Thursday, December 18, 2008

All She Wants For Christmas


If Violet understood the concepts of Christmas, wanting material things, and getting the most bang for her entertainment buck, she would most certainly put Baby Einstein DVDs at the top of her wish list. I don't know what it is about these videos that she loves so much, but I sure wish I'd thought of them.


The idea is ingenious: set excruciatingly basic footage of children's toys, animals, babies, and puppets to music. I'm sure the production cost is minimal and, at $14.99 a pop, the lady that invented these things must be rolling in the dough. As with all winning products, the marketing is really the key to Baby Einstein's success. Call it Baby Couch Potato and you probably don't move many units. But a baby couch potato is exactly what you get when you turn one of these things on. As you may have inferred from the name, Baby Einstein markets itself as an educational tool for babies. All the DVDs focus on a different instructive principle: Baby Bach is music appreciation, Baby Wordsworth teaches first words, Baby's First Signs employs Marlee Matlin to show various signs from the ASL lexicon. So, you see, they are good for my baby. She'll have a leg up on the other kids on the playground this spring if she diligently watches her Baby Einstein videos this winter. At least, that is what I told myself tonight when I want to eat a baked potato without her putting her tiny hands in it or wailing when I refused to let her tip over my wine glass.


It is true, Violet does like to watch these 20 minute "movies" and I am amazed how well they hold her attention. I never thought babies were much interested in anything on TV which makes me a bit suspicious of Baby Einstein. Not so suspicious that I won't plop her down in front of one so I can grab a shower, but suspicious just the same. It is sort of creepy-cute the way Violet squeals and beats her arms when the DVD begins to play. And she looks at the toddlers who "star" in the movies like they are near, dear, friends. I don't think she looks at any real people with as much tenderness as her little face expresses when the weird puppets come on the screen.

Honest to God, she really doesn't watch them that much. I know my Mom uses the Baby Einstein DVDs as a distraction when she's caring for Violet during the day and she needs a break. Typically, I don't play them unless I need to take a shower and Vi's awake. Couldn't she play quietly with her toys while I shower, I sometimes wonder. The thing that makes the DVDs so handy is that when I pop one in, Violet suddenly doesn't notice when I leave the room. On the other hand, if I spread out her blanket and scattered all of her favorite toys around her, she would be occupied for somewhere between 3 and 12 minutes. Enough time to shower and dress?? Doubtful. If I'm in the same room and she gets frustrated, I can walk over to Vi as she plays on the floor and re-direct her attention to another toy. With Baby E, there is no need for Mommy to redirect, the monkey puppet or Marlee Matlin do it for me.


So I've been trying to quiet the voice of the parent I was before Violet was born. That parent reminds me that the television should never be used as a babysitter and that babies whose first foods are vegetables and fruits will be healthful eaters their whole lives. I really had good intentions of living by the Rules for Raising Perfect People, but this job is often far more difficult than I thought. I still know what the "right" thing to do is, but sometimes I just want to eat my baked potato and wine unmolested. And if Violet can be learning the sign for "Neglect" at the same time, doesn't everyone win?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Be Here Now


Momming is, as everyone tells you, a full-time job. Besides going to work, I could probably list from memory how many times I have been out without Violet since she was born almost 7 (!) months ago. Shawn and I have had 2 dates and gone to 2 weddings, I've been out with Jen once, I met a friend after work for drinks about a month ago, and there was one time when I met my co-workers for beers. So when I left Vi with Shawn to go to a holiday dinner for work on Friday, I was a bit disappointed when he called me at 9 o'clock to tell me the little lady hadn't stopped crying since I left home.


The dinner was close by so I got home less than 10 minutes after he called. Violet had 3 vaccines on Friday afternoon and I think the residual effects of those were probably to blame for her unusual fussiness. Whatever the reason, she continues to be a Momma's Girl and her tears disappeared when I walked in to the room. Shawn handed her off to me and, as soon as he did, she turned back to him and grinned from ear to ear, just as an extra slap in the face in case he wasn't sure who her favorite is right now.


This is the thing about Violet's babyhood (and every other mother's baby, as well): It's all or nothing. I can't spread her infancy out; it is finite and fleeting. In 10 years, when she is so over being held, there will be no way for me to recapture that. When she is 17 and wants to spend more time without me than with me, I'm sure there will be no convincing her that snuggling on the sofa is a great way to spend a Saturday night. As much as I'll wish for the feeling of her otherworldly soft skin under my fingers when I am an old, wrinkled, woman, I'll have to settle for the memory of these days she and I are spending together now.


Keeping that in mind, it is easy to turn down an invitation for drinks or rush home from a dinner party or put the vacuuming off for days. Baby Violet will not be Baby Violet for much longer. While I sometimes wish I could put her on hold to do my stuff, that is not an option. So I submerge myself in her babyhood, coming up for air only occasionally, and not worrying too much about what else I might be missing.


This is a poem my Mom recited for me when Vi was just a week or two old. I don't know who wrote it, but it is a wonderful sentiment.


Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
Cause babies grow up, I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lactivism


A 6 month old baby wearing nothing but cowboy boots is adorable. A 6 month old's mother wearing nothing but cowboy boots would get me thrown off Blogger.


My pre-baby jeans fit me again but to look at my body without clothes I'd never know it belonged to the same person. There are still 8 unfamiliar pounds meating my frame but from what I've read, it is normal to hang on to a few extra lbs whilst one is breastfeeding an infant. While nursing initially helps liquefy pregnancy weight, Nature doesn't want all of Ma's blubber to go away just in case of a famine situation where she'd be unable to scarf down enough calories to make milk. So, said blubber just hangs out, protected by lactation hormones, waiting to be called into action. So far, though the economy is bad, we've still managed to avoid famine and keep my blubber intact. Hooray blubber!


