What I did on my Babeless Staycation... The Self-Indulgent Dr Google Edition.

Bye bye Blue Bear

The house is deafeningly quiet, and the mess is strangely sessile. Dross just languishes there dolefully. Never shifting. Never scuttering across the room, or into the trash, or out the door. Just glowering at me as it punctuates the stillness and absence haunting my little domicile. 

Yes, I'm having my very own Home Alone moment this weekend. 


Except instead of being left behind in my bed (is that how it played out? I haven't seen the movie in years), I seem to have gone all the way down to the airport with the rest of my family. And then to have driven home. Husband blindsided me by very rationally choosing curbside check-in when we arrived at the airport. I had this whole mental image of drifting through the airport. Waiting in line with my family as bags are checked. Bowing kisses and waiving to them in the security line. And sipping a cup of tea at the terminal while waiting for news the flight had taken off. As I moved the stroller onto the sidewalk in preparation for some kind of goodbye, he looked concerned and barked something about not abandoning his car... But but but car versus mommy!! I did manage to kiss them goodbye, get into his fancy car and drive it back home with only an occasional sob. 

First, preschool (incidentally going so well, we're planning to increase her days to twice a week!). Now weekends in Tahoe. Soon, Chayas going to be moving to Albania to study circus craft. She does like elephants. 

I managed to drive home. I had a little snack (Papaya and almond butter for the win). Now I'm walking on the treadmilly trying not to immediately gather my leaf blower and fight back the disembodied clutter. 

And thus time for a plebian personal update mixed with a peppering of whinging and a whee bit of merriment (so we hope). 

So, I left off with a season finale cliffhanger there. Not eczema!

 Raynaud's! Somehow! We're not sure! Plot twist. DUN DUN DUUUUUN. I wouldn't say we're quite at the Season Premiere here, but there's the inevitable drift through the off season. 

I have a rheumatology appointment on the 21st. February 21st. This is actually extraordinary. As I have spluttered before, I highly recommend demanding referrals to any and every conceivable specialist immediately. Even if you cannot possibly conceive of a reason you may need to see this person, just get the referral. By the time they can actually see you (roughly two years from now give or take) you may in fact need them. And if not, well... you can cancel and reschedule for another two years out, I'm sure. 

Rheumatology wasn't SO bad. It's been about 3 weeks since the Dermatology appointment. Most clinics only had spots available at the end of March. This "early" appointment is due to a combined effort of my doctor juicing up the urgency in her post-referral questionaire and to a cancellation by a prior patient. It turns out to conveniently occur exactly during Chaya's preschool time. Life is amazing sometimes. I don't expect ot have a ton of answers, but there are some things I specifically know to ask about and to expect now. And I think it will be helpful. 

In the interim, hormones have entered the body, folks. I'm pretty sure, anyways. I no longer need to strip down to a bikini and ice my ears when a house is above 65 degrees. And I sometimes even manage to sleep underneath the sheets all night long! In fact, I'm often even kind of cold. Which is good and bad. It makes it less painful to keep my hands warm. It does seem to also make my hands slightly more prone to pruning. I haven't completely stopped having warm ears or flushing, but they are less severe and way less frequent. I can actually walk on the treadmill in the basement without feeling nauseous. 

There are side effects. My ankles are a little swollen. I had a few days of headaches. There is cramping from time to time. Hard to finger causality precisely, but at three weeks in, I've developed some pretty vigilant reflux. Not straight heartburn, but the fullness, difficulty swallowing, and sore throat that's even more fun. Yes I'm taking antacids, eating small meals, avoiding traditional triggers (though man my usual diet is one big globule of triggers, gently exercising, and not eating before bed. . 
I'm currently sleeping with (1) a wedge pillow, (2) another couple underneath that, and (3) a boppy pillow to help me sleep a little more on my left side despite a pulled pectoral muscle.  So yes, I know the usual tricks. There is so much contradictory stuff about managing reflux, but right now I'm enjoying a diet of papaya and herbed tofu and trying desperately to identify triggers without plunging into any particular potential triggers. 

And then there are my hands. They still look awful up close, but they are admittedly a lot better. I have been keeping them a little more even keeled with a mix of hand/foot warming pads, mittens, gloves, and warm water (finally). I randomly wave my arms around in windmills (helps bloodflow). And tuck them constantly between my armpits. I wear gloves to open the fridge and pre-heat vegetables in the microwave before cutting them. It mostly works. 

The burning and swelling is significantly better. And they occasionally hit a normal color. The blisters seem to largely be receding, though I think a few coldblains form here and there. This morning I put handwarmers in my mittens and think I got a little burn on my pointer finger. It goes on. They still go between white and freezing and red and burning, but it's a different kind of burning. More of an internal throbbing. I can (again) actually gently treadmill without them totally blazing up. They get warm and irritable but nothing like before. This is miraculous. Of course, the reflux now makes me ever less inclined to do any true cardio, so it's long uphill walking in the basement for me. I did get a run in between hand blight and reflux. It felt good. 

But as I said, they still look ravaged. I can't really tell if they are just so totalled from an untreated winter of misery or if there's actual skin changes from something more underlying. 

Which leads to my current mental game. The What's Wrong With Adella Pool!

In my odd balance between hypochondria and self-negligence, have a few other odd symptoms that I never really think much about, but actually are pretty prominent: (1) really dry mouth. This is probably part of why I drink so much water and chew so much - I thought it was a side effect of taking antihistamines, but I haven't taken any in a long time now and my mouth is really dry. This may also be contributing to the reflux incidnetally. (2) Dry eyes. There's a family history of this and I had LASIK, but it's getting more noticeable). (3) Occasional tingling in hands and feet, which may well be muscular and my PT is giving my plenty of stretches. It may also be Raynaud's related, since that's a common complaint. (4) Dry splotchy skin. With red all over my face that's also pretty par for the Irish family flushing course...

Why wait for a professional to flub my diagnosis when there are support groups AND google? 

I am my own episode of House, M.D. Remember it's not Lupus. It can't be. Thanks for playing. Amusingly, it actually could be Celiac, though it isn't a perfect fit.

Not really, but I do have these migrating working theories. Biggest odds are on: 

1. Scleroderma
Basically a condition involved with overproduction of collagen/scarring in place of healthy tissue. It usually manifests on the skin, hence the name. But it doesn't always have skin manifestations. Depending on the kind, it can be pretty local or it can hijack an entire body. A bit of a grab bag but it explains a disturbingly complete scan of symptoms. Limited scleroderma (once called CREST, because it is so minty clean) is diagnosed by presence of 3 of 5 symptoms: Raynaud's, skin tightening/puffiness/shinines, reflux, spider veins, calcinosis. I've had the occasional spider vein, have Ray's, have reflux. and my hands are weird AF these days. Calcinosis, not so much, but there we go.

