Monday, March 21, 2011

Manic Monday. With cupcakes.

They're not that pretty, but I'm still proud.  These are the first cupcakes I've ever decorated!!  And I got them finished 6 hours after starting to make them with Bean...
 4 hours of sleep. Yogurt.  Granola.  Potpourri.  Three dozen cupcakes.   Tired.  But happy.

I cannot believe today was pleasant.  I was prepared to scrap pretty much every project at any moment, but it all ended up working out.  Love days like that.

I stayed up ridiculously late last night crossing things off my to-do list.  I went to bed at 1AM and, of course, Squeak decided to start his day at 5AM.  When it was clear he was truly awake, I passed him off to The Beast and climbed in bed with Bean (who will not sleep alone in the mornings - this comes into play momentarily...).

Squeak was cranky.  Between 5 and...I think 6:45 he started screaming twice (at least twice that I heard over the noise machine in Bean's room).  So I scrambled out of Bean's bed to grab up the baby at 6:45, and Bean woke up (of course) and started his day with horrible sensitivity.  He should have slept at least another hour!

By 8AM, The Beast was at work, Squeak was asleep in his swing, and I declared a necessary morning quiet time because the puddle of collapsed, weeping child in my kitchen was just. too. much.  I told him he just needed to go relax, maybe take a nap (which he did not)

I took the opportunity to make yogurt which, by the way, takes a maximum of 20 minutes and I should really post about it soon!

Bean came out from quiet time in a much better mood, but still obviously exhausted.  I repeatedly suggested going outside (it was cool and damp, but still lovely).  We sat on the back deck and read books and snuggled until Squeak woke up.

Bean was too tired for anything active and requested to watch a video (about airplanes, of course), which gave me the opportunity to throw together some granola (also quick and easy, and a recipe I could post if anyone wants it) since Squeak was pretty thrilled to play with some toys in his high chair.

It is Monday, so we had a baking project planned for the afternoon.  Actually, we technically had two projects:  potpourri and "Hostess" cupcakes.

First we got the potpourri going (it's still going as I write this).  We had some tangelos and some grapefruit that hadn't been very good for eating, and they have been sitting around for awhile as a result.  So I sliced them up and Bean spread them out on our dehydrator trays.  Then he sprinkled cinnamon and ground cloves over the slices.  It's completely out of season, but I couldn't figure out what else to do with the citrus!

Then we got to work on the cupcakes.  I have a list of all kinds of potential cooking projects (including soap.  And even a possible attempt at making cheese - I'm willing to try things with him and totally fail as long as it doesn't cost a whole lot of money in materials!), and Bean chose these "Hostess" cupcakes from Bakingdom.  Except he suggested we make the filling peanut butter flavored.  I thought that was a pretty good idea!

I need to tell you, first off, that this made THREE DOZEN cupcakes.  I didn't see anywhere how many I should expect to make, nor did I take the time to estimate.  Stuuuuuupid.  We made three dozen cupcakes with no event or crowd in mind!!

So I'd consider making a third of this recipe just for funsies.

I have not altered the Bakingdom recipes for the cupcakes (except I recommend using 3 tablespoons of batter per cupcake) or the icing - only for the filling (since we made it peanut butter - and it was goooooood).  

 I'm going to copy and paste her recipe, but move things around a little - it was not laid out in a way that was easy for me to glance back and forth while trying to keep Bean from.  well.  I guess I didn't keep Bean from doing much of anything, since today he put cereal in the dog's water bowl and overflowed the bathroom sink.  He managed to do all this even though he had two quiet times and a nap!

Oh screw it.  I'm tired.  I'll give you the recipe for the peanut butter filling, and you can go see the Bakingdom recipe for the rest!  K?  K.

Peanut Butter Filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened if you remember (unlike me)
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt (I omit)
1 cup marshmallow spread

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the vanilla and pinch of salt (I omit the salt). Mix in the marshmallow spread and the peanut butter and mix until light and fluffy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. 

Bean put the cupcake liners in the tin for this batch, and they were a little cock-eyed.  
And also I am too tired to edit pictures.  At all. 

At the end, The Beast was trying to get Bean ready for bed, Squeak was clearly on the edge (and in The Beast's arms) and I felt like this just needed to be done and who cares whether they look good???  Check out that top one.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Button Snake

Sewing buttons onto things is about the extent of my sewing abilities.  I do it well - those buttons aren't going anywhere - but it is really all I know how to do in terms of sewing! 

