Feathered Aspen


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Happy New Years!

I love the New Year.  I’m not sure that I would say it’s my favorite holiday – there needs to be a bit more tradition and food involved – but taking time to reflect on the year and make goals or intentions moving forward is definitely my jam.

It just so happens that yesterday our little Lu turned 18 months, so I’m feeling extra reflective about the milestones we’re hitting.  It’s hard to believe that Lu only started walking a scant three months ago.  She’s toddling all around the place these days, opening our cabinets and drawers, emptying them with methodic and persistent glee, and tagging along with her big sister.  Just as with Lily, she still loves to be held and carried in the Ergo, so though she’s mobile, I’m still getting plenty of snuggles.

We night weaned on November 10, though I’ve not been terribly strict about early morning feedings.  I’d much rather cave and nurse in bed in those early hours than wake up at 5 AM.  Starting on Christmas Eve, when the girls spent the day with their Nana and Grumpy, I phased out daytime feedings as well, so now we’re down to early morning and just before bed.  With all of our guests and the holidays, Lu would get a little upset and tug at my shirt, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I set her down for a proper nap sans nursing.  There were many tears, and it brought back the same sadness I experienced weaning Lily.  I find myself worrying that they won’t turn to me for comfort in the same way, that I won’t get nearly as many snuggles.  For the moment, I don’t have a fully weaned deadline in mind, but we’re definitely on that path.

Lu has been cutting some teeth in the past month, and her favorite teething soother is frozen blueberries.  She even attempts to say the word (which is a bit astonishing given how few words she has).  She loves bananas, blueberries, clementines, rice, beans, and cheese (all the cheese, both of my girls).  Though we’ve tried to give her milk, she’s not a big fan.

Our friends and family remark that Lu is a bit more shy and a “momma’s girl” compared to Lily at this age, and it’s probably true.  I also think she’s more independent.  She’s happy to explore things by herself.  When she’s around her big sister, she’ll make exclamatory noises (screaming for fun, “no!” “uh oh”), but it’s not until her sister is in another room that she plays more with language.  She can be quite quiet!  She is also, admittedly, rarely interested in being held by anyone other than myself, though Joshua is a close second these days, and she’ll go to people with whom she is more familiar.

We’re picking up a few more signs, including ‘all done,’ ‘more,’ ‘please,’ ‘diaper,’ and ‘food.’  Verbal words include mama, dada, enri (!), poop, wa.  She knows a ton of words, and she follow many requests, including retrieval of all sorts of things, pointing at body parts and different family members.

Dear Lu, it’s been such a year.  It’s amazing to think you’ve been with us the whole time!  From a lovely spring, to Minnesota, through a move, to Wyoming, Mexico, and then through the warm days of summer.  This fall, we’ve settled into a groove.  You’ve grown, beginning those forays of independence with plenty of curiosity and interest.  I love you, little one.

As I write, Lily and Lu are off in the other room.  I can’t hear them, but I know they’re playing.  Probably creating a massive mess, but hey.  I’m happy to clean up after them if they’re playing well together.  Which is one of the things I’m most proud of when it comes to Lily.  She is such a good big sister.  She is loving, protective, and finally, finally, finally sharing so much better.  She’s the mistress of taking turns, making trades, and these days, she’s even willing to wait people out.  This doesn’t mean that we never have disagreements, but the improvement from this time last year to now is night and day.

Joshua and I remark nearly every day how grown up Lily is becoming.  She is very articulate, a great conversationalist, and she shows so much interest in the people and things around her.  I’m pleased to report that I’ve written down some of the funny things she’s said this week:

