Sunday, October 31, 2010

Candy, a Little Lamb, and a Stuffy Nose

This was our very first Halloween with a baby.  I've been waiting on this for months.  Before she was born, I had her costume planned.  A pea pod.  I wanted my little girl to be a pea pod.  Well... all of the cute pea pod costumes are homemade.  Hahahaha, that wasn't going to happen.  Not until I master a sewing machine at least.  Ultimately, we decided to go with a lamb costume.

After searching near and far, I finally found cute lamb garb and ordered it (2 months in advance).  My husband even helped pick it out.  It was the perfect costume, and we were excited.  We invited a friend over to pass out candy with us and planned to grill up an assortment of meat.  We had even planned to do some pumpkin painting with the neighbors and their little ones.  In case your not getting my point here, I NEVER get out of the house or converse with other adults, so I was really looking forward to today.

Then... it happens.  On Wednesday morning, I notice my baby breathing a little funny.  It wasn't a big deal; she just sounded a little stuffy.  Thursday comes, and it's a tiny bit worse.  Friday... we cancel our plans to go watch her dad coach his last football game of the season because I don't want to risk her getting sick.  Why?  Because I care about her.....  And because I want to use the costume.  Well, the stuffy nose is still here.  In fact, it has only gotten worse.

The selfish, young woman part of me didn't want to tell the neighbors about the baby having a cold.  That part of me just wanted to go over there and paint pumpkins.  However, the parent part of me wouldn't want someone bringing a sick baby into my house, so we stayed home.  Emma had to miss out on the pumpkins.  She did wear her costume though.  For a baby who wasn't feeling so well, she was a trooper.  She let me torture her with the ridiculous hat for the sake of some cute pictures.  She also entertained the droves of candy seeking children (and adults) without even the blip of a cry.

Even though we didn't get to do everything I had hoped, this was a great Halloween.  It was a nice change of pace from what had been an all too predictable few days.  It gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get out of a temporary slump.  We are truly blessed to have such a sweet little girl.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

PPD Resources

I've written quite a bit about coping with postpartum issues, so if you're following my blog in hopes of more PPD info, I have a site for you to check out.  I stumbled upon a post through my BloggyMoms feed that led me to a mom named Kimberly.  She is yet another mother who has dealt with PPD, and she has compiled a fantastic list of helpful resources.

To visit Kimberly's site and check out some great PPD links, click here.

Just Venting...

I love, love, love my little girl, but...

I'm exhausted.
She's sick.
My husband works ALL the time and is NEVER home.
The house is a mess.
I have no energy to clean when she falls asleep.
My dog needs a bath.
I have no help.
No family close by.
Best friends are too far away.
I'm hungry but don't want to cook anything.
I'm exhausted.
The laundry just stares at me.
All of the bottles need washed.
Living in the desert when it's windy sucks.
I don't want to dust.
I have to dust everyday.
The vacuum cleaner doesn't work.
I can't fit into anything but sweat pants and my husband's shirts.
There is a spider on the ceiling.
The Diaper Genie is full.
Did I mention I'm exhausted?

He gets to relax when he gets home from work and gets to hang out with friends.  When do I get a break?  I work 24/7.  When do I get to relax?  When is someone going to wait on me hand and foot, do my laundry, pick up after me, cook my meals, and take care of the kid when I want to go have fun?  Hahahahahahahaha... that's a funny dream.

I know I shouldn't complain.  I have a great husband and a wonderful, healthy baby.... but I'm tired.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Wake up, Mommy..."

I awoke from a nap this morning with two chubby, little hands grabbing my nose and cheeks.  Still half asleep, I opened my eyes to see my precious little baby turned completely onto her side, reaching as far as she could to get to my face.  "Wake up, Mommy..." is what she wanted to say.  :-)  I smiled at her and she laughed back.  I love my daughter.

When Emma is sleepy, she plays with my chin.  When she is starting to wake up and she's near me, she grabs for my face.  I don't know why, but it's our thing.  We like to have our faces close together.  I think this morning was an, "I know I woke you up at 2am, but I'm worth it" type of face grabbing.

Cherish these little moments with your wee ones while they still enjoy picking your nose.  :-)

Deceptively Delicious Heath Cake




Probably the BEST cake ever...



As a little girl growing up in rural Indiana, I lived for the days when a family function would prompt someone to make a Heath bar cake and give me a piece of the yummy goodness.  :-)  This cake didn't come around very often, but when it did, I was in heaven.  I recently discovered the recipe in an old church cookbook.  You know you have a gem of a cookbook when it's compiled by a group of ladies from a country church.  I had always assumed the recipe to be complicated, but it is so easy!  If you're on the search for an incredibly moist, sweet cake with a little bit of a toffee kick, try the recipe below.  

Heath Cake Recipe:

Ingredients
1 box German chocolate cake mix** 
     -vegetable oil, water, 3 eggs
1 container of Cool Whip
1 jar caramel ice cream topping
3 Heath candy bars
**I prefer Pillsbury cake mix because it has a pudding mix in the batter that makes the cake even more moist.

Directions
  1. Mix and bake cake as directed on the box for a 13x9" cake pan.
  2. While the cake is still hot and fresh out of the oven, use the blunt end of a wooden spoon (or similar utensil) to poke holes in the cake.  Each hole should be about an inch apart (evenly placed).  Be careful not to poke the holes too deeply into the cake.
  3. Pour the entire jar of caramel ice cream topping over the cake.  Try to pour most of the topping into the holes.  Again, this needs to be done while the cake is still hot.
  4. Put the cake directly into the refrigerator and let chill for 4-6 hours.
  5. While the cake is cooling, chop the Heath bars into tiny pieces.
  6. Once the cake is COLD, cover it in Cool Whip.
  7. Sprinkle candy pieces all over the cake.
  8. Cover the cake and refrigerate until ready to serve!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tips to Help Your Baby Roll Over and Start Crawling

These are just a few activities I have found helpful with teaching my daughter new skills...


 Rolling Over:

Tip #1:  Hold that little butt!  :-)
In order for your little one to roll over, he or she needs to build those neck and tummy muscles.  What you can do to help is to gently place your hand on her butt during tummy time.  You obviously don't want to push too hard or hurt her, but if you hold the baby's bottom still, it forces her to use and build the muscles in her upper half.

Tip #2:  External Motivation
Now that your little one has pretty good control over her muscles, she's probably trying really hard to turn over.   You can use toys with contrasting colors or your wonderful face to help motivate the baby to roll to reach.  :-)  As always, you want to provide lots of praise in the beginning.  Encouragement will help the baby realize she is doing something correctly.  Once she rolls over, be prepared.  My little one won't stay still.  :-)  She rolls everywhere.

Crawling:


Tip #3:  Kick Off!
There are many ways to help Baby learn to crawl, but the one I've seen the most progress with is this:

  1. Set up a safe, comfortable area on the floor and lay Baby on her belly.
  2. Place a toy or familiar face slightly out of reach from Baby.
  3. Use your hands as a backboard for the baby's feet.  
  4. Keep your hands firmly in place, and allow Baby to kick off of you.  Be sure to keep inching forward with the baby as she makes her way to the toy and give lots of praise along the way.  
If you repeat this a few times, the baby will quickly learn what she needs to do with her legs and feet in order to get closer to desired objects.  :-)  My daughter is almost 5 months and uses a mixture of kicks, scoots, and rolls to get WHEREVER she wants to go.  

