Friday, February 26, 2010

What I Wish I Knew...

I have recently found out that an old friend of mine is pregnant. She will be a rocking stay-at-home-mom, and I also think she'll have a few of the need-to-have-an-answer, need-to-have-a-plan tendencies that I had (and, let's be honest, still have). One of the hardest things I encountered while pregnant was the challenge to sort through the amazing volumes of well-meaning advice that came at me from every angle.

I intend to now write a blog full of my own well-meaning advice, inspired by my friends' pregnancy, and by others around me who are expecting.

Disclaimer: I am in no way a pregnancy OR child care expert. The following tidbits are taken from my own experience and hindsight observations, in the hopes that they will offer some peace of mind and/or validation to friends and to myself if I am ever in this position again and in need of a few reminders.

What I Wish I Knew While I Was Pregnant

1. You will drive yourself crazy comparing yourself to family, friends, or media moms. It is cliche but true: everyone is different, and different is not wrong.

2. Your definition of spontaneity is about to change forever. Take the next several whirlwind months and build up some self-indulgent experiences to draw from once you have to start making all your plans around a little someone else.

3. It may seem like you're not sleeping well due to the pregnancy, but at least right now you can lay down when you want, for as long as you want, and totally zone out. Do that as many times as you can.

4. Nothing is wrong with your maternal instincts if you don't feel like nesting for 35 out of the 40 weeks you're expecting, or if you start cleaning, baby-proofing, and decorating like a madwoman from week 4.

5. Don't worry about your weight, beyond your health and the health of the growing wee one.

6. Borrow maternity clothes, buy used maternity clothes, and think outside the box- what is in your 'normal clothes' section of your wardrobe that offers extra room for a growing belly?

7. Don't be embarrassed about your belly. It's not taboo, even if it is new to you. Have photos done, go swimming, and wear clothing that is a little more clingy than it is billowy. Enjoy the change, and you'll set a tone for a more optimistic approach to all the other changes your physique foreshadows.

8. Don't let family and friends pressure or bully you in to or out of a baby name.

9. Read, read, read, read, read. Be open-minded about more than "how it was done when I was a kid" when it comes to child-rearing methods.

...aaaaaaaaaaand last...

10. There is more than one 'right' way to raise a kid. If you have an all-natural birth, an epidural, or a c-section... if you breastfeed or use formula... if you circumcise or not... if you utilize a schedule or not... if you co-sleep or start and keep your wee one in their own bed... if you have pets or not... if you separate their laundry or mix it in with yours...

Remember: if you're making your parenting decisions out of love, then that's all that matters. In the end, the parents are the only people accountable for the decisions made for a kiddo, so in the end, the ultimate decision is yours. Be gracious when advice is offered, but don't feel pressured or judged when you go to make your decision.

It's cliche, but it's true- time flies. It will feel slow at first, but all of the sudden, you'll have an almost-two-year-old, and you'll be wondering why in the world you stressed out so much when all you had was a squishy lump that slept all day. Enjoy every step for what it is, and you'll get by just fine (good advice for others and for myself, even now).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Learnding...

As Ralph Wiggum would say, 'I'm learnding.'

Since my down-in-the-dump day of yester-blog, I have raided Barnes and Noble, and have selected a few texts to help shed some light on Audrey's newest toddler phase(s). Not only am I finding reassurance in the advice and general validation of the first book of choice, The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D., I am also seeing options for dealing with her tantrums and such from a new and interesting perspective.

I have yet to finish this book, but so far, it has been uplifting and has helped in making me feel like I haven't broken my baby; I have in fact nourished her so successfully that she feels safe and secure enough to act like a little cavewoman. Go me.

The second book I selected, Toddler 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown, M.D., has yet to be cracked, but it is touted by Parents Magazine (ooo la la). It will serve as more of a reference for the whys and what-ifs of this uncharted territory I've followed Audrey in to, and less of a suggested behavioral method for coping with toddler behavior.

I find it comforting to know that I now have backup when I desperately need answers, and all my conventional avenues have been exhausted.