It also can some sometimes lead to dry mouth and eyes and skin, though it isn't the most common symptom.

The systemic version is very scary but every diagnosis varies considerably.

Doubt on this bet: I tested negative on my autoimmune antibodies test and my sed rate was high normal. And there are plenty of symptoms I don't have. That said, it should be mentioned that the autoimmune antibodies that my doctor did run has a 40% false negative incidence, not to mention some people don't have the antibodies. So, still a pretty good bet considering how varied it can be and how funky my hands are.

2. Sjorgren's Syndrome - A funny one that largely causes dry eyes and mouth. Swollen lymph nodes (I'm always sightly sick so who knows, but doctors always ask if I'm sick) are somewhat common. And Raynaud's. And dry skin or rashes.

It can also be comorbid with scleroderma out any other number of autoimmune diseases, so really this could be more of a complementary diagnosis than a standalone!

3. Just crazy hormones having a super tough time with any other number of bodily oddities.

Dry mouth is idiopathic, dry eyes are hereditary and exacerbated by LASIK, dry skin is dermatitis and hormones, horrible hands are a massively bad case of poorly cared for chilblains, reflux is exacerbated by the birth control.

Or it could be something I haven't even imagined. Some combination of hormonal stuff, chilblains and dermatitis run amok stress and some other random disease.

Regardless, there isn't a sense of certainty in the future under any circumstances. None of the likely conditions have cures or definitely predictable courses. It's likely that there are no magical cures.

If I still have reflux in a few weeks, I can try a new birth control pill. My hands may or may not clear up. If I have scleroderma, it may or may not progress much. If I have sjorgren's there are some treatments that probably aren't much different than what I'd already seek out. There are medications that may or may not work. The usual.

It all could be very bad very good, or very "that's life ... and then you actually die from a car crash after totally recovering from some far more heroic fight with disease."

I'm actually not too spooked yet, but because the first two are tricky to diagnose and really benefit from early intervention, I'm trying to stay informed.

And minimize symptoms anyways.

Since the toddler is not present I plan to have a nice mellow grown up diet free of the cheesy ravioli she is insisting on shoving into my mouth (and or my eye). Drinking some mellow water. Destressing. And ... ok I am going to flame thrower the rest of the house soon. Really I'll resist only so long. But then? Maybe a movie? Do they still make movies? Do people watch these?

Hell(th) nut: Plot Twists in Medical Mysteries and a Strange Return Home

And I return to the house with a child who happily joined the Play-Do table at preschool (after a morning of saying "no" and wanting to return to the crib). Parenting accomplished for at least the morning. 

Time to update the world on the exciting world of me oh my... It was a very exciting week in the endless health rollercoaster of Adellalandia. 

I used to be healthy! Really. I was in great shape. My health stats were all splendid. Feel a bit like a switch got flipped at some recent point and I'm one big Jenga tower absent a structural piece. Don't get me wrong: I'm still pretty lucky. I can run around the house for hours carrying my 33 pound writhing toddler, then let her climb on my head, before tumbling into some airplanes. But it is often a big limiting question-mark on my of my many challenges. 

This next month, even, Andrew and Chaya are going on a trip together without me. While in theory, I think this is a very good thing for daddy-daughter bonding etc, 

I guess I wasn't totally emotionally ready to be left behind. Sure travelling exhausts me and I'm always initially resistant, but over all I want to be there. This year, I just can't. Andrew asked what I was going to do with all my free time, and my first response was something like "let my guard down and spend the weekend feeling sorry for myself." No no, I'm sure I'll rally. I may do wild things like watch an entire movie, steam clean the bedroom, and ... more movies. But I'm still mad at my body right now. And I feel bit of a quiet fear that I'll become less and less able over time. That Chaya may not remember her wild and athletic mommy. So that alone is motivating me to cross my t's and dot my i's and see if I can get some kind of equilibrium going on. 

First things first: I now have hormones coursing through my body. Last week, I met with my reproductive endocrinologist. Amazingly she remembered me in impressive detail (the boom bust of ovarian responsiveness leaves an impression I guess and she continued to marvel that we didn't end up with multiples worthy of a reality tv show). She laughed when I said I hadn't started birth control yet, but was  taking a whole standard dose of estradiol. Apparently this is akin to a dropper in the empty ocean for me. Nothing much I said surprised her, except when I asked about my flaming red ear. 

After some discussion it came down to this: I could go on hormonal replacement therapy with very high doses of dermal and suppository hormones, possibly provoke monthly periods, likely not start ovulating again but still have to be careful because HRT and pregnancy do not mix; OR I could immediately try to get pregnant again using the full arsenal of ART (with no guarantees of last time's luck and definitely a big risk of multiples given how I reacted last time); OR I could take birth control the rest of my pre-menopausal life and call it good. Given Chaya's tendency to sob whenever I touch another baby, and her many sneak attacks on Daddy's reproductive organs I can kind of guess that Chaya is gonna be ok with being an only child.

 It was a bit of a mental adjustment for me. We'd talked often about expanding our little family "god willing" (in other words, if it happened, it happened, but that I couldn't go through the full ovulation induction carousel with a toddler. I suspected it might not be possible but I liked the idea of keeping the option open. Nonethelses, birth control is the best option and considering the hormonal craziness that pregnancy, breastfeeding and weaning wreaked on my body, I'm not sure I could survive a second go around of that anyways. 

It's a little early to say much about the pill I'm on. I guess it can take some time to find the right match. It also takes about 3 months to really know how it will sit with somebody. I may be a little less prone to overheating so far. Which is good because...

So all that eczema stuff? After 3+ months of doing my best with "hand eczema" waiting for a dermatologist to confirm and help already, I finally had my appointment. The dermotologist took one look and says "this is because of your Raynaud's. You need to see a rheumatologist or a vascular specialist. I don't think you need a referral with our insurance. Take care." No no in fairness, she prescribed a steroid of questionable efficacy (I only used it a couple of times and it burned)

Seemed odd given I've had what I've presumed to be Raynaud's for years with nothing remotely resembling "deep pain and itching upon getting the slightest bit warm." For the uninitiated, Raynaud's is a condition in which
smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas and cause vasospasm. It's best known for a finger or toe or several appendages suddenly turning white, puckering, and losing sensation. Then it throbs. In general, there's some association with just crap-ass circulation to hands and feet, so hands and feet tend to be cold and often kind of purpley or blue. 

It all just seemed so weird. I've had "Rays" as long as I can remember, and it's certainly been "worse" before. When I was a teenager, I remember turning blue up my arms on a cool day in Morocco. My travel companion was quite unnerved but it appealed to some emo part of me. In law school in particular, I had the dreaded white finger of doom on a fairly frequent basis.