If the physical downside of nursing Violet is the lactation-fat, the upside is the absence of menstruation. What a wonderful gift from the Breastfeeding Fairy! I haven't had a period since July of 2007. How rockin' is that? I think the FDA should require the formula industry to put that little tidbit of info on the side of all its cans of Enfamil and Similac in addition to the breast is best warning. "Use of this product will result in the speedy return of your period." If that didn't encourage new moms to give nursing a try, maybe the FDA might want to include the fact that lactation amenorrhea (the technical name for the temporary halt of menstruation) is a drug-free method of birth control about as effective as The Pill.


Shawn, Violet, and I went to two parties this weekend and the topic of breastfeeding came up at both. A natural thing to talk about when there is an infant suckling, I suppose. At Jen's housewarming party, I hung out in the playroom with the other babies and Mommas while Shawn hung out by the TV watching the football games. One girl who was in the playroom is pregnant with her first and due in December. Between me and Violet (born in May), Aly and Charlie (born in July), and Carrie and Ruby (born in August), she had a virtual panel of baby experts whose brains she could pick. And all of our experiences with birth and feeding have been different.


I was joking with Shawn on the way home from the party that I feel like the Johnny Appleseed of breastfeeding in situations like that. Sort of a "Jilly Boobyfeed." Nursing has been such a positive experience for me and Violet, and I believe so strongly in the benefits of breastfeeding, that I want to share it with all new moms. The difficulty in doing so is to remain diplomatic, to try to avoid coming across as a big, bitchy, breastfeeding nazi. This is especially true in the company of Carrie, one of my best friends, and Aly, my sister-in-law and friend, both who have had unique experiences nursing their kids and found different ways to make their families work. I think that they are both phenomenal moms and I look up to them as parents for different reasons.


That said, I am definitely outspoken in my advocacy of nursing. The more I learn about it, the longer I do it myself, the more angry I become that this society does not embrace nursing as the norm. It upsets me that there are so many women who intend to nurse their babies who, for one reason or another, have difficulty and don't have the resources or know-how to get through. It upsets me that formula companies sent canister after canister of their product to my house unsolicited and unwanted, but there were no invitations to free breastfeeding classes or seminars on how to help a newborn latch on. Those things I had to seek out myself.


If you think, for even a minute, that the shift in feeding from breast to bottle in the U.S. is fueled by anything other than capitalism, then you should do some reading. Breast milk, as nutritionally perfect and easily digestible as it is, happens to be free. No money changes hands when a baby nurses from her mother. Cans of formula, however, are far from free. Infant formula is a billion dollar a year industry. When the hospitals and pediatrician's offices become distribution sites for formula, where can families get unbiased information that they can trust?
That's why those of us that have breastfed and done so successfully have to be lactivists. Like so many other tasks in life, if moms don't do it themselves, it won't get done at all!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Square Footage


I think Violet is 16 pounds and around 26 inches long. I don't know what that is volume wise, she can't take up more than 2 square feet when stretched all the way out, but the addition of her to our family makes me long for a new house.


Shawn and I bought our little 1920's bungalow in 2006, before we were married, before my Dad died, before the housing bubble burst. That day in August when we signed our name a jillion times, making this old place ours, it seemed that there couldn't be a better house for us. We fell for the history of the house.


I like to think about the other babies who came home to this place, the other couples who cooked eggs here, even the geriatrics who holed up in the living room, watching Wheel of Fortune, until their adult kids decided it was time for a rest home. I love that Shawn gets as hot and bothered by virgin hardwoods and crumbly plaster walls as I do. I love that I live less that a mile from the house where I grew up, even though as a teenager I would have crapped had I known I'd end up settling down so close by. But, I love our neighborhood, all cracking sidewalks and giant trees and large front porches and brick public school buildings. I love our fireplace and the dark beams that run the length of my living room ceiling and the build in china cabinet in our dining room.


I do love this little house but, damn, I would love me walk-in closet, too.


My brother Andy and his wife Aly and their two kids just moved back to Indy after living in Evansville for the last several years. They bought a house in a neighborhood not far from us, but their home was built 40 years later than ours. It's amazing how architechture and neighborhood planning changed between 1920 and 1960. Our neighborhood is layed out in neat, geometric blocks, each house with a yard about as big as a postage stamp. Andy and Aly's hood, just two miles away, still very much in Indianapolis, is all winding lanes, quiet cul-de-sacs, and yards that require a riding mower. The square footage of their closets alone, and I am not kidding here, is probably equal to that of our entire house. Like us, they had to do some rehab when they moved in. Unlike us, when they take a break from a project, say, installing a new light fixture, there is actually a place to put their tools, out of sight, until they get back to complete the job.


I think the thing that really got me thinking about moving was the holidays. Not that my 2 year old nephew's walk-in closet hadn't intrigued me, but the upcoming influx of relatives from near and far makes me long for more space to accomodate them. As both Shawn's side and my side of the family have added members this year, it is getting increasingly difficult for us to squeeze everyone into our charming bungalow. With only two bedrooms, ours and a nursery, we don't have much of a place for houseguests. Shawn's parents stayed with us on Thanksgiving night and they were relegated to the pull out couch in the living room. His sister Elisha came down for the day with her husband and four kids but there really is no way we could have comfortably hosted them overnight. All told, once you add in Shawn's other sister Bridget and her husband Shane, there were 8 adults and 5 kids in our tiny house for Thanksgiving yesterday. The pic posted above is of Violet and her 4 cousins; Logan, Aleah, Ashley, and Alana.


It all worked out fine, actually,and no one complained, but I really would have liked it if,at the end of the day, everyone could have crashed here and not had to drive 3 hours to get back home. Don't get me wrong, I don't want a B&B, but a couple additional bedrooms, an extra bath, and some floor space for kid' sleeping bags would've sufficed. We're about to run into the same situation at Christmas as a lot of my aunts, uncles and cousins come in from Texas and Conneticut. Shawn and I won't be hosting any of the houseguests or get-togethers. Our place just isn't big enough.


