Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dear William (Things that are great about you)

I started writing this List of Things About William That Are Great back in October, but I never got around to finishing it, so I never posted it on the blog.  I came across it just now and it made me nostalgic in both a happy and sad sort of way... He's outgrown some of these things already.  I guess it is time to post this one and then start a new list.


Dear William,

While I am thinking about it, I just wanted to write down some Things That Are Great About You so that I remember them always.

-- The funny face you make when I am trying (largely unsuccessfully) to brush your teeth.

-- How you stand up at the baby gate and watch me make dinner.

-- How you put your arms around me when I am rocking you to sleep.

-- How you smile at me and say "mama" sometimes.  I think you might actually realize that mama is my name.  Though you are equally likely to smile at me and say "dada" or "tata."

-- The way your voice sounds when you say "Uh oh"

-- The way you try to feed us your food.

-- The sound of your laughter.

-- How cute you look in a hat.

-- The way you open your mouth really big to take a bite out of a banana.

--You were even great that time you were sick and sleeping in bed with us and woke me up in the middle of the night by puking on my face.

Dear William (25 Things About You)

Will's daycare is making a collage or something, and they sent us home with a card that has his picture on it and we're supposed to write down 25 things about him on that card.  Rob said, "This is really more of your kind of thing," (so true) and handed the card off to me.

It is probably good that I had to sit down and write 25 Things About William because we had a pretty rough day yesterday, and I needed to take a minute and remember how wonderful he is.  Will loves to throw things, which is great if they are lightweight or are meant to be thrown... not so great if they are hard and hit you in the face.  He was sitting next to me on the couch yesterday reading and talking on his (toy) cell phone, [Will loves to sit on the couch] when all of a sudden he hauled off and threw his cell phone at me.  It hit me right on the brow ridge (superciliary arch, for the anthropologists) and somehow then ricocheted to the bridge of my nose.  You know how in cartoons when a character gets hit in the head with something, they show stars or little tweeting birds circling the head? I think that actually happened.  Jebus, it hurt.  I screamed in pain and then couldn't talk; all the while, William sat there on the couch, laughing.  It continued to hurt really bad for the rest of the day, and now it still hurts more than 24 hours later.  My nose is actually worse than my brow ridge, and I am kind of worried it is broken.  The bridge of my nose is swollen and red (what a sight that is), and hurts to touch.  Come to think of it, it kind of hurts to breathe too.  I tried to blow my  nose earlier in the day, and was that ever a mistake.  I hope that I do not have to sneeze any time soon.  So, I wonder what happens to you if you have a broken nose?  And in particular, if you do not seek any medical treatment for said broken nose.  It's not like they would put a cast on it... would they?  I hope I don't end up with a crooked nose as a result of this incident.

Anyway, I figured as long as I am coming up with 25 Things About William, I might as well put it on the blog.  So here goes.

Dear William,

1. You have beautiful blue eyes (the color of Lake Nicaragua)

2. You have ticklish knees

3. Your favorite food is rice and beans

4. You love vanilla soymilk

5. You love to eat Clif Bars.

6. You love to read

7. You love to sit on the couch between your mama and daddy

8. You give great hugs

9. You can be very stubborn (like your mama)

10. You can go from happy to mad in 1 second!

11. You love to wear your shoes

12. You like going on walks

13. You like to stack blocks and knock them over too!

14. You get very excited to eat your favorite foods

15. You love pushing things with wheels (wagon, cart, tricycle)

16. You like to play ball

17. You can be very silly

18. You like to throw things

19. You like to make noise

20. You lovepeek-a-boo

21. You like to Hop on Pop

22. You can find your nose

23. You LOVEto dance

24. You look like your daddy

25. You love to go to daycare!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Arroz y frijoles

First of all, I want to thank everybody who left a kind comment on my previous entry or sent an encouraging email.  Seriously, you cannot even begin to know how much that helped.  Our families and a few close friends have been instrumental in getting us through this rough patch, but sometimes, a word of encouragement from a complete stranger is what ends up getting me through the day.  I can't say enough how thankful I am for each and every person who is helping us survive.

February continues to suck; there are moments when I find myself feeling like I might just make it after all (like, when I have read kind blog comments or emails), and then there are other moments when I come home from work and lay down on the couch in the dark and cry.  Those latter types of moments have to be few and well contained, given that I have a small child to look after.  But still.

