Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bigger Picture Moment: Respect the Mama

Bigger Picture Moment

In the sixteen short months of my Tot's life, I have received a lot of feedback. From well-meaning moms, family members, friends, the Husband, but mostly from my mother and mother-in-law. My own mother is very expressive and has no problem at all with telling me when she thinks I should be handling the Tot differently. My mother-in-law is the opposite and often will not come right out and say that she disagrees as much as quietly offer a differing opinion.

Unfortunately, her opinion differs not only from my own but also from that of my sister-in-law and her own parenting methods with her two girls. One of whom is currently on her way here for a visit in the company of her grandparents. While I am excited for the visit, the possibility for conflicts between my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law over how my niece should be cared for is giving me a fair amount of anxiety. Don't get me wrong, my sister-in-law and I are not always on the same page as parents either. In fact, I am very embarrassed to admit that before I was a parent myself, I frequently engaged in my own critique to my husband of how we would and would NOT be doing things when we had children of our own based on what we witnessed during family gatherings. You know, because we were young newlyweds with nary a child to speak of, so of course we knew so much better than the actual parents.

But when the Tot was new and not so much a Tot as a squalling, red-faced bundle, I was eager to accept most of the feedback that was offered to me. I knew that I had no clue what I was doing and if these other, well meaning ladies did, well, then I should humbly learn from their more experienced ways, right? But as the Tot grew larger, so did my own confidence as a parent. Conversely, my desire for feedback and my ability to receive it graciously began to shrink.

Everyone has a different way to parent. Some differences are huge and more to do with a general parenting philosophy such as attachment parenting or styles of discipline. Other differences are minute such as whether to nurse in public or whether to feed your child organic food. But, as it turns out, there is no one right way to rear a child. In fact there are hundreds or thousands of ways to parent and no one way is necessarily better or worse in the grand scheme. But, that doesn't stop us from telling each other how to do it better. Or shaking our heads in that knowing, judgmental fashion when we see a parent diverting from what we would do.

The reality is that what one family may do with their children or in their home, may not work for our family or the way we want to raise our children. It may seem ill-advised or even ludicrous to us in many instances. But as a parent myself, I am fully aware that I have some a lot of specific wishes for how I want my own child to be cared for in my absence. Which is why my niece will be eating a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal, will not be watching any shows that her mother is not in favor of, and will not be getting tons of sugary snacks or extravagant gifts. At least not from me. Because whether you agree with it or not, whether it is what you would do or not, the bottom line is: You've got to respect the mama!

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Job Description

I am sure I have mentioned it before, but this week and weekend has been spent in a flurry of cleaning due to the impending arrival of the in-laws. This is typically not a fun task by any means but only made less fun by the very heated discussion that arose following said cleaning bout as the Husband and I competed to see "who did more". Least you think that we sound like six year olds (because we kind of are) let me just say that it did not start out to be a contest of who works harder. Well, it actually started because I came downstairs dripping with sweat after scrubbing (and I mean SCRUBBING) both bathrooms, to find my husband sitting on the couch playing "Call of Duty". As I am sure you can imagine, I did not respond well.

In his defense, he pointed out that he had already picked up the kitchen and wiped down all of the counter areas. Which he had and it was appreciated. Until he indicated that he felt this was going "above and beyond" what should be expected of him. Wha-? 'xcuse me?! So that's how the conversation began - it was initially an inquiry on my part to determine what exactly he felt his duties for cleaning the house should be and what was considered "above and beyond" in his mind. I am embarrassed to say that I was not able to keep it on the mature and respectful level where it began. But, in MY defense - neither was he. 

One thing I have to say about arguing with my husband is that it very frequently ends in laughter. This is one of my favorite things about our relationship. We both have the ability to laugh at ourselves and let some of the anger go in favor of more positive emotions like amusement. The other blessing to this ridiculous bout of "I did more! No, I did more!" was that it made us both more aware of our assumptions about the household duties and who would be doing what. Many, many moons ago in our pre-tot existence, when we were both very mature and self-aware, we had a discussion about whose job it should be to do which tasks. In fact, we have had many of those discussions since the start of our cohabitation.

However, since the birth of our spawn, we have neglected to have a single conversation about who should be doing what where the household chores are concerned. The furthest we have come is to say whose night it is to put the baby to bed and who will be in charge of dinner. So, I was surprised to find out that he assumed the dishes were my responsibility. Likewise, he was surprised to find that I expected him to do the laundry. Therefore, any time he had been doing the dishes, in his mind he was "helping me out" and I was feeling the same way about the laundry. (which was part of the reason he felt he was going "above and beyond" this weekend - he had done the dishes AND the laundry!) 

