Balance (Or the Lack Thereof)

It’s too much. This has been an underlying theme of many of my posts this year, but it is lending to an unhealthy  obsession so I need (again) to articulate it in a way I can cut and paste, rearrange, and pick out the important from the whiny so I can figure out what is really at the root of my tenderness.

In a past life, I have been a baby sitter of everything from newborns to 12 year-olds unless you count my time as a camp counselor in which case we’ll say 15 year-olds. I have three nephews. I’ve spent days in kindergarten classrooms, church nurseries, and watched day campers at the YMCA. Each age brings with it a unique brand of weariness, from the physical damage of sharing and rotating pony rides for a solid hour to the mental depletion of answering philosophical questions in a manner inconsistent with the desires of the family. But the key; I always gave the kids back. There was always an end in sight. A few hours a night, a few days at the most. This too shall pass, and I could always pinpoint when.

I’m sure there will be so much more for me to learn and understand as I grow this tiny person, but for now it feels like under 1’s combine every type of physical, mental, and emotional burden for a gigantic wallop of real life adulthood. Hannah is exhausting, and she’s all mine. I can’t give her back.

It is almost impossible to do anything else when acting as the official guardian for Hannah. She changes the rules constantly and it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes you can put her on the floor and she’ll happily bang spoons around or stand leaning against the kitchen island or couch or wall. On those days, I can get a few dishes washed, a few bottles made, a sandwich roughed together before I have to stop her from sucking on the chair leg, get her unstuck from the bars of the baby gate, or comfort her from her own lack of balance and the jolt from her 26 inch drop to the floor (her current height). On some days, she cannot abide to be on the floor by herself and so the choice becomes sitting on the floor with her or listening to her shriek. Sometimes sitting on the floor doesn’t stop the shrieking and the only thing that will work is loading her into car seat and taking a drive or loading her into the baby carrier and taking a walk. Sometimes nothing works.

We’ve made our initial attempt at baby proofing the house, but there are still an average of 10 things a day that Hannah finds that we didn’t. Like the toilet paper holder in the bathroom , or the bug that happened to die and land on the kitchen floor, or the piece of shredded cheese that was literally dropped 2 seconds ago OMG child how did you get so fast???? (Bella’s spirit lives on.) We have a room blocked off just for her where we can close her in and feel fairly confident that she will not be in mortal danger, but she promptly decided she hates it in there because she can’t figure out how to put herself into mortal danger (I’m convinced that’s the reason). She likes the scenery to change every so often but its a game of roulette to find a room or activity that will stop the crying. So do you let her play on the brick fireplace because she loves waving to herself in the brass fittings? Let her shove plant leaves in her mouth because they’re small enough she won’t choke and your relatively certain they’re non-toxic? How far is too far for a few minutes of peace and quiet?

I completely understand when I get home from work and the house looks like a bomb exploded inside. I love my husband dearly, but general home maintenance has never been his strong suit. Nor have mornings, and when his day starts at 7:00 or 7:30 I consider it a small wonder if Hannah has clothes on by the time I get home. But the house does need to be maintained. We need dishes washed and laundry folded and clutter managed and this is where we are rutting and butting heads lately.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear here that work is no picnic at the moment. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback lately, so I feel like this area of my life has maybe been going better than I may have assessed, but that doesn’t change the total drag of mental energy and climbing stress levels and the constant feeling of being out of control. Then there’s the drive home where the primary things on my mind are how late I stayed at work, how badly Hannah is probably crying, how I must have missed something and have made Shelby late for the theatre. So when I walk in to the demilitarized zone of a living room and the hazardous waste area of the kitchen and the tower of tumbling diapers and whatever fresh hell Hannah ripped into the universe that day, I’d kinda like a minute to change my clothes before I tag in.

I don’t get an hour of just me time. I don’t get a weekend to sleep in. I don’t even get a break during nap-time yet Shelby is able to take full advantage of my being home for several nap-times of his own. And when am I supposed to pay the bills? Or deal with the stupid townhouse that still doesn’t have a renter or a buyer? And answer all the texts from friends and family about our calendars while trying to keep Hannah from sucking on power cords or breaking the door off the X-box that Shelby is playing? Some of this is admittedly self inflicted. A little martyrdom for a chance at a big cash-in on Mother’s Day or my birthday or the random Tuesday I totally flip out and do whatever I want. I let Shelby go to shows and drinks after, but mostly because I feel guilty about being away from her so much, or more accurately, sticking him with her so much. I let him sleep until noon on Saturday so I dont have to deal with two grumps.

