Archive for the 'Parenting 101' Category

Babies Are Very Different Animals

Babies are different animals. Delilah is an owl, Ollie is a bunny.

That one time (OK, multiple times)  I used Ollie’s baby book to figure out what to expect from Delilah. HA!

It’s probably cliche, but worth re-mentioning because it has been nine months since Delilah was born and I’m still reminding myself of this: NO TWO BABIES ARE THE SAME. They can have the same DNA, be raised in the same household, have the same family pet, but they are all very different people and there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t know why I ever bothered looking at Ollie’s baby book (pictured) for hints about what to expect from D. They are very different animals. 

Her teeth came in at three months. His erupted at seven. She began crawling and holding herself up on things at eight months. He started at 10. He slept through the night at three months. She didn’t until seven months (blerg). It goes on and on. That is why, for new parents and those expecting No. 2, I urge you to NEVER, NEVER EVER compare your child to others. You can’t even guarantee siblings hit milestones at the same time, how are you going to hold your baby up to a neighbor’s, relative’s or friend’s child? Just don’t do it. Even books and websites can mislead.

Certainly there is an age range when children should be doing this and that, but don’t get hung up if your kid is late. And don’t be all braggy if your child is early. It does not mean you have some fancy Einstein baby.

So step away from the yardsticks (tempting as they are) and enjoy that baby. Because, let’s be honest, do you want an early crawler? No, no you don’t.

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Milestones and Musings

The cousins Christmas portrait was a bust. Nothing a meme can't fix!

The cousins Christmas portrait was a bust. Nothing a meme can’t save, though, amiright? Totally showing this to Delilah’s first love interest, BTW. “Hey Delilah, memba when you were a drooly old man? Lol!” Click for the gif.

Fair warning: This is another one of those looong, all-over-the-place posts. It’s not too late to resume facebooking (or whatever you were doing).

And They All Went the F to Sleep … 31 Days Later

I use the term “milestone” loosely when discussing a one-month old, but last night I got decent sleep (which I consider a milestone) because Delilah slept like a champ – up only twice to eat and went down without a bunch of drama and noisemaking. But it took some planning. J stayed up till after midnight with her forcing her to stay awake so she’d be tired once they went upstairs. I don’t remember us having to work this hard to get sleep with Ollie, but I am certain I have baby amnesia because I forgot like 75 percent of what it’s like to have a newborn and am continuously like, “Really, dude?!”

Mostly, though, I’m super-duper smitten with this child. Even when she is up for a three-hour stretch in the middle of the night griping about nothing, I’m like, damn. We’re lucky. Not to mention, I know it could be worse. I don’t even wanna know about colic.

Speaking of sleep, she’s also been napping in her big girl crib in her room. That makes me happy seeing her among her forrest creature friends in the nursery. And a little sad because that means, yup, another milestone.

What else? She also hit the 10-pound mark (and 23 inches), and is hella strong holding up that noggin and flexing those stems. Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

Here, Feel Like a Superhero for a Few Days. Then Imma Take it Away Like *Poof*! You’re Welcome. Signed, Hormones

You might recall in my previous post boasting about having super-human energy (especially for a new mom on zero sleep recovering from a c-section), plus weight loss like wut. Yeah, that is over, folks. I’m tired. Requiring my morning coffee again. Some of that weight that magically disappeared, magically returned. Not much, but enough that I’m on notice. Which also kind of sucks because I’m nursing and not supposed to be calorie counting. Oh, the paradox!

Which brings me to the fact that I was totally warned about all of this (although not by my OBGYN or all the Dr. Google’ing I’ve been doing about EVERYTHING under the natal sun). No, it was another mom who enlightened me.

So before we had Delilah, I reached out to a friend who, like me, has two kids and writes for a living. She’s a freelancer working from home and I wanted to see how she pulled it off because that’s my goal. She emailed me some amazing advice – down to earth and honest with a dose of funny, just what I needed, but I put off reading it because I got distracted by, um, being a new mom. There was one part in particular I regret not reading sooner. She warned me about the adrenaline/hormone boost you get right after birth and how even though it’s tempting, don’t’ give in. SLEEP. SLEEP, damn it! But I didn’t. And here I am. But it’s getting better.

