Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walk Already!

Emmalee started crawling at just over ten months old.  When she finally made some forward progress I was thrilled, despite the sudden need to baby proof the house.  My baby was growing up before my eyes, tasting independence for the first time.  She could now explore on her own, without the constant need for Mommy to help entertain her.  It was an exciting time.
Now though, a little more than two months later, the novelty is wearing off and I’m ready to move on to the next phase.  Crawling has its limitations.  For one, it involves Emma’s hands and knees touching the floor, which is not always the cleanest thing.  At home I have some control over the floor’s cleanliness (though I am admittedly not a huge fan of sweeping and mopping), but Emma is not content to crawl just at home.  She wants to crawl no matter where we are, the mall, Sea World, Twistee Treat, and the cleanliness of these surfaces leaves something to be desired.  Not to mention the looks people would give me if I allowed her to travel on all fours in public.  While holding my squirming-to-get-free child I find myself thinking, “Would you just learn to walk already?!”
Emma seems to share my sentiment as she has spent the past week or so insisting that we practice this new skill.  Which, unfortunately for my back, means stooping over and holding her hands while she toddles along precariously.  She wants to do this all the time, regardless of our location, which wouldn’t be so bad really except for two things.  One, she moves pretty slowly.  But even that could be tolerated.  What is most frustrating is her tendency to spot any little germ-covered price sticker, string, or scrap of paper and stoop down to pick it up.  If I try to stop this she goes into tantrum mode.  I tend to go with my instinct of spoiling her rotten and avoiding a scene by giving in and allowing her to do what she wants (see my blog on discipline).  Luckily for me she rarely tries to put foreign objects in her mouth, but I still feel compelled to attack her with wipes once we leave the store and the object is discarded.  This latest development has made shopping a whole new and much more challenging experience.
Fortunately, though, all the practice Emmalee has been doing appears to be slowly paying off.  She is moving her feet a little quicker and her balance is improving.  She has gone from needing a death grip on both my hands to being able to hold just one finger on one hand and still walk successfully.  I’ve even gotten her to take two or three steps completely on her own before falling into my arms.  She’s almost there.  I believe that at this point the only thing holding Emma back is her own fear and general stubbornness.  She likes the security of holding on to me, and she also probably enjoys the power trip of getting me to succumb to her whims. 
So she’s making progress, but not quite walking yet.  Hopefully this new skill doesn’t end up falling into Emma’s “No Thanks” category along with holding her own bottle, drinking from a sippy cup, and allowing a single drop of regular milk to pass her lips.  That child can be so difficult.



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dinner Served

Feeding Emmalee has been a concern for me since pretty much the moment she was born.  I had what I feel was a very traumatic birth experience.  I was induced, labored for 19 hours, and then was told that because of my oversensitivity to the Pitocin my uterus had swelled and I would need a cesarean section.  The epidural gave me severe chills and when Emmalee was officially removed from my body at 8:30 pm I had been awake for more than 36 hours.  I also ended up developing shingles from the stress of my experience.  As I lay in the recovery room, convulsing and so tired my vision was blurry, a nurse asked me if I would like to breastfeed my baby now.  I don’t know if this makes me awful, but I did not want to breastfeed her.  I didn’t really even want to look at her.  I just wanted to pile about thirty blankets on top of me and go to sleep. 
That moment was the beginning of the end of breastfeeding for us.  We also had latching issues and had to supplement with formula almost right away because Emmalee wasn’t gaining weight.  And to top it off, breastfeeding made me feel physically ill.  That’s probably incredibly weird, but I would get dizzy and feel nauseas every time I had to do it.  So by three weeks old breastfeeding was history, but my concerns over Emmalee eating had just begun. 
