Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Dreams for My Baby and Me

My heartfelt thanks goes out to the smart and loving mothers who shared their experiences with me. Out of deference for their privacy, I have changed their names and any identifying information about their families; however, their stories are very real.

“That’s it. I’m going to night wean this kid.”

It was early one October morning, the house still dark, and my sweet little boy was up to nurse…again, and again…and yet again. This had been a hard night for me; four times he had roused to tiredly whimper “booooby” and make very sad sounds until he was silenced by the act of suckling. I was tired and cranky and the owner of his Two Most Favorite Things in the World, which made me even more cranky because he didn’t really want me, I thought, he just wanted The Boob.

A lack of sleep can make us all feel a bit victimized, and I’m no exception. Having always needed my full night of rest even before Baby J came along, all things considered, I'd been doing pretty well for the last 18 months. Sure, I’d had a few of those days when I didn’t even know my own name, but had weathered the exhausting first months of near-sleepless nights better than I could’ve hoped for. It helped that our son had always slept in bed with us since Day One, and even more marvelously, we had already purchased a king-sized bed prior to his birth to accommodate just this sort of night parenting. So, when his tiny stomach called out in the wee hours, I loved being able to roll over and nurse him without getting up from our nice warm bed. Especially wonderful in the winter, we kept the covers light and used a mineral oil radiator in our room to keep off the chill. Our little boy won’t keep the blankets on, so some soft cotton pajamas and a mom full of warm milk are perfect for keeping him comfortable.*

And things had been going along just fine until a stretch of several days in early October. I eyed the calendar and saw my 38th birthday creeping closer, which prompted me to seriously ask myself if I wasn’t getting too old for this “all night milk bar” nonsense. Sure, I’m not taking Geritol yet, but I’m not one of those sprightly mothers of boundless energy who can knock off half their “to do” list while their kid naps. I’m a more sedate mama, the kind who finds that lounging on the couch with a good book and cup of tea is a very worthwhile way to spend a little quiet “me” time. Or I’m trying to string the words together in a rushed haze of “90 minutes before he wakes” and focus on getting some writing done, like I am right now.

In any case, after a grumpy morning’s worth of examining the idea, I called my dear partner to drop the bombshell. We were most certainly going to start night weaning the second week of November, during our planned stay at home vacation. The time off from our working lives would give us a chance to sleep in and trade off care. I envisioned resisting my son’s little grabbing hands and heading downstairs to sleep on the futon in his room, leaving Joe to comfort the cries I was certain would come with this process. It was going to be hard, but I’d have a kid who would leave me alone at night, right? My tired brain was deluded; I was convinced of the utterly naïve idea that night weaning would actually ensure my son would sleep through the night, despite all I already knew about kids not reliably doing that until age three—how easily reality flies out the window when we feel desperate! How could having a well-rested mom be a bad thing for my son? This was certainly a justified question. A full night’s sleep was beginning to seem more and more like winning the lottery: sure, the chances were slim, but it was something to hope for, wasn’t it?

Day after day, we drew closer to Night Weaning Time. I was excited at first. Not necessarily “happy excited” but more like “I’m going to go have a surgery which will hopefully make my life better” excited. I told my sister and a few friends, determined that I was going to make this happen. I asked for advice and learned that these women had undertaken night weaning in a variety of ways, some with more support from their partners than others, and their children made the transition with differing degrees of ease. Listening to these mothers, one thing was certainly clear: they had all seriously thought about this decision and had come to the conclusion that night nursing wasn’t working for them any more.

I admired the way in which these women owned their decisions, and no two reasons for night weaning were quite the same. Sara felt exhausted and invaded by her son’s constant need to suckle. Every time the breast popped out of her little boy’s mouth, he would rouse and could not be comforted until he’d latched on again; don’t even ask if they’d tried a pacifier. Both her need for space and sleep being invaded by her son’s desire to suckle, Sara felt like a human lollipop. Nights without the boob weren’t an easy transition for their son, and the weeks spent night weaning were a challenge for both Sara and her husband, who took their son out to sleep on the sofa bed with him. Eventually, though, their son was able to content himself with daytime nursing. Though he still wakes at night for company, he’s happy just to hold onto a finger before falling back to sleep.

