babyplay: object permanence

A little while ago, I started a Pinterest board for ideas of baby-appropriate learning activities to do with Gabriel. We've tried out a few of these, and so far there have been a couple of hits.

My personal favorite is this "object permanence" activity. Babies need to learn object permanence - the idea that something doesn't go away just because you can't see it anymore. Peek-a-boo is an object permanence game.

There's a slew of object permanence boxes available, online and in stores. My favorites are the Michael Olaf ones, because they're made of wood and are not gaudy nice to look at and made of materials that are completely safe. (See some here, here, and here. That second one is my favorite.)

I decided to make a "free" version of the beautiful Montessori object permanence toy for Gabriel out of stuff around the house, using ideas I'd already put on Pinterest. I took a shoe box I'd previously been using as a treasure basket and cut a hole in the bottom about twice the size of Gabriel's wooden blocks. I rolled out a towel (aka work mat) and showed him how to put blocks in the hole.

He picked on pretty quickly! That was fun. But I don't think he really "got" the concept. He liked dropping blocks through the hole and then picking up the box. Then he'd put the box down and drop more blocks. Who knows - maybe he's already got this object permanence thing down and was improvising! This is a game we'll be playing for a while, I imagine.


new diet checkin

So I've been on this new diet for about a week now, and I'm starting to notice some things. First off, I've lost about 5lbs.

Secondly, there seems to be something to this anti-inflammation thing. I've noticed that on the occasions I break the diet and have, say, a slice and a half of pizza on family pizza night, I am noticeably more sore the next day. Corn seems to bother me more than wheat or sugar, which is kind of interesting.

I thought I would have dealt with some super major cravings by now. Generally, though, I haven't. There are times when it's really hard (and occasionally impossible) to resist something off-limits that is right in front of me, but it's not like I walk around thinking about bread all day. I do kinda miss chocolate, but there was a drastic chocolate storage in Ashley Land for most of the summer so it's been easier to go without it than it was, for example, earlier this year when I stopped eating chocolate because it bothered Gabriel.

I think it might be realistic for me to be put off by the sugary sweetness I used to love so much. When I caved the other day and had a piece of candy, one of my FAVORITES, it wasn't nearly as good as the last piece I'd had before I started this crazy diet. There may be hope for me yet!

I do miss the texture of plain, old, bad-for-you breads. I also miss potatoes in all their various incarnations. And the pick-me-up of a bite of chocolate.


preparing for a "collapse situation"

One of the things I picked up since having a child is an interest in self-preservation. Prior to Gabriel coming along, my general plan for facing a nuclear meltdown/world war 3/apocalypse situation involved cyanide in pill form. Now, I've gone and procreated and can no longer stomach this plan.

One resource I've turned to is a blog called TEOTWAWKI. On here I've read product reviews, ideas for survival, helpful info on guns, and a series I'm particularly fond of that lays out how to prepare for a collapse on $40 a week. My preparations will have a substantially smaller budget, but there's something reassuring about making emergency plans, even if it's only plans and no substance at this point.

If you're into this kind of thing, check out the blog! If nothing else, it's a fascinating glimpse at a niche group I hadn't really met before.


a new trick

I've noticed that Gabriel is now handing things to people. It's very cute! He handed me a ball the other day, and he tried to stuff a drooly toy bird in my mom's mouth not long after. This means he already knows how to share, right? And we can bypass the "IT'S MINE" phase of toddlerhood, right?

And so begins phase one of teaching manners: saying "thank you" when a cute baby hands you something.

It's never too soon for a southern boy to learn thank you.


because i didn't already have enough going on

One of the scary things of being a single (nursing) mother is fact that when it comes right down to it, I am Gabriel's everything. I'm the only parent he knows, his safest person, and (at the moment) his primary food source. Illness is never a good thing, but for my little family, illness would be a very, very bad thing. 

In an effort to take care of myself, I am (among other measures) doing an anti-inflammation diet for 30 days. I am three days in, and it is...not....fun. This isn't "the" anti-inflammation diet, which would be LESS rigid than the one I'm on. Mine is a super-fun mashup of "no grains, no sugars, and none of the few remaining things that make this concept slightly less intolerable, either."

