Put a Bib on It

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The Kindness of Friends—and Strangers!

Bryce-hospitalLast week, Bryce, our 2-year-old, woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible cough. He had been dealing with a little cough for the last few days, but this was different. Years in the child care field told me it was undeniably the croup cough. Beyond my diagnosis, I wasn’t sure what our next step was.  Do we call the doctor, do we let him settle down a little and put him back to bed, or do we head to the ER?

We ended up calling a friend who is in the medical field for advice (It’s always best to trust your instincts; if you think your child probably needs to go to the doctor, take him!). As we told her what was going on, she could hear him coughing in the background. She told us we really needed to take him to the ER for a breathing treatment and probably some steroids. As she said it, my husband and I looked at each other, undoubtedly thinking the same thing: who will go and who will stay home with the other children?  Luckily, our friend went on to say she was getting dressed and would be out the door so we could take him to the hospital together.

She and her husband have four children of their own (ranging from ages 2 to 16), so to ask her to drive 30 minutes in the middle of the night to our house seemed ridiculous. We tried to persuade her to stay home and told her we could divide and conquer this challenge. She was persistent, though. She said, “We have been there—it is so much easier with both parents.”

She arrived a short time later and we left for Children’s. There were many times throughout our five-hour visit at the hospital that I was thankful my husband I were both there: parking, bathroom breaks, rotating short cat naps for sleepy mom and dad, and giving the medicine (Seriously—have you ever tried to give medicine to a child who didn’t want it? They somehow suddenly become a tiny hulk, angry and strong, just without the green skin!).  I’m sure all this could have been done with just one of us, but I was so thankful that we were both able to be there.

That’s why today I am thankful for kindness and selflessness. I’m thankful to have people in my life that are willing to go above and beyond, even when it might be an inconvenience for them. I am also thankful for perfect strangers willing to help a hand—like the man who helped me unload an overflowing cart at Kroger while I dealt with my 2-year-old throwing a fit and my newborn who was wrapped on me with an overflowing poopy diaper. Yes, even my shirt was covered in baby poop. And I promise to be that person too. Even if it is just a reassuring word to a struggling mom at the playground or holding a door for a stranger, you too can help make the world a little brighter and easier for someone!

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Why I Love Our Sensory Table

sensory-tableSensory tables are a wonderful addition to any child’s toy collection. We have had our sensory table for just over a year now (since Bryce was almost one-and-a-half-years-old). Honestly, it is probably one of my—and his— favorite toys (Notice I did not say easiest toys). It is so versatile and can keep the little guy entertained for long periods of time. We have enjoyed everything from cotton balls to snow to beans, with many different types of “accessories” to play with including scoops, funnels, wooden spoons and cars.

Recently, a friend and I were chatting about my sensory table. Her son is exactly one year younger (exact same date, just minutes apart) than Bryce. She mentioned that she didn’t think her son would do very well with one. She said her son is just way too messy while Bryce is so clean. I had to laugh at the assumption—to think we have never had a mess from our sensory table! I explained that while it may seem like he is reasonably clean now, things haven’t always been that way, nor are they always that way.

When introducing the sensory table to Bryce, we spent time demonstrating how to play with his new toy. We focused on keeping the contents inside the bin and cleaning up those that did fall out. He even has a child sized broom and a Dirt Devil Hand Vacuum he uses for when things get a little out of control. We are consistent when it comes to cleaning up after himself, and this goes for not only sensory table play, but also for everything we do.

Although it may seem like a never-ending task to ensure that he cleans up after himself (and occasionally a never-ending battle to actually finish the cleaning), I know that in the end he will get better at cleaning up after himself and as this article articulates, there are many cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional, physical and creative skills to be learned through fun and engaging sensory play!

For me, the gains outweigh the mess. Bring on the sensory play!!

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Mommy Again!

mommy & DrewOur newest bundle of joy has arrived. 8 pounds, 20.5 inches and affectionately called Baby Drew.