I've had one pale finger this year. Otherwise, not much. My hands and feet are always cold, sure. I can't sleep most nights without electric slippers. But with the rest of my body overheating like crazy, I guess I didn't mind or notice any cold hands. And as soon as this whole rashy discomfort broke out over my body, my hands would just kind of inflame on the slightest provocation. I still wake up in the middle of the night with my entire body radiating heat.

It being late Friday afternoon and all the possible medical professionals who might have helped no longer being in the office, I did some research of my own (do your research SHEEPLE!!!) I joined a Facebook support group and posted pictures of my hands with a WTF?

Turns out there's something called chill blains (or oh so pernicious pernio). These delightfully named medieval scourges purportedly happen a lot to people with Raynaud's - horrible painful inflammation and cracking and blistering that happens when skin goes from cold to warm too quickly.

They don't look too bad when my skin has some normal temperatures going on, but they're disturbingly purple when my hands are cold, and nasty and red when my hands are warm

I could well also have a localized form of scleroderma, based on some pictures (the autoimmune artist formerly known as CREST) - or any variety of fun autoimmune disorders that wouldn't necessarily have shown up with the autoimmune testing I already have had done - but we'll stay with the chill blains and being a big fat pain for now.

Oh so many months of learning everything about eczema! Participating in eczema community chats. Nailing my skincare ritual. Thanking my lucky stars it was less debilitating than some people's (I don't recommend googling severe eczema while eating). Weighing allergy tests and elimination diets and researching everything about the staph bacteria most commonly on the skin of eczema sufferers. Turns out I have dry skin from crappy circulation and a totally different condition. I feel like such a fake!

I still do have mild dermatitis. Or at least scratchy and dry skin. And in some ways the treatments are similar: avoid extreme temperatures, moisturize frequently, reduce stress, don't scratch, keep a watch for infections (antibacterial salves like coconut oil are good for both). Interestingly, Raynaud's is actually a bigger problem when it's cool and damp than strictly gelid. Eczema often improves with a more humid environment, but not so much the risk of chilblains. And wet wraps are great for bad flares of dermatitis but probably increase the risk if Raynaud's flare up and chilblains. Whoops. All those lukewarm baths I was taking in a cold bathroom to simultaneously cool down my flushed face and help my itchy skin probably weren't helping, given the purpleish hue they always provoked.

So in some ways I have probably been making things worse. Chilblains burn something fierce and get worse as the skin gets warm. My natural reaction to burning is to try to numb and ice the inflammation. Many days of running my hands under cold water or straight out icing. At a certain point I was getting these nasty red spots on my fingertips exactly where I'd been gripping an ice pack to sooth myself. Anyways, my hands still look pretty unhappy, but I've been working on keeping them warm and limiting temperature fluctuations. I'm hoping at least this knowledge can help mitigate future outbursts while I wait my next interminable period for a rheumatologist to see me. I'd say things are moderately improving since last week, but the flare ups were always a bit cyclical, so we'll see.

Although I am probably a Primary Raynaud's sufferer (as in I've had it forever and probably it isn't just a side effect of something else), there's also a chance that a scarier autoimmune disease lingers undiagnosed. Let the clock start again on waiting for answers to that one. It still confuses me that I've had so many bad spells of these this year over other times when the Raynaud's was more active or severe.

In a sense, it is a weird relief that all this misery might actually be something I have had forever. If it makes any sense, I still blame myself for the wonky hormones. I don't know that this is fair, because somewhere in there is a genetic and physiological component to how my brain and body reacted, but the combination of over-exercising/under-eating for so many years and then messing with those hormones to give birth/breastfeed... seems like a no-brainer that I broke myself on those grounds. But Raynaud's? Well dude it's crappy as all heck, but it's just part of who I am. Hi I'm Adella. I'm a vegetarian, I can't make a decision to save my life, and my hands don't really get much blood to them! I imagine I've had chillblains before and written them off as dermatitis in the past. If there's a quiet auto-immune issue that didn't make itself known until now, I've probably had that since childhood too, since Raynaud's can predate AI symptoms by 20 years. Naturally I've been laying my bets for what I could have or not. I vote for Lupus in homage to Dr House, M.D. Whatever it is, it is nice to have a name to put to a constellation of annoyances that generally fall under "wonky body syndrome." I
t's fascinating to learn more from other people with Raynaud's. Apparently that bizarre flaming ear thing is not unique in the Raynaud's world. Or the constant fluctuating between too hot and too cold in the vulnerable places. Some even mention really random symptoms I'd never thought of before. Including some tingling and other scary sounding symptoms that I'm still getting checked out. 

In the meantime, my cardiologist (who likely has nothing to say but who can actually see me within a month because I'm already a current client) may have additional news this February. And otherwise I'll be keeping toasty in style and hoping flame face and flame ear will subside as I make the effort to stay generally warmer.

In the meantime, I didn't have enough gloves in my menagerie, so let's add some toastie hand warmers for typing, and a couple of pairs of refrigerator and freezer gloves to the mix. 

A Stitch in Fix Saves Six? SAHM's mental ventures out there...

It's a stylin' time in the Wright household. Baby got a haircut. Daddy got a haircut. Mommy and daddy learned how to use Pinterest and are experimenting with wild things like Stitch Fix. Life be dazzlin' hereabouts.

Ok actually, I still look greasy and disheveled, but some more thought has evolved about times where I may not.

On the Chaya front, somebody went through a bit of a growth spurt and got tall and mature and stuff. We have a front-facing, pixie-haired preschooler in our lives now.

The daddy-daughter haircut day was surprisingly smooth. We went to Hair Mechanix in downtown Mt Vernon. Kind of a sleek and fun barber shop, but boy did they nail the essence of toddler hair cutting: quick, unobstrusive and non-threatening. Chaya sat in my lap and squirmed around a bit, while our tactical genius struck with laser like precision at whatever swathe of scalp was exposed.

And it was a needed shearing:

Before... was getting a little rabid. And covered in all sorts of strange materials.


Very pert. Much easier to handle. The stylist asked if I wanted a lock of her hair to save. I said the we'd already had to cut out ratted pieces off the back, so no sentiment required here.

But enough about Chaya's crazy hair!

On Chaya's very first day of Preschool, I rushed home and sent in a big honkin' application packet for a job. Not just any job: a professional job that sounded like a perfect fit for me. It so inspired me that I actually re-activated myself with the Washington State Bar Association. This means that this year will be spent tracking down all the free CLE credits I can cram into nap times and maybe actually still having to attend something somewhere. But I get ahead of myself. 

Just the idea of doing this was a major paradigm shift and it's rocked the cobwebs from my hydroxozine befuddled stupor apace. 