Now that we have been able to discuss it and determine who should be responsible for what (he is responsible for laundry, I am responsible for dishes - go figure!) we can hopefully avoid further arguments about who is working harder. Or not - but at least the dishes will be clean and the laundry will be done!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Night the Lights Went Out

It has been a typically summer week in the mid-west filled with thunderstorms. Though some areas have experienced severe weather in the form of funnel clouds and flooding, for the most part, it's been smooth sailing around here. Until the power outage last night. Hypothetically, you wouldn't think that a power outage in the middle of the night would cause much disruption. In fact, the Husband and I were just about to go to bed anyway, so we weren't too upset by the sudden darkness. But, then it was followed up with an unmistakable wail. Coming from the general direction of the Tot's room. I ran to get him and quickly discovered the cause of his alarm - the combination of a black-out blind on his window and a lack of night light had plunged his room into complete darkness. (Even so, you would think that being asleep - with his eyes CLOSED - this might have escaped his notice, but no such luck.)  

I grabbed my phone and snuggled with him in the chair to listen to some music and rock him back to sleep, hoping the lights would come back quickly. Twenty minutes later, he was asleep and I was texting my husband to try to figure out the best way to ensure sleep for everyone. We agreed to place him in the Pack n Play in our room next to the bed and the Husband began to clean it out. However, when we got to our room (with blanket and bear in tow) we realized that our room was just as dark and "scary". So, while the Husband went to search for a flashlight to light up the room, the Tot and I laid in the bed and snuggled. The Husband came back and fashioned the flashlight in to a night light and then climbed in to bed as well. 

Initially, all was well. I have always wanted to be able to snuggle and nap with my Tot so I was very excited to try it. He was sucking his fingers and appeared to be relaxing so I began to drift. I was almost asleep when I felt sticky fingers poking at my cheeks...and then a giggle...followed by some chatter. He then rolled away from me and said "DA!" excitedly pushing on the Husband's face as well. At which point my tired husband said "You know, I could fashion the same type of night light in his room and then he could sleep in there". I weighed my desire for toddler snuggle time with my extreme fatigue before grabbing up the Tot and dashing walking to the baby's room.

Once there, I reasoned that I would rock him for a few songs until he went back to sleep and then just stick him in the crib (I also realized once I got there that it was actually the Husband's night for bedtime, so I was doubly annoyed to be the one sitting in the rocker). I rocked and rocked and rocked. He would start to drift off and then jerk himself awake, I would start to drift off and then be jerked awake by the wiggly body laying on mine. Finally, I gave up and put him in the crib. Shockingly he didn't protest, he just rolled over and went to sleep, leaving me to wonder just how much time I had wasted by rocking. I sleepily trudged back to our room and had just started to doze when the power came back on. And then went off. The Tot voiced his displeasure. This time, I was wiser. I rolled over and shook the Husband. "Your Turn!" I explained. As he got out of bed and began the drowsy walk to the nursery, I rolled over and went to sleep. 

Today, we are buying a night light with a battery back-up. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday

1) The "Nap Wars" household has been under quarantine again this week. The Tot caught another summer cold which has kept us trapped inside and caused a bit of crabbiness. He hasn't been very happy about it either.

2) Our inability to go anywhere has resulted in some increase in television watching for the Tot. I am starting to understand how parents fall in to the trap of using television as the "babysitter". Having him occupied for 20-30 minutes at a time becomes addicting. Unfortunately, he has also begun to react with indignation when the television gets shut off which is probably a good sign that he has had too much.

3) I have been agonizing over buying the new Jennifer Weiner book "Fly Away Home". I love her books and even have signed copies of a few, but since the purchase of my kindle last year, I have downloaded all of my books. For me it's a matter of space as much as it is being cost-effective. I rarely go back and read a book more than once or twice and they fill up and overflow my shelves and the boxes in the basement. Aside from the obvious collector type books, I have yet to develop hard and fast criteria for when I should buy a book in hard copy and when I should just download it. The dilemma I always have is "what if I download the book and then I really love it and want to get it signed one day" because then I have to go ahead and purchase it anyway. But in reverse it's "what if it's just an okay book but not one I will ever read again" and then I have it taking up valuable shelf real estate? (no offense to Jennifer Weiner)

4) There is nothing much on television this summer. I have been occupying my time with watching old movies instead. Yesterday was "Bridget Jones' Diary" and today is "Adventures in Babysitting" and now "Coraline" (which is why this quick takes has taken a heck of a lot longer than it should have!)

