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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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!


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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!


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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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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!”