Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Unrelated musings

He's coming for you.

I.  Crybaby

There are currently five things that I know of that consistently make Little Bug cry:

  • My cough.  This one is most potent at night; if he's asleep, no matter how deeply, my cough almost always wakes him up crying.  During the day, he only cries when I cough if he's in need of a nap.
  • The vacuum cleaner.  Well, if I'm wearing Little Bug, he'll usually fall asleep by the time I'm done with the apartment.  If I'm not wearing him, the vacuum makes him cry.
  • A certain friend's laugh.  It took us awhile to pinpoint this, but my friend and I eventually figured out that something about her laugh seems to startle him, and he cries.  When this happens, I work hard not to laugh at him.
  • Packing tape.  When I'm using clear plastic packing tape for any reason, the sound of it usually makes Little Bug cry.
  • A certain friend (of Little Bug's) cries.  For some reason, when this one friend of his cries, Little Bug's empathy kicks in and he starts crying too.  But only for this one friend.  Other babies cry, and he totally doesn't care.

II.  Unmentionables

Sometimes, I get tempted to start another blog.  But an anonymous blog, one that no one would know was written by me.  Then I could write about pretty much anything.

You see, there are a few topics that I would very much like to blog about, but for whatever reason I just can't.  Like the family member/friend/random acquaintance/etc. who makes me frustrated/pissed off/etc. and I want to talk about here, but I'm afraid they'll see it and think I don't like them or are talking behind their back when really all I want to do is VENT because I can't actually change things and it doesn't mean I don't otherwise like the person in question I'm just VENTING.  Or various topics related to babies or parenting that I have strong views on but my strong views don't necessarily agree with the societal norm and I don't want to talk about it here because my family/in-laws/friends don't even know I do/don't and I simply am not prepared to open that can of worms yet with them even though for some reason I'd otherwise be okay with discussing my views with strangers I don't know.

Yeah.  That sort of thing.  Maybe some day I'll become brave enough to blog about some of those things openly.  Maybe someday, but not today.

III.  Telemarketers

Today, I received a call from some sort of telemarketer who asked for "the person who owns this number."  I was silent for a moment, and then asked if she had a name.  She said no, just the number.  I asked what she wanted (without providing my name), and she started off into a speech, providing me a company name (financial something or other) and saying they had collected numbers "from my area," at which point I interrupted and asked where she thought I lived.  (Because my area code totally doesn't match my current location... one of the joys of being a Navy wife, I suppose.)  She couldn't tell me, which means she probably didn't know.  I interrupted again and said I was not interested in whatever she was selling.  She said she wasn't "selling" anything, and requested that I listen to what she had to say before saying I wasn't interested.  I interrupted again and asked to be put on their "do not call" list.  I listened long enough to hear her say she would, and then I hung up.

Ugh.  Telemarketers get worse all the time, and that's two minutes lost forever, wasted on a BS call with someone who didn't even have my name, just my phone number.  How irritating.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A month of gratitude

I don't do "Black Friday."  Never have.  Hopefully never will.  I don't think any "deal" is good enough to face the madness at the stores.  Plus, my idealistic side is not into supporting the big stores, although my practical side freely admits that I will end up buying some of my holiday presents at them.

For what it's worth, my morning tea latte did *not* come
from Starbucks today.  Although I do drink a lot of Starbucks.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to get to celebrate Thanksgiving in the company of two good friends and their families.  I contributed a lentil shepherd's pie and a pumpkin pie; other dishes included sweet potatoes, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and an amazing pecan pie.  I have a bunch of leftovers, which Little Bug and I will continue feasting on for at least a few days.  Good food, great conversation, and fun times; D may be away, and I may be unwilling to travel during the holidays, but thanks to a good support network I still had a fabulous holiday.

Little Bug enjoys his first Thanksgiving feast!
It's difficult to get a picture these days that isn't a little bit blurry...

Over the course of November so far, I've been watching as my friends post daily about what they're thankful for.  In that spirit, here is a list of thirty things I am thankful for.

1.  My wonderful husband, D.  As that song goes, "Lucky I'm in love with my best friend..."

2.  My Little Bug, my little sunshine baby.  I am so blessed to have such an amazing son who is helping me to rediscover the wonders of life.

3.  While we're working on those essentials, I'm thankful for the rest of my family, those I'm related to by blood or marriage.  It's nice to have so many people to care about, and who care about us.

4.  Friends, both near and far.  Friends that I've collected over the course of my life thus far and in all of the places I've lived.

5.  I'm thankful D has a secure job that enables me stay home to care for Little Bug.  I'm also thankful D & I are both on the same page financially, and that money is very rarely an issue of contention between us.

6.  I may not have to work, but I'm thankful for being a book reviewer and for my various freelance editing gigs.  The little bit of extra money certainly doesn't hurt!

7.  Of course, I'm very grateful for my little fuzzy monster, Freddy.

Freddy watches Little Bug suspiciously.
Maybe one day they'll be friends...

8.  My ability to cook.  Being able to make healthy, delicious food for my family is a joyful thing.

9.  Certain convenience foods.  I try to cook fresh whenever possible, but on busy days (like Thanksgiving!), it's nice to be able to substitute gravy mix for my usual homemade mushroom gravy and still be satisfied with my meal.

10.  Certain appliances.  I love my slow cooker, and yesterday my immersion blender made pumpkin pie filling into a breezy process.

11.  Books.  I may not get to read as much as I used to before having a baby, but I still love to read.  I am also thankful for my library, and the fact that it only takes me ten minutes to walk there.

12.  Music.  I love to sing, and I sing to my Little Bug every day!

13.  Pie.  Because, honestly, who doesn't love pie?

A crappy cell phone picture of my pumpkin pie.  And then I ate it.

14.  Tea.  My tea drinking habits have definitely changed over the last year; I can't remember the last time I finished a cup of tea at home without having to re-heat it at least once, and at least half the time I'm drinking lactation tea, but that's okay.  I still love my morning tea!

15.  CSAs.  I may not currently be a member of a CSA (because with D gone, I simply cannot eat the contents of an entire box by myself), but I am incredibly thankful that community-supported agriculture programs exist.  Gives me hope for the future of our food system.

16.  Two Sentinels Camp, my other home, even though it's been a few years since I've been able to volunteer there.  This place, and the other people who run it, played a major role in shaping the person I am today.  Someday, I will be back, I promise.  "Two Sentinels will be my home; makes no difference how far away I roam..."

17.  The Internet.  Enough said.

18.  My health.  I'm glad I am relatively fit and healthy, that I have the physical strength and endurance necessary to keep up with my growing boy.

19.  I'm thankful that I had such a positive birth experience, in a time and place where so many women cannot truthfully say the same.

20.  I'm also thankful I've had the courage to follow my instincts when it comes to parenting.  Raising a child is the hardest thing I've ever undertaken, but also the most rewarding!

