Thursday, March 31, 2011

And on the 22nd Day...

we had a beer.

Justin and I gave up drinking alcohol for Lent.

We made it from Ash Wednesday, March 9, to March 31, and then we failed.

Justin was invited over to our friend Nick's house to have a beer after working at the hospital. Since we're moving out of the neighborhood, we're trying to get in one last round of good times with all of our friends. Which makes having given up alcohol a real bummer.

Other things that make it a bummer: hot weather, moving, March Madness (because Justin enjoys it, because it helps me get through it), happy hour with the girls, wanting a glass of wine while I cook an Italian dinner, wanting a beer when it's been a long day.

So what happens when you--not accidentally--break your Lenten promise?

Justin and I aren't sure. We're Lutheran.

We believe in a forgiving God.

That said, God being forgiving doesn't mean you can go around screwing up on purpose and then expecting to be forgiven.

As a general rule.

I mean, you're supposed to work on being a living example of Christ's love all the time, in response to God's perfect love. It's a work in progress; He is perfect, you are not.

So here we are. Justin is still at Nick's, I had a beer too (so that he wouldn't be smote alone--wasn't that big of me) and I'm trying to blog my way into clarity about this issue.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time in my life that I have given up something tangible for Lent. Usually I go with something more spiritual/emotional. I have given up expecting myself to be perfect, I have given up worrying about (or was it commenting on?) my body, I have taken on being patient with myself, I have taken on... I can't remember what, but things like that; things that are important to change anyway.  I've probably failed at those Lenten promises, too, but it's harder to tell.

I'm really not sure what to make of having cheated on our Lenten promise. It would be one thing if we just forgot about it, if it were an accident, but we made the conscious decision to have a drink.

So what do we do now? Do we go back to abstaining from alcohol for the next 23 days? Or do we just chuck the whole thing and hope for better next year?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bikini Weather is Coming

Could somebody please tell me what to do about the fact that bikini weather is coming?

Today, Justin and I went walking on the Seal Beach pier while eating Coldstone's ice cream and people-watching. There were people in bikinis. Young girls, lying on their backs with their flat bellies to the sky, boys with their T-shirts off, resting next to them. 

While I was pregnant I wore maternity T-shirts, so now I have a spectacular farmer's-tan AND...

OK. I know I said I wouldn't go around dwelling on my body and its sizable flaws anymore, but I just have to get some answers here.

Not only do I have a farmer's tan, I also have a fat stomach. Like I've been pregnant or something.

I read somewhere about a woman envying the spirit of another woman--a mother who was happily playing with her son in the waves at the beach, wearing a bikini despite, well, despite not having the perfect body.

So what I want is to be that carefree woman, the one playing in the ocean despite being overweight.

I don't want to be that girl who wears shorts and a T-shirt over her swimsuit and never takes them off.

Last summer, I just avoided the beach (despite living two blocks away). It was easy enough to do with a newborn--she wasn't ready for it, was my excuse.

This summer, we are moving to Seal Beach and it is my GOAL to get out there and have fun.

Doing that, I realize, could play a part in helping me lose weight--you know, physical activity and all.

But I don't want anyone to see my belly. Or really my legs. Or my butt. I feel like I'm a woman of a certain age and I just shouldn't be prancing around in skimpy clothes anymore. But we're talking about BEACH ATTIRE here, for goodness sake.

What's a girl to do?

Last summer, I bought a black one piece, but it makes me feel like such a fuddy-duddy (not a word?).  It makes me feel like an old lady. Last summer, I tried on my bikinis and felt ridiculous just standing in my own bedroom. Maybe new, larger swimwear is the solution. After all, if I don't fit into size zero jeans, I certainly won't fit into a size small bikini, right?

It's just that when I was 31, I was going through my closet and came across my form-fitting high school prom dress. For kicks, I tried it on. IT FIT. I was in my 30s and wearing my high school prom dress. It fit.

Now, at 36, I love my life, but I have to somehow learn to love living in my bigger body. Or at least get used to it.

So, someone, please tell me, what on earth should I wear?

A) a bikini. FTW
B) a one piece, have some decency
C) a swimsuit of any sort, as long as I keep my shorts and tanktop on--nobody wants to see that fat
D) other--explain

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Rule #1: Don't bounce the kid on your knee after feeding her, even if it does make her giggle.

If you do, you end up getting this face:

(Leave it to me to make a time-out in the Exersaucer into a photo shoot after I cleaned up...)

Babies and Grown Ups don't always mix

I'm sad to write this post, but I've noticed something about the mixture of friends and babies, and I think maybe if I write about it I can sort it out in my head. Or your comments will help me along.

When I had my miscarriage and got really deep into not-fair-without-a-baby-postpartum-depression afterward, I had a hard time being around people who had babies.

Jealousy bubbled in my throat.

