Posted in Culture, Family, Food, Home, Personal

The Older I Get, The Sweeter I Get (or something like that)

I’m not overweight, I eat and prepare healthy foods, I go for frequent walks, and do not have a family history of diabetes, so imagine my surprise when my doctor called today to say I tested positive for gestational diabetes. I knew the possibility existed when I failed my one hour test, but I figured it was a fluke and that the three hour test would come back fine. I was wrong. After twelve hours of fasting, four blood draws, over four hours in the clinic, and one large sugary drink – I failed…
…and that made me feel like a failure.

My doctor called in my prescription to Walgreen’s and set me up with appointments to see his nurse and a dietician tomorrow. I need to adjust my diet to cut sugars and carbs. Honestly, I don’t even know what carbs are, but apparently white bread, croissants, tortillas, white potatoes, and pasta are out – so basically, my life is ruined now.
Not really.
Well, sorta.

Once I got off the phone with my doctor, I immediately texted the three people in my life that I knew would comfort me – my daughter, my mom, and my husband. They were all sympathetic. My next move was to Google “gestational diabetes.” I learned that it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t a failure (even though I still feel like one.) Being a mother of “advanced maternal age” is a leading risk factor, and at 42 years old, I fall under that category. I also learned that due to the added hormones the placenta creates, my pancreas can’t make enough insulin to convert glucose into energy, so I have all this extra glucose just hanging out in my system. I still don’t even really know what my pancreas is.

My husband is going to stop by the pharmacy to pick up my machine and test strips tonight. I’ll meet with the nurse tomorrow so she can teach me how to do everything. After that, I’ll see the dietician so she can explain what I should and should not be eating. We will monitor it all daily and if there is no improvement, I’ll be put on insulin. Let’s pray it doesn’t come to that.

I must admit, I’m frightened. I’m confused. I’m overwhelmed. I’m trying not to add anxiety for the sake of the baby and my sanity, but this is really difficult to swallow. I never had any issues with my other full term pregnancies and knowing this could be age-related makes it harder because aging sucks anyway. I read that nearly 10% of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and I am one of them. Apparently I am also at risk for a c-section, though I don’t know why. (DISCLAIMER: I have nothing but respect for mothers who have had c-sections. I do not think any less of them or their birthing method. My concern is that it is a major surgery and that is scary to me.) I have so many questions and concerns. The vast majority of women return to normal blood sugar levels after the birth of their baby and are no longer considered diabetics.

That is a statistic I hope to be part of.

carbs

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Posted in Crafts, Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships, Work, writing

The Desk

After having 42 birthdays, the one that has always meant the most to me was when I turned 5. There wasn’t some extravagant Pinteresty party with fabulous decorations, a petting zoo, a professional photo shoot, and gift bags to rival the Academy Awards. No, it was a simple party with family only and a cake baked with love by my mother. My gift though, would change my life forever.
There was a gorgeous wooden desk fit for the President and with it were pens, pencils, highlighters, a stapler, tape dispenser, paper clips, folders, post-it notes, and several reams of blank paper. My brother and sister gifted me coloring books crayons, and map pencils. I can remember my mom helping rearrange my bedroom to make space for this regal desk. She gave my glasses from the kitchen that had Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar on them to organize my prizes in. I was so excited to get started!
Recently on a writers forum I belong to, we were asked if we remember the day we knew we wanted to write. I immediately recalled that birthday and images of my five year old self, sitting at my desk played in my head. That was the day I decided I would pen books and illustrate them. I was going to write poems and also be a journalist. I had big dreams!
As I looked back to the day, nearly 40 years ago, I realized something I never noticed before. That large, regal wooden desk fit for the President, wasn’t even that big. It wasn’t that regal, either. In fact, it was second-hand. It had nicks, discoloration, and old pen marks on it. It was just an average desk my parents picked up at a yard sale. And all those office and art supplies? They were the same exact ones you could find at my parents’ offices. We were by no means poor, but were definitely on a budget back then.
And you know what? Now that I’ve had this revelation, it doesn’t change a thing! I will still think of that as the best birthday I’ve ever had. I will still consider those the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts I’ve received. They were better than any Barbie doll, board game, or the hottest toy on the market. They meant everything to me. They sparked my imagination and fueled my creative desires. They sculpted me.
Maybe I didn’t grow up to have a New York Times Best Selling Novel. Barnes & Noble closed before I could do a book tour. Maybe I’ll never make a living with my writing and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me any less of an author.
I’m proud of my accomplishments. Thousands of people read my stories. I have work that has been published with millions of followers. When I’m gone, my stories will still be here, and that’s more than I could’ve hoped for, even when I was 5.

