Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One year.

Chubby arms stretched upwards. Small hands keep a death-grip on my own. An adorable bottom lip is pulled up over an equally adorable top lip in a look of total concentration--her current version of a tongue's tip poking out. Practicing her newest skill, walking. Practicing with Mama's support, to increase her confidence. To increase the growing number of steps she can take without support. Steadily stepping from room to room, from one end of the apartment to the other. Suddenly turning around, letting go of my hand in favor of pushing against my legs to lead me instead, giggling when I say "Now where am I going?!" An achy pull in my shoulders and back from walking with a slight hunch in my back so I can lean down to reach her outstretched hands. Back and forth, again and again.

In just a few short days she will be a year old. She will still be my baby, but my baby will become a toddler. And at the rate she is going, she will truly be toddling about by then. What started as a couple steps from the couch to where I was sitting on the floor a few days ago has already grown to being able to take about six or seven steps without assistance before stopping and sitting. (Or falling, depending on how careful she is being at the moment.) She still thinks it's easier to crawl when she wants to get somewhere quickly, but that will soon change as she grows more confident and is able to walk farther without help.

It's an odd position for me, helping her out so much with this milestone. But she requests so sweetly, pulling up on me and grabbing my hands, pulling me forward as she walks in front of me. Typically all she requires is encouragement and she gets lots of cheers when she accomplishes a goal. The only other milestone that actually required (well, that she requested) help from me was her sitting up, but that was still mostly her doing it on her own. She couldn't get into the sitting position on her own until she started crawling at 8 months, but she could sit for pretty much forever once I helped her there. Before that, basically I just held her hands for resistance while she pulled herself up. I'm not one to push milestones, I know without a doubt she will get there when she's ready. She is a very bright, capable kid, and she tends to not do things until she is positive she can do it well.

Sometimes she surprises me with the things she can do, and the way she shows her little (big) personality. She's been pushing her arms through her sleeves since she was about 5 months old, helping me dress her. A couple of weeks ago she sat on my lap and figured out how to put the lid back on a bottle of water. Of course, she didn't screw it back on, but she trial-and-errored that thing until it was at least sitting on there properly. She humors me sometimes, and gives totally fake smiles when she knows I'm trying to play or make her laugh when she's not interested. Her face lights up with a giant smile as she drops everything and watches the door when she hears her daddy coming home. She grabs my hand, puts it on her belly, tenses up and grins because she is waiting for me to administer the ticklings she is asking for. She acts like she wants in your lap, then drops to the floor instead and before you know it she is around the corner crawling away... waiting for you to chase after her. Once you reach the opposite end of the apartment, it's her turn to chase you. Extra points for squealing when she "gets your feet" as she's chasing you, like she squeals when you get hers as she crawls ahead of you. She can also throw a pretty epic tantrum, but at this point they're just limited to when she's tired.

She dances to music. She occasionally sings, and frequently jabbers away. She repeats the sounds the cats make when she is feeling silly. Her favorite word is "kitty," and she uses it for everything because it is the only word she knows well. But she is imitating syllables now even though the details aren't exactly right. (Me: "Oc-to-pus!" Her: "Ta-ta-ta!") She throws her food. She pulls books and dvds off of the bottom shelves, and uses her stride-to-ride puppy to climb up onto the coffee table. She loves most fruits and veggies, and cheese, and toast with just about anything on it. She acts like she will die from choking if she drinks water. She is stubbornly refusing to hold a sippy cup. She is sweet, and happy, and goofy, and independent, and confident, and loving. She is friendly with strangers, but keeps a distance. She makes everyone smile when they are around her, because she is such a happy girl.

She is amazing, she is perfectly her, and she is going to be one year old this Saturday. I could not be more proud, or more happy to have her in my life. I can't wait to see what the next year looks like.

Monday, October 21, 2013


This weekend I failed. Not in a big way, not anything life-changing, but it was still a fail. A parenting fail.

I woke up Saturday morning eagerly anticipating my "me time" that was happening that day. I was going to go out shopping alone, no hubby or baby in tow. I desperately needed the break. It had been a while since I had more than a few minutes to myself, and I was getting worn down. I needed to recharge.

