Posts Tagged ‘The Mommy Gig’

February 20, 2017

Mommy Naps

There are few things in life as perfect as a child sleeping in your arms. The way they snuggle into you as they find that perfect position, as though no matter how hard they try they can never be close enough. They way the go from squirmy to still as the sleepies take over and they drift of to sleep. The rhythmic breathing. The warmth of their little bodies. Tiny head resting in the crook of my neck. Fine baby hairs tickling my chin smelling of baby shampoo. Rocking a sleeping child is one of my favorite mommy moments.

This stage doesn’t last nearly long enough. Blink and it’s over.

I was caught off guard when it ended with Nicole. She was a feverish two and a half year old, used to napping in her bed but would take a “Mommy nap” whenever it was offered. This time she couldn’t get comfortable. I remember the way she cried when she couldn’t fall asleep until I lied her back down in her bed and sat next to her. I had had my last mommy nap with my first born, and never knew it.

So here we are with my youngest, two years and three months old. She’s not quite at the point of giving up naps, though she’s spent nap time in the crib waiting out the bunny clock before. Her nap days are numbered, as are her mommy naps. She’ll struggles to get comfortable in my lap, struggling to find a position where her feet don’t get squished against the cushions. But she still asks for Mommy naps, she still wants them, and I’m happy to oblidge. Who am I to say no?

I’m soaking in these moments while they last.

January 27, 2017

Violating my Parent Rules

Like with all my other time my pre-child never-ever-would-Is, I find myself once again eating my words.

Nicole’s pre-kindergarden class has started assigning homework. She’s occasionally had art projects to do at home, but now they’re giving her a few activity pages a week to help prepare her for kindergarden, which is now only a little over six months away.

I’ve been using it as an opportunity to praise process. We reiterate that it’s okay to not know the answer, and okay to get the answer wrong, but it’s not okay to not try. We also get big praise whenever we come up with a new strategy to solve a problem. When we started she was inclined to just say “I don’t know” and guess randomly. Now she only guesses randomly when she’s over tired and having troubles focusing. She knows to sing the alphabet song to see what comes next, or find a number line if she’s having troubles associating a number with it’s written form. She’s getting better at trying, and she’s enjoying the extra one-on-one Mommy time. Often when Mommy decides we’ve reached our homework limit for the night, it’s met with protests and requests for “just one more.”

We’ve found that her homework fits in nicely with our bedtime routine after bath and before story time. We ended up purchasing some additional activity books so we can keep doing “homework” on a more regular basis. I’m still worried about over doing it, and I don’t want to break the positive association she has with homework, so we keep it to just a few pages a days. Sometimes we’ll skip it all together if she seems overly tired to begin with.

So what does homework have to do with my never-ever-would-Is? Before kids I was aghast to learn how lax the late homework policies in grade school have become. When I was growing up, I’d be docked a whole letter grade for each day late. Here, you can turn it in months after the fact without much penalty. Never ever would I let me kids turn in their homework late. Never ever would I let them turn it in incomplete.

This never-ever-would-I lasted until week four. I picked up her homework late this week, so we didn’t start her official homework until Wednesday night. Nicole was in need of an earlier bedtime this week and really struggling to concentrate. I figured sleep was more important so we’d turn it in a day late. Then the next day I figured we’d turn it in incomplete.

Pre-kindergarden doesn’t count, right?

September 7, 2016

Cognitive Leaps

Tonight, as many nights, Nicole was playing with her foam letter bath toys in the bath tub. She’ll hold up a letter and ask “what letter is this?” After answering her, I’ll follow up with “what sound does it make?” or “what words begin with it?”

Tonight she handed me the E. I told her it was the first letter in the word “eh-eh-elephant” and asked her if she knew what it was.

“L!”

She’s made this mistake before, with the same letter and word. Last time I corrected her, which seemed too discouraging in retrospected. This time I found the L and held it next to the E. “Yes! The E makes the Eh sound and the L makes the Elle sound so it’s E-L-ephent, Eh-Elle-ephent.”

Seeing those two letters next to each other, something clicked in her for the first time. She suddenly understood the connection between a string of letters and the word they spelled. She wanted to spell and sound out the entire word. The letter set only has one instance of each letter so we spelled ‘Elphant’, followed by ‘Princes’. (Hey, it’s the process that’s important not the exact letter sequence, right?!)

I’m a proponent of free play, and not really comfortable with the notion of formal preschool at such a young age. The research that free play sparks curiosity really resonated with me because it echos the experience of my childhood. Yet here we are, studying phonics in the bath tub.

