitch. Excuse my French (although I think my husband being French gives me a get-out-of-jail-free card), but this is an infection you really really do not want to get. I was chatting with a fellow new mom a while ago about a recent mastitis scare and at the mere mention of the word she said the exact phrase I had said to my doctor a few months prior as I was being hospitalized for my second infection. She asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10.

"Oh my god it hurts worse than childbirth!"

Unfortunately for a lot of women this is not an exaggeration. And unfortunately the infection is not completely understood, by doctors and lactation specialists alike. There are certain risk factors, there are certain things you can do to try to avoid infection or to try to rid yourself of the infection at the very first signs, but some people are just more prone to it. You can do everything by the books, follow all the rules and tips and still end up with a nasty case. For those cases, I'm sorry but this information won't be much help. Sometimes you just need a good dose of antibiotics or a stay in the hospital. 

Hopefully it won't come to that for you. After my second infection I vowed to learn everything I could about mastitis, what it is, who gets it and how to best prevent it. I have since had two scares, and following these suggestions (one or all or some combination) has helped me prevent full-blown mastitis requiring antibiotics both times. Hopefully this information can help you prevent it, too.

What is it?
In the simplest of terms, mastitis is an inflammation of the breast.

What causes it?
It is usually caused either by a blockage of milk flow or some kind of infection (most commonly Staphylococcus, or a Staph infection). In the case of infection, it was probably introduced to the breast from baby's mouth through a cracked or damaged nipple and you will probably need antibiotics. This sounds scary but is common; babies pick up a lot of things in hospitals. It probably isn't harming baby, but once it enters your breast it can do serious damage.

Blocked flow can be caused by a whole host of factors, namely:
  • failing to completely drain the breast at each feeding (especially once the fatty hind-milk starts flowing), 
  • feeding problems (such as a weak suck, a tongue tie, improper latch-on technique, or always using the same position to breastfeed which might only drain one part of the breast),
  • restrictions (such as a too-tight bra or top, especially underwire bras; sleeping in a restrictive position or with baby laying on top of you; too-tight straps such as on a really long drive or flight or consistently wearing a baby carrier or diaper bag in the same position)
  • damage (from injury, massaging too hard or previous infection/inflammation)
Who is at risk?
Theoretically everyone is at risk, even non-lactating women and sometimes even men (this is very very rare). We're going to focus on the lactation-related kind here. In this case, certain factors can increase your risk, such as:
  •  the first few weeks of breastfeeding (most cases occur within the first three months, although it can occur any time during breastfeeding)
  • engorgement or oversupply
  • changes to breastfeeding schedules (such as going back to work, or increased supply after a tongue tie release, etc)
  • being a mother of multiples,
  • past history of mastitis,
  • a hospital stay (for mom or baby, due to increased exposure to infections),
  • too much stress or fatigue
What are the symptoms?
At the very first signs, there is a chance you can avoid a full-blown infection with some home remedies. The signs to look out for are:
  • a tender area of the breast that starts to form a lump, 
  • it may start out a little painful to the touch but the pain will usually quickly increase and become constant,
  • it may be swollen and/or red,
  • it may feel hot to the touch,
  • it may be painful to breastfeed,
  • you may start to feel feverish
Once the infection has progressed to include these symptoms, call your primary care physician immediately (if it is after hours, GO TO THE ER!!! The infection can worsen very quickly and can cause serious and irreversible damage to your breast!):
  • fever over 101° F
  • chills
  • nausea or vomiting
  • flu-like aching
  • red streaking on the breast towards the nipple
What can I do at home to prevent it?
At the very very first signs of infection:
  • Increase your fluid intake to at least a gallon and a half per day, focusing on clear liquids such as herbal teas, 100% fruit juices and Emergen-C or something similar.
  • Take your vitamins & herbal supplements, but especially vitamin C, zinc and echinacea. 
  • If you have access to herbal tinctures, take immunity boosting ones.
  • Homeopathic Phytolacca Decandra 30c - dissolve five pellets under the tongue every two hours from the very first signs of infection until absolutely every symptom is gone.
  • Eat as much raw garlic as you can handle.
  • Remove as much stress as possible - ask friends & family to take care of food and chores and other children until you are better.
  • If possible, bed rest in a dark room with nothing but you & baby. Sleep topless and nurse as often as baby will take the breast. 
  • Nurse, nurse, nurse & pump, pump, pump! You are trying to unblock a blockage, and that can only be done by stimulating the milk ejection reflex. 
  • Use heat to help with let down before nursing or pumping. Apply a wet hot compress, as hot as you can stand, and insulate with a dry towel to keep the heat in as long as possible. Soaking the affected breast in a hot bath works, too. (Some women find steeping either rosemary, dandelion or fenugreek seed and using the resulting infusion in their compress or as a soak.) Hot showers are very helpful, too, especially when combined with massage.
  • Massage your breast continuously before and during nursing or pumping, stroking in the direction of the nipple and making sure to massage all areas of the breast (not just the infected and sore part, although you definitely should concentrate there).
  • Use cool compresses as needed between nursing or pumping sessions for the pain.
  • Make a warm castor oil compress to draw out the infection. Soak a piece of wool or felt in warmed castor oil and apply directly to the affected area. Cover with something cotton and keep it there for a half an hour to an hour. Wash off the castor oil residue when finished. Do this up to three times a day.
  • Take Ibuprofen to help with pain and inflammation. 
If this doesn't help in 24-48 hours (you will know if it hasn't worked and is getting dangerous, call your doctor or go to the ER!!! I am not exaggerating about going to the ER! If mastitis isn't treated in the early stages it can progress incredibly quickly. If the infection festers too long it can require lengthy hospital stays and may necessitate draining the breast. This is as awful as it sounds. It is literally sticking a needle into your boob and draining out the infection. With no anesthetic! Ouch and yuck!

