Category Archives: parenting

A Mother’s Rights #1

Several years ago I wrote about a Mother’s Rights, the first of which is:

 

You have the right to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

 

And here it is in a handy image:

 

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Ladies. Please don’t do what I did and think that you will catch up on sleep when your child is done night nursing or done co-sleeping or done teething or through this growth spurt or entering middle school.

Good sleep is necessary for good health. It just is. Everything from skin to metabolism to immune system to mood to heart health, blood pressure, learning and memory, and pretty much every aspect of how we operate in the world.

Ideally, when expecting a child and creating your birth plan, you are also creating your sleep plan and how you plan to get sleep after your baby arrives. Err on the side of caution and assume your babies will be like mine where they wouldn’t sleep without nursing, being held, or being rocked for the first several MONTHS. Followed by night nursing that continued for several years and then a second child who had major sleep problems due to sensory issues.

It is likely you will need support. You will need to nap. You will need to laugh. You will need to line up some local resources and look into what night services are available in your area and which relatives and friends are willing to help out.

I loved the advice of my lactation consultant who said this: After you give birth, for the first few weeks, do not change out of your pajamas until after you have gotten 8 hours of sleep. The day looks like this: baby nurses, mama eats, everybody sleeps. Repeat.

Please know that in the coming months if you are planning to sleep train your baby, it sometimes does not work out and it is not your fault. And it is not your baby’s fault. I know of some babies who, while attempting to sleep train, would cry until they threw up. Or who would cry for two hours or more night after night after night. Babies are people and need different things. Likewise, you may end up needing something different than what you can predict. But one things you will need, without any doubt, is a reasonable amount of sleep.

During our efforts for achieving solid sleep, my partner and I found some tools quite useful into the toddler years. Things like blackout curtains and sound machines.

For a short time, things like baby swings and co-sleepers were helpful too. Though baby sleep books were not helpful for us, a lot of my friends found them extremely helpful, as well as consulting with local sleep consultants.

In my opinion, getting a decent amount of sleep is a basic human need that does not disappear simply because you have a new life to care for. Work with your partner, take time off work or shorten your days so you can nap if you need to. I’ll explore other options for getting sleep in a future post, but for now, know that sleep is your right to claim…so claim it.

For future Mother’s Rights posts, please check out my sister site, kriskadams.com!

 

50% Princess!! 50% Unikitty!!

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Tonight I went down the wormhole of online toddler clothes shopping. My toddler is abnormally large which, if one follows the sizing of standard American clothing, all of my children have been.

My first born- the one I decided not to have an epidural with- a decision I reconsidered during transition when my teeth were burrowing into my husband’s shoulder- was 9 lbs 10oz. Which is 1 lb 10oz bigger than the bowling ball I select when I go to the bowling alley. We had brought to the hospital some itty bitty wittle newborn onesies that would fit a newborn kitten…which when my son was born may have fit his left thigh…and he went home from the hospital in a newly purchased size 6 month onesie.

Today as my 2 year old (size 4T) was red-faced, throwing her lunch plate across the room and screaming at me that I had given her the wrong plate (NOT MY PWATE! BOO MOMMY!) That’s right. She boos me. I noticed that her pants were a bit too snug, her sleeves a bit too tight. Though anger is generally my first reaction when plates are being thrown at me, I managed to steer myself in another direction…the ancient primal instinct to hunt and gather. I knew at that moment I’d be online shopping later.

Hunting and gathering clothes is not something I’m proud of in a global sense, but it is one of the most relaxing parts of being a parent. I do it after the kids are asleep, and it usually involves wine or whiskey. While hunting and gathering toddler clothes, I can finally relax after a long day as I venture off into feelings other than helplessness, mostly in response to graphic tees where I am either annoyed or delighted- with both being equally enjoyable.

Ideally, my kids would all be dressed in sustainable organic clothing, gender-neutral and without bold statements of political affiliations, quirky hipness, career aspirations, or who they’re most loving and loyal to.  But…America.

I’m over unicorns. They’ve worn out their welcome. Same for llamas. And animals wearing glasses, which I never got to begin with. But there’s some great material to be found if you go beyond the doorbusters. Tonight I laughed out loud at a glitter cat in a beret with the caption “meowci.” Hilarious.

