Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Top 10 Things That Surprised Me Most About Parenting

Just relaxing during nap time, and thought this would be fun to have.  So, my top ten surprises so far have been:

(1)  The physical trauma of the birthing process... and the difficulty of recovery!  I naively thought you just had to get to that epidural... Ha.  Pushing the baby out was just half my battle.  Hopefully next time will be better... when they induce me at 39 weeks.  M was born 9 lbs, 10 ounces and his head is still 99th percentile circumference.  I'll never see 40 weeks + 5 days again!

"Do not try this at home."  At least not with a big baby.
(2) The sheer bliss of it.  Imagine suddenly adding, seriously, at least thirty more smiles to your daily life. Every day.  I'd wanted a baby for so long... but couldn't truly fathom the joy it would bring until he arrived. 

(3) That I love, love, LOVE having a boy.  Best surprise.  EVER.

Mark has taken many photos of me on the couch, holding my baby boy and crying through Celine Dion's "A New Day."  Listen to it if you have a son... with Kleenex though.  Better yet, I'll add it as background music to this blog.  Done!
(4) That all the things I thought I'd dread taking on 24/7 - my least favorite parts of the nannying I did and the daycare center I worked at - I barely notice when it's my own baby.  I actually enjoy diaper changes!  Big relief! 

Changing Table Fun!
(5) On the other hand, I was naive about travel.  Air travel "infant in arms" is crazy rough, at least without a spouse along, and I had no clue how important nap schedules and crib familiarity would be.  Ouch!

(6)  That in some ways it's easier, not harder, to deal with Mark's hours.  Baby keeps me company, and the loneliness and monotony were always hard.  Now once I have two on my hands, I'll probably have to retract this.  ;)

(7)  That having a baby would intensify, enrich, and deepen my affection for other family members.  I can so clearly see both my own father and Mark in this little one; he is truly a hybrid of those two men.  I love feeling like I'm holding a miniature version of my kindhearted, sweet father, and I LOVE thinking of Mark as the "adult version" of such a dear baby boy.

... and grandson.  M lives up to his (middle) namesake, Ellis - even two generations later and a quarter Asian to boot!
 (8)  The guilt when they cry.  I really thought I'd be a tough "cry it out" parent... but there's always some reason to think you caused the crying. 

(9)  That there "is no later."  I accomplish more and have a cleaner house now that I have a baby.  I'm even more punctual.  You just can't live "last minute" when there IS no last minute!

(10)  That I would love all of it this much.  Mark and I often say that if we'd have known how much we'd love this, we'd both have rerouted our careers and started earlier.  Too late... but we still want at least three.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Have Baby, Can't Travel...

Man, last night was rough.  I can't complain because he is such an easy baby in every other way but, I'm starting to conclude:  Little Man is a homebody and he does NOT like to travel.

In that sense he definitely takes after me.  Daddy has a very adventurous spirit.  Not only will he go anywhere, any time, on any inconvenient mode of transport, but I'm pretty sure he actually aims for the least convenient modes of transport and travel times just to make it a more intense experience.  I mean this is a man who used to complain some years that the Minnesotan winters were not cold enough for him!  He also used to tell his swimming students - who were like 4 years old at the time - to repeat after him:  "From pain, will come pleasure."  Now picture a chorus of swimsuit-clad four-year-olds echoing, in their sweet high-pitched voices, "From pain will come pleasure!"  That's my man. 

Me, I've never liked anywhere as well as my own bed, and I generally favor avoiding pain if possible.  I went through a brief phase where sleepovers seemed magical, but by 7th grade I already dreaded waking up in a bed that wasn't mine, with a breakfast over which I had no control.  This continued on into high school and college, where I never, not even for a minute, went through a phase of liking parties or bars.  Parties to me are one long uncomfortable experience of being in someone else's home, with people you might not even know that well - and plenty of them.  Bars are slightly better since there's less intimacy in a public establishment, but the only time in my life I ever found myself frequenting a bar was as a new lawyer in a firm where "happy hour" was expected on Fridays.  Eventually I came to tolerate it all right - if we went to the smoke free bar and if there was major work drama to discuss.  Which there always was...

