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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I just spent a good five minutes trying to type out a post asking for advice on my online birth community. And in trying to find my words, I found my answer on my own.

Redirection is a powerful, important skill to master. We'll call it the "bean dip" tool, thanks to said birth community. Say someone asks you a question or makes a suggestion, and it's really none of their business. You say something vague, then offer up the "bean dip"--the subject change. It can be literal, "Well, I hadn't heard of doing that before! Hm! *pause* Would you like some bean dip/a drink/a slice of pie?" or it can be the figurative discussion of the weather/current events/whatever shallow conversation happens to be your go-to.

My belief system (or lack thereof) is something that occasionally requires me to use my bean dip skills. Like many personal choices, religion is one of those things where it seems like people feel if you do something different, you are judging them for doing things their way.

I do not care in the slightest what other people do or don't believe in. But it can be really really important to some people to care about and try to influence what other people do or don't believe in. And it's exhausting.

I have a number of friends to whom their faith is extremely important. I have been very lucky in that the vast majority of my friends happen to not act like they pity me or fear for me or otherwise be condescending. I do not need people to "pray" for me (or if they do, I certainly don't need them to tell me about it), I do not feel as if I am missing anything. My life is complete and happy and meaningful without religion. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I don't think I am, and I do not believe in hedging my bets, which is what so many would rather I do "just in case." If a wink and a nod and an apology surrounded by air quotations is all it takes to get into your heaven, then I think there are bigger problems than my refusal to participate.

But I wasn't meaning to get into a philosophical discussion here. My main point is that as with many things people can be "out" about, from child-rearing styles (more controversy there than you might think) to sexual preferences to political leanings, belief (or lack thereof) is sometimes a very difficult subject to broach with new people. You don't know where a new person stands on various issues, and just like with a new romantic relationship you don't want to hit the heavy topics right off the bat without making sure there's a foundation of some sort there. But sometimes it pops up right off the bat, and you have to make a decision.

This is the decision I was wanting to seek advice about in my birth community. How do you politely decline an invitation to a religiously-focused gathering? Whether a Bible study or church event, whether it's a casual or formal thing, it's difficult to say "No, but thanks for the invite!" It can turn into a question about whether it's a day/time/childcare issue, a one-time thing or a "ask me again later" thing, and just like with many other personal issues people feel like they have the right to ask about details. So you have to not only say no thanks, but also give a response that is specific enough to indicate that future invitations are not favorable but vague enough to not spur more questions.

What answer did I find on my own as I tried to organize my thoughts enough to put them into words asking for advice?

"What's the worst that can happen?" I will keep things light for as long as that answer is enough. "Thanks, but I'm not a Bible study/church event/whatever kind of person. Bean dip?" If that becomes not enough, I will be honest and respectful--as I always am. If the respect isn't reciprocated, then that is not a relationship I need to pursue anyway. If it's a dealbreaker for them, then I will gladly respect that as well. I am not a martyr, I am not a person who believes you should be forced to suffer any relationship that causes you pain or other negativity.

Not every new friendship is meant to last. Sometimes it's just that step you need to get to better places. Sometimes that new friendship becomes so solid it's like you have always known each other, even if you can count on one hand the number of times you've met in person and you are complete opposites on some major issues. Some friendships are meant to be light, airy, surface friendships; some are meant to reach straight into your soul. Both are important. So we'll see where this one ends up on that continuum.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I was just thrown off by you today. It happened at the end of the day, too--right when I was getting ready for bed. I hope sleep still comes.

Really, though, it wasn't you, it was a family member of yours. He showed up in your daughter's life through the wonder that is Facebook. I'm not sure when that "add" happened, but it showed up via a comment on her status tonight, and I was sent reeling.

Because what do you do when someone pops back into your life, however tenuous the connection? You creep. You do the Facebook creep. You see their recent statuses, and pictures they have on their page (depending on their privacy settings, of course). But it's not enough. You wonder "Do you remember me? It was so long ago. My name is different now. We hardly saw you even then. Have you changed? Do you have the same problems you did then? The same interests? Are you happy? Is your life the way you want it to be?" Maybe these thoughts don't fully form, but when we do the Facebook creep, this is the information we seek. Of course every situation is different, but the last 5 questions pretty much always apply.