I’ve always worried incessantly about whether or not Emmalee is eating enough or too much.  For months I kept a daily log recording the time of each feeding and how many ounces she consumed.  When she started on cereal and baby food I painstakingly measured and worried over portion size, following a recommended feeding schedule from Gerber to make sure she was getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables and iron fortified goodness each and every day.  Luckily my apprehensiveness has mostly been unnecessary because Emmalee has always been an excellent eater.  That may have contributed to her remaining in the 95th percentile or higher at every doctor visit.  Once she got the hang of eating from a spoon, it didn’t matter what was on the spoon she was opening wide for it.  She loved every vegetable and fruit I introduced, and when it was time to start on stage 3 dinners she didn’t even flinch.  She loves snacks.  Puffs, Cheerios, Teddy Grahams and Goldfish are her favorites.  I thought that with all the sleep trouble we’ve had and tantrums we’ve survived, at the very least I can say I don’t have to deal with a picky eater.
And then, a little over a week ago, Emmalee became picky.  She seems to have decided that she is through with baby food.  She still eats her cereal mixed with fruit in the mornings, and here and there I can get a stage two veggie in her, but she absolutely refuses the dinners now.  So I’ve been scrambling a bit.  It is probably fortunate that I can’t afford to be a stay at home mom because I am not the slightest bit domestic.  I hate cleaning and I despise cooking.  For me, cooking is using the microwave.  If I want to go all out, I might pop open a box of Hamburger Helper or boil some pasta for spaghetti, but that honestly hasn’t happened since well before Emma was born.  It was incredibly convenient to be able to open a jar of Gerber and viola, dinner served.  But those days are over and I am now faced with the whole new challenge of figuring out how to make sure Emma is getting the nutrition she needs from the meals I’m capable of preparing. 
Feeding Emmalee what I eat is not really the best option, though she would certainly disagree.  I am a terrible eater.  I consume much more fast food, take-out, chips, cookies, donuts, and other junk food than a person ever should.  How I am not 300 pounds I do not know.  But Emma will certainly not get a well-balanced diet traveling down that road.  So we are embarking on a new journey, trying to find a balance between my desire to not have to cook and my desire to provide Emmalee with the nutrition she requires.  Thank goodness for Gerber Graduates or I don’t know how we would survive. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Epic Fail: The Sequel

Emmalee and I have had our share of nighttime battles.  Apparently I find sleep to be a more essential part of life than she does.  For the past couple of months though it has seemed as though Emmalee has come around to my way of thinking.  She has been sleeping through the night and neither of us has ever been happier.  Last night that was not the case.
Since our mostly unsuccessful cry it out attempt back in December, I have become increasingly terrified of going into Emma’s room at night.  When I hear her make a sound, I immediately begin to silently pray “Please go back to sleep.  Please, please, please, for the love of whatever the hell is out there go back to sleep.”  Most of the time, especially lately, this praying seems to work because within a minute or two blessed silence returns and sleeping commences.  On the occasions when her noises and crying continue, however, I then face a choice: to go to her or to not go to her.  Usually it takes at least 30 minutes (as long as the crying isn’t too intense) before I even consider breaking down and entering her room because I know that once I go in it will most likely be awhile before I get to come back out.
Yesterday I had a very pleasant evening.  I blogged, checked Facebook, and then watched Tuesday’s episode of Teen Mom 2.  I don’t really see how I could have enjoyed myself more (which yes, I do realize, is kind of sad).  I finally crawled into bed a little after ten.  About twenty minutes later, just as I was starting to doze, Emmalee began to cry.  I prayed, begged, pleaded, but nothing seemed to help.  Her crying was intermittent, with breaks long enough to give me hope that maybe she’d decided to go back to sleep after all, but then she’d crush me by crying again.  After about fifteen or twenty minutes of this I began my internal debate about what I should do.  To go to her or to continue to hope and pray that she will miraculously find her way back to dream land on her own?  Her crying was sporadic enough that waiting it out might have won, except that I got the idea in my head that she might be hungry.  Lately Emma hasn’t been eating dinner very well.  She has lost interest in the stage 3 baby foods she once loved and we’ve been struggling.  Anyway, once this thought popped into my head there wasn’t anything else I could do but get up and make her a bottle.  I simply could not lie there listening to my poor, starving child whimper with the agony of hunger pains.  And since she has been sleeping so soundly lately, clearly something must have been bothering her to cause this episode in the first place.
