Category Archives: Yourself

PMS: Friend or Enemy?

Sorry, the title was just a little Ames & Ilg joke for those of us with both PMS *and* a 3 1/2-year-old right now…

Anyway, I was wondering if we could talk about PMS. I get it, but don't have mood swings. Instead, I get really clumsy. Yesterday I stubbed my toe on the oven and slammed my anklebone into the wall in the space of 3 minutes (all before 7 am), and the rest of the day continued that way. Years ago when I was working in a professional kitchen I cut myself with a knife 11 times in one 14-hour shift. My mom used to get clumsy PMS, too, but I haven't heard of this happening to anyone else.

It makes me wonder if there are different forms of PMS that we just haven't heard or thought of before.

Would you guys be willing to share what happens to you before you get your menstrual period, and if there's anything you've done that lessens whatever symptoms you have?

The real you

It's 2009.

Time for you to start believing the truth about yourself.

That doesn't mean magical thinking. For instance, I'm not trying to convince myself that I'm actually a dynamic and joyful cleaner.

It does mean looking at those lies you've been telling yourself, and figuring out what the truth really is, and then acting on that.

Your past is gone, stuck in 2008. So here's the present and future.

I'll start: I'm a strong, smart, capable, powerful woman who makes good decisions and does whatever she decides to do.

Your turn.

Release the old

Thanks for all the answers yesterday. This is such a tough stage, and I'm going to have to focus more on emotions than I have been, I think.

Since today is the last day of 2008, I wanted to do something to commemorate that.

So for today, please put down a belief you have about yourself that's been holding you back. Type it here, in the comments section, and it will be anchored to 2008 forever, so you can go into 2009 being free of it.

My belief that's left in 2008 I already shared with you: That I'm a comic figure just trying to make it through the best I can.

If you've got a replacement belief about yourself, we'll put those down tomorrow so they can come into 2009 with us. If you don't have a replacement belief yet, don't worry-it'll come to you soon enough>
.

Send help–my older son is turning 7

I'm not dead! Just having all kinds of crazy good things happen, some annoying things, and a whole lotta not near the internet.

I need help with the 7-year-old thing. I know this isn't so exciting for those of you in the baby stage, except that we already figured out that all of this is connected: 4 months, 8-9 months, 18 months, 3.5 years, 7 years, 14 years, etc. (I know my 35th year has been a doozy, personally. And 28 frankly sucked.)

But here I am with one kid still in the throes of 3 /2, and the other one closing in on 7. I feel like I'm in the middle of a big "Mom I hate you!" Sandwich. Sulking, bad attitude, resistance to any plan no matter how much fun, constant fighting with his brother, and just being someone no one wants to be around.

It's demoralizing. I know it's going to end at some point. The younger one will grow out of his phase, and then eventually the older one will grow out of his phase. But when? Anyone with older kids, how long does the 7-year-old phase last? Months? A year? Until I just can't take it anymore?

And remind me of some of the coping techniques we used for younger kids to breathe through it, please.

Q&A: Managing your reaction to danger

"True Christmas confessions" over at my personal blog today. Feel free to submit your own, and branch out to Hanukkah or any other holiday that's on your mind right now.

Kristie writes:

"I think I need a reality check. My daughter is a year old, and I just found out that my parents wanted to buy her a walker* for Christmas. I put an end to that plan, but am now living in fear of what other things people might give my child. All the talk about lead paint and contamination, small pieces that are choking hazards, etc.

I realize that I can't protect her from everything, but I'm starting to get freaked out about everything that could go wrong. Intellectually I know I should just relax, but I'm not sure I can. That scares me, because it makes me feel out of control and almost crazy. Can the readers help?"

* This is the old-school thing that a kid sits in and the feet touch the ground, and it has wheels, so the kid theoretically learns to walk while assisted by the contraption. They've pretty much been proven not to help anyone learn to walk, and to be death traps if a kid wheels to the stairs and then falls over in the walker.

I think the first step is to cut yourself some slack for worrying. As a parent, it's really your job to worry. Evolutionarily speaking, if parents didn't worry, we wouldn't have survived as a species, and a monkey would be typing this column and having a running joke about Trained Human Assistants to replace pacifiers in the middle of the night. (Ah, opposable thumb jokes–Are they ever not funny?) If worrying wasn't hard-wired into us, dingos would have stolen our babies long ago.

