Monday, June 30, 2014


Looking for advice on this post. Like so many, we've been hit with hand, foot & mouth disease. Also known as "my G_d! what are you doing to that child?!?!" disease. Both Beats have sores in the back of their mouths, resulting in nursing strikes, increased fussiness and whining and general disdain for their current situation. And then there's the rash, with blisters and lesions that make even the most unsympathetic person grimace and ask "does it hurt?" Apparently they don't, but still.

So, for those who have survived HFMD, here are my questions.

1) How does one get over a nursing strike after HFMD? They both scream at the sight of exposed boob, so I'm not even trying anymore till we know they're in the clear. But is there hope or are my breastfeeding days over?

2) For the rash, any suggestions on creams or ointments to help with healing?

3) How long did it take for everything to clear up? I've heard anywhere from 6-10 days, but please share your experience.

4) For those who had baby eczema, did you find that the rash was worse? Also, what about heat? Just taking them to the doctor seems to have made things worse.

5) Any other tidbits? Suggestions? Sage words of advice? We're currently rocking both babies to sleep at night, with He-Beat especially being inconsolable and wanting to snuggle. Normally falling asleep isn't an issue for him (that's She-Beat's area), so it's clear he's been hurting.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Body image

When I was 11 yrs old, my mother told me about a nightmare she had. We were on a family vacation, eating breakfast at one of the restaurants. Looking right at me, she told me about how in her dream I was older and overweight (I think the number she gave was 250 lbs). In her dream she was crying and she asked me how I could allow myself to degenerate in that manner. My supposed response? "But Mom, I'm eating healthy. See? I'm eating a banana."

For as long as I can remember, I've hated how I've looked. I remember as a young girl thinking I was ugly, with all the girls at school being so much prettier than me. Looking back, a lot of this had to do with feelings of rejection from my parents and being unlovable. Hence it wasn't a surprise that I was overweight as a teenager. Both my parents were very critical of my weight and what I ate, to the point that my parents purchased a lockbox to control consumption of sweets. Yet, just like anything is life, the more I stressed about my weight and appearance, the heavier I became. And the heavier I became, the more unlovable and ugly I felt to all the world.

A lot of that changed when I left home. Specifically when I moved to Seattle and into the Mint House. One day I came home to find all my roommates staring at my side of the cupboards. "Why are you eating that stuff?" they asked, referring all the low-cal and processed foods. Within a few weeks, I found my eating habits had changed, with me ditching the diet foods and instead embracing butter, eggs and full fat but less-processed foods. In addition, we ate as a community, cooking for one another and sharing what we made. It was also around this time that I met Grey and he included me with his roommate as they explored cooking.

Wouldn't you know, with the pressure off of calorie counting and limiting food, I found myself not obsessing. And with that, the weight dropped. Later on, as my dabbling into rock climbing became more consistent and I found myself focusing less on how I looked and more on developing my core so that I could climb the harder routes, I found also that how I viewed my body changed. The hatred melted away and, dare I say it, I got to a point that I actually liked how strong I felt and what it could do.

And then Grey and I decided to start a family.

Like many, infertility made me doubt my body. Where as before I had a trust in its basic function, I found myself soul disconnected with the flesh and bone cage that was continually failing me and Grey. With this disconnect grew hatred and criticism. A shattered body image where I found myself torturing this vessel in hopes that somehow it would behave. Even after I became pregnant, I continued with the pain, gladly administering shots of PIO and Lovenox to keep my body at bay from harming the Beats. All the while hating it for threatening my babies. Holding it at bay for as long as I could.

11 months later, this dysfunctional relationship still exists. In a way, breastfeeding has actually exacerbated this as I struggle to make sure I'm not only producing enough milk for the Beats, but also because I've actually gained weight. At my heaviest in December, I weighed 190 lbs, which on my 5ft 6 inch frame was quite a bit and made it not only difficult to move but also made me ache. Starting back at work helped with this, as I've shed a number of pounds because I'm focusing on pumping and getting work done. Still, I'm not back at a weight that I want to be at. Add in the sagging boobs, the fact my stomach is still pudgy and the wider butt, and I'm far from where I'd like to be body wise.