And that’s the crux of it really, I am having a really difficult time balancing my “needs” with the needs of my family. Do I really neeeeeeeeeed a shower and an extra hour in bed? Probably not. Will it go a long way to making the rest of my day more enjoyable? Yes. Is it worth asking for? I am unable to come to a definitive answer. We’re talking about it. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of being respectful of each other. I don’t think I was as transparent with him as I was on the blogosphere. I have set some expectations and he has voiced his struggles. 7 months after she broke into the world kicking and screaming, she is still rocking us to the core in every way imaginable. It’s a good thing she’s cute.

Sunshine

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Vegetarian

I considered myself an ova lacto vegetarian for almost 15 years. I ate cheese and other milk products. I ate eggs. I also ate tuna from a can. Not like actual good tuna steaks. I didn’t eat other type of fish, just canned tuna like a boss.

I was never a vegetarian for any really good reasons. Like, I wasn’t trying to save all the animals, I didn’t have any fueled hatred toward meat eaters, meat makers, I wasn’t part of any animal rights groups. I had just made a dietary choice and stuck with it like the stubborn mule I am.

And then I got pregnant.

It’s been over a year now since I started eating meat again. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether or not I’ll go back to being a vegetarian and for the most part, I still don’t know. I suspect in the end, I’ll end up with a modified meat diet, selecting vegetarian choices when they’re available but not going out of my way to avoid meat. I was never very healthy on my vegetarian diet, so I think I’ll end up trying to focus more on that. Being healthy, everything in moderation.

The funny thing is, my daughter is a total vegetable hound! I totally thought she would have gone for fruits first. We started her on banana which she basically ate because we made her. We tried apples which she would only eat if you hid them in her cereal. Ditto pear. I was hesitant to offer vegetables if this is the way she was treating fruits, but boy did she gobble up some sweet potato. I quickly ran out of carrots as well. I wondered if it was just orange food or if she really likes vegetables, so I offered green beans next and she devoured those too. She turns up her nose at chicken and prunes, but give her some veggies and she’s a happy camper.

 

Sleep Training

Sleep, that wondrous mythical beast. The elusive monster. The current crack in my breaking heart.

She’s six months old. She’s eating solid food. She’s crawling like a champ. She’s pulling up on furniture and walking along it. She continues to push the boundaries both in exploration and in “discipline”. She is so so smart. So so mobile. So frustrated with her own limitations. And still just so little.

We have been co-sleeping. And by co-sleeping I mean in our bed. When she was newborn, she mostly slept on my chest while I was in some type of seated position. Reclined in the hospital bed, legs stretched out with my back vertical(ish) on the back or arm of the couch, sitting together in the rocking chair. When she got a little bigger, and I got a little braver, she slept in the rock-n-play at our bedside.

****Insert Minor Tirade****

The rock-n-play is not recommended for babies to sleep in due to SIDS. However, basically everything is not recommended due to SIDS. I would have minor panic attacks dang near constantly because of warning labels containing those stupid letters. SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As new parents, you are bombarded with “advice” and do-this-don’t-do-that instructions from everywhere. Friends with babies, parents who had babies 30 something years ago, internet, hospital nurse and pediatrician, actual pediatrician, even stupid diaper commercials…and virtually every method of swaddling, sleeping, diapering, feeding, playing etc has a counter argument for how that activity causes SIDS. Our culture has devolved so much that no one can take any responsibility for their own selves. Every product must come with a warning label and disclaimer information. And yes, legit warnings like “not for use at temperatures above ___ or below___ ” can be super useful. But things like “don’t feed your newborn diaper cream or it may cause SIDS” are just obnoxious. And for me, as a new parent with some level of common sense but no actual experience in keeping a human person alive 24/7, I could either act based on the little experiences I have, or totally flip out and melt into a tiny puddle of panic and lose the precious little bit of sanity I have worrying about whether my carpet is hypoallergenic and if that’s a good thing or bad thing and will it cause chronic bronchitis when Hannah is like 15.

Surprisingly enough, I took the rock-n-play that my sister used as a bassinet with great success that she took from another mother that had used it as a napping station with great success and I let my baby sleep in it. And after two nights of literally zero sleep watching her to make sure she kept breathing, I made the decision that it would be OK. That as long as I didn’t cover her face with blankets or let her sleep in it strapped to the roof of my car, we could both sleep soundly and she would be fine.

