Thursday, March 29, 2012

Four Month Olds - AKA Wild Monkeys

Some of you mamas know all about the four month sleep regression. Yes, this is a real thing that is apparently fairly common.  
Even the best little sleepers start waking more often at night and/or fighting naps, and often it can last several weeks. From four-six months they are hitting some major developmental milestones, and I guess it just makes them a little crazy.
I had never heard of such a thing until I had my first child. Four months was a particularly bad age for Hannah, as she began waking four-five times a night (and was difficult to get back to sleep), and her naps shortened. I thought I was going to lose my mind.
fussy four month old in a happy momentI think it was particularly difficult because I had no idea it was coming. I had assumed she was well on her way to sleeping through the night when WHAM! No more sleep for mama. At least not until the month was over.
But I have learned from my first attempt at this mommy thing that the worst thing you can do is have expectations. These kiddos are constantly changing, so there’s no point in trying to keep up. I’ve been much more relaxed and ‘go-with-the-flow’ with this baby, and it has made all the difference.
I hate not getting sleep. I hate being tired, I hate being cranky, I hate being impatient, and all of that stuff that comes along with not getting sleep.
I want to be the best mama I can be, and I just don’t feel like I’m worth much at all when I’m not rested. I’ve often wondered why it works the way that it does – why do babies have to be so exhausting? Is it so we won’t overpopulate the earth? (If it wasn’t for the first six months, I’d probably have a gazillion kids.)
Is it merely to teach us patience? A parent’s most valuable tool…
Whatever the reason, most parents face trials in this area, whether at four months, or six, or eight…
Abram is officially four months old today. He has had some fussier periods and a little more night waking lately, but it hasn’t been as wildly unmanageable as Hannah’s regression. And I’m praying it never comes to that.
But if it does, there is one thing that brings me comfort: It’s not going to last forever.
If you are a parent going through a regression or sleep issues right now, I just want to assure you – it’s nothing you did. Your child will sleep again. You will sleep again. You are not a failure as a parent.
With children, the only thing you can expect is that you never know what to expect.

(In fact, my little guy gave me a gift last night - he only woke up once to nurse. Sometimes the unexpected is blissful.)

I'm curious - what are your experiences with difficult baby stages? Is there a particular age that you find to be the hardest?
What do you think is the most difficult age to go through when raising children?

 free polls 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Turning My Ineptitude Into Quality Time With Friends

I have always been a terrible artist.

No, really. Like, so bad that my two-year-old daughter can tell I’m no good. So bad that I don’t think my husband has ever not raised an eyebrow when I showed him something I drew. So bad that my stick figures look at me like, “Seriously?”

I’m almost as bad of an artist as I am a singer. You really don’t want to know how bad that is.

So I don’t know why I got it in my head to start playing Draw Something, the iPad app that’s like Pictionary. I guess it’s because no one will play Words With Friends with me. And that’s just as well because it would probably be like grade school all over again when I won too many spelling bees and everyone hated me.
The great thing about Draw Something is that everyone cheats, so you don’t have to be good at it. Perfect for artistically-challenged me.

The way it works is you choose from three different words – easy, medium, or hard – and then use your finger to make the drawing on the screen. The picture then gets sent to the other player, and he/she watches the screen as the drawing is made. Once the correct guess is made, he/she chooses a word and makes a drawing that gets sent back to you.

No one follows any rules, so it gets pretty funny. People often write word clues, and sometimes they just give up and write the answer. And even if it’s a really hard one to guess, you are given letters to unscramble, so it’s not like it’s all that difficult.

It’s just fun. I mean, who doesn’t like drawing silly pictures and laughing at each other?
Even so, I’m still really, really, really bad at drawing. So my cheat? I often google images of my words so I have something to look at while I’m drawing.

Because if I don’t, they end up looking something like this:

drawing of Elmo

Yet when I do use the Internet for inspiration, I can sometimes end up with a gem like this:
drawing of squirrel

Yeah, I’m super proud of that guy. That’s the best it’s ever going to get for me.
But more often than not, I just get really ridiculous:

drawing of adele

And, since I have a two-year-old genius who is more proficient with the iPad than I am, it was only a matter of time before she got sneaky and joined in the fun. You'll notice she also used my coins to purchase a new palette of colors. Oy.

 my two-year-old's drawing of pegasus
I’m impressed. Her word was ‘Pegasus’. I mean, that is a way better constellation than I could ever draw. And she didn’t even use the Internet.
A special shout out to all of you who have stuck with playing with me for this long. I commend you.

