Friday, November 18, 2011

Hidden Costs

Before I got pregnant with Jack, and during my pregnancy, I spent quite a bit of time plugging numbers into a baby cost estimator online. I played with different variables to measure cost, and parenting philosophy versus frugality was a constant battle in my head. Breastfeeding exclusively for one year saves something like ONE MILLION DOLLARS. in formula (but then you probably need a breast pump, breast pads, breast lotiony-medicine stuff, milk storage bags, and a crapload of other accessories, so the total savings is more like NINE HUNDRED NINETY-NINE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS). There are many “variable costs” that were certain for me – we didn't need regular childcare since I had decided to stay home for one year, for example, and I knew exactly what our health insurance would cost once we added a child. Some things were sort of up in the air...back to breastfeeding. I wanted to do it for at least a year but it didn't happen like that (and you can probably tell I'm sensitive about it because it comes up in nearly every blog entry). We started supplementing with formula when Jack was just over 4 months old and at first his stomach only seemed to tolerate ready-made liquid formula (read: I was paranoid and crazy and of course I thought only the more-expensive formula was working). We eventually made it to Target brand powder but by then Jack was on formula full-time and even then it was still expensive.

Let me just get to the point. There was an important category missing under “Costs for 2nd Year of Life.” Here it is:

Yes, the strategically placed cars/trains/planes/horses that lurk in every toddler & parent hotspot, like the grocery store and the mall. We frequent both of those places, and it seemed that as soon as Jack had his first birthday, something in his brain clicked and he realized that they were the most fun thing ever. For awhile he was content to sit in or on the toy, point at lights, and push buttons. Very quickly, though, he learned that the buttons were more fun to push if I put magic silver circles into the machine first, because then the buttons actually caused something to happen.

Figuring out where the button is.  Trouble afoot.

The love affair began with the Garfield train at the mall and soon he was splitting his affection between Garfield and the Winnie the Pooh plane at the grocery store. Now, Garfield is old news, and he has moved on to the carousel. Conveniently, the carousel costs twice the money and requires me to walk around the same circle for two minutes, causing some mild dizziness and nausea.

I realize I've dug my own hole here, but now that he knows that it's more fun with money, I am constantly searching for quarters before leaving the house. At somewhere between fifty cents and a dollar for a ride, it didn't seem like a big deal, until I started thinking in terms of a year. If a ride averages 75 cents and we run into one of these machines four times a week, that's $156 a year! And I'm pretty sure I'm underestimating how much we do this because I'm ashamed to admit what a sucker I am, so it's probably more than that. This shocking discovery led me to think of all of the things I could do (for myself or Jack) with an extra $156 a year. Then I stopped beating myself up because I thought that realistically I would probably buy 106 diet cokes at McDonald's, and although it does make me vey happy, it would be selfish of me to deprive a toddler of the small joy he gets from fake conducting a fake train. I obviously get some enjoyment out of it, too, because I have taken about 412 pictures of him in action.

 You can't see, but his arm is around Garfield here.

 Hugging Elmo

Monday, October 17, 2011

Toddler Time

I brought Jack to the library today in search of two things: Wiggles music and the book “Happiest Toddler on the Block.” After Jack walked around the youth services area a million times and made lots of little adorable friends, we got down to business, and we were successful in our endeavor. Jack was content to rock out to songs about fruit salad on the way home, and I am ready to curl up with a glass of red wine and indulge in “pleasure reading” about how to parent my child. Unfortunately since it is socially unacceptable to drink at 2pm I will have to settle for curling up with the book and some diet coke, which truthfully isn't such a bad alternative.

I don't know if I've said here before that I don't like to over-research and over-read about what my kid should or shouldn't be doing, because it makes me paranoid and irritable to find out that I'm doing something “wrong.” Once I realized just how many things I was doing “wrong,” I really started limiting myself. So how did I end up checking out this particular book, you ask? The reasons are many-fold.

First of all, it's written by the same guy who wrote about the 5 S's in Happiest Baby on the Block, which was the only infant book I felt helped me at all. Jack was a swaddle fanatic and was/is a pacifier addict (2 of the S's: swaddling and sucking) so he and Dr. Harvey Karp are a match made in heaven. Also, Karp is not as judgmental about some of the choices moms have to make (e.g. breastfeeding vs. bottle) so I didn't feel like a giant ball of guilt every time I opened it. I also read some reviews that summarized some of the main points, which seemed to make sense to me, so I figured it's worth a shot...and if it sucks, it was free to borrow (unless I lose it and pay hefty fines – this would be typical).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I have never raised a child before and some things that Jack does are a mystery to me. Since the day he was born he has been in a rush to eat, and if food isn't present in some form PRECISELY AT THE EXACT RIGHT MOMENT, he is shrieking. I kept saying it was because he was having Vietnam flashbacks to the days when breastfeeding was going so-so at best and he thought he might never get enough food, but I thought that it would end when he grew cognizant enough to realize that we would not in fact starve him. Now that he is a 30+ pound beastly nugget of a toddler, I'm pretty sure he knows that he won't starve, but the shrieking continues.