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Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships, Work

Like I Always Have Been…

To my husband, children, friends, and co-workers…

I wake up tired. By the time I make the coffee, get dressed, pack my lunch, and get to work, I’m ready for a nap. I sit at my desk, shifting around trying to get comfortable, but I can’t. The phones start ringing as I try to listen to voicemails and answer e-mails. They’re still ringing as I clock out at 5 pm. In between, it can be chaotic. This fast-paced, high-stress job drains me mentally; therefore, it drains me physically. I’m sorry if I get frustrated, if I get short with you, and sometimes I get angry.
To my co-workers, I sincerely apologize. I promise one day I’ll come back to work and handle that shit like I always have, just like you’re used to.

Once I get home from work, I just want to lay down. I know a nap is out of the question, no matter how exhausted I feel. The thought of having to make dinner gives me anxiety. I need to go to the grocery store and still haven’t planned our meal. It’s not easy making sure everybody’s dietary needs are met and all I really want to eat is chocolate chip cookies. I don’t even know if I can survive standing that long in front of the hot stove. The kids want us to go on a bike ride or a walk to the park. They want attention that I don’t know I’m capable of giving.
To my children, I sincerely apologize. I promise one day I’ll come home and be the Mom I always have been, just like you’re used to.

After dinner, I struggle to find the energy to clean. Just clearing off the table seems an insurmountable task, but we’ve already promised our friends we would hang out and I’ve put them off too many times in the past. When we finally meet up, I sit there smiling, but not really participating in conversation. My mind is a million miles away and my body is on the verge of revolting.
To my friends, I sincerely apologize. I promise one day I’ll arrive at our gatherings being the same upbeat, positive friend I always have been, just like you’re used to.

By the time we get home and get in bed, my husband is ready for my undivided attention and I don’t mean just making love. We usually talk, cuddle, and watch a movie on the sofa until I fall asleep with my head on his lap. This is generally the best part of my day. But we don’t do this anymore. I immediately get under the covers because I’m so wiped out. I’ve been shirking my responsibilities lately and he’s had to bear the burden of picking up my slack. That means more grocery shopping, meal making, cleaning, and diapering than he’s used to.
To my husband, I sincerely apologize. I promise one day I’ll be the efficient, multi-tasking, caring and loving wife I always have been, just like you’re used to you.

My dears, I want you all to understand…
When I wake up in the morning, the baby boy I’m carrying is already awake. He moves around, trying to get comfortable as my rib cage spreads. He anticipates my one cup of coffee as much as I do. As I get dressed, desperately searching for clothes that fit, he grows even larger. I prepare my lunch, wondering if we will suffer together from heartburn later. I get to work and feel his flutters with every ring of the phone. As my tension rises, so does his. He swirls around in my belly as I shift in my seat, letting me know he’s just as uncomfortable as I am. He pushes down on my bladder, sending me to the bathroom twice an hour. Once I’m home, he feels the work stress leaving and wants us to nap, but I can’t. He squirms around asking for food because we are both famished. My appetite has been insatiable. Following dinner he urges for rest, but I prepare to meet up with friends. The entire time we hang out as our children play at the park, he punches and kicks. When we eventually get home, I rush to bed, dying to lay on my side to finally feel the relief that never comes. I’m bloated and gassy. My baby boy continues to struggle in my belly as his space gets tighter and tighter. I sleep in short intervals throughout the night, waking up every hour after having the oddest dreams. I roll out of bed exhausted and start it all over again.

My dears, I want you all to understand…
When you need a breath of fresh air, you can just walk outside. When you need to go to the bathroom, you go alone. When you need a break from everything, you have that option. Even if you’ve been working, shopping, cooking, cleaning, diapering, and parenting all day, you still have the choice to walk away for a few moments of solitude. I don’t. No matter where I go or what I do, I always have the baby with me. There isn’t a sitter in the world I can drop him off with.