Right after all of this happened and we were faced with the realization that we were going to be sh*t, flat broke, we knew that we were going to have to make some changes in our lives to scrape by.  Part of the problem with that is that we were pretty much living at Maximum Frugality before all of this happened.  I mean, we much don't buy anything but groceries and basic supplies.  We have only 1 car, and we drive it less than 10 miles a week.  I don't buy or use wasteful things like paper towels (messes can easily be cleaned up with an old sock that is then thrown in the wash and reused).  On the rare occasion that I  wrap something up in aluminum foil, I don't throw away the foil when we're done with it; instead I wash it and use it again.  In terms of becoming more frugal, it was difficult to figure out how else we were going to cut back.

One thing I thought of was that I would have to stop buying anything organic, and we would just eat arroz y frijoles (rice and beans) for dinner every night.  Rice and beans are pretty cheap.  A 1-pound package of dried black beans costs $1.67, and even if I spring for the quick cooking brown rice, that is around $2.00 a package (and it lasts for several meals).  The way I make rice and beans is loosely based off a recipe called Aztec Black Beans that I got from Fat Free Vegan.  Not that rice and beans actually requires a recipe.  But when I came across this one, I realized that I could make it in the crock pot and then it would be ready when I got home from work.  Excellent.  I typically soak and boil a batch or two of beans over the weekend, and sometimes I freeze some if I don't think we will be eating them right away.  Then to make my version of the Aztec Black Beans, I put a pound of cooked black beans in the crock pot (I find that cooked beans work better), along with a jar of salsa (Value-Time brand at Schnuck's only costs $1 for a 16 oz jar and it contains no high fructose corn syrup), and I also add some frozen corn to the mix.  I give it a good stir, set it to cook for about 7 hours, and it is delicious when I come home from work.  Usually I make rice the night before, so it is all ready too.  We eat it with tortilla chips, and sometimes Rob puts cheese on his.  I figure at most the whole thing costs about $8 or 9 to make, and it lasts 3 of us 2-3 dinners (sometimes Will eats additional leftovers for a few more meals), so that is cheap.  Cheapity cheap.  And good for you too.  And it just happens to be the only thing that Will will eat, so that is a plus too.

Even before The Incident, we ate arroz y frijoles for dinner a lot (usually I'd make it once a week), but afterwards that was all we ate, probably for about 3 weeks straight.  It was so easy, and so cheap.  I spent vanishingly little at the grocery store and began to feel like I was channeling my inner Ma Ingalls... pioneering through this hardship in the most frugal of fashions.  But then at some point, Rob mentioned as kindly as possible something to the effect of, "Could we eat something other than rice and beans?"  And I had to come up with something else that would be cheap and healthy and that I could also get on the table while working full time.  It has been a struggle.  I hadn't expected either of us to get sick of arroz y frijoles.  After all, that is what we ate every single night for dinner for an entire year when we lived in Nicaragua.   I even trained myself to eat rice and beans after numerous bouts of The Vortex, which had likely been initiated by none other than rice and beans.  Nothing like throwing up rice and beans for days on end and then beginning your foray back into the world of solid food with a nice big bowl of rice and beans.

This whole difficulty we've been going through has put a damper on all of our lives, and I really think it has wreaked havoc on every organ system in my body.  My running has suffered a lot, which is ironic, because usually running is what lifts my spirits when I'm feeling blue.  But this whole thing has made me not even want to run, so you know it is bad.  I had originally been planning on running the St. Louis Marathon this April, but that was the first thing to go out the window.  The marathon entry fee, not to mention the new running shoes I would need to go with it, were out of the question.  I have kept running here and there, but for the first time in about 7 years, with no marathon in sight.  The shoes I'm wearing are by now quite ancient... I've fully run and trained for 2 marathons in them, which makes them have about twice the mileage that I can normally get out of a pair of running shoes.  It had been so far so good though.  I thought maybe I'd become like some of the more hard core runners from our running club back in Urbana.  There was one guy who'd been wearing the same pair of shoes (racing flats, no less) for something like 10 years and had run 100's of marathons and ultra marathons in them.  Well, maybe that is a bit exaggerated, but still.  I had remained confident that my Mizunos would see us through this bad patch.  Then, seemingly out of the blue, I started to have the characteristic pain in my medial lower calf which pretty much always indicates that my shoes have reached the end of their use life and I need a fresh pair.  Damn.  New running shoes are not in the current budget.

Well, I decided that rather than give up running, I'd quit dancing around the issue and become a Barefoot Runner.  I am not kidding.  Rob has been a convert for some time, though he generally wears Vibrams or some other type of minimalist shoe that doesn't mess with your foot's natural heal strike pattern but that does provide protection from the elements.  I have to say, I've been intrigued by this issue for quite a while, and after I read Born To Run (about a year ago), I thought it was something I might actually try out someday.  The premise is that barefoot running is supposed to be the best way to run to stay injury free, because modern running shoes alter your gate and heel strike pattern in a way that actually causes you to have injuries.  I'm not sure I buy into the argument completely whole heartedly, but given my current situation, it is something I have decided to pursue.  So I announced this to Rob and it looked like what he thought was "Oh Lord," but what he said was that I should be sure to ease into it and I should probably start by getting used to barefoot walking before I tried to run.

