Friday, May 31, 2013

Off to Alabama!

I got into my program! I'm so excited. This is an amazing opportunity. After some funding issues and other government nonsense, the dates have moved, some of the faculty have changed and it's a day shorter. However, we still get to go to all of the site visits and have some amazing people giving lectures.

It's over a week of carbon capture and storage talks, lectures, site visits and meeting other early career professionals. It is the perfect program for my current thesis work. I'll come out with a better knowledge of the injection process, storage of CO2, the economics, issues and benefits. There are engineers, geologists, sales people, technicians. I am looking forward to broadening my knowledge of the topic and field. It should also really help with some background knowledge for *when* I defend my dissertation in the fall.

I am nervous to leave my boys for so long. I know The Hubs is capable and will do a great job, but being a single parent is hard! I was away from The Hubs for the 2 years before we got married when I went away for my master's degree. It was hard, but we talked on the phone every night so it was bearable. It is going to be so hard to leave Buddy for that long. I've been away for a night and that's all. He would rather play with the phone than talk on it so I don't know how much I'll get to hear him while I'm gone. We only have my work computer with skype so that's not an option. The Hubs can't put it on his work computer. I won't see my baby for 9 days. I won't be able to nurse him, cuddle him, put him to bed for more than a week.

I'm going to miss this sweet face.

I'm afraid he's going to wean while I'm away. 9 days is a long time to go without nursing. I have hope that I'll come back and he'll still be willing, but I doubt it's going to happen. Suddenly taking that away from him for so long is going to make it harder on him and The Hubs. I'll be bringing my pumping supplies with me, but am guessing it's going to be a week of pumping and dumping. In itself, that's just sad. If you've ever had to do it, you know how hard it is to pump! It sucks. It hurts. It's frustrating. But if I have any hope in keeping any sort of supply and starting up again when I get home, it's the only way.

So I'm officially going to Alabama. My flights have been booked and I'll be gathering up everything I need over the next 2 weeks to prepare. I am so excited for this opportunity but sad that it probably means I am done breastfeeding until the next one comes along.

I Need a New Goal

Ok, so I tackled the hill and it wasn't as bad as I thought. I was slow, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. And I made it the whole way home, not out of breath and without much problem.

Now I need a new goal. But I need ideas!

I hate exercising just to exercise. I can do it for a few weeks to months, but I get bored and always end up dropping what I've started. I can bike to work without being bored because I have a destination. I can play tennis because it's fun with other people. I can't just run for the fun of it. It bores me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When to Wean - Then and Now

The question of when to wean a baby is something every mother asks herself, and probably her doctor. When a mother chooses to breastfeed (and is successful), there comes a time when work or life or any number of things get in the way. Another choice needs to be made, struggle through it and persist or wean the baby. Sometimes the baby chooses to wean herself before mom is ready. Sometimes mom is ready to be done before baby is ready. There is a lot that should go into this decision, so what is the right way?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breastfeeding exclusively until at least 6 months with the gradual introduction of solids after that in conjunction with continued nursing until the age of 1 and then until is mutually desired by baby and mother. 

The World Health Organization suggests exclusive breastfeeding until the age of 6 months and then continued with the introduction of solids until at least the age of 2 and beyond. 

Most pediatricians suggest exclusive breastfeeding until 4-6 months and then slowly introducing solids until the age of 1. The success of the nursing mother often comes because of support at home (moms need a lot of encouragement, dads! Let the baby have her breasts for a little while, it's the best form of nutrition and you are one of the biggest factors for success or failure!) and from the child's pediatrician and lactation consultants. 

We are so lucky to have some amazing hospitals here that have lactation consultants on staff. One came in at least once a day every day I was in the hospital and made sure we were latching ok and comfortable. If I had questions or trouble, I just had to press my button and the lactation on staff came to help. One of the reasons I went with our pediatrician is because of the support staff in his practice. He has lactation consultants in the office. Because they are a part of his practice, he has nursing moms and babies come in for an appointment with them, covered by insurance (check with your insurance provider - it worked for us because they were in the practice, if we went elsewhere, it would not have been fully covered). The Hubs was ever supportive, not really knowing what to do or say, but always an advocate.