It's kind of cute sometimes, but most of the time it is shrill and grating, especially when all three of us are trying to eat together and Mike and I both end up shoveling bites into our mouths in between cutting food for Jack, which he eats at an astounding rate as to ensure that we will never be fast enough with the next load of food. It's also a problem in restaurants, where others are probably thinking, “I had no idea I was going to be seated next to a pterodactyl. How lovely.” It's so weird! I can't figure it out. We have tried telling him to “use his words” (how is “Jet mud dada bus” going to help here?), spoken softly and calmly, told him no more until he stops, taken him out of the highchair, just given in, etc. The hard thing is he is still so small and really doesn't understand most of these tactics just yet. I am hoping this book offers some insight into the little brain inside his ginormous head. I'll keep you posted.

Otherwise, Jack is pretty awesome. I'm trying not to sweat the small stuff, like this:

Probably inappropriate but definitely awesome.
 It can always be put away, right? 100 times a day!

This blur of a child is seen escaping from the scene of a diaper change. 
It was a top 10 poop of his life, seriously. He was probably running away from the smell of himself.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Jack may be a tiny would-be psychopath. On Criminal Minds (et al) they always talk about how serial killers start with animal torture at a young age. Well, Jack finds it absolutely hilarious to try to gauge Jet's eyeballs out and grab two handfuls of kitten hair/skin and pull – hard. Belly laugh funny. Every time he does this I spend time working on “gentle hands” while secretly pleading that I don't someday hear a news story about my son that begins with “members of the crazy man's family say they should have known it would come to this...they say he used to torture his pets.”

Jack fixates on words/objects/books/whatever for a few days to a week and then finds something new. Sometimes they are pretty weird. Current obsessions: geese (real ones, we have hundreds all over the neighborhood), a book called “Farm” and subsequently the words “mud,” “mice,” and “sheep” (although if he said them out of context I'm not sure I would recognize them), turning the TV on and off, The Wiggles, and the aforementioned animal torture. The funniest one is Exit signs. Everywhere we go, the best way to distract him if he is getting antsy is to ask him where “Exit” is. He will hunt and hunt until he finds one and is just elated each time he discovers another one. Places this has been especially useful: Target (Jack's second home), Kroger, the mall, and most importantly, IKEA. I say most importantly because that place is such a ginormous maze, it takes us a minimum of 90 minutes to take a quick trip there. During one trip there, he made eye contact with an employee, pointed up at one of the signs, and said – with PERFECT pronunciation - “EXIT!” She was pretty stunned. I had to reassure her that I was not raising a baby genius and that he had no idea what it meant, it was just a totally random fifth word (first 4: dada, Jet, mama, dog, which I think I have mentioned before, and they were in that order).

He won't wear shoes. This may be problematic sooner rather than later since he is also walking more and more every day, and loves being outside. Plus, I have already had several random oldish women grab his feet and say, “Where are your shoes?” in a little singsong voice. That needs to end NOW. According to the experts at Stride Rite, where baby shoes cost an exorbitant FORTY DOLLARS, they tell me that Jack has size 5.5 extra wide feet. Not just wide...extra wide. My current mission is finding reasonably-priced baby shoes that will fit on his special chunker feet that he will tolerate so I can stop taking flak from passive aggressive Mommy judgers.

More to come... I have to work today so I'm rushing around this morning. Such is the life.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Advice" for New Moms

  1. You don't have to listen to anyone else's advice or suggestions...even if you asked for it. Even if it's from me. Maybe especially if it's from me.

That's pretty much it. When I became more visibly pregnant with Jack (which did take awhile), the most random people would give me their two cents on parenting. If I were to generalize, I would say the most likely advisor was a woman in her 40's or older who had one or more teenagers or grown children. I appreciated hearing their stories and I could tell that oftentimes they just wanted to reflect on their early years of parenting and it had more to do with sharing their memories and less to do with telling me what to do with my own kid. Sometimes, though, there was the wackadoo (as my high school freshman English teacher would say) who would be adamant that some miniscule deviation from her recommended parenting style would turn into a lifetime of struggle.

Common examples of things I was to do or do definitely NOT do: definitely breastfeed (until exactly one year, at least one year, until the kid stops, until I shrivel up) , definitely do not use a pacifier, definitely DO use a pacifier, use a pacifier but DEFINITELY NOT until breastfeeding was “established,” definitely use a pacifier but only until exactly four months, etc.

