Friday, March 30, 2012

Parenting: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story!

Your entire life up until you have kids, you are taught morality and the "right way" to do things. You feel like you have a pretty firm grip on the differences between right and wrong and then, all of a sudden, your life goes topsy-turvy with the addition of a tiny little human. Interestingly, things start looking a little more "shades of gray" instead of black and white when it comes to the differences in right and wrong in certain situations.

You can talk to your significant other until you're blue in the face about what you will do or not do as a parent and think there is no way you'll ever budge from your resolutions. Then you actually HAVE the baby and you're trying to navigate through life with her and you'll realize that the pre-baby parents were sort of idiots and had NO idea how hard this would all be! That's when you realize that parenthood is a lot like those Choose Your Own Adventure books where the answers aren't always clear, black and white, or right or wrong. Sometimes you just CHOOSE SOMETHING and hope it doesn't lead you down the wrong story line and make you want to back track through the book to find out where you went wrong (which was TOTALLY cheating, by the way!)

I can't claim that your dad and I have made the "right" decision every single time so far with you. However, I can easily say we've done our best to weigh out the possible consequences of each of our decisions with you because, unlike those books where you could close the book and not have to suffer the actual consequences of your in-book actions, you are a real person who really looks to us to learn how to navigate this world. Here are a few examples of a little book I like to call Parenting: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story!

1. Mom and Dad take their adorable and well-behaved baby to a Mexican restaurant for a quick bite to eat as every one is a bit hungry. They sit down at a table, order the drinks, order an appetizer, and place their meal order with the friendly and helpful waitress. They settle in for the wait by engaging the adorable baby with some pre-meal puffs, toys, and a small glass of water.

All of a sudden, the well-behaved baby starts getting a little bit testy and grumpy. Mom and dad start to notice her getting louder and more resistant to the distractions. They also start to notice a few of the other tables looking their direction with a mix of pity and annoyance. The meal is already ordered (and probably cooking) and you know you're all hungry and too tired to go home and cook. What do you do?

A. Cancel your order and leave knowing they already have some of it finished making you look like a complete jerk to the restaurant staff, but making the other patrons of the establishment relieved to no longer have to deal with your grumpy child.

B. Stick it out, trying everything you can to pacify the grumpy child until the food comes. You know once the food gets here she'll be happy again because she's hungry and she LOVES Mexican food. The restaurant staff will be pleased you didn't cancel your order, but the patrons around you are visibly annoyed that you didn't take your leave as soon as the baby started getting loud and whiny.

Answer: Cool story... there IS no right answer here. You're going to be putting someone out no matter which option you choose. This is why your dad and I do our best to take you to places that are already loud so it drowns out your protests as much as possible, allowing us to all get our meal and leave without being stabbed by the eye-daggers of the other patrons. We also don't take you anywhere that we know to have a long wait because you have an internal timer that starts as soon as your butt hits the high chair that dictates how long you will tolerate the dining experience. We have a few places that are on high-rotation right now because we've had great success taking you there. Still, it isn't always perfect and each time brings a possibly of new things happening and new opportunities for choosing our own adventure!

2. Okay, mom and dad and baby stayed at the Mexican restaurant through the entire meal! Congrats! The triad gets up to leave and the mom and dad discover, much to their horror, that the entirety of the baby's meal is now taking up residence on the floor. That is one MESSY baby! The mom and dad are immediately embarrassed that this happened. What do they do?

A. Leave a HUGE tip and book it on out of there with their tails between their legs. It's a restaurant and mom and dad know that there isn't a lot they can do about it NOW. Besides, part of the huge tip they just left means they can just leave that slop-heap of a high chair looking like a Tasmanian devil just had dinner because technically it isn't their responsibility to clean that mess!

B. Mom and dad apologize to the not-quite-so friendly-now waitress and ask for some extra napkins to do their best to clean up the mess. The baby starts getting annoyed at the hesitation to immediately leave so mom and dad decide they've done their best to clean up what they could, and it's time to leave before the other patrons and the waitress get stabby. A larger-than-usual tip is left, but it isn't huge because mom and dad cleaned up a majority of the mess even though they didn't have to.

Answer: Well... it depends! Sometimes we do answer A and other times we try to do answer B. It really depends on the restaurant, the food we gave you, the amount of mess, whether it would be a waste of our time to try to clean it when the wait staff could clean it up quickly with a broom and how generous we're feeling with the extra tip money. Is either answer right or wrong? Maybe. Then again, maybe not! That's the fun of parenthood! Variables can easily change in each situation making one answer more right than the other at any given time! Enjoy the chaos!

3. Mom and dad have to run to the store to either grab a few things or do the weekly grocery shopping. They have to bring the baby along even though she's not a huge fan of sitting in the grocery cart for more than .02 nanoseconds. Mom and dad are in the middle of getting everything they need, their cart is half full, when the baby gets into full-on cranky mode! Mom and dad have schedules, which make it hard to find time to do everything so the grocery shopping MUST happen! What do they do??

A. Mom finds something to put in the baby's hands to give her something to do while they're there. While holding the object, the baby puts it in her mouth and slobbers all over it. Mom wasn't intending on purchasing the object, just using it long enough to keep the baby entertained and then quietly slipping it back on the shelf before leaving. Now it's encrusted in baby drool. Mom debates about whether to buy the object or just wipe it down with wipes, but ultimately gives in and purchases the object out of guilt. For that small fee, the baby WAS kept entertained though so mom considers it a small price to pay for overall peace and quiet.

B. Mom grabs the diaper bag and pulls out the container of puffs, fills the snack pod with them, and lets the baby go to town on them. The problem with the snack pod full of puffs is that the baby only gets about 1/3 of them in her mouth on any given attempt, leaving a Hansel and Gretel-style trail of puffs behind the shopping cart throughout the store. Mom does her best to pick them up as they go, but it slows down the shopping process and the baby starts losing her patience because it is taking so long. To show her displeasure, the baby grabs the puff container and throws it on the ground. The lid comes off, spraying puffs EVERYWHERE. Mom is annoyed at the loss of a half of a canister of expensive puffs AND embarrassed at the mess. She decides to just quickly finish the shopping with a grumpy baby as fast as humanly possible. When she gets home she realizes she forgot the ONE MAJOR THING she went to the store for in the first place. She has to make another trip after the baby is in bed at home with dad.

Answer: Neither of these is a true win for the mom and dad. Sometimes when going out with the grumpy baby, there is no winner!

4. Mom and dad try really hard not to expose the baby to sick people because they know a sick baby is a miserable baby and a miserable baby makes for equally miserable parents! One day when they are all out and about, they see someone who hasn't seen the baby in a LONG time and gets very excited to hold and snuggle the baby! Mom and dad realize immediately that the person wanting to hold the baby is sniffling and sneezing and coughing like a sea lion and look at each other with a horrified look knowing that this diseased human wants to inflict his/her plague on your perfectly healthy child. Mom and dad have a good run going of no sick baby and aren't looking forward to dealing with it, but they don't want to hurt their friend's feelings either. What do they do??

A. Eh, babies get sick all the time. Mom and dad's friend hasn't seen their baby in a long time and genuinely wants to connect to her! Maybe the baby won't catch the cold during the short amount of time she'll be held and mom and dad know it will make the other person so happy to interact with the baby. Mom and dad risk it for the sake of their friendship. The baby starts coughing and sniffling two days later and the following week is a nightmare of snot, coughs and no sleep for anyone.

B. Mom and dad make note of the person's obvious maladies and say with conviction, "I'm so glad to see you, but it appears you might have a cold so could we wait until next time for you to pick the baby up and snuggle her?" The other person tries to make excuses about how the cold is almost over or that the cold isn't a cold at all, but rather allergies. Mom and dad still feel uncomfortable with the person holding and breathing on the baby, but they give in for the sake of their friendship. The baby starts coughing and sniffling two days later and the following week is a nightmare of snot, coughs and no sleep for anyone.

