Archive for Motherhood

Raising a Toddler is Like Having a Drunk Friend…

Raising a toddler is a real trip. It is like having a drunk best friend when you are always sober…possibly a drunk foreign friend given their command of the English language.

This morning, my two year old and I went off to run some errands. On the return trip, he quickly scurried into the back row of the mini van even though his seat is in the middle row.

“Come here sweetie. Help mommy by getting into your seat.”

“I drive car!”

“Sure you do, sweetie. But you can pretend to drive the car from your car seat. We need to be buckled in before we drive.”

Locates green bucket. Places on head. “Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!”

Drunk Toddler Behavior

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Done Trying to be a Perfect Mom

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My husband is in the military, currently the National Guard. He’s gone one weekend a month, two weeks a year (at least in theory… because sometimes he’s gone a lot more and he occasionally travels for his full time job). He was recently two weeks and I swear he took half my brain with him.

It has been busy, crazy busy. In addition to finishing up one of the biggest projects I have ever worked on, an art history textbook for a program in California, we have had all of the end-of-the-year carnivals, field days, parties, preschool graduations, piano recitals, and gymnastics expos.

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Oh, and we also had our Daisy troop bridging to Brownies at my house. This was supposed to happen on my deck but it was the one rainy day all month. So, we set-up in the basement.

Did I mention I am also over 5 months pregnant with baby #4?

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Maybe it was because I was feeling like such a super mom after shuttling all the kids to all their various events, generally staying on top of the housework without my husband there, and throwing a magical Brownie Bridging that I overreached.

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Mom Review Blog

I thought of starting a Mom Review Blog.

Confused? I don’t mean a blog where I review products for families (yes I already have one of those). No, I mean a blog in the voice of a child reviewing mom.

But I already have enough blogs and it is kinda a one-note extended joke. So, instead, I bring you my first, and probably only entry.

Review of Mama by Junior

I’ve been thoroughly testing out my Mama for the past ten months, more if you consider the “in womb” experience. This particular model of mom is also known in certain markets as “Candace”.

I’m pleased to date with functionality although wear and tear has been an issue and I wish an extended warranty was available. I like when manufacturers stand by their products with guarantees.

I obtained this model second hand and, in fact, continue to share her with the original owner. This is a suitable arrangement as we frequently compare notes and find that more complex operations such as “wear her down until she gives us snacks” works better with two users.

The function I make most use of is the “carry and cuddle” option. This option may be activated in a variety of intuitive ways, including crying, speaking “mama”, and even just looking cute. There is plenty of padding on mama and no sharp edges so I find her very comfortable. She even comes with an optional “sling” accessory which is a fashionable addition for longer periods of carrying.

My sister, who previously used the carry function with great regularity, warns that this function diminishes around 30 pounds. At this point, she says that she has had to rely on the “Daddy” back-up for anything more than occasional carrying. In fact, at only 24 pounds, I’ve already noticed some groaning and creaking during the lifting phase.

Although at over 30 years of age, this model is in the middle-range for moms, I am still quite happy with the style I selected. I am particularly enamored of the strong contrast between her dark hairline and fair skin as that is one of the first things I was able to see.

Another favorite of mine is the lactation phase. This is easily activated and I’ve been able to access this on demand, although sometimes service is slow at night.

This particular model excels at playing and seems to be designed for musical games. She has several such games pre-programmed, including singing songs, reading, and “flying” me through the air. I’ve been able to upload other applications, such as drop and retrieve (for sippies, spoons, etc.), “peek-a-boo”, and “high five”. The available apps are almost too many to describe. My sister has raved particularly about “crafting” and “playground visit” functionality that I should be able to access soon.

If I were to suggest an upgrade, I would like a better battery with a shorter recharging period. My model requires 6-8 hours at night or else performance is sluggish. I believe that 4 hours should be sufficient.

Despite these limitations, I’m very satisfied with her and look forward to many years with her.

Full Disclosure: I receive this Mama for free and am completely biased.

And Then There’s Mommy Strong…

It began as a joke–Captain Dad was talking about the strength it takes to parent through the day and we started humming the theme to the “Army Strong” commercial.

