Thursday, June 12, 2008


Levi: Months Three, Four, and Five

Check this out, dude. I'm going to help myself get caught up on these newsletters by combining THREE months in ONE letter. This is also known as cheating. Or slacking. Either would be true. My excuse is this: Month Three looked an awful lot like Month Two. Colic, check. Homebound, check. Frazzled mama nerves that she'd like to forget, check. Your father and I counted the days until your fourth month, because everything we'd read about colic says that after twelve weeks, a magic fairy sprinkles colicky babies with happy baby dust and everything is suddenly better.

At fourteen weeks, we took you back to the clinic because that stinkin' fairy never showed up. The docs continued to say it was colic or reflux or just, you know, all babies cry, deal with it. Needless to say, you now have a different pediatrician. We finally ended up switching your formula yet again, to a type that breaks down proteins so that babies that have trouble breaking them down don't have to, and lo and behold, we got our different baby! No more hours-long screaming fits, no more arched back and red face, no more prune juice and glycerin suppositories to wiggle out your seven-day bowel movement! Someone should have told us that the magic fairy dust comes in the form of hella expensive formula.

Now don't get me wrong. It's not like nothing great happened during Months Three and Four. You laughed for the first time, you started to enjoy tummy time, and you were finally weaned from using the bouncy seat as a bed. We had tried and tried just laying you in the crib, but every time you would wake and cry and we'd have to soothe you to sleep all over. So I asked your father to think of a way to make the crib vibrate like the bouncy seat, thinking maybe he'd use a neck massage pillow that we had. Instead, he built a vibrating motor out of--get this--a used hand-vac motor and a shaving cream lid, and attached it to the crib frame under the mattress. It worked perfectly. The first time we set you in it, you slept five hours! In a row! In a crib!!! Over the next three weeks, Rick's homemade motor started to die down. The vibration became weaker and weaker, until it just didn't vibrate the mattress any more. And that, Levi, is how you started sleeping in a crib. (And how I came to really respect your father's electrical skillz).

So like I said, it's not that the third and fourth months didn't have their charms, but if anyone ever asks me when colic gets better, I'm not going to get their hopes up. Twelve weeks my ass. I'm going to tell them to hold on until the fifth month. Dude, the fifth month is WHERE IT'S AT. This month you started smiling and laughing so much I really did think you were a different baby. You started rolling onto your side and trying to sit up. You shrieked with glee every time we put you in the Baby Bjorn to go for a walk. And best of all, you finally started to tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy, riding in the car. The first four months we were pretty much homebound, because even if we had been enjoying a relatively calm period, you started to scream the second you were put in the car. It didn't matter what we did or didn't do. We tried everything. And then, one day, you managed a five-minute car ride. Soon, you went on a ten-minute car ride. And by the end of the month, we made a twenty-minute trip! Watch out world--we're real adventurers, you and me! I'm just glad you decided to give the car a shot, before I was forced to scratch the eyes out of the next mother to tell me, "Well, that's strange. My baby just LOVES the car."

One of your major discoveries this month was your feet. I called your dad one day to tell him we had a new reason to be proud of our son, because after days of trying, you had finally managed to fit all five toes of your right foot in your mouth. I have never seen such happiness in my life. But one of the things I have noticed about you, Levi, is that you are not one to bask in the glory of a new accomplishment for long. As soon as you develop a new skill, you want to take it further or you give it up altogether for another one. When you found your hands, you were frustrated that you couldn't get them to your mouth. And once you got them to your mouth, you were upset that they didn't just stay there.
This reminds me of your father. Not that I ever knew him when he couldn't get his hands to his mouth, but the way he is always thinking of The. Next. Big. Thing. When he's climbing a mountain, he's planning the next trip. When he's building a piece of furniture, he's thinking of the next thing he'd like to build. And when he's rewiring a house, he's checking out a book on plumbing. It's wonderful to live with someone so interested in life and learning and doing, and as we approach your father's first Father's Day, I can easily and honestly say that I will be happy for you to inheret his passion and determination. But as your mother, I will always be torn between wanting to fix all your frustrations and understanding that you actually need some frustration so you'll learn how to fix it yourself. When you do, can you help your father build me a kitchen island?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Speaking of knitting...

I just received an e-newsletter from a yarn company, in which ideas for Father's Day knitting projects were given. Which is awesome, because now I'll have Father's Day 2011 taken care of.

