Follow by Email

Monday, January 26, 2015


I want to talk about bullying today.  One of my kids is being bullied, being bullied so bad he had to delete his Facebook account.  I’m not going to tell you who he is, I didn’t give birth to him but he’s one of mine and we’ll leave it at that.  A little mystery is good for you.

He shouldn’t have a Facebook account to begin with he’s under 18 but everyone does it.  (Ok probably not everyone but MOST kids his age, which is a topic for another rant..ah…blog entry).

It hurts to know he is being hurt and there is nothing I can do about it.  My heart aches for him.  Kids can be mean and stupid and stupid-mean, which is a whole other category.  It makes me want to jump up and down and yell at someone or push someone else around and give him a big hug and tell him MEAN PEOPLE SUCK, and they won’t get anywhere cool in life by tearing other people down.  All that does is show the sad in your own soul, and brings back more of the same to you, in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

I was bullied myself in junior high by an alpha queen bee type who EVERYONE was afraid of.  She drank and smoke and went to high-school parties and had sex and was angry all the time.  

She was everything shocking and cool and confident and she could tear you down in two seconds flat with a sharp look and cruel words she whipped out of her small, thin mouth until you felt shredded.  She wasn’t very pretty but she knew worlds more about make-up and clothes and music than I could ever imagine.  I was brought up in lively hell-fire bring-your-own-skirt-Pentecostal church so I wasn’t exactly rocking the cool threads (like pants).  Not to mention how very small and tiny was the box I was thus far brought up in, and I was prime picking for a worldly mean girl like her.  Imagine soft, fluffy bunny meets angry junk-yard dog.  Fur flew.  There were tears.

Want to know the really humiliating part?  I tried to change who I was so she would like ME better.  I tried to be and look tougher, I tried to ‘measure up’ to her standards.  She made fun of me even more for trying to be what I wasn’t, which was the best thing she could have done for me.  

She obviously had to grow up very fast, and I don’t know her personal story but I’m pretty sure it isn’t filled with butterflies and rainbows the way my childhood had.

As stupid as bullying is, it’s as common in schools as blackboards and recess and teachers and pencils.  With sites like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram it’s out there for everyone to see for all time, no take-back-see’s, forever without end.  In past generations kids (me) used to be able to take refuge from the hurt by going home, now it follows them there too.  I’d like to gather up all the bullies and punch them all in the ear.

Now I’m going to get off my high-horse and admit I did a little bullying of my own in high school.  It’s shameful and embarrassing to admit but it’s true. 

There was a girl form my church who started going to my high school who didn’t have any friends (yet).  I knew her from around church, and even though it was a small one and she was only a year younger we didn’t hang around.  She was painfully shy, meek to the extreme, with even less (if that’s possible) fashion sense than I did.  She wore home-made dresses to school, and unlike me she wasn’t blessed with a clear complexion and a small, athletic frame.  If I was a fluffy (clueless) bunny, she was a meek mouse just graduating from How-To-Be-Meeker-University with a major in Lonely-Saturday-Nights and a minor in Afternoons-At-Mama’s-Knee.  We can call her B.

In the beginning I reached out to her out of a genuine desire to be nice to her.  I had friends, at least, I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t an easy target any more either.  I got boobs.  If there were mean girls at this new school they couldn’t get close enough to bully me anymore what with all the boys loitering around staring at said new body augments.

And she snubbed me!  I don’t know if she thought I was making fun of her, or she was just that shy, or maybe she said hi back but so lowly I didn’t hear her but when I realized she was ignoring my ‘gifts’ of acknowledging her existence, ho, HO!  My sixteen year old pride reared up and after THAT, I only said hello to embarrass her.  

“Hey guys look, she’s too good to say hi to us isn’t that HILARIOUS…” Laughter ensues.  I made life harder for her, and I have to live with that.

All that to say….bullying sucks.  The bully is almost always coming from a place of weakness.  They feel so badly about themselves they need to take other people down too so they can feel better.  It happens to kids.  It happens to adults.  Like anything bad that happens to us, we need to ask ourselves what we can learn from it, and remind ourselves that things will change.  

I learned the world is not all cherries and moonbeams.  People hurt.  Sometimes those people want to make others hurt too.  As a kid I had to wait for things to change as I couldn’t change things myself.  I learned compassion, empathy, and patience.  From B I learned there are dark parts of my heart that needed the light shone in.  I have learned more from my enemies than I ever have my friends.