C. Mom and dad remember how miserable it was last time baby had a cold and they resolved NOT to let anyone who is showing symptoms of a cold anywhere near that baby because of the PTSD everyone suffered from the last time. They are resolved in their decision so even though they run into someone they love and respect, they are firm in letting that person know that they should not pick up the baby and breathe all over her. They balk, they whine, they look super offended, but mom and dad stand firm. Their friendship might suffer for a while, but at least the baby won't get sick, right? The baby starts coughing and sniffling two days later and the following week is a nightmare of snot, coughs and no sleep for anyone. This is because babies get colds at the mere mention of someone having a cold and there is no way to stop them from getting one. Welcome to parenthood!!

Answer: Every answer is the same. That kid is getting a cold! Break out the humidifier!

4. Mom, who is the primary person responsible for getting up in the night to attend to the baby, has had a really rough week or two of baby not getting good sleep. As a result, she is getting worn down and finds that her once-young-body that used to survive on Smarties, microwave pizza, and 30 minutes of sleep each night during college can barely stand anything less than 5 hours of sleep. Mom has a TON of vacation time saved up at work because she worried that she would need it if something happened with the baby. Now, she needs to use some of it up before she loses it. This seems like the PERFECT week to take a day off and rejuvenate herself because she's starting to feel like a pretty crappy shell-of-a-mom, which makes her feel guilty. She chooses to take a Wednesday off, a day that the baby normally goes to day care. She questions whether she should keep the baby home that day with her since she's off of work, or if she should take the baby into day care because she needs some rest and the day is already paid for anyway. What does she do?

A. Mom is no kind of mom unless she's taking care of herself. She realizes she will not get any rest and relaxation with a busy 1 year old running around. The 1 year old LOVES going to day care and keeping her home with mom would mean she would miss out on playing with her day care friends, which makes her grumpy. A grumpy baby would make for an even more stressed mom so mom decides to take her into day care and use the day as a mini-vacation. At the end of the day she is refreshed and so excited to go and see her baby! Mom is rested, which means she is more interactive and more patient with her baby. Everyone wins!

B. Mom lets the guilt take over and keeps the baby home with her. The baby is grumpy because there's no one else to play with and mom doesn't seem very interactive today either. Mom tries her hardest to take a nap when the baby does, hoping to get a bit of sleep to catch up from the last week or two, but the neighbor dogs start barking, making it impossible for her to get to sleep for the first hour of baby's nap. Baby is oblivious to the barking. Finally, mom falls asleep, but baby has decided to cut her nap short so mom only gets about 30 minutes of sleep before baby is up and ready to play! Mom drags her butt out of bed and takes the baby to the park so she can at least have some other kids to play with before the day is over. Mom is like the walking dead. Oh, and her last appointment at the dr.'s office showed her blood pressure higher than usual. The doctor suggested taking a day off for herself, but her mom guilt just wouldn't allow it.

Answer: It depends. Honestly, I have taken a day or two off where I sent you to day care because you're happier at day care with your friends, we already paid for the day, and because I do feel like I'm a better mom when I feel human. I have felt guilty for doing so, but in the end I know that there are three things in life that I need to take care of: 1. You. 2. Your dad. and 3. Me. Some of these things get more attention than others at any given time, but they are all important. I love you more than life itself, but there is NO point in me martyring myself over needing a little time to myself from time to time and if/when you're a mother, I hope you realize the same thing about yourself. You are no good to anyone if you're too stressed out and exhausted to be a good mom. I will continue to take care of myself when I need to so I can be the best I can be for you. Other people might have different answers, but this has worked for us and that's what matters!

5. Mom and dad have a very busy 1 year old on their hands! She is into everything and curious about how things work. She doesn't know how to protect herself or what things are dangerous. It is up to mom and dad to decide how they are going to let her explore her world and how much they are going to intervene. One day, baby decides it's time for her to learn how to climb the stairs. Mom and dad are terrified at the baby's new-found determination to conquer those stairs but they don't want to limit their baby, either. What do they do??

A. Mom and dad decide that their baby is simply too young for the stairs. Her balance isn't great all of the time and even with them hovering over her, they worry that she's going to take a tumble and seriously hurt herself. Every time the baby goes near the stairs, mom and dad rush in and move her away from them saying, "no no!" She gets frustrated. The stairs are all she wants!!! Eventually, she just gives up because she knows she won't get to try them anyway. She doesn't make an attempt at the stairs again for another several months. She also doesn't make an attempt at a few other things she was interested in because mom and dad keep telling her no. She is disappointed and frustrated but what can she do? Mom and dad make the rules.

B. Mom and dad aren't ready for their baby to be ready for the stairs, but they decided early on that they didn't want to be helicopter parents or limit their baby in any way. They let her try the stairs and, lo and behold, she gets them ALL on the first try! She's so proud of herself and mom and dad are proud, too! She tries them again time and time again. Sometimes she does them perfectly, other times she slips a little bit. Once or twice she even fell off of the bottom step onto the floor because the baby gate gives her access to the one stair, while blocking the rest of them. She cried, but she always gets up and tries again! She starts attempting other things, too. Mom and dad are terrified that she will hurt herself, but they don't want to limit her exploration and discovery. They are always nearby and never let her do anything that is seriously dangerous, but they DO let her fall from time to time so she learns how things work. She remains adventurous and is often times more than her mom and dad think they can handle, but at least she knows that she can try things without being held back. She is confident and genuinely excited about new experiences.

Answer: You know, I can't tell anyone how to raise their kid, but OUR answer is always going to be option B. I never want you to think that you can't do something without trying first. We're always going to encourage you to try something new, but we'll also be here for you if you fall. Life is too full of exciting opportunities and trying to limit your exposure to those new and exciting things just seems cruel. You are so fascinated by life! To squash any part of that, to limit you, that just doesn't fit our parenting-style and it doesn't fit your kid-style, either.

I hope you enjoyed your Choose Your Own Adventure! I also hope it helps you realize that there are often no "right" answers when you parent a kid, but there are "more right for that particular situation at that particular time" answers. These answers change constantly! Everyone's parenting experience is going to be different and there are a variety of variables which will constantly test your resolve as a parent, but that's part of what makes it exciting!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Documenting your life: What to do, what not to do?

One of the awesome perils of being a new parent is figuring out what sorts of neat-o things to do to document your life. In this age of newfangled computers, there are literally MILLIONS of things a person can do to make sure every aspect of their child's life is documented. I haven't checked, nor do I want to, but I'm guessing I could find a website that will bronze your first poop in the toilet if I so wished to keep something like that... and I don't. You're welcome.

Instead of getting a second mortgage on the house to pay for all of the cool keepsakes, I've done some picking and choosing of a few options that I think will best sum up your childhood. I've had a blast doing these things and I hope, someday when you're older, you will appreciate having them!

What to do:

*Photo books - Your mama is not a scrapbooker. I am always impressed by the myriad of awesome scrapbooking materials they sell and do find myself staring longingly at all of the cool stickers, but when it comes down to it I am not someone who should be trusted with pinking shears and photos. Instead, the librarian in me appreciates the type of life-documenting that will last a lifetime! I chose to do photo books for you because I never have to worry about photos falling out, getting creased, or fading away. For your first year I did a photo book every three months because you were growing SO quickly! For each year after that, I'll probably do one or two books per year. I've purchased them in triplicate, one for each grandparent. We actually don't have our own copies of the books right now, but they're saved on the website and I can re-buy them anytime!

*Memory Keepers - There is a website called PaperCoterie that has these AMAZING memory keepers! They are boxes with customizable exteriors, which allow me to save all of your neat little odds and ends for the year in one organized place! So far we've done one for 2011 and I just got the 2012 version the other day. They can sit on a bookshelf with the year emblazoned on the side so you can easily pull down one of the memory keepers and find all of your neat knick knacks from that particular year! This is actually one of my favorite ways to document your life because they're just so spiffy looking AND super helpful when it comes to organizing your stuff.

*Funny things Gracie says journal - One of the great things about you learning to talk is how often you will say funny things that leave your dad and I wondering, "Where on earth did she hear that?" I didn't want to forget those neat things so I bought a journal (with your picture on the cover, of course!) called, "Listen Up! Baby G says what's on her mind..." In this journal we will write down all of the ridiculous, cute, heart-warming, and funny things that come out of your mouth!