21.  Text messages.  Seriously.  Ease of communication is a wonderful thing.

22.  Skype and video teleconferencing on base.  I may be separated from D physically at the moment, but at least I get to see his face in real time every now and then!

23.  The forthcoming arrival of the last book of The Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light.  Closure is coming, my friends!

24.  Board games.  And card games.  And dice games.  And role-playing games.  Yes, I'm that kind of nerd.

25.  Freedom of speech.  I listen to the news every day, and I'm always finding new reasons to value the fact that we have the fundamental right to say pretty much anything.

26.  NPR.  Balanced news coverage is a wonderful thing, and I learn new things all the time from all of the other wonderful programming here.

27.  Home.  I've always had a roof over my head, and I've never lived anywhere where I ever felt unsafe.  Well, our first apartment in Sacramento could be debatable.

28.  Our planet.  Sometimes I start thinking about the miracles of science and nature that have all conspired to create this world we inhabit, and then my head starts to hurt.

29.  Chocolate.  Enough said.  Oh wait, I'm also thankful that I started liking chocolate again once Little Bug was born.  Otherwise, that could have been one of life's little tragedies.

30.  My beloved country.  I am unbelievably blessed to have been born in this nation.  Sure, America has its faults, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere in the world but here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Applesauce BBQ Sauce

When I said I was going to find or create recipes to use my surplus of jarred baby food, Little Bug laughed at me.

Well, try this on for size: BBQ sauce made with applesauce.

Seriously.  Give it a try.  Tangy and sweet.  Mmmmm.
I made Crispy Barbequed Tofu Slices with my sauce!

Applesauce BBQ Sauce

inspired by this recipe on allrecipes.com

1 c applesauce (2 [4-oz.] jars apples/applesauce baby food)
1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Cover (or use a splatter screen; you don't want to get hit with this!) and let boil a few minutes, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool completely (it will thicken).  Makes 1 1/2 - 2 cups.



This is how Little Bug helps when I cook.

I totally suck at taking pictures of food.  But here's the finished product!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Introducing the Post-Deployment Bucket List!

Quickie post here.

Eight months is a long time to be separated from my honey.  And seeing as my primary method of coping is to keep busy (but not too busy; don't want to burn myself out), there are a lot of things Little Bug and I are doing for the first time that we'd like to experience again as a complete family.

I know I won't be able to remember everything on my own, so I'm starting a list!  Here on my blog, where I can add to it as Little Bug and I hit the town and find new things to share.  I'm calling it the "Post-Deployment Bucket List," and I'll keep updating it over the duration of D's deployment.  Go check it out, if you feel so inclined!  There is now a link at the top of the page.

Little Bug at the San Diego Botanic Garden, where we recently visited
with some friends.  So many new things to see!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What to do with jarred baby food?

Until recently, I had never bought commercial baby food for Little Bug.  In all honesty, he doesn't really even like finely pureed foods.  I think it's a texture issue; he has a hard time swallowing purees.  In order to get him to eat the organic applesauce that his grandma lovingly made just for him, I usually ended up mixing it in with some of my breakfast oatmeal.  (And then he loved it!)

Actually, thus far the solid food adventure could primarily be classified as baby-led weaning.  The main idea here, which seems so obvious and intuitive to me, is that babies don't really need purees.  Once babies are ready for solids, they can handle actual adult people food.  They can manipulate it within their mouths to make it swallowable, and will gag and spit it out if they try to swallow too much at once; in this way, they quickly learn their limits and how to, well, eat.  (Note too that gagging and choking are not the same thing.)  And better yet, they are quite capable of feeding it to themselves, thank you very much.

This is another area where I found it a little difficult to go against the grain.  At first, anyway.  After spending my entire lifetime watching babies receive their first foods from those cute little jars, it felt a bit weird to be taking a different route.  (The one exception to this was my sister, who made baby food from scratch... she helped to normalize the idea that baby food doesn't have to be bland or tasteless or contain only a single ingredient.  But she still started with purees.)

So we eased in slowly.  I honestly couldn't tell you what Little Bug's first food was; I don't remember.  But we started with soft things that I knew he could easily mash up with his gums.  Banana.  Avocado.  Cooked carrots or peas that I smooshed just a little between my fingers before offering to him.  Steamed zucchini, lentils, beans.  And always in small enough pieces that he could swallow without choking on, just in case he didn't manage to thoroughly gum them first.

And now?  When we split a banana every morning--and by split, I mean he eats maybe a third of it--he takes a tremendous mouthful, stuffing as much in there as will fit.  He used to end up spitting out half when he did this, but now he just works it around and slowly swallows until it's all gone, and then eagerly comes back for more.  (Sometimes he gets worried that I will eat it all before he gets seconds!)  I will offer a piece of veggie to him on the palm of my hand, and he will carefully pick it up and cram it into his mouth.  When we go to the farmers' market, I offer him whole berries to nom.  Out at breakfast the other day with my dad and his lady friend, we gave him little bits of plain pancake to feast on.  Fortunately, the nice people at IHOP didn't mind that he made a giant mess; honestly, who could get annoyed with that cute little face?

So that's where we are now.  The only purees he eats are things that are naturally pureed: applesauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin puree from the pumpkin I roasted the other day.  And none of which are finely pureed; lumps make life more exciting.  He'll consent to being fed with a spoon occasionally, but he really prefers to feed himself, and he doesn't really like food that contains no lumps.

And then I signed up for WIC.  In case you are unaware, WIC is a government program that provides pregnant women and the parents of young children (up to age five) with vouchers for healthy foods.  The primary qualification has to do with income, and a surprising amount of military families can qualify.  Among other useful things, we get vouchers that pay for about sixty jars of baby food per month.  Per month.  I wish I could instead get more money to spend on fresh produce and whole grains, since that's what he actually eats.  But I'm not one to turn down essentially free food, so now I have a ton of jarred baby food in my cupboard.

I tried feeding him one jar.  He thought it was okay, but seemed much more excited when we switched to something more, erm, substantial.  So instead, I'm going to try to think of more creative things to do with all of those tiny jars of pureed fruits and veggies.  Add to pasta sauces or soups?  Maybe.  I bet I could toss part of a banana in my Magic Bullet along with the contents of a fruit jar and some almond milk (or, more likely, soymilk, since I get a ton of that from WIC too) and make a smoothie.  Applesauce is applesauce, which I can mix into my oatmeal (and then share with Little Bug) or use to replace the oil in recipes for baked goods.  Bananas can replace eggs, or just be made into banana bread.  "Winter squash" could surely be turned into pumpkin bread, or maybe... pumpkin pie?  Pumpkin risotto?  (Of course, I have a bunch of pumpkin puree in my freezer, but bear with me here.)  I have a vegan brownie recipe somewhere that calls for prune puree.  (Seriously.)

We'll see.  If I come up with anything exceptionally creative, I'll be sure to write about it here.  Until then, I guess I'd best devote a shelf of my cupboard to my increasing supply of baby food!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Baby Noms

Om nom broccoli

Inspired by a recent post at the blog In Short, Stories, as well as a suggestion by the talented Mrs. H, I decided to keep an ongoing list of everything that Little Bug has licked, bit, slobbered on, or otherwise nommed today.  Just for funsies.

