Tuesday, July 23, 2013

maman musing #7.

Blueberries are a huge hit without fail every damn time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

tip: jot down memorable moments.

If you are a new parent and you are anything like me, you probably have one of these lying around somewhere:

A beautiful baby journal that you got months before your due date. You probably spent countless hours fantasizing about recording your precious angel's every move.

Until you had the baby. Then the journal was abruptly shoved in that pile on your desk of white onesies you were going to decorate and ink pads you were going to use to imprint baby's hands and feet every week. Hah! Instead your life is a constant blur of poop and spit up and now pureed spinach you somehow find in your ears (how did they manage that?) and you have long forgotten that beautiful blank baby journal.

You know that saying. The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The second best time is today.

We don't all have time to get out there and dig the holes and plant the trees and make them pretty and make sure they're watered and maintained. And that's ok. While you're in the thick of this crazy whirlwind that is the first year of your baby's life, you aren't expected to spend hours you don't have filling out a baby journal. But at some point life will calm down a bit and you will have the time (or at least that's what they tell me), and when that day comes there is an easy way to remember all those moments that seemed to pass by in an instant.

Grab a simple crappy wall calendar from the dollar bin the next time you're at the supermarket, and jot down the memorable events as they happen.

Just a few words, shorthand, something to help you remember what was going on. Baby doubled their birth weight, baby sat up, baby ate asparagus for the first time. You get the picture.

Keep it in the room you are most often in when baby does something memorable; where you eat or play for example. Make sure there is a pen next to the calendar at all times.

If you are really on top of it, keep a camera next to the calendar, and whenever your sweet babe does something memorable, snap a few photos before you jot it down. This not only forever preserves the memory of your baby doing something exciting, but together with your calendar it can be used as a chronological reference later on for when the other bajillion pictures of your baby were taken.

Later you can easily look back at this and fill in that baby journal as if you never even missed a beat. I promise, your baby will never know you cheated and filled out the book when they were three (or thirteen)!

What are you waiting for? Make those memories, people!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

tip: freeze milk flat.

We have had a lot of milk donations over the past seven months and it has taught me quite a bit about milk storage. I still remember the first time I thawed a bag of milk that had been frozen flat. The amount of time and water required was reduced by at least ten times what we were used to, and at that time we were feeding our boys exclusively donor milk by bottle. Between the two of them, we spent a lot of time thawing milk, and this significantly cut down on bottle prep time.

Most milk when it gets thrown into the freezer ends up looking something like this:

This hard nugget of milk takes incredibly long to thaw and its odd shape makes it a pain to keep the freezer even remotely organized. I think it often gets frozen this way so the number of ounces is easily visible with the markings on the bag.

Instead, mark the number of ounces on the outside of the bag in permanent marker along with the date and place it flat in the freezer so when it is frozen it looks something like this:

Having the milk frozen this way increases the surface area, which means when you thaw it under warm water, more of the water can touch more of the milk, helping it thaw faster. Plus its slim shape means it is very easy to store the milk upright chronologically, making it easier to follow a first-in-first-out milk-using policy (use older milk first).

This is the one of the simplest changes possible, takes zero extra time, and can make your life significantly easier.

Happy pumping!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

you know you're a new parent when #6.

You become an emotional wreck any time there is a sappy child-parent scene on television, even/especially the over-exaggerated ones.

Friday, July 19, 2013

maman musing #6.

It is not worth giving asparagus to babies. They don't yet appreciate the seasonal importance and anyone who's ever eaten a bit too much in one sitting can only imagine the horrendous smell of their diapers.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

trick: try side sitting.

Some babies just don't like tummy time no matter how you try to entice them. With special toys, laying on your chest, with snazzy books, on a play mat. You can make it seem like the most fun activity in the whole wide world and still they fuss and whine and cry it out any time you put them on their stomach.

The goal of tummy time is to work the chest and arm muscles in preparation of crawling and it may seem like the only way, but it's not. Helping your baby side sit is another great way to build the muscles of the upper body and help them get ready to crawl. Plus it helps them learn to eventually transition from sitting to crawling on their own later down the road.

Seat baby in front of you facing you.

Turn baby's right leg so their knee is down in the center and their foot is pointing out to their right, just like the left one. Position baby's body towards their left and place their hands out in front of them to the side.

The further away from their body the hands (and the closer their face to the floor), the more strength needed to keep them stable. Start with them close to their body and progressively move them further away to build strength. 