  1. I’m telling Lily about the New Year, and as I’m telling her that this year was 2015 and next year will be 2016, she says, “that’s a lot of macaroni and cheese!”
  2. We’re laying in bed, trying to fall asleep when Lily says, “I have an idea.  If we don’t get a vanagon or a school bus, we could get a truck with skis on it.  But if that’s too expensive, we could just go on an airplane ride.”
  3. On Christmas Eve, Lily is beside herself with excitement and worry over Santa.  She hides her favorite present in my closet, worried that Santa might take it and give it to another kid.  She’s babbling to herself, saying things like.  “The stick is mine, but maybe Lu can have my camera.  Or maybe daddy can have the stick and Lu can have the camera.”  Then she pauses, shakes her head, and says, “the problem is the camera.”
  4. Joshua asks Lily what her favorite part of Christmas was, and she says, “The people.  The conversations.  The reading.”  So, win.  We win.
  5. In Taos, we were telling Lily what a wonderful big sister she is, and we were telling her that we think she’s ready to have another sibling (I’m not pregnant).  Lily says, “yeah, I’m good at taking turns, and I can teach them to regulate their emotions!”  I think she’s heard me quote her enough that now this phrase is a regular 🙂

One of my favorite things that Lily does is sing to herself.  She makes up songs about babies, fairies, and dogs.  It’s very sweet.  I also love how much she loves to read, though sometimes I grow weary of reading that many picture books!  The sweetest thing is to come in the room and see the two of them sitting down with a pile of books, reading quietly.

As for me, I’m feeling good about having completed 4 of 6 pre-requisites for an accelerated nursing program.  I’ve been reading a lot, and running a ton too.  On Christmas Eve, Joshua and I ran 12 miles on trail, and though it was definitely a challenge, my fitness level is good enough that I can pick up and do something like that.  Nordic skiing for three hours, though.  That was HARD.

My best discoveries this year were:  minimalism, podcasts, and mindfulness.  Though I am by no means an expert in any of these arenas, I’m so pleased to be exploring them.  During the first half of the year, Joshua and I got rid of more than half of all of our things.  With Sarah, I ran two garage sales, and we gave away nearly 5 truckloads of things to the thrift store.  Early this fall, I read Marie Kondo’s Magic Art of Tidying Up and did another comb through.  Though I’m sure there are still things I could get rid of, I’m most pleased that the desire to acquire more things has abated.  I used to always have a running list of things that I wanted, especially clothing.  Now, my wardrobe is smaller than ever – everything fits in my small closet! – and I rarely feel the pull to buy anything new.  Even my thrift shopping trips, which I still enjoy, are much more modest.  I’ll come away with one or two items and promptly purge one or two items when I get home.

As for podcasts, I listened to my first one early in the year, and I haven’t stopped.  My favorites are:

  1. The Lively Show (this was my introduction to podcasts)
  2. Serial (of course)
  3. On Being (this is my all time favorite podcast.  Krista Tippet can do no wrong.)
  4. Women of the Hour (a short 5 episode podcast by Lena Dunham)
  5. Magic Lessons (an 11 episode podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert)

These keep me interested, keep me thinking.  I’m so grateful for the inspiration.

In terms of mindfulness, I haven’t gotten quite as deep, but I’m looking forward to doing more this year.  I read The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and these were supplemented by interviews on On Being and The Lively Show.  I’ve done some mindfulness meditation and yoga, and I’m excited to do more yoga this year  (because Joshua’s awesome Christmas Present to me was a 10 pack to CorePower).

The other thing I’m really excited about for this year is that I’ve decided to invest more in community building.  The first area is with becoming more politically invested.  I’m a big Bernie Sanders supporter, and the Colorado headquarters for his campaign is conveniently located a couple of blocks away!  We’ve also committed to supporting causes we care about when they come up.  I really like UNICEF, we attended a Moms Against Gun Violence rally, and I’ve begun writing politicians about refugee and fossil fuel policies.  The other area is super exciting.  I’ve finally made some progress on the non-profit I mentioned this summer.  Though I had had the goal to get it off the ground in the fall, I’m pleased to tell you that I figured out a way to circumnavigate all the paperwork.  I contacted parks and recreation and you’re looking at a contractor for the city of Edgewater!  I’ll be running a community storytime and playgroup one day a week in an effort to build community and create an unbranded, public space for parents and kids to connect.  I’m sooooooo excited about this, and I’ll be sharing more as time goes on, but I start the first week of February!