Hopefully thanks to a few home tricks it won't ever come to that!

Happy nursing!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

bliss.

Everyone deserves a little break now & then! Soup + grilled cheese + beer + babies + barbecues + croquet + husbands = happiness!!!

Happy long weekend, mamas & papas of the world!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

you know you're a new parent when #3.

You hear a song with bagpipes in it and look around frantically thinking it's your crying baby.

Friday, May 24, 2013

maman musing #3.

Why do I feel guilty taking the carpool lane with my babes? They are tiny little people, but they are people and if anyone should have a special lane to themselves it's parents.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

meditation.

"Don't just do something; sit there!" 
- Zen saying

Meditation could change your life if you'd let it.

No, seriously.

Mentally speaking, closing your eyes and directing your energy inward focuses your attention on calming the mental chatter that doesn't ever seem to stop. Doing it daily would make you more calm, less reactive, more connected to yourself and more connected to those around you. It can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, heighten awareness and observation and has even been claimed to help people become more forgiving and less judgmental.

Physically speaking, those who meditate regularly benefit from lowered resting heart rates; lower blood pressure; reduced pain levels and recurring health problems such as migraines; elevated brain function; deeper breathing; better metabolism; and physical growth of the brain which can potential lead to increased intelligence!

So do it! No, seriously! No one says they don't take time to pee when the need to. It's urgent, so we find the time. So is meditating! Set aside five minutes a day. I promise you won't regret it!

Here's a simple meditation to get you started:

Get comfortably seated, with your spine as straight as you can. Sitting on a pillow or blanket can help keep your legs from falling asleep by keeping your legs lower than your hips. Breathe deeply through your nose. Focus on inhaling and filling every last little empty space in your lungs. Exhale slowly as though you are warming the air in front of your face.

Focus your attention on the ground beneath you. Feel every part of the floor or cushion or blanket that is touching any part of your body. Bring your awareness to anything your legs are touching - the parts of your toes that are touching each other; the backs of your legs touching at the crease in your knees; the waistband of your pants. Continue in the way all the way up your body, paying attention to the tiniest of details, like the ways your fingers are touching or the hair on the back of your neck.

As you work up to your head, bring your awareness to your hair, all the way up the back of your head to your forehead and focus your attention on your third eye, which is located in between your eyebrows. Some people might see colors or flashes of light or feel intense feelings here. That is good! Embrace it!

When you have spent a few breaths focusing on your third eye, end with some form of mantra. I have a few that I circulate depending on my mood, but it should be something meaningful to you and that leaves you feeling uplifted. Throughout my pregnancy my favorite mantra was:

I trust my body. I trust my babies. I have faith in the universe.

Namaste!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

trick: calendula wash.