And it's quite a list.  Little Bug spends most of his waking hours putting various things in his mouth, like most babies his age I suppose.  And if he can't put it in his mouth, he puts his mouth on it!

Quesadilla triangles for grabby little hands

Here's as complete of a list as I could manage.  For the record, many of these things were taken away as soon as I realized he had gotten hold of them.

my pillow
cell phone
computer mouse
(clean) cloth diaper prefold
daddy doll
the straps of my Ergo baby carrier
ballpoint pen
my teething necklace
Swiss chard, cooked with onions, garlic, and an egg
cheese quesadilla
box of markers
WaveWinds magazine
various parts of me, including: fingers, toes, ear, shoulder, his milk source, leg, etc.
(closed) tube of baby sunscreen
the couch
various toys
cloth napkin
various books, including: But Not the Hippopotamus, A Little Sip of Chicken Soup for the Soul,
     Outside Over There, Global Babies, & Halloween ABC
his own fingers & toes
today's junk mail
dinnertime vegetable medley: carrots, broccoli, green beans, summer squash
my water cup
his water cup
car keys
washing machine
bath tub
wash cloth

Friday, October 5, 2012

Going against the norm

I've noticed it's not uncommon for parents to try to do things differently, "better," the second (or third) time around.

"My first baby was induced a week before her due date, I got an epidural because I couldn't handle labor, and we almost had to get a c-section.  This time, I hired a midwife so I can give birth at home."

"We used disposable diapers last time; no one ever told me cloth was so much cheaper and easier!"

"We used a cry-it-out approach with our first, but I've read so much since then...  This time, we'll be using a gentler approach."

I think it's easier to try something new, something less "mainstream," when your first experience was a bad one.  You have time and conviction on your side.  What I don't hear many people talk about is how hard it is to buck tradition with your first.  When you don't have bad memories, complications, regrets, or even vague doubts on your side, it can be hard to deal with others who don't understand why you're not just doing things the "normal" way.

We chose to have our son at home, and I firmly believe that the only reason we didn't get more grief ahead of time was because we didn't really tell anyone.  Afterwards, most of the responses we got were positive.  Some people called me a rock star for having a baby without drugs at home, omg, while others congratulated me on sticking to my convictions.  Interestingly, most of the negative responses I got were from medical professionals; the pediatrician I took Little Bug to for his three-day checkup seemed unable to comprehend why I would voluntarily give birth at home, while the one I saw a week later took less issue with the birth itself than with the fact that I didn't transfer to a hospital afterwards.  When I went to the emergency room to get my Rhogam shot (this was the easiest way, since I had stopped seeing an OB months ago), the triage nurse looked at me like I was crazy and asked, "But it wasn't planned that way, right?"  My stock response became I had a very fast labor, providing an explanation without any further information, neither confirming or denying my reasons or lack thereof.  Amazing how quickly I learned to give vague answers and let people draw their own conclusions.

Even before the birth, my "alternative" ideals came up against opposition.  I knew long before I got pregnant in the first place that I wanted to go natural; no epidural for me.  It didn't take long for me to stop vocalizing that idea to others.  "Oh, everybody says that the first time around," well-meaning but condescending women would tell me.  "Trust me, you'll want the epidural."  I knew what I wanted, and I truly believed I could give birth with out medication.  But against that kind of all-knowing negativity, with no experience on my side, what am I supposed to say?  End result was that I softened my stance a little, even while knowing the truth on the inside.  I was at least going to try, I said, and even that was met with a nasty little smile.  "Just you wait," they said.  I was strong enough to ignore those comments, and smart enough to stop openly verbalizing my ideas without first feeling out my audience.

But in retrospect, there's something very sad about being uncomfortable talking about things without first knowing that my thoughts would be well-received.

It's so easy to have doubts, even if in your heart you believe you're doing the right thing.  I did not have a single ultrasound during my pregnancy.  Not one.  They are so commonplace nowadays that many women get one at every appointment.  My insurance didn't cover them unless they were "medically necessary," and the OB I was seeing early on volunteered to "make up" a reason if I wanted one!  So many people don't realize that, in many cases, an ultrasound isn't necessary.  They are a relatively recent technology, and women have been growing babies for most of human history without them.  One of my books told me that for the baby in the womb, undergoing an ultrasound is similar to being in a subway tunnel; the decibel level of what the baby hears is that high.  I also read that there really haven't been any long-term studies on the fetal effects of ultrasound.  (Don't ask me where I read these tidbits.  I read a lot of books and web articles and blogs during my pregnancy.)  I knew that I didn't want an ultrasound, although I would have willingly undergone one had my midwife thought it necessary.  (Interestingly enough, at one point she did.  My fundal height didn't seem to match the estimated due date, and she was thinking we might have it wrong.  My appointment was for the day after I ended up going into labor.)  And yet, even with all I knew, all I had read, I still doubted myself, deeply and frequently.  What if there was something wrong?  What if my baby was malformed?  What if there was some disorder that could be detected through an ultrasound?  Some days, I felt like I was trying to reassure myself that I had made the right decision.  When everyone is asking how the ultrasounds looked, asking me to post pictures on my Facebook page or posting their own, when I didn't know a single person who didn't get an ultrasound themselves during their pregnancy, it was easy to doubt myself.  

Of course, everything turned out fine.  Ten fingers and ten toes, no problems whatsoever, a picture of health.  But that doesn't mean I didn't doubt myself.

When it comes to dealing with these subjects that I worry will garner negative responses from others, I find there are three main ways I talk about them.  The first is to not talk about them at all.  I didn't talk about my decision to have a home birth with many.  I (wisely) didn't mention to any of Little Bug's pediatricians that we were co-sleeping.  Sometimes not talking is a good decision (it's not worth the lecture from the doctors), but sometimes I feel like my reticence is contributing to the problem.

Sometimes I give vague answers, like my stock response about having a fast labor, and let others think what they will.  When the pediatrician asked if he got the vitamin K drops at birth, my response was that the baby got "everything he needed" at birth from my midwife.  (Again, not worth the lecture.)  

And sometimes, more frequently than I'd like, I try to blow things off.  So many people seem to think that babies need to be fit conveniently around their own schedule that heaven forbid we inconvenience ourselves for them.  Cloth diapers?  So much cheaper than disposables, and when they're nursing they're so very easy to wash!  Babywearing?  Much more convenient than lugging around a stroller!  Baby-led weaning?  I've no time for pureeing foods, and letting him feed himself is much easier than bothering with a spoon.  Co-sleeping?  I get more sleep when he's right next to me; it's so much easier to get him back to sleep after he nurses when I don't have to put him back in a crib!  I have a friend who practices elimination communication (which we dabble in), and the only time I've seen her publicly mention it on Facebook was with the caveat that it saved on diapers.