Baby G wasn't in the best of moods. She wasn't in a bad mood necessarily, she just was kinda meh. A little on the whiny side, and for some reason it seriously grated on my nerves. I was trying to stay patient, but the patience just wasn't there. Temper was, though. And I spent all day fighting it. Taking deep breaths, reminding myself that she isn't trying to irritate me, that it is absolutely nothing personal. That she was just having a rough time, and had no other way of communicating. But that sound she was making, this "eeeeeehhhhhhhhh" sound, was just driving me up the wall, and I was having trouble coping. So I was shorter and more snippy than was necessary. I was huffy and irritable and practically growling.

And then it was her nap time.

But she refused to accept that memo.

It was a battle, and although she finally went to sleep I feel like we both lost. I know I lost my cool, in the form of too-firm words, and touches that although were not rough, were also not as gentle as normal. I was clearly showing my irritation, and it didn't help either of us. I felt bad on top of feeling stressed, and she felt stressed (she felt my stress) on top of feeling tired.

After she finally went down, I sniped at The Hubby about making sure to feed her properly and change her diapers while I was gone. I was irritated that he hadn't stepped in when I was clearly having trouble staying reasonable and patient, but at the same time I know (and knew) I might have ripped his head off if he had tried. Because clearly an offer of help is a statement of incompetence. Right? Clearly.

Then I left, and had a delightful time... mostly shopping for Baby G, but also a little for me. I got some amazing deals, and actually got to finish a meal on my own with no interruptions. It was a giant slice of pepperoni pizza from Tony's in the mall. It was huge, and greasy, and STILL WARM, and absolutely heavenly. I got to take my time, and finish it, and it didn't even get cold.

I hoped that was all I needed, that almost 5 hour break. But when I got home, I still wasn't myself. I fought it, and I played with my sweet girl, but I still went from zero to 10 on the irritation scale when it got close to bedtime. Which she fought, way harder than she fought nap time. I was even sharper with her than before. It was not good. It wasn't horrible, I  wasn't horrible, but I also wasn't good. I was too impatient, too irritable. I just wanted her to settle the hell down and go to sleep.

I failed. She went to sleep eventually, after two hours of fighting it, but I failed as a compassionate parent. And I felt like crap. It wasn't a victory, it wasn't a power or control struggle that I won, nothing was gained from it. I didn't feel righteous or justified in my behavior, and I didn't feel like "Oh well, no harm done, better luck next time." I felt like I needed to regroup for the night, and be ready to apologize to my little girl. I snuggled her extra tight the next morning, and apologized for my lack of patience the night before. Even though she had no idea what I was saying or talking about, it was important that I acknowledged that my behavior was not okay.

The next day, I was back to normal, with a much-lengthened fuse and a return of my normal level of patience and adoration regarding my little lady. But I got irritated at one of the cats, and I yelled. Baby G's immediate response was to whimper and to leap into my lap. It made me think. She does the same thing anytime a loud, unexpected noise occurs that scares her. She goes to her safe place--me. I am her safe place when she is scared or uncertain. I am the one to reassure her that she is okay and protected from harm. If I am the cause of her fear and uncertainty because I am yelling at her, or in some way I have caused her physical harm (which would *never* be intentional), I am creating a huge level of confusion and potentially affecting her trust and attachment to me.

My bad mood the day before was not her fault. It is totally okay to be in a bad mood. It is unreasonable to think that my mood will never affect my parenting in a negative way, especially as she gets older and communicates her will more. But it's still something I will constantly work at. I know I will fail again, and apologize again. And again, and again. But never will I feel that it is okay to just shrug it off as "shit happens, she'll get over it." Parent/child relationships are no different than any other kind of relationship in that they take hard work and compassion to maintain and even better, to thrive.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Next month.

