Awkward Moments in Breastfeeding

Before a woman begins breastfeeding, she wonders whether it’s going to be weird. Let me tell you, breastfeeding is totally natural and normal — it’s not weird. Except when it is. Below is a short list of some of these moments.

At birth: The early days. Learning to breastfeed is totally natural, right? Sure, nothing beats having a nurse grab your boob with one hand and force your tiny infant’s head onto it with the other, all while you’re caught in that giddy hit-by-a-bus-but-it’s-adorable post-partum fugue.

Month 1: Latching everywhere. “Latching” is the term for when a baby attaches his mouth onto a woman’s nipple. Or onto her chin, or knee, or husband, or mom, or colleague who dropped by with flowers.

Month 2: Accidental motorboat. A baby who is looking to latch may rapidly turn his head from side to side. This adorable gesture may result in motorboating mom’s brand-new, nursing-boob cleavage.

Month 3: Mis-latch hickey. By month three, a baby’s suction has improved quite a bit. Sleepy three-month-old + sleepy mommy can equal near-nipple hickeys you’d rather not explain.

Month 4: Distractosaurus. Your baby wants to eat. Theoretically. He also wants to look out the window, smile at you, practice rolling over, put the blanket in his mouth, and play with his feet. Unfortunately for mommy, that means popping off your nipple, often painfully, and possibly resulting in breastmilk shooting across the room.

Month 5: Nipple raspberries. Five-month-old babies love to blow raspberries. It’s silly. It’s funny. It’s adorable. When they do it to your nipple, it’s just weird.

Month 6: Grabby hands. Your little guy is learning the pincer grasp! He is grabbing everything with his thumb and forefinger and you couldn’t be prouder. Until he grabs your nipple between his little fingers. Then it’s time to start him on solid food.

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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease as an Adult — The Gory Details

Adults don't get HFMD, they said. It will be fine, they said.

I hadn’t even heard of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease till I was pregnant the first time. Someone told me a friend’s baby had it. “No way,” I said. “Only cows get Foot and Mouth.”

It’s true — only livestock get Foot and Mouth Disease. However, Hand, Foot and Mouth is caused by different viruses and mostly affects young children. Adults don’t usually get it — so they say. This lulls you into a false sense of security. Adults can get it. And it sucks.

But HFMD causes a complex progression of symptoms that are a little different in everyone. Not to fear — I have four case studies right under my roof. Here’s the timeline of our outbreak:

Day 0 — Monday, June 16
Walking home from dinner, we decided to let our two-year-old, Max, run around the spray park near our house. He’s not that into the fountains, but we figure we might as well keep trying — the spray park is right near our house. This time, there was water pooling on one side of the fountain — likely because the drains were blocked. He splashed in the puddles, along with about a dozen other kids.

In retrospect, that pooled water was a public health disaster waiting to happen. You’ve got kids playing in the fountain, peeing and pooping in their swim diapers, which was rinsing into the puddled water at their feet. We even noticed a princess band-aid floating in the water. A little girl fished it out with her fingers. We gave Max a bath the second he got home — we should never have let him play there in the first place.

We’re almost certain that this is where Max got HFMD. He played with other kids the week before coming down with it, but we know all those kids and none of them got sick. If he got it from kids, this is where he got it.

[Click "read more" for the rest of the story.]

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In with the New!

So, I haven’t blogged in a while. My excuse is totally legit: I had another baby! He was born on January 5 and he’s wonderful. Beck is five and a half months old now and he’s an enormous baby. He wears 18-month size clothes. But he’s a gentle giant—he just likes to smile and laugh and grab everything. Here’s a photo of my two little sweethearts:

Beck&Max

They’re the best.

In other news, I’ve been writing! I actually got back to writing after having the baby pretty quickly this time, but didn’t get back to my novel until the last month or so. I wrote a book for preschoolers about microbiology (admittedly, a tricky concept!) and a short story about a man who is haunted by imaginary whales (both are still in draft form).

Now, I’m gearing up to get serious about my novel and it’s going pretty well. I’m aiming to write for at least 30 minutes a day—which doesn’t seem like much, but it definitely helps to get the project moving. In July, I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a more flexible version of NaNoWriMo and happens twice in the summer. I’m planning to write 10,000 words of my manuscript, currently titled The Fortunes Market. I’m getting close to finishing the first draft—whoo!

I have some mommy blog posts coming soon. Bear with me—I’ve got two kids now! Other stuff is coming too. Someday, I’ll even finish this novel!

My Maternity Tower of Mordor Costume and the Tolkien VILLAINZ!

This was another pregnant Halloween for me! At almost seven months pregnant, I felt like my belly was big enough to rock a proper belly-busting maternity costume. I was only about five months along for my last pregnant Halloween, so I went another route that time.

