I have scrambled brains for eggs

I am beyond delirious. I am so mo' fo'ing tired I can't even describe it. If you stole my eyelids and made me eat sand with my hands behind my back you might get close.

Hollis is a diabolical maniac.

Yep. Now I really get The Incredibles' Jack Jack when he turns into a little demon in the end. The most perfect fit of a non-verbal human being I've ever seen in my life. This is Hollis at 4 am these days.

When my baby cries like he's being impaled by a lance dipped in cayenne pepper I can't help but react from my gut. It's like some primeval force telling me, "Protect baby!! Save baby!! Comfort baby!!" So I do and all is right with the world.

There are so many books on parenting, so many different concepts and philosophies to choose from. If that weren't confusing enough, there are also as many public and cultural opinions about it. Here in America, we want parenting to be convenient. Convenience, to us, is the mark of success. If our life is convenient, then we're doing something right!

Look at all of the things that we have in our life that make it so much more convenient:
A car
Having two cars
Check cards
Cell phones
Microwave dinners
Answering machines
Caller ID
Online banking

The list goes on. Unfortunately, people also want their kids to be convenient, let them "cry it out," "learn to 'self-soothe'." A 3-month old isn't supposed to self-soothe, people. It is built to rely on others and if it doesn't, it will D I E. Same goes for a 6-month old, 9-month old and so on. As a baby grows older and can wrap his newly developed synapses around cause and effect - and I mean, REALLY get it, not just do experiments like, "If I do this, will Mommy get red again?" kind of thing - then we can start to introduce an element of convenience, such as, "No, this is Mommy's quiet time right now."

The biggest thing I've learned having a baby is that I am a puppet. Yep. I am a puppet and it's ok. It does't make me a weenie, it doesn't make my baby a "manipulator," nor will it ruin him for the future. My answering his calls in the only way he knows how (screams, whimpers, whines, cries, etc.) will teach him that his gut instincts get him the response he's looking for: a grown-up's attention, a kiss, a cuddle, a reposition, a diaper change. If I ignore him, I fear that I will only erode what he's been hard wired to to do and thus instill a deep sense of confusion and fear of his own feelings.

That sounds awfully melodramatic, but I'm serious. It helps to remember this as I stumble from my bed at God awful hours of the night to take care of my sweet, rosy-cheeked banshee.

Of course, to be fair, everyone has their own style, but as I continue to struggle with being a good parent, and still take care of myself, I have to define what I am and what I am not. This is the result of the combination of me, my baby, and my husband. We're a unique equation and the answer will, hopefully, be a well-rounded, confident little boy and two happy and proud parents. Other people do things their way and that's fine. I've been cursed with the habit to analyze everything I think and do so here I am chomping away on what the hell it is I'm doing these days.



I'm a "negative earner"

I've been out of the workforce since April 7th, 2006, or thereabouts. That was the day I hung my shitty-job-hat and put on my do-what-you-love rose-colored glasses. It's been incredible every day since.

The big drawback to this life decision has been, of course, that I don't earn us money. At the time, Anthony and I were making nearly the same. I think he made a little more than me, but with his very thoughtful and responsible withholdings our take home was equal. When we went house-hunting, we were sure to buy a house that we could afford on his salary alone at that pay rate. Luckily, since then, he's been kicking ass and taking names and getting regular pay-raises so we've been getting more wiggle room.

What have I been doing for our financial well-being? Well, I do the finances and figure out what we can spend each week. I do projections for future savings, bill pay-offs, taxes, etc. But I also spend our money. Anthony virtually starves himself from our bank account. He'll splurge on a new motorcycle thingamabob, but only he calls it a "splurge." I mean, isn't that widget for the wheel essential??

I, on the other hand, am a negative earner. By this I mean that I don't bring money in, but I save us money on what we spend. For instance, I buy all the groceries. I also buy gifts for friends and family, clothes for all of us, and various odds and ends for the house. I research almost every purchase over $40 that I make, but I'm still making a purchase in the end. I try to save as much as possible, so in the end, maybe I'm earning about -$500 a month.

