Category Archives: my life

Why you should talk to your baby before changing their life

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My youngest child turned 18 months-old last week. She’s officially a toddler, talking and running and climbing stairs, and although I’m getting better at not treating her like a tiny infant, sometimes I forget how much she understands and thinks for herself. Here is a cautionary tale about why you should talk to your kids, even when they’re tiny, especially if you’re changing the routine on them. It helps, you guys, it really helps.

My daughter has been sleeping in my room since she was a baby, first in a co-sleeper and then in a crib. She still sometimes wakes up for an early morning feeding, but she’s more than ready to night-wean and my partner and I want our room back! So we decided that we’d move her in with her brother and carve back some space for just us.

We talked about timing and made careful plans, and then for various reasons, those plans didn’t work out and we ended up moving her crib into the new room more-or-less on a whim over last weekend. We talked with my 3 year-old about how Sister was going to sleep in his room now and made sure he felt okay about it. I assumed that our daughter would be fine, because it’s a familiar room and we were keeping her in the same crib, and she routinely sleeps in pack ‘n plays in strange rooms when we go to visit friends in the evening. But still, I completely and totally failed to, you know, actually explain to her what was going on. Because she’s a baby, right, and why would she care? I know better than that, but it was a day full of distractions and a last-minute decision, and it just didn’t cross my mind to explain it to her.

Anyway, we put her down in the new room at bedtime, and she was smiles and smiles until I closed the door. Then, utter panic and screaming! My partner and I were unprepared. We’d expected to maybe have some upset from my son, but neither of us thought the baby would have any trouble at all. We gave her a few minutes and then my partner went up to try to calm her down, but she was so upset that he eventually gave up and set up a pack ‘n play in our room where her crib used to be. It still took her forever to fall asleep, and she woke a few times overnight extra upset, which made us feel terrible, and also exhausted in the morning.

We decided to just try again the next time it seemed convenient, but I had no intention of trying again the next day when the first night was sooooo terrible. But then we got home from our errands later than I expected, and by the time we had finished lunch, we were late for my daughter’s naptime and it was already time for my son’s nap, and I had an inkling that maybe she would be calmer if her brother was in the room with her when she laid down. So, I asked them both together where they would like to have their naps. My son said “Sister sleep with me!” (isn’t he a cutie?) I told the baby, “Baby, you can have naptime in your crib in Brother’s room, or in the pack ‘n play in our room. Where would you like to sleep?” She ran into her brother’s room and stood waiting by the crib, where she then slept for 2.5 hours with no fuss at all (even though Brother didn’t fall asleep for the entire naptime, and spent the whole afternoon singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and making raspberries with his mouth!) That night at bedtime, she fell right asleep, and though we’re having some frustration from her when she wakes up an wants to nurse at 5:30AM, I’m much more confident that we’re all in for a good night.

Two morals to this story:
1) Talk to your babies, even when they’re tiny. It helps them know what to expect and it helps get you in the habit of explaining what’s going on to them, which is better for everyone once they get older and understand what you’re saying.

2) Realize that your babies get smarter, and that you need to respond to their growing intelligences by helping them make decisions and control their own lives, as appropriate. I know that sounds obvious, but I think a lot of us pay attention to “milestones”, like walking or saying the first word, and then it’s easy to forget that babies get smarter in ways they can’t show you, too. Two months ago, my daughter would not have been capable of making a decision about where she had her nap, but now she is. Giving her the chance to make the decision on her own would have saved us all a lot of grief if we’d done it in the first place.

A story from yesterday

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My 3 year-old and I were home together yesterday making strawberry rhubarb crisp.

3YO: *Steals a strawberry from the bowl.* “Yum!”
Me: “Okay, last strawberry, please don’t take those!”
3YO: *Steals a piece of raw rhubarb from the bowl.* “Yum!”
Me: “Wow, really? Raw rhubarb’s kind of tart. But, okay, I’m glad you liked that! Please don’t take anything else out of the bowl.”
3YO *Bites into the rind of a lemon I previously juiced sitting on the counter* “Yum!”
Me: “I’m seriously questioning whether you even have a sense of taste right now, but good job not taking anything out of the bowl!”

Later that day, we went out for lunch with my partner, where my child spent much of his time picking strings of melted cheese out of his pasta, because his macaroni and cheese was too cheesy.

