Put a Bib on It

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Talking or Teaching? Both!

Elli learningOne of the (many) great things about working at an organization focused on early childhood education when you’re a young parent is that you’re literally surrounded by child development experts. I have the chance to ask questions around the lunch table about my daughter’s development and get input from other parents—who also happen to have master’s degrees in this exact field. It’s a pretty lucky place to be.

The other day, I was talking about my daughter’s ever-expanding vocabulary, which fascinates both my husband and me. It seems like Elliot says new words every day and her ability to “connect the dots” is the most interesting to watch.

We haven’t taught her where her nose is, or to show us her feet or touch her hair. But those are all things that she knows the answer to. It you ask her where her feet are, she’ll sit down and try to lift them both in the air to show you—it’s adorable.

As I was sharing this story and my amazement that she knew these things, one of my early childhood colleagues gently said, “Tara. You did teach her that. You taught her that by talking to her everyday and telling her what you’re doing while you do it. When you tell her that you are brushing her hair, you help her learn where her hair is.”

Whoa. We talk to Elliot all the time and I knew it was what we were supposed to be doing. I knew it would ultimately help her language development, and we even use “grown-up words” when we talk to her to help her learn. I really didn’t realize how much she was picking up while we were doing that, though.

I saw it again this morning when I looked out the window and said, “Elliot—look outside. It’s raining today.” She held her hand out like an adult does when they are trying to see if it’s raining or not. “What is she doing?” my husband asked, and I had to laugh. She’s testing for rain—because every morning before we get in the car, we walk out onto the driveway and talk about if it’s warm or cold today, and if it’s raining, I always stick my hand out to show her that it is.

As parents, especially of young children, we don’t always get to see the immediate impact of our parenting actions. In this instance, however, I can see it clearly and it’s amazing.

And it’s probably time to start paying close attention to what we’re saying and doing around her, or my guess is that our little parrot will soon be repeating something we don’t want her to repeat—and probably in front of her grandparents!


A Toddler Ate My Baby.

elliponyI wrote recently about how I don’t miss my baby being little. That’s still true, but in the meantime, my baby has been turned into a full-fledged toddler. My husband joked the other night that it seems a toddler came and ate our baby, and that feels more and more true every day.

This toddler stage is… interesting. Just when we got the hang of parenting a baby, our world was turned upside down and we now need a whole new set of skills. Not to mention a lifetime supply of patience.

My daughter wants to talk. So badly. She babbles constantly and recently started using the same inflection and cadence that an adult uses, and it’s adorable. She points to what she wants and this new communication makes life easier in many ways. When she wants to eat, she wants to her high chair, reaches up and says, “num num!” When she wants water instead of milk, she shakes her head “no” at the milk cup and says, “wa wa!” She’s figuring out new ways to let us know what she wants and picking up new words every day.

But my daughter also doesn’t know words that she badly wants to say. Her pointing is pretty vague, so when she points to the fridge, it’s hard to figure out if she wants milk, blueberries, a cold teething ring or if she just likes how it looks. She shakes her head “no” when you put rice on her plate, then proceeds to eat it by the handful. She is desperate to have a spoon or fork when she’s eating, only to set it down and use her fingers instead (but don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s done with that spoon or fork. Because she is NOT!).

She is literally learning something new during every waking moment, and it’s amazing to watch. Sometimes, especially when she’s sleeping, she still looks so much like a baby. Other times, the way she looks like a little girl literally takes my breath away.

Thankfully (I think?) this toddler stage will last for awhile, so we have some time to practice our newfound toddler parenting skills. Which is good since our toddler is doing her very best to make sure that we have to use them all!


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!”

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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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Mirror, Mirror

EllimirrorHearing the doctor say, “It’s a girl!” was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I get girls. I grew up in a family of all girls. I have 23 cousins on my dad’s side — 20 of whom are girls. Having a girl just seemed right to me and I was thrilled.

Fast forward a year, and I’m still thrilled to have a daughter. I love dressing her and controversial as it may be, I love the sweet little hair bows and the ridiculous little shoes. I’m comfortable with the intersection of feminism and girlie-girl-ness, and I believe that my daughter can be a strong woman who wears dresses. Or pants. Or giant hair bows.

Having a daughter also gives me pause, though. Particularly when it comes to bodies. Perhaps even more particularly when it comes to her body and my body. My daughter is gorgeous. Totally and completely perfect. I have no doubt that she will continue to be just as perfect as she gets older, and I want her to always feel exactly that way.

I look in the mirror at my post-baby body and my eyes immediately go to the part where my pants don’t fit the same (or perhaps even really at all) and the circles under my eyes (note to self: get eye cream) and the way my hair turns frizzy the second that the air gets humid each summer.

These aren’t the things I ever want my daughter to notice. I want her to look in the mirror and see the beautiful blue color of her eyes and the way her eyelashes seem to be never-ending. The way her cheeks are so smoochable, her belly button so adorable and her feet so precious, even if they are a combination of her father’s square shape with my weirdly long toes.