So now, at 22 months, we are still nursing. Just once or twice a day, but it's still good for Buddy and me. And who knows how long it will last.

Is this normal? I've had a few inquisitive looks of, "You're STILL breastfeeding? At his age?" Ever wonder when our ancestors weaned? How about when the cavemen weaned? Researchers are starting to figure out that question! This week in the journal Nature, scientists used the tooth of a Neanderthal baby, in conjunction with a broader study of modern humans and macaques, to figure out that question. 

This kid, who can clearly feed himself, is still 
nursing because he wants to and so do I for so many reasons.

The study authors looked at barium-calcium ratios in baby teeth from the macaques and modern humans and then assumed the pattern to be consistent with the Neanderthal tooth. What they found is that very little barium is incorporated into the teeth until the baby is born, when the barium concentration shoots up immediately because breast milk contains high levels of the element. Barium levels dropped off as solid foods were introduced and were again very low when the child was weaned. 

These are  gibbons, but we didn't get a picture 
of the macaques and they're both apes ...

Although the researchers only used a single tooth so no broad conclusions can be drawn, the implications of this new knowledge is intriguing. The authors found that the infant was exclusively breastfed for 7 months, when solids were introduced gradually. Then at 14 months, barium levels decreased abruptly, suggesting instant weaning. This may have been the common practice, but more realistically, the mother either fell ill or died. 

14 months is a short time compared to how long babies in non-industrialized countries nurse today - 2.5 years on average. It will be interesting to see where this research leads as more Neanderthal teeth and teeth from other pre-humans and early humans are analyzed. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Might be Weaning

Buddy still nurses. We decided that he'll nurse until it is no longer mutually desired. The last week or so, Buddy hasn't asked for mommy milk before bed. If he doesn't ask, then I don't offer any more. During this time, there have been a couple of mornings when Buddy either nurses just for a few minutes and then goes back to sleep or waits until after his breakfast. He used to nurse for over an hour while we drifted back to sleep together.

Buddy isn't asking, which means he doesn't want. That means he's ready to start weaning. I am usually nonchalant about almost everything, and who knows where I'll be when he actually weans, but for now, I am feeling a little sad. I wanted to breastfeed so badly because of all the health benefits for Buddy. It builds his immune system, gives him my antibodies and helps him fight diseases. It also helps me because it is linked to lower risk for several diseases and the oxytocin released during breastfeeding makes me calm and relaxed. But it has become so much more than just about health for both of us. There is a bond a nursing mother can form with her baby that isn't like any other bond anyone can form with them. The Hubs has a great bond with Buddy. They love each other, they play and snuggle and nap together. It's wonderful. Looking in, I am so happy that they have bonded like this. But it's not the same deep connection a mother feels with her nursling. I have come to love the short time before bed when Buddy is a bit sleepy and he plays with my hair (or tries to pick my nose). When I sing to him and he stares lovingly into my eyes. When he laughs so much milk dribbles out of the corners of his mouth. Even though it completely exhausts me, I love when he wakes early in the morning and I bring him into bed. He nurses while he drifts off to sleep and we snuggle together for another hour before we have to get up. Lately that drifting off to sleep has become crawling from one side of me to the other, sometimes spinning circles around me. Trust me, you don't want those nighttime diapers crossing over your face. That is not fun. Though I will still miss it.

The way we bond is changing, but I will always remember these times. I hope I can continue to give Buddy what he needs. That I can cure any boo-boo with a simple kiss instead of the comfort of his mommy milk. I hope I can help Buddy get through his rough times when nothing we do is what he wants until he calms down at the breast and is then able to tell us what he wants. I hope Buddy will still cuddle with me as he drifts off to sleep before I put him down for the night. Buddy will wean eventually. It might be next week or it might be next year, but it has started because Buddy is growing up. Buddy is becoming the independent, hard working thinker that every parent wants their child to become. If Buddy is ready, then I have to be too.

