Me and my shadow

So, we get lots of comments from people about how well behaved The Baby is when we are out on the town. She (usually) is very patient about waiting in lines, or waiting for a table. She plays quietly next to the table when I go to the chiropractor and I’m getting my E-stim done. She offers to “help” the cashier at the grocery store by handing her items from the cart. Over and over again I hear, “Mine were never so good! How did you do it?” and I smile and give credit where credit is due: She’s just a good, easy-going kid. But, honestly? I just took her everywhere from the very beginning. We had no choice and I wasn’t going to spend every moment of every day dealing with tantrums or wild-child. I didn’t want us to be THAT FAMILY. You know the one.

It all begins with my getting laid-off back in 2008 and between a CUH-RAPPY job market and various attempts to get pregnant, then stay pregnant, then face life with a preemie, The Daddy and I decided it made the most sense for me to stay home and take care of The Baby.

Now, some of you have followed our story from the old blog. For those of you who are new, The Baby is not our only child. After a very difficult pregnancy, we had twins who were born at 24 weeks gestation…four months premature. Our son was very sick and died three days later. Our daughter defied every odd and prediction for 21 amazing days. Two years later, and another difficult pregnancy that had me in the hospital for almost a month and on bed rest, The Baby was also born prematurely. She was 11 weeks early and spent 49 days in the NICU. She came home weeks before her original due date. In order to bring her home she had to pass tests. She had to go a set number of days without a breathing incident once she was off the respirator. She had to be able to finish a bottle within a certain amount of time. She had to be able to be sitting in her car seat without breathing incidents. There were others. But you can see the theme…she had to keep breathing. That’s not at all terrifying as a new parent. Hey! You can take your way too tiny baby home as soon as we think she will continue to breathe on her own but take a baby CPR class just in case. I suggested hiring one of her NICU nurses to come be our live-in nanny. The Daddy and I took turns sleeping in shifts for the first week, with The Baby in a pack-n-play at the foot of our bed. He slept with his head at the bottom of the bed for weeks so he could be close enough to hear her. We were a tiny bit nervous!

Now, new parent+preemie is an evil enough combination. Mix in having no family close by to come over and give us some time off. We didn’t feel comfortable with hiring a sitter from a service and quite frankly, we were simply terrified to be out of hearing range for a very long time, no matter what. One of our nurses was so very kind and did babysit one night for us, after we’d gotten over the hump, so to speak, but, pretty much, if we wanted to go anywhere, The Baby came along. Like every other SAHM, I took her with me to the grocery store, to the mall, to the doctor and anywhere else I needed to go because I had to. If I needed to go somewhere that she wasn’t welcome or it wasn’t appropriate, I either went at night or on the weekend or I realized I didn’t need to go there quite so badly after all. If we wanted to go out in the evening, we were limited to places we could take her and all of her gear (In three years, The Daddy and I have seen three movies in a theater. We used to go at least once a month.)

It was, and still is, sometimes frustrating as hell. A quick trip to the post office to use the self service vending machine can take 20 minutes by the time you figure in out-of-car-seat-I-CAN-WALK-ALL-BY-MYSELF-what-does-this-do-back-in-car-seat. Some days, I can’t face another 90 minute trip to the grocery store and I go while The Daddy feeds her dinner. But. On the plus side. If you realize early on that you are carrying around a little sponge, who soaks up everything you say and do, and very early on model the behavior you want to see (and I’m still working on not yelling at other drivers who do stupid things but I have cut waaay back on the sarcastic, under-my-breath comments about rude people.) AND stick to your guns when it comes to what you will and won’t let your kid do in public, suddenly you find you have this little person who automatically holds your hand when you step off the sidewalk into the parking lot, who says “Excuse me” when they bump into someone accidentally while dancing to the elevator music, and who can sit at a table in a restaurant and eat a nice meal, even if that restaurant doesn’t have a kid’s meal or crayons. She will still tell strangers her life story, and there are plenty of days when it feels like I’ve said “PUT THAT BACK” a gazillion times. But for every day when I give the stinkeye to the tenth person to tell me she’s so adorable when I’ve just spent an hour trying to get the 5 things I need for dinner tonight and she’s been grabbing everything in reach and screeching, “NO! YOU ARE BEING RUDE!” because I put her in the shopping cart, we have way more days when I sort of step outside myself and look at us and am amazed at this great little kid keeping me company and composing a song on the fly about the wonderful “BEE-OOOOO-TIFULLLL DAY I AM HAVING WITH MY MOMMY”