I don’t have as much confidence in this whole parenting thing as I’d like to believe. We’re in a highly competitive area academically speaking. Some of the other kids can already read and recognize words. I was afraid Nicole kindergarten significantly behind her peers. I didn’t want her teacher forming a negative impression of her ability. Impressions, deserved or not, can be difficult to change. So we started going over letters and numbers. I even signed her up for phonics and math class at her preschool, though not without some hesitation. Sometimes it feels like a giant waste of money. Sometimes I just wish other parents would relax. But most of all I wish I didn’t let the peer pressure get to me.

At least she seems to be enjoying her letters and numbers.

The girls are (on average) great eaters. As a 12 month old, Nicole could and would down an entire bag of winter squash by herself. We took her to sweet tomatoes, the all you can eat salad bar, where she once passed on frozen yogurt in favor of more peas. After Alexis was born we were home bound for a few months. When we finally returned to sweet tomatoes Nicole was skeptical of all the vegetable goodness before her. Pickled beets? No thank you, even though she couldn’t get enough of them before. Her favorite black olives? Pass.

It took a great deal of effort, and a few failed return trips, before Nicole began to eat well at sweet tomatoes again. Domingo and I figured the long absence had made the food seem foreign. We were determined not to make that mistake again. Healthy foods the kids eat well needed to remain front and center in our meal plan rotation.

On of the foods we wanted to encourage our kids to eat is fish. It’s great for brain development, and adds a bit of variety to their diets. We introduced it early and often. Saturday became fish night: Salmon (or “pink fish” as the kids call it), Tilapia (“butter fish”) or Mahi (“chicken fish”). And as predicted the kids continued to eat it well. We parents congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

That is, until a few weeks ago. Alexis started rejecting her fish out of the blue. Was it teething? we wondered. Unlikely, fish is pretty soft. Was she getting bored with it? Were the gaps between the types of fish too long?

More than likely, she was just going through a phase.

Looking back I if Nicole’s protest against Sweet Tomatoes was a similar phase. I remembered we stopped going around the time Alexis was born, but maybe we also stopped going because it was getting harder to get Nicole to eat her vegetables. Maybe my mommy brain glossed over that fact in an effort to feel more in control of the situation. Maybe I was only remembering what I wanted to remember. Confirmation bias is a beast. It makes you remember only what you want to remember, only what fits the narrative you tell yourself about the way the world works.

We’ve entered a rough patch of sleep with Alexis, just like we did when Nicole was this age. Like clockwork. There is no traffic here, so that couldn’t be it. Teething? No again. I want to believe I can fix it. I move the bed time forward, I move it backwards. I look for any sign that I’m on the right track. As a parent, I should be able to fix this, right? If she had a good night I’d look for things that might have contributed to it. That’s not the scientific process for a reason, but when you’re tired you’re not thinking about that. You’re wondering if wearing socks at night made your footsteps quieter and contributed to your child having a better night. The next thing you know you’re refusing to take off your socks. Ever. Can’t risk it.

Maybe Nicole returned to vegetables, and Alexis to fish because that’s just their natural development. Maybe Nicole’s sleep improvements just happened to coincide with with the bunny clock. Kids are always changing. Maybe they were descend to get past all these difficulties in their own due time, and without any input from me. Maybe that’s the root of all these crazy parenting fads. Desperate parents trying anything they can think of, and then misinterpret natural developmental cycles as cause and effect?

Crazy thoughts from a sleep deprived parent.

Back before Alexis was born I had a fear that if I wasn’t careful the girls might think I had a favorite. I wasn’t afraid of loving them differently, just the appearance of it, and the possible ramifications on the girls’ confidence levels. That fear wasn’t helped by over hearing a conversation where two women were speculating on third’s possible favorites. Their go-to indicator to use: the number and type of photos of each child shared on social media. Apparently it’s not enough to judge moms based on how much their posting about their children in general, now we’re critiquing the rates she publishes about each child in comparison to the other. As much as I try not to get sucked into this kind of mommy wars pettiness it was a moment that’s kind of stuck with me. I have an Instagram account, a Facebook account and a blog. What if my posting became unbalanced on one of those platforms? Would the girls think I had a favorite the way these women thought other parents had favorites?

When Alexis was first born I took great pains to keep the number of photos between the two girls that I posted roughly even. You know, as could be drawn from a statistical random sample with zero bias. Totally normal, rational stuff.