Of course six months is a bit young to consider anything set in stone, but so far it appears:  Baby takes after Mama, in a major way.  I can't complain:  I've now learned through many responses to facebook postings that my "travel baby" is how many other babies just are, in their own homes, all the time.  But as for mine, he's a different creature when traveling and it cranks up the guilt factor on me, since I know it's the travel and I know I can choose not to travel.

Ever since we got back from the hospital, baby has generally gone to sleep on his own, when placed in his crib.  Sometimes he'll cry for a few minutes, but it's a self-comforting cry - he's rarely angry or alarmed, and if he is, it's brief.  I've never once rocked him to sleep; we don't even own a rocking chair or glider.  I credit (1) luck; (2) not having a glider; (3) not being able to comfortably sit or stand for very long for a good two weeks after delivery; but mostly (4) our cradle swing.  It did the rocking for me if he hadn't fallen asleep nursing, and then I'd turn off the motion after a few minutes since The Sleep Bible says motion sleep is addictive and not as high quality as stationary sleep.  I would recommend this swing or similar to anybody.  Still to this day, if nothing else makes him happy, he can do a good 40 minutes in that swing, awake but calmed by the side-to-side motion.  And the transition to the crib was a piece of cake.  We just started using the crib for naps first, and used the same fan for background noise and blankie for attachment.  Smooth as can be!

Oh but my easy baby doesn't accompany me on the road!  Before we left for Oklahoma, he was reliably waking just once a night (around 4-5 am) to eat, then sleeping until 8:30ish.  But in Oklahoma, all four nights, he woke up an additional time, about three hours after he'd gone to bed, crying.  It definitely wasn't fun; I had to let him cry it out so as not to re-establish feeding him twice a night.  And his pack and play (portable crib) was right next to me so I was awake every minute he was, feeling awful for him.  But it was just crying.  Nothing that would strike panic into my heart or anything.

Fast forward to last night!  It was night #3 staying at Hillary's parents' home in Newton.  They need someone to stay with her dad when her mom is out of town, due to his M.S.  It's a win-win situation - I'll only accept much less than they originally offered, and have offered a free night before (tried to insist, but her mother paid me anyway).  Thus I get to feel like I'm helping friends, we make a little extra for the preschool fund (we literally have a preschool fund; the cheapest our friends could find out here was still $3,000/year for only 2 mornings a week), and Kristina and Dean - whom I love dearly - avoid the high costs of an overnight nurse.  Now if only I could explain to the baby how wonderful a setup this is!

Last night, for the first time ever, I'd say he literally screamed bloody murder for over an hour, around 1-2 a.m.  I've never heard anything like it from him!  It was like the Oklahoma thing but with the volume cranked up as high as possible.  And he'd been sleeping through the night back at home, every night. 

I tried to comfort him in the crib, like the books say.  This only made him more mad.  Finally, out of desperation, I broke every rule and turned the light on and held him to me.  I was so glad I did because even at that he took a good seven minutes to stop screaming - we were both crying for that.  When he finally did, he looked at me confused, as if seeing me for the first time.  Was this a night terror or just the travel, or both?  No idea.  I held him calm for several minutes, and then put him back down - where it all started over again!  It was sheer torture.  I ended up awake for two hours because I was too shaken up after the experience to fall asleep.  And then utterly shocked in the morning, to find he still smiles at me and appears to like, maybe even love me...

He seems fine today... but is his hearing permanently damaged?  Is he now less secure about the world in general?  Have I damaged his "baby self-esteem" by changing up the routine that allowed him to anticipate "what comes next"?  Have I planted the seed of mommy-issues that will plague him all his life?  Wait... don't answer that last one.
Pretty sure parents are programmed so that their babies' curdling cries inflict calculated emotional torture on their souls.  And I say parents, not just moms; Mark wasn't even there for last night, thank goodness, but in the past has said that when the baby cries, he thinks it's bad for his heart (his cholesterol condition).  It is brutal!  I remember those first few weeks back from the hospital, thinking of parents who were struggling with colic on TOP of their own physical recoveries and probable nursing issues and my heart just breaking for them because especially as a new parent, you really internalize those cries - your heart says "If only I were doing this right, my baby wouldn't be suffering so!"  That was me last night, for 90 minutes.  So I say to any first time parents who had colicky or otherwise-difficult newborn:  My heart goes out to you, and you are my heroes.  I cannot imagine.

