30 January 2007

Conquering Dinner

She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.

Proverbs 31:15

Dinner is always a challenge when there is a newborn in the household. There are never enough hours as it is, and dinner can be especially difficult because newborns often have a sixth sense--they instinctively know when dinner is and how to ruin it.

But no more! After three kids, I think I have finally figured out how to have the upper hand in this situation, at least more often than not. And I wish I had thought of this back when we had no children but were both working. It was hard to make real dinners then, too.

Many experienced women will tell a young mom that what she needs to do to conquer dinner is become best friends with her crockpot. The difficulty with this is that the crockpot meal needs to be prepared in the morning.

In our house, time in the morning is very limited. The alarm rings at 6:45am, with Q.'s first nursing session beginning at 7:00am and lasting nearly an hour. Si is kind enough to prepare breakfast for the other two before he leaves for work at 7:30am. Q. nurses again at 10:00am. This means that I have only two hours to clean kids up, get kids dressed, do morning chores, and more. Dicing and slicing and preparing a crockpot meal could easily eat up half of the time I have available to do everything that needs to be accomplished in the morning.

However, the evening is worse. We try to eat dinner at 5:30pm, just minutes after Si arrives home. Q. nurses from 4:00pm to almost 5:00pm. This means that after I put her down, I have just over thirty minutes to prepare dinner, which is really not enough time to assemble a dish and bake it.

So now it is dark when I make dinner. Only I didn't rise when it was dark, because I'm just not getting enough sleep for that right now. Instead, I am using my evening time. In the past I have been very resistant to working while it was dark. Dark was always playtime in college, and I wanted it to be that way my whole life! But the virtuous woman works while it is dark, and so must I.

Last night, Si took A. out for an errand and E. remained at home with me. I had about half an hour before Q.'s next feeding. We cut up onions and bell peppers, set up beans to soak overnight, and measured out all the spices, tomatoes and minced garlic needed for tonight's crockpot chili dinner. Then, I fed Q. and helped get kids put to bed. Later, I browned the ground beef.

This morning, all I had to do was dump it all in the crockpot. It took less than five minutes to drain and rinse the beans, mix it with the veggies, sauce, and meat, and stir.

This evening, during my thirty minutes of dinner prep time, I can shred cheese, prepare toppings, set the table {our usual table-setter is sick and has germs right now}, and have a couple minutes to breathe. This is way less stressful than trying to fit all the cooking and baking into the thirty minutes. It also means our food is healthier than it would be if I had to rush.

Tomorrow night, we are having spinach calzones. This means that tonight, I will completely mix the filling. Tomorrow night, all I will have to do is roll out the dough, fill it up, seal, and bake.

So I suppose it could be said that I make tomorrow's dinner tonight. It works for me. Like I said, I wish I would have thought of it when I was a busy working woman. It would have helped me then, as well!

29 January 2007

Lemon Season

My dad brought us some lemons from his tree, and I didn't want to let them waste, but after drinking about a gallon of tea daily during my pregnancy, my traditional use {as an accent in tea drinking} was out. So, I set out searching my cookbooks for a recipe that would hit the collective family spot.

In the middle of my search, I came across a little cookie-baking book I receive for Christmas. It's called Bakin' up Cookies and Love, and though it is my tiniest cookbook, it is a fabulous resource. {My favorite part is the collection for jar recipes that I can make as gifts for Christmas and birthdays!}

Anyhow, I thought I'd share the recipe we made. I altered it a bit to make it healthier. Everyone around here likes them, so it's safe to say other families might also!

Lemon Snowballs
2 sticks butter (softened)
1 & 1/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons lemon zest
2 eggs
6 tablespoons lemon juice {freshly squeezed!!}
2 tablespoons water
3 & 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped {we used raw almonds}
powdered sugar

Thoroughly mix first four ingredients. Stir in lemon juice and water. Sift together remaining ingredients {except powdered sugar} and add nuts; stir into lemon mixture. Form into walnut-sized balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and roll in powdered sugar. Remember: instead of "finely chopping" nuts, they can be tossed into a coffee grinder.

