Parenting

Twelfth Month Life Lesson – Where does the time go?

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for oh, about four months now. It’s not because I didn’t have anything to say. It’s because I had too much to say. It felt impossible to pick one topic to be my capstone for these entries. There was so much I hadn’t had time to write about. How would I ever choose?

It dawned on me the other day that I should write about the very thing that I lacked – time. I had the realization awhile back that I haven’t been bored for a single second since having Jeremiah. Before I had Jeremiah I might have caught myself without something to do. Now I never have to look for something to be done as it is always staring me in the face – taking care of Jeremiah, household tasks, errands, down time, and the list goes on and on. I’m pretty sure if the day had 25 hours in it, I’d need 26.

It seems like my life moves at warp speed now. Didn’t Jeremiah just turn one anyways? Nope, he’s already fifteen months old and will soon be sixteen months old. I finally understand what people mean when they say that it seems like yesterday that their thirty year old was just born. While I might be counting months now, soon it will be years.

Over the past year or so, I have learned that there is never enough time to do everything. Sometimes my house will be dirty. Sometimes we’ll have takeout for dinner. Sometimes a birthday present will be late. Sometimes my garden will have weeds. Sometimes I will need to turn down invitations to do things. And sometimes for seasons in my life, this list of exceptions will become the norm and I’m okay with that.

 

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Eleventh Month Life Lesson – “I love my son, but…”

Whenever it comes up that I’m a stay at home, people always ask if I like it. Depending on the day or even the exact minute, I could answer that question in a number of ways. In general, I give my standard, succinct answer that I like it with a smile on my face.

Let’s be honest, when people ask me that, do they really want to hear my answer if it’s negative? I often feel pressured to act like staying at home is all sunshine and roses. It’s as if I’m not allowed to complain or to have a bad day because I choose to stay home. Men have referred to me as a babysitter. Working moms either think I’m a loon or are “happy” for me, but actually resent me. Sometimes I feel like the only people who understand me are other stay at home moms. And even then, some of them can’t let down their guard long enough to admit that sometimes, just sometimes, they want a sick day sans baby.

Have you ever noticed how anytime stay at home moms are going to complain they start the sentence with “I love my son/daughter, but…”? I had never noticed this until I joined the club and caught myself doing it. As a stay at home mom, it’s easy to grow frustrated, but rarely do others understand its complexity. It’s the very same things that drive me crazy about Jeremiah that make him unique as an individual and actually make me smile.

I’m still learning that it’s okay to vent, so here goes nothing.

I love my son, but he is into everything.
I love my son, but I hate how he climbs into the freezer when I open it.
I love my son, but he’s got to learn that the oven drawer is not for climbing.
I love my son, but jumping from the grocery cart seat to the basket is not safe.
I love my son, but he totally disregards the word no.
I love my son, but I hope he’ll stop eating the mail soon.
I love my son, but I look forward to the day when he stops throwing his food on the ground.
I love my son, but he can’t even wait two minutes for me to fix his breakfast.
I love my son, but it’d be nice if he’d sleep in later in the mornings.
I love my son, but I cannot possibly build one more block tower for him to knock over.
I love my son, but I just can’t change another poopy diaper.
I love my son, but diaper changes are like wrestle mania events.
I love my son, but it’s unfortunate that he’s not tall enough to run the vacuum cleaner.
I love my son, but he is a madman in the bathtub.
I love my son, but I can’t manage to get anything done.

Let me stop there. You get the point.

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Tenth Month Life Lesson – My snuggling days are over!

As an infant, Jeremiah liked to be held ALL the time. I know there are a lot of different opinions out there on “spoiling” babies by holding them. I tend to take a stance that it fulfills an actual need. I’m not saying that babies don’t learn how to get their way, but in the end it’s not like they are born with a ready arsenal of self-soothing skills. Since I felt like Jeremiah needed to be comforted, I complied. For the most part, I didn’t mind this too much. However, there were times when I felt trapped and I’d complain to anybody who would listen – Woe is me! I can’t go to the bathroom. I say this in mockery now, but at the time, it was a legitimate complaint.