They showed their photos of kids, and I felt like they were jumping up and down after having won the first place trophy, while I didn't even place.

Even with strangers, especially with strangers, I had a hard time watching other people with babies. I remember a mom walking into Starbucks with a brood of kids--seriously, several of them following behind her while she could barely cradle her baby--and I thought, I could take one of those and she wouldn't even notice.

I was seriously off my rocker.

So, I'm trying to keep that lonely, jealous, angry feeling in my mind while I watch friends without babies slip away.

It's hard, though.

I know not to take it personally, a new blogging friend who lost a baby reminded me of that. But I do so miss the people I used to know before we had Ella and they faced loss of their own. One friend says she can stand to be around me and Ella because she knows I can understand her pain, since I had the miscarriage and the depression. I am so grateful for her. Another is busy now, every time our group of friends sets up a girls night.

The thing is, I understand that friend not wanting to talk about Ella or be around her. I am willing to talk about other things--I like to think there is more to me than motherhood alone. But I also understand that my station in life as a mother is never going to fade as part of my identity. Maybe I can't be taken as Olaina-alone, maybe I'll always be Olaina-somebody's-mom. When I think about it, I love that about my life.

Maybe I've written myself through this conundrum--I love my old friends, I miss them, but I have to let them go because I love them and, sadly, that is what they need from me.

I must say, though, that I wish we could communicate with each other about this situation. It's sad to just have to come to this realization alone, to just let the relationship fizzle. I'd much rather be told, "You know, Olaina, I love you, but I can't be around you now because I'm too sad about the baby." Somehow, knowing for sure what went wrong would make it easier.

There are also friends who have chosen not to have children yet, whom I miss. It's maybe harder for me to understand them, though when I try to sit through a meal while constantly picking up Ella's toys from the floor and handing them back to her, I can see why maybe they don't want to be bothered with Olaina-somebody's-mom.

For those friends, would it be fair to say it's their loss?

Maybe, maybe not.

It's my loss, too.

Of course, despite these losses, there are gains. Especially with moving in our near future (two weeks!), I know we will make more friends with people who have children. It will happen because I will join moms' clubs and that is how we will meet people.

I suppose it's a stage of life, this transition in relationships. Maybe it's like college, where some of the high school friends drop away because of distance and different interests, but some of them stay even while you gain new friends in your new experience.

I thought those transitions were over, but I think I was wrong.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I am Not a Cook

I wish that were a surreal statement; that I really were a cook, wearing an apron that says, "I am not a cook."

But it's not.

It's true.

I am not a cook.

Unfortunately for Justin, my attempts at cooking are at their worst when I am hoping to impress him with my culinary skills. Or, to at least serve him a good meal after a hard day at work.

Two weeks ago I made the most God-awful chicken curry and dahl. I usually don't suck at making chicken curry, but this time I thought I'd double the spices since I was making a lot (just to use up the four chicken breasts--forgetting that one chicken breast is now big enough to feed two people) and since I kept hearing my friend's voice in my head saying, "Don't be afraid to use the spices. We're not afraid of spices around here."

Justin LOVES spicy food, so of course double up on the spices, right?

The dahl was spicy.

The chicken curry was garlicky.

Now, I know how this happened. I used a new garamasala for the dahl--the one my mom had given me because it was unusually spicy and she couldn't eat anything made with it. I used way too much garlic powder in the chicken curry.

I believe it is all a result of trying to follow my dad's recipe. Whenever Dad made good chicken curry and I asked for the recipe, he would say it was a secret.

Last time I asked him for a recipe, he e-mailed me one. The curry didn't come out looking or tasting like his chicken curry, so I told him that. He said, "Did you use enough tumeric? Tumeric is the key to all Indian recipes!"

"You didn't put tumeric in the recipe!"

Now I know it's just that he doesn't really use a recipe. He always tells me he cooks by color--and Indian spices are so colorful... well, I don't imagine he's very precise about it.

I took this picture of a shop when my family went to India a few years ago.
Just look at those beautiful mounds of spices!

So, when I called and asked how to make chicken curry, I got an answer that involved a tablespoon of a lot of spices and two tablespoons of some other spices. He has no idea... he just eyeballs it. Knowing that, I eyeballed my heaping tablespoons and tossed a little more in for good measure.

Bad idea.

Today, however, I had a hankering for salmon and Justin is working a swing shift, which means he ate dinner at the hospital and will come home after midnight.

I made salmon with asparagus on a bed of angel hair with goat cheese.


And all he'll get is leftovers.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daddy's Home!

Ella is never happier than when both of her parents are at home (and paying attention to her). She looks back and forth from me to Justin and back again. Smiling.

Like any little girl, she loves to ride on Daddy's shoulders.