I was trying to think of some kind of hilarious thing to do with my belly that I hadn’t seen before. Inspiration struck one day in the shower (doesn’t it always?) and I couldn’t stop laughing at the idea, so I knew I had found THE ONE: The Eye of Sauron. I decided that I’d frame The Eye with a Tower of Mordor-like outfit.

Since I was going to be The Eye, my husband decided to be Saruman the White and we dressed our toddler up as Smaug the dragon. We were Tolkien VILLAINZ!!

Family Tolkien Costumes: Eye of Sauron maternity costume, Saruman the White and Smaug the dragon

[Click "read more" for more photos and to see how I made my costume!]

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Real Things an Expecting Mom Can Do to Prepare for Having a Baby

There are thousands of guides on how to prepare for having a baby. If you’re expecting, you’ve read them. Then you skimmed them once you realized most of them are the same. Go ahead and get your nursery ready — your baby might sleep in the room with you for several months. Watch birthing videos to your heart’s desire — delivery will probably be less than a single day of your life. Get plenty of sleep — Ha! You haven’t slept a full night since your first trimester.

I’m writing this guide to provide you with some extra tidbits I haven’t read everywhere. Maybe you’ll find them helpful. I’m organizing them into a few categories and leaving out the more mundane ones. Here goes!

Real Things an Expecting Mom Can Do to Prepare for Having a Baby

Social Things:

  • Hang out with your friends. Call the ones who aren’t nearby. No matter how tired or miserable or boring you feel, you will miss the uninterrupted conversations that go along with being child-free. Also, when your baby is almost three months old, you’ll realize that it’s been only three months since you hung out with that one friend, and not five months since you saw her at your baby shower.
  • Have a social media plan. Are you going to announce your birth on Facebook? From the hospital or when you get home? Do you have a family member who posts their every movement on Twitter? If you’d rather not have photos of your baby showing up on Instagram before you’ve even mentioned to your friends that you went to the hospital, you might want to send some guidelines out to your immediate family, telling them when and how much they are allowed to post about you and your baby.
  • Decide on baby announcements. This is obvious, but collect email addresses for any email baby announcements, and home addresses for paper announcements (if you’re sending them). You can pick out a baby announcement template, but you might change your mind once you have baby photos. At the least, you can decide which company you’re going to order your announcements from and how much you’re willing to spend on them. Bonus: Buy stamps.
  • Have your boss’s contact info handy. If you’re working up until your due date, decide when and how to tell your boss you’re starting maternity leave (email? text?) in case you go into labor early.

[Click "read more" to see the rest of the list!]

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NaNoWriYear: Progress!

Last November, I posted that I was embarking on a [not exactly National] Novel Writing Year, which really just means that I’m trying to finish one novel in a year. (I emphasize one because I’ve heard of a few people doing a “NaNoWriYear” challenge wherein they write twelve novels in a year. Good for them. That is not what I’m doing.)

Well, I offer you a short update: The novel is being written! Hooray for me.

It’s going slower than I expected, but I’ve managed to bump up my word count during Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Camp NaNoWriMo is sort of a bonus writing challenge run by the NaNoWriMo folks where the word count challenge can be anything greater than 10,000 words.

In the interest of keeping up my progress so I can finish this novel by November, I’m trying to write at least 15,000 words per month. Since I’m addicted to Writing Months, I signed up for AugNoWriMo.

AugNoWriMo

I shall do SeptNoWriMo and OctNoWriMo too, if that’s what it takes (even if one of those isn’t a real thing). I’m going to write this novel.

If any of you WriMo types are working on your own writing challenges, may I recommend WriteTrack? It’s a great site that keeps track of your word count goal and progress, making handy charts for those of us who like that sort of thing. (It’s a free site, but if you dig it, consider donating to help with the expense of hosting!)

3-Day Novel ContestAnd if you’re much, much crazier than me, and more eager to get that novel down, check out the 3-Day Novel Contest, in which writers compete to write a novel over the Canadian Labour Day weekend (Aug. 31 – Sept. 2, 2013). This insane goal fortunately comes with extra incentives: One publishing contract up for grabs, and cash prizes! If you’re capable of staying conscious and coherent for 72 hours straight, this might be for you.

So, there you go. The writing is happening here. There’s probably more I should tell you, but I really need to get back to my manuscript! Thanks for checking in.

Fold n Fold, but do it carefully! (See Update!)

(NOTE: See update on my FoFoCup story below!)

I just bought a new reusable coffee cup. It’s a very special cup. Partly because I bought it at an art gallery for the bargain price of $10. But mostly because it folds flat and can be stored in a cute little pouch in your pocket. It’s the Fold n Fold FoFoCup!

Fold n Fold FoFoCup

I hadn’t planned to buy anything when I checked out the industrial design exhibit at the Artisphere the other day. I was really just taking the long way back from the bathroom during our weekly writing meetup. On my way out of the exhibit, I noticed a sign by the information desk that said there was something for sale. So I asked the guy at the counter whether they were selling the pieces in the show.