*Christmas Ornaments - I knew I wanted to come up with some sort of fun way to document all of your Santa pictures for as long as you'd let us plop you on his lap. I took your first Santa picture and made it into a cute Christmas Ornament with the year beneath it. I'd like to get a neat ornament holder to hang these on the mantle each Christmas. When you stop wanting to sit on Santa's lap, we'll just put another type of Christmas picture of you in an ornament! You're not getting out of it just because you stop believing in Santa!

*Christmas (and other holiday) cards - Your mama went a little nuts this year sending out cards for Christmas and Valentine's day (on top of your birthday announcement) These things all happened within 3 months of each other and I assume your extended family now expects a new type of card every month! HAHA!

*Blog - One of the most labor-intensive documentation things I'm doing includes this blog. It takes a while to put a photo-book together, but nothing like updating this blog! I like to update about 1-2 times per week right now. If I do this until you're headed to college, I will have thousands of blog entries; many taking an hour or more each to write! I plan to print this blog out each year into a book for you to have when you leave home. I'm not sure when I will start sharing this blog with you, age-wise, but I do want you to have it forever as a reminder that your mom totally digs you and wanted you to know more about yourself as a child when you were older and couldn't remember everything. It's also because as I get older I will probably forget a lot of things, too. I never want to forget these wonderful times!

*Yearly Calendar - Each year I'd like to make a calendar using the previous year's pictures during those particular months. I made your first one at the very end of 2011 using 2011's pictures and we have it hanging up right now in the kitchen. It's so fun!

*Growing up so big chart - We got you a growth chart to document how tall you were each year instead of making marks on a door jam in a house we could easily sell someday, leaving your growth marks behind. Instead, this growth chart peels back off of any surface you put it on, allowing us to bring it with us wherever we go!

*Baby book - And we totally got you a regular old baby book so you would have all the fun information that all the other kids have, too! I'm mostly up to date with it right now, but I do need to add your first birthday stuff to it.

*Plastering my desk and home with pictures of you - Pretty self-explanatory! I often find good deals on free 8X10 photos so I keep rotating new pictures of you at my desk for all to see.

*External hard drive full of pics, neatly organized - As it stands, right now, I have over 16 gigs of photos and videos of you from your first year. I bought a 2 terabyte hard drive to store these things (as well as remote storage at work). I'll probably have to buy another one in a few years because this one will be full!

What not to do:

*Scrapbooking - Like I said, I can't be trusted with scissors! The photo books are better for archival purposes, anyway!

*Taking your picture every single day - We do so many things that sometimes I forget to break out the camera. I do as much as I can, but we can't possibly document every day of your life, no matter how precious each day is!

*Getting professional pics done before you were one year old - Yeah, we waited to do studio pictures until you were a year old. I know some people do them every month (or so it seems) but time just slipped by when we were doing other things! Instead, we have pictures take by us and other family for most of your first year. We will do studio pictures each year around your birthday.

*Bronzing your shoes - I mean, we'll keep them, but I don't see the purpose of bronzing them!

*Putting your face on a throw blanket or a piece of clothing - No offense to anyone who has done this, but I think using a blanket with someone's face on it is sort of creepy. I'll also probably never walk around with a loved one's face on my shirt, either, but maybe it's too soon to make that statement!

I hope you enjoy seeing all of these fun things we've done to document your childhood half as much as I've enjoyed making them! I'm also guessing we'll add other things down the line as I find new and exciting ways to plaster your face on something!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Putting it all in perspective: How to deal with a frustrating baby.

Overall I would say you are a really good baby.

A lot of the things people warned us about haven't really happened. You're happy, giggly, hilarious, fun, exciting, brave and adventurous and nearly every minute with you is wonderful beyond words! However, there are times... every now and then... where... Hmmm, how should I say this?

You can be very frustrating.

Now don't get me wrong, we spend the majority of our time with you laughing our tails off or commenting on how completely amazing you are in every single way! But sometimes you can be extremely trying on your poor mom and dad's patience. Currently, you are 13 months old; far away from the terrible twos. However, you have shown yourself to be quite advanced and sometimes I think maybe you're practicing your craft so you're extra good at it by your next birthday. I have no doubt AT ALL that you will succeed beyond our wildest fears!

What sorts of things do you do to frustrate us?

1. You sleep through the night right now in the sense that you only get up once (somewhere between 4:00 and 6:00 am) wanting a bit of milk before you go back to sleep (until you get up for the day sometime around 8:30ish). Usually, you drift back to sleep after that milk infusion in less than 10 minutes, but LATELY... you've been getting your milk and then telling me all about it through the baby monitor for upwards of an hour and a half or longer. On the weekends it isn't such a big deal because even if you stay up between 4:30 and 6:00 am, I can at least get a little extra shut-eye between 6:00 and 8:30 when you finally get up. On the weekdays, this is a completely different story. When you have been waking up at 4:30 for your bottle and not getting back to sleep until 6:00, that means that I'm up for the day at 4:30 am because I have to be at work by 7:00. No time to for extra shut-eye for me! Believe me, I've tried sleeping through baby-babblin' and your poor mama just can't do it! It's so frustrating to think you're asleep because you've been quiet for the last 15 minutes, start drifting off to sleep myself, and then hear you shriek, "DADA!!!!!!!!!" (followed by giggles). Honestly, it's as adorable as it is frustrating, but I'd be willing to give up the cuteness for a couple more hours of sleep. You're cute enough during the waking hours!

2. You are a very good eater (much like your mom and dad). You love shoving fistfuls of bananas into your mouth. You are usually pretty good about trying new things, but those things don't always stay in your mouth. Your tongue turns into a little backhoe when something you're not entirely certain about lands on it; shoving the mouthful of food out from where it came and landing all over your clothes, the table, the floor... me. Even things that you tried and liked the day before get the backhoe treatment if you're not feeling them RIGHT THEN! It's so frustrating when we try to feed you and you spit everything out! Then, when you're getting frustrated with the process, you start grabbing your plate in an attempt to dump the contents all over the place, which leads to me saying, "no no!!" and you getting mad that I told you no so you grab a fistful of food and drop it all over the table. Sigh...

3. When you wake up for the day you are happy, chipper, giggly, just all-around the bestest little baby in the history of the world! From that moment on, it slowly progresses downhill as you get whinier and crabbier until it is FINALLY (thank heavens!!!) time for your nap! Then, you take your nap, wake up, and start the whole cycle again until it's time for bed. The hour or two after you get up is some of my favorite time with you because you are HILARIOUS! Those whiny and crabby times are a lot less fun. You're finally at the age where you're aware enough to know what you want, but not quite able to convey your meaning to us so we can do something about it. So, basically, we just run around like maniacs trying all sorts of things to make you happy until it is finally time for you to go to sleep. Sometimes we succeed, many times we don't. I'm pretty sure you're smack-dab in the middle of a growth spurt because all of a sudden you feel like you weigh 10 lbs more than you did last week. If I gained 10 lbs in a week, I'd be whiny and crabby, too! I can't really fault you for any of it, but it IS very frustrating.

4. You're also going through a phase right now where you want to be held and put down on the ground... simultaneously. You can't figure out why we can't get this right! "Pick me up, put me down, pick me up, put me down, pick me up AND put me down AT THE SAME TIME GUYS!!!" If we don't comply with this seemingly impossible demand, you get upset. Someday I will teach you the concept of "mutual exclusivity" but until then, I'll just have to try not to get frustrated when you demand such things. (P.S. It's really hard, but I'm trying.)

5. Putting you in the car seat right now is TORTURE for all of us. You just cannot handle being confined to ANYTHING right now. You are constantly on the move and anything that keeps you from running around at half the speed of light is deemed evil and worthy of shrieking screams. We start to put you in the car seat and you begin to wail, kick, arch your back, do anything possible to make it nearly impossible for us to restrain you properly. Once you're in the seat, you voice your displeasure at the tightening of the straps in such a way that people walking by must be certain we are killing you. Then, when you're finally strapped in and we're on our way to our destination, you continue your battery of whines and yelps until we either get to where we're going, or you've finally accepted your fate. You love being out and about, but I've learned that I can really only do about one or two locations in an hour because any more than that leaves both of us incredibly annoyed and frustrated with each other. I can't wait until you're old enough to stop hating that thing. I just hope there IS an "old enough" phase because you're going to be in that thing until you get married if it means you're safer in the car. I mean it, young lady.