****Tirade Over****

At about 3 months, we tried putting her in the crib in her room across the hall. It did not work. It happened to coincide with a terrifically horrible reaction to cow’s milk in my breastmilk. We would put her in the crib, she would fall asleep, and about an hour later would wake up crying, inconsolable and covered in spit up . I would feed her until she was quiet and try putting her down again. Once the weight of her body was no longer supported by mine, she would only stop crying long enough to allow a river of spit-up to pour forth. We tried it for a couple of nights, eliminating cow’s milk from my diet, but the crying didn’t stop. I just couldn’t handle it. I was pumping just enough milk during the day to provide for her meals while I was at work. I was committed to NO FORMULA and refused to give her bottles when I was available to give her breast. After several nights in a row with two hours total of very interrupted sleep before heading in to the office, I gave up and let her back in the rock-n play next to my bed. At least I didn’t have to walk across the hall to get to her.

And then she started rolling over. Sort of. She could roll one direction but not the other and couldn’t get herself off of her tummy on the flattest of surfaces. We caught her a couple of times having rolled her face into the crevice of the rock-n-play, unable to roll herself out. She could breathe, but not well. I figured that was about the time the rock-n-play warning label kicked in and it was time to try the crib again. But she still woke up so often. And I was still so tired all the time. And Shelby was not getting any rest with me getting up and down all night, her shrieks from across the hall. We were a miserable little family.

So one weekend morning, I pulled her into bed with me to feed her in the side-lying position and we both fell asleep. I woke up about 30 minutes later with her sweetly cradled in the crook of my arm where the cat used to sleep and it made me happy, a very rare thing those days. I closed my eyes again and we rested that way for another hour. I started doing this more routinely as she would wake – put her in the crib at night, feed her in the bed in the morning. And then “in the morning” started getting earlier and earlier. And then I hit a really rough patch and the thought of ever having to get out of bed was too too much so I just fed her to sleep in the bed to start with. And then I just kept doing that. We would wake up a couple of times a night, I would roll her from one side to the other and fall asleep with her in my arms, protected from falling out or being rolled on by her father. I would always wake with her gentle cries and try humming to her, but if that didn’t work, I’d just let her suckle even if I knew it was for comfort and not for food. It was all going beautifully. We were all getting good rest, neither having to wake fully in order to get back to sleep, everyone felt safe and warm. But I knew the time was coming when I’d have to kick her out.

The doctor told us that at 6 months, her body can sustain her overnight; there is no medical need for her to have access to food once she goes down. The longer I let her hold onto the crutch, the harder it would be to wean her from it. The harder it would be to wean me. So we made the decision to really start thinking about sleep training once we got back home from the wedding. We got back home and slipped right into our old routine. I don’t know if it was the time difference that initially set it up, or just her body regulating rhythms or whatever, but her bed time started getting earlier. Which meant my bedtime started getting earlier. Not a big deal, I’m not doing much outside the home right now anyway. But it’s hard to get the baby fed and bathed and all the dishes done and the lunch made and spend any time with the husband when you get home at 6 and have to go to bed at 9. And as long as she was in our bed, someone would have to be with her to make sure she didn’t roll herself off no matter how soundly she was asleep. And she has been sleeping more soundly lately. She usually wakes once or twice a night, but sleeps so heavily and well that I started getting the feeling her “wakings” were more because she wanted to roll and I wouldn’t let her, and then her face was smack in my chest and so of course it made her want to suck.

And then a few nights ago, I fell asleep with her nestled on my right side and woke up with her on my left side and didn’t remember how she had gotten there.

It didn’t worry me so much that she had moved on her own. What worried me is that I didn’t register or record this movement. Obviously in the night, I had felt her move and had rolled her over to the other side but I did not wake up enough to recall it. I had to face the reality that this time it worked out, but it could have just as easily been that I had slept soundly enough to roll onto her and not notice. That was Tuesday. Wednesday night we started officially sleep training. For real this time.

What we are doing seems to be working. Of course, it has only been 2 days. If it continues to work, I’ll write more about what we did/are doing but I’d hate to be all braggy here and have it blow up in our faces and not have it accurately reflected for someone who might link here after googling advice on sleep-training. She sleeps 9 – 10 hours and only wakes once loudly enough for us to notice. I hope it works long term. I hope that soon I’ll be able to sleep just as well again.

