Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mmm . . .Cilantro . . .mmm

Nothing says summer like fresh herbs and salad--which is exactly what came in my first CSA box. Actually, it was a lot of salad. As in five heads. Half our box. The other half was spinach and cilantro. There were also a few onions, some celery, rhubarb, and garlic scapes. Most of the lettuce I gifted to some neighbors since there is no way our family could eat five heads in one week. Well, we could try but we'd probably make ourselves sick. (Salad shooter, anyone? Sorry. It's an old joke that Husband's family used to tell.) Most of the spinach I froze because I use it in everything from meatloaf to spaghetti to omelets. The rhubarb got made into freezer jam (which was so simple it was like falling off a horse. That was a bad analogy. Quick, somebody call the analogy police!). The onions and celery I just stuck in the fridge. There were only a few scapes so I figured I'd just use them like regular garlic.

That left the cilantro. A lot of cilantro. Between what I harvested from our own herb garden and the pile we got in our box I had a large mixing bowl full of the fragrant greens. Calling!

I am not so good in the kitchen. I don't so much cook as I experiment. So, is a must for me. I love their website but, truth to be told, I have a hard time telling a good recipe from a bad one. I am also willing to eat any number of new foods--as long as they involve lots of veggies. Cilantro, me, and are a match made in heaven (or spirit prison, depending on how you feel about cilantro). Anyway, I found a couple recipes I liked: Cilantro Lime Dressing and Cilantro Pesto. My whole family liked the dressing, except for Number 1 who categorically hates cilantro. The pesto was a toss up. I enjoyed it, as did Number 2 and Number 3. The baby actually had two helpings. But Husband did not. And of course, Number 1 categorically hates cilantro so you can guess what she had to say.

I bring all this up for two reasons. 1)To give you all relief from the pity party I've been holding for my poor, hormonal self. 2) Because it made me happy! Honestly, I was surprised how much the kitchen activity lifted my spirits. Maybe it was just the energy of the chopping and rinsing or maybe all the good herby smells (anyone else read this article about pot and depression?), but I felt better. So who knows. Maybe the next time you're feeling down spend some time "experimenting" (or actually cooking, if you are that good!)in the kitchen. It just might help--especially if you use chocolate!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Five Years and Counting!

Prepare yourselves, readers. This post is going to be a mishmash. See, my oldest turned five yesterday and the night before her birthday I was feeling so good. Husband and I went out to celebrate our anniversary--all the fun happens at once!--and I was thinking about how our marriage has grown (seven years and no itch!) and how much our family has grown. Three kids (the picture above was taken last Easter. This is my last parenthetical notation for at least a paragraph. I promise) feels like a lot but on Wednesday night I was feeling the love of the Lord and was grateful for all the joys and challenges my kids brought with them.

I was feeling so good I was planning a post all about how even though I get PPD with every baby and it seems to be getting worse each time that I knew the worst was behind me and I felt like I had finally made what Elder Maxwell called "The Great Pivot". I was on the up and up.

Then Thursdady morning came and I woke up groggy, but we made chocolate chip pancakes anyway and sang to Number 1 anyway. I love her and I am glad she was born, even if mothering has brought on some of the darkest days of my life, and I wanted to celebrate with her. We'd had a "friend party" last Saturday but I still wanted to mark the actual day. Unfortunately, even though the pancakes were chocolatey delicious the day went downhill from there.

Maybe it's because I was subconsciously reliving her birth (which was traumatic) or maybe it's because we had a check-up for Number 3 and he had fallen another rung on the growth chart--he's gone from the 50 percentile to the tenth in five months--and the doctor is starting to get worred. Or maybe it's because Number 2 is crazy jealous when it comes to Number 1's birthday stuff and so she's been tantrum-ing nonstop. Or maybe it's because my hormones are wild and my medicine doesn't seem to be working. Either way, at lunch I found myself screaming at my kids and wishing I could just escape from it all.