So I'm wondering if 2009 will bring a new house for our family. We continue to discuss the pros and cons of moving. I am doubtful that we could find an affordable home in our current neighborhood that we wouldn't outgrow immediately. A vinyl wrapped house in an outlying suburb would offer us the most space for the least money, but neither Shawn nor I want a cookie cutter place devoid of character. Given the state of the economy, I am content staying put for the immediate future. After all, packing people in during the holidays is nothing new and, for the 3 humans and one canine who call this house home, we're pretty happily snug here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hoo, Hoo, Hoosiers!


Today has been an Indiana fall Saturday if ever there was one. Shawn, Violet, and I got out of bed around 8am for pancakes and showers before a 10 o'clock meeting at St. Joan of Arc. We decided to go ahead and get Vi baptized in the Catholic church and we had a baptism prep meeting this morning. The church is only a handful of blocks from our house and on a nice day we would have walked but today was anything but nice. Chilly and rainy, it was definitely a day that makes us Midwesterners save our pennies in hopes of retiring somewhere without seasons.


Violet was sleepy before we even left the meeting, although she was a model baby the whole time, and she fell asleep quickly after we got home and nursed her. I had a couple of errands to run and when I got home from those, Vi was still sleeping. Shawn had "done his chores" while I was gone and was ready for a nap himself. So this afternoon all 3 of us enjoyed some daylight REM cycles and missed nothing more than a couple college football games and more rain.


When the sun set, (not that anyone really noticed it leaving as it was dark all day), we made a fire in the fireplace, ate chicken and dumplings, and drank a couple beers. Violet shit on her 1st outfit of the day which was a good reason to change her into her I.U. cheer leading outfit before the Cream and Crimson's 1t game of the season. After comparing her to the real I.U. cheer squad on TV, I've decided all cheerleaders should have fat rolls on their legs. Not only is it ADORABLE, it would make the post-partum alumnus feel better about the state of their own legs and thus more likely to donate to their alma mater.


I.U. won, I put Violet to bed, and now we're watching the news. How can these weekend days flip by so quickly? Ahhh, at least we still have Sunday.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

V*O*T*E*



Violet went to the polls today and helped me cast my ballot. My mom "Took the Day Off For Barack" to help with the campaign so I stayed home with Violet. We are going to walk over to the campaign office after lunch to see if they need any help from a lady and a baby. Not sure what we can do, but we'll do anything! One thing we can do is remind you all (does anyone really need reminding?) to get out there and VOTE!!!

This is a selfie taken outside our polling place. What a gorgeous Election Day!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

1st Halloween






Last night was Violet's first Halloween. She dressed as a puppy and, unbeknown to her, hosted her first Halloween party. Shawn and I made chili and had a group of family and friends over for beer and trick or treating. Violet, her cousin Charlie, and my goddaughter Ruby made for a ridiculously cute 6 months and under crowd!


I couldn't help but notice what having kids does to the way people celebrate Halloween and, I'm guessing, the rest of the holidays, too. Over are the days of Shawn and I dressing up like a pimp and a naughty cop (though Jeff and Steph sure looked great in those costumes!). Instead we dolled up the baby and fawned over her.


The single adult version of Halloween sure is fun, though. After our guests left, Shawn went to meet some of his former co-workers at a bar and, since he'd already had a few, I dropped him off. It was fun seeing the throngs of twenty-somethings dressed up headed out for a night of drinking in Broad Ripple. I was a teeny bit jealous. Not because I wanted to join them last night, (hungover parenting sounds like the scariest part of Halloween), but because essentially, that part of my life is over. The element of being carefree, which was always such an important part of partying in my twenties, has been replaced by the constant tug of my daughter's need for me. I wouldn't trade Violet for being carefree; I'm too in love with her.



I'm starting to see why parents live vicariously through their kids. It's not that I would change any part of the way I have lived my life up to this point, it's just that my life has been great and I am already nostalgic for certain parts that are over. Who wouldn't want to do college twice? I am looking forward to all the great stuff that is to come for me and Shawn, don't get me wrong, but college and singledom is over for us. The consolation is that Violet still gets to do all the fun stuff. And we get to watch. As her daddy, Shawn probably prefers seeing her dressed up as a puppy than a dominatrix, but she surely won't let us choose her costumes forever!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama Obaby



Thursday started off crisp (read: COLD) as Shawn, Violet, and I headed downtown for the Obama rally on the American Legion Mall. We picked up Peggy and some Long's Donuts, and found our way into the serpentine lines that were weaving their way into the gates. It was a long morning for Violet, we left home at 9am and didn't get back until after 1 o'clock, but I am sure that someday she'll be thrilled to know that her political activism started in some small way when she was just 5 months old.




The crowd was huge (estimated at 35,000!), diverse, and electrified. Less than 2 weeks until the election and it looks like Obama is actually leading nationally. Indiana is still too close to tell, but after living in this reddest of red states most of my life, I am thrilled to see it even looking a bit purple. If we actually went blue, holy hell, I'd jump for joy!! I am excited at the possibility of raising Violet during a period of progressive thought, rather than with the evil empire under which she was born. With luck and leadership, maybe the mistakes of the Bush years will be overcome before she is old enough to understand how scary this time has been.




Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pumping Closet, Trisha Yearwood, and The Grown-up Taste of Nuts


Four days a week, twice a day for 20-30 minutes at a time, I am hooked up to a machine expressing breast milk for Violet's next day's meals. My work had established a supply room for me to use for pumping purposes but the frequency that staff needs to get things out of there made it difficult for me to feel comfortable getting topless in that room. Twice I heard someone outside the door, keys jingling, about to walk in on me looking like a working Holstein dairy cow at milking time. I have moved my operation and am much more comfortable in the bathroom even though people think being forced to pump in the restroom is a hardship. This is a really nice restroom--a onesie, no stalls--with tile floors and a frosted glass window. It is big enough that I sit in a chair by the window, not on the pot. It is also adjacent to the office kitchenette which means I don't have to tote test tubes full of milk through the office letting all of my co-workers see whether I am having a high or low producing day.

