Archive | September, 2012

The Long Story of How We Ended Up With So Many Kids

A commenter recently asked:

I don’t want this to come across as rude or judgemental, but was it an active choice to have so many children? Have you always wanted a large family or just threw caution to the wind and allowed to happen what would happen? (I know there are many Christian families that believe in the quiverfull idea and therefore strive to create large families in order to serve God but I know that doesn’t apply to you.)

First of all, I don’t take this as rude or judgmental!  I’m a pretty open book, and I’d rather people ask me questions than make assumptions.  And I’m sure this is a subject quite a few people wonder about.

The short answer is: no, it was not an active choice to have so many children.  It’s mostly been a case of carelessness.

And it’s funny that you bring up the Christian angle, Holly, because I’ve suspected for a while that people in my real life world who don’t know me well assume that Michael and I must be super-religious because we have so many kids.  Other Christians seem to be genuinely shocked to learn that I don’t even believe in God, nor do I subscribe to any religion or dogma, and that we are raising our children religion-free.

Here’s basically the story of how we built our family:

When Michael and I got married, I already had a child (Kevin) from my first marriage.  In my first marriage, believe it or not, there were fertility issues; my first husband and I were married for ten years before we had Kevin, and there were several years of trying to conceive in there, which included exploratory surgery and a few rounds of Clomid.  It turned out to be male-factor infertility, but even though that was clinically diagnosed finally, I was so accustomed to trying to get pregnant only to have nothing come of it that I was convinced it would be the same with me and Michael.  As it turned out, though, Michael and I are a combustible combination!

So, when we got married, we were both well into our 30s, I had Kevin who was 4 1/2, and Michael and I both wanted kids together.  I remember that we talked about having maybe two more kids, making it a total of three.  And based on our ages and Kevin’s age, and the fact that I was worried that it would take a while to get pregnant, we started trying within a couple of months after we got married.  BOOM!  I got pregnant the first month we tried.  Surprise, surprise.

That was Joey, and he was born a few weeks shy of our first wedding anniversary.  I never went back on the pill after that, for a variety of reasons – I was nursing, I was in my mid-30s already, and I never did like the physical side effects of the pill.  So we just started trying to be careful time-wise, if you get my drift.  Something loosely based on the rhythm method and NFP.

I’ve always believed that anyone who is truly dead-set against getting pregnant will take whatever measures necessary to make sure they don’t get pregnant.  Michael and I knew that this wasn’t a foolproof method of preventing pregnancy, but since we were open to having another baby at some point anyway, we were okay with the chance that I would get pregnant again.  It worked for about a year and a half – until we were ready to actively try for another baby.

BOOM!  I got pregnant again the first month we tried.  This would be baby number 3, and we would probably be done after that.  Only somehow we ended up with TWINS!  That was a shock.  No twins in either of our families (although, contrary to popular belief, the hereditary component in conceiving fraternal twins – which is releasing multiple eggs in a single cycle – is passed down on the mother’s side and has nothing at all to do with the father’s family history; identical twins, on the other hand, which originate from a single egg that splits, is completely random and has no hereditary component), no fertility treatment, just a surprise two-for-one deal.

Four kids – we should have been done, right?  Only, neither of us were sure that we felt done – as crazy as that sounds.  It was (is!) a lot of work having so many little ones (Joey was only two when the twins were born – I’ve had three in diapers at the same time multiple times in my child-rearing career), but there was a joy in it, too.  And I think we had both fallen in love with the idea of our kids having numerous siblings and having their lives enriched in that way.

I still remember, clear as day, sitting in the bedroom with Michael, having a serious heart to heart about what we should do.  The twins were about 16 months old.  Were we going to have another baby or not?  We talked about it for a long time, sitting there that morning – about all the pros and cons, what it would mean for us, for the four kids we already had, to have another baby, or not to.  Neither of us could settle on an answer, so we agreed to wait until the twins turned 2 later that year to make a decision, and in the meantime, we’d continue being “careful.”