5) I am also very much looking forward to the Fall TV season for another reason. Yes, I am excited to see what is next on Grey's Anatomy and who will be singing what on this season's Glee, but more importantly, I am sick of the same 8-10 Sesame Street episodes on the DVR and can't wait for some new ones!

6) The Tot is gaining more and more square footage. Our living room has been overrun by Fisher Price and Little Tikes and as a result, the rarely used office is being converted to his playroom. This has begun the arduous task of emptying the office of clutter and deciding how to reorganize. On the positive side - it also means I get to redecorate the office!

7) My in-laws and niece are visiting next week which has brought on a cleaning frenzy akin to pregnancy nesting. I love having a clean house but am just not a huge fan of actually cleaning it. Not to mention that my OCD kicks in during times like these and no matter how clean it seems, I see places where it can always be better. However, I am taking a break from mops and dust bunnies this weekend to hire a sitter so we can go see "Inception". I love going to the movies, but once we add in the cost of tickets, popcorn (gotta have it) and the sitter fee, we rarely do it these days unless it's for something really good. So, I hope this one lives up to the hype.

Happy Friday! For more quick takes click here.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Battle Continues

It's been a while since I have posted regularly. I have no excuse for my slacking. I have been busy but not so busy that I couldn't have written a post here and there. I must also confess that I have had plenty of time to scroll through and read other people's postings while never posting one of my own. Very one-sided of me, I know.

Maybe one reason I haven't written anything as of late is that nothing feels very newsworthy. The Tot continues to fight his naps and is now developing more advanced techniques for winning these battles. For example, when he is about to fall asleep in the rocker, he forces himself into a sitting position (eyes half closed) and proceeds to fidget and fumble about in my lap rather than relax and succumb to the sleep. He has also begun to employ various methods of avoiding relaxation in general including chatting to me, biting my shirt, playing with my face, and the simple, but very effective, shaking of the head back and forth whenever he starts to feel sleepy. Because of his general opposition to sleeping both at nap times and at bed times, he has also returned to his previously extinct behavior of crying when we leave him in the crib. I have to confess, the first time he did this last week, I panicked. It had been so long since he had cried when we put him down. Not to mention that he wasn't just fussing, he was all out screaming and sobbing. I was sure there was something wrong with him (on fire, perhaps?!). I went right in to check on him (yeah, I know - SUCKER) and began mentally scrolling through my checklist. Not hot, not feverish, not teething, not dirty, not stuffy, not cold, not hurt, etc. I could find nothing wrong with him, but I figured I would just sit in the rocker and rock him until he fell asleep. Your laughing at me now, aren't you? 

Well, I rocked for a good 20 or more minutes but he never fell asleep. He became very relaxed on me and didn't fidget but refused to let those peepers close. Finally, I had to put him back down to see if he would just soothe himself. Notsomuch. The Husband then decided to give it a go. So he went up and rocked the Tot to sleep which involved a complicated pattern of rocking in the chair, standing and bouncing and then, finally, patting in the crib. It was probably a good 30-40 minutes of work. But, it did work and the Tot slept through the night. Unfortunately, it was the start of what would be several nights of fussing at bedtime. For no known reason. Thankfully, both the Husband and I had wised up by night two and employed the much despised "cry it out" method. I am pleased to say that it was incredibly effective and the night time drama only lasted a few painful years minutes.

I am always surprised when these sleep issues crop back up. For some reason, I had imagined that once the baby slept through the night, he would always sleep through the night. Okay, now I know you are laughing.
Much the same as when I pictured rocking my tiny infant to sleep, it didn't take very long and the baby always slept soundly. Oh yeah, and in my imagination, I was rocking them to sleep every night (none of this self soothing stuff!) and they were sleeping in a crib with a mobile (too stimulating, I already know), a crib bumper (gasp!) and some sort of lovey object (which the Tot refuses to form any connection with - apparently he is too self sufficient for that). Okay, so life is rarely how we picture it. The reality is always much different. In this reality, I will just be happy when the Tot goes to bed without a fuss and sleeps soundly for, say, 11-12 hours. Now really, STOP laughing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Bigger Picture: At least...