Why do we do this?  Because we don't want to get lectured by the "professionals."  Because parenting issues are already so polarizing and we don't want to be drawn into arguments.  Because our family might not approve.  Because we have doubts about our own decisions.  Because it's not what "everyone else" does.  Lots of reasons, I guess.  

I, for one, would love to be able to have more honest, open conversations about the choices I've made and the things I do for my baby.  And yet, there are so many topics I am simply uncomfortable discussing, even if I know I'm making the right choices for me and mine.  I can only hope that as I get more parenting experience under my belt, I will become more confident in my decisions and more willing to discuss these things with others.  Otherwise, how will some of these things become more acceptable in the mainstream?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week in Review: Sept. 23-29, 2012

San Diego continues to be gross and hot, weather-wise, although it's getting cooler at night; I actually had to pull a second blanket up the last few nights to keep me warm!  Now if only Little Bug would consent to keeping a blanket tucked around him too, then perhaps he wouldn't wake up as often.  Ah well.  Fall will come for real one of these days.  I'll just keep telling myself that.

At Cabrillo National Monument

What I'm Reading

Should parents be disappointed when they want a girl and get a boy?

The Globe and Mail

"Many mothers and fathers hardly realize that they have gender hopes – until the sex of their child is revealed and they learn that they were harbouring expectations all along. While not an official diagnosis, “gender disappointment,” a private feeling of shock and dejection, washes over some parents when they envision life with a boy or a girl, only to birth a child of the opposite sex."

Hey, Stay Home Moms (and Dads) - What Have You Been Doing All Day?


"Considered dinner choices. Decided to use up the leftover roast in a potpie rather than open the just-bought ingredients. Elbow deep in piecrust prep, I realized the baby was too quiet. Looked around the corner to find her eating a stick of butter. Washed my hands, scooped her up and got smeared by butter and her leaking diaper."

12 Reasons Why the AAP is Right and You Should Circumcise Your Infant Son

Jennifer Margulis: Sticking My Neck Out

"8. You plan to dye his hair black and buy him green contact lenses to match Daddy’s so you want his penis to match Daddy’s too."

The Booger

Conscience Parenting

"But as soon as I swoop in he freaks out like I am about to murder a kitten. If I am in public, people look at me. And then I’m all…
I don’t need to get it. It is just a booger."

What I've Been Eating

Barley and Pepper Chili (The Everything Vegan Cookbook by Jolinda Hackett)
Good Whisk Bread (Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson)
Cantaloupe Jam (Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan)
Fragrant Eggplant (vegweb.com)
Shortbread Cookies (Betty Crocker Cookbook)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dealing with the First Deployment

We're coming up on a month now since D left on his first deployment; we were told it would be an eight-month deployment, but there's always the chance that it might get extended.  (I hope not!)  Little Bug and I are adapting well enough, although for whatever reason his daddy's departure messed his sleep "schedule" up.  Has *not* wanted to go to bed for the past few weeks, but that's slowly getting better.

Anyway.  Thought I'd pontificate on some of the methods we're using to deal with the separation.

Phone calls.  These don't happen very often, and are completely unpredictable when they do.  Still, hearing D's voice always brightens my day, and when I put him on speakerphone, Little Bug's face inevitably lights up in a big ol' smile.

Email.  These help me more than they help Bug, but they are invaluable to me; they are my primary form of communication with my husband while he's on deployment.  I email almost every day, although he's so busy that he doesn't always get to respond in kind; I also know there will be periods when I may go days or maybe even weeks without hearing from him.  That's going to suck.

Care packages.  How else is a good wife to show her love for her man except by sending him goodies, specifically food?  And anything else he specifically requests too, of course!  I know D doesn't have much space for personal belongings on the ship, so it's actually best (in my opinion) to send mostly consumables.  The postal service's flat rate boxes are definitely the best way to go.  These are always free at the nearest post office; you only pay for shipping, and sending the largest to a military address is less than $15.  It's worth noting that if you call USPS to order supplies, you can request a special kit for military families, which comes with boxes and tape and labels and such and is completely FREE, delivered to your door.  You have to call in for this kit though; the number is 1-800-610-8734.  It's also worth noting that when you send packages to deployed service members, you have to fill out a customs form.  They're a bit of a pain, but between the person I talked to at the post office and this website with a picture tutorial, I managed okay.

Videos.  Before D left, he recorded a bunch of pictures of himself reading poems for me to show Little Bug. The original idea was for them to be a bedtime thing, but Bug isn't always interested in sitting still and watching a video when he's tired, so I often just show them whenever I have my computer on and he's willing to sit (relatively) still for a few minutes.  He loves these!  There's also a program called United Through Reading which allows sailors to record videos of themselves reading stories while on deployment, which then get mailed back to the families at home as a DVD.  I learned about this through my FRG and promptly told D, who is (hopefully) trying to find out how he can get involved!

Photo book.  I ordered a photo book from Shutterfly that is filled with pictures of Little Bug and D together. We look through it almost every day, although some days Bug's hands are just too grabby and I don't want him to rip the pages.  There is a program through the USO that allows you to send free photo books (from a different company) to any military address too; perfect to send a little something to someone stationed abroad or on a ship somewhere!

Daddy Doll.  I also ordered a Daddy Doll for Little Bug to cuddle, since he can't cuddle with his daddy for real.  It's basically a good quality stuffed doll featuring a full-length photo of his daddy.  There are a wide variety of options as far as size and customization go, and you can even get a voice recorder to put in it.  Little Bug loves his!

If you think about it, we're already almost 1/8 of the way through this deployment and managing just fine.  Yes, it sucks, but we'll be okay.  D and I have been together for nearly eight years; we're strong enough to last for an eight-month separation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week in Review: Sept 16-22, 2012

Perhaps the reason why I don't post on here very often is because I spend what little "free" time I do have reading.  I do read a lot of review books for San Francisco Book Review, and I read the reviews of others as I copy edit them.  I read the stories of others as I edit them for freelance projects.

And I read articles online.  Lots of articles online.

In my defense, reading stuff on the computer is one of the ways I get my sanity back after Little Bug is asleep at night, as I lie in bed next to him, as he sometimes remains attached to me because he fell asleep while nursing.

And, of course, there are some nights when I don't read at all, because it took hours for the little guy to fall asleep.  (Had one of those last weekend.  I blame a combination of teething and still adjusting to his daddy's deployment.)

When I'm not reading, I'm probably cooking.  Or trying to, anyway.  I don't want to start living on processed foods while D is gone, but it is pretty difficult to cook with a seven-and-a-half-month-old who would much rather play with (and on) mommy than with his toys.

Anyway.  In an effort to actually post things more often, here are some of the things I've been up to this week.