There’s Strong, and then there’s Mommy Strong…

But honestly, I’m finding it helps me get through some tough points in the day to imagine the music swelling as I lift my toddler or juggle the dishes.

You don’t really even have to change the lyrics, because we could benefit from getting over, and getting over ourselves…but it is more fun to mess with the words.

Cue trumpets:

There’s “strong,” and then there’s “Mommy strong,”

It’s more than physical strength; it is emotional strength.

Not strength with others, but the strength of mothers.

Not just strength at 12pm, but strength at 12am.

It is not just the strength to command, but the strength to convince,

Not just the strength to lift toddlers, the strength to lift spirits,

Not just the strength to lead, but to get your kids to actually follow,

Not just the strength to push, but the strength to push everyone out the door.

Not just the strength to do it yourself, the strength to teach little ones to do it for themselves.

There’s nothing stronger than a loving family, because there is nothing stronger than the love of a mother.

There’s “strong,” and then there’s “Mommy strong.”

Please feel free to add some lines.

The NYT is Good for Something, Or Why I Got Roses Just Because

Newsflash: The New York Times still serves a valuable purpose in the lives of ordinary Americans.

My husband came home one day this week and presented me with a lovely bouquet of flowers. Why? Just because…

He explained he was reading this article about how children increase marital tensions and he just wanted to let me know that he appreciates me and all I do for our family.

The articles discusses how children bring happiness, but they can also bring stress into your relationship with your spouse.

My husband and I love each other, and we adore our children. Sometimes all of the juggling of doctor’s appointments, and household chores, and daily routines on top of our careers can become overwhelming. It is definitely important to have a reminder now and then that we need to set aside quality time for each other.

How about you? Do children bring couples closer together? Or did you have more time and energy for your mate before the babies?

To Sling, Or Not to Sling

Every time I take my babies out, I have a choice: Sling or stroller.

I’ve seen parents carrying young infants with neither option, but I cannot imagine that and there is no way I’m carrying my 18 pound infant in a car seat without a stroller.

Let’s do a case study:

Slinging It:

Today I took my toddler to the doctor and I placed Junior in the sling. While we were waiting for the doctor, he fell asleep and continued to sleep through the entire exam.

I brought them to “Toddler Tango” at the library and held Junior in the sling while I danced with my daughter. Junior flirted a bit with the ladies and then passed out. Another mother’s infant woke up from a nap in the travel system and she commented that she did not have her Bjorn with her. I whipped out my spare pouch sling (hee, hee) as a loaner and now she wants one, too.

Strolling:

We went to a craft program. I decided to place Junior in the stroller, hoping he’d fall asleep and I’d get a little break. I maneuvered our Sit N’ Stroll into the elevator along with another adult and toddler. Then, a Dad came along and we held the door for him. He came in with toddler and his stroller.

The doors closed and…the elevator did not move.

We pressed buttons, the doors stubbornly refused to reopen.

Three adults, three toddlers, two strollers, and one infant stuck in an elevator for 15 minutes.

When maintenance finally got us out, I placed Junior in the sling, left the stroller, and walked down the stairs. We arrived in time for circle time but missed the craft.

Now, in the stroller’s defense there are times when I need a little more freedom of movement (like undressing and dressing the toddler for swimming). And sometimes I want to move faster than the toddler can walk. So, strollers definitely have their uses. After the elevator experience, though, I am even more convinced of the benefits and convenience of my slings.

How about you? Any stroller or sling experiences that made your day or drove you crazy?

A Present of Presence

baby presentAn invitation to a party is always welcome–especially a carnival! So, when Amy let me know about the Attachment Parenting International Carnival, I was jumped on over right away.

(Okay, so this is of the bloggy variety and not one with balloons and rides and sinful cotton candy, but still, a carnival nonetheless.)

During the seconds it took to load the page, I became increasingly excited. What would the topic be? On which loving aspect of attachment parenting would we focus?

And then, my grin dropped and my eyes narrowed: Presence…how I give my children my presence.

