It’s okay. I’m pretty sure no one’s listening anyway, which makes dead air juuust fine. But I had a few minutes, and I thought I’d stroll back over to the Dooryard to see if it’s still green.

A great deal has changed since I last posted. I am still a mumma with a career, but my career is changing. I am now in full-time school and full-time internship for teaching. Hopefully, this time next year, I will be happily ensconced in my first year of teaching either high school or middle school (whichever charms me most). While I loved my former career as magazine asst. editor, I have wanted to come back to teaching for some time. Becoming a mother changed everything for me, and I realized it was finally time to get real.

So this is what “real” looks like for me: doubling my student loans, interning at a high school all day, class all night twice a week, readings, research papers, lesson plans, paper correcting, maybe eating (sometimes), and sometimes getting to spend time with Simon and Baby Henry (who’s barely a baby anymore, but I’m still going to call him that).

I’m on a much-deserved break right now, so I’m spending today cooking for a game night we’re hosting this evening. On my list: granola, beef stew, and crock-pot mini cheesecakes. Here’s the catch. I have no car today, and my recipes involve a trip to the store. Guess I’m gettin’ my boots on…

Pictures to follow. OH! And I started canning since I last wrote, too! How cool is that?!?

Okay, so maybe it’s really Screen-Reduction Week in our household…

The good folks over at the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood have organized one solid week of encouraging families, churches, schools, libraries, and so on to turn off our screens and get the hell outside. Or in the kitchen. Or into a book.

(Yes, I am aware of the irony of posting about Screen-Free Week through an electronic screen-based medium. And I’m over it.)

Anyway, Simon and I know ourselves well enough to understand that we like our iPhones and Netflix, and that they are part of our routine. We are unlikely to remove them from our lives entirely, even for just a week. The problem is that they are too much a part of our routine, so we are using this week to help us ease the grip these screen-based sirens have on our lives.

Lawn Baby

SFW Day 1:

– Dragged a blanket outside and rolled around on the grass a bit. Baby Henry has just started antibiotics (see my griping on this here), and he needed some good old fashioned sunshine. So the three of us cuddled, nursed, giggled, and read until the breeze grew cool and the peepers raised their evensong.

– Made homemade pasta and pasta sauce, following Marcella Hazan’s careful and caring instructions. I love this woman. Love. Looooove. If you have any interest in Italian cooking, buy her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Now.

– Danced to some Toots and the Maytals in the cooking-warmed kitchen.

– Ate at the table for the first time in weeks. Baby Henry sat with us in the big boy seat. I think this was our first “family meal” at the dining room table. Not too shabby.

Up Next for SFW Day 2:

– Baby Henry and I are headed up to Pinelands this evening with some other local mommas for a hike. Then? Porterhouse steaks. Good times.

What about you?

Are you celebrating SFW? Why or why not?

What amazing activities do you have planned, or are you just going along as the spirit of free-range living moves you?

Citrus juice has long been a go-to for a natural cleaning agent. But what about the peels?

A colleague’s daughter’s fellow student ran an experiment for the science fair last week: which citrus peel is the best stain remover? Theories on which would prove the winner pinged around our office for the days preceding.

Polls had grapefruit and lemon in a tie for first place.

Experiment:

– mark various surfaces (tile, wood, etc.) with a Sharpie

– rub with citrus peels, from lemon to lime to kumquat

– see which works best to remove the marks

And the winner is…

Tangerine and lemon!

Who knew?

There’s no word on why these two citrus have Sharpie-smiting qualities, but it was only a middle school science fair. One experiment at a time.

Apparently my colleague’s husband (the father of the student’s friend) happened to have a tangerine handy that afternoon. He also happened to be sitting at a particularly grubby table. “Eh,” he thought. “Why not?” He gave the table a rub, and lo and behold, the tangerine peel smote the mystery mark lightning-quick.

Score one for the tangerine.

Anyone else have brilliant citrus ideas?

Baby Henry has some sort of congestion-turned-mild-infection. Our pediatrician, who’s very firmly in the non-medicated, holistic camp of healthcare, has prescribed antibiotics. This is a problem, but not for the reason you think.