So, like many, I've been trying to rectify this. Grey bought me a Fitbit and has been so supportive of me getting in my daily quota of steps. He's also been amazing with being the family cook and providing healthy meals. But I've been finding that the old dialogue I abandoned so long ago has been running through my head. That when I see myself in the mirror, I've been focusing on the fat that has accumulated and how distorted my body is. That the self-hatred has been coming back.

Frankly, it's fucking exhausting.

Two weeks ago, I decided I had it. Taking a mental health day, I enlisted a friend to accompany me to a local Korean spa where we spent a couple of hours in the saunas and heated baths. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to stop with the negative dialogue and just be with myself. And it was so nice. Nice not to criticize or be comparing. Nice to finally just be one with myself. An additional moment of clarity came with the Fremont Solstice Parade this past weekend, where the Solstice Cyclists reminded me that people indeed do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not only is that okay, but it's something that should be celebrated.

So here's the deal. I've decided that its time to stop warring with my body. To stop the criticism and hatred that manifested itself over the past 4 yrs. It doesn't mean that I'm throwing out all my good habits and resigning myself to being unhealthy. Actually it's quite the opposite. But the current dialogue needs to end, not only for myself but also because I don't want to teach the Beats to view themselves this way. Thing is, I need help. And I'm asking for it.

Here's my current situation: I currently weigh 168 lbs.  For being 5'6" that's still too much (and I do feel it as I don't move as fast and smoothly as I would like). But I also need to acknowledge that 11 months ago I gave birth to twins. In addition, a lot of this weight is due to fertility treatments (I started this pregnancy at 163 lbs) and the emotional turmoil. Though there are a few cases of people losing weight after injecting themselves with hormones and managing all the stress, the overwhelming trend is usually the opposite.

The other thing is that I need to reset my definition of body image. That contrary to what society would like everyone to believe, bouncing back doesn't happen magically, if ever. It's very likely that my boobs will forever be saggy, my belly slightly pudgy. That my hips will stay wider and my arms more flappy than what I care for. But these same boobs are also currently feeding my babies. They also have this magical ability to calm a screaming Beat and even a stressed out Grey. That pudgy stomach once held two babies and now functions as a great landing pad for a bouncing infant. My hips may be wide, but they also afford me the stability to carry two infants up a flight of stairs (or two). And though there are many pockets of cellulite and scars, there's also stories behind all of it.

In short, this body has been more than a cage for my soul. In many moments, it's been a vehicle for life. And remembering that, celebrating that is the key that will help me lose those 30 lbs. Not the self-deprivation, negative talk and criticism.

Now I need help remembering it. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Nine years ago, Grey and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the Oregon coast. After sleeping in naked, we spent the morning drinking coffee, collecting sand dollars and racing along the beach. Later that afternoon, I would attempt to hug a sequoia and then we would stop the first of many tasting rooms to sample the wine. There was the experience of making love in the room of a B&B that looked like it had been decorated by one of our grandmothers (lots of giggling involved with that one), watching Puffins dance on the Haystack and even hikes along broken trails.

But the part of the trip that still stands out is the last winery we stopped at before we made our way home. The tasting room was large and grand, but the winery was quiet. Upon meeting the winemaker, we found ourselves trying to back out of the room as fast as possible without appearing rude as he told us the story about his recent divorce and pined after his lost love. But as we were backing out, we found ourselves reading the posting, news clippings and reviews on the walls about the pinot noir this man was generating. Being brave, we ventured back in. And as the conversation shifted to wine, we learned that having a degree in biochemistry makes for one hell of a winemaker. What initially was a strange first impression became an afternoon filled with amazing stories, good cheese and one of the best pinots that has ever crossed my lips.

Two weeks ago, in celebration of Father's Day, I raided our "liquor" cabinet to find a bit of scotch to celebrate. Ignoring Grey's protests, I found myself confused to discover a number of bottles that were hidden in the back. Huffing at me, Grey told me to turn them around and it was then I saw the labels from that same winery. A wonderful anniversary gift.

Ten years I walked down the aisle to meet a smiling Grey. Looking back, on the good and the bad, the moments of abundance and despair, I realize that I wouldn't trade one second of it. Because it would mean one second without a man who I find myself falling more in love with every day. My best friend, my partner in crime. My soulmate.