Jessica said that she and her husband had agreed it was time for their littlest, a near-two year old, to move from their bed into her crib. After two children, they were ready to have their privacy and their love life back. She decided to use an upcoming trip out of town as a chance to start night weaning, using the change of routine (including new bedtime stories and songs) and the pleasant distraction of being in a new place to its fullest advantage. Once at home, she kept up their new ritual and her daughter adapted to bedtime without nursing to sleep rather quickly. Looking back on it, Jessica reflected that it was obvious they were both very ready to make the transition. It was interesting to note, too, that she allowed herself the flexibility to nurse her daughter at night when she was ill or when other needs arose, even after this period of night weaning. This willingness to be responsive to her child’s needs and put aside the usual parental consistency is unusual in the stories I heard, but certainly worked for their family.

For some women, their husband’s desire for them to stop nursing was a real catalyst for weaning, and the act of weaning their children was part of living a larger set of convictions. For many couples, what most explicitly defines the care of the family is putting the needs of the marriage first. Sophia’s husband was uncomfortable with her continuing to nurse their daughter, who was well past her first birthday. Although she was deeply saddened to make this break, for Sophia this was about honoring her marriage and she did what she set out to do. Being a committed wife and mother is a difficult balancing act which every woman manages differently, and I watched her do it gracefully, with tears and an ability to find other ways besides nursing to keep connecting with her little girl.

Sometimes, too, other people besides husbands have a say in the matter. Clarissa initiated night weaning her son because he was waking up each night to nurse at midnight, two and five-thirty. At first they dropped the two o’clock feeding, then the midnight one and finally the early morning feed. When her son woke to nurse, she took him to the rocking chair and serenaded him softly until he fell back to sleep. While her night weaning was self-motivated, it was at her pediatrician’s urging that she decided to fully wean her son. Her boy was growing in height but not gaining weight. Just as children can easily tank up on liquids before mealtimes and then feel too full to eat more than a few bites, her son was loading up on breast milk. And as he was well past a year old, the milk was lacking the fats and nutrients it had once contained. With a loving mother’s concern for her son’s health and development, she chose to follow the doctor’s orders and stop nursing. Although Clarissa didn’t choose to wean for her own personal reasons, she doesn’t miss nursing. In fact, like many women, she was happy to have her breasts back to herself again. True to her Zen attitude to life, she’d done the very best she could for her son, and now it was time to move on.

And then there were those other mothers I knew, those whose children had just decided they were done nursing, day and night, period. They slept through the nights without needing whatever some of our children need—the food or the connection—and their mothers let them sleep. What I heard in their stories traveled across a broad spectrum of relief, pride in their children for having grown a little more independent, some pride in themselves for giving their children a great start, and a bit of nostalgia for that special feeling of togetherness some of us experience when we nurse; perhaps this was because weaning wasn’t their choice at all, but one made by their children. The hallmark of these mothers was the ability to let go and respect their child’s needs.

Aside from learning what worked for each mother, in these conversations it became quickly apparent that no two mothers felt the same way about nursing, or about ending it. Some women revered the connection nursing brought and mourned its loss while others were completely pragmatic about it. When it was over, it was over. Even those of us who really enjoy and appreciate nursing have those moments of mind-numbing paralysis on the couch, when you settle in to nurse and only then realize that you have nothing to do; no magazine or book on hand to read, the remote is across the room…nothing. We can only gaze at our child adoringly for so long, and then we need some other distraction. Or along comes that moment when our little one squeezes her tiny fist in a pulsing “milk sign” motion and we wonder “Why on earth did I ever teach her that?” followed by that exasperated sinking feeling of “Not again!” Nursing isn’t all roses and sweet baby smells and those ‘baby love’ hormones. Sometimes nursing is not getting the laundry folded, not going out at baby’s bedtime, or not wearing our cute dress to the party because there’s no boob access and there’s nowhere to go with the baby and hike your dress over your head.

Nursing brings up a lot of feelings.

Time passed and our vacation was coming upon us. Surely, that very Sunday night we would start the process, right? I began feeling as though I was steeling myself, making myself do something I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do. Weeks ago, during a few tough nights in a row, I had wanted to night wean. I’d even been working on giving my boy some regular nursing times during that day that he could rely on in the hopes that this would help him feel more secure as I took away the nighttime milk. After some deliberation, I sat down with Joe for a talk: were we going to do this or not?