I have a pumping schedule I try to stick to--10:30 & 2:30--but I have to be flexible. Some days I have a 10am meeting so I have to pump early or late, and there are days when the phone rings and I run behind. I think there has only been one day that I didn't get my two pumpings in so I think I'm doing pretty well. I always try to take something work-related to read with me into the pumping station but, with so much of my work being via phone or computer, there simply isn't always a paper document that needs my attention. In addition, mine is a double pump so I don't really have a free hand which further limits my options for double tasking. Most books require 2 hands and proofreading is out cause I couldn't hold a pen.

So my standby reading material for my pumps is the Redbook magazine that has been sent to our office by mistake for well over a year. I think that the subscription has finally run out, however, because I have read the August and September issues cover to cover but haven't seen anything more recent. Redbook, competing with titles like Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens, is the Grandmother of all the "Mom" magazines with headlines ranging from "16 Savory Soups" to "Real Women, Real Weight Loss" and "How to Get Your Husband to Do Almost Anything Without Nagging." It is that magazine that has a glossy photo on the cover of a slice of fruit pie, filthy with shortening and sugar, with the article byline "Walk Off The Weight!" superimposed right over the lattice crust. It is a momazine. I could bring in one of my magazines from home--Vanity Fair or Real Simple--something more my taste. But something about pre-meditating my reading material makes it seem a bit more like slacking at work.




One of the Redbook issues I read has the chubby country star, Trisha Yearwood, on the cover. The article about her was pretty ho-hum. I read only half of it before moving on to a nice spread about how to get a handle on my family's debt. But, since I spend so much time pumping and have so few periodicals available to me, I went back to the article about Trisha later in the week and finished it. Included in the layout were a few of her favorite Southern style recipes with photos included. One, a Chicken Spinach Lasagna Casserole, seemed exceedingly grody to me when I first read it. It contained the great triumvirate of casserole ingredients: cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Nothing wrong with those three, aside from the fat content, especially when you know it will be topped with shredded cheese. What got me was the casserole topping--not your usual breadcrumbs or french fried onions, but pecans. Pecans on casserole--ugh! I like most nuts now but remember being thoroughly grossed out as a kid when chocolate chip cookies had walnuts or waffles had pecans. Who would ruin a perfectly good cookie or waffle with nuts?? My mom said nuts were "Yummy." I thought they were unnecessary. I don't know when I finally warmed up to nuts, but it was definitely an acquired taste.


It was probably my 5th or 6th reading of the Redbook, likely during one of my pumping sessions right before lunch, when the recipe started to intrigue me. I mean, I do like spinach and chicken. Casseroles are an easy meal for a weeknight. It is fall and something hot is always comforting and good. I do like pecans in other settings; pies, cookies, bars...could Trisha be on to something? So I tore it out. And, sitting in my pumping closet milking myself, tearing out Trisha Yearwood's Chicken Spinach Lasagna Casserole recipe, I realized I was the target reader for Redbook.

When I went to the grocery I bought all the ingredients I needed to make the casserole, including the pecans. I think it was a Wednesday night when I made it, nuts and all. I think Shawn liked it--he eats almost anything I cook without a complaint. It was very casserole-y and the pecans were an interesting touch. I don't know that it will find itself into our regular dinner rotation but I kept the recipe. That meal, more than even Violet's birth itself, confirmed my identity as a mom. A mom with nuts on top.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Adding Family Members The Easy Way






When it comes to growing your family tree, there are two ways to do it. One is by marriage, the other is by baby. I am excited to report that my oldest brother Jeff has invited his girlfriend, Stephanie, to join the clan and she accepted. Hooray and Congrats! We celebrated their engagement with a brunch including both sides of the newly joined family on Sunday.



But is marriage really the easier of the two ways to increase the number of family members? The day of the actual event, marriage definitely is easier. Who would rather give birth than go to a big party often with an open bar? But what about the days, weeks, months and years that follow the blessed event? Babies are a more intense, concentrated kind of work right out of the gate. They need oodles of attention, require lots of patience, and can leave parents with more questions than answers. Babies won't let themselves be ignored.

Marriages, on the other hand, tend to start off with both parties running on cruise control, enjoying the afterglow of their wedding celebration and honeymoon. It is easy to assume that your marriage will always be that easy, that good. Then, life starts to flip by. Careers change, money gets tough, houses are bought and sold, babies enter the picture. And, if you are like me, you have an "a-ha" moment as you look across the kitchen at the guy talking to the baby in his best Baby-ese falsetto and realize you haven't really spoken to each other since last Wednesday. You've compared schedules, swapped baby anecdotes, and updated each other on joint bank account expenditures, but you haven't actually talked. And you wonder, how long could you ignore your marriage and have it survive? So make an effort. Just a little effort. A nice hug in the kitchen goes a long way.


In a lot of ways (hell, in almost every way imaginable!), Shawn and I are lucky. Though we didn't plan on making a Violet so quickly, we sure got a good one. And the good, old, pre-kid days of our marriage, though they were few, are still recent enough memories that we actually remember why we liked each other before we became family. I think that is a big reason why people end up getting divorced after they have a couple kids. Raising humans is so time consuming, so all consuming, so unignorable, that a marriage silently withering away is barely noticeable until it is too late. Some couples don't have the "a-ha" moment in the kitchen, or if they do, they ignore it and keep emptying the dishwasher. And, ignore enough of those moments and then it is too late.