Though grimacing a little at the 3 year old girls modeling for a camera, I am delighted by their leggings with rainbow lightening patterns. Shame on everything for selling skin-tight leggings to girls starting from age 0 while boys get joggers and sweats, but look: those suggested leggings have ombre hearts all over them, so it’s ok to go ahead and risk the body image stuff because….so cute!!!!!!!!!

The dark side, where I sip my drink and shake my head and wonder why I never got into the graphic tee biz, involves captions that somehow praise ME. “My mom’s super amazing.” “Mom’s BFF” “Smart like my mom.” I am very uncomfortable with shirts that state my toddler’s love for me. It feels like stealing something from her. Also, why would I dress her in something proclaiming a thought she isn’t aware she’s having or might not be having at all? Seeing “Mom is my Hero” on her shirt would not take the sting out of that plate hitting my shin. Plus, she does not know she’s wearing a shirt that celebrates the very person that, in her world, is a dictator trying to steal joy from her very existence. If my toddler were to design her own graphic tee it would say, “Mom is a dictator! I have no freedom! Please help get me my own place! Give me all your lollipops!”

Many graphic toddler tees have become self-help mantras for the adults that look at them. “Be your best self.” “You got this”. “Invent the future.” Nothing wrong with these words. These are things people need to hear. But why stamp them on a shirt that is only read and understood by the people not wearing the shirts? You may as well add, “Finally make a budget!” and “You’ll regret that midnight bagel!”

What kind of a world would it be if the rules for toddler graphic tees applied to adults? The rules seems to be: Say the thing the person in charge of you wishes you were thinking. Or say something celebratory about magical creatures, fattening food, or displays of affection. Or cats. Anything about cats. Our shirts would say things like: “100% Centaur!” “Cool like my boss.” “The government is my BFF.”  “Frosting on a spoon forever!”

Lately, the themes of exploring the wild and laid back surfer mentality have stumbled into the mix. You’ll see a moose driving a van with a surfboard on top over a mountain (pink shirt for girls, orange for boys) with “Get out There” underneath in really cool font. Two whiskeys in, I’m not really sure what we’re saying here. Are toddlers up for adventure in a way that involves forest creatures?  Why are we wearing surfing shirts in Wisconsin?

It’s a night’s worth of entertainment, for sure. If your kids are grown or if you don’t have kids, I still would recommend browsing the graphic tees of sites that specialize in middle-class price range kids’ clothing. Are we hopeful? Are we believing in the future? Is every big sister really the best in the universe? Do we still think mermaids might exist?  If you believe everything you read on a size 4T graphic tee, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

Grocery Shopping with a Toddler and Preschooler

It started with pee and ended with screaming. In between there were samples of veggie chips, taquitos, and “granola bars” that were one layer of caramel away from being a Snickers. Also, a very convincing demonstration of a space-age blender by a man with a performance headset mic like Beyonce wears. (I’m pretty sure you could put some dandelions, a deck of cards, and a popsicle into that Blender and you’d somehow end up with a green smoothie.) There were also not one, but two trips through the understaffed checkout lines. And there were birds- including a red-tailed hawk- flying overhead. I’m talking about our trip to Costco today, of course.

 

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This photo from Tom on flickr. See more like this at RoadsideArchitecture.com

 

Now that my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, the mental preparation that needs to happen in order for me to take both of them grocery shopping is equivalent to whatever prep Serena does before Wimbledon. Serious focus is needed. I should have a shopping coach, really, and get a trophy every time I make it back to the car with both my kids AND our food. Really I’m lucky if I make it through half my list.

Most trips start out smooth in the beginning. We are excited about the carts. We talk about our list. We love being in America where every time you visit a grocery store there is a new type of cracker you have never heard of before, made with things that normally don’t go into crackers – like kale or lentils.*

Today was Advanced Grocery Shopping because it was at Costco – where the enticement for my 4 year old, Braden, to run out of sight are tripled (ice cream samples! cool toy aisle! massage chair!)  but I was prepared for the risk.

As soon as we had our cart and were focused into shopping mode, (already had a lifejacket and beach towel in it) the inevitable statement, “I need to go potty” comes from my four year old.

