Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine. . .

I've been baking a lot of cupcakes since Andrea's birth.  Although I prefer the challenge and creativity required by a full-size cake, it is both time-consuming and energy-depleting.  Time and energy are two resources I have very little of in my current state.  Cupcakes allow me to bake my cake and decorate it too.

Yesterday my family had a weenie roast and I volunteered desert.  What goes better with fire-charred weenies than s'mores?  And my personal philosophy is that any desert can translate into a cupcake.  I began with a graham cracker cake, filled with chocolate ganache, and topped with a marshmallow buttercream frosting.

I embellished them with chocolate swirls and a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs.


Paul took a picture of his face after he tasted them.  His seal of approval is important.

When Paul graduated in May I threw a little party for him.  The refreshment of choice was, of course, cupcakes.  I wanted these treats to reflect his achievements and goals but could not find a recipe for a calculator cake with pocket protector buttercream.  Paul suggested I base my cupcakes off of his school colors.  He's so smart that way.

For Utah Valley University's yellow and green I made key lime cupcakes with a lemon curd filling, topped with a lemon curd buttercream.  Representing the red University of Utah where he'll be attending this fall for graduate school I chose a red velvet cake with a strawberry center, dipped in chocolate ganache, and topped with a cream cheese frosting.

Andrea was asleep when I mixed the red velvet batter.  Much to my grand dismay, I was very low on red food coloring and unable to run to the store to replenish the supply.  Using what I had left my batter glistened a lovely shade of mahogany, and I weakly hoped that baking would miraculously turn them a lovely shade of scarlet.  I was so disappointed that the result was brown velvet cupcakes.  Paul keeps telling me he remembers them looking red.  However, he's a man of very few words and a picture is worth a thousand, so my evidence speaks for itself.

He seemed to enjoy them anyway, which is all I really wanted. 

After cupcakes we played "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader."  The result of that:
He he he. . . we had a lot of fun!
Andrea turned six months on my birthday.  Yesterday was her six month wellness check-up, and it was a rough one.  Andrea is not growing as well as her doctor would like.  She's still under 12 pounds and has dropped into the .5 percentile.  I knew she was small and ate like a baby bird, but it seemed that my attempts to feed her extra always ended in either her refusing to open her mouth or her spitting it right back up.  He told me to be persistent because she needs more calories.  He recommended I supplement with some extra formula after I nurse and increase how many times a day she eats solids.  So far not so good, but I'm not giving up.  He also said once we got her to eat more in the day she shouldn't need to eat two or three times at night.  Hallelujah!  Other good news-- even though she's small, she's hitting all of her milestones.  That's something to be thankful for.

Being a parent is more difficult and challenging than I ever thought it would be.  Worrying about this tiny girl is one of the many full-time jobs I inherited on December 13th.  Please say a little prayer for her.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The day my creativity died

High school is a time of experimentation for many teens.  Experimenting with relationships, drugs, boundaries, reckless driving, and sneaking in and out of places they aren't suppose to be are just a handful of the many options for adolescents when picking and choosing where to show their "autonomy."  And as bad as all that teenage self-expression garbage can be, it's often amplified by college.

I, too, practiced my rights as a juvenile to say and do stupids things but in a very "Molly Morman" sort of way.  In the social circles I gravitated towards rebellion was driving a mini-van with the windows rolled down while singing along with Kelly Clarkson as loudly as our vocal cords would allow.  Armed with sketchbooks and CD's of Turkish music (more rebellion) we got high off skittles and pixie sticks (taken orally, of course).  We'd drive to the mall and try on clearance prom dresses that were a little too short or a little too low, but a lot too ugly.  We'd giggle in the dressing rooms, embarrassed and unwilling to actually emerge from the tiny mirrored stalls.

I was scared of everything and nothing all at once.  I'd shake for solo clarinet performances and almost have to wear Depends to read Shakespeare aloud in front my equally awkward peers.  But I would write abstract pieces about demons and shape-shifters and fireflies.  I wrote poems about loving, hating. . . coping.  And I enjoyed writing about topics of which I knew little, like abuse and death, just to test the limits of my understanding and imagination.

I know it sounds boring, but it was daring for me and I felt pretty good doing it.

Today, taking a chance is cleaning the kitchen in the morning instead of the evening, and I miss the days of feeling just a little wild.  I'm twenty-two and I feel like forty-four.  I need to shake things up to feel young again and plan something spontaneous! Wait. . .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A new me

I'm beginning to feel almost human again.  This new sleep routine is something a girl could get use to.  After a couple of smooth days I expected Andrea to pull out the big guns and accost me with a fit of sleep rebellion, which she hasn't.  Before a nap we read a story or two and then I tell her it's time to go night-night.  Armed with her binky in her mouth and a soft teddy bear in her arms I kiss her, tell her I love her, and cover her unswaddled body with a soft yellow blanket.  Most of the time, she turns her head to the side, lets out a quiet sigh, and drifts to sleep quietly and calmly.  Occasionally, she'll fuss for a minute while I step out of the room, but soon she gives in to her tired eyes.

Now if we could stop getting up two to five times a night we'd be cooking!