B, you know who you are, I’ve always regretted how I treated you, and I’m sorry.

To the one this blog is all about, I love you, hang in there sweetie, and if you need someone punched in the ear, I’m here for you.  Seriously.  I’m practicing right now.  Bam!  Bam!  Bam!

To all those who are being bullied right now, hang in there sweeties, it WILL get better.  And if not I AM available for ear-punching.  If I can reach their ears with my tiny bunny arms.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Some Craziness Required

I was recently in the company of some amazing women.  Women who have packed up their children and followed their husbands thousands of miles away from everything they’ve ever known.  Most of these women are working full-time here as well, who have sacrificed more than the close proximity of their friends and family, they’ve sacrificed their own careers.  Homes they loved.  Schools they felt comfortable sending their children to.  Most of them have done this not once but two and three times.  These women amaze me.  I am now in the company of amazing women - although for me moving countries from Canada to the US is not exactly a culture shock.  I’m doing just fine, thank you.  I’m using the GPS more, I miss my family and friends, I’m shopping at Safeway instead of Superstore, drinking Dunkin instead of Tim’s.  (Ok ok, actually Starbucks...)

CVS instead of Shoppers (ok THAT is super annoying - I MISS Shoppers Drug Mart!  It was so clean and bright and well organized and CLEAN.  I digress.)  The move didn’t require much of an adjustment on my part, and luckily for my husband I didn’t have a white-hot career to be torn about giving up.  

I’ve always felt my ‘day-job’ was just that - a way to pay the bills while I indulge in my real passions - the kind that make you feel fulfilled and joyful, that gives your life meaning and purpose and doesn’t pay in money at all.  I was working to keep me in acrylic paints, in printer paper for my poems, in enough money to pay for tea and wine and books.  And cookies.  Maybe some veggies.  If I had any left over, for sweaters and boots.  Yes, luckily I was not required to make the decision to leave a high paying job to follow my husband around the world for his mediocre-paying job.  I was more or less ambivalent about letting it go.  (Although I do miss my work buddies).

Imagine my surprise when I realized I MISSED the actual job, too!  The one I ‘didn’t care about’ - the one that kept me in books and tea and writing paper.  It gave me so much more than a tiny, tiny pay-check.  

It gave structure to my day.  A social outlet where I could be part of a team working toward a common goal.  The team’s success’ and failures were mine too.  I miss the thrill of learning a new skill, a new program, the satisfaction of relating that learning to my peers.  The competition, the collaboration.  Customers that made me laugh.  Crazy people calling me on the phone asking crazy questions.  Problems to resolve.  The pride of attacking a mystery and solving it.  Getting dressed every day.  Brushing my teeth before 11am.

Being a stay at home mom is lonely work with even less pay than before and almost no recognition or appreciation for the humongous sacrifices that are made.  And there are millions of women who would do almost anything to be able to afford to be in my shoes.  Or, my slippers in this case.  I finally have all the ‘time’ in the world to indulge in my passions and I’ve realized I need a day-job to release enough energy to be able to sit quietly and paint, or write, or read.  I need the work before I can relax into the fun.  I need to be interacting with the outside world in order to pull what I need from my inside world.  I thrive in rapid change, in chaos, in having my intelligence and emotions tested again and again.  I love the noise and distraction of working in a fast-paced environment.  I crave change the way junkies crave a fix.  I NEED to be confused, overwhelmed and frantic.  Apparently having a baby, applying for citizenship and moving states in the same year isn't enough.

So, I’ve devised a solution.  I’ve calculated I will need one eight hour day job, five more children, two more dogs, one cat, some fish, and some type of rodent that needs its’ cage cleaned once a week in order to create the exact amount and scope of chaos I need to be happy.  Anyone looking to get rid of a troublesome pet let me know.  A cat with diabetes?  A dog with ADHD?  A rabbit with cavities?  The more stressful the better.  Bring it on.  Apparently craziness is required.

Monday, January 12, 2015

FORMULA VS BREASTFEEDING - Mom, you’re on stand-by

So after I decided now was the time to start weening, Ellie refused to drink anything from a bottle for the next three days.  What the what!?  Arg.

Then I watched a documentary on breastfeeding.  According to some reliable looking experts, my fear that I wouldn’t make enough milk was a cultural one not entirely based in reality.  


This fear that our bodies won’t rise to the challenge of feeding our babies like millions of bodies have for millions of years might be a primarily North American concern.  One not necessarily shared by women globally.  That it is actually rare that a women's body won’t do what it was designed to do - sustain life for the first year.  I’m not going to point fingers and charge FORMULA CONSPIRACY.  I am not doing that.

