Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spoil-Proof?

Can you spoil a baby?  Google this question and you will get a resounding no.  In fact, Babycenter.com’s article on the topic goes so far as to state, “Young babies are completely spoil-proof.”  My response to this is, are you sure?  Because just a couple of hours ago I washed some bottles, fed the dogs, put in a load of laundry, took the garbage out to the garage and wheeled the big can out to the curb all with one hand because the other hand was busy holding a 24 pound baby.  Now I could be way off base here, but that seems kind of spoiled to me.  Emmalee likes to be held.  A lot.  And even if she does agree to play on the floor, she pretty much insists that I be on the floor with her.  The only time I can really get things done around the house without holding her is if she is napping (but then I can only do things that can be done very quietly) or if I put her in her highchair or exersaucer with Gerber Puffs.  Those things are a life saver.
For a long time Emmalee wouldn’t let anyone hold her, or touch her for that matter, except for me and her Grammy.  She is slowly getting a little better about this and has ever so slightly begun to include more people in her exclusive circle… however she still rarely lets others hold her without screaming her head off and if Mommy or Grammy are nearby then forget it.  Again, I could be wrong, but this seems spoiled to me.  I can understand and even at times appreciate her avoidance of strangers.  But you would think she’d give the people she sees regularly a little more love.  This is especially troublesome at the doctor’s office where she won’t let anyone get within ten feet of her without losing it.  On Friday she went in to see her pediatrician because her nose had been running for ten days without showing any signs of stopping.  The doctor approached her to have a look in her ears, while her Grammy was holding her, and she screamed like she was being branded.  She is ten months old and literally had to be held down and restrained just so that the doctor could look into her ears.  I can’t wait to take her in for her shots in a few weeks… 
At about 7 months old Emmalee decided that she no longer preferred being in her car seat (maybe she was worried about decapitation?).  She let me know that she’d made this decision by arching her back, screaming, and shaking her head vehemently “no.”  This was my first glimpse of a tantrum.  Now Emmalee no longer reserves this behavior for being strapped into the car.  Stop her from grabbing something that she wants, or take something she shouldn’t have away from her, and you will get a show… arm flailing, back arching, leg kicking, and intense wailing.  All in the name of protest.  I don’t know where this penchant for drama comes from, but she sure didn’t get it from me.  At the moment I actually find these tantrums sort of funny.  It amuses me that she gets so upset over something so simple.  But I worry that these baby tantrums are just a preview of things to come, and when she throws herself onto the ground and has one of these fits in public I might not be quite so entertained.  Are tantrums a sign of a spoiled baby?  I kind of think they might be.
Emmalee has a beautiful nursery.  I spent a great deal of time painting, decorating and getting it just right.  She also has a play room.  She hasn’t even been alive a year yet and she already has two entire rooms of our home devoted to just her.  Her closet and dresser are full of clothes.  There are 3 large storage bins full of the clothes she’s outgrown.  She has more blankets than we know what to do with, and we live in Florida.  Her play room is full of stuff.  Thanks to Mommy’s, and Grammy’s, love for shopping (see previous blog), Emmalee has managed to accumulate an impressive collection of toys and stuffed animals in her short life.  She has two entire shelves full of books that she can’t yet read.  It is almost embarrassing how much stuff she has, and her first birthday is still six weeks away, meaning there is more “stuff” to come.  (Her already purchased presents are stored in a third room of the house!)
Not to mention the suspected laziness.  She didn't crawl until ten months.  She still lays on her back like a helpless, overturned turtle at times until someone comes along and helps her sit up.  And though she will feed herself Puffs, she won't even consider holding her own bottle.
So can you spoil a baby?  Experts tend to think no.  But it seems that I’m working hard at proving them wrong. 