Only, a couple weeks later, I found out that I was already pregnant.  I wasn’t even sure when it had happened, because I had been keeping careful track of my cycles, etc.  I can’t even remember exactly what made me start suspecting, but I do remember that I was hosting book club at my house that night and I went to Target to buy martini glasses and a pregnancy test.  What a combo.  When the test came up positive, I was surprised, and, truthfully, a little upset, only because we hadn’t planned this one, and that was a new experience for me.  Michael was totally okay with it from the get-go, and once I got over my surprise, I was thrilled, too.

That was Lilah – baby number 5, and our first home birth.  I was honestly thrilled that I would finally get to have a birth on my own turf, my own terms.  I had hated my hospital births – especially the twins’ birth – and I wanted for once to have a positive birth experience.

I loved midwifery care – so much different, in so many ways, from OB care – and my midwife and I really bonded (and are friends to this day).  Lilah was born at home, nine days after her due date, after a very trying on-again off-again labor that lasted over a week.  Her birth – my first drug-free birth – was not what I expected; I think I went into it mentally ill-prepared, and the reality of it was shocking to me, and in some ways, a let-down.  I had envisioned this peaceful, serene birth, and instead, I screamed my way through it, convinced I was going to die through part of it.

Because of that, I wanted a do-over.  I know very well how crazy and silly and selfish and irresponsible that sounds, but it was the truth.  I wanted one more – just one more – so I could do it right.  It makes me kind of sad now that that’s how I felt, like I had done Lilah’s birth wrong, that I had failed somehow, and that I needed to prove to myself (and to Michael and Sue, my midwife – neither of whom felt in any way that I had failed) that I could do it better, the right way.

There was also a part of me that just didn’t want to close that chapter of my life – childbearing.  It’s always been a gargantuan thing to me, childbearing.  My therapist has said that she thinks I’ve subconsciously set out on a mission to build the family I never had, and I absolutely think there is truth to that.  A house full of people who love each other, not hate each other.  A house full of people who share experiences and care for one another.  It’s all about wanting to love and to be loved, isn’t it?

So once again, there Michael and I sat in our bedroom having a serious heart-to-heart about the possibility of having another baby.  By this time, I had just turned 40 and Lilah was not quite a year old.  I wanted another baby – just one more, for good reasons or bad – and Michael was ready to close that chapter of our life.  His was obviously the more practical position.  Five kids is a whole lotta kids, we weren’t getting any younger, and wasn’t it time to move on, to move past the always taking care of babies phase and onto all the possibilities life held with kids who were a little older and not quite so dependent?  So I acquiesced, though my heart wasn’t in it.  And I felt a loss.  No more babies.  That was it.

Well, I can’t say that I was exactly careful at that point about making sure it didn’t happen again.  I kind of felt like, he’s the one who doesn’t want anymore kids, so let him make sure it doesn’t happen.  And of course, he didn’t.  And I kind of figured, well, he knows full well that he’s playing with fire here.

About a month later, I was pregnant again.  I can’t say I was surprised.  I was scared, though, about how Michael would feel about it.  I took a pregnancy test when he was at work, and when it came up positive, I texted the news to him – I couldn’t even bring myself to call him or wait until he got home to tell him face to face.

And you know what?  He laughed.  He was happy.  Because Michael loves being a dad, he really does.  What was one more when we already had a house full?

That was Finn, born 21 months after Lilah, and also born at home.  This time I was better prepared for what to expect with a natural birth, and although I’m pretty sure I was just as loud, I knew I wasn’t going to die, and I didn’t come away feeling like I had failed.

But Finn came with a big surprise: Down syndrome.  And not only that, he ended up in the hospital having major surgery when he was a day old to correct an intestinal atresia he was born with.  He spent two weeks in the NICU, and the whole experience absolutely yanked the rug out from under me.  The aftermath of his birth was a very sad, dark time for me, and I found myself once again wanting a do-over.

In time, that feeling passed, though.  I recognized it for what it was – part of the process of grieving upon the arrival of a child who was very different from what I had expected – and I made peace with it as Finn grew older and burrowed his way deeper and deeper into my heart.  And in time, we were finally able to start enjoying things as a family that were too difficult to do when I was constantly pregnant, nursing, and caring for infants.