After a routine c-section and a three-day hospital stay, I landed in my living room responsible for two small children while my husband worked (we own a one man show small business) and my 11-year-old went off to school. I was outnumbered (2 to 1), slow to move (due to the large incision across my abdominal region), super tired (from waking up through the night to feed), and it only took my 2-year-old about 10 minutes to figure that out.

Infant care has presented new complications that I didn’t have to worry about when Bryce was little. Having a hungry baby attached to you while your 2-year-old “plays” can get interesting—balls flying through the air, sensory table beans all over the floor, crying breakdowns because the block house falls over (this is really interesting because usually this is so funny to him), instant dire hunger pains that cannot wait, diapers removed from the clean and orderly diaper basket and spread all over the bedroom, and my personal favorite (sarcasm)—climbing and then jumping off EVERYTHING he can get on top of! On a good note, though, I never cried at the thought of latching Drew—though tears may have been shed a time or two out of frustration for lack of control. I learned rather quickly that I had to have a plan in place for toddler care that can work in harmony with baby care for our newest addition.

Food: As mentioned, dire hunger always sets in as soon as I start to feed Baby Drew “mommy milk” (as it is affectionately referred to in our house). Having Bryce eat while I feed Drew provides a more peaceful environment for everyone. The biggest sacrifice of doing it this way is my comfort. Instead of being able to breastfeed in the comfortable recliner, I end up sitting in a hard kitchen chair—worth it for peaceful eating!

Helping: This one is especially useful when diapering Baby Drew. Getting the diaper and wipes or even picking out a new sleeper can make Bryce feel like he is important. I really enjoy encouraging him to talk to Drew as he gets his diaper changed too. I feel like I can already see their brotherly bond forming as he talks to him.

Individual and focused attention: When Baby Drew is sleeping or even playing calmly on the floor, I am always certain to provide Bryce with individual attention—playing with him and talking about things he is doing. When possible, I include Baby Drew in the play.

Multi-task feeding: Often times I end up feeding Drew while playing with or reading to Bryce (and Drew inadvertently as he listens to the words). Keeping Bryce in close proximity makes it easier to get through an entire feeding without having to unlatch and address his behavior. A basket of small toys and books next to where I normally nurse provides a convenient selection of things to do when needed.

When friends have asked me, “Is it easier the second time around?” The best answer I can give them is, “It’s different.” Many things that were challenges the first time are no longer challenging (at least not as challenging anyway), but a new crop of challenges have sprung up.

Being a mommy again is different—not bad different—just different.

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Ready or Not

baby on the wayThe time is almost here! September 29—the baby is coming. It isn’t my first; I feel like I should be ready. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Yes, I have all the material things I need, but am I ready?!

To the women who love being pregnant—I envy you. I want to love it. I really do. I love the idea of it. I love the magic of it (That we can grow little humans from microscopically small eggs and sperm is amazing). In fact, before I got pregnant again I even missed being pregnant and told my husband I was ready to do it all again. Apparently I had motherhood amnesia (where you temporarily forget all the “bad” things about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and newborns, just long enough to want to have another little one). Well, it’s all clear to me again now.

Pregnancy is rough on my body. It was with my first and this time has been even tougher. I spent over five months sick as dog, vomiting in “ideal” places like parking lots and out car windows, three weeks with a very rare infection in my neck believed to be caused by the relentless vomiting that lead to four emergency room visits and three days in the hospital. And let’s not forget, I have a 2-year-old at home. Add all of this to the growing abdominal region (I am one of those women that everyone asks if it is twins—if you know what I mean), a painfully uncomfortable pulled stomach muscle, working full time, and a bladder the size of a quarter and you have the joys of my pregnancy.

You would think with all of that I would be chomping at the bit to get this baby out of me, but I’m not. I don’t know if I am ready. Actually, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. I have all those insistent questions bubbling in my head all day long: what kind of personality will he have, how will the family dynamic change, will I ever sleep again, will our marital relationship suffer as we deal the stresses of three children (including a newborn), what if there are problems during the delivery, what if there are other unforeseen issues with the babies health, what if the baby cries all day, what if the other children don’t feel the love they deserve, what if I don’t have enough love for ALL of my children and husband… Ahhhh. I could make (read: am making) myself crazy.

