Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Milk Madness

A bit over a month ago, my then six month old learnt the word "mama" and very quickly understood its power. My bub now uses it as an incantation, having realized that his mother can be put under a spell upon hearing it. Of course, the more you use a word, the less powerful it becomes (hence why some religions forbid saying the word of their god/s and why Christians have blasphemy and using the word of God in vain etc). After all, with two kids screaming mama at opposite sides of the house, as if they were about to be engulfed in a ferocious fire - what's a girl to do? Sometimes I have to tend to the toddler whose intrepidity and insouciance are a second away from causing him grievous bodily harm while the infant that dropped his teether reacts like the sitting U.S. President in the midst of penning a tweet.

My toddler is now competing with my infant. When he notes which few books to I read to his younger brother at bedtime, leaving his elder brother with the remainder of his library, he specifically requests those books at bedtime.... just to see if he can wield that scepter to a refined result (inevitably I skulk in holding my breath on a ninja mission to retrieve the called collection). My boys now avidly compete for my attention, for toys, for books...at least they are fond of books. Admittedly though, my infant's voracious appetite for literature has led to no uncertain digestion of its literal contents as he scrambles to chew everything in sight. As an only child, I am struggling somewhat with this rivalry and my role in fostering the fraternal fort. My husband, one of three, continues to have to remind me that it is not encouraging to tell our toddler that if he doesn't eat his veggies, his baby brother will soon outgrow him and warns me that I shouldn't make comparisons that foster competition and may eventually lead to hostility. I suppose that is an issue, but had he not mentioned it, I would not have thought of it, partly (and naively) because I didn't think there were any negative consequences to fostering competition, which I thought would simply lead both of them to strive to be better.

I have much to learn in this respect ...and in parenting in general, for just when you think you have a handle on your kid, they grow up and thrust new problems unto you.

Our toddler was an avid and diverse eater. We felt so blessed watching other parents do acrobatics at the table just to have their kids taste but a few morsels of food as a price for their entertainment. We were amazed that he loved lemon, raw onion and curry. Now, his tastes are becoming plainer and while he continues to adore salmon and broccoli, we've had to create games for him to have a diverse meal at dinner when he would rather opt for a bowl of pasta or bread. The things you do to endear yourself to your toddler's picky palette... make up songs about vegetables, do puppet shows, use deceptive nomenclature to entice them to take the first bite (for instance, we cut up a red capsicum or pepper and called it "red chips" and our toddler thought he was getting an unusual treat, only to realize he liked it and now we can call it by its proper name without pacifying a tantrum).

My younger son is becoming quite a character, evolving out of the shadow of his elder brother. The other week, I sat stupefied and then admittedly burst into laughter and set a carnivorous camera on him to capture the moment for the remainder of the family, as he turned and started to play his brother's piano. He did not thump the keys, but he delicately and purposely played a tune (and continues to do this daily). He must have seen his elder brother and his brother's best friend play on it and decided it was his turn...

All is still not quiet on the sleep front. While we have progressed to using the crib, I am still nursing 4 times a night. It seems we're caught in the downward spiral of nursing-peeing and I will just have to cut out two feedings. A doctor friend of mine told me I should have this done this months ago. After all, being hungry for one night isn't going to do much damage and it will kickstart a new metabolism, in which they eat more during the day... but I am a coward.... just hearing "mama" and that cry make me run to my bub and give him milk. Possibly it's my Balkan heritage, a peninsula that has finessed guilt to such a sharp manipulative machine that it falls on you as expertly as a guillotine, but the guilt - at least thus far - always wins...until it doesn't. It took 10 months for me to revolt with my first and my younger son may not have as long an imperium over me. At a certain point the precipice is reached whereby survival simply demands more sleep and in the end sleep trumps guilt.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Crush and the Crash

Oh, they do grow quick! We have known for some time now that our elder son, who is only 28 months, has had a full blown crush on his best friend's older sister. She in turn is enamoured with M and can't wait to babysit him, repeatedly asking her parents, our dear friends, whether she would be old enough when she turns 6 in a few months (the unsurprising answer remains the same). She is a very astute, precocious and quite sassy 5 year old (and of course very pretty). L is besotted. When she comes with her father to pick up her brother, he vies for her attention, bringing her various toys that unfortunately she has no interest in. Her lack of interest does not deter him one bit. When we went over the course of the day a few weeks ago, he excitedly told me that B came over with her dad to pick up her brother. I asked him if they spoke. With a buoyant smile he nodded and when I asked him what she said, he proudly disclosed "bye!"....and I had to keep a straight face. Oh, young love!