It's an odd time of year for me. Usually around this time of year I am wallowing in the middle of a depression, or at least fighting it valiantly. Fall has been tough for me for many years. A history of traumatic events in the fall months, the change in weather, daylight hours start to shrink, when I was younger it signaled the start of a new school year and all the stress over new schedules and teachers/professors. Last year changed things for me. I wouldn't say I was "looking forward" to the month of November for the first time in years, even though my daughter was expected to be born then. That was a whole different kind of anticipation, fraught with just as much stress as I've experienced in previous Novembers. I had worries about potential problems with birth (a sudden induction for pre-eclampsia justified that worry a bit!), worries about all the things I needed to accomplish before she was born (I got nothing done), worries about when we would be moving, when The Hubby would get to finally meet her (he came home for a couple days at Thanksgiving), and I was super anxious about whether I really wanted to stay with my family for help after the baby was born and deal with going back and forth for appointments or just figure it out on my own in the comfort of my own home. In the end I am so grateful for the help I received, but next time I will do things differently. I am determined to breastfeed, which is much more difficult when you aren't exactly comfortable trying to figure it out in front of people that aren't your husband. So last year was just as stressful as previous years had been, but I had a sweet brand new baby girl to help alleviate the stress.

This year, however, I find myself actually looking forward to November. My little sweetie will be a year old, our little family will be together to celebrate it. It may just be the three of us, and it might be a tiny "celebration," but I am still so happy we will be together. There is of course Thanksgiving to look forward to, which I may or may not have family here for. And a little before that is something pretty exciting as well...

This week I bought a dress. A beautiful, beautiful gown. I'm going to a ball, folks! It's being altered a bit, so no pictures, but I promise I look damn good in it. We're not going to our main Marine Corps birthday ball, we're attending the smaller one being held at a different date for The Hubby's unit. So, less crowded, fewer chances of celebrity sightings, but still fancy. Still a ball. Still huge for us. Now I just have to stress about someone to watch my kiddo while we socialize the night away...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Just fine."

"Just fine" seems to be the standard many parents set for themselves as the goal for their kids. It's certainly the yardstick they measure success by, if you listen closely.

"I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, and I am/my kids are just fine."

"I beat my kids' asses all the time, and they turned out just fine."

"I went out with my friends all the time. I left my kids with a babysitter/family member, and they turned out just fine. It's important that mommies and daddies get time away from their children."

"I let my 5 month old baby cry it out at bedtime, so he would learn that bedtime is bedtime and I won't be manipulated by a crying baby... besides, he sleeps sooooo much better now (and so do I ha ha ha ha). He'll be just fine. My mom did it to me, and I'm just fine."

"I had my kid forward-facing in a carseat at 6 months old. She survived. Back in the day, they didn't even use carseats at all!"

"I gave my 4 month old baby ice cream and chocolate and french fries all the time! It's just a taste, it's not going to hurt them. They'll be just fine."

Or better yet, "I gave my 4 month old grandbaby ice cream and chocolate and french fries behind their mama's back. It's just a taste, it's not going to hurt them. They'll be just fine, I did it with their mama/daddy when they were little. What are you calling that ambulance for? Allergies aren't a real thing. Kids are too weak these days. It's just a little swelling, he'll be just fine. He needs to learn how to eat real food."

Here's the thing, though: I don't want my kid to be just "fine," or to claim success as a parent if she merely "survives." Many times I hear parents claim success when I have heard them talk about their kids before, and know that things aren't all peachy. They've sobbed and stressed over their kids' asthma or chronic bronchitis or serious allergies, but if their kids "survived" then they are "just fine" and their parents' smoking habits aren't an issue. They've been astounded at their adult childrens' relationship troubles, legal troubles, substance abuse troubles, and/or issues with depression or anger, or frustrated at their laziness/weakness but they are alive, therefore "just fine" and the choices they made as parents could not possibly have contributed. Deep down, after all, they're "good kids." Then you hear "I don't understand why my son acts this way towards me. I did everything I could to raise him right, and this is how he repays me. I made my mistakes [but you will never catch me being specific about what I did wrong or what I did, if anything, to fix them--other than saying I made mistakes/am not perfect], but that was in the past! It's time to move on." In my opinion, a lot of these parents are full of shit and too stubborn or ignorant to see anything from any perspective but their own. I bet their children would tell an entirely different story of what their life was like growing up.