Silver lining: that little boost came in handy when I was putting out a magazine FOUR days earlier than our normal deadline – just weeks after I was home from the hospital. If you call me supermom or wonderwoman or whatever, I promise not to be all modest about it. I summoned some gritty, primitive part of myself to make this happen, but that’s what you do when you want something bad enough. Or multiple things, in my case. And I’ll do it again. And every time I do it, it, too will get better.

I’m Sorry to Every Mom I’ve Judged for LHIP (Looking Haggard in Public)

Moms can be mean. Harsh. Judgey. Sometimes I’ll see a mom that just looks, um, beat. I think, man, just put some lipstain on or something. Comb yo hair. Lose the sweats. Put on some jeans, lady. But you know what? It’s not always that simple. Life goes on despite your desire to look and feel human.

Sometimes you have to go to the pediatrician looking like you just rolled out of bed (because you did. Because you were up half the night). Sometimes you go to family functions in a button-up flannel instead of that cute, new sweater because it’s easier to nurse with a button-up. Not that you’re doing it in front of everyone (because that’s taboo!), but still. It’s about function.

Sometimes you put off getting your hair did because there’s no time, or let’s face it, no money. It’s not that you don’t care. It’s not that you are oblivious that you have 2-inch roots. It’s not that you’ve given up. You haven’t given up, but there are greater needs and there’s a bigger picture and you know someday you will be your bad bitch self again, skinny jeans and all. Or you tell yourself that, anyway, to get through another day of sweats and spitup.

Seriously, though, being a parent is rough and we have to be easier on moms and dads. From now on, when I see a haggard mom (or look in the mirror), I’ll remember we’re doing the toughest job on the planet (no joke. Oprah knows what’s up) and we’re getting important shit done.

Time for My Guys

I know I can’t give Ollie equal time these days, but you better believe when we’re one on one, I make it count. Like last night during his bedtime, J was at band practice and Delilah was snoozing, so it was just the two of us. I loved curling up with him in his bed and, get this, reading WITH him, not to him. When did THIS happen?!

I remind him how proud I am of him. How big he is. How he’s my “sunshine” and my “best guy.” I indulge his goofy 4-year-old questions (they are endless), I applaud his sometimes hapless efforts to be independent,  but I also keep him in check if he’s pushing his luck. Because you can’t slack on the discipline as difficult as it can be to dish out to a preschooler when an infant needs you.

I thought it would be impossible to share love, attention, pride, joy, etc., between kids. I could not fathom it, right up until the day Delilah arrived. The good news is, you relish both kiddos for different reasons, at different times – sometimes together all at once. And there are moments when both are crying bloody murder and you’re just like fuckthisshit! And that passes.

You might be wondering how my relationship is going with the guy who got me into all of this trouble: J. I don’t know what to say other than, correction: Single moms, you have the toughest job on the planet. And to the people who help single moms – you are soooo awesome.

Having a partner keeps me sane at 3 a.m. when the baby is on her third hour of utter neediness and I want to sleep in the car; makes me laugh despite all the chaos and drama even though my face is too tired to smile; relieves me even if it means he has to stay up WAY late on a work night to entertain/wear out the baby; and takes Ollie pretty much everywhere with him and does his bedtime routine almost every night so I can care for the baby. In addition to all of this (and more), this past weekend, he managed to deck out the house – inside and out – with Christmas, pretty much all by himself (with Ollie’s supervision). I never think I care about Christmas decorations, but they instantly make me all fuzzy and gah when I see them. 

As for how J’s taking to fathering a baby girl, let’s just say a) he’s head over heels in love (naturally) and b) Delilah, you’re going to need ninja skillz if you ever want to hang out with boys before you’re 30. Sorry, but also, you’re welcome.