Unfortunately, I poorly timed taking a math placement exam through MSU, so I won’t be able to take a class this semester, but I’ll be looking forward to taking time to write and work on my storytime and playgroup, and I’ll hopeful resume classes again in the fall.

Thank you all for reading along with us here.  I love that this little blog is a means of communicating with our loved ones flung near and far, and I also love that this has become record of our days together as a family.  Wishing you and yours a very merry New Year!!!


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Minimalism

I think of minimalism kind of like I think of political parties… There are some basic principles that people who claim membership seem to agree upon, but that’s were the similarities begin and end.  There’s rich, poor, North, South, religious, atheist, and every shade in between.

I am by no means an expert on minimalism.  I hesitate to even label myself or my lifestyle as minimalist, knowing that so many people live with much less than I do and knowing how much I still hang on to that I have either neglected to or can’t bear to jettison.

But disclaimers aside, this has been my journey for the past year or more.  I was asked by a friend to share a few thoughts on that journey and perhaps offer up some advice for a beginner who is intrigued by this lifestyle shift.  Keeping in mind that I’m barely more than a beginner myself (aha one more disclaimer), here goes:

  1. Where did all of this begin for you?
    • I think the first time I started to think about minimalism as an attractive lifestyle was way back in 2010.  Stacy mentioned that she read Rowdy Kittens, and I loved the idea of her tiny house.  Last fall, I started reading about capsule wardrobes, and I loved the idea.  I decided to pare down my wardrobe to 100 items (including work out gear, sleep clothes, and underwear) for six months.  At the same time, I decided to go on a spending fast.  For six months, I didn’t buy anything other than food or toiletries.  It was a pretty successful experiment.  I made a couple of exceptions:  one for Christmas (about $100), one for Halloween ($13), and then I broke about a week early for sunglasses and tennies for Lily ($50).  But other than that, I held fast.  I gave up other things, too:  Instagram for a month and then for lent, LOADS (as in truck-fulls of stuff) and a negative attitude, as much as I was able.
  2. What do you like about minimalism?
    • I love feeling less attached to my things.  I love feeling like I don’t need stuff to be happy.  I love how sloughing off layers things has meant that I’ve begun a much more metaphysical journey too.  I’d like to say that I clean less, and maybe I do (but it sure still feels like a lot), but the real benefits have been mental and even spiritual.
  3. How has paring down to the essence impacted your life?
    • Holding back from buying things was my first experience with feeling a feeling, observing the feeling, and then letting it pass.  In other words, it was one of my first deliberate experiences of mindfulness.  I suppose it’s fitting then that paring down and consuming less and caused me to slow down and look inward.  I started listening to a podcast (which, if you talk to me on a regular basis, I’m sure to have mentioned at least, oh, a dozen times) The Lively Show, and her interviews led me down a whole new path of self-help, values based intentions, and mindfulness.
    • Along the same vein, I read The Conscious Parent, and I really experienced a mind-shift not just when it comes to parenting but living in general.  This summer, I dove completely down the rabbit hole, and now I’m seeking out all the intuitive, new-agey stuff that generally gets a bad rap.  Among my gurus at the moment are Ashley Neese, Brooke Castillo, and (of course) Eckhart Tolle while I’m reading The Power of Now (on a side note:  I vacillate between loving and hating this book.  I mostly hate it, but I WANT to love it.)
    • All of this means that I’m trying to be more mindful.  I’m trying to slow down and appreciate the things and people right before me.  I’m trying not to fantasize about a future.  I’m trying to let go of the past.  I’m trying to sit with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings.  I’m SUPER not great at this, but it’s a start, and it’s about as night-and-day to the me of five years ago.  That me was convinced that the misery of my present was a great bargaining chip for a super lovely future.
  4. What were some of your first steps?
    • As I’ve mentioned, my first steps were really to seek out inspiration.  The wardrobe was a big one, and once I found success with that, I felt empowered to tackle our whole lifestyle.