So, for Jeff and Stephanie, I wish you guys lots of "A-Ha! I Love You!" moments. And maybe even a few little Violets. With their own names, of course.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Good Reasons To Go To Bed


Does the wonder of babies ever wear off? I know that I can be blinded to it temporarily due to exhaustion or frustration but I don't think I ever really cease to be amazed by what we've created. And Violet's constant changes only add to my awe.

The photo was taken last week. I was up late doing laundry and when I came to bed I saw Shawn and his clone sleeping soundly looking more like one another than ever. People constantly remark how much Vi looks like her Dad but it has always been hard for me to see. She looks like my baby, he looks like my husband. I saw similarities before, but that night I saw a true resemblance. How funny genetics are! As my Dad said, children are bundles of your DNA that you send marching off in to the future. Clearly, Shawn's DNA is on its way. Hopefully, a smidgen of mine is in there, too.

I guess since she looks so much like Shawn, it is only fair that she still favors me. Not like she did at 2 months when she would scream at the approach of anyone else, but I still have the touch. She loves her Daddy and her Grammy but I think I am still her go-to, especially when the times get tough. When she's tired or scared, there is no substitute for Mama. What a flattering, warming, all-around heart-melting feeling!

Prolactin, the mothering hormone as it is called, is definitely doing it's job on me. I can't get enough of my sweet baby. I guess it is prolactin that makes me patiently tolerate the pain when Violet yanks on a fist-full of my hair and murderously angry when a mosquito bites her leg and indifferent to the rolls of chub left on my belly from my pregnancy. Maybe it is prolactin that makes me beam with pride when she squeals in a new way or googly-eyed over how much her hair has grown. Whatever it is, hormone-induced or just plain mother's love, Violet is the coolest person I've ever met!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating In






After 4 months of a liquid diet, Violet decided that it was time to branch out. Her eyesight, which only weeks ago was too fuzzy to make out anything further than 24 inches away, is now able to hone in on anyone eating anything in the same room with her. She, like Scout, stares at you while you eat until whatever it is you're enjoying is gone. Violet has the added advantage, unlike Scout, of being on your lap during some meals and having opposable thumbs on her hands with which she can reach out and touch your food. So, after about 10 days of a begging baby, we gave in and fed the poor tot some solids.


Now I've read that babies are "supposed" to start solids between 4 and 6 months but many breastfeeding hippy moms like me lean more toward the 6 month marker. In newborns and young infants, the baby's gut is still very immature and open, rather than closed as in adults. The "open gut" is not a chubby baby tummy left uncovered by a too-small Huggy, but rather refers to the large spaces between the cells of an infant's digestive tract. These spaces eventually fill in but in the newborn they are still open allowing small bits of whatever she eats to pass directly into the blood stream. When that baby is eating strictly breast milk, this open gut system is a huge plus as it allows her to get all those great antibodies in mom's milk directly where she needs them. When baby whose gut is still open starts to nosh on other goodies (including a Frosty-coated binkies, Shawn!), proteins and sugars from the "foreign" food sneaks into her bloodstream making her more susceptible, down the road, to food allergies and such.

Violet decided that her gut, open though it may still be, needed some real food. I was determined to wait a few more weeks but after she spent our whole meal at Yat's sucking on a plastic spoon and trying to steal beans off of my plate, I decided "F-It. The kid wants to eat." So we vetoed mashed banana (too green, maybe when they ripen) and whipped up a tasty treat of rice cereal. Violet LOVED it. She leaned forward into every bite, hummed in anticipation as we re-loaded the spoon and cried when it was gone. Folks, we've got an eater!! No surprise there that my girl loves to eat. The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree. She probably won't be early to walk or crawl, talk or read, but my baby was ahead of schedule when it comes to eating. I see Mommy and Me Weight Watcher meetings in our not too distant future...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why we talk about poo






New parents go out on their first date since the birth of their baby. The food is delicious, the wine is perfectly paired, the service is flawless. It has been months since these two got a chance to connect with one another sans baby. They are quiet at first, as if they have forgotten how to talk to one another. They study their menus intently. They order. They talk about work briefly. They comment on what the couple next to them ordered. More silence. The woman brings up the baby. They spend the rest of their evening discussing, in great detail, their baby's shit. Or so the cliche goes...


Shawn and I had our first date since Violet's birth on Sunday and we made a rule that we wouldn't talk about her. We mainly stuck to it (she came up in regard to other topics, i.e. "We should definitely go to that concert, who will we get to watch Violet?") and managed to carry on a pretty adult conversation. Don't give us too much credit, though. We'd spent most of the previous 24 hours discussing Violet's first real blowout.

Blowout. I had heard this term umpteen times regarding babies and even used it (prematurely, as it turns out) to describe some of Violet's previous diaper breaches. A little poo would squirt out the leg hole staining her onesie and my shirt. Must be a blowout. No. It wasn't.


Blowout got it's name for a reason. If diapers could be ripped or torn, this would be the movement to do it. Luckily for me, Violet's blowout didn't occur on me. She was in Shawn's capable hands when the blessed event occurred. I could go to great lengths about the amount of poop, where it landed, how we handled it, and list every crappy last detail. I could tell you that this kind of event is not cleaned up with just a diaper change and some baby wipes; it requires a bath. But this is the thing--if you are a parent, it has already happened to you. If you're not a parent, you think the whole discussion is disgusting and cliche. And it is. Until you are shat upon, it is.

Let me just say this, it doesn't matter in what context you get pooped on, it is still news. If you are on a bus, and you get pooped on, you'll tell someone about it. If you are a nurse and you get pooped on at work, you'll bring it up to co-workers. If you are a parent and you get pooped on, you will want to share your experience. Just because you have a baby, you don't expect to be pooped on. I know Shawn didn't wake up last Saturday thinking, "Today could quite possibly be P-Day." So, if you don't have kids, sorry, maybe someday you'll see.

Anyway, these pictures are poopy and post-bath.