 

Inspire Me

The sun is poking it’s blazing hot fingers in my face and bringing up my spirits. I hope this trend continues.

Hannah continues to grow more obnoxiously amazing all the time. She’s crawling. But she really only likes to crawl to something so she can pull up on it. (Or if it is a cord of some sort. Power cords, mouse cords, the more expensive the equipment it’s attached to the better in her brain.) She walks along the furniture. The cutest thing (in a vaguely annoying way) is when she’ll get stuck standing and can’t figure out what to do. She has a square toy that she has to stand up against to bang on . We have it close to the couch so she is encouraged to walk around it, which she will do, but sometimes she gets stuck on the side opposite the couch. And then she stands there with one hand on the toy, one hand out in space; her stance very similar to a surfer on the wave. She wobbles, shrieking, as she lets her legs bend the teeniest bit further before she hits the point of no return and gravity takes her bottom smack onto the floor a whopping 10 inches away. She looks stunned for a few seconds before she is distracted by something she needs to put in her mouth. It’s adorable, but also loud. Very Very Loud.

With her growth and independence comes some freedom for her father and me. I can put her on the floor in the kitchen and run around gathering garbage to take out and she will happily plod around pushing chairs and banging anything we’ve let fall to the ground (banging is totally her MO right now) (as are parentheses for me apparently). We obviously don’t leave her for long, she is quick and we haven’t exactly baby proofed EVERYTHING, but I don’t have to carry her with me. I can also set her on the front stoop while I pot a few plants. Or let her nap in the pack-n-play while we quickly complete little chores that are no big deal, but are just so hard to do with her awake. She may have gained some independence, but she’s still only 6 months old and there is sooooooooooooo nothing fun about mom and dad doing dishes.

The yard maintenance, though somewhat cumbersome, is helping immensely with my mood. I really enjoy being outdoors in the sunshine. The monotony is so appealing right now. I wish I could quit my job and join a landscaping company or something, manual labor outside. If Hannah would let me, I would spend the entire day picking up sticks, raking leaves, mowing, picking weeds, planting, watering…I just love all of it. We started potting plants and annuals to spruce up our front porch and the window boxes in the shed. We priced patio furniture so we can entertain guests on what was the major selling point of the house for me, the screened in back porch. I didn’t think I would look forward to this summer, but I do. I am anxious for it.

 

You Alone

We got all dolled up and took about 4 cars out to the all-in-one venue. The sisters started adding some touches to the reception hall while everyone gathered in the field for the rehearsal. It was quick. It was easy. Jokes were made at the groom’s expense. (This typical practice at rehearsals is somewhat deserved, stereotypically speaking, but it always gives me pause. In our culture, weddings are mostly for the brides, her dreams since childhood of her day as a princess. It’s easy to accuse the man of being disinterested, or disengaged. It may be the easy to joke to laugh about the groom forgetting his own name on the day, or being so overwhelmed he may not know where to show up, but the insinuation that his commitment is any less than hers is disappointing. That her anxiety about this step is any less than his is ludicrous.) And then we headed into the dining hall for the rehearsal dinner.

Our still severely hungover sister was all smiles at dinner, though her champagne intake at toasting time was notably absent. Hannah was getting tired of being confined, but luckily, cousin Craig came to the rescue. There were three or four rectangular tables of 8. Shelby and I sat in the aisle at opposite ends of one, so we turned out chairs and built a playpen with the backs of chairs from the table behind us forming one wall, the tablecloth of our table forming the second long wall, and each of our feet blocking either end. Hannah and Craig played on the floor together. Well, Hannah sat and banged on the floor while Craig scooted around on his belly trying to make eye contact and get Hannah to eat his shirt or something. Still, it was fun to see how their relationship might grow as closer in age cousins.

And then a devolution into one of my not finest hours as we drove all over Tennessee accumulating libations for Saturday. Grumble grumble.

And then Saturday came. We ladies went out to the site early for hairs, make-ups, finishing touches on decorations, pictures, the whole 9. Despite all the running around and the hullabaloo at the site, and the less than thrilled gentlemen who were given tasks of their own back home, Saturday felt easy. We communicated well. We worked efficiently as a team. We took time for laughing and teasing, all with a wary eye on the sky. The forecast had always included rain and we were all trying to control how much and when with the unity of our minds. It almost worked.