So in doing the Facebook creep, I'm reminded of other connections. Connections to a family I haven't had in years (which unfortunately reminds me of all the others as well). To a life I haven't had in years. To that place in time, where you were here, and we could see you if we wanted to. Talk to you if we wanted to. Maybe we wouldn't have, but the option was still available to us. It hasn't been for almost 14 years now. What would your own Facebook page look like today, I wonder?

I was going to wait to bring this up, but I'm feeling the push to do it now. It would have made for a helluva post in a few more months, but I think I'm wrong about that and it was meant to happen now.

My daughter was born on the 13th anniversary of your death. When I went in to my regular checkup two days before and they decided to test for pre-eclampsia, I knew I'd be having her on that anniversary. It was just right. I made all the proper noises ("I'm sure everything's fine, blah blah blah") but I knew what was meant to happen and I began mentally preparing for it. Still, I cried walking out of my followup appointment two days later on the 9th, because they told me I needed to go to the hospital to be induced immediately. I didn't cry out of fear, or sadness, or worry. I cried because finally something good would come of that day. The anniversary of your death would now be shared with the celebration of my daughter's birth. What has been a bad day since 1999 is now a happy, if slightly bittersweet, day.

And I mean it when I say it has been a bad day since then. Not every year, but most years since I have been in a funk around that time. Of course that's natural around anniversaries of this sort. Sometimes specific, negative events occur on that day in particular, for no apparent reason. That day in 2010 sparked a chain of events that led to me leaving a job that I loved, and ending up in a job that I don't even know how to describe on the love/hate scale. But I know that I felt unfulfilled, and like I was opting out of making an effort. I felt like I was giving up a little (a lot) on life.

Then on that day last year, November 9 2012, I gave birth to a wonderful, perfect little girl. She is my life. I wish you could meet her. Maybe it would take you back to when your own wonderful, perfect little girl was born, a bright spot in your own life (and ours as well). But maybe this was your way of saying you're still influencing our universe a little, that you're paying attention. I don't believe in any god, but I do believe in energy. I believe in love. I believe you had a hand in making that day into a positive experience for me, for our family. We have a physical reminder that yes, there is sadness and loss in our lives, but there is also life, and beauty, and love, and hope. They all thrive in the same dark places.

I don't figure tonight's "event" will lead to any sort of reconnection beyond a shared acknowledgement of a Facebook status. Was I wrong to not push? To not say "Hey, long time no see!" in a way that acknowledges a shared past? I wouldn't turn down an outreach, but I'm not ready to do the reaching out myself.  Maybe we both just think "Nah, they don't remember."

But I do remember. And it all comes crashing back to me.    

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eat it, self-doubt!

It's definitely been an interesting couple weeks since I last posted. More on that later.

When I took my little love in for her 4-month appointment (she rocked at getting her shots, by the way!), based on their scale she hadn't gained any weight since her 2-month appointment. She had grown in length and head circumference, but apparently was still 12.5-ish pounds. The doctor didn't seem concerned; it wasn't like she had fallen off the charts altogether, and she has doubled her birth weight. But I was a little thrown off my game, so I did a stupid thing and opened my big mouth about it. We agreed that the fact that Little Bit is teething and had been pooping constantly for a while most likely led to her losing a little. But the doc suggested I start her on rice cereal (which I have been against using for SOOO many reasons) just for the extra calories, and to bring her back in 2 weeks for a weight check.

As soon as I walked out of the appointment my internal debate began. Deep down, I really did not believe anything was wrong with her. I felt like the pediatrician made the suggestions he did more to appease a first-time mom rather than out of a sense of concern for Baby G's health. Which I have issues with anyway, because I don't feel like I need to be coddled, and for the most part I am NOT an alarmist or paranoid parent who is terrified by every cough or sniffle. I have a background in child development, and I have spent the better part of three years monitoring debates and trends and doing a hell of a lot of research regarding raising children. I knew then and I know now that all the studying in the world can't truly prepare you for a baby, so I didn't go into this with unreasonable expectations. (Unless you count my expectation that a high-needs demon child would inevitably be what my husband and I released upon the world... I was totally wrong there. This kid is absolutely amazing.) My point is, I am not an idiot, I am not uneducated. I don't do things just because others are doing it or because I think it would be neat or fun, I do things because I have done my research and feel like it is best for my child and our family.

