Put a Bib on It

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Hurricane Baby

Babies change your life. No, really.My baby is one. How can that be? It certainly doesn’t seem like a year has passed.

Everyone tells you when you are pregnant that “your life is about to change,” but I had a tough time believing that the little bundle of joy in my belly could cause that much of a wave in our lives. Turns out he made more than waves. More like a hurricane!

My thoughts are of someone else all day, every day.

I have become a more patient person.

Sleep has become a luxury.

The relationship that my husband and I have has changed.

My house is no longer clean and organized.

Traveling revolves around nap time.

Many decisions are based on what’s best for baby.

What’s downtime?

I can’t get anything checked off of my “to do” list, but I can add all kinds of new things.

I have a new found respect for my parents and see all the sacrifices and loving decisions they have made for me over the years.

No matter how prepared you think you are, or how perfectly you think your little baby will fit into your life, change is inevitable. Embrace it, and enjoy the ride.

Happy Birthday, little Bryce. We love you and are blessed by all the changes you have brought to our lives.

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My Baby Sleeps Through the Night – Please Don’t Hate Me

How baby sleeps - or doesn't - in no way reflects your parenting skills.Like most almost-moms, I had a lot of ideas about what we would and wouldn’t do as parents before our daughter was born. We were going to be schedule people, without a doubt. That baby was going to fit into our busy lives, and she would be better for it because it would teach her to be adaptable.

I’ll stop for a moment so that anyone who is a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or grown-up person who has ever met a baby can have a good laugh.

Fast forward a few months to an actual baby living in our house and things looked a little bit different. It’s not really accurate to say that we’re schedule people. We have (for the most part) fit a baby into our busy lives but that’s because we have a really easy baby who will sleep just about anywhere and doesn’t seem to mind being carted around with us.

The real reason I was so worried about schedules was because, like most new moms, I was really worried about sleep. Or to be more specific, the lack of sleep that we were all getting. I wanted to do whatever it took to make my baby a good sleeper, as much for her sake as for mine. I wanted her to sleep in long stretches so that I could sleep, too, but I also wanted her to be able to self-soothe so that she wouldn’t be upset when she woke up in the middle of the night or end up needing me to rock her to sleep the night before she left for college.

I spent a very agonizing week toward the end of my maternity leave researching sleep tips and tricks. I spent the longest 45 seconds of my life letting her cry it out – I literally only lasted 45 seconds. I created a very complicated bedtime routine and tried to put her to bed at the same time every night.  I woke her up before I went to bed for a dream feed.

And guess what? It didn’t work. She seemed to sleep less, not more. I was tired because when she was sleeping, I was Googling. My husband was tired of hearing me talk about it. So we (okay fine, I) decided to let it go. She was a little baby and would sleep when she needed to sleep. If we needed a sleep-intervention later on, so be it, but for now, she was doing just fine.

I laid my head on my pillow after making peace with those demons and woke up eight hours later.

It turns out that our sweet baby girl seems to know what she needs, and that when left to her own devices, she was quite happy to sleep, and to sleep for a long time. She’s slept through the night almost every night since.

What did I learn from this saga? First, that so much of motherhood is out of my control, and that’s okay. My little baby is a little person and while I want to be intentional about her childhood, I don’t need to control her. And more importantly, that how well (or not well) your baby sleeps isn’t a reflection of your parenting. I’m not a good mom because my baby sleeps through the night. I’m just lucky.


10 Ways I’ve Failed as a Parent (Lately)

"... while I frequently feel like a complete and utter failure as a parent, the reality is that I'm just a parent."Let my daughter watch a video of herself jumping in the bed because it distracted her from having a fit.

Also, jumping in the bed? We do that. A lot.

Gave her two French fries because she said “please.”

On a related note, we apparently go through too many drive thrus, because she’s learned to hold her hand up above her rear-facing car seat like a little shark fin in the rearview mirror, begging for food.

Allowed her to eat the Fruit Loops off of a school art project because it gave me the two minutes I needed to finish drafting an email. I feel relatively confident the glue was nontoxic.

I told her, “I won’t respond to inarticulate whining.” She was not receptive.

Her free reign of our fully child-proofed home has resulted in her gorging herself on cat food. Twice.

Forgot to put sunscreen on her at the zoo. And the park, even after another parent borrowed our sunscreen to slather their own child.