Happy anniversary, Grey. Thank you for walking beside me for the last decade. I look forward to many more.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Milestone anxiety

*Despite the transition of this blog, I plan to continue the usual warning about Beat-related posts (Sorry Mali). For anyone reading, if you are currently NOT in a good space for baby-related posts, particularly ones that involve airy worries, concerns and frustrations, please skip this one. Instead, you can read about this beautiful agave that is blooming!
Taken 6/3/2014

Taken 6/19/2014

Today the Beats are 11 months old (9 months age adjusted). If you read about gross and fine motor skills that are expected in this age group, you'll find that crawling and standing supported are commonly cited, with some cases you'll hear about babies taking their first steps. Eating solids is also talked about, particularly the development of the pincher-grasp, which allows them to pick up smaller objects like peas and cereal. The list goes on and I don't care to go through each of the details, but the point is that this period is ripe for anxiety for any parent as there is this constant pressure to compare where your child(ren) are at compared to every other kid. And when one hits bumps along the way, whether they be big or small, it's enough to cause one to feel very isolated.

Since the day the Beats were born, I've worried about their development. Starting with the fact that they were born before they had developed the ability to suck and swallow, a lot of time was spent in NICU helping them grow and training them to feed from a bottle. I remember very clearly how He-Beat took to the bottle, sucking greedily to take milk. Problem was, he would fail to pause and breathe, so feeding him required making him stop so he could breathe as otherwise his heart rate would drop. In the meantime, She-Beat was taking her time. Far less interested in eating, she would instead spend her time cuddling and wanting her feeds via the NG tube. As He-Beat plowed forward, we were warned there was a very good chance he would go home before her, leaving her alone in the NICU while we adjusted to him being home.

I remember crying from this news. Fearing that leaving my baby girl alone in NICU would cause her to deteriorate. We didn't have help, so while other families have relied on relatives to help split time, we instead were looking at having her go days without anyone there. There was so much fear and anxiety surrounding her not eating and I remember praying while I would hold her, hoping for a miracle so I could bring both babies home.

Four days before they came home, She-Beat decided she was ready to eat from a bottle. And unlike her brother, she was awesome at pacing. So good, actually, that she actually was discharged from the hospital one whole day before her brother. And with that, she set the stage for how she would reach her milestones: in her time and doing them as close to perfection as possible.

Knowing this history should have impressed on me that I need to stop worrying about how the Beats are developing, particularly when He-Beat is charging forward. The trouble is, I constantly have the teachers at daycare watching and giving feedback on what skills need to be accomplished for them to transition to the next stage when they reach 12 months of age (age adjusted). With He-Beat, there is zero worry. This kid is currently standing unsupported and is cruising around the daycare through a series of scoots, pulling and rolling (rolling when he wants to get somewhere fast). With each accomplishment, he smiles the biggest smile as he is so proud of what he's doing. And he has She-Beat cheering him on, clapping and giggling as he makes it over to the toy bins to turn them over.

She-Beat, on the other hand, is currently showing zero interest in crawling or standing. She hates being on her tummy with a passion and will quickly roll off of it when placed on or will meltdown. Though she loves being in the jump chair, she really has no desire to put weight on her feet. Initially the teachers were concerned that this was reflective of an issue with gross motor skills, but considering they both decided to sit unsupported prior to rolling over, that whole theory has gone out the window. Add in the fact that she is doing very well with other aspects of her development (she excels at fine motor as she is very interested in her hands), and it's a bit of a perplexing issue.

HRF's recent post about the difficulties she's facing with her son's eating really hit home. Particularly the point where she talked about how isolated she felt with all of this. A big part of me knows that babies develop at their own rates and that pushing various aspects is not only counter-productive but can also be down right detrimental. But the thing is I also want to make sure that if there is an issue we address it. That we help She-Beat meet these different milestones as not doing so will negatively impact her. The problem comes with distinguishing whether there is truly an issue. Some teachers are completely convinced its just a matter of her watching her brother and deciding that she wants to do what he's doing. She's a perfectionist, after all. Still there's also the warnings about not seeing things and how we may need to hold her back. 