So I made her a 4 oz bottle and went into her room.  The relief in her eyes when she saw me was enough to let me know that I might as well get comfortable because I’d be there for a bit.  She sucked down every drop of the bottle while I rocked her, all the while staring up at me with nothing short of reverence.  When she was done she surprised me by snuggling against me and closing her eyes.  Maybe I’d made the right choice after all.  Maybe she was just in need of a midnight snack and would now go right back to sleep.  Forty five minutes later it was clear that this was not the case.  Emmalee would doze but as soon as I tried to stand up from the rocker her eyes would pop open incredulously, her look clearly asking “And just where do you think you’re going?”  As the minutes ticked by and my window of opportunity to sleep got smaller and smaller, I began to get frustrated.  I finally decided that enough was enough.  I couldn’t see that there was anything wrong with her.  We both needed to sleep.  So I put her in her crib, ignored her very angry protest cries, and left the room.
Twenty minutes of loud, angry wailing later, I relented and went back to her.  She was standing in her crib, screaming bloody murder in the general direction of the door.  That’s when I discovered that she’d cried so hard that she threw up and was then left standing on wet sheets, in wet pajamas, crying and angry and upset and sleepy and lonely and ignored while covered in throw up.  It was all I could do not to start crying myself.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a worse mother, even when I discovered my car seat fail.  My “Most Crappiest Mom” tiara was firmly in place.  I cleaned her up, changed her sheets, and hugged and kissed and cuddled her and told her over and over how sorry I was.  This time I was determined to rock her the rest of the night if necessary, but luckily it only took about twenty more minutes.  At 1:30 in the morning I finally crawled back into bed, with a whole 4 ½ hours left until my alarm would sound. 
So it was a rough night.  But that’s fine.  I can handle one rough night and one day clouded by a sleep-deprived haze.  I’ve been through worse.  I just hope that this isn’t the start of a new normal for us.  I’ve been enjoying the normal of sleeping at night for long enough that I just don’t think I can go back to repeats of last night over and over again.  If only I knew what it was that caused the problem in the first place, but I think Emmalee will be keeping that one to herself for now.  Babies, and toddlers apparently, can be so enigmatic. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No, no, no

As a teacher, I know a thing or two about discipline.  Unfortunately though, I only seem to be good at disciplining other people’s children.  When it comes to my own child I feel pretty helpless.  Maybe that’s just because I don’t know if she is old enough to discipline.  And if she is old enough, I just don’t feel sure about how to approach it.  She is certainly too young for the behavior chart and refocus desk that work so well for me at school.  I watch Supernanny religiously, and I know all about the time-out method, but would that really work for a one year old?  I’m sure the fact that I’ve always let her sit in her time-out chair for fun won’t help things.
The books say that you should only use the word no sparingly and when you really mean it, such as in situations where your child might come to harm.  It is probably not in anyone’s best interest then that in my house we play the “No, no, no” game.  Emmalee thinks that it is hilarious when you tell her no.  She will smile wide and shake her head right back at you, which is adorable at the moment.  So her Grammy and I sing-song “no, no, no” to her when she does something mostly harmless, like sticking a toy in her mouth, just to see this response.  It has gotten to the point now where she will reach for something she is not supposed to touch, like her nightlight, and look at me with delightful expectation wanting to hear a cheerful reprimand.  If I change my tone and say no sternly, I either get ignored or I inspire a tantrum.  So far discipline is not going so well.