(And for the record, Emmalee is totally okay with that.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Growing Up at Target

I love shopping.  The thing I love most about shopping is the organization.  I love the way all like things are grouped together.  There is something about seeing ten of the same item arranged by size that makes me feel like I need to take one home with me.  It looks so lovely on the rack, wouldn’t it look equally lovely in my closet (or more frequently these days, Emmalee’s closet)?  This is why I tend to avoid clearance racks and why I don’t prefer to shop at discount stores like Ross or TJ Maxx.  The disarray of items organized by size and then type makes me much less likely to desire anything.  Of all the places to shop I love Super Target the most.  I love the red shopping carts.  I love that there is a Starbucks just inside the door.  I love that it is never too crowded, that they rarely run out of things, and that the store always seems so neat and clean.  I could (and do) literally spend hours inside that store, browsing aimlessly up and down every aisle, checking it all out and basking in the orderly shopper’s paradise.  And though it is fun to peruse the store, it is a rare occurrence that I leave empty handed.  Because I also love the white and red shopping bags, the way the receipt is organized by category, and the exhilaration of leaving with something new.
I try to behave and purchase only things that I need.  But need is objective, isn’t it?  Does Emmalee need more long sleeved pajamas?  Not if I do laundry more than once a week.  But since I don’t, it is a need, right?  Does Emmalee need another toy to play with?  Not really, but its only $7.00 and look how cute it is!  Does Emmalee need another book?  Well, I want her to go to college don’t I?  I know, I’m ridiculous.  This ridiculousness (accompanied by a few more reasonable explanations) has led to the accumulation of more debt than I care to admit to.  There comes a certain point where debt turns into a vicious cycle.  I have so much that I spend nearly all my income (after household bills and groceries) on keeping up with the payments, which means any new purchases have to be acquired through credit.  If I didn’t have to spend so much on credit card payments, I could afford to buy what I need (want?) and wouldn’t have to charge it.  And so the cycle continues.  Not to mention that debt is depressing.  You know what cheers me up?  Shopping!
Emmalee was six days old the first time she visited our local Super Target.  I don’t think she was all that impressed that day.    But as the weeks passed by and she continued to take weekly, or sometimes twice weekly, trips, she began to recognize the awesomeness that is Target.  Or at least, that’s what I like to think.  She is inundated by the sights, the sounds, the smells, the pretty clothes and colorful toys that I hold up in front of her while asking, “Should we buy this?”  (Perhaps I shouldn’t leave purchasing decisions in the hands of a ten month old?)  The Target shopping cart with its high-backed and roomy child seat is almost like a second home to her.  During the shopping high it is easy to get carried away and to reason that passing my love for spending on to Emmalee is a bonding experience, something we can share together in the years ahead.  But later, especially while paying bills, I can’t help but to realize that I’m wrong. 
I have gotten myself into an unfortunate situation, mostly due to irresponsible and not well thought out choices.  Buy now, pay later is a thrilling concept… until later arrives.  I am constantly worried about finances and wonder how I will ever dig myself out of this hole.  This is not something I want Emmalee to ever have to experience.  So perhaps it is time to change my ways.  Maybe instead of teaching Emmalee how fun shopping is, I should be more concerned with teaching her to make responsible shopping choices and to budget for things that she wants, even if it means waiting and saving awhile.  Before I can teach this lesson to her, though, I guess I will have to teach it to myself.  Luckily Emmalee is only ten months old, so I have some time to get things in order before she begins to understand words like money, credit, and consumerism.  I read somewhere that you have to be who you want your child to be.  I don’t want Emmalee to be a person bogged down by debt, so I guess it’s time to figure out a new way of doing things. 
My beloved Super Target, I will miss you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Got Milk?