26 January 2007

Sleeping Like a Baby

You're letting her sleep on her tummy!" Grandmother gasped when she saw Q. sleeping soundly in her bassinet in the living room on Sunday evening. "I know," I said. "Don't tell anyone."

"Well, I put all my babies to sleep on their tummies, but I thought you kids didn't do that these days," replied Grandmother.

We're not supposed to, I thought.

The Back to Sleep Campaign was in full force when I became a mother. The hospital made moms feel extreme pressure to make their babies sleep on their backs. I hated watching my son sleep that way. Babies have a startle reflex that works overtime when they are on their backs, and they will jerk themselves awake throughout their naps.

When E. ended up in the NICU, I was amazed to see that almost every baby there was sleeping on their side or tummy. I asked one of the nurses about it. "They sleep better that way," she said thoughtlessly, then quickly added, "and we have oxygen monitors on them to make sure they're breathing. You'd never have that at home."

But it rung in my ears: They sleep better that way. I remembered this when it was the middle of the night and E. was struggling to stay asleep. I was emboldened one night, and flipped him over. He visibly calmed. He slept better from then on. And I began to question the now-conventional wisdom of putting babies on their backs.

Infant Mortality Rates and Other Facts
The Back to Sleep Campaign began in 1994. Eleven years later, ABC News ran an article wondering why infant mortality rates were on the rise in the United States. Let me repeat: after seven years, Back to Sleep became common knowledge, and yet more babies died in 2002 than in 2001.

More recently, a study linked SIDS to a genetic defect. Everytime I heard my local radio station broadcast information about the study, they quickly added that putting babies on their backs "still helps." Well, so does getting good prenatal care, eating right while pregnant, not smoking or doing drugs while pregnant, not smoking around the baby once it is born, breastfeeding, keeping the baby the right temperature while sleeping, making sure the baby's crib sheets are pulled tight and blankets are not covering the face, wearing the baby or holding the baby most of the time.

Dr. Sears himself admits that one of the main reasons placing baby on his back to sleep works is because the baby awakens easier.

Personal Experience
Ah, yes, Baby does awaken easier. And personal observations tell me that this also means that the quality of sleep attained is inferior. Many people comment on how well my children sleep. I am a firm believer that healthy sleep habits begin at birth. I work with my children from Day One to promote these habits because I believe that good sleep is a cornerstone of good health. I am giving my children a lifelong gift if I can help them learn to sleep well.

This means that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The Back to Sleep wisdom says that all {or almost all} babies should sleep on their backs. Period. Anytime someone encourages everyone to do the same thing {and it's not in the Bible}, I raise a mental red flag.

In this situation, if the parent assumes the campain is correct, that every baby should sleep on their back, then that parent is not performing their parental duty of assessment. It is the parent's job to learn about their baby and decide, using much prayer asking God for wisdom, what is best for their baby. God entrusted the baby to the parent, not a campaign.

Let me give a couple examples: A friend of mine found her son not breathing in his crib. She rushed him to the hospital, and thankfully his life was spared. In the process she learned that he should be placed on his tummy while sleeping because he was aspirating milk in his sleep whenever he spit up. My nephew, on the other hand, had some pretty severe medical issues, including a hiatal hernia that would cause him to empty the entire contents of his stomach while lying down. He slept sitting up for the first couple years of his life.

My children, thankfully, haven't had these types of issues, but they are still individuals. This means that, using a foam prop, E. actually slept on his side most of the time until he was old enough to roll over. This was his preference, and seemed to promote the best, most restful sleep for him. A. preferred her back until she was too old to remain swaddled. Then she liked her tummy. Q. has liked her tummy {or being held} since day one. Let me repeat, each child has been a bit different.

In Conclusion
I am not saying that babies should not sleep on their backs. I am saying that the parent should be responsible, assess the situation, and decide for themselves what works for their child. And the parent, especially the insecure first-time mom, should not feel pressured by others to make their child sleep any particular way because this is not a moral issue.