Thanks for all the ideas for small/easy/baby-head-friendly knitting projects, and please feel free to keep them coming. I neglected to mention that I also need to knit from stash for awhile, but I think I have some skeins that will be great for hats, and maybe some short scarves. I loved reading your suggestions, and I'll let you know what I come up with. In 2011.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In which the word "knit" is used in a blog post.

Knitters, you'd better sit down to read this. Though now that I think of it, most people don't stand at their computer screens. The point is, I have a startling confession to make: I haven't picked up my knitting needles in over five months. That's almost half a year. I'm pretty sure my membership in KnitBlogLand has been revoked. At the very least, I'm probably on probation.

It's not that I've lost an interest in knitting. To the contrary, sitting down to knit sounds absolutely wonderful. It's that sitting down part that's the problem. All y'all mommy knitters out there are my new heroes, because five months in, I'm still having a hard time showering and brushing my teeth every day.

Here's what I need in a knitting project right now:

1. No cables or lace. Not that I would reject anything other than garter or stockinette, but charts are absolutely out of the question as I am still functioning on approximately half the sleep I used to get. I need to memorize the pattern fairly quickly.

2. No socks. I'm afraid I just don't have the sock love, despite the fact that they are great mindless knitting.

3. No baby blankets. I think it would take me a year or two to finish another baby blanket.

4. And because it will take me a long time to finish anything, the project should probably be small and/or relatively quick to knit.

5. I need to be able to stop quickly, in the middle of the row, without confusing myself when I come back to it. Did I mention how tired I am?

So it appears I am now the Picky Knitter. Any suggestions for this sorry excuse for a knitter? I mean, besides washcloths? Did I mention the picky-ness?

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Levi: Month Two

Dude. I just don’t know about these newsletters. At this rate, I won’t finish Levi: Month Four until you’re three years old. I barely have time to look at blogs anymore, let alone write for my own. If you ever need to curb an Internet addiction, Levi, try having a baby.

Well, let’s get to it. Colic. I’ve mentioned it before. Colic, more than the fact that your parents will already be older than most of your friends’ parents, is the reason you will not have any brothers or sisters. Approximately one in five babies is colicky, which means that they cry (or scream) for at least three hours (try five or six) a day at least three days a week (or seven) for weeks on end. It is very difficult to try to help a baby who is screaming for no apparent reason, especially when you love that baby deeply and don’t want to see him unhappy or hurt. And especially when you try everything you can think of (and everything everyone else can think of) to distract him from screaming several hours a day. During the colicky time, it’s hard to imagine that things will ever get better, even though that’s all people ever tell you. You tell them your child screams for seven hours a day, and they say, “It will get better,” not realizing you are so frazzled you can barely figure out how to get through the day, let alone tomorrow or several months from now. All you can see is a future of crying and desperate attempts to stop the crying. You will be the only person you know with a fifteen-year-old who has to be swaddled and rocked to sleep while listening to radio static.

The one thing that really helped us was reading The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. The title is a little misleading, because nothing was going to take a baby who screams seven hours a day and turn him into a sleeping angel sitting in his carseat at Starbucks while his mother drinks coffee and chats with a friend. That aside, Dr. Karp is a freakin’ miracle worker. His program of using the “Five S’s”—swaddling, swinging, shushing, side-lying, and sucking—would turn you from a screaming meanie into either a bright-eyed, observant little baby or even better, a sleeping baby. As long as you continued to be swaddled, swung, and shushed while lying on your side and sucking a pacifier, you were one happy dude. And your parents were exhausted.

It was during this month that you decided you could no longer sleep in the crib. After all, the crib didn’t swing. So after a few sleepless days and nights, this became your new bed:

You would only sleep if you were swaddled, danced to sleep, placed in front of a stereo which was blasting radio static at levels so high your father and I could not carry on a conversation, propped up in your bouncy seat, and sucking on a pacifier, which unfortunately, would fall out of your mouth as soon as you fell into a deep sleep, necessitating a return to the whole ritual when you woke up angry. See why colic is a five letter word for birth control? I CANNOT EVER GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN.

The best part of our day was when you woke up in the mornings. Starting around your fifth week of life, you had a good ten or fifteen minutes every morning when we would have a little conversation, me sitting on the floor in front of you in your bouncy seat. I would say a few words like “Good morning Levi!” and you would say something like “Ooooohhh” and then we’d do it all over again before the realization hit you that yes, you would have to live through yet another day, and BAM! The colic was back and I hadn’t even had my coffee yet.

