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The Girl Who Found A Hometown

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I stood and watched the ghosts of my classmates, circa 2006–2010, walk through the halls of Lottie. Hi, Sarah. Do you want to eat lunch together today? Let’s have endless cups of tea in those clear glass teacups and not leave until dinner. That gets us a free dinner.

And then later, I was sure I saw Joy at the Union Cafe. But it wasn’t Joy. It was someone a few years younger. In fact, everyone I knew was gone and had been replaced by new faces. New energetic students, sporting slightly different styles, all in the same paths we had traveled. In the three years since I left, nobody who had been there was still there. Unless there was the odd student who was taking six years to get a degree.

Please don’t change those colorful tabletops, I silently prayed. Ever. Or the clear glass tea cups. Or the name of Climenhaga. Or the web of brick paths. Just don’t change. Ever. I need to come back and remember.

I was taken aback by my own nostalgia. Then I remembered. My family moved a lot for various reasons. Most were work-related, as my hard-working dad sought new developments in which to build. 

When I was little, I didn’t mind the frequent changes. Moving was an adventure. It was only later in life, while growing up, that I heard bits and pieces from people and stories that made me realize what it was I was missing out on. When people said things like, “That was my locker when I went to school here,” or “Do you McCulleys ever change?” that I realized what I lacked in life was a hometown. Even the shortest of phrases, “My family doctor,” struck a chord of longing in my heart. I didn’t have a family doctor, and my life was a series of starting over. I didn’t grow up with the same best friend since I was five.

Nobody really knew us. Those who knew us when we were young had probably forgotten, and those who know us now do not remember us.

We were the invisible family.

That’s why four years rooted in the same place did something irreplaceable for me. I brought to it all the dysfunction, love, hard work, and misunderstandings I carried with me, and those things each carved their own inevitable path. Some to glory, and some to pain. But I was there, for four years. I walked to Climenhaga day after day, and walked from it to a basic math class. Euler circuits in General Math. The beautiful disharmony of the practice rooms, the sweetness of the orchestra tuning up, the professors that became my friends, my love for graphic design, the smell of paint and clay, the painful choice I made to switch from music to a field that I still love and work in, and the ache in my heart that I never fulfilled my musical dreams.

But I was there.

For four years.

Four falls. Four winters. Four springs.

The bond I have with the friends I made is the kind that lets you pick up where you left off every time you see them. The years race on by, completely indifferent to my wish to slow the clock down. The man I married? We met at the annual Fall Symphony. I played the violin. Another boy was supposed to show up afterward. Nate did instead. I never regretted that.

So that is why I stand in Climenhaga, in Lottie, or in that noisy, busy section of the Union Cafe and beg it not to change. Ever.

Because Messiah College is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a hometown.

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21 Survival Tips for New Moms

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Maybe you’re not naive enough to believe that your baby will sleep through the night at 6 weeks. And maybe you even have a fairly realistic view of motherhood. But no matter how happy you are to cuddle your newborn baby, you’ve just gone through one the most jarring changes that you will ever experience. Tears of joy will mix with tears of fear and pain. You will wonder what kind of aliens pose for “Pinterest-mom” pictures and some of the things you looked forward to the most will seem like a distant dream.

I am the least together  Mom of any mom I know. Running my own business from home (with my husband) plus a baby who just would not sleep (save the advice, bring on the sympathy and chocolate, please), plus living in a brand new state with no available options for childcare was a recipe for disaster. Still, I discovered that really little things could give me at least a sliver of hope that life would some day be liveable again.