We listed the pros and cons. Yes, I might be able to get more sleep, eventually. That was a definite pro. But as we talked, I realized that all those little nagging thoughts in the back of my head weren’t just nervous mom chatter, they were actually empathetic concerns. Developmentally, our son was now a very curious toddler, into everything, and consequently being deprived and distracted from a lot of things he was very interested in. Much of our walks outside were spent guiding him back to safe areas, away from the street or rotten apples lying on the sidewalk or standing water in which worms writhed. I felt like I was redirecting a lot more, earnestly offering substitutions to eating the cat food or taking an inventory of the refrigerator or climbing up on everything humanly possible to climb on. He wasn’t old enough to understand the idea of safety (or parasites in the wormy water), and I could imagine that for him, some days felt like a long frustrating series of deprivations, one after the other. Somehow, the idea of taking away his very favorite snuggly comfort items seemed rather too much in light of how much else he wanted—really, truly wanted—and couldn’t have. Not to mention that I wanted him to have a way to tell me how he was feeling about night weaning, and his only way of expressing disappointment, sadness or anger is tears. I want him to be able to tell me how he’s feeling about such a big change.

Perhaps that last point was the bridge to my realization that I didn’t actually want to start night weaning. This might be the heart ruling the head, but my intuition told me that if I was coming up with so many reasons not to do it, we weren’t truly ready to take the night feeding option off the table. My goal as a mother has always been to go at my son’s pace, not to force him to “grow up”, and Joaquin has not given us even a remote sign that he’s ready or desirous of giving up the milk at night. That being the case, we’ve decided to wait a while and revisit this in a few months.

In the meantime, what to do about my need for sleep? Truth be told, if I went to bed earlier instead of staying up reading and writing, I’d probably feel a little more awake in the morning. Getting more exercise would also help me sleep better. Amazing what I could come up with when I decided to accept a little personal responsibility.

Strangely enough, we haven’t had so many hard nights as that one week that started the whole process of all this questioning. He’s waking up an average of twice now, around 3-ish and 5-ish, and I’m getting a big chunk of sleep at the beginning of the night. Funny how these things turn around and become very do-able again.

I sometimes wonder what I would’ve done about all of this had my life been different. If I was pregnant again, or planning on having more children? Perhaps I would’ve given him that push, knowing I would be nursing another child in the future and feeling less precious about the nursing itself. Or what if I was working outside the home and had to be up early each morning? Or if I was a mother with a physical disability or health issues that relied on my getting a full night of sleep? Who am I to even know what my life would be like with a different partner, in a different country, or in a different moment in history? The possibilities are endless.

If each woman’s life is her own world, then there has to be a whole universe of very unique and beautiful worlds, all working in their own way. I’m content to be one individual planet in that incredible universe, and I know that one day my little satellite will not need me in the night at all. Instead, he’ll sleep until morning and wake full of words, bursting to tell me of sweet dreams, all his own.

*For more information of safe cosleeping practices, check out this link:
Cosleeping isn’t for everyone, but if you do choose to sleep with your baby, please be an informed, safe cosleeper and share this information with your partner. Your baby’s life depends on it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Stay-Cation Finale

The last of a three-part journey to nowhere...

Wednesday night: Gathered the mamas together here, had a cozy wood fire and good red wine, nibbles and pleasant conversation all to the tunes of Mose Allison and Miles Davis. My favorite comment of the evening-"Did you see that Walmart commercial where the mom is excited because she can afford to buy her kid everything he wants for Christmas? It makes me sick. Why would you buy your kid everything they wanted?" I'm sure I'm paraphrasing, but loved the logic.

Thursday: A wonderful morning, cold, but we headed down to the courthouse to start the process of getting my name changed. I'll be a Wheeler! After filling out forms and dropping off a check, we scheduled a court date to appear before the judge, then went off to grab a celebratory mocha from Peets. Then, that afternoon, I got a chunk of time to finish up some writing and we had burritos for dinner. Not bad!