In a world where more and more people are requiring medicine to help them sleep at night, there is more to this picture than infant mortality. I think something that should be considered (besides the fact that there is no concrete evidence that back sleeping actually saves lives, as some back sleeping babies still die of SIDS) is the possible long-term effects of poor sleep in the first months of life.

I know that the common meaning phrase sleeping like a baby only rang true in our family when I flipped the babies over and let them sleep more peacefully.

24 January 2007

And Then There Was Q.

Sorry. I was hoping to carry the Lemony Snicket allusions in the titles through to the end of this semi-birth story series, but, alas, penultimate means next to the last, and I don't know if Q. is my next-to-last baby or not. So The Penultimate Peril was out. And The Reptile Room just didn't seem fitting.

So And Then There Was Q. it is.

As I told anyone who would listen, I had contractions with Q. for just under four weeks. Four weeks. They started out pretty mild, but the last two weeks were quite painful. About nine minutes apart most of the time, they only spread out if I was to lay down and fall completely asleep.

We were ready by December 11th, because E. had been so early, and we had learned our lesson the first time. I thought that this would make me able to enjoy the holidays better. And it would have, if not for the contractions. The contractions meant I was constantly on high alert. Every load of laundry became the possible last load before the baby came. I did approximately 25 "last" loads.

She was due on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve came. And went. Christmas Day came. And went.

We had prayed that if attempting a VBAC was a mistake, God would keep us from it. I wanted badly to bring the baby forth without surgery, but we were both well aware that VBACs after two C-sections can be very risky, and largely unsuccessful. I knew from my experience with E. that a long labor before surgery could wear out one's body and predispose one to infection.

So we prayed. And God said "no." In my 41st week of pregnancy, we scheduled the surgery for New Year's Eve. I prayed and prayed that labor would start on its own before then, but the contractions lessened instead.

Q. never dropped into the pelvis at all, remaining at -5 station until the very end. I never dilated past two, no matter what I tried to do to help "labor" along. We feel that God closed the door. And though we were disappointed, and I won't say I didn't cry about it the night before surgery, I firmly believe that it was for my own protection.

So it seems that C-sections are now my lot in life. And it also seems that this will eventually limit our family size. But God knows that aspect of it all, too.

The important part about this C-section is that it was the best I've ever had. The CRNA got the spinal block right the very first time, and the multiple shots in the spine were virtually painless. I forgot to mention in A.'s birth story that I could feel part of the surgery because the shot was done improperly. This surgery {for Q.'s birth} was painless for me, which was such a relief.

I had told Si in advance that I thought this child would have dark hair. I remember feeling the pressure as the doctor pulled the baby out. And then I heard her gentle cry, so distinct from my other two babies. And then Si ran to my side and said, "I don't know how you knew it, but she has dark hair!" After they cut the cord, they gave her to Si, and he brought her to my side and let me see her. The CRNA took a couple photos for us to memorialize the occasion.

Unlike moms who birth their babies naturally, I have to wait at least 90 minutes before getting to hold my baby. My husband spends the after-birth alert time with the baby instead of me. Babies are usually sleeping by the time C-section moms see them, and so they don't get to nurse for the first time until the baby is three or four hours old.

I think my biggest disappointment has been that, besides missing out on that female rite of passage called delivery, I don't get to hold and nurse my babies right away. I can't explain the angst, the overwhelming desire to not be separated from this little life that has been inside me for so many months (almost ten!).

But in the end, I still have a baby.

And this baby is the baby that helps me understand what Cindy meant when she said that all her newborns were old friends. E. was a shock because he was early and I was an unprepared first-time mom who felt very insecure about the whole transition I was facing. A. was a shock because I was, for some strange reason, insecure about parenting a girl. But Q. was an old friend indeed. And though she is only a bit over three weeks old, I feel as if she has been a part of this family forever.