One of my favorite memories of your second month of life occurred one evening around 9pm. The phone rang at exactly the same moment that the tornado sirens started going off outside. Your father answered the phone: it was your grandmother, telling us that we were in a tornado watch and to turn on the radio. I was already tuning into KOMA and the first thing I heard Gary England say was, “It’s right at the corner of Blank and Blank (creative fake street names used to protect you from internet predators)!” Except, this being Gary England, he made this statement with about four exclamation points. And that intersection he mentioned? It was one mile from our house! Your father called out, “Get Levi and put him in the carseat and bring him to the hall closet!” I whipped you up from your bouncy seat/bed and did as I was told while Rick emptied the hall closet. When we were safe and secure in the closet, your father took the mattress from your crib (it’s not like it was being used anyway) and readied it in case we needed to cover ourselves. Then we listened to the radio for further information, only to find out that the “it” that was one mile away…was an area of rotation…that may or may not turn into a funnel…that may or may not touch down as a tornado…and that in fact, had already moved another few miles away from us.

The show was over before it began, Levi, but not for you. Nope. You were ready for a party and it took another hour to convince you that you would not be seeing your first tornado and to please, please go back to sleep. It was this experience, your first Gary England-inspired false-alarm tornado-drill that led your father to really, truly feel like a parent. His first instinct was not to go outside and look for the twister (which is what most Oklahomans do when they hear the tornado sirens), nor was it even to protect his wife. You were the first thing, the most important thing, the only thing on his mind.

Love you, kiddo. Hope you enjoyed the show.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Levi: Month One

So my plan is to write you a monthly newsletter of sorts, for the first twelve months of your life. Who knows, I might continue after your first birthday, but I hate to commit myself to such a project at this time (especially since I’m already behind). Life is short and unpredictable, Levi. You should live each day as if it's your last, but be sure to save for retirement. Life is also full of mixed messages.

We brought you home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t it be nice to say that we stayed up with you until midnight and toasted the start of our first year as a family of three while fireworks exploded in the background? Instead, we were all conked out in bed, trying to recuperate from the stay in the hospital. Now I know why some of my patients were so mean to me when I woke them at 2 in the morning for vital signs. Another lesson for you, Levi: don’t go to a hospital expecting to rest.

Predictably, the cats didn’t care for you when you first came home. Loki occasionally sniffed your head, but would run and hide under the bed the second you opened your eyes or had one of those spastic newborn baby arm-flailing moments. Shiva, however, pretended not to notice you. She would walk right past you with nary a glance.

I don’t know how that was possible, since you were such a beautiful little guy. You were born with gorgeous, big, steel blue eyes—not that we got to see them very much at first. You were a good sleeper right from the start. In fact, you slept so much the first week that I often had to wake you up to eat. From your second day of life to the end of the first week, we have few pictures of you with your eyes open.

When you were a week old, however, you started to wake up more. You would often sit and watch the world around you, as long as you had a boob or a finger to suck on. We took you to Hideaway Pizza when you were seven days old, and you behaved very well, sucking on Dad’s finger the whole time and looking around at everything going on.

As I said, you were always a good sleeper. But like all newborns, you didn’t sleep all at one time. You started breastfeeding the first day of your life, and breastfed babies have to eat at least every two to two and a half hours. The key phrase being “at least.” Meaning that at most, a breastfeeding woman only gets about one to one and a half hours of sleep at a time. Meaning I was really effing tired, dude.

I planned on breastfeeding you until you were at least six months old, Levi, and you’ll never really know how sorry I am that it didn’t work out for us. I should have known what I was in for when the lactation consultant checked in with us. She stuck a finger in your mouth to test your sucking ability and proclaimed, “Wow! That’s a strong suck. I’m glad it’s your nipples and not mine!”

Things went downhill from there. After three (and a half! Don’t forget the half!) weeks of bloody nipples, engorgement, clogged milk ducts, finding out that I was only producing half the milk a newborn needs, pumping with a hospital-grade breast pump, hot packs, cold packs, appointment after appointment with the lactation consultants, fenugreek capsules, and finally thrush, I gave up the dream. By this time, I had lost all contact with any male friends and family members I once had, because every time they asked how I was doing, I said something like, “Imagine your testicles are so full of fluid that they are three times their normal size and as hard as rocks. Your scrotum has a small area of skin that is raw, bloody, and has recently started burning like fire every time it is touched. Every two hours, a baby sucks on that area for thirty minutes. THAT’S HOW I’M DOING.”