Getting Back on the Bike

Instead of buying a bus pass for the summer, I decided to ride my bike in. I don't have to be there quite as often, partly because I'm doing a lot of writing for my dissertation and partly because I'm not getting paid so I am trying my best not to feel guilty about not being there every single day. We all get along very well in our office. A little too well. (That's a nice way of saying there is entirely too much talking to get meaningful work done once the other grad students come in.) So finding alternative places to work is beneficial to getting my degree.

Let me back up a bit. I didn't exercise as consistently as I should have over the winter. There were some injuries and it was cold. So basically, there were some injuries that I did try to work around and then I made excuses for the other times. I set up a tennis date with a friend and decided to bring out my bike that has been sitting in my garage since the summer before Buddy was born and ride to the courts. Being the avid biker I am, I failed to check the tire pressure before I headed out. It's only about a mile to the courts, a distance I thought would be an easy ride. I can walk a mile in my sleep, biking it should be easier and faster, right? Not when your tires are flat. It took me way too long to ride that mile and I was tired when I got there. We only got a little tennis in before my friend's newly crawling little man decided he didn't like playing in his stroller and needed to join us on the courts. So we had an hour of standing and talking on the courts. My ride home was almost as bad, except it's downhill so it went a little faster. Boy did that mile each way make me feel like I was in the worst shape of my life. So if you need a good science experiment for your kids about the efficiency in your car and the importance of keeping up with car maintenance, make them ride their bikes without air then fill them and let them experience the difference.

We bought a bike pump, I inflated my tires and set out on the 6 mile ride from my house to school. What a little air can do! It turns out I can pretty easily ride 6 miles on a slightly downhill course without a problem. That built up my confidence so when it was time to go home, this time with a full backpack (the new grad students start in the fall and they want me out so I'm cleaning out my desk!) and back up the hill, I thought I'd be ok. Half way up the hill, which is a pretty decent hill, I decided to walk my bike. I had about 5.5 miles to go and huffing and puffing up that hill may have tired me out too much for the uphill ride the rest of the way home. At the top of the hill, I got back on and rode home. While it wasn't nearly as easy as on the way to school, I can happily say the worst part was that bike riding hurts my butt and carrying a full backpack on my back hurts my back. A lot. This bag was definitely not made to be worn while hunched over a bike. Ouch! So for my butt and my back to be the worst part of the ride, I'd say I have to be a little happy that I can ride the 12 miles and not be passed out afterward.

My goal was to ride my bike to and from school for the summer, but I am revising that goal. Not only am I going to ride my bike, I am going to be able to ride my bike up the hill at a speed where a turtle would not pass me and make it the whole way home without walking my bike. (I'm pretty sure I could have made it up the hill, but it would have taken a very long time.) Now to force myself to do this again since I hate feeling so gross...

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Non-Vegan Cravings!

My time as a vegan is coming to an end in less than a week. I've tried some new things; some we like, some we don't. (Nutritional yeast is not welcome in our house.) Overall, it hasn't been so bad. I think more about what I am eating and try harder to make that a vegetable or fruit.

Taco night. Black beans, corn, lettuce, avocado, tomato, onion, red pepper.
What do you put on your tacos?

But there are some things that I can't wait to eat again! The holiday of Shavuot, when the Jews received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, starts Tuesday night. That's when I'll go back to eating animal products. We commemorate the holiday by eating dairy, so from Tuesday dinner through Thursday dinner, a lot of dairy will be consumed. Who knows what this will do to my 42 day dairy-free system. Thankfully, we are having guests over for lunch Thursday, one of whom is allergic to dairy and soy (ok, so not thankfully for her because cheese is delicious, but her dietary needs will help us from consuming copious amounts of it). We're also eating out Wednesday for lunch where there will be another guest who is dairy-free.

