Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bad for my training, Good for my soul

As the big race approaches, the girl and I took advantage of the gorgeous morning weather in Atlanta today. I can't say I felt up for running but I've got a training schedule to keep and a baby who needs to get worn out in the am as I hang on for dear life to this morning nap. Sweet girl is much more aware of her surroundings these days and this "run" was pure happiness for her.  She loves seeing the dogs and points and squeals each time. Despite knowing we'd see another one in 50 feet or so, a few times I stopped to regain oxygen supply let her pet a little puppy or see one that looked like Monty up close. She clapped in delight and I breathed again. On the back end of the run, along the river, I noticed a crazy number of ducks in the water. Again needing oxygen, I knew MK would love to see all these animals. We carefully walked down to the edge of the water and she waved 'hi' and blew kisses, all unprompted, to the hundreds of ducks. I couldn't help but laugh at the little creatures. They picked at each other's backs with their beaks, chased each other, dove under water, literally shook their tail feathers and played in the water. It was a great show for MK and a reminder for her mama to stop and really, really notice the nature around me.  It's no secret that her dad is the nature lover in the family, but it felt wonderful to see the world through my child's eyes. We will be back to the river soon. Maybe I'll have a little more discipline and we'll wait until the run is over to stop and take in the beauty around us. But maybe we won't. Maybe I'll crawl to the finish line on November 5th. And if I do, that will be okay. I am loving running with my girl and seeing her world. It is a beautiful, beautiful world.

second time to stop and see the ducks on our way out (mom's run not so good today!)
*and yes, as I've said before, if we are out of the house by 7:30 am, only one of us is guaranteed to not be in pj's**

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Things making me happy right now

1. Ross is reading from his childhood prayer book as he rocks MK to sleep. He is reading uber loudly. They are on the story of Jesus getting lost in the temple for 3 days. "Mary saw that her son was happy in that holy place," Ross just read. Now they are on "Learning the Bible." Someone please tell that kid how lucky she is.

2. I got out of an ADPi meeting a little early today and Ross texted me during: "beer and nachos on a patio somewhere?"  Um. Duh dear. Duh. LOVE Sunday afternoons on a porch with a cute husband, a babbling baby and a big ole beer.

3. I have lamented our Mass struggles with our independent little spirit child but we are very blessed. The folks at the 7:30 am Mass (avg age 70) are loving and accepting of the sound effect crew at St. Thomas. Well, all except one lady. She shoots looks and is never happy when we sit near her (disclaimer, I always walk out when MK transitions from "singing along" to "get me the hellsbells out of here.") Anyway- we call her the mean lady except today she wasn't mean anymore. As I stood in the back with MK, she looked back and smiled more than once. She even waved. I was kind of flabbergasted. Maybe MK is less annoying than usual (doubtful) or maybe this lady just softened to the young family. Maybe her life is less hard today so she can manage a smile. Who knows. But it made me happy that she wasn't so unhappy with us anymore.

4. My brother was our houseguest this week and happily exchanged room and board and beer for babysitting. Ross came in after 3 weeks gone late Thursday night. We met for a date at 9pm (aka my bedtime). I wore a dress and we shared a pizza on a deck. I felt 22. Oh it felt good to feel 22.

5. Our other houseguest was my BFF from age 14. Katrina had not yet met Mary Kate and their friendship was instant, much like ours was. We grilled out and then went out for a bad margarita. I love her. I can't describe it anymore. Just love her. I also love that her precious mama sent MK a dress that she herself hand-smocked on fabric from England. It is perfect and the love in that dress makes me cry buckets. Her mom also sent homemade blueberry muffins (all via the mail!!). When I think of high school, I think of countless nights spent at the Smith lazy Susan with blueberry muffins. They soaked up many a tear. I felt like the 7th child in that family and the fact that 12 years later, crazy lady Smith is still caring for me like a child also makes me cry.