By dinner I was a basket case. I'll spare you the details (mostly because I'm too embarrassed to write it and because they are a little scary--don't worry; no one got hurt) but I was in sore need of a blessing when Husband came home. Number 1 was so sad she said to me, "When you act like this it makes me think you forgot it's my birthday and it's supposed to be a good day." Guilt, anyone? I cried a lot last night.

Anyway, I have a tradition of writing letters to my kids on their birthdays. I try to summarize the ways they've changed in the last year and I detail my favorite things about them. I stick them in their journals--which I try to write in monthly. (I'm not sure why. No one's life needs to be documented that well!) To be honest writing Number 1's birthday letter has been a bit of challenge this year. I wrote her a letter but it felt a little disingenuine since we've had such a rough time lately. So here's the letter I wanted to write but didn't. Maybe I'll let her read it someday. Maybe not.

Dear Number 1,

Mommy here. I feel like I owe you an explanation but I'm not sure where to start. I guess I also owe you an apology so maybe I'll start there.

I'm sorry. Today was your birthday and I wanted it to be a great day. But it wasn't. Sorry. I'm sorry I yelled at you. You didn't deserve it, but there are times I get overwhelmed and don't know what to do and that's when yelling happens. It doesn't change how much I love you or how proud I am of you. It just means I made a poor choice.

I AM proud of you. It's been a rough year, this last one. You've had a hard time adjusting to Number 3, but you have still been an awesome sister. You really do help me a lot. You light up our family with your songs and dances. I love you and can't imagine my life without you.

If you find that last statement hard to believe it's probably because I screwed you up somehow. See, baby, Mommy has troubles and sometimes I take them out on you even though I shouldn't. Please believe that I am trying my very hardest to be the kind of mommy you want and deserve. But when I fall short, which I inevitably do, try to remember that I'm only human and that it honestly doesn't change my love for you.

I wish I could explain all this better but I can't. I'll need a lot more therapy before I have that much insight! I want you to know, though, that God loves you too and Jesus atoned for all this and that Their love can make this all okay. I wish I could tell you that this won't happen again, but I can't. Mommies make mistakes, but God doesn't and when He put our family together He knew what was going to happen. Somehow or other I have to believe that this is part of His plan and that if we trust Him it will work out.

I LOVE YOU! Maybe if I say it enough it will make up for the mistakes that I make.



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All weaning! All the time!

I'm feeling blue today. I'm hoping I'll pull out of it in a little bit. My kids have only been awake for 45 minutes and I've already turned the TV on. Maybe blogging it out will help.

My baby weaned himself last week, cold turkey--which is also known as the "Ow ow ow ow OW! Method". I was really surprised. Last Wednesday he woke up from his afternoon nap and instead of snuggling up and gazing at me with dreamy eyes, he pushed and writhed and bit me. When he drew blood I gave up. I figured he wasn't hungry and I'd try again later. Well, even at his usual nighttime feedings he still refused. He'd wake up but he wouldn't nurse. After he drew blood three or four times and emphatically told me "All done!" (his only words besides Mama and Dada) I gave up. Actually, I said, "You bet you're done. As in FOREVER!" I was little peeved.

Since last Wednesday I've pretty much been talking and thinking about it nonstop. (All weaning! All the time! Sorry friends!)My OB is pretty convinced that the nursing hormones have something to do with my PPD. Which is one reason I'm supposed to stay on my antidepressant for the whole first year of my baby's life. We are waiting for my milk to dry up and my menses to return so that the antidepressant can smooth out those hormonal transitions since I take them so hard. I wondered what abrupt weaning was going to do to my hormones, so I googled it. There seems to be a consensus. Even Dr. Sears says abrupt weaning can cause depressives episodes.