I also have put myself on a grocery budget diet. Last year, we roughly spent $600-$800 a month on food. A good 80% of that was groceries, and the rest was eating out (eating out includes delivery in my house). I challenged myself to a $100 a week grocery budget. I have found that I go over by about $50, but there's something really rewarding about stopping by the bank on a Saturday morning to withdraw $100 and then head over to the farmers' market to get my week's supply of produce. - And don't worry, I don't spend $100 at the farmers' market! It's usually about $20-$30 and the rest I spend at WholeFoods or HEB.- So I've cut back our grocery spending by about a third. That's -$200. And we rarely eat out or have delivery. So that's another $-100.

I've been really thinking about all of this these past few months, now that I'm out of school. Staying at home with an infant is hard work, but most days it doesn't feel like it. Because it's rewarding, creative and fun I feel like I'm not doing anything. Of course, this is clearly ridiculous. I know plenty of contemporaries that have told me that they could never stay home with their babies and much prefer having them in day care while they "go to work." To that end, I provide day care for myself and Anthony. That's a whopping -$1000/month.

Oh wait! I do have money coming in a little bit. I've discovered Craigslist and regularly post things to sell. I make the random $50 here and $5 there. - I once drove about 37 miles round trip to drop off a pair of cowboy boots to a woman who bought them for $5. Clearly, I didn't think that one through. - I have some things posted now, for instance. I feel so good when I make a buck! I wish I had more to sell. So, there's some positive numbers for me, too!: $25 a month on average, I'd say.

I feel good thinking about my life this way. It's so freaking hard when people ask me, "Are you working??" to which I respond, "No, I stay at home with my baby," because I k now they mean, "Are you earning money?" What the hell?! Some people say, "Oh that is work!" while most others blithely go on about the conversation. I need to reframe my answers and say, "YES, I stay at home with my baby," and maybe it will help to start changing the way we think about work.

In any case, it looks like my monthly negative earnings are approximately -$1800 a month! Woot! Hell, that's pretty damn good if you ask me!



I swear the Universe has a way of conspiring against you (or with you, as the case may be). The Universe always keeps things in balance. If you walk out of Target with sunglasses without paying for them because they were hidden from your view (and your memory), then you will forget a purchase later on, or not get the drink you ordered, or whatever. You will end up paying for them one way or another.

It's more than just karma, too. It's being a member of a spiritual society where everyone's accountable one way or another and everyone helps each other out, even if they're not aware of it.

What stirred all this up? You'll laugh.

Yesterday's Oprah show. Yep. She was talking about personal makeovers and an author was on to talk about her book, and, apparently, she's also been working with Oprah. Her name is Kathy Freston and she's all about "conscious eating." Not just the "know what's going in your mouth, slow down and enjoy it" kind of conscious eating, but knowing where the food you're putting in your mouth came from.

At least, I see this as having the desire to do my elimination diet, consume sustainable things, support humane treatment of animals, etc. If I could snap my fingers and make my life exactly as I wanted it to be I would have a little farm where I would raise animals and my fruits and vegetables. I would honor the animals and lovingly care for them. The same goes for the other foods. I would buy materials from friends who made things like textiles, building materials, etc. - Have I mentioned how in love I've always been with the 1800's?? - Of course, I'd want the perks of modern day science and innovation and medicines, but I would figure out a way to blend it all together.

So, yet another mainstream outlet is focusing on health and cleansing and consciousness. Tap, tap, tap!! Hello!!! Jessica, are you in there??


Still thinking about it

I'm still just thinking about that elimination diet. Now I'm more concerned with autism. It's the secret, stab-you-when-you-least-expect-it, most awful thing to pop up in a parent's life. At least, that's how I feel. Writing that I realize how narrow minded that sounds. There are a myriad of things that could just "pop up" in my child's life and mine. Anyone could get hit by a truck, get cancer, develop some weird never heard of before disease and so on. But autism is the one that's getting the most press right now.

There you are, blithely enjoying your baby and your life and Wham! Your kid will never speak a full sentence to you ever.

I was doing better with my dooms day thinking, but I've sort of fallen off that wagon and hitched up with the Autism Is Caused By The Environment band wagon. Of course I have no idea if it is. When I talked to my pediatrician about it she said something that you don't often hear in the media. She explained the increased rates of autism (1 in about 100 kids) to a better understanding of what autism is and a broader spectrum. "What's considered 'autism' today may have just been thought of as mental retardation a hundred years ago or just being 'slow'." I don't know why I hadn't thought of that first. My schooling taught me to have a critical eye to inflammatory statements of any kind, but as a new mother who feels pretty much clueless I'm more apt to believe all the experts and more seasoned parents on this issue.