One of my biggest pet peeves about being pregnant was that I could tell that once my baby was born, I would be hopeless to avoid becoming one of “those” women. By my third trimester I had pledged to always be conscious of how I spoke to pregnant women and other mothers and worked on pushing my judgmental thoughts way to the back of my brain. There are things I still think are important for how I raise children but I try not to let it influence how I come across to other parents. Example: Mike and I vaccinate Jack on schedule using the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. I know this is controversial right now and that at least one person will read this and think “THERE IS A 100 PERCENT CHANCE THAT JACK WILL HAVE AUTISM - YOU ARE A WRETCHED MOTHER!” but it is not going to change my (well-researched) position. Because I know how I would feel if someone said this to me, I steer clear of pushing this view on families who think differently.

As we close in on the last few days of Jack's first year, I find that it is harder and harder to keep my mouth shut regarding those tips, tricks, stories and sagas about mothering an infant. My brother- and sister-in-law just had their first baby four days ago (hooray!) and Mike and I have some friends who aren't far behind (hooray!), and during every conversation with one of these only-slightly-newer-than-me-parents I say at least one thing that I later wish I didn't. Usually it's something simple like, “Oh, a swaddle blanket, that's so great, Jack loved to be swaddled. In fact, he was swaddled until he was seven months old.” Ugh! Even now I hate seeing it typed out because I know I have said this at least 100,000 times. At least one other time in this weeks-old blog!

Again, in case my previous mention of this was too subtle, Jack's first birthday is just around the corner. I am reminiscing about the first days, weeks, and months as the date approaches and I can tell that the further removed I am from those days, the more likely I am to force people to listen to me wax poetic about it. Consider this a warning that there may be a few sentimental posts coming your way. I will try to save it for a blog that people read voluntarily and keep it out of my everyday conversations. Other posts coming soon: our first (mis)adventures in home ownership, starting my first job since Jack, football season and why it causes me to overanalyze Jack's future choice of where to attend college.

Thanks for sticking with me through the month of August which turned into a giant cluster that resulted in an empty blog.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bits and Pieces

No, I didn't get tired of blogging already.  Michael, Jack and I are in home limbo right now, as our sublet ran out and the closing date for the house has not quite arrived yet.  Jack and I are at my inlaws' (back together with Jet, yay!) and Mike is working in Ann Arbor and coming to Illinois on the weekends.  Each day I feel more and more respect and admiration for people who raise children on their own, and I'm not even truly experiencing that because I have a ton of help here.  Shout out to single mamas and dadas.  

I plan on coming on here with a giant post once we get into the house because I'll have my regular computer back and I will have a lot of pictures to upload and, crossing my fingers, faster Internet access than I did at the sublet so I can post said pictures in under an hour apiece.  

For now, a taste of what has been going on with us:

  • Jack has learned how to shake his head "no" and demonstrates this new skill at least 100 times every day.  "Jack, come to Mama," "Jack, time to change your diaper," "Jack, sit down please," "Jack, get out of the dishwasher," "Jack, stop pulling Mommy's hair," "Jack, leave Jet alone," etc. etc.  He also thinks it is just adorable to shake his head when he knows he is about to do something wrong.  He gets a very stern look on his face, stares at an electrical cord, looks at me, shakes his head no, and then grabs it and holds on for dear life.  Trouble, this one is.
  • Jack is moving more quickly and efficiently each day, and he is getting better at standing on his own and has taken a few steps toward things he really wants (i.e., me, even better if I am holding a pacifier).  We have a few videos of this now but I haven't uploaded any yet, mostly because I am screaming like a banshee in every. single. one.  What can I say, he's my first kid.
  • In non-Jack related news, I went to my 10 year high school reunion this weekend and almost wasn't allowed in because of an expired license.  It worked out, for the most part, but I spent the next 16 or so hours living in fear of what would happen when I got to the airport the next morning.  Luckily I was not stuck in Boston and got home after about 50 hours straight away from the baby, a record by a long shot.  Thankfully, I received a plethora of texts, calls, and picture messages while I was away so I had proof that he was basically living it up without me.  Sample text (from Michael): "Jack is now eating a deconstructed Chicago style hot dog."  Come to think of it, many of the updates I got revolved around Jack's bottomless stomach.  Oops, just realized this paragraph wasn't supposed to be about Jack.
  • I haven't found a teaching job yet, so there is an increasingly good chance that I will have more time to blog than I thought I would, so congratulations to you, followers.  That is the greatest gift I can offer you at this time.   Because I don't have a job and therefore cannot buy you anything.

Exciting times to come with the big move-in!   Copious entries ahead.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nice to Meet You

Again, pictures are not cooperating but may suddenly appear at a later time.

This is an extremely abbreviated version of the long, arduous process of Jack's birth. I have told this story many times since September but I haven't ever recorded it anywhere, so before my details get muddled and I start exaggerating, I thought I should get it down in black and white. I would say that it was for Jack to see when he wants to hear more about it, but I don't think it will ever be for him.