    • It’s funny, because I was explaining this to a friend a while ago, and she asked me if I was trying to bring minimalism into my non-material life, like my relationships or habits.  At the time, I didn’t think so, but now I’m realizing that my drive to spend more time outside, less time on-screen, more time present, and less time preoccupied by my thoughts are all in the same spirit as minimalism.  If you wanted to boil it down, I guess these interests could be summed up (alas) by some hashtags that I’ve spent browsing:  #childhoodunplugged #wildandfreechildren #slowliving #bepresent.  Gah.  The irony of that just kills me.
  5. What are some of your next steps?
    • Oh this is the easiest question (haha, I wrote all of the questions for myself)!  Another irony, of course, because no one is second-guessing my skills at planning the future 😉
    • I want to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  I’ve heard so much about this book that I’ve even recommended it to people without yet having read it myself…  So what am I waiting for?  I need to finish The Power of Now (which is slowly killing me), and I wanted to wait until I knew I could go through the whole house and really properly “Tidy Up.”
    • I want to do yoga.  I’ve really come full circle on this one, and I’m so there, but despite my readiness to just through myself into yoga, I haven’t been able to figure out the money and routine that needs to go into it.  That said, I’m hopping to go this Saturday!
    • I want to get rid of more stuff.  I’m feeling another truck-full coming on.
    • I want to journal more.  I especially want to work on some of the exercises Brooke Castillo outlines in her podcast.
    • I need to start writing.  I want to finish my book (that’s about 2/3 done but that I haven’t touched since before Lu was born).
    • Last but not least, I’ve downloaded an app called “Happify.”  It has a number of tracks, and I’m doing the mindfulness one.  It’s forcing me to buckle down and meditate, and that’s something that I really want to work on because I know that it will help me be more present.
  6. What have some of your best breakthroughs been?
    • There are a couple of quotes that have become like mantras to me:
      • “Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.” – Leonard Kohen
      • “Your capacity for happiness will never be greater than it is today.” – Brooke Castillo
      • “So break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance.  Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed.  Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.  If you you find it hard to enter the the Now directly, start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from the now.” – Eckhart Tolle
      • “There is a voice that doesn’t use words: listen.” – Rumi
    • One of the ways that I’ve found to be intentional, minimal, and mindful (the trifecta!) in our home is to focus on the five senses.  I’m not there yet, but part of my “poetry” is making sure that there is something devoted to each sense in our home.  I’ve had the most success with smell.  I have a stash of incense, essential oils, and a diffuser, and I use these every day.  Paying attention to a lovely smell helps me zero in on the moment, and it’s become a strategy in comforting the girls when they are sensitive.  Touch too is linked with the oils.  One of my favorite mindful parenting strategies has been to massage the girls with good smelling oils.  Lily, in particular, finds it comforting and relaxing, and I think it’s a sweet and simple way to show them love.  For a while, I’ve been planning on getting a record player so that we can have a slow, screen-free way of honoring sound through music (but they’re expensive, damn it!).  As for sight, we’re still working on moving in and making this place home again.  We have art, but I’m really aiming for a calm, serene, minimal-yet-poetic space, and I’m struggling to strike that balance.  Hopefully, in time, our space will reflect that intention.  As for taste, I think that’s one of our strengths, but I just recently rented a book from the library on brewing kombucha, and I think that may be a new, fun frontier for me (and also solve the problem of coffee…  Such a lovely ritual, but I’ve been learning more about how it messes with our biorhythms and endocrine system, so…)!
    • After reading The Conscious Parent, I really began trying to look at the girls as my guides.  I’ve been trying to meet them as they are and progress from there, honoring their unique needs and not projecting my own baggage onto them.  People, this is not easy.  I fail pretty regularly (as in, this morning), but just that shift in perspective has given me more balance.
    • Listening to podcasts!  What a great way to spend a run and to bring some grace back with you into your everyday life.

Well, thanks for letting me share!  I’d love to hear what you guys think/any sources of inspiration you think might be helpful!

xo


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Three Lessons

My uncle once told me something that has stuck with me.  We were talking about Dave Eggers, and he was essentially saying that reading the memoir of someone who’s still in their twenties feels premature and pompous.  Like, ah yes, you’ve lived two decades.  Let’s write it down and bind that shit.