Most doctors/researchers seem to believe that it is the sudden drop in oxytocin levels that brings on sadness when weaning. Oxytocin, which plays a role in bonding and feelings of love (think of that glow after sex), contributes to overall wellbeing and is familiar to most people. Interestingly enough, though, there is another hormone that that has do with nursing and depression. Prolactin is the hormone that regulates milk production. It is the hormone that makes a pregnant woman's breasts grow (it enlarges her mammary glands) and it is the hormone that produces the milk after the baby is born. The thing that is surprising about prolactin is that it inhibits dopamine production--an important "happy hormone" in the brain. It would seem that pregnant and lactating women swap one kind of happy hormone for another. The other thing that struck me as I read about prolactin was that antidepressants slight raise prolactin levels in the body, ostensibly lowering levels of dopamine. Anyway, I don't have any real conclusions to draw from all this. I'm not a doctor or psychiatrist (I know you all are surprised by that admission.), but it has convinced me that what is going on in my body is complicated so it's okay to give myself a break. If the kids watch a little extra TV, well, at least it PBSkids so it's "educational", right? TV is definitely preferable to me yelling at them.

I think the other reason I'm taking this so hard, besides the pain and the mess (yesterday was the first day since Wednesday that I didn't have to change my shirt due to milk leakage), is that I'm feeling pretty rejected. I know Number 3 didn't mean it that way. He is almost a year old so this was to be expected, but I just feel like he was telling me he didn't need me anymore or that I wasn't meeting his needs well enough. I sort of feel like I failed. Now, cognitively I know that those things aren't true but it is how I feel. It's just hard to see him giving those loving looks to a sippy cup instead of me. Oh well, at least he still likes to cuddle when I put him down for sleep.

Things just change so fast these days. A lot of the time I feel like I can't keep up with it. Every time I get a handle on where my kids are and what they need, they change. Sometimes I doubt my ability to adapt. It just takes so much energy! The truth of motherhood, though, is that the work never stops. Regardless of my abilities I have to keep trying because there is no other choice. It doesn't matter how many times I fail (or succeed) new opportunities constantly present themselves. I think it was Yoda who said, "There is no try. Only do." (My hubby is fond of that one.) Or as God said, "Unto whom much is given, much is required" (D&C 82:3). Use the force, Laura!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book a Week Update (or, Why I Joined a CSA)

Since I know that what I am reading is ENDLESSLY fascinating to you all ;) here's a quick update on my most recent books:

#22 Heresies of Nature by Margaret Blair Young. I enjoyed this book. I started out really loving it and then began hating a couple of the characters and then, by the end, really enjoying it but also feeling deeply saddened. This book follows the foibles of a Mormon family struggling with their mother's multiplesclerosis. Everyone in the book makes some big mistakes (adultery and fornication chief among them)--even the poor, sick mother makes the mistake of trusting the one woman she shouldn't. But everyone seems to weather it all and, while the ending isn't happy, it is uplifting. This is a good read for anyone seriously trying to understand LDS lit and its current trends.

#23 Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I've always struggled with Dickens. The only other book of his that I managed to finish is A Christmas Carol, so reading all 800 pages of this book feels like an accomplishment. I can now fully articulate why his style drives me nuts. I will spare you all the details of Dickens' shortcomings as a writer and my shortcomings as a reader (I get pretty fired up about it and then get longwinded), but suffice it to say I also hate Jane Austen, so apparently the whole genre/time period doesn't work for me.

#24 In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (non-fiction). This book, which seeks to encourage readers to begin making healthier food choice by shopping and cooking to a new mantra ("Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants), is excellent--although some of Pollan's suggestions are a bit impractical. The thing I really took away from this book was his scathing criticism of the way the Americans are encouraged by our politicians and our scientists to consider food in a strictly "nutritionist" vacuum. By doing a sort of meta-analysis of the food analysis, looking at the way we think and study food, he sheds light on our culture's food biases and how they are compounding the very problems we are trying to solve. Talk about missing the plants for the nutrients. . .

#25 The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I actually liked this book even more than I liked In Defense of Food. This book was full of interesting information (want to know how many different kinds of processed corn are in your food? Or how about how much petroleum or barrels of oil it takes to get dinner on your table?) all couched in a personal journey to answer the question, "What's for dinner?" Pollan follows four different types of food chains, examining all the links along the way, and eventually creates what he believes is the perfect meal. Pollan's perfect meal is not my perfect meal (he hunted his own wild boar in the backwoods of the Sonoma valley!), but the thoughtfulness he's encouranging totally jives with me. His section on sustainable farming was so inspiring and convincing that I joined a local CSA in order to avoid the grocery store. The man is a good writer. This book is definitely worth getting on the waiting list at the library or even buying. It will change the way you approach food, I guarantee it.