My homebody baby and I have three nights left in Newton.  And two back here (the readjustment is always hard), one in Chicago, three in Madison, one in Peoria, six in Madison, and six in Florida.  In my defense I had no idea the Madison and Florida portions would be that long; Mark planned the trip and he just got whatever tickets were cheapest.  But oy, here we go.  If the next three nights aren't any better, do I go on the trip and subject my baby to seventeen nights of torture in constantly changing surroundings?  Or do I forfeit these plane tickets? 

Sigh.  Here's to hoping for an easier night tonight...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pure Love

Today was my baby's six month birthday. 

I'm sure I echo every parent out there when I say I can hardly believe it.  Six months is so... measurable.  It's half of a year and there are only eighteen years!  Oh my gosh.  I can't let myself think this way.

Anyway, we had a great day.  It was the first really sunny, warm (well, warmish) day.  Daddy is working all weekend, and not home during baby's waking hours... so it was just "Mommy and me."

After our usual morning routine, we made a special breakfast trip to Panera.  Baby loves any change of scenery and enjoyed his time looking around and babbling at Mama.  Mama enjoyed her usual, asiago bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese and hazelnut coffee.  Yum!  (ahem, yes, this is a cheat day... so far I've only lost one pound, which I chalk up to my baby waking for the day earlier and earlier, thus never leaving me more than 6-7 hours sleep!  Better luck next week...).

Back at home, as a sort of "birthday cake," baby enjoyed his very own bite of Mommy's zucchini bread (literally, Mom's Zucchini Bread from, but with half whole wheat flour).  To my delight, he not only loved it but became angry when I wouldn't give him more!  I've long been on a quest to try as many new recipes as possible in order to find the very best ones to be the staples of my children's childhoods.  Don't judge me!  That's the kind of thing I love.  I want our "menu" to be very seasonal, so different flavors will work with the weather to bring back what I hope are happy memories.  I'm currently working on a master list of Christmas recipes so that I can whittle it down - because I know I need to choose just a few to be "the" Christmas recipes, enjoyed by my family year after year.

Later we went on a long walk on the Minuteman Trail.  Just our usual routine, but the sun was nice.

He was in the sweetest mood ever this evening.  Oh how I wished Daddy could have seen it!  He was smiley and sweet, and very intent on staring at and snuggling with me.  I tell you it was pure heaven.  As I carried my freshly bathed cutie to the chair for our bedtime book, he stared up into my eyes, gave a huge toothless grin, touched both his hands to the sides of my cheeks, and exclaimed "Aaaaah!" in delight.  I never want to forget these moments!

Sometimes I get so sad when I realize that this "baby" is a temporary being.  Already, my "newborn" no longer exists.  Of course he's very much the same person, but he's a different creature, if that makes any sense.  I wish I could have stashed away even just an hour or so of his "newborn" time to dole out to myself over the years.  The flipcam is the best we can do, I guess.

Happy birthday, Baby.  You are my magic.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Last of the Baby-Weight...

has GOT to come off.

I have no more excuses.  My post-partum appetite has long since regulated, meaning I'm no longer constantly starving and never full.  And as of today, March 7th, the baby is gestationally 6 months old (his due date was 9/7).  Nursing moms lose the most weight between 3 and 6 months of their babies' age.  Well, here we are.  Since those last 7-10 pounds haven't magically melted away, it's time to get back on the "healthy" bandwagon.

