Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is how I want to be remembered

I have been reading Shapely Prose for about a year now. Because it is full of personal observations usually centered on very vulnerable topics, I feel personally connected to the writers even though they don't know me from anyone. Recently, Sweet Machine posted on her mother's recent passing. The entire post is beautiful and worth reading but it was the last bit that really struck me.
She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally. There are no other rules.

This is what I strive for as a mother. I am so glad SM had her in her life and I really hope I can embody this for my son and any future children I may have.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I really enjoyed baby's first Christmas. He was totally into it, he especially liked bows; immediately lunging at them and trying to eat them. My husband discovered this video on the YouTube. Having the refrain in my head is probably going to keep me sane when our son and whatever other child(ren) we may have hit puberty.

(Probably NSFW and NSF little children)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dude mother-in-law left recently. She had been visiting for a few days. She is a nice woman who differs from me ideologically so her presence comes with a longs list of costs and benefits. I am wondering however, how I've let over 7 months go by before noticing that she refers to my nursing in a hushed tone as, "you know what." So that' and exciting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meal Planner

Yay! Two more new recipes this week and both turned out great! I especially feel like dancin' because after many tries with many different recipes I have finally found a crockpot "beef stroganoff" recipe that actually tastes like something someone might want to eat!

First though, let's talk about pork. Rachael Ray has a recipe called Roast Pork with Orange Pine Nut Sauce that is probably very good, but involves way more patience and dishes than I am willing to sacrifice, so I have tweaked it and come up with something that I think is rather tasty and incredibly easy to make.

Here's how I do it:

2-2.5 pounds boneless pork loin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp thyme
2 tsp oregano
approx 10 cloves minced garlic (I use the kind in the big jar soaked in olive oil, but wevs)
1 orange
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1.5 cups chicken stock or broth (I don't think it makes a difference in this case)

Place the pork in a a big plastic freezer bag or whatever container you have on hand. Pour in the chicken stock, and squeeze the juice from the orange into the bag. Add the cumin, paprika, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and cranberries. Close the bag and shake it up to combine everything and coat the pork. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight. (Or if you're pressed for time, not at all. I've done this and it just isn't quite as flavorful but that's not the end of the world.)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Transfer the contents of the plastic bag to a baking dish (I use a glass 9 x 13.5.) and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Let the meat rest about 5-10 minutes before cutting it. Slice the pork and spoon sauce over slices when serving. It looks really pretty and tastes great. Perhaps most importantly, there is no chopping and it only uses one dish. I highly recommend it when having last minute guests that you want to wow with your Holly Homemaker fabulousness.

And now for the main event: Beef Stroganoff! (sort of, in a non-authentic sort of way)

I found this recipe at I used some of the tweaks that the commenters suggested and also made a few of my own. Here's what I ended up with.

EDIT: This recipe works well for two adults. Once I added a third adult who is not my Mother-in-Law, and therefore eats a reasonable amount, I realized that when making this for a family one might want to increase the amount of the crockpot ingredients accordingly.

1.5 pounds stew meat (approximately, more or less works too)
21 ounces condensed golden mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I use baby bella, but not necessary)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 pound bowtie pasta
shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine stew meat, soup, soup mix, Worcestershire sauce, and water in a crockpot. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.

1 hour before the crockpot is finished add the sliced mushrooms.

Just before serving, combine the cream cheese with the crockpot mixture, and cook the noodles on the stovetop. Serve stroganoff over noodles. We also put some shredded parmesan cheese on top of each serving as a last minute impulse, but that's just us. It was super tasty, and it definitely made leftovers.