Believe me, I know I’m blessed to be able to carry this child! There are thousands of women in the world that would kill to feel what I’ve described, the good and the bad. I’m emotional. I’m irritable. I don’t even know what it means to have patience anymore. I suffer from bouts of depression. I don’t much like myself right now on the inside or the outside. I’ve become an ugly person. I look in the mirror and am unhappy with the circles and bags under my eyes, the weight I’ve gained, and my lack of make-up or hairstyle. I miss being me.
To myself, but I promise one day I’ll be the same happy, confident person I always have been, just like I used to be.

miss

Posted in Family, Home, Personal

7 Life Lessons From a 7 Year Old

I love spending time with my seven year old niece. She is like a miniature version of my sister and playing with my niece reminds me of playing with my sister when we were little girls. She is smart, sweet, and just a little sassy. I am wildly jealous of her long blonde locks that reach her waist. Her maternal instincts are on point and when I see the way she mothers her “babies,” I think of her mom mothering me.
It’s a beautiful thing.

Let me tell you something else about her. This girl has no fear. She will get on stage for her dance recitals or speed down the hill in her Ezyroller, steered only by feet and instinct with no trepidation.

I am a competitive person by nature. Whether it is the co-ed volleyball team my husband and I are on or an innocent game of Old Maid with my grandson, I play to win. My moves are methodical and calculated, so when my niece hit me up for a game of Jenga, I cracked my knuckles and put on my game face.
“Let’s do this,” I said.

I intently minded her make her moves. She won four out of five rounds. While watching her play, I learned a few things:

  1. She neither hesitated making a choice, nor was she afraid of the consequences. She did not ask me what I thought would be her best choice. She made her own decision on what she thought would work best for her and went for it.
  2. If the piece she chose did not slide out easily, she did not give up. She stuck with it and kept wiggling until it came out.
  3. After she got the piece she wanted, she was not afraid to let it go. She was in complete control of that piece and put it back on top without a care in the world.
  4. When the tower got weak and wobbly, she did not get timid. She was more determined to get the piece she wanted.
  5. When the tower finally fell, she did not get upset. She laughed and wanted to restart immediately.
  6. It is completely possible to win Jenga while suffering from hiccups.
  7. Final thought:
    I wonder if adults spend too much time trying to decide what choice to make, considering all the consequences. She just jumped right in and her decision was right more often than not.

 

jenga

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Revenge of the Fifth

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Some call it karma. I guess I had it coming. I had spent nearly twenty-three years professing how amazing my pregnancies were. Hardly any nausea, minimal weight gain, no swelling, quick labors, fast delivery, angel babies that slept through the night and caught on to nursing at the first latch… Yes, I lived the dream.

Just before my 42nd birthday, I found out we were expecting. This would be my fifth birth, but I had an additional four I earned through marriage. I was no stranger to being a mother of “Advanced Maternal Age.” My fourth child was born when I was forty, but like the others, she was easy peasy. I am now in the second trimester of this pregnancy, or as some like to call it, “The Honeymoon Phase.”
Listen honey, if this is the honeymoon, I want a divorce.

I am tired. So very tired. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s because I have a toddler with more energy than a hydrogen bomb, but my guess is, it’s the new baby growing inside me sucking the life from my soul. Literally.

One morning last week, I woke up with a debilitating back ache. If I turned the wrong way, lightning would strike my spine and shoot down my leg. My right butt cheek would be left on fire. Apparently, our pending bundle of joy has caused my uterus to expand in such a way that I now have a pinched nerve. Sciatica during pregnancy is very real and very painful. I’ve been walking around hunched over like an old lady in need of a walker. I wince every time I sit. I can’t pick up my toddler out of fear of paralysis.
My best friend bought me a heating pad and I sit on a pillow at work. Also, if you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s Tiger Balm. Holy Christ on a cracker, this balm is the bomb! I slather that shit on like it holds the Fountain of Youth.

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As I waddled up to the check-out at Walgreen’s yesterday, the clerk looked down at my purchases (tennis balls and an electric massager) and gave me a solemn look.
“Pinched nerve?” she asked knowingly.
“My baby is trying to kill me,” I replied as I stuck my card in the chip reader. That card doesn’t even have a chip. I sighed, swiped it, and gimped away.

I had done my research. Google, Pinterest, and my faithful Facebook Mommy Group (shoutout to MoNBU) all offered the same advice. It was jumbled mix of foreign words I didn’t understand like, “exercise, stretches, yoga, workout, asana,” and something about remaining “active.”
…Basically, there was NOTHING I could do except lay around and complain to my husband in between naps.