  1. You might experience separation anxiety the instant your baby isn’t constantly a part of you anymore. Seeing my helpless little baby rock back and forth in a rock ‘n play depressed me, and I hated the music it played. The minute I embraced that my style of parenting would be lots of togetherness and started baby-wearing and co-sleeping, some of the postpartum depression started to lift. You don’t have to co-sleep if it’s not for you, but be as close to your baby as you want to be without worrying about “spoiling” your baby.
  2. Caribou Coffee makes the most bearable sugar-free decaf soy latte. Just in case you, like me, have to cut out both caffeine and dairy for your little one’s sensitive stomach. If you don’t, take your whole milk latte and dance out of my kitchen, please. I don’t need that kind of joy around here.
  3. Everybody tells you to take time for yourself, to spoil yourself a little. But what if you can’t? What if there is simply no money or time. Do the best you can and realize that you’ll find yourself again some day. Think of yourself as a soldier surviving the battle. There will be a homecoming. If you can, do something, no matter how small. One day I commented to a co-worker that I had no time to make tea because I only had 40 minutes to code before my baby woke up. “But that gives you a sense of well-being,” he said. So I started making the cup of tea. Even though it was lame herbal tea.
  4. One of the best ways to nap with a busy crawler who doesn’t want you to be out of their site is to throw a blanket and pillow on the floor and let them snuggle, crawl around on you, and play, all within a close, safe distance from Mommy. My baby was perfectly content if I napped on the floor. (One day I woke up to my baby girl trying to feed me a stick). This nap will help you go the distance in the toughest part of the day, the evening.
  5. Routines rock. If you have family members that like to make every day completely different (like I do), try to make at least part of the day routine. Maybe you always take a stroller walk after breakfast, or maybe you always sing the same song to your baby when she wakes up or goes to sleep. Any little sliver of routine will help you both cope in the most difficult of situations.  Schedules might be hard to swing for some, but routines help you keep your sanity. And when you can’t swing either? Forgive yourself and realize that love is more important than routines and schedules and that there’s always tomorrow.
  6. Listen to your heart! I always regretted it when I didn’t! Sometimes this had to do with waking a sleeping baby to nurse (worst advice ever for my baby–it taught her to wake up often to nurse), sometimes it had to do with food (rice is really not the best first food), but whatever it was, do what you think is right.
  7. This is a good time to minimize and focus in life. What are the most important dreams and goals to you? Now that you have a little human to look after 24/7, you need to decide what is most important to do the 10% of the day you have remaining. I started to give or toss one item away per day to help me achieve minimalism and a house that was easier to clean. I also started writing more.
  8. Don’t feel guilty for still being you, but at the same time, give yourself time to transition. Babies are all-consuming. You might not be able to get back to running, yoga, work, or painting right away. But you will. Some day. And I will, too.
  9. Be thankful. For your family. For cards in the mail. For Facebook comments that brighten your day. For a blog post, that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. For your husband’s help. For being able to afford your favorite laundry detergent, or for the sun, or your baby’s laugh. Make sure you laugh along.
  10. Get outside. The sun will help you so much. Plus, bonus, the sun makes babies happy and sleepy. Who doesn’t want that?
  11. Don’t beat yourself up for not being on schedule. It might take you forever to find what works for you. The more difficult your circumstances, the more this will be true.20160624_205321
  12. Keep something around the house that makes you happy or gives you energy. Blueberries, almonds, bananas. Something healthy and convenient that you can grab right before nursing your baby.
  13. Camelbak bite valve water bottles are awesome for not spilling and for drinking out of at night at an angle while your baby’s still nursing. Drink at least 12 glasses of water a day. I tried for 15 or so.
  14. You’ll make mistakes, and some of them will seem pretty major. Your baby will still love you. I don’t know how they do it, but they do.
  15. Lots of properly balanced B vitamins help for postpartum depression. I prefer X Factor from Plexus, and I also prefer the entire Triplex system to help with energy and mood.
  16. Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream is the best cream ever for the most stubborn rash plus yeast infection (at least for my baby).
  17. The Baby Sleep Book makes good reading material while your baby is keeping you awake. So does The No Cry Sleep Solution. These books might not help your baby sleep, but they do make good reading material.
  18. Whether or not you’re doing things on a schedule, feed your baby when she’s hungry. You’ll both be much happier.
  19. The Lille Baby or some other baby carrier is one of the very best ways to hold your baby and get work done at the same time. I love mine. I still use it and Anneka’s almost a year old. She loves watching everything I do and “helping” me.
  20. Find your village, however slowly. One of my most memorable evenings was when Anneka was five months old and we went to the neighborhood “trunk or treat” event. I realized then that life would be fun again and that Anneka and I both needed other people. Our neighborhood has family friendly events at the park and we’ve made a point to get to these whenever possible.
  21. Stare into your baby’s eyes and tell her you love her, over and over again. Take time to just enjoy your baby, and realize that somehow the world will figure out how to get along without you for a time. Even if it’s just a short time.