While I am not pro-antibiotics, I’m not necessarily anti-antibiotics. I think they should be used judiciously and wisely, as I know our pediatrician is in this case. I trust him, and I know he’s doing right by my son. Also, I know that Baby Henry is going to be just fine. He’s a strong boy, and his father is taking excellent care of him.

But this is a problem because it’s entirely possible that if I were home to take care of Baby Henry full-time, we would have been able to combat the congestion before it turned into an infection. But where am I? I am at work, twiddling my (gd) thumbs. Staring out the window. Attempting to correspond with colleagues. Failing. Clacking away on my keyboard, this blog as my only outlet.

I wrote last week of the delayed-release of my guilt hormones upon returning to work. This recent frustration does not bode well for my longevity as a working mother…

So perhaps you’re like me and sailed blithely through your pregnancy, assuming that once the beautiful challenge of labor and delivery were over, you would wend your way home with your new baby and start your lying-in with long stretches of cuddling, napping, and nursing.

Well, for me and Baby Henry the cuddling and napping went well enough, but nursing? Not so much.

Most women find breast feeding difficult. No, you’re not the only one, I promise. It can be a damned bitch, honestly. Most women also give up pretty quickly. And that’s a damned shame.

Baby Henry and I had a tough time of it. He nursed within a few minutes of being born (well done, Baby Henry), but our easy times ended there. Over the next few days in the hospital, the generous staff worked tirelessly to help Baby Henry and I learn how to breast feed. Don’t let anyone fool you–the knowledge is not innate, neither for baby nor mumma. Both of you have to learn. And Baby Henry and I gave it the ol’ college try. There was lots of crying from both of us.

We went through a great many ordeals before we came out the other side, four months later, finally nursing comfortably and effectively. I won’t go into these ordeals now, and all I’ll say is that they involved props. Lots of them. For now, I want to urge all new mothers to stick with it. It’s hard, it sucks (ha!), but it is enormously important and completely worth it.

Here’s what I wish I knew:

The Good

Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. Period. 

Breastfeeding has all sorts of health benefits for both mother and baby. From cancer prevention to optimum brain development. The list is so long, I won’t even attempt to cover it here. Instead, here are some useful links:

La Leche League International: Benefits of Breastfeeding

KellyMom.com: The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding

Women’s Health (.gov): Why Breastfeeding Is Important

The Bad

It hurts. A lot. But…

It stops hurting a lot sooner than you think, and at that moment you will really and truly feel the happy-making hormones rushing through your system giving you the nursing high that so many mothers talk about.

If you have trouble at first, see a lactation consultant (find one here). The pain might be from a bad latch. Or thrush. Or simple inexperience. Or any number of things. Anyway, see a lactation consultant. They are there for a reason, and they believe in what they are doing. Our LC is the reason Henry and I are breastfeeding at all. I owe every bit of postpartum happiness, accomplishment, and relief to her.

With your baby is born guilt.

Baby Henry wasn’t gaining weight for the first several weeks of his life. In fact, he lost 13% of his birth weight (the preferred maximum is 7%). This was due to the fact that I had, and still have, low milk supply. This made me feel like a total and utter failure. The words “All I want to do is feed my baby” played on a constant loop in my head. And that’s all I wanted to do. It seemed so easy. So simple. The most natural thing in the world. And yet, it was beyond my grasp…

…For a time. But, with the help of our amazing LC, and with the addition of a whole lot of pumping (and other efforts, detailed here), I am now able to supply (just enough) milk to Baby Henry’s daycare and feed him in the evening hours with no problem. The guilt still lurks someplace in the dark, hormone-addled caves of my psyche, and on occasion still comes out to play. But the bottom line is that I am doing it. I am feeding my baby. And so can you.

The Up-Shot

The end result is worth every second of pain, fear, and guilt. 

Simply put, I am happiest when I am feeding my baby.

PS: Many women either don’t want to breastfeed, or in some occasions, can’t (btw, I do not believe that many women are not “able” to breastfeed. Given enough investment, every woman–save the rare few–can breastfeed. If your doctor tells you otherwise, get a second opinion). Whatever your decision about breastfeeding is, please know that I am a passionate supporter of it (clearly), but I do not mean to pass judgment on anyone. The mantra of “Do What Works For You” is forever on my lips, and it’s important to state here as well: Do whatever works for YOU. Other opinions be damned.