I can't ignore the other piece to all of this and that's my inclination to worry. I need to worry. I recently saw a news show about The Last Lecture and his wife said something that really stuck with me. Her therapist gave her a sentence to say whenever she started to feel overwhelmed with sadness about her husband and think poignantly negative thoughts such as, "This is the last time he'll ever see the beach," or "He'll never get to see our son get married," etc. The sentence is "That isn't helpful."

I've been telling myself "That isn't helpful," whenever I think Anthony might be dead on the side of the highway somewhere or that my mom is calling to tell me she found another lump. It's worked late at night,when I'm alone and Anthony is 1000 miles away I can literally see some crazed intruder staring in through my window or popping up from the end of my bed to get me. I tell myself. "Jessica, that isn't helpful."

I need to reassert my will against this sick worry-fetish I have and let the world have its way with me. We all live our lives each day by breathing in and breathing out. Holding my breath isn't going to stave off the inevitable (particularly the inevitable that I find to be negative). My family and world is as it should be and will be as it should. All this to say that theoretically I'm cool with what comes my way, but I struggle with the anticipation of the unknown.

I'm also aware of my desperate clinging to those I love the most. I was never afraid of flying before I fell in love with Anthony. I never though a second about autism before Hollis. I never knew what fear was until I contemplated real loss. Losing my father was an emotional revolution and I felt like a warrior, but it hasn't hardened me to the future.

Blah blah blah.

I feel better for venting. Thanks for reading this.


Afraid of failing

As I've mentioned before, I have eczema. Nothing major, but it's there to remind me that I'm either stressed or allergic to something I'm eating or touching, or all of the above. I also have joint aches, particularly in my knees and hips.

I've done tons of research and I can do a couple of things about these ailments: I can change my diet and I can exercise and I have to do both, not one or the other. The exercise part is coming pretty easily to me since I lug around a 23 lb infant all day, I live near a park with trails, and I belong to a really cool gym. My arms are toned and my back is stronger than ever and all the baby weight and then some is gone. The diet part, however, is the scary change.

In order to isolate the foods that I'm allergic to I'm going to need to do an elimination diet. Otherwise known as the "detection," "Cave Man," "rare food," and (most appropriately) the "challenge" diet. It limits your diet to those things which are proven to NOT be an allergen. That means no gluten, no citrus, no sugar, caffeine, alcohol, no standard meats, no nuts, no tomatoes, no dairy, and on and on and on. One website says it outright, "There is no way to make a sandwich, so get used to it."

I've known about this diet for 3 years, but have always been afraid to try it. First of all, I'm afraid of even attempting it because I don't want to fail. I feel like I'm set up to fail because I lack the willpower to power through a month of this. Then I feel stupid because it's just one little month out of a lifetime of months and isn't the possible outcome worth a little discomfort? I also don't know how I'll do it alone. Anthony insists on eating meat every single day. Once, I suggested we go vegetarian for a month and I was struck dead on the spot by the look he gave me (not that he's a jerk, he just has his preferences - and to be fair his cholesterol is great and he has a 32" waist. The guy's not hurting in the nutrition department, for sure.). I also don't want to "waste" all the food I currently have in the fridge and the pantry. What do I do with all that tempting food that's not on the list? I can't have it anywhere near me if I'm going to be successful at this.

You can see my list is lengthy and complex as to why I'm going to fail at such an extreme diet. I want to reiterate, though, this is not about losing weight. It's about investigating my body and its reactions to what I'm putting into it. I already know that a completely dairy-free diet doesn't really improve my joint aches or my eczema or my gassiness. Eliminating some dairy, though, does help me avoid stomach pain and sickness, though. And I'd say that that year-long experiment was definitely worth the discovery...

I don't know. I'm just so afraid of failing. Making changes is so hard! I gave up all sorts of things when I was pregnant, but I still couldn't eliminate bologna sandwiches. I'd eat a sandwich then be wracked with guilt over the possibility of having just contracted listeriosis.