Lately I have been kind of a whiner. I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but I definitely have. I feel like I complain about life being hard or not having things the way I want them so often that I forget to appreciate the great stuff that I do have. On Sunday, our power went out. It ended up being some corroded wire or something that the utility company had to come out and fix. They were outside for two hours or more, running a new line. All I was thinking as the temperature climbed was how warm it was getting and how hot we were all going to be if it didn't get fixed.

Our A/C went out last summer and it was 80 degrees in our house for about a week before we could get a new one. I was sweltering in the heat with a three month old and constantly in a panic that he would overheat until we broke down and bought a portable AC unit for our bedroom (which is where we remained huddled up until we got a new AC). So, that was what I was picturing in my head. Which, of course, didn't happen. Today at VBS, one of the group leaders was telling me that their AC was out and the temperature was supposed to be in the triple digits today. I responded with sympathy and asked when it would be fixed. She explained that it had been out all summer and they didn't have the money to buy a new one right now. Immediately I was reminded of my whining and complaining this weekend about our measly two hours without power and felt very ashamed.

So, now I have started playing the "At least..." game in my head when I feel like I am wallowing unnecessarily.  For example - the power window on the driver's side of the Jeep is busted and won't stay up, but at least we are getting it fixed and it's still under warranty. And, yes, the Jeep dealership appears to be run by some morons folks who don't know that when it starts raining you should pull the car with the broken window inside the garage to avoid flooding the interior. But, at least they are going to clean and dry the upholstery for us. The Tot took a very short nap today after VBS but at least he took one and at least I have more time to play with him today before dinner.

It seems that even though there are things that go wrong, frustrations that happen and yes, the grass certainly looks greener way over on the other side of this fence, in many ways it's a blessing to have grass at all. At least it's not mud!

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bigger Picture Moment: Not a working mom

I really had no idea what I was in for when I agreed to do it. A few months ago, the woman at my church who is in charge of VBS was looking for volunteers. She explained that childcare was provided so I would have somewhere to put the Tot. For those that don't know, VBS is Vacation Bible School. At our church it goes on for three hours in the morning every day for a week. I was assigned the preschool bible station. The whole curriculm was provided for me a couple of months ago, so the only preparation I was planning was to learn the games and songs prior to the start of the program.

Did I mention that I had a couple of months to learn this stuff? No problem! But, then I found out that I also needed some supplies for my station and so I needed to go through the supply list and provide the coordinator at the church with a list of what I needed by the end of May. So, it took a little bit of time to go through and make a list, but it was done in plenty of time.

I also had to go to the church to go through the supplies and make sure I had everything I needed prior to the start of the week. No worries! I happen to be a very organized person. Did I ever mention I used to run a whole substance abuse treatment program in a previous life? Well, I did. So, I had it all under control.

But then I found out I also needed to decorate the room where my station would be. While I am very organized, I am definitely lacking the "arts and crafts" gene. I have very limited ability when it comes to any type of drawing/painting/decorating type of skills (Which anyone who has seen our house can attest to). But, the VBS coordinator offered to help and give me some ideas, so no big deal. Unfortunately, she is also coordinating a great many things and finding a time to meet was difficult. We were finally able to meet up last week to talk about what needed to be done. Turns out - a LOT. It became very obvious during our meeting with the Tot in tow that I was not going to be able to accomplish much in his company. So I talked with Husband and he took off early one afternoon this week to hang with the little guy while I decorated my VBS room.

In my mind, this was the perfect solution. I would go to the church, decorate for a couple of hours and get my supplies together, stay for a meeting and still be home in plenty of time for bedtime with the Tot. Somehow I had sorely overestimated my craft abilities. I left while the Tot was still napping and got to the church at 3pm. At 6pm I had to go to a meeting upstairs and had yet to accomplish much decorating. Which meant returning another afternoon sans offspring to get it finished. To make matters worse, the meeting ran longer than I expected and I didn't get out until a quarter after 7. I raced to the car and called home only to find that I had just missed bedtime.

I felt so brokenhearted. I can't really explain why. Maybe it was because I had left before he had gotten up from his nap so I felt like I hadn't seen him most of the day. Or maybe it was just because I rarely miss a goodnight kiss. The push and pull between wanting to do a good job at the church and feel like I had accomplished something and the almost overwhelming desire to be at home with my family reminded me of my days in the working world. I thought a lot about working moms and the constant internal debate I have about whether I should be one. I thought about missing a lot more bedtimes and that feeling of constantly rushing back and forth between work and home, trying to meet everyone's needs and always falling short. I don't know how working mothers do it but today I am really glad that I don't have to.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Fear

Today a woman said "You can tell he is yours" when the Tot and I came in to the gym. I am starting to see more and more of myself in him. We both fight sleep but then never want to wake up once we finally get there. We both like to lay on a pillow or stuffed critter while watching the tube. We both love books. We both are very opinionated and we both throw horrific temper tantrums when we don't get our way.