23 January 2007

The Darndest Things {01/07}

23 January 2007: Interest in Languages
E.: Mom? Can I call Grace and get her to talk Chinese to me?
Mom: (while changing A.'s diaper) No.
E.: Why not?
Mom: Because she is at work. We don't want to bother her. Maybe when she comes for a visit you can ask her to speak Chinese to you.
E.: Well, I know other languages. I just don't know how to talk them yet.

22 January 2007: More Rules I Thought I'd Never Have
1. Do not stand on the baby.
2. Do not climb in the bassinet.
3. Do not growl at the baby.
4. Do not climb on Mommy's back while she is nursing.
5. Do not cover the baby's face in Kleenex while Mommy is out of the room.
6. Do not throw coasters in the bassinet.
7. Stay out of the baby swing. The maximum weight is 20 pounds. You weigh 30.

18 January 2007: Falling Up
We've had a balloon around that someone had delivered to us in celebration of Q.'s birth. The kids love to play with it. We usually tie unweighted balloons to toys in order to keep them from flying to the tallest corner of our vaulted ceiling. Today, the balloon escaped. E. declared that it had "fallen up to the ceiling."

6 January 2007: E.'s Prayer Theology
Today, E. walked up to Si, who was wrestling with our lawnmower to get it started. E. reminded Si that he should pray for the lawnmower. So, Si prayed aloud, asking God to have mercy on his Saturday morning. Si tried valiantly to get the thing started after that, but all was in vain. E. stood there thoughtfully and then declared, "Maybe God is too busy helping somebody else."

5 January 2007: First Outing
I suppose today qualifies as my first official outing with Q., though it really wasn't that exciting. She was checked by the pediatrician, and then I had my staples removed. It was a long afternoon for us, but I must say she was very relaxed and content through it all.

2 January 2007: Out With the Old
Tonight, the first night that we are at home as a family of five, E. points at A. and suggests that we "throw away the old baby and keep the new baby."

My, aren't we glad she is still fairly oblivious?!

22 January 2007

The Slippery Slope

I shared E.'s birth story in The Bad Beginning. When it came time to birth A., the words of my OB from the first C-section came back to me: "I wouldn't let you labor next time. It's sure to happen again."

We had moved to a new city, and I had a new OB {the OB that delivered me, incidently} who gently encouraged me to have a VBAC, but I was too terrified after my previous experience, and this OB was too sweet to push me to do something that scared me.

I was also uninformed. If I knew what I now know about VBACs, I would have made an attempt at labor {without the Pitocin, of course}. But I didn't. All I knew was that my prior experience was awful and I didn't want a repeat, even though I hated surgery.

A few days before my scheduled C with A., I went for my last visit to the nurse practitioner. She told me that A. had already descended to -2 station and that I was beginning to dilate. She was surprised I wasn't trying a VBAC, and pushed a little harder than my OB ever did to encourage me to try.

I felt like the bride who finds out something terrible about the groom, but after all the invitations were mailed and the shower gifts opened. I hated to cancel the wedding. And so I didn't.

This C-section went much better overall, but this time the anesthesiologist was terrible. One would guess this was her first time. She had difficulty finding the correct spot for the spinal block and spent at least ten minutes knocking on my back.

A. was born at 8:18am, weighing 7 pounds 5 ounces. She was beautiful. Si and I fell in love with her immediately. But the hardest part of the recovery was my back. Even without an infected surgery site, it was eight long weeks before I felt like I could do something simple like take a walk or stand up long enough to cook dinner.

I vowed never to have another child because the recovery was so hard. Later, I learned a lot about VBACs and what improves the odds of success. So I vowed never to have another C-section. I didn't realize we were already down the slippery slope, and I was determined to try and make it work.

21 January 2007

The Bad Beginning

I have been meaning to write up a birth story concerning Baby Q. But the more I think about it the more I realize that the story about Q. cannot be properly understood unless I first tell the story of A. and especially the story of E. E. is what I call The Bad Beginning. He was my first C-section, and a terribly traumatic experience it was, too.