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that it’s hard being tiny. Everything in a store is right in her face and it’s bright and colorful. Of course, she’s going to touch it. I just keep reminding her to look with her eyes and not her hands and that we will soon get to the toy aisle and she can play there. Yes, I know that really wide area in Target looks like a great place to run, but there are too many people here. Hold my hand now, and when we get over there, where there aren’t people I will let you run. I need you to ride in the shopping cart in this store while I do the actual shopping, but if we get through the list quickly enough, I will let you get out and walk. This is a quiet place. Save your loud voice for when we get home. We have just a few minutes, so when the timer goes off on my phone it will be time to stop looking at the books and go to the register, ok? No, you don’t need to rearrange all of the merchandise in the dollar store by color. I know you think it looks better that way, but really, we just needed a laundry basket so please put the plastic doo-dads back on the shelf the way they had them and when we get home I will let you rearrange the tupperware cabinet while I fix lunch.

And if all else fails…thank goodness for an unlimited data plan and streaming movies on the smartphone! And cheddar bunnies. Never leave home without cheddar bunnies in the backpack/purse/diaper bag. Never. 🙂
And when the worst happens and she throws a fit in the middle of Barnes and Noble because I ask her to put her coat on before we go out into the 20 degree weather, knocking her huge stroller over WITH my very full, very hot cup of coffee so that it soaks my entire pant leg, and ends up lying on her back, screaming at the top of her lungs – just take a deep breath. Pick up the stack of books that fell. Right the stroller. Apologize about the coffee spill to the store employee who has come dashing over, sure that the child has been crushed under a book avalanche based on the noise she is making. And then try to sell tickets to this one time only work of performance art taking place. Maybe you’ll make enough to get a new cup of coffee. I never did, but at least it kept me from giving her to the nearest person who looked sympathetic to my plight. What’s the line from the old commercial? Never let them see you sweat? You have to be zen because you sure as hell don’t want them figuring out what your buttons are and how to push them! And, if you are lucky and if you have been consistent with your expectations and with your compromises, when the time comes that you really need them to just fall in line they usually will. Then, thank them. “I really appreciate how well you listened in there and how you sat and played with the toys in your backpack while I talked to the doctor.” “I had a nice dinner tonight because you ate without playing and used your inside voice the whole time. Would you like to go back to that restaurant again sometime?”

Anyway, that’s what worked for us. As she gets older, we make sure she knows what is expected before we go in anywhere. We watch for when she is reaching one of her triggers: tired, hungry, over-stimulated, bored. We offer equal time fun stuff and have-to-do stuff. We make sure we acknowledge her successes.

What about you? How have you tamed The Wild Thing?

It never fails

I plan a big endeavor, like starting a new blog, and I even get a good friend and VERY popular blogger to promote it (thanks Mel at http://www.stirrup-queens.com) and then the entire Good Mother household comes down with some crud and it’s Halloween and I can’t seem to get posts written. Sigh.

Be patient with us! We are trying!

Ready for action!

Bot, Geo and Milli Measure were a hit at the Old Salem trick or treat. We even did The Crazy Shake!

Last time I will ever be seen in public in a lime green track suit, by the way!

Sweet dreams

Even at three, I can still count on a minimum 90 minute nap each day. Today, after tearing up the playground for thirty minutes in the cold, not even a chocolate milk AND chocolate cookie at Starbucks was going to keep this one awake.

(Sidenote: The new chocolate meringue cookies at Starbucks are deadly and delicious. You have been warned.)

From the bathroom down the hall

“I am not happy about this! My little rubber ducky is going in time out!”

I wonder what Little Rubber Ducky did?

Being brave

Remember the other day when I mentioned my desire NOT to give The Baby my fears and anxieties? It’s hard to do when THIS is hanging around in your shower. It’s a house centipede. It can outrun my cats. It can hold on to popcorn ceiling for close to 30 seconds against the suction of a Dyson. I do not like them Sam I Am. I appreciate apex predators of any species but I would rather not share my bathroom with them. At least I didn’t shriek.

Some rules

So, I’m not new to the internet.

Starting a blog with the idea of sharing thoughts on parenting ranks right up there with posting a definitive statement on which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek when it comes to asking for flames and trolls.