And then, when Finn was only 7 months old, Michael was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.  The rug was yanked out from under us yet again.  It was a horrific experience, for a long time not knowing if he was going to live or die, watching him go through a grueling, year-long treatment process of chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries.  His illness really gave me pause to consider how absolutely, horrendously difficult it would be to raise six children on my own should the worst happen to Michael.  And maybe for the first time, I realized how irresponsible it was to have more kids than one could take care of on her own should it come to that.  It scared the crap out of me – it still does.

Michael’s cancer treatment left us with the impression that having anymore kids was off the table.  As part of his treatment, he underwent 6 weeks of daily pelvic radiation, and although no doctor ever said, “This will make you sterile,” they did ask Michael if we wanted to have more kids, and mentioned the possibility of banking sperm for those people undergoing this type of treatment who did wish to have children in the future.  No, we were done.  And this took the decision out of our hands, anyway, or so we thought.

And so, when in October of 2011 I discovered at the age of 44 that I was pregnant again, it was on the short list of Most Shocking Events Of My Life.  We hadn’t been doing anything to prevent it because we just didn’t think it was even a possibility.  And because I wasn’t keeping track of anything anymore, I couldn’t, for the life of me, even figure out when it had happened, and it wasn’t until I had my first ultrasound that I found out I was about three months along.

That was Scarlett, baby number 7.

It’s funny . . . I remember after Kevin was born, how much I missed being pregnant, and I thought to myself, “I want to have TEN kids!”  Never dreaming how close to that number I would actually come.  I remember enjoying every one of my pregnancies so much that I joked, “I’ll just keep getting pregnant until I’m in menopause,” never imagining how close I would actually come to doing just that.

No, never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would have this many kids, and no, we didn’t exactly set out to have this many kids.  But here we are, and I wouldn’t change it.  It’s not lost on either one of us how different, and in many ways easier, our life would be if we had stopped several kids ago.  But it’s useless to think about that for too long, because here they all are, and the beauty of it usually far outweighs the could-have-beens.

No matter what I do in my life, I think I will always feel that growing life and giving birth, and yes, frustrating and taxing as it is, raising children, will have been the most profound experiences of my life.  Maybe partly because initially it took me so long to get pregnant in the first place – I spent years feeling like a part of me was missing, so deep was my longing to have a baby.  And then when I finally did get pregnant, I savored it and mourned it when it was over, and longed for it again . . . and again.

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Scarlett @ Three Months

Three months!!  Whooeee – how is it possible?  Before I know it, she’ll be dating!  Oy.

At three months, here’s what my little nugget is up to –

Still Little Miss Cranky Pants much of the time, although she is having more frequent and longer periods of just chillin’, cooing and gracing us with her lopsided grin.  She’s a tough baby – have I mentioned that?  I know these pictures make me look like a liar.  She still wants to be held almost all the time, and she doesn’t sleep on the go.  That means that when I’m out running errands with her (which is necessary a lot of the time), she doesn’t sleep, and then she gets so overtired that she just melts down and is a wreck.  I’ve successfully gotten her completely hooked on sleeping in her swing, although for the last two days she has napped in her bassinet (yay!  Fingers crossed that this is a new trend!).

Let me just stop there and have a quick word about Attachment Parenting.  I’m a big fan, a believer, in Attachment Parenting, to the extent that it’s possible.  And that is key – to the extent that it’s possible.  Hardcore AP just isn’t possible with this many kids – at least it isn’t for me.  I can’t sleep with her all the time, and I can’t wear her all the time, I just can’t.  We all do what we can, don’t we?

(And that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to sort my thoughts and write about why we moms give so much of a crap, anyway, about how other moms parent their kids.  Maybe I’ll get to that soon.)

Back to Miss Scarlett: She’s rolling from tummy to back and from back to tummy, and as you can see, she rocks a tutu and pearls.  I don’t know how much she weighs, but she’s a peanut, and is still in newborn clothes.

