Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In Billy Joel's Words: This is the Time to Remember

By Lori

Max and Halle playing peek-a-boo.
Do you ever just stop and look at your children? Really take them in? With the craziness life brings, sometimes just getting food on the table and hair brushed (yours and theirs) seems like a feat. The more children you add to the mix, the more obligations and commitments you have like preschool or MOPS, it seems the wilder the house gets and the faster time goes. You may find yourself anxiously awaiting the hands on the clock to signal nap time each day, but before you realize it, another week is gone. With life so busy, how can we remember all of their firsts (and lasts!)?

I am guilty of something. I do not write down as much as a should. Yes, I have a baby book for each of my children, and I write down their milestones. But there is so much more to children then their first baths, first words, or rolling over onto their bellies. Yes, those things are terrific and I want to remember those milestones, of course. But I don’t want to forget the details that make up who my children really are. 

I want to remember that after we eat, my son loves to get down from his seat at the table and sneak up and play peek-a-boo with Halle. They both laugh and laugh. I want to remember that Max’s 2-month obsession with Barney was replaced by Elmo, and now by Dora the Explorer and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I want to remember that Max fake sneezes complete with his hand over his mouth and nose. He recently learned all of his shapes and loves to count and say the alphabet. Sometimes we let him watch The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune, and he loves them. I don’t want to forget the way Halle army crawls around the first floor. If Max has a bowl of crackers, she moves at lightning speed. Literally, the girl will crawl for food. I want to remember her fondness for (of all things) puzzle pieces and Little People animals. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Crying for the Weary: Tips for Tear-Free Sleep Training

By Katie

My first daughter was an amazing sleeper, from the newborn stage and still is today at her present age of four. I truly believe I took this blessing for granted though, as I knew no different. When other moms would talk about the sleeping issues with their little ones, or parents would complain about poor rest on Facebook, I was not too sympathetic. I wasn't judgmental -- but I had no reference point. My kid slept well. That was all I knew.


Sleep is for the weak
Then along came Erinn. Oh my. This kid hates sleep. I blame it on my husband, of course, who is an admittedly poor sleeper. The biggest adjustment I had to make when we got married was him falling asleep with ear buds in, listening to podcasts to "distract" him from the idea of falling asleep. Sleep freaks him out. He doesn't like it. And neither does his youngest.

I  knew the first few months would be rough with a newborn sleep pattern, but when Erinn had made no progress at night and was refusing naps at nearly six months old, I realized she needed some coaxing. Read: I needed sleep and was desperate for a way to find it. I had heard about Elizabeth Pantley's book The No-Cry Sleep Solution and it had been on my list of things to read for, well, six months. I bought it on my e-reader and started reading it in small doses while nursing.

The first thing you should know about this book and method is that there is no specific formula. Yes, there are tips and suggestions and first-person accounts of what worked for particular families. But if you are looking for something regimented that gives you specific steps to sleep-filled bliss, this book will not do that for you.

In fact, when I first read it in a tired, exhausted haze I felt discouraged. I read ahead and skimmed through the pages looking for answers. I wanted to know how long it would take for my baby to start sleeping through the night and napping twice per day. Strike that. I wanted to know when my baby would start sleeping for any stretch longer than three hours at a time.

She hated bottles even more than she hated sleep, which meant that at the time I started to read Pantley's book, I too had not slept for longer than three hours at a time for nearly seven months. I was a hot mess looking for an intervention. There were no magical answers in the book -- no super tricks that would make these dreams come true for me. Just suggestions and guidance. 

That being said,  the book intrigued me. The first chapter was all about the science of baby sleep patterns. Pantley references the "normal" waking times for babies based on the sleep cycle and wouldn't you know it? Erinn's wake ups at night lined up with each one. I learned quickly that Erinn was not unusual after all; she was a normal, healthy baby that needed some extra guidance settling on her own when her body woke up naturally. This information was both helpful and annoying. Somehow I was supposed to battle nature and come out on top. But as I glanced at the bags under my eyes and my interesting hair style du jour, I decided it was something I needed to do for my baby -- but most importantly, for myself.