You can’t take items past the checkout at Costco unless they’re paid for. Now comes the philosophical question of our generation. Do you want to take your cart to the bathroom for the benefit of having your toddler strapped in, but go through the trouble of emptying the cart?  Or do you want to take your toddler out of the cart and try to contain him in the stall for who knows how long?  I opted to dump the beach towel and life jacket and go for the strapped-in toddler benefit. Smart choice- and we were back out shopping in no time, until I noticed Braden picking at his pants. Turns out his pants and underwear were sopping wet because his pee had sprayed all over them instead of into the toilet.  A rookie would have just gone home. But I was not going to abandon this shopping trip for a change of clothes, and thankfully we were at Costco where you can buy a replacement for virtually anything that gets broken, lost, or peed on during your shopping experience.  So we threw a pair of pajamas into our cart, waited in a line that moved So Slowly, bought them, returned to the bathroom again, changed his pants, threw the pee-soaked clothes into the cart and got things underway again.

Already, I deserve a medal for this shopping trip and we haven’t even bought food yet.

By the time we actually start shopping for real, it’s been 20 minutes since we walked through the front door. This is already too long of a shopping trip for my kids.

On most trips to a normal grocery store, 20 minutes is when things start to break down. Today was no exception. My 18 month old, Wyatt, wants to eat everything I put in the cart and tells me this by shrieking and pointing. He can’t look at food without wanting to eat it. So I end up opening packages as we shop to keep him quiet so I can stay focused on our list. Gatorade- yes, Wyatt-here, take it. Goldfish crackers- yes, Wyatt- here, eat them.

Braden then gets tired of sitting in the cart and getting swatted & elbowed by his brother. He wants to “walk” next to the cart and “help” me shop.  If I let him walk next to the cart, he keeps his normal pace which is a slow sprint. Will I have to jog with the cart to try and keep up?  Will I lose him around a corner and find him carrying 3 mammoth peanut butter tubs in his hands?  Who knows?  If his listening ears aren’t on, it’s over. Store lock-down, my kid is fast and doesn’t care how far away he gets from me. He wants to help and I want to let him, but sometimes his help involves adding things to our cart that we would never eat in a million years-beets, orange sodas from Mexico, prune juice- anything from the bottom shelves is eligible.

Around this same time, Wyatt has turned completely around in his seat and is reaching for the foods I have intentionally placed away from him. (Once, I walked away from the cart to grab something and when I stepped back to it he had 2 eggs in his hands that he was starting to lick.)

When things get squirrely like this, I then have exactly 5 minutes to get out of the store before the wheels fall off the bus.  Game on. I race to try and get the last few things on our list like I am in a shopping game show, then panic and start grabbing random things off the shelves on the way to the checkout. If I did have a shopping coach, she’d be running next to me shouting, “Leave it! Just leave the guacamole! Go for the bacon! The bacon!”

When we make it to the checkout line, the lines make me cry. Why are there 17 registers and only 3 cashiers?! Why?! I open at least two more packages for my 18 month old. Yes, pretzels and applesauce pouch- here you go. We inch our way toward the register.  Up to this point, I have managed to hide the berries from him, which is essential. His passion for berries is unquenchable. But when we get to the register, as soon as I grab the blueberries from the cart to place on the moving belt, he spots them- and the shrieking begins. Shoppers at the far corner of the store look up and wonder if there is an orangutan loose by the registers. The cashier avoids eye contact and scans things as quickly as she can. Customers that, two seconds ago, were smiling at my kids and making googly eyes now shrink back in horror. “That woman’s cart smells like pee, her kid is wearing pajamas for some reason, she’s opened every package before she bought it, and her baby is louder than a bullhorn and covered in blueberries.” If I don’t start feeding Wyatt blueberries, the shrieking will just grow louder and louder until all our brains explode and our ear drums burst.

Once he sees the blueberries, he can’t not have a blueberry in both of his hands and his mouth. What he really wants is to hold the blueberry container and either push his mouth into the container or grab fistfuls at a time. But then even the gigantic Costco size tub would be gone before we get through the checkout and nobody wants that.

Finally we make it through the checkout leaving a trail of blueberries on the cement. Braden is squishing them unknowingly as he jogs back and forth, asking for a “sugar stick,” his word for churro.  (Um, no.)  The cashier is asking me something. Yes, I want that shit boxed. Do not spend one second telling me about the premium membership. My kids’ brains are melting into a pile of goo!