She had her first cold this past week.  I knew it was inevitable with all the other kids back to school and bringing cooties home.  Fortunately it was pretty mild and short-lived.  She did spike a fever for one night – and fevers in infants scare the crap out of me thanks to the twins both contracting meningitis when they were two months old.  But Scarlett was fine, so.

 

 

What else?  When I was pregnant with her, I meant to start pumping and giving her bottles within the first couple of weeks, but it just never happened.  So she’s 100% a boobie girl, which means I can’t leave her for more than an hour or two.  I remember this frustrating me with some of my other babies (none of them ever took kindly to bottles anyway, so it probably doesn’t make too much of a difference that I never even tried with Scarlett), but it doesn’t feel like I big deal this time around.  She’s only going to be a baby for such a short time.

 

 

As for me, three months later, I’m hanging in there.  Sometimes I still wonder if I might be dealing with some postpartum issues.  The crying jags still hit me from time to time, and they seem to come out of the blue, but they seem to have become less frequent.  I honestly don’t know if it’s hormonal, or just life stuff.  Probably a combination, but I’m dealing as best as I can.

I had a surprisingly hard time with my birthday this year . . . it’s funny – having a new baby should make me feel young, right?  But in some ways it just doesn’t.  Not that I feel old, exactly, but . . . I guess I’m at a point where I know my youth is truly behind me.  I have a hard time with passages – I always have.  And having this last baby at my age, it’s been such a gift, a bonus, but it’s also come with the knowledge that this will never, ever happen again, and that so many of the things you work towards and look forward to during the first  couple of decades of adulthood are just behind me, period.  Does that make sense?  It’s not that I’m not grateful for the bounty of my life, but there has been a sadness lately that so much of my life is behind me.

Blah.

I have up days and down days, and don’t we all anyway?

But Scarlett, she’s a peach.

 

 

8 + 8

In January 2004 I found myself pregnant for the third time.  Michael and I were thrilled.  Baby number 3 would likely complete our family (HA!!). In February 2004, a routine dating ultrasound at my first OB appointment revealed something so shocking that for several moments, I was convinced that the image on the screen was stuck there from someone else’s ultrasound.

 

We would be having not one, but TWO babies.

After a mostly smooth and uneventful pregnancy, during which time I grew bigger than I thought it was possible to grow, I went into labor at just a couple of days shy of 38 weeks.

 

Annabelle was born at 2:21 p.m., weighing 5 pounds 12 ounces and measuring 18 inches, and Daisy emerged 18 minutes later at 2:39 p.m, weighing 6 pounds 1 ounce and measuring 19 inches.  Since then, it’s been one adventure after another with these two!

Annabelle & Daisy, newborn

 

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

 

Eight

Raising twins has been something else.  Early on, I felt like I had won the lottery, getting TWO babies who grew into two chubby-cheeked, curly-headed cherubs at first glance.  It only took about a year and a half, however, to learn that those curls and chubby cheeks hid evil genius.  Okay, I kid!  They’re not evil, but man, oh man, do they run me ragged with their antics.

Happy birthday, my beautiful, wild, and wacky girls.

 

A Review of Swaddle Blankets/Wraps

Having never really mastered the trick of swaddling an infant snug and secure with a garden-variety receiving blanket like they do in the hospital, I was happy to discover a product when Finn was an infant that made swaddling super easy even for someone who is all thumbs: the SwaddleMe blanket.  It worked really well for Finn, and he was a baby that demanded to be swaddled until he was probably 7 or 8 months old.

Having had such good luck with the SwaddleMe with Finn, when I found myself expecting another baby, I put a few SwaddleMe blankets on my shower registry (I had long ago gotten rid of Finn’s swaddle blankets, as well as most of all the other baby stuff, so absolutely sure was I that there would be no more babies for us).  As it turns out, Scarlett is also a baby who demands to be swaddled.  However, she’s a different sort of baby than Finn was; let’s just say she’s a lot more feisty.  The SwaddleMe worked okay for her, but it had some drawbacks.  Thankfully, I discovered that there are actually a number of different types of swaddlers on the market, so I decided to try a few of them out.  Here are my reviews on them.  You’re welcome.