Anyway, that's the current list. I'm about a week ahead. I've now read 7711 pages this year. Go me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That's Why People Have Psychiatrists!

A little while ago I did a post about antidepressants. When I wrote it I was pretty positive about using medicine as part of a treatment plan--and I still am. I like my Lexapro, but I feel like I only told half the story in that post. And, in the name of honesty, I feel like I should own up to the other half.

Antidepressants are a commitment, which is why so many people are afraid of them. I think this fear sometimes manifests itself as a worry about addiction or dependence, but those aren't the effects of antidepressants. For anyone who doesn't know I'll offer a short explanation of how my drug, an SSRI, works. (For those of you who do know, feel free to skip this. Or you can read it and then correct me in the comments!)

SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain. This means it helps your brain pass different signals back and forth. These signals help regulate things like mood, anger, sleep, and, according to wikipedia, even vomiting! (It did say "citation needed" on that last one.) When there isn't enough serotonin in the brain it starts to go a little haywire. What an SSRI does is stop some of the serotonin in your brain from being absorbed thereby making more of the neurotransmitter available for use. Also, the theory goes, neurotransmitters like serotonin are produced by the body on a supply and demand basis. The more you have of it, the more you use, and therefore, the more your body makes. If something goes awry and your body slows down production of it for just a little while it sometimes forgets to start making it again. SSRIs help the body reset the right levels in the brain. Although even the Mayo Clinic is quick to point out that no one is exactly sure if this is what actually happens.

Anyway, that is why you have to stay on the drugs for a while (at least six months). It takes time for your body to train itself to the right production rate. That is also why it is hard to go off the drugs. You can't just quit taking them because if your body isn't ready it makes you more sick than you were to begin with.

I've actually done this a couple of times. You'd think I'd know better, but I guess I don't. Take my last couple of weeks. I've been pretty emotional. I've had a lot of ups and downs--which the SSRI allows for, it just makes them less severe--and I was beginning to think I was crazy. However, I know I am not a good judge of how crazy or uncrazy I am. The crazy has a habit of sneaking up on me so I've taken to tracking it on my calendar. I mark my down days and make notes if they are especially bad. I also note if I miss a pill because it helps keep the bad days in perspective.

In the last month--maybe because school let out and our schedule is all crazy or because the baby's acid reflux has been acting up again and he's been having a hard time sleeping--I've missed four doses. Also my prescription is running out and it's been a year so I figured now would be a good time to start weaning off my medicine. So I took myself down to half a pill a day.

The result? I had one afternoon a couple weeks ago where I was a wreck. The day started out rough (not wanting to get out of bed, yelling at the kids during breakfast, getting pooped on at the park--okay, that last part isn't depression, just life with a baby) and only got rougher (fleeting suicidal thoughts and excessive fatigue and weepiness). It took all my strength just to feed the kids and keep us all going until Daddy got home. I checked my calendar and sure enough I had missed a dose just a week earlier. I decided to go back on my full dose. It took a few days but things got better.

Then last week I was at Enrichment having a marvelous time. We were painting blocks for the Church Humanitarian Services and chatting and I was loving every minute of it. Although after a while I felt like I was talking awfully fast and laughing a little too much--like I was myself in Technicolor. After Enrichment I was still feeling pretty bubbly so I decided to swing by a friend's house to play some Dance Dance Revolution (Hi Kelly!). It didn't take long until I crashed. Right in the middle of "99 Red Balloons" I got all anxious and weepy and I had to go home and tuck myself into bed. (If I wasn't so pathetic I'd laugh at myself.)The results of my medicine experiments? I think so.