Parenthood: Often Unglamorous, Always Worthwhile

Kids are messy and smelly. They have the “deceptively innocent eyes” thing down pat. When they’re not busy being those things, they are pretty awesome.

Our first-ever guest blogger, Jamie Hope Bellagamba, is a wife/mom/baker/caretaker/homemaker extraordinaire! She shares why even though the precious moments seem few and fleeting with her gaggle of little girls, parenthood is so worth it

Shortly after my third child was born, I thought it would be fun to write a book for expectant parents that detailed all the things you need to know before you have children. Sort of a “What You Can Expect Your Life To Be Like After You’re Expecting and Junior’s Staring Up At You With Deceptively Innocent Eyes.” The following are a few pointers I was going to include in the book:

  • Ideas for where to store all of your nice stuff (that glass-topped table with a giant crack in it will be of no use to anyone).
  • Your best options for steam cleaners – even if you don’t have carpet. No telling where those bodily fluids are gonna end up!
  • Tips for staying awake while driving (chewing gum always works for me).
  • Quiet activities for the dreaded dinner hour—there ARE options besides Yo Gabba Gabba.
  • Quick, easy dinner ideas (because it’s hard to cook with a baby attached to your boob).

Sensing a theme? Talk about Debbie Downer! If this book was ever published, I would be responsible for single-handedly decreasing the birth rate in this country. What I’d written actually depressed me and had me wondering, aren’t there any positives to being a parent?

I think I can be forgiven for composing this list while taking care of a colicky newborn, a toddler and a preschooler, not to mention running a home-based baking business and seeing to the domestic needs of a husband who travels for work two weeks out of every month. Obviously I was tired and delirious – think I still am, and will be for a while.

The thing is, sometimes being a parent isn’t really much fun. Kids are messy and smelly. They take away your body, your sleep, your free time, your sanity – and yet, even during your worst day, there will be a moment that makes all the challenges worth it: a spontaneous kiss, a random “I love you, Mom,” and those far-between moments when you realize – for once – the kids aren’t fighting, but playing together as if they actually like each other. Life is peaceful.

And suddenly, your 9-month-old grabs your shoulder and pulls up to stand, then lets go, hovering there for a moment with a giant grin on her face.

Being a parent isn’t glamorous, and it certainly isn’t worthy of a medal of honor. But it sure feels good when a little person you created reaches a milestone like that.

On Gender-y Stuff

I love this 1981 LEGO ad. To me, this is the quintessential happy kid.

There are some things as a parent I’ve vowed not to obsess over. Because they’re a waste of time and energy and don’t matter when it’s all said and done. If they ever matter to my child, it won’t be because I made them seem important when he was growing up.

Gender-y stuff is a big one. I don’t get all bent when my son points out the princess castle EVERY DAY at preschool (instead of say, the firetruck). Or flip a lid when he wants to hold his male friend’s hand. Or is curious about my makeup and fake applies blush to his face.

Because, guess what? KIDS ARE KIDS.

They like all of the toys (and the boxes the toys come in – *especially* the boxes the toys come in) and rocks and water and bugs and things you and I don’t even see anymore. They like being with their friends. They like showing friends affection and enthusiasm with hugs and hand-holding. Kisses, even. This is an innocent time. I fully intend to let my son enjoy this time without any adult’s ideas of what a boy or girl should be.

Children care about having fun and exploring the world – they do not differentiate between blue and pink, gay and straight, feminine and masculine. No, it’s the adults who do that.

I know I’m not being very scientific here (if my use of “gender-y stuff” is any indication). There are entire fields of study built around this topic. I know it’s more complicated than a blog post. I’m not naive.

But I know shaming a child for going outside of his or her gender stereotypes does not help in raising a confident, empathetic person (given that’s what we aim for). Limiting a child to a certain color or toy or area of interest does nothing to encourage independent thinking or discovery. Yanking a doll from a little boy’s hand because it’s “for girls,” for example, is basically telling him girl-things are wrong. That and the fact that there are things, as a boy, you can’t and should not enjoy or want. Talk about totally cutting your child off from a major part of the human experience.