SwaddleMe:

This is a pretty straightforward wrap: you tuck Baby’s legs into the pouch, wrap one side over the arms, and then the other side, and the whole thing is secured with velcro.  There is a lightweight stretchy cotton version for the warmer months, and a fleece version for colder months.  This is by far the most affordable swaddler, priced at around $13.

As I said, the SwaddleMe worked well for Finn, who, once wrapped tight, was pretty docile as I recall.  Scarlett, on the other hand, is pretty active, and strong, and although she seems to need to be swaddled in order to sleep (unless she’s snuggled up with Mommy, which just isn’t always possible), she manages to kick her feet out of the pouch on this one, and work her hands out through the top as well.  She was born with a nuchal arm, and I swear this girl is just determined to have her hands up by her face.  So the main problem we have with the SwaddleMe is that it just isn’t quite secure enough to contain her.  Accordingly, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one for especially active infants.

The product description says it’s for birth to 3 months, although if you have a small baby, you’ll be able to use it beyond that.  On the flip side, if you have an especially large baby, you probably won’t be able to use this for very long.

HALO Sleepsack Swaddle:

This one combines the genius of a sleep sack with a swaddler by way of “wings” attached to the sleep sack that wrap around Baby’s upper body and secure with velcro.  The pouch of the SwaddleMe is eliminated, and so, too, is the problem of Baby working her feet out of the wrap.  It’s very easy to secure: just pop Baby in, zip to close, and wrap the wings around her.  It seems to hold Scarlett securely enough, too, that she doesn’t work her hands out of the top.  The only drawback to this one, from our experience, based on our own baby’s particularities, is that it provides lots of room for Baby’s legs and feet to move around, and for babies who do better being swaddled tight from the neck down, this freedom of movement doesn’t always work so well.  Still, sometimes it works just fine for Scarlett, so I keep it on hand.  This one is priced at around $20, and is also available in both lightweight cotton and micro fleece models, and comes in sizes Preemie, Newborn, and Small for wearability up to 6 months.

Miracle Blanket:

So far, this one is our favorite, and I had never even heard of it until a commenter mentioned it here on my blog (thank you!).  What makes this swaddler unique are the inner flaps that secure Baby’s arms, and the extra long outer “wings” that really hold Baby secure.  There is no velcro or zipper on the Miracle Blanket; instead, the long wing is wrapped around and around Baby.  Like the SwaddleMe, Baby’s legs are contained in a pouch, so a super active baby can kick her way out, but this has only happened a couple of times so far with Scarlett.

I wouldn’t say this one lives up to its “miraculous” name, as Scarlett still fights sleep in it and often has to be picked up and re-wrapped a few times before she settles down, but as far as features and effectiveness, I like this one the best.

Priced at about $25, the Miracle Blanket is available only in stretchy cotton, and not microfleece.  The product description says it’s for birth to 14 weeks, but I’m thinking it can be used beyond 14 weeks for even an average-size infant.  Scarlett is just about 13 weeks, and admittedly on the smallish size, and she still has plenty of room to grow in hers.

Woombie:

When I came across this one online, I loved the idea of it: simple design, easy to use, secure, with no way for Baby to work either her feet or hands out of it.  It is by far the easiest to use: just place your baby in, zip up, snap, and voila!  Scarlett didn’t like it, though, and neither did I.

The Woombie is supposed to mimic the close quarters of the womb, and it does hold baby very securely.  I found it difficult to get her arms into a comfortable position, though, and the trouble is that once you zip it up, her arms are stuck in whatever position they ended up in when you stuffed her into the thing.  My main concern, however, is the tightness of the neck opening – it’s too tight in my estimation.  I’m actually kind of surprised they would make the neck opening so small.  We did get the smallest size Woombie, which might explain it, but it’s supposed to fit up to 13 pounds, and Scarlett is well under 13 pounds, so . . .