6. My husband is finished traveling. Me happy.

7. We just booked a trip in January with the miles earned from the 3 weeks of hell travel. Thanks to aforementioned BFF, we also booked a house for 1/5 of the asking price for the week. The stars are definitely aligning for a trip that otherwise would have been a big stretch for us. I feel like each time I make a commitment to invest in my marriage (like 9pm impromptu date nights and a week away from my baby?!), I get it back 10 fold. We are both feeling young (er) and in love and it is no coincidence.

8. We went on a family run this morning at the river and saw lots of little girls running alongside jogging strollers or dads running alongside little girls riding bicycles. Each time I am there, I see little glimses of what I hope for our family in the future. Love it.

9. I've got major baby fever. What makes me happy is that I have finally been able to forget? or look beyond some of the less fine points of pregnancy and newborns. I also went to a baby shower last night at Noche (p.s. baby showers at tapas restaurants are the bomb) and seeing the two preggo bellys at the table made me nostalgic. I really do look forward to expanding this family!

10. Today started the official beginning of real training for that half-marathon business I have gotten myself into. While I started training early, three weeks of solo parenting + one week of sick baby and sick mama+ crazy weeks of au pair work for me = once a week runs the past few weeks.  I am actually getting a little excited about this very big goal and the glimmer of hope that I'll make it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Takes

I am low on original material lately which is directly correlated with lots of solo parenting. These thoughts may have morphed into blogs but never had the chance to do so. So, for your reading pleasure, the blogs that might have been....

1. I am not an outside runner (or exerciser). I like air conditioning, Pandora, reading closed captioning on the tv to pass the time, seeing how many calories I've burned (bad, I know), and the fact that my knees don't hate me like they do on asphalt. However, in an effort to pass time with a teething, non-sleeping, stuffed up mini-toddler, I have been running at the river. And let me tell you, listening to my child yell "doggie" and "see, see" is even better than Steven Curtis. And the top of my girl's slightly over-sized head? That sight beats anything I'll see at the gym. I may be a convert to outdoor running.

2. I think caller-ID (and maybe texting??) are  hurting relationships. Since I am awful about checking messages, I answer the phone if I see a number I don't recognize. It could be work or a long-lost friend or someone telling me I've won a trip to Mexico. But a friend calling? Or mom? (sorry ma), I make a quick judgement on whether I can talk at that moment. And despite best intentions, that call doesn't always get returned. It may get a 200 character text conversation though. And we all know that relationships thrive with such awesome communication. Duh.

3. My friend sent me this article on respecting our husbands.  She starts,  "When I married my husband over twenty years ago, I fully intended to unconditionally love, respect and admire him. I had great intentions of being the perfect wife, offering kind words, a romantic kiss and dinner on the table every evening. But then careers took off, bills increased, children were born, laundry piles grew, and life became chaotic. Along the way I subconsciously created a measuring stick of expectations for whether my husband actually deserved my love and respect." Well, sweet Ross Ninness got no promise of dinner every night but he did get other promises. And while we are in a season of lots of love and respect (and quick rebounds when we fall), I like the author's reminding of " the powerful influence I have on my husband and my marriage when I choose words that build up. Words that encourage instead of discourage. As women, we have the power to build up or tear down our husbands every day, merely by the respect we give and the amount of faith we let him know we have in him." p.s. husband, if you are reading, love and respect go hand in hand with hershey's bars.

4. My girl is either sick or is getting her dimply tush kicked by some teeth. Either way, My dimply tush is also getting kicked. She is a hard babe to comfort, not being of the snuggly variety of little girl. She is mostly just whiny and it takes about 1 millisecond of whining for me to forget that she feels like junk. I reminded myself to pray for her today, for her comfort and healing and that she, in the words of Kindergarten Cop, "STOP WHINING!"

5. If you have a husband who travels for work, please come to my house. I am going to kiss your feet. Clean or not. Ross applied for a job awhile back that would have required 70% or more of travel. I wanted the job but we prayed for protection in that decision and they did not proceed with his application. After a few weeks of a taste of that life, I am ever so grateful that he did not get that job. My husband is beyond awesome and beyond involved. And I am beyond cuckoo when he is gone.

