Friday, August 30, 2013

18 months next week!

I feel I should start calling Grace my "big girl" now instead of my "baby girl." Any time now, I know her constant gibberish will be understandable words (though she already says quite a lot of real words). She will eat almost anything. Unfortunately that includes dirt, rocks, and any plant life she finds. She climbs, tumbles, and pretty much runs everywhere rather than walking. She loves water, music, reading, and being around other people. Grace is a social, smart, energetic, sweet, fun girl.

This is such a good picture of Grace, but unfortunately it reminds me that we allowed her to watch a couple episodes of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood", a really great cartoon based on the land of make-believe from "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". I don't really want her watching TV yet, and even after four or five days of no TV, she will still pull me over and ask for "Tiger". Surely one of these days she will forget!

Schools here have been back in session for a couple weeks now, but none of my own activities have started yet. Since May I have been out of town about half the time, and it seems that when we're at home, half of that time we have guests staying with us. While all the traveling, visiting friends, and seeing family is so fun, I feel very disconnected from my actual life here at home. Between all our travel and out-of-town company, and other people traveling, I have pretty much lost touch with any friends I used to have here. I guess I'll be kind of starting over in that department once our fall activities start in the next couple weeks.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

15 Months...yesterday

Right now on my laptop (which mostly resides on a kitchen counter because that's kind of where the center of my life is), I have open: twitter, facebook, email, an infant acetaminophen dosage chart, a crock pot recipe for chicken thighs, Quicken, a Caring Bridge page for the son of a friend of mine who is having surgery today, the description of a book that has just come out in which a friend of mine has written an essay, and the 10-day forecast for the area where my in-laws and sister live.

Today I am a friend, a mother, a nurse, a chef, a prayer warrior, an expert packer, a financial manager, a house cleaner, and the laundry lady. Interesting what a quick peek at my open windows reflects about my life.

Grace had her 15-month appointment today at the doctor. (Which is why I'm a nurse today. Three shots lead to a low fever and an irritable little person.) She's taller than I had imagined she would be, though that's still just an average height. She's skinny, but not unhealthy. No surprise there. She's smart and talks a lot, some of which we can understand. I guess the average number of words a 15-month-old says is 5-7. Grace says about 25 or so. I'm so proud that she knows body parts like nose, mouth and eyes, but can also differentiate between feet and toes, fingers and hands, and even knows eyebrows! She desperately wants to eat with a fork and spoon, and is adept at putting food from utensils into her mouth even though she can't spear or scoop food onto them on her own yet. She climbs. She can scale the kitchen table in 30 seconds...or less. Emotionally and socially she seems perfectly healthy at this point. No indicators of autism or anything.

I wish I had written down the first day I noticed that she had books memorized. It was maybe a couple months before she turned one. I was randomly reciting a line from one of her books while doing something in the living room. Three minutes later, she came up to me with that particular book from her room and wanted me to read it to her. Now she says certain words on page when we get to that part of a book: "Pop, pop, pop!" or "No!" or "Yes!" or "Plop".

It's a little bit sad that her sinful nature is starting to shine through. She now gets frustrated or angry when I stop her from doing something. Trying to bite me is her favorite form of retaliation. Or sometimes she clenches both fists in protest. I feel the need to do some research on discipline and time-outs for this age!

No matter what, I love her to pieces. We are so proud of the fun, friendly, smart, loving, curious, active little girl that she is.

OK, now on to the next task: expert packer!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

No one needs to teach me to feel guilty or worried.

Our dry cleaner told me yesterday that her sister is a great-grandmother to a one-year-old boy, and, of course, her great-grandson is a "genius." Our dry cleaner went on to explain that he can't walk yet and apparently only says one word, "da-da", so she asked me when Grace started walking and if she says words. This was supposed to prove that her sister's great-grandson is indeed NOT a genius.

Here's something I've learned: just don't even talk about your child's milestones and developments to people other than grandparents (or maybe not even them if they tend to not agree that your child is the most beautiful, intelligent, gifted little person on the planet). Inevitably a comparison contest ensues and, no matter how advanced or gifted your own child is, you will end up worrying that your child is not growing and learning appropriately.

I tell my daughter all day long that I think she's the most beautiful girl in the world, that she's super smart, that she's so gifted, and that she's the happiest, most fun child ever. I just don't mention it to other people. Moms can do an adequate job all by themselves of feeling guilty and not good enough.