Priced at about $27, this is the most expensive one we tried.  It’s available in different models and sizes up to 6 months.

And there you have it.  I’m sure there are even more swaddlers on the market, but these are the ones we’ve tried.

Tune in next week for my review of baby snot suckers!  Just kidding 😉

In the Night

What is it about nighttime that makes all my worries, hurts, bad memories, and all of the issues left unresolved from the day, seem so much bigger and more ominous?

There are nights when sleep eludes me, for whatever reason: a restless baby, a snoring husband, my own inability to just shut off my brain.  I try to lie still, waiting for that drifting feeling, hoping that sleep will float down onto me.  Sometimes it does.  Sometimes, though, a thought or feeling that may have seemed vague during the day suddenly looms large.  I worry it and worry it, teasing it as if it’s an angry dog ready to spring – not out of any sense of amusement, but rather an inability to stop myself from doing so.  And before I know it, what felt manageable in the daylight now seems nearly insurmountable.  And the cycle is then in motion: my mind is racing with bad emotion, and so I can’t sleep, and the not sleeping, the lying awake in the dark, makes everything seem bigger and badder.

And there I am, a one-woman band, playing all the parts of the conversations I imagine having, or replaying the ones I did have, or acting out all the parts of a scenario in my head, looking for resolution, and usually finding none.

It’s at night, when the house is quiet, when I am alone with myself (for even a restless baby and a snoring husband are not really present), when all the motion and distractions of the daytime are stripped away – it’s always then that I can get to feeling truly overwhelmed, when everything seems magnified.

No wonder children are afraid of the dark.

Eventually, though, the sun rises again and all those big, bad thoughts recede, waiting for another night to taunt me.

Finn: A Visit To the Ophthalmologist

I mentioned not long ago that Finn’s left eye has been turning inward sometimes.  This has been a fairly new development; I’ve only started noticing it in the last month or two.  At his regular 4-year well check with our pediatrician, I was told that it’s an optical illusion – that his eye is not actually turning in.  I called bullshit – this isn’t my imagination, nor is it an illusion.  Not only that, but shortly after that appointment, his right eye also started turning in occasionally.

This morning we went to see a pediatric ophthalmologist – the same one he’s seen before, although it’s been quite a while since his last visit.

It was a nightmare.  Screaming 4-year old, screaming infant.  At one point, I was holding both Finn and Scarlett on my lap in the exam chair.  Finn has apparently developed quite an aversion to big, scary chairs, weird medical equipment, and lights being shined in his eyes.  He screamed and cried and thrashed through the entire examination, even kicking the doctor.  I finally put Scarlett back in her stroller where she screamed her head off, and sat with Finn in the exam chair, holding him in a headlock/bear hug with my legs pinning his legs, while he continued to howl and yell and cry.  And the truth?  What kept running through my head was, “This is the picture of Down syndrome, of developmental disability, that everyone is afraid of: the screaming, thrashing child who can’t verbalize his feelings, whose face is a mottled, snotty, drooly mess.”  I just wanted to cry.  But that would have made three of us crying, and although the doctor was extremely sweet and patient, I fear that would have put even her over the edge.

As it turns out, Finn does have strabismus, which is not uncommon in the general population of children, but is especially common in children with Down syndrome.  I have to admit that I take a perverse satisfaction in this confirmation that Finn’s intermittently misaligned peepers is neither illusion nor my imagination.  It’s likely that he will need glasses, but seriously, I am about 110% sure that there is no way in hell he’d keep glasses on at this point, so the doctor wants to see him again in six months, and in the meantime, we’re supposed to try to get him used to glasses by getting him some little-kid sunglasses and encouraging him to wear those.

Sigh.

 

Pressure Cooker: Friend or Foe?

I’m not one of those bloggers who regularly showcases her super creative accomplishments, step by step, photo by photo.  I’m just not.  Partly because I’m not super creative (although once upon a time I was – but who has the time anymore?  Once upon a time, I was a scrapbooker, a cross-stitcher, a veritable creative, crafting maniac . . . but I digress), and partly because I generally find those kinds of blog posts rather boring.  Unless you’re super creative and looking for inspiration, which I’m not.