As a new mom I absorbed all of the concern around me (including from the pediatrician) that I wouldn’t/wasn’t making enough milk.  I topped off with formula.  Then I started with formula and topped off.  Then I scaled back, re-doubling my efforts to breastfeed exclusively.  Then I went back to topping off when needed.  (Usually at least once a day).  Now I wonder if I hadn’t, would my body have ‘caught up?’.  I think it would have.  When I look back, sometimes I would skip nursing sessions entirely and let my husband or my mom feed her formula while I slept.  When she went through growth spurts I relied on formula again when she was still hungry after eating, not trusting my own body to adjust to her demands quickly enough.  

Did you know you don’t even have to be pregnant to produce milk?  All you need to be is a woman, and have the baby ‘demanding’ it…it used to be in families if the mother couldn’t provide milk due to injury or illness HER mother would take over, or a sister, etc.  (Mom, you’re on stand-by…)
I was sabotaging myself and I didn’t even know it.  I have to admit I feel a little cheated.  I feel like someone should have taken me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “You are a woman.  Amazing, courageous, miraculous.  Your body can handle this.  Trust it.  Trust yourself.”  

Maybe its the feminist essays I’ve been reading lately (‘Men explain things to me’ by Rebecca Solnit and yes I recommend it) or maybe it was the husbands I saw on the documentary who tended to push formula over the mother’s desire (and instinct) to trust her own body to breastfeed but it seems part of the problem is a deeply ingrained cultural notion that women’s bodies can’t be trusted.  That her voice, her will, her instinct, isn’t to be depended on for anything serious like the health of a new baby.  (Grrrrr.)

According to the Journal of Perinatal Education (Spring 2009 ) formula-fed infants tend to have higher rates of atrophy (allergies/eczema etc) diabetes and obesity.  Why? I don’t think we know that for sure yet.  Ellie has some eczema and I wonder if I had breast fed exclusively if she might not have that now?  

I’m sure I’m not the only mother to worry about these things, especially if she wasn’t able to breastfeed at all.  When I was going through the worst of it, in the beginning, I had to go day by day, and feel good about EACH DAY I got through where she got breast milk.  I had to let go of the pressure.  I had to remind myself (and apparently still do) that any breastfeeding is good, no matter how long.  I’m not working, either.  It is so, so much easier to breastfeed when you don’t have to work outside the home every day.  Pumping on breaks while working full-time cannot be easy and every mother who does it should have people waiting to shower them in applause every-time they do.  EVERY TIME.

Anyway.  If I had to give advice for new moms out there I would have to say, trust yourself.  Trust your body.  You’re amazing.  Milk isn’t ‘liquid gold’ - it’s abundant and reliable.  

And if all else fails, lets keep perspective - this ‘nursing’ part of their lives is a tiny, tiny fraction of it so let go of the guilt and worry and leave room for the next twenty years of guilt and worry to come over things we can’t even imagine yet.  Huzzah!  What fun!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Eulogy to Nursing

I am still breastfeeding at eight months.  I doubt I will be doing it for much longer.  

I really wanted to get as close to a year as I could.  Actually, if I’m being honest, for the first two months I really wanted to just GET THROUGH THE DAY.  I literally took it day by day.  She was born a month early so we had trouble getting her to latch, then getting her to latch properly.  Then, finally, after pumping every two hours and attempting to feed every hour and a half for about a week my milk finally came in.  I was constantly worried she wasn’t getting enough.  I topped up with formula pretty much from the beginning as I didn’t trust my own supply.  I made so many mistakes, using formula first before nursing (duh-now she won’t eat as much from me.)  Lower demand equals lower supply.  Is sensible.  Is logical.  Is all of the things you aren’t when you have a newborn in the house.  Sleep deprivation plus the pain of recovery plus the overwhelming realization that HOLY CRAP THIS TINY THING IS DEPENDING ON ME equals no rational thought left in your brain.  Or any coherent thoughts at allreally.   

Even after the first few weeks when she got the hang of latching she would cry and de-latch on and off again (which should have been one of the nine circles of Dante’s Hell.)  OUCH.  The thin T-shirt I wore to bed made the milk-makers HURT.  After seeing THREE lactation specialists (who gave me conflicting advice from everything to how to hold the boob to how to ensure she is getting milk) I finally saw one who helped.  