“No,” he said. “There’s a little gift shop here.” He directed me to a shelf around the corner.

Thanks, I said, but I was just curious. He assured me that the cheapest thing was $10. I perused it out of politeness.

Instantly I saw it. “Is that a folding coffee cup?” It was, he told me, and it was their most affordable item. I bought it immediately.

[Click "read more" to see the rest of the story, my review, and the happy ending!]

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The All-Breakfast Diet

It began as a joke. One day, I had cereal for breakfast and french toast for lunch. That night, I went to a grab a sandwich for dinner, but it turned out the cafe was closing and they would only sell me a bagel. It was… A DAY OF BREAKFASTS.

And why not? They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having breakfast all day promotes lunch and dinner to their own level of prestige.

rolls

Cinnamon rolls are totally a breakfast food.

My husband and I have been on the all-breakfast diet for days now. We think you can lose weight this way as long as you stick to one basic rule: You only get one breakfast burrito per day. Also, you need to limit your intake of bacon, syrup, sausage and all those other deliciously fattening breakfast foods.

So, if you need to watch what you eat anyway, how does this differ from any other diet? Well, obviously, you can only eat breakfast! As with any restrictive diet (a vegan diet, a gluten-free diet, a low cholesterol diet, etc.), when you significantly reduce the number of things you can eat, you tend to eat less. A typical day for me right now is:

  • Breakfast: Cereal with soy milk
  • Lunch: Breakfast burrito
  • Snacks: Kefir and an apple
  • Dinner: Toast with cream cheese and jam

That seems reasonably healthy to me! I guess I could have more fruits and vegetables, but there’s always tomorrow for that. And really, how long can this last?

Reading Like a Writer: ‘Succubus Blues’ Edition

“Read like a writer.” It’s a common piece of advice given to writers, dished out by writers, repeated by writers. The trick is allowing yourself to learn from what you’re reading, to examine the craft while enjoying the prose. It’s like watching a street magician and noticing his sleight of hand — you say to yourself, “I saw what you did there!” Once you’re in on the tricks, you can’t stop. Some might say that the magic is ruined forever.

Personally, I don’t think “reading like a writer” ruins reading for pleasure. I do think there is no going back. There are moments when you can still lose yourself in good prose, but you still want to go back to dissect the illusion, to figure out how each little word was stitched into the fabric that blindfolded you.

Without much effort, a writer will find that each book is teeming with lessons. Good books, bad books, page-turners, works of literary genius, guilty pleasures — there’s something to learn on each page, and we each have different lessons to learn. So, I was thinking, since what I got out of a book might be different from what another person got — maybe I should share?

I can’t possibly tell you what I’ve learned from every book, but I’ll be sharing one or two tidbits from time to time here. And here’s the first one.

Succubus BluesSo, I recently read Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead. I would definitely characterize this book as a page-turner, maybe even a guilty pleasure. It’s about a succubus who feels guilty about stealing people’s energy by having sex with them, so she avoids sex as much as possible. She tries not to date and ends up dating anyway, while also getting roped into solving the mystery of why local immortals are getting killed and injured. It’s a funny, sassy urban fantasy that’s really hard to put down.

I feel like a lot of people don’t give page-turners enough credit on the sentence-to-sentence level, and I think part of the reason is because they’re too busy turning pages. Another reason is because the writing in some page-turners isn’t terribly well-constructed at this level (in Twilight, for example). But sometimes it is. In Succubus Blues, Mead accomplishes compulsive readability in at least two ways:

First, she throws the reader into a scene. The book is written in first-person, and we’re inside the head of Georgina the saucy succubus the whole time. When Georgina walks into a room, she not only describes the room, but how she feels about it, giving the reader an emotional connection to the setting.

Second, Georgina’s inner dialogue is believable without being distracting. Sentence fragments, jokes and asides give us glimpses into her immediate thoughts, but not too often as to be distracting. Sometimes we’re really in her head, and sometimes we’re a little further out, witnessing the scene from a few steps back. This balance works — snippets of Georgina’s thoughts help us jump ahead and read faster, but if there were too many of them, the writing would be choppy.

Those are two lessons I picked up from Succubus Blues on improving readability. I have a few more observations about the stakes and motivation, but this post is pretty long, so I think I’ll leave it there for now. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to share!

Things That Are Nice About Winter*

1. The cats don’t shed as much.

2. It’s unlikely that I’ll have to shave my legs.

(I’ll have to get back to you if I come up with anything not hair-related.)

*Excluding holidays.

**Excluding snow, because the niceness of actual snow is canceled out by fleeting promises of snow that become wintery mixes, toilet paper runs, highway slow-jams, or nothing.

Here’s a photo of the cats. I don’t have one of my leg hair. You’re welcome.

kitty cuddlefest