As an aside, losing the first 35 pounds really was magic.  I've been eating whatever I wanted since December of 2009 when we found out I was pregnant.  When I think about alllll the ice cream - at one point there were 17 different types in our freezer - baked goods, restaurant trips with visiting grandparents, mac-and-cheese and ramen noodle pregnancy indulgences, and the fact that I haven't regularly worked out since my morning sickness set in (and have barely moved at all since the snow hit), it's really amazing that I'm only 7-10 pounds up (instead of, say, morbidly obese).  I can only assume it's a benefit of nursing a 93rd percentile baby.  My dad (pediatrician) says you should count about 50 calories per pound of baby.  So since our baby came out 10 pounds and is now about 19, my bonus calories presumably went from 500 to currently close to 1,000 (minus the solids he now loves).  And I've definitely been using them! I should probably note here that our baby is not overweight.  His height and weight are both 93rd.  So all this food has been nothing but good for him.

But all good things must end.  Hopefully publishing a blog entry on this will keep me honest in my eating, and provide incentive to take off that weight.  This is it, people!!

I spent my high school years chubby.  I was 5'3" and usually about 138-143 pounds... heavier than I am NOW, after the big 3-0 and a baby!  I did have a lot of muscle from doing a lot of karate.  Still, while most girls were enjoying their skinny high school years, I was always regretting my weight and feeling unattractive. 

Part of it was I didn't know how to eat.  I'd have cereal for breakfast, and then for lunch I'd pack a sandwich of just white bread and ham, and an apple.  It was little wonder I'd either end up buying pizza in the hot lunch line or binging on after school snacks once at home.  My body was starving from trying to "diet" and all the white bread wasn't going to fill me up.

The Early College Years:  Not as Bad as High School. 
 Over the years I slowly lost weight.  In college, my average weight dropped to 134-138.  Then after college and in law school it went to 131-136.  My first year of lawyering I was usually 128-134.  Then the last two years of lawyering I was 126-130.  For a total difference of 17 pounds, over ten years.  And no eating disorders. 

I'm not saying I was ever skinny.  Many a skinny girl would be horrified to be 5'3" and 128 pounds, even with being in good shape (I was into bikram super-hot yoga and 40 minute runs).  But I liked my body at that weight; I fit Ann Taylor size 4P/6P pants and 2P/4P tops.  Anything skinnier wouldn't have been healthy for me, and would have been a sinful waste of far too much good food. 

This is as thin as I care to be, since I love food.
So now I have to get back there.  To do it, I'm going to rehash all my old "tricks" and "rules" in list form.  Then, hopefully, I'll implement them - starting Right Now.  I would love to have an updated blog status next week reporting progress.  So here goes:

(1) Always, always, always aim for 8 hours of sleep.  Studies show that when you don't get enough sleep, your body produces less of the hormone that regulates hunger.  Plus, if you're up another 2 hours, it's another 2 hours of hunger and probably snacking.  PLUS if you're tired, you'll try to get extra energy (or just make your day "better") from food you don't need.

(2) Pay attention to calories, not fat grams.  As my dad says, the reason fat makes you "fat" is that it's 9 calories per gram.  Protein and carbs, for example, have 4 calories per gram.  Losing weight is a simple equation:  calories in, calories out.  You can eat fat-free sugary foods all day and still be fat, or you can eat high-fat but low-calorie foods (like the Atkins diet) and still lose weight. 

Also, fat satiates - makes you feel full.  If you're choosing between Skittles and a Snickers bar you should always choose the Snickers, because the calories are the same and the presence of fat means those same calories will carry you longer before you're hungry again - meaning fewer calories at the end of the day.

(3) Be a food snob.  Meaning, pay attention to your body and only eat what you REALLY want to eat.  I'd long been believing this when I read an article about a professor who lost a ton of weight on his "un-diet."  His "un-diet" amounted to eating when he was hungry (but NOT if he wasn't) and eating exactly what he wanted (but NOT anything he didn't really want).  Your body will tell you what you need.  If you're at the office and someone brings in grocery store cupcakes, simply recall that you think those are gross (or at least, really not that great) and don't eat one.  If, on the other hand, someone brings in amazing homemade cupcakes, take one and eat it when you're REALLY hungry, and have it be your dessert for that day.  A lot of food out there is NOT worth eating.  And you don't have to starve yourself (unless you want to be really skinny)!!!  If you notice you're TRULY hungry, have a small snack (hopefully with protein) - you'll avoid over-eating at your next meal!