But while all this was running through my head, I was still trying to fight my concern over a number. Her weight. I thought it "couldn't hurt" to start her on cereal, JUST so she would put on some weight. Even though everything in me was screaming that she was okay, I was beginning to doubt myself for the first time. So I bought some organic rice cereal, and a bunch of spoons and bowls. I had been wanting to get those anyway, just to have around for when we do get started. When we got home I mixed up some of the cereal and tried to give her a few bites. She wouldn't/couldn't take it. Her tongue-thrust reflex was still pushing the spoon out. She was NOT ready. I didn't want that for her. We were done.

So we just carried on about our merry little way, and I continued following her lead regarding feedings. She ate as much or as little as she needed, as often as she needed. At that point she would typically eat around 30 ounces a day. As we were coming up on the followup appointment, Baby G developed a nice little case of pink eye. It was Easter Sunday (naturally), and I went ahead and took her into Urgent Care so we could get it treated ASAP. Of course, they weighed her... over 15 pounds!!!

My thoughts: somebody's scale was wrong. There is just no way this kid gained 3 pounds in 2 weeks. My scale at home had had her around 14-15 pounds prior to that 4-month appointment, which is why I was so damn surprised when they said she was just 12 pounds and some change. I called to cancel the followup appointment and explain the situation, since the purpose was to check her weight, which had been done, and I didn't want to bring pink eye into a well clinic. (The urgent care clinic is a feature of her regular clinic.) The lesson I learned from all this? My mama instincts rawk. I will try my hardest not to doubt them again.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Out of sync.

Baby Girl and I have not always been on the same page, but generally since she was born we've at least been in the same book. The past week or so, though, it seems like you might not even find us in the same library.

It looks like she's hitting another growth spurt, and according to the world of the internets she's due for a "4-month sleep regression"/growth spurt/19-week wonder week. Her sleep habits haven't changed for the worse at this point, she is actually more likely to sleep later now (even accounting for the time change), and her naps are sometimes longer than 20-30 minutes now. She might stay down for a couple hours at a time. We'll see how that progresses... I try not to get used to that kind of awesomeness, because babies are nothing if not unpredictable.

She's been waaaay fussy and clingy the past few days, and I've only been able to let her play "by herself" on her playmat or in her super seat a couple of times. Otherwise if I set her down she gets upset. Don't fret, I am fine with letting her fuss for a second while I run to pee, I'm no martyr. But I don't want to just let her fuss for the most part. If she's fussing, there's a reason for it, and I aim to help. Even if the only reason is wanting to be close to Mama. Right now I can get things done ... sometimes ... while she naps. I am fine with all of this. It's thrown us a little off, but nothing we can't handle.

Then this poor kid turned into a regular poop machine. Yes, I'm talking about my baby's poop. She went from a fairly regular once/twice a day to four or five dirty diapers in a day. No runny or weird stuff and she's not struggling with it or in pain, so I'm not overly concerned about it, but it's a change. The same thing happened around her 3-month mark, except it was from her other end: she started spitting up a lot when she didn't really do that often before. It was enough I took her to the pediatrician thinking it might be reflux, but not too long after that it stopped. I think this time around she's working on perfecting the systems on her other end.

I have no problems changing a ton of dirty diapers. But one unfortunate side effect of all these poopy diapers is that Little Bit has developed her first case of diaper rash. I'm proud we made it this far without that pesky little pain, honestly. In any case I've been putting some Boudreaux's Butt Paste to good use, and that's where the out of sync feeling has been coming in.

I've gone through so many diapers the past few days because suddenly a sometimes occurrence has become an almost-every-time occurrence. It doesn't fail, I'll be in the process of changing her diaper, and as soon as I start applying the rash cream she starts peeing! It's almost comical, even though I've had to do so many baby wardrobe changes, changing table cover changes, and going through multiple diapers in one, um, "sitting." It's just frustrating right now because of the diaper rash. I'll have her all clean and dry and be applying the cream, then have to wipe her off and do it all over again. The repeat cleanings like that aren't good for the diaper rash, even when using the gentlest methods. So the poor kid is all diaper-rashed, and her little body is still apparently trying to get some things straightened out, leading to more diaper changes and more irritation. Gah.