Yesterday, L took my phone and after making jokes about Raffi's "Banana-phone" song (a track I must have heard over a thousand times and maybe I'm being conservative), laughing that he was calling a banana, he donned a more solemn tone and asked me to call B. I asked why and he said he wanted to ask her to go to the playground with him. I explained that she didn't have a phone and he immediately had a plan B - call her dad! Well, that stumped me.

Meanwhile, our Little Tyrant still has dominion over our bed. We took his mattress out of the crib and put it next to ours in order to trick him into sleeping in his own bed, which has worked only when we initially put him to bed. After that, he not only wants our bed, but he wants us out of it. Possibly he has noted that his older brother has a queen bed and believes he should also be entitled to the same. The other night my husband and I were calculating whether we would get a better night's sleep if we gave him our bed and made a makeshift bed for ourselves in the living room, until we realized that it was time for us to unite in rebellion against our tyrannous regime. By one means or another, we will take over our bed...

He is also not finding food very palatable and continues at over 7 months to be exclusively nursed. I also pump more to give to L to hopefully harvest his gut bacteria after his long stint of prophylactic antibiotics. This has left me in a perpetual state of hunger. I would wager onlookers would be surprised how much my 110 lb frame could consume and how quickly (gone are the days when I could savour the sapour of food) - and I may well have untapped talents that I could use in Coney Island competitions. I woke up so ravenous the other night, I ate nearly a whole tub of yoghurt - and a few hours later, I was still famished! I suppose M is not going to be sustained solely on his mother's milk for much longer and probably when that time comes, I'm going to be nostalgic for this time, but right now, it's a little exhausting...particularly when compounded with pumping for my toddler, not sleeping and carrying my 7 month old while I stroll my toddler up and down SF hills and run around the playground..... but, then again, I chose the path I'm on and I love my boys. I do however fantasize about having one full night of uninterrupted sleep. That would be grand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Twos Terrrible

I shouldn't let myself get embroiled in impassioned arguments with my two year old when he obstinately maintains, being only two, that, for instance, a pentagon is hexagon and vice versa. And yet I just can't help it. So there I am, pointing to a pentagon and explaining why it's certainly a pentagon and decidedly not a hexagon. I try to persuade the court, which has already proven partial, to simply take note of the etymological roots of the two words, as the bench has learnt how to count to ten in Greek. "A pentagon has five sides, because as you know, pende, means five in Greek" I continue and then move to my next polygon, pointing out the Greek root "exi" and then proceeding to count each in Greek to further impress my point which leads the bench only to shout "ne, ne, ne" but unfortunately in Serbian rather than Greek in a callous and incorrigible continuation of its prior stance (this is quite fitting for the current political climate, as if he were merely parroting the sitting President and sticking to his alternative facts).

The tragic irony is that I know that when L gets in a mood, I can't change his mind and yet I just can't let it go. This possibly comes from my Serbian heritage, since inat is an innate part of our genome - a word that has no English synonyms and may be unique to Serbian, as inat may be a unique to our culture (our greatest strength and our worst weakness and the reason if I may be impolitic, we are historically not known for artful diplomacy). It stems from the Turkish "perseverance" but we've developed the word to connote persistence to a fault. It implies resistance for the sake of resistance and self-defeat or rather, self-sacrifice, is inherent to its meaning. Admittedly, despite my faults, I
cave first in this Sisyphean endeavour in the face of the tenacity of a two year old. If he believes something is one way, than no amount of facts and no argument will sway him - it's as if I'm arguing in front of a bench that's so impartial that it allows each side equal time for argument only to roll a die for its decision.