So here it is. Please be warned that what is to follow was, for us, a horrifying experience, and one may wish to go to another blog and read something else instead.

Labor started so pleasantly on a Friday morning in 2002. I called Si at his office to tell him I thought that this was The Big Day. I wasn't due for another 15 days, but I was having contractions, and they were getting longer, stronger, and closer together as the day went on. I told him there was no need to hurry home because contractions were still 20 minutes apart at that point, and I had heard that first babies take their time.

At 3:30pm, Si's boss made him go home. It made the poor man nervous that I was at home, laboring alone. It was nice to spend some extra time together.

Contractions were consistently 20 minutes apart, so we went for a walk in hilly Uptown Whittier, and then headed to Denny's {fancy, I know!} for dinner.

How I wish I knew then what I know about labor now. But I didn't. All I knew was that I didn't want to use pain medication, and a couple breathing techniques I picked up in Lamaze class.

Fast forward to early Saturday morning {around 3am}, when contractions finally got to five minutes apart, and we headed to the hospital. I was only dilated to 2 centimeters.

They should have sent me home. But they didn't.

Instead, they encouraged us to walk and walk. This got me dilated to four, and also exhausted me as we must have walked for miles without any sleep.

At 10:00am, I "wasn't progressing." This is code for "this labor is taking longer than your insurance company and the hospital would like it to." So the doctor broke my water, a practice known as an amniotomy. The interesting thing about this is that if the water remains intact, labor can go on safely for days. But the water is the major protection for the baby. Once it is broken, Baby needs to be out within 24 hours.

Breaking my water didn't help, so a few hours later, Pitocin was added. Pitocin changes the contractions both qualitatively and quantatively. It is a very unnatural experience. Basically, Pitocin causes more contractions that are more painful. I still didn't get anywhere. For hours, I was stuck with Baby at -2 station and dilated to 6.

Baby just wasn't coming. And back labor had set in. It was excrutiating.

Around 6pm, a C-section was finally decided upon. I had been saying "no" to that suggestion for hours, but I had begun to despair.

E. was born at 7:19pm, weighing in at 6 pounds 6 ounces. Because I had to go into recovery, I didn't get to see him for about three hours {other than a glimpse of Si holding him during the surgery}. I was exhausted, but I remember trying hard to stay awake, even in the recovery room, because I hoped to see my baby again.

This was, to this day, the hardest day of my life. And it had only just begun.

To make a long story even longer, C-sections really hurt. Infected C-sections hurt worse, but when one has only had one C-section, one doesn't necessarily know the difference between hurting and really hurting. I know now that I was really hurting.

When E. was eight days old, Si had to rush me to the Emergency Room with an abscessed C-section. While I was there, I told the doctor I didn't think I had enough milk. He told me "every woman doubts her milk supply."

When E. was nine days old, I took him to a family practitioner. He weighed barely over five pounds. The doctor told me to go home and supplement with formula.

It was too late to supplement with formula, but the doctor apparently didn't recognize any of the major signs of dehydration. That night, we rushed E. to the Emergency Room because he was lethargic and nonresponsive. His body had started to fade, and he weighed only 4 pounds 14 ounces, meaning he had lost 22% of his body weight. The ER staff couldn't believe a doctor had sent this child home. He should have been admitted immediately.

E. spent nine days in the NICU. For the first two or three days, he was fed IV fluids only. He was severely dehydrated, but thankfully a CT scan showed no permanent damage. He was not released from the hospital until he was 18 days old. Besides being completely terrified by the whole ordeal, we also spent almost all of our life savings to cover the three trips to the hospital.

After another six weeks of quarantine {dehydration can destroy a baby's immune system}, we became what is commonly known as a Normal Family.

18 January 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Everything about Q. is different from our other two children. The others were born early; Q. was a week late. The others ate every hour during the night when they were newborns; Q. eats twice, occasionally three times. The others cried during dinner; so far, Q. sleeps fairly peacefully. When E. was born, he looked positively angry about the whole experience. A., on the other hand, seemed annoyed. Q. seemed ready and prepared.