I do not expect perfection, from myself or anyone else. But I am constantly learning how to be a better parent, and not simply from "my own mistakes" or from how I was raised or how you were raised or how random Facebook friends were raised or how they are raising their kids or how 8 million assholes on the internet were raised and are raising their own kids. I learn by constantly seeking real information, finding and reading research studies on development, different parenting tools and techniques, etc., and seeing how I can make things work in my own family. And it's not easy for me since I am already a "long-term" thinker. I see how parenting styles have changed and not changed over the years, I *know* and *see* how people romanticize their own childhood as this magical period where things were done X way and that's just how it was and everyone was "just fine." (Except, of course, for those who weren't.) I know that laws and recommendations change constantly, so I focus on things that do not change. Physics, anatomy, and stages of child development.

Flying around those three things are all the research that is always being done. The more we study, the more we know. The more we know, the better we can do. I don't find it a point of parental pride (or any kind of pride, for that matter) to stick to what you know because that's what you are familiar and comfortable with, or because that's "how it's always been done" or "how it should be done," because other people did it and didn't die. I refuse to let that be the criteria I set for myself as a parent. I'm not going to let myself get lazy in things like safety issues, especially when it comes to carseats. I'm not someone who could shrug it off as god's will if my child dies in an accident because of something I could have prevented (an improperly installed carseat or forward-facing too soon--I'll keep her rearfacing as long as possible, because *physics applies to everyone*). The fact that I have heard people defend doing things that are unsafe because "If their child dies then it was God's will" makes me absolutely sick, and furious.

I'm not parenting by a minimum standard. I'm not banking on the idea that kids are resilient, so parents can be sloppy. I will make mistakes, and I will own up to them and apologize for them to my child. I have said before and will say again, she is not simply an extension of me, she is her own person and as such deserves just as much respect as anyone else. It is my job to teach her, to help her attain her goals, to meet her needs, to keep her safe, and to make sure she is prepared and confident to face the real world. It is my job to model kindness and empathy and compassion as well as strength and grace. She will learn that there are consequences for her actions without me screaming at her or insulting her or hitting her. She will be kept rearfacing in a carseat until she has reached the limits of which it is safe to do so in her seat, which can go up to 40 lbs rearfacing. Hopefully that will be close to four years of age, when her bones and spinal cord are much more able to withstand the force of impact in a collision than they are at two, let alone one. I will continue to promote a secure attachment (shown time and time again to lead to the most happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults) by babywearing as long as she wants and I am capable, by being respectful of her needs, her feelings, and her limits as well as much as possible, by listening to her, following her cues, by being there for her, and by not expecting things from her that are beyond her capabilities physically or developmentally. And trust me, all this can be done without raising an "entitled brat," which is the most frequent "warning" given to parents who choose more gentle (NOT permissive, that's a shitstorm all in itself) parenting techniques over parenting by force or fear. And studies have shown over and over that if you parent by verbal, emotional, or physical force you are indeed parenting by fear, and no matter how sweet and loving you are the rest of the time the damage is done in the other times. Fear does not equal respect, and it does not equal intrinsic motivation.

I don't want my daughter to be "just fine." I want her to be amazing.

*Edited to add: I know not everyone will "agree" with my words here. I am fine with that. I know other people make different choices in how they raise/d their children. I am not saying they are shitty parents for doing things differently, or for doing things without having researched other options. If you are not 100% confident in yourself and your choices, it is always prudent to check out other options to see if something else sounds more right to you. I am happy to point anyone with questions towards some of the information I mentioned.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Teach me how to Shatner, Baby Girl.

Picture a 9-month old girl in pajamas doing exactly this. With a pacifier in her mouth.

So I hear stories of babies (and their parents) with nice, calm, gentle sleep routines. Bath, pjs, bottle/nurse, book, song, bed. Or whatever.

I want them to come to my house and experience the whirlwind that is my spirited little girl at bedtime.