(4) Along those lines, never let yourself get too hungry - or too full.  In college I would start by shrinking my stomach.  I'd let myself eat more frequently between meals and I'd eat smaller meals, until my stomach was smaller.  Then I'd whittle away at the snacking.  This was the most pain-free way to having a smaller stomach and appetite.

(5) Have a cheat-day once a week.  Two of Mark's cousins lost weight and kept it off on a diet that included a cheat-day.  You can't be successful long-term if you have some major favorites on a "never-eat" list (like mac-and-cheese... ramen...barbecue).  Plus, this way you don't have to deny yourself at social events - make it your cheat day!

(6) Exercises 3-4 times a week.  Even if it's just a 40 minute walk.

(7) Eat protein when possible.  It's only 4 calories per gram and it fills you up and satisfies.  Cottage cheese is a great snack - the salt will also satiate.  It sounds weird but so is lunch meat - very low calorie and it fills you up.  String cheese also works.  Always pay the extra $2 and get the grilled chicken on your salad.

(8) Drink plenty of water.  Just carry your water bottle everywhere.  Any time your body mistakes thirst for hunger, and you eat, you lose (meaning you don't lose... or you gain).  So take it out of the equation.

(9) Consider any white bread or pasta to be your dessert of the day, if you indulge in it.  It's really as nutritious as eating a cookie; your body just turns it into sugar.  Stick to brown rice and Barilla Plus pasta.  Barilla Plus really doesn't taste any different!  The whole grains and higher protein levels will fill you up, meaning you'll eat less pasta - and stay full longer.  And there are very soft, yummy 100% whole wheat breads out there for sandwiches.  You'll never look back!  Except when you occasionally indulge in sourdough or Jimmy John's.  If you need to put cheese on a sandwich, try breaking up slices and putting "splotches" of cheese so you get the taste but with less cheese overall.  Miracle whip light is great on sandwiches, it REALLY is.  Or mustard. 

(10) Avoid store-bought chips and cookies.  I really believe there's something BAD about all the preservatives and hidden trans-fats in crazy, never-rotting packaged stuff.  Did you know that anything with the word "hydrogenated" appearing anywhere on the label, even "partially-hydrogenated," has trans fats even if the box says it doesn't??  They use a serving size smaller than you'll actually eat so that they they don't have to report the "trace" amounts - which aren't so trace once you have more than one cookie.  Which you inevitably will with store-bought goodies; they never satisfy.  If your daily dessert is homemade cookies, you'll feel satiated after 2, which amounts to about 140 calories.  With oreos, you'll need 6 (or at least I will), and that's over 200.

(11) Don't be black-and-white about veggies.  I noticed in France that they have no problem adding butter or creme fraiche (like sour cream) - or both - to their veggies.  In the U.S., we try to have them plain and steamed - and eat salads with chemical-laden "fat free" dressing.  I really think the upshot is that the French eat more veggies - and less chemicals.  They live way longer over there.  Yeah, you added a dollup of butter to your broccoli - so???  You just ate huge bunch of broccoli for about 50 calories, you rock!

(12) Forget price in the produce section.  I'm telling you this as a truly frugal person.  If there are awesome strawberries or even bing cherries, buy them.  You'll be excited to eat fruit, and satisfied by it:  That's priceless.  And in any case, it's a lot cheaper than Weight Watchers. 

This post is already too long but since I'm mainly blogging for myself, I'm still going to add what my daily diet looked like at my thinnest.  On all days other than cheat days:

- 7:15: Breakfast.  I kept it to 300 calories.  I need both salt and sweet in the morning - and protein!! - so I often did a combo of 1/2 a Thomas 100% whole wheat English muffin (60 calories) with a slice of American cheese (also 60 calories) microwaved + 8 frosted shredded mini-wheats and a small glass of milk, or I'd do oatmeal (1/4 cup oatmeal made with 1/2 cup milk, a dash of salt, a tsp butter, about 2 tbsp brown sugar, and a small glass of milk).

- 7:45 I would drink a glass of water to "break up" the food and make it last longer.  I swear this helps.  And I swear it helps more than drinking water with the meal.  I believe it restarts the digestion process, to some extent.  I have no scientific proof of this, just blind faith.