So what do I miss most? I miss creamy ice cream. Sorbet is good, not that I've had any in months, but it's just not creamy like all natural milk-filled ice cream. Yum! The chocolate kind. And cheese. I miss cheese. It enhances the taste of pretty much everything. I love it on my (pareve) spaghetti and tomato-based sauce. I love it on taco night (which has become pretty much every Thursday). I love it on my grilled cheese and tomato. What's not to love about the stuff? Except the sodium and fat content. I miss being able to go to any store to pick up chocolate, because pareve chocolate chips are not found every where and certainly not at a good price. And they just don't melt in your mouth like the dark chocolate Nestle chips.

What I am hoping to stay away from are the store-bought cookies, flavored chips, granola bars and other snack food The Hubs likes to consume. To his credit, he has been taking most of those straight to work so they aren't in the house. I don't even really like most of them, but they're there and they are easy to grab and go. Being vegan for these past several weeks has proved to me that I can find other sources of snack food that don't include those and I won't starve. Ok, so sometimes I went hungry because I was too lazy to cut up some vegetables, but better to skip a snack than eat that junk, right?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Ebb and Flow of Potty Learning

Buddy has days when he doesn't have a single accident and days when he comes home from daycare with 6 sets of dirty pants and underwear. He isn't telling us as often when he needs to go and depending on his mood, if we ask him, he may or may not tell us that he needs to go.

It's common for kids this age to go back and forth with their potty use. It's a tough transition. Buddy is gaining new words every day and likes to use them. Unfortunately, there are times when The Hubs and I can't understand a word he says. He repeats himself, it sounds the same as what he just said so it must make sense in his head. But it definitely does not make sense to us. He is becoming more and more independent. Buddy wants to do pretty much everything by himself at this point. He wants to take off his pants completely when using the potty, but doesn't take off his shoes first so he gets a little stuck. That's frustrating to him! Buddy is realizing he is a person with his own needs and wants (though at this age, I think he feels like everything is a "need") and thinks everything should be fulfilled immediately. This leads to using "no" more often than he needs to. We try to give him as much independence as we can. We give him choices on what to wear every day, on what books to bring in the car, on which fruit or vegetable he wants to eat. But there are still times, usually when he's tired, that he'll say "no" no matter what. That includes when we know he has to use the potty, leading to a miss and wet pants. Other times we ask, he shakes his head yes, we head to the bathroom and he goes like he's been doing it forever.

When playing outside, we know if Buddy suddenly stops, we're too late. A puddle starts to form on the driveway or the grass gets watered. More and more often, instead of telling us his pants are wet and going back to play, he let's us take him inside to change his underwear. It's a small step to wanting to stay dry.

Buddy has also discovered the joy(?) in standing over his potty and wriggling from side to side and his urine sprays on either side. Those times we have more to clean up off the floor than from the potty. But at least he is trying to aim toward the potty!

It's a journey and we're loving (almost) every moment of it.

At least the potty is being used for something.

With that being said, Buddy peed in his bath last night for the first time since he was a newborn.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mother of the Year

The Hubs had to work late, something that will become increasingly common with new work demands. It was a gorgeous day so Buddy and I decided to have dinner outside. Avocado, tomato, strawberries, blueberries, water and Buddy took a few bites of matzah. He insisted. He also ate almost all of that food by himself.

He may also have eaten a carrot peel from the compost pail... Oops.

Money for Meltdowns?

Have you seen reasons my son is crying? If not, check it out, especially if you have or work with kids. It's so true. And hilarious. They now have a contest to win a camera for the best photo and caption of someone else's child's meltdown. Is it wrong to profit from these very normal toddler tantrums?

Toddlers have a hard life. They are beginning to explore the world and have a yearning to learn about everything. They don't understand that the world doesn't actually revolve around them, that not everything is theirs and they can't always have everything they want. They are just beginning to develop their language skills so communicating what they want, NOW, is difficult. Hence the tantrum. For me, understanding this reality, to see my son make those adorable frustrated faces, to throw himself on the ground in positions I didn't know he could do, it's kind of funny. I can't show him my feelings, of course, I have to validate his frustration and anger so we can get through his emotions, but inside I often have a great big smile.