Sugar is out. This is actually a good thing, because I think I'm probably addicted to the stuff and it is a habit I have needed and wanted to break, for my own health and for Gabriel's. No sugar also means no sweeteners whatsoever - including stuff like honey and stuff like fruit. Stevia is the only sweetness allowed, and I don't much like the taste of stevia.

Grains are out. Not just wheat, but all grains, including oats, corn, and rice. According to grainfreeliving.org, I can still have quinoa and kasha (aka buckwheat), which are pretty much the only saving graces. Kasha kinda tastes like feet, but there are some things I've come up with to make it a little more tolerable.

Also out are the nightshade foods - namely potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers (though I can't eat peppers anyway, unless I'm up for a few days of stomach problems). 

I'm also supposed to be limiting my dairy, including eggs, but let's face it: it's not realistic to eliminate these, given my current circumstances (and neuroses). And most inflammation-reduction diets also cut out legumes, but I don't know yet if this one does. If so, I'll be sad about yet another thing lost. 

I know that this is a good move, even though it's really freaking hard. I'm only slighly nervous about what it will do to my milk supply, but even that might be a good thing to reduce because it may get the baby eating solids more steadily. 

So what's on the menu? A lot of chicken, fish, and vegetables. For 30 days. Lord help me.


again, the world as i know it ends

I've finally come to terms with the fact that I no longer have a stationary baby. He isn't exactly crawling yet, and he only occasionally employs rolling to get places, but he can no longer be trusted to stay in the same spot.

Mostly, he is doing some pre-crawling stuff that involves pushing up and subsequently backward. He hasn't figured out how to plant his feet in place when he's on his tummy (but he's getting there!) so when he puts his weight on his arms to lift his hips, a lot of the time he just ends up scootching backward.

He'll also sorta kick himself around when he's on his back, especially when he's in a good mood. He'll pass half an hour lying on his back, just chewing on his fists, alternating fart noises and yells, rolling around, and paddling himself around with his feet. He's also starting to lean forward from seated and plopping onto his tummy, and he'll even sorta spin around slowly when he's sitting, too - I sat him down yesterday and turned around 5 minutes later to see that he'd rotated 180 degrees. Kinda funny, dude.

It's good to see him starting to move around - I figure it's about time - but it also means I need to be more vigilant and snap out of some of the habits I developed while we've been in limbo. All of my baby carriers are in storage, thanks to a stress-induced bout of Very Bad Packing Decisions from back before the move. (At the time, I was under the impression that I would only be without them for a couple of weeks, and I never once thought to second-guess the contractor's initial timeline. Here's a tip: always second-guess the contractor's initial timeline.) Since I haven't been able to wear him, I've been able to plop him on the bed when I needed to get stuff done. He liked being up and able to see me, and I liked not feeling like I was dumping my baby on the floor. It was easier to interact with him up high, too.

But alas, no more. Baby is relegated to the floor at all times he is not in arms or sleeping.

Supposedly I'll be able to unpack into the new place in two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to having the carriers back. Unpacking while wearing an active baby will be something of an adventure, I imagine! He's a lot more reachy-grabby than he was last time he hung out in the sling...



(written July 1, 2012)

It's right around midnight, and I'm not sleeping. I haven't had a truly good night's sleep since the night of November 9, 2011. November 10 was the turning point. It marked first night I went to bed alone. That night, I stopped looking at the clock at some point past 4am, and I haven't fared a whole lot better on all but maybe 3 of the nights since then. Even now, eight months into this separation, there's somebody missing. I still feel noticeably, strangely, uncomfortably alone.

Well, alone-plus-baby. Gabriel wasn't quite born yet when Brian moved to a different room, so I wasn't technically alone, and after Gabriel was born, I began sleeping with him in his nursery. I think I've had two nights that I didn't share a bed with him.

I never expected to be a bed-sharing kind of parent, but Gabriel's earliest days were hard for me. He was (and remains) perfect, but the environment he was born into was (and remains) decidedly imperfect. I was exhausted, I was alone, and I was not physically capable of getting up every two hours to haul my baby out of the crib, so I just kept him in my bed.