If we spend week after week in busyness, travel, hosting visitors and enjoying play dates, I feel guilty that I'm not letting Grace get enough sleep or quiet, which is detrimental to her growth and development. If I spend a week or two with very little social engagement, I feel lonely and that I'm harming my child by not offering adequate stimulation. If Grace eats less than normal for a day, I worry that she'll not grow properly or is sick, and if she starts eating a ton of food at every meal, I think in the back of my mind that maybe I'm offering her more than she really needs, though I never actually withhold food from my growing baby girl. See? No matter what I do, I can achieve the feeling of "not good enough."

So, this post by Jon Acuff is perfect: satan's favorite word.

My lesson for today? Accept (again!) that I am not enough. Focus on where I am right now and what God's doing right now, right where I am. Enjoy life, as imperfect as it is, right now. When I read or listen to people younger than I, it makes me realize how much I took for granted or didn't appreciate when I was in that different stage of life. So, in ten or twenty years, what will I look back on and think I didn't appreciate enough? I'm trying to anticipate those things and really enjoy and soak them up now: health, energy, stamina, Grace as a toddler, older family members, life with one child...

Focusing on what I'm not "enough" of or how things "could" be takes me out of the present and removes me from being thankful to God for His provision today.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Just a normal day

So, here's how the day's been thus far.

1.       Grace ingests approximately half of a TUMS tablet (and scatters half of the rest of the bottle of TUMS all over the floor). I call poison control to hear that she’ll be fine and get her to drink 4 oz. of water. Right. She doesn’t want more than two swallows. Maybe they meant 4 oz. over the next three hours.

2.       Between a leaky diaper, messy breakfast, and some spit-up (probably thanks to the TUMS), there are about three wardrobe changes before leaving the house.

3.       Even though we’re now ten minutes late for our play date at the children’s museum, Mommy needs a coffee. It’s almost 10 a.m. and half the city apparently also needs coffee. Somehow we’re still only ten minutes late to the museum.

4.       Grace is skipping her morning nap. Instead, she joyfully walks all over the children’s area of the museum putting all of the nasty play toys in her mouth. The low point is when I catch her putting an old chewed-up piece of gum in her mouth. She has a grand time.

5.       Or maybe the low point was when, five minutes after I put a dress-up hat on my head, some other moms come in proclaiming the lice infestation of several weeks ago seems to have started at this very museum, so don’t let your kids put the hats or scarves on their heads. You can check back in a couple days to see if our home becomes infested with lice or hand, foot and mouth disease…or both.

6.       All the business people at our chosen lunch venue are ecstatic to have the opportunity to dine with a 13 month-old, a 2-year-old, and a four-year-old while their moms attempt to converse while feeding and refereeing said children.

7.       Traffic is horrendous on the way home. So, of course, Grace falls asleep for about twenty minutes and awakens when we arrive home.

8.       I decide to let her play outside in the fresh air so maybe she’ll be tired enough to take an actual real nap in an hour. Much dirt and one small rock are ingested. Wardrobe change number four ensues. (Or maybe number five? I really lost count after the first three.)

9.       Has she even had 4 oz. of water yet today? I make her drink some more for good measure. (This also ensures that the rock is all the way down in her stomach and her mouth is no longer muddy.)

10.   After some books and a couple songs, I finally just decide to put a very non-sleepy little girl in her crib. She flails about, yelping and making other noises, for about 25 minutes. Just as I am about to consign myself to grumpiness and crying for the rest of the day, I hear…nothing. She has finally given up and fallen asleep.

 As I type, the nap is going on 40 minutes. At lunch, my friend and I were discussing how much another friend seems to get done in a day and we both come to the conclusion that she has one of the easiest children in the world. (We also decide you can never, ever compare yourself with other moms. It's always detrimental and completely useless.) That makes me realize that I don’t ever really think Grace is a difficult child. Sure, she is one of the quickest, most active children I know, but she is also one of the most social and happy. There are hard, hard moments in motherhood, but when I look at Grace’s face I can’t help but be overwhelmed with my love for her and gratefulness that I get to be her mom. I just need to concentrate on the big picture.

And drink enough caffeine to keep up with her.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So, Grace is one! (2 weeks ago!)