It’s similar to those teenage years (or 20s?) when you announce your plans and opinions and everyone, say, even just 18 months older says with sage wisdom, “a lot can change in a year or five or ten.”  And, of course, a lot does change, but that doesn’t mean that hearing that didn’t drive me crazy.

Anyway, all that to say that this post could get a bit memoir-y and to take it all with a grain salt, ok?

Y’all, 2014 was a good year.  One of the best, really.  In the past, I’ve sometimes surfed through my year, always anticipating what was coming next and not quite appreciating what was right before me.  But this year, something changed.  Having Lu, staying home with the girls, and going back to school taught me some lessons, and I want to write them down here.

1) Be the change.  At the risk of devolving into quotes and cliches, this one does sum up my first lesson quite well.  For a while, I had been feeling like people never change and that our baggage is always the same and we find ourselves facing the same challenges over and over again.  And while that might be partially true, I felt so invigorated to find that just as some challenges are stagnant, others are not.  If I don’t like something about myself – something I do, say, etc. – I can change it.  Ex:  I was spending too much time on social media and my phone, so I went on a fast.  When I went back to it after a month, I was much less compulsive about it, and since then whenever I feel myself sliding into uncomfortable territory again, I check out for a couple of days.

2) Positive framing.  Another change I began to implement was trying to concentrate on and verbalize thanks and strengths, while keeping complaints and criticism to myself.  This is an ongoing resolution, and I’m not always successful, but I like it.  It makes me happier.  Another change I associate with this positive framing is asking people more questions.  All too often, I’ve caught myself on some lament or another, complaining and dominating the conversation.  I’ve found that this change has led to better interactions with others, ones that don’t leave me feeling like a jaded harpie.

3) You have everything you need.  My other resolution has to do with stuff.  I’ll probably write a longer post about this in the future, but for now, it’s a learning process.  I’m trying to identify the things that aid and improve my lifestyle, while purging the excess that confuses or weighs me down.  I started with my wardrobe and since then I’ve gotten rid of carloads of stuff.  It feels great to be more conscious of what I possess, what I need and what I want.  I love being able to quantify how much I have, rather than just saying, “I dunno…  Too much.”  The family is onboard too, and there’s plenty more to streamline, but we’ve begun and it feels like one of those philosophies that’s here to stay.  Most of the conversations I have with Joshua circle back to this idea of minimalism, and it’s already shaping our choices.  In fact, in the order of things that I’ve learned, I think this came first and the time and energy that we’re freed up when I began getting rid of stuff went into the lessons I wrote about above.  It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and I’m feeling so grateful for having discovered it.

So that’s it.  Those have been my lessons this past year, and I’m proud of them.  What about you?

Love,

E


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3 month, 2.5 years, 28 1/2 years update…

This afternoon, I sat down and wrote an insightful and lengthy post.  I hit publish, and then I lost it all.

But I actually didn’t get too upset, because I’m fairly sure it wasn’t insightful; I was rambling.

The finer points:

Lu

  • Turns 3 months on Tuesday!!!
  • Has rolled from her back to her side at least four times this week (whoa! slow down, girly)
  • Has begun clasping her hands together
  • Tries to eat both of her hands at the same time
  • Is awake more and more these days
  • Enjoys the occasional comfort nurse (as opposed to her 5-10 mn quick feeds)
  • Still sleeping through the night
  • Still loving the wrap and bjorn
  • Loves being held so that she’s standing
  • Likes sitting up and facing out when she’s being held
  • Much better neck control
  • Smiling a ton
  • Sweetest coos
  • Probably 11 lbs 10 oz
  • Transitioning to 3 mo. clothing
  • Long and skinny, but starting to get those little leg rolls 🙂