Friday: The highlight of my day, besides getting to sleep in an extra 45 minutes thanks to Awesome Joe, was going downtown to visit with my friend Jen. We had a cup of tea at her place, commiserated with her menagerie (dog, cat, bird), chatted with her very nice fiance and then took an ambling walk through Northwest, stopping at Pearl Baking at the end for decaf coffee and a chance to pick up yummy baked goods for Joe. Delish brioche treat and amazing bouchon. We feasted on this while watching "The Skeletons of Cadavra" after Baby J fell asleep. "Skeletons" is very funny, a modern movie made in the "b movie" style of old classics (ie- "It Came From Outer Space" and such like). Now I should go off to bed.

I will say this~ overall, this little vacation at home has been a success. It would've been a mess to travel to the coast, what with bridges washing out and mudslides on highway 6, our usual route. We did a lot less and a lot more than we thought. I'm going to be very sad when Joe has to go back to work on Monday. But we have one last hurrah in store, a cribbage tourney on Sunday at the pub with some dear friends. Not a bad way to end it.

Ditch the Battle Plans--Just Decide What's Important

Hello Readers-

This entry is rather lengthy, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on this subject. I welcome comments or any insights you may have in regard to my theories regarding language and parenting, and hope you might find a nugget of useful information somewhere in this.

“Language is virus” said William S. Burroughs, and indeed, the twenty-first century is proving his point to a degree we would never have thought possible. There is an invasion of acronyms created by text messaging that are slowly becoming part of our spoken language. Terms that were created to describe activities specific to computers now apply to all things human. The other day my partner recently described the job of one of his coworkers as “interfacing with the client”. His description, to me, sounds rather more like inter-cyborg relations than a business consultation.

Across the board, we discuss much of our world with words influenced by technology and marketing spin—enter the euphemism!—yet our language regarding parenting is comparatively stagnant. While we rarely hear such old truisms as “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” or “A stitch in time saves nine” (indeed, nearly obsolete in our fast, cheap and disposable society), when it comes to raising children, we seem to be repeating some of the same old catchphrases. No parent is unfamiliar with concepts like “the naughty chair” or “spare the rod and spoil the child”, and there’s no question that when a parent tells a child “I’ll give you something to cry about”, they aren’t threatening to make their child watch “Old Yeller”. We have few words to describe updated parenting concepts, and the ones we do use, such as “gentle discipline”, “child-centered parenting” or “unconditional parenting” are less understood by our society at large; thus, their use can generate controversy in a mixed group of parents. Phrases like “toilet learning” make parents scratch their heads and wonder what was wrong with plain old “potty training”. More than just a question of semantics, our new words bring with them a shift in what we understand about child development and our part in it as parents, but these concepts are not widely shared. Add to this the fact that, for many of us, change can feel like an affront to our sensibilities and a criticism of our parenting. Consequently, we as a society don’t have a wealth of common language to draw from when it comes to sharing newer parenting concepts, and without this common vocabulary, we continue to parent in some of the same old ways without questioning why. The lack of change isn’t doing us any favors.

Here’s one such phrase that’s been around for a long time it’s almost considered a truism:

“You have to pick your battles.”

As parents, we hear these words of advice from loving and caring people who want to help us make our lives easier. Our parents said it, sometimes to each other, and sometimes to us, especially in regard to our conflicts with other people within the family. And I like the idea of making things easier for parents. But couldn’t we put a better name on it, so to speak? When we talk of picking battles, what we really mean simply this:

“Decide what’s important, and let the rest go.”

Here’s a question some might be asking: if the two phrases mean the same thing, why should we put a better name on it? Because our language not only influences our attitudes and perceptions, but it is also an expression of how we experience the world around us. And as a person who is a bit fixated on language, I am always concerned about the words we use to describe our interactions with children, and the affect they might have on those moments when we most need a positive outlook or broader view.

Here’s an example to illustrate my point: there’s something empathetic and understanding in describing a child as “tender” when they are feeling sensitive, whereas the old habit of declaring that the child is “fussy” seems negative and blaming. Seeing a child as being “tender”, we have an emotional picture of the child as feeling highly sensitive and needing of some tender loving care. The word “tender” is capable of not only altering our perception of the child, but how we respond to their higher degree of need. We may be gentler, more sympathetic, and our hearts may soften. But use the word “fussy”, which almost suggests that a child is choosing to be upset and unwilling to be consoled, and a lot of that sympathy can fly out the window, replaced instead with a growing sense of frustration. While these descriptions are idyllic, one can see that language does make a difference in our attitudes as parents.