The long and the short of all of this is there's been stress. Stress that I feel ashamed to even talk about. On the one hand, I know how amazingly lucky I am to have these two and they are both so much more than I could ever imagine. I also worry that my anxiety will affect them, planting the seeds for low self-esteem and self-worth. I'm still suffering from those seeds that were planted when I was young and I truly don't want to pass these demons on. 

So I'll pose the same question HRF did yesterday: Am I creating a monster over this issue? Or is this a real problem? Has anyone else dealt with something like this? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finding my footing

So, yesterday. The responses were amazing and made me realize I need to shift my thinking. Specifically my thinking towards me and this space.

You see, the way I've always approached this space was as a way for me to process my journey through infertility. Like so many before me, I started this blog in a moment of crisis. With those first few posts, I began to process all the failure from our IUIs, the emotional bomb that was losing my family and the shock that IVF was looming. I knew at the time I needed an outlet. And so I dipped my toe into the waters that are this community. Convinced that all would be cured once I found the silver lining in the form of a baby to the trauma I had faced to to that moment

What happened over the past 260 posts I never expected. What happened instead of finding that one silver-lined cloud was a journey I never imagined myself on. A journey where this space became a place of solace from the storm that was ripping through my life. There were moments I was sure I would lose myself. Sure that nothing but darkness existed anymore. And in those moments, so many here became the rocks I needed in order to find firm footing. You all became the support that was needed for Grey and me when everyone else in our lives seemed to turn away. There are no words to begin expressing what that meant. How that love saved me from the darkness.

So when the unexpected happened, the miracle that I had given up on, I froze. I remember all too well how the transition that is pregnancy can divide as it can be a source of pain. Hence I became guarded, minding what I wrote out of fear of causing pain to those I had grown to love who were still in the trenches. I also found myself being silent as there were those around me who were battling their own fears regarding their pregnancies. But the truth is I was so scared. So incredibly terrified that I would lose the Beats. That the miracle that was growing inside of me would be ripped from me. Hence I remained quiet, steeling myself through the first 24 weeks and even beyond, monitoring my body for any potential sign of preterm labor and praying with my whole being for my babies to hold on.

It really hasn't been until the past couple of months that the fear from the last year has finally subsided and I've actually allowed myself to embrace the title of "Mom." Before then there was surviving NICU and all that came with it. Being mindful that we were so incredibly lucky to not only make it to 32 weeks but also that the Beats were thriving despite an early arrival. Even when they came home, there was the long adjustment to having our lives completely turned upside down. The full reality of caring for two premies is only starting to sink in now after we've gotten through the worst adjustments and scares.

Still, I felt I couldn't write about any of this. Others could (and I continue to be supportive of them), but with me I wouldn't allow myself. After all, I should be beyond grateful for what I have, right? That complaining and sharing otherwise suggests I don't deserve this. That somehow I am failing these two beautiful beings by admitting there are moments were it truly was too much.

Unfortunately, there was a couple of instances where this idea was enforced. Where I felt silenced after some negative interaction. But most of it was truly due to my own inner demons. The programing that had been placed in my head from a very young age.

The responses yesterday completely countered all that dialogue. And it also made me reflect more and more on the past 5 years. The idea that has been formulating as I've read and reread each response is that life isn't about finding that one and only silver lining. There are many along the path. And in a way, finding them isn't the end of a story. No, it's more like another launch point. Chapters end, things change, but with each nugget of wisdom we find along the way, the more we grow.

Hence I've been naive. Naive to think that this space would solely be about this one chapter and that would be the end.

I guess what I'm trying to say is first, thank you. Thank you for all the love and support and swift kicks in the ass. And, second, this story isn't over. But like the beginning of this blog, I need to find my footing again as I proceed down the trail that is parenting after infertility. Hell, it's more than parenting, it about being resolved after infertility. Taking each and every lesson learned during that chapter and applying it to the next one.

I hope you'll be patient with me as I find my balance.

Monday, June 16, 2014

All quiet on the western front

I have a confession to make. One that I'm not proud of. I'm struggling with the space. What to share and what to withhold.

Most of the problem is the nagging voice in my head, telling me to hold back. That I shouldn't write about what's happening in life as it will seem ungrateful, whiny and even like I'm gloating. That voice in my head that criticizes and tells me I'm not being true to this space.