Lily

  • “Oh, ick! Dirty floors, Mama.  Lily get broom (retrieves broom).  Lily clean.  Watch Mama!  Lily cleaning.”
  • “Daddy working.  Daddy help people.  Good job, Daddy.”
  • “Go to river today?  I know, Children’s Museum.  Ok, Mama.  Eat Fro Yo.  Ride train!”
  • “Lily want mango for snack.”
  • “Cuddle daddy. Cuddle mommy.”
  • “Baby Mina come?”
  • “Family day!”
  • “Mama do homework?”
  • (In reference to the TV) “Turn it off!”
  • “Uh oh.  Where rainbow go?!  Rainbow go home.  Rainbow ‘hind buildings.”
  • “Sunscreen.  No burn skin.”
  • “Lily poop on toilet, get Fro Yo.”
  • “Look, Mommy!  Boy has tattoo! Poop on toilet, get Fro Yo?”
  • “Lily wants braids.  Two braids.  Clip?”
  • “No Mommy.  Lily choose it.  Matches?” (holding up her clothing selections)
  • “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6!”  “12!”
  • “ABCDEFG, elemeno, QRSTUV, now I know my ABC, next time sing with me!”
  • “Shhh, Mina.  It’s ok.  Shhh.  ABCD!”

It’s not quite as lyrical in bullet points, but it gets the job done.  Both girls are so much fun, and I’m so thankful that I get to be home (or at the library or children’s museum or science museum or botanical gardens or playground, as it were) with them.  I’m on the search for other mommies and toddlers for friendship and playmates, but it’s not an easy hunt.  There’s a complicated social pattern at play here, people, and I’m not sure I’m up for the task.  Where are the mommies who proudly wear thrifted outfits and enjoy varied conversational topics?  Where are the mommies who both stay at home and listen to Ani?  Can I get a hell yeah?

Nope?  Well, then…  I guess the search must go on.  Wish me luck.  I don’t need a mommy who’s the same as me (some of my best friends have some pretty big differences), but kids around Lily’s age and some similar interests would be, like, INCREDIBLE.

In other news, I’m going to dabble in minimalism!  Hooray!  I hope you won’t be bored to tears if I tell you I pared down my wardrobe to 100 items, including outerwear, workout wear, regular wear, night wear, shoes, accessories, undies, etc, etc, excluding jewelry in which I refuse to be minimalist and it only takes up one jewelry box, so no biggie, right?  I didn’t get rid of everything else (I’m dabbling, after all), but I did put it into storage.  The plan is to go for six months with just these 100 items (I think it’s 96???) and to not buy anything for those six months.  (I mean, I will be buying diapers and toiletries because, as I mentioned, I am trying to make some friends).  I’m also going to go the six months without buying the girls anything, save a gift each for Christmas.  I’m not trying to be draconian, but I’m also feeling a bit owned by my stuff these days.  Plus, the bombardment of this cute outfit, those adorable boots, that perfect toy, etc, etc is totally overwhelming.  How do you navigate a world that’s continually telling you to purchase something that will make you more beautiful, more confident, a better mommy, more happy?  I say opt out for a bit.  I could be totally wrong, but hey, it’s worth a try.  So in tandem with my six months of living with less and not buying frivolous things, I’m going to delete pinterest and eBay from my phone.  I’m embarrassed to say I spend far too much time salivating over what amounts to fabric, leather, and plastic.  I will continue buying memberships to places/classes where I can bring the girls, because I would go CRAZY if I didn’t have anywhere to go.  Seriously.  It’s pretty much the only time of the day when we all feel like a team rather than competing factions.

Anywho.  I got the idea for my minimalist dabblings from these three places (1, 2, 3).  The general idea is 40 items or less for 3 months, but usually people exclude outerwear, workout wear, night wear, and undies.  So I included all those things, extended the experiment an extra 3 months (cos I’m an endurance athlete, as you know) and upped my limit to 100.  It was actually pretty fun to plan out the things that would make the cut, and today, I packed everything else away and tucked it in the basement (which is a terrifying place indeed).

So that’s that.  The experiment starts October 1st, and I won’t lie; I am using the approaching date as an excuse to acquire a few more items, but I’m not going crazy.  In total, I’ll probably spend about $200 to get some things to power us through the winter 😉

Lotsa love,

E

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2013 is an odd year..

photo

First, an update on my medical adventures for the week.  After six months of painless nursing, I began experience some irritation around New Year’s.  The irritation evolved into a couple of very large, painful plugged ducts, but in the end, it was nothing the heel of my hand and some force couldn’t take care of (you’re welcome for that image).  Fast forward to Friday.  I have another lump the size of a small pickle on my left side.  It’s super painful, and no amount of pushing or nursing will make it go away.  By Saturday morning, I’m not feeling so hot, so I go to Urgent Care, where I wait for four hours to be seen (thus, the bored instagram I took above.)