So worrying is your job, and it sounds like you're doing a good one! Now, the trick is to make sure it's not getting out of control.

People can give you all sorts of advice and basically blame you for getting into a worry/anxiety cycle, but I think a lot of out-of-control worrying is caused by something being biologically a little off with our bodies. especially at this time of year, it's super-easy to get out of balance. I have a couple of suggestions that should be easy to implement to give you a better body balance so you might be able to assess the dangers more realistically:

1. Stop eating so much sugar. Sugar. corn syrup, et al. really screw with your system by causing glucose/insulin reactions. All that stuff messes with your hormones and causes mood changes and anxiety cycles. It also depresses your immune system pretty seriously, making you vulnerable to illness. If you can keep it at a decent level and only have one Christmas cookie instead of five, you might find you feel better in general.

2. Take some magnesium. Lack of magnesium is a big culprit in anxiety. You can pop some magnesium supplements, but it's actually absorbed better through the skin (the tops and bottoms of the feet are particularly good places) so if you can find magnesium oil and rub it on your feet every night before bed you might notice a big change in anxiety levels. (I order my magnesium oil from Joan at www.health-and-wisdom.com and have had great experiences. Joan's also a font of knowledge about minerals.)

3. B complex vitamins. Excellent for mood. You can buy a bottle of the sublingual drops at any pharmacy or Target for a couple bucks. (They taste like gross orange drink, but do the trick.) If I'm feeling down I can feel my mood lift within 10 minutes of taking some B complex drops. Taking a regular daily dose helps keep me on an even keel.

4. Sleep. Easier said than done, but if you're staying up just because, force yourself to go to bed earlier and you may see a big difference in mood.

5. Hang out with other people who are more realistic about worrying. If you hang out with people who are freaked out about every little thing, it'll rub off on you. So see if you can cultivate some friendships with people who are concerned about safety but not consumed with it. There are lots of us out there.

You notice I haven't said anything about the actual dangers. That's because there are so many of them. You just take each one as it comes and try to strike the right balance between protecting your child and allowing him or her to learn by doing.

Readers, whaddaya got for Kristie?

Service Projects for December 2008: Operation Holiday Card and Earth Birth

(Scroll down for today's Q&A.)

It seemed like a daunting task to pick service projects for us to do, until I read what hedra said–we get a holiday season every year. So I'm just picking two for this year, and will pick different ones next year.

If you do not want to participate in either of these projects, please don't feel bad. Just pick something else to support. These are the two projects that struck my fancy this year.

Operation Holiday Card
Operation Holiday Card collects holiday cards to send to American servicepeople at military bases in the Middle East. The cards can be purchased or homemade (please no glitter!) and you should write on the back if the card is for Christmas, Hanukkah, or a general Seasons Greetings card. Since you send the cards to the collection point in the US and the cards are all forwarded together in bunches, people from all over the world can send cards if they'd like to.

Cards must be received by December 3! So this is a project for today or tomorrow, to be in the mail by Wednesday. Send cards to:

Operation Holiday Card
226 Albany Ave
Shreveport, LA 71105

For more information on the project, go to the website.

Earth Birth
From the description on their Facebook group:
"Earth Birth Global Women's Health Collective is a project run by midwives and health care professionals to help mothers in war and trauma affected areas give birth safely and peacefully.

Our pilot program is based in Gulu, Uganda. We are setting up small on site birthing centers in Internally Displaced Person's camps where women can come for comprehensive services, counseling, education and care. We have linked with community organizations and hospitals in these areas to help "child mothers" gain access to jobs, school and childcare so that they can mother with every possible opportunity. Our goals include community sustainability, lowered maternal and infant mortality rates, lowered HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mother to child, access to supplies and local medicine, access to trauma therapy and counseling, the experience of a 'positive' birth to facilitate empowerment and mother/child bonding and the ability to articulate one's story.

The war in Northern Uganda has largely been reproductive. Women have been raped as tools of war and are now giving birth to babies which have historically been abducted as soldiers for the war. Often these women have a hard time bonding with or knowing how to care for their children with limited resources and trauma counseling. The ability to articulate one's story is an integral theme of the Earth Birth project. Women have always told stories as a form of information transmission and ownership of events. To have safe spaces for the sharing of taboo and traumatic events allows for understanding and processing of events in context, ownership of experience and networking among women- all of which are integral to a healthy women's movement and improved practice of motherhood. Our spaces function as a community centers for story circles, workshops in active listening and sharing.