6. Then, when you're in the car seat and we're out and about you THROW ALL OF YOUR TOYS off to the side where you can't reach them! After successfully ridding yourself of all of the toys, you decide you want them all back again. I hate to break it to you kiddo... but I'm NOT going to start pulling the car over to play toy-fetch with you every five seconds! Eventually you will learn that throwing your stuff means you don't get to have it anymore. (When will you learn this, by the way? I want to start counting down the days...)

7. Changing your diaper or clothing is about half tolerable and half annoying. Sometimes you're totally fine with letting us do what we need to do and other times it's like trying to dress a caffeinated Tasmanian devil. You do realize if you would just LAY THERE QUIETLY I could get this outfit/diaper on you in half of the time and you could run off and play more quickly, right??? RIGHT??? WHY DON'T YOU REALIZE THIS??? I'm just trying to help you!

There are other frustrating things, I'm sure, that I just don't remember at the moment. Right now, I'm just a little bit tired from that thing I mentioned in #1 up there (I got to sleep around midnight and you woke up at 4:30. You didn't get back to sleep until after I left for work. Mama doesn't function well on 4 and a half hours of sleep, baby.) But honestly, these things aren't that bad in the grand scheme of things and I do try very hard not to get frustrated with you outwardly because you're just a baby and these are all normal baby things. Still, you'd have to be made of metal and gears not to get a little frustrated now and then as a parent, right?

It's all a matter of putting it into perspective.

I say this because I am all too often reminded of how important the art of putting things into perspective can be.

This morning as I was perusing a bit of social networking while working the Reference Desk I saw two different posts from two different people I know from two different parts of my life. They are different in nearly every single way, except they shared the same agony. They had each lost a niece or a nephew yesterday. They each had a small and innocent member of their family pass away and they will never see those sweet little babies ever again. One of the babies had been born very prematurely, lived for 9 days, then passed away. The other was a three year old little girl who had cancer and succumbed to her illness. As I read these posts I was reminded that I had planned to write a blog post about how frustrating you could be at times and, immediately, felt guilty. I was reminded, in that instant, of all of the families out there who would give anything to have those frustrating moments back because it meant the nightmare of losing their babies wasn't a reality. That's when I decided to put it all into perspective.

You have been such a blessing in my life that I can't even put into words how lost I would be without you. If going days without sleep or getting covered in half-chewed rice and peas means I still have you in my life, then I will consciously make the connection between feelings of frustration and the blessing of even having you in the first place. When you get older and I feel like I'm about to lose my mind because you simply will not listen to me, I will remind myself that you and your little non-listening ears are still around for me to hug and whisper sweet nothings into. Through every little annoyance and frustration, I will do my best to engage you with a thankful heart because you are perfectly mine and I still have you.

Similarly, when you're a teenager and everything we do and say to you drives you up the wall, try to remember, through your frustration and anger, that parents don't last forever. Let's all be blessed and grateful for every day we have together as a family. I love you!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Never forget: you are a woman and you have rights!

Here's the thing...

It is HARD to be a girl.

I am glad I was born a girl (and I'm very glad you were, too! A little girl is all I've ever wanted!), but living as a female in our society is, at times, fraught with frustration and inequality. As I write this we currently live in a world where it is okay to pay women up to 30% of less than what men make for the exact same job. Okay, I should state that it isn't overtly okay, (it is illegal to discriminate) but it happens... a lot. We also live in a society that sees nothing wrong with paying for prescriptions for men who want to enhance their sex lives (i.e. Viagra), but we struggle to come up with comprehensive coverage for family planning prescriptions for women across the board.

In nearly all aspects of family planning, women are scrutinized for their desire to be in control of their own "fate." Your dad and I wanted to have a baby. In fact, we wanted to have two babies (not necessarily at the same time, mind you!) We practiced family planning before you came along until we thought we would be ready for your arrival. We did this because we wanted to be responsible parents. We wanted to own a house, have stable income, be mentally prepared for the responsibilities of raising a child... everything was thought out and planned ahead of time. We have the various methods of birth control to thank for not bringing you into the world "too soon," but rather having you at a time where we had it all under control. Now, your dad and I aren't so sure that you will ever have a brother or a sister because we already feel complete with you. Thanks to birth control, we have the ability to exercise our rights NOT to have more children if we so choose.

There are people in the world who would consider us to be very wrong for choosing to regulate our family this way. There are people RIGHT NOW who would consider your poor mom to be some sort of harlot for making the decision to take a pill to regulate my menstrual cycle/fertility or to get an implantation in my uterus, which would keep me from becoming pregnant for up to 5 years. Imagine that? I hope this all sounds completely ridiculous to you by the time you're old enough to read these words because it will mean we, as a society, finally got our collective heads out of our asses and realized that women (and their partners) have a right to plan their families without being stigmatized.

You are the most wonderful thing that could have happened to your dad and I, but we don't necessarily feel like you need a brother or sister at this time because the three of us feels like "enough" right now. I can't even begin to tell you how often people ask me when I'm going to get pregnant again. I can't even begin to tell you how shocking it is to have people think it is their business to know these things in the first place! Imagine their surprise when I tell them we aren't currently considering having another child. Oh, the horror! I've had people go so far as to tell me that it is my moral imperative to have another child because we're such good parents to you and it is selfish not to have more. Um... thanks? (This, dear, is called a backhanded compliment. People will say something nice to you to hide the fact that they are condemning something else about you.) I have a hard time defending our decision to these people because "all children are gifts and you should want more." I think that does a great disservice to you, our only child, because I feel like they're saying I need more than you to be happy. I'm very happy, damn it! You are my WORLD! I'm still trying to come up with a nice way to tell these people to butt out. I may never find a NICE way to do it.

Another thing I hope you never have to experience as a woman, but I have experienced firsthand, is how society thinks that women are a public commodity. The sad thing is that women are just as guilty of perpetuating offensive acts against other women as the men are; sometimes even worse! When I was pregnant with you, any personal space boundaries I may have had before I was pregnant were GONE! As soon as people found out I was with-child, my belly got more rubbings than an inverted puppy. Would you EVER walk up to a stranger and ask to touch their stomach randomly? I hope not. It happened to me several times. Being pregnant also gave people a perceived permission to ask me the most personal questions (like my breastfeeding plans, how much weight I gained, did I have hemorrhoids?) Women were the worst about it. Men, at least, seem to shy away from asking women anything weight-related and, according to your dad, women don't have anything going on in or around their backsides. He likes to believe that girls don't poop. You totally ruined that illusion for him!

Long story short... as a woman people will think you should share personal information about yourself (guys in bars will be pushy when trying to get information out of you, too. Tell them to bugger off!) or accept less than what is owed to you. I want you to know that you are a woman and you have rights! You are more than your body, you are more than your race or your gender. You are a human being who deserves respect and equality regardless of the plumbing you were born with. I hope to do my best to raise you believing that.

Lastly, this world is really hard on women when it comes to appearances. There is a certain standard of beauty shoved down the throats of nearly all women by the media and our peers. I want you to know that this perfect image of the perfect woman is complete and utter bull-hockey. Those women Do Not Exist. The women in those pictures don't actually look like that in real life. Those women are digital. They are virtual. They are impossible in so many ways. I don't want you to EVER use those images as the ruler by which you measure your appearance. You are also more than your face. Of course I think you are beautiful because you ARE beautiful. But you are also smart, funny, fun, energetic, enthusiastic, and awe-inspiring... and you're only 13 months old right now! Imagine what all you'll be when you're older?? Nothing short of amazing, I imagine. You are more than the individual parts. You are the whole package.
I wish I could tell you that all of what I've said will be enough to get you through life. I wish I could say the right combination of things to make it enough. Instead, it is our job to bring you to a point where you fight for your own rights; a place where you are "enough" for yourself just like you're "enough" for your dad and I. (More than enough! Our cup overflows because of you!) Until then, you will always have a safe place from this unsafe and unfair world; in our arms, hugging you tightly.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Traditions: Old and New

When you you get married and combine families, it can be sort of interesting trying to figure out a way to blend all of the different traditions into one new family. Your dad and I have tried throughout the years to pay homage to long-standing traditions while understanding that we are also a new family and we need to come up with traditions that work for our own little family, too.