So far, I'm not feeling like the job opportunity is going to go anywhere. I've since updated that recalcitrant employment email address a few times (hey I'm an attorney again... hey I've been thinking about you... you look really nice in that gray sweater... hey is this still your number?) without response. Disappointed to not even here a "we got your stuff, thanks." But nonprofits and all. 

Still even contemplating such a step has numerous reverberations in my domestic blissitude. I had to think about so many logistical challenges and things I would or wouldn't do if I were to be back in work that the work product lingers. 

And the wheels have begun to twist and turn. 

And a few logistical ponders:

Chaya's done great with preschool. That was really reassuring for somebody who was applying ot possibly need a lot more of it. Given the hours requirement of the job application, I could likely have worked in 4-5 days of morning preschool. That seemed totally feasible to me, if sad ot lose that time.

And I suddenly thought "if we both have to be out of the house for a certain period of time, I'm getting a cleaning service!" Little things, but just the thought was intriguing.

I'm back to thinking that I'll use Chaya's preschool day to fit in my medical appointments, tidy the house, and maybe have a quick bit of rest. But should anything require me to regularly be out of the house, it would be kind of nice to have a thorough cleansing of the household. While I might want to be home... less so. It's still a pain having somebody go through your house.

I am nowpondering the option of taking on another attorney's contract in June 2019. Part time, in court for at-risk-youth. But it has a major couple of downsides. Still, it's opened up the pondering. and that of course perpetuates the keeping-an-eye out side of things. As well as making me reconsider taking that GAL training for the CLE credits and seeing where it goes from there. We'll see. But of course there are hurdles.

Extra exciting eczema in the real world: 

My hands still suck. They cycle through better and worse, but it's never really cleared or fully abated. It's quite limiting. Being in anything remotely like a warm room causes a major flare. A rise in body temperature causes a flare. I mostly have to wear gloves because too much abrasion is agonizing (and it keeps the moisturizer in). Aridity causes a flare. Heating causes a flare. Poor sleep never helps, but of course that's cyclical enough that I'm leaning on some anti-histamine sleep aids to keep any shoes from dropping.  I'm closing in on a dermatology appointment and hoping for something that will allow me to "manage" my condition without living in a slightly chilled clean room with an array of cotton gloves. 

This is a condition that doesn't really get "cured" (honey-smoked, maybe, but not cured). I don't quite know what made things erupt so angrily after a pretty conclusive dormancy, but there we are. Hope springs eternal that "avoiding triggers" means something a little less than "never doing anything that raises my body temperature above slightly shivery ever again." But if not, offices are going to be kind of miserable. 

One facet is being addressed in a different way. Since I started weaning Chaya things have seemed awfully "off" hormonally. And things got worse after she was fully weaned. I started getting my pregnancy "flame ear" and waking up in the middle of the night completely overheated. Any heat made my head hurt, my hands swell, and my stomach to turn a bit. It wasn't the traditional hot flash, but everything pestilential annoyance of pregnancy that wasn't directly related to having a large object crowding out my internal organs. In the midst of my "my hands are driving me nuts" and "this looks kind of weird to us but we're not really experts" I insisted strongly that some of this seemed hormonal to me, considering. 

Blood tests confirmed: (1) I don't appear to have an autoimmune disorder of which to speak, (2) I have the same wonk-ass hormones I had pre-conception but they're angrier now! Or at least they were unmedicated in this version of wonk-ass. I'm not menopausal, but I have virtually zero estrogen in my system. Guess what causes almost every single "symptom" I've complained of in the last several months? Hypoestrogenism. I don't think it will cure things, but I think the hormonal switch up  definitely triggered some serious crap. So at any rate, I am now taking estradiol while I await another meeting with another specialist: my reproductive endorcrinologist is back on the agenda for next week. I somewhat suspect she'll tell me to get on birth control instead of cycling through several more years of HRT. 

Of course many people fault birth control with worsening their eczema, so that doesn't thrill me, but hormones do play a part. And they definitely impact the "flushes" of whatever kind. I don't know if getting my hormonal flora back in place will cure my heat intolerance, but it will hopefully mitigate it. 

I was also thinking that I'd make use of a spritzer of water, some aloe gel, and a small fan to keep myself cool in an office. Not the ideal thing to constantly get damp, but heat really doesn't work for me. 

Anyways... enough about my weird health... no... wait... one more thing. 

Gloves -  I did actually realize that my graying cotton gloves are off-putting. And I was thinking about how I'd manage that in an interview or professional setting. I feel like when you have to start a conversation with "Don't worry, it's not contagious" or "No, I'm not a mime," you may have already lost. 

 I discovered "UV Summer Driving gloves" - there's a huge trend for these summer UV gloves. And they are a but more attractive. 

See my Pinterest board here: 

Because recent developments pulled me into Pinterest. I appear to be about four years behind the game on Pinterest, so I feel like somebody's grandmother discovering Facebook, but it finally makes sense to me! It's like when I was little and would go through catalogs to circle all the things I wanted. It's magical fantasyland. Or a horrifying place of crafts, eating-disorder-inspiring sayings, and weird recipes. You choose your own adventure through pinning like crazy.

.... and

... An Ounce of Pinterest is Worth a Pound of (Carefully) CURE(ated by a Personal Stylist Online Shopping:

I dress like a homeless yoga student most days. I once had the option of "cleaning up nice" but then I bounded up up up the scale lickety split (thanks, Doctors - nothing necessarily improved except the extra space in my wardrobe). I've been dilatory to redress (har har) this gaping hole in my sartorial splendor, because... because shopping. Shopping sucks. It's depressing. It's full of missteps. Oh and trying on clothes is more than psychologically challenging: naturally that aggravates my hands. 

And thus new ideas were born. I was mentioning the whole Netflix-for-clothes subscription model to Andrew a few weeks ago. This is where you pay a membership fee and basically rent/check out clothes from a service. You pick clothes out. They make it easy to return. When you're done, you send them in and you get a new box. There's something really appealing about this model. I see it as one way of handling fast fashion: you constantly acquire and keep up with clothes that fit and fit trends but without shoveling through the corpses of fashions and sizes past. Plus, no laundry! You wear something and send it back. It's the 21st Century Version of having a few domestic servants or a good laundry service. I looked into Le Trunk, but they charge a fair amount and I'm kind of not feeling up to a $80 a month clothing budget in this lifestyle.  

Andrew went searching and we found a trove of clothing subscription services. 