Presence is one of the most important aspects of parenting mindfully and it does not cost a dime. Being present is also one of the hardest things to do in this fast-paced, hectic, go-go-go world.

Confession: sometimes I get fixated on the details and lose the big picture.

There are tummies to fill, errands to run, and events to attend. Not to mention work to be done. The house starts to feel more like a triage unit than a home.

And, just when everything seems to almost be under control, I add another challenge to my already full schedule.

My husband has lately been calling me out on my overuse of the word “need.” We need air, sustenance and shelter, not a finished basement and more clothes and a bigger car, he points out as I try not roll my eyes and pout like a teenager.

No that there is anything wrong with gymnastics lessons, foreign language instruction, and fancy toys–but children, especially young babies, don’t need those things. Children need their families. Children need love.

And in trying to squeeze an ever increasing amount of errands, tasks, and work into day that just refuses to stretch any longer, it is easy to forget this simple truth.

Fortunately, confession is good for the soul. Even better–group confession. Like this fabulous mother, I have to be honest and admit that there are distractions. Honey, I promise I’ll read you that book as soon as I publish this post.

When I hear another new mother trying to wrap her mind around the challenges of parenting, I try to reassure her that motherhood should be about enjoying your family, reveling and rejoicing in this special bond, not about checking off a list or adhering to a strict set of rules. We should be committed to parenting, not committed to an institution because of parenting.

What a wonderful way to kick off an Attachment Parenting Carnival–by sending the message that the most important thing we can do for our children is to just be there with them. Everything else is icing.

So, I’m committing to slowing down and being present with my children.

When they are both awake, I’ve been fighting the urge to “get things done” and instead concentrate on doing things with the kids.

I turn the computer off during our play time.

My new baby eats constantly, but I try to find the joy of gazing into his eyes while feeding him, instead of reading a book–at least while he is awake.

When I’m with my children, I remember that part of the joy of parenthood is being able to experience the world as a child does, once again.

I remember that we’ll only be here, in this moment just once.

Some time and space has to be sacred, dedicated to the family.

Life is always a balancing act, especially for women. And I still will have to work and meet deadlines and accomplish. Sometimes I will be a better parent and a more productive worker when I compartmentalize and set aside times for each. I can type and think more freely when I am not mothering and I can nurse and nurture a lot more wholeheartedly when I am not trying to work.

Other times, I can work with my children. Perhaps it will take an hour to fold the laundry with the toddler’s “help,” but we will be together–learning, laughing, and loving.

Find out how other parents are giving their children their presence and share your own story…

We’re so Breastfeeding-Friendly, We Do Everything Except Let You Nurse Your Baby

Basking in the joy of the birth of my new, giant baby boy, I wanted to stay positive.

Still, I’d like to share my experience breastfeeding in the hospital in case it helps anyone.

Part of the reason I chose our hospital is because it is more open to a more natural birthing experience than other hospitals in the area. And, although I think this is probably true, that is unfortunately a sad commentary.

My baby and I are breastfeeding well and everyone is doing great–but I fear that if I had not already successfully breastfed my first or if I were less informed or less assertive, our breastfeeding would have been sabotaged.

Immediately following birth, barring any urgent medical needs, my baby was supposed to be placed immediately on me. Since he was so large and stuck during part of the labor, they wanted pediatrics to check him out (which I fully understand–although I suspect this could have been done with him on me, as was done with my first child). However, after they verified he had not been harmed at all during the labor, they continued with the routine, non-urgent procedures.

I kept telling them, “I want my baby! Give me my baby!” but they did not hand him over until they were done. Although in the grand scheme of it all, this is minor, I was sad that I missed that magical feeling I had with the first when she was exactly the same temperature as me and stepped her way to the breast.

After they handed him to me, I had a short time to breastfeed before they took me to repair the tear. I got him to latch on one side and just as he finished, I was placing him to the other breast when the nurse (not the Certified Nurse Midwife) came in an said, “I have to weigh him.”

I told her was breastfeeding and it could wait.

She replied that I was getting “crazy” with the breastfeeding (huh?).

I stood my ground and responded calmly (really, I swear) that he had just finished one side and I was going to feed him on the other and then she could take as many measurements as she liked.