Of course, eventually Jeremiah grew mobile and wanted nothing to do with being held. He was ready to explore the world and he couldn’t do that if he was in someone’s arms. I slowly began to realize that my days of snuggling were over. I felt so guilty for the times that I complained about his incessant need to be held. People tried to warn me – enjoy it while you can! I didn’t believe them. In the moment, it felt like it’d never end, but end it did. Now Jeremiah wasn’t the one with a need to be comforted, I was. It wasn’t until Jeremiah was ten months old that he started to give us real, unprovoked hugs. That is one of the sweetest feelings in the world. Even though I miss being able to just sit and hold my son, I wouldn’t trade anything for his genuine acts of love.

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Ninth Month Life Lesson – I forgot what it’s like to have a baby.

Around eight months old, Jeremiah started to become markedly more independent. He started crawling and could better entertain himself. He was eating finger foods with ease and drinking from a sippy cup. His likes and dislikes became increasingly clearer as he was better able to communicate his preferences. My baby became a toddler! As the month waned on, I felt more like myself pre-baby. I was finally able to cook a meal and not just throw something together. Getting household tasks done didn’t seem so daunting. For the first time, I felt in control of my time and not subject to the whimsy of an infant. Just as Jeremiah became independent, I finally felt like I was my own person again. While this may happen at various times for other moms, I’m sure you know that feeling I’m talking about.

I was on a euphoric high – cooking dinner, baking dessert, keeping my house clean, entertaining Jeremiah, basically living the life of a Stepford wife. Then it hit me, a tiny little voice in the back of my mind saying “maybe I could handle another baby right now.” Don’t get too excited. This is not an announcement that we’re trying to get pregnant. It was just a fleeting thought, a momentary lapse of reason. In our culture, having a baby is glamorized and romanticized so much that it’s even engrained in me when I just had a baby and know how hard it really is. There is no way I’m ready to start back over with a newborn. While I might have had hallucinations that I was ready, I know that I’m not. They say that people forget what it’s like to have a baby or they wouldn’t have more than one. Now I can honestly say that I know what that means.

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Eighth Month Life Lesson – No one told me I’d need a new wardrobe.

I’ve always had difficulties finding clothes that fit my body well. I’m petite yet curvy, short-legged yet have a long torso, modest yet aspire to look trendy, and I’m frugal on top of all of that. It took me awhile, but I finally figured out what brands and styles of clothing flattered my body best. Now that I’ve had a baby, I’m back to square one.

Even though I’m back to my pre-baby weight, my body has completely changed – weight has shifted and feet have grown. I pretty much need a new wardrobe. While this isn’t really possible, I have learned about a few essentials for getting by.

First off, mom jeans. Before Jeremiah I never imagined that I would wear anything except for low-rise cut jeans. I found them to be more “comfortable”. Now I can’t stand them. I feel like I’m always hiking up my pants even with a belt on. Mid-rise jeans hit just in the right spot on my torso, no longer shimmying down every time I bend or sit.

Second off, skinny pants. I was pretty anti-skinny pants for myself prior to having Jeremiah. I felt like one should view themselves as skinny to wear anything with the word in the title. Post-baby I have realized that being skinny is a state of mind not a goal. The fact that I can wear skinny anything is something to be celebrated, so I rock them with the best of my skinny girlfriends.

Third off, shapewear, Spanx if you will. Previously, I felt like if I needed to wear shapewear to feel comfortable in a piece of clothing, it probably meant that I shouldn’t be wearing it all. With this mentality, I avoided anything that made me appear lumpy or bumpy. Considering I don’t workout nowadays and I’m trying to work with the clothing I’ve got, that’s kind of hard to avoid.

Fourth off, side ruching on tops. This is really popular in maternity clothes, but luckily has found it’s way mainstream. It hides bumps, rolls, and muffin tops. Go out and get a ruched shirt today!