Also, I hate to cook.  I really do.  My picky, complaining kids have killed whatever joy I may have once found in cooking (not that I recall ever really finding much joy in it.  A certain satisfaction?  Maybe.  But joy?  Highly doubtful.), and these days it’s drudgery.  That said, most nights of the week I do try to make a decent dinner and insist that we all sit down together as a family to eat.  Although it’s always a very noisy affair, and bickering often erupts, as well as complaining about what foods have been served up, it’s nevertheless a time when we all come together and focus on each other as a family.  Michael and I get to hear about the kids’ days at school, we laugh, we tease, we play games like Guess That Anything or Telephone, and sometimes we talk about serious issues.  I won’t lie and say it’s always the most pleasant part of the day, but it is a very important part of the day for us.

Anyway.  I kind of went off on a tangent there.  Back to the cooking thing.  I very much dislike cooking.  And I’m always looking for ways to make the whole cooking drudgery easier and more tolerable.

Recently, I was told about pressure cookers by my optometrist (who also happens to be the sister of a very good friend of mine).  I was told that one can make certain meals – entire meals! – in less than a half hour in a pressure cooker.  I’m all over that, I thought.  So that very day, I went home and researched pressure cookers.  Her assertions were confirmed: a pressure cooker can do anything a crock pot can do, as well as many things a regular stove-top cooking pot can do, in a mere fraction of the time.  Well, I was sold.

Then I had to decide which one to get.  There are a lot of pressure cookers on the market!  Who knew?  I visited several sites that rate pressure cookers and decided on the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic:

It wasn’t cheap: $185 from Amazon.  Ouch.

It finally arrived on my doorstep about a week ago, and it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I finally got around to pulling it out of the box and perusing the directions.  As it turns out, it’s no more difficult to use than a regular stove-top cooking pot.  Really.

As my first experiment, I decided to try a pot roast.  I just picked a recipe from the instruction book (I’m guessing that you can use any slow cooker recipe and adjust the cooking time according to the information provided in the instruction book), went to the store and got all the ingredients, and got started on it at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

That valve on top is the key.  See, a pressure cooker is virtually air-tight, so heat doesn’t escape.  It gets and stays much hotter inside the pot, therefore, and the contents not only cooks quicker, but it apparently retains a lot more of its nutrients than with traditional cooking methods, and it comes out very tender – whether you’re cooking meat, vegetables, or whatever.

Prep time was about a half hour, and cooking time was an hour.  The meat came out very tender.  I’ll be honest, though, and say that I didn’t think this was a particularly delicious recipe for pot roast.  I think next time I make a pot roast, I’ll try the same recipe I usually use for my crock pot.  All in all, I think it was a success, though, and I’m eager to try some even easier dishes.

Two thumbs up!

Just For a Day . . .

Just for a day, I’d like to be okay with me.

Just for a day, I’d like to not feel like I’m failing, or falling short of the mark as a mother.

Just for a day, I’d like to stop beating myself up for not being the sort of mother I envisioned I would be.

Just for a day, I’d like to stop beating myself up for not being like other mothers I see around me (and to remember that they all have their struggles, too).

Just for a day, I’d like to stop those words that play in my head on a loop: “You’re not doing it right, this motherhood thing.  You need to be kinder.  No, you need to be more consistent.  You need to be more organized.  No, you need to relax your standards.”

Just for a day, I’d like to figure out a way to allow myself to just breathe.  To stop and smell the roses.  To savor the little things.  To just be.

Just for a day, I’d like to find the joy in motherhood that I used to feel before I became so overwhelmed by it all.  Because a little voice keeps telling me, “They’re going to grow up before you know it.  Yes, it’s hard, really, really hard sometimes, but someday you’re going to miss this time.”