Tip #4:  Practice with the arms.
I also help my baby practice crawling with her arms by propping them up and gently helping her move them toward me (just as she would to crawl).  To do this, I place her on her tummy and get down on the floor, facing her.  I have to get really excited, make lots of happy faces, and encourage her, but she gets the hang of it.  We've only done this 3 times, and she now knows what to do with her arms....  If she could only lift up that big belly, she would be on her way!

I hope you find a few of these tips useful.  If you have any other tricks of the trade, please feel free to share them below!


Don't Forget About Pampers Gifts to Grow Points!

If you use Pampers diapers and/or wipes, I'm sure you've noticed the Gifts to Grow points inside the packages.  If you haven't seen them, you need to find the little sticker inside each of your Pampers products.

For each Pampers product you purchase, you earn a certain amount of points.  All you have to do is go to Pampers.com, type in the 15 digit code, and start earning free stuff.  If you don't want to save the points and let them accumulate, you can use them right away to enter contests.  I prefer to save mine.  I currently have enough to earn free prints from Shutterfly.  I only need a few more packs of diapers, and I have 25 free photo cards to add to my holiday order!

Don't forget about those points!  If you haven't already signed up for an account, do it today.  Check those packages before tossing them into the recycling bin!  If you don't want your codes, send them my way.  :-)



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Create Amazing Photo Collages with Photovisi

While searching for a way to jazz up my blog without spending any moolah, I stumbled upon the Photovisi collage maker.  Oh my goodness!  This is my new favorite tool!

If you like the new collage behind the title of my page, you'll LOVE Photovisi!  It's so much fun.  You can upload (remarkably quickly) tons of pictures, choose from many different templates, edit your photos, and do it all for FREE.  When you're finished, you can share your collages publicly, post them to facebook, or just download them to your computer like I did.

After downloading my new collage to my computer, I dragged it to my iPhoto.  From there, I edited it a little more.  The possibilities are endless.  Once the image in on your computer, you can print it, order copies from your favorite site or store, share it with family and friends... whatever you want to do.  I plan to upload mine to my Shutterfly account and order a large copy to hang on my picture wall.  :-)

I hope you try out Photovisi and have fun creating new projects!

Grab My Button!

I finally have my very own button!  :-)  If you grab my button and leave a comment, I'll grab yours!  You can find mine to the right of this post.  Thanks!


A Highchair Nap? Why not?

My daughter has a very strict eating schedule.  She is exactly like her mother.  When she is hungry, everyone better get out of the way and let her eat!  If not, all hell breaks loose.  You can imagine my surprise when she didn't finish her afternoon meal today.

Emma will be 5 months old in a little over a week and has been drinking 2 bottles in the morning, eating a meal (cereal and some baby food) in the afternoon, and 2 more bottles in the evening for about 3 weeks.  This is her routine, and she never deviates from it.  However, she must be going through a growth spurt at the moment because she's been sleeping more than usual.  I know she's sleepy, but I never expected her to fall asleep in her high chair... while eating.

The cutest part?  Her eyes were closed, and she appeared to be asleep, but she continued to open her mouth for more "bites".  Again, she's just like her mother.  I can just imagine what she was thinking....  "Soooo sleepy... sooooo sleepy... but... must... keep... eating...mmmm...applesauce....mmmm...."  Alas, she had to give up sometime.

She is so cute.  I just wiped the applesauce debris from her chubby cheeks and let her sleep.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dealing With Those Single Friends (with no babies) Who Just Don't Get It

Does anyone else out there have single friends who just don't seem to understand that things change when you have a baby???  I'm 25, and the majority of my single friends are my age or younger.  It's a fact that young adults are self-absorbed and egocentric.  This is merely part of the developmental process in adolescents.  In today's society, the adolescent phase is lasting longer and longer.  Even worse, this generation of young adults has an overwhelming sense of entitlement.  I like to think I'm just old enough to have missed that boat.  :-)

Given all of this information, I try to empathize with my slightly younger, single and baby-free friends.  There is no possible way for them to completely understand how my life is different now.  I have a child.  She is the absolute most important being in my entire life.  I have an amazing husband who has experienced life changing events with me.  Our bond is stronger because of it.  We also came very close to losing our daughter during the delivery, so perhaps I'm even more obsessed with my kid.  I don't know, but my point is that nothing in the world is as important as my daughter and our little life as a family.

When you have a child (and experience a scary delivery like we did), you realize what is truly important in life.  I don't know if other moms feel the same way, but I have no patience for trivial things.  I have no tolerance for drama or meaningless dribble.  I don't overanalyze relationships anymore.  I don't worry about little comments.  I know who my close friends are, and I love my life.  I am who I am.  I'm honest (to a fault sometimes), and you get what you get with me.  That's it.  So forgive me when I get frustrated with "friends" who overdramatize the things I say or do.  Stop looking for things that aren't there.  I don't want to participate in this drama dance.  It isn't important to me.  I'm sorry.  Life is too short to engage in unnecessary arguments.

How do we go about explaining this to those friends?  "I'm sorry?  You're just not as important as you think you are?  Get over yourself?"  That seems a little harsh, but I'm at a loss.  No matter what I say, she just doesn't get it.  I don't need this....

Now... let me get back to that beautiful little girl....

Monday, October 25, 2010

PPD or PPSS: Finding a Solid Support System

If you have read my previous posts, you might have gathered that I seem to be finding myself confronting a bit of Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Stress Syndrome.  I am not having difficulty with depression but am experiencing the other symptoms connected with PPD or PPSS.  Since the birth of our daughter, I've been coping with insomnia, anxiety, intense guilt, and uncontrollable anger.

I've written about my experiences with insomnia and anger in previous posts and have done quite a bit of research on the subject.  As we live 2.5 hours away from the nearest city and are on a very tight budget, I am not currently able to seek therapy or see a doctor for anti-depressants (which I don't want anyway).

My husband and I are trying to cope with things on our own at the moment.  I think it is important to note that I am not angry or disconnected from my baby AT ALL.  If that were the case, I would seek help from a professional regardless of cost.  Coping with things on our own hasn't necessarily been the easiest or best way to handle the situation.  Until last night, it wasn't even us coping with this; it was just me.  Therein, lies point of this post.  I've discovered a key element of successfully coping with PPD.  One absolutely must have a solid support system.

Last night was a breaking point for me.  My husband and I got into a huge fight over the behavior I didn't even realize I was exhibiting, which led to a long discussion.  Communication is important in any relationship but a MUST after bringing a new baby into the family.  Our hormones of out of whack and do crazy things to our minds.  We need to communicate our feelings to our partners.  They aren't mind-readers (especially if they're men).  The brains of men and women do not work the same way.  We can use clues and behavior to decipher what our male partners might be feeling or what they might need, but they can't do this for us.  We have to spell it out and thoroughly explain what we need from them.  That's  just the way it is, and it isn't something to be upset about.  Men and women are just wired differently.  Sooo... after arguing, lots of talking, and lots of crying (while trying to hold it back), my husband got the message.  I need support in this.