Traditional birth attendants live throughout the IDP camps, most of them victims of war and mothers themselves.The TBA's are currently unemployed and do not have formal training. Our international group of midwives work with the TBAs to develop practices that are community centered, culturally competent and sustainable. These women are the cornerstone of the birthing center sites. The TBA's are offered professional development, training, counseling and jobs."

Earth Birth needs donations of money, and ridiculously small amounts make a huge difference: $10 buys a box of gloves, $50 funds the training of a Traditional Birth Attendant, $300 buys a midwife pack of supplies, and $3500 can supply an entire site.

Reading all this just made me start sobbing. Imagining being raped, and then having no help giving birth, no hope for my future, for the baby, for anything. And then thinking about how elemental and simple and yet deep birth assistance is, and how I can help give these women as good a birth as possible under the circumstances.

Please give, any amount you can: http://www.givemeaning.com/project/zangua

The project is also looking for donations of maternity clothes and baby supplies, but they need to be shipped to Uganda. It's super-expensive for those of us in the US and canada to ship to Uganda, so we should donate to local groups. But if you live near Uganda and have items to donate, send them to:

Earth Birth
C/O St. Monica's Girls Centre
P.O Box 669

Gulu, Uganda

The clothing line LOVEMORE (organic onesies and baby clothes) is also donating 15% of all profits to Earth Birth.

I just donated to Earth Birth, and will be getting cards tomorrow to have my kids sign with me and send to Operation Holiday Card.

Q&A: One side is tastier than the other

Look up for info about the service projects we're doing for December 2008.

Lisa writes:

"So this must be an odd question because I can't seem to find much ofanything about it anywhere online. The problem I'm having is that my
daughter (15mo.) is pretty much refusing to eat from my left breast.
The right one is fine and dandy, but she'll only nibble on the left
then back away and shake her head no. And I think the issue is that the
two taste different. Maybe this is gross to some people but I tasted a
drop from each breast and the right one is sweet as expected but the
left was kind of sour or salty. I couldn't tell exactly from the little
dribble on my finger but it was definitely different, and not in a good
way.

Do you know why this might be happening or what to do about it? I'm
stumped. I'm not pregnant (no chance), I started my period 2 months ago
and the timing kinda fits but not exactly, I don't think I've changed
anything in my diet, and I haven't been taking anything new other than
fish oil… and the timing might fit but why would it only affect one
breast? Any ideas Moxie?"

Yeah, I have no idea, but I do know this preference for one side over the other is not odd or unusual at all. It happened for awhile with my older son, and each of my boys showed a strong preference for one side over the other for periods of time.

(My first son liked my left breast better than my right for awhile, and I was convinced it was because I'm overwhelmingly right-handed, so maybe the right side tasted more gamey or something, like the difference between light meat and dark meat. Ah, sleep deprivation…)

I don't think there really is anything to be done about it, except to file it in the "Bodies Are Strange" file. At this age you don't need to be worried about your production, so you'll adjust and your right breast will produce what she needs. The biggest problem will be that your right breast might be larger than your left one until you wean. But since almost everyone is a little mismatched anyway…

Does anyone know why this happens, or have any stories, or remember where my original post was about this? I know I've written on this exact question before, but just couldn't find it.

Baby carriers and back pain

Baby carriers do not need to hurt your back. If you're wearing them correctly, you'll feel the weight of the baby, but it shouldn't be so painful that you need to take pain meds. If you are feeling that much pain, you can Google the name of the carrier you have and the word "instructions" and someone somewhere will have posted photos of the correct way to wear that carrier. Or else try a different kind of carrier, because there is no perfect one, and maybe there's a better one for your body.

In general, the closer to you and higher up you can put your baby, the less pain and movement you'll have. If you're using a Bjorn or Bjorn-style carrier (which I don't actually recommend because I think other styles are far less painful, notably the Ergo if you like a constructed carrier or a wrap carrier if you like less construction), make sure the cross in the back crosses below your shoulder blades. It should be where your bra strap goes. Here's a really old post on different kinds of carriers.

Also, wearing your baby should be something you do because you want to. Not because it's "in fashion" or because Dr. Sears tells you to. Do it because babies who are worn tend to cry less, or because you like having your little one snuggled against you, or because your baby won't stop !@#$%-ing screaming if you put her down, or because your best friend walked all the baby weight off by wearing her baby, or because you can't deal with your stroller, or whatever. But let it be because you want to. Not because the lady at the grocery store or the women on the message board or the misogynist ad-writers at Motrin tell you you have to and then make fun of you for it.