Thursday, August 28, 2008

Convention Fever


After being inspired by the speeches at this week's Democratic National Convention, Violet was a little unsure of how to react to her old friend Mrs. Elephant when she learned of her long-time association with the GOP.
A stuffed donkey that plays lullabies is on the top of her Christmas list!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Twins


I am a Gemini, astrologically speaking. My sign is the twins. Zodiac books describe people born under my sign as seeming to have two personalities, changing mood from moment to moment, being both hot and cold at the same time. I've never given astrology more than a passing thought but the twins seem to be more appropriate for me now than they ever seemed in the past.




Last week, I returned to work after a 3 month stint at home with Violet. I've never needed to call up those dual personalities more. About 6 weeks into motherhood, I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it. Not that I had all the answers, but I was comfortable with my role. I love being the mom to a baby and, after those first scary weeks of feeling like I had ruined my life, it seemed like a natural fit. Violet's need for me was matched in intensity by my need for her. Even on those days when I couldn't wait to pass her off to Shawn when he got home from work, I couldn't ever go very far away or be gone for very long. A short walk around the neighborhood and I couldn't wait to get home. I hadn't been away from Violet for more than two and a half hours and that was ok with me. The closer I got to the end of my time off from work, the more panicked I became.






Now let me preface this by saying that I love my job. I work in a field I like and with a group of people I really, really, like and it is rare that those two things come together. I also know that people from work read this blog (I think that a big professional no-no, but we're all friends at work, that's what makes it so enjoyable) and I don't want them to take any of this personally. If I had been slated to return to any other job, I have no doubt that I would have called up the week before my return date and quit.






My friend Jen hit the nail on the head when she called the feeling of leaving your infant in another's care "unnatural." That is it, exactly. For a mother--let me restate--for this mother, handing off my 3 month old girl and heading out for eight long hours felt really unnatural.






I often look at what our ancestors in more "primitive" societies would have done with their children as a cue to what is the most "natural" for humans. For instance the whole sleeping thing--I've gotten lots of comments on that last post, by the way. It seems to me that putting baby in a separate room of her own to sleep is a pretty modern invention. I am not against modernity, don't get me wrong, my A.C. is cranked to 72 and has been humming all day. I wouldn't live without a lot of modern inventions. But, when looking at earlier societies and even other modern day cultures that are not as into individuality as we are in the U.S., you'll see that sharing sleep is absolutely the norm. People don't make this big fuss over SIDS or rolling over on a baby. If the family sleeps in a one room hut together, they don't get out the sticks and mud to add an addition when they have a baby.






In hunter-gatherer societies, while everyone worked together to raise the children, that intense bond between a mother and baby was respected and the mother was given jobs within the group that she can do with her baby. Once baby gets a bit older, Mom might go further away for longer periods, but more than likely, that wouldn't be for a year or more. During those first months, the mother would be given tasks that would benefit the group where her baby would be in constant contact with her. Is it possible that these "primitive" societies valued the mother-infant bond more than we do today? Is the farming out of this crucial piece of the socializing puzzle--full time child rearing--really a step forward? Are countries like France where the standard maternity leave is one year or Canada where it is 6 months less progressive than we are in this country or are we depriving babies and mothers of a very special and very short-lived season of their lives that is meant to be spent together?




My friend Julie's mom blames the problems of today's youth on being over-indulged by guilt-ridden working mothers. This, I get. If there is one part of my personality that carries over into both of my twin personas--the mommy and the career woman--it is guilt. The guilt I feel for leaving work when there are still things to be done lasts with me on the whole drive home until I open the door and see my baby. Then it is replaced by the guilt I feel for leaving this teeny-tiny person without her mommy all day long. And it's not like I'm leaving her with strangers, Violet is with my own mom, definitely a close second to spending her time with me.


What is amazing to me is how well both she and I seem to be adapting. I still enjoy my job. I have to admit, before I came back, I was sure that everyday would be drudgery as I counted down the minutes until I could get back to Violet. That hasn't been the case. While I am always happy to jump in the car and speed home, I am interested in my work and the days go by fairly quickly. I pump twice a day and so far have been able to keep up with the baby's needs. Violet has been doing her part to make sure that things are working, too. The days I work she has been napping extra long--to the tune of 6 hours a day total!!--and spending most of her awake time with her dad and me. She has been waking more frequently to nurse at night, but that's alright with me. Between Shawn's new job, me being back at work, and Violet's new babysitter, there have been a lot of changes for the Pierce clan lately and I think we're all faring pretty well.

Monday, August 11, 2008

So I'm Raising an Ax Murderer


There are so many different schools of thought on parenting--the Ferberizers, the Fockerizers, the attachment parents, the cry-it-outers, the babywearers, the self-soothers, the baby whisperers, the happiest kid on the blockers, and probably at least a hundred more that I haven't heard of. It seems that if you have been lucky enough to get knocked up or knock someone else up, you have all the credentials you need to write about the way you raised your spawn and why every other parent is doing it wrong.




As far as I can tell, these methods fall somewhere in one of two camps. On one side is the group that believes that babies are creatures that need to be tamed. Infants, they believe, come into their parent's lives as wild, unruly critters with one and only one goal--to fuck their Mom and Dad's orderly world up. The experts on this side advise parents that a well-trained infant is a happy infant and that the reform can't start too soon. "Your 4-month old isn't keeping to your schedule? Well quit coddling that S.O.B. and teach him what you expect out of him!!" They advocate for things like "sleep training" and while I'm not exactly sure what this entails, it calls to mind an image of a large group of babies donning p.j.'s, sitting on benches in a locker room, pillows in hand, being yelled at by Bobby Knight about REM patterns and napping too long.


