Wednesday, August 27, 2014


***Originally posted on 12/12/2012***

For the next few weeks, while I'm finishing school and settling into various other changes in my life, I will be revisiting some older posts that you may or may not have seen in the archives. I hope to be back soon with new content. In the meantime, enjoy! And feel free to find me on Instagram, @kathleenojo.  


I've written you letters before but none have been typed, or put out there for the Internet to read.  This one is, because to be perfectly honest.... I'm a mess, and I need an outlet. I had everything so together for the first four months of your life.  My hormones were stable, my stress was managed, I felt like a rockstar most of the time for taking care of a you, and your dad, and a house, and training for races, and going to grad school.

Then work happened - 40 hours a week that I have to be away from you.  House guests (your grandparents) arrived at about the same time.  Three classes remained to be completed.  And you, my dear sweet girl, you who were sleeping 8-9 hours at a stretch from your second week on earth, you have stopped sleeping.  Not entirely, of course, but you are waking up every 2-3 hours all night long. My foundation is starting to crack.

I am not taking great care of myself right now, I'll admit.  I'm still running many, many miles each week -  it's not optional, my mental health depends on it -  but I don't have time for the complementary stuff like weights and stretching that enable my body to run long and feel good.  I'm not drinking enough water to compensate for running and breastfeeding, but water consumption cuts into coffee consumption and, sadly, coffee triumphs most of the time.  I either don't eat enough, or I eat way too much of all the wrong things.  I can't nap when you nap, because I'm too anxious about everything that's not being done.

I often find myself angry - inexplicably angry at just about everything. Angry at our financial situation that demands that I have to work a full-time job (and likely always will); Angry that our guests have taken over your room so you have to sleep in the pack and play in our walk-in closet;  Angry that I have to come home from work and make dinner for a bunch of people instead of spending alone time with you; Angry that my breaks at work and rare free moments at home are spent hooked up to a breast pump like a dairy cow;  Angry that I have to take herbal supplements just to be able to produce enough milk to keep up, and they make me feel bloated and nauseous;  Angry that I ran a half marathon two weeks ago but have been too tired and busy taking care of everyone that I can't feel any joy in the accomplishment;  Angry that I have to share you with anyone, even your father and loving grandparents.

Angry that, what was one of the best periods of my life, has become one of the worst seemingly overnight.

Except, of course, that it's not the worst.  Not even close.  I am writing this lying on my side, with you tucked into my right arm, tummy to tummy. You are passed out, milk-drunk, mouth open, gently breathing.  I came home on my lunch break just to have this moment with you, to suck up your love and warmth and baby smell. I try and steal moments like this with you a few times a day.  Sometimes they come at 5am, when you wake up far too early but oh-so-happy, and I bring you into bed with us.  You squeak and squirm until you catch sight of the alarm clock and stare at it - motionless, transfixed - while I doze, until it goes off at 5:42.

Sometimes they come at 3am, when I hear you crying in the closet and go in to pick you up.  You're not really awake, not particularly hungry, but you want to nurse and cuddle and be wrapped up in arms for a while, just because.  It's like you want to be sure I'm still there, and of course I am and always will be.

Sometimes they come when I get home from work, snatch you from your grandma, and retreat to the bedroom to spend a few minutes alone with you.  I hold you up high and walk around so you can see the artwork on the walls.  Occasionally I dance with you and sing you all my favorite Broadway songs with some of the words changed ("Don't Cry For Me, Amaliya").  Lately we lay on our backs, side by side, while I try and convince you to roll over.  You try so hard, and get so frustrated, until you catch my eye and we smile at each other.  Rolling over is important, no doubt, but no need to rush these milestones; they're piling up too fast as it is.

Mothering is hard.  Trying to do it all, be it all, have it all, fulfill multiple conflicting roles without losing myself or a single moment with you is.... impossible?  Maybe.  I guess I want to write you this letter because you might be in a similar position one day.  Feeling despair.  Trying your best and coming up short.  Angry at the world for making your best efforts seem like a waste.  You'll likely be in good company - women have faced this issue for hundreds of years and likely will for hundreds more.  I want you to know that you'll be okay.  I'll be okay too.

