Today, I weaned my baby son.

Okay, he is not a baby. He also isn’t seventeen years old lifting my tank top to nurse as he grabs his car keys.

It has been months, dare I say years?, since my body was mine. Weaning means one thing: my son and I are no longer BFF’s –“breast friends forever.”

No Longer Breast Friends

It has been a slow process. Yesterday, I nursed my last time at 5:45am, lying down in my bed, watching the sky bleed from a dark blue to a warm pink. My wiggling, panting son stopped nursing suddenly, scooted off the bed and ran out the doorway. That was it.

Earlier this month, we traveled across county. (Yes, with three kids. We do that sort of silly thing often.)

Samuel before boarding the plane

For the flight, Samuel was my lap child. He entered the plane a once-a-day nurser; he departed the plane, a chronic, every-10-minute-nurser.

Before vacation, I was skiing down the slope to physical freedom. After vacation, I became a round the clock, human pacifier for a small blonde-haired piranha.

I shoved half-melted Luna bars in my mouth one-handed. I guzzled water like a lost soul trekking the Gobi desert. Nursing a 20lb toddler is taxing. Not to mention, socially uncomfortable.

But this morning, it all ended. Samuel woke at 5:45am. I retrieved him and filled with dread as he cried while we walked together to the kitchen. He wanted to nurse. I wanted to relax him. I quickly made a bottle, warmed the milk and sat cozy with him. And closed my eyes.

When my husband woke, I went to the gym. Why?

I hope to curb my post-nursing blues. I feel so sad when I wean my babies. I need to replace my addiction to Oxytocin with an addiction to Endorphins. Can I “recalculate” my hormonal imbalance?  Here’s a link to an article on post-weaning blues (apparently it’s a common occurrence): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/weaning-breastfeeding_n_5154681.html

I have a ritual when I wean. “Out with the old, and in with the new,” I tell myself. I buy a new, lacey bra (to make my newly retired tata’s look good after years of hard work…) and I buy myself a new pair of Converse sneakers. Happiness.

I try to re-frame my thinking that weaning is less an ending, and more of a beginning to new phase with my son.

Outside my kitchen in the early morning hours, we pick flowers. Then, we feed our pets. Samuel is excellent at spraying dog food across the kitchen floor, sending kibbles into corners that I’d rather not think about. But, it turns out that our dog enjoys the hunt.

Samuel’s loves his newfound independence. I mourn his baby phase.  I am proud that I have nursed as long as I have. Now, I await the slow return of energy to my body – how nice will that feel?!  Just in time to actually keep up with him…

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We did not really go skiing. I mean, we spent hours dressed in ski clothes, filing onto ski lifts and descending thousands of snowy feet avoiding ice patches. This, I do not call skiing. Much time was spent talking about skiing. Preparing for skiing. And, securing free peanut butter granola bars. Dizzying, really.

My favorite daily ritual was dead lifting a baby and a five year old in snow suits, while I myself wore slippery ski clothes. Carrying various children towards the parking lot proved an excellent exercise in patience. I mean, I wasn’t nursing soldiers during the Spanish American war, but still…Emily Post is who I have become.

we did not go skiing

“Mama, how can we go higher and faster than this?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because I really have to pee right now.”

“The correct question is: may, I use the restroom, mother? I mean, over President McKinley’s dead body!  Will you girls please have some manners!”

I think about my vacations now. I don’t dread the return home as much as I did when I lived in NYC. I distinctly remember spilling forth from a crowded, outgoing JKF plane and entering a Colorado airport. The air INSIDE the airport already smelled cleaner than anything I had back home. That crisp, mountain air is intoxicating. The grandness of the mountains at times, frightening.

 

Vail and palm tree

And, I never really thought about my manners much until now.

Emily Post said, “Good manners reflect something from inside-an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.”

I am the daughter of a Southern Belle. If anyone was destined amongst my Yankee friends to become Emily Post, it was me.

But after my thirteen years of living in NYC, you don’t think it’s insulting when you squeeze ahead in a line (I mean that guy was on his phone, anyway.) And, when you’re at a cafeteria style restaurant, you reach for forks and knives at the same time as everyone else. And when you’re in Colorado, are you trying to squeeze in as many runs as possible? Sure! You have to return to your rat hole in like 12 hours, okay? So settle down in the lift line, will ya?

Skiing is a lot like attending a cotillion. There are elaborate delineated rituals like cotillions with its dances: the Fan, The Ladies Mocked, Mother Goos — all called out in turns by the dance master. The mountain commands its skiers to do bumps, narrow shoots, trees — all while you abide by a “code.” THE CODE.

