Put a Bib on It

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I Don’t Miss My Baby Being Little.

I don't miss my baby being littleI’ve been trying to corral the seemingly endless amount of photos and videos that we’ve taken of Elliot since she was born. While attempting to organize the chaos the other night, my husband and I ended up watching videos from this time last year when Elliot was only a few months old. She was so tiny and so sweet and I could literally feel what it was like to hold her little baby self.

“I miss when she was that little,” my husband said.

Hold the phone. I said that I thought she was tiny and sweet and I remembered how wonderful it was to hold her. No way, no how do I miss my baby being that little.

I have such fond memories of Elli’s first months and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every stage we’ve been through so far, at least to some extent. But I also feel that I’ve had enough time with her in every stage. Maybe it’s because she’s such a tiny little girl—at 14 months old, she’s officially fitting into her 9-month clothes. Maybe it’s because she’s fallen on the later end of the development scale for some major milestones, like sitting or walking. I feel like I had enough time with her as a little baby. I loved it, but I’m okay that we’re past that now.

Once she turned one, people immediately started asking us if we were ready for another baby. Unlike one of my fellow bloggers, this past year with our daughter has convinced me that we should have six children (my husband wisely disagrees). I love being a mom and I know that I want more babies in our family. But I don’t yet feel the ache to hold a newborn. I don’t miss being pregnant. I’m enjoying the fact that right now, my body exists for no one but myself.

Besides, I don’t have time to miss that little baby when I’m frantically running after a pigtailed toddler who is trying to simultaneously pet the dog and “pet” the TV. I’m too busy marveling in how amazing it was to realize that she now understands what it means when you ask her to “give that to Daddy.” I don’t miss newborn cuddles, because honestly, the hugs that my toddler gives me pull at my heart way more, and don’t even get me started on open mouthed kisses. I melt.

I’m sure that as my baby gets older, I’ll be ready to add some little back into our lives, but in the meantime, I’m loving every minute of this stage.

And now, I have to go hold the sweet girl who is sitting at my feet saying, “Mama!”


I Didn’t Choose Work

I’ve read a lot of great blogs out there about working moms—including some right here—and as I am reflecting on one last week of being (mostly) at home with my girls, I’m thinking a lot about the empowering, positive messages shared by mothers who work outside of the home. How they’re better mothers because they work. How they’re setting an example for their young sons and daughters about all of the things a mother can do. How they’re using their whole brains, and not just the part that repeats something about washing your hands after you potty. How grateful they are to have the privilege to choose to work, as many mothers in previous generations did not.

But for me, this is what it really comes down to: if you can afford to choose, you choose.

If you can’t afford to choose, you don’t have a choice.

It’s about money. Paying the bills, buying the things, saving for retirement.

And how am I supposed to feel about myself, about my parenting, if that’s what it’s really about?

Admitting that I don’t want to go back to work feels like a most unpopular opinion. I should want to use my degrees. I should want to contribute in a more significant way financially to my family. I should want to have the money to buy Jamberry without feeling guilty. Flippant comments aside, I should want, as a feminist, to do more than mother. Wanting to stay at home feels indulgent, even though I know it’s incredibly hard work. Wanting to stay at home feels like I’m saying wanting something else isn’t okay, which is not at all how I feel. A friend of mine often sincerely quotes Amy Poehler when she says of others’ choices, “Good for her, not for me.”

And that’s the truth.

I’ll be working for a non-profit, doing good. I’ll be writing and editing and many of the things that I love to do. I’ll have a flexible schedule that allows me more time with my children than many working parents get during the week. These were choices I made about the kind of job I was willing to take, but the real choice, the big choice, about returning to the workforce in a more significant way—that one was made for me.

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Life Is a Whirlwind of Change

A toddler transitioning to a bunk bed is a big change!Things are changing quickly at my house. My 11-year-old is preparing to begin middle school at a new building with new classmates, my husband has started a new job as owner and operator of our own family business, Bryce is transitioning to a big boy bed in a brand new bedroom, and I am 26 weeks pregnant with our third child! Life is a whirlwind of change.