And I will try to be less angry, because anger interferes with my overwhelming sense of gratitude for your presence in my life.  When I embrace the gratitude, and dismiss the anger, I am happy that I have a good job to go to.  Proud that I can demonstrate for you that a woman can express herself through a career and other passions without sacrificing her identity as wife and mother.  I'm more than happy to stuff myself with fenugreek and lock myself in a dusty storage room to pump breastmilk for you, because being able to bond with you through breastfeeding is a privilege that I do not take for granted.  I am glad that your grandparents have been able to spend time with you, and that I haven't had to deposit you into the arms of strangers at daycare just yet.  I don't mind at all when my evenings are spent cooking and doing laundry and endlessly ENDLESSLY washing bottles and pumping supplies, because it's all part of keeping our household together and our family strong, and you deserve to grow up in a stable, functional, loving environment.  The night-wakings, the hysterical overtired screams, the soul-crushing exhaustion... it's all fleeting, and none of it matters too much.  Soon these bad times will be in the past, and so will the days of you gnawing on my shoulder and sweetly sleeping on my chest.

I can't be mad that life continues to intrude on our time together.  This IS our life.  It's going to be messy, fractured, full of missed opportunities and lost moments and bittersweet feelings.  What matters is the love that is the reason for our struggles.  Your dad and I love you enough to make any sacrifice necessary; you love us enough to forgive us for all our many failings.  As for the rest, it's all a matter of embracing, adjusting, and moving forward.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A weighty issue.

***Originally published May 02, 2012***

For the next few weeks, while I'm finishing school and settling into various other changes in my life, I will be revisiting some older posts that you may or may not have seen in the archives. I hope to be back soon with new content. In the meantime, enjoy! And feel free to find me on Instagram, @kathleenojo. 

One of the most interesting, yet frustrating, aspects of pregnancy so far has been how my body has changed - and with it, my body image and confidence.  Before getting pregnant, I always thought I would be this super confident glowing pregnant goddess who proudly displayed my bump for all to see.  Naive much?

Reality is... it's been an adjustment.  I love myself and have a fairly healthy body image, but that hasn't always been the case.  My level of comfort in my own skin has grown gradually over the last 7 years as I've watched the scale numbers go down, muscles tone up, and learned to harness my energy and emotions through physical activity.  I learned that, not only are eating well and challenging myself physically good for my body, but they are essential to my sanity and peace of mind.  When life gets chaotic and nothing seems to go my way, I can always throw some shoes on and go for a run;  I can be proud of myself for completing an exceptionally heavy clean-and-press;  I can take comfort in the fact that I am filling my body with the best and most nutritious foods possible.

And then I got pregnant.  Food hasn't been much of an issue (not counting that couple weeks in the first trimester when I lived on hummus-and-egg sandwiches).  I'm eating only slightly more than before, mostly whole and healthy foods, and I've actually cut way back on meat consumption.  I'm trying to stay active - Body Pump once or twice a week, yoga at least once, and I walk anywhere between 5-8 miles weekly.  All my labs have shown that my nutrition is spot-on, no deficiencies (which I was worried about, especially with Celiac disease).  I feel great - well hydrated, not much back pain, absolutely no swelling, skin is clear.  I'm the picture of perfect pregnant health.

EXCEPT when I visit the stupid pregnancy websites with their stupid pregnancy weight gain calculators.  Exhibit A:

Sorry for the poor quality picture.  So that line at the bottom is the minimum amount of weight I should gain.  The line at the top is the maximum.  And that green dot waaaaaay up at the top there?  That's me!  I've hit my pregnancy weight gain ceiling, a full 12 weeks early.  Sad face.