There are so many herbal infusions that are handy when it comes to taking care of babies, but probably one of the most useful is calendula. You probably know it better as marigold; in fact it may even be growing in your garden!

There are many varieties out there, but the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes is Calendula officinalis, or pot marigold. It should be in every mama's herbal first aid kit for sure - homeopathic pills; dried for use in infusions and poultices; and in the form of lotions, creams or oils. It is ideal anytime there is inflammation of the skin, bleeding, an open wound, bruising, strains, minor burns & scalds, and fungal infections.

One of the easiest and most effective ways of using calendula is as a wash or rinse to help heal any irritation of the skin. Lately we've been using this in our household on the babes any time we see the first signs of a diaper rash coming on, as well as under the double chin when the "neck cheese" (as a friend so perfectly described it!) has been fermenting too long and starts to form a rash.

The steps are very simple.

Take a small handful of dried calendula.

Pour boiling water over it and let it steep 10 minutes.

Dip a clean cloth in the infusion and apply to wherever is needed. It does not need to be rinsed off afterwards.

The infusion can be strained and kept in a sterile container for a few days to be used on cuts and bruises, rashes and skin irritations - seriously this can help with almost anything external! It can also be used as an antibacterial face wash - really helpful for oily or acne prone skin. Or similarly can be sprayed or dabbed on the face after washing as a cleansing antibacterial toner. Likewise it could be kept in a spray bottle next to a changing station to help prevent diaper rash.

Discard once the liquid starts getting cloudy.


Dried calendula is easily found in herbal shops and is pretty inexpensive. A few local shops here in Seattle that I really love and highly recommend are Rainbow Natural Remedies in Capitol Hill (on 15th across from the QFC) and Dandelion Botanical Company in Ballard (on Ballard Ave).

It is also one of the easiest herbs to cultivate at home in your very own garden, although if you plan on drying the flowers yourself care must be taken that they dry completely without growing any mold. The flowers or just the petals can be collected any time from early summer through early fall. They can be used immediately or dried. Dry them in a well-ventilated area in the shade and check for any discoloration, which would suggest molding.


Happy herbing!

Monday, May 20, 2013

you know you're a new parent when #2.

You find yourself texting your friends at 2am and it's not because you're drunk.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

maman musing #2.

I wish someone would have told the 16-year-old version of myself that driving around with the windows down blasting some ridiculously loud music would unbeknownst to me wake up babies from their naps, irritating the hell out of some poor new maman.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

tip: lulling baby to sleep.

Lullabies are the best. Until you've been singing the same song over and over again for three hours, that is.Your baby loves the lullaby so much they just won't let themselves drift off.

After years and years of rocking my three younger sisters and all the babies in the neighborhood to sleep (I was an awesome and well-reputed babysitter, thankyouverymuch!), I learned a thing or two about getting babes to finally let themselves fall into a deep slumber.

A simple yet effective way to lull them into sleep is to progressively slow the tempo of the song and quiet the volume of your voice. By the end you should be singing so slow that it's hard to follow the words and so softly that it's just a bit above a whisper.

It works even better if you are tapping their back along in time with the music. As the tempo slows, the taps slow. Baby's breathing slows. They take a deep breath and...

...zzzzzz...

Sweet dreams!

Friday, May 17, 2013

personal revolution.

Trying to find maternity clothes that don't make you look like a beached whale (though you likely still feel like a beached whale no matter what you're wearing) are often hard to come by during pregnancy. The advertising makes the women look all easy-bake-oven cute, but when you put it on you look more like those giant ovens they have in the restaurant industry.

My pregnancy had two phases of maternity clothes. The normal first batch I bought when I started showing, all excited when I couldn't button my jeans anymore. And the second batch, after I no longer fit into even the largest maternity clothes I already had, after we found out there were two babies in there (at 22 weeks!!!) and decided bigger clothes were definitely needed.

I carried my boys to 40 weeks and 2 days, so I was huge by the time I gave birth and pretty much only fit into stretch pants and pajamas and one pair of super big maternity jeans, but I had two babies in me, so I had an excuse.