At my absolute worst point last night, he forcibly held me (because I was so full of anger and so tense that I refused to be touched), and let me cry.  I finally, FINALLY relaxed and just let go.  I don't think I've ever cried like that in my life.  I needed that support; I needed to know it was OK to express my feelings; I needed him to attempt to understand.

I have an amazing husband.  As terrible as last night was, emotionally, he really helped me take a step forward.  It might be a very small step, but it's a step.

If you think you might be dealing with PPD or PSS, try to find some sort of support system for yourself. Communicate with someone you trust, and don't be ashamed of what is happening inside your head.  It's more common than you might think.  If you would like to read more about PPD, visit the links below and/or talk to your doctor.

By the way, music helps me a great deal.  My favorite right now?  Tracy Chapman, "I'm Ready".  I've loved this song for years and find it particularly calming now.

Helpful Links:
"Is Anger a Sign of Postpartum Depression?"
Postpartum Depression (BabyCenter)
Postpartum Depression Health Center
Managing Postpartum Depression (read through the tab options)

FREE Gallery Wrapped Canvas From Canvas On Demand

I signed up for an account with BabyCenter.com when I was pregnant with my daughter and recently had to create a new account.  I'm so glad I did because I got a 8x10 wrapped canvas print of one of my daughter's photos.

When you sign up with BabyCenter, there is an offer at the bottom of the page where you can click to receive a gift certificate code for $59 off a wrapped canvas.  That covers the cost of an 8x10 and knocks off a huge chunk of the cost of the other sizes.  All you have to pay is the shipping and handling.  Mine was $14.99.

I signed up last week but just checked, and the offer is still valid!  Take advantage while you can!  Canvas On Demand products are high quality.  This is a great opportunity to get a nice, expensive portrait of your kids for FREE.  : )

Free Photo Calendar and Canvas Print! Seriously.

Through the MommyBlogs feed on the bottom, right side of my blog, I saw a post featuring a free photo calendar.  I clicked on it and found some other neat stuff as well.  I'll definitely be ordering the free canvas print (the 2nd free one I've found)!  I just have to pay the shipping.

As a stay-at-home-mom on a budget, free stuff is my friend.  : )  I'm always skeptical and thoroughly review any deals or promotions I find.  I would never recommend a promotion or product I don't use myself.

If you visit this blog, you'll find the links for the free calendar and canvas.  I'll also list them below for your convenience.


I have added her "button" to the right side of my blog as well.  You can click on it and go directly to her site in the future.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Letting the Baby Cry at Night

"Beep, beeeeeeeeeep... this is a test of the National Baby Association....  This is only a test.  Please refrain from jumping out of bed and running to your baby's rescue...."

My 4 month old is beginning to use her insane genius to manipulate me into doing whatever she wants.  It started with small things... bottles, being held... easy stuff.  Now, however, my little angel who would sleep from 6 or 7pm to 5:30am and go right back to sleep after being put in bed with me isn't so much of an angel anymore.  "Go right back to sleep after being put in bed with me" is the key part of that last sentence.  I've taught her that she gets her mommy if she wakes up at night.  She's used to me picking her up before her eyes even open.  The first sound on the monitor, and I'm there.  It was fine when it was 5:30 in the morning.  It was a groove we had gotten into.  I could get a little more sleep (or in most cases, my first bit of sleep) if I could get to her before the crying began.  Ahh, what a wonderful couple of months that was.

However, the ignorant bliss bubble we've been living in has been haphazardly popped.  Lately, she wakes up at 2 or so in the morning.  This is the first battle of the night.  I'm trying to teach her that she doesn't get to do whatever she wants if she wakes up.  Night time is for sleeping.  This is what she must learn.  When that 2am cry blasts through the monitor, I sneakily make my way into her room just to make sure she hasn't rolled over or is in some sort of pain.  When I see that she is perfectly fine, I try to wait out the crying.  I do stay in her room until she's asleep once again, but she doesn't see me.  It is, after all, my fault she's doing this.  Once that little interruption has ceased, I return back to bed. The second battle usually happens between 4:30 and 5:30, but this time, she refuses to go back to sleep.  She'll wait me out for hours until she gets a bottle.  Back to sleep she goes as soon as she finishes eating.

I've accepted the early morning feedings.  I realize I've had it easy with her.  She used to sleep until 7:30 or 8am before wanting her first bottle of the day.  The new time has changed our daily eating schedule.  It's OK.  I just have to keep reminding myself that the 2:30 cries are merely a mommy test.  I hate letting her cry, but I'm learning.

Friday, October 22, 2010

LOVE Dr. Brown's Bottles

For those of you who are expecting a new bundle of joy and wondering which bottles are best for your baby, I highly recommend Dr. Brown's bottles. They are my absolute favorite.

Dr. Brown's bottles have a patented internal vent system that helps reduce bubbles.  This helps reduce gas and colic.  When you have a little one with gas pains or projectile vomit, you'll understand why these bottles are so important.  I won't use any other bottle with my little girl.

Initially, I was breastfeeding my daughter but wasn't producing enough milk.  Thankfully, I received some of the wide-neck bottles at my baby shower.  The transition from breast to bottle was easier for the baby because the wide-neck nipples are made to be more like the breast.  I wouldn't even use the skinnier Dr. Brown's bottles when we first started the transition to formula because it was easier on my daughter to use the shorter, chubbier bottles.  :)  I haven't been able to find more of the wide-neck bottles in any stores in our area, but I know you can order them on Amazon.

Example of the wide-neck bottles:

Dr. Brown's bottles do take a little longer to clean because of the extra pieces used to create the venting system, but a baby with less gas is well worth the effort.  If you're planning to use formula or pump your own milk, I recommend putting these bottles on your registry.

Lazy, Rainy Days and Baby Smiles


Choosing to stay at home with my daughter has been a great decision, but cutting back to one income has been quite stressful and overwhelming.  To try to help our financial situation, I've been looking everywhere online for work from home opportunities (future posts to come).  Recently, I've realized that I'm so consumed with finding ways to earn money that I'm losing sight of why I wanted to stay home in the first place.  I've been paying more attention to potential money making projects than I have to my precious little girl.  Sooo... I decided to take a break and get back to my daughter.

The past 2 days have been pure bliss.  We live up in the high desert and really only have 2 seasons:  summer and winter.  Winter hit about 3 days ago.   Since then, we've had the normal thunderstorms that usually accompany the changing of seasons.  It has been wonderful.  Emma and I have gotten to spend lazy days inside while the storms continue outside.  Perfect cuddling weather!  

I finally put the computer down and made Emma my sole focus.  We had so much fun playing together.  I realized how much I've missed her.  That may seem crazy, as she is with me 24/7, but I think it's important for us not to take our kids for granted.  They grow so fast.  It seems that we're always busy and worrying about a million different things.  I think sometimes, we need to remember to take a moment and enjoy the pure innocence and love of our little ones while they're still little.  