On nursing an older child

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I am lucky to live in a place where many families choose to breastfeed for an extended period of time. It is very common to see moms nursing their toddlers and preschoolers in public, and so I can feel comfortable nursing my babies in public too. My oldest son is going to be 3 in April, and he still nurses three times a day when he’s home with me. He always nurses in the morning at wake up, at night before bedtime, and he also nurses after nap times if he’s home (but obviously not if he’s at school). Nursing my toddler has been occasionally frustrating, but I also think it’s gotten us through a lot of the tougher periods of his development.

Because my son and I have been sitting down together for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a day over the past 3 years, we have a close relationship, and we read each other very well. Even on days when he’s tantruming every 5 minutes, and I feel like I’m going to lose it, that time to deliberately reconnect is what makes it possible for me to keep going. And, I do actually think we have seen fewer tantrums overall because my son and I have that time of connection.

Of course families who are not nursing can still have deep relationships with their babies, but I think it can be hard to make myself deliberately find the energy to cuddle when my baby is yelling at me all the time. At least for me, it’s hard to bridge that gap when I’m feeling angry and worn down after the eighth tantrum of the morning. But, nursing happens in our family whether I am particularly feeling it or not, which means my son knows that it’s a part of his routine that will always happen, and that his mom will always be there for him, even on a rough day. My son and I have very different personalities, so it’s helpful for both of us to have the encouragement that comes with a built-in nursing routine.

I should also mention that I do think that breastfeeding my son when my daughter was little minimized the separation anxiety he felt from having a new baby in the house. He adjusted to his little sister’s homecoming very well, much better than I anticipated, but that kind of situation can be a struggle for any child. There are new routines, new noises, and obviously all the family‚Äôs attention goes to the new baby. I disappeared for a few minutes four times a day when I had to get her down for naps. I couldn’t get up from the couch for my son when I was nursing the baby. Sometimes my son wanted to nurse, but the baby needed to nurse first, because I only have so much milk.

But, my son could still look forward to those specific times of reconnecting with me, and he knew he’d get that specialized attention from me even if I couldn’t give it to him all the time any more. And now, when he sees me nursing his sister, he’ll often come up to the couch and say, “Nursing sister!” and smile at us, which is super cute.

(On a practical note, nursing a toddler when you have a second baby is the best way to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis that I’ve ever found. I had huge oversupply with both of my babies, which sounds great, but was really frustrating and caused a lot of problems for me. Luckily, my son could be counted on to take extra milk when it caused me discomfort, and he was also instrumental in clearing some plugged ducts when neither his sister nor my pump were strong enough to clear them on their own.)

Even though nursing my almost 3 year-old hasn’t been a joy 100% of the time, it’s been great for our family overall, and I think it’s benefited my son’s emotional health a great deal. I’m really glad I’ve been able to offer this for him for so long, and I hope his sister has the opportunity to nurse for just as long, if she wants to.

And then two months went by…

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Well, when I said that I was going to go on hiatus, I never meant for it to stretch for two entire months! People told me that two and a half was a difficult age, with a lot of disequilibrium, but it’s hard to comprehend that kind of warning until you’re in the midst of experiencing it yourself. I feel like I’ve just been through months of extremely challenging behavior from my son, on top of a lot of work-related scheduling issues and illness in the family, but I think we are finally starting to see the other side. Regardless, this blog is important to me and lots of fun to do, so I’m going to try to get it up and running nice and regular again.

First, how about a family update? My daughter, our baby, is just 9 months old. I don’t know how she got that big so fast! She’s not properly crawling yet, but can scoot herself around with alarming speed, and is getting into everything these days. Her two bottom teeth are just coming in, and she is a big eater. Right now, she especially loves sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs. Sleep has been hit-and-miss lately with her crawling, and the various colds our whole household has gotten, but she is getting better. She is a happy, adorable, chatty baby, and generally a pleasure to be around.

My son, our toddler, is now 31 months-old, and as I mentioned, is just coming out of the 2 1/2 year-old “terror” phase, which I would not wish upon anyone. It was months and months of constant tantrums, shorter nighttime sleep, disrupted naps, and him needing constant attention from us. It’s all normal for this age group, but that doesn’t make it easier. Right around when daylight savings happened, I noticed that his nighttime sleep went from averaging about 9.5 hours back to almost 11 hours, so bedtime has gotten earlier and he’s sleeping later in the morning, too. This is helping his moods quite a bit.