 

in just over a week you will be one

In Just Over a Week You Will Be One

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Peanut.

Tiny human.

One with the single dimple like Daddy.

Munchkin.

Angel.

Cutie-pie.

Love of my life.

In a week and two days, you will be one.

How did this happen?

In those first few weeks when people told me this would happen, I nodded, but inside I did not quite believe them. My head did, but my heart did not.

You were so tiny. So helpless and so in love with Mommy. So desirous to be close to me and so comforted in my arms. There were those nights you woke up every hour or two throwing up because the antibiotics at birth, necessary to fight off the infection we both got, destroyed your good stomach bacteria and I didn’t know what was wrong or why you were throwing up. I still don’t know for sure. Was I feeding you too much because I didn’t know what else to do? Your poor little frame would shake and your face would scrunch up and you would cry until I held you in my arms. Then one night I just snuggled you on my left shoulder, across my chest, or in the crook of my right arm and you slept peacefully, not throwing up a single time. You nursed when you wanted and Mother and Baby had love-filled peaceful dreams. You were where you needed to be and we both knew it.

How I loved you. But how scared I was. My mind assaulted by images of every bad thing I had ever heard happen to babies. My heart too overwhelmed to take it.

You were so small. With such big blue eyes.

I never had a minute’s peace. You were, and still are, a terrible sleeper. Everything else going down in shambles around me, the business your Father and I ran together teetered on a brink. But oh how I loved you.

Today you are out with Daddy watching him fly the drone because you are interested in stuff like that now. A short time ago this would not have been possible. You needed me every couple of hours, because you had such a tiny tummy, and I ached for a bit of independence. Now you eat pears and squash and peas and oatmeal, too. And the occasional egg. And you can go hours away from me, and that is a big change.

So today you are out with Daddy, away from me. And the house is quiet. And in less time than it took to think about it, I put away 3 loads of laundry and cleaned out the closet. The washing machine is whirring with the next week’s worth of clothes. The house is eerily quiet, as in the wake of a big change. A loss. A new stage of life.

And it is a new stage, and it is a loss. A loss of the baby girl I’ll never see again except in pictures and videos and memories and dreams. A loss of a completely dependent baby-soul. You giggle over so many things nowadays, and you are so observant that the things you try to do and do every day rock my mind. You try to swipe Daddy’s credit card to pay for things, but it’s hard for you to let go of cash. You try to pack boxes full of household items, including my cellphone, which you keep losing for me. You chuckle when we laugh but almost never looking in the right direction, which makes it side-achingly hilarious, and our laughter makes you laugh some more.

You are a tiny fairy of hope or a small angel of goodwill to our lives. Your smile is too big for your face and so are your eyes. Your heart is too big for this world, and you try to cheer up even older children who seem sad to you. Other children’s sadness makes you very sad, and you try to do the silliest thing you can think of when you see them to make them laugh, like shake your head back and forth with a big smile on your face. In this way, you are very much like your Father. He always tries to bring laughter in sad or serious situations.

You wave goodbye, and dance to music, and toddle around the house using anything you can push, and climb and fall and get up and fall again. You wave at strangers, and make them smile, and you love music and singing to the degree that they can almost always cheer you. You are delightfully aware of the world around you but delightfully unaware of your own silliness, cuteness, and enchantment. And last night you slept soundly from 10:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. (God, please let this be a new thing).