This is usually more tolerated than tummy time and it is easier to distract baby in this position by reading stories or playing with toys. It is also easier to do small little sessions of side sitting without causing a total upset - if baby starts getting fussy, simply move them back to sitting. It is less of a total transition from being on their tummies.

Make sure to switch sides to build strength equally in both arms.

Happy sitting!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the best damn onion rings in the world.

Onion rings are delicious. So much so that we don't mind paying that extra dollar to upgrade at the restaurant or a few bucks for a serving or two from the frozen section of the supermarket. Turns out they are super easy to make, way cheaper, and a thousand times more delicious when made fresh in your own kitchen.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder (Don't add too much or it will make your batter bitter.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg (I'm working on finding a substitution to make this vegan... I'll get back to you.)
1/2 bottle Fat Tire Ale (I suppose you could substitute any beer here, but Fat Tire is the best.)

2 yellow onions, sliced to desired thickness (I like using Walla Walla Sweets here and slicing them pretty thick, about 3/4 of an inch.)
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees and place a cookie sheet covered with paper towels in the oven.
2. Whisk all batter ingredients together in a bowl. 
3. Slice your onions. Separate out the individual rings.
4. Heat at least an inch of oil in a deep pan on medium high. You want the oil hot, but not so hot it will splatter all over the place when you put the onions in.
5. Dip the onions in the batter and make sure they are coated. Put them in the oil and fry them until golden, a few minutes. Turn the rings over and fry the other side.
6. Place the finished rings on the paper towel-lined pan in the oven to keep warm until all the rings are finished.

Our favorite dipping sauces are easy peasy Magic O-Ring Sauce and Karam's Garlic Sauce (find it at PCC, try it, and thank me later), but the possibilities are endless!

Magic O-Ring Sauce:
Mix equal parts ketchup and Veganaise together. Enjoy!

This batter can also be used for tofu (or fish) or for delicious tempura-style veggies. Make these and just try to tell me these aren't the best damn onion rings you've ever had!

Bon appetit!

Monday, July 15, 2013

pain in the ass.

Where has Madame been? She had to take a little hiatus and unfortunately not a fun one.

I have been on a pain vacation.

There are different levels of pain. Different kinds. Some pain is mental - your heart aching when someone you love moves far away; your heart breaking as you watch your baby suffer (from their own teething pain, for example). Some pain is a bother but you can mostly ignore it - your tooth after biting into ice cream; that ankle that bugs you sometimes as you as you miss the bottom step. Some pain has purpose and you can push through it - your legs burning as you climb that mountain; your uterus contracting as you squeeze out a baby.

And some pain is just unbearable.

This is graphic and it is personal, but that's what this is all about, isn't it? Sharing the most intimate parts of life because they make us who we are? Consider yourselves warned.

I thought giving birth to two babies would be the hardest, most physically painful experience of my life. At the time it may have seemed that way, but I was wrong.

Five weeks after having my beautiful boys, I got mastitis. Now that was pain. Fever of almost 104, chills, vomiting, hallucinating and feeling like shards of glass were embedded in my breast. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced. 

Ten days later I got mastitis again. Boy, that first time I had had it easy. I was hospitalized for five days. Five days for a breast infection. I was hooked up to IVs and filled with pain meds. I don't do pain meds and I was begging them for more. I was the small percent that gets it really bad, the percent we all ignore because that won't happen to me. There was talk of taking a giant needle and draining the infection because the antibiotics just weren't seeming to work as fast as they should have. It was that bad.

Now that was pain.

Until they realized the reason I was still spiking fevers and vomiting three days in was no longer the mastitis. I was so hopped up on narcotics and so dehydrated from the fever and vomiting and no one had noticed I hadn't used the bathroom in three days. For a girl who usually goes three times a day, that is a serious backup. Who knew narcotics are constipating? The doctors, obviously, but no one felt the need to fill me in. Like I said, I don't do pain meds. I don't even do Tylenol. How was I supposed to know these things?

The next few days were filled with doctors doing everything they could to, how shall we put this delicately? Alleviate the problem. I crossed off many things on my anti-bucket list. Stuffing myself full of laxatives? Check. Having someone else insert suppositories? Check. Mineral oil enema? Check. None of it worked. When they threatened to resort to manual extraction, which is exactly what it sounds like, I took matters into my own hands, so to speak.