What I'm Reading

It Takes a Village 


"Some days are harder than others. Some days all I have accomplished is my children being fed and watered and diapers are changed. And, some days, that is a feat in itself. Those days are hard, because you feel like you are the only one who is struggling…you are the only one who sometimes feels that you signed up for way too much and you just aren’t cut out for this job. You wonder if you will ever get a peaceful shower again, or a full nights sleep, and you find yourself daydreaming about the days before these little beauties were in your life. You kick yourself for ever taking for granted sleeping in until 8, or being able to sit down for dinner, or watch whatever the hell you want to on TV."

Eight Months Old: Sleepless in Columbus 

Birthing Beautiful Ideas

"You nurse a lot and you eat some solid foods (Baby Mum Mums and avocado and pumpkin are you favorites) and you don’t seem sick and your teeth might be coming in and you are certainly going through some growth and development spurts and you seem generally happy but I’m so worn out. Sometimes you seem worn out too."

Vaccine Exemptions Under Attack 


"The US has a century old tradition of accepting conscientious objection to medical procedures and all medical associations support, in principle, the doctrine of informed consent. Informed consent specifically states that one must not be coerced into making a decision and that one may decline a treatment or procedure. Further, the right to decline a treatment is not contingent on the effectiveness of that treatment. Does our tradition of informed consent not apply to vaccines?"

As plans to cut down on epidurals cause a furore, JENNI MURRAY says... Get real, girls! Pain is part of childbirth 

Daily Mail

"We’ve learned to feel shame about our bodies and about sex — and nothing requires a woman to open up the part of her that is meant to be so private like delivering a baby. We’ve learned to hand responsibility for our health to doctors, rather than trust our instincts."

Harvard Study Confirms Lower IQ in Children Exposed to Flouride 

the Healthy Home Economist

"The strong evidence that fluoride negatively impacts children’s neurological development and actually lowers their IQ just keeps growing and growing."

What I'm Eating

Skillet Green Bean Casserole (from happyherbivore.com)
Tofu Ratatouille (from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes)
Savory Black-Eyed Peas (from The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Endless snuggles

Having a baby has taught me that there is no end to the amount of times I can fall in love.  Seriously.  I know it sounds corny, but every time I think I can't possibly love my son more than I already do, he does something that just makes my heart swell up a little more.

There are times, many times, every day, that I just want to cuddle him close and snuggle him endlessly.

Like when he's fallen asleep while nursing, and I shift positions slightly and he raises one little hand as if to say, "Whoa, hold up there."

Or when he wakes up first thing in the morning, and upon making eye contact with me his face brightens up with one of his bright sunshine smiles.

When he's asleep in one of my baby carriers, strapped to my chest, and leans his head back as if he were looking at me even though he's still asleep.

When he wakes up and, after that smile, proceeds to roll over onto his tummy, crawl furiously towards me, and then try to dive into my rib cage.

When I go to give him a kiss and am greeted not by his cheek, as I was expecting, but instead by his tongue.

When I'm lying on the floor and he crawls over and props himself up on my chest so that he can try to nom my nose.

When we're in the car and he's gently talking to whichever toy I've given him to entertain himself with, and over the faint sounds of NPR I can hear him saying "Oh... ah... eh... ah."

When I offer him a bite of whatever I'm eating, and he rolls it around his mouth before pronouncing it good by saying "ahhm... ahhm..." and reaching out for more.

When he's unhappy and fussing but quiets down immediately as soon as I start singing.

When he's taking a bath and delighting in the way the water splashes as he kicks his little feet.

When I offer him a new or different toy, and he takes it, examines it for a moment, and then slowly brings it up to his expectantly open mouth.

When I get something cold to drink, and he greedily licks the condensation off the side of the glass.

When I kiss the side of his neck or the bottoms of his feet and am rewarded with a giggle.

When he falls asleep clutching my arm as though it were the softest stuffed animal in the world.

When I show him a video of his daddy reading to him, and his face absolutely lights up.

Endless snuggles.  *sigh*

Friday, September 14, 2012

Getting over my own birth fears

If you know me know, if you've heard me ramble excitedly about how positive and empowering my experience was in giving birth to my son, you might find this next statement surprising.

The idea of having a baby used to scare me.

And not just the part about raising the baby either. Nope, the idea of growing said baby in my belly was pretty scary too. What if I screwed it up somehow? And actually giving birth? Completely terrifying.

For many years, I told people I didn't want kids. At the time, I actually believed it, hiding fervently behind my rebellious teen bravado. Who wants kids? I want to stay young forever!

And for awhile, after admitting that raising children wouldn't necessarily be all bad, I would say that I wanted to adopt someday. There are so many unwanted children in the world; why have my own when I could love one of them?

And then I got married. And while we didn't actively discuss having children for the first few years of our relationship, the topic inevitably came up. And guess what? He wanted kids of his own. And guess what else? Somehow, the idea of having babies, my own babies, with this man, the love of my live, was acceptable.

That doesn't mean it wasn't scary. The worst part was the idea of labor and childbirth. And having grown up with glossy media images of women screaming in pain, endless complications, and “typical” hospital births effectively managed by detached unfeeling doctors, the fact that I was scared isn't really surprising.

In all honesty, I didn't really allow myself to think about it much until I was actually pregnant myself. I quit taking my birth control pills at the end of 2010 and, not surprisingly, I discovered I was pregnant in the summer of 2011. As the reality set in, my mind wanted to panic, but I wouldn't let it. Pregnancy itself, I could handle. I've never smoked cigarettes, I immediately stopped my sporadic alcohol consumption, and I was already the picture of health due to a whole-foods (and vegetarian) diet and love of personal fitness.

And labor and birth? The first step in overcoming an irrational fear like mine was education. So I started reading.

And you know what? The more I read, the more comfortable I got with the idea. I read about pain, about natural (non-drug) methods of handling it, of the effects of an epidural on both mama and baby. I read about my options of where to birth: hospital, home, birth center. I read about differences in care between midwives and OBGYNs. I read about potential complications. I read about the “cascade” of interventions so commonly experienced in hospital settings. I read about prenatal nutrition and the benefits of continued exercise. I read about delayed cord clamping versus cord blood banking. I read about the potential risks of ultrasounds that nobody tells you about, and I read that even the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only recommends them if medically indicated, and not as a routine procedure. I read about gestational diabetes. I read about circumcision. I read about being Rh negative and the use of Rhogam. I read about all of this and much, much, much more.

I read books; among others, Ina May'sGuide to Childbirth and Birthing a Better Way were indescribably helpful to me. I read blogs; Birth Without Fear and Mama Birth helped me to believe that my body could do this. I watched movies; there's a reason that anybody and everybody who is interested in natural childbirth has seen The Business of Being Born. I talked to people: my mama, my sister, my midwife, my friends.