Challenge accepted, nature.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Skipping School: It's Just Preschool, Right?




Photo via simplysenia.com.
Is there a standard for when it’s acceptable to miss school? Is there an age or an excuse that makes it okay? I was faced with this dilemma this week with my preschool-aged daughter. 

Odds were against us on Tuesday morning, a freezing cold day. One of my 13-month-old daughters was on day three of a severe double ear infection. It was her first day with no temp, but she was up from 2 a.m. till close to 5 a.m. screaming in pain, her screams waking up her sisters, her dad, and, of course, me. When the alarm went off at 6:30, getting out of bed was the last thing on my mind. Then I checked the weather and it was a ridiculous 9 degrees outside.

Would you have kept your preschooler home? What if your child was a second grader? Would you call in sick to work? What and when is this practice okay? For me, I kept my preschooler home. I felt guilty, but I kept her home. I sent a text to her teacher, who was very understanding, and we stayed snuggled in. (Luck would have it, a mini unexpected blizzard started about 15 minutes before preschool pickup, so I was VERY glad I didn’t have to go out in that on top of the cold.)

For smaller children, skipping a day of preschool seems to be okay. Many moms say, “It’s just preschool” or, “You only live once.” That seems fair. I mean, we are talking about a 3-year-old here. It’s hard to make too many lifelong plans at 3. But does this set your child up for a future of skipping?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Siblings: A Lifelong Gift



By Lori

Hear that?  That’s the sound of laughter.  It’s coming from my living room. My children are playing together.  Over the last few months, the sounds in my house have transformed.  The children have gone from two very different little ones who didn’t do a lot of interacting to children who adore each other.  Halle has developed a personality and now that she has the ability to move around and smile, the children can play together and interact. 

The days immediately following Halle’s birth were not easy, and we were prepared for a time of adjustment.  Max was not even two yet and had his time of jealousy and curiosity while he realized that he was not the sole recipient of mom and dad’s attention any more.  His jealousy was apparent in the form of tantrums, constantly wanting to be held (he was still so young himself!) and of course, he was constantly curious about this little creature that showed up and stole his show.   We did our best to let Max know how very much he was loved.  That, in fact, she was not stealing the show and he had just gained a co-star.
 
This morning I heard a noise coming from our office.  We have framed photographs all over the place, and the bookshelf in the office is no exception.  I walked in the room to see Max rearranging the pictures. He was moving the framed individual photographs of him and his sister right next to each other on the shelf.  He was pointing and saying their names and showing me that he wanted their pictures on the same shelf, side by side, with nothing between them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Significance of a Year: Milestones During Preschool Drop-Off



By Rachael

Abigail on Megan's first day of preschool
I dropped off my oldest daughter at preschool the other morning and noticed something I had seen before, during a different season of life. The teacher had a pan of smooth ice on the floor in the carpeted play area. A pile of tiny toy cars and trucks sat off to the side, ready for wintry driving adventures. As I hugged Megan goodbye and headed out the door with her 1-year-old sister, Abigail, I realized just what a difference a year makes.

It was a chilly morning one year ago when I dropped Megan off for the first time. Because the curriculum in her class cycles back around each year, the teacher had that same slightly battered metal pan of frozen water on the floor, with the same pile of vehicles. She introduced Megan to another girl who was also new to the class, and the girls got down to business playing.

I said goodbye to Megan and left with Abigail, who was only two months old then. She was asleep by the time we got home. I brought her inside in her car seat carrier and set the whole thing gently on her bedroom floor. I shut the door and spent the next few hours writing, reading, and drinking hot tea.

That became our ritual two mornings each week. Take the older daughter to preschool, drive home, put the sleeping infant in her bedroom, and enjoy some rare quiet time to myself. Preschool mornings were sacred. I usually didn’t answer the house phone; often I took it off the hook entirely, although I left my cell phone on in case Megan's school needed to reach me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to Help Kids Through a Funeral

By Heather C.

Last week we found ourselves on a new journey. My grandfather-in-law passed away. We drove the nearly ten hours to attend the funeral and be with family. This was the first time my 3 ½ year old experienced a death in the family. Unsure of how to handle it, I readied myself with some parenting articles and turned a two-day funeral into a week-long vacation. 