I’m sure there are many moms out there who could add other clothing to this list. Please do. I am still figuring out how to dress my new body. I could use all the help I can get. When it comes to dressing Jeremiah, I have it down pat – colors, patterns, styles, and brands that look best on him. Like many other moms out there, I devote most of my energy to my family and end up neglecting myself. This month I have learned how important it is to spend time on myself, even if it’s something as superficial as what to wear.

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Seventh Month Life Lesson – Baby Clothes Basics

Like last month’s post, this one is also about some practical things I’ve learned since being a mom, specifically in regards to baby clothes.

1. Baby mittens are ridiculously hard to find, but if your baby is like mine then you won’t need them anyways because he’ll refuse to wear them. You’ll give in to the fact that he’s going to scratch himself because no matter how hard you try his nails are always sharp.

2. Baby socks, unlike mittens, are in abundance, but always manage to come off as well unless you buy athletic socks like these from Old Navy. Once you buy them, you’ll never go back to the more dressy socks. Plus, they have little grippies on them that come in handy once your baby starts pulling up.

3. Baby hats are overrated. I hardly ever put one on Jeremiah. His head was big for his age so most of them didn’t fit anyways. He was always warm enough without them. I rarely see pictures of other people’s babies with hats on either.

4. You can never have too many bibs, washcloths, or around the house clothes as far as I’m concerned. There is nothing worse than running out of these items when you don’t plan to do laundry yet. Everyone says how you’ll have way too many clothes. Yeah, I never felt this way, ever.

5. I am obsessed with baby gowns. If it wasn’t for my sister’s mother-in-law giving me some, I would have never used them. They make nighttime diaper changes so much quicker. If you have a newborn, you should definitely try them.

6. Once your baby outgrows baby gowns or you need something warmer, I love a sleep sack. Jeremiah sleeps so much better when he’s all warm and cozy. I personally like Halo because they make them in bigger sizes for older babies.

7. The novelty of buying baby clothes wears off after the 3-6 month sizing. Maybe that’s because it’s the first time you don’t have a stockade from your baby shower and you realize you have to buy a new wardrobe every few months to accommodate the changing seasons whereas adults only need a few new pieces each season.

8. Once #7 starts to sink in, you slowly realize that you should have never bought 6-9 month clothing, instead opting for 6-12 month clothing. Sure it will be more baggy in the beginning, but it’s one less piece of clothing you have to hunt down and buy in three months.

9. While I prefer one piece outfits, they don’t always pair well with cloth diapers. Jeremiah’s butt always outgrows them first. Don’t get me wrong, they were essential as a newborn.

10. I don’t care what The Best Baby on the Block says, not all babies like to be swaddled. Jeremiah hated having his arms and legs constrained. I’m so glad I didn’t buy a ton of these before he was born.

11. I’m a huge proponent of shopping second-hand for clothing. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s more sustainable. My favorite consignment shop also happens to sell new items as well. If you’re ever at the Outer Banks, you should visit Rock-A-Bye Baby in Nags Head at Mile Post 14.5.

Alright mamas, what did I miss?

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Sixth Month Life Lesson – Thank goodness for handicapped doors!

I still remember clear as day the first time I took Jeremiah to the mall by myself. I was SO nervous. A flurry of thoughts flooded my mind. Did I forget anything? Where could I change his diaper? What if he refused to take his bottle? My biggest challenge on that shopping trip wasn’t what I expected…

I parked as close as I could to the Sears entrance. The “one-handed” opening feature on my stroller was a total sham. After wrestling with my stroller, I transferred Jeremiah and his car seat from the car to the stroller. As I headed into the mall, I shortly realized that a close parking spot doesn’t always mean the best parking spot. I had to walk a further distance just to get to the ramp to go inside. No biggie, I needed the exercise anyways.

Now I needed to open the door. Hmm, how does one open a door and push a stroller through it without getting stuck? Aha, a handicapped accessible door button! Except the button wasn’t working. Arg, just my luck. Surely I could use my petite limbs to finagle my way through not one, but two sets of doors. As I kept ramming my stroller into the doorway, many passerby used the other door to bypass my awkwardness. Out of nowhere a middle-aged woman came and held the door open. She told me how she remembered those days all too fondly. She even went back inside to help me open the second door.