I was due September 7, but I always had a feeling I would go past that. My mom was ten days overdue with me but had an easy labor (as if any labor can really be easy) so I was hoping that if I went past my date I would at least have a similar experience. When I got to the due date and was showing no sign of going into labor, I was fairly relaxed about it. I had had a relatively easy pregnancy: the requisite morning sickness which actually struck around 4pm daily, but that was about it. I was walking the dog a couple of miles a day in my ninth month in 90+ degree weather, I felt healthy, I was still sleeping pretty well, and I remained in full control of my bodily functions! Plus, I knew that compared to the whole forty week journey, a few extra days was bearable.

In the back of my mind, I was aware of the many times I had been warned that an easy pregnancy didn't mean an easy labor.

So I was pregnant for a bonus week. I had two extra ultrasounds, the first on the day I was due, since once again, my body seemed to have no interest in expelling the foreign object living inside it. That's when things got a little scary. The ultrasound estimate suggested that I was carrying a 10+ pound kid! The rational side of me knew that these type of estimates were unreliable, but I figured that even if it was off by 25% and Jack was only 8 pounds that day, he could still get bigger before he decided to make his debut. I tried not to think about it being wrong the other way, because that was just terrifying. My doctors started to suggest that a C-section would be more and more likely since Jack seemed to be a gigantor and I didn't seem to be any closer to giving birth.

My terror grew as I approached 41 weeks. Another ultrasound measured Jack at 10+ pounds, so there was that. I still felt comfortable which was starting to become a problem because I felt like my body might want to be pregnant forever. Finally on September 14, at 41 weeks, I had consistent and painful contractions for a few hours, so I paged the on call doctor and she told us to go in.

I immediately plugged in my hair straightener and started folding laundry.

I know there are millions of mothers who could understand this, particularly the laundry. My in-laws were coming to stay in our apartment while we were at the hospital, and I couldn't have them in a messy place. And I didn't want to come home to a mess either. Straightening my hair made less sense. I had a feeling I was in for a long night so logically I knew that my meticulously groomed hair would not look fresh and lovely at the end but I guess I was hoping to look put together on my arrival.

I will gloss over the next 24 hours. Yes, the story picks up after an entire day. Interesting things to briefly note about this day: I had a palace of a room. I followed Mike's advice and got an epidural around 1pm on Wednesday, 17 hours after arriving at the hospital, and I was a much much more enjoyable person afterward. Even during the process of getting it, actually. I didn't know I could be so excited to have a large needle plunged into my back. (I guess it wasn't Mike's advice, exactly. What he said was, “It's fine if you want to do it without an epidural, but then I won't be there.” I'm pretty sure he was joking.) I did everything I could to avoid a C-Section but Jack was uninterested. Apparently my belly made a nice home. On Wednesday evening, the doctor said it was time for surgery.

I played it cool. Called my mom as I had been doing periodically and let her know that we were getting prepped for the Cesarean. Before we went into the OR, I warned the nurse that I had never had surgery before. I told her I still had my tonsils, my appendix, my wisdom teeth, and that I was pretty nervous about going in. I don't think she understood the intensity of my anxiety.

So blah blah blah , I was on the table, basically having a panic attack and asking for oxygen before they even let Mike into the room. There were two parts of my brain at odds with each other. The logical part that said that millions of women had been in my position and it wasn't a big deal, and the other part which also seemed pretty logical that said “IT IS NOT NORMAL TO SLICE SOMEONE OPEN AND REMOVE A HUMAN BEING FROM THEIR INSIDES. WHILE THEY ARE FULLY CONSCIOUS.” Ugh. Flash forward again to the first big moment: the doctor holds Jack over the curtain so we can see him, and he looks exactly like baby Michael. I think we both gasped because it was so remarkably similar to his baby pictures. “Oh my God, he looks exactly like me.” First thing Mike said to Jack and about him to his parents and our friends waiting outside.

So the fun should have been over, right? Nope, best part of the story yet to come. Mike asked me if it was okay to leave me to help with the baby because it was clear that I was still feeling off. I told him to go, and he got to help with the cord and take pictures. While this was happening I was hyper aware of what was going on behind the curtain and I was feeling really grossed out about it. So grossed out, in fact, that I suddenly knew I was going to vomit.

I called out for the anesthesiologist, whose name I remembered at the time despite everything else on my mind, and told him that I was really nauseous. Here is where he made a mistake. Not the kind of mistake doctors get sued for, just a small error that resulted in one of the greatest “what I did when I met my baby” moments ever. He brought over a little tiny air sucker tube like they have at the dentist. I think he was certain that since I hadn't eaten in 30 hours or so, I couldn't produce a whole lot of anything, right?

Wrong. Mike walked Jack over from the other side of the room, all wrapped up in his little hospital blanket, wearing the hospital's any-gender-friendly pink and blue striped hat. The 9lb, 6oz, 22 inch behemoth that was so stubbornly lodged in my abdomen was finally here. I heard Mike say something like, “Here's Jack!”