The books also say that when it comes to a one year old, the key to discipline is to play defense.  Meaning that I should do what I can to avoid situations where Emmalee can do something wrong in the first place by removing dangerous objects and items she shouldn’t have.  When that fails, I should move to redirecting her attention to something more appropriate.  For instance, when Emmalee decides that she absolutely must pull up on the unsecured shelf holding several framed pictures, rather than reprimanding her I should remove her from the situation and try to interest her in something else.  The first part of this plan I have down relatively well.  The area that Emmalee plays in is mostly childproofed and harmless.  But I don’t see how someone could ever make their home 100% safe so that a one year old can have free reign.  My problems come in when Emmalee gets past my defense and I have to deflect.  I have been blessed with an exceptionally stubborn child who has a well-developed flair for theatrics.  When I remove Emma from the previously mentioned shelf and try to interest her in something else, she immediately goes for the shelf again.  She has a great attention span and is very determined, which might be a good thing someday, but when trying to distract her it can be very unfortunate.  Once I remove her from the shelf a couple of times, a wailing tantrum ensues.  This same scenario replays itself no matter what it is that Emmalee has decided she must do and that I have decided she must not do.   We seem to be at an impasse.
What I would like is for Emmalee to calmly except it when I tell her no and to move on to something else without hysterics.  Perhaps this is asking too much of a one year old? 
I am not really overly concerned about discipline right now.  I know that Emma has just barely left the baby stage of her life and is only just beginning to understand the world.  What I am concerned about is giving in and doing what is easier now and setting a bad precedent for the future.  I am also worried about whether or not I will recognize the appropriate time to start implementing discipline and respond appropriately.  Or will I always be a push over when it comes to my daughter?  I love watching Supernanny, but I am not interested in being a candidate for the show someday.  Though Nanny Jo is retiring, which is really too bad.  What I wouldn’t give to have that woman on speed dial just in case…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Overwhelmed

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  An odd holiday, one that tends to contradict itself.  A day to celebrate St. Patrick, who is credited with spreading Christianity across Ireland.  And we honor his holy mission by getting sloppy on green-dyed beer.  Nice.  But this is not a blog about St. Patrick’s Day, mostly because there really isn’t a whole lot more to say on the topic.  This is a blog about how I’m feeling on this lovely St. Patrick’s Day, which is overwhelmed.
I have always been a (mostly) responsible person.  I mean, sure, I had my share of youthful indiscretions.  But for the most part I have always managed to keep it all together.  I graduated high school with grades good enough to get me accepted to a state university.  I then went on to get a bachelor’s degree in education while holding down various part time jobs to pay the bills.  And though I managed to rack up a good bit of debt due to the fact that I didn’t really make enough to live on my own (and maybe some irresponsible spending), I never got to the point where I couldn’t pay at least my minimum payments.  Prior to about six months ago I have never had to pay my bills late or miss payments.
When I was seven months pregnant, my husband’s former employers suddenly and rather unexpectedly said that they could no longer pay him.  About four months later, despite repeated assurances that everything would be fine, they informed him that the situation would be permanent and that he should find another job.  It took another three months before he finally went into the trucking industry.  Prior to this situation occurring I had managed to get us into a relatively financially sound situation.  We could pay our bills.  Our debt was consolidated and our credit cards had no balances.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.  We even had some money in our savings account to fall back on in a tight spot so that we wouldn’t have to turn to our credit cards.  During those seven months of unemployment, we managed to go through our savings, max out our credit cards, and get ourselves into a way bigger hole than we’d ever been in before.  Admittedly, this was in part due to my obstinate refusal to accept the situation and pinch every penny.  But even if I had squeezed until each penny was flat, we still wouldn’t have had enough. 
Fast forward to today.  My husband is working and though it took time for him to get through school and training, he is finally making pretty good money again.  Our income tax return will be enough to get us caught up on our mortgage and a few other things we’ve fallen behind on.  We once again make enough money to pay our bills… with the exception of all that previously mentioned debt.  Having to decide which bills not to pay each month is stressful.  I hate being a person who just doesn’t pay their bills.  I accumulated that debt, it is my responsibility, and yet I can’t take care of it.  I have been toying with the idea of filing bankruptcy, though I haven’t pursued the topic yet because I loathe the idea.  I feel like I am at a crossroads, knowing I need to make a decision but terrified of making the wrong one.  I will have to decide soon though because I can’t just keep ignoring the problem forever.  And the stress is really getting to me.