But we're working on it. Based on her behavior today I think we might be on the way out of this growth spurt. I just adore this kid... Even when she's having a fussy day, she's still such a sweet happy baby so much of the time. I feel so bad for her for having such a hard time right now, I hope she does come out of this funk soon.

She has her 4-month well visit this coming week, so she'll be getting her shots and I'll be definitely be talking to her pediatrician if any of these issues haven't resolved by then. But so far, the Mama instincts are saying everything is fine and this is a wait-and-see kind of thing. I love so much that she's growing and changing and getting things figured out, but it just puts us out of sync for a while before we find our groove again.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Branching Out.

Last week I took a baby step. Monday I took a slightly bigger step. And yesterday I took a leap.

I've been extremely fighting the downward spiral for the past few weeks... Really, since a week or two after we moved. I've been feeling isolated by not knowing anyone here but the couple of work friends The Hubby has brought home here and there. Unfortunately they are all singletons who live in the barracks, so no wives or girlfriends for me to meet and maybe connect with. They're cool dudes, but that's not helpful to me.

I've been terrified to leave our home by myself with Baby Girl. Unfamiliar surroundings, stressing over "what ifs," and terror over the insanity that is the traffic situation (out of the *few* times I have ventured out on my own, someone has either started crossing over into my lane--into the space OCCUPIED BY ME--or made the more popular move of darting out in front of me, causing me to have to stand on my brakes to avoid slamming into them at 40-45 mph. One of those times I am not even sure how a wreck didn't happen.) has led me to withdraw into what's familiar and safe. Our home.

Logically, I know that the only way to get more comfortable with the area and getting out on my own with Little Bit is to actually do it, to get out there. But I kept putting it off and putting it off, letting the fear and depression run everything. I kept making excuses about traffic (I still feel that one's valid, some of those near-misses would have been so much scarier to me if she had been in the car with me), or about the weather not being right, or what if she fusses too much in the car or in wherever we end up going, etc. Or, "Hey, I checked the mail today. No need to do anything else." My capability for accomplishing tasks became a one task per day limit. And I check the mail almost every day, so there you go. Besides, The Hubby could go make the grocery/diapers runs when he got off work. No need for me to do things. If I start to do more than one thing, I quickly panic and become overwhelmed. That leads me to go back to doing nothing and becoming depressed about it. It's so easy to get into that spiral when I have a built in excuse, Baby Girl.

But last week I decided I was going to take steps. A few weeks ago I had signed up for a L.I.N.K.S class about the unit my husband is attached to, where free childcare would be provided, and I wanted to have some getting-out experience under my belt beforehand. I knew the class would be an excellent opportunity to not only learn about what to expect for the next couple of years, but also to meet people. Specifically other Marine wives, and handily they would be wives who would be from the same unit (even though from different job areas, of course). So I would be meeting people! But first I wanted to know I could venture out on my own with baby and the world wouldn't end. Logically I *knew* this, but depression doesn't give a shit about logic.

So after working up to it for a few days, I took my Little Bit to the mall last week. We walked around for a while, when she got fussy I took her into the nursing room and took her out of the carrier to help her fall asleep, then went back to walking around a little bit before heading back home. I had fed her before we left, so she was happy and alert until she had gotten sleepy, but she went to sleep quickly and easily. Earlier this week we went to Walmart by ourselves instead of just waiting to send The Hubby (he has to come home and change out of his cammies, Marines don't wear them in public), and again she was happy and alert, just checking everything out around us.

Two outings, and the world didn't end. We didn't die. She didn't have shrieking meltdowns in public. Neither did I. The outings were a success.

So yesterday was the day for the class, and although I seriously thought about not going because it was raining and windy outside I told myself I was being ridiculous and went. I had packed up Little's diaper bag the night before, so off we went. I actually had to wake her up around 7:20 so she could eat and we could leave. I cried leaving her at the daycare (which was right next door to the class), but I toughed it out, learned a lot, and met some awesome people. I visited her at lunch and got her to sleep, then visited her again at our next break, then picked her up after the class and we went home. She did really well, except she didn't eat much. But she did eat, and she did manage to take a couple short naps.