Anyway, I saw this idea over at Counting Coconuts and thought it was do-able, easy, inexpensive, and a cool idea.  I was honestly not sure if Bean would enjoy it; he often enjoys things I think he'll find uninteresting and is bored of things I think are so cool and age appropriate.  He just does not end up playing with things the way I expect.  Except with this, which was a welcome surprise!

I sewed large (one inch in diameter) buttons on each end of a ribbon (which is 5/8" wide and about a foot long).  Then I cut squares of felt (they're roughly square) and folded them in half to cut a button hole about the same length as the diameter of the buttons.  Constructing the entire thing took perhaps 15 minutes.

I chose to put a button at both ends, because I figured Bean would like a real stop at the end, and also that he might like to be able to get it off at either end.

I have a little box of buttons, just like my mom did when I was a kid.  She had a pretty large container of buttons, and I remember being fascinated by all the ways you could adorn or fashion such a useful little item - wood, plastic, paint, various colors, textiles, etc. 

In any case, I picked out the two biggest buttons from there.  Bean and I took a field trip to Hobby Lobby to pick up the felt (I decided on a rainbow of colors) and the ribbon.  It cost us under $3. 

I debated making the button snake into a theme (similar to the Valentine's Day button snake over at Counting Coconuts), and I briefly entertained the notion of cutting them into an airplane shape (Bean is in the midst of an airplane mania at the moment), but decided against it - 1) it would have taken a lot longer and 2) it just doesn't feel right.  I figured making this as flexible as possible was the way to go.  He can learn how buttons work, and at some point he could choose to make patterns with the colors, or he could count out colored squares, or....whatever else he can think of.  I wouldn't be surprised if he asked me to make new shapes of felt and add button holes and some hardware so that he could create a plane out of the button snake - he's very into building things out of stuff right now, as he has created airplanes out of Legos, Duplos, spoons, one of Squeak's rattles, masking tape, and almost anything else he has picked up for the last 2.5 months!

He was very into the button snake for a few days.  The first time I showed it to him, he asked me to do the whole thing.  Then he picked up the snake, put it in the container, and put it on the shelf where I told him it was going to go.  I figured it was a failure and was glad I hadn't put any more time or effort into it!  But the next day, he pulled it out and worked on it for awhile, and he has pulled it out several times since.

I'm contemplating putting it away soon (he seems to have lost interest for now), and perhaps making one with smaller buttons and button holes to bring out later - a little more of a challenge as he's becoming more dexterous.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I throw tantrums.

It seems I give the impression that I've "got it all together" as a mom, or that I'm always calm and patient.  Neither is true.  In fact, I am a stubborn, impatient, passionate tantrum thrower.  And a damn good mom.

Let me be clear - when you see me being a patient, perceptive, respectful mother to my children, that is not me faking.  I happen to find it easier to mother when I'm in public.  There are lots of ways in which it is easier for me:  I generally have only one thing to do at a time and no dishes, laundry, clutter, phone calls, emails, etc calling to me and causing me to try to ignore screaming children and requests to read books or "watch this," etc;  if either child is feeling needy, it usually eases up outside the house.  Plus I really like socializing.