Traditions are important to families as they give us a sense of belonging, comfort, and "home" no matter where we are. Something as simple as a smell or a taste can transport us from wherever we are in the world back to one small place and time in our lives. As your mom and dad, we want you to experience things in your life that made us happy when we were little people, but we also want to create new experiences that we can all be a part of as you grown up. What is the saying? "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold!" Well, traditions are like that, too! We make new ones and celebrate how wonderful the new things can be, but we treasure the old ways of doing things, too.

We've only been a family with you for a year now, but we've already started a few new traditions and upheld a few older ones. I'm sure as the years go by we will add a few different things to the list, but for now, here is how we celebrate throughout the year!

*Birthdays - We all do different things for our birthdays. For my birthday (mom) we usually go out for Japanese dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with a few family members. It's one of the few times a year I get delicious Japanese food so I always look forward to it! Your dad likes to go downtown on his birthday and scoop up a bunch of the freebies given out by local businesses. Some of those things include: free drinks, free popcorn, free movie, free movie rental, and various options for free food/dessert, too! Your first birthday was a big party at our house, but we may change it up next year because our house was PACKED and it was a bit hard to move around with so many people. One tradition I began at your first birthday was making your birthday decorations. I made that Yo Gabba Gabba banner out of felt and it's still hanging up a month later because you keep pointing at it and getting excited! I love that something I made by hand makes you so happy, so I'll probably keep doing it! I'm not sure what I'll make next year, but I hope you end up liking it as much as your banner! I also plan on continuing to make your cake/cupcakes and other party-themed treats (for your party and for your day care buddies).

*St. Patrick's Day - For your first St. Patrick's Day, I took the afternoon off of work and met your dad downtown for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade! We didn't know it then, but it was the start of a fun new tradition. This year the parade is on a Saturday so neither of us have to take the day off! You're also going to be a lot more aware of what is going on this year and I'm not sure if that will be good or bad. I hope the loud noises don't scare you! I'm guessing you're going to love it, though! And, of course, we all wear green so we don't get pinched!

Your cute green outfit from last year!

*Fourth of July - When I was growing up the Fourth of July usually meant going to see the big city fireworks display. We didn't really do fireworks at the house much (something about your money literally going up in smoke?) I'm still not sure how much of that we're going to do with you, but I do want to get some sparklers this year because I think you'll really like those (from a safe distance, of course!) Last year we went to your Grandmas' house for a BBQ. We'll probably do that again this year. We also went to the city BBQ and walked around sampling some of the local cuisine. Depending on the weather, we'll probably keep doing that, too! When you're old enough that you aren't scared by the big booms of the city fireworks, we'll start doing that. Until then, I'll just silently (or not-so-silently) curse those who defy the in-town fireworks ban and set off things that keep you awake at night!

*Piotique - Piotique is a celebration held in my small hometown every September. Piotique is a mixture of "pioneer" and "antique." There are lots of food booths and craft booths, music, and a big parade through the streets. We went last September to take part in the fun and so family who still lives in there could see you. It was a long day (complete with 2 hour car trips there and back), but you were so well behaved! You seemed to really like the parade, too. This year you will probably be a bit less well-behaved (being an opinionated 19 month old by then), but we'll still go and you'll probably still have fun between toddler tantrums!

*Halloween - Our city does a really neat thing every Halloween where kids can go to the downtown district and go trick-or-treating to local businesses. It's great because the kids are all safe, they get a TON of candy, and the adults enjoy looking at all the cute kiddos running around in their costumes. We did this last year with you (in your cute Jayhawk costume!!!) and you genuinely seemed to enjoy looking at all of the other kids. We met up with a few buddies (Baby O and Baby R) and you got your first taste of candy when dad shared a sucker with you. We went over to the Grandmas' house after we were done downtown and you got a few fun little goodies from them! We will probably do all of that again this year! As adults, your dad and I have another Halloween tradition that we like to do. We have a big party up at our business for all of our friends! You probably won't be able to come to that party for a looooooooooong time!

*Thanksgiving - Your dad and I started our own Thanksgiving traditions a couple of years ago when we decided we were through with traveling all over on the holidays to see various people. Instead, we decided to keep Thanksgiving (and Christmas) at our house for our own little family and friends. Now we hold Thanksgiving dinner (or lunch, actually) at our house! We usually make the turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes (no less than 10 lbs at a time because your dad LOVES leftovers!), gravy, biscuits, and pumpkin pies. We always have your Grandpa come as well as other family if they can make it. We also invite friends over who may not be able to go home over the holiday. We always eat a TON of food; our favorite tradition of all! After all of the feasting (maybe not the same day...) we put up our Christmas decorations and listen to Christmas albums!

*The time leading up to Christmas - There isn't an exact time that we do these things, but this last year during the time leading up to Christmas (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) we did several things that I want to keep doing in the future. We got your picture taken with Santa; a tradition I want to continue as I made that picture into a cute little 2011 ornament to hang on our mantle this upcoming year. Each year your Santa picture will get turned into an ornament until you tell me that you're too old for Santa... then I'll be sad, but I understand. We also made ornaments out of Sculpy Clay to hang on our tree! Each year I want to make you an ornament to put on the tree. This last year I made you a panda ornament (because pandas are easy to make, look like what they're supposed to be, and even though a panda isn't technically a bear, I made it because I call you "baby bear" a lot!)

Here you are with your ornament looking less-than-impressed by my skills!

*Christmas Eve - Christmas Eve is a really important time, especially for your dad, because his family used to do all of the great immediate-family stuff that night instead of on Christmas. To pay tribute to that tradition, this past Christmas we had your grandmas, your grandpa, and Caelan over to eat dinner, listen to Christmas albums, and open presents! We had ham, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, and scalloped potatoes. We all opened our presents and enjoyed each other's company! Christmas Eve is also the night Santa comes and fills our stockings with goodies for us to open Christmas Day!

*Christmas Day - On Christmas Day of this past year we went to the Grandmas' house for lunch and presents with some of the extended family. We opened presents from the Grandmas and opened stockings from the Grandmas and from each other in our immediate family! Out of all of the presents you got, your favorite thing was a half-full water bottle. It figures!

*Food Traditions - It isn't difficult to see that food is important to our family (seeing as how both your dad and I are fighting the bulge battles, currently). There are a few things my family holds dear, food-wise, that I want to share with you as you grow older. Some of those things include: your Great-Grandma G's sugar cookies, her Jackpot casserole, angel-food cake with pink icing, your Grandma P's potato soup, and your mom's (mine!) AMAZING peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and delicious cheesecakes! You come from a long line of women who can rock a kitchen and I can't wait to pass these skills on to you! Just be a little bit more self-controlled around these foods than your dear old mom was (is.... sigh).

As time goes by we will create more and more fun traditions as a family. When you grow up and decide to start your own family (if you choose to do so), you can pick and choose from some of our traditions to share with your new family, while creating new and fun ones that are special to you!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Holy Crap! (aka: Things I wasn't expecting as a parent)

Okay, I'm willing to admit something here that you won't often hear me say...

I was totally not prepared to be a parent.

Your dad and I knew, from early in our relationship, that we both wanted kiddos. We talked about it a lot over the years we were together before you came to be a part of our lives. We discussed timing of babies, what we'd name babies, and how we wanted to raise our babies. You'll probably hate to hear this, but we talked so much about our future kids that you didn't really stand much of a chance against us. We are a united front of parenthood. You are basically doomed to be the perfect child.

And yes, we silently judged other parents "pre-Baby G." We'd see a child acting up and look at each other like, "They need to get their heads in the game and parent those kids ASAP!" We'd talk a big talk about how we were going to do things differently than those people. We'd ponder parent-child interactions like we were doing post-game commentary for ESPN. We had been around kids enough to know the things we should expect out of them, and spent a lot of time discussing how we would react in those situations. By the time you came along, we were CONFIDENT we were going to be the best damned parents in the history of EVER.

Yeah... about that...