Becoming a new mom can be overwhelming, particularly if you are concerned with being a very good mom.  If you have this concern, you will likely spend a great deal of your prenatal time reading books and “Google-ing,” as I did.  What will then happen to you is this: you will have an overload of contradicting information and your brain will explode.  Okay, maybe not explode.  But you will no longer remember what you believe and you will spend countless middle of the night hours wondering what parts of the information you’ve acquired are important and what parts should be discarded.  What can you do to lower the risk of SIDS?  Should you co-sleep?  Should you use a bassinet or put the baby in the crib right away?  Should you wear your baby?  (This is a real thing, look it up.)  Should you use cloth or disposable diapers?  Is it okay that you don’t want to breastfeed?  What kind of bottles/pacifiers/diapers/wipes/etc are best?  As your baby gets older you’ll wonder, should I make homemade baby food or use store bought?  What’s organic and why do I care?  Is my baby getting enough formula?  Will I ever sleep a full night again?  Is cry it out the answer?  How much baby proofing is truly necessary?
Clearly, there is a lot to consider.  But a recent thread on Babycenter.com’s message boards really threw me for a loop.  On this thread there were mothers who claimed that it was harmful to give your child milk.  Yes, that’s right, milk.  They weren’t arguing about coffee, or poison, or vodka.  They were arguing about milk.  According to these women, milk is a dangerous and harmful substance that should be avoided at all costs.  It is full of antibiotics (aren’t those good?) and hormones and has been linked to frequent ear infections and even certain types of cancer.  These same women also believe that formula “more than doubles” the chance of infant death. 
Really?  As if there aren’t enough things to terrify mothers these days, now we have to fear milk?  What happened to milk being full of calcium and Vitamin D?  The good ‘ole days when milk-mustached celebrities wanted to know if we had any?  Preventing osteoporosis?  None of that rings a bell? 
Generations of human beings have been raised on milk, and most of us turned out to be relatively okay.  I say enough.  We cannot raise our children ruled by fear of giving them cancer.  Is this really the message we want to send to the newest generation; that everything we encounter is tainted and should be treated with trepidation?  Yes, there are germs.  Yes, there are things that cause cancer.  No, the world is not a perfect place.  But if we let fear rule our lives we will be missing out on the chance to live.  I’m not saying throw caution to the wind in every circumstance.  I’m just saying that as parents we need to take a deep breath and relax before our children end up in psychiatric offices getting prescriptions for Xanax because they are so fearful of the world that they can no longer function.  The anxieties over doing what is best for our children have to stop somewhere.  I vote that they stop with milk.

                                             (Yes, we're doing editorial shots now.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

On the Go

I like to think that Emmalee is a smart baby.  She seems to know lots of things.  For instance, you can ask her, “Emmalee, where’s the fan?” and she will look right at it.  You can replace the word fan with at least 30 other household objects that she knows about and she’ll look at those things too.  You can tell her, “Emmalee, kick your feet” and she will kick her feet.  You can ask her, “Emmalee, where’s Mommy’s nose?” and she will try to pull my nose off my face.  So she knows things.  But, that was pretty much the extent of what she could do for some time.  She could be smart and that was it.
When you have a baby, they tell you that you should give your baby “tummy time” everyday.  This means that you put your baby on the floor on their tummy and let them flail around a bit.  After awhile, this should help them to strengthen their neck, leg and arm muscles in preparation for crawling.  Well, Emma’s tummy time consisted of her screaming angrily for a few minutes until I picked her back up.  She just wasn’t into it.  And I didn’t see the harm in waiting to do tummy time until she was ready.  Plus, this was pre “cry it out” so I couldn’t stand to let her cry for more than a minute or two.  But Emma kept getting older and older and she still wouldn’t participate in tummy time.  Finally, at about 6 months, she was able to sit up on her own but only if you sat her up and put a pillow behind her.  Two months later the pillow wasn’t necessary anymore but you still had to sit her up or else she’d just lie on her back like an overturned, helpless turtle.  At this point I began to suspect that I had a very lazy child. 
At nine months Emmalee would participate a little more actively in tummy time.  She would lift her upper body and propel herself backwards with her arms, but as she watched the object in front of her that she wanted get further and further away she would become frustrated and cry.  This was post “cry it out” so I’d let her work at it for a bit, but eventually gave in and grabbed her up.  It seemed to be hopeless.  No matter how much time she spent on her tummy, no matter how many times I tried to prop her knees up underneath her, she just wasn’t going to crawl.
Just when I started to accept the fact that I was most likely going to have to carry her to kindergarten, Emmalee suddenly and rather unexpectedly crawled at ten months, a little over a week ago.  It really wasn’t a slow process.  One evening in the playroom floor she sort of “hopped” her knees and made some forward progress.  By the next afternoon she was crawling one knee at a time and within a few days she was an expert crawler, just like that. 
And now I feel that I have entered a whole new chapter of parenting.  Suddenly all the baby proofing sections of the books apply to me.  I have a crawler, a baby on the go.  In some ways it is wonderful.  Emmalee seems much happier now that she can explore on her own.  The new sense of independence seems to suit her nicely.  She can crawl to whatever she is interested in.  But there are down sides to this new stage.  For one, I am now much more concerned about the cleanliness of the floors.  Vacuuming and mopping used to be chores that I could put off, but not anymore now that I have a baby with telescopic vision who can see the tiniest hint of fuzz or spec of dirt and use her also newly mastered pincer grip to pick it up and give it a taste.  Before she could crawl I really only had to make sure that Emma had a hazard free three foot radius when setting her down.  Now that she’s mobile an entire new world of dangers has emerged.  You wouldn’t believe how many different ways a baby could potentially perish in what used to seem like a relatively safe home.  There are sharp corners that could poke an eye out, electrical outlets that can fry little brains, cords that could strangle, television stands and book cases that could topple and crush, dog bowls that could drown… it goes on and on.  And after the whole car seat fiasco I’m especially sensitive to ways my sweet baby could be injured (though I don’t see any potential for decapitation this time).  But the worst new obstacle crawling has thrown at me?  Picture taking.  Emmalee is intrigued by the camera and as soon as I put it in front of her she starts crawling right for it.  Not the best angles, I’m afraid.  So the pictures of Emmalee sitting pretty with a big smile on her face could very well be a thing of the past, at least for awhile. 
So she’s crawling.  Finally.  But I still suspect she’s lazy.  She won’t get to shed that title until she starts holding her own bottle.