We push out into the fresh air, finally, feeding Wyatt blueberries the entire way. Braden is crying because I didn’t buy him a churro…But by God, we made it- and with almost half our list.

I am a great fucking mom.

 

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Ingredients: Sprouted sunflower seeds* collards* carrots* celery* Kale* spinach* zucchini* arugula* radicchio* lettuce* Parsley* basil* tomatoes* sprouted flax* onion* garlic* original Himalayan crystal salt & ♥.*Organic

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We win, fake food, we win!

My family headed to the Great Wolf Lodge for an overnight this past weekend to celebrate Braden’s 4th birthday! The windchill outside was -20 degrees, schools were closed, people were advised that even 10 minutes of exposed skin could lead to frostbite. And there we were…. running about in our bathing suits in the tropical waterpark air.  It wasn’t Jamaica, but it wasn’t too shabby. (By the way, this was an online winter deal and cost just over $100 for a one night stay and passes to the waterpark for four- totally worth it!)

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This mini-vacation was so many things at once. A much-needed break from the cold. Essential time away from email, facebook, and all things work-related. A pseudo-outdoor adventure (or as close as we’re gonna get to something-like-the-outdoors when the weather is so cold you can’t actually stand outside for more than 10 minutes.) A chance for our little 1 year old to experience a waterslide for the first time. And a window into our now 4 year old’s soul- where he can’t stop smiling, laughing, and racing for each new ride without hesitation. He is a water-baby through and through.

It was also a reminder that Justin and I are the grown-ups now. We’re not the ones running down the hotel hallways, giggling and yelling (yes, fellow guests, those are my kids waking you up at 7am.) We’re the ones shouting, “That’s far enough!” as our kids run into the pool. And “Stay where I can see you and you can see me!”

One thing Justin and I are learning about is how to balance our responsibility with our desire to have fun. Sometimes it feels like a colossal joke that we are actually the ones in charge. We try to sound authoritative when we talk to our kids. You know, like they should listen to us instead of doing whatever they want when they want.  As in, say, bobbing up and down like a buoy in the middle of a giant wave pool without an adult in sight. We try to remind them that, like, we’re the bosses now. Yes, us. The girl who did bong hits for breakfast in college and the guy who just a few years ago went sledding off a roof on purpose.

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We are very responsible when it comes to our kids safety. (Wear life jackets in the waterpark.) But a little less responsible when it comes to their diet. (2 hot pretzels for lunch? OK.)  In fact, meal planning and getting nutrition into those little bodies is one of our greatest challenges. My family often eats like we’re on an expedition – we’ve found that our kids will usually eat food that packs well. Cashews, portable pouches of mashed fruits and vegetables, Clif Bars, pretzels, cheese curds, summer sausage. I’m never sure if I should be happy because my kids are eating, or feel worried because they won’t touch most vegetables and entrees.  So it was with no small amount of pride that on our last day at the waterpark, we achieved a small (big!) victory on the We’re-Responsible-Parents front.

We had already checked out of our room so we had a change of clothes in a bag with us by the pool. It was almost time to leave and we needed to find a way to keep Braden in one place long enough for him to dry off a bit and get ready to go home. So, of course, I bribed him with food. I said, “Brady, we’re going to sit here at the table and you can have some Froot Loops while mommy changes clothes. Then it will be your turn to change.” (Justin had smuggled a box of Froot Loops out of the breakfast buffet earlier.) And Braden says,

“What is a Froot Loop?”

VICTORY!  VICTORY! VICTORY!  High fives all around.  My children may eat hot dogs for breakfast some days, and very often eat noodles with butter for dinner. They eat peanut butter on a spoon for protein pretty much every single day and regularly ask for Campbell’s canned soup. But, my son has lived for four years in America and does not know what a Froot Loop is. We win, fake food, we win!  And for that matter, we win, obnoxious advertisements, we win. We are responsible enough to shield our kiddos from most junk foods and, even more importantly ads for junk food.