As it turns out, we both agree that we ARE pretty rad parents, but whoa... we were taken a bit off guard by a few things. These instances of "HOLY CRAP!" have helped shape us as parents, and all of us as a family, by learning "on the fly" how we are going to respond to things that pop up out of nowhere. Some things have left us feeling like we are ten feet tall (you know, the GOOD surprises!) Others have left us a bit battle-worn as we contemplate our next moves and how NOT to react to situations beyond our control. Overall, the lessons I've taken away from parenting a child for just a little over a year include: patience, deep breaths during anger, team-work, compassion, observation, and the intense power of the mother-child connection to instinctively "know" when something IS something (good or bad).

There have been many things over the last year that surprised us, but here are a few of the things that came to mind when I brainstormed all of our "HOLY CRAP!" moments.

*Feeding baby once you leave the hospital - Okay, in our defense the hospital was very good at instructing us how much to feed you the different "meals" you had after you were born but told us NOTHING about how to progress with feedings after we left. They told us how big your tummy was, how often to feed you, how much to feed you, and it was so helpful! I had NO idea how tiny a baby's tummy was at birth, nor did I realize how quickly it grew over the first few days! Having the staff on hand to tell us all of these things was vital. Toward the end of our hospital stay we were feeding you about an ounce of formula every 2-3 hours or so and you seemed really happy about that. The first night we had you home things were great until, all of a sudden, they were really really bad. If you remember in my first "Baby G: you terrify me" post, I discussed the first night home and how you wailed and screamed for, seemingly, no reason. Well, finally out of frustration from trying EVERYTHING else I could think of, I said, "lets just feed her again even though she just ate and it isn't time!" It went against what we learned in the hospital, but we were desperate for some relief from the ear-splitting screams. Well, what do you know? All you wanted was food! As soon as we fed you (nearly triple what we thought we should feed you, if i remember correctly) you were fine. A friend of ours told us after that to just feed you until you puked. I'm guessing it was a bit of an exaggeration, but we learned very quickly to just let you eat what you wanted and to hell with what we learned in the hospital. You're still a very good eater, by the way!

*Amount of food going in versus amount being spit up - Having never taken a physics class, I still pride myself in the basic knowledge that pouring a cup of water into a glass and then pouring that cup of water into another glass would still end up being, for all intents and purposes, a full cup of water. This does not seem to be the case with babies. For example, your dad or I would feed you about 3 ounces of formula and over the next 2-3 hours you would seem to spit up at least 12 ounces of liquid (okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration...) We began to worry that you weren't getting any nutrition because it all came back up. Our visits to the doctor showed you gaining weight at a perfect rate, but I just couldn't see how that was possible since all of your calories ended up on your bib, on one of us, or all over your carseat/boppy pillow/exersaucer. Well, as it turns out, we were awful judges of how much liquid we wrung out of your bibs because by the laws of the universe SOME of that food had to remain in your stomach for you to be healthy and grow up as well as you have. Still, it seemed like a lot and it's very jarring when you're a new parent and all you want is for your baby to get what she needs. You're a pretty amazing baby, but I doubt you are breaking laws of physics at your young age (unless you ARE and then I'll have to update this post again someday).

*You may feel you have made a huge mistake - Okay, this one is hard for me to talk about and it might be hard for you to read. First, I need to tell you that there is nothing in this world I would rather be, right now or ever, than your mommy. You are the best thing either of us has ever done and we would just as soon hurl ourselves into the sun than experience a life without you in it. Now, that being said, lack of sleep and a drastic change in lifestyle can REALLY mess you up. There is a reason they call it "the baby blues" and there is also a reason why they drill it into your head in childbirth class that it is fairly common for a period of sadness to set in after a baby arrives. Nothing puts the brakes on a regular routine like having a baby! The first 6-8 weeks of your life were really really hard on all of us. We didn't know what we were doing and you had no way of letting us know how we were screwing up. There were times when I wondered if we had any right being parents because I felt like a failure for many reasons (some of which included: needing a C-section instead of a natural birth (I will talk about this in another post in the future), not having success at getting you to latch so I could breastfeed, not knowing why you were crying nearly all the time, and even not figuring out how to swaddle you in such a way that you could get comfort and sleep.) Eventually, the lack of sleep and the feelings of failure/sadness made me wonder if we had made a mistake in thinking we could do this. I loved my new baby, but I also mourned my "lost life of convenience" every time I tried to do something... anything... with a new baby. I missed sleep. I missed hanging out with people. I missed just sitting on the couch, vegging out, whenever I'd had a rough day at work. I missed the luxury of being sick and lazing around until I felt better. I simply wasn't ready for all of the changes. Turns out, I wasn't abnormal. These aren't uncommon feelings for new parents to have, but no one talks about it because it seems really awful to question whether you should have had your child or not. The answer in the long run is, "of course we should have had you! You're wonderful and we cannot picture our lives without you!" But sometimes the answer in the short term is, "I'm so not ready for this, but I'll keep trudging forward until I am." That's what happened and I'm so glad we did!

*Can’t swaddle like the nurses, don’t even try - Remember how I mentioned above that I felt like a total failure because I couldn't swaddle you enough to keep you happy and comforted? Holy cow... we tried so many different things but you kept breaking out of each of them! Our sleep was so fragmented because you would wake up screaming and checking on you to see what was wrong usually meant you had an arm sticking out of some random fold of the swaddle blanket and you were hitting yourself in the face with it. Damn... babies really DO NOT have any sort of control over their little arms! Until a co-worker of mine told me about the Miracle Blanket, we assumed we would just never sleep more than an hour at a time ever again. Have I mentioned how amazing that product is more than a thousand times yet? A thousand times is my goal to continue bringing up how much that invention saved our lives because it was the only thing that gave us ALL sleep. Turns out those nurses in the hospital have the strength of 20,000 oxen and no one... NO ONE... will ever swaddle a baby as well as they do. They only do it about a trillion times a day more than the average person. They are masters of their baby-origami craft and none of us can ever strive to be as good at it. I'll go so far as to say, "don't even try." The Miracle Blanket is for the rest of us and it should just be used right away.

*How quickly they “wake up” and start interacting - Okay, let me put it this way...

Age: 1 day shy of your two month birthday:

Mom: "Hi baby! Hello! You're so cute! I love you!" Baby: (blank stare with cricket sound in the background).

Age: Your two month birthday:

Mom: "Hi baby! Hello! You're so cute! I love you!" Baby: "Oooo... oooo... ahhhh.... ahhh... oooooooooo....." Mom: "OMG hubby! GRAB THE VIDEO CAMERA!!!" (click the link to see the video in question!)

Yeah, babies will amaze you by pretending like they don't know how to do anything and then, suddenly, they're actual small humans who do human-like things! This is one of the good surprises because it gives you hope that you're actually doing a pretty good job as a parent.

*Worried about milestones then BAM! - But then, all of a sudden, that same baby that made you feel like you were doing a good job as a parent will resist hitting a certain milestone and will make you worry that you did something wrong as a parent, somehow. Worrying about milestones IS good because it can help you determine if something is wrong, but worrying about them too much (guilty as charged) is completely pointless because babies are going to do what they want to do when they want to do it. Most of the time babies want to do things after they've seen their peers do it. Peer pressure starts early and shows up regularly, especially if your baby is in day care. Your child, who didn't know how to crawl when you took her to day care that morning, will all of a sudden know how to crawl like a champ by the end of the day. Once babies "get it" they master their craft in record time. It boggles the mind! You went from taking your first steps on January 10, 2012 to running all over the house a week or two later. It happens SUPER quickly! It's surprising and a ton of fun!

*How quickly they develop opinions - Oh my gosh, you are one opinionated baby! You used to be pretty laid back about things like books or foods or what sorts of activities we did. NOT ANYMORE!! If you don't like a book we're reading to you, you shut it and shove it off to the side. If you don't like a food, even if you liked it the day before, you will spit it back out. If you don't want to get in the car seat to go on adventures, you will whine and cry and contort your body so it makes it "just this side of impossible" to put you in successfully. You have some opinions and you aren't scared of sharing them! It really surprised me how early your preferences began to show their faces because I didn't think you'd experienced enough in your short life to really have an opinion on things. I guess you have! I'm going to put that in the "parental win" column for exposing you to enough things for you to have a preference!