Me? I’d like to keep my son’s innocent years free from the confines of the sort of bizarre creature that is gender role stereotypes. Having a happy child is more important to me than pretty much anything else in this world.

Sometimes You Have to Make a Scene

FTFY

My BFF just posted this on FB and I say “damn straight” –

“I had words with a stranger in the Walgreen’s parking lot.
 I pulled up right next to her and saw her put a child no older than 3 in the front seat. She got in the driver’s side and started the car. The car window was open and the child was not wearing a seat belt.

‘Where’s her car seat?’ I asked.

‘Mind your own business,’ she said.

‘It’s my business if she ends up smashing into the windshield.’

I probably looked like a total jerk. I had my hands on my hips and was wearing a yellow hoodie, a black Goonies t-shit and my school ID on a Hello Kitty lanyard covered with ‘flair.’ I really was waiting to get punched in the face.

The adult huffed, got out of the car, grabbed the child and put her in the back seat.

The child didn’t say much or have much of a reaction. I waved at her and they left. I only wish I would’ve asked for the adult to secure the child with a seat belt. But I knew I had already asked too much.”

If you ever see a small child riding in a car without a car seat or booster, you have every right to say something. The car seat laws vary from state to state. In Illinois, kids have to have a car seat/booster until they are 8 years old. For parents who can’t afford a car seat, there is a great organization called Safe Kids USA that can help.

Parents: I Hope ‘YOU’ Already Know (Most of) This Stuff

Today I’m home with my sneezy, snotty, pouty, feverish toddler. What a coincidence that while my little guy rests, I’m downstairs writing a book review about raising a healthy, happy kid. Ha!

I genuinely enjoy reading about children’s health and wellness. I think there’s no such thing as too much information as long as it’s accurate and useful, and the reader is not what I call a psycho-OCD parent who thinks every sniffle is an emergency.

“YOU Raising Your Child” written by the New York Times bestselling authors and doctors Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz is the latest in child-rearing reads. Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’re familiar with these fellas and their YOU book franchise by now.

This isn’t just for first-time parents or parents with newborns – it covers parenting from birth to school age. In just fewer than 500 pages, the doctors break down the science of raising happy and healthy children. Most of it is review for anyone who is present and engaged in his or her role as a parent or parent-to-be.

The written and illustrated data on how the body works are helpful and fascinating, though – and I kind of love the comic-style of some of the drawings. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I learned about the intricacies of DNA, brain function, digestion, etc. I don’t remember high school bio class being this much fun!

What I really appreciate about this book is the humor peppered throughout. And although I agree things like a high-grade fever, broken bones or ADD are no laughing matters, if we’re serious ALL OF THE TIME, parenthood becomes a drag for everyone. Gladly, Roizen and Oz know how important it is to enjoy parenthood and laugh long the way rather than constantly be on pins and needles.

They say kids don’t come with a manual, but this book is at the very least a good companion to this important – and let’s not forget fun – journey.

Boobs. So What?

It was a little overboard for Sesame Street to axe the very cute, very innocent Katy Perry/Elmo duet about playing dress up to the tune of “Hot N Cold.”

The argument parent-censors are posing is that her cleavage is too racy for the preschool set.

I don’t get it.

I think people who see sex in every little thing are kind of pervy. Not to mention, parents who are afraid they might have to talk about boobs or other body parts with their kids are just plain in denial.

And, I’m also biased. I’m amused by Perry’s goofy, colorful personality and find her way more kitschy and campy than sexy and lusty. Plus, I’m kind of addicted to the original version of this song.

Like everything in the universe, parents should be the ultimate decision-makers of what is OK and not OK to view at home. To expect TV to make those decisions is impractical and frankly, lazy parenting.

I have to add, though, it was mildly entertaining to debate this issue with a crazy lady on Chicago Parent’s Facebook fan page. I recoiled after she cited Eve and the devil in the Garden of Eden “for our need to view a body as sexual.”

And now, a look at famous boobs (some more figurative than literal) you and your kids have already seen …

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