I'm not usually one to stress about weight; I generally trust that eating healthy and staying active will keep my body the right size for me. I rarely step on the scale as I don't believe pounds are the best way to measure one's health. That being said, my weight has not changed since a few weeks post-partum. I lost a ton of weight just by giving birth to two healthy full-term babies (at 5 lbs 10 oz and 6 lb 15 oz, plus the placentas, I had a lot of baby in there), but the rest of it, which I naively assumed would just fall off as I ran around chasing and nursing two babies, has stuck around to the pound.

Which is frustrating, but at the end of the day, whatever, right?

Well, I just started taking domperidone to help with some nursing issues we've been struggling with. It boosts milk production substantially and that is really important to me; however, the only real side effect is weight gain. I haven't gained any weight on the scale, but I have gotten bigger. I haven't been able to fit into any pre-partum clothes since giving birth, but now I don't even fit into the maternity clothes I was wearing at 40 weeks pregnant with twins. No joke.

When your hair looks so ratty a bird probably wouldn't even touch it for its nest and you have been living in your pajamas for a few months, taking a shower is like winning the lottery. You think of all the things you can do now that you are clean - all the fresh clean clothes you can wear, the earrings rusting next to the necklaces just waiting to be worn and the lipstick you haven't opened in what seems like decades. When you can't fit into any of those fresh clean clothes, not even the extra huge maternity ones you've put in a pile in the corner of your closet, and you have to climb back into the gross milk- and spit-up-encrusted pajamas you've been wearing for your babies' entire lives, life sucks. (Ok, that's a slight exaggeration; I have a few pajamas in rotation...)

I'm starting to worry that my babies will think this is what I look like. This scraggly disheveled stick-figure drawing version of myself. The cartoon version of me that is always wearing the same damn outfit, looking strung out with huge bags under my eyes and a rat's nest on top of my head. I'm sick of it.

So yesterday I decided things need to change.

It starts with Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution, but with a few added challenges of my own. The basic idea of his program (which I highly highly recommend to anyone looking for a good jumping off point for change) is that it takes 40 days for something to become habit. By making every effort to meditate, practice yoga and be present in my actions every day for six weeks, the goal is for it to become second nature by the end. He lays out what to focus on during meditation every week, what yoga sequence to follow and how to be mindful in your every day activities.

I'm not hoping that by the end I will magically have reached my pre-pregnancy weight. Let's be honest; I'm not sure I will ever weigh as little again in my life, but that's fine. My hope is that this will initiate a change in my general hygiene and self-care. That instead of grabbing whatever snacky foods I can (say, two packs of licorice and a box of crackers) and calling it dinner I will consciously make myself a healthy meal and sit down to eat it (sitting on the bed doesn't count), because it's better for my children to see healthy eating habits but moreso because I deserve to be taken care of.

That instead of throwing on the same aerobics-era leggings with the hole in the butt and ratty sweatshirt with a broken zipper I will actually get dressed in the morning even if I don't intend to leave the house, because those stretch pants probably need a good wash but moreso because I deserve to be taken care of.

That instead of calling the bajillion times I walk up and down the stairs or pick up one or both of the boys or do contortionist-style moves trying to breastfeed or wear them at the same time, I will actually do some form of physical exercise for myself, not as a byproduct of my daily routine but purposefully, because my boys should grow up understanding that healthy daily physical activity is fun but moreso because I deserve to be taken care of.

That I will brush my hair (and teeth! - gross that I have to make that a rule, I know) and wear lipstick and at least one piece of jewelry daily not because make-up or material things make you beautiful (or that outer beauty is all that matters in the world, or matters at all if you really get right down to it) but because quite frankly when all you do all day is take care of two very demanding little people, you have to rely on the little things to feel taken care of yourself. And I deserve to be taken care of, damnit!

And maybe as an added bonus, by the end of this whole personal revolution I will be able to fit into something other than pajamas and anything with "stretch" in the description; or if not, I will be at peace enough with myself not to let it bother me. Either way will suit me just fine.

Here's to a shiny, buffed up version of new-maman-me! Wish me luck! I sure as hell deserve it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

trick: how to pit an avocado.

I know you love avocado. We all do. Especially my little monsters. But isn't it a pain to get the pit out?

Not anymore.

video

Et voilà!


Take that, avocado!
Bon appetit!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

quick meal: mac n' joe.

Ideally I recommend eating a diet that consists entirely of whole organic foods, preferably locally sourced and in season, prepared simply.