And honestly, all of the reading I did was much more educational than the birth class I took, the one that was offered for free on the military base at Great Lakes. In that class, D and I were the only couple that had hired a midwife, the only couple that didn't plan on birthing in a hospital. I think one other woman said she didn't want pain medication (I think there were six or seven other couples taking the class with us), and one said she'd “see how long she could handle it.” One was planning a c-section (for a good reason; I think she had placenta previa). We were the only vegetarians, the only ones who knew what a doula was, the only ones who knew the names of the most commonly-used drugs for induction, the only ones who knew that a cesarean section necessitated cutting through seven layers of tissue, the only ones who knew that getting an epidural required getting a catheter too. I think we were the only ones made uncomfortable by the idea of continuous fetal monitoring requiring an electrode screwed into the scalp of my baby. We were definitely the only ones who realized that the care of a midwife is actually substantially less expensive than the traditional hospital birth route; the teacher was rather condescending when she implied that we hadn't thought through the financial ramifications of our decision, and D and I definitely did not appreciate that.

And in the end, here is what I realized.

Labor and birth are different for every woman. They are not something to be feared.

Be comfortable in your environment. If you are scared or uncomfortable, if you can't relax, your body will know it and labor will likely take longer.

You will feel contractions. They will likely be uncomfortable at the least, painful at the worst. Remember, though, that unless your contractions are artificially augmented with Pitocin or another induction drug, these contractions are caused by your body. They have a purpose, and you can handle them. Your body won't throw anything at you that you aren't capable of handling.

Your cervix will efface (thin out) and dilate (open up). This may take hours or it may take days. It will take however long your body needs it to take.

Your body will tell you when to push. When you feel that urge, follow it. Don't try to hold back, and likewise don't try to push if your body isn't telling you to.

Don't over-think the process of birth. Let the rational part of your mind step back. Your body knows what it's doing; let it happen!

Above all, believe in your own ability to birth. Your body was made to do this! Birth is normal. Birth is natural.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On copy editing

An unrelated picture of my cat.

Lately, I have been doing some freelance work as a copy editor. [Unrelated Note: D and I were talking recently about the origins of the phrase “freelance.” He was mostly right. See here.] I'm not a content editor; instead, I really only care about the basic tenets of language: grammar, punctuation, spelling. I point out when the author has used the wrong word (since vs. because, there/their/they're, etc.), I delete unnecessary commas, I fix words so that verb tenses are consistent throughout.

I add in semicolons where appropriate. My senior year high school English teacher made the point that using semicolons—correctly—makes you look smarter. And it's true, especially since most people don't know how. Add this to the list of important facts to know about me: I am a big fan of the semicolon.

In reality, most of these issues should have already been caught by the book's normal editor. But sometimes simple errors are overlooked; having a fresh pair of eyes look the material over can mean the difference between writing “bowl of pea soup” instead of “bowel of pea soup.” (Yes, I did see the latter in a published book once. It was a self-published book, but still.)

So here's something that's been sort of bugging me lately. I read a lot of blog posts. I used to be addicted to food blogs. (I still am, to a lesser extent.) Now, after the arrival of Little Bug, I spend a lot of time reading blogs about babies. I read about parenting issues, breastfeeding, politics related to parenting and reproductive rights, pregnancy, and birth stories. (Read mine here!) I read reviews of parenting and/or pregnancy books, editorials on the “mommy wars,” and the arguments for and against controversial topics like vaccinations or circumcision.

I read a lot. When I have time to, anyway; most of my reading is done in the hour or so at night after Little Bug has gone to sleep and before I decide to join him in slumber.

And you know what really gets to me about some of these blogs I read? The fact that many of them obviously haven't been edited beyond the spelling/grammar check that comes built into every word processing program.

Yes, yes, I know—this should not be a big issue. And it isn't. Run-on sentences and incorrectly used words don't take away from the overall message, so long as I can still understand what the writer is trying to say. But they do distract me.

Back when I was in high school, my mama and I would sometimes take a red pen to notices received in the mail, or even the newspaper, and correct any errors we could find in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. (My mama, when she gets to talking about this to others, fondly points out that my favorite thing to edit was the principal's bulletin from the school newsletters.)

Sometimes I'll be reading a blog post and get a similar urge. I want to print some of these posts out and take my red pen to them. Not because I don't respect what the author has to say. Not because I don't understand the post. Simply because bad grammar and punctuation bother me.

So this is just food for thought, I suppose. If you have a blog, you might consider taking a second look at what you write before you post it. Read it over again, keeping an eye out for rogue commas or simple misspellings that your word processor might have overlooked. It might not make a noticeable difference, but I believe it will reflect better on you as a writer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rant: Customer service, part one.

When did companies stop caring about good customer service?

It seems like in the past few months, D and I have dealt with a surprising number of companies that just don't seem to understand the concept of good customer service. My biggest complaint by far has been that the representatives we speak with say they'll follow up with us but then never do. When did it become okay to not return phone calls?


When I first moved from California to Illinois, back in May of 2011, I used PODS to transport our household belongings. It seemed like the best option at the time. I had to remove all of our stuff from our house, as we had tenants moving in immediately after I left, and I didn't yet have an apartment in Illinois for our stuff to be sent to.

My experience was great. It was a little pricey, but the box was dropped off at my house on time, picked up once I had it filled, and then delivered to our apartment in Illinois within three days of my move-in. Overall, I was very happy with the service PODS provided.

So when it came time to move to San Diego, again without a dwelling lined up ahead of time, it seemed only natural that we go back to PODS again.

Next time we move, I'll be going with a different moving company.

To start off, due to a minor misunderstanding with the paperwork, we did not receive our container until two days after we were supposed to. (Keep in mind that we only had two weeks total to get our belongings packed and on their way before we, too, were on our way.) Consequently, we had to request that they leave the box there an extra day before pick up; they basically wanted to drop it off one day and pick it up a little over a day later.

After arriving in San Diego and securing a new apartment, we had to wait over a week for our belongings to show up. Our container showed up on a Monday morning, thankfully after D was home from base for the day. Since this was a military move, we had paid extra for PODS to weigh the container, both empty before it was dropped off in Illinois and full before it was delivered to us in San Diego. Thankfully, D thought to ask about the weight ticket before we started unloading; the driver had NOT, in fact, had it weighed, and we had to wait an hour for him to go perform this task.

Our belongings were unloaded without a hitch, by the heroic efforts of D and with a little help from some friends of ours who had moved to California about a month or so before we did.

The issue with the full weight ticket brought up another question: why had we not received an empty weight ticket? Because PODS had not weighed the container in Illinois either, of course! Mind you, this was our first “real” military move together, and the military WOULD NOT reimburse us for the costs of the do-it-yourself move without these weight tickets. D put a call in to PODS to try to rectify this situation. After several calls on his part (because no one bothered to call him back), he found someone who would get a weight ticket put together, and would scan and email it to us. After a few more follow-up calls, D actually received this email.

The weight ticket we received had the date it was made, rather than the date we had received the container. It also was from San Diego, rather than our point of origin in Illinois.

Thankfully, this did not seem to be a problem for the Navy. (Maybe they didn't notice?) We sent it in anyway, since we were running out of time to get our paperwork together, and they came back asking for a different contract but with no questions regarding the weight tickets.

Next time we move, I think we'll try one of PODS' competitors.

Say what?