*Note* This is not a product endorsement. I was not paid to write this. But clearly, as evidenced by the images above, I did not need to tell you that.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Life Of A SAHM: Yes, I Eat Bonbons And Watch Soap Operas All Day

That is, if by eating bonbons you mean devouring some indulgent moments with my little sweeties, and by watching soap operas you mean observing the daily drama that unfolds with a baby and a toddler, then yeah, I do those things.

There are probably a gazillion and one posts on the Internet in which dumbfounded stay-at-home-moms vent about getting asked, “So what do you do all day?” Thankfully, I never get asked that (though that probably has more to do with the fact that I rarely see any human beings other than my hubby and little ones), and I’m glad because I’m not sure how I’d answer.

Because that question has already been answered quite eloquently here.

And also because sometimes I do get to the end of the day and think, “What did I do today? Was I productive enough? Did I accomplish all of my goals?”

But, you know, I did that when I worked at an office too. Think about your own job. Is it easy to explain what you do to others who have never done it? Can you even remember every little thing you did all day?

That’s why I just can’t understand why the question keeps getting asked. It’s as though, despite the fact that there are people who get paid money to do it, taking care of children isn’t considered work.
I can tell you with great certainty that I am far more tired at the end of the day now than when I was working a desk job. And it’s not because being a SAHM is harder – I’m not trying to argue that.

In fact I think the bizarre competition that exists between working parents and stay-at-home parents is simply ridiculous. There are pros and cons to each choice and sacrifices that have to be made no matter what situation you’re in.

Neither is easier than the other; they’re just different.
stay at home mom perks
Tiny Little Hands
But what I have learned from being a SAHM is that constant childcare can be exhausting, just as any job can be exhausting when IT NEVER ENDS. Full time 'mommying' can make you a little stir crazy and a little overwhelmed by the lack of adult interaction and mental stimulation, and being your own boss is not always easy because you run the risk of being far too hard on yourself far too often.

It’s particularly difficult at times because there are no immediate rewards, no plaques or certificates to show for all your hard work. No one sends an email to your boss telling him what a great job you did on a project, and there are no raises. No one even observes what you do most of the time. So for someone who has always been as achievement oriented as I am, that was quite an adjustment.

tiny little feet
Tiny Little Feet
It’s rewarding, yes. But the rewards come in much different packaging, and often you are the only one who ever knows about them.
But I wouldn’t trade what I’ve got now. And maybe that’s the key difference for me. Jobs come and go, but this is the one that I am most devoted to and most thankful for.

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to do it, to get to spend as much of this precious time as I can with my little sweets…my little “bonbons”.

The truth is I don’t really care if anyone else thinks I have it easy or that my job isn’t important. I don’t care if some people don’t respect what I do. I know how hard it is, I know its value, and I know I give it my all. More than anything, I know I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

And I know my own little soap opera is far more interesting than any I'd ever see on TV.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm Totally Normal. I Promise! Okay, I'm A Little Weird.

Many of you would probably be surprised to know that I have very likely had a conversation with you that you don’t remember.

How is that possible, you say? Are you a hypnotist? Did you drug me? Quit being freaky, Rachel!
Well, you don’t remember because you weren’t actually a part of the convo. It was just my imagined version of you. That’s right – I have conversations with people in my head.

In fact, if I know you IRL (in real life), I’ve probably had a mental chat with you at least once. That’s how often it happens…while I’m getting ready in the morning, while I’m driving down the road, while I’m perusing the aisles at Target…

(Well, maybe it doesn’t happen quite so often now that I have munchkins constantly interrupting my thoughts, but you get the idea.)

Socially Awkward Penguin
Socially Awkward Penguin gets me.
I guess it’s just that when I start thinking about a topic, I imagine talking about it to whomever I think would be most interested in discussing it with me. Or I think about having a conversation I would like to have but probably never will. Or maybe I’m just bored and you happen to pop into my head. (Lucky you!)

These fictional heart-to-hearts can be brought on by any number of things – a dream, a recovered memory, a Facebook status, a random thought, or even nothing at all. Most of the time I don’t even pay attention to the fact that I’m doing it. But today I did, and it made me think.

I thought about how bad I am at verbal discussions and how I have a tendency toward social awkwardness, and I found myself wishing I could be as eloquent and verbose as I am in my own head.
I’m just not that cool IRL.