I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to raising kids. I have a degree in education and I took child psychology classes a lifetime ago. I was a nanny to three kids another lifetime ago. Mostly, I’m making it up as I go along and asking for advice whenever I get stuck.

I’d like this to be an exchange of ideas. Here’s what worked for me, maybe it will help you. Support, not competition; advice, not preaching. I WILL exercise my right to delete comments that accuse/demean/belittle/troll/ or qualify for being featured on Sanctimommy. I have no problem putting people in time out and I am not opposed to a firm swat on the bumby when necessary.

I loved being a member of the inclusive kumbaya-ness at Stirrup Queens and I would like to create a similar space for parents at all stages of parenthood here.

Feed Me

There are more than a few topics about child rearing that can lead to friends never speaking to one another again, tears, shouting, and quite possibly, physical violence. Let’s tackle one of them as my very first post, shall we?

How and what to feed your kid.

(DISCLAIMER: One, I am not a pediatrician/nutritionist/GI Specialist. Second: I am blessed to NOT have a child who has food allergies, dietary restrictions, texture issues, or any of a number of other conditions that make it almost impossible to just feed them. C – parents who have to address those issues or who face a force of personality across the table that takes picky eating to Himalayan heights have my deepest sympathies and I will offer any suggestions I can think of to help, just ask!)

First, it’s important to understand one of the very few guiding principals of my approach to parenting.

Thou shalt not inflict your fears/insecurities/general oddness on your child if you can help it.

What that means is even though my preferred method for dealing with spiders in the house is to either yelp and get The Daddy to come get rid of it or to run for the Dyson, when confronted with spiders in the presence of The Baby, whenever possible, I calmly get a piece of paper to scoop it up and relocate it to the outdoors. Barring that, I calmly get a paper towel, try to squish it without feeling it and flush the remains. I’m generally not bothered by insects and arachnids but having things come skittering at me makes me go all girly. I don’t want that for The Baby. If she develops an aversion to spiders it should be on her own, not because she decides “If Mommy is frightened, I should be too.”

Keep that in mind. It becomes important later on.

So. As I’ve mentioned, The Baby was a preemie. She missed out on almost an entire trimester in utero. Most fortunately, she came out of it relatively unscathed. She did have one brief bout of medical NEC. A big problem preemies face is that they have to be fed before their digestive system is ready to tackle that skill and it can lead to severe problems, including necrosis of the bowels. In her case, it met the technical definition but we caught it very quickly, treated it fast and she recovered. We were also supremely lucky to be able to benefit from a sister hospital’s participation in a trial of a breast milk based supplement. Human breast milk does not contain enough calories for the smallest preemies so additional calories had to be added to what I pumped for her. We suspected that her NEC was the result of an immature digestive system not tolerating bovine proteins in the supplement. After we brought her home, we continued to supplement the breast milk (with a different supplement than the trial one) until we were all satisfied that she was gaining weight properly.

All of this history is to explain why we took our time moving from milk/formula (I’ll discuss breast feeding/pumping/formula another time because I like to spread out the contentious topics) to solid food. I will throw out there that, while I made myself crazy reading different things about what you should and should not do while breastfeeding, aside from briefly removing dairy from my own diet until we were sure The Baby could handle bovine proteins, I pretty much ate anything I wanted. Spicy foods, cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic…you name it. And that’s even with a baby who suffered from reflux. Her reflux was more a case of needing small meals often and being upright than a problem with the actual contents of her tummy (hey, look! Another post…projectile vomiting babies).

When she was well over six months adjusted age (let me know if you need me to explain chronological age vs. adjusted age. It’s a little confusing at first) we introduced cereal. Again, I read a bazillion different “experts” to make sure we didn’t cause allergy problems. Our only preemie issue had been digestive, so I didn’t want to wake the kraken with a bowl of cereal! I was lucky enough to have a pediatrician who took a very basic approach to babies. He said, “It is your job to put food in front of her. It is mother nature’s job to get her to eat it. She will eat when she is hungry.” That became my mantra for a VERY long time.

We started the way millions of other babies have. Rice cereal. Have you tasted baby rice cereal? No wonder they fling it against the walls.

(Side note here: I do not give my child anything I haven’t tasted first. That includes those evil brown vitamin drops that turned her bottles of milk puke green.)