Everyone is finding their own way to deal with the changes happening so quickly around our house. And even though everyone’s coping technique is as unique as them, we are dealing with all the changes together.

Although Ethan said he thinks he might get lost in his new, bigger school, he’s most concerned about figuring out how to open his locker. (It’s funny, because I remember that being a huge fear of mine when I first had a combination locker!) We purchased him a combination lock to practice so that when he begins school he can feel confident in his ability to open his locker when he needs it open!

Owning and operating a business has been a huge change for all of us to learn to cope with. Geoff is working longer hours, Ethan is spending the summer learning the ropes of the new business and helping out wherever her can, I am learning to deal with having very little control over something that is affecting us hugely—financially, mentally, and time wise—and Bryce is figuring out how to adapt to spending extra time at the new building during the occasional Saturday there: playing, eating, and even napping in a whole new environment.

Transitioning to the new bed and bedroom has honestly been one of the more trying changes for everyone. We began by just transitioning Bryce to a toddler bed (his same crib and crib sheet— just with one side of the crib off). We all worked together to change the bed and talked about how he was going to sleep in his big boy bed. He excitedly laid down that first night and fell straight to sleep (just like he had been doing in his crib for months). I was excited and thought that all of my research and preparation for the change really paid off. Boy, was I wrong. The next month yielded a nightly combination of tears, screams, and cries. We often consoled him and reminded him it was time for bed. Between the cries and the consoling, he would spend time dumping out tubs of toys, or emptying dresser drawers. The night usually ended with Bryce falling asleep on his floor by the gate we had to put in his doorway to stop him from visiting us in the living room, repeatedly. We maintained his nighttime routine and continued to support him through the monumental change that he was going through. The dedication paid off and he adjusted to the toddler bed and his new found independence in about a month. Only then, we threw on another twist. We moved him to share a bedroom with his big brother. This change went much smoother. It included a new bed, new sheets, and a whole new room. I think understanding he had support from his parents and brother helped this big change to be smoother. Plus, he really likes his new sports sheets!

Expecting a new child is obviously a monumental change that will rock the whole household. We have been working on preparing for the change by talking often of the baby and letting Bryce meet and interact with other babies. We have been reading books to him and encouraging him play with baby dolls. As my belly grows and the house shifts and rearranges for the arrival of the new addition to our family, I know his little mind is having trouble fully understanding what is happening. I can only hope and pray that Bryce feels as comfortable and confident as Ethan does this time around with the arrival of another little one. (Last time Ethan found out we were expecting, he cried and was upset about the news—I think a part of him felt like we wouldn’t have time for him anymore). I hope that Bryce will see that mom and dad have enough love for all their children. I hope Ethan will support him in coming to that realization, just like he had to.

Change is constant. Some change is easy, some change more difficult. All changes, big or small, affect us in some way and everyone adjusts to change differently. Learning to support each other— yes, even the smallest of children are affected by change—individually is key. Try to understand where the concern or fear is coming from. Offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on when it is needed. Celebrate when the change is worth celebrating. Most of all, as change happens, embrace it as a family. It makes it a little easier when you know you have others supporting you, through good or bad, 110 percent!

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How to Survive Post-Op With a Young Child

How do you survive post-op with a young child?We are on the other side of Ev’s surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids and I am very pleased to say that we survived relatively unscathed. At the pre-operation with the surgeon, he told us that the recovery period lasted a minimal ten days. Ten. Days. That part alone blew my mind. I had no idea. It meant dividing up time off work between the two of us and seeking coverage from family and friends for gaps. He also told us that we will have to bring out our “best parenting skills” because with children as young as Ev recovering from surgery, many issues arise. Some examples he gave were making sure he ate and drank enough to stay hydrated, and should stay pretty low key activity-wise. I heard some horror stories from other parents, and warnings that the recovery wasn’t pretty and very painful (literally for the patient and figuratively for the parents).