6. I think parenting is the biggest game of trial and error ever. Or in my case, error and error, and error and error. MK turned 1 and is throwing us some curveballs that rival Tommy Hansen's. This makes me incredibly thankful for a community of moms from MOPS, facebook and among friends. We are slowly making progress on sleeping and drinking milk again.

7. My life these days looks very different from a few years back. Aside from the obvious husband and baby thing, my volunteer work and interests look different. I used to go from a job that involved abused children to volunteering at night in a family homeless shelter. My days, nights and weekends were filled with lots of hope and redemption but tons of suffering. While my heart was sincere, there was plenty of dysfunction in why I did all this too. Nowadays, I "serve"  among other moms who mostly build me up. I get to spend my days laughing with and co-miserating with beautiful women. And recently I agreed to become the recruitment advisor for ADPi at Georgia Tech. It took about 30 seconds with them to realize that I loved this. The chapter is fantastic, the women so genuine. Not a silver spoon to be found. I am realizing that I can give my time and "talent" without it putting me in the fetal position once a week. I will always be a social worker and have all intentions of returning to that career. But this time of serving without the sadness is really refreshing. And that is fine!

8. My husband lost his wedding ring. He was so worried I'd be livid. I am so sad that he was bracing himself for the wrath of Keri. I want him to be assured of loving, kind words from me. And when he told me last night, I did give him loving, kind words. He was gone for days. I don't care what is on his finger, I just wanted him home. Though we might be going to Claire's for a ring for him. It would take all of 3 brain cells for some chick to decide he was worth hitting on. 

9. I just got an email that my best friend will be in Atlanta next week. We average seeing each other once every two years. I seriously just did a cartwheel in my living room (and almost busted it on MK's tea pot!)

please note piggy tails on my mullet baby. I die.

trying so hard to get into that liquor cabinet. daddy's girl.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Food for thought

I found this article on ajc. com and thought it had some interesting thoughts. I nursed MK for 10 months and all said and done, I'd say we were mostly successful. Had I not made mistakes that sent my supply down the tubes, we may still be going. Stopping was terribly emotional (though slightly freeing) for me. That said, it vacillated between being exhausting, painful and bond-creating and wonderful. God willing, I'll nurse all my babies. And like with MK, I'll keep going despite clogged ducts and mastitis and having to feed every 3 hours versus every 4 with a bottle (that hour is a HUGE difference).  But I liked this article and the research with it. Is breastmilk the single best food you can give your child? Yes. Is it easy for most folks? Um. Hells to the no.

Postpartum depression, trouble breast-feeding go together

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that mothers who struggle to breast-feed in the first two weeks after giving birth are more prone to postpartum depression.
The study, which was published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, looked at data from 2,586 women in the government-funded Infant Feeding and Practices Study II, which assessed issues of feeding and depression. Nine percent of the women fell into the category of “major depression.”
The scientists are clear on if problems breast feeding leads to depression or vice versa but they do see a correlation to the two occurring together.
From Time Healthland:
“Clearly all women who have pain breast-feeding are not depressed, but the message for clinicians is to look not just at baby’s mouth and the boob but to also look at mom’s brain,” says Dr. Alison Stuebe, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine. “The mind has to be part of the evaluation.”…
“Women who reported dissatisfaction with breast-feeding early on were 42% more likely to have postpartum depression two months after delivery compared with women who enjoyed breast-feeding. Mothers who initially experienced severe breast pain initially and at two weeks postpartum were twice as likely to be depressed as pain-free women. Depression, in general, has been linked to increased pain sensitivity, which may explain why depressed women have more pain while breast-feeding.”
“The association is unlikely to be coincidental. In a pilot study Stuebe is conducting, she’s found that new moms who report feeling anxious have lower levels of oxytocin — the feel-good hormone that courses through the body while nursing — during feeding. ‘Is there something hormonal in women who are depressed that makes breast-feeding less enjoyable?” she says.’ ”
So what do you do for these women? Stuebe says she is happy with all the support the government is now giving to encourage women to nurse and to nurse longer and you don’t want to backpedal from that. However she thinks health providers should be having conversation with mothers about their particular case.
“ ‘And if, for this mother, and this baby, extracting milk and delivering it to her infant have overshadowed all other aspects of their relationship, it may be that exclusive breast-feeding is not best for them – in fact, it may not even be good for them’ .”
“Says Stuebe: ‘A lot of the pain that women experience with breast-feeding reflects the now-outdated concept that moms have to power through, no matter what. It is helpful to have a more honest, realistic expectation of motherhood as a whole.’ ”
Holy cow this all sounds so familiar! I had a very painful time breast-feeding my first child and went into a depression with her that I never experienced with either of my other two. I injured my nipple at the hospital nursing the first time. I left the baby on too long one side (Who knew? It was the first time I had ever done it!) And from that point on it hurt terribly to nurse on that side. Along with that I developed yeast on my breasts which no one diagnosed for three months despite going to the gynecologist, who just told me to stop nursing.
It was sheer torture to nurse Rose 12 times a day and I dreaded it. I was crying all the time.
The day we finally figured out it was yeast and got medicine on my breast was the greatest day ever. I felt so much better.
I absolutely can see how these depression and nursing trouble go hand-in-hand.