E. and A. are very different from one another, but different in the way that Yin and Yang are opposites: they fit together somehow. Q. {not that she doesn't fit in} seems different in a way that is altogether separate from the others.

I mentioned once during my pregnancy that I had already learned that two children {two pregnancies} does not a trend make. Just because something happened two times before didn't mean it would happen again.

All of these lessons can be summed up by photos of hair. After two children, I thought Si and I cloned bald babies that grew into heads full of golden strawberry-blonde hair.

This is a recent photo of E.:

This is a recent photo of A.:

And this is Q.:

One of these things is definitely not like the others. What an adventure this turned out to be. I am already so thankful we didn't stop at only two children.

16 January 2007

24 and a Defeated America

Is anyone watching 24 this season? Maybe I'm just tired, but I had trouble getting into it this time around. The new season seems to be portraying a different America than in previous seasons: an America that acts defeated. Formerly, 24 depicted America as threatened, yet strong. Specifically, she was strong because of the good people at CTULA. And the bad guys always got it in the end, of course. And I'm sure the bad guys will get it in the end of this season also.

But something seems qualitatively different now. America isn't threatened; she's actually under attack. Her citizens are running scared. Her president is willing to compromise in order to buy time between attacks. Jack "doesn't know how to do this anymore" {I know he was imprisoned by the Chinese for two years, but still}. Her {literally} disarmed citizens have to call 911 because they are incapable of defending themselves in a time of war. And the premiere ends with Valencia going up in a cloud of nuclear suitcase bomb smoke.

Sidenote: I love shopping in Valencia, and I don't even like to shop.

Anyhow, I find this weak America completely unappealing. Anyone else?

09 January 2007

The Perfect Gift

We've been receiving meals every-other-day {courtesy of our Sunday School and church friends} since Q. was born. And many of our friends also come bearing gifts! It has been fun to have a couple new outfits for Q. to grow into. And some people have even brought small gifts for E. and A. For instance, this new gem of a book has been read at least ten times already. And today the MPL brought E. some toy cars that were a huge hit.

But nothing compares to what we received in the mail today from Si's brother and sister-in-law. It was simple, really; a white onesie with a message on the front. It has a big dollar sign on it, and the words read: TAX DEDUCTION.

Again, I say there is nothing like the perfect gift.

08 January 2007

Checking In, and Expectations

It is hard to believe that we've had our little Q. around for eight days already! Time is certainly flying faster than ever before, and three children under five can certainly keep a mommy on her toes, even when she has some wonderful help {thanks, Mom!}.

I want to thank everyone who has emailed or commented with such encouragement and congratulations. We appreciate anyone willing to celebrate this new life with us (or bring us food).

I am starting to get a feel for life as a family of five, and I can definitely see that it will be affecting all of life, including this blog. I think readers can expect a few things to be different around here, especially for the next four months or so. Some of the highlights will be more spelling errors, less posts in general {I just won't have time to do school, nurse, and blog}, and fewer posts requiring research {again, the time constraints}. And though I promised this wouldn't become a Mommy Blog, I will be writing a brief {and discreet} birth story in the near future. And I will probably talk about kids a lot. Part of this is because I won't have time to pick up a book for about a month.

Now I'm rambling. Sleep deprivation is a beautiful thing. Did I mention I was unable to spell my own middle name when I visited my doctor on Friday?

04 January 2007

Thoughts from a Proud Papa

In the absence {or rather, bedridden-ness} of my wife, Brandy, I wanted to write a few words about our new addition to humanity. And our family, too, of course. Her name is Q.

Q. is my lovely little tax credit. With a heart full of gratitude, I trust that she will further distance our family finances from the long hand of the U.S. Treasury. For this fact I am most happy.

As for those of you interested in her statistics, Q. was born 7 pounds, 8 ounces; 19.25 inches long; healthy; and with blue eyes, like her proud papa. Please join me in welcoming our little wad of joy to God's beautiful creation.