Closed the back door in a hurry before she was clear of it, causing her to fall flat on her face on our concrete patio.

Dissuaded her from eating her daddy’s snacks off of his desk by telling her, “Those are daddy’s nuts.” She will happily tell you all about “daddy’s nuts,” should you even look like you’re going to inquire.

Okay, I don’t really regret that.

The real punch line to this post, of course, is that while I frequently feel like a complete and utter failure as a parent, the reality is that I’m just a parent. When it comes to something as monumentally weighty as the growing and grooming of a child, it can be incredibly challenging to feel like you’re ever doing a good job. The best I can hope for is not to screw up too badly. It feels like cutting yourself any slack as a parent translates into being lazy or unworthy or negligent, but we survived – and thrived – without our parents having a new research study published every day telling them everything they’re doing wrong. I think my children will, too.

I tried to make a list to mirror this one, bolstering myself with successes, but it didn’t come as easily (and it wasn’t as funny). But it was full of simpler things, like keeping promises I made to her about going to the park or the library or playing a game, reading stories every day, keeping my cool when she absolutely lost hers over a whole host of seemingly ludicrous things, cooking and caring and singing and smiling. It’s this stuff I hope she’ll remember, that really shapes her, and not the little messes that stick with – and to – me at the end of the day.

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Is she TOO perfect?

Is your child care provider TOO perfect?I’ve written before about how much we adore our child care provider: she is warm, caring and respectful towards my son and our family. Now the problem isn’t about whether my child care provider is good enough, but rather, is she too perfect?

For the last week, whenever I have gone to pick up Bryce he has screamed and flailed as I carry him out the door. He will reach for her to take him back, and if I let him go to her he will actually stop throwing a tantrum mid-scream!

When these melt downs occur, I can’t help but to have some unpleasant thoughts swirling in my head: Am I not spending enough time with him? Is she better at meeting his needs? What must the other parents that are picking up at the same time be thinking about the kind of mother I am? Does my child care provider think that I am harming my son and that’s why he dislikes me? Does he love her more?!

I feel frustrated and discouraged, leaving her home carrying my child and trying to protect myself from his little flailing arms. I just want him to be as excited as I am to see him after a long day of being apart. I want to see his little face light up with that great big smile of his as he waddles over to give me a great big hug.

Honestly, I think he just loves both houses. He is often in the middle of play time when I show up and I’m sure we can all agree we don’t want to leave a place when we are having fun! I am glad that he trusts and loves his child care provider, and that he feels safe there. But, when I go to carry my screaming child from her house, I can’t help but question my abilities as a parent and go back to feeling pretty inadequate.

But, I know my child loves me and that’s what I need to remember in those moments. I know he loves me because he smiles when he sees me first thing in the morning. I know because he holds me tight when he wants a little bit longer of a hug. I know because sometimes he can’t be consoled by anyone else but me.


Self-Care is a Joke

2014-08-07_1407369683It was 11:30 at night and I was in my kitchen mixing up a batch of sweet potato muffins for my daughter’s classroom (guidelines for birthday celebrations involved bringing a snack that was as “nutritious as possible,” and I was bound and determined to deliver). I’d already spent most of the night working after a full day of mothering, our sink was full of dishes, our bedroom full of baskets of laundry that had yet to be folded, and all I wanted to do was lay down, preferably right in the middle of the floor, and cry.

But I finished baking the muffins.

I know I’m not taking good care of myself, but self-care when you’re working full-time, parenting a toddler and eight months pregnant is. A. Joke.

I try, I really do. But even when I force myself to lay down and take a nap, at least 60 percent of the time I end up lying in bed fretting over all of the things I’m not doing. I don’t get out of bed, mind, because I lack the will and energy to actually do them, and I don’t want my husband to stop offering me a break because of my inability to actually take one. He doesn’t need to know that when I can’t sleep I just play Candy Crush.

Still, last week I had a morning to myself and he treated me to breakfast. I had every intention to write or edit or get caught up on something, but instead, I ordered the three things on the menu that looked the most delicious and nursed an iced coffee while reading a book. Those two blissful hours got me through the rest of the week.

I have four weeks, give or take, before baby comes, and while I have a very long list of projects I’d like to complete before that happens, I think I ought to just write “me” on there a dozen times or so to even things out. Because it won’t get any easier with two, and I probably won’t get any better at learning to relax.