- 10:30 I would eat something about 100 calories to tide me over until lunch.  Either a small cup of coffee with cream and sugar (70-100 calories of cream and sugar = 2-3 tbsp cream and 2-3 tsp sugar, which is actually a lot!) or a few pieces of candy.  Or a snack-sized cottage cheese.

- 11:45: Lunch.  I was working downtown and we always ate out, but cheaply.  I miss those days... I'd either get a whole wheat turkey or club sub with lots of veggies and light mayo, or a BIG salad with lots of grilled chicken and flavorful toppings like feta and cranberries, or a brown rice/spicy chicken bowl with a side salad.  Mmmm.  Now that I'm home it's whole wheat ham sandwiches and maybe a cup of soup.

- 3:00:  Snack.  Either an apple or other fruit. If an apple, a GOOD apple, like a Honey Crisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady.  I also love cut-up strawberries with green grapes.  I would also usually have a single fairly small piece of dark chocolate.  It's amazing what 30 calories of dark chocolate will do.

-6:00/7:00: Dinner.  A moderate dinner - eating until I'm full but not stuffed.  Mark and I are good about never having starchy side-dishes (like rolls or potatoes).  Our main dish may include brown rice or Barilla Plus pasta.  Our side dish is almost always a salad *unless* the main dish has NO carbs, in which case I'll do a quick bread (like banana bread or zucchini bread) made with at least half whole-wheat flour.  If a salad, I try to watch it with dressing BUT I always use regular dressing, none of that gross fat-free chemical stuff.  You can get away with less dressing if you sprinkle salt or add salty wet things like banana peppers to the salad.  Feta is great too.  Someone once asked me about soda.  I don't like diet soda so I only have soda as a "dessert" - meaning I have it with pizza or Mexican food, and if I have it and it's not a cheat day, it counts as my dessert.  This is when I was at my thinnest for two years, and in no way reflects my post-pregnancy habits.  Until now...

- 8:00:  Dessert.  About 300 calories.  A few homemade cookies or small dish of ice cream.  In the winter hot chocolate with whipped cream. 

So.  Writing this during nap times I've generally stuck to it today.  I did just now have an extra snack, but if that's my only extra snack I think it's fine since I'm nursing and I walked for an hour this afternoon.  I am REALLY hoping this pays off.  I have got to get back into my old jeans...

Any other tips or recipe ideas welcome!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

These cookies, I believe, will one day usher in world peace.

"The cookie debate is over.  O-ver."  Those words, written about these cookies by Hillary's colleague at the A.P. who wrote a food column with his NYC chef wife, ring in my ears every time I go to make the Best Cookies Ever.

If you really, truly dislike dark chocolate, these cookies may not be for you.  If not, make no mistake:  These cookies are for you.

And they're easy.  REALLY easy.  Easier than chocolate chip cookies, really.  The only potential issue is getting your hands on some Dutch processed cocoa powder.  It used to be right there in the baking section of every grocery store, but now I only ever see natural or a blend.  Using a blend works all right, but these cookies are worth the investment of an order to for some dutch processed good stuff.

These cookies are known as "Korova cookies" and originated in a famous Parisian patisserie.  I've tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, and the following is my version:


1 stick unsalted plus 3 tbsp salted butter, room temp
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt, rounded.  Not piled high, but softly rounded.
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits (I usually take a hammer to a bar of Ghiradelli 70% cacao, but lately I've become lazy and I use the 60% cacao chocolate chips - either can be found in the baking section of any grocery store ... the actual bar IS better, if you have a hammer).


(1) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together.  If you're feeling lazy, you can just run a whisk through it. 

(2) Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugars, sea salt, and vanilla.

(3) Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until just combined.  Add the chocolate bits and don't mix much more.

(4) Divide dough in half and form into two logs, about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, like so:

(5) Refrigerate at least an hour.  If you go much more than that, let it soften a bit.

(6) Slice dough about 1/2 an inch thick.  The cookies will fall apart a little, but just form them back into circles as best you can.  Bake on cookie sheet lined with wax paper at 325 degrees for ten minutes.

(7) Enjoy your little slices of heaven.