Yesterday my cable and internet got shut off.  It is already back on today, but the reason that it got shut off is ridiculous.  I had a pile of mail on the bar in my kitchen that I did not go through for so long that my cable bill was six weeks late.  So my cable got shut off not because I couldn’t pay it, but because I forgot to pay it.  The same thing happened with my water bill but luckily they didn’t respond as quickly.  This morning I needed to get gas and had to put it on a credit card not because I have no money in my account but because I left both my license and my debit card in the diaper bag at home.  So yes, I also drove to work and back without my license.  Two weeks ago I lost my debit card, either because I let Emma play with it after paying at some store or because I stuck it in my back pocket and it fell out somewhere.  I had to make phone calls to get tax forms I needed because I accidentally threw them away.  This absentmindedness is so very uncharacteristic of me and it’s making me depressed.  I’ve always prided myself as being someone who can keep it all together, someone who can do it all with a smile on my face.  And now I often feel like I’m barely scraping by, doing the bare minimum in every aspect of my life.  It is hard having a husband who is always on the road.  It is hard taking care of a house and a one year old and two dogs while also working full time.  It is hard always having to worry about money.  It is overwhelming.  I am overwhelmed.  I would love to curl up in a ball on my bed with the covers over my head and shut out the world… that will make all my problems disappear, right?
Ok.  I’m done with my whining, and honestly I do feel a little better.  If you stuck with me this long, thanks for reading.  I will put my happy face back on.  Maybe I need some green beer after all. 
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Birthday Wrap Up

On Friday Emmalee turned one year old.  I decided the fact that we both survived the year deserved a momentous celebration.  In retrospect, I probably could have scaled it back a bit.  But I think I’m glad that I didn’t.  I realize the festivities were probably more for my sake than Emmalee’s, who would have much preferred to munch on cake with a smaller audience, but it was fun.  And the pictures will forever prove to Emmalee how much I loved her on her very first birthday.  Because providing excessive indulgences equals love, right?
To honor my daughter I took two days off from work.  Friday was her actual birthday and I took her to Disney World, with Grammy and Aunt Lers along for the ride.  I was a little skeptical about how Emmalee would do at a crowded theme park, but to my surprise and relief she seemed to enjoy herself immensely.  Luckily the lines weren’t too long and the temperature wasn’t too hot, and the stars and planets aligned just right to keep Emma in a mostly pleasant mood for the duration of our trip (minus one little pre-nap melt down).  Emmalee sat through “It’s a Small World” in mouth-gaping awe.  I’m pretty sure that it was truly the most amazing thing she has ever seen.  When she caught sight of the Carousel, Emmalee held her hand out and insisted that we try it out by yelling “Ahh!”  She is familiar with carousels because there is one in the mall that we frequent and she also experienced one at Sea World a few weeks ago, but neither could measure up to the grandeur of the Disney Carousel.  She seemed especially excited that we could ride together and she lay back against me in pure contentment.  When the ride ended much too soon she held onto the handles and it took a good bit of coaxing to get her off.  We also rode the Winnie-the-Pooh ride, where Emmalee shouted with glee and waved fervently each time she spotted her dear friend Pooh.  It was a fun, exhausting day.