Not only was I dealing with the fears, insecurities, and worries that every brand-new mom feels, but I was doing it more or less isolated, in pain, and living on the opposite side of my house from a here-but-gone husband who wouldn't be in the picture much longer - a truth I knew but refused to acknowledge. I was staring down the barrel of single motherhood while simultaneously learning to nurse my son, trying to heal from giving birth, keeping up pretenses around the church and the 8 relatives who had come to Denver, and trying not to sob my way through Christmas making Christmas merriment.

I barely noticed Christmas last year. It's always been a huge deal for my family, and I like to revel in the holidays, but 2011 is not one I would like to remember (and I basically don't, thanks to a magical combination of mind-numbing exhaustion, my brain's habit of not storing painful memories as a coping mechanism, and "bigger things going on" crowding out any real experiences to begin with). It was a three-pronged anxious misery for me: newborn baby and recent childbirth pain/insecurity/worry angst, recent separation and impending divorce and single motherhood fear/anger/grief/shame angst, and a righteously indignant "it's my baby's first Christmas and it's not supposed to be like this" type of angst, which I guess is a secondary angst generated by the first two.

Those were hard days, but I had my sweet baby and the determination to keep hoping my marriage would be restored. Every day I prayed that something would change, but most nights I would spend the hours between midnight and sunrise grappling with the fear, and increasing certainty, that my life as I'd known it was over. It was as if my hope had been fueled by daylight. I could keep hoping when the facts weren't staring me in the face, but going to bed in my son's room instead of the room I'd shared with my husband was devastating and unavoidable.

Now I'm living 1700 miles away, putting together that new life I spent so many hours praying against. I still dread night time. It's no longer jarring. The ache is duller. But it's still there. And I still can't sleep.


a new way of sitting

Gabriel is 8 months old now. He is developing at a steady clip, as best I can tell, though sometimes he feels "behind" (does every mom struggle with that?). Namely, he's not crawling yet. He's getting there, slowly, but I had thought he'd be crawling by now - a lot of babies I've known have crawled by 8 months. The books say 9 months is average and not to panic until he's a year old, so I keep reminding myself of that. 

I've been watching him pretty closely to see what new movements he's making. He's been rocking his hips a LOT, in all kinds of seated and reclined positions and when he's on his tummy. He is juuuuust starting to go from rocking his hips to lifting them slightly when he's on his tummy, so I'm trying to encourage that in him. With a kid who hates tummy time with a fiery burning passion, this can be tricky. So he's getting there, just slowly. And let's be honest - I'm moving again in the next week or two, and that business will be somewhat less difficult if there's not a baby underfoot.

Another new thing he's starting to do is lean waaaay forward when he's sitting - not just reaching, but putting a hand down to support a really long reach. Sometimes as a result of this, his right leg ends up kicking back behind him. He'll spend a lot of time sitting like this. It's pretty cute, and I have to wonder if it's a precursor to other things. Maybe he will start getting himself from sitting to on the floor soon! And I'd have to think that getting from sitting to lying forward will develop both core strength and body awareness in him - two things I imagine are crucial for this crawling thing to pan out. 

So who knows - maybe he'll be right on the average nose with crawling. He seems to be on the right track, at least (as best I can tell). And he looks so cute with his legs in this new arrangement.


mystery rash

For the first couple months of Gabriel's life, I played the "what's the source of this rash" game a lot. I generally think that rashes are a sign of some sort of allergy and not just "something that all babies get."

The first rashy adventure started when I noticed that he was covered in tiny red bump. They didn't seem to itch or otherwise bother him, but they bothered me. It looked like tiny baby acne everywhere. Not cool! I eventually figured out that it was a contact allergy when one day bath time was interrupted and I only washed part of his body, and the soaped part got worse in the red-bumps department whereas the just-rinsed part looked slightly better. Turns out my boy is allergic to pretty much all soaps. Dr. Bronner's (unscented) worked on him for a while, as does the soap I make.

(Yes, I make my own soap. And yes, it's what I use in my homemade laundry detergent as well.)