When we moved into our current apartment we had very little time to settle in.  We moved on a Saturday, went to church on Sunday, and started back at school on Monday.  Because we both worked and juggled school we had very little time at home.  I quit my job just before Thanksgiving and Andrea was born the first day of finals.  Out of my tummy, my daughter introduced me to the madness that is motherhood and I've been trying to catch up ever since.  Now that she's taking good naps she's happier when she's awake and a little more inclined to let me accomplish household tasks.  I'm currently delving into our storage room and unpacking some of the boxes that have been neglected.

The more I do the more I see that needs done.  Areas, like my pantry, that didn't feel like a problem before are starting act out, yearning for my attention.  But my house is not the only place I feel tasks piling up to unnatural heights.  I'm feeling overwhelmed about everything and my overwhelmed, exhausted brain is compensating by letting things go.

I forgot it was June.  I forgot to pay rent until a week into the month.  I forgot to do my monthly reports for Primary.  I forgot to sign inside the box on an important form.  I forgot to wash towels when I said I would.  I forgot that Paul said not to make tuna chowder.  I forgot what day my birthday was.  I forgot what day of the week it was almost every day of the week.  I forgot to wear socks and got a blister.  I forgot to brush my teeth one night and woke up with the worst taste in my mouth.   I forgot what time I put Andrea down or fed her more times than I'd like to count.   I forgot I had a wet pillow in the dryer that was only wet because I forgot to change Andrea's diaper when she woke up and it leaked all over us and the pillow while she was nursing.


And today it came out and I laid on my bed and tried to convince myself aloud that I was not always like this.  But I'm forgetting what I was like before so I may have to write it down.

While pondering the complexities of my personality and brain B.C. (before child) I realized that I'll never be that girl again.

And I was suddenly okay with that.

I am on this beautiful earth to learn, grow, and become more and more like a perfect savior.  The trials of now are preparing me and teaching me.  I'm being broken down like a worked muscle so I can get stronger.  Returning to exactly as I was before would be digression.  I need to take what I'm learning and create a new me.  Hopefully a better me. 

I kind of wonder what the new me will be like because if she's like I am now she's just a little too forgetful.  Maybe I'll work on that. . . if I remember.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ZZzzzzz. . .

I'm sitting on the floor in my living room in complete shock.

Andrea is asleep.

Our sleeping war came to a head on Tuesday when I spent most of the day in tears because Andrea wouldn't stop screaming.  I could tell she was tired but I just could not get her to sleep.  I rocked her, bounced her, sang to her, read her books, turned out all the lights, swaddled, unswaddled, and held her while I cried on the phone to my mother.  My mom told me to just lay Andrea down in her crib and leave the room.  She'd cry, but she was doing that anyway.

And I did it.

Crying out is a sleep method I've been avoiding.  A couple months ago I tried it as a last resort.  I only lasted two days before I gave up because she was crying for over an hour each nap.  I thought maybe she wasn't ready (I’d read that in a book somewhere).  However, if she wouldn't go to bed at night I made an exception.  It took two nights of crying before she figured out how to fall asleep without assistance, but it only seemed to work after a long day of terrible naps.  When my mom told me to lay her down she explained that Andrea could cry in my arms or in her crib but either way she was going to cry.  By holding her, rocking her, and bouncing her I was stimulating her sleepy body and making it more difficult for her to nap.

So I laid her down and shut myself in my bedroom with the monitor turned down low so I could time how long she cried.  An hour passed-- this is usually when I’d give up and retrieve her.  I didn't though and five minutes later she was asleep.  She slept for an hour and a half.  It was miraculous.  I decided then that we were done rocking to sleep.  She needed to learn how to sleep on her own, and as her mother I had to let her learn. The following day sleep training began, and we decided to cold-turkey the swaddle too.  Why not?

After breakfast Andrea and I went shopping for her first baby foods.  I took my time at the store, meandering down the aisles sluggishly, dreading putting her down for her morning nap.  My stomach felt ill and my body was tense with anxiety, anticipating at least an hour of crying when I got home.  Exhausted from our adventures, she fell asleep instantly.  I got lucky, I thought.  Nap number two, fifteen minutes of grumbling in her bed and then dreamland.  Nap number three, no tears at all.  I felt like Heavenly Father was giving me a gift-- a day off from sleeping trauma.  And I was more than thankful, but anticipated some resistance come morning.  Andrea and I had struggled for so long that I knew it couldn't be this easy.

Or could it be?

Today we had three more tear-free naps.  Occasionally, when I lay her down she might whine for five minutes or so, but then she rolls her head to the side and drifts to sleep.  [Insert heavenly choirs singing. . .]

I hardly believe it.  Even now.  Yet through my elation, I feel a measured amount of sadness.

The only thing that has been somewhat of a comfort to me for the past five and a half months was that Andrea was just a bad sleeper.  I tried everything I could to help her sleep with no success and much heartache.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that she would challenge any mother.  But the past two days have been so wonderful; it only required leaving her alone. 

Was it me all along?

I want to crawl out of my skin.

And bury myself under a rock.

A rock that smells like dung.

How do I cope with these intense feelings failure?  I try to not be so hard on myself but it’s difficult when an innocent life is the victim of my imperfections.

Thank heavens she won't remember this!