Recently two friends have given birth to their first children. Looking at their pictures stirs up conflicting emotions.

A.   I look at Grace and realize how big she’s gotten in the past year. All the growing happens so stealthily; living life with her means I barely notice as she fills out and gets taller.
B.   I feel sad that my little baby is no longer a little baby. She’s a little toddler (sort of…as soon as she decides to take the time to practice walking a bit more). I remember those first months where I didn’t think I could stare at her beautiful face too much or hold her in my arms long enough or love her more than I do. Heck. I guess I still feel that way!
C.   I feel relief that those first 3-6 months of endless nursing, pumping, and getting up in the night are over. (OK. We were blessed to have a baby who did her nights early on, but she had a hard time nursing and gaining weight so that was our big struggle.) And honestly, the relief could extend all the way through being done with the first 10 months since Grace took no more than two 20 minute naps a day between 5 and 10 months.
D.   So then, I feel empathy for those new moms who are living in the never-ending timeless days that stretch on and on. “Is it daytime or nighttime?” “Can I possibly be more tired than I am right now?” “Done nursing. We have to start again in a mere hour and a half.” “I hear crying in my head…all the time!”
E.   I also feel so happy for these new moms and the overflowing joy they are surely experiencing! It is hard to contain or express all the love!
F.    I hope sincerely that these new moms do not take their child for granted. Grace was our miracle after a long road of infertility and miscarriage, but truly every child is a miracle.
G.   I still remember how much looking at these new baby pictures a couple years ago would have been impossible for me to do without feeling some anger and grief – and definitely shedding some tears.

Part of the sadness I feel now looking at these pictures is the uncertainty I have that I will ever get to be pregnant and give birth again. I’ve said it before, but infertility and miscarriage can be described like being an amputee. Just as an amputee is so grateful to have his other limbs and his life, I am beyond thankful to have Grace with us. But the amputee has every right to still feel grief over the loss of a limb. I still grieve over the loss of our first child, and if I cannot have more biological children as we want, I will grieve that as well. It does not lessen my love or thankfulness for the daughter God has given us.

Now that I am a mom, I realize how much time moms spend talking to one another about their kids and discussing various parenting dilemmas. Before I even ever got pregnant I was tired of other people’s advice (which included everything I should try to get pregnant, why I should adopt, which doctors to go to, and on and on). Wisdom is understanding what works for you and that everyone is different. Wisdom is not forcing your opinion on anyone else or criticizing someone else’s parenting method (short of abuse and neglect, of course). Thankfully I’ve only had a few people vehemently tell me I am going about things the wrong way and their way is the ONLY way. I never want to do that to someone else.

Those of us who have children after infertility struggle with feeling a little bit guilty when we have complaints about our children. After all, our children are miraculous gifts for which we waited a long time, endured pain and trials, and spent a bunch of money; we should be nothing but grateful, right? I try to remind myself that the problems and complaints of being a mom are just another facet of parenting that I have the privilege of experiencing when I didn’t think it would ever happen.

On the other hand, I’m trying to just keep my mouth shut when I’m with others when it comes to the complaining. I’d much rather keep track of the joys my daughter brings me and share those things with others. I’m still real and honest, but no one likes to hang out with a complainer…no matter what the subject matter.

This past year has been so slow and super fast. Grace is a fun person and a truly happy little girl. It warms my heart to see John with her and know that Grace will grow up knowing without a doubt how much her dad loves her and thinks she is beautiful and special. I love Grace’s smile and her laugh. Even after a year, it still breaks my heart when she cries (although I know perfectly well it’s unavoidable and sometimes good for her). We still don’t know what color her eyes are, but they are gorgeous. We have so much fun as a family of three and look forward to things getting better and better every day!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Square TV

Sometimes I read other people's blogs and think, "When do those moms with small children ever have time to watch TV?"

I watch exactly three shows, but never, EVER in real time, and it's honestly been about three or four weeks since I've been caught up on two of those three shows. The one show I keep up with is Downton Abbey. (As in, sometime during the week I find time to watch the most recent episode in multiple parts, on the computer, usually while folding laundry.)

And this is the reason why we still have a square TV....and no cable. I can't tell you the last time I watched live television, and (other than Downton Abbey, which I watch on the computer) it's been several weeks since I've even used the Huluplus. This does not make a good case for spending money on a new TV.