We really braced for the worst. Other then what you would expect from an uncomfortable 4-year-old, for the most part, everything went smoothly. So here are my five tips for surviving post-operation with a young child. These might also apply to life in general, but especially helped us during this time:

  1. Pick your battles. Ev was very uncomfortable at times, making him irritable, so we didn’t battle over anything unless it was absolutely necessary. We decided to let him eat anything he wanted to eat. Period. Generally, this was fine because his go-tos were jell-o, apple sauce and smoothies (made with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and honey), but there were a couple of days when all Ev wanted was ice cream and we let him have it. There were other times when we weren’t so flexible, such as fighting with him to take his pain meds.
  2. Present a united front. I told Ev he couldn’t go outside and play when I was with him. (It was too good an opportunity for his energy level to rise and I worried about something bad happening like his wounds starting to bleed). I was very sure to pass that message along to my husband, knowing full well that Ev would ask him the moment I was out of the building. The more consistent we were, the more Ev knew exactly what to expect, which helped decrease the possibility and/or level of irritability.
  3. Sleep when the patient sleeps. Remember back when our little ones were brand new infants and everyone told us to sleep when the baby is sleeping and we didn’t listen? Well, this situation is similar. Except, do it, this time, if you have a sick or recovering child in your care. I’d argue that our roughest points were during the night. Ev would wake up in pain because his mouth had dried out and/or his pain meds wore off and often it would take a bit for him to fall back asleep. That threw off his sleep schedule and he took long naps during the day. I did too. And I’m grateful I did so that I was rested and therefore more compassionate during Ev’s wakening hours.
  4. Be prepared. Stock up on soft foods such as apple sauce, yogurt, jell-o, pudding, ice cream, scrambled eggs (Ev ate a TON of scrambled eggs). We also got some cheap indoor activities, such as coloring/sticker books, crayons and play doh. We rented some movies Ev hadn’t seen yet from the library. Granted, most of these items are specific to a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy but for all ailing young children, the more you can have on hand, the less stress it will cause because you won’t have to run out or make do with what you have. That being said, there are just some things you can’t prepare for.
  5. Get out of the house. This one is two-fold. I got Ev out of the house as soon as he was showing some improvement because his illness started turning into cabin fever. Our trip was to Target because even though I did my best to be prepared and buy several bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, Ev started refusing it and I needed to get a chewable version. But also, you as the caregivers should try to get out of the house for a bit to recalibrate and spend some non-patient directed time together or alone. In both cases, it goes a long way to keep moods lifted.


Boys and Girls

I guess if we 'd had boys I'd have to throw out our play kitchen.

I guess if we ‘d had boys I’d have to throw out our play kitchen.

I was waiting in line to check out at Target when I spied the couple in front of me buying a bath toy we’ve loved for years, and said as much.

“Our baby isn’t even born yet, but we couldn’t resist,” the mom-to-be confessed, and I smiled, because I knew exactly what she meant. Playing with toys again is a chief pleasure of parenthood.

“My daughter’s been playing with it since she was able to sit up in the tub, so it’s a good investment.”

At this she turned to her husband, saying, “See? Her daughter loves it. We don’t know what we’re having yet and he thought that if it’s a girl, she won’t be able to play with it.”

The toy in question?

A boat.

Just a boat, with a boat captain and fish and a little fishing pole.

So-called boys’ toys and girls’ toys send me flying off the handle on a regular basis, much to the chagrin of my husband, who has heard it all before. But, I did not lose my temper with the soon-to-be dad, nor the expectant mother when she went on to say that maybe they’d have a girl who would be a “tomboy,” thus making the boat an appropriate choice. All I could think was, what is inherently gendered about a boat? And what would be the “girl” equivalent? A tea set? Why is this even a thing?