But after feeling bad about this fact for a few weeks, I put on my big girl panties and got over it.  The reality is, the scale may tell me I'm doing something wrong, but I KNOW instinctively that I'm not.  I'm not gaining weight at a rapid rate.  I have put on about a pound a week (a little less lately, actually), I've just been putting on that weight since the beginning of my pregnancy.  Some people get nauseous, can't eat, and end up losing weight during the first trimester. I, on the other hand, felt my appetite increase twofold and absolutely had to eat every two hours to avoid feeling dizzy/sick/exhausted.  My body told me what it needed, and I listened.

I have my glucose tolerance test this Tuesday to rule out gestational diabetes, and I plan to talk to my midwife about the weight issue then.  Frankly, as long as I don't have GD and continue to feel good and am able to stay active, I am prepared to ignore the scale for the rest of this pregnancy.  I will NOT let some generic medical guidelines determine what is best for my body.  Pregnancy sits differently on every woman, and really, we're all just doing the best we can in the moment to take care of ourselves, our babies, and prepare for a massive life-changing event.  So eff you, medical establishment.  I run this body, and I will not steep myself in guilt because my "numbers" aren't "ideal."

*steps off soapbox*

Friday, August 8, 2014

Let it go.

If you burst into song when you read this post title, well, you probably have kids and must understand me on a deep, primal level.

You will understand, then, why I need to back away from this space for a little while.

When I set out my goals for 2014, I decided to be humble.  Conservative.  I spent the previous year aiming high and heaping the pressure on myself, only to end up constantly disappointed.  This year I made a conscious decision to relax, stop stressing about all that I "need to be," and enjoy a steady, slow-paced year.


Somewhere along the way, I also decided to stop worrying about what others think, stop doubting myself, and start acting without over-thinking.  I decided to do the things that scare me.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, but.... when I started taking charge of my life, instead of letting life happen to me... things started happening.  In a big way.

Training for a half-marathon, my most ambitious running goal of the year, was amazing.  Not to be cliche, but I learned so much about myself through those training runs - how I love the discipline of a plan, how I can do whatever it takes to pursue a goal if I am intrinsically motivated to do so, that I am never more at peace when I am alone with my thoughts in the hills of South Redlands.  I ran the half marathon, but I couldn't stop there.  I couldn't stand the thought of not going harder, longer, pushing myself further than I reasonably think I can go.  In June, I started a marathon training plan.

Earlier in the year, I did one of the most impulsive and brave things of my life.  I went up to a near-stranger and told him, "I want to work for you.  How can I make that happen?"  This began a process that culminated last week, when I started a new job.  A "big-girl" job.  A corporate-charge-card-holding, checking-emails-at-8pm, getting-on-the-occasional-airplane kind of job.  Any change,  even good, exciting change, can be overwhelming.  I am happy.  I am loving what I do.  I also feel like I'm struggling to keep my head above water.

Add to this the fact that I'm in the middle of my last semester of grad school, we are hoping to move to a new apartment in the next 6 weeks, and the daily ups and downs of family life with an likewise ambitious husband and stubborn two-year-old, and well.... something has to give.

This space has meant so much to me over the years.  It has been my haven, the place where I sort my thoughts and record some of the most important moments in my life.  I will be back in October, hopefully writing weekly updates on the crazy/mundane (crundane?) happenings in my life.  For now, though, I need to step back.  For a little while at least, I am letting this go.

I'll have some recycled posts up to fill the space until I return.  Until then, friends, stay well and keep in touch - I'll be present as ever on my other social media outlets.

Love,  Kathleen

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two good.


The last few months have been a true rollercoaster of a time with you.  We've experienced our lowest moments yet as a mama-daughter duo, but also, some of our very best.  I'm beginning to distinguish a pattern.  You (and maybe all toddlers, how the heck should I know?) are prone to sudden, massive mental leaps - one day you wake up a different person with new questions, deeper understanding, and altered preferences, but you don't yet have the words to convey any of this to us.  Your current vocabulary is insufficient to express the complexity of thoughts rattling around your semi-baby brain, so you are frustrated.  Angry.  You act out, fight me on everything, hit and bite and throw guacamole around.  You are a tumultuous beast of a child, to put it mildly, and then.... it's over, just as suddenly as it began.  One day you come up with 50 new words and you are my sweet, sunny, loving baby girl again.

