Monday, April 29, 2013

To My Sweet Baby Oliver

I have finally gotten around to writing Oliver's baby letter.  Life is so busy and time just keeps slipping away.  I can't believe how big my tiny little baby has gotten already!


To My Sweet Baby Oliver,

You are a gift I never thought I would receive   I didn't realize how much I needed a son until you came along and made my life complete.   You are such a happy baby, a ray of sunshine in the lives of everyone who loves you.  You are the very definition of courageous.  I didn't know what it meant to be brave until I was given the opportunity to watch you fearlessly conquer the world. You are energy personified, always climbing and crawling, laughing and screaming, going and doing.  It is exhilarating to try to keep up with you each day.  You are so smart.  You only have to see something once and you’re ready to master it.  You are so amazingly loving.  It is pure joy to be on the receiving end of one of your hugs or cuddles.  I am absolutely in awe of you and I love you more than anything in the world.

There are so many things that I love about you.  I love your bright blue eyes.  I love your sweet little smile.  I love the way you fall asleep each night with your head on my chest.  I love the way you reach out for me in the night to make sure I’m still next to you.  I love the way you wake up each morning with messy hair and a sleepy smile on your face.  I love the way you daringly climb everything you can, even when it scares me half to death.  I love how you always seem to know exactly what you want, even if no one else can figure it out.  I love the way you are completely delighted by your big sister.  I love your adorable temper tantrums.  I love the way you squeal with laughter.  I love how you somehow manage to be both clingy and independent.  I love how you fit perfectly into our family as if you were always meant to be.

I love you every minute of every day.  There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to keep you happy and safe.

“You are so precious to me, sweet as can be, baby of mine.” –Dumbo

Love Always and Forever,

(written on April 29th, when you are 10 months old)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two-Child Family

When Oliver was only a month old I blogged that I thought I would enjoy having two kids… one day.  At the time I was still reeling from all the change and I was way too overwhelmed to really enjoy anything.  I realized recently, though, that the day has finally come.  I officially love having two children.  I think I have loved it for some time, but the knowledge has only recently slipped into my conscious mind.  Yes, things are still difficult at times.  There are still those moments when both kids are screaming and I feel like I'm enduring some exotic form of endless torture.  But I'm sure that there will always be difficult times.  Now, though, there are enough wonderful moments to make the challenging ones worth it.

Moments when I pose them together for a photo op, with Emma's arms wrapped around Oliver's little body, and they both give me a dazzling smile at the exact same time.  Those pictures make it worth it.  Moments when Emma makes Oliver laugh, and then his laughter cracks her up in return.  Their mingled joy and Oliver's little squeals of excitement make it worth it.  Moments when Emmalee gives Oliver a hug and says, "I love you, Little Brudder."  Those words make it worth it.  And moments at night when I'm lying on my side in bed with Emma spooned up against my front and Oliver cuddled up against my back, and my heart is so full of love and contentment that I think I could burst.  Those moments make it worth it.

So, yes, I love having two children.  There are rough moments, but we persevere, because we are a two-child family now.  We've got a routine and enough love and hugs and kisses to go around.  The dust has settled.  We've adjusted.  And I think it’s safe to say, we wouldn't have things any other way.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Just For Hipsters

Something strange is happening to me.  Oliver’s arrival has changed something fundamental about who I am as a person.  Remember, I am the mother who blogged about how I couldn’t stand to even sleep in the same room as Emmalee.  I am the mother who resorted to cry it out methods when she was 9 months old.  I am the mother who ignorantly began forward facing my baby when she was 6 months old.  I am a loving mother, I mean well, but I definitely have some room to grow in the nurturing department.  Now though, everything has changed.  I barely recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror.

First piece of evidence: as I type this, Oliver is strapped to my chest sleeping soundly.  I am baby wearing.  Baby wearing!  And the weirdest part, I am truly enjoying it.  There is something absolutely perfect about listening to his little breaths and feeling his warm little body against mine while I go about my daily business.  It feels so right.  I find myself deeply regretting that I never did this with Emmalee.  I used to feel so secure in the bond I shared with her, but now I’m worried that there will always be a wedge between us because I didn’t wear her as an infant.  I’m not even being sarcastic.  This is a real concern for me.

Second piece of evidence: I spent an afternoon this week rearranging my bedroom furniture to create an optimal co-sleeping environment.  Not only am I sleeping in the same room as Oliver, but the bed is now pushed flush with the wall so that he can safely sleep in my bed with me.  Emmalee was kicked out of my room and into her own at 8 weeks old, and I went to great lengths to keep her there, which is another thing I deeply regret.  If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, Emmalee would have had a very different infant experience.  To be fair, though, Oliver is a very different baby than Emmalee was.  The only way he will consistently sleep through the night is if he is in bed next to me.  At this point in my life, I am just so frickin’ tired.  Sleep is the ultimate goal; having children in my bed until they’re teenagers is a potential side effect I’ll deal with later.  Also, all my efforts with Emmalee were for naught, as she wakes up and comes to sleep the remainder of the night in my bed just about every night now anyway.  I guess I’m not sure if I’ve grown as a mother or if the kids have just broken my spirit, but either way, we are now a bed sharing family.