Note: Definitely use Golden Mushroom soup. Do not try to substitute cream of mushroom, it will not give you a good result, I promise. I had never heard of golden mushroom and thought it would be hard to find, but in fact it is right next to the chicken and stars so it should be easy for you to locate. Also, the picture while still pretty accurate, is of another person's attempt at the original stroganoff recipe. One day, I'll remember to take pictures of the food I make before eating it, but today is not that day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I am a Liar

I lie all the time. I lie to everyone. Right now I have had to make my husband hold my baby while I come up here and decompress because my baby is teething and has been cranky for 3 days and nothing pleases him and I just. can't. take. it. So I have to sit up here and let some anxiety out before I can return to being a mommy in order to do my job well.

But, and here's where the lying happens, outside of my husband and anyone who reads this I guess, no one will ever know it. I have never said a negative thing about my baby to anyone because I don't want him to ever hear it as a child. It used to really hurt my feelings as a kid to listen to my aunts and uncles talk about how much I cried as a baby and what a pain in the ass it was that I *gasp* cried a lot as a premature infant. It stings a little even now, even though I know that I was just being a baby and they are all idiots I still feel twinges of guilt for putting my parents through that. I won't have my son feeling like that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meal Planner

I'm always trying to find "family friendly" meals. To me, this means cost-effective, easy to make, and nutritious. This week I had two recipes that I think are really good in these areas. I made one old favorite, and one new recipe. (I try to use a new recipe each week.)

My new recipe for the week was Emeril's Chili-Mac as featured on Jon & Kate plus 8. I've never tried anything from Emeril before, but I've been a Jon & Kate fan since the first documentary so ever since their 100th episode I've wanted to try it. I can't find any pictures of it to share which aggravates me because I always like to see what something will look like in the end, but life goes on I suppose.

As it turns out, despite the "Slap Yo Mama" prefix Emeril gives this Chili-Mac recipe, I didn't notice any particularly distinct flavor. It tasted fine, but it just tasted a lot like Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger macaroni. I actually consider this to be in the "Pro" column as I think this kind of mild flavoring would probably appeal to younger kids. And to be fair to Emeril, I did not add the optional jalepenos because they are a pain to work with in my current state of never having enough time. It makes a very large quantity. I fed three hungry adults and still have at least another dinner I could get out of it. The ingredients are not expensive or difficult to find.(I already had a lot of them.) It already has a good amount of vegetables in it and I actually think that some food processed mushrooms would go largely unnoticed but add even more protein to the dish. The only thing I can definitively say against it is that, while there is nothing difficult or time-consuming about making it, you do have to use three separate pans to prepare it and the final product is difficult to handle so there is definitely a high clean-up factor.

For my next trick...

Lentil Sausage and Kale Soup from Rachael Ray is something I've made quite a few times now. I know some people have strong feelings about Rachael Ray but I love her and I have never been disappointed after making one of her recipes.

This one is great because not only does it taste great, it is SUPER easy to make and to clean up. There is minimal chopping and it's not one of those fake "one-pot" meals you see sometimes where one or two of the ingredients is something that has secretly been prepared ahead of time in a totally different pot. In addition, it is packed with vegetables. Onions, one baking potato, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, and lentils are all packed into this soup with especially yummy results. The quantity makes it pretty cost-effective as well. This is another dish that makes at least two meals in this house, and it is just as good the second time around. The warmth from the spicy sausage makes this a great cold-weather comfort food, that I think kids and adults would both enjoy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Domestic Violence

My last full time job before becoming a SAHM was working for a local domestic violence agency (one of the things I did was start a blog for them ;-)). I must admit that before I started working there, while I was certainly anti-domestic violence, I was one of the many people who misunderstand DV.

Most of my confusion centered on the topic of why women (or much less often, men) stay in abusive relationships. I had pathologized and belittled these women in my head without even realizing it. What I had not understood was that staying in an abusive relationship is often a marker of a strong person who has developed keen survival instincts and strategies.

Because of my privileged background, it had not occurred to me that economic concerns affect these decisions especially when children are involved. One of the things I learned in my tenure there was that domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness among women and children. Since I've always had someone to call on for help, it never entered my mind that many of these women wouldn't have family they could stay with or enough income to live on their own.