This week I had to avert my eyes from numerous blog posts containing spoilers, and heard several times about how sad this week's episode of Downton Abbey was, so I decided to watch sooner this week rather than later.

Even knowing it would be sad did not prepare me. I (along with every other Downton Abbey viewer who has a heart) could not keep the tears from flowing over a fictional story and a fictional character. That's some great writing...and acting. It probably is so emotional because, though a fictional show, the situation is real. It's happened to people I know...or some similarly distressing, life-threatening situation involving babies and mothers.

In fact, I'm praying right now for a little baby girl named Berkley who is a week old and in the NICU with an, as yet, unspecified genetic disorder that's causing all sorts of medical and developmental issues. I can't keep the tears from coming when I pray for her and her family, or when I look at my own daughter and think, "What a miracle she is!"

After having a nephew who was born four months early, going through infertility, losing a baby, and now having a biological baby girl who is an undeserved gift, I perhaps feel a little bit more deeply about motherhood, infertility, and giving birth than I otherwise would have. It's funny how grief and joy are so intertwined and intense.

Would we truly appreciate and understand joy without experiencing grief?

Once again this year, in honor of our first child, we're making a gift to Compassion's Child Survival Program, which helps save the lives of babies and mothers in poverty. I guess being able to give to Compassion is just one more reason to go ahead and keep the square TV.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pointing, Reaching, Stretching

A couple days ago I thought I noticed Grace pointing with her little pointer finger. I confirmed this morning that she has learned how to point to things she wants (this morning it was yogurt).

Although I never measure her, and her clothes all still seem to fit, I can tell Grace is growing taller based on which shelves on the bookcases she can reach. She has now started pulling down books form the top shelf of the bookcase in her room. Guess I'm going to need to relocate all those paper books I've been keeping out of her reach! I also need to reorganize the other bookcases since they're a mess of piled up, randomly stacked books that have migrated up to higher and higher shelves as Grace's reach extends.

Every time I remember Grace's first birthday will be here in just over a month, I want to cry. How can she be getting this old already? Of course, I'm also so happy to see her growing and developing and excited to see what she'll be like next month...or next year!

Recently, I've decided being a stay-at-home mom is perhaps not the healthiest or most natural job for me. Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't go back to work, and I can't imagine not spending so much time with my daughter now that I've gotten to be here at home with her for almost a year. It's just that I think I might be a bit more anxious (about everything!) than other stay-at-home moms. I still find myself worrying all the time about whether she's sleeping enough, whether I'm messing up by not letting her put herself to sleep most of the time, whether she's eating enough, whether I'm adequately balancing allowing her to be independent and having secure attachment with John and me, how I'm going to wean her, if she should be drinking from a cup already, whether she is getting enough social interaction, and the list could go on and on. Maybe every first-time mom thinks about these things often. I just feel like these are the things about which I am almost always thinking. Worrying is probably the more accurate word.

Also, is it really OK to get as little done as I am currently getting done? After a glass bowl shattered into a million pieces at lunch the other day (because I left it too close to Grace...or her reach had yet again extended!), I realized maybe one of the reasons I get less done is that I end up spending 45 minutes or an hour trying to clean up tiny shards of glass from everywhere in the kitchen...or instead of a quick diaper change before heading out the door, I have to clean up a blow-out complete with an outfit change...or rather than a 15-minute breakfast, Grace is ravenously hungry and keeps eating and eating and eating so breakfast lasts 45 minutes. When we get to the store, it takes ten minutes to put Grace's hat and coat on, get a shopping cart outfitted with the shopping cart cover, and belt my squirmy little girl into the cart seat. I used to be able to just walk into the store - it took a minute, tops. It makes me feel a bit better to realize how much extra time everything takes when I'm doing everything for me AND for Grace, or when I'm doing everything with a tiny child attached to my leg.

This is how my overly analytical mind works! It really helps to read books like How Children Succeed (Paul Tough). Now I have even more child-raising theories to ponder. (I thought it was actually a great book.)

All in all, I've decided I probably need to stop comparing myself to other moms. This most likely includes not getting on facebook except to post updates and pictures of Grace every once in a while for all those out-of-towners who like to watch her development. I made no New Year's resolutions, so maybe this can be my end-of-January resolution. Stop worrying could be another one, but that is honestly a life-long continual project for me! Being a mom is definitely stretching me.