Of course it's not all the medicine. There are other contributing factors when it comes to my down days. I was in charge of the service project and had been pretty worried about whether or not anyone would show up. Also, there's my baby and my chronic lack of sleep. And some days, regardless of any other factor, the crazy just crops up. But the medicine is a part of the mosaic that is my mood disorder.

So, to be fair about medicine here's what I say: Don't rule it out. It may be that you have a genuine physical need that it can meet. Of course, don't mess around with your meds. Take it the way your doctor (even better, your psychiatrist) says and talk with your doctor about weaning off it and how it is working for you. Depressed people, especially those with bipolar disorder, are notorious for medicinal inconsistencies--don't be that person! Instead, get the treatment you need and be the person you want to be.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Like a little seed

(I know, two posts in two days! It boggles the mind! Anyway. . .)

I love to watch things grow. I would say that I love to garden, but I don't actually garden. People who garden know plant varieties and sow their seeds in neat little rows and mounds. They understand terms like "vermiculite" and "drip system". They actually spend time on their knees weeding. I don't do any of that.

What I do do is watch things grow. Every spring, as I anxiously wait for the robins to return and the buds to appear on my trees, I find myself going outside and poking the ground. I go around to the different parts of my yard to see if any of them have softened yet. As little green daffodil shoots pop out of my dirt a primal urge awakens inside me. I must start digging. Of course, the dirt it is still frozen solid and out here in Colorado the frost danger doesn't disappear until May so my desire is thwarted.

It is then that I go to the greenhouse. My kids run in crazy circles while I stand in the humid mist and soak up the bright colors. Soon, I soothe myself, soon. I pick up packets of seeds like they are loaves of bread and I am in Communist Russia. Greedily I hoard the spinach, the peas, the basil. These are the seeds that I can never get enough of, that the stores always run out of. I pick up pumpkins and zucchini, cucumbers and cantaloupe, fantasizing about their colors and smells. Then I take them home and, counting the packets, I wait.

Finally, in late April, I can dig. I buy bag after bag of mushroom compost waking up my muscles as I heft them around the yard. I pull out our bags of leaves from last fall. I bury my nose their scent, letting it wash over me as if it were Chanel No. 5. I start digging up the compost pile, ignoring the rank globs that fall on my feet. I dump and mix and dig and sweat. This is what is means to be alive.

Everything is ready to plant. I check my strawberries to make sure they have the room they need and that their runners are all running in the right direction. I tuck my tomato starts in, folding some compost around their roots for extra comfort. The zucchini, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons all get plopped in their own areas two or three seeds at time just in case one decides not to wake up this year. Broccoli, radishes, spinach and carrots are sprinkled willy-nilly across the shadier portions of the garden. Their seeds cross paths in the air and I have to smooth them down into the dirt to make sure the birds don't eat them. My kids, caught up in the excitement, dig and plant with me glorying in every worm and marveling at each ant. It takes at least a week, sometimes more, to get every thing in the ground.

We water and wait. We water and talk. Please little plants, grow, grow, grow. It is like a prayer and my heart is anxious. What if they don't sprout? What will our summer be without these plants?

Then, every morning is like my birthday. It's like a scavenger hunt as we search the ground for new sprouts. We count them and celebrate them. As my garden fills with shoots and leaves I am filled with child-like awe at the resiliency of our earth. No matter how cold the winter, no matter how late the frost, no matter how hard the earth, new life comes. Each plant is a revelation--a testimony. And I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

From there it is wildness. I relinquish control. Some years I forget to cage my tomatoes and they grow up and out and down and everywhere, romas mixing with cherries mixing with beefsteak. The pumpkins and zucchini and cucumbers battle for ground and eventually grow in and through each other. Spinach and broccoli and carrots all grow together like the salad they are. The peas and strawberries come up quick and sweet and are eaten so fast they never make it into the house. Every time a leaf is lifted it reveals a different treasure.

From my garden I harvest more than food. It allows God to work His will in my life in one more way. My plants grow faith and happiness, making what is intangible real. I cannot be thankful enough.

Do any of you guys watch things grow like I do? What have you planted this year?