To make things even better (for now, knock on wood), Audrey is 100% over her illnesses, and has regained her resiliency and sweetness... between tantrums, that is. This alone makes it so much easier to be optimistic, and stick to my guns when it comes to doing what I know is best for her. For example, we've resumed independent playtime in the play pen (we stopped when she first started feeling bad, about 3 weeks or so ago). I can't believe what a difference the playtime makes in that darned play pen. The toughest part is easing back in to the routine, because she doth protest! But after a few days, she quite enjoys herself, and can do 30 minutes or more and have a great time.

I've also started something new: about 45 minutes before lunch, I read out loud to her from a book I'm interested in. Nothing racy, but nothing that involves Sesame Street, either. I've noticed that this little ritual has started curbing her clingyness (is that a word?), and is encouraging her to play with her toys without bugging for participation from someone else. She'll fuss for the first 60 seconds or so as she realizes I'm not going to drop everything to shake a maraca with her or switch from my book to one of hers, but after that she does a great job finding things to play with near me.

Of course, she still has a few meltdowns per day, but that's nothing compared to when I last blogged, and it seemed like she was screaming and crying all day long. They say baby steps, right?

Today was a great day, with only one upset towards dinner time that was very short-lived. Pappy came to visit, we had pizza for lunch, we colored in the driveway, and we read stories with Dada until it was time to take a bath. Not too shabby.

Audrey having breakfast: whole-grain toaster waffles, boiled eggs, and blueberries

Independent playtime in the pack-n-play

30 minutes was up, but she kept on playin'...

Audrey and her favorite book

Sharing an oatmeal cookie with the kitty

Her newest trick: de-clipping her hair

Ending the night with the beginning of a new tradition: charting Audrey's height on the inside of the pantry door

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

Some days you catch yourself thinking, 'I hope this day is over, done, and forgotten as soon as possible.' I had a day like that yesterday, but despite my frequent wishes that 8pm would hurry up and get here, and that we would never speak of the preceding 12 hours again, I have decided to write it up precisely so I won't forget about this day.

Audrey has been sick for what seems like a lifetime, though in reality, it's been about 2 weeks. First with the strep throat, and now with viral tonsillitis. They are unrelated, but they happened one after the other, and Audrey feeling out of sorts has started taking a toll on everyone. Let's also not forget to mention we're expecting her 1-year molars, and two more bottom front teeth, right about now.

Almost right around the time that Audrey contracted strep, she started throwing frustration temper tantrums, and as time wore on and she kept feeling lousy, the tantrums increased in frequency and duration. By yesterday- day three out of at least five days (if not seven) required for this virus to run its course- Audrey was either whining, crying, screaming, or asleep. Her behavior over the past two weeks accumulated into a big cloud of doubt and insecurity for me, and by the time she was bathed and put to bed last night, I was questioning every choice I have made to this point as her mom. I actually went online and started looking up the symptoms of personality disorders, attachment anxiety, and autism. Seriously.

It has been so hard for me to believe that 'just' an illness (or two) would completely change my sweet baby into a screaming, scratching, brat-monster. I remember thinking to myself, how did I ever take for granted her sweet disposition? Had she ever woken up in a good mood? [yes, every morning and nap time!] Had she ever sat through a meal, actually eaten, and not tried to throw things off her tray? [yes, 99.9% of the time!] Had she ever played by herself? [yes, every day!] Had she ever been OK without me holding her? [yes!] I swear, it seemed like there were 2 different Audreys.

At my wits' end, I called my go-to "Mommy-friend," and I unloaded on her (and despite the fact that she had been through some pretty hard stuff herself lately, she listened to everything). In less than 20 minutes, she had validated, eased, and all but solved my problems. She told me I wasn't doing anything wrong, that her daughter had gone through the same things, and she reminded me that- hello- Audrey isn't feeling well! Of course she's not herself. Who is when they're sick? It was just the pep-talk I needed, and she eased my mind enough for me to see through the cloud that had settled on me, and into the light.

The most important thing I took from her talk, though, is that no parent has the right answer at the right time every time. Her wisdom comes from trial and error, and no one expects parents to have trials with no errors. Hind sight is 20/20, and sometimes you can't understand good advice until the moment to apply it has already passed.

I wanted to write about this blip in our blissful family life because I didn't want to forget that lesson. Life is stressful right now, but there's no judge sitting back scoring us as we try to handle the curve balls. There are hundreds of "right" ways to raise a kid, and the mere fact that there is stress involved during the hard times means that the decisions being made are thoughtful decisions, made out of love.