But here's a big dose of honesty, from the private trenches of my home.  These are things I am not proud of - far from it. (Ok, actually yes - I am proud of myself for seeing a counselor and meeting my own needs.  Other than that, definitely not proud of anything else listed here!)
  • I have been in counseling on and off for as long as I can remember.  I have talked to counselors about my mother's death, about family dynamics, about my health, and about better ways to handle difficult situations with Bean.  There is nothing "wrong" with me that I need counseling - at this point in my life, though, it's an hour set aside for me to check in with myself and talk about what's going on.  It's also someone I can call and not feel judged when I truly am losing it.
  • I have been violent toward my child
    • I have wound up as if to kick a flailing toddler who was lying on the ground. (This scared the shit out of me, even though I didn't actually kick him.) I then called my current counselor and sobbed, "I need help.  The rage I am feeling toward Bean is scaring me."  I made The Beast come home and I went and saw my counselor.
    • I have smacked Bean across the face.  It was a reaction to being hit on the head unexpectedly, and I was pregnant with Squeak and my emotions and self/belly protection reactions seemed to be really sensitive when pregnant and for the first few months of Squeak's life.  But it was still a reaction that scared me and that was inappropriate.
  • I have gotten in Bean's face and screamed.  This is something I have been working on with my counselor, but I have always been a screamer.  When I get angry, I yell.  It is not productive and I have seen firsthand how hurtful and destructive this is for a family.  It has gotten a lot better.  Some days I feel that I am learning to deal with emotions right alongside Bean - or that I am learning from him!  He really does sometimes deal better with his anger and frustration than I do, and I need to "do as I say and not as I do" in this area!
  • I lose patience with Bean almost every week during our Monday baking projects.  He usually loses interest about the time I lose patience, so it works out well - he just goes and plays on his own while I finish up the project.  But the times he doesn't lose interest?  Oh man.  I'm trying to get something in a hot oven, he's launching flour across the kitchen or playing in dirty dishwater.  He pretends not to hear me (or is so focused on whatever mess he's making that he actually doesn't hear me), I get angry and yell.'d think he knows what buttons to push with me, eh?
It has taken me awhile to decide to publish this.  I have been getting up the nerve and figuring out how I wanted to present it since I wrote about trusting each other and touched on how much of each others' parenting we just don't see.  Actually, I wrote that post right after the incident that had me calling my counselor and making my husband come home. 

I told a few people what had happened, and that my counselor informed me that my reactions (including winding up like I might kick him...) was actually within the "normal range" - that feelings of "murderous rage" toward my child could be part of this whole parenting experience.  I didn't fully believe my counselor...

But my friends visibly relaxed as I told them all this - and here I was thinking they would fear for me and start avoiding me.  Instead, they told me about all the times they had felt they were about to hurt their kids just in the last day or two, or the time they smacked their own child despite not believing that hitting/spanking was ever okay.  (I bet my non-parent readers are really wanting kids right about now!)

If I seem to have it all together, I think it might partly be because I am a very social, extroverted person - I am at my best and my happiest when others are around.  I'm aware of that, and try to plan outings, activities, and playdates accordingly.  Also, I do not dwell on my failures, weaknesses, and struggles (and there are certainly many more than I've listed!).  I am constantly and consciously working to do better.  My temper is a primary focus when I see my counselor - that is when I focus on my failures.  We've discussed specific instances where I wish I had done better in hopes I will be able to generalize some strategies and actually do better in the future.

I feel it is helping, though I hit a low point at the end of last year and almost started anti-anxiety medication.  I was always feeling a low level "buzz" of anxiety - even when we went away for a couple weeks and I had nearly constant help with the kids and finished a bunch of tasks that had been on my mind.  Plus I was irritable as all get-out with Bean.

I don't know if it was hormones, or if it was starting some specific vitamins, or if it was finally getting rid of yeast/thrush that had plagued Squeak and me (up until then, I was thinking daily about switching to exclusively pumping or weaning both kids entirely), but the clouds lifted sometime in January and everything has been easier and more enjoyable since.

I am most definitely a work in progress

Photo Credit: Έλενα Λαγαρία on Flickr

Thursday, March 10, 2011

World Kidney Day: My kidney disease story

Today is World Kidney Day.  I want to share the story of how I was diagnosed, and express how lucky I am!  I also want to encourage every reader of my blog to get a physical this year and specifically request they be screened for kidney disease - it's done simply with blood and urine tests that you should be getting done on a regular basis anyway.  Here is a great explanation of the sorts of things you should be tested for (essentially, what are your kidneys getting out of your blood and what are they leaving in - you don't want them leaking out too much blood and protein or leaving in too much creatinine, which is essentially the toxins/waste they are meant to filter out), as well as why you should be tested even without symptoms.  What is not really said there is that you should also have your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure tested - but those are generally very standard parts of a physical.

Allow me one more time to emphasize why it is important to do this now and not when you don't feel right.  Kidney disease and high blood pressure are often completely silent killers until it is too late.  Blood pressure causes kidney disease.  Kidney disease causes high blood pressure.  Often, you have no symptoms of either, and that doesn't mean you aren't losing kidney function that you will never get back.  Plus heart disease.  Blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease - these all go hand-in-hand!