To other stay at home moms out there, I know our budgets and money situations can take up quite a bit of our lives, but let's not forget why we chose to stay home with our babies in the first place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

GRACO Stroller Recall: Common Sense

If you are currently a mother of a wee little baby, I'm sure you are up to date on recent product recalls.  Yes, it is frustrating when you purchase a product for your precious bundle of joy only to discover the item is flawed.  When the product is potentially dangerous and has resulted in deaths, you might even get a little angry.  However, this GRACO stroller recall seems a tad ridiculous.

The GRACO Quatro Tour and MetroLite strollers are causing uproars all over the country because of the 9 injuries (some of which were deaths) reported as a result of a "flaw" in these particular strollers.  Apparently, strangulation can occur when the infant is not properly harnessed and slips through the opening underneath the tray.  Now, I agree that this is a horrific image.  My heart goes out to the parents of the children affected by these unfortunate accidents.  

However, recalling 2 million strollers and causing parents all over the country to panic just seems to be a little much.  When I heard about the recall, I was upset.  I, too, am the proud owner of the Quatro Travel System.  I have loved my stroller since the moment I saw it in the store.  It's cute, practical yet luxurious, and incredibly convenient.  I went way over my "stroller budget" to purchase this model because I was so excited about it.  Seeing the news of the recall was devastating.  My imagination went crazy, I scared myself, and hurried to find out what was really going on.  Well, I've read the information, and I'm still in love with the stroller.  

I apologize if this upsets anyone, but isn't it common sense that you should properly harness your infant in any type of traveling seat?  You wouldn't go driving around with a 4 month old baby in a car seat without buckling her in.  Why would you put a tiny baby in a stroller without buckling the harness?  Blaming the stroller for the injury of an infant when the infant wasn't properly strapped is like blaming the car seat for the injury of a child when he or she wasn't buckled.  Duh.  Don't leave your baby unattended, for even a second, in a stroller without fastening the harness!  Also, an infant sliding out from underneath the tray seems odd as well because there is a foot flap that folds up and fastens the area closed.  If the baby is too small for his or her feet to dangle through the opening, close the flap.  Seems pretty simple.  

I think we need to find some of the common sense we've lost as a society and put it back in place.  I know there are products that genuinely need to be recalled, but perhaps we should stop blaming everything on the "other guy" once in a while and take a look at ourselves.  

Buckle your kid.  

I am still going to continue using this stroller, properly of course, and hope other moms don't freak out about the recall like I initially did.  If you are concerned about the recall and want to order the free "repair kit" (whatever that means),  click here.  

Our little Emma was just over a month old in this picture, but it's a pretty good view of the harness.  If it is fastened, the baby isn't going anywhere.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Postpartum Stress Syndrome: Angry New Mom?

As mothers, we are all familiar with postpartum depression.  Most hospitals make us speak with a social worker before granting us release.  This is supposed to ensure we are aware of the signs and know whom to contact to get help.  When my daughter was born, I was so incredibly happy to have a healthy baby (after a problematic and terrifying delivery) that I couldn't even fathom being depressed.  Since Emma's birth, I've found myself increasingly happy when with my child.  I've battled depression my entire life, but Emma has finally taught me what it feels like to literally be OK.  When I'm with her, for the first time EVER, I am honestly 100% happy.

The second I put her down and attempt cleaning, cooking, tending to my blog, perusing my Facebook, leaving my house, or even look at my dog... I am overwhelmed with anger.  I just assumed my confrontational side had gotten worse as a result of being cooped up in the house all day and being away from all friends and family.  Because my husband has to work diligently to manage his anger as well, I decided to do some research about teaching children how to cope with anger issues.   If Emma is anything like her parents, she will need to know how to express herself in healthy ways.

However, while researching, I found a link to "Is Anger a Sign of Postpartum Depression", at BabyCenter, and began reading.  Oh my goodness!  Apparently, if you are experiencing anger without the other major symptoms of postpartum depression, you could be dealing with Postpartum Stress Syndrome.  Why haven't I heard of this before?  Why didn't the social worker or doctors mention this at the hospital?

If you think you might be dealing with an uncharacteristically new anger problem, visit the link above.  There is a thorough description about the stress syndrome and many firsthand accounts from other moms who have responded to the link.

My Personal Struggle:
I never get angry with my baby; I do find myself frustrated with my husband; but most obviously, I HATE everyone else in the entire world.  I absolutely have no tolerance for ignorant comments, "friends" who don't talk to me for more than a day, anyone who posts a stupid (and I am the only authority on what is appropriate and what isn't) status on Facebook, dramatic girls, exaggerations, gossip... ANYTHING.  The slightest movement, unnecessary noise, annoying voice, or even an idiot walking down the street causes me to lose it.  This evening, it took every single bit of will-power I had left in me to refrain from yelling through my window at this moron in my neighborhood.  Why?  Because he stopped and petted my neighbors' dog for far too long.  I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but honestly, I was shaking with anger as I watched him.  Oh, and the pitying looks I receive from neighbors as I take my daughter for walks?  **Shutter**  Yes, because staying home with my child must mean I'm lonely and depressed.  I want to punch them in their ugly, condescending faces.  There is so much rage in my body.  I've been saying for weeks that I just need to find a good fight and get it out of my system.  I'm attacking people (verbally) left and right for no reason at all.  Well, I think I have adequate reason, but no one else seems to agree.  I just feel like I have gone insane and lost all control of myself.

What bothers me the most is that I've lost the person I used to be.  I deeply care about everyone I come in contact with, and I have a huge heart.  If I'm around someone who is sad or crying, I'm sad and crying too.  I think I empathize with people very well.  I'm always the first to defend others and try to rationalize why people act the way they do....  What is happening to me?  I'm turning into an angry, cynical, judgmental psychopath.  I don't want to be this person.

I know I should be embarrassed about the way I'm feeling and keep it to myself, but if there are other moms out there who are in similar situations, I want you to know you are not alone.  Seeking some sort of therapy is crucial to overcoming this issue.  Obviously, if you are taking the anger out on your child or even in front of your child, finding a way to help yourself is extremely urgent.  If you have no idea where to turn, try to find all of the stuff you brought home from the hospital.  There are phone numbers to call in all of those packets.  If you don't find what you're looking for on the first try, I'm sure the people you speak to will refer you to someone who can help.  If you have no numbers to call, Google your city, "postpartum", and "psychologist".  You'll be able to find something.  Lastly, if you're like me and can't get to a therapist for help, try to Google coping strategies and do your best to practice them on your own.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Baby Speak: Yep... I'm THAT Mom.

Why is it that we feel compelled to speak an entirely different language once we pop out a kid?  I mean, isn't the objective when speaking to a baby to model and teach language?  Our normal language?  I'm quite convinced babies are secret geniuses playing us for mere entertainment.  After all, they're understanding about 5 different languages by the time they're 2 years old.  They are forced to learn our absurd ways as we transition from phase to phase of this bizarre "baby speak".

When they're newborns, we speak in calming tones, read random books or articles, and pretty much keep our overwhelming desire for "oooos" and "aaahhhhs" under wraps until the wee one reaches about a month of age.

At about a month, we start the variations in pitch.  We're exploring all sorts of octaves and are already omitting complete sentences.