It’s probably another reason why I blog. Blogging is my way of releasing some of the internal that I’m not very good at making external.

But anyway, I guess this is my way of saying, Friends, I think about you a lot. You have clearly impacted me in more ways than you know because I carry you with me daily.
Luckily, I googled it (typical me), and despite the fact that it brought up several psych forum hits, I found out that having imagined conversations with people in your head is actually quite normal. (Phew, good to know!)

You probably even have conversations with me in your head. At least I like to think so.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Toddlerisms: Hannah's Latest Linguistic Achievements

She’s got the basics down, and now my little sponge is discovering some subtle language tricks that add flavor to her speech (and bring amusement to all). 

 1) Remembering and repeating what she’s heard:
* “Baby Abram freakin’ out!”

* “Sometimes diarrhea” (I probably didn’t need to tell her about this unfortunate side effect of eating too many grapes)

* “Woopsy Daisy!”

 2) Acquiring her daddy’s (sometimes brutal) honesty:
“Hannah, does this headband look pretty?”
- Long pause -
“Does it look pretty or silly?”
“Yes Mama, looks silly.”
“Really? It doesn’t look pretty?”
“No Mama, that doesn’t look very pretty. Take it outta hair.”

3) Revealing her uncanny knack for comic timing:
After running up to me and grabbing my face -
“Hannah, why are your hands wet?”
“I fell in the potty.”

4) Mastering literal interpretations:
“Are you a daddy’s girl or a mommy’s girl?”
“No, I not Daddy. I not Mommy. I Hannah.”

5) Asking annoying important questions:
“What’s that?”
“What’s that? What’s that?”

6) Learning mind over matter:
“Oh, yes! I like broccoli!”

7) Changing the subject:
“Hannah, did you pee in your pants?”
“I wuv you, Mama.”

As you can see, these are some critical communication skills. I think it’s clear that she’s well on her way to semantic success.
toddler language skills

 Oh Hannah, in your own words,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Disasters, Depressions, and Doomsday – Oh My! Are You Prepared?

You were excited when you read this post title, weren't you? You thought I was about to get all wacko on you. Sorry to disappoint, but this post is really just about the importance of prudent preparation when you have a family to support.

My husband is a rugged, Man vs Wild type of guy who loves all things outdoors – camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and anything else that involves him exercising his masculinity. It’s kind of hot, really. (I mean, have you seen Bear Grylls?)
family camping trip
Going along with all of that, he loves learning about survival skills, emergency preparedness, living off the land, and things of that nature. He’s not a 'Doomsday Prepper' – he simply recognizes the value of self-sufficiency, especially in an unstable economy.

Don't worry - I occasionally give him a hard time about it (and call him Doomy McGloomerson), but the truth is I know my kids have a daddy who does all he can to protect them. And that's what's so attractive about it - he makes us feel safe and protected. 

I think most people write off the prepared folks as ‘cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs’ because it feels much safer than facing reality: disasters happen. You don’t have to be a hardcore ‘Doomsday Prepper’  (because, let’s face it, if you find yourself in the middle of a nuclear war, there’s not a lot you can do to keep from growing a third arm), but it certainly couldn’t hurt to prepare your family for an environmental or economic disaster.

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were faced with a sudden disaster? If you couldn’t get to the grocery store? Or the gas station? If you temporarily couldn’t access your bank account?

Do you have enough food and water stored up to last a while? It probably takes more than you think.

Here’s the thing: in an emergency situation, you absolutely cannot count on the government to provide for your family’s needs in a timely manner (two words: Hurricane Katrina). Self-reliance is the key.

I never want to find myself unable to provide basic needs for my children. How horrifying would it be to find yourself wondering where their next meal was going to come from?

It’s impossible to be prepared for every possible scenario that life could throw at us, but think of it this way: you buy health insurance to prepare for unexpected medical issues, you protect your assets through other types of insurance, you may contribute to an IRA or college fund to prepare for the future, so why not be prepared for something as basic as survival?

hiking cooling off in a stream
The hubby in his element - with his faithful sidekick
My poor hubby has a desk job, not his dream job of testing out gear for Cabela’s. This means he doesn’t get to go on outdoor adventures and act out his wildman instincts as often as he would like. But his birthday is coming up, and we're going camping. I’m looking forward to seeing him snuggle into his new sleeping bag, break in his new backpack, and act like a kid at Disneyland.

Does your family take any steps to preserve self-sufficiency? Share your tips!