In the spring of 1996 (I was 15), I took a spring break trip with my high school track team.  At some point during the trip, my ankles became very swollen.  I pointed it out to my seatmate on the bus.  They were really pretty gross.  I could poke them and leave dimples.  It went away within a day.  It was strange, but I didn't think much of it.  I had a mildly anxious reaction because my mother's ankles had swelled about a week before her fatal heart attack.  I figured I was being completely dramatic in linking the two.

In the summer of 1997, while I was away at an 8-week arts camp, my ankles swelled again for a day here and there.  I wondered if it was some sort of bizarre travel or stress reaction.  I also started waking up with my eyes very puffy.  I thought I just wasn't getting enough sleep.  Silly me!

I went home from camp about 10lbs heavier than I'd arrived.  Ah.  I must have eaten poorly at camp!

I started boarding school that fall, as an over-achieving junior.  I started out running cross country, but it became clear very quickly that I was never going to sleep if I kept that up.  And then, within the next week, my ankles did the gross swelling thing again.  I paid no attention.  Again I was in a new place and having this bizarre stress reaction I'd developed over the last couple of years!  I just waited for it to go away.

Process of Diagnosis
After a few days, I couldn't wear any shoes that wrapped around my ankles - backless slip-ons were all that fit.  The cross country coach commented and asked if I'd possibly injured myself.  No, I told him.  No injury and no pain - this was just something that seemed to happen from time to time.

And then my ankles got so swollen that I lost range of motion and tripped down some stairs.  I went to see the nurse, who I had been told "just gives Saltines to everyone unless their arm is falling off."

Except she took one look at my ankles, pushed her fingers into the swelling, observed that a crater was left, and said, "you are going to see a doctor right now."

I went to a doctor nearby (I don't even know where!  I was so new to the area, and I was sent by taxi.) and they drew blood, had me pee in a cup, and ordered a chest x-ray.  The doctor told me, "we think you either have a kidney problem or your heart is too small for your body."

I didn't even hear the kidney possibility - what the hell did I know about kidneys at sixteen years old?  No, all I pieced together was that my mother's ankles had swollen about a week before she died of a massive heart attack, and now my ankles were swollen and they were concerned about my heart.  I broke down in tears - alone without anyone who knew me well at all and with a doctor who I don't think I ever saw again!  The only other thing I remember from that day was being told "you are not going to die.  We aren't going to let that happen.  We just need to figure out what's going on."

Heart problems were ruled out pretty quickly - probably because there were abnormal amounts of blood and protein in my urine.  I was sent to a pediatric nephrologist.  I think he was 30 or 45 minutes away from my school, and one of my aunts (who is a doctor) drove in to town and took me to my first appointment.

I vaguely remember being told how to collect my urine for 24 hours.  There was explanation of what sorts of containers I could use (anything, really.  As long as it was washed out!).  And I was told to be careful after I pooped because you often pee after you poop, and I needed to be sure I collected all of my pee.   I probably had eyes as wide as saucers and couldn't keep from giggling nervously.  But I don't really remember.

I spent the next day of school collecting my pee.  Every time I peed, I went to the nurse's office.  I don't remember how I handled collection of my after-hours pee, but I imagine it was the first of many times I discreetly peed in a container in the dorm and tried to hide it in the communal fridge in the kitchen.  (Hey!  Classmates!  I bet you never knew how fast-tracked to popularity I was in my new school!)

The tests came back.  I had kidney problems, but we weren't sure exactly what kind.  I needed to have a needle biopsy.

Two of my aunts (my mother was the oldest of four) came to be with me the day I had this 20-minute outpatient procedure done.  I think because I was a pediatric patient, I was put under general anesthesia (I have since had it done under conscious sedation which - wow! - that is a trip!).  I went to sleep with my aunt the doctor in the room and I woke up in recovery screaming for my mother, who had been dead for a little over three years.  The only other thing I remember from that day is that the IV freaked me out.  I felt like the needle was going to poke out of my arm if I bent my elbow, so I made them splint my arm.  (Cut me some slack!  Perhaps I was a drama queen, but I think I was entitled to some irrational behavior!)

I went back to school with instructions not to lift anything heavy for a week (like, try not to carry more than one textbook at a time).  They stab a needle through the muscle in your lower back to get to your kidneys.  I was a bit tender.  I found it difficult to sleep on a mattress for awhile (I think about a week) and instead slept on the hard floor so that my back wasn't arched.