He’s been a good sport about it. Just last night he cleaned the entire kitchen. He hasn’t said a word about my acne outbreaks, bloating, whining, uncontrollable hunger, daily mental breakdowns, or when I complain about the painful cramping that turns out to just be gas. Ooops. Sorry, baby.

loveme

 

 

 

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Another Revolution, Another Resolution 

Most years I don’t make any resolutions. I tell myself I’m happy just the way I am. I’ve never been a person who said I would try to lose weight, eat healthier  (frankly, my eating habits are none of my business and I should just stay out of it,) or do something about my batwings. (Lord help that arm flab.)

Last year I did decide to try the New Year jar where you write down a happy moment, place it in the jar, and read all the happy memories on NYE. That lasted until spring when I decided to use the jar as a homemade lemonade container. Now it looks like nothing happy happened in our lives after March in 2016. *sigh*


I also resolved to be less of a pushover. The basic definition of a pushover is a person who rarely says no, so in that regard, I failed… but did I? I’ve always taught my children that if someone asks a favor of you and you can do it, by all means do it. A small effort on your part can make a huge difference for someone else. I rarely said “no” in 2016, so I call that fail a win.

I also promised myself I would complete my first book and I did. It was sent to a renowned children’s publisher on November 9th. They said it could take four months to hear back from them so I’m holding my breath until March 9th. Even if it never gets published, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I wrote it and I think it’s pretty damn good.

I’ve started writing my next book in the style of my favorite author, humorist Erma Bombeck. It’s a comedic autobiographical acount of what it’s like for me to be a 20th Century mom raising a 21st Century baby. Basically, it’s just a longer version of some of my funnier blogs and hopefully relatable to parents everywhere. I hope to complete it in 2017 and have higher hopes of it getting published. I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I’m not expecting it make the best seller lists, but I would like for it to hit home for many parents out there.

I do strive to be a better wife and better mother. I don’t need December 31st to make those goals. It’s something I strive for daily.

For the past week, I’ve tried to think of what resolutions I’ll make tonight and I’ve come up empty-handed. I don’t want to set myself for failure, I don’t want to set any meaningless goals, but I do want to have something to strive for in the new year. I’m a list maker and love the satisfaction of crossing something off my list.

So what will it be? Sky-diving? Learn to play the piano? Decide what I want to be when I grow up? Teach myself how to fishtail braid? Clean out the thousands of emails in my inbox?

Whatever it is, I may not choose it tonight and that’s okay. January 1st may represent a clean slate, but you know what else does? Every single new day.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that having the chance to wake up every morning – no matter the day of year, and have the oppurtunity to make a decision to better your life in some small or significant way is more than some less fortunate are able to say.

Happy New Year, All. Make it a great one!

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Personal, Relationships, Work

Life After Maternity Leave

Before I shared the news of my pregnancy with the world, I decided to tell my boss and co-managers first, in the form of a five person group text. They deserved that much, after all we were like family – a very, very dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. Apparently, they all found this news to be so unbelievable that not one single person responded. I waited a day before making the announcement on Facebook. That’s when the comments from co-workers flooded in. My boss even called me in to his office to confirm. He congratulated me and I assured him that after nine years of being a faithful employee, I would not be leaving.

Throughout my pregnancy, my employer was amazing. My boss never took issue with me having to leave work or schedule myself off due to doctor appointments or not feeling well. He checked in on me often and was very supportive. After my last pre-natal check-up, I returned to work. He asked how everything went. I told him Doc said I was dilated to three and 75% effaced. It would be any day now, in fact, I could go into labor that night. It was already two in the afternoon, so my boss told me to go ahead and go home. It would be my last day until after the baby was born. That was a Thursday; my daughter came into this world that Sunday morning.

I am not a salaried employee. I don’t have health, vision, or dental insurance, a 401K plan, sick days, vacation days, or paid time off. There is no maternity leave program. I earn an hourly wage and have a company provided (and paid for) cell phone. There are some pretty amazing perks at my job. My family can tent camp for free and float the river in a raft or a tube for free. We stay in cabins at an extremely reduced rate. I’m not required to wear a uniform – tank tops and flip-flops are perfectly acceptable. I have my own office with unlimited internet and little to no supervision as well as my own kitchen. We enjoy company paid for lunches in the summer and my boss is very flexible with my schedule. If you’re an outdoorsy person with no desire for material things, this is a dream job.