So how do I keep her from noticing the “bad” things and focused on noticing the good? I’m pretty sure it starts with me. This is a “do as I do” sort of thing, not just a “do as I say.” If I want her to notice the great things about herself, then I need to be doing the same. She needs to hear me say, “Thank you,” when someone tells me they love my smile, not, “Really? Because I feel like my teeth look weird.” She needs to know that I care about being healthy and strong, not skinny.

I owe it to my daughter to do better. I owe it to her and her future self to create a space in our home that is accepting and positive.

I owe it to myself, too.

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Why I Love My Daughter’s Pediatrician

We didn’t follow a very scientific procedure when it came to choosing a pediatrician. I asked friends for some recommendations, chose one who was very close to our house and went to meet with him. We knew within 30 seconds of shaking his hand that he would be perfect for us.

So, maybe it was a bit more complicated than that.

We had identified a few things that were really important to us, like the fact that our doctor would be in favor of vaccinations (and perhaps even require them of patients). We wanted a practice that had a 24-hour nurse line so that we could call at 3:00 a.m. when our baby had a fever (which, knock on wood, hasn’t happened yet). My husband and I were both very small babies, so it isn’t surprising that our daughter barely hits the lowest line of the growth charts. Because of that, we also wanted someone who would be supportive of breastfeeding and not quick to suggest formula if our daughter was tiny.

There are some wonderful, and unexpected, things we love about our pediatrician, as well. He’s our age, which is pretty young for a doctor. He has two young children of his own, and because he is knee-deep in parenting himself, his empathy feels very real. It can be easy to dismiss concerns when you haven’t had young children for 20 years and you know that in the grand scheme of things, the concerns of new parents are so tiny and unimportant. But when your baby wakes up for the fifth time in one night that concern feels very big and very important. We really like that he “gets it,” and is dealing with this right alongside us.

We also love the balance he brings to our concerns. He takes them very seriously, but is also very calm and level-headed. Our daughter is a “scooter,” meaning she’s developed this strange way of getting around where she sits on her bottom and scoots herself around. It’s efficient and works for her—and it’s both adorable and hilarious—but we were questioning whether she would miss mastering any important milestones because of her unique way to move. Our doctor explained what things she needed to hit, checked the muscle tone in her legs and back to make sure they were developing appropriately and then reassured us that her funny way of getting around is just fine. He could have dismissed our concerns out of hand without checking. He could have immediately referred us for physical therapy. His approach reassures us that he would catch anything important, while also reminding us that kids develop differently and that our daughter is just fine.

Throw in the fact that he explained to us that one-year-olds learn through play and how important it is for us to read to her every day, and I think we’ve hit it out of the park.

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What I Never Expected About Motherhood

Two things I never expected about motherhood? Babies are funny. And gross.My daughter will be a year old this month. Part of me can’t believe that my tiny little girl is already a (tiny) 1-year-old. And there’s another part of me that can’t believe that she isn’t already in kindergarten because I don’t remember what our lives were like before she was part of them.

I’m an over-preparer. A year ago when I was waiting for Elliot to make her big arrival, I read everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t have a baby so I actually had time to do things like read. I made a plan for what I would do if my water broke at work. I researched what contractions felt like so I would recognize them when they started. I prepared myself emotionally for the fact that breastfeeding would probably be hard for awhile.

We had a pretty easy adjustment to parenthood, which I credit partially to my daughter being an easy baby and partially to the fact that I felt emotionally prepared. Yes, I wasn’t sleeping much, but I knew that would be the case. I had prepared myself to be exhausted. Yes, she seemed to nurse constantly, but I knew that would be the case. I had prepared myself to do nothing else for a few weeks.

But of course, there were also surprises. Things that I could never have planned for or things that I just didn’t realize came along with motherhood.

I was totally unprepared for the amount of time my daughter would be… kind of a blob. In my head, babies were a lot like the 11-month-old I have now, not like the newborn that we brought home. I didn’t realize it would be months before she’d even smile at us, let alone laugh. I didn’t realize that she really would be small and helpless and unable to even grab a toy for what felt like an eternity.

I was totally unprepared for the snot. I knew there would be poop. I knew there would be spit-up. I didn’t realize that the disgustingness of baby boogers would far exceed either of those—and that one of her early talents would be blowing snot bubbles out of her nose. Ew.

I was totally unprepared for the amount of time I would spend doing new, baby-related chores. Pumping at work, washing bottles and pump parts, washing her diapers, packing her food for child care, doing her laundry, making sure that her favorite blue bunny gets washed at least once a week because he spends the majority of his life alternating between her mouth and the floor. It’s probably close to an hour a day, more on some days.

I was totally unprepared for how funny she’d become. The simplest things are really, really funny when she does them. Have you ever seen an 11-month old shake her head “no”? Because it’s seriously hilarious. Especially if said 11-month old has hair that looks a lot like Justin Bieber’s.

I was totally unprepared for how I’d want to be with her all the time. The hardest part of being a working mom for me is that I miss her. All the time. I love spending time with her and if I could figure out a way to permanently strap her to my side and never let anyone else hold her, I would probably do it.

I know that the next year of parenting adventures will only bring more surprises, though I’m sure that at some point shaking her head “no” will become a lot less funny.