Just as a refresher, this is the code:

  1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

Times have a changed, now that I am a mom. I literally see an infraction of every rule, every three minutes. I am not confident that there is a general knowledge among ski lift ticket buys on how to actually behave properly. I don’t think that very many people can actually see out of both their eyes at the same time. People stop on the side of a trail mind the people or to mind the people in front of them, pfffft.  Now, that’s just silly!

Could Emily Post have relaxed now and again? She just became accustomed to etiquette infractions. She probably swore under her breath: “To the Alaskan gold rush will all of you…”. It’s probably like when a pulmonologist observes a young kid smoking. You just turn away and curse slightly.

As I watch my girls soak in our gondola ride, 7,000 feet above sea level, I think about my vacations when I was in my 20’s. I didn’t have many trips, but I had friends with access to a roof decks in NYC. I mean, that was the epitome of relaxation. That’s how I escaped. On a rooftop, it was you, a few nesting pigeons, and a handful water towers soaring above the city’s chaos. The noise of incessant honking and trucks hitting pot holes, of course, would still find you, but if you closed your eyes, and tucked in your headphones a little deeper, you hovered and escaped.

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As long as I live, I will never forget that feeling of elevated space on NYC rooftops. So, now in the gondola with my daughters, we have it. Loads of space. But, I, as Emily Post on skis, cannot fully relax…

Why are people turning SO CLOSE to my kids on these green trails!?! I want to carpet bomb each trail first, all so my little ladies can snowplow unharmed. Mama Bear can be provoked!

This mountain ain’t big enough for me, punks on skis and high snowboarders (I mean, pot is legal in Colorado…) and my precious daughters. I would like to hover above the mountain and just pick off a few drunkards here and there, Katniss-style with a bow and arrow. Then I would walk my fellow skiers and snowboarders straight into the front doors of Miss Graham’s finishing school.

When we were at Vail last, they were hosting a wine and food festival. The smell of BBQ pork and ribs delighted all. But then, hundreds of tipsy skiers took to the slopes. Yowsers. I never cared, of course, until now. Because now I have my kin on these slopes.

My dream is a Emily Post citizen’s arrest. Here’s how it would go: “Excuse me, ma’am. Here is a small ticket. I will use this as a warning. When you exited the ski lift and nearly plowed over my daughter, and then didn’t apologize, it was a violation of the code #7. This is not the rule-less world of the Moulin Rouge!”

Who am I she asks? “I am glad you asked. Tell your friends and family. Emily Post is back from her grave and trolling the trails of Vail now. This ski outfit is a goose-down original from the 1890’s. Flummoxed? You should be. Thank you.”

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Shostakovich, that upbeat guy

Shostakovich really felt things. He didn’t sugar coat them. His symphonies unravel. They are direct, sombre and violent. Just like human civilization. And he wanted you to know that.

Parenting Styles: Me vs. Shostakovich

To my fidgeting kids at the dinner table at night, I might say: “Okay, you aren’t hungry right now? You want to play? That’s okay. But there’s no more food after this. The kitchen is closed.” That’s the line I draw. And then I stick to it.

Shostakovich would say: “Young persons, eat now, before the soldiers come and kidnap your entire family and you can’t do anything about it because you are only children.”  My kids would really listen to Shostakovich and eat all their vegetables. And then they would definitely practice their piano and iron their clothes.

Innocently enough, my husband mumbled something about growing a beard. “I love the idea,” I said. “Go for it!”

He said something about protesting his male patterned baldness and that “beards don’t give a crap” in response to his working several ICU shifts in a row.

Whatever subversive thing he believed he was doing, I was supportive. Why not? I love a manly, man.

After a week of his enduring the itchiness of developing facial fur, it was permanent. And, it was like, voila! I suddenly saw the world in Technicolor and beards were EVERYWHERE.

I have literally, almost never, noticed a man’s beard. Now, I can’t get away from them. When did beards sprout on every single man I know? Tall men. Short men. Old men. Hipsters. Beards are like sea sponges –quiet, unassuming, yet they blanket the entire planet’s ocean floors. Like mold, beards are growing everywhere in dark, damp places…

Clearly, my husband must now join the Brotherhood of the Neckbeard to stand among truly daring and stylish men. I mentioned aloud this short list of a few, brave men who have felled their beautiful neck bristles:

  • Lebron James
  • Jonah Hill
  • Composer Richard Wagner
  • Abraham Lincoln!
  • Sam the Eagle, from the Muppets
  • Roman Emperor Nero
  • Hank Williams, Jr
  • 97% of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence

And to add to my cause, a neck beard would allow me to actually kiss my husband without his beard scratching my face off.   I show you this handsome devil below, as an inspiring look…for all mankind.

Richard Wagner 1862

Read part one and part two first!