Then, for a while, he started getting these ugly, scaly, raised, brown patches. They started on his tummy and spread, and then began sprouting on his legs. During the soap rash investigation, I'd read up on a lot of typical allergens and manifestations of allergies, so I was pretty sure this was eczema and I had a feeling it might be a dairy allergy. I was right. I went off dairy for a while, and he totally cleared up. Totally. The boy had PERFECT skin. No rashes, no bumps, no baby zits. Nothing. Beautiful skin. We got comments and compliments on it all the time. Stellar.

Until now. (You saw this coming, right?)

About a week ago, Gabriel woke up and lifted his head off the mattress, revealing a MAJOR red rash all over his right cheek. And it's been spreading. The redness and hugeness of it has gone down and is less startling (thankfully), but he's now got tiny bumps all over his face, arms, and legs. I can't figure out why.

At first I thought it was because I was back to eating dairy and had kinda gone overboard the two days prior (cereal for breakfast and pizza for dinner on the same day, that kind of thing). I went back mostly-off dairy, and the rash hasn't really cleared up and in fact looks like maybe it's getting worse - the bumps are smaller and less red, but there are lots more of them.

The ones on the arms and legs look like the contact rash he had from the soap a while ago, and the ones on his face seems to sorta match them but appear in huge clusters on his cheeks and forehead instead of a kind of even spread all over, as they are on the limbs.

The problem is, this could be anything. (Except I don't think it's dairy.) It could be from laundry detergent or some other thing he's coming into contact with - it's only affecting him in places that aren't covered in clothing/diapers. Maybe it's from me switching back to Dr. Bronner's soap after using my own for a couple of months - it did take a while to clear up, last time. Or it could be food-related - he's started solids recently and it's not unheard of for babies to be allergic to rice cereal (which is what he eats, for the most part). What's on his cheeks almost looks like a drool rash, and he's teething, so maybe that's part of the problem. He also had shots last week, so maybe it's a delayed reaction to the shots. All of these things changed or started last week, around the same time the rash did.

The good news is that it doesn't seem to bug him, and I think the general disappearance of redness is a good sign. I'll figure it out; it might just take a while. And in the meantime, I'm going to have a rashy baby. There are worse things.



In my effort to clean up my blog, I've been paging through my archives. I started this blog 5+ years ago, so there's a fair amount of stuff documented here. I didn't (and don't) often go into full detail about what was going on, so it's interesting to see what things merited "casual" mention here, and then compare/contrast to my memories of what was actually going on.

Mostly I've been struck by the frequent references to Brian as "my husband" and all the compliments I lobbed his way. Why was I so deliberate about mentioning him frequently, and why did I mention him the ways I did? Maybe it was one of my smaller (of many, multi-level) attempts at showing him how much I loved him. The motivation might have been innocent, being a newlywed and all. When I love, I love deeply and widely. It colors everything and is part of the undercurrent of my life, awareness, thought, everything. So it's entirely possible that I mentioned Brian so often and so lovingly because loving my husband was just a part of breathing.

But a part of me now wonders if I was already sensing that things were very, very wrong and I was casting any lifeline I could find. "See how much I love you?" is what the cynical me reads in those lines. Don't you love me this much, too? and maybe there's a touch of please tell me you love me this much, too.

One thing is certain: I don't want to make those pleas ever again. I was wildly convinced of Brian's love for me. I had no idea what to do when it became apparent that he didn't love me anymore, and I still have no idea how to react to the suggestions that he never loved me to begin with. He was so convincing. He'd given his word, and I'd believed him. I trusted him. I took vows.

In my quiet, frightened, lonely, dark times, I wonder if I will ever be wildly convinced, by anyone, ever again.



I'm taking a little bit of time to go through all my old posts and remove/change photos. I recently read something about appropriate image use in blogging. I thought I knew about this stuff, but apparently I was wrong. I'm spending the next few weeks combing through the archives and fixing/removing images.

You folks in RSS and/or email land might experience some flashbacks. Don't say I didn't warn you.

If you ever do anything online that includes images that didn't come from your camera, I'd recommend reading this.