Sometimes when you are a new mom of twins, that is impossible.

This is a super quick meal, originally thrown together when trying to find something quick with a bit of protein. It's pasta & sloppy joe mix. Instead of mac n' cheese, it's mac n' joe.


Ingredients:
  • Pasta
  • Sloppy Joe Mix
    • Tomato Paste
    • Olive Oil
The sloppy joe part could be made from scratch if you're going for taste, but I just use a box of Fantastic World Foods Sloppy Joe Mix, which requires a can of tomato paste and a tablespoon of olive oil. It can be made with whatever pasta you've got, though macaroni-type-pasta keeps it living up to its name.

Directions:
  1. Make the pasta according to the package. 
  2. Make the sloppy joe mix according to the package. 
  3. Mix it all together.



Et voila. Quick, easy, comfort food. This isn't a meal to eat if you want to feel uber healthy. It's a meal to eat if you haven't eaten much all day, only have 5 minutes to make it and/or it's a blustery rainy day in spring. (Wait, it's already mid-May?! When did that happen??!)

It is also extremely easy to individualize this one. Throw whatever extras you want on a plate next to the stove and have people add whatever they fancy. Have some non-vegans in the house? Grate up some sharp cheddar. Kids or kids at heart? Black olives. Stinkers like me? Onions and garlic. Want a touch of something healthy? How about some spinach or mushrooms or roasted kale? The possibilities are endless.

This has become a staple in our house since the boys were born, and I'm sure as they get older it will become one of the cop out easy meals they grow to love, too.

Bon Appetit!


(I promise that not all recipes will be like this one; I can't, however, promise that this will be the only one of its kind!)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

trick: deepening a neck stretch.

It's Mother's Day! Which can be filled with incredible joy as the little (or big) ones you created and raised celebrate you and shower you with love. It can also be filled with the stress of having to take care of little rascals on "your" day, plus the added stress of any travel and/or visiting with relatives. It can be a really wonderful but reeeeaaaally long day.

Which is why here at the end of it, as your little ones are finally falling asleep and you are finally getting a quiet moment to yourself, you should take a few minutes for a deep breath and a deep stretch.

Here's how to deepen a neck stretch. It feels amazing and only takes a minute. Do it while you're waiting for the milk to heat up, the baby to fall asleep, the dryer to finish, the water to boil, the email to load. Do it as many times as you want because it feels incredible and helps give you enough of a mini-break to run back to their aid when they wake up and start crying and still feel rejuvenated.

Start by simply stretching your neck: tilt your head to one side, trying to bring your ear down to your shoulder instead of your shoulder up to your ear.

You can use your hand to deepen the stretch if you like. Stay here long enough to take three deep breaths. Enjoy it. Switch sides and take three deep breaths with your other ear reaching down toward your other shoulder.

Next give yourself a little ear massage. Press the lobe of your ear between your fingers and give it a good rub; rub all along the ear from the lobe up to the very top; swipe your index finger along the inside of your ear as if you were trying to wipe water out; and run your fingers along the crease behind your ear. You can do each ear separately or you can do them at the same time, whatever feels better to you. Just make sure they both get a thorough rub-down.


Now for the crazy part. Tilt your head back over to that same neck stretch you started out with. Your head should tilt way more this time! It feels amazing! And it works like a charm every single time.

Hope this helps add a little joy to the end of an already joyful day! Happy Every Day, mama!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

mother's day print project.

Mother's Day should be the most important day of the year. Moms do a ton and are hardly ever adequately appreciated, and the presents we give mom and grandma on her one day of celebration each year often pale in comparison to our appreciation.

This first year with the boys I really wanted to do something special for the new grandparents and great-grandparents. I hope they love this project as much as I do!




Pretty simple in concept, although inking and printing hand- and footprints of two five-month-olds by yourself without getting ink everywhere... almost impossible!

The idea was to have the hands and/or feet be in the shape of a heart. It wasn't as blatantly recognizable as I had hoped, so I just outlined it. This could work with just one baby, just with both hands, and could probably work with siblings of similar ages, too.

Make sure to use toxic-free ink, as it is inevitable some will end up in baby's mouth.

The frames I found at a thrift shop; I love funky frames and each one was specially picked out to match a specific Mom we love!!! Quick project and one that is usually well-received. Who doesn't like baby prints???