The house is quiet like I said. And I am doing laundry and cleaning. Carrying the baby bath to the basement to wait for, if ever there will be, another baby. My little girl has changed and now takes baths sitting up and splashing with delight in a grownup-tub. The bouncy seat, long outgrown, joins it. The swing will have to go, too, the use you get out of it too rare to be worth the space it takes up in our bedroom.

How did I get to a place where I could go hours without you? Where you could be happy in the company of someone other than me for so long? The completely dependent mom-and-baby stage is over. In a week and two days, you will be one, and things will never be the same. And every year after that will bring more changes. You will be every year a different, more independent little girl, and one day someone I can’t imagine today.  And now, at the edge of this new frontier in parenthood, I am so glad I cuddled you every time you cried and responded to the only language you knew as you were trying to understand the world. You cried, and you were answered. I’m so glad for every time I stood by your crib as 1 and 2 and 3 in the morning and said, “Thank you, God, for our precious baby girl.” Because I’ll never see that tiny, helpless, loving little baby again, the one who had to be nestled against my heart almost all the time, the one who has robbed me of almost 360 nights of sleep, the one who greeted me every morning with a smile. No, I’ll never see her again, except in pictures and videos and memories and dreams.

in just over a week you will be one

How to Make Homemade Babyfood – Mango Pear Puree.

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My baby loves squeeze pouches. She is still struggling with chewing and swallowing chunkier foods, having only two teeth, the little munchkin! She is getting much better lately but still loves to hold the pouches and quickly swallow healthy, yummy foods. I especially love the idea of mixing fruits with veggies to get those little taste buds to appreciate veggies, if in disguise.

Pear and mango is one of Anneka’s favorite combinations.

Start with fresh mangos and pears. Peel and core. Don’t cook the fruit. Leave it raw.

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Blend two pears and two mangos in the blender, or whatever ratio you prefer. Also add lime or lemon juice, or ascorbic acid to preserve freshness.

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Clip in the bags and fill them up! I used the awesome Infantino squeeze station. (Yup, that’s my husband’s hairy arm, not mine).

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Label and cap your pouches. Freeze. Take out to thaw in the fridge hours before feeding, or use a bit of warm water to get it to the right temperature.

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Feed your baby one of the fresh pouches! My little angel loved it!!

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My 10 Favorite Products for Mom and Baby

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Lille Baby Carrier

In my baby’s first months, she had a lot of tummy trouble, which is agonizing, as any Mom will tell you. I learned she needed to sleep upright due to her problem with acid reflux, and being held closed helped her digestion as it calmed any separation anxiety she may have felt.

I cannot tell you the transformation that came over my newborn when I put her in this Lille Baby for the first time and kept her in it her entire nap. Not only did she sleep oh so peacefully for two hours (a record for her), she also was much calmer afterward, and within days of sleeping in the Lille Baby (yes I used it for every nap), she was OK with being set down to play by herself sometimes. The sleep transformation was so healing. No more waking up crying because she was spitting or throwing up, just her nestling her head on my chest and sleeping as peacefully as a baby ever has. I cherish these bonding memories with her, as she began sleeping in a little crib at 5 and a half months for her naps.

At the time of this blog post, Anneka is 8 and a half months old and I still pull this out whenever I just don’t know what else to do. It calms her and makes everything OK when she needs extra snuggling. You can see she likes it.

 

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baby cozy in lille baby attachment parenting

Arms Reach Cosleeper

If you have a King size bed, you probably don’t need this. Or if you’re not comfortable with co-sleeping in bed with your baby. We practice a hybrid approach, but Anneka spend several hours each night in her Arms Reach Cosleeper. I always wished it was level with the bed (I realize it’s not for safety reasons), but I can get Anneka out of her cosleeper and nurse her without ever waking up. At least it seems that way, since I often wake up in the middle of the night and I’m holding Anneka and I don’t remember getting her. But it does make night nursing sooooo much easier, and you will feel more rested. I think the mini is the best choice for the younger months, because I can move this from bed side to her nursery against the wall to beside my desk to play time as well. She likes the small cozy size and freaks out in a bigger crib.