But I'm Melissa, and I don't think I've ever eased into anything in my entire life.  This week, we had unseasonably warm temperatures which finally melted all the snow.  I put Will in the jogging stroller and we went and found a really great footpath.  I discovered that running barefoot is the funnest thing ever.  Seriously, who wouldn't love squishing around in cold, wet, mud?  It is a fantastic feeling.  The footpath is along a beautiful street, and as all these people drove by in their SUVs on their way to their 4 million dollar mansions, I smiled and waved to them and was like, do you see me??  I am running BAREFOOT.  It was pretty awesome.  I did notice that my heel strike pattern was completely different than when I am wearing shoes.  I was totally landing on the balls of my feet as opposed to the heels.  And my lower medial calf pain became unnoticeable.  So enthused I was with this barefoot running, that I went out a couple days later (this time Will stayed at home), and ran farther.  I think I may have pushed it a little bit too much because now I can barely walk.  My calves are ridiculously sore (though completely different than the initial calf issue that had prompted the shoe shedding in the first place), and I realized that that is why Rob had cautioned me to take it easy.  Running barefoot completely changes the the way you land on your feet, and it takes your muscles a while to get used to it.  Duly noted.

One more thing and then I've got to end this:  As for nursing Will, we haven't completely stopped, which is a miracle.  When he turned 18 months old, I didn't nurse him for 2 days, but then he got send home from daycare with a fever (most likely because he is teething) and he was just walking around here totally miserable, crying and chewing on his fist.  I felt so bad for him that I've let him start nursing again about once a day or so.  And the other day in his misery, he actually asked to nurse, which is the first time he's ever done that.  I was exhausted (from too much Barefoot Running?) and was laying down on the floor watching him play, when all of a sudden, he came up to me, started tugging on my shirt, and said, "Nay nay?"  I couldn't turn him down.  And I feel okay with how things are.  In some ways, I feel like I might have just needed a break from nursing, and two days of not nursing him was weird but somehow refreshing, and now I will be able to hang in there for a little bit longer.

Oh, and the novel.  I've been working on it.  We'll see.

Thanks again, everybody.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dear William (18 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 18 months old!!

You can do so many things on your own these days.  You feed yourself with a spoon or fork, all on your own.  You still love rice and beans.  That is the only thing you will eat for dinner.  You still love your waffle(s) for breakfast.  When I am getting your waffle ready and it pops up out of the toaster, you get soooooo excited... waving your hands and saying "MMmmmm!"  Sometimes when you finish your waffle, you say "Mo waaaah..." which pretty clearly means "More waffle."  Here is a picture of you smugly eating the second waffle you requested for breakfast yesterday:



William, we had a snow day this month.  St. Louis got about 8 inches of snow, and right before that, we got several inches of ice that turned to rain.  It was awful.  That was 12 days ago, and the whole city is still covered with snow and ice; it has been frigid ever since then.  On the day that we got all the snow, Wash U closed down for the first time in like, forever, and your daycare was closed.  You stayed at home with me, and we played all day long.  It was exhausting for us both.  I made you home-made play-dough on our snow day, and you hated it.  You touched it once and shuddered.  I was so hoping that you would like it.  My Grandma Florence used to bring home-made play-dough sometimes when she came to our house early on a Saturday morning for my mother do to her hair.  It would still be warm when she arrived, and I loved playing with it.  Maybe someday you will like home-made play-dough too, but not this time.  You had a lot of fun in the kitchen on our snow day.  You were thrilled to open and close the cabinets, take everything out of the cabinets, bang pots and pans together, etc.  And you and I colored pictures, read books, stacked/knocked over blocks, and ran around in circles giggling.  We had a lot of fun together.  It made me excited for this summer, when I am off of work and you and I will just get to play, play, play every day.

William, you've been sick a time or two this month.  Not really badly sick, just a bit of an upset stomach.  It makes me so sad and scared when you aren't feeling well.  You like to sleep in the big bed with mommy and daddy during times like that.  I love cuddling with you, but sometimes you take up the whole bed.

King for a day

You got your left upper canine this month too, and that ordeal also required that you scream at night and sleep in the big bed with us.  It must have hurt a lot.  Oh well, only 3 more of those to go.  And then 4 more molars.  We'll get through it.