Is profiting off of the hilarity of Buddy's lack of communication skills ok? The Hubs thinks no. I see his point. We are trying to teach Buddy how to deal with his big emotions. We are trying to teach how to communicate  one's feelings without violence and screaming. Posting his pictures online wouldn't help this. Right now he won't see this photos, but he probably will in 10 years. So, should I enter the contest or help Buddy with his emotions in the privacy of our home (and the supermarket, park, street, yard and anywhere else he eventually throws a temper tantrum)?

Give me your votes! Preferably in the comments here so it's easier to keep track.

Second Thoughts...

Handing Buddy over to his daycare teacher hasn't always been easy. It took a little while for him to be comfortable with his teachers. Then he moved to his new classroom and had to get to know them. He was fine for a while. Buddy would almost run out of our arms and off to play with his friends. But not so recently. I dropped him off this morning in tears. He just wanted mommy and daddy. I left him crying. It ruined my day.

I am Buddy's best care taker (ok, so The Hubs is too, but he has a real job that he's staying with at least for the near future). When he goes off to play freely with his friends, I'm fine leaving him at daycare while I work toward another degree that will, hopefully, lead to a career. But when he cries for me, it completely ruins my whole day and makes me question my choices. Is this degree worth it? Is this career path worth it? Is missing out on these precious years that I'll never get back worth it?

Self Portrait. I don't know how I leave this sweet face every morning.

How do I know what is the right path? What happens when all of my kids are school-aged and at school all day. If I get out of the career path now, there is no way I'll be able to get back into it 5 or 10 years from now. Or longer, depending on how many kids we have and their spacing. I don't want a job that only requires a high school education. I've worked hard to get my advanced degrees and want to use them. I think. What if I love being a stay at home mom now, but regret it later? How do people make this choice without pulling out all of their hair?!

I don't know what the right decision is. I can't see into the future to know how I'll feel in 10 or 20 years. It's a decision I think I am going to struggle with for a long time because it's a decision I just can't make right now. I don't know how.

The Tantrums!

The tantrums have started! There are times when Buddy wants something that he just can't have so he cries about it. But lately, it's been much more than just crying. If we're holding him, he throws his head back and wriggles until I can't do anything but get to the floor just so I don't drop him. If Buddy is already on the floor, he gets on his knees, bends over and almost bangs his fists on the floor with an occasional head bang to follow. Frankly, I think it's darn cute! Sometimes I have to hold back from laughing because he tries to scold us, "NO!" with a finger toward our face. Something daycare taught him.

We normally sit down with him and help him through his feelings. "I understand that you are frustrated/angry/upset that you can't have [insert noun here]." We explain why: it's hot, it's dangerous, it's daddy's and it could break if we play with it, etc. Within a minute or two Buddy has forgotten about whatever it is he wanted to do but couldn't. But not last night.

Last night was a big one! When we got home from daycare a little early so we could enjoy the evening together, Buddy didn't want to come inside for dinner. So we played outside, watched The Hubs mow the lawn for the first time of the season and Buddy did some mowing of his own on the sidewalk with his little mower. But then he wanted to go to "Cedar!" The busy street a block over. When we wouldn't let him, he crumpled onto the sidewalk. A minute later, he was up again running around. Then it was really time to go inside. We needed to eat dinner, give Buddy his bath and get to bed. We had to carry him inside, kicking and screaming. Once there, Buddy sat on our laps, but refused to eat anything. He kept pointing, "ow-si! ow-si!" Or he would point at other things in the house, but we just could not figure out what he wanted. For an hour we tried having dinner, we ran Buddy's bath, which he normally LOVES and even tried nursing. Nothing. He just wanted to go outside. The poor kid.

Eventually Buddy settled down enough to nurse and get his nighttime underwear and pants on. He slept in the same shirt he wore all day and didn't end up with a bath or dinner.

This morning was almost as bad. As soon as we get outside Buddy runs to get around my car to get to his. I had to carry him and gently force him into his car seat while he yelled for daddy. I think seeing him like that basically ruined my day.