Here are a few tips on making a death (especially an out-of-town death) easier on the little ones:

•    Be honest with them. When Lily saw her great-grandpap in the casket, she had a lot of questions. Patiently, I went over each one and explained as well as I could. She asked things like why he was sleeping, why daddy was crying and even why grandpap had wrinkles on his hands. I cannot tell you the exact words to tell your child but being honest is probably the best policy. No one wants to paint the wrong image of death to a young mind still being shaped. Don’t make it seem better than living by trying to make your child happy with the idea of death. Just keep it simple. We believe in God and heaven in our home so we included these explanations. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bottle Refusal: When Only Mommy Will Do



By Lori

A lot of us really want to make nursing work.  And fortunately in our case, it works well.  Perhaps it is going a little TOO well.

Halle, embracing some independence
Halle is a little over 8 months old.  She will not take a bottle, and it looks like she may never drink from one. When she was less than two months old, she would take a bottle, then- BAM- she flat out refused.   

She went to daycare during the two weeks I went back to work (before staying home full time) and every single day refused the bottle for the entire 9 hours she was there.  Our baby-sitter said she literally did not drink an ounce the entire day.  To get Halle some milk, our baby-sitter had to squeeze drops into her mouth.  She truly could not, or would not, suck on bottles. 

The refusal probably stems from the fact that we were not consistent with giving them to her once I stayed home.  I am not sure why she refused for our baby-sitter, but I still haven’t converted her to a bottle-liking girl in the months she’s been home with me.  It is so much easier to just go ahead and nurse on demand instead of messing with pumping, especially when she (obviously) preferred the breast. Why would she choose a bottle if mommy is nearby with a milk supply?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Beautiful Family: Reminders to Look at and Love Our Children



By Rachael

My girls, on December 14, 2012.
Older women seem to enjoy offering compliments to younger moms and their families. We can all recount at least one time when a silver-haired matron in the checkout line told us we had “beautiful children.”

It happened to my family the other week. My husband, daughters, and I were traveling to celebrate the holidays with my parents and siblings. We stopped to eat lunch and let our oldest daughter play at a McDonald’s in a small town just north of Bloomington, Illinois. As we were getting ready to hit the road again, a woman told us we had a “beautiful family” and told my husband he was a “lucky man.” We smiled and thanked her as we gathered up the girls’ coats and Happy Meal toys. I wished her a good afternoon and we left with our stomachs full, our legs stretched, and our moods light.  

Back in the car, my husband and I wondered aloud what prompted the woman to speak to us. Did our little family remind her of her own family? Or did we remind her of a family she does not have?

I have been more keenly aware of my family lately. It started on Friday, December 14, 2012, the day a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 people, including 20 young children. I watched the noon news report in tears as my girls ate Spaghettios a few feet away from me. After lunch, I turned off the television. I couldn’t watch any more. The weather was mild for mid-December, so I put sweaters on the girls and we drove to a park a few minutes away. Taking deep breaths of brisk air helped me relax and lessened the ache in my head.

Family Photo Angst: The Real Cause for Panic

By Katie

All photos by Amy Straka Photography

I had been wanting to get a new set of family pictures since my daughter was born eight months ago. A year had passed since our wedding and even though we have fairly regular documentation of our photos through our smartphones and less regularly via our point-and-shoot digital camera, I wanted some professional, perfect-looking shots of our complete family. I wanted our wedding photographer to take the shots, but she lives 1,200 miles away in Indiana and the cost of flights was not in our family photo budget. 

I was THRILLED when she told me she would be in our area visiting family and would be willing to meet us for an outdoor shoot. With this one minor detail confirmed, the real planning began.

What will we wear? Does the schedule work for all of us to be there at the same time? How do we keep the kids happy, fed and hydrated to bolster our chance for smiles? I looked in my closet and realized that none of my picture-worthy clothing fit. I am still in baby-weight limbo -- too small for the clothing that fit me in the months immediately following delivery, but not back to my pre-baby shape. I wondered if the three-year-old had shoes that were nice enough since she spends the majority of her life in plastic sandals. 