...and I promptly projectile vomited all over the place. So no Hallmark moment for me. It was more like, “Welcome to the world Jack, Mommy is so excited to meet you, let me just throw up everywhere and we'll get down to business!” I saw a look of horror flash across Mike's face and he said, “We'll be right back” before getting out of the way so someone could clean up. That was the worst part! I couldn't even take care of myself because my arms were strapped to some bizarre table attachments.

Nothing landed on Jack, thank goodness, but it would be an even better story now if it did. As it is, I think I have a very memorable if not proud first few moments as a mother. Round two of introductions went smoothly and I felt great as soon as I was wheeled into recovery, even though my heart rate was still through the roof. By then I was just excited to spend some time with Jack and was hoping for everyone to get some sleep.

For the first few days/weeks, I didn't think that my “incident” would be a story I would like to tell. After all, it's a pretty embarrassing way to meet your child for the first time. But after it came up a couple of times and I realized that it was not a reflection on me as a mother I relaxed a little and enjoyed telling people what a crazy person I had been. Once Jack was a few weeks old I had been vomited on enough times that he had more than made up for what I had done to him (and not even to him, but at him, really). I'm pretty sure he forgives me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mischief, Mayhem, Mess


One of the best ways to distract Jack when he is trying to get into something he's not supposed to.

I have some great pictures to go with this post but my computer is acting crazy so they aren't here right now.  Will hopefully edit them in later.

Life with Jack is busy now that he is moving around so efficiently.  As I've already mentioned, he has a knack for finding things that do not belong to him and/or are dangerous, so someone has to be half a step behind him at all times.  Naturally, this doesn't always work and he can still create quite a lot of chaos under the watchful eye of Mom or Dad.  The difference is, Mike's response is usually to remove him from a situation, while mine is to run, grab the camera or my phone, and document the offense.  That way when Jack is older and inevitably claims to be innocent of all minor rule breakage, I will have evidence to prove that his mischievous streak struck early and often.

One of his favorite things to do now is find people when they leave the room. I love watching him do this when Mike goes to take a shower before work, because pajama-clad Jack will push the door open, crawl to the tub and pull up so he can grab the shower curtain and fling it out of his way, as if making his grand entrance. He leans over the edge of the tub so when I eventually decide that I should get him out of there he has wet hair, hands, and shirt.

He loves water, which is generally great because he's not afraid of pools or bathing. He is getting brave, too, and will cruise along a pool wall and sit by himself in shallow water. When someone is with him in a large pool this is great, but bath time is complicated now. All he wants to do is stand up and eat the bath/shower knob. We are the mean Mommy and Daddy who continuously plop him down on his butt and try to bribe him with squirting fish and washcloths. The real issue here is that he grew out of his bath seat that was advertised for 7-16 month-olds. Chubster.

The best part of this stage is that he is having so much fun getting into trouble. He doesn't feel guilty about misbehaving because he doesn't know he is, so he is happy as can be watching me clean the kitchen floor for the sixth time in a day because he has just used one giant swoop to throw his entire dinner off of his tray. This is important because on days when he is tirelessly pushing my buttons, he will still come at me for a totally disgusting but adorable open-mouthed kiss and I will give him another chance to prove himself.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nap Wars

If a mother ever tells you that her child has napped perfectly since birth, and that all she has to do is lie the baby in the crib and walk away, there are two possibilities. 1) This woman was sent from the depths of Hell with the sole mission of making you feel like a crappy mother, or 2) She is a liar. From all of the conversations I've had with other moms, I have gathered that napping is the trending topic. Breastfeeding has become too sensitive a topic to bring up in casual circles and cloth diapering doesn't generate the same kind of controversy (just shock that people seriously pull it off), so it's no fun. All newborns do is eat, sleep, and pee/poop, so napping is what we have left to talk about.

In my last post I mentioned that Jack was an iffy napper. Iffy is a generous word. So these conversations don't seem to shine the best light on my parenting skills. I use my sharp wit to deflect feelings of inadequacy when other moms “tsk-tsk” at me when I joke (not a joke) that the only place he would sleep at 4 months old was stretched across my chest while I watched trashy television.

A quick recap of napping non-skills:

0 months: At three weeks old he would go for 9 to 10 hours at a time without any true sleep. If I remember correctly from the myriad of reading that I did, a three-week-old is supposed to have about an hour of alert time before needing a nap. That means Jack was squeezing in 9 periods of alertness back to back to back to...yeah. People always said, “Oh he is just curious, there's too much to see!” So I tried telling him that the ceiling fan would still be there if he wanted to doze and check later to make sure I wasn't lying. No luck. 

 The swing was a lifesaver for the first few months.