I felt so guilty for finally stopping breastfeeding. You were born into a family that likes to do stuff the old-fashioned way, Levi. We make our own soap, build our own furniture, knit our own scarves, sew our own backpacks, etc., etc. Of course we would also be committed to feeding babies the old-fashioned way. But THANK GOD for formula. You took to the bottle with glee and vigor and a voraciousness that must be baby for “Thank God someone is finally feeding me!”

Honestly, the first month of your life is kind of blur to me. A foggy-eyed blur of fatigue and uncertainty mixed with the wonderful head rush of caffeine after I stopped breastfeeding. Oh, how coffee helps. Through the blur, I remember how serenely you slept on your father’s chest. How your baby breath felt on my neck. The night that just the two of us were awake at two a.m., watching the lightning flashes during the rainstorm. The way you absorbed your surroundings with your eyes. Your first bath. Your hand curled around my finger. The way the pounds suddenly flew back on you, making both of us healthy once again.

Just in time for colic. But that’s another story.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Reason #1 Why Levi Deserves Your Pity

I told my son a story today. It went like this:

"Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. They each had to build a, for some reason or other. One of them built a house out of straw, one of them built a house out of...something else...and one of them built his house out of bricks. Then this big bad wolf came and he huffed and puffed and blew the first two houses down. But he couldn't destroy the last house, because it out of bricks? And the moral to this story is that, obviously, Mom needs to bone up on her children's stories."

Friday, March 21, 2008


It's the Thought That Counts

Yesterday morning, I did crunches for the first time in over a year.

And yesterday afternoon? Yesterday afternoon, I ate six spoonfuls of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


A Few Observations

1. My toenails are longer than my fingernails.

2. I hope Levi will learn to bite his fingernails soon, because dude, I just clipped those yesterday and they need it again.

3. It's not just his fingernails that are growing. Take a look at these cheeks. Don't they just call out to be gobbled up?
4. The other day I was asked if I could still remember "life before baby". It's true: I can no longer imagine a life with dental floss, a good night's sleep, or a hot cup of coffee.

5. Until having my own extremely fussy baby, I never really knew what colic was. I will never again react to someone saying their baby has colic with a flippant, "Oh, that must be hard." Instead I will probably start crying with them and suggest that we find a support group. And if you don't know what colic is, dear reader, let me tell you: it is a five letter word for birth control.

6. Knitting? What's that? I think this is a mommy blog now.

7. NPR? What's that? What do you mean that life is going on outside of this house and this baby?

8. Surely not...take a look at this:

9. Baby smiles are magical. They must be to make you forget that you have only had five hours of sleep in the last two days.

10. Swaddling is also cool. And by cool, I mean it's a lifesaver. Hospitals should require that new parents demonstrate a proper swaddle before they can take their babies home. Or at least, they should have required it of me.

11. If you take the "L" at the beginning of "Levi" and move it to the end, you get "Evil". I'm just sayin' is all.

12. I have to go back to work next week. I don't even want to talk about it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Levi: Day One

(Warning: This is the longest post I've ever written, and there is no knitting content whatsoever.) :)

Right now, you don't know who Heather Armstrong is, Levi, although I suspect that someday you will because I will warn you to avoid being dooced. She is one of my favorite bloggers, someone whose writings have helped me through the difficult period that has been the first three months of your life. She makes a point to write her daughter a monthly newsletter, and has inspired me to do the same for you, despite the fact that I am not a talented writer. I simply find myself wanting a record of this time in my life, and this seems like a good way to go about it.

So, with that, let’s get started on Month One (we’re currently in Month Three, by the way, but it’s taken me this long to get caught up with life enough to sit down at a computer for more than five minutes). Actually, we’re going to start with Day One, because it was a Really Big Day. At five o’clock in the morning on the last Saturday of December, I started having contractions. At least, I was pretty sure the wave-like pains in my lower back were contractions. Your father and I had gone to childbirth classes for twelve weeks to learn about natural childbirth, the labor process, and how to handle the pain of it all. Little did we know that we wouldn’t have time to put any of our new tricks to use.

I woke your father up and told him about the contractions, and the timing began. For the next several hours, Rick diligently recorded how far apart my contractions were and how long they were. And there was no pattern. I was having contractions five minutes apart, then twelve minutes apart, then eight, then ten, then five again and then eight again. They’d last thirty seconds, and then sixty seconds, and then twenty seconds, and then seventy. I ate breakfast, took a shower. We assumed this was false labor because in real labor, the contractions are supposed to gradually get closer together and longer in duration. Right?