*One day: Happy cooperative baby. The next day: Whiny needy baby - I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but it's always a bit confusing to have the greatest day ever with you only to have the following day be miserable for all of us. I know with teeth coming in, unsuccessful naps, mommy and daddy trying to get you to do things you don't feel like doing, and erratic schedules at times, it can be hard to be a baby and you won't always be happy. Still, we treasure the good days and manage to get through the rough ones, together, as a family.

*Where are you learning how to do these things??? - A common phrase set heard around the house nowadays, "Do you do that with her? Where did she learn how to do that? I wonder if she learned that at day care? That's hilarious!" Some things you've learned are obvious in origin. You say "Hi" with the same intonation that I use when I say "Hi" to you, exactly! It cracks me up! Other things you seem to pick up without us having ever done them with you. I never know if it comes from day care or if you just looked in a mirror one day, made a face, thought it was awesome, and just kept doing it. Either way, you are picking up things at such a rate of speed that it makes us feel extra conscious about what we say and do around you. I've scolded the kitty in the past saying, "No! No! Bad kitty!" just to have you wag your finger at her and say, "no no no no no!" Clearly you are already watching everyone around you and picking up new things. We're going to have to be very careful from here on out!

*Babies learn surprisingly quickly how to mimic you - Which brings me to the next thing... babies learn so quickly how to mimic you! They copy exactly what you are doing and it makes them so proud to be just like you! Hearing you babble incoherently on and on and then, all of a sudden, say "Hi" just like I do is so completely amazing! It's like looking into a tiny, cute, giggly, little mirror! This is one of my favorite things about parenthood right now!

*How very much I love you - This shouldn't come as a surprise to me, but sometimes if I sit and think about how very deeply I love you and how much more fulfilled I am as a person to know that I am your mother, it really boggles my mind. I have loved many people in my life, but the kind of love and affection I hold for you is like no other feeling I've ever had. Your dad and I talk about how you have changed our lives and how we can't imagine a life without you. When we go out for date nights, you're still one of our favorite topics! Actually, I'm not surprised that I love you so much, I'm more surprised that this level of love exists in a world where people sometimes don't love each other as much as they should. This type of love gives me a bit of hope for humanity, a view I had long abandoned prior to having you.

I'm absolutely positive that you will continue to surprise us time and time again throughout your life. Frankly, I'm ready for it! I may not have been prepared for parenthood when you first arrived, but we've all learned together and NOW I feel like I have the skills to keep you safe and happy... until I don't... and then I'll learn from that, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Introducing: Mom!

Dear Baby G,

Hi, my name is Mom. You will probably try to call me by my real name during one of those "phases" we've heard so much about, but my name is mom, mommy, mama, best mom ever, awesome mom, or "her royal highness: mom." It's probably nearly impossible for you to believe, but I actually lived 30 years worth of life before you came along! Can you imagine? 30 years?!? Yes, it is true. During those 30 years a lot of things happened. I imagine you would probably be interested in knowing what sorts of things led up to your birth, so here is my story!

I was born in a small Kansas town called Clay Center (population: 5,000 give or take). I burst out onto the scene on January 15th, 1981 at 9:04 in the morning. (Interesting note, you were born at 7:04 pm. That extra 4 minutes is something I like to call "fashionably late!" We're obviously in agreement.) I was born via C-section just like you! Thankfully for me, medical advances allowed me to heal with a fairly small scar after having you. Not-so-thankfully for your grandma, her C-section was described at a later date as looking like "something done in a Tijuana hospital." Back-to-thankfully for your grandma, however, her C-section meant she had something to point to when I was being a bratty brat as a way of making me feel guilty and repentant. Well-played, mom!

We lived in a small house when I was born. It was so small that your grandma and grandpa had to build my room so I could have one after I got here! At the time I was born, we had a small black dog named Midnight. I have no idea what kind of dog she was, but I do remember she had puppies at one point. We lived in that house for a couple of years until my parents bought a much larger house, which needed a WHOLE lot of TLC. They spent quite a bit of time remodeling that house so it was fit for familial habitation. We moved into the house after it was "mostly" done. I had the greatest set-up! I had my own room, complete with a cute sun-room, which housed my closet. I also had an entire extra bedroom across the hall for my very own play room! Your mom had quite a few toys when she was little. I see you are progressing in the same direction and even though it frustrates me sometimes when our house is ultra-cluttered, it makes me happy to know that you have so many great things to play with. We were both lucky little girls! While we lived in that house, I had a couple of kittens. The first kitten's name was Troubles. We named her that because she was always scratching me! We found out later she was actually sick and had to be put to sleep. To make up for that, I got another pair of kittens (when your great-grandpa's cat had babies) for a present. I named them Lightning and Brandy. I have no idea why I chose those names! Lightning ran away after a couple of years and I had Brandy until dad and I moved to Idaho, but I'll get to that later.

My parents owned a service station on the south end of town. They had a radiator shop and a convenience store as part of the business. I spent many hours at the station as a child, but without a lot for a kid to really do around there, I had to get creative. Therefore, I started my own rock painting business! For some reason, back in the 80s, it was totally not weird for a small child to wield spray paint cans in a back alley! I painted rocks in different shades of yellow, red, and gold, then put them in a small box at the front counter. It cost only one shiny penny to take home one of my masterpieces! I'm not sure how many I made, or how many I sold, but it kept me out of the way and entertained me, which was more than priceless to my hard-working parents. Oh, and I also learned how to dunk tires in the dunk tank, find leaks, then mark them with a grease pencil. I wasn't completely useless as a child! Later my parents must have decided it was easier to put me in day care than worry about me at the station all day but I can't really remember how old I was when that happened.

A description about my childhood would be incomplete without talking about my Grandma G (your Great-Grandma G, for whom you are named!) When I wasn't in school or at day care, I was over at Grandma G's "house" (which was actually a retirement community set in a high-rise apartment building complex.) We would do puzzles, watch TV, go shopping, do crafts, cook together, go to "coffee", go to Dairy Queen, and basically just enjoy spending time together. She lived in that complex from the time I was born (before that, actually) until we had to move her to a nursing home a year before she passed away in 1999. For that reason, and many others, that small apartment in that small high-rise in small Clay Center Kansas meant more to me than nearly any other place on Earth. That apartment stood for love, consistency, and comfort. When we had to empty it out after moving Grandma G to Lawrence I felt like a very large part of my soul was left behind. I've had many homes since then, but no home has ever felt more like home than that did. I've often wondered if I could ever gather the nerve and the courage to go back and knock on the door, asking the current occupants if I could look around one last time. So far the answer is "no." The answer may always be "no."

My parents, your grandma and grandpa got a divorce sometime around Fall of 1989 when I was almost 9 years old. Mom and I stayed in the house for a little while until it was sold. They closed the service station, too. Mom and dad had joint custody of me, which meant I lived in two different places. At first, dad and I lived with my other grandparents, his parents, your Great-Grandparents. Later we moved into an apartment building right next to the city library. For a latch-key kid who had hours to burn between the time school got out and when dad got home, living next to the library was awesome! I soon finished nearly all of the kids books (it was a small library, but it still had to be thousands of books). Mom and I moved out of the big remodeled house and into a duplex over by the old high school in town. This part of my childhood is actually kind of fuzzy because I can't for the life of me remember how we had things set up (meaning: which house I was at on which days) but I do remember walking to school or riding my bike when I lived at dad's apartment and needing to wait for the school bus when I was living at mom's duplex.

Eventually, the job opportunities in Clay Center weren't great and my mom ended up moving to Topeka. I was very sad because I had never lived in a different town from one of my parents and I missed her terribly. When I was about 10 years old, my dad remarried a woman with two daughters and a son. We ended up moving to an even smaller town; Solomon, Kansas. My Grandma G was extremely sad when we moved to Solomon because it meant we got to spend less time together. I only remember seeing her cry once in my life, and it was one evening soon before our move. She told me how much she would miss me. I'm pretty sure I cried, too.