Another thing I was unaware of, and I place the blame squarely on the mainstream media's shoulders for my ignorance, was that a full two-thirds of domestic violence related fatalities occur after the woman has left the relationship. These women aren't staying because they are stupid or weak. Many of them are staying because of a well-founded fear that either they, their children, or other people they care about will be killed if they leave.

This article by Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) is extremely poignant to me, because he discusses domestic violence from the point of view of a child who lived through it without being physically abused himself. A recurrent theme I noticed from abusers who had not physically harmed their children was a sort of bragging refrain that they had never hit their kids, as though that is an achievement and as though that means that the abuse occurring in the household hadn't affected their children. Well, I've got news for them, it does. It profoundly affects their children, but the secret is that most of them don't really care, because most of them are only using their children as pawns to manipulate their victim. Once you look inside domestic violence, it's easy to see that these are not instances of men "snapping" as our culture seems to portray it. Abusers are calculating and strategic and obsessive and honestly really hard to escape. It is one of my greatest wishes that we stop shaming women in these relationships and start offering more judgment free venues to talk about these sorts of incidences. And if for some reason you can't find it in your heart to feel compassion for the women, please do read the article and understand how it impacts the children, even or maybe especially the ones who never end up in a shelter.

H/T Shakesville

DV FAQs: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Recommendations

I have Wholesome Baby Food on my links list, but I wanted to make a point of featuring it because it has really helped give me some structure with feeding my child when all I was getting when soliciting advice (including from my soon to be ex-pediatrician) were vague notions that I should, in fact, feed him. (Thanks) I am trying to be really careful with his digestive system as my husband and I both have different diseases that relate to the way our bodies process food. No one knows the cause of either of our conditions, but they are thought not to be genetic, so it is likely that the cause is in some way environmental. Maybe there is nothing to be done, and neither condition is particularly life-altering, but like I said I'm trying to be super careful just in case.
Anyway, I really like this website and they give a lot of great tips on how to prepare food, and what food to give your baby at each stage of development. They even have interesting recipes for finger foods for toddlers.

Another tool I've used to help the meal planning run smoothly around here is MacGourmet Deluxe. We got it almost a year ago and it has saved me so much time making weekly grocery lists. Unfortunately, at least when we signed up for it, you have to get the deluxe version to get the grocery list program which is really the best part, but honestly for us it has been totally worth it. I have most of my recipes entered into the program at this point, so instead of having to figure out what I want to make out of then air, I can go look at the recipe list and pull from that into the Weekly Meal Plan option. Once I've done that, I simply click the grocery cart icon and TaDa! grocery list! I don't know if grocery shopping is as drama filled for other as it was for me, but before we had this it used to take me between one and two hours to make a complete grocery list and even then I'd usually either spend too much money on stuff we didn't need, or I'd forget one or two indispensable items and have to go back. Interestingly, even though I usually don't go back and look at the meal plan during the week, actually seeing it in print when I first assemble it seems to make it stick in my head in a more concrete (this is what we're doing) way and really helps me fight the impulse to order in when I'm tired at the end of the day.I don't know if there is a version for the PC, but maybe there are similar programs available out there? If so, I'd definitely recommend looking into it. The program is around $50 which I assume is comparable to most software of this caliber, but I seriously think that we have saved between $200 to $300 a month due to making grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier so it has definitely paid for itself.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

From Co-Sleeper to Crib

So last night my husband (thankfully) noticed that our son will soon be too old/too heavy for our co-sleeper bassinet. This means we will have to start transitioning him to his crib soon. Our son is nearly 7 months old and I knew this day would come but I'm afraid of it. We don't have a baby monitor and even with all the doors open I don't really trust us to hear him from his room. Initially, I thought maybe we could start by bringing the crib into our room, but it won't fit through the door. We could take it apart, but by the time we took it apart to move into our room and then took it apart again to move it back into his room when he's ready, I'd start to be suspicious of its structural integrity.