Happy Mother's Day weekend to one and to all!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

celebrate.

I woke up this morning to my husband snatching the babies and bringing them downstairs to let me sleep in a few hours. I slept for four uninterrupted hours this morning! And when I did wake, it was to a breakfast in bed of chocolate chip coconut pancakes.

I should draw comic versions of what I really want in life more often.

No but seriously, it got me thinking. This evening he cooked me and three of my girlfriends dinner and then put the babies down while we had a girls' night. Right before he took the boys upstairs I looked him straight in the eye and jokingly asked, "You know Mother's Day is on Sunday, right?" He replied that it should be the whole weekend, and it brought me right back to the idea that every day is Mother's Day, though not every day is celebrated.

Why is that?

Conversely every day is also Father's Day, and it reminded me to find little moments to celebrate both of us whenever we can. Before having children of my own, I always thought breakfast in bed and a foot rub was such an easy cop-out gift for a mom, but now I think it's the best present in the world. And I hope I can give Papa as wonderful of a break as he gave me.

Here's to parents, every. single. day.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

tip: easy solid food clean-up.

We just recently started introducing solids for our babes and it's quite a learning experience for all of us. The babes have learned how tasty white rice and bananas and avocado can be while Papa and I have learned that one meager tablespoon of mush can somehow cover the entire living room by the end of a feeding!

We haven't quite figured out how to avoid rice dreadlocks or banana earwax, but we did come up with a way to avoid dealing with stains and to make clean-up a breeze.

It's quite simple, really.

Eat naked!

Owen getting ready for avocado time!
Well, okay, eat with just a diaper and a bib. This may sound intuitive and way too easy of an idea and maybe some of you already use this method, but after our first time just unvelcroing the bib and dunking them in the bath instead of trying to take off a completely saturated onesie without recoloring the whole bedroom avocado green I couldn't help thinking, "You are a genius!!!"

When they are a little older and able to really sit up on their own and as the weather gets warmer and warmer, we might even take eating solids outside once a day to get some vitamin D along with their yummy mush (and to make clean-up just that much easier)!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

trick: getting baby to swallow.

I never in my life imagined I would need to know this trick, but it just so happened when Arlo was getting his tongue tie released that the doctor wanted to give him some baby Tylenol before the procedure and he wasn't having it. Why would he? He had only ever had breast milk up to this point and medicine is weird and sticky!

"Just blow on his face," the doctor said.

"Whaaa?"

I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly, but sure enough it made him swallow! It's a reflex babies have. It is effective and it is adorable.

Since that day we have used it to help them swallow gripe water, to help them swallow that last bit of milk left hanging out in their mouths, to help them swallow when they start coughing and to help them swallow when they are just tasting their first bit of solids but forget the next step. It works like a charm.

It is also an integral part of teaching a baby to swim. Before you dunk their head under the water, you first blow on their face and they suck in a huge breath and then hold it. We haven't tried it for that purpose yet, but we have given it a go for pure entertainment.

video

I would say that we're horrible and mean except that he loves it! Fun for the whole family! Like I said, pure entertainment!

Monday, May 6, 2013

blackout curtains.

Watching the sunset slowly creep its way closer to the summer equinox is certainly preferable to the slow crawl towards constant darkness here in Seattle. That being said, this is the first year that I'm experiencing this visible changing of the seasons where I'm not enjoying a few extra hours of gorgeous sunlight with my love (with a glass of wine on the patio? It seems never again, I'm afraid...). Instead it has translated into more difficultly for bedtime with babies. What was our perfect little bedtime routine has now become obsolete when to the boys it looks like it's high noon outside.

The added fact that naps had been nonexistent until just recently meant it was time to find a solution to help them (and us!) sleep better.

Enter the blackout curtain.

A fellow new mom mentioned she had blackout curtains and it helped her sweet babe nap. A quick inquiry led to a few conclusions: 1) the really nice ones usually really do work and 2) they are freaking expensive. Our bedroom has two floor to ceiling windows, a giant almost wall-to-wall window and an open doorway facing west. There is a lot of window to cover up. At $60 a pop for the cheapy ones that aren't guaranteed to work, I was hesitant.