I’m a person who can take words or an expression pretty literally, and while I don’t take “pick your battles” to imply that we should cart our kids out onto a battlefield, I don’t like the idea of engaging in anything even euphemistically described as “battle” with the children in my life. There is a certain undeniable win/lose implication intrinsic to the phrase. To me, “picking our battles” is a deeply negative way of describing how we might engage with our children in regard to resolving conflict. More to the point, is it healthy to look at our relationships with our kids in such a black and white view? To see our selves, and our children, as winners and losers during those moments which are better met without the idea of one party coming out on top?

The semantics may seem trivial, but I am concerned because this idea of “picking battles” seems to have permeated the thinking of many parents and gone unquestioned. This becomes evident to me as I read online parenting forums and anecdotes regarding the challenges we have with our children. I notice the win/lose language, often present and lurking just below the surface. “You have to stand firm” one parent will admonish another. “You can’t give in. If you do, they will take advantage of you and then they win.” Parents are encouraged to reestablish their authority and take charge of these situations. One question from a parent seeking advice in regard to their child’s undesirable actions can often inspire a slew of uncreative and unintuitive advice, usually considered punishment in light of the situation. Does a child constantly need help clearing up their room? Take away the toys if the child doesn’t put them away when asked! A youngster starting preschool is regressing to diapers? Hide the diapers, or better yet, make her earn the privilege of going to school by wearing only underwear for a week. (I’m not joking—these were actual suggestions.) One can almost hear the unstated but firm exit line in these posts: “That’ll teach’em!” Many parents do care what our kids need or want, but these posts are a true display the philosophy that we must win at all costs.

Even more disconcerting to me is that other, more loaded phrase I have started to see: “Pick your battles—and pick them to win them.” Is it healthy to avoid potential moments of conflict or challenge because we might not get what we want? We might not win?
This statement suggests that parents decide whether or not to take action based on hypothetical risk assessment. And here’s a deeper question: do we avoid picking battles that we can’t win, or do we decide that when we pick battles, we will win at all costs? Sadly, there’s no wholly satisfactory answer.

Once I started to tease this particular phrase apart, I also noticed another wrinkle that disturbs me. I don’t find it coincidental that the times I have read “pick them to win them” have been exclusively in the context of justification for spanking one’s children. It troubles me is that this is somehow perceived as part of a “win”. When we spank our children, their hearts harden toward us because they experience fear, hurt and anger; their minds are so consumed by these emotions that what they will remember isn’t the mistake they made that needed correcting, but rather, the punishment itself. To think that we have genuinely won our children over to our way of thinking because they appear contrite and promise to “never, ever do it again” after being physically punished is naïve and frighteningly misguided. I believe that we can teach our children better when they are approached with love and can listen to our words instead of fearing a punishment, most especially a physical one.

All this being said in opposition to the idea of picking one’s battles, you might be wondering how changing a few little words could produce a win/win situation. If one is in the habit of Picking One’s Battles, transforming our thinking to Deciding What’s Important takes a leap of faith, and a belief that teaching our children isn’t just a day-to-day task of little wins and instant results, but a long-term plan for the future, where we see the results of our work in the adults our children have become.

If what I’ve said sounds too touchy-feely, let me make this perfectly clear: I don’t believe in letting kids ride roughshod over us by any means. We have to guide them, to teach them that their actions directly affect others, and by all means, we should teach them what we value. Not just that it’s wrong to tell hurtful lies, or to take what one wants without asking, or to smack your brother because he breathed on you, but why it’s important to us that our children not do these things. It’s important that our child not tell people things about another person which are untrue and which other people could believe, because this dishonesty might cause harm to the reputation of the person in question. It’s important that we ask permission before we take something, even if we only planned to borrow it, not only because it isn’t ours, but because that person would be upset not knowing where their possession is and not being able to use it. And it’s important not to hit your brother because it hurts him and because the fighting distracts the driver from watching the road, which could cause an accident and possibly hurt many people.