After making the mistake of taking too few DSLR photos and too many iPhone photos of Nicole in her first year, I overcompensated. My DSLR was never far from reach, and it was the first device that I reached for. It wasn’t long before I had only handful of iphone photos of Alexis. Chasing after Nicole, on the other hand, necessitated using the iphone more than the big clunky DSLR. Given that I prefer to post my DSLR photos on facebook, and my iphone photos on Instagram, I soon found myself in a constant state of unbalance on both accounts. I found myself stalking Alexis with my iphone, hoping to take a cute photo so I could share the one of Nicole from a few days ago and vice versa.

That’s nuts. So nuts that even I see it. Extra especially nuts when you consider that the two kids have different personalities and different amounts of love for the camera. If I was happy with DSLR photos of Alexis capturing her newness, and iPhone photos of Nicole of her boundless energy, why wasn’t that enough?

As Alexis grew the personality differences between Nicole and her became even more apparent.

Nicole loves having her photo taken just as much now just as much as she loved it then at that age. She looks forward to photo day at school. Her school has a couple of different photographers come throughout the year. Nicole’s favorite is the one who does the vintage style photos, complete with movie star chair, sunglasses and boa. She always asks to see the photo of herself on my phone, and has Favorited her favorites. (I have no idea where this self confidence and love for the center of attention came from, but I love it!) Alexis? Not so much. On their last school photo day the photographer opted not to do sibling photos of the girls together because Alexis was protesting too much. Nicole was pretty upset when he made that call, and even cried a little herself. She wasn’t content with just photos of herself, she wanted some with baby sister too!

Alexis tolerates the camera better when I’m the person on the other side of it. She doesn’t mind a quick game of peak a boo with the camera. I’ve learned how to get a smile out of her by turning it into a game. Yet even with me she’s less inclined to enjoy getting dressed up or playing with props. I get short bursts of smiles and then she’s ready to move on to the next activity.

So I’m making a promise to myself, not to try and pretend both girls are exactly the same and not to worry that they aren’t. I love them for who they are, and shouldn’t try and jam them into the same mold. Let Nicole dominate my Instagram and Alexis my facebook. I will stop worrying about how that looks to others.

February 5, 2015

Nicolies

Nicole’s nickname at daycare is ‘Nicolie’, so I think of ‘Nicolies’ as the things she says or does.

I’ve been making an effort to blog less about Nicole these days in order to protect her privacy, but an article in The Atlantic reminded me why I started in the first place: so I will always be able to look back and remember. In that vein I thought I’d share some cute, but rather benign stories I hope I never forget.

Mommy I’m drawing!

While I was driving her home from daycare a few weeks ago she exclaimed happily from the back seat “Mommy, I’m drawing!” I responded with a casual “that’s nice, sweetie” without a glance. I knew those were dangerous words to ignore, but it’s not like we have any writing instruments back there and I needed to concentrate on driving.

A little while later Nicole starts screaming something that sounds like “My Sock! My Sock!” She went through a phase of taking her socks and shoes off in the car, so I’m thinking she took them off again and accidentally dropped her sock. I tell her I will put her shoes and socks back on when we get home, but she starts crying harder “Sock! Sock! Sock!”

When we get to a red light I turn around and notice both her shoes are still on. That’s wierd. I glance up and my car door is covered in green CHALK. I did not even notice she had taken it from daycare.

chalk
Chalk. It’s toddler war paint, basically

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about checking the contents of her hands before leaving school, but that would be a big ‘Nope’. A few days latter the green chalk was joined by it’s yellow brethren.

cardoor
Nicole’s artwork, a few weeks (and smudges) later
Wipers

Nothing says you’ve been in a drought too long than your two year old being fascinated by light rain, other than perhaps same said two year old being terrified of windshield wipers. We made this discovery last November during a rare day of rain. From then on every time it rains I warn Nicole that I have to turn on the wipers. She’d usually protest so one day I asked her if she could be brave.

“Yes, mommy.”
I’m going to count to three and turn the wipers on, ok? One… Two… THREE!
“Do again.”
One… Two… THREE!
“Do again, mommy!”

This continued throughout our entire drive. I kept remarking how brave she was and she kept asking for more wipers without so much as a whimper. We arrive at daycare, I stop the car, look back and see…

eyescovered
Nicole covering her eyes so she doesn’t have to see the wipers (after we parked the car, obviously. Momtographer may be obsessive, but not stupid!)