Then I talked with another mama who told me about blackout lining. It can be found in pretty much any fabric store. I found mine at the Pacific Fabric & Crafts outlet in SODO in the curtain and upholstery area for $7.99/yd. Since I wanted to blackout all the windows in the upstairs I bought 10 yards and went to town. I used a coupon for 20% found in this year's Chinook Book, so for the cost of roughly one set of curtains I was able to blackout the entire second floor of the house myself.


This is probably the simplest project I have ever done. Seriously. If I can do this in one day at home by myself with two four-month-old-twin-boys to take care of at the same time, you can do this. 


I started by cutting out a piece of blackout lining slightly smaller than the curtain itself. (I actually made these curtains a few years ago for separate windows in different rooms in our old house and then repurposed them in the bedroom in this house when we moved in last year.) 

Next I pinned the lining to the back of the curtain, a few centimeters from the top. 



Then I sewed along the seam of the curtain hole. I used a contrasting color and stitched a few centimeters off of the main seam so one day when the boys are older if I decide I want to take the blackout lining off it will be easy to distinguish from the construction of the curtains themselves, but feel free to use matching thread and sew directly over whatever stitching already exist to hide your work.



The before and after contrast is insane! (With two adorable little monsters on the bed, enjoying the new-found darkness.)

Et voila. The room isn't completely blacked out mostly due to the fact that there are six separate curtains covering the giant window, but now it looks like 10pm no matter what the hour. The room is significantly cooler, too, a perk with the crazy hot streak we've had this week. (I'm not complaining, it's just unlike Seattle to reach 80 in May!)


Here are the side windows...


...and the open doorway.

Like I said, this was by far the easiest project I have ever done It took only a few hours, while taking care of the babes at the same time.

Nap time so far has gone much better than before - less light means they sleep longer and are more awake and cheerful when they wake up! More time for mommy while they nap and more fun when they are up! Win-win!!! I will let you know if bedtime gets progressively easier, as that was the ultimate goal, though that one might take a few days to really see a result one way or the other.

In the meantime, happy sleeping!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

maman musing #1.

Even when you're up at 5am because your baby's teething, a Seattle spring sunrise is still phenomenal.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

herb of the week: fenugreek.

*Any information found on this site is not intended to be taken as a replacement for medical advice. Before taking any herbal remedy for medicinal purposes, always consult with your physician, and any persons with conditions requiring medical attention should always consult a qualified practitioner or therapist.*

Trigonella foenum-graecum
(Common names: Fenugreek, Bird's Foot, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Trigonella)

Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber
Source: www.biolib.de

Fenugreek is an herb that has been used around the world for a very very long time. It has quite a history and is used all around the globe both as an herbal remedy and for culinary purposes.

In the West it is primarily the seeds that are known for medicinal uses, but in much of the East the leaves (fresh or dried), sprouts and greens are used in local cuisine.

As an herb, the seeds are used as an expectorant, demulcent, tonic, emmenagogue, emollient and vulnerary (read up on the actions of herbs), but Fenugreek is most well-known for its use as a galactagogue to help breast-feeding women increase their milk supply. It also has a reputation for stimulating development of the breasts, aiding in increasing sexual desire in women and calming symptoms of both PMS and menopause. 

Like other bitter herbs, it can help soothe the digestive tract and help with indigestion and ulcers, though decoctions and tinctures can be so bitter as to be unpalatable to some people. It can also be taken as a remedy for bronchitis as it is recommended to help clear the chest and lungs. As a gargle it helps soothe a sore throat.

Externally poultices can be applied to help heal wounds and reduce inflammation and is especially useful for sores, boils, eczema, fistulas and tumors.

The seedpods are collected in early to mid-fall.

To make a decoction to increase milk production:
Simmer 1.5 tsp of the seeds in 1 cup water for 10 minutes.
Drink 3 times a day.
To make it less bitter, add 1 tsp Aniseed or add a bit of lemon juice.

An infusion (just steeping it in boiled water) is not bitter at all and actually tastes a lot like maple syrup (in fact it is often used to flavor imitation maple syrups) but it doesn't have the same potency medicinally as a decoction (where the seed is boiled/simmered in water). To make an infusion for a sore throat or to ease digestion:
Add boiling water to 1 tsp of the seeds and let infuse 5 minutes.
Drink freely.

If taking as a tincture, take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times daily.