Love to Dream Swaddle

This little baby girl loves fabric, and loves to suck on her little 100% cotton covered fists. This is without a doubt the best swaddler solution I tried, and I tried the Zipadee-zip (good for older babies), muslin cloth swaddling, and those velcro swaddlers by Swaddle Me. She didn’t love the Swaddle Mes for very long, because she really want to play with her hands and suck on her fists. She absolutely loved the security + freedom of this arms up Love to Dream Swaddle. I think this is a must have. I switched Anneka to a Zipadee-Zip at 6 and a half months because you are supposed to stop using the Love to Dream when Baby learns to roll. It was a month after she learned to roll and I didn’t want to stop. In my experience watching Anneka, she did fine both on her back and on her tummy in this, so I never knew if stopping was necessary, but an abundance of caution is good. Learn more here. 

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Bamboobies

Skip the disposable nursing bra liners and get one set of these bamboo liners. You’ll be glad you did. They are smooth, absorb a ton of milk, and will save you money in the long run.

Tummy Calm

Absolutely essential. If your baby has tummy problems, colic, or acid reflux. The first night I gave this to Anneka, after a 2 hour crying fit, she burped and fell into a deep 3 hour sleep. Thank God. Available at Walgreen’s.

Nixi teething necklace

This just doesn’t stop being a favorite with Anneka. She holds on to it for comfort in her car seat and she loves the different textures on her teeth. It started being a favorite at about 5 months. Sometimes I wear it while I hold her. She can grasp it and chew on it the whole time she’s in her Lille Baby, sling or in my arms. Sometimes I take it off, unloop it, and let her play with it under supervision. A little fashion for Mom and a lot of fun for baby – win, win! We both love this. Available at many places, including Target. 

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Indestructibles Books

indestructibles books that babies can really sink their teeth into

Books babies can really sink their gums into. That’s what the tagline for Indestructibles says. There is almost nothing Anneka likes better than paper, and with these crinkly textured books (they feel like Tyvek house wrap or money), I have total peace of mind that I won’t be having to rescue her from little choking-hazard sizes pieces of soggy paper.

Summer Infant® Babble Band™ Wearable Audio Baby Monitor

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You’ll never have to wonder if you can hear your baby or monitor over the noise of conversation, dinner, barking or a video. Any unusual sound and this watch vibrates to let you know something might be amiss or your baby is waking up. Then you can press and hold the middle to hear the actual sounds coming from the nursery. There is also a setting to leave the sound on at all times if you prefer. We even have a white noise machine in Anneka’s room and we learned that as long as we put this on the other side of the room from the monitor, it won’t report on the white noise, meaning vibrations actually represent baby vocalizations or other new sounds.

We had a more traditional monitoring system before and found it very problematic. I could hear Anneka before I could actually hear the monitor due to a 5 second delay and the fact that household noises drowned out the earliest little noises she makes.

I love the Summer Babble Band!

Bio-Kinetics Oats

The first night I gave Anneka Bio-Kinetic Oatmeal instead of regular oatmeal, she went from waking every 2 hours to sleeping 7 in a row.

Bio-Kinetics Oats are oats that are sprouted. If you’re a fan of Ezekiel bread, for instance, you’ll understand the significance of sprouted grains. Since my darling one has a sensitive tummy, this was just another link in the tummy calm regime I’ve found for her (baby wearing, probiotics, etc). Sprouted grains make grains much more digestible, which is why Anneka must have slept so long. My guess is that they not only filled her tummy, like oatmeal is prone to do for babies, but also settled it. Sprouted oats are full of enzymes. Plus I love that Bio-Kinetics doesn’t add forms of iron that might constipate or irritate baby’s stomach. It doesn’t add anything at all. It relies on the nutritious value that is inherit in such a wonderful food as sprouted oats (which already contain iron).