Every kid is going to change... several times, I'm told, before they are an adult. How boring would it be if everyone stopped adding angles to their personalities at 16 months old? Tantrums are not acceptable, but I have the resources, tools, and support I need to make sure this is just a phase, and not a permanent part of her personality, and that is worth remembering forever.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waking to a Winter Wonderland

It snowed over night! What a beautiful surprise... the weather people of the channels-that-be always seem to miss the mark, but they were spot on this time. We have had at least 4 if not more inches of snow, and it's sticking! It was fun to watch it come down while drinking coffee, and even more fun to watch it with Kyle, since he was unable to make it up the last 30 feet or so of our driveway and head off to work.

The real fun, however, came after Audrey got up. We hastily fed her breakfast, all the while watching the snow fall down in huge wet flakes, and when she was finished, we scooped her out of her high chair and headed up stairs to start the bundling! Over her onsie and socks, we left her footie pajamas on, then slipped a fleece coverall over that, then mittens, then boots...

By the time we made it back down stairs and added her jacket, Audrey resembled the little brother from 'A Christmas Story.'

So once Audrey was successfully protected from temperatures much colder than what it actually was outside, we grabbed our own coats, and headed out. Audrey boldly took her first steps into the second snow of her life, and never looked back... well, OK, she looked back a lot, but she wholeheartedly undertook the snow experience.

Audrey plunges in to the great white abyss

One small step for man...

Not quite sure what to make of all this white stuff


...and off she goes

Wandering in a winter wonderland

Audrey acquires a target

Daddy and Audrey

Family footprints

Now, as Audrey naps peacefully with visions of snowflakes dancing in her head, I feel like baking. Maybe I'll turn that roasted butternut squash I have into some muffins. For now, though, a cup of hot apple cider should hit the spot. Happy snow day!

Audrey Discovers Snow from Kyle Ware on Vimeo.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Dreary Monday

We are in the thick of a classic Texas winter: first it's cool, then it's warm, then it's freeeeezing, then it's raining and cool, then it's dry and cold, then it's warm, then it's freezing and cold. Right now, it's raining, cold, and about to freeze.

Audrey has recently graduated to another level of personality, and is exploring her latest ability of self-expression: the temper tantrum. It is going on a week now that she's been dabbling in this ancient art, and it's quite a beating if there's nothing planned to break up the day. Usually, an outing right before lunch is an excellent distraction for both of us, but on days like today, it's just not worth it to get out. The answer (at least for me): photo ops. Without further ado, a sampling of an otherwise completely un-noteworthy Monday (I don't think un-noteworthy is a word).

8am-ish: Audrey wakes up with a much more tame 'do than usual

We share whole-wheat pumpkin pancakes and hard-boiled eggs while the kitties distract Audrey (unseen, to her right)

After dressing, dishes, and laundry, we head upstairs and clean up the landing (Audrey helps by throwing away some trash)

We move to Audrey's room, where we dust and change sheets

Audrey rocks her rocking chair

We make some funky beats with one of Audrey's percussion instruments

Audrey digs for another toy...

...then makes a few calls, while Maslow watches from safely inside the tent

After a dinner of stuffed cabbage and twice-baked potatoes, we learn about making brownies from scratch with Alton Brown

Audrey gets comfy as 'Good Eats' wraps up

Finally, a nice, warm bath

Last on the to-do list for the day: brush teeth, dry hair, pajama-jammie-jams, and bed!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Gramps Kind of Day

This Saturday, Gramps (aka Bill) came up and helped with projects here and there for the majority of the day. One demanding project was the Audrey, who would not rest until she had fed her Gramps many a toasty-o, Goldfish Cracker, and puffed wheat (all which had previously been on the floor). What a good Gramps she has.

Audrey approaches Gramps with her 'bites cup'

After being deemed worthy, Audrey offers Gramps a choice toasty-o

Audrey selects the next offering from the floor (ignore the cat tail in the foreground)

Notice the one-of-a-kind originals both Audrey and Gramps are wearing
(tie-dying by Bill)

We rounded out the afternoon with some good old-fashioned bubbles

Not sure who was enjoying them more...

One last offering: a captured bubble