He got sucked into Stitch Fix, which is a little different. This sends you a personally styled box based on your answers to an involved survey. You have three days to try the items (a blend of accessories, casual and formal wear). If you like any of it, you buy the stuff you like and keep. Anything you don't like, you send back. You can sign up to have a quarterly regular box. Or a weekly regular box. Or just manual. And when returning items, you get a chance to given feedback, so theoretically your stylist improves on their guesses each time. The personality test alone is worth trying it out. But this is where pinterest came into being. They let you link to your Pinterest fashion board. I have built a beautiful virtual wardrobe now. None of it likely fits or would ever fit into my life, but my online Pinterest avatar is very styling

So we're having a Cheesecake-clothing pact to try Stitch Fix out. And I picked up a free trial membership to Gwynnie Bee from a friend's referral. This is more of the clothing-rental model. 

So far, I've received two pairs of pants through Gwynnie Bee and expect my first Stitch Fix fixer-upper on Tuesday.

Gwynnie Bee. Is an amazing service though not one I'll stick with past the free trial. There are a few reasons for this.

The primary reason is that I'm not exactly plus sized (they cater exclusively to women size 10 and up). I do have long legs and full enough hips to qualify for their services but only sort of. Turns out that many brands that cater to plus sized women are also more prone to vanity sizing. So I am a size 12 or 14 in theory but not so much in practice. And no other part of my body fits plus sized, so my options are limited. Andrew says I'm not pear-shaped so much as cello-shaped. I'll take it.

The other issue is that the perfume in whatever they use to launder their clothes reeks to high heaven. I won't even speculate on what that does to my skin. My eyes and nose alone were burning after an hour or two in my first pair. Definitely will be washing before wearing in the future. Which kind of negates one of the appeals of rental clothing (never do laundry again!)

I give credit that they make the process easy. As soon as you're done you fill out a quick "I'm done and I did/didn't like these" and then seal the clothes up in a provided purple shipping bag. Complications may arise when your toddler decides the purple bag is the most awesome to ever... But with much distraction and some tears, you can extract it and jam it straight into the mail.

Of course I'm not sure I need nice clothes if I'm toddling. Though I'm tempted to drop the kid at preschool and run home to change into a complicated outfit with many pointy accessories and then just sit there sipping kombucha (not really big on wine coolers) for a few hours...

I hear fermented stuff helps with the eczema (that or a plumber... something about leaky guts)

New Year New Post

Well hello Year of the Dog - woof woof Eeeyiiiiieeeeeiiiiioioo.

No resolutions here, because chance aren't super good that I'll "write more" in the 2018 year of the 2.5-3 year old.

But 2018 promises to be eventful as all AF can F regardless of intention. You can't avoid it when it comes to parenting a toddler. They change. You change. We all change together. Life slips through our bistered and itchy fingers with a giggle of glee like the chia-sopped oatmeal flying from your toddler's spoon.

I think the 2015 resolution was best summed up by our L&D nurse's advice: "Don't divorce. Don't shake the baby."


2016 was "Move to Mt Vernon. Don't divorce. Shake the toddler gently and maybe don't pull too many more muscles while succumbing to her demands for swinging.


So 2018? Keep on truckin' and buckles those seatbelts and safety harnasses.

Stay in Mt Vernon. Stay married (I'm a fan, personally). Start preschool. Keep seeing doctors. Avoid slipping back (or forward) to an unhealthy weight even if you haven't reaped major rewards from correcting the issue just yet. Have faith. Laugh. Take more time for myself. Make space for everyone to grow. Yadda yadda yadda.

What do I foresee in the near and distant future?

1. Preschool!!

As of this Wednesday, Miss Chaya becomes the youngest student at the Skagit Art Preschool (by like 6 months, so it's gonna be interesting). We visited the preschool frequently in December so that she could get used to being there. Never for the whole four hours though. And never without me. But she has been getting more comfortable with participating while I stand back, so this is progress.

It will likely be an adjustment, since she's really not been away from me that long while conscious. Even when I was in the hospital, she came to visit after waking up and then I was back shortly after her afternoon nap. But we're starting slowly... maybe (more on that later).

And if I do have the free time (more on that again...) it would be this immaculate window of space for appointments, addressing the neglected everything at home, or even meeting some new people. The Episcopal church (my people!) that houses the preschool has a coffee hour just a bit after preschool drop off.

But of course, things might take a turn because...

2. Work? This was not officially on my radar yet. I begrudgingly accepted that at some point. I would probably return to work. I assumed I'd be righty ready by now, but I'm enjoying the SAHM gig a lot. It's hard. So hard. But kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity passing me by.

That said, I was forwarded a listing for a job that may well have been modeled on my "all I want in a job" wish list. It's an 18 hour staff attorney gig with a volunteer lawyer organization. Some legal work, but largely case management. Pretty much the thing I most enjoy and which is hard to come by as a career unless you're in quite the arcane firm set up.

And thus I have reassembled my resume, filled out some forms, started the process to return to Active Status with the WSBA, and hammered out a cover letter.

It's a really odd feeling to even contemplate. I think my inactive status and time from work are pretty glaring demerits so I'm not feeling like the strongest possible candidate. And that's ok. Because it would be good and bad. I'm not quite ready yet. But I could be for the right job. If this is the right job, they'll find me interesting enough to follow up. If things work out, then it was a good fit. If not, it wasn't necessary.

IF by some chance I do become top candidate, life could change a lot.

A few random thoughts:

*  I would basically make just enough extra from the job to afford preschool, cover the costs of updating my licensing, and we'd have a bit to spare. From which I think I would probably go ahead and hire a cleaning service again. The place is a mess and it's hard to clean with the ever present eczema flare-ups (which make cleaning more of a thing in the first place). I dislike having other people in my house, but if somebody could keep the mess at bay while we are already out of the house, that would be welcome.

* If I don't get the job, I can actually enjoy that Wednesday as previously mentioned. I could even try to work in some kind of physical activity that doesn't trigger a flare-up. If such a thing exists. Or just get a massage and take a nap. I won't really get any personal time if I get the job.

* If I do get the job, we're lucky to have Chaya at a preschool. I think she could simply transition to 5 days a week. Talk about a transition! But we'd work it.

* If I did get the job I would so have to figure out some logistics. Top one being new clothes, because I still don't have a ton of professional clothes. But equally important would be figuring out how to be comfortable and cool when I tend to flare up and flame-ear at temperatures above 66 degrees. I'll be sure to consult with the dermotologist on that one.

But regardless of whether I work or not, 2018 will continue the trajectory of all parenting...

3. Chaya becoming increasingly independent.

Chaya is fully weaned. She may be a bit of a mamma's girl, but that will likely change through this year.

She may take her first trip with just daddy in a month or two. We've already started having Andrew (nearly healed from his collarbone calamity) handle her post-breakfast toothbrushing and playing while I take some personal time. He's back to starting her bedtime with her. I think I'd be more comfortable for all involved if we worked up to a full trip with an overnight first, but man I don't wanna leave the house!