By the way, don’t purchase Bio-Kinetics from Amazon. I tried my first order from Amazon and it was noticeably stale. The second time I ordered directly from Bio-Kinetics and it was as fresh as a freshly baked cake.

Probio5

Probiotics are necessary to heal the real cause of hurting tummies, and probiotics with enzymes and grapeseed extract are a triple threat to digestive issues. Anneka slept longer and was much calmer anytime I was faithful with giving her her Probio5 for at least 2 days. Enzymes help with digestion, probiotics promote healthy bacteria in babies that may have had them wiped out due to antibiotics from birth, and grapeseed extract kills the bad bacteria. While you’re at it, get some for yourself. You probably need the extra energy they’ll give you.

After trying many other brands of probiotics and researching the ingredients, I’m convinced there is absolutely nothing better on the market (that I’ve seen or tried) than Probio5.

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Update on Hair Loss, Alopecia, Omegas, Candida, Mega X

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So many of you have emailed me and commented continuing to ask what I’m experiencing and doing in relation to my hair loss issue (an issue I’ve had to deal with since I was 19).

In particular, many have asked about minoxidil. Minoxidil was absolutely effective for me. You can read the blog post here. But I didn’t like the side effects. (More here). Weight gain and facial hair were the mildest. It was the depression (and anger) that got to me.

My extremely premature hair loss bothered me a lot! I even wore wigs sometimes, which was sometimes fun and sometimes weird. (see some of my favorite wigs here). I’ve tried many supplements. Hair Repair (the best at the time that I had tried), straight saw palmetto, and everything I could read about that seemed to have promising reviews. After taking something for 6-8 weeks, I would see mildly encouraging results, but then nothing. Revivogen was one of the most frustrating products, building up a supply of new growth only to lose it all (due to the synchronized growing and shedding cycles it encourages – completely pointless to me).

I’ve been trying something lately I wanted to share with you. I’ve been on this product for about 3 weeks. I went on it after dreaded post partum shed made me feel just terrible and always self conscious.

Here is the before and after:

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The before was from about 8 weeks ago, but it is what my hair looked like when I started on Mega X (made by Plexus). (Besides a few hairs I could see that had started to sprouted from taking Hair Repair for two weeks). I stopped taking Hair Repair when I started taking Mega X.

What encourages me is the way the new hairs line my hair line, and the way that stray piece of hair no longer falls down the center of my face because it has other hair to “cling” to. (Yes, hair sticks to each other – it’s one of the trademarks of healthy hair).

This is just the beginning, so we’ll see what happens.

Also after:

after 3 weeks of Plexus Mega X hair loss update

(I’m wearing Sonia Kashuk Tinted Moisturizer in Linen in this picture – I love it!)

And just another photo I like:

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I should say that besides being on Mega X, for a month previously I was on the Triplex system from Plexus, which balances hormones and blood sugar, something I knew I was in need of. I would like to talk about this issue in a future post. I do not know how much this contributes, but I know hormones which are out of whack can be at the root of many unlikely issues.

Ingredients of Mega X:

Ahiflower seed oil, raspberry seed oil, broccoli seed oil, SDA (from Ahiflower seed oil), sea buckthorn berry oil, pomegranate seed oil, avocado oil.

 

Meet the Porterkins!

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This is a project I’m very fond of.

Porters in Denver.

Us. Talking to you. Connecting with you. Inviting you into our home virtually or (if we like you) in reality. (Come on, Annouchka and Captain!) Come on and visit us in snowy, sunny, mountainous Denver.

And this is my favorite vlog so far, but be sure to check out the others!

Much love,

Daddykins, Mommykins and Babykins.