There is a futon in the nursery so I think I might start out with him in the crib and me sleeping on the futon. I don't know. It's probably all for nothing but this whole thing just fills me with anxiety. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated. (A baby monitor is out. We're not making purchases right now.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Women as Public Property

Tonight I had a conversation with a woman in one of my classes where we were reviewing the concept of "Multiple Identities". We had to list the different social groups we belong to and rank them in order of how they influence our day-to-day. My number one was being "Mom". Her number one identity was being "childfree" or childless by choice as it is known in some circles. We noticed that we both listed other people trying to impose their opinions on us as negative consequences of our number one identities. Our discussion led into the concept of women as public property or automatically being open to public scrutiny by virtue of our gender. I could probably write more about this, but I'll try to keep it focused on motherhood.

I've been thinking about the principle of women as public property for a long time, but it became especially noticeable to me while I was pregnant. Total strangers wanted to touch and endlessly comment on my body. I was 27, bilingual, with a Master's degree and suddenly other people around me seemed to think I needed to be told how much food to eat or if/when I was tired or over-exerting myself.

Now that I have a child, the same rules seem to apply. As I've mentioned before people want to tell me when to stop breastfeeding or co-sleeping. They constantly remind me that I shouldn't diet while breastfeeding (I'm not dieting BTW, people just make assumptions.). I really do think this is a plague visited on all women at all times, but none so intensely as the public scrutiny related to motherhood.

I mean seriously, people criticize and make fun of Kate Gosselin all the time for having so many kids even going so far as to say she "asked for it", whatever that means, by using IVF in the first place or by getting "greedy" and going back after they already had twins. Angelina Jolie (but conspicuously not so much Brad Pitt) is constantly ridiculed for having the temerity to adopt children from underprivileged backgrounds that she can totally afford to support. I know these are celebrities and we all feel entitled to judge celebrities' private lives, but these wouldn't be public narratives if they didn't in some way relate to private narratives.

However, most of those same people are critical of childfree women. I have seen many of my friends and one of my own sisters constantly have their character called into question due to the fact that they have elected not to procreate. They are called "lazy" or "irresponsible" when all they are doing is not basing an important life decision on what other people might think about them or what society expects of them. I've wanted to be a mother all of my life. Even when I had no plans on ever marrying, I still was structuring my life plans to include future children. But I've never thought that this was a decision for everyone. A child knows when they are loved and wanted and no matter what Hollywood wants us to believe, it is the rare person who suddenly genuinely wants to be a parent only after giving birth.

Am I going anywhere with this? Nope. It just burns me that's all.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Much Awaited Event

Yay! On the way home from my mother's (a 6 hour trip) my son fell asleep in his car seat all by himself for the first time ever. He was just sitting there playing with his starfish toy and then...ZONK!...asleep. Usually there is a lot of crying and singing and pacifier and bottle struggles but not this time. It was awesome and I feel it is a glimpse into the future. Hooray Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post Adoption Depression

I started reading Post Partum Progress a long time ago when I was preparing for the birth of my child. I wanted to know all I could about PPD in case I ended up having it so I could treat it as soon as possible. Luckily, I did not experience anything past the expected few days of minor "baby blues" but I've kept with the blog as much as I can because I think it is really interesting. Recently, she took up the subject of Post Adoption Depression which I had never heard of, but which is apparently more common than most people realize.

Katherine (PPP's writer) invited Elizabeth Elias to write about her experience with PAD. These are the parts I found particularly salient.
I felt no bond with her and I was overwhelmed by her needs. I wanted to love her, desperately and immediately. But bonds are not always instant and need to be nurtured. I grew overwhelmed. My guilt over not having instant love for her was huge. She called my name with every breath she took: Momma, momma, momma, momma. I couldn't find my footing. I craved my own space. I knew she needed and deserved for me to step up. This poor child had never had a mother to love her. I wanted to be that person but I failed. I failed daily for a year.