Just for a day, I’d like to feel like the Super Woman others see me as.  People say to me, “Seven kids!  Wow!  I don’t know how you do it.”  I don’t know how I do it, either, and the truth is, a good part of the time, I don’t feel like I’m doing it well.  I yell too much, I don’t plan well, I feel frazzled and drained and  . . . the truth?  Often angry.  Frequently sad.  Why can’t my kids behave better? I ask myself.  What am I doing wrong?  Why is this so damn hard?  But other people seem to see a completely different picture, and I wonder how that is.

Just for a day, I wish I could see that picture.

Just for a day, I wish I could see me and my kids and my family as others seem to see us – as something pretty special.  Amazing, even.

Just for a day, I wish I could figure out how to be a friend to myself.  The kind of friend I try to be to others.  The kind that listens, reassures, comforts, and sees the good in.  Why is it so hard to be kind to myself?

Just for a day, I wish I could do all these things, these little, but enormously difficult things.  Because I think, maybe, if I could do it just for a day, then I could do it for a lifetime.

~*~

See what other moms have written on this topic, and join the Writing Prompt Community: Just For a Day

 

One Year Closer to Vaginal Atrophy

Yes, you read that right – I said “vaginal atrophy.”  Say it with me!  VAGINAL ATROPHY.

This is, apparently, one more thing I have to look forward to as I become an ever-older woman.  You see, according to an ad I happened to come across in People magazine a couple of days ago, women of a certain age – that is, menopausal, or post-menopausal, anyway – can either sit by and helplessly watch their hoohas wither and shrivel, or they can unload unspecified amounts of money to buy miraculous products that will relieve them of such heinous inflictions by Mother Nature.

Sigh.

I’m kind of hoping that pushing seven children through the ol’ baby chute has kept it in tip-top shape – kind of like body building, you know?

Enough about my vagina, though.

It’s just that I had a birthday yesterday, and suddenly I’m 45 years old.  Forty-five.  I don’t know how this happened.  I thought maybe I could trick myself into, well, just not turning 45, but it didn’t work.  I don’t like the sound of it.  It’s not that I suddenly feel any differently than I did the day before, or even the week before, or, hell, even the year before, but forty-five just has a certain ominous ring to it.  Forty-five says, “Hey!  It’s time to get serious!  Stop being such a goofball.  Belching loudly to make your sons laugh just isn’t dignified anymore.  And hey, keep an eye on that vag!”

The deeper into my forties I get, the less I like the fact that I’m in my forties.  Yeah, yeah, life is good, I have a million things to be thankful for, blah blah blah, but you know what?  Listen up, ladies: your forties is when your youth truly leaves you.  In a way, it’s sort of like that awkward adolescent stage – you know, when you weren’t really a kid anymore, but you weren’t quite an adult, either, and half the time you didn’t know if you were coming or going.  I am finding that the forties are very much like that: I’m not old yet, but I ain’t young anymore, either.  The forties are when you have to start worrying about things like, “Do these pants make me look like someone who is desperate to be younger than she actually is (and, by the way, they’re not fooling anyone)?” instead of just, “Do these pants make my ass look big?”  Or, “Will one more tattoo that is a form of self-expression make me look ridiculous?  And to which as-yet unwrinkled portion of my body should I have it applied?”

 

I look at girls – yes, girls – in their twenties and thirties and think to myself, “Ha!  Enjoy it while you can, girlfriend!  Because eventually, it’ll be like you blinked and suddenly you’ll be forty-five!”  I know I didn’t appreciate it when I had it – youth, that is.  You just don’t think about it.  You’re completely oblivious to the fact that you have firm, perky breasts that won’t always look like that, or that one day you’ll develop a bunion on your right foot, or that, gasp! you might find yourself knocked up in your mid-forties and then you’ll have to cut your infant’s nails while wearing reading glasses!

Okay, it’s not all bad, being at this stage of life, I suppose.  It’s true that in many, many ways, I probably feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before.  That’s not to say that certain insecurities I’ve carried around for years don’t persist, or that middle age hasn’t foisted some new ones on me, but inside, I know who I am and what I believe in.  I know what’s important, and I know that life is full of lessons, and wisdom means you never stop learning.

And hell, at least I’m not 46!  Yet.