Then in an affront against my vitreous sanity, he grins his victory and then kisses me as if to forgive my indiscretion, later making a point of expressing the proper characterization of each polygon which makes me wonder as to the political implications of his prior tactics. Is he simply diverting me to expend my energies on attempting to persuade him on something that is largely irrelevant for we both know the proper properties of the polygon in question, for instance, while he uses this as a mere exercise to test my reactions and exact more power for his structured positioning by building an arsenal of my vulnerabilities?

In any case, there is certainly truth to the "terrible twos"...

Monday, February 6, 2017

Crying Over Spilt Milk

Yesterday I burst into a real cascade of crying after I spilt about 3 oz of my milk (thank God I caught it before the rest fell down!). I was disconsolate for  a few minutes and then I realized my deluge of tears was noticed by my two sons, who were both increasingly concerned about me. My toddler said, "mama crying" and "mama sad" and came to give me a hug and my younger son, who continued to attack his chew-toy (the lesser known tenth circle of hell is being transformed into a chew toy for a teething toddler on a rampage to soothe his aching gums) was nevertheless attune to my mood change with frenzied flickers of his eye contact that seemed to implore me to mitigate my morose mood... which did the trick. However upset you may be - and only a nursing mother can relate to how viscerally it hurts when you lose the milk you were about to give your child - when you see your own pain reflected in the eyes of your children, it rouses you to recovery. Even if you have to masquerade a mood change, the very act of amplifying your smile and joining in a chorus of one of your child's favourite songs - the act of seeming to change your mind to mollify their concern changes your mood. So it seems that when you are crestfallen (whether or not children are involved), if you can somehow make yourself smile, you trick your mind into thinking that you are happier so it directs a stop-work order to all the chemicals that assault our senses when we get depressed and enmesh us in a downward spiral.

I have been pumping milk and adding it to my store in order to have enough milk for my six month old as well as my toddler, who has been unwittingly drinking my milk some weeks now as I hope that the ingestion of my milk will fortify his stomach and aid with probiotics in populating his gut with good bacteria. We have just taken him off antibiotics, which he had to be on for his entire life to prevent kidney infections due to a high stage of reflux, as he is now fully potty trained and we are praying he does not get an infection (if he does, we will have to consider surgery). While the antibiotics were narrow spectrum, we remain concerned both as to any issues it may have caused with respect to developing resistance as well as the probable obliteration of his gut bacteria. Unfortunately he is not such a paramour of fermented foods as me, albeit he did have a few bites of kim chee once (oh, how I adore thee!), but thankfully he does share my addiction to yoghurt. My husband jokes that for all the yoghurt and cheese we eat in this house it would be cheaper if we simply bought a cow. Despite being able to bombard his system with probiotics, I think my milk will be helpful (and possibly I must admit since I can now produce for two I may also be compensating by giving him milk now as I had to supplement his nursing with formula, unlike his exclusively breastfed brother, which fact still causes me some guilt).

Meanwhile, it was becoming evident that my 6 month old had patent food envy. For the past several weeks, every time we would eat, he would try his best to take our food and his eyes bulged so much out of his head following the direction of the meals, that we would not have been surprised if they simply popped out and walked on over to a plate. Last week we gave him his first taste of oatmeal. As expected, 99% went on his clothes and 1% was digested, but it was not for failure of trying. He loved the taste of oatmeal! He simply didn't understand how to proceed and kept sticking his tongue out. This week we are going to try green beans. His brother started food before him, at 4 months, but that was mainly because I had to supplement with formula (or so I thought) and the more food we gave him as he grew, the less formula he received. 

Life is an interesting script. With my first, everything went wrong initially with nursing and my supply dwindled so that I had to supplement and now with my second, I produce more than he could eat. With my first I was determined to exclusively nurse and then woe after woe wore me down to a final capitulation to admit the practical (after all, it consoled me that he was nevertheless nursed for 16 months) and with my second, already having accepted this previous predicament and realizing it was not so pernicious, I didn't expect nor did I harbour the same desire for exclusive nursing and it was achieved. Poor little M (if my ever growing giant can be termed that), I nursed L while I was pregnant with him in the second trimester and now he has to share his milk too - oh, the woe of younger siblings! He continues however to hold dominion over our bed and he is assured of his continued reign.