My guilt turned to anger. Rage. Because of her I was proving to be a bad mother. I felt very much alone. I loathed my existence. The guilt was everything I breathed, thought and did. I regretted the adoption. I felt trapped.

The truth is 65% of adoptive mothers go through post-adoption depression. That is a lot of women suffering in silence. The secrecy and the guilt kept me chained much longer in that dark negative space than I needed to be. Now I know that it was nothing that I asked for or deserved, nothing that I had done wrong. The blame did not lay with me either. It was simply a dark experience I was going through. There was nothing to be ashamed about. Nothing to hide.

In the times that I had negative feelings about my birth experience (which alternated with positive feelings) "trapped" was the most accurate description I could have given you for how I felt, closely followed by guilt. I didn't regret having my child at any point, but I had serious doubts about whether I should have had him because I didn't feel like I could possibly be the mother that he needed and deserved. It is lonely, and if I hadn't had an excellent support system to back me up, I think the loneliness could have easily become overwhelming. I think most mothers have a lot of guilt surrounding these types of feelings because we're generally taught that motherhood means an instant and blissful bond and a joyful feeling of family completion. To be sure, I was thrilled that my son was here, but there were lonely difficult times too that the world at large never really tells you about. I'm really glad there are sites like this that let women know that it's okay to have these feelings and to share them and if needed to seek out treatment. I think the shame and the hiding is a big part of what leads to the tragedies.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Speaking of Complaints and Good Stuff


I am sick of busting my ass just to have certain individuals fall all over themselves to let me know that my parenting style is crazy/over-protective/unnecessary.

1) I pick up my child everytime he cries as long as I am physically able to do so because that feels right to me. Think that will "spoil" him? Tough. I don't. Not what you did/do with your children? Fine. It IS what I do. Get over it.

2) I am still nursing and plan to continue to do so until... Whenever the hell we both feel like stopping. Period. No one outside the nursing relationship is entitled any feelings on the matter. So suck on that! (ha!)

3) I make my child's baby food. It is cheaper, more nutritious, and I can be reasonably sure it's done correctly and hygenically. It is just practical for me to do this. It is not in any way excessive.

End Complaints

Good Stuff:

My baby has shown me that having a soft squishy belly is awesome. He loves to knead it and squish it and zerbert it and it is so funny to watch. For the first time in my life I love my belly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Opting In

Disclaimer: Posts won't always be like this, but I think it makes a good intro.

My life is currently in a place that I never expected it to be. I never planned to get married. I just didn't see any real upside and firmly believed that love didn't really exist. I planned on adopting a child or children at some point, but not until I was firmly established in a career.

Now in my twenties I'm married (to a man I love very much) and I'm a stay at home mom to a 6 month old infant. I like my life, but there are times when it's a little hard to get my head around what's happened and not feel like I've given up or something. I'm not accustomed to being supported financially so I feel like a burden to my husband even though he makes it clear that he does not feel this way. I'm pretty isolated because we've recently moved to a new area, and actually I was already kind of isolated because none of my friends from before we moved have kids so they don't really get the stress I'm under.

And I'm under a lot of stress which is why I need to talk to someone. Even if no one ever reads this and I'm just typing out into the ether. I need a release. I love my son and I'd do anything for him. I'm glad I don't have to miss all these moments as he grows and develops, but it is a lot to handle and no one I interact with seems to understand that. I'm on 24/7. I'm always mommy. I haven't done a single thing just for myself (until right now I guess) in 6 months, and I have to do this very late at night when I really should be sleeping.

But I've realized something today. I'm not giving up. I'm opting into a new future and a new adventure. So while there will be complaints along the way, and there will be conflicts between me and society's image of motherhood, and there will be moments of self-doubt, I've decided not to take this opportunity for granted. I'm hoping this blog will help me do that. And maybe sometimes I'll even have time to be coherent and interesting, but that would just be icing.