The truth is there is so much happening now. So much to talk about. Between He-Beat crawling and standing, with She-Beat not too far behind. Both babies eating solids. And the fact that next month they will celebrate their first birthday. All of it leaves me in awe and makes me smile.

Then there's the negative aspects. The issues with neighbors who continue to cause problems. The lack of job security and the realities of a growing lack of funding for science in this country (see here) making both Grey and I wonder how we will evolve in order to support our family. And then the general reality that comes with being a parent of multiples.

Yet, I find myself hesitating to even talk about any of this. That I no longer feel safe to share all that is in my heart here. I know it's silly. After all, this space is what I make of it and no one can truly dictate what I write. And yet....

So I'll pose the question I've been struggling with: how does one evolve in their blog? Do you treat it as a chapter, closing up shop once that chapter is complete? Or is it more like a book?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Countering terrorism

The morning of May 30, 2012, a mentally ill and emotionally disturbed Ian Stawicki walked into a local coffee shop and opened fire after being asked to leave due to his continual destructive behavior. In the wake of this madness, five different individuals lost their lives and many more were left to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

For many years, Grey and I commuted to work passing Cafe Racer every morning. Though we've never stepped foot through the door, this coffee shop was one we were both familiar with and I knew a number of people who visited regularly. The day of the shooting came on the heels of our second loss. And I remember thinking about what would have happened if I lost Grey that day. Would I have had the will to continue living without him while still in the middle of grieving? Would I have had the will to go on?


Yesterday while waiting for the shuttle so I could meet up with Grey and pick up the Beats, I learned about the shooting at Seattle Pacific University. It was only 7 hours earlier that we as a family had driven past this small university on our way to work. And it was on the heels of a celebration of a colleague who had just defended her dissertation. Sitting with the others on the shuttle, I thought about the fact that my babies were only 3 miles away from where Aaron Ybarra had decided he would fulfill his fantasy of reenacting Columbine. And as I thought about those students, it reminded me of my students, my children and the people I knew who worked at similar institutions.

And for the first time in a very long time, I wished a lifetime of suffering on an individual.

Since the Columbine Massacre, there's been a trend in this country of mentally disturbed young men taking their aggression and anger out through mass murder. The scenario is always the same: kill as many as possible and then off oneself or be killed by the police in the end. Adam Lanza is a perfect example of this as he viewed his massacre as a game. A more recent example is John David LaDue and Elliot Rogers. Let's not forget James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Alex Hribal and Seung-Hui Cho. In each case, they took the anger and hate they had about themselves and turned it on others. In each case, people claimed they didn't see the signs.

In the past, the focus following each of the instances has been on gun control. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I do believe that we need stricter laws and regulations concerning guns, particularly handguns. But I also think we're missing the bigger picture: these boys (they don't deserve the title of men) are each mentally ill. They come from families that were so broken they failed to identify the issues and take the necessary steps get intervene. And because of that people died.

In the US, we live in a country where our prison system houses many of our mentally ill. We live in a country where people are afraid to step forward and speak out because we're not suppose to judge someone else's parenting abilities. We see countless examples of children raised in dysfunctional homes and do nothing about it as we believe it's not our problem. Instead of intervening, we turn away and hope the problem disappears.

But instead it grows. Instead it gets passed through the generations.

I won't lie: I want Aaron Ybarra to live a very long life where he spends the rest of his days atoning for this attempted massacre. I want him as an example for all disturbed boys that there are consequences for spreading hate. But I also want us as a society to stop putting individual freedoms over the good of one's community. To question parenting decisions that could put so many at risk. To hold our leaders liable for failure to push policy that address mental illness.

And, most importantly, I want people to have the courage to speak up when they sense something is off. To speak up and be rewarded for their bravery.

Yesterday an amazing thing happened. When Aaraon Ybarra was reloading his shotgun, a campus security guard had the courage to tackle him. And then other students put themselves at risk by piling on top. They had the courage to stop the rampage.

And as a community, they've come together to grieve and heal.

Just as the community from Cafe Racer did.

Just as so many others have done.

THAT needs to be our focus. The victims and the lives they lived. The community rebuilds and grows in the wake of tragedy.

Not the cowards who take lives in the hopes of glory.
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