First, the bath. All is well, she loves the bathtub and splashing water all over the bathroom. Generally she is squealing with happiness the whole time. (Our poor neighbors.) There are the attempts to stand up, the flinging of water from the cups she must have in there, the attempts to TOUCH EVERYTHING, including the drain stopper, overflow cover, and the faucet. Which I do try to keep clean, but this *is* a rental apartment, and must she try to lick them??

After the bath everything goes all to hell. Getting this kid in pjs is like wrestling a greased-up pig. Well, pajamas aren't so bad, it's the diaper that is the biggest issue. She's in the stage where she just wants to crawl away from diaper changes, so it's definitely a challenge these days. The past couple days she has added in a "I hate sleeves! I hate pants!" kind of mood, as well. So she's been in short outfits, because it doesn't really matter right now.

Bottle, mostly all good there. Until she is getting close to full and starts playing with it. She likes to take the bottle away from me (she doesn't hold it herself yet to eat) and flip it upside down, pushing the nipple around so she sprays milk or lets it collect in the palm of her hand. And she'll lick the side of the bottle. Weirdo. But not that big of a deal, I take it away and all is well. She's just learning how things work.

It's after that where things take a turn for the comical. Generally she finishes the bottle, starts to let her little eyelids get heavy, and takes a pacifier. A couple minutes of peace. On some occasions, she will actually fall asleep at this point. I like those times. It's sweet. Usually, though, there is still a ways to go.

If she can't quite settle into sleep, she starts a-flingin'. First an arm or a leg, but then she twists around and sends her whole body into the most dramatic Shatner-esque display of "I'm soooo tired" I have ever experienced. She stands up against the back of the couch, sometimes facing it, sometimes not, and leans her head against it with her eyes closed. Then she slides back down and falls over, until she is either laying in between the back and seat of the couch or is flat against the seat. Hand over face. Then she flings herself into a different position. Again, and again, and again. Sometimes she lays on me, half on and half off, rolling around. Just... can't... get comfortable... She does full 360 spins on her back/front. She goes from one end of the couch to the other. Climbing over me to get there. I try to keep an arm or hand in contact so she doesn't fling herself right onto the floor, and so I can kind of ease her flinging around so she doesn't hurt herself (or me) while on the couch, and she gets even more dramatic about how my arm is in the way of her flinging and laying. Tonight she even added in some pelvic thrusts while she was sprawled on her back next to me, starfish-style. She'll walk along the back of the couch, laying her head down periodically, until she reaches me and just collapses onto me. She lays her head on my chest, but it's... just not... right so she picks it back up, looks around, whips it into facing the opposite direction and drops it back like a rock onto my chest. My poor chin has been caught up in this more times than I care to admit. Puts her hands up by her face but something's... wrong so she tucks them underneath her, between herself and me. Then one arm up and the other down. One tucked, one hanging loose. Switch it up again. Then she sliiiiiiiiiiiiides back down into a cradle-hold position.

Sometimes she's done there. Sometimes she is still not ready. More energy to burn, more... Shatnering to do. Sometimes when she lays against my chest she slides down so she's in a squat position or puts her legs around my waist... and then flings herself backwards. Hand over face.

More than anything, the "hand over face" is her "I'm ready for sleep" sign. It's like she's so over the day she just has to *facepalm.* She does it roughly 8 gajillion times during this little ritual, because she really is ready for sleep. She just doesn't want to be. If the hand stops floating on up there, she goes back in the floor for more play time. (Because obviously the dramatic flinging is serious business, and not for fun. Don't mind the grunts and squeaks and smiles and squeals and random vocalizations. They're totally serious.)

But I love when she finally does settle down, whether it's in a cradling position or if she's laying against my chest, and falls asleep. Even if she flips her head from side to side a few times. She is a very independent kiddo, but she still likes to snuggle to sleep. I missed it when she had stopped for a few months. I really wonder if she is going to keep doing this and make toddlerhood super interesting, or if she's going to switch it up on me again and make it interesting another way. There's no telling, really. I'll just keep rolling with it, and try to stop interfering with her "process" by giggling throughout.