Hands covering the face the whole time. Since then she has also used Fuzzy Bunny (her toy for the car) to shield her eyes. My silly California girl prefers her sunshine.

Baby Necklace

Of course my favorite Nicolies right now is how she refers to her sister as “Baby Necklace.” Nicole adores her little sister… most of the time. She insists “Baby Necklace comes too” and that she’ll help change her diaper or feed her her bottle.

January 10, 2015

Finding Time

“You think you gave up all your free time when you go from no kids to one kid. When you have your second you realize how much free time you still had left.” – Paraphrased wisdom from a friend. I can’t remember who because my memory has turned to swiss cheese as of late.

I often feeling like the end of the day has arrived and I’ve gotten nothing done. I’m roughly halfway through my maternity leave, so time is ticking by. It’s time to get my act together.

After reading advice from happiness and productivity efforts I realized I needed to do several things: (1) Priorities, it’s not possible to do everything all the time; (2) Identify tasks I can do each day to start chipping away at my list; (3) recognize my limits so I don’t paralyze myself with frustration when I can’t do 2.

The first thing I read was to pick no more than five areas to focus on outside the day-to-day needs-to-get-done list. Since I’m out on leave I picked just four areas, leaving space for professional development when I return to work. In no particular order they are:

  • Alexis’ Development, particularly sleep It’s easier, (and tempting!), to get her to nap in the rock n’ play or bouncy seat, but I want to work on getting her to nap in the crib so we can have an easier transition than last time.
  • Quality Time with Nicki Nicki is doing very well with Alexis. She loves to help, whether it be by sitting by Alexis’ side during diaper changes, holding the bottle, or fetching the binky. I think prioritizing special Nicki/Daddy and Nicki/Mommy time is helping stave off any jealousy she might otherwise feel.
  • Getting a handle on our home. It’s a mess, and messes stress me out. We also want to move within the year, and the more picked up and organized we are the easier the move will be.
  • Photography (obviously).

Each day I set out with one or two goals in mind: a family photo (it’s harder than you might think), get Alexis to nap in the crib for more than 30 minutes, take Nicole to the park, etc. I strive for the sweet spot between reasonable-achievable and feeling-like-I-accomplished-something-big. It can take several attempts to get Alexis to fall asleep and stay asleep in the crib which can easily add up to an extra 90 minutes in my day. The park is a couple hour endeavour.

So far the new approach seems to be helping. I’m certainly taking more photos this time than last time, and Alexis has now had several good naps in the crib. I wish I was making more progress on the house, but I guess that’s why the experts recommend step 3.

December 22, 2014

Surviving Two

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Having two small children has simultaneously been easier and harder than I expected.

Nicki has been great with Alexis. She’s been very accepting of her little sister “necklace” (seriously cutest nickname ever!), and also a little intimidated by her. When we first brought Alexis home from the hospital, Nicki was very curious about her and asked lots of questions. She liked saying goodbye/goodnight whenever she’d leave for daycare or go to bed, and showed Alexis her toys. She’ll also talk to Alexis, but she rarely wanted to get close on her own. This past week she’s been getting a little braver, offering hugs and kisses. Last night she insisted that her teddy bear give Alexis a goodnight hug. I’m very grateful Nicole has been adjusting so well.

sisterkisses
Bonding this past weekend.

Alexis, for her part, has been an extremely mellow baby. She cries during diaper changes (although not as often any more), and when she’s hungry. She’s very content to be put down in her bouncy seat or the rock and play. After putting her down I’ve checked in on her only to discover she’s wide eyed, studying the blinds, quiet as a mouse.

Domingo and I got extremely lucky with both girls. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more from either of them.

One of the challenges right now is our living situation. We already felt cramped in our apartment before, but now it feels almost unbearable. There’s no out of the way place for Alexis to sleep where she won’t be woken up by the typical sounds of toddlers playing, and no easy place for me to rock her. Alexis’ crying will also just as easily wake up Nicki, which means we’ve had some rocky nights where it felt like the girls were tag teaming against Domingo and I.

Alexis is currently sleeping in our room, but in a few months will move to the office which will then become her room. Her future room is right next to Nicole’s. If the rocking chair was in her room, we’d have to walk a crying, hungry newborn right past Nicole’s door multiple times per night. We avoided that problem by having the rocking chair in the living room, but then there’s no way to shut the door and have a quite space for trying to get Alexis to nap in the middle of the day. We finally caved and decided to buy a second rocker (a stork craft glider). Pros: it was easy to assemble. Cons: it’s not as nice as our previous rocking chair (which cost 3x as much so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.) Now we have a rocker in both locations. It seems a little over kill to have two rockers, but if I can get even just 30 minutes more sleep a day, it’ll be worth it.