As parents, the explanation part of this sort of discipline is pretty easy. The harder part is to back up our statement with actions. Especially in the case of moral issues: walking a child through the process of correcting a hurtful lie or giving back a stolen object is heartbreaking for us and can be embarrassing for them, but holds so many lessons. Letting a child experience the emotions that come with correcting a wrong done to someone else is a better teacher than any punishment we could conceive, which traditionally require a loss on the child’s part. We don’t make our children losers, and believe it or not, in the long run we all win. Children slowly learn that they can correct their mistakes because we gently teach them how to go back and right their wrongs; and they are encouraged to do this when they do not fear adult-initiated punishments. Our children are slowly developing a new and important life skill, and will feel better and more capable of fixing problems in their relationships in the future. They will also become more capable of initiating corrections when they have made mistakes, and be more likely to seek our help when they need it most.

With regard to those kids in the car who are hitting each other: sometimes we have to stop the car, take the keys out of the ignition and help the kids figure out a plan to keep everyone safe, including the drivers and people around them. We don’t have to passively sit there until they stop fighting; but along with helping the kids solve their conflict, they learn that their parents have concern for the safety of others. It’s not just important to mom and dad that the kids ‘behave’, but that they themselves are able to be safe when they could potentially hurt others. It may not be a particularly dynamic moment, but the repeated point of being clearheaded and conscientious behind the wheel is a message that will be firmly placed in our children’s minds when they become young drivers themselves.

Sometimes, too, we find ourselves in those situations where multiple “important things” run into conflict with each other. Unlike picking our battles, where we may have a lot of “sticking to our guns” on a myriad of issues, deciding what’s most important allows us flexibility in our parenting. Instead of adhering to the status quo for fear of setting a precedent, this flexibility can often be used to the appreciation of both children and parents alike, and helps us to make better choices. Families often face a situation like this when we have out of town family or friends staying as our overnight guests. The kids would love to stay up late and play with each other and the adults all desire a chance to connect. Add to this the little one who is too excited to sleep and does not want to stay in bed while the older kids are up. We have to take a moment and decide if bedtime is more important than our “grown up time” with our visitors. Maybe it’s a Friday and yes, we will all be a late getting up and a little cranky tomorrow, but it’s a special night so the three year old stays up and has a blast and falls asleep on the playroom floor and the adults have a glass of wine and some good conversation. Or maybe we need a good night’s rest because the kids are tired or because we have work and school tomorrow, so we make our apologies to our friends, one of us goes to lay down with the little one until she falls asleep and we have a shorter, quiet conversation over a cup of tea. Either way, our priorities as parents are met with less conflict and our children receive what they most need from us in the moment, our support and love.

Walking our children through rough transitions, teaching them to correct their mistakes and showing them what is important to us goes far beyond what “picking a battle” requires of us. It goes beyond asking our children to be merely obedient because we say so, or because “mom’s right and I’m wrong”; it actually takes their hand and shows them lovingly how to “be right” too. If our goal is to live in harmony with the members of our family and those around us, we must decide what’s important. For everyone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stay-Cation, Part Deux

The second installment of the Saga of "Going Nowhere"

Monday: Well, we actually did go somewhere. Mundane activities galore in the a.m.; Joe and I finished our cribbage game from Sunday while Joaquin napped and had a beer, which put us in fine form to tackle that mess called Hawthorne Blvd. Joe lost his earring taking off a ventilator mask whilst doing cribbage repair and using nasty chemicals outside, so we were off to replace said earring with a duplicate. As you might have guessed, he's the kind of guy who finds what works and sticks with it, and he's had that earring in his ear since I've known him. That said, we were off on an adventure to places that promise Jewelry but really deal in Body Jewelry. Popping in and out of these stores and checking out the merchandise, I began to feel very vanilla and slightly middle aged. Apparently we were such hopeless cases that the salespeople at one store completely ignored us. Which was fine, because they looked rather surly and would've been annoyed at simply the thought of wasting their time on two normal looking people like ourselves.

No earring found, but the highlight was stopping in at Peets for some tea. I'm not a person who wants expensive things, and a box of good tea is my kind of luxury item. The Fancy Osmanthus I was hankering after wasn't available, but I was very happy to have a chance to talk with one of their staff about the Holiday Blend, which I picked up. I loved decaf coffee for a long time, but going back to real ( read: not decaf) tea is like returning to my first love. One of my favorite parts of tea shopping is just the sniffing of the teas. Needless to say, this was the definite highlight of my day.