Two to three months in, we're deduced to full blown sounds only.  We insist on repeating vowels and consonants in the desperate hope that our future Harvard graduate will jump the gun and repeat every sound we make.

Then... it hits us.  With a swift punch to the face, our brains are completely taken over.  Our babies are smiling and laughing at us!  We are the FUNNIEST people on the planet!  Why?  Because we add "sies" to the end of every object, of course!  Why, I'll even grace you with a sampling of a top secret conversation my daughter and I had before bath time this evening.

Me:  "We just gotta get these little handsies and these little feetsies out of your clothesies.  Then, we'll take off the diapee and ruuuuuuuuuun (high pitch) to the baffffy!!!"

Emma:  (insert laughter here)

Yep... I'm that mom.  I'm an educated professional.  I read quite a bit.  I try to stay current on social issues and politics.  I'm opinionated and outspoken.  I'm even known to be snobby around the occasional ignoramus; and I speak "baby".


Sunday, October 17, 2010

When to Start Feeding Your Baby Cereal

All babies are different and develop at different paces.  From what I have gathered from our pediatrician, babies are ready to begin eating cereal once they can sit up with little support.  Our doctor recommended waiting until 4 months of age to begin cereal but said some babies are ready earlier.

Obvious signs your baby is ready to try cereal:

  • Sits with little to no support
  • Makes chewing motions with mouth
  • Brings tongue back and forth 
  • Teething

Our pediatrician is a mother herself and believes moms know best when it comes to their kids.  If your child is ready for cereal before 4 months of age, it is ok.  You just need to take it very slowly.  Some doctors recommend rice cereal first as it is easier on the stomach than oatmeal.  Also, be prepared for your baby to be a little constipated as he or she adjusts to the new diet.  

Remember, your baby still receives most of his or her nutrients from breast milk or formula until about 6 months of age.  If you're starting cereal at 4 months, the baby should still receive about 4 bottles each day.  

According to the Age-By-Age Guide to Feeding Your Baby at Baby Center, you should not move onto pureed baby foods until 6 months.  I think this depends on the baby as well.  My child is on the larger side of the growth scale, and our doctor said she should start eating baby food after just 2 weeks with the cereal.  Some babies need time to adjust, and some move more quickly.  Some babies are picky, and some will eat anything.  My daughter is picky.  Oatmeal and Banana is her favorite so far.  She also likes the rice.   : )

Be patient as you teach your little one to eat from a spoon.  Wear a poncho.  Be prepared to clean up a sticky mess.  As always, praise the little guy when he eats correctly from the spoon.  I'm not sure how long it is supposed to take for the babies to get used to the spoon.  My kid got the hang of it today, so it took her about a week.  Good luck with the transition, and don't get mad when he sticks his hand in his mouth as you drop in a spoonful of cereal!


Should I Stay With My Partner for the Sake of the Baby?

Unfortunately, many new mothers find themselves battling this issue in addition to the stresses of caring for a baby.  After receiving yet another message from a dear friend regarding her relationship with the father of her child, I have decided to voice my opinion on the subject.  I will, undoubtedly, upset someone out there in the internet world; however, this only means that I am correct in my assessment of his or her relationship.  For convenience, I will be referring to the "bad guy" in these particular relationships as the father of the child.  Obviously, it works both ways.  There are many unfit mothers out there who should allow the caring fathers to have custody of their children as well.  


Now, if you are finding yourself in an unhealthy relationship with the father of your child, I ask you to picture the following and ask yourself the questions below:


Your daughter is 18 and ready to marry the love of her life.  You are ready to say goodbye to that little girl you have raised the best that you could.  Now, picture her soon-to-be husband... and his relationship with your daughter.  It is exactly like your relationship with her father.  Is this how you want your daughter to be treated?  Do you want her to be with a man who treats her exactly (or worse) than her father treats you?  Because this is EXACTLY what will happen. If you think I'm wrong, go ahead and watch it play out for yourself.  It works the same way for boys.  Picture your son.  Do you want him to treat his future girlfriend or wife the way his father treats women?  Because he will.  Children model the behaviors they see.  After a lifetime of practice from the 2 people they love the most, why would they do anything differently?  If your child never experiences a healthy relationship firsthand, how would he or she know what to expect? 


The above paragraph might sound harsh, but this issue affects me deeply.  I will not go into detail, but my biological father treated my mother horribly.  He ended up leaving when I was almost 5 years old, and I thank God every day for giving my mother the strength to end her relationship with my dad.  I know it was insanely difficult for my mom to take on the responsibility of caring for my sister and me by herself.  She had no money and had to have been terrified to raise her little girls all alone, but she was determined.  She worked incredibly hard and did the best she could to make sure we were ok.


Until I was able to develop a strong relationship with my step-father, I just expected all men to be like my dad.  I pushed everyone away, became calloused, and was a very depressed young woman.  However, because my mother was able to pull herself out of the horrible situation with my father, I eventually learned that I didn't have to allow men to treat me that way.  I learned to expect more for myself.  Most importantly, I learned that I deserved to be treated better.  The best thing my mom EVER did for my sister and me was divorcing our father.  I hate to think what my life would be like today if I had spent anymore time witnessing their tumultuous relationship.  I am blessed to have such a strong mom.  


I'm not saying life was easy after my dad left.  Like any little kid growing up with an absent father, I wondered what I had done to make him stay away.  I wondered why he didn't want to spend time with me.  I wondered what was so terribly wrong with me that could have made my own father not love me.  It was difficult for a long time, but as I grew up and discovered myself, I made peace with things.  I'm so grateful for the way my life turned out.  I am a stronger person because of what I have been through, and I am proud of who I am.  Now that I have my own daughter, I would NEVER let her see me in an abusive relationship (verbally or physically) because I want her to know she deserves better.  


So... my point?  Yes, it sucks that children have to grow up without both parents, but that doesn't mean it isn't the best thing for your kids.  Sometimes, 2 people come together for a period of time and grace the world with amazing children.  Sometimes, those 2 people are better parents when they're separated.  That doesn't mean the kids are not important blessings, full of purpose.  They'll be fine.  It will take time, but they'll be better off if they don't have to witness the abuse.  When permitted to continue, it is an endless cycle.   

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Does your baby have chapped skin?

My daughter's incredibly chubby cheeks frequently get in her way, leaving them highly susceptible to irritation.  She has sensitive skin, seems to be allergic to everything, and her poor cheeks are always red and dry.

I have been applying Aquaphor Healing Ointment, from Eucerin, to the affected areas 4 to 5 times a day.  This has helped keep her cheeks moisturized, but the irritation is always there.  The Aquaphor makes it better but doesn't completely rid the problem.  At our check-up the other day, our pediatrician noticed the redness and suggested hydrocortizone cream.