She said ‘Sweetie, lot of people try to make this harder than it is.  She’ll latch on.  If it hurts sharp-like, don’t tough it out, stop, de-latch, try again.  When it only hurts a little, that’s when you know its right.  When she cries and de-latches, switch sides.  And let the girls air out, don’t close up shop right away.  Oh, and, all those people who tell you it shouldn’t hurt if it’s done right - they’re wrong.  It’s gonna hurt.  Probably gonna hurt ‘till three or four months.’  That’s just the way it is.’

She was right.  The pain got steadily less as we both settled into a routine.  For awhile in the second month or so the milk came in too fast and she would choke and sputter and get frustrated.  (So I had the pleasure of having both not enough milk, then too much at around the same time…!)  I’d have to ‘sponge’ off the excess with a towel and then re-try.  Such a waste!

Soon after that though she got less fussy and began to dive-bomb-tiger-attack whenever I offered.  She’d get this squinty look on her face and chomp on with vigor.  With VIGOR.  

Around five months old I could tell when the milk came through because she’d get this blissed-out look on her face, her eyes would flutter and roll back in her head like she just got a hit of crack cocaine.  We called it her ‘milk-drunk’ stage.

I used to be able to feed her in a busy Panera and never have a problem - now at eight months the light in the room will distract her from eating.  I’m hunched in the rocking chair in her darkened bedroom every 2-3 hours of the day feeding her in the only place she will focus on eating.  Ugh.  Add to that I suspect my supply is getting low (she still wants more after feeding her and will eat up to 4 ounces of formula even after I’ve fed her) and I think the end is nigh.  The last couple weeks I have been fighting what I am suspecting is a losing battle, drinking more water, more ‘mother’s milk’ tea, eating lots of milk-producing foods, feeding her every time she seems cranky, adding another pumping session.  Nothing seems to be bringing back the milk.  I could take drugs to encourage my supply but at this point I don’t think it makes much sense.  Plus she is beginning to realize drinking from a bottle is quicker, and she can look around more.  (Hard to see what’s going on with a boob in your face.)  

I will miss being able to eat WHATEVER I WANT.  I ate a chocolate bar A DAY at Bill’s dad’s the last long weekend we were there - I LOST two pounds.  I’m within two pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and it isn’t because I’ve been dieting.  Or exercising.  It’s the extra 500-700 calories a day I’m burning nursing Ellie.  Mind you, my body doesn’t LOOK the same pre-pregnancy, all those tummy muscles flappier than Grammie’s lips without her teeth.  

I am both so excited and so sad to be nearing the end of nursing.  I remember the glow, the awe in realizing that I was producing what my baby needed to survive FROM MY OWN BODY.  The blood in my veins turned to life-sustaining milk for my baby.  Wow.  No matter what I accomplish in my life it will never be as amazing, as awe-inspiring, as miraculous as what my body is capable of without any conscious direction from me.  

Also, IT’S SO ANNOYING.  She flails about and shoves her fingers in my mouth and pulls and grabs my chin and squeezes and digs in with her little nails.  That’s when she’s not pounding on my boobs or chomping too hard, or flailing on and off to check out the most interesting new sound coming from down the stairs.  Not to mention the need to yank my boobs out wherever we are, no matter how crowded or busy and have her chow down.  My husband has a not too flattering picture of me from last weekend nursing her in a secluded section of the National Gallery of Art.  I look pleased.  I am not pleased.  Especially since all her flailing kept pulling off the tarp I had over us exposing me to the world.  Bill had to stand there and try to keep catching it and putting it back in place.

I want my body back!  I want Bill to get up with her at her midnight feeding (or her 530am wake-up call) and just give her a bottle!  She’s already eating solids like gangbusters.  

So, this is my Eulogy to nursing.  You were special, you were amazing, you were painful and hard and annoying.  You made me wear ugly nursing bra’s for almost a year.  You made me buy geeky button-down shirts.  You made me flash unsuspecting museum go-ers and made not a couple older men very uncomfortable.

You did a lot of good in your time, and the baby is a better, healthier place because of it.  You will be missed.  You will be mourned for the appropriate period of time.  Then I will put on my pretty new red bra, put on three layers of hard-to-get-off shirts and sweaters, drink THREE glasses of wine and NEVER PUT THAT PLASTIC TORTURE DEVICE THEY CALL A PUMP ON MY POOR BOOBS EVER AGAIN!  Unless we have another one.  Thank you.