By the time the doctor was finally able to see me, I was positively shaking with pain.  She diagnosed me with mastitis and prescribed an antibiotic and some painkillers.  Finally, she said that if I wasn’t feeling better in 48 hours – an if the lump didn’t go down – then I should go see a GP about a possible abscess.

That night, I feel absolutely terrible, and even though I really don’t like taking painkillers, I decide that I’m going to have to if I’m going to continue nursing on the affected side.  On Sunday, things aren’t much better, and in fact, the lump has become angry and red.  Nursing Lily brings me to tears.

By Monday, the lump is no better, and I call various GPs to see if I can get in.  No one will see me, because I’ve been very irresponsible and have yet to establish a primary care physician.  Finally, I beg to be seen by the midwives (even though it’s far past my scope of care), and they agree to see me.

At the appointment, the midwife pokes me a couple of times, tells me to not put heat on the lump, changes my antibiotic, and gives me another prescription for painkillers.  She seems unconcerned about the angry red lump, but when I ask if it might be an abscess, she decides to refer me to the breast specialist for an ultrasound later in the day.

I go get my new prescription filled, pump, and go to the breast specialist.  I wait for another 3 hours, and then I am taken in for an ultrasound.  The specialist comes in to review the ultrasound, and he tells me that since it’s so painful, we should just wait and see if the meds start working and if the lump goes down by Friday.

Well, the thought of this going on until Friday and not knowing what was going on was not appealing at all, so I asked him what he would do if I wasn’t in pain.  He told me that he would try aspirating (draining) the lump and then he would take a biopsy.  He said it didn’t look like an abscess, but either a tumor or a collection of really pissed off, inflamed tissue.

So I told him to go ahead and do it, and it wasn’t that it was particularly painful (although when the nurse had to apply pressure afterwards for 5 minutes, it was very painful) or that I was even particularly concerned that would have a malignant tumor.  But the whole thing was completely exhausting and scary, and afterwards, I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering like crazy.

After the biopsy, I pumped for 48 hours on the left side and I took off Tuesday from work.  I took the painkillers for 24 hours, and then I stopped because even though KellyMom and the mothering.com forum seemed to think they were ok, I wasn’t comfortable having Lily exposed to too much.

Obviously, the biopsy really pissed off my left side, and it took another 48 hours or so, but finally the lump started to get smaller and the redness went away.  It’s still somewhat painful to nurse, but it’s not as much of a hassle as pumping every 3 hours, so I’ve gone back to nursing.  The lump is still the size of maybe two marbles, but I’m much relieved that it is getting smaller, especially because the breast specialist followed up by saying that my results were benign, there was no culture of bacteria, and he was “going to have to claim ignorance when it comes to breastfeeding” – i.e. he had no idea why I had the lump and what I could do to get rid of it.

I talked to one of our friends who is a doctor, and she told me that specialists are like a hammer and their whole world is the tiny head of a nail.  Apparently, in the world of medicine and medical research, lactation is a “black hole.”  Which strikes me as completely asinine and sexist, if you ask me.

Anyway, I’m thankful that this episode seems to be winding to a close.  I’m still in pain and nursing is still uncomfortable, but I’m hopeful that that will also wind down and I’ll be back to nursing pain-free in a week or so (expert medical opinion).  Once again, the KellyMom website was very helpful through the whole ordeal, and if you’d like the shit scared out of you, you can read this article on abscesses.

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It’s back to work after two weeks of vacation, and although I missed 1+ days at the beginning of the week, thankfully Monday was a work day.  The first day back wasn’t so great, but the next was better, and I got to wear a pair of new boots!