I would have never thought to use hydrocortizone on my baby's face and was weary of it at first.  However, after just a tiny, little dab on each cheek, her face has completely cleared up!  I will continue to use the Aquaphor after baths and before bed to prevent the dryness from returning, but the hydrocortizone was a great tip.  I only had to use it once and barely put any on her not-so-little cheeks.  Give it a try if your kid has dry skin.  It might help!   : )

Oh, and for all of my pregnant friends out there, register for Aquaphor.  It's a little expensive but has many uses.  It seems like you can get free samples at a lot of baby related stores.  The Aquaphor samples are small but last a long time.  Keep your eyes peeled for the freebies!  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Growth Charts for Babies

Scenario #1
Stranger:  "Aw, your baby is so cute!  How old is she?  About 7 months?"
Me:  "7 months?!  Hah, no.  She's barely 3 months old."
Stranger:  "Oh, I'm sorry.  I (stuttering), I didn't mean anything..."

The conversation trails off with said stranger apologizing and me thinking he has nothing to apologize for....

Scenario #2
Setting:  Backyard barbeque with old work colleagues
Friend:  "How old is she?"
Me:  "3 months."
Friend:  (after staring at my child like there is something terribly wrong with her)  "Wow, she's big."  (followed by yet another long pause to stare at my freak child)
The friend seemed to be genuinely concerned about the size of my daughter.

Interactions like those listed above happen every single time we leave our house.  People have commented so much about my daughter's size that I just go ahead and bring it up first in order to get it over with.  Yes, I have a big baby.  Look at me.  Look at my husband.  I would be worried if she did not have fat rolls everywhere.

Now, I know my daughter is healthy.  I know she doesn't eat more than babies her age are supposed to eat; and I know she is built EXACTLY like my husband.  Yet, somehow I've let all of the "your baby is fat" stares and comments worry me.

Yesterday, my daughter had her 4 month check-up with the pediatrician.  I had been eagerly awaiting this particular appointment to make sure our baby isn't unhealthily large.  Four months and 4 days into her little life, she weighed in at 15lbs, 14 oz and measured 25" long.  Weight, length, and head circumference all fall in the 90s for growth percentile.  The nurse ran the tests, took the measurements, and went to tell the doctor we were ready for her.  As my husband and I waited, we had a minute to mull over the fact that our barely 4 month old little girl weighs almost 16lbs.  I know she's gotten heavier, but I had no idea she weighed that much.

The doctor quickly entered the tiny examination room and was a delight as always.  She loves Emma (as I'm sure she loves all of her patients) and gave her a clean bill of health.  "She's perfect.  Whatever you're doing, keep doing it."  : )

I almost felt ridiculous for asking, but I did.  "Is she too big?"  The doctor reaffirmed my beliefs that she is perfectly fine.  She's bigger than a lot of 4 month old babies, but she is proportionate and obviously has our genes.  : )  She does fall in the 90s when compared to other babies, but that doesn't mean she's a freak.  It means she is at least as big or bigger than 90% (or 98%) of other babies her age.  There are still babies out there who are bigger than she.

After a wonderful visit to the pediatrician, I have this to say to everyone who gives me a hard time about my kid:

Again, my kid is big.  Look at me.  Look at my husband.  Now, get over it.

No longer will I just jump into a discussion of my baby's size every time I go out.  : )  She's healthy, happy, and perfect.

If you would like to track your baby's growth, click here for an interactive growth chart.  Plug in your information, and the website will generate an accurate growth chart for your child.  If you haven't seen a growth chart or would like to read more about what the chart represents, click here.  If you have a baby who is perfectly average in size, congratulations!  If you're like me and have a baby who is a little big or even a little small, don't let those averaged sized baby mothers, bully you!  : )

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Postpartum... Baldness???

Are there any other new mothers out there who are finding themselves shedding quite a bit more hair than usual?  Anyone else feel like an animal departing with his winter coat?

I had a baby 4 months ago and for the last few weeks, I have been shedding piles of hair... literally.  I pull out a handfull or two of hair at least 3 times a day, particularly in the shower or when I'm brushing.  In addition to the trash can full of hair in the bathroom, strands drop to the floor every time I even touch my head.  I'm constantly finding long, blonde hairs on my daughter's clothes and tightly gripped in her little hands.  This morning, I found a hair wedged in her wrist roll!

Naturally, fearing for the inevitable baldness that is to come should I continue down this bizarre path, I turned to the lovely internet for help.  Again, I was surprised to see that yet another weird postpartum experience of mine is a legitimate concern for others as well.  Postpartum hair loss is a real thing.

According to BabyCenter.com, when our hormones are returning back to the pre-pregnancy state, many of us shed additional amounts of hair.  If you want to learn more, click on the BabyCenter link.  I read many articles, but the one above seems to be the most concise.  Basically, the vitamins and extra estrogen in our bodies, while pregnant, decrease the amount of hair loss (for most women) during those 9 months.  Once we've given birth, our hair apparently decides to make up for lost time and take a nose dive from our, now worried, scalps.  Not all women experience this, but those who do are probably just as freaked out as I have been.  BabyCenter also mentions that it is more noticeable for those of us with longer strands.  This definitely explains why I didn't see a decrease in hair loss after chopping 8" in desperation.   My hair is still way too long.  Too bad a pixie cut wouldn't suit the shape of my face.  Perhaps the hair loss would be less obvious if I just shaved my head.  That might confuse my daughter though.  She would mistake me for her father.

Now that we know why our hair falls out, what can we do to stop it?  Apparently, nothing.  It's supposed to go back to normal within 6 to 12 months (babycenter.com).  Fantastic!  I have an entire year to be bald!  All I can say is that I better have my hair back before her 1st birthday pictures.

In all seriousness though, I'm going to start taking vitamins again.  That should help.  I hope.

Update:  Three kids later and this whole postpartum baldness thing has been in full force EACH time.  Seriously.  I have legit bald spots all over my head.  It starts about 6 months or so after each kid is born.  This time, however, I'm going to combat it with ItWorks Hair, Skin, and Nails!  :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Scrumdiddlyumptious Cheese Ball Recipe

I love being invited to neighborly functions, but I never know what to make as a contribution to the yummy assortment of food.  My husband and I are heading over to the neighbor's tomorrow evening, and as I racked my brain this morning, trying to decide what I should take, I finally settled on a CHEESE BALL.

I use all caps when I say CHEESE BALL because it is the most delicious CHEESE BALL ever.  Well, at least my family thinks so.  The recipe has been handed down from generation to generation....  Not really....  One of my ex-stepmothers taught it to me, but "generation to generation" makes it sound much more intriguing.  It's a super easy recipe, and I'm sure it's common knowledge to many.  However, on the off chance you haven't tried it, I would like to share it with "ya'll".   : )  Even if you don't usually like cheese ball, you'll love this one.

BEST CHEESE BALL EVER
2 packs of cream cheese
2 oz chopped corned beef (1 pack of Carl Budding tastes great and is super cheap)
1/2 cup or more of chopped green onion (green stems only)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Accent

Just mix all ingredients together.  It is best to do it with your hands.  This recipe makes enough cheese ball for quite a few people, but I usually double it.  If you prefer to use low-fat cream cheese, feel free to try it, but it isn't nearly as tasty.

Buy some Ritz crackers, and you're good to go!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Postpartum Insomnia: Help!!!

It is well past midnight, and here I sit.  I've gone through periods in my life where sleeping has been difficult, but I've never experienced anything like this.  It seems to be taking over, and like many other moms dealing with this, I am at a breaking point.