Saturday was Emmalee’s party.  My plan was to keep the party on the small side, and though I only invited family and close friends with children my house still felt much too small to accommodate everyone.  The party only lasted two hours, but it was a noisy and chaotic time.  Luckily Emmalee handled it much better than I would have hoped.  Despite the commotion and the only slightly familiar faces, Emma did not feel the need to remain attached to my hip the entire time.  She even played happily while Mommy was in a completely different room, which is unheard of most of the time.  The highlight of the day was by far the cake.  Emmalee listened while we sang her “Happy Birthday,” seemingly both confused and amused by our chorus.  Then she was given cake, which she has had before, but this was her first taste of icing.  She dug in a little hesitantly, but it wasn’t long before she was covered in the creamy, sugary goodness, to the delight of her attentive, picture snapping audience.  Next came presents, and to Mommy’s dismay, Emmalee just wasn’t all that interested.  Perhaps she was just too distracted by all the people and voices, or perhaps she was too hyper from all the sugar she’d just ingested, but Emma wanted to crawl around and explore leaving Mommy to star in the opening-presents spotlight.  And there were lots of presents.  I am very grateful for the generosity displayed by our family and friends, and I would like to thank everyone who contributed in making sure that Emmalee retains her “most spoiled baby in the universe” title.  As soon as the presents were opened, our guests quickly bailed in a comical all-at-the-same-time way, not that I blame them.  It was fun and I was happy to share the moment with everyone, but I was also happy for the quiet left in their stead! 
After a day of shopping on Sunday, we wrapped up Emmalee’s birthday weekend extravaganza by going to her one year check up at the pediatrician’s office on Monday.  Emmalee, predictably, wailed in a heartbroken, completely desolate way after the poor nurse took her temperature and the tears and despair continued until Emmalee realized we were on our way out.  The bright side of her dramatics is that Emma was already crying so hard before she got her shots that she barely noticed when they administered them.  She is still in the 95th percentile for both weight and height, she seems to be developmentally on track (despite her obstinate refusal to hold her own bottle) and was given an overall “healthy” stamp by her doctor. 
So I am now the mother of a toddler.  We survived the first year, and the weekend devoted to celebrating it.  I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First Birthday Thoughts

On Friday, Emmalee will celebrate her first birthday.  In some ways it is hard to believe that a year has passed.  In other ways it feels like Emmalee has always been here, since life before her has become mostly an unimportant blur.  It has also been a long and challenging year.  I have lived through so many extreme emotions, experiencing both my greatest joys and most desolate hardships, all in the span of only twelve months.  It is both a sorrow and a relief to see the year come to an end.
Many mothers are overcome by sadness when their baby reaches the one year milestone.  I’m finding that for me that is just not the case.  I would be lying if I said that I never felt nostalgic for the tiny baby that Emmalee used to be, but those moments are fleeting and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t go back to those days for anything.  The time I spent with newborn baby Emmalee is mostly a haze of crazy hormones, sleep deprivation, and feelings of being in way over my head.  At 4 months old, though Emma was certainly adorable, I often found myself at a loss with what to do with her.  She was awake more and more, but was still so tiny and helpless and seemed content to just lie around staring off into space.  And at 6 months another period of sleep deprived fog descended.  There were plenty of happy moments too, but adjusting to being a mom definitely took some time.
I’ve found that as Emmalee gets older, it seems that I love her more and more.  It is a pleasure to watch her learn and grow and explore.  She seems to become a little more fun to be around with each passing day.  She is now interactive.  She still doesn’t say a lot, but she communicates in her own way.  And best of all she not only knows who I am but seems to enjoy having me around, which is much more rewarding than the mostly indifferent attitude of her younger days.  She makes me laugh constantly with the silly things she does, and I love to see the world through her eyes.  Everything is so new, fresh and exciting when viewed from the perspective of an almost one year old. 
I find myself eagerly anticipating what is still to come.  I can’t wait to see her take her first steps.  I’m so excited to see her running around the house, even if that means I’ll have to chase after her.  And I am most on the edge of my seat to hear her start to talk.  She jabbers so animatedly all the time and I am impatiently waiting to find out what it is that she has to say.  If she is this amusing without even speaking, I can just imagine the joy I’ll get out of listening to her use words.  Each day as I watch Emmalee grow seemingly before my eyes, I see her turning into this little individual with thoughts and ideas all her own.  She is not a baby anymore, though she’ll always be my baby.  Our journey together has just begun, but I know it will pass by much too quick. 