Another life savor has been our toy closet. We keep all manor of special toys there: play-doh, one of those pop up tunnels with towers, a bubble gun, etc. We started keeping these toys separate because they required more adult supervision. The fact that they’re not freely available adds to their appeal, and so they work wonders at keeping Nicki occupied before we had the second rocker.

The last thing that seems to have helped is making sure we have special Mommy/Nicole only time. Last Sunday I made sure to wake up early enough to pump before Nicole. We spent the morning together while Domingo and Alexis slept in, and in the afternoon Nicole and I visited Santa. Before our special day, Nicole was acting out and testing boundaries a little more than usual. Afterwards she was back to her usual well mannered self. I’m sure it will be a balancing act. Nicole has always had a very special bond with Domingo, so she’ll want special daddy time as well. We’re thinking Domingo may take her out to a pancake dinner after daycare someday soon.

The last thing that I think helped was the big sister books, especially this one by Joanna Cole. We’ve been emphasizing all the fun things Nicki can do that Alexis can’t do yet by reciting the verse about the baby being too little. It helps keep a positive spin on things when Alexis needs extra attention.

August 5, 2013

Coming up for Air

framed photo

I took a break from thesis writing today to frame my favorite photo of Nicki. I seriously can’t believe that came from my camera. No color adjusting or photo editing, I only cropped it.

Sometimes I can’t even believe Nicki came from me. How did I get so lucky to have such a wonderful daughter? We were playing together this evening, she was sitting in my lap and I was doing itsy bitsy spider tickle attack (itsy bitsy crawls up her arm and tickles her under the chin.) My little miss giggle fits loves it. I had just discovered a bug in my code, and I wasn’t sure how badly it was going to affect my thesis. I was two weeks behind where I wanted to be. I was frustrated with myself, and so stressed I was getting multi day migraines. Baby laughter in the best medicine.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stress of an incredible to-do pile. I have to remind myself that those self imposed deadlines are, indeed, self imposed. All these things I’m stressing over are nice-to-haves, not necessities.

In my next incarnation after graduate school I will have good work/life balance. I will make this happen.

December 31, 2012

Reviewing My Pledge

Last new year I made a promise to myself and other moms. I promised not to be part of the mommy wars, not to judge and not to respond to being judged, least an overzealous defense leads to someone else feeling judged. Now that I’ve been the mom of an “outside” baby for almost six months, I thought I would revisit my pledge.

Not judging others

If I was grading myself I’d give me a B on this one. For the most part I think I succeeded.

I fully recognize that every baby/parent/family is different and what works for one might not work for another. Further, while I may have opinions on the latest baby trends, I recognize failure to prove an approach or strategy works is not proof that it doesn’t work, and vice versa. I also recognize the placebo effect is a powerful thing. Just the act of doing something with a positive attitude could have positive benefit, even if the ‘something’ itself doesn’t work. I don’t begrudge anyone from trying any approach they think will work for their situation.

But, as I said, I do have opinions. There are some trends that go beyond silly and seem downright dangerous. When I voice my concerns over some new gimmicky gadget or baby strategy to my husband I can get snarky. If I’m not careful my opinion might leak out to someone less receptive. While I may be thinking “that strategy is stupid” what the other person might here is “anyone who considers that strategy is stupid”. I am by no means a baby expert, I should learn to just let it go.

Not getting defensive

I give myself a C on this one.

I sometimes feel like I have a scarlet f (for formula). The breast is best mantra is so ingrained in western culture that I feel as though I’m always bring judged. Even by complete strangers who have no idea how I feed my baby. If they know they will think I am a bad mother. I am in the formula closest, afraid to come out and be judged.

I’ve tried to write a blog post several times about our trials and tribulations nursing. Every time I start to I feel compelled to point out she’s mostly drinking expressed breast milk, or that we still do nurse. I think by making such comments do a disservice to myself and others if similar situations. By treating formula like “The Great Evil” I perpetuate the environment that leads to the feelings of guilt and shame for someone else forced into the same situation.

There is no shame in formula.

If I firmly believe ‘whatever works’ and ‘every situation is different’ for everyone else, why can’t I accept it for myself?

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