After a sizable dose of pain meds and a tube of numbing lubricant, it was time to give birth yet again, except this time the baby wasn't so cute. In the process, I did what no one ever wants to do: I tore my anus.

Now let's go over a little anatomy, here, because bottom talk seems gross and is usually off limits at the dinner table; most people don't know the specifics and that is crucial. You have your rectum, which is essentially the lower part of your large intestine. That ends at an internal sphincter, which is the beginning of your anal canal. The anal canal is lined with muscle and nerves and terminates at your external sphincter, commonly known as your butt hole. Such lovely terminology, no?

As you digest food, the liquid mush goes into your large intestine where vitamins, minerals and water are absorbed. By the time it reaches the internal sphincter it is a nice, solid mass. The reason you need to drink lots of water and have fiber in your diet, specifically the insoluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables, is because insoluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your intestine, adding bulk and making the mass soft.

Why does it need to bulky? Because of a reflex called the rectoanal inhibitory reflex (RAIR).

When your rectum (that upper part of the above diagram) fills with stool, electrical stimuli induce your internal sphincter (that part with the tentacle thingies) to relax, and your external sphincter (the end of the track) to contract; the upper sphincter opens and the bottom one closes, allowing the stool to start making its way down into the anal canal without exiting the body completely. You can't control or feel your internal sphincter contract or relax, but you can feel the stool (or alternatively gas) in your anal canal and that feeling, the fact that you have sensation there is very important.

The amount of relaxation directly correlates with the mass of the stool. The more bulky the stool, the more your internal sphincter relaxes and the bigger it gets to allow the stool to pass through. You can't control this, so in order to relax and let the stool out, it needs to be bulky enough to trigger the RAIR.

Drink your water and eat your fiber, boys and girls. Trust me on this.

Enough science. Back to the story. So I got the mass out and in the process literally tore myself a new one. But I didn't know this yet.

After being discharged I was in more pain than when I had been admitted, and that is saying something. For weeks after coming home I was bed-ridden. I could not stand. I could not sit. I could not take care of my babies. I could not eat or sleep or think. I spent my days in tears between the toilet and the bathtub. I cried and I cried and I cried and I asked the universe how it was possible for someone to be in so much pain. I did not want to go back to the hospital because in my mind they had done this to me. Every time I went in I seemed to come back out worse for wear.

Luckily, a dear friend convinced me I needed to be seen by someone. My primary care physician was on maternity leave, so I went to see one of her colleagues. One quick look and her face told me it was grim. It's like the Grand Canyon down there. I had torn my external sphincter.

"At least I didn't really tear while giving birth," I mused. "That must be awful."

"Um, not so much," she replied. "You give birth once. You poop every day."

What can one do to heal a torn sphincter? Not much. If you tear the corner of your mouth it hurts like a b-word, but you keep your mouth closed for two or three days and it heals. If you tear the corner of the other end of the human gastrointestinal tract you can't just keep it closed for two or three days. The goal is to eat your fiber and drink your water and make those stools nice and soft so when they do pass through they don't keep ripping off the scab and starting you back at painful square one. Sitz baths became a two- or three- or four-times-a-day affair. I was going through post-partum herbs and Ibuprofen like it was going out of style.

Slowly, slowly, the pain started being more manageable. Then I was in pain for only a few hours after going to the bathroom. Then only while on the toilet. And then magically, a few months later, I had my first pain-free BM in what seemed my entire life. I still cried, but this time they were tears of joy. I was out of the woods! I was into the magical land of reading magazines and checking my email on my phone and not wishing and praying for a colostomy bag!

Don't count your eggs before they are fully hatched, people.

A few weeks later the pain returned and became progressively worse every day. We were back in the woods and it was dark in there.

Fast forward to last week. The pain was so intense I found it hard to do anything other than lie around and wish I were dead. Going to the bathroom became so intense that sometimes it took me over an hour to finally manage. And then one morning I found myself in so much pain that I was using birthing techniques, screaming and moaning as I had been in labor while squatting in the bathtub. Have you ever pooped in the bathtub? As an adult? Cleaning your own poop out of the tub is possibly one of the greatest practices of humility possible. I was by myself and still I was blushing. How devastatingly embarrassing.

It was time to call a surgeon.