II. Carmax

In April, after we had received verbal orders for our move but before D had hard copies in his hand, we decided it was time to purchase a new car. Our POS Volvo, bought at a car auction shortly after I arrived in Illinois, had served us well, but there was simply no way it would be able to handle a drive across the country.

As with PODS, D and I had previously had a good experience with buying a car from Carmax. We bought a VW Golf from the Carmax dealership in Roseville, California, a number of years ago. (This car is currently living out a quiet retirement in the possession of one of my besties back up in the Bay Area.) The car worked great; we had no major problems with it so long as D continued to perform the routine maintenance on it. We financed it through Carmax (probably for too high of an interest rate) and paid it off on schedule.

So we thought it seemed like a good idea to look to Carmax for our next purchase. After all, we wanted something reliable that could handle our road trip. Something roomy, since we would be traveling with a baby and a cat. And, my biggest caveat, something with a manual transmission; I hate driving automatic, and after a year of the Volvo with its automatic transmission, I was ready to get back to stick.

Beyond that, I pretty much left the decision to D; after all, he is an ASE master technician, and he certainly knows cars better than I ever want to. He settled on a small SUV, a Mazda Tribute, which we had shipped to the Carmax in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The purchase went off without a hitch. It took a little longer than I might have liked, but we eventually headed home sans Volvo in our shiny new Mazda.

A little under a month later, on the first day of our road trip, the power window regulator went out. For the rest of the trip, I was unable to roll my window down (unless I wanted it all the way down), and we had folded maps jammed into the window frame to keep it closed. After getting settled into our apartment in San Diego, I contacted the Carmax in Kearny Mesa to see about repairs. Naturally, they wouldn't accept my husband's diagnosis of the problem; I had to first take the car in for them to figure it out on their own. (I don't blame them for this. They didn't know D probably knows more about cars than whatever poor tech they assigned to the task.) After a few hours of waiting, the service manager announced that, shockingly, was indeed the power window regulator that was out. No, they did not have the part in stock. It would arrive later that afternoon or on the next business day. Yes, someone would call me once it arrived to schedule a follow-up appointment.

About a week later, after no follow-up call was received, I called back on my own. I was informed that the part had arrived a few days ago. No explanation was offered for why no one had called me. I made the appointment and the part was installed with no further problems. To Carmax's credit, they accepted my explanation of the part being covered under the 30 Day Limited Warranty without question, and they did not try to charge me for any of it.

But this was only one of the problems we had with Carmax. The other concerned the license plate and vehicle registration. When we were originally discussing the purchase with our sales representative, it had been determined that we would transfer the plates from our Volvo to the Mazda. Then for whatever reason, after the paperwork was printed out but before we signed, that decision was changed: we would be receiving new license plates for the Mazda, and would be refunded the $25 transfer fee at some point in the near future. The representative wrote a note on the contract, we were given the old license plates for posterity, and we were told that once Carmax received the new plates they would be sent to us via FedEx.

Fast forward to a week before we left Illinois. No new plates had been received yet, so I called Carmax to find out what was going on. I was told that someone would “look into it,” and that I would receive a follow-up call shortly. Two days later, after no such call was received, I called again. After looking through the paperwork, the representative I spoke with announced that paperwork had been filed with the DMV for a transfer after all. Instead of new plates, Carmax was waiting on new registration stickers, which would be sent to us upon receipt. I was told to put the plates from the Volvo on the car for the time being.

We still had heard nothing by our move, and so I had to call again. Again I was told someone would “look into it,” and again no one bothered to call me back. My next call netted me a new set of temporary license plates, as it had apparently become unclear what paperwork had actually been submitted to the DMV. After a few more days without a return phone call, I had truly had enough. When I called back the next time, I requested a manager, who was thankfully able to get something done. Within three days, I had new plates for the Mazda, with registration stickers to match.

Of course, the registration we received was completely blank except for the license plate number.

One more phone call, directly to the manager this time (she had given me her extension), and I eventually learned that this was what the DMV sent when they were behind on paperwork. Still, D and I were reasonably sure the Navy would not accept this explanation when we went to get our window decals to access base. The manager agreed to try to send us something to help our cause. The scanned forms we received a few days later thankfully were sufficient for D to get permanent access to base.

We bought this car in early April. Three months later, I still have not received an updated registration paper. I suppose I should call again to ask about that...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nighttime Nursing

That first night after you were born, I hardly slept at all.

I certainly needed the sleep. Up all night in labor, and then without a wink of sleep all day after, I was surely exhausted.

And yet.

You were so new. New to yourself, new to me. I was so happy just to have you here in my arms and out of my belly that I wanted nothing more than to just hold you for hours and hours. And that is exactly what I did. I have hazy, sleepy memories of spending the better part of that night cuddling you to my chest, watching in wonder as you dreamed baby dreams while nestled upon my bosom. I drifted off a few times, soothed by the white noise D had softly playing for you, but for most of that night I was content to just watch you sleep.

But then the sleep deprivation started to add up. I struggled to align my own need for sleep with the simple fact that a newborn baby has a tiny belly which requires frequent filling. After a few days, I felt like a zombie. An hour of sleep here, two or three there. I had foolishly thought that waking frequently to use the bathroom during my last few months of pregnancy had prepared me somewhat for sleepless nights with a tiny baby.

Was I ever wrong.

I began to dread waking up to your hungry sounds, even as I tried desperately to soothe your needs before you could wake your daddy. I hated having to turn on the light, but we were both so new at nursing that our joint efforts couldn't result in a successful latch if I couldn't see what I was doing. I dreaded having to drag myself out of bed to arrange my pillows and seat you in my lap. (We hadn't yet discovered the joys of co-sleeping, and even if we had, we were nowhere close to any success with side-lying nursing.)

No matter how many naps I took during the day, with earplugs to ensure I didn't wake at your every noise while your Gamma took care of you, I was still simply exhausted. I was used to more sleep than this. I rejoiced every time you slept for more than a few hours straight, but most of the time your “schedule” was like clockwork. If I checked the time after you finished nursing, you would inevitably be awake again in precisely two hours.

Worse yet were the nights when my supply was inadequate, as my body struggled to figure out exactly how much you needed. I remember feeling something very near to despair one night when you went from one side to the other, back and forth for a few hours straight. Would this ever end? Were you getting enough? It wasn't depression, because I know what that feels like. But sometimes extreme sleep deprivation can feel very similar.

And what was that about nursing not being painful? As this most sensitive part of my body adjusted to a use it had always been intended for but never actually known before, I was in agony. Every latch was torture, and at times I had to grit my teeth through the duration of a nursing session, reminding myself that I was nourishing you and that it would get easier. That's what everyone told me anyway. It will get easier. I knew your latch was good, the doctors said you weren't tongue-tied; I just needed to get used to it, to toughen up.

But I pressed on. It never occurred to me to stop, to try something else. This was best for you, and if it was providing you with what you needed, then I would keep on keeping on. But oh, how it hurt sometimes.

And yet.