Ella is staking out her claim on a box for the move. This small one would do, but it's already full of books.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Photo Shoot

Today I took pictures at the beach of a beautiful little family that is moving back to the South to be closer to their families. If we weren't all moving away, I'm sure we would stay good friends, but as things are we seem destined to being facebook friends. Alex is only one month older than Ella.

Friday, March 25, 2011

When Daddy's Sleeping

When Justin works nights and sleeps all day, I am left to my own devices to keep Ella quiet.

Ella is almost one year old. Quiet is not one of her goals in life.

Getting down the hallway to The Door Daddy is Behind is.

Today I resorted to an in-home photo shoot while she played with her Alphabet Cards.

Here are some of my favorites--I'm working on playing with light, so that explains... that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeding Ella 2.0

The scariest parts of my day happen when Ella is eating finger food.

I don't know if other babies are as bad at it as she is, but she sucks at it.


We feed her these little cereal-like things called puffs. They're supposed to dissolve easily in her mouth, but she nibbles a little gerbil-bite first. Then she puts the whole puff in her mouth and sometimes pushes it out with her tongue.

All of this I can handle.

It's when she gags that I start to worry.

There are Hershey's Kiss-sized freeze dried yogurt melts that are also designed to dissolve in a baby's mouth. Ella does her nibble first, then her rejection bit, and then sometimes (instead of waving her hand around with it stuck to her fingers) sucks on it. I rejoice--she's eating! she's eating! And then she puts her fingers in her mouth, and sometimes, and now I realize these are the lucky times, the addition of fingers in the mouth equals the subtraction of food in the mouth. But sometimes it means she shoves the food far back enough on her tongue to gag herself.

Once, a couple of nights ago, when Justin was at work in the ER, she choked so badly that she ended up making herself throw up--thankfully expelling the yogurt melt from the back of her throat.

It's more stress that I thought it would ever be to feed a baby.

The first time she gagged it was on a rice husk (Baby Mum-Mum) piece. She had eaten most of the Almond Joy-but-flat sized Mum-Mum without incident. Then, while I wasn't looking, she popped in the remaining bit--about the size of a Tootsie Roll-but-flat. She sat there looking at me with big eyes while her mouth worked wide open tongue thrusts. Luckily, I was able to snag the bit with my finger.

All that may be more information than some of you are looking for, but the long and short of it is that three times a day I am reminded of how precious my moments with Ella are, as I watch her eat and hope and pray that nothing bad will happen.

What I need to do is take an infant CPR and First-Aid class. That way I will at least feel a bit empowered, instead of helpless and fearful.

I wonder if all moms feel this nervous about feeding their child? I try really hard not to show it; I just sit and watch and encourage her when things are going well. The last thing I want is for her to have a complex about eating or to be fearful of simple tasks.

Don't even get me started on sippy cups...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Having another baby

Today someone asked me, "So are you two going to have any more kids?"

No matter how close of a family member you are, that's a little invasive, don't you think?

Yet, it's a question that strangers often ask parents.

Somehow, some things are softer coming from strangers. Maybe it's because the answer doesn't really matter to them, whereas from a family member it's as though they've asked whether you're going to give them any more gifts or not.

Since you asked, No, we're not planning on having any more kids.

For one thing, Ella is our miracle baby and we dare not ask for more. It was five years from our miscarriage to her birth, and a year or so before that--so sixish years of hoping and a lifetime of dreaming--before she was born.

At 36, we don't have that kind of time to make another baby.

For another thing, I don't think we necessarily want another baby. Sure, I always thought I'd have two kids, but having Ella feels like enough to me. I've heard it said that people know when their family is complete. I feel like my family is complete, just the three of us.

And, Ella is only 10 months old. Everything is still brand new, and I can't imagine having anything more to do than take care of her.

So, No, we're not planning on having any more kids.

Why do I sound offended at the question? Maybe because I am still sensitive about fertility and birth and death and chance/hope/luck/whatever it is. It's nobody's business how many children a woman plans to carry. And even though my miscarriage was early, I still know that I have had two pregnancies (I mean, really, they ask on forms at the doctor's office how many pregnancies you've had, how many children you have--they know the numbers don't necessarily line up in present tense.). Ella could have had a big brother or sister.

Ella could have had a big brother or sister.

Is it crazy that I'm still sad sometimes, all these five years later, that I lost a baby?

I don't think so. For those women I know, for whom this kind of loss is new, all I can say is that it becomes less all consuming. I didn't think it would happen, but I don't think of it all the time anymore, though it's still true and there--I lost a baby.

Maybe that's the other reason we don't want any more children. Having experienced loss makes us so consciously grateful for every moment we have with Ella, and sometimes I feel so nervous that we might lose her, I can't imagine going through this again with another human being; the nine months of fear that meld into a different kind of holding-your-breath life.

Don't get me wrong; I don't live in a constant state of despair or fear; I just don't think I have it in me to do it again.