My stepkids would both be with their mom on the day of the scheduled shoot -- which meant my husband had to ask his ex to steal the kids for a few hours so we could get our Christmas card shot. Oh, and if possible, could she bring them to the location since we would be driving from the beach? Fun stuff.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Moms Need to Take Care of Themselves, Too


By Lori

Lori, at right, enjoying time with friends 
at a baby shower.
Moms do it all. We drive our kids to lessons, we buy them nice clothes, we make sure they have time with their friends, and we take them to do the things they love. We cook meals they like and make sure they eat their veggies. We miss the occasional checkup for ourselves, but we never skip the children’s appointments. So why do so many moms put themselves on the back burner?

Many moms feel that between cooking, cleaning, and work obligations, there is no spare time to read a book or go to the salon. And perhaps there is no spare time, per say, but we need to make time. Moms must take time to be themselves and not feel guilt-ridden about doing so.

Moms need time with friends, time to enjoy our hobbies, and time to make sure our health is in check. Time alone helps us relax and get our sanity back, and come back and resume our roles as mommies with a new and invigorated vengeance. Personally, I know that after I have some time to enjoy being me, I am much more patient with my 2-year-old and feel less frustrated by ornery behavior. Each day, set aside just a few minutes to do something that relaxes you or makes you happy. Make sure you choose something that makes you feel like … you. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sex, Drugs and Santa: Why Me?

By Katie

I enjoy hearing what my kids have to say, whether they know I am listening or not. You will often find Facebook status updates with things I have overheard my kids say, or things they have said directly to me. I know my kids aren't much different from others their age, and that the whole "Kids Say the Darndest Things" mantra is at least two decades old, but I'm still consistently amused by what comes out of the mouths of my four little ones.


The little man of the family
While the girls tend to say outright silly things, my stepson Ferris is much more intellectual. He asks the tough questions, without actually realizing that he is asking the tough questions. 

If you have never met Ferris, let me explain him a little for you. Like most five-year-old boys, he does not generally mince words. He's pretty good at saying what is on his mind. He is also very difficult to distract from anything. Changing the subject is futile when Ferris is around. I admire his concentration, especially since I forget the next word in my sentences and just trail off and shrug my shoulders on a pretty consistent basis. 

Actually, Ferris usually reminds me what I was talking about or makes suggestions based on context of what he believes I might be trying to say. It's quite helpful.

It seems like every time a heavy or deep question about life pops into his brain, he seeks me out for the answers. Why me? I'm not sure. It could be a coincidence. Or my answers entertain him.

There was the discussion we had about childbirth where I ended up being a little more frank than I would have planned in advance. What can I say? He caught me off guard. There have been several others and I started to rattle them off to my husband last week and decided I'd share. Some are a few months old, while others just happened. Here are a few of the conversations about the tougher topics to the best of my recollection.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Necklace Giveaway from Redemption Jewelry

We are happy to give some blog space to Kerry, a jewelry designer and fellow mom of 1-year-old Holden. She launched her own business a few weeks ago and is giving away a necklace to one reader. 

The contest runs through 5 p.m. on Friday, January 11th, 2013. Check out all the ways to enter below.

Here is some more info on her business and the giveaway necklace from Kerry:

Redemption jewelry began last month. Clients send old jewelry pieces in and they are broken down and created into a new piece of jewelry for them. New creations are available too; pick the style and color scheme!

This necklace is comprised of smooth, blue sodalite with a variety of white and black veining throughout the stone and hand-linked onto fine gold-fill cable chain. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Gain from Weight Loss




With all the New Year hoopla over, I scanned my Facebook page and saw many statuses regarding weight loss. As predicted, it seems a lot of my friends have goals to lose weight this year. And sure, you could probably put me in that boat, except my goal is not really about the weight.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am 13 months post-partum, which basically means I’m not post-partum at all. Just six weeks after my twins were born I had lost 37 of the 46 pounds that I gained in their almost 32 week long pregnancy. 