2 months: Jack would take naps, but only on me. Reflecting back, this was obviously the time I got the least done around the house and felt most like a lazy bum. Between 2 and 4 months, the times of naps were totally random. This was about the age when most other moms were talking about their plans of attack. Either they were scheduling fanatics or vehemently against parent-led schedules. Around this time I decided to peek into a book given to him by a colleague to see if there were any ideas about how to approach scheduling that we hadn't tried yet. I won't say which one in case anyone out there swears by this book, but it was ridiculous. It basically said that if you didn't breastfeed and have a parent-led schedule that your baby would get gangrene and die. There were sample schedules, which might have come in handy if they seemed at all realistic. Something like, “place your baby in a seat by the window for this hour and a half of active wakefulness. And make sure to breastfeed or your baby will get gangrene and DIE.” 

Sleeping on the go or on a person was pretty much how we did it.

4 months: 4-6 months was emotionally taxing in terms of naps. I was determined to get Jack into some kind of routine, as it seemed to be a top priority in all of the baby literature. We tried everything to get Jack to sleep in his crib during the day, where he was regularly sleeping up to 11 hours a night with 1-2 quick wakings. We even tried “Cry It Out,” which did not work for Jack or Mommy. We both cried but never got to the “out” part. The best we could do was to swaddle him so tightly I thought his head would pop off, rock him and shush shush shush right into his face, and eventually we could lie him down. EXACTLY 40 minutes later, he would be awake. Every. Single. Time. WTF?! It was so precise I could have sworn there was a timer in his brain. The problem wasn't necessarily the short naps but the perpetually exhausted infant it resulted in. We would go through 5 nap cycles on some days, and that still added up to less than the recommended minimum of nap time in a day for a baby his age. I read and read and read about baby naps. I found message boards filled with posts from women (and men) with the same type of problematic nappers. It seemed Jack was not alone in his 40 minute cycles. Unfortunately, the best and most frequent advice was, “They grow out of it eventually.” Everyone's eventually was different, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped that he would just change overnight.

 You want me to sleep in here?  By myself?  While it's light outside?  Are you crazy?

6 months: We were able to get down to 3 naps a day, when most kids are getting to 2, but they were still short and times were variable. He was so tired by the evening that he was going to bed for the night around 6:30pm. Every evening this seemed great- Mike and I could eat dinner in peace, catch up on housework, watch TV, still go to bed at a decent hour. Every morning this was terrible, because Jack was up for the day at 4:45am. It is almost hilarious now but wasn't then. Another problem was that Mike was working in the ICU during this time and would often get home as Jack was going to bed. I know this happens to many families when one or both parents have to work late, so we were not unique in this problem and it was short-term, but it still sucked. Oh, and around 7 months we finally were able to ditch the swaddler, which was our best friend for a long time. For a while Mike was worried we would need to build our own swaddler for him to bring to kindergarten for rest time.

 Hey, at least someone was getting use out of it.  He got stuck though.

8 months to present (10.5 months): Jack has started to show signs of improvement. He often still wakes up after 35-40 minutes but will usually go back to sleep, although I usually need to rock him again. But usually once a day he sleeps about an hour and 15 minutes and we are down to two naps a day. I still feel pangs of jealousy when I hear moms talk about their 3-hour nap kids or brag that their son/daughter will take multiple 2-hour naps every day, but I talk myself off the ledge. I try to look at the bright side, thinking of all of the things Jack does do well that I hear other parents obsessing about.
  • Eat
  • Sleep overnight
  • Crawl/Pull up/Cruise
  • Eat
  • Give kisses/high fives/smacks in the face
  • Says “mama,” “dada,” “Jet,” “yeah,” “done” (we think)
  • Make the weird mouth noise from Silence of the Lambs (“I ate his liver a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti.” It's perfection.

If napping is the one major complaint I have, I guess we can deal with it. 

 Asleep in our bed after waking up obscenely early.  Now that he can roll away though it's pretty dangerous.  That's why I was taking a picture instead of sleeping.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kids are Like Dogs. Kind of.

I have a cranky kid on my hands today. It actually started yesterday afternoon as a general fussiness but it has compounded into full-blown crankiness this morning. Simple things get him going, like I handed him a piece of waffle when he wanted the other piece of waffle.  Silly Mama, what was I thinking. He has learned the Head Throw Back move of showing frustration, which shouldn't be a big problem in the high chair, but he's strong enough to lift the front legs of the chair, so I'm now terrified that if I'm not fast enough with the food he's going to throw the whole thing backward. When he's not strapped into the high chair, stroller, or carseat, the Head Throw is extra annoying because he can add injury to insult and then the real fun begins. He is napping soundly now, so it's time to pound out a post! Don't worry, he fell asleep naturally, he didn't pass out from smacking his head on the wall/floor/cabinets/window.

The post I started yesterday had nothing to do with Jack's crabby attitude, so excuse the lack of continuity here. 