We did cereal as a developmental experiment for a couple of months while she still got her nourishment from bottles. Look, there’s no rocket science here. You are feeding them bland, boring, harmless mush so they can figure out how their tongues work and so their little guts can get used to something other than liquid.

After awhile, we were all bored with rice, oats, multigrain, you name it cereal. So we decided to start with purees. Again, I have tasted the stuff in the jars and I wouldn’t feed that to someone I hated, much less to the most important person in my world. Plus, I’m a Live-To-Eat person. Food, to me, is an event in life to be savored and enjoyed. I’m not sure that shelf-stable mushy peas thickened with tapioca is the way to create another foodie. I decided to make my own baby food. I bought a food mill and special containers to store single serving portions in. I got cookbooks for babies. I made charts to ensure that I only introduced one new flavor at a time. I bought organic produce and free range meats and spent an entire day steaming, poaching, braising and pureeing. That lasted about a month.

The Baby loved real food. She loved garlic and cumin. I pretty quickly realized that as long as I got whatever we were having smooth enough, she would eat it. Obviously, I left the hot peppers out until I’d dished out her portion (for awhile) but she wanted OUR food. It bore out what I had read about breast milk taking on the flavors of the foods Mom eats. She already KNEW these tastes.

When we moved her on to chewing foods, we had finally stopped trying to read the experts. We fed her the things we liked. We also made sure to feed her the things we don’t like. It isn’t my place to decide that she doesn’t eat bok choy just because I don’t like it. The Daddy doesn’t get to turn her against black olives. It means we have both taken bites of things we would usually quietly pick out of a dish and push to the side because The Baby was watching.

What this means is, not only do I have a kid who prefers roasted broccoli and steamed kale to just about anything else, but I have a kid who will, at the very least, try a taste of anything you offer her. Dried seaweed? Bring it on! She can down an entire package of it. Spicy black beans? She loves them, particularly when they are made with chipotles in adobo sauce. I make her fish cakes with salmon, tuna and sardines and she asks for seconds. Now, don’t get me wrong, she will devour some french fries and I’m pretty sure it is her life’s goal to see just how much chocolate one kid can consume (she prefers dark 85% chocolate) like any other three year old.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned. You have this proto-human, just waiting to be shaped. You can take this opportunity and create a duplicate of yourself or you can try to make version 2.0 better. It requires a lot of self-reflection and honesty. Food is one of those power play subjects. If you can check your opinions at the door along with any prejudices you have developed over a lifetime and just let the newbie explore freely I think, maybe, just maybe, you can avoid the situation where all you can fix for dinner is plain noodles or scrambled eggs. Remember the anti-drug PSA with the kid screaming, “YOU! I learned it from watching you!” Will a baby develop preferences? Of course! Will some kids naturally be picky eaters? Absolutely. But you can at least try to temper that by not letting them see you turn up your nose at something before they ever get a chance to try it. I got lucky and I had the luxury of time to be patient. I didn’t need to get food into someone in time to get to daycare before going to work. I got to spend an afternoon’s nap cooking lentils into a nice, smooth dal that could be made into a spicy curry or a gentle soup.

Another thing I’ve figured out? It’s never too late. The trick is to remember it isn’t the end of the world. Want to try new things? Make a game of it. Take a bite at the same time. Make a meal of favorites and one new flavor for everyone to try. Try new things more than once. Don’t yell. Don’t threaten. Don’t be afraid to push YOUR boundaries. And in the end…it’s your job to put the food on the table. It’s mother nature’s job to make them eat. What do I do when we find something The Baby absolutely won’t eat? I’m not a short order cook. If she doesn’t like the meal, she can have a bowl of cereal or a PB&J sandwich. If I know ahead of time that I’m making something she is iffy on or absolutely won’t eat, I keep a stash of turkey meatballs in the freezer, along with a variety of frozen veggies. She still is expected to try a taste of what we are having, but I eliminate the power struggles.

Now it is your turn. How have you approached food? What advice do you have on getting kids to eat and on creating kids who eat? Do you have a difficult eater? How do you deal so it doesn’t take over every meal?

Stuff my kid says

This may become a daily feature…

The mommy:
Don’t push the placemat because your oatmeal will fall on the floor and I will be cranky.

Olivia Moonpie:
And I will send you back to bed until you can be nice!