In Solomon we lived out on a farm. We didn't have a lot of animals, but we did raise chickens for meat and eggs. I also had a pet rabbit named "Salt and Pepper" and a pet chicken named "Blackie." My step-sister, step-brother, and I each had our own rooms in the farm house. My oldest step-sister was already out of the house. We spent a lot of time exploring the surrounding lands when we lived there. For a kid who had only ever lived in town, it was actually pretty exciting to go exploring out in the "wilderness." We lived in the farm-house for about 6 months before my step-mom got a new job with the US Geological Service... in Boise Idaho!

I should back-track slightly to say that during this time my mom moved to Lawrence when she met her partner. In Lawrence we lived in a medium-sized split level house where I also had my own room for the weekends/summers I came to visit. Mom and her partner also had a miniature dachshund named Sugar, who quickly became one of my best buddies.

When I found out we were moving to Idaho, I had mixed emotions. I had never lived outside of Kansas and I would be leaving my mom, my grandma, my friends and the rest of my family behind. On the other hand, I was going to get to live somewhere new and I was promised we would live near mountains, which I had rarely seen as a young child. I spent the summer prior to the big move in Lawrence with my mom. At the end of the summer, I got on an airplane (my first time ever) by myself and made my way out to Idaho.

While in Idaho I got to do many things I had never done before. I learned how to ski, I explored the various types of canals that ran through town, I joined the school's band and began to learn the clarinet, and I got to help work at the children's consignment clothing store my dad and step-mom owned. I even got a paycheck! Sadly, while living in Idaho my cat Brandy ran away. We found her once, but she ran away again and that was the last time we saw her. I hope she found a good family to take care of her.That Christmas I came back to Kansas to visit mom and Grandma G. It was a short visit, but it was nice to be around my family again. At the end of the school year, I said goodbye to my Idaho friends and came back to Kansas again to visit for the summer. Towards the end of the summer I got a phone call from dad saying he and my step-mom were getting a divorce and he was moving back to Kansas with all of our things.

Dad moved to Topeka and that fall I began school in a Junior High. I was surrounded by people I didn't know, but I quickly made friends. We lived in a small apartment in North Topeka where I had the one bedroom and dad slept in a bed out in the living room. Eventually, we moved into the apartment next door, which had two bedrooms, so we could have a proper living room! While living in Topeka I got a kitten and named her Willow. She was kind of evil, but I blame my guy friends who thought it was fun to chase her around. Looking back, I wish I had told them to knock it off. That poor kitty was probably traumatized! During this time, mom and her partner moved into a bigger house, also in Lawrence. Out of all of the houses I've lived in, that one was probably one of my favorites. It was so pretty and BIG!

I lived with dad, primarily, in Topeka all the way through junior high and high school. In high school I was involved in marching band, Literary Magazine, and French Club. I was also very active in my church's youth group and even had my first real job at the church's day care as a day care teacher for kids from 1st to 6th grade. I made a lot of wonderful friends during my time in Topeka, some of whom you know! (Uncle J and Aunt M, for example).

During my senior year of high school, I experienced my first major tragedy in my life. March 8, 1999, Grandma G passed away after a brief illness. I was beyond heartbroken. Losing Grandma G felt like losing a parent. We were so close for so long. As I write this post, it has been nearly 13 years since her passing and remembering it still feels like it did the first few days after it happened. Someday I want to spend time with you talking about Grandma G and what she meant to me, but I warn you... I will cry. I will shed tears because she never got to see me graduate high school, graduate college, get married, and have a beautiful baby girl. She will never know that I named that baby girl after her because I couldn't think of anyone else in this world more worthy of having such a beautiful baby named for them. It hurts my heart, even now, to think that two of the most important people in my life will never get the chance to meet each other. I will mourn for the loss of Grandma G until my days on Earth are over, but with great loss and great pain came 18 years of unconditional love and support from one of the best people to have ever been in my life. It hurt so bad to lose her, but at least I had her. I truly hope you and my mom have the same relationship because you both deserve to experience the special kind of love that comes from a grandmother/granddaughter relationship.

After high school, I spent the summer in Topeka with Uncle J and Aunt M living the crazy "we're finally free from school and somewhat free from responsibility" lifestyle! We all had jobs, but when we weren't working, we were driving all over town and being silly. I worked at a small German-American greasy spoon as a waitress. I brought home about $50-$60 a day, big money for someone who hadn't really made a whole lot in prior jobs. I set some of it back for college, but probably spent more of it than I should have on silly, frivolous purchases. Still, it was probably the greatest summer of my life and I will remember all of the fun we had before we all had to buckle down and get some responsibility in our lives!

That fall, (August of 1999) I went to KU with Uncle J. We both lived in the scholarship halls (he lived in one for one year, I stayed all four years in Douthart). Over my time in college I had several different roommates. I lucked out because most of them were really great! I only had one instance of a crappy roomie during my freshman year, but she moved out after that year was over. Someday I'll have to do an entire post on what it's like to live in a Scholarship hall because whether you like it or not, if you go to KU, you're living in one. It was a great experience and I was sad to graduate college because it meant I wouldn't get to live there anymore! I did graduate college... in four years, even! I got my Psychology degree. I spent all four years in college working in the Government Documents Library as a student assistant. Once I graduated college, I decided I still wanted to come to KU every day so I got a full-time position in the KU Libraries, where I remain today (as I write this).

Some other highlights of college include: Getting into a terrible car accident two weeks after my freshman year began. I'll have to do a post just about the car accident sometime. I'll tie it in when I make a post about driving and the importance of safety. Look for it, it's going to be great! I also met a guy in college at the end of my freshman year. We dated for two years (even going so far as to get engaged at one point) before we broke up for good. It was sad at the time, but looking back on things I am so glad we split up because we were both meant for other people. Another major thing that occurred during my time in college happened on September 11, 2001. I was a Junior when the attack on the World Trade Center happened. I remember leaving my Women's Studies class that morning and walking outside to go to my next class. I looked up in the sky and saw the contrails in the air looked like every plane in the sky had done a u-turn. I made note of how strange it was and when I got to class everyone was talking about the tragedy. We cancelled class and I spent the day back at Douthart watching news coverage and basically freaking out. I had said nonchalantly for years that someday war would be fought in the United States instead of just overseas and it seemed to be coming true. Everything was just really surreal for a while after that. People rushed the gas stations to fill up thinking gas was going to skyrocket in price, people were really nice to each other and everyone was as pro-United States as you could get. It's been over 10 years since 9/11 (as I write this) and gas DID skyrocket in price, people have gone back to being divisive and rude, and while part of the population stayed very pro-United States, many others feel like their country let them down with some of the military responses and the massive defense spending/policies that have come to be since the towers fell. Basically, back to the new normal.

After college I moved a couple of times, but eventually ended up in a small house living with Uncle J and our two dogs: Annie and Lenore. I had adopted Annie back in 2001 when I was still in school, but she lived with Uncle J until I was out of school and could have her with me. Uncle J had adopted a puppy he named Lenore sometime the year before we got Annie. They grew up together, for the most part (Annie being 2 years older than Lenore). Uncle J and I lived together until he left for Iraq (he was a Marine), and even then he kept paying his part of the rent so he could have a place to keep his things and his dog. Very soon after Uncle J left, I met your dad and as you may remember from my post about our whirlwind romance, he moved in very soon after. When Uncle J came back home from war, he moved to Leavenworth to be closer to his job and to let your dad and I have a place of our own. Oh, and we also got a cat named Astra von Battlecat to add to the collection of dogs. (Uncle J let me keep Lenore after he got back).

Well.... this is a very short version of my first 30 years of life. I've left out a lot of things, but honestly, it's how I want to do it. I need to have a few stories to keep you entertained or keep you in line during your childhood! I'm sure you'll hear a lot more as time goes by. As hard as it is to believe that I lived 30 years before you came into my life, it's a lot harder for me to believe that you will be 30 years old someday, too. My first 30 years seemed to fly by, but I'm hoping the next 30 take it a bit more slowly so I can enjoy all of my time with you, watching you grow into a lovely young woman who will, maybe, write all of her adventures out for her little baby. Until then, don't grow up too quickly like I'm sure I did with my parents.

But, by all means, have lots of adventures worth writing about someday!