I am still humbled and overjoyed that my employer paid me a partial weekly salary while I took my leave. I am grateful for that.

When my daughter was two months old, I returned to work. It was the off-season and I was still nursing, so I brought her to work with me. The rock ‘n play was set up next to my desk and she slept most of the workday. When she was ready to nurse, I just closed my office door. My boss walked in and I held my breath. I was 98% sure he would be okay with my new office mate, but 2% of me still worried. (Yes, in retrospect, I should have asked first.)

He stopped by my office and we exchanged warm hellos as he welcomed me back. He had a new puppy on a leash with him that was very excited to meet my daughter. He fussed at the pup before saying to me, “I’m sorry I brought my dog to work.”
“I’m sorry I brought my baby to work,” I replied and that was the end of the discussion.

My daughter is one now and no longer sleeps most of the work day. I have exchanged the rock ‘n play with a pack ‘n play. She spends her time watching Chu-Chu TV on YouTube (and if I never hear the Mommy Finger song again, it will be too soon.) Sometimes I take her out of “baby jail” and let her crawl around my office as she tries to unplug my computer or just sit on my lap while I attempt to type one-handed. She loves for me twirl her around in my swivel chair.

My boss still brings his dog to work, too. She’s not a puppy anymore and he no longer keeps her leashed in his office. When they arrive, she promptly runs to me, licks my face, then goes to do her “job.” She has become the official “Guardian of the Baby.” She walks in circles around the pack ‘n play, making sure everything is as it should be. She licks my daughter’s feet through the netting, then settles down in place, right next to the play pen. If someone dares enter my office, she jumps up and stands at attention – her ears sticking straight up and her tail pointing straight out. Once she determines they are not threat, she lets her guard down.

Most days my daughter doesn’t interfere with my work, but some days… well, it can be tough. There are times when she is splayed across my desk as I change her diaper while she kicks and squirms. My office now reeks of fresh baby poop. Occasionally I take a call while she is saying, “Mommommomm” in the background. I get tired. So very tired. I wonder how I will ever get my work done while spoon-feeding a baby and wanting to rip my hair out after hearing the “Johnny Johnny” song for the umpteenth time today. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself she won’t always be here.

I don’t know what the cut-off age will be, but I know when she starts walking, talking, and getting into everything in sight, I’m going to need figure something out. Finding childcare makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to let her go. I want her with me until she has to go to school. I have no back-up plan and no idea where she will go while I’m at work. It’s a problem that sits in the back of my mind constantly and it weighs me down. I was not afforded this luxury with my older children and now that I am able to take my child to work with me, I can’t imagine not having her.

Believe me, I know I am incredibly lucky to be in this position. It’s a struggle moms all over the world face when their maternity leave ends. I am so thankful. I love my job and I love living this camplife. I’m proud to raise my daughter in this environment and will probably only retire when my hands are too arthritic to type. Until then, I hope to take my daughter to work with me as long as possible.

camplife

Hashtag camplife.

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Home, Personal

Call Me Old-Fashioned, but…

I wandered into a local children’s boutique on a mission. I was in full-on nesting mode, decorating the nursery for my soon to be born daughter. The item I was searching for? Crib bedding. It had already been decided that yellow and gray would adorn the walls and decorations. It had been eighteen years since I had a baby and I remembered being able to purchase a bed-in-a-bag with all the matching sheets, crib skirts, blankets, and throw pillow.

“Can I help you find something?” The sales clerk asked.
“Yes, I’m looking for crib sets.”
“You mean like crib sheets?”
“I’d like to find a whole set with blankets and bumper pads, too.”
“We don’t sell bumper pads anymore. They’re too controversial!”
“I didn’t know bumper pads were controversial,” I said, confused.
“Oh honey, what’s not controversial these days?”

She was right. As I began to prepare for the birth of my daughter, I was learning that many things deemed “normal” when I had my older children were now considered taboo. I fed on demand, co-slept, and didn’t abide by a stringent feeding schedule or practice sleep training. Apparently I am a bad parent because of that. How could things have changed so drastically in the course of two decades?

After my daughter was born, my husband and I were excited to get her ears pierced. In my family, girls getting their ears pierced was a rite of passage. In my husband’s Hispanic family, it was a cultural tradition. I had taken both of my older daughter’s to get theirs done after their four month vaccinations. I expected to do the same with this daughter, but I wasn’t sure where to get it done. Naturally, I asked my Mommy Group on Facebook.
Oh boy.