Mike and I are always joking about the similarities between babies and dogs. We got Jet while I was pregnant, and it is absolutely not true that caring for a dog prepares people in any way for having a baby, but there are definitely certain times that we have realized, “Hey, this seems familiar.” Often after bringing up one of these comparisons, one of us has added, “But Jack is still not quite as smart as the dog.” He's getting there, and obviously he will surpass him sooner rather than later, but in the first year of life it is obvious that Jet possesses certain cognitive advantages. So without further ado...
Their friendship was fast and furious.

How My Kid and Dog are Alike (and how my dog is still smarter)
  1. They both earn celebrations and praise from Mike and I for their bowel movements. Hooray, poop! Jet, however, can control where and when these things happen. No expensive diapers necessary.
  2. Jack and Jet are both adept at some pretty good tricks: they can sit, lie down, roll over, and high five. But, Jet has him beat since he can do these things on command (Jack's only gotten there with the high five). Plus, Jet can play dead- “Bam! Dead dog!” - spin, dance, shake, go to his bed, etc.
  3. These two hungry boys will both eat anything. Wait, that's not quite true. Jet won't eat paper, plastic, electrical cords, or carrots that aren't dipped in ranch dressing.
  4. They move on all fours. On their back legs is doable, but they need to hold onto something. Generally, Jack's balance is questionable. This is certainly one area that Jet will lose his dominance soon when Jack learns to walk and looks less like a drunk old man when he moves around and more like a little boy.
  5. Jet and Jack need lots of sleep to function at their full potential. Here is the greatest gap. When Jet is tired, he will go the F to sleep. It doesn't matter what time it is, where he is. No one has to rock him, sing to him, turn on a noise machine, supply a pacifier and taggie blanket, lie him down at precisely the right second – not too awake and not too asleep – and sneak out of the room without a sound.** Nope, he just closes his eyes and checks out.

There have been many more, but these are currently my favorite five. Despite all of the ways Jet is easier to care for, he has his own idiosyncrasies as well. I'm sure my previously-documented neuroses have made him worse since we got him, too. He hates to be left alone. He is petrified of numerous things including but not limited to thunderstorms, the word “bath,” the vacuum, the dust buster, my blowdryer, fireworks, etc. He has a habit of sneaking up into our bed in the middle of the night. He has been known to sexually harass my in-laws' dog...

Over time, this list will be obsolete. Jack is making huge leaps and bounds every day, and in a few months when he starts walking, talking, and showing even more personality, it won't be as entertaining to compare the baby and the beast. Right now it's okay that Jack needs a diaper and Jet doesn't – this better not be true after another two years, for my sanity's sake. Considering how big Jack is now, I don't want him wearing diapers for too long or we will need to specially order them.

Illustrated here: the love of food.  They are staring Mike down while he eats a cheese stick.  
The excitement is clearly too much for Jack.
I'm finally at the end and it's about 11 hours later.  What a sad day he was having, but I think we might have solved the mystery.  Once Mike came home we were able to get a good look at his upper gum and it looks like those two top teeth might finally be getting ready to make an appearance- four months after the bottom two. So it was a long day but at least now I can rationalize the behavior, which always makes me feel better.  Slathered on some Orajel and put the stinker to bed.

** I know some of you are judging me right now. I compulsively read about how to “create” good, independent sleepers. But yes, I rock Jack to sleep. Yes, he uses a pacifier like they're going out of style. Yes, we have fallen victim to many difficult-to-break sleep associations like many other first-time parents. Hell, he was swaddled until he was seven months old. But he sleeps about 9.5-10 hours and can usually go back to sleep on his own if he wakes up during the night. I could fill another whole blog with the saga that has been naptime since the day Jack was born.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So...What Did You Guys Do Today?