The other group of experts represents the "babies are born perfect and with good parents who promptly cater to their every need, they can stay that way" philosophy. This is definitely the more hippie-friendly approach to parenting, and includes such catch-phrases as co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and the family bed. These experts look to nature for their advice on parenting and recommend pureeing your own baby food and avoiding pacifiers (nipple dildos, as I once heard them referred to!).


My guess is that, like me and Shawn, most parents are going to fall somewhere between these two camps with a tendency to lean more one way or the other. We're definitely a little left on the spectrum and I'm OK with that. I've always been a little more hippie at heart. While I could never bear hearing my baby cry for an extended period of time, I also like my showers. Today, I plopped Violet in front of a Baby Einstein video so I could squeeze one in. She made it through about 5 minutes of my 7 minute shower before she started to howl. I did not jump out covered in suds to soothe her and I don't plan on getting a mesh sling so I can shower with her. I don't think the 2 minutes and 45 seconds she cried are going to be her undoing but wouldn't have let it go on much longer than that.


People are constantly asking about our sleeping situation. "Is she sleeping through the night?" is one of the most popular questions for friends and family to ask. We answer truthfully-yes she is-but then I almost always feel compelled to tell them that her 8-10 hours of sleep are in our bed. "Ohhh," they say like there should be an asterisk on our answer. Like it isn't valid sleep if it's not in a room of her own. Like we've almost made it to that sacred parenthood ground of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep but we are stuck right outside the door. The fact is, I barely remember Violet's first 14 days because I was so damn tired. Every night I'd nurse her, she'd fall asleep, and when I tried to put her somewhere where babies "belong" like a crib or a bassinet, she'd wake up and cry and need to be nursed again. When I finally realized that I wasn't going to roll over on her or otherwise smother her in our bed, I began to get some sleep again. And, at least right now, I don't have any yearning to move her to another room all night. She is such a little snuggler--why would I want to miss out on some great cuddle time with her? I have no delusion that this stage of her life--or mine as a mother to young babies--will last very long and I intend on soaking it up, even at night. Ferber would surely report me to Child Protective Services.


As parents, we get all sorts of advice, discard most of it, and keep the bits and pieces that work for us. When we talk to another parent with a normal kid who shares our philosophy on something--sleeping, eating, discipline--we rejoice. When our friends parent totally differently than we ever would, we question their judgement, then our own. The thing is, this is such an important job, probably the most important job any of us will ever do, and we all need to believe that we're doing it right. We would never knowingly do it wrong, so we have to take some comfort in the fact that we do the best we can. But it is hard not to be defensive about our choices. We read a lot, trust the "experts," and when in doubt, call our own Moms.


So as Violet naps away in her swing (still the only place she'll log any nap longer than 1 hr), I have to wonder how well I'm doing as her mom. When she's 10 and unable to go to sleep away camp, maybe I'll regret our decision to let our baby dictate when, where, and with whom she will sleep. That's the thing, though, you don't know the ways you're screwing up your kid til the damage is done. Until then, it's whatever gets you through the night.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Life?



I was 11 years old when I started babysitting. Inspired by the great American novel series, The Babysitters Club, my 3 friends and I made up fliers, handed them out in our neighborhood, and were paid actual money to look after people's children. I knew little about children, nothing about babies, and couldn't have had an attention span longer than 4 minutes. Unlike pre-teens today, I had no cell phone, had never taken a CPR class, and "Safe Sitter" courses hadn't even been invented. I did know how to dial 911, however, and I guess for the trusting young parents hard-up for a night out in 1989, that was about all the qualification that was necessary. Terrifying, actually.

Just for a snapshot of my maturity level, I remember watching the two little boys across the street whose names I'll withhold for their protection. They were probably 5 and 3. The younger one was being potty trained. He did actually make it to the toilet to relieve himself but then (Due to constipation? Inexperience?) could not complete the job. There the poor little guy sat, with what seemed to me at the time to be a GIANT turd 1/2 out, and only 11 year old me to help him. None of the girls in the fictional Babysitters Club had ever dealt with this particular issue. Actually, come to think of it, none of their tales ever had to do with bodily functions. So what did I do? I left the tot sitting on the pot, called my Dad and told him I was too sick to continue babysitting and needed him to walk across the street and relieve me so I could go home. My going rate was $2/hour and even then I knew that there are some jobs you couldn't pay me enough to do.

So Shawn went to the Jimmy Buffett concert this Tuesday and I stayed home. His going away party for Channel 8 is tomorrow but I'll be on Violet duty. Although I often lament the death (or at least paralysis) of my social life, I can't imagine leaving Vi with just any babysitter. I'm sure we would never select a sitter as terrible as I was, but even if she was just 1/2 as bad, it could terrorize the baby.

My Mom is a good option, but given the fact that she's about to be saddled with 32 hours of Violet care a week when I return to my job, I hate to overwork her. And, perhaps making matters even more difficult, is Violet's inability to be soothed by anyone but me and now, thankfully, Shawn, too. I've scheduled one outing per day this week sans Violet while Shawn is off work (a haircut, a lunch) so she could get more consistent practice drinking from a bottle. Shawn says she takes it well. That is a step in the right direction. If all else failed, the babysitter could just let Vi have bottle after bottle until she drank up all I have stored or fell into a breast milk induced coma.

The other thing that I think might make it difficult to leave Violet in a non-family member's care right now is the fact that I still barely know what I'm doing with her and would find it difficult to parlay my half-ass strategies into anything resembling an instruction sheet for a sitter.

1. If she cries, hold her over your left shoulder. Or try sitting her on your lap and swinging on the porch swing.

2. She likes to lay on her changing table and look at stuff sometimes.

3. She may fall asleep while you are holding her after drinking a bottle. Put her down at your own risk. If you MUST go to the bathroom, lay her gently in her swing, turn it on the third level of speed and use the cricket sound effect. Good luck.

4. Bedtime routine is...oh, yeah, there is no bedtime routine. We'll be home at 11 and she will surely still be awake so don't sweat it.