After a fiber-optic anal probe, probably one of the least fun experiences out there, I finally discovered why I had been in so much pain for the past six months. That fateful January day I had not just torn my external sphincter, but my entire anal canal as well. Remember before how I said your anal canal having sensation was very important? Ah, yes. I have a tear in the muscle in there and I can feel it. My whole rectum has been traumatized as a result. Attempting to avoid the intense pain that comes with stool passing anywhere near the anal canal, my RAIR has ceased to function properly, leaving my internal sphincter in permanent spasm. This keeps stool out, but also causes the torn muscles of the anal canal to spasm, as well, meaning they can't relax enough to heal and meaning I am in constant pain. When I do need to go, my sphincter refuses to relax, hence the hours I spend in pain trying to coerce my bowels to cooperate. It is a vicious and painful cycle.

So what is the solution? Well, I can try to increase my water and fiber intake and take it easy and try to let my body heal on its own. Painful. Or, alternatively, they can surgically remove the tear and the surrounding scar tissue left over from six months of improper healing, essentially creating a new, bigger anal fissure for my body to heal. Painful. The difference would be that this purposeful fissure would be cleanly cut and properly stitched up which might entice my body to heal faster.

Hm... Rock... Hard place... Me. Which one to choose?

This is why I have not been posting pictures of my babies and sharing recipes and drawing comic-versions of my life as of late. I have been trying not to convince a surgeon to sew up my sphincters all together and give me one of those poop bags reserved for people who have parts of their colon removed because honestly I don't ever want to use my anal canal ever again for the rest of my life. I have been trying to convince my body, despite all this damn pain, to relax and to heal; and all the while somehow take care of the two tiny humans I created while smiling through the pain and feigning normalcy on the rare occasion that I venture out in public. I have been trying like hell to decide between the rock and the hard place and I have no idea what to choose.

This whole ordeal is a giant pain in my ass, and it's slowly wearing me thin. I'm at the end of my rope and unsure what move to make. I've lost all sense of humility here. I pooped in the tub, for god's sake! Don't be shy. Don't pretend like you didn't read this. If I had torn a muscle in my hand we wouldn't be blushing here. It is what it is and I need your help. Tell me, please, I'm begging you, if it was you, what would you do?

Friday, July 5, 2013

teething pains.

Someone once told me they read that if someone were to go through teething as an adult, it would be so painful that it would literally cause them to go insane. I don't know if this is true. That same person told me that this is why we get teeth before we can remember, so we aren't conscious of the pain; I'm pretty sure my babes are conscious of the pain and I'm pretty sure we get teeth when we're so little so we can start to eat solids, but maybe we're both right.

Either way, my babies might someday forget how painful the process is, but I sure won't. It is literally driving me insane. Teething babies x 2 = no sleep in the entire household and it is starting to take its toll. Don't expect anything profound out of me until this whole process is over, or at least until Arlo's first two teeth finally poke all the way through.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

happy birthday, love.

Happy first birthday as a Papa to my favorite human over six and a half months old!!! You are the love of my life, the rope that tethers me to reality and the best friend I have ever had. I would be lost without you and am so blessed to watch you come into your own as a father every single day. 

<3  We love you! <3

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

tip: stay cool in the pool.

It has been infernal here in beautiful Pacific Northwest this past week. I know other parts of the country and world suffer much greater heat than this all the time, but 94 in the shade? That's too much for fair-skinned rain-loving Seattlites like myself. Don't get me wrong, I like sun. My body just wasn't designed to take this much of it.

If I'm feeling faint, I can only imagine what my poor sweaty little boys are feeling. So how have we been managing? By taking the advice of another fellow mama.

We've been staying cool in the pool!

My soul hurt a little bit as we bought the cheap made-in-China pools at the toy store, but I don't know of any well-made baby pools or what type of store would sell them locally. If any of you know where to find one, please let me know!

Needless to say, they are a hit. They are dually amazing in providing fun water exploration activity and a way to stay cool. An added plus is how much they wear the babes out. Every time we have water time the following nap is quite a doozy. We have been doing this daily and probably will continue to do so until the cool weather returns. Thursday is the 4th of July, so when the rain comes back for the fireworks, maybe we'll take a break then! :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

public service announcement.

After spending a few hours at the ER this morning, I find it my duty to strongly recommend you always always wear protective eye gear when weed whacking.

A small piece of gravel was so embedded in my eye they had to spend a good deal of time trying to extract it. They eventually did, but it was not fun.

The worst part: the tetanus booster that makes me feel like I got punched in the arm. The best part: getting my boys matching eye patches. :)