Did you have trouble nursing and postpartum depression? Did you see a correlation? How did you handle?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

13 months

My sweet girl,

This month has been big. You are on the cusp of lots of new adventures like walking, talking and an increased ability to tell us what you want (and what you don't!) I feel like each day I wake up, there is something new about you. I love it. I love you. Every little bit of feisty little you. So, my girl, this month...

 you are slowly deciding you might like to walk. You let Sister try to help you. (when we make it to Mass at 7am on a Monday, we go in your mismatched pj's!)

 You took time to stop and smell the pretty pink flowers.

 You went to the beach with your cousins and loved playing with them

 and letting them chase you around.

 After lots of time with cousins, you took a rest on Pops.

 You got pretty in your mermaid bubble for a dinner out (one where your behavior was questionable m'dear)

 You learned about elephants from Henry and Uncle Steve

 and let the boys watch your favorite Baby Einstein movie with you.

You practiced some more walking on your 13 month birthday and let Monty watch.

and then you sat with dad and Monty for a bit.

Today, on this 13th month since that joyous, perfect July day, I am more thankful than ever for you. If you never walk or never say mama or never sleep past 6:30 am, I will still love you more than anything in the world. You are a gem, sweet girl. A pure gem.
Love, Mama (pronounced maaaammmaaaaa)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cry rooms? Yay or nay?

A constant struggle for us, as I've written about here, is Sunday Mass. Mary Kate is not so into being restrained in any way, for any reason. We are blessed that we attend Mass at two places where she is welcomed and loved- either at the Sisters' convent where they adore her or at St. Thomas the Apostle for the early bird Mass where the older folks smile and coo at her. I have very seldomly felt condemnation from others. But Lord knows I don't want to subject others to the tyranny of my near 13-month-old child. We do not have a cry room, but the article below makes me wonder how I really feel about them anyway. Just a different take on children during worship services...

A church with a crying baby is a church that is alive, with a promise of tomorrow.

By Deacon Greg Kandra, August 02, 2011

What's the single most damaging innovation to Catholic churches over the last 50 years?  It's not the removal of altar rails or the electric vigil candles, or the fancy felt banners that hang from the ceiling. Guess again.  It's the "crying room."

At countless Catholic churches built in the '60s and '70s, glass-enclosed sanctuaries were constructed, usually in the rear of the church, where parents could take babies who began to wail during Mass. This probably seemed like a good idea at the time, I'm sure—most bad ideas do—and I suspect a lot of parents (and a few parishioners) were happy to take the criers out of earshot.  But is a crying baby really such a problem that it demands its own special room?  Clearly, some priests think so.  I once heard of a priest who would interrupt mass—smack in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer—if a baby started to howl. He'd wait until the baby stopped, or the parents took it away, before continuing.  Another priest I know was pacing the center aisle during his homily when a baby started to sputter and then scream. He stopped in his tracks, then walked over to the pew, glared at the baby and said, with a wink, "Knock it off, kid. I work alone."