In a few months, Andrew and I will go to our first ballet at the PNB since before the beast was conceived. Another long spell without mommy for a toddler who probably needs the constant contact more and more. 

4. More medical fun fun fun

Gain weight, they said. It'll fix everything. I did. It didn't. But I am resisting impatience. My skin is throwing a hissy fit to beat the band. And I'm pretty sure my hormones are more wild than white kids in Cancun over spring break. I swear, judging by last night's excitement, I will soon be sleeping in a bikini with battery heated moon boots. The temperature fluctuations are brutal, since they trigger the flare ups. I've had a heap of bloodwork done, which continues to imply I'm "normal." But I have a dermatological follow up soon and will be starting hormonal replacement therapy in a few weeks, hopefully. And maybe getting back into my PT

My big 2018 goals include "being able to do more than a mild walk without bursting into flames" and "sleeping at night without waking up in an oven." No, I'm not pregnant. But it's definitely a best-of hits chart around here.

5 - 10. Ok, there's just the great big unknown of having a nearly-three year old. 

Life is spontaneous and mysterious and Chaya will be her own person.

In the meantime, we feted the New Year at Noon at the Children's Museum.

Chaya decided to celebrate in a different room from all the bellowing and counting, which I call a rip-roaring great idea.

And before we start looking too far ahead, I will simply look around and enjoy our last holiday together.

Happy 2018 everyone!!

Hand it to me! Going Through Changes and Waving a Gloved Hello t the New Year

We are now barreling through the Holidaze. Thanksgiving survived and thrived.

 Now 2017 begins to same sort of lame duck swan song spiral into the nuttiest nutmeg nonsense. I reject all this nastiness about the year being lame, largely because - again - Chaya was a part of it. And every year of her life is a good one for me.

And Hanukkah is here to stay for at least another day

Chaya gets to celebrate her Ashkenazi (non-maternal but it's kinda a secular reform paternal side so screwit) by ripping down pieces our my very sacrosanct window cling menorah. She also gets a book for each night of Hanukkuah. Partially because I was acquiring them at a rapid rate and finally decided that one for every night of Advent was a bit much in one direction, while ten on Christmas Eve was a bit much in another. Our favorites so far include The Pokey Little Puppy and The Billy Goats Gruff.

There are some exciting features of 2018 to come. Exciting and scary. Little wee one will be a preschooler officially. This may be an adjustment from our current transitional strategy of visiting together for an hour or two. But she's warming up to the place, I think.

We are definitely hitting new milestones in independence. Longer times away for mommy will be coming (now that daddy's collarbone is healing enough for them to have some days alone together). Some longer mommy-daddy dates with PAAAAM to watch the bae. And the like.

And I'm sure untold mysteries await regardless.

So if I complain for the rest of this post, let it be known that I am largely overwhelmed with hope and gratitude. But a little kvetch even on Christmas can't be avoided.

Sometimes I feel like this country (or all countries) really do not nail it on health care. Political statement, I know. Everything feels so disintegrated and hodge-podge. Many of the pertinent areas in my life seem to remain clouded in wiggle words and mystery. And I feel like so many professionals and specialists rarely have a way of coming together for a more holistic approach.

In other words, prepare yourself for... f
...further installations of why rational and science-loving people are tempted to turn to alternative medicine and home treatments but then find that's kind of overwhelming and confusing as well! To the point that seriously I kind of get why it's just a matter of course that even the CDC is now banned from using terms like "fact" and "evidence"... In a world of too much and too little information, who the heck knows

TL;DR: My body is full of mystery. Most people's are. Almost nothing is actually sufficiently studied for any variety of reasons and doctors are kind of inaccessible or not up on things. And anything on the internet claiming to be foolproof is probably going to be contradicted immediately by something else. 


We could start with the infertility issue and how all the doctors kind of contradicted each other. Nobody really agreed, but at the end something turned out just fine so no complaints there.

Still pretty much never got an official diagnosis. Some sort of gray area of "it's not even PCOS but it's kind of like that but not"

And of course the whole lactation struggles, in which basically an online Facebook site proved to be far more knowledgeable than any medical professionals (and made me a special source of information to my wonderful LCs even). Reason for this? There's really little ethical way to conduct valid randomized studies on pregnant or lactating women. You're basically stuck with cows and very small and shabby studies. That's going to be a theme.

And then there was this summer. Let's begin there again.

In August was awful physically chagrined. ER yadda yadda yadda. Cardiologist says all my bloodwork was and is fine. I was probably (most likely by a preponderance of that number on the scale because if your weight is high or low nothing else could ever be the cause of anything) dehydrated. Probably, even though my bloodwork didn't indicate that. BUT whatever. Low bone density. Heart issues (maybe?) Electrolyte imbalances. Everyone says let's gain weight and fix those hormones.

Shockingly compliant... I gained weight. My body had a tough time with that at first and it felt like things were getting worse instead of better, but that's leveled out. The heartburn is largely reduced. The fatigue is about par with what you'd expect of a mom of a two year old with occasional insomnia. I have no idea how that all measures out.

As soon as I seriously reduced nursing (and around the time I'd built quite a layer of estrogen boosting fat), things started going haywire elsewhere. Maybe it's coincidence that what used to be dry and sensitive skin has now turned into raging eczema on my hands and elsewhere.

Ok that picture doesn't do it justice. My hands look disgusting, trust me.

The hands are pretty intense. I can't really go around without gloves of some sort. Anything that would cause me to sweat causes burning. Sometimes out of nowhere things flare up really badly and I can't bear to be touched and need benadryl to sleep. Sometimes it isn't so bad. Sometimes it makes me so much less present and able to be there for myself and my kiddo. So it's frustrating, though anything like this makes you appreciate the miracle and bounty of "normal"

I went to my PCP the same day because she's shockingly available. She said basically what I'd expected from a little internet poking around: moisturize like all heck, avoid obvious irritants and apply this prescription steroid 3 times a day. Call in ten days if it isn't markedly better. I'm really not sure whether the steroid helped. But all the moisturizing and being super careful did get things down to "occasionally feeling normal" and improved enough to just be on the edge of potentially flaring up. To me this constitutes markedly better. I even went a few weeks with pretty much normal feeling hands (so long as I bathed and wore gloves and moisturized) The change in the weather and our time in San Francisco probably helped. I also followed a lot of the most common and endorsed advice on bathing, using epsom salts, and otherwise just protecting and preventing flare ups.

But it just cycles around and around. Sometimes everything feels fine except my hands are dry and a little cracked. Sometimes I need to go back to the steroid cream (that may or may not help, lord knows) and pray things settle down.