There is no telling how long it might have taken me to get inside the mall if that kind stranger hadn’t helped me. Before that day, I hadn’t realized the many seemingly insignificant challenges that I would face in my everyday life after having a child. That is only one small example and they keep cropping up everywhere. I thought they would subside as Jeremiah gets older, but instead I’m faced with new challenges that continue to alter and shape the way my mind processes things. It must be true what they say: the second one is always easier.

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Fifth Month Life Lesson – Who has time to procrastinate?

It’s back to school time again. For the first time in twenty-one years, I am not gearing up for a new school year. While I feel odd not getting ready for another year of teaching, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than with Jeremiah.

As I’ve reflected over my brief teaching career the past few weeks, I am reminded of my very first year of teaching. Boy was that a mess! I was extremely overwhelmed and under confident – very similar to how I felt when we first brought Jeremiah home. During my first year of teaching, one of the veteran teachers had a baby. When she came back from maternity leave, I asked her how she managed it all. She told me that she wasted a lot of time before her baby was born. I kind of shrugged off her response. I was organized and motivated and I was barely making it. I couldn’t fathom the idea of working and having a baby to go home to as well.

If only I had known then what I know now! Over the past five months, I have definitely grown to understand the meaning of my co-worker’s words. Not only did I waste a huge amount of time, but I was also extremely inefficient in getting tasks done. I know that this will be an ongoing lesson for me as Jeremiah grows increasingly more mobile.

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Are you baby wise?

 

I shared a little bit about Jeremiah’s lack of a sleep routine here. I also confessed that I was giving in and reading books on sleep training looking for any nuggets of wisdom that I could find. I just finished reading (and by reading I mean skimming and by skimming I mean wishing it was a picture book) my first book, On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Child the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D.. First off, I think that all subsequent editions should be subtitled “Giving Yourself the Gift of Nighttime Sleep”. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not do well when I don’t get a full night’s sleep. I require a solid eight hours of sleep to be in a good humor and function well. As one might infer, I’ve been pretty cranky the past five months!

I found the overall tone of this book to be somewhat judgmental. It is blatantly anti-attachment parenting and seems to condemn most of his tenants. While I do not proclaim myself to be a hardcore proponent of attachment parenting, I do implement some of its practices. This book goes so far as to imply that attachment parenting does not involve any thinking on the mother’s part, who simply offers her breast as a remedy to every cry. Baby Wise claims to be superior because their theory of parent-directed feedings utilizes parental assessment, something attachment parenting supposedly lacks. I don’t care where anyone falls on the parenting philosophy spectrum, I believe that all parents follow their instincts and use their best judgement at any given time. To say so otherwise is rude and unnecessary.

Once I was able to look past their hate mongering, I did find a couple of useful suggestions. First, they propose that sleep and eating routines go hand in hand. Baby’s routine should be eat, play, sleep. Most babies eat, sleep, and then play. Guilty! Jeremiah often nursed to sleep. That seemed like something easy enough to switch up. I just needed to start my day off right by feeding him immediately, allowing him to play, and ensuring he had the opportunity for a good nap afterwards.

Then they got into the nitty-gritty of baby’s meals. If your baby is snacking during the day instead of eating full meals, he is more likely to sleep for shorter amounts of time. They suggest that babies eat every 2.5-3 hours. If they can’t make it that long, then they are probably not getting a full feeding. Guilty again! Jeremiah got full feedings as a newborn, but had become a snacker as he is easily distracted by his surroundings. I had a tendency to watch tv or be on my iPhone during feedings. No more auditory distractions. Now we nurse in completely quiet rooms. I still check my email, but if he starts to get curious, then I put it away until he’s done.

Another point they made about feedings related to solids. They are to be given at the same time as the regular feeding, not in between. For breast-feeding moms, this means right after a nursing. For formula moms, start with formula, then food, then finish off the formula. Thrice guilty! In my mind, it made more sense to give him solids in between nursings to help tide him over, but that is an obvious offender to the eat, play, sleep cycle. Another easy fix.