With nine pounds to go, I did not put a ton of effort into weight loss. It was hard enough keeping up with three kids, major life changes and exhaustion, I figured I could get rid of the last few pounds another time. I was breastfeeding and pumping, burning calories as I expressed milk. With my first daughter, I gained 19 pounds and by the end of my 15 month long nursing stint, I’d lost 42 pounds. This would be easy! Nine pounds is no. big. deal.

Guess what happened to that nine pounds? It became 21 pounds. Somewhere in that first year, I began I horrible habit of eating when I was stressed. Fritz’s Turtle concretes and cookie dough ice cream and Jack in the Box’s Ultimate Cheeseburgers were my downfalls. Nutella and Triscuits didn’t help. I went through a full nine ounce box if Triscuits in one day (on more than one occasion). I never felt like I was eating too much. 

I’d grab 3-4 crackers as I walked through the kitchen after putting down the kids for nap or on my way out of the bathroom. I’d hide in the corner of the kitchen where the kids couldn’t see me nibbling a few bites of Nutella on graham crackers to take a mini break from the chaos. It didn’t feel unhealthy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Saying ‘Peace’ to the Pacifier



Leaving a gift for the Paci Fairy
By Lori

Nearly every parent has at least one child who is a pacifier kid.  Babies are born wanting to suck, it is a natural behavior seen even in photographs in utero.  Sucking is comforting and helps babies settle down and relax.  

Therefore, many of us give our babies pacifiers to help soothe them as infants.  Our son Max has taken a paci since he was just a couple weeks old. 

A recent visit to the pediatrician brought up the subject of his speech, and how he will likely need speech therapy. We learned that pacifiers could interfere with normal speech development and that pacifiers cause an increase in ear infections (which he is prone to, even had tubes put in his ears in August), especially when used as a toddler. 

At over two years of age, my husband and I realized the time to say goodbye to the pacifier was approaching. We marked in on our list of ‘to-do’s’ for early in 2013.

Well…circumstances changed and led us to encourage kicking the pacifier sooner than planned: About two weeks ago, not long after our trip to the pediatrician’s office, my husband and I noticed that Max’s (new) pacifiers had holes in them. He was using them to chew on instead of suck.  Because of the holes, sucking on the pacifier was no longer possible.  

We threw those out and bought a couple more packages.  Not more than two days later, we noticed he’d chewed holes in all of them, as well.  The worrywart in me started thinking of how hazardous the pacifiers now were.  If he chewed completely through them, he could choke on pieces of the nipple in the night.  Since getting him to kick his pacifier was already in my mind, I knew it was time to say peace out to the pacis.

Working from Home: Family Balance

By Katie

This June will mark two years that I have been working as a freelance writer, editor and archivist. Originally, I set out to make a little money while getting my newly combined family settled and was open to the idea of working outside the home again if the right opportunity presented itself. 

Remember the real reasons you work at home
An added baby and the realization that nothing will ever be "settled" in our (or any) family has made those away-from-home thoughts fade. I'm not saying never; I'm just saying that I would be okay with the arrangement I have now indefinitely if that is what plays out.

I have a lot of friends -- many moms -- that ask me about my freelancing and how I make enough money at home, especially with four kids that do not know how to tie their shoelaces hanging around. The honest answer is that it is tough, and sometimes stressful on a financial and mental level. 

But I always felt those same stresses when I worked on location, so I figure this is just more of the same but fits my family schedule much nicer. I have handed out advice along the way and tried to be very open with friends and family that are interested in dabbling in work as a freelancer. On this blog, I have written about places to find freelance jobs and how to be successful in a home office environment

Today I want to talk to moms (and dads) specifically about finding the work/life balance when there are kids involved. These are just my own observations and every family operates differently. I hope that if you are considering a job from home, or are already giving it a try, these tips give you some insight.

It's only a job. One of the difficulties of freelance writing is determining when to stop saying "yes" to work. I have had the most stable work end abruptly when a company decides to suspend the project I'm helping with or have someone in-house do the work. As a result, I always have several active clients so I am not putting all of my financial faith in one entity. The problem here is that sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. One week, I may have a very small amount of work from a particular client and by the next week, the workload has quadrupled and I still have several other clients to keep happy too. 
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