Roof-sledder & Bong-queen: 1
Fake Food: 0

Friday Faves Review: Guitar Lullabye

 

Today’s Favorite: Guitar Lullabye, Ricardo Cobo

 

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As we all know, the frustration of getting a little one to sleep can be mindblowing. Mama needs some powerful lullabyes to calm her nerves and this cd delivers. This music will always remind me of the long nights trying to get my oldest son to stay asleep when he was a babe. He would roll around for hours, literally, before drifting off- and then wake up at least three times a night until he was around 2 1/2.  When you’re listening to lullabye music night after night for hours, you gotta love it. In our house, Cobo’s cd would be playing in the background for at least part of that night time marathon and regardless of what effect it had on my son, it really soothed me, and I loved the music. It’s classical guitar  that was researched to provide the optimal in relaxation for babes. It incorporates the phrasing of lullabyes and the speech patterns of parents talking in soothing tones to their children.  For me, it definitely stirred some deep comfort and inner *sighs*- maybe taking me back to the lullabyes of my youth even though his music sounds nothing like my mom’s old standby, Rock-a-bye Baby.  This is the first cd I recommend to anyone looking for a lullabyes.

Blood and gore on a Sunday drive…

My family and I drove out to rural Wisconsin today to check out the Fermentation Festival, specifically to see the art installations on local farmland, otherwise known as the Farm/Art DTour. The tour is an hour driving loop from Reedsburg through LaValle, Ironton, and Lime Ridge and features huge art installations by local artists and residents.

As we were approaching the start of the loop, we passed through Reedsburg, driving down Route 33 (Main St,) and we came upon a dozen or so protesters holding up lettered signs stating their anti-abortion, right-to-life beliefs. Adults, little kids and even littler kids were holding up their signs, stationed there, no doubt, to catch the hundreds of cars that would travel down that road on their way to the 50 mile driving loop of the art festival.

OK, protesters- no biggie for us. I’m not anti-abortion, but I actually thought: kudos to their group-someone must have been thinking ahead in planning to be on such a visible route.

We drove further on and came to the intersection where Main St meets Route K- the beginning of the art loop- and on this corner there were additional pro-life protesters. It took me a minute to register what they were holding, but given that we had to slow down for the turn, my whole family got a clear view of their signs: full-blown photographs of aborted fetuses. Blood, guts, gore all poster-sized and being held up by middle-aged women on the corner of the street, three feet from our van.

“What are those yucky pictures?” my 3-year-old says from the back seat. I tell him to close his eyes and then I try to block his view.

I was appalled, not by the philosophy of these right-to-lifers, but because I spend hours each week wondering and plotting how I’m going to protect my children from images of violence and bloodshed that saturate mass media. And here on the corner were people claiming to be advocates for protecting the lives of children, and they were purposely displaying visually violent images on a route specifically designed for families with children of all ages to pass through.

“You need to put those signs away! There are children in this car!” I yelled to them from our mini-van. And I caught one woman shaking her head saying, “No, No, NO.”

I imagine they were seeking some kind of moral justice by planting those images in the atmosphere for all to see, going for shock and gross-out tactics that might work on adults. Or maybe wanting to get a conversation started or to get people thinking about their beliefs? Whatever their intention, all it did for me was piss me off.

I was incensed. If I had been walking by, I may have destroyed the signs.

Do you have a right to protest?  Yes. Do you have a right to expose my kids to graphic, grotesque images intentionally and without warning when I spend my life protecting them from that? No. I’m sorry, but you don’t.  We haven’t even met, and you’ve disrespected me and my family by taking it upon yourself to throw the images our way without my permission.

In seeking your purpose, trying to shine light on the rights of children to live and be well-cared for, you chose to willfully expose children to disturbing, R-rated photographs. Basically, you destroyed the exact same philosophy you were demonstrating for. You’ve proven yourself unworthy of having a chance to even speak out. And you haven’t shocked me, scared me, or made me think or re-examine my own philosophy. The only thing you’ve done is infuriate me. Because my kids are in the back of the car and my three-year-old is saying he doesn’t want to see those yucky pictures.

So let me help you, at this point, by teaching you what most middle-schoolers know before they reach high school. When you’re trying to make a point, don’t use images that are so horrific that people immediately turn away from you and won’t listen to your message. Don’t argue for life if you don’t care about my kids’ lives. And don’t try to use shocking, scary images on a demographic that is out for a joyful family outing. People like me won’t listen to what you have to say. And you will never win anything except more people who don’t care to listen to what you’re saying.

And, by the way, I’m not mad at people who get or give abortions. They are not throwing scary images in my kids’ faces.