She got very snotty and said that she was going to have to go tell the doctor that I was not allowing her to do her job.

That says a lot right there about her perception of her role and the hospital’s role in birthing babies.

Of course, she’s just one person, and my husband overheard some other nurses speaking of her in a negative way, but at the very least some retraining needs to be done.

Following the repair, I was placed in temporary Operating Room Recovery until the epidural wore off (they had given me more medication during the repair). As they wheeled me in, I saw my husband. I called out, “Why aren’t you with our son?” Perhaps not the most pleasant greeting, but I was starting to lose a bit of trust in the hospital.

“They want to give him a bottle,” he told me.

“What for?” Now I was starting to get a little nuts, “Is he okay?”

“Yes,” he reassured me, “But they said his blood sugar will start dropping because he is so big, so they want to give him a bottle. And they said if they wait too long, breastmilk won’t do it”

“But I’m breastfeeding! Bring him to me! And I’ll feed him!” I was in full on mother bear mode and unfortunately they had sent my husband and there was no target for my protective rage. My poor husband kept going back and forth to tell me the baby’s blood sugar level and to try to negotiate with the doctors to allow my son to come to me.

They first lied and told us he was under the warming lights (he wasn’t and he was perfectly healthy so there was no reason to hold him there) and then admitted they just “did not have the personnel” to bring him to me from the nursery. Now this is not a huge hospital. It takes two minutes to walk from the nursery to where I was. And post-op had no problem with me feeding him in recovery. The staff in the nursery was creating a situation where they would need to give him a bottle because they would not let me breastfeed.

And there was no reason for him to be in the nursery, anyway, as I was rooming in with him and would be in the room as soon as the maternity ward would accept me–as soon as the medication wore off. The post-op staff again was very helpful. I asked them, “How mobile? Like walking or just some approximation thereof?” They told me that maternity liked people walking but they would start releasing me as soon as I could bend both knees. I had one leg already moving and was trying to get the other one working. Eventually they took pity on me and pretended not to notice as I grabbed one of my legs with my hand and said, “Look, it is moving!”

Finally, we were in maternity recovery and they brought me my son! With the delay, it took time and patience to get him to latch. Of course, as soon as he fed his blood sugar was fine and he was healthy and wonderful.

But they had one more curve ball to throw at me–the next day they came without any notice to take him for his circumcision. They said I could not feed him even though he was due right then for another feeding. I was concerned, but they assured me it would just be an hour and then he’d be back. Three hours later…it was now six hours since my son had fed and the poor thing had just been circumcised. He was upset and had difficulty latching.

Then they started harassing me because he had not urinated since the circumcision…again they wanted to give him formula. I told them to go away and leave us alone. Of course, once he fed a few times, he was fine.

The kicker was that the day we were checking out, after all this was over, the lactation consultant comes by, sees me nursing, says “good latch,” quizzes me (how do you know if the baby is getting enough?), and then leaves. Gee, that’s helpful.

While I’m complaining, on a completely unrelated note, I got the demonically possessed hospital bed. The bed is for patients who cannot move and it automatically adjusts as you move. So when I shifted my weight in my sleep, the bed moved, waking me. If I lowered it so I could get out to use the bathroom, it raised. And of course it was noisy, too.

As you can imagine, I could not wait to break out of that place!

To add one last final insult, they insisted I be pushed out in a wheelchair by a staff member. I would have protested, but I just wanted to leave.

I think if I have a third birth, I’m going to just make the absurdly long drive to the nearest birthing center or do it at home.

All of this is not to say you cannot breastfeed if medical need requires your child to have a bottle early on, nor is it to criticize those who choose to formula feed–but just to show how hospital policies that are not always rooted in actual medical need, can create problems during the crucial early stage of breastfeeding. This is why we need to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas!

Okay… end rant. Back to enjoying motherhood!

Attachment Parenting: Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

On a mom support/discussion site I started a group for talking about attachment parenting. I’m no expert on the topic, but I love chatting about it with other moms. A mom-to-be asked us what AP is all about, and lots of the group posters responded. This got me thinking–it would be fun to have a big discussion about each of the eight principles of AP as laid out by the API.