5. Keep 911 on speed dial.

So I guess my social life has to be on hold for awhile. But, now for the sappy part, my life is actually very full and I wouldn't trade any of these three to go to the Wilco concert on Monday night.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Vacation--All I Ever Wanted"






Violet, Shawn, and I had our first family vacation last week. The Murphys were generous enough to let us stay at their adorable house on Fish Lake near the Michigan-Indiana border. Thanks, Murphys!!! An added perk is that Fish Lake is about 6 minutes away from Shawn's parent's house so Violet go to spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa Pierce as well as her aunts, uncle, and 3 cousins. Not that she let any of them get too close, mind you, she is still very weary of anyone she deems to be a stranger. Grandma Pierce is usually a baby-pro, but Vi would barely let poor Trish touch her without screaming. Sheesh!


Having been on the receiving end of that kind of treatment from friend's babies in the past, I know it becomes almost insulting! Prior to having Violet, I thought kids were kind of like dogs in the way they could sense whether or not you were a good person. So when a baby wailed when passed to me, I worried that everyone else in the room thought she was some sort of divining rod, exposing me for the true, rotten person I was. Maybe the baby could see dark parts of me that I didn't even know existed.





Now I'm realizing that while babies are like dogs in many ways--the drooling, the howling, their disregard for personal property--they can't sense anything deeper about a person's character than "You are my mom; you are OK," or "You are not my mom; GET YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF OF ME!!!" At least, that's the extent of Baby Violet's perception.





Violet did seem to realize that vacations are a good time for napping, however, as she swung her way to a 3+ hour snooze almost everyday we were there. Papasan swing is the baby product of the year for the Pierce family!





Friday, July 18, 2008

Word Up, Cuz!



There's a new Schroeder in town! Charles Andrew--Charlie-- was born on Monday, July 14, 2008! We couldn't wait any longer so we packed up 9 week old Violet to go get a look at a real newborn. We were not disappointed--he's a doll! Very much his own boy, different from brother Jack and cousin Violet. Congratulations, to Mommy and Daddy on another gorgeous son!

We got the three sweeties together for a what might have been the cutest photo shoot ever. I dare you not to say, "Awwww!"



We also got to visit briefly with Aunt Bridget while we were in Evansville. We'll be seeing more of her next week when we take our first family vacation to Fish Lake which is just a couple miles down the road from Wolcottville, Shawn's hometown. We can't wait! In other news, Violet had her 2 month doctor's visit today and she's growing like a breastfed weed! Yippee!! She's 10.3 lbs, 22 inches! And thanks to everyone for the advice on vaccines and good pediatricians in the area. We found two we really liked and in the end, geography won out and we chose Dr. Gollnick in Fishers. She is awesome and is pretty well in line with Shawn and my radical views on parenting! As far as the immunizations go, we decided to take them slow, getting Vi vaccinated according to Dr. Sears' alternative schedule. "Dr. Bob" as he's known in the pediatric world, recommends parents who are unsure about vaccine safety but still want their kids protected proceed with immunizations slowly, two shots at a time, until kids are fully vaccinated. It makes for more doctor's visits but hopefully lessens any risks, real or perceived, by reducing the number of vaccines at one time and delaying some that aren't as crucial early on. I feel comfortable with this choice and Violet was a trooper today. She had an oral vaccine for rotovirus that she thought was grody and a shot that she handled with the composure of an infant twice her age! What a gem!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One Woman Baby





After two quick months together, Violet has decided she wants to be in a monogamous relationship with me. Seeing other people just isn't all it's cracked up to be and this is one baby who wants nothing to do with anyone but her mother. Her Daddy, her Grammy, a perfect stranger, it matters not; Violet's reaction when I hand her over is the same. It's a scream.




I thought babies didn't get clingy until they were older. Hell, until just a couple weeks ago I don't even think her vision was good enough to see who was holding her. But she certainly can distinguish differences now. She's so cute, everyone wants to hold her. So I tentatively hand her over with a warning and then apologize when she shrieks 30-45 seconds later. And it isn't that I wouldn't love it if she'd go to other people, especially Shawn. Showering, cooking, exercising, these are things that I have to squeeze in during her unpredictable naps during this last week. I read on the Dr. Sears site, http://www.askdrsears.com/, that putting a baby in a sling and wearing them for at least 3 hours a day is one of the most surefire ways to decrease crying and soothe a fussy baby. So we're giving it a whirl. Shawn is even taken a turn wearing it. It may help him when we're at home but I'll probably need one that's a bit more manly if I hope to get him to slingin' it in public. My sling is reversible but you can't totally hide the floral side.



In the meantime, Vi got to go to her very first Indianapolis Indians game on Thursday. She was her normal Mommy-lovin' self, but we all had a great time sitting in the lawn and enjoying a picnic on what was definitely one of the most beautiful nights of the summer. Pat joined the party as did Nate, Beth, and a very smiley baby Riley. What a cutie!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red, White, and Violet


Violet's very first 4th of July was not quite as festive as I would have liked. Although we did deck her out in her patriotic onesie, we didn't get to see any fireworks or go to any cookouts.

One of my old friends from Chatard, Matt, died unexpectedly (isn't it always unexpected when you're 30?), so we went to the viewing in the afternoon and then got together at the Craft's afterward. Violet did get to see her friend Ana, Buffy and Tim's 9 month old daughter.

I went to the funeral yesterday without Violet and couldn't help but feel terrible for Matt's mother. The priest talked about how children are a gift to us from God and He can call them back at any time. What a sad thought! I came home and snuggled Violet for the rest of the day. I just can't imagine the terrible pain a parent who loses a child must experience. I hope that is something I'll never know firsthand.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

S*M*I*L*E





This is what we've been working for the last 71/2 weeks. Well worth it!!
Mommy sticking her tongue out--Hilarious!!