When I was pregnant the thought of being the mother of an older child frightened me.  The first day of school, projects, braces, peers, and the god-awful teenage years were the stuff of my nightmares.  Now that Emmalee is here though, I find myself excited about these things too.  I’m less eager for my baby to completely grow up, and I certainly don’t want to rush her, but I am interested to experience all the phases of childhood with her, both good and bad, and I think it will be an amazing thing to watch her grow into an adult.  I often find myself wondering what kind of a person she’ll turn out to be.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, as I tend to do.  Emma has made the passing of time much too evident, and I realize I need to slow down and savor the moments as they come.
Happy First Birthday, my sweet baby Emmalee.  I love you more with every breath.  No matter what the future holds for us that will always be true. 


“I wanted you more than you ever will know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go.” –Nancy Tillman

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

Over the weekend Emmalee attended a friend’s third birthday party.  This party was held at Chuck E. Cheese’s.  Now I had not been in a Chuck E. Cheese’s in many years prior to this party, and I had never been in one from the point of view of a parent.  It was an interesting experience.
Upon entering the establishment a half hour late (I’m finding that it is nearly impossible to arrive on time to anything now that I have a child), Emmalee appeared to be as overwhelmed as I was.  It was loud.  There were children everywhere, all running around in a wild, uninhibited way that was a little frightening.  The air smelled of pizza, tears, germs, and insatiable need.  Neither of us were sure of how to proceed.
It didn’t take long though for the place to work its magic and suck Emmalee right in.  We made our way to the toddler area, and though Emma is not quite toddling just yet, she enjoyed herself.  There were blinking lights to stare at, buttons to press, stairs to climb, and other children to marvel at.  Not to mention dirty carpet to crawl on, un-sanitized phones to put her mouth to, smudged plastic to press her face against, and buttons and toys that have been touched by hundreds of other children to put her hands all over.  But it depends on your perspective, I guess. 
I believe Emmalee’s favorite part of the day, however, came when it was time to eat.  Prior to this party she had not yet experienced pizza.  She took her first bite and gave me a look that clearly said, “Are you kidding me?  Stuff this mouth-watering and delicious exists and you’ve been feeding me that tasteless crap from a jar?”  I couldn’t cut it up fast enough for her.  I let her eat one slice, though she likely would have kept eating until she puked if I would have allowed it.  Next came cake, and though I held back the icing she still enjoyed it.  I don’t think there is much else in the world that Emmalee enjoys as much as eating, especially if what she is eating is unhealthy and full of carbs.  Maybe I shouldn’t have indulged in all those Coco Puffs, Cheetos and Wendy’s value meals while pregnant after all…
When Chuck E. Cheese himself made an appearance I watched curiously to see how Emma would react.  She is quite apprehensive around strangers, and stuffed toys that move often make her cry, so I didn’t have high hopes for the encounter.  Still under the spell of her location though, Emmalee uncharacteristically loved Chuck E. Cheese.  She waved at him.  She clapped for him.  She yelled at him encouragingly.  With me holding her hands for support, she walked right over to him to get a closer look.  Just when I was getting concerned that I might have taken the wrong child from the play area, I picked Emmalee up and brought her face to face with the large, costumed mouse.  This was too close for comfort, and her face crumbled.  My child after all.
Our time at Chuck E. Cheese’s ended with presents.  While the birthday girl opened her pile of gifts, Emmalee had a break down.  Perhaps it was the junk food, or the chaos, or the mouse encounter, or the fact that she’d only slept about 25 minutes the entire day, but she had had enough.  The beginning of the end was when Emmalee would not tolerate being held.  She insisted that I let her crawl on the previously mentioned dirty carpet.  Against my better judgment, I gave in.  Next she wanted to pull up on a booth inhabited by people we did not know, crawl underneath tables, and eat cake crumbs off the floor.  I had to draw the line somewhere.  Telling her no resulted in a full-blown, back arching, leg kicking, face reddening, high-pitched screaming tantrum that Emmalee is becoming quite an expert at throwing.  You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em, or so they say, so we quickly said our good-byes.  Emma was sound asleep in the car seat before I even pulled away.