I don’t blame parents. I remember in college we talked about how difficult it can be to see the limitations of the system you’re living in because you’re living in it, and it feels natural and normal and routine. And our system right now, our culture, has a serious thing about defining  what’s for girls and what’s for boys, to the extent that we are determining the parameters of children’s environments before they’re even born, and then insisting that they like the things they like because they’re a girl or because they’re a boy. And I just don’t buy it, not with the amount of work I see reinforcing a world that I’m pretty sure is designed to sell me – and you – more stuff.

Because that world? We decide what goes into it. We reinforce it when we indicate certain behaviors are acceptable for boys and others for girls, when we choose a particular toy of a particular color, when we read stories and watch television and talk about children and to children and around children. When well-intentioned strangers ask me how we’ll manage paying for two weddings in our girls’ futures, I want to scream, “Do you ask parents of boys the same thing?” Every time someone calls my toddler princess. Every time it’s assumed she wants the pink balloon, or the pink crayon, or the pink chair. When she’s feeling shy and that’s deemed okay because she’s a little lady, and conversely, when she’s being a total brute on the playground and her behavior isn’t given a pass because only “boys will be boys.”

Kids will be kids.

Toys are toys.

Enough, enough, enough.

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Celebrating with PRIDE

Celebrating #lovewins!When the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage came down last week, our family was thrilled. My husband and I consider ourselves allies and have supported gay marriage (and other LGBTQ rights) for as long as I can remember.

The decision came down the day before the Pride Festival in Cincinnati, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We hadn’t made plans to attend this year, but on Saturday morning felt like we couldn’t miss celebrating such an historic event.

I found some rainbow pants in our daughter’s drawer and headed downtown. Elliot had never been to a parade before, and she was not disappointed. Think about it from a 14-month-old’s perspective: people in colorful costumes, lots of balloons, bright lights and music. Add in the fact that everyone was waving “to her” and saying her favorite word (“Yay!”), and that little girl was in heaven.

And so were we. Just like I can’t remember a time when interracial marriage was illegal, my daughter is now growing up in a world where marriage is between two people who love each other—any two people. She’ll understand that some families have a mommy and a daddy, some families have two mommies, and some families have two daddies. She won’t think anything about that is strange.

When my daughter grows up, she’ll be able to get married—no matter who she falls in love with. That makes my mama heart very, very happy.


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Will I Miss My Babies?

Will I miss these little days? I'm not sure.The general refrain when you have small children is to cherish every moment, because it goes by so fast. I am guilty of endlessly reminding myself not to wish away these little days, even when I feel like screaming and crying given how hard and tedious they can be, because I’m sure someday I’ll want them back again.

So, imagine my surprise when a friend of mine, another writer, insisted quite the opposite.

“Trust me, you won’t want them to be small again. The conversations get so much more interesting when they’re older.”

Nobody says this. Sure, parents of older children have lots to say about what’s great about this age or that, but they always seem to pine for these years, for the excessively needy under-fives. And while there’s something truly endearing about my nearly three-year-old when she’s drawing ghosties and pumpkins, putting her Stormtrooper action figures to bed and generally doing her best to be the Wednesday Addams of a daughter I’ve always wanted, she turns right around and repeatedly kicks her sister in the belly and runs off to willfully pee in her undies and I’m. Just. Done.

I see mamas with older daughters, sharing strawberry smoothies at my favorite coffee haunts or browsing middle-grade or YA books at a local bookstore, and I just think, how cool. That will be us someday times two, Miss E and Little Sister and me having adventures that little resemble those we have now: play dates and park visits and zoo romps that nearly always end in tears from overtiredness.

And while I’m sure there will be challenges of a different kind when they’re older, and while already I long for Little Sister’s slumbering body to be smaller and less restless than she is everyday becoming, I’m excited to see who my girls will grow up to be, for them to teach me about something more than how to be patient.


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