My pastor takes a different approach. If a baby starts to cry, and the mother begins to slide down the pew to walk it out the door, he'll stop mass to stop HER. "Don't leave!" he'll call out. "Please stay! Let the baby cry. He belongs here with the rest of us." More than a few times, a mother has stopped, mortified and embarrassed, unsure what to do, while the baby lets forth a full-throated "Waaaaaaaaah!" and the congregation chuckles and my pastor coaxes her to stay.  "We'll find a place for him in the choir," he'll say to appreciative chuckles from the congregation, "he sounds like a tenor." (Of course, not everyone approves. One mother who watched this happen expressed annoyance to me after Mass one Sunday. "How does he know what's wrong with a baby and making it cry?" she huffed. "Let the mother decide. If my baby's crying, there's a good reason.")

Be that as it may: when a baby cries, and a mother is encouraged to take it out of church, to a place apart, the parish is sending a distinct and unsettling message. It's indicating, not-too-subtly, that crying children don't belong. We might as well amend the creed: "One, holy, catholic and apostolic church - except for crying babies, of course."  I'm sure a lot of people would argue that the holy sacrifice of the Mass demands reverent devotion and full attention; it requires a sense of the sacred. Crying babies shatter that atmosphere. And I don't disagree.

But Mass also requires a sense of the human. The most perfect prayer on earth requires the participation of those who are imperfect. It assembles together broken, wounded people of all kinds, and in our brokenness, we pray. We sing. We adore. We praise.
And yes, we cry.  In that spontaneous, unabashed wail we hear countless other cries of discomfort or fear or pain or sickness. That cry is our humanity, in the key of E. (Or "Eeeeeee!") There we hear the sound of Eden, and Egypt, of Bethlehem, and Golgotha. It might be argued that the most authentic language of the Church isn't Latin; it's the cry of one suffering soul.  A Protestant pastor once put it beautifully. "A church with a crying baby," he said, "is a church that is alive." When you hear babies in church, you're hearing life, and the promise of the next generation that will carry on the Good News. The faith will go on.

It seems to me that relegating babies to another part of the church—banishing them to a spiritual Time Out corner—is an effort to squelch that very idea. It tries to make the experience of going to Mass less distracting, more pristine. But to do that is to deny the beautiful, noisy, messy reality of life in the Church. And that is more than unfortunate, and more than misguided.  In fact, it's a crying shame.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I run because I can

I skipped my run yesterday. A splitting headache, a terrible night's sleep and a lot of packing to do convinced me to skip. It didn't take much convincing. I don't love to run (if you needed that reminder). When I signed up for this race, I thought one of the reasons was to have something just for me. In my very new-age mindset, I decided I really wanted some meee time. True as that may be, let's be real. "Me" time will almost always involve chocolate and a tabloid magazine. Running, it turns out, is not panning out to be "for me."

Not long after I began training, a precious woman Ross and I knew was killed. She led a running group in Macon. The jerk who killed her also cut her limbs off. The legs she used to run have not been found.

Mike Reed is battling a new pre-cancer on top of the 10-year battle with lymphoma he is still battling. One of the side effects of treatment is not being able to walk well. Hospice is a word that has been used. But he has full faith that he will survive. He has a two-year-old little boy, a little boy he cannot run alongside.

And today, my best friend (the one who convinced me to do this race) sent me this. Please, please read it. Katrina's friend was killed in Afghanistan after delivering cholera medicine to a village. He left behind 3 children, never having met that last little girl. He inspired his wife to run. Her story is beautiful. She is running an ultramarathon for many reasons, mostly to keep her husband's memory alive, to bring attention to fallen soldiers, and to heal her heart.

Today I won't skip my run. I'll pray for my girl to not scream her head off in kids club. And then I'll run. Not for me, but for Lauren and Mike and John Hallett. I'll run for the people who can't. I'll run for those struggling with obesity, those like my me-maw who are barely able to walk, much less run. I'll run for the mamas with breast cancer and the former athlete in bed with AIDS. Today, I'll run because I CAN.