It’s only 2 hours until I return home (down the street), but I feel like I am in a recovery room. I can now return home to my kids, rested. Connected to my husband and ready to take on a night of sleepless-ness, if it finds me again. (who am I kidding.  When it finds me again…).

So the short of it, will I stay-cation again? Yes. And No.

I do think our family needs to vacate the physical property of our home to connect. Sad, but true.  But being home was relaxing. It would have been even more relaxing if I could have stop stressing about maximizing every single minute.

Amid the multi-day flu my kids had, we still managed a Legoland trip, a family jaunt to the movies and an evening where Dave and I enjoyed The Yamazaki, a Japanese whiskey.

As I type this, while a swarm of sitters collect their stuff to leave, I feel guilty not doing anything touristy. I am sitting in my office.

The weather is glorious today. A perfect beach breeze wanders into our house. The girls play with Legos. Our baby son naps, and yet – I know we aren’t going to the beach, jumping in the pool, or grabbing tennis racquets – like I had fantasized.

Why?  Because we are so freakin’ tired.  Like parents of three kids, tired.  And part of my stay-cation taught me to just honor that tiredness. Be still. Be restful. And be appreciative of our home.

Of course, for our next stay-cation, (because I think we should do this once a year) I hope can we become true tourists! Because I really want to hike Sunset Cliffs, kayak off of Coronado Island, drive to Julian…sometimes, my husband says that just the list of my ideas are exhausting to him. I guess I could be still and pet my dog. She is the biggest fan of the stay-cation idea, after all.

Read part one here.

Oh, staycation?  How could I have questioned you?  We now have little stones around our pathway in the backyard.  My eldest daughter has a desk in her bedroom.  We hung a hummingbird feeder.  We became experts in homemade playdough.

But still, we basically had a really, really, really long weekend.  I am not sure I captured the art of stay-cationing.  I read on many blogs that the art of staycationing is to become a tourist in your hometown.

We still had to wipe kids butts, change diapers, pick up dog poop and clean kitty litter boxes every day.  So, we didn’t exactly vacate that reality.  But we do live in San Diego.  People pay big bucks to visit here.  At least that’s what we told ourselves, when we were bone tired at night and our house looked like it had been robbed.

But for the very last night of the week, my husband and I flew the nest– alone, away from the kids – and landed at the fancy, The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

Immediately upon checking into our room, I showered, changed into the terry cloth robe, and smothered myself in lemongrass and sage moisturizer.  I love hotel freebies.

People have asked me, did you like the hotel?  Before we checked in to the hotel, I could have slept in the back of my minivan from how tired I was.

So, when I said: “I need a break from the kids,” and “I am exhausted from nursing,” I didn’t mean we had to go fancy!

But a staycation does that to a person.  So many “why nots?” get tossed around.  After all, we didn’t have to pay for a real vacation.

Spending money on a hotel down the street from my house is the baby’s fault.  I have been very clear with that.

His ten month old dripping nose, ceaseless coughing and double ear infection is the reason, my husband, in the eighteen hours we were out of the house, went shopping in Del Mar at The Row and bought a belt and sunglasses.

Our eight days of insomnia is the reason we drank two delicious, yet outrageously priced, glasses of white wine at the hotel lounge.

When I woke in the hotel bed in the morning, not to the soundtracks of children coughing, but to the hum of my mini fridge storing my breast milk, I was delighted.  Not a soul asked me for anything; it was worth it. Stay-cation, you silly beast.  You had me at “hello.”

To be continued…

It is Samuel’s fault, really. He fell ill. And then continued to be sick for days and days and days.

He was the last one standing of the pack. And then his immune system toppled. Hard. It was almost too much for me to take.

I stopped using under eye concealer. The world should see how tired I was.

Half sipped caffeinated teas were scattered atop tabletops throughout my house. I obsessively washed my hands. No matter what I did, in the course of five days, three kids became sick.

Maybe I don’t use strong enough cleaning chemicals? I wracked my brain at night while pacing, soothing my crying baby.

I blame all those kids incessantly coughing at my daughters’ school. At drop-off the other morning, their classroom sounded like an intermission at the symphony. Deep coughs. Nursing home, emphysema coughs. “Why aren’t these kids at home?” kind of coughs.

I learned that a few parents took their kids to pediatrician only to be told their kids were fine. Other kids were finishing antibiotics. There was a lot of shoulder shrugging and use of placating statements like: “It’s just that time of year.”

Our little family was ripe for the picking.

It’s a tsunami of germs descending against one woman. Like Moses holding a staff of Purell, I declare: “Please don’t put that croissant in your mouth unless you use hannitizer!” That’s what we call it. Hannitizer.