I suppose, there is no choice. The day is coming. Within the month he will be here and I will be living the answers to all of my questions. I suppose, all I can say is, ready or not…here he comes!

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Two Years of Parenting Paradoxes

Birthdays are bittersweetIt happened. My baby turned 2. We celebrated the special day and I cried. I don’t even know why. Tears of sadness because he is getting older or tears of happiness because he is growing up?! I know—those are both pretty much the same thing— I’m confused too.

I actually feel like everything in my life related to being a parent is essentially one paradox after another.

It started in the hospital. Soon after my baby was born, the initial exhaustion of childbirth set in. All I could think about was taking a nap. Thankfully, I have an extremely helpful and supportive husband who encouraged me to do just that. He took care of the baby while I got the rest that my body so badly needed. Even to this day if I have had a long day at work or just need a little nap my husband encourages me to take a break and get the rest I need. Then I wake up and instantly feel guilty for napping and missing quality time I could have spent with my baby. The same goes for date nights, baby-free shopping trips and girls’ nights. I know I need a break from motherhood once in a while but I always feel guilty for missing the time I could have spent with him.

Nearly every evening I look forward to bedtime, practically counting the minutes down until we start the bedtime routine and I get to sit down and rest. Then, every night after I tuck him in and he falls asleep I miss him and have a strong urge to wake him back up.

I spend hours trying to make sure my son is clean and presentable when we go out in public, however I often end up leaving with food stains on my own shirt and my unwashed hair in a bun.

Sometimes all I want is a little bit of peace and quiet. Then I get the silence I have been praying for and instantly fear and concern set in and I go into a panic about why it is so quiet.

Nursing was a year-long commitment for me. As we neared the end of our breastfeeding journey, I felt a sense of excitement and joy. I couldn’t wait to have my body back. Then, after it was over and the milk had all dried up I was sad and longed to have him nurse again.

Every weekend I pray that my baby will sleep past 7:30 a.m. But, every time it happens, I lie wide awake in bed checking the baby monitor constantly and wondering if he is OK!

I looked forward to the day my baby could walk. Then the day came and I envied the days when he couldn’t walk and I could actually still catch him without breaking into a run myself.

I willed my baby for months to say “mama”. We practiced it often and celebrated when he said it. Now 90 percent of what comes out of his mouth is “mama, mama, MAma, MAMA, MAMA!!!” Ugh—why must he say my name like that over and over and over and over?

And seriously, how is it possible that every day I love him with the most love I could possibly love him, but the next day I love him even more?

Isn’t being a mother the most confusing thing you have ever done?!

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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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The Whole Truth

Parenting is hard.

I don’t care who you are, what you do, how much money you have, where you live, how you parent, or even how many children you have. It’s hard.

I have many friends that have recently become parents and this topic has become a common theme. I ask how things are going and they always start with the rainbows and butterflies of parenting. But then I ask, “No, really. How is it going?”

And then the whole truth comes out.

Sleepless nights, inconsolable crying, tension and stress, tantrums, post-delivery discomforts, breastfeeding pains. These are the things we feel like we have to hide from others, that we aren’t fantastic parents if we don’t have giggles and smiles all day long. Facebook does an injustice to future parents, painting a picture that children are easy to care for, parents sharing pictures only of the happy moments. Where is the picture of Jack inconsolably crying at two in the morning when you have to be up at five? Where is the picture of Johnny figuring out how to open the front door and taking off down the driveway, or Susie laying in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store screaming because she can’t have a bag of Skittles?

We all have good days and we all have bad days. We all have good moments and we all have tough moments. When you’re having a tough moment, try to remember the wonderful things. Take a breath. If you are able put your baby in a safe place and take a parent time-out, do it. Phone a friend, a relative, anyone who has had children, and vent to them, let out your frustrations. Because one thing I have learned for sure is that if I let my negative emotions get the best of me, nothing gets better.

Parenting might be hard at times, but remember you’re not in this alone. Others have been there before, others will go through what you’re going through in the future. Build yourself a support system. Parenting is hard for everyone.