According to an article I read by Olivia Gordon from The Sunday Times, postpartum insomnia (or postnatal insomnia) can morph from difficulty sleeping after the baby is born into a chronic habit.  Many women have trouble sleeping in the first few weeks after delivery.  This is natural, especially if breast feeding.  The baby needs to eat every 2 hours or so and hasn't quite fallen into a routine.  Eventually, the baby begins sleeping through the night, and the mom is supposed to let out a sigh of relief and get much needed rest as well.  What are you supposed to do when that doesn't happen??

My daughter is 4 months old today.  She has been sleeping through the night for months, but I can't sleep.  If I do fall asleep, it seems to be around 3:30 in the morning.  The baby wakes up at 5:30.  Yay for me!  Two whole hours of sleep!  Even when I do fall asleep, the slightest movement or noise wakes me because my body is so on edge.  Oh, and what do I do from the time I try to go to bed until the time I actually succumb to the overwhelming desire to rest?  Why, I imagine the absolute most terrifying, horrific scenarios possible, of course!  My brain is on overdrive and pulls my heart through the ringer.  I can't stop thinking.  The worst part is that the house is dark, the husband is asleep and does not understand at all, and I obsess over the baby monitor.  I hear sounds that do not exist.  I am completely alone and can't stop my brain from dragging me into these horribly dark places.

Morning finally comes and as happy as I am to see daylight and have the baby to distract me, I know that I'm only getting up to do the same thing all over again.  I'm exhausted, so forget accomplishing anything productive around the house.

For many women, postpartum insomnia is part of postpartum depression, but I don't have the depression.  I find myself incredibly depressed in the middle of the night when I'm in those pits of darkness, but during the day, I'm the happiest I've ever been.  I don't know what to do, but I know this has to stop.

My husband actually calmed me down enough tonight to where I felt as though I would fall asleep.  Just as I was drifting off, he woke me up.  Naturally, he came back to bed and immediately passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow.  This isn't fair.

Every article I'm reading says to try sleeping pills.  All of the women say they didn't want to take medication to help with sleeping but regretted waiting so long once they finally decided to start.  I know I should probably find some sort of pill to take, but my fear is that I won't wake up if the baby needs me. What if I'm so out of it that I don't hear her cry?  Lord knows my husband wouldn't wake up if a train came crashing through the house.  Plus, I hate taking medicine anyway.  I feel as though I'm alone on an island here.  I wouldn't mind trying therapy (recommended in another article I read), but I live 2 and a half hours from the nearest city.  It isn't possible at the moment.

I don't know what to do, but it is slightly comforting knowing that postpartum insomnia is a real problem, and I'm not just losing my mind.  I need help.

If you think you might be suffering from postpartum (or postnatal) insomnia, I've included links to a few interesting articles below.

Sunday Times
When It Isn't the Baby Keeping You Awake
Insomnia in the Postpartum Period
Therapy Instead of Meds

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hoping for a Better Place

In light of recent publicized events and the all-too-many verbal fights I have gotten myself into, I'm writing my daughter a letter (in my journal to her) and sharing it below.  As a high school teacher on "the rez", I have lost far too many students and have had too many kids attempt suicide, cut themselves, abuse drugs and alcohol, and force themselves into lives of internal hatred and disgust simply because they are terrified to show their true selves.  As a nation, we are leaps and bounds from where we were just 60 years ago.  In such a short amount of time, we have accomplished a great deal.  However, the stupid things that continue to occur every single day (and that is exactly what they are, STUPID) are just mind boggling.  Shouldn't we be past this?

My mother reminded me of this fabulous Shel Silverstein poem the other day:

No Difference
Small as a peanut,
Big as a giant,
We're all the same size
When we turn off the light.
Rich as a sultan,
Poor as a mite,
We're all worth the same
When we turn off the light.
Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.
So maybe the way
To make everything right
Is for God to reach out
And turn off the light!

I realize that my utopian society, where everyone is loved and respected for who they truly are, will never exist, but I hope for my daughter....

Emma,
I hope and pray that you will grow up to be a healthy, unique, strong woman.
I hope you realize the world is at your fingertips and it is yours to do with what you will.
I hope you understand that everyone is different and similar at the same time.
I hope you treat every single person you meet with respect and love.
I hope you discover your talents and run with them.
I hope that no matter what, you are proud of who you are.
I hope you feel confident being your true self.
I hope you find your voice and never let it be silenced.
I hope you know God created you with a purpose.
I hope you love yourself as much as I love you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Overcoming (or at Least Confronting) My Fears for the Sake of My Daughter

When one gives birth to a beautiful child, she realizes what is truly important in life.  Nothing in the world means more than that little baby, and as a mother, you will do absolutely anything to protect her and give her the best life you possibly can....

This is where I find myself between a rock and a hard place.  In order to raise this little girl the right way and help her become a confident, strong young woman, I have to be confident and strong.  This has been particularly difficult to do lately, and I'm realizing more and more every day that I must confront my worst fears.  I honestly don't see myself overcoming the worst of the worst, but I have to at least get a grip on it so that I can pretend.

Imagine how difficult this would be if you wake up to a house infested with Brown Recluse spiderlings and you suffer from arachnophobia.  Ok, maybe my house isn't infested, and maybe I don't have arachnophobia, but both are pretty darn close.  When I see a spider or know there might be a spider anywhere near me, I freeze up.  My skin tightens and crawls; I shake but seem to not be able to move, and I cannot breathe.  I panic.  Though I'm completely freaking out, I can't function enough to do anything about it.  The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is check the ceilings and walls for spiders; I can't use a bathroom without thoroughly checking every nook and cranny for the vicious beasts.  I continue checking all day, everyday, and again before bed (4 or 5 times).  If there is a spider in my bedroom and I know it is there, I will not sleep.  Naturally, I'm even more paranoid now that I have a little girl to protect.

Because we live in the high desert and have an open field behind our house (full of tall weeds and bushes), there are plenty of terrifying insects around.  Nothing has been as scary or traumatizing as seeing a Black Widow behind my soap while I was showering.  Naturally, I ran (after temporarily paralyzed), naked and screaming,  to my knight in shining armor (my husband), and he killed the intruder.  However, waking up to 7 to 10 new Brown Recluse spiders every single morning is proving rather difficult as well.  I've researched them, and they appear to be spiderlings.  They just keep coming and coming.  We kill (well, my husband kills) at least 10 each day.  If you're offended by the mass murdering of spiders in my household, get over it.  As long as there are spiders near me, there will continue to be deaths of spiders near me.

Back to the point at hand, I don't want my daughter to be afraid of spiders....  What to do, what to do....  I know that when she is old enough to understand, I'll have to pretend that the spiders don't bother me, that they're our friends and all that garbage.  I have practiced.  I had to suppress the natural urge to cringe, vomit, and writhe in pain in order to calm my niece who did not think a certain spider needed to be on her slide.  "He's good because he helps scare other bugs away."  Yea, that's what I really wanted to say.  NOT.  I really wanted to grab her hand and run for the hills.  Anyway, I'll be able to do it.  It will be ok.  I can pretend to be strong for my kid.  I get all of that.  Right now is the problem.  I'm too afraid to kill the spiders when my husband isn't home to do the dirty work for me, but I don't want to risk the chance of one touching my daughter.