If you belong to a Mommy Group, you know that at times, they can be the most supporting and understanding group of people on the planet. Other times, they can be the most judgmental, mom-shaming gang of mean girls you’ll ever encounter.

“How can you justify mutilating your baby’s body just for your own selfish wants?” One mom responded. Another mom said, “Piercing your baby’s ears is equivalent to child abuse.”

SHOTS FIRED.
Child abuse? Mutilation? Whaaaaat?

There were other moms offering advice, suggesting the local pediatric clinic as well as piercing parlors. I learned that it was better if needles were used rather piercing guns, though I am still not sure why. I did not expect to be met with such disdain. The post turned into a full-on contentious debate between pro and anti-piercers. I had never seen the words “body modification” tossed around so much on one thread. It even sparked an argument about circumcision.  Uh, yes, my twenty-one year old son is circumcized, just as his father and grandfather before him. My ears are pierced just as my mother and grandmother before her.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would like go back to the time when you parent your way, I parent my way, and we all bring our favorite dish to the potluck block party in peace.

…now get off my lawn.

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Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

I Dry-Nurse My Granddaughter and I Don’t Care What You Think

She was inconsolable. I tried everything. I had foolishly considered myself an expert after raising four children and step-mothering an additional four, but nothing in my bag of tricks was working. My two month old granddaughter’s uncontrollable sobbing set off my one year old. They cried in unison. Ten minutes prior, everything was fine. I had dinner going on the stove and cartoons going on the television.

When my oldest daughter was twenty-one, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. Eleven months later, my granddaughter was born. Having a child and grandchild less than a year apart certainly has its advantages. I don’t feel guilty spending money on clothes and toys, knowing they will be passed along. We have the same pediatrician, belong to the same Mommy group, and our girls have matching car seats.

None of my children ever had colic, so when my daughter asked for advice, I had none to give. She spoke with the doctor, the pharmacist, and other moms. She tried gripe water, tummy time, swaddlers, white noise, and every pacifier on the market – to no avail. I got a frantic call from her one evening. She was overwhelmed and exhausted. Through her tears, she explained that she hadn’t bathed in four days and it had been longer since she slept. My granddaughter would only rest in twenty minute intervals and they both needed relief. I offered to take the baby for the night.

“No Mom,” she protested. “She won’t take a bottle and I don’t have any pumped milk, anyway.”

A couple of months went by and my daughter was ready to go back to work, just in time for Christmas. Naturally, I offered to babysit. Her first shift was only three hours. This would be the first time they were apart for longer than a speedy shower. She arrived at my house with an over-packed diaper bag, enough pumped milk to survive the Apocalypse, and apologies. She worried that it would be a burden for me, but I assured her I was thrilled for some time with my granddaughter! We hugged, she kissed the baby, and left for work.

So there I was, holding two crying babies, one on each hip, scolding myself for thinking I was an “expert.” I set the babies down, raced to grab the Bjorn, and strapped my granddaughter in. My own daughter was jealous and wailing. I scooped her up to my hip while trying to calm them both. Their combined screams pierced my ears, but there was something else…

…the smoke detector! It blared loud enough to drown out the babies and alert the neighborhood that I burnt the potatoes on the stove. While wildly flailing a kitchen towel at the alarm, I realized my face was wet. As I went to open the back door, I passed a mirror in the hallway. That’s when I saw my face covered in tears. I was crying with the babies and hadn’t even realized. I felt helpless, useless, and defeated. I felt what my daughter felt daily. I wanted to be a good mom and grandmom, but I felt like a failure.

With my head hanging, I worked my way down the hall, singing the ABC song. I looked up and saw my husband standing in the open doorway. We must have been a pitiful sight. I was frazzled, my knees buckling, make-up smeared from tears, and snot across my daughter’s face. He eased her off my hip and disappeared to the bedroom. I sat on the sofa, took off the Bjorn, and cradled my granddaughter in my arms. She was rooting around and I felt the “let down” even though my milk had been dry for months. It was a phantom sensation, but my maternal instincts kicked in and I latched her on my breast. I didn’t think about it really. She rooted, I offered, she accepted. Within a few minutes she was sound asleep.