Plus, Ella is so wonderful, our miracle baby--what more could we want?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Independent Playing

Ella has taken to crawling through the base of the Exersaucer. She also likes to look at her books on her own. I put the books on the bottom shelf so that she would be able to reach them, and when she started taking them down on her own, I would read each one as it came. Now, she takes one down, looks at it and then reaches for the next (usually). Sometimes she just grabs them one after another, with barely a glance at the cover.


I did Stroller Strides today, which was a surprise because it was storming all day yesterday and I thought for sure it was going to be moved to the mall today. I do not work out in the mall, even when it's closed. First, it makes me feel like more of a yuppie than I do just working out with a bunch of new moms. Second, driving to Manhattan Beach from Redondo Beach in the rain just to exercise doesn't make any sense to me. It's about a 30 minute drive in the RAIN. People in California don't know how to drive in the rain, and if I got in an accident on the way to exercise I never would forgive myself.

But today, Diane sent out an e-mail saying it was a beautiful sunny day and we would have class outdoors.

So of course, about 45 minutes into the hour-long class it started to sprinkle. We braved it for a while, continuing to squat and then row using stretchy bands for resistance.

Then it started to really rain. So we moved to the shelter of the (leaky) amphitheater to do our abs and stretches. Standing crunches. I did standing crunches, to "work on that love handle area," as the thin, young, wonderful instructor said.

I have a love handle area.

I've never had love handles before.

I've never jiggled before.

I've heard women talk about their boobs bouncing when they run and thought how nice it would be to have boobs instead of pecs. But now I need new sports bras. Ones with purpose. Even though I couldn't breastfeed because of all the medications I take, I grew during my pregnancy and also got to try to suppress my milk from coming in. So, I bounce.

Worse, perhaps... though... today when we ran up and down the staircase from the beach to the boardwalk, I felt my butt jiggling. I'd gotten used to the tummy jiggling, but, really, my butt? Come on, man!

So, I suppose when I move to Seal Beach I'll have to join Stroller Strides (in Long Beach) or get a jogging stroller and try to learn to run again.

I have always been a thin person, but that cursed/wonderful medicine Abilify has made me a fatty.

I don't want to be a fatty.

More importantly, I want to set a good example for Ella, so she doesn't grow up with body image issues. So I MUST stop saying what a fatty I am and, as a friend said, "Just do something about it."

I'm doing something about it.

Now I just have to work on learning to eat like a person who doesn't have that super fast metabolism I used to enjoy. But that's for another day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feeding Ella


Acceptance of messiness.

Not our strong suits.

Still, what we need to be able to feed Ella. She's still mastering putting food into her mouth herself--for some reason she pushes it out with her tongue and she also keeps her fingers in there. Today I tried to read a magazine while she was eating (it can be that boring), and she wanted the magazine, so I'm stuck watching this process.

Then, there's the baby food. She likes to help by grabbing the spoon. She also insists on seeing the labels--every time I switch to a new jar she has to point to the babies on the label. Then, she sticks her fingers into the jar to check the consistency. It's always the same.

The smile at the end makes it worth it. 

Finger foods--peach yogurt melts and puffs.
Vegetable Turkey Dinner.

All done.      

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dreams Coming True

We found a house in Seal Beach and tomorrow we get the keys!

Ever since my pregnancy began with Ella I have been afraid to write. I didn't want to jinx it, as though writing about her existence would call attention to the little miracle happening inside me, and if anyone noticed my good fortune, it would be taken away.

I still feel that way, but I also miss writing.

So here I am, braving it. Knowing I can't jinx my life by documenting the good, the bad and the ugly.

OK. So maybe I'm not ready to delve into everything that has happened just yet, but I will get there.

I was thinking about starting a new blog because I feel like I am starting a new life. My health has been stable for about two years now. I am so far "after school" that being a teacher is no longer my identity. I am a mom! Yet, being a mom(!) is not my entire identity.


Indeed, I seem to have learned not to wrap my identity up in just one thing, the way I did when I was a teacher. I am Olaina and that is so much and so little at once that I can't just attach myself to a label.

It feels good.

There is a part of me that wants to take down this blog entirely. I'm pretty sure I'll never get hired for anything with an online presence that talks about major depressive disorder or bipolar mood disorder II or postpartum depression. On the other hand, I have had at least one woman become a dear friend because my blog empowered her to let me in on her own circumstances. That makes it worth it.

I have always believed in the truth. I am also really tired of shame. I don't want to be ashamed of who I am and what I have experienced, and if people can't deal with it then maybe they're not suitable for building a relationship with me.

So, I'm telling the truth.

It shall be revealed.

In the meantime: We are moving to Seal Beach! We found a house to rent in Old Town and when it becomes ours for reals, seriously, I will tell you more about it and post pictures.