And on that note, I’ve been reading a lot of really inspiring writing recently, and it’s got me thinking a lot about down-sizing.  Obviously, Joshua and I aren’t very old, but we have managed to accumulate a lot of stuff, and while I wouldn’t say that we’re huge consumers, I do think that we’ve fallen into an easy pattern of buying, replacing, and pining after more stuff.

Anyway, I need more time to sit down and work out my own brand of down-sizing (I think we all know that trimming all of my earthly possessions down to 100 items would be both painful and inauthentic.), but the following principles appeal to me:

  1. I’ve always loved tiny homes.  Not only do they appeal to me aesthetically, but they also appeal to me in terms of less repair, less cleaning, and less space to accumulate stuff.  Luckily, for a family of three, our 600 foot home is pretty small, and as we think of excavating and renovating the basement, we’re trying to think creatively.  Perhaps we’ll rig up a temporary rental space so that we won’t have to shoulder a slightly increased mortgage?  We’re not sure yet, but we’ll keep you updated 🙂
  2. The average woman wears 20% of her wardrobe, and while I may fancy myself a bit more creative in the fashion department than some, I must also admit that I am a complete and total clotheshorse.  I would love to be able to look in my drawers and in my closet and see everything that is there, rather than pawing through burgeoning dressers and hangers.  While I don’t imagine that I will have a 30 item wardrobe, I would love to trim the fat.
  3. I love the idea of cataloging, trimming, and arriving at a set amount of stuff.  I would still own some craft supplies and books, and Lily will still own toys, and Joshua would still own tools and games, but we would have a number or an allotted space (like a rubbermaid) for each item, and if we wanted something else, we would have to make room for it by getting rid of something else.  I guess it sounds a bit rigid, but that’s where the next principle comes into play…
  4. I totally agree that object lust is part of what pulls you into contracts that don’t make you entirely happy.  Admittedly, when I’m trying to decide if I have to have yet another item of clothing or knick-knack from the thrift store, the final word is usually, “I work hard and thrift stores are like salads when it comes to self-indulgence.”  But maybe I wouldn’t have to work as much if we didn’t have to have as much stuff.  Maybe I would get to spend more time with Joshua and Lily, more time being crafty, more time writing.
  5. I’m a nut.  Extremism appeals to me.  I love the language of “100 Item Challenge,” “No-Refrigerator Challenge,” “No-Car Challenge,” “No Sugar Challenge…”  Oh my god, stop me.  It’s like crack.  Pretty much, challenge me, and I’m interested.

(If you would like to know more or are curious about who inspired these ravings of lunacy, read Tammy Strobel’s blog, RowdyKittens – it’s awesome.)

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Today, Lily went to her 9 month check up, and holy smokes!  She is one tall baby.  At birth, she was just 19 inches tall, and now she’s 29 inches and at the top of the charts.  (At 18 and 1/2 pounds, she weighs in at the 50th percentile.)  To get her measured, I had to strip her down, and she is just so darn cute.  She sat on the doctor’s table, grinning and rocking on her butt, and it was like she was saying, “I know!  I’m proud of me too!  Look at how much I’ve grown!”

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Finally – and completely tangentially – I thought I’d share a photo of the completely nasty lunches that my students eat every day.  I was inspired by BUST magazine to look into some blogs that are advocating for healthier school lunches.  One, called NeverSeconds, is written by a student who started out by posting pictures of her food on line and started a huge movement in her school and other schools, and another called FedUpWithLunch, is written by a teacher who ate lunch with her students for a year and documented the experience.

While I’m not about to eat anything that comes out of my school’s cafeteria, I am interested in having this conversation with my students.  This week, when yet another student complained about the nasty food, I asked them what would be better:

“Spicy Chicken!”

“Pizza everyday!”

“McDonalds!”

I tried not to make a gagging face and asked them, “is there anything healthy that you guys would like?”  They responded:

“I like pineapple, kiwi, and watermelon.”

“But salads are gross.”

“Does bacon count?  If I could, I would have a bacon machine in my locker.  I would make bacon for everyone, and I would call it the baconator.”

So.  I’m interested in the food revolution, and I’d love to see some change in the schools, but I think we have a long way to go.