If taking in capsule form for milk production, take 1500mg three times daily. Most women have found once their supply has gone up, they can reduce or stop taking the herb and still maintain their elevated supply as long as they continue to stimulate production through nursing or pumping.

To use externally as a poultice, crush the seeds and add a enough water or apple cider vinegar to make a paste. Apply this paste to the affected area (you can first apply a little oil to the area if desired to make it easier to remove the poultice later) and cover it with a hot cloth (heat enhances the action of the herbs).

The only side effects are possible loose stools (usually with very high doses, and which go away when stopped being taken) and sweat or urine smelling like maple syrup (and possibly baby's sweat and urine smelling like maple syrup).

DO NOT USE THIS HERB in medicinal quantities (culinary use is still fine) if:
- You are pregnant.
(As an emmenagogue it stimulates the uterus and in high doses could potentially cause uterine contractions. That being said, it can be used to help stimulate contractions while in labor.)
-You are hypoglycemic.
(Studies have shown Fenugreek lowers blood glucose, so monitor your use closely if you are being treated for hypoglycemia.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

no words.

When I was young, I read a poem in a book by Brian Andreas and I cried because I thought I would never truly understand what the author meant.

Then I grew older, and met a man who far surpassed any man from my dreams. I copied the words over bright red pastels to give to him and I cried because I thought the poem was about me.

Then I grew older still, and brought two beautiful boys into the world on the same cold December morning. Lying awake at night, watching their tiny chests rise and feeling their small hands grasping for my fingers, I cried because I realized that all this time I had been wrong to think I knew what love was.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

i swear, when i have babies someday...

At some point in our lives we look at other parents - maybe our own, maybe our friends who have had children before us, maybe random people we see at the supermarket or the park with their kids in tow - and we start making a mental list of all the things we swear we will or won't do when we have children of our own someday.

And then we have kids and realize how hilariously naive we were pre-baby.

These are all things I actually said or thought before having a baby myself...

I will:
  • Have the perfect birth experience; everything will go exactly as planned (so much so that I don't even really need a birth plan)
  • Still have sex after I have kids
  • Still have time to cook and never succumb to only eating frozen meals and take out
  • Still shower every day and brush my hair and put on real clothes
  • Still be as close with non-baby-having friends as I was before baby
  • Fill out one of those Baby's First Whatever books every day and find time to write down every milestone no matter how small
  • Lose all the baby weight super fast and be one of those hot new moms that everyone believes is the baby's sister or aunt or something
  • Exclusively breastfeed for the first year (Yes, a whole year of only breast milk! Hey, that's how they do it in other parts of the world!! Why not me? Breastfeeding's a breeze, right?)
  • Read baby Shakespeare while listening to classical music every day

I will never:
  • Give my baby a pacifier
  • Let having children get in the way of my relationship with my partner
  • Be embarrassed or ashamed of breastfeeding in public
  • Use a stroller (crazily enough, I still thought this one even after finding out I was having twins!)
  • Leave my baby unattended, even for a second
  • Use anything made of plastic
  • Swear in front of my baby
  • Be one of those moms who only talks about her baby 24/7
  • Feel guilty about any choices I make as a parent
  • Give my baby anything other than breast milk straight from my boob
  • Give my baby formula
  • Use disposable diapers
  • Be on my phone texting or surfing the internet in front of my baby
  • Prop a bottle up on a stuffed animal
  • Be one of those crazy parents who doesn't vaccinate their child - how irresponsible!!!
  • Vaccinate my child - those things are full of crazy chemicals!!!
  • Drink a beer while breastfeeding (or glass of wine while pumping)
  • Be one of those new moms whose blog/fb consists solely of updates about how baby drools or sleeps or rolls over and photo after photo of their baby drooling or sleeping or rolling over
  • Get angry at my baby - it's just a little helpless baby!

Also:
  • My baby will be a good baby that will never cry for no reason because I will be so in tune with him/her that I will always know what they need.
  • Just because you have a baby doesn't mean you need a car; if I can't walk, bike or bus there, we don't need to go there.
  • Everyone says having kids is the hardest thing ever but they are wimps; I was made to be a mommy and this will be a breeze.

I'm sure I will just keep adding to this list as my boys get older. Anyone else out there have any hilarious pre-baby notions of their own to add?