I tried to teach you a few things this month.  One thing I taught you was where your nose is.  I thought you ought to know.  We're still working on head, shoulders, knees, and toes, but the nose you've got down pat.  If I say, "William, where is your nose?" you grin and point to your nose.  And if I say "Where is Mommy's nose?" or "Where is Daddy's nose?" you can point to those too (although, only if you are in the mood to cooperate).  It is pretty cute.  Even though you haven't said "nose" yet, I know you know what the word means.  One of those rough nights when you were sleeping with us, I woke up and you were sitting on top of me giggling and putting your little pointer finger on my nose.

Another thing I taught you this month was the word "kiss."  Every time I kissed you I would say "kiss, kiss."  Every once and a while, you decide to reciprocate with the kisses, except you do so with your mouth open and your tongue out, so it is really more like I am getting slimed than kissed.  It is a little bit gross, but actually, you are so cute and sweet that I don't care about getting your slobber all over me.  Sometimes you will kiss me if I ask you, "Come here and give mommy a kiss," but usually you are more aloof and kiss only when you choose to do so.  A lot of times when I am trying to put you to bed, you put both of your hands on my face and giggle as you give me giant, wet, slobbery kisses.

I think I am pretty sure that we are going to stop nursing this month.  I am a little bit sad about it, but at this point I think you will be okay without it.  You are so busy playing most of the time that you don't really care to stop and nurse.  If I don't bring it up, you are fine, but if I say, "William, do you want to nurse," you generally stop whatever you are doing and zoom over to me, grinning, and saying , "Nayyy, nayyy," which I have come to understand is your word for nurse.  The other night though, when I asked you if you wanted to nurse, you ran over to me and pulled your own shirt up, as though you thought I had suggested that we reverse our roles.  Hmmm.

Last night after you nursed you did the sweetest thing.  Well, you started giggling while you were nursing, and so I unhooked you and set you down to play, but the instant I did that you began fussing and saying "Maah, Maah, Maah..." which is generally what you say when you want more of something or when you are just generally frustrated (it might be your way of saying "more" or "mama" or both, I'm not really sure).  You were reaching your hands up to me too, so I assumed you had decided that you weren't done nursing and wanted some more.  I picked you up, and instead of going in to nurse some more, you put both of your hands on my face, smiled lovingly at me, and then puckered your lips and gave me a great big kiss right on my mouth.  It was so sweet that I cried.  And also, it was nice that you'd actually figured out how to give kisses without so much slobber.  You are great, William.

You still do cry sometimes, even when you are wearing adorable jammies:

Enough's enough

And you are still cute in the bath:

There he is!

Hopefully you aren't too embarrassed by all the cute little things I wrote about you doing.  You are just growing up so fast that I need to write them down so that I don't forget about them all.

Happy 18-month "birthday" and happy Valentine's!


Your mom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February sucks too

I haven't been able to write lately, because a little over a month ago we suffered an Unfortunate Incident which all but ruined us.  As far as Unfortunate Incidents go, I suppose it was the best kind to have because in the scheme of things, we still have each other (so far, at least), and we still have our health (again... so far at least), we just have no money.  I am not going to write in detail about this incident because there is a slim chance that there might be some Legal Action taken someday in an attempt to recoup our losses and also because I don't feel like broadcasting the details to the world.

Ever since the Incident occurred, there has been a moratorium on anything remotely fun or joyous in our lives.  Everything is somber.  At first I couldn't eat anything for days (great for saving money) and got very skinny; then at some point I shifted and realized, you know, Schnucks brand tortilla chips are cheap, and eating half a bag of them sure makes me forget my troubles.

In the midst of all of this, winter rages ferociously around us at all times.  We experienced the Great Blizzard of 2011 last week, though honestly, it didn't end up as bad as they were predicting.  Wash U closed down campus during the worst of it (something which apparently happens next to never).  The snow here wasn't so bad, but the 8-some inches of ice we had made (and is still making) everything ridiculously treacherous.  Even now more than a week afterwards, we can barely get the car out of the driveway what with all the ice piled up at the bottom.

Did I ever mention that I hate ice?

Hate it.

Hate it.

Hate it.

I can handle snow and even cold weather, though I dislike it intensely.  But I hate ice.  Back in Urbana, we would always get an ice storm the first week of December, and the ice would persist until April.  I am not kidding.  I hated it, oh my god, did I ever hate it.  I had been under the impression that St. Louis experienced less ice than Urbana (being that St. Louis is always 5-10 degrees warmer), and thus moving here would be an improvement.  But I am feeling very, very gipped at the moment.  I walk to work, and the sidewalks are a solid slick of ice.  It is like walking on a glacier.  I hate it.  On my way in this morning, I actually started crying.  I hate this winter.  It is the third worst winter of my life.  (The worst was 2 years ago when I had hyperemesis and the second worst was last year  when I was home alone and iced in with a baby who cried 12-16 hours a day).