My husband wandered in the living room and was surprised to see my granddaughter latched on. He asked if it was okay to do that. I didn’t see why not. All my children had comfort nursed. I was used to being a human pacifier and I was sure my daughter would be happy I consoled her, by any means necessary. And she was. When she arrived to pick up the baby, I told her the whole story and we laughed.

“I don’t mind if you don’t,” she told me.
I didn’t mind at all!

I’ve taken care of my granddaughter several times since then and each time, she’s needed a breast. I understand that to some this is seen as controversial, but truthfully, I don’t care. I love my daughter and granddaughter and will continue to do anything and everything I can to help them both – even if it means dry-nursing.

 

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Posted in Culture, Family, Food, Relationships

Chicken (Tortilla) Soup For the Soul

I was an adult before I had ever heard of or tried Chicken Tortilla Soup. The only time my mother ever served me soup was when I was sick. Even then she would usually warm up a can of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars. (Chili and stew don’t count – Momma rocked those!)

I once got food poisoning from old broccoli and cheese soup at a Black Eyed Pea Restaurant and I refused to eat it again for thirteen years. True story. Ever since, I always choose salad over soup at a restaurant. But Chicken Tortilla Soup is good – I mean really good. So about eight years ago, I decided to make it for the first time. My kids loved it! In fact, my oldest loved it so much, she wouldn’t stop eating it. I think she had nine large servings before she finally threw up un-digested chicken tortilla soup all over my kitchen floor. She begged me to never make it again and after the great broccoli and cheese incident of ’91, I was happy to oblige. We were kindred. Soup had scarred us both.

Now that it’s November in Texas, the temperature has dropped below 100 degrees. ‘Round these parts, that means soup! (Or chili – whatever.) Last night I decided to make it again. I also made a very small pot of vegan tortilla soup for Parker (recipe below.) My house smelled of garlic, cumin, and lime. The cilantro, avocado, and sour cream were fresh. I couldn’t find the cheese grater so I used dental floss to finely slice the block of cheddar. I still don’t know where that grater is.

Our front door was open, letting in the cool autumn breeze (and possibly airing out the kitchen after I burned the first round of tortilla strips in oil.) I was just about to scald my tongue when I heard a woman’s voice saying, “knock, knock” from the open door. It was our friend, Ally! She stopped by to drop off gifts for Olive. We exchanged pleasantries, chatted about her parents, and she was on her way. I finally took my first bite and it was awesome.

After some silence, I asked my husband if his mom made Chicken Tortilla Soup when he was growing up. He gave me “the look” which means, “Are you serious?” (Some people that know him interpret it as, “Are you fucking stupid?” There’s a fine line.

“Chicken Tortilla Soup isn’t a real thing, baby.”

Not real? It looked real. It smelled real. It tasted real. The jalapenos and green chilis were really making my forehead sweat. It took a really long time to make and real dollars to pay for the real ingredients. Was this somehow the Emperor’s New Soup?

“It’s just a made up thing,” he explained.

Well, of course it is made up. At some point, some person threw all the ingredients (whatever they had in the fridge, most likely) in a big pot, added some spices, and called it Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s not like there is some natural body of soup out there that we can just take soup from…
Split Pea Springs
– River of Creamy Potato
– The Egg Drop Ocean
– Lake Lentil

I understood what he was trying to say, though. He meant that it wasn’t a traditional Mexican dish. His mother made caldo; trendy restaurants made Chicken Tortilla Soup. I didn’t know that. My mother’s dinners were mostly spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, BBQ, burgers, and her signature dish – pork chops, ranch style beans, and mac & cheese. It’s not like I grew up eating diverse foods, unless we were at a restaurant. (My first experience with curry was revolting.)

My Vegan Tortilla Soup is, in fact, made up. By me. Last night. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
olive oil
1/3 can of green chiles & tomatoes (I used Ro-tel)
1/3 can of sweet kernel corn (rinsed and drained)
1/3 can whole black beans (also rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
cilantro, avocado, lime, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper to taste

optional: tofu

Directions:
Pour vegetable broth, Ro-tel, corn, and black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Add tofu chunks (optional.) Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper to your preferences. In a separate pan heat olive oil until it simmers. Add celery, onion, and garlic and saute until tender. Add contents of pan to pot. Voila!

Serve with fresh avocado chunks, chopped cilantro, fried tortilla strips, and a squeeze of lime!

soup2