There is one thing I hope he didn't get from me - my fear. Recently my Tot has started to show some anxiety around unfamiliar things. His grandmother got him a "Roarin' Rex" toy from Toy Story and he won't go near it. Admittedly, it is bigger and has more teeth than most of his usual toys. The other day at a store, he refused to go two feet past the front door because of an enormous stuffed bear in the back corner. I even attempted to pick him up and carry him over to show him the bear was friendly and almost lost all of the skin on my shoulder in his attempt to get away from me. Last week, I was sitting on the couch reading a book while he played in the kitchen behind me. All of the sudden he started to whimper and fuss. He was looking out the sliding door in the backyard. I couldn't imagine what could be out there as we have a fence. A snake maybe? A big bug?

Even better:

The cats, on the other hand, were not as fearful. More like ravenous:

(The little rabbit should have been thanking his lucky stars for the glass door. And that the cats don't have the necessary thumbs to open it.)

In any case, I brought the Tot closer to the door so he could get a good look at the bunny and see that it was nothing to dangerous. Soon all was right in his world once again.

I have always experienced some level of anxiety about things that are new or different. I dread meeting a group of new people. I hate starting a class or joining play groups because I have such a difficult time feeling like the "new kid". It's nothing debilitating - it doesn't keep me from leaving the house or going out and having fun. Still, it's more anxiety than I would like to have to deal with and sometimes I wonder if it's "normal". It's a trait I would prefer not to pass down to my Tot in the genetics lottery (or have him observe and model - depending on which way you swing on the whole "nature v. nurture" debate). I have to believe that this new expression of fear is likely a normal part of development, right? Probably a typical symptom of his continuing individuation and the realization that he is separate from me. Still, I worry. But what else is new?

Friday, July 2, 2010

One half of a crime fighting team...

I struggled this week with finding the bigger picture. Which is why this is posted on Friday instead of on Thursday when it should have been done. Every time I would think of a topic, I would discard it deciding that it really didn't fit the topic of "bigger picture moments". Then last night, it came to me. Or rather - it was thrust upon me. In the form of a crying 12:30 in the morning.

For no apparent reason, my son decided that he could no longer sleep and started fussing. This is very unusual behavior for him. He peeps occasionally in the night but it is typically short and doesn't last more than a minute or two - not even long enough for me to get out of bed and investigate. But last night, he went on. And on. And on. So I knew I had to go and see what the crisis was. I still don't really know but I suspect the soon to be arriving (and already partially here) incisors. So I gave him some Tylenol and rocked him back to sleep.

Ahhhhh - silence. It always takes me a little bit to fall back to sleep, but that was okay because typically if the Tot wakes in the night, he will sleep a little later in the morning. Except for this morning. This morning he was awake again at 5:30. Only 4.5 hours after his last wake up. To be clear, it wasn't a typical wake up with some chatter and giggles in the crib. It was a full on fussing "come and get me RIGHT NOW" kind of wake up. Another words - not the kind of thing where I could snooze for a few more minutes. I moaned and was about to succumb to the little dictator's demands when my husband said "I'll get him. I can go make his breakfast and if he's still going, I will get him up and give him breakfast so you can get some more sleep." Now, I have to say that as thoughtful as that was, it didn't work out very well because I could still hear the Tot and felt too guilty to sleep much. But, still - it was really a wonderful offer.

It got me to thinking about how tough I can be on the Husband in a very Queen of Hearts "All Ways are my Ways" sort of way. I tend to take over and I get very frustrated when anyone deviates from my plans. But, I also realize that I couldn't be the mom that I am or get all of the things done that I do without the support from the Husband when he is home. Likewise, he couldn't go to work and meet all of his goals there and still be able to come home and enjoy some play time with the Tot without me doing some of the heavier lifting around here.We really are dependent on each other for our successes and failures. We each make it possible for the other to do our best parenting. It's a weirdly nice feeling to know that even though I am dragging today, he probably is too, and when he gets home, we will take turns entertaining the Tot, making dinner and putting our little guy to bed before we collapse together on the couch. It's comforting to have a partner not only in the joyous times but, even more importantly, in the tough times.

For more bigger picture moments click here!