All this talk about food. Where does sleep come into play? The authors propose that it is a common misconception that babies need to have full tummies to go to sleep. If you get your baby in the routine of eat, play, sleep, then they aren’t conditioned to being full to sleep, thus being better able to sleep for longer periods of time at a younger age. The authors go on to say that baby’s naps should be 1.5-2 hours long, but never longer than 3 hours. Babies should wake up happy and refreshed. If they are crying, then they probably didn’t sleep long enough. Around six months is supposed to be when baby drops from three to two naps a day. Getting adequate naps helps baby to sleep through the night; however, babies under 6 weeks of age shouldn’t sleep longer than 5 hours at night.

Jeremiah was the ultimate cat napper, so the idea that he might sleep for more than 20 minutes at a clip was almost like a taunt. I implemented the three nuggets above and his eating and sleeping routines have improved. The snacking is a thing of the past and he does fine going 2.5-4 hours between feedings. Over the past few weeks, he has been taking two lengthy naps and a cat nap. While he doesn’t fit into their model perfectly, I think he’ll get there eventually. I’m just grateful to have an hour of time to get something done.

The Bottom Line
-If you’re a proponent of attachment parenting, you might not want to read this book.
-Baby’s routine should be eat, play, sleep.
-Baby should have full feedings to discourage snacking.
-Baby should have solids with regular feedings.
-Want to read more? Check out the chapters on establishing your baby’s routine, wake time and nap time, and when your baby cries (Chapters 6-8 of 2006 edition).

Now you tell me, what are your thoughts on this book?

 

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Fourth Month Life Lesson – Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep my little baby.

In my last entry I wrote about Jeremy being out of town. During that time, Jeremiah had been sleeping in a cradle in our bedroom. With Jeremy back home it was time for Jeremiah to move to his crib to sleep. I was so nervous. Jeremiah had refused to sleep in his crib for naps. I just knew we were going to be up all night until he adjusted, however long that would take.

Then it happened. Jeremiah slept straight through the night for the first time at four months old! Of course Jeremiah showed me how little I know. Everything about that “transition” gloriously exceeded my expectations. After a few nights of getting uninterrupted, blissful sleep, I felt like a new woman. I was recharged and had a renewed since of confidence in my ability to tackle motherhood. After a couple of weeks, I felt spoiled as I remembered for the first time since having Jeremiah what it felt like to truly feel rested.

Then it happened. Jeremiah stopped sleeping through the night and was getting up every three hours. At first I thought it was just the side effects of a growth spurt he was going through. A week went by and his eating decreased in frequency during the day, but he was still getting up to eat at night. Then he cut his first two teeth. Surely things would turn around after that. Nope. He just kept on waking up like a little trooper, sometimes even more frequent than every three hours. It was beyond explanation as to why he had returned to his newborn nighttime sleep schedule. I thought we had moved past all of that. I thought we had established some semblance of a routine.

After three and a half weeks of being cranky and not knowing what else to do, I requested books on sleep training from my local library this past Saturday night. I have to be honest in saying that I didn’t really believe in the concept of “sleep training” for Jeremiah, so this was truly an act of desperation. Jeremiah is extremely determined and the idea that I can get him to sleep when he doesn’t want to boggles my mind. Maybe I was wrong about sleep training? I threw in my towel and decided to give it a whirl. While I waited for my books to become available, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to endure just a few more sleepless nights.

Then it happened. Last night Jeremiah slept through the night. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when the alarm clock read 5:30am. I don’t know how it happened and I don’t dare to make something up. I will not question it, but accept it as the beginning of a new routine…for now. I’ll probably still read the sleep training books. I might find some practical tidbits of wisdom in them even if I don’t agree with the whole premise of sleep training. For now I’m going to cherish every night that Jeremiah sleeps straight through. This past month I’ve learned that just like rules, routines are meant to be broken.

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