I watch when things get better and worse. There's definitely a regular pattern, whatever I can make of that. Things like "going to Chaya's future preschool with her and playing with the kids" seems to cause a flare up. Exercise is pretty much limited to the requirements of my personal trainer, Miss Chaya Papaya (she gets some good acrobatics in there). I am getting quite the burly arms with all the CHAYA JUMP. and CHAYA CLIMB (in which she walks up  my chest and onto my shoulders before perching on my head and expecting a backward flip back onto the ground. She is big on MAMA run (carrying her in one arm). And CHAYA FLY (same thing but holding her parallel to the ground). She also helps with a number of yoga and pilates type mat exercises

I persist. And though I'm sometimes grumpier, I can keep it together for Chaya.  It really can markedly decrease the quality of life in no time flat, though. I hear this is nothing compared to some people's experiences, so I am grateful that I just sometimes suck it up and soak my hands in water with some benadryl afterwards (another thing that may or may not help)

So problem number one: I got a referral from my doctor to a dermatologist after a few months of things just not really improving. My appointment is over a month out. PCPs don't go too far into things and specialists can be insanely hard to corner in on (unless you end up in the ER and then you get to cut the line a bit, it seems).

And of course there's Doctor Google. Here's what I've learned; it's not that most folk remedies are categorically ineffective. They probably are ineffective and could well be detrimental. Because a lot of common DIY remedies (or weird nutritional supplementation) turn out to be harmful in some way after being studied. Or sometimes just expensive. Or sometimes sort of effective beyond the placebo effect. In a condition that takes a fair while to clear up and can be triggered/worsened/mitigated by any number of causes, it's a little difficult to tell.

Who knows. We only have anecdotes to go by and those are bogged down by plenty of confirmation biases, chance, idiosyncrasy and .. well basically you know how if you go to the Yelp reviews any given place is both "THE BEST" and "THE WORST" place ever? I feel like if you even go to look up a simple emollient, amazon reviews are half "nothing else at all ever worked and this has been a life saver" and half "did nothing for me and maybe gave me a tail." I swear if you look up "diet + eczema" you will find the following: (1) dermatologists saying there is absolutely no evidence that links diet to eczema for the majority of people (though actual allergies are associated with flare ups) (2) several pages insisting diet is the only thing that matters and telling you to avoid apples and kale and dairy because they're the worst inflammatory things, (3) more pages insisting diet is the biggest thing and telling you that apples are the best, kale is awesome and yogurt is super important.

So what's the problem with following only high quality evidence-based review for anything other than medications and really standard stuff you're already doing? Well one it takes a long time! Obviously. I've had minimal success waiting things out in a cautious treatment plan in the past. But it's also that meta review after review basically says "there are no good studies on this." THIS = anything but a number of drugs that require medication. And maybe some suggestive stuff on fish oil and vitamin D. Lots of maybes on probiotics. But all of that "requires more research."

I suppose that's the big problem with evidence-based high quality studies: they are expensive, involved, hard to do and need to be replicated to be convincing. There's some good incentive with medication since it's part of the approval process and pharmacies stand to make a ton if they get approved. There's a lot less with other stuff. In fact if you're building a holistic wellness empire, you kind of thrive on being beneath the medical radar. Jade egg it up, baby.

And that explains the appeal of the CAM Can Can for even the most skeptical. With the medications, you know a lot. You know stats on efficacy, meaning you know they aren't miraculous or 100%. You know all the risks. You know the failures. You know what you're getting. Sort of. Except that "eczema is a poorly understood condition" and "it's a very individualized condition" so people spend years and years trying to match the right treatment even with purely alopathic approaches. And trying each one takes time.

Then there's the unknown. Do I think that somebody's anecdote on the internet and/or some novel dietary regimen really passes muster to convince somebody that more likely than not it will help? Not at all. BUT do I think that sometimes it's just a gamble that could pay off? Sure. Bodies are idiosyncratic. Some really random thing did work for some really random person maybe. If there isn't evidence that it hurts, then... well maybe I'm also that random person. Do I think it would be better to avoid any restrictive diets after coming off several years of being underweight? Sure. Is it still tempting to just eat more papaya and less tomato or to cut out gluten (because that is the problem for every condition mind you). Of course.

Because we don't know it doesn't work. I read on the eczema support website that one person found relief by rubbing banana peel on her hands. Nobody has ever studied that. They were even asking if that made any kind of sense. Fell well into the "doesn't hurt" category. Didn't really help but then it may have not-helped as much as steroid cream doesn't necessarily help in the moment.

At any rate, I've been told by many people that one silver bullet thing helped them or their children. Wet wrapping is huge and clinically approved for severe cases (but can be done wrong). That's basically sleeping in wet clothes. Though other advice says limit getting wet as much as possible and my one time with it was at the very beginning of a pretty intense subsequent flare-up. Coconut oil has a little evidence behind it and - if you aren't allergic - can help. I'm too wussy for bleach baths, but I hear they're amazing. Epsom salt soaks may help. I know bathing and then moisturizing does. Trying to keep the house clean is kind of a double-edged sword since it probably helps to have a clean house but doesn't help so much to get the house there...

I don't really know if this will ever improve or if this is the new "normal." I know it's going to be a slog. I celebrate the years I've had with ample fingers and great physical fitness, but I also will try to accept the new levels of discomfort and find ways to stay positive through that.

Possibly while slathering on Shea Butter Manuka Honey Halibut salve because seriously... it might work?

Chaya seems to prefer rubbing her eczema cream in her hair and/or on her toothbrush.

Another things that, hey, might work? Who knows!

Thanks-homecoming and the Safe Space Stretches

 We have returned from our glorious adventures abroad(ish)! San Francisco is still standing. Even with Chaya kicking her legs headfirst towards the touch tank, and stabbing at starfish, the city survives. 

Nothing like traveling for Thanksgiving to give you so much for which to be Capitol-T-Thankful. Loving and amazing family.

Sweet animals

 Tasty food

Great adventures... 

oh and HOME. As Chaya put it upon our return THIS IS CHAYA'S HOUSE!!! (running around hugging all her left behind friends and furniture. I have had massive travel-insomnia but I can't help thinking "well I am just laying here restlessly but I'm so comfortable in this bed. This is an amazing bed to NOT sleep in!"

In case you were wondering, travelling with a toddler is kind of a challenge. It's a joy. It's full of shockingly good behavior interspliced with pure glee and excitement... interspliced with sheer pathos, sturm und drang. Before we travelled, I'd recalled last year's sleepmaggeddon. I suggested Chaya's rope for stimulation and the related poor sleep was about 4 days. We definitely get a free day of crappy sleep and excitement that can be followed by a lot of make up sleep the next day. The day after that things start to gradually deteriorate. By our departure last year, Chaya was up crying all night and had to sleep with us for the first time in about a year. 