A less happy moment

June was one of those crazy frustrating months for us, but July has been blissful.  Life with you right now is an endless love-fest, with hours spent laying on the floor while you climb all over me, stopping only for the occasional "big hug" and "fish kiss."

You're a different kid these days, and the biggest development by far has been with your words.  Four months ago you had around 80 words, but now I'd estimate that number closer to 1,000!  You talk all day long, about everything.  You put together rather complicated sentences, everything from "Mama, get up!" to "I take bath and then watch Frozen and mama do hair!"  You say seem to understand the concepts of "tomorrow" and "later," and you are very good at remembering the names of new people you meet.  Best of all, you can now tell us more about how you feel. Simple phrases like "it hurts!" or "foot itchy!" or "too hot!" have taken our relationship to a whole new level.  We can have real conversations now, and actually communicate to each other.  I can see in your eyes, how happy you are when you say something that I can understand and respond to. 

You love nothing better than to have a job.  I will be sacked out on the couch sometimes, only to have you come up and demand to "help Mama."  I then have to get up and figure out something to do that you can assist with.  You're a pro at sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and dusting.  You will occasionally get tired of your own clutter, proclaim, "I make a mess!" and then toddle around gathering up your toys and putting them away while I gawk at you.  Fingers crossed that this quirk persists into teenage-years and beyond!

You just seem so mature lately, and do so many things that I (who didn't know much about 2-year-olds before you) never thought a 2-year-old could do.  You recognize most of the alphabet on site; You've memorized Goodnight Moon and another ABC book, and read them to ME at bedtime; you know all the words to more than five songs; over the weekend you told us right around noon each day that you wanted to sleep, marched into your room, and asked to be put down for a nap.  You eat almost everything we put in front of you, from broccoli to beans, kale to cucumbers, spicy goat stew to smoked trout on toast, and you haven't met a fruit you do not love.  Every time I give you a bite of my fig, or slide a morsel from my plate to yours, you offer up a sweet, unprompted, "thank you, Mama."  I find myself asking out loud, "Who ARE you?  Who is this kid in the crib where my baby once slept?"

Your passion for cake is almost scary.

But I know who you are.

You are a nurturer - your favorite toys right now are your baby dolls, which you spend hours carrying around, changing, bottle-feeding, and strapping to your high chair for pretend breakfasts of oatmeal and peanut butter.  If I lay on the couch, you immediately find a blanket to put over me.  Two weeks ago I saw you run up to a kid at daycare who fell down and pat him on the back.  You like to take care of everyone around you.

You are a leader - I feel that your language skills have skyrocketed because you were tired of watching your daddy and I do everything wrong, and felt we needed to be corrected sooner than later. You dictate, delegate, fight to have things done your way and in your time, and there isn't a complacent bone in your body.  Type A all the way, just like Mama.

Naughty ice cream smile

You are a thinker - you've never been a very outgoing child.  You want to sit and observe, ask questions, repeat words, and make sure you have a full picture of what's going on before you jump in to participate.  You are not the slightest bit impulsive, preferring to talk things through and tread cautiously into new scenarios.  We're trying to help you be more confident in new situations, to not be intimidated by new people and places.  Your reserved nature serves you well though, since at two you can already spell your name and count to 20.  Quite the intellectual, just like Daddy.

You are loving - with new words comes a new understanding of how we communicate in this culture, and you have been very perceptive to these nuances.  You say please and thank you constantly, and in the proper context (we prompt you more for "please," but you are generous with "thank you!")  You thanked me one day for changing your diaper, and say thank you to us several times during each meal.  You've been saying "bless you" at sneezes and coughs for months, and will remind us if we forget to say it.  One day you tried to shove me out of your way and said, "excuse me," which blew my mind (I didn't teach you that; must have been daycare). You love sitting on laps and giving big hugs and randomly planting enormous kisses on me in public. You always want to see your Daddy and I kiss, and will pull us together sometimes for a big group hug.  Every night ends with you wrapped around me, snuggling into my neck while I sing to you.