4:30 go time came and with it a sprinkling of fat droplets from the sky. What I remember about the ceremony is mostly this: Justin fixing Caki’s fly-aways; a collection of white chairs with varying colored umbrellas popped open; Craig rushing up to hug his mamma’s legs while Hannah was whisked off to the carport to ease her fussiness; the preacher whispering something about shortening the prayer; not one single person complaining, rolling eyes or giving one single bit about the rain. And then we followed the bride and groom out to the front of the house for group pictures while the guests enjoyed a cocktail or two at the bar in the reception hall. And the rain stopped. And a cool clear evening resulted in some of the best dancing ever seen at a wedding my parents hosted, and a beautiful lighted gazebo to retreat to when needed, and kids and adults alike flowing freely in and out of the hall, and a quite wonderful party all around. at just before 10 in the evening, we lined up outside with little plastic ramekins of birdseed ready to launch at the happy couple as they left. I think I got a good pelting in, I’d be shocked if she wasn’t fishing birdseed out of her dress in the car ride to the hotel.

And then the sky opened and all the rain that we had been begging to go away and come back another day drenched the stragglers and party cleaner-uppers. But we didn’t mind.

So That Happened

Hannah was a dream in the car on the 7 hour drive to my in-laws house. We got a super late start, a combination of working late and avoidance of any sort of reasonable packing, so she slept just about the whole drive. We straggled in at the ungodly hour of 3:30 and sneaked up the stairs as quiet as mouses.

The next day, what started as a quick jaunt to the dollar store for more diapers ended in a half day excursion to every dollar store in the area before finally giving up and going to the nearest Wal-Mart 30 minutes away. Hannah came with me along with my MIL, mostly because she wanted to do some in person bragging at her workplace, a local nursing home. We stopped in, took the tour, said hello to several of the residents and most of the staff before heading back to an afternoon of relaxation.

Hannah was a total nightmare on the 2 hour drive from my in-laws to my parents’ house. Probably something to do with the timing of her naps and the fact that she exploded in poop at some point (OMG worst bathroom experience of my life ever) but we finally coaxed her to sleep about 30 minutes before we arrived. By “coaxed” I mean sang at the top of our lungs to break in over the wails and clasped her hands so she couldn’t scratch her face completely off.

And then the chaos began.

There was still a lot left to do for the wedding, and a lot of folks that were relying on each other to get it done not realizing that each other had their own tasks they were relying on each other to complete. Somehow we managed, but it was a stressful couple of days.

Thursday was the official gathering, when all the immediate family would be in town save for one Brother In Law. The MOH had planned a dinner and bar hopping Bachelorette party that did not disappoint. There was minimal hopping, though, as the guests began plying the bride with shots and champagne and free drinks during dinner and she got kinda stuck drunkenly signing her guests up to sing Karaoke at the first bar we hopped to. We shed a few guests as we weaved our way up the street to the second bar which contained one of the rudest waitresses I’ve had the displeasure to be around. We didn’t stay long, and before we took more than three steps outside, the bride shut the party down. I’m pretty sure we were all OK with it considering there was much work to be done, and many tiny children that would wake early regardless of the raging hangovers their mothers/aunts may or may not have. (I was totally fine BTDubs. Breastfeeding = DD, happy to reduce my out of pocket expense though ;))

Friday morning the bridal party and self-titled SMOG (Step Mother Of Groom) were joined by the mother of the bride (MOB?) to get our nails did. (PS, I can’t ever NOT say it that way. I don’t know if it’s just to counter balance how silly I feel going to a nail salon by getting extra country about it, but it happens every single time. “I got my nails did.” “Don’t my nails look purty did?” My dad would die!) Some of us shared in Champagne and juice (orange for Mimosas, cranberry for Poinsettias), others stuck strictly to the mini muffins and grapes in order to avoid upsetting the tummy any further. The nail tech team were efficient yet thorough and catered to our every need. It was a pleasant bit of pampering.

Friday afternoon, for me, was dedicated to freaking out about the last little bit of responsibility I had re: wedding tasks. My computer crapped out, my work called with urgent things, and my youngest sister had carted my precious baby out of my site for a very long time. (Everything was totally fine, and I trust my sisters implicitly. It’s just part of that obnoxious anxiety thing, worrying that she is being fussy or that she has spit-up on something important, or that she neeeeeeeeeeeeds me and I am somehow denying her sufficient care by letting someone else totally responsible and able care for her. I say again, stupid hormones.)

By 3:00, we had all miraculously showered, dressed, made ourselves up, and gathered our very important things to load into 3 or 4 different cars and caravan out to the rehearsal.