In terms of dealing with the aftermath of The Incident, I am doing so the only way I know how.  And by that, I mean, I am rereading The Mists of Avalon.  The history of this coping strategy is that the second time I was in Nicaragua-- when I was there alone to do my pilot study-- I found a tattered copy of this book in the night stand by my bed.  I had many difficulties and panic attacks throughout the duration of my pilot study, and I took to reading The Mists of Avalon to forget about my troubles.  It was a very effective strategy.  At the time, I found the book to be somewhat poorly written (the dialogue mainly, was tiresome), but the book's epic nature (it is almost 900 pages) kind of made up for that.  I got hooked, and I brought the book home.

After the Unfortunate Incident, I didn't know how to cope with it, so one night I went down to the basement and searched out my copy of The Mists of Avalon, now held together with duct tape.  Superb.  I am finding that the second time around, I am actually more forgiving of the over-the-top dialogue and unbelievable scenarios.  It is a great distraction.

All of this reading reminded me that at my core, I always wanted to be a writer.  Before graduate school sucked all the life and creativity out of me, I had written fiction, or at least attempted to.  The problem was, most of my ideas were too large and grandiose (like... the 900 pages of The Mist of Avalon) for me to actually finish.  And most of what I wrote was so cringe-worthy I couldn't show it to anyone.  But there is one particular story idea that I had about 9 or 10 years ago, when I was working in the Lab after college, that has stayed with me. While I was taking care of the frogs and tadpoles, I would lose myself in my thoughts, sketching out the plot and developing the characters.  I still thought of this story from time to time after I went to graduate school.  And then when i was in Nicaragua for a year doing my dissertation research, I actually started writing it.  No kidding:  I wrote the first chapter on a Palm Pilot while I was out in the forest while the monkeys were sleeping.  It was in the dry season, when they would wake up about 5am and then go back to sleep during the oppressive heat of the day from about 8am to 3pm.  It was kind of awful being out there in the forest all day with them.  So I distracted myself by slowly and laboriously writing Chapter 1.  I remember so well, typing it out word for word while the monkeys slept in the big mango tree that was the site of so many battles between the groups for access to the fruit.  It was exactly 4 years ago, February 2007.

On a whim, I opened up the file on my computer and re-read that chapter.  I realized (okay, this is very snobbish of me) that it was the best thing I had ever read.  The world needed to hear this story.  I was going to finish it, somehow, some way.

But now I'm kind of stuck.  I have next to no time to work on such an endeavor, and seriously, if I am going to do a good job of it, it will require a ton of research.  The kind of research that will make my dissertation look pale by comparison.  The story is all there in my head, but it will require a lot of work to make the details believable.

I am hesitant to pour that kind of work into it.  For starters, it seems like the kind of thing I would write but then never be able to show to anybody.  And that seems like kind of a waste.  Besides, even if I did somehow find the strength to show it to somebody, it is my impression that it is actually very hard to get a book published, especially for a nobody like me.  If I poured years of my life into this and it got rejected, how could I ever come back from something like that?  I don't know.

Something else that this entry was supposed to be about was how I have come to acknowledge (while not completely accept) the fact that my nursing days are over.  The last 2 or 3 months have been like hanging on to a rock wall with just my fingernails, and I cannot put up that fight anymore.  On Saturday, William will be 18 months old, and I'm going to call that the end of this.  In many ways, it makes me immeasurably sad.  I will soon be facing that moment when I am nursing Will for the last time, and I can't even think about that without getting all choked up and hysterical.  Yet on the other hand, I am so frustrated and sick of nursing him that I dread it to the point of loathing.  I dread nursing him to the same extent that I dreaded pumping any time that I ever pumped.  It is cold and insanely unpleasant, and there is no milk coming out whatsoever.  When the Unfortunate Incident occurred and I went days without eating, drinking, or sleeping, that pretty much sealed the deal on the approximately 2 drops of milk a day that I was producing at the time.  If I still was actually lactating, I think I could keep it up.  But I just cannot do this if my only function is to be a human pacifier, with no milk, nutrients, or antibodies coming out.  No amount of heroic effort is going to get me to relactate.  I have done everything and been unsuccessful.  I need to accept this and move on, but it is so hard.  My whole life has been centered around breastfeeding for the last 18 months.  At this point I don't even know who I am without it.


Time to read some more of The Mists of Avalon, I suppose, and try to go to bed.