And upon returning home, Joe found his earring out in the driveway. How about that?!

Tuesday: Lovely lunch out with Joe. Ran a few errands and then stopped in at Oaks Bottom Brewpub for lunch. Oaks Bottom is one of the Lompoc chain of restaurants and always has great beers on tap. I had a Great Divide "Hibernation" and Joe had a Leavenworth Dunkelweizen, which I think he was expecting more from. But his disappointment was assuaged with the heaping helping of tater tots piled on our plates. The Tots reign supreme here, and Oaks Bottom is the only place I know to offer "Totchos", tater tots smothered in nacho cheese. Were I not lactose-intolerant, I would've been in grave danger.

Wednesday: Can you consider a walk in driving, pouring rain a highlight? I have to; it's the only time I really got out of the house. Damn the pedometer, I decided that if I didn't get my 10,000 steps in after that walk, I was just going to be irritated, so I left it lying on the shelf at home. Took two strollers (one leaked before we even left!) and I have never had more saturated hair, but my friend Laura said we should be proud for heading out into the wet. I think I'm just going to believe her.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stay-Cation, All I Ever Wanted.... Part One

After going round-about regarding Joe taking some much needed time off and all the particulars a vacation implied, we decided that the most relaxing option was to just hang out at home. We will spend a fraction of the money gas, lodging and meals out would have cost and treat ourselves to some yummy snacks, rent movies and maybe even take the kiddo out to the zoo or heaven forbid, that germs' paradise called OMSI. (I say this because my pediatrician regularly warns us away from OMSI, the Children's Museum and the like.)

So, without any further ado, this is the wee chronicle of our low-rent week. I won't give you a play by play, just the stuff worth noting.

Installment One:
Saturday: Did you see those clouds? We ran errands after my Saturday a.m. writing time up at Corporate Coffee. The clouds whipped across the sky, absolutely stunning. No rain all afternoon, so after the required shopping trips we took a walk up to Independent Coffee Shop and Joaquin had a blast toodling along. He is into everything right now, and it must be hard for him to not be able to walk into puddles or pick up rotten apples and the like. I put him in the pack on the way home and he snoozed for 20 minutes or so. Evening was exceptional; tired boy fell asleep at eight, which allowed us time to get in two episodes of Perry Mason from my newest birthday dvd. Oh, and we had martinis, which is the recommended drink when you are watching the snappy back-n-forth of Perry Mason and Lieutenant Tragg and drooling over cars with amazingly sharp fins. Look out!

Sunday, so far: After making the big breakfast from heaven (I make really good home fries and a mean scramble), we headed over to Trader Joe's. This was our first vacation adventure, as everyone had brought their children and appeared hell-bent on making shopping decisions by consensus. Worse than I5 North gridlock at 4:30. We are primarily "list" shoppers, and managed to make our way through with good humor intact. Especially as we were not struck immobile by the "Deer In Headlights" epidemic that seemed to strike customers upon entering. Maybe it's in the ventilation?... A nice long nap for the boy gave Joe and I time to chat, play a few games of cribbage, and open up his birthday beer, Reinaert's Flemish Wild Ale. It's like that cousin that shows up at the family reunion which no one can quite place; not quite a Belgian, a lambec, or anything else we could put our finger on. I thought "Grains of Paradise", maybe? in the flavor...very unique. Thank you, dear Lissa, for turning us on to a new and neat beer. I did my research, and it's the yeast that makes it so special. If you are interested, you can find out more at the below link.

Just a heads up for those of you who love beer, or those of you who love someone who loves beer: the fresh hop beers are disappearing fast. So if you haven't tried them and wanted to, get thee to Belmont Station or check out the offerings at the QFC on Burnside and 55th. They have a surprisingly good variety of microbrews for a standard grocery store. I liked this summer's "Hop Czar" by Bridgeport, and Great Divide made a great "Fresh Hop" beer. Also worth checking out--the "Freaktoberfest" by Schmaltz Brewing. It's a red lager with a hell of a lot more going on than your average lager, definitely more body and a richer flavor. Their "Lenny's R.I.P.A." a rye IPA is amazing, and their newest Jew-balation is excellent, I've been told.

And now off I go to join in the giggles upstairs.