It was Friday, the very last day of school before a week-long stretch of kids’ vacation. Here is a list of some things I was saying to myself in my thought:

a) “I am going skiing in a few days and look like a sexy ski bunny with smoky eyes while carving beautiful edged turns!”

c) “I am to sip bourbon with my husband by the fire, at night. And gaze lovingly at his beard.”

d) “I am going to make snowmen with my kids in the front yard of my in-laws ski house. And the girls will not fight about who has found bigger snow chunks.”

Picture perfect. Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta!

Even though…last year’s ski trip, I forgot my bathing suit, having to instead, don my mother in law’s miracle suit into the hot tub. And last year, I passed-out cold with my kids each night. And although throughout last year’s entire ski trip, I smelled like an octogenarian from applying Bengay morning, noon and night, to my aching muscles, this year’s trip would be different!

However, reality was setting in as germs seeped their way into my house…

Long, yellow snot rockets shot from my eldest daughter’s nose like Spider-man’s webs attaching to walls. Low-grade fevers were crept across both my daughters’ bodies. Sweaty pajamas and princess pillowcases piled-up in the laundry room each morning.

We didn’t use our miles to buy tickets last minute. We didn’t dig out our suitcases. We let inertia take over, and for the first time ever, we declared for ourselves a “stay-cation.” (This was our way of coping with the harsh reality that we were using vacation days to run a family infirmary.)

To be continued…

I have magical breast milk.

Being the sole proprietor of Le Mammary Mythique has its price. I am committed to udder secrecy; however, today, I rip the tape from my mouth! My nipples are silent, no more!

So, here’s how it went down.

One average Tuesday afternoon, when my breast milk was just sitting around on the counter looking ordinary, forgotten, and partially separated, I heard a sultry man’s voice with an Italian accent: “Bella?”

I was measuring flour. “Yes?” My name is not Bella for the record. But you know Italian men.

“Don’t worry that you forgot to buy white radishes for your recipe. The bambino sleeps. You are tired. Use me instead.”

“What’s your name?”

“Terrance.”

Just like that. Manna from the heavens. I listened and poured my breast milk into the metal bowl. My homemade vegetable ravioli was saved.

Weird, you say, because who has ever heard of an Italian man named Terrance? Or weird, that I make my own ravioli?

My breast milk, for you naysayers:

  • Cured pink eye twice
  • Glued the broken handle on our dresser
  • Improved the Video On Demand function on our Time Warner Cable box
  • Found David’s sun glasses

And let’s say, you had:

Adult acne? Create a wonderful, antibacterial breast milk face mask. Skin clear and free of zits in less than 10 hours.

Filmy car windows? Magical Breast milk cuts through dirt.

Ebola? Breast milk is the only known cure. Pharma companies don’t want you to know.

Need paint primer? BM

Can’t remember your neighbor’s name and don’t want to steal his mail? Drink cold pressed breast milk with cayenne pepper and you will remember his name is Allen; wife’s name is Jennifer.

His prosthetic arm? My boobs knew you were going to ask that next. He fought a bear in the Army. See? Breast milk is your jam.
It’s a big conspiracy. Insurance Companies. Home Depot. Amazon. Google. Congress. They don’t want you to know about the powers of my breast milk. If this information were to leak out (literally), who knows what chaos would ensue.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you see it, I detest the breast pump.

Here’s a letter to my breast pump named, Nelson Medela:

Dear Nelson, My Medela Style Pump and Go,

 

I hope this note finds you well. You’ve been a loyal friend. I’ve admired for many months now, your easy-on-the-eyes design. Your motor is also quiet. I appreciate these qualities of yours.

 

But, I am over you. Hang yourself by using your own tubing.

 

Sincerely,

Dina Koutas Poch

Unless I pumped non-stop day and night (which would look like a scary illustration from a Dr. Seuss book entitled “The Breast Battle Book”), I just can’t make enough milk for all the world’s woes, whilst fending off evil companies conspiring to steal it and expending 800 calories a day.

Selfishly, my tatas’ tonic juice is for my baby. I know, so boring, so bourgeoisie of me to keep my magical breast milk to myself. Like a hoarder with a hundred chap sticks in my nightstand. IT’S ALL FOR ME! NONE FOR YOU!

Hey, it’s a lot of work. Making magical breast milk is exhausting. Sometimes, it’s a herculean effort for me just to shower every day. Like, Frodo, I feel forced to carry the ring, alone.

I will wean soon to become like regular folk. You know, regular Joe’s working a regular job, eating regular food in front of their regular TV’s. Because, right now, I am staying up all hours of the night nursing and designing systems of secret undersea turbines, set in geo vats to farm thousands of gallons of breast milk — as an idea to unite La La Leche to a clean energy solution?

I know, great idea, huh? It wasn’t mine.

Breast Milk

“Mama, how can we go higher and faster than this?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because I really have to pee right now.”