We feel badly about our hasty exit (well, I do anyway), but an hour and forty-five minutes of Chuck E. Cheese’s was all we could take on our first visit.  Still, we had fun and are very grateful to have been invited and to have been given the opportunity to celebrate with the very adorable birthday girl.  We hope that she had an excellent time!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Victory is Mine... for now

Being pregnant was a long and uncomfortable process.  Bringing home a newborn was scary and overwhelming.  Learning how to care for that newborn and adjusting to a newborn schedule was exhausting.  But almost right away Emmalee fell into a pattern of sleeping 2-3 hours at a time.  For someone without children, that might not sound so great.  But I’ve been in a place where 2-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep would sound like heaven. 
By two months old Emmalee was sleeping from 9 pm to 7 am pretty consistently.  At the time I didn’t know any better, so I took the sleep I was suddenly getting for granted.  When she stopped sleeping through the night at around six months old, I felt completely unprepared to handle the situation.  As I chronicled in a previous blog, “Compromise,” what followed were months of sleep deprivation and fatigue that left me feeling lost, desperate, and more like a zombie than a mom.  There is something about sleeping for twenty to thirty minutes at a time, being awake for 60-90 minutes or more between each interval, and being lucky if those brief sleep periods add up to 3-4 hours total for weeks on end that changes you in a fundamental way.  This may sound dramatic, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve been through far worse, but for me this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever lived through.  I don’t remember ever being more miserable or hopeless.
When I wrote my last blog on this topic, I was at a place where I thought I’d successfully “won” the sleep battle.  At that point I was still rocking Emma to sleep and was up with her at least once most nights, sometimes for an hour or more, and I truly thought that was as good as it was going to get.  I’d resigned myself to this less interrupted version of sleep and decided that I could live with it.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than what I’d been faced with previously.  Cry it out sleep training methods played a role in getting me through the worst of this sleep crisis, and I do not regret using them even though the outcome was not exactly what I would have hoped for.  If I ever meet Jodi Mindell, the author of Sleeping Through the Night, I am still likely to fall before her and worship at her feet.  I would recommend her book to anyone.  She helped me see the light at the end of the bleakest tunnel I’ve ever been through.
The point of this blog is to say that while I once saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I now feel as if I have emerged from that tunnel victoriously.  For a little more than a month now, Emmalee has slept through the night uninterrupted.  Ok, yes, I still rock her to sleep.  So maybe I’ve still got one foot stuck in the shadows.  But once I lay her down I’m done.  No more than an occasional whimper or grunt for the next eleven hours.  I’ve been getting so much sleep that I feel like an actual human being again, with thoughts and everything.  Emma goes to bed and I not only have down time but I have the energy to enjoy it.  It took almost a year, but for the first time I feel like this whole being a mom thing is something I might be able to handle after all.  And though “mother” is the most important metaphorical hat I’ll ever wear, I no longer feel like an empty shell walking around in a costume that doesn’t fit.  I feel like me again.  Getting back that sense of self allows me to be all the things I need to be, mother, teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, with much more confidence and strength.  I say all this with a little reservation, hoping fervently that I’m not speaking too soon.  Part of me fears that by posting this I am dooming myself to an awful night with Emmalee.  I’m pretty sure she has a sixth sense for these things and will cry all night just to spite me. 
No, I’m kidding.  Sort of. 
I realize I cannot rock Emmalee to sleep forever.  It might get kind of awkward by the time she’s eleven.  This is still an obstacle to overcome, the goal being that someday I will be able to lie Emma down in her crib awake and she will fall asleep on her own and will still sleep through the night.  I am considering giving “cry it out” another try.  Perhaps now that she is older it will work more effectively.  But that is a subject for another time and blog.  For now I will try to be content with the success Emmalee and I have achieved, and I will try not to think too much about all the obstacles that still lie before me.  Pleasant dreams.  (Yes, dreams.  I sleep long enough to have those again, too!)