But with Miss E in school three days a week, at least I can cluster feed a newborn while watching Netflix on my couch. I’ll take it.


Change is hard for parents, too!

Kids aren't the only ones who need a little support during transitions. Parents do, too!On Ev’s first day at his new school, I was a bowl full of mush. Both my husband and I had been so anxious, even though we felt confident in our decision to transition Ev to a new program. There are many reasons why we feel good about it: it’s more convenient to both our commutes to and from work, it’s very high quality and he is in a Montessori classroom, a philosophy we are still learning about but are hopeful will be a good match for Ev. Change is just hard.

I knew that this transition would be difficult for me and possibly Ev, too, so we took some steps to ease into the new school. First of all, I observed in the classroom three times (once with my husband) prior to enrolling Ev. Then the week before his first day, we took Ev to visit twice. The first time, Craig and I stayed in the classroom with him. He hung with us for a bit before exploring the classroom and the materials. He seemed to really enjoy it. Then the next day, we dropped Ev off for an hour and half while we went and had breakfast just down the street. When we returned, again, he seemed to enjoy the time he had. One other way we thought to help Ev get acclimated to his new classroom was to buy new nap time stuff that he helped to pick out. So, we did that over the weekend and he helped to pack up his bag. We were ready.

We found out during the visits that the children in Ev’s new class go out on the playground first thing in the morning and then eat breakfast before starting their morning routine. This is basically a perfect scenario for Ev. He wakes up with a lot of energy so being able to drop off right on the playground will not only allow for him to burn some of that energy, but also makes for an easier transition. Knowing that if Ev had a hard drop off it would make it even harder on me, I made sure to get there in time for outside time. I’m not sure who was more nervous on our walk in that morning: me or Ev.

His new teacher greeted us both immediately. Though Ev initially clung to me and told me he only wanted to play with me on the playground, I told him I needed to get to work and about that time, Ev’s teacher walked up and ask him if he wanted to walk around the playground with her. I gave a final hug and walked towards the door without looking back, mostly because my eyes were welling up and I didn’t want anyone to see.

Once I was safe from anyone seeing me, I peeked back to the playground saw Ev smiling. I took a deep breath and realized how much better Ev was handling the transition than me. Two hours later when I called to check in, he was still doing great. His teacher told me he was currently building with LEGO® (one of his most favorite things to do).

He had a great first day, but I needed to use some self-regulation techniques to concentrate on work and not worry about him!

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It Takes a Village

Where's your village?A recent Huffington Post article has been floating around lately, lamenting the fact that the “villages” that used to raise our children have disappeared. Gone are the days when you opened the door and shooed the children outside with instructions not to return until lunchtime. We no longer have tables full of children at supper, some of whom belong to you – and some of whom do not.

I’ve only been a mom for a few months, so I’m hardly an expert, but there was something about the idea of losing our villages that really stuck with me. It took me a few days to figure out why—it’s because I don’t think it’s true.

When I found out I was pregnant, I felt like I punched a ticket into a secret moms club that I didn’t know about before. All of a sudden, I had something in common with women that I barely knew and what we had in common was powerful and intimate. Friends with young children gave me much needed advice about what type of burp cloths we should get (muslin seems to hold a gallon of baby spit-up), how many diapers we would need (there will never be enough), and what to do if your water breaks at work (good thing I asked, since it did).

Once my daughter was born, I was overwhelmed with love from friends and family members who wanted to snuggle her. I couldn’t have survived my first day back to work without the messages and calls from friends—mostly fellow young moms—with words of support. Each time I post a picture of my sweet baby on Facebook I realize how far my village really reaches. I have two friends who had babies within a few weeks of me. They are dealing with the same things I am and at the same time. We are literally in this together.

It’s not just people I know, either. While trying to soothe a fussy baby stuck in her car seat at the grocery store the other day, a mom with two school age kids in tow gave me a knowing smile. She’d been there. She maybe even missed those days. And her smile reminded me that I’m not the first person to raise a baby and that we’re going to be just fine.

There’s a good chance (sad as it may be) that I’ll never shoo my daughter out the front door to play in the woods outside until supper. I’m not home all day to have coffee with neighborhood moms while our babies play together on the floor. My village isn’t the same as the one that my grandmother or mother had when raising their children—but it’s there, and it’s strong, and I wouldn’t want to be on this journey without it.


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