Snuggles and silly faces

This is so long already, but I could go on - there is just so much substance to you these days. Your personal growth is astounding, and our relationship is evolving from caretaker-baby into this living, vibrant partnership between mama and daughter.  Parenting you is harder these days, less about physically keeping you alive and more about teaching and guiding (I can only imagine how much more complex this will be in 10 years or so), but also infinitely more rewarding.

I tell you this at least twice every hour, but here it is again - I love you, baby girl.  You make every day gloriously bright.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Amaliya!

Previous Posts:

Friday, July 18, 2014


For every time I've rolled my eyes, subtly or not-so-subtly, at the kids screaming, spilling water, or throwing food in restaurants...

For every time I blatantly stated that MY child would spend their afternoons playing with me in the great outdoors, instead of sacked out on the couch with a movie while I snuck a few minutes of peaceful phone time.

For every time I've nodded and smiled as harried parents describe to me the struggles of dealing with their strong-willed, spirited children, but in my head thought, "that will never be me..."

For every time I've heard a mother yelling at her child in public, and thought she's probably either out of control or seeking attention...

For every morsel of processed food that I swore my child would never eat...

For every time that I, in my childless naivete, had a judgy thought about the personal choices of my friends with children...

For every single smug thought that ever crossed my mind in relation to kids, parenting, and the joy/struggle of mother/fatherhood...

For all those.... I am truly sorry.  Just know that karma came back to bite me.  Wait.... that wasn't karma... it was a 2-year-old with a full set of teeth!  It's a good thing she's so cute.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mini-vacation semi-fail

I already know that the best part of parenting, for me, is going to be experiencing things again through the wonderstruck eyes of a child.  Though I honestly love every phase that Amaliya has passed through (even the challenging ones) I can't help but look forward to the day where she is able to come on adventures with me, see amazing things and have memorable experiences.  Sometimes I get carried away though, and try and push things too soon.  Hence, we ended up at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park a couple weeks ago.

With a very tired baby.
We were in Escondido for a friend's baby shower and I thought, why not get a hotel room for the night, and go to Safari Park the next day?  Amaliya loves animals, and running around parks, so I thought she would really enjoy it.

Things did not go as planned, of course.  We stayed late at the baby shower, keeping her up past her bedtime.  She was wired and refused to sleep in the Pack and Play in the hotel, and ended up sharing one of the double beds in our room with me all night.  She only slept 8 hours as opposed to her usual 11-12.

She was mildly excited about some big birds, and pointed out the water wherever we went.  Otherwise?  Our crazy active toddler spent the whole trip happily strapped into her stroller.  Every time we took her out to show her something, she would crawl right back in and ask to be buckled.  Elephants?  Who cares!  Sleeping lions?  Not impressed.  Not even the baby gorilla sparked her interest (though, I thought it was amazing).

I admit my mistake.  Almost-two is not quite old enough for some types of adventures.... at least not when you're sleep deprived and overstimulated.  It was still a great time though. We strolled around for a few hours in the gorgeous weather, met a very nice man who walked us through the park (where he's been coming regularly for over 20 years) and told us interesting stories, ate lunch, and packed up to come home.

We'll try again, maybe in a year or two.  It's easy to forget that, when you're two, you don't need expensive parks and big attractions.  Amaliya would have been just as happy if we took her outside and let her climb a flight of stairs 20 times, or spent the afternoon swimming in the apartment pool.  Still, I look forward to the day when she's up for the big outings.  I know she's going to be a phenomenal traveling buddy.

It wasn't a total fail, though.  We did get a few smiles out of her!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An accidental poisoning

So the thing about dining with toddlers is... don't do it.  Just don't.