You are the parent. You get to decide.

Also, seriously–Lucky Magazine? I read you because I want to get away from the "moms should do this and that" crap that bombards me every effing day in this country. All I want from you is to know whether ruching is in this fall and how to wear suede booties with a sweater dress and why shea butter is the miracle that's going to solve all my hair problems. I do not want misogynistic mommy drive-by ads in your pages. If you want to take ads from the hacks at Motrin (who apparently have never heard of a focus group), force them to give you ads about pain and *actual* fashion. They could have done a heck of an ad about stilettos and other painful shoes, but they chose the easy, inaccurate, bottom-feeding low-hanging fruit. Don't participate in the proliferation of mom-guilt on the hardworking women of the world. We get enough of it every day from people wearing Christmas sweaters. We want your magazine to be a safe space.

I think I'm going out to buy a big bottle of Advil tomorrow.

(Hey–if you're feeling carpal tunnel-type pain from lifting or carrying a baby or toddler, before you despair or get cortizone shots or dope yourself up on a pain reliver that starts with M that I'll never buy again, try homeopathy. Go to a health food store and plunk down $6 for a tube of pellets of Rhus Toxicodendron. Get 30x if they have them–if not get whatever dose they have. Take one under your tongue three times a day. If it's the proper remedy for your kind of pain, you should feel less inflammation and pain within three to four days. Keep taking until the pain is gone. If it isn't doing anything after four days, then it's the wrong remedy for you, so you can stop. Safe for breastfeeding, and no interactions with anything else! I had debilitating carpal tunnel from lifting my horse of a firstborn, and his pediatrician, who is also a homeopath, prescribed Rhus toxicodendron for me, and it worked like a charm. So I'm passing it on to you, the pain sufferers of the internet.)

Exhale, and Q&A: baby acne

Well. That was a significantly less traumatic process than it could have been. And the concession and acceptance speech were both amazing, and made me proud of my country.

So on to baby-related stuff. Anon wrote to ask if I knew how to get rid of baby acne.

As far as I know, baby acne is caused by all the hormones cycling out of the baby's system. Which means that there are going to be certain times when the hormones are surging more than others, and there's no real way to stop the acne except waiting it out.

There are definitely folk remedies that you can try. If nothing else, they'll give you something to do while you wait for the acne to go away on its own.

If you're breastfeeding, try squirting some on the affected area. (I just said "affected area" like I'm a medical person. Heh.) Breastmilk has antibiotic properties, and cures a number of random things, from rashes to pinkeye. Plus, it's free. So it's worth a shot.

If you're not nursing, or breastmilk doesn't do anything, you can try unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Make sure you get the kind with the "mother" still in it (like Mrs. Braggs brand). Cut the vinegar with a little water, and dab it on.

Does anyone else have any harmless folk remedies for baby acne? If your child had it, when did it peak?

Terrible Tuesday

So I've been trying to keep my nose to the grindstone and eyes on the prize and all that stuff, but the election today in the US is freaking me out.

I'm just so scared of what's going to happen. Scared of getting my hopes up and then having them dashed. Scared of what people will do unfettered, and scared of what kinds of sabotage and institutional corruption can happen. Scared of watching the returns and seeing the states fill in the color I don't want to see. Scared that the winners won't be gracious and that the losers won't be respectful.

When I was in college, I noticed that when I got really anxious about something, my hands and fingers would start to ache. (It's what I imagine RA or another auto-immune illness feels like.) My hands have been aching on and off for the last week.

I'm setting this to auto-post at 4 am EST, so it's probably going to be another 20 hours before we know. Unless there's some nightmarish repeat of 2000, in which case my hands will probably fall right off.

Small consolation:

* Ben & Jerry's locations are giving a free scoop from 5-8 pm to people who have voted.

* Starbucks will give you a free cup of coffee if you come in after you vote and tell them who you voted for.

* If you live in NYC or Seattle, you can get a free adult toy from Babeland if you show you voted.

* This is an excellent chance to teach your kids some geography, and about how the electoral college works.

* By tomorrow it should all be over.

Wah.

Please, no specifics. I think we all have the same fears, whether we're voting for Obama/Biden, McCain/Palin, or some other combo. Reports from voting sites would be fun, though.