It really distracts her from her "process."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Holding on.

I think I need a break from the internet. I feel like I'm drowning right now. I'm at a point where I'm having trouble remembering what it's even like for The Hubby to be home, even though I miss him immensely and he's finally coming home this weekend. It's only been 5 weeks, but it's been a big 5 weeks for Baby G. She's sitting up now, wants to be in the middle of everything, she's adding in some consonants with her babbling, she is growing and changing so fast, and now to top it off I think we're in serious teething mode. She's suddenly staying up way longer than she had been, almost doubling her awake time between naps, and is fighting her bottle and pacifier and not going to sleep when she's clearly tired. It's exhausting for both of us. The crib training is going just fine for bedtime, but as difficult as it's been to get her to take naps she's ending up in her swing for those more often than not.

I started doing the 30 Day Shred, and since I don't want to have to stop I wait until I know Little Bit is totally out. But she's going to bed later, so I'm staying up later, sometimes not getting to bed until 1 am because I'm using nighttime to decompress. Which really doesn't matter much, because I have trouble falling asleep before then anyway. Since switching to the crib she's been getting up earlier (not at an unreasonable time, just earlier than 8-9am), soooo my sleep is not what it should be. I haven't needed naps in months, but I've taken one (or tried) every day this week.

The end of this month brings my brother's wedding, and we'll be driving back home for that. Somehow this has turned into a trip requiring us to bring both vehicles. I'd rather not talk about that other than to say I'm not a fan of the idea, to put it lightly, but at least my sister will be keeping me and Baby G company for the return trip. But I'm also kind of stressing about this trip because there are so many people I want to see but not enough time. I guess I'll find out who's really interested in seeing us! ;)

I just can't wait for The Hubby to come home. And I'm looking forward to some chill time. I'm glad  my sister isn't a high maintenance pain in the ass! She's awesome, and I'm glad she'll be staying with us a while. I hope we don't bore her too much.

I guess I'm back in, or still in, really, a pretty bad spiral. I hate that it coincides with The Hubby's return, but hopefully that will help to turn things around again. In the meantime I'm not really participating on my birth board (and a related group I started on the same site), Facebook has been pissing me off to no end, I'm not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, and every time my phone goes off with a call or text I give it a dirty look and seriously contemplate not responding. That may also be connected to a tendency for people to call when I've either just barely got Little Bit to sleep or she's close to it, and of course the phone vibrating rouses her. So far this week I've had phone calls, a package delivered, the cats fighting over the window in her room, lawn mowers by the back door, and leaf blowers right outside the front happening as soon as Baby G goes to sleep. And *only* at those times. Nothing while she's awake--which has been the vast majority of the time the past couple days. Sigh. It's like the world is conspiring against me.

I miss the days when I could just sink in and let the emptiness of depression swallow me up for a while. The more I have to bury it or fight it to take care of Alyson the longer it drags on. I'd rather spiral all the way down and come completely out than keep doing this bounce. But that's probably just the depression speaking, wanting me to just give in already. Oh, the insidious poison it spews. It does it so well.

But for now, ain't nobody got time for that!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

This is my version of suspenseful.

My little love has been sleeping in her swing (naps AND overnight. I know, I know.) since about February. She had gotten really badly congested and being in there helped her. After she got better... The pack n play in our room where she had slept before had been filled up with diapers (clean!), wipes, changes of clothes, etc. Her room was and still is a wreck from moving and she has never really slept in her crib before. Or spent much time in there really. So since she slept SOOOO well in her swing I just kept her there.

But the past few days she's been really fussy, trying to twist around in there, and just basically getting super frustrated. So for her nap this morning we laid down and took a nap together in my bed (she has slept there before a few times). I tried the swing again for her next nap and had the same results, so I put her in her crib.

She's just... laying there. Not fussing, not sleeping, just looking around. I hope this works soon, because she's definitely not going to be able to enjoy her swing much longer. I think she has definitely been letting me know that she's ready for something different, so she may be a lot easier to transition to her crib than I thought she would be.

Fingers crossed.