I’ve spent some time recently researching these new aspects of my life, baby wearing and bed sharing.  I’m choosing to believe the things I read that support my decisions as being wonderful affirmations of love for my children, particularly Oliver as it may be too late for Emmalee.  Just as I’ve always feared, it seems as though I have failed her.  Apparently, according to actual scientific research, a baby simply works better when close to its mother.   The baby’s breathing, temperature, and heart rate are more regular and the baby’s immune system is actually strengthened, all just by being in the mother’s presence.  It’s a bit humbling to think that I have so much influence over Oliver’s autonomic nervous system.  In addition, carrying a baby in the upright position obtained by proper baby wearing (there are do’s and don’ts, so do your research before giving it a try) is good for the baby’s physical development and promotes healthy digestion.  Not to mention, both baby wearing and co-sleeping promote attachment.  Securely attached children have higher self-esteem, less anxiety, and actually become independent quicker, which debunks the whole “spoiling” stigma of baby wearing and co-sleeping.  I’ve included links at the bottom if you are interested in learning more, or are wondering where my information comes from.

Recently, I have been teased that I am turning into a “hipster.”  After Googling this term, I found that the notion was preposterous.  I would not consider myself part of any “subculture movement.”  I am not vegan.  I do not buy organic.  I don’t even breastfeed.  I am a regular, everyday mom.  I work.  I use disposable diapers.  I buy clothes almost exclusively at Target and Gymboree.  The staples of Emmalee’s diet are Pop Tarts and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I listen to Top 40 Country radio.  And now I baby wear and bed share.  These are things that mothers around the world have been doing for thousands of years.  It has only been in relatively recent history that they have been demoted to subculture practices in America, forcing well intentioned mothers to either hide or risk being labeled a hipster.  Well, I say no more.  These are healthy, sanity saving practices.  Mainstream culture needs to take them back.  I’ll be the first to declare it proudly.  Baby wearing and bed sharing: not just for hipsters anymore.


Baby wearing:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"I'm Leaking!": A Potty Training Tale

One evening shortly after Oliver came home from the hospital, Emma decided she wanted to go pee on the cute, pink princess potty chair that has been in her bathroom for nearly a year. Despite feeling like this was a bit soon after the huge, life-altering change of gaining a baby brother, I was ecstatic. The next day I ran out and bought big girl underwear and pull-ups, ready to give the whole potty training thing a go.

Alas, it was not to be. I put the underwear on Emma, who then peed in them and started yelling “Oh no, I’m leaking!” while crying hysterically. I decided not to push the issue, due to Oliver’s recent arrival, but decided to use the pull-ups. For several weeks Emma refused to get on the potty and treated the pull-ups as if they were diapers.

Then one day a friend, whose daughter is nine months younger and about a third the size of Emma, came over to visit and play. When I watched this adorable, tiny little girl sit on my full-sized toilet and go, I decided Emma had had enough time to adjust. We needed to potty train for real. This friend sent me some tips she’d been given on potty training, which I used to help me come up with a plan.

The first step was to tell Emma that we weren’t using pull-ups anymore. She needed to pee on the potty or she would make a mess on herself and the floor. We also let Emma pick out a toddler seat that fit on the regular potty to give her another option of where to go. I know Emma, and she likes to feel like she has some control over things, so I thought this might help. We also used teeny M&Ms as a reward. Because again, I know Emma, and there isn’t much she won’t do for candy. And then the training began.

The first day was stressful. There was little pee in the potty and lots of pee everywhere else. There were tears. There was even some poop on the playroom carpet. But we persevered. I decided that once we started we couldn’t go back. Each day got a little better. I started insisting that she use the big potty because she won’t try to get down by herself so she is essentially stuck there, which helped to make sure she stayed on the potty until she was completely finished. By the fourth day we went the entire day with no major accidents other than a few drips in her underwear. And then we hit a plateau.

For weeks it was necessary to change her underwear and often her pants or shorts each time she needed to potty. She would start to go before realizing she needed to. Every. Time. Leaving the house required packing several pairs of underwear and back up shorts. It was extremely frustrating. She peed in her car seat. She dripped through Target. She left several puddles across the Magic Kingdom. There was even a day where she went through all of her backups and had to ride home in just underwear. I constantly stressed about when and where she would pee next, and I’m sure Emma got tired of being asked “Do you need to go potty yet?” about every ten minutes. I started getting discouraged and worried that maybe potty training wasn’t going to work for Emma after all.

Then, a miracle. On Wednesday, the day after we celebrated her 2 1/2 birthday, Emma stayed dry almost the entire day. And every day since. Not to say that we have completely mastered the potty. We still end up with a few wet pairs of underwear before the day is through, though they are rarely wet enough to need to change her pants. She seems to do well throughout the day and then starts having more trouble in the late afternoon. She does not take a nap anymore, so I think when she starts getting tired she just has a harder time exercising control. The progress is enough to allow me to once again hope that Emma will eventually be someone who pees exclusively on the potty. I am excited again.

I had no expectations that Emmalee would potty train easily. She has rarely done anything easily her entire life. She operates in her own Emma-world, where things happen on her exclusive time frame. She didn’t roll over until after six months. She didn’t crawl until ten months and wasn’t walking until thirteen months. At fifteen months she was still drinking from a bottle that I had to hold her for her because she refused to do it on her own. Everything she’s accomplished has required a lot of pushing and prodding, as she always seems to be content with the way things already are. Perhaps she lacks the motivation to become independent, but she eventually gets there, on her time and in her way.

Emma has gone through some big changes over the past several months. She dealt with a very pregnant Mommy who could do little for her, a new baby brother, and now the monumental change of no more diapers. All she’s ever known is diapers, so its kind of a big deal. I am so proud of her for taking things as well as she has. She is still Emma, so there has, of course, been a fair share of tears, tantrums, and dramatics along the way, but we seem to be in a pretty good place now. She seems to have accepted that both Oliver and using the potty are here to stay. Hopefully the progress will continue and we will soon be masters of the day time potty. And then we can attempt staying dry at night.