We chose a five day trip this year. Six including travel days. It's not a bad thing to push just beyond that comfort zone... Well, it's a thing where the benefits kinda outweigh the downsides, more like. My exhaustion is a little high at the moment. The final day or so were definitely increasingly high demand days, and the actual trip home was something! All the while, everyone was exclaiming what a  mellow, sweet toddler my little imp was. True, but with caveats. It's a sign of love how much we show our true selves to those around us, right? Possibly abuse in a purely adult relationship, but children are not adults and our expectations are different. 

I was saying to myself in half-jest that the next time Andrew wants to be away from home with Chaya for more than 4 days at a time, I'll happily start the trip with them, and then hand her off to him and the family for the rest of the time. She'll be fine while she's there. Sure it will all be mounting up for an even bigger decompensation when she's back with me again, but at least that way I'll have had some of my own recovery time! 

The thing about travelling as mommy is that I am the portable safe space.  Chaya is a brave girl and she handles herself exceptionally well with newer people ... when I'm not there. If I'm there, she has no bones about expressing her preference for me in all things. Even banal little things like walking up the stairs will merit a yeowl and shriek if somebody other than mommy attempts to help her. And when things get a little overstimulating, she will climb up mommy like a little simian and cling no matter the protestations about back pain or overburbling teapots. When we're out and minimizing scenes, I'm more inclined to want to keep her mellow. Because I know she's struggling, I'm less likely to say "sorry, kiddo, mommy needs a break." I did make sure to take a bath and a walk every day I was there. I know Chaya can handle that much as long as she's got backup. But letting her interrupt a party with a massive meltdown seems a wee bit unseemly no matter how much it might be nice for daddy's offer to carry the beast might be. 

If I'm not there, Daddy becomes the next safe space, but she's not quite as saran wrapped to his side. She ventures a bit more. When mommy and daddy aren't there, she is reserved perhaps but usually pretty much knows to endear herself to the next most familiar face. It's fascinating to watch and it gives me absolute confidence that she is fine in the capable hands of her grandparents or other trusted individuals. But the more she reaches out, the heavier the crash and thrash when I return. 

I was laughing at some moms who say the benefit of leaving the house more often was how happy their children were to see them when they get home. Chaya's happy to see me when I come back, but it evolves rather quickly into manic madness and flung about tears. 

I'm the "safe space" for sure, and that's an honor and a burden. As it should be. I was reflecting how we all basically struggle somehow with the backlog of experience and feelings inherent in life. It's just that we learn slowly to manage how those are released (catharsis? exercise? meditating?). It's actually amazing how in the moment Chaya can be totally fine in the face of some really intense new experiences, like being with unfamiliar people or in unfamiliar spaces. And I remember how often when I was in the thick of things, my spirit survived superlatively well in the short term. It was when my mom's chemotherapy was officially finished that I allowed myself to fall apart, for instance. I think of it as a more complicated manifestation of  how our fight or flight nervous systems equip us with deep reserves of physical power when we or our loved ones are in peril, but with the recognition of the deep cost paid in recovery for those efforts. Because in the midst of complex and exciting uncertainties, human beings have evolved (to varying degrees) ways to cope and carry forward until there is a safe time to be vulnerable. 

I see even very sensitive children as more capable of some of that regulation that we think. In a basic survival mode sense. Like all of us, they can be brave. They can delay their more complicated expressions and experiences. Like adults, they can be distracted out of pangs of hunger or fear or reproach. But it has to be processed at some point. And with young ones, they can't manage the processing on their own yet. They need that safe space. The place where it's ok to be a vulnerable little tsunami. It's good. 

I think new experiences, social situations and all kinds of other things press a person just a little. It's important that they do. Growth comes from rebuilding what has broken - whether it be muscles worked in exercise, ideas evolving, and failure leading to success. All that can take a lot from you. Growth requires stretching, a little snapping, and then recovery. As my motherly instincts urge, I get to be the one to let/encourage Chaya to step just a bit beyond her comfort zone and then be prepared to absorb and work with that intensity when she needs to recover. 

It's a hard balance. Where is too far? She doesn't understand or know her limits yet and I shouldn't expect her to. And since she saves the decompensation for me, it's hard for others to gauge the warning signs.

 Sometimes I feel worried or guilty that perhaps I hold her back a bit. I know that parental attitudes about danger and about others can inform the child's experience. I know from family law that anxiety about the other parent from one parent can feed distrust in the child, for instance. I have been told things like "usually the child is ready, but the parent isn't and they sense that," when talking about leaving kiddo at preschool for the first time. And I grant this to an extent, though I also think there's a smidgen of "faith-healerese" in that (if your kid isn't experiencing a person well, it's because you lacked faith? Obviously, children are ultimately their own selves and we can't force or expect them to experience/feel things according to our wishes)

 I feel this funny sense of guilt when she isn't excited to see a beloved relative or even her daddy. When she breaks into howls because the person opening the door upstairs is her uncle instead of her daddy. When she greets her happy grandparents by staring vacantly and then recoiling into my arms saying something about "house." I feel the balancing guilt that I am putting her in a situation she appears to be uncomfortable in. Or when I try very hard to encourage her to spend time doing something she does not want to. I feel mildly guilty when she cries for me regardless of whether I go running towards her or whether I step back and leave her with others. I certainly feel like I know her limits and try to simultaneously respect them and stretch them gently. But I also do try to outsource to third party input. I try to step away because I think she needs it as much as because I need it. I just want to do that in a safely challenging way of course. 

It is amazing how much more of a little individual Miss Chaya becomes each day. We have now been fully weaned for about two weeks. It was very difficult at first, but suddenly quite easy. I have insane hormonal whackiness, but no grief at the change. I'm so proud of her. And so grateful for the new ways we can connect. 

In a sense it's funny that I reflect sometimes how one of my primal goals as a parent is to give her a strong enough foundation that she would be absolutely safe/happy/comfortable if I were to die tomorrow. That doesn't mean recoiling from her lest she grow too attached, but it does mean that I want to step away sometimes and release my own fear of missing some small aspect of a life not fully mine to consume. 

And in light of this, as well as my own need for a break, we actually might have found Chaya a preschool for 2018! We visited it Tuesday morning and both felt it accorded with our educational philosophies (kids should play, let's not go crazy with things either in the too structured or too unstructured way,  STEM is fine but STEAM is better, children learn in their own ways, and cultural & linguistic and economic diversity is an asset). 

It boggles my mind to think of all the living she will do without me, as well as the living I am beginning to do on my own. 

But for all time, I am happy to let her venture out with my sleeve in her hand and know a safe space awaits until she decides to create her own.