Well, not this time, Levi. After six hours or so of this “false labor”, the contractions suddenly became very painful. Painful in a way that left me nauseous and shaking and completely incoherent. We decided Rick had better get the car ready. Because I had yet to have any contractions closer than four minutes apart, your father said, “Okay, after this next contraction, I’ll go work on the car. I’ll be back within four minutes.” But when he came back, I was already having another wave of serious PAIN. “It’s only been three minutes!” he said. He continued to juggle the tasks of getting the car ready and coaching me through the contractions. I don’t know why—like I said, I was pretty much incoherent—but I still didn’t want to go to the hospital. I kept asking to wait. Your father appeased me until I let out a slow and steady scream during one of the contractions. Finally I agreed that if you have to scream to deal with a contraction, your ass needs to get to the hospital.

We arrived at the front door right at noon, as the tornado sirens screeched their weekly practice call, and hurriedly made our way to the triage area of the maternity ward on the fourth floor, where you are supposed to fill out your paperwork before being admitted. Another laboring woman was ahead of us, sitting in the lone chair at the desk. As another contraction peaked, I yelled out, “Why don’t they have any fucking chairs in this place?” I mention this because although I have quite the sailor’s mouth at home, this is something I would never have done in public had I not been in the greatest pain of my life.

Finally, it was my turn to fill out the admissions forms, but after one look at me, the attendant said, “I’ll just have you fill these out later.” Rick and I were sent to a room, and it seemed like forever before a nurse came to check on me. Finally one arrived and requested a urine sample. I asked your father to come with me to the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet for the longest time. I was never able to pee, but all of a sudden, it happened: I had to push. The need was so strong, so intense, I thought I was going to pop you out right there, but I had learned that you could do damage to the uterus by pushing before the cervix is fully dilated, and I had no idea how far I was dilated. I said, “Oh God, I have to push!” and your father said something like, “What? Right now? Don’t do it here!”

I desperately tried not to push, but it was impossible. We made our way back to the triage room, where I was rambling/yelling, “I’m trying not to push, but I can’t stop! I have to push!” Apparently "I have to push" is the magic phrase in a maternity ward, because suddenly three more nurses appeared in the room and gloved up. One of them performed a cervical exam and exclaimed, “She has an anterior lip!” “What does that mean?” I asked, and she looked at me and said, “You’re fully dilated.” Just to make sure, I asked, “Is it alright to push?” When she confirmed that yes, I could push, I cried out, “OH THANK GOD!”

The next thing I knew, my gurney was being wheeled into our actual birthing room. Someone had paged our midwife, Pauline, and thank goodness she was already at the hospital, having just delivered another baby. She was paged at 12:28 pm and arrived soon after. Your father helped hold my legs and my back, encouraging me while Pauline guided me through the second stage of labor. I had hoped to be a strong "natural mom" like the one that I saw give birth during my nursing clinicals—she just grunted a few times and her baby was out. All that screaming only happens in the movies, I thought. I was so wrong about that, Levi. One of the things I learned about myself on this day was that one of my methods of coping with intense PAIN is intense SCREAMING. And that there is no shame in it.

Levi, I want to thank you for making sure that I didn’t have to scream for long. Later on, Pauline complimented you on being in just the perfect position for being born. You were ready, baby boy. Pauline was paged at 12:28 and you born at 12:49. It was a crazy, whirlwind experience, the most intense of my life, but I will never forget how it felt when Pauline placed you on my belly, when I looked at my beautiful baby boy for the first time. I have never been happier, felt stronger, been prouder, or felt more alive than on your birthday. I would not have changed a thing, and I’m so thankful to you and your father for all the help you gave me.

This family is a good team, kiddo. I’m so glad you’re here—and that you weren’t born in that triage toilet.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


A happy new year, indeed.

If I still have any readers out there, I'd like to introduce my son. Levi was born on December 29th, all 6 pounds and 9 ounces of him.
Sorry I haven't posted in a couple months. I was so busy and so pregnant that blogging didn't even enter the radar. Little did I know how busy I would be after Levi was born!

I have the next couple of months off from work. I just plan to spend a lot of time getting to know my son and adjusting to my new life. I can already tell that I won't be spending much (if any) time knitting. Last I checked, knitting requires two hands and I rarely have two hands free these days!

Hope all is well with anyone who still meanders over to this site. I've been assured and reassured by friends and family that someday life at Chez Prairie Knitter will resemble some sort of order again. When that day comes, I'm sure knitting and blogging will resume. Until then, I'm just going to enjoy the time I have with my two favorite guys.

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