The other day, I decided to bust out the vacuum and suck them up.  I stood on a dining room chair with the vacuum attachments stacked to the longest length possible and ran the vacuum for at least 20 minutes before finally mustering up the courage to attack the first spider.  Shaking and cringing so much that I lost feeling in my neck and arms, I went around the house and vacuumed up 9 spiders, save the one I couldn't reach.  When I was finished, I let the vacuum stand and run for a good half hour just to make sure none of the spiders would crawl out and get me.  And yes, I had to leap at the vacuum to turn it off and run away very fast for fear of touching the spider death machine again.

I'm doing it.  I'm trying.  I really am.  I'm trying with all of my might to confront this consuming fear.  Hopefully, I'll have a better handle on it when my daughter is a few years older.

Although every single bit of this is true, the spider is merely a metaphor for every other fear that is keeping me from being the best parent I can be.  You have to let go of the things that are holding you back if you want to move on and allow yourself to love wholeheartedly.   : )

Help Your Baby Become a Genius! : )

Motor Skills & Hand-Eye Coordination
Well, maybe your baby won't become a genius, but I have a few tips and tricks to share that will help your little one develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  According to age based milestones, my child shouldn't be able to grasp hanging toys just yet.   That is supposed to happen between 4 and 8 months.  However, Emma started grasping the toys hanging from her bouncer and play mat at just 2 weeks into her 3rd month.

Babies typically start batting at toys at 3 months.  Emma (probably on accident) started very early.  I am a high school teacher by trade and have no experience teaching babies or small children, but I do know that positive reinforcement is a fantastic teaching method.  I thought I would try it with Emma even though she's "supposed" to be too young to accomplish certain tasks.  As soon as I saw that first attempt at batting the little hanging hippo, I kissed her little hand and made lots of high pitched, excited sounds.  Then, I took her hand and held it to the hippo a few more times, kissing her hand each time.  Once we practiced a few times, she began swatting at it frequently.  Every time I saw her doing it, I would kiss her hand and praise her.  After a day or two, she was batting at every hanging toy she could find.  it was only a couple of weeks before she was able to grasp them.  Of course, upon her first grasp, the kisses and praise were abundant.  Now, she is much more skilled at grasping than before, but she still has a few more days to go before reaching 4 months of age and is learning to do new things every day.  Positive reinforcement is the key.

As I am an English teacher, and a total dork, I've been reading to Emma since she was born.  Every time we turn a page, I take her hand and ask her to help me.  I know she has no idea what I'm talking about and can't actually turn pages, but a few weeks ago, she started doing it on her own.  Maybe it's a total fluke, and she is just swatting at the pages, but she turns them in right direction and stops once a new page appears.  I used the same technique with the page turning as I did with the grasping.  She receives lots of praise and little hand kisses.  : )

Language Development
You can also use positive reinforcement to help your baby develop and understand language.  Most babies know what Mommy or Daddy means right away because of the repetition and consistency in faces.  You can use repetition to teach other words very early as well.  Another word Emma recognizes is "kisses".  Obviously, Emma receives lots of kisses from her mommy and daddy.  This sounds really silly, but in her 2nd month, I would ask her if she wanted "some kisses" and make kiss sounds.  I follow up with a kiss on the cheek.  We repeat this pattern numerous times a day, and now, she starts smiling and bracing for impact at the sound of the word alone.  Because of the repetition in sounds and actions, she is able to recognize the word.  If you're diligent in practicing, you could do this with any object or action.  : )

I know most of what I'm saying is common sense, and this next one is definitely obvious, but it never hurts to have a reminder.  : )  Repeat what your baby "says" to you.  As soon as Emma started making noises, I repeated them back to her so she would know that there is some sort of purpose for all of these sounds. Now, we have conversations every day.  I may have even created a monster.  She probably spends a total of 4 hours a day babbling.

*** Just be careful not to repeat incorrect words when your child is actually speaking and forming sentences.  When toddlers are learning vocabulary, they think they say words correctly but will naturally miss a pronunciation here and there.  Adults think it's cute when little kids say things incorrectly, so they copy the child.  This can be confusing for the child who is learning the words and thinks he or she is saying them the right way.  If the child hears you copying the incorrect pronunciation, he or she tries to copy you again and the correct pronunciation is lost.  *** I learned this during my short time as a psychology major at IU.    

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sing to Your Baby

Sing, play music, speak in soothing tones, whatever it is you prefer to do... do it.  I love music.  I love singing, playing, listening... everything related to music, I love it.  As I want my child to love music as well, I started singing to her and having her listen to a variety of songs and genres while she was in my belly.

Now, we spend time each day singing and dancing to my favorite tunes.  When I'm in the shower, I sing "Amazing Graze" to her as she patiently waits in her bouncer.  When I'm cooking in the kitchen, we jam out to Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers.

I can honestly say Emma is so happy when I'm singing to her.  Her eyes light up, a huge smile stretches across her ridiculously chubby face, and she tries to laugh.  That little half laugh that sounds like a cough?  That's what she does.

Lately, her favorite song seems to be "The Only Exception" by Paramore.  She gets so excited when I sing the chorus.  It's probably because of the repetitive sounds and tones, but I like to think she knows the lyrics are meant for her.  : )

Everyone knows music is believed to help stimulate the baby's brain and emotional development, but if you would like to see the research for yourself, I've listed a few sites below that I have found helpful.

Baby Center:  Music and Your Baby
EduGuide
Education Oasis

Friday, October 1, 2010

Felt So Guilty Today

My daughter and I have a strict morning schedule.  I hear her through the monitor at around 5:30 am.  She wiggles violently in her crib until I pick her up.  If I get her right away (before the eyes begin to open), I can hold her in bed and get another hour or two of sleep.  Judge me all you want, but an extra hour or two of sleep is well worth the tiny visitor in the bed.

She'll be 4 months old in 6 days, and up until this past week, I had not slept through the night since well before she was born.  Even then, sleep was a rarity.  However, last week, I gave in.  The monitor clearly works, we have a pretty set schedule, nothing is going to happen to her while she's sleeping... she's fine.  I can sleep.

Sleep is great by the way.  : )  I had missed it terribly.  Last night's sleep was the best yet.  My head hit the pillow, and I was out.

"Jen, I just checked on her, and she's wide awake."

"What?"

"Emma's awake.  Her eyes are open, and she's just chillin' in her crib."

My husband wakes me up, and I look at the clock as I try to process what he's saying.  It's 6:47???  How is this possible?  Then, I look at the monitor, and IT'S OFF!  What?  How is it off?  More importantly, how did I not hear her?  She had to have been crying.  I wasn't there to rescue her from the wiggling as she woke.  After all those nights of no sleep for worry of missing even a blip of a cry, I had missed an entire morning of grunts and whines.

The sad thing is, I was way more upset than the Emma was.  She was perfectly happy in that crib.  She smiled when she saw me, just like she always does when she wakes up.  She probably didn't even cry.  I felt like the worst mother in the world, and still swear to never sleep again, but she was fine.

Sometimes, I think I need her more than she needs me.  : )