He’s also finally broken through some of the barriers he’s had with speech, so although he’s nowhere near the average for his age yet, he is trying more words every day and using signs much more specifically and clearly. Recent signs include “help,” “more,” (which he had stopped using for a few months), and he’s begun pointing again. His repeated spoken words are also much more clear, and he says “night-night” at bedtime and “bye-bye” when someone leaves. This is fantastic progress and really helpful to me, especially as I’ve been so run down with his sister’s lack of sleep and our many colds lately. My son still needs a lot of attention, but he’s playing independently more readily than he has for months, so sometimes I can sit down by myself for a minute.

So with a little luck, we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule starting now! Thanks for hanging in there with me – I missed you!

Temporary hiatus

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My back is better, but now my son has hand, foot and mouth and looks like a little zombie. Also, the computer I use to write this blog crashed, taking all of my recipes, photos, and post ideas with it. It might be salvageable, but there is enough else taking up my time right now that I am throwing up my hands and declaring us on temporary hiatus while I figure this out. I will still write up general updates, but it might be a little while before book reviews, interesting articles, and recipes come back. I hope you will hang in there with me, and perhaps you can send some prayers for us to the IT gods while we wait.

Some days are rough.

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I have been working myself pretty hard the past few weeks, and this week, it finally caught up with me. I am tired, sore, low-energy, constantly on the verge of grumpy. My 7 month-old sleeps well for her age, but the night feedings are starting to wear on me, and her naps have been a challenge this week. And I hurt my back from constantly picking up my anxiety-riddled toddler to soothe his fits. And I forgot, once again, how terrible periods can be, since I haven’t had one in a while. Sometimes they are pretty terrible.

I have been trying to compensate for my lack of energy. We have been eating leftovers for days. I’ve been spending every second I can snatch napping on the couch. I tried to take a bath yesterday to relax and help my back, but my daughter decided that her traditional hours-long afternoon nap should instead be only twenty minutes, so that bath was aborted. I have since decided that having to get out in the middle of a relaxing bath makes me feel approximately five times worse than not having a bath at all, which is good information to have for the future, I guess.

I hesitated to write this post, but I feel like one of my goals with this blog is to point out all the places that motherhood/parenthood/family life is not like in the magazines, and this is one of them. Sometimes you are tired and grumpy and in pain, and you could really use a sick day, but the baby does not care. The baby cannot care, because the baby needs to eat and be clean and sleep, just like you, and she can’t do any of those things on her own. It can be tough. I am lucky to have a good support network, but I’ve also worked really hard to create a support network, because I know that I’m prone to depression and anxiety, and having babies is hard. I cannot be a good parent in a vacuum. I need help.

Today I am proud of myself for getting my toddler to his daycare on time, for loading the dishwasher even though I really didn’t want to, and for smiling at my daughter even though she does not want to sleep. Those are good things to be proud of, I think.

On birthdays, on Wednesdays

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As I kid, birthdays were just for me. It was the day when everybody was nice to me, noticed me, made the dinner I liked, sang to me before cake. It was my day – just mine.

As a mom, birthdays are just for me, too.

My son turns 29 months next week. For a long time after he was born, I marked not every month, but every week of his life. He was born on a Wednesday afternoon, and every Wednesday I would think, “He’s this many weeks today!” Every single week, I thought about how many Wednesdays I had lived without him before he was born, and how much his birth had changed my life.

My daughter turned 6 months-old just last week. She decided to be born on a Wednesday too, and since she came just 20 minutes after midnight after a very short labor, I rather believe it was intentional on her part. I can’t say I’ve had the mental space to dedicate quite as much time to deep thought every week now that I have two babies, but I still notice Wednesdays. They are the days that my life changes.

My children are still very little. Their birthdays are just like every other day to them, though they may notice more friends and relatives gathered around, more colorful balloons, more cake than a normal day. As they grow, their birthdays will become more important to them, a day they look forward to every year, a day to celebrate who they are as individuals. Their birthdays will be just for them.

But their birthdays will always be just for me, too. They will always be the occasion for me to celebrate the day I became a mother, a parent, a person who grew another person in my body, brought them out into this world, and guided them through their life with care and attention. Their birthdays will always be my birthdays, too.