 Eating soil.  
My mobile kid can get into all kinds of fun stuff.
This morning I spent 30 minutes putting books in a bin over and over and over and over again so Jack could pull them out and fling them every which way. Ah, the monotony of motherhood. These are the experiences that are at the forefront of my mind when my husband comes home from work and says, “What did you guys do today?” There are days when I could say, with a straight face, “Crawled behind Jack and repeatedly removed him from potentially dangerous situations. Oh, and he ate a couple of times.” Truthfully, even this is a lot more interesting than eight or nine months ago, when it would be more like, “Stared at Jack while he slept, looked around, rolled over. Oh, and he ate about a dozen times.”
There is a special kind of Mommy Guilt associated with that innocuous question. “What did you guys do today?” It is impossible to explain how exhausting it is to be home all day. It sounds crazy! I can sleep when Jack sleeps. I can stay in my pajamas all day! When he was first born, I could literally have sat in one place for the entire day, as long as he was in arms' reach. A new breastfeeding mom of just one baby could conceivably feed, change, and entertain a newborn without standing up, if she were so inclined. It might require some creative placement of crucial items, but it's definitely possible.
Of course, no one has ever done that. I rarely napped when Jack was first born because I was a first-time mother, obsessed with every movement he made. I couldn't possibly sleep if he might – gasp! - yawn. However, that also meant that I didn't get a lot done around the house because I was constantly checking on him or “playing” with him. I would rack my brain for the fastest chore I could complete so that I felt useful, so that I could give a satisfactory answer to the question of what I had done all day. Often it was walking the dog because I could put Jack in the Baby Bjorn and it was good for all three of us, but Milwaukee winters are not the best for outdoor time. As Jack got a little older, vacuuming with him in the Bjorn would keep him happy and it felt like exercise so it killed two birds with one stone. (This was not a fun time for Jet, as he believes the vacuum is a dog-eating monster.) But I still felt as though I wasn't carrying my weight, especially during the months that Mike took call every fourth night or worked six 12-hour ICU shifts each week, and still got up during the night...what a guy!
At least I can confidently say that it does get better. Everyone tells you that in the earliest days, but it's hard to believe when are in your second or third month and lucky to be sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time and you literally can't remember the last time you dusted. Or mopped. Or cleaned the toilet. But it's true. Yesterday I was able to clean the kitchen and bathroom, do the dishes (aka run the dishwasher), post on the blog, visit my mom, go to the post office, drop off the dry cleaning, and check on the house, all before Mike got out of work. Yes, you're right, that list fails to include taking a shower, but that happens sometimes (often) with a baby around. At least I brushed my teeth.
A new panic has already started creeping up on me, though. We are not (NOT NOT NOT) ready for another baby, but somewhere down the line we will be, and I get to thinking: is it like that all over again but worse because there is now a toddler/preschooler to chase around as well? Or- please please please- is it better because you've been there, done that, and have less time to worry about the little things?
I know that Mike has only good intentions when he asks about our day, but I can't help but feel embarrassed sometimes. For instance, the day is still young I guess, but the only thing I can add since I started this post (2ish hours ago), besides reaching the end of the post- thanks only to a half-decent nap for Jack- is 15 or 20 minutes of stacking wooden blocks so he could swat at them and send them flying around the room. Super productive.
At the end of the day it still feels okay. If it didn't, I would have run back to work at any job I could find, if just to see more tangible results for my efforts. Fortunately babies have some redeeming qualities that, most of the time, counteract the monotony. Jack is 10 months old now, and he is showing a lot of affection. He is smiling and laughing out loud, getting excited to see me/Mike after being away for a bit, trying to talk more and more, showing a sense of humor, etc. At least at this age he is starting to demonstrate appreciation for the time that I spend with him. And as he gets older, he is more and more independent and mobile, so he can play for 10 minutes while I fold a load of laundry, or “help.” I'm hoping it continues to improve over the next few weeks so that when we move into the new house I'm prepared to keep up with the bigger space. Is it to early to put Jack to work? Maybe I can tie Swiffer pads to his knees and let him crawl all over the place. Everybody wins!
Time to get something done so I have something interesting to say when Mike gets home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

iPhone Photo Dump

I am obsessed with taking pictures in general, and obviously this was magnified 100 times by having a baby.  Anyone who is my friend on Facebook can attest to this.  In fact, shortly after Jack was born I realized that a friend from childhood had unfriended me, and I'm 99% sure it's because he was sick and tired of me bombarding his news feed.  Jack sleeping!  Jack awake!  Jack lying in the swing!  On the floor!  In his crib!  I completely understand how someone could be over this after the first few thousand pictures.  The best part is that for every picture I have shared, it is probably only a quarter of my library.  I'm hoping to use this blog as a means to share my favorites and I will try to take it easy elsewhere.  

This post is dedicated to my iPhone camera roll, which is closing in on 900 pictures.  TRAGEDY STRUCK a few weeks ago when I realized that Mike and I accidentally put our camera charger in storage, so I haven't been able to take any photos with the digital camera since June.  Thankfully I do have a camera on my phone because otherwise I would have gone crazy.  It's not the best quality, but one advantage is that since I always have my phone with me, I am able to catch some funny moments that I might not be prepared for otherwise.  

Without further ado...
 One of Jack's first photo-ops.  Fat face!
 Baby feet
 Jack's rocker look.
 Early smiles

 I was in love with this hat, and he was too little to take it off.
 Jet standing guard.
 He has that look on his face because he knows Jet isn't allowed on Grandma and Grandpa's couch.

 Go 'Cats!
 Getting ready for his first bites.
 A picture of Jack watching a video of Jack.

 You want me to what?

 Belly laughs.
 Before he learned how to pull the wipes out.

 He's learning...
Must have been worn out that day.
 One of the first times he pulled up on his own.

 Noticing Mom on the other side of the tunnel.
 Coming to get me.
 Serious arm rolls.
 This face is usually accompanied by a roar.
 Big boy.
 Transfixed by the Real Housewives of NJ.  Bad Mom.

Mean Mommy locked the pacifiers in a chick egg leftover from Easter.  
I thought it would be frustrating for him, but he just tried to eat the whole chick.