Somewhere along the way, without me even noticing, I stopped dreading those nighttime nursing sessions.

Somewhere along the way, my body adjusted itself to your sleep schedule. I found that so long as I got a cumulative six hours or more of sleep, I could function during the day. I was tired still, but I no longer felt like a zombie.

Somewhere along the way, the pain subsided. It faded to discomfort while you nursed. Then it was just discomfort as you latched on. Somehow, without me even really noticing, it stopped feeling bad at all.

And now, now that you sleep for longer stretches at night and only (usually) wake a few times to nurse, now that you've developed a real schedule of sorts, now that I've figured out that I need to just go to bed when you do even if it's at 7 or 8 at night, now I treasure these quiet moments together.

I love the sleepy hungry sounds you make, and I love knowing that I can (usually) wake up before you do. I love that, given the opportunity, you'll nurse without waking up at all. I love being able to feed you, knowing that you'll stop once sated and contentedly roll onto your back and sleep the rest of the night through.

I love the feeling of your silky hair on my arm, as I curl myself around you at night. I love the gentle sounds of your sleeping breath, somehow so different from your waking breath. I love how after every time you nurse, I back away a little to ensure that you have adequate breathing space and, without fail, you will have scooted right back next to me by the time I next awaken.

I love how, even in sleep, your little hands seek out something to hold onto. I love that I can offer you my hand, and your little fingers will gently curl around it, further anchoring you to the safety and security that you find in me.

I love the way you smell, milky and sweet and wholly you.

I love everything about you. And no matter how hard it was at first, I know I wouldn't change any of it. Like the pain of labor, the difficulty of those first few weeks pales in comparison to the pure joy I feel now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rant: Voice-activated phone systems.

Apparently it's been five years since the last time I chose to “opt out” of receiving “prescreened offers of credit.”

Today I received two such offers at my new apartment in San Diego, forwarded from my old address in Illinois. (Good to know that my mail forwarding request is fully in effect!) After grumbling about wasting my time for a few minutes, I decided to call the provided toll-free number to remove my name from the list.

Cue voice-activated automated phone menu.

It understood me for the first few bits. It got down my address with no problems, and was able to discern from my zip code that I do, in fact, live in San Diego, California. But it had some big problems with my name.

Voice-Activated Phone System: Please provide your last name, by speaking it first and then spelling. For example, if your last name was “Smith,” you would say “Smith, S M I T H.”
Me: (Says last name, then spells it. Not going to put my last name here, but if you don't know it, it starts with an 'S' and is rather Italian.)
VAPS: I heard (repeats last name a little differently than I said it, and inserts an 'I' into the middle of it.) If this is correct, say “Yes.”
Me: No.
VAPS: Okay. Let's try again. (Repeats initial last name instruction.)
Me: (Says last name, then spells it.)
VAPS: I'm sorry, I don't think I heard you correctly. (Repeats initial last name instruction.)
Me: (Keeping, my frustration contained, says last name, then spells it.)
VAPS: I heard, Guerrero. G U E R R E R O. If this is correct, say “Yes.”
Me: NO!

Sigh. I hate those things. Ultimately, it had me leave a message (I think), presumably to be interpreted by an actual human. Will the human be smarter than the machine? Have I successfully opted out from future prescreened offers of credit?

Probably not. But should I decide I want a second credit card or to refinance my mortgage at historically low rates, I shall presumably have plenty of opportunities to do so!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Road Trip Diary: Day 5

The Navy is moving us from Waukegan, Illinois, to San Diego, California; driving across the country with a three-month-old baby and a cat who's afraid of the world is quite an adventure!

NOTE: I had pictures to put up here.  But I'm a procrastinator and didn't get around to posting this until more than a week after arriving in San Diego, and during that time my cell phone (where the pictures were stored) died.  Before I had transferred the pictures off of it.  So sad, too bad, no pictures.

By the time Day 5 of our trip came along, all four of us were tired. D was tired of driving, I was tired of trying to keep Little Bug quiet and happy. Little Bug was tired of sitting in a car seat with nothing particularly exciting to look at, and Freddy was tired of his current lot in life.

And so it was with weary bodies and spirits that we settled into our SUV for the final day of our road trip.

The day started out with discovering the only two negative aspects of the Falcon Ridge Hotel, as far as I could ascertain. First, the shower drained slowly. Really slowly. Like, by the end of my five minute shower (babies necessitate developing the ability to cleanse oneself with great haste), I was standing in two inches of water. Not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things though.

Second, their “complimentary hot breakfast” didn't start until 0630. Which also wasn't really a big deal, except all of the other places we had stayed started breakfast at 0600. Additionally, Little Bug was still firmly in an Illinois-state-of-mind; he woke up at about 0430. Of course, waking up that early wasn't much of a stretch for us either. But even after both D and I had showered, an hour still remained until breakfast began.

So we faced a dilemma. To wait for free breakfast, which would surely be the best one of the trip so far? Or to just get on the road?

We opted to continue on our way, picking up breakfast from McDonald's (gasp!) along the way.

We pulled up to the drive-through ordering apparatus. D placed our order with the fast food worker.

D: I'd like two egg-and-cheese McMuffins. No meat.
FFW: Do you want anything else?
D: No, just two egg-and-cheese McMuffins. No meat.
FFW: (incredulous) You don't want the Canadian bacon?!?

D's response was not exactly kind. But then, we were on the final leg of our trip and very tired of it all. Plus, he doesn't really have much patience in the first place for idiots.

Our final day of driving was thankfully uneventful. We continued to stop every hour or two, both for our sake and for Little Bug's. Freddy continued to hide under the passenger seat. An hour or so out, we realized that neither of us had really been paying attention to license plates, so we gave up on that game. (Final count: 32 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and a US Government plate. Not bad.)

We drove the rest of the way across Nevada, through Las Vegas (where we only encountered a little bit of traffic). And finally we entered California. Blessed, wonderful California. The end was in sight!

Well, after a few more hours of driving, anyway. We both eagerly drank up the signs showing decreasing distances between our present location and San Diego. And finally, around 1330, we arrived at the Naval Station there!

Of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing (haha) from there. Our initial hopes of staying in the Navy Lodge for a few nights were dashed when they asked for Freddy's vaccination records, which were stored with the rest of his paperwork in the POD. The motel we finally ended up getting a room at, the Vagabond Inn, was expensive and smelled faintly of stale cigarettes. We had a hard time finding the hotels in the first place, and it was only thanks to some friends of ours who had already relocated to San Diego that we were able to locate a place to stay at all.

But once we were in our room, with Freddy hiding under the blankets on the bed (where we had been expressly told NOT to let him go), D was free to seek out an apartment for us, hopefully one where we could move in within a day or two. I had a television to watch, and wi-fi, and a list of restaurants that would deliver food to us in our room. And Little Bug had a bed to sleep on next to his mama; he was still living in a different time zone, and fell asleep early.

But getting settled into San Diego? That's clearly a story for another day.