Sunday, January 23, 2011

To My Sweet Baby Emmalee

As I'm not up for writing something brand new tonight, I've decided to share the letter I wrote to Emmalee for her baby book. 




To My Sweet Baby Emmalee,
I want you to know that before I even found out that you were in my belly you were wanted and loved, although I never could have imagined how beautiful, smart and amazing you would turn out to be.  And from the moment you were born it seems like each day my love for you grows and grows until it fills me from head to toe and I feel like I might just burst.  Sometimes while I’m feeding you, or giving you a bath, or watching you play, the feeling of wanting to wrap you up in a bubble and protect you from all the unpleasantness of the world is so intense that it takes my breath away.  You are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, and I know that I would sacrifice absolutely anything to keep you happy and healthy.  You are everything I ever wanted in the world.
I love you in the morning when I walk into your room and you smile up at me from your crib as if I’ve made your whole day by coming in to get you.  I love you when you’re being silly and cracking yourself up by making a new sound or face.  You are so funny and you always make me laugh.  I love you when you’re eating, opening up your mouth for the next bite like a little baby bird.  I love you when you’re serious and I can tell you’re thinking hard about something new.  I love you when you’re cuddly, and I love you when you’re squirming to get free.  I love you when you listen to me read you stories.  I even love you at 3 o’clock in the morning when I’m rocking you back to sleep for the fourth time of the night.  You are so precious, and there isn’t anything in the world I wouldn’t do for you.
“I will always love you, no matter what may come.  I carried you inside myself; the two of us are one.”
Love Always and Forever,
Mommy
(written on October 24, 2010 when you are 7 months old)