Apparently, she can be left with people I don't know and receive perfectly good care. And she won't die, and neither will I. I can meet new people, with whom I can exchange phone numbers and email addresses. And I won't die. I can find other groups to join so that I'm not just hanging with military folks, and can find kid-friendly groups at that. And I won't die. Et cetera.

The lesson of this story is that no matter what depression says, I can leave the house. I can meet people. I can participate in society. I can do all this while handling an amazingly sweet baby girl.

And I won't die.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hello, North Carolina!

In my last post (a month ago... sorry...) I mentioned The Hubby got PCS orders, and we were waiting on them to approve his leave so we could get moved. The beginning of this month it was done, The Hubby left base on the 15th to come home, and on the 21st we rolled out of our driveway with car full of me, Hubby, Baby Girl, baby accessories necessary for the 2-day trip, 2 highly offended kitties, and our luggage; and The In-Laws drove a Budget truck full of the rest of our crap and pulling the second car. After a major kitty meltdown, Jugga ended up riding with The In-Laws the rest of the way since neither me nor the Hubby could do much to help her with him driving and me dealing with Baby Girl. We stopped in Knoxville, TN after Baby Girl decided she was totally done with being in the car for the day. Unfortunately that wasn't even halfway, so she was REALLY ticked by the time we reached our destination the next night around 8:30 pm. We got everything unloaded that night and they went ahead and returned the truck. Thankfully, The In-Laws stuck around for a couple days and helped while we got *some* of our stuff unpacked (basically necessities).

Now we've been here a little over a week, and there's still a lot of unpacking to be done. Our grocery situation is depressing, we've basically been ordering in most nights. I've left the apartment exactly *twice* since arriving. Once when The In-laws were still here, we took the 20-minute drive to the beach. And the other day (my birthday!) I loaded up Baby Girl and we went to Babies 'R Us. I bought a mei tai baby carrier, so I don't have to lug around a car seat/stroller anytime we go somewhere. I love it, but unfortunately Baby Girl just isn't feeling it right now. I've kept trying periodically, because there's no way I'm putting her in it in public until she's comfortable in it at home. I think her big issue with it is that she's too small for her feet to be out. Maybe with a different (better... not the cheapo one I had to get) mei tai she could be legs out, but the sides of this one aren't flexible enough.

But she's also having a bit of a rough time this week it seems, so that might have something to do with it as well... She's been fussing constantly, her sleeping and eating habits are all jacked up, and she's pretty clingy. She likes her swing, so sometimes I can put her in there to get a chance to accomplish something, but I prefer to only do that if she's heading towards a nap anyway or, if she's awake, if I know she won't be in there long because I'm trying to finish up some sort of task. I really don't like to just set her down awake somewhere and leave her so I can chill and watch TV or whatever. But if she starts crying, I head right back to her. Maybe it's just a first time mom hovering thing, and I'll "learn my lesson" eventually, but if she's awake I want to be interacting with her, and now that I'm living in an apartment dammit I have these pesky things called "neighbors" that will also be subjected to a crying baby if her needs aren't met.

Right now, and for the next little while, she needs me. (And The Hubby, I suppose... *sigh*) And although "people" may say I might kick myself later on for letting her fall asleep in my arms so often, or that I shouldn't run to her every time she fusses or cries, I know that this stage in her development only lasts for so long. And it's an important stage, where she learns that she can trust the adults around her to care for her and meet her needs, and that she is worthy of human interaction, even if all she needs at the moment is cuddles with Mama. It's a big scary world, and she's just a little thing that didn't ask to be brought into it, and doesn't understand what is happening to her or around her. That's what mamas and daddies are there for. I'm not going to ignore her when she's inconvenient, or yell at her for crying or needing something. She is too little to be "spoiled." Even if she's driving me a little batty right now with this growth spurt or whatever it is, and half the time I feel like crying right along with her because DAMN RIGHT life is hard! I will continue to cuddle her every chance I get, because all too soon she won't want that anymore. And she's just so sweet and snuggly...