They scream, they won't sit, they either throw the food or mash it in their hair, their armpits, their belly buttons, basically anywhere except their mouths. They make the thought of any sort of peaceful dinner conversation laughable.  Not only is it frustrating, it's dangerous!  Having a full sippy cup of water spiked on your foot, grains of rice flung at your eyes... I need protective gear just to eat a family meal, these days.

We went out to our favorite Mexican place a couple weeks ago, because Amaliya behaves ever-so-slightly better when we're out in public (our most recent Chipotle run notwithstanding... innocent strangers were beaned...  I don't want to talk about it). Anyway, we were at Maria's Cafe, it had been a rough week, and I was indescribably relieved to have a meal delivered to my table, fully cooked, and eat it without a kid screaming in my face.  So relieved, in fact, that I did not take my usual precautions when ordering.  I asked for a salad, and did not blink when it came to me in a fried tortilla bowl.

I passed on the cheese and sour cream, but for some reason, downed half the bowl without even thinking.  I noticed it tasted strange, but it never crossed my mind that it might be a flour tortilla - off limits, for someone with Celiac Disease like me.

I started feeling off on the ride home, but it wasn't until I was on the couch two hours later, barely able to hold my head up, that I realized what had happened.  I ate gluten.  I poisoned myself.  It brought on what I think might have been a migraine.  I've never had one, but the symptoms - massive headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light - fit the bill.

I have accidentally poisoned myself 4 other times since I stopped eating gluten forever in June 2010.  The first time was August 2010, I ate a cheese croissant at Panera and had no reaction, but my body had not yet adjusted to the new diet.  July 2011, I ate a fast food hamburger (my first since 2004, and definitely my last) and was incredibly sick.  September 2011, I ate a contaminated fish taco and was sick.  December 2012, I ate a chocolate chip cookie, and felt off but not terrible.  My body has definitely grown more sensitive over the years, since the gluten has been out of my system for so long.  I used to eat bread three times a day.  Now, half of a flour tortilla makes me very sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I am cautious with my diet to an anal-retentive degree. So why, and how, did this happen?  The short answer: complacency.  We don't eat out too often, and when we do, we frequent the same places.  I am familiar with the menus and know what I can and can't eat.  Honestly, my gluten sensitivity seldom crosses my mind when I eat out these days, because knowing what to look/ask for is second nature.  This time, I was distracted, frustrated, and just plain lazy about my food.  I didn't take the appropriate precautions, and I paid the price.

A rare peaceful moment during dinner.... also, could they BE any more related??
There is a lot of negative backlash against food sensitivities lately.  Those who adhere to "special" diets such as gluten-free without thoroughly understanding it are being called out and publicly shamed.  I, too, am irritated at people who have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon without really understanding its implications, because these people damage the credibility of all of us. They make it that much harder for those of us with intolerance due to an autoimmune condition to find compassion and understanding when eating in restaurants or asking questions at grocery stores.

The bottom line, though, is this.  Every one of us, Celiac or not, gluten-sensitive or not, has the right to experiment with our diets.  We have a right to know what we put in our bodies.  We are paying for food products, purchasing meals in restaurants, and (hopefully) tipping our waitstaff, and therefore have the right to expect transparency and accountability from vendors when addressing the products they serve.  I'll speak for the gluten free community when I say that most of us aren't out there looking for freebies.  We don't want to you bend over backwards and make us a special meal in your restaurant that we can eat.  If you will do that for us, great!  We're likely to vote with our dollars and frequent your establishment.  But above all, we just want to know.  We want to know what ingredients you use in your food, so we can determine whether or not it will make us sick.  That's all.

This experience was a good reminder for me to always be mindful of what I put in my body, and also to be compassionate towards others who have allergies, food sensitivities, or other medical conditions that they have to deal with on a daily basis.  It is not easy, especially when the wider world seems to think you're just seeking attention or mindlessly following a trend.

Be kind to each other, friends.