Then I thought it would be fun if I could get some additional people involved in the discussion by posting on my blog.

If you would like to share an understanding of the Attachment Parenting principle, please either comment or leave your link in the comments. Next week, I’ll move onto the next principle and also link back to anyone who posted on their own blogs. If you have a blog, could you also link to this post (or the post with the principle you are writing about) so others will join in.

It will be like a carnival of attachment parenting, I guess, but with less structure.

The last talk about what is attachment parenting got me thinking–since the philosophy is very much open to interpretation, maybe it would be interesting and enlightening for us to look at a principle (from the API) each week or so and say what it means to us and how we do that…

This week I’m talking about:

***1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting***

The rest of the principles are:

2. Feed with Love and Respect
3. Respond with Sensitivity
4. Use Nurturing Touch
5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting
6. Provide Consistent Loving Care
7. Practice Positive Discipline
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Here are my thoughts:

For me this means taking the time to educate yourself on your options and weighing the risks and benefits of your choices. It means considering the fact that your body is in a symbiotic relationship with another human being and trying to foster that relationship.

The way I personally, specifically take action on this one:

  • I watch what I eat during pregnancy…though I actually eat a fairly good pregnancy diet the rest of the time, anyway.
  • I should exercise–but chasing a toddler counts, right?
  • I try to listen to my body…though that was easier before I gave birth to my little Hurricane…
  • Last birth I listened to hypnobirthing tapes. This birth, I am torn. I would like to have a better and more natural experience, but I also have the concern that we could have a repeat of the heart condition, which might necessitate medical intervention. I’ve been talking with DH about what role I would like to see him play (actually, it comes out more like, “Guard the door and keep people the hell away from me unless I ask for them.”) I feel lacking in this department, but also unsure of where to look next.
  • I feel fairly well prepared for parenting. I anticipate the major decisions and discuss them with my husband. We’re on the same page and he backs me up on the decisions I make as the primary caretaker and I don’t give him too much grief about minor changes in routine that he does when he watches her (like dumping syrup on pancakes for breakfast when I usually give her oatmeal and fresh fruit–it’s only once or twice a week). I kinda figure they don’t come much more high maintenance than my little diva and I’ve read and researched and I’m pretty happy with the way things are going so far. The next one simply HAS to be more mellow…right?

Please feel free to jump in, however you like!

I Kept My Big Mouth Shut…

As a former teacher, I have a tendency to lecture inform share my knowledge with others, particularly in museums and in the globally-influenced decor aisle of Target.

But I really, really try to keep my yap quiet when it comes to casual strangers and their parenting. Almost every day someone stops me and asks me about my sling or diaper bag or something else and I’m happy to share. But if I am not asked for my advice, I don’t go around shoving it in people’s faces.

There’s that saying about opinions being like a certain part of the anatomy–just because everyone has one, doesn’t mean we need to hear yours.

Of course, if I saw a child locked alone in a car or a parent beating a child, I would call the authorities, but if it is merely a matter of parenting style, I do remain silent.

Parenting becomes so wrapped up in our identities, particularly for those who are the primary caretakers. Certainly no new parent who hasn’t asked needs to be bombarded with my opinions on breastfeeding, plastic, or shopping cart covers.

There are times, though, when a parent, seems to be unknowingly putting her child at risk and I don’t know where to draw the line.

The other day, I was walking along, with Baby Diva in one of our many slings. Another mother was wearing her baby in a Baby Bjorn and we locked eyes and shared a smile, an unspoken babywearers’ bond.

And then I caught my breath and almost opened my mouth.

No, I wasn’t going to tell her that hard carriers may hinder baby’s proper hip placement–that falls under the smile, nod, didn’t ask, so don’t tell category.

What I saw was a very young infant, adorably passed out, but with his head thrown almost all the way back. The carrier was so loose that if baby was any larger, mom would certainly be unable to walk. I was concerned that baby could fall out and even more concerned that he couldn’t breathe properly in that position.

So, should I have said something? Or was it none of my business? Where do you draw the line?