If only….😉

Starting Over

Hi there. I debated deleting the handful of posts preceding this one and starting fresh, but I’m a notorious packrat and the thought of throwing anything away, even data, makes me feel…twitchy. So, I’m going to leave them there and just ignore them.

I’m The Mama. He’s The Daddy. And that forty-pound dynamo currently sacked out in her bed, that’s The Baby, AKA Olivia Moonpie. Some of you may have followed our past exploits over on Our Own Creation as we fought through infertility diagnoses, treatments, surgeries, bedrests, premature births, NICU stays, infant loss, grief and the early days of parenting. My original intention was to create this blog while we muddled our way through infancy to share our mis-steps and triumphs. Then reality hit and it was all I could do to remember to shower every so often and keep The Baby clean, fed, happy and healthy. So, I packed away the blogs. Just recently, though, I find that I’m actually able to keep a thought in my head for more than a couple of minutes. I actually read a novel last week…some of it during the day. I took a shower WHILE THE BABY WAS AWAKE and I took the time to shave BOTH legs and not once did I lean out past the shower curtain, soap dripping in my eyes and shout, “ARE YOU OK OUT THERE?” because suddenly, she can sit for 15 minutes and watch PBS or NICK Jr and drink a cup of milk and eat a waffle without me right there. Suddenly, if she needs me, she knows to get up and come find me. She understands “you play with that, Mommy is doing this right now.” And with that, I realized how much I missed this. So, here I am.

Why a mommy blog when 2008 was forever ago? Well. Have you ever been in the grocery store, waiting in line with your kid sitting in the basket and wondered why everyone is making such a big deal about how cute the kid in the shopping cart ahead of you is? I’m really sorry. That’s my kid. I don’t get it either, and I’m usually terribly embarassed that no one is telling you how sweet/cute/funny your kid is too because he or she really is. I mean, I think my kid is fantastic, but all she did was tell you how much she can’t wait to eat that package of dried seaweed and that she had to have her googly eye fixed and her cat Widget likes to snuggle on the couch but Daddy is at the workshop and won’t be home until dinner time. Honestly, I frequently wish she’d shut up and let me just pay for the groceries. Maybe I do something different and if I share it, you can be the one who has to allot an extra 30 minutes for a grocery store trip so everyone can oooh and aaah over your kid and I can just get the milk and bananas. Then, there was the experience of infertility. It was such a huge help to feel like I was part of a crowd who just GOT what I was going through. You see, I’m the sort who approaches every new situation by trying to find a book to help me. I’ve read parenting books. They made me feel ridiculously inadequate. I’m hoping that sharing what we do might help someone else in the same boat, even if it just lets them know that they aren’t the only ones who sometimes dump the screaming kid in the crib, shut the door and go sob in the bathroom for ten minutes. So, here we go. Some of this will be real time. Some of this will be flashbacks. Some of it will be because you ask a question. Some of it might be guests I bribe into posting. Some of it won’t have anything to do with anything because, why not?

Briefly, The Baby was born 11 weeks premature in Fort Worth, TX. She spent 49 days in the NICU and came home before she was supposed to be born. Amazingly, she seems to have escaped unscathed. She has never shown any developmental or physical issues as a result of her prematurity. She did have to wear an eye patch and have eye surgery to correct the esotropia that turned up right around her second birthday. Shortly after her second birthday, we packed up everything and moved to North Carolina…a homecoming for me, a new start for The Daddy. I WILL discuss the joys of moving 1200 miles with a two year old! I have had the extremely good fortune to be able to stay home with Olivia Moonpie. I know that isn’t a path that everyone would or could choose. It works for us, but it does mean that my days are entirely filled with KID and not a whole lot of anything else. I’m a hardcore introvert, so for the most part that works for me, but I do find myself feeling more than a little isolated and out of the loop. When you combine that with moving so far, to a city neither of us knows, well…let’s just say I have no idea how to meet and make friends without being able to complain about how much homework we got in AP English and making plans to go to the basketball game on Friday night. I’m hoping to start finding ways to improve our social life soon.

I’m just trying to be a good mother. I have a three year old who says please and thank you, has slept through the night since forever and takes a 2 hour nap every day, and prefers broccoli and broiled salmon to chocolate pudding and has only had one non-teething related sickness so I must be doing something not too terribly wrong. If it takes a village to raise a child, and the villages are moving online, I might as well share our journey and hope that it helps someone else along the way.

Ready?