Oh well, I'll keep you posted on whether or not I take the plunge. I'll just keep plugging away at my little changes in my life for now. I'm loving my new "green" household cleaning products, for example. They smell so nice and they're good for the fishies, too!


I'm so confused

A few months ago, while very pregnant, Anthony was at WholeFoods grocery shopping. Also on his "grocery list" was a request from me for shaving cream. Being WholeFoods, he couldn't find my usual $1.99 foam and instead bought some of this stuff. I loved it and I felt good that it wasn't an aerosol can and made with "an organic blend of aloe vera, green tea and calendula." It also felt great, smelled good, and worked really well. That bottle lasted me forever and I just recently purchased my second bottle - again feeling quite proud of myself for not contributing to landfills with extra plastic bottles, etc. and for continuing with a healthy trend.

One day I was reading the ingredient list on my happy and healthy shave foam and came across "Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate." I immediately thought, "SHIT! They've snuck in some of that stuff that's bad for you and are still calling it 'all natural'!"

Rewind a year or two to a visit with my general practitioner to discuss the causes of my eczema. She rattled off a list of possible food allergens and something called sodium lauryl sulfate. She even wrote it down for me. According to her, a patient of hers discovered that at the root of all her joint aches, skin issues, and general fatigue was an allergy to SLS. Perhaps I had a sensitivity to this small-moloculed ingredient that can cause skin irritation because it can penetrate the skin that is in, literally, everything that we think should have a lather, for example toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, and cleansers. Well, true to my "do nothing" nature, I did nothing with this information a few years ago other than notice that it was in a lot of the things I use.

Since I'm now responsible for another little body who cannot make decisions for himself, I'm becoming much more aware of the composition of things. Like I first posted, this awareness is trickling down throughout my life and causing me to own my decisions. I have a lot of power whenever I go to the store. My decisions can change the world and I'm relieved to have discovered that there is a difference between sodium lauryl sulfoacetate and sodium lauryl sulfate. The former is a larger molecule and thought to be safer and more gentle. The latter is the one that everyone is a little suspect about. They've discovered that it can cause irritations with long-term exposure (shampoos don't count because they're thoroughly rinsed out).

It should be recognized that shampoos represent such brief, discontinuous use products that are thoroughly rinsed, thus clearly minimizing the risk from sodium lauryl sulfate. It should also be recognized that many people shampoo daily, and we really do not know whether a lot of little exposures to sodium lauryl sulfate are dangerous or not.

Given the lack of adequate research and suggestive evidence, however, we believe it might be wise for health-conscious consumers to seek products without sodium lauryl sulfate, especially with regard to young children. Indeed, consumers have the power to choose safe and perhaps even better products without sodium lauryl sulfate.

This may be a very wise choice for another reason. We have found very often the presence of sodium lauryl sulfate in a shampoo formulation is a "marker" for the use of other undesirable ingredients, including formaldehyde-containing preservatives (e.g., imidazolidinyl urea); possible cancer-causing wetting agents (e.g., cocamide DEA); and nitrosamine-forming agents (e.g., triethanolamine). Also, it should be mentioned that in Germany, where there is a concerted effort underway now to label cosmetics and personal care products as certified natural, formulations containing sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate cannot be so certified, reports Michael Wrightson, president of Logona Kosmetik. -Jason Cosmetics
The moral of this story is that I need to keep my eyes peeled. Just because it's organic or all natural, or whatever, doesn't mean that there might not be things added that could be making me feel wonky or triggering allergic reactions. I truly believe that I have an allergy to something out there, it's just not obvious to me. It's probably a combination of things that I'm doing and I'm finally starting the investigation. Hollis has eczema on his tummy and while I know this is common, since I have eczema I don't think his is a temporary case. I'm somehow consuming something that's getting into my breast milk and I can't stand to see his little red, patchy belly.

It's so frustrating all this "Do this, but not that," "Eat this, but not that," blah, blah, blah. I want to do what is right and not succumb to ignorance because it's easier. No shit it's an "inconvenient truth." I keep asking myself "Since when did convenience become the benchmark of our existence??" It's rhetorical, of course. I know when, how and why we are the way we are. I just want to try to be different and better, and most importantly, kinder to the universe and my own body. Lord knows I've abused them both in the past, particularly my poor old body.