Emmalee, 7 Months Old

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Compromise

At two months old Emmalee began sleeping through the night.  And I don’t mean sleeping through the night according to the books which state that a 5-6 hour stretch is normal.  I mean sleeping from 9 pm to 7 am every night.  I would rock her to sleep (and here is where the veteran moms begin shaking their heads, I know), lay her down, and not hear from her again until morning.  It was bliss.
But then Emmalee hit 6 months old and things began to change.  I started having to rock her back to sleep in the middle of the night.  That in itself probably doesn’t sound so bad, but it would sometimes take up to two hours before I would be able to lay her down and leave the room without her screaming the second her head hit the sheets as if I were laying her on hot coals instead of the expensive Sealy mattress with the picture of the peacefully dreaming baby on it.  And from here it escalated until she literally woke up every hour like clockwork and I was lucky to doze for 20-30 minutes at a time before she’d wake up screaming again.  There were times when I would lay her down and tiptoe down the hall, in my head desperately chanting “please stay asleep, please stay asleep, please stay asleep,” but just as I reached the corner she’d wail, and in turn I would crumble to the floor with my head in my hands and wail right back.  I began to think of the glider in Emma’s room where I spent countless hours each night as my “torture chair.”  As the sky darkened each evening I would grow more and more anxious, dreading the impending torment my not-so-precious-anymore baby would cause me.  Clearly, this was not working.
Back when Emma was a wonderful sleeper I was able to hold on to the belief that “cry it out” sleep methods, in which a baby is left alone in her crib to cry herself to sleep, were sinister and something I would never in a million years consider.  It is amazing how a few weeks without sleep can make you rethink every belief you once held dear.  So I bought a couple of books on the subject and poured over them in my sleep deprived haze, and then in a state of pure desperation Emma and I began to cry it out.  According to the books, the first night should be the worst but by night 3 I should see a dramatic reduction in the amount of time spent crying.  The goal, after all, is not to have your baby cry but to teach your baby to fall asleep without you.  After a week it was clear that the experts who wrote the books have never met Emmalee.  Emmalee didn’t just cry… she screamed as if she were being beaten.  And she did this consistently, night after night, for at least 20 minutes.  The bright side was that once she finally fell asleep she slept, meaning I slept.  The not so bright side was that every night I had to listen to her scream and worry about the possibility that I might be causing long term psychological damage to my precious baby (precious again, because like I said, I was getting some sleep). 
After six weeks of this, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  Clearly, this wasn’t working either.  So one night I decided to rock Emma until she was good and drowsy and just starting to doze.  I did this, and when I laid her in her crib amazingly she opened her eyes, turned onto her side, and fell right back to sleep… and slept the entire night.  So I am back to rocking her to sleep again.  More often than not she wakes up in the night at least once.  Sometimes she falls asleep again on her own after only a few minutes of crying and fussing, and sometimes I have to go rock her.  When I do have to rock her I tell myself that she won’t be little forever and someday I’ll miss this time with her.  Of course, I’m able to think this way because I never have to rock her back to sleep more than once anymore.  So “cry it out” did not work for us in the traditional sense, but it did help us to reach a sort of agreement.  I like to think that Emma has decided that as long as I don’t make her cry alone in her crib then she will not insist I rock her the entire night while she sleeps.  And while neither of us finds the situation to be completely ideal, we can live with it.  Emma’s first lesson in compromise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Epic Fail

So I thought I would kick off this whole blogging business with my most recent speed bump on the road to becoming The Most Awesome Mom. 


Emmalee has always been a big girl.  At her six month check up she weighed 19 lbs 13 oz and was 26 1/2 inches long.  This was just shy of the 20 lb weight limit on her infant carrier.  Clearly it was time to upgrade.  I went to my local Sam's Club and purchased a 3 in 1 convertible car seat and promptly installed it forward facing in the center of the backseat using my vehicle's handy latch system.  Yes, I may have noticed the warning on the side of the seat that cautioned against using it forward facing unless your child is at least 20 lbs AND... was there more?  Not when the idea of being able to see Emmalee's adorable little face while driving was clouding my judgment!  So off we went, into forward facing oblivion, and all was right with the world.


Until Wednesday, four months later, when an encounter on BabyCenter.com's message boards brought the world crashing down.  Apparently, as is always the case when it comes to babies, there is so much more to car seat safety than one might at first assume.  A Google search revealed that when the car seat is in the rear facing position it allows for more "ride-down" time in the event of a crash.  I'm not completely sure about this "ride-down" time, but it is important because it can help to prevent cervical spine injury or internal decapitation in young children whose neck and spine aren't as well developed.  Yes, that's right.  I said internal decapitation.  Tell me that doesn't send a chill down your spine.  So I had carelessly been allowing Emmalee to ride around at risk of decapitation for months.  It was time to put on my "Most Crappiest Mom" tiara.  And as I clicked through article after article, feeling more and more crappy along the way, I also came across the chilling fact that most vehicles that are equipped with a latch system do not allow for center installation.  A moment spent checking my vehicle's user manual confirmed this.  So not only did I have the car seat facing the wrong way, I didn't even have the damn thing installed right.  Epic fail.


Once I got home that day I immediately set to work correcting this gargantuan mistake.  I now have Emmalee's car seat rear facing behind the passenger seat using the latch system correctly... where it will stay until she's eight.  No sense risking decapitation any sooner than necessary!






For more information visit:
http://www.cpsafety.com/articles/stayrearfacing.aspx