There were a couple of interactions/snafus with my new classmates - I was still in my first month at a new school, and a school at which I lived with many of my classmates!  They didn't know why I couldn't carry certain things, or why exceptions had been made so I could go to my locker after every class.  I was labeled a snob by some.

Technical Talk
The biopsy results came back.  Idiopathic glomerulonephritis.


I'll break it down as best I can.  I am not a medical professional so feel free to correct me, oh medical and science friends!  

The first word, idiopathic, means the cause is unknown.  I was tested for lupus (several times, actually), they looked for evidence of strep (which can cause an acute version of this disease), I was told not to take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - like Ibuprofen/Motrin and Naproxen/Aleve) or aspirin.  I have been tested for AIDS.  I have discussed my family medical history.  Idiopathic.  For better or worse.

The second word, glomerulonephritis, can be broken down into three parts.  The glomeruli (plural of glomerulus) are the little tiny looping blood vessels that essentially act as filters to remove waste and extra water from your blood (hence your blood and urine tell a lot about your kidneys).  Nephron is the name for each glomerulus and tubule pair (the tubule connects the glomerulus to the ureters, which connect to the bladder, which you are familiar with.  I hope.)

So, simply put, the tiny blood vessels that act as the filters in my kidneys are inflamed.  Here's more information if you want it, but I suspect you don't really care, and that's really ok with me.

And then...
This has gotten long, somewhat complicated, and probably pretty boring.  Plus I'm now one-handed as I nurse one of the kiddos I was once told I possibly shouldn't conceive due to this.  There is so much more that has been part of my kidney disease/chronic illness journey.  It seems right to end here, though, with one last tidbit:  I am lucky.  I am lucky to have had early symptoms so that I could be watched and not be blindsided during pregnancy, or at some point after my kidneys have lost function.  I am lucky to have the means to be closely watched.  I am lucky the watchfulness has largely been unneeded because my disease has been relatively slow to progress and hasn't yet claimed any of my kidney function (actually, my kidneys hyperfiltrate, and prove you can have too much of a good thing; it's a sign of distress).  I am lucky - more lucky than I think I can even comprehend - to have two perfect, healthy little boys.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Answering the Googlers, and other thoughts on tandem nursing

 Photo Credit:  Eleaf on Flickr

With my few posts about tandem nursing, I've had a few hits to my blog from Google searches essentially asking the same thing:  "what happens when your milk comes in when you're tandem nursing?"

So here's my quick answer:  tandem nursing was the best possible thing for engorgement, clogs, etc.  Looking back at all the mastitis and blebs and clogs I dealt with after Bean was born, it's clear I had an oversupply.

My understanding is that, with subsequent babies, you tend to have a larger supply and it comes in sooner.  Squeak was already gulping by 24 hours old, so I was certainly making more than a trickle of colostrum.  I think my milk was completely in within 48 hours of Squeak's birth.  I woke up in the morning and was a little full - just slightly uncomfortable.  Bean came in for his usual morning nurse and gulped down milk.  I let him have a longer nurse than usual, and I haven't really had any engorgement since.

Pretty straightforward.   I'm not sure exactly what the Googlers want to know - as far as I know, tandem nursing doesn't alter the quantity of milk you produce in the beginning or how quickly your milk comes in.  It's largely hormone-driven in the beginning (not quite as supply-and-demand as a few weeks later).

Another question I've heard is about the composition of the milk, since a mother's milk changes as her baby ages - even the breastmilk made by the mother of a premature baby is different from the breastmilk made for a term newborn!  My milk is custom-made for Squeak; it is the composition meant for a baby his age.

On this note, something very interesting related in Adventures in Tandem Nursing:  Kangaroos are really built for tandem nursing!  They can have a Joey in their pouch receiving one composition of milk and a toddler who is out and about but comes back to nurse from a separate teat that produces "toddler" milk!  And???  A Kangaroo can suspend gestation.  They can conceive another Joey, but its development will halt if the mother kangaroo has "too young" a Joey (I'm not sure what constitutes "too young," but I would hazard a guess that it's sort of like ovulation can be triggered in human females whose fertility is squelched by breastfeeding.  That is to say, I'd guess it could have something to do with frequency of feedings??)  I can't remember if I read that last little tidbit in Adventures in Tandem Nursing or whether I learned about it while trying to find out about monotreme lactation...or during Bean's general obsession with mammals.
I suppose that also answers another search query:  "Do animals tandem nurse?"
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