Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tales from the Crib

By Kelly

I was reading the October 2008 issue of Parenting magazine over the weekend, and once again, the last page made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I was in bed at the time. And my husband was sleeping next to me. What happened next is up to debate -- no one can prove that I elbowed him or said in a loud voice, "You have to hear this!" -- but in the end, Corey listened to me read the whole thing, even as I paused between paragraphs to chortle to myself and make banal quips. “This is so funny. And so true. Isn’t it funny? Why aren’t you laughing?”

Written by the always witty Melissa Balmain, it lists five horror movies, done mom style.

Bear Glitch Project

Take, for example, The Bear Glitch Project. “A family of four is terrorized by eerie groans and howls that, in a riveting climax, are traced to a Winnie the Pooh toy with dying batteries. PG-13 (violent act involving Winnie the Pooh).


Smellraiser

Or consider Smellraiser. “After his wife leaves for the day, a dad realizes with cold dread that something unholy is escaping from their baby’s diaper. R (brief nudity).


Phantom of the Bedroom

Or my personal favorite, The Phantom of the Bedroom. “Each time they climb into bed at night, a mom and dad are summoned by a disembodied voice demanding water, a blankie and eleventeen more stories. G (no nudity whatsoever, despite repeated attempts).


So, in honor of Halloween and the copious amounts of Milky Way Midnight bars we may or may not have already eaten, as well as the big Bloggy Giveaways Carnival going on now, I’m running a contest today. Come up with your own mom horror movie title and synopsis and leave it in the comments. I’ll pick a random winner over the weekend -- which, yes, means you don't have to be clever to play, but where's the fun in that? The prize will be a one-year subscription to Parenting. So you, too, can laugh your husband awake.

Here are a few contributions from me, to get your juices flowing.

I Know What You Won’t Be Doing Next Summer

New parents are horrified to learn that their life apr├Ęs baby doesn’t allow for midnight movie showings or spontaneous weekend trips. PG (repeated showings of “Yo Gabba Gabba” may disturb some viewers)

The Pining
A young mom stares wistfully at the wine list, knowing full well she is breastfeeding and can’t indulge -- for the next 12 months. G (no drug use at all, unless you count coffee)

Fetal Attraction
A mom who swore she was done having babies suddenly feels her uterus flip at the sight of her sister’s newborn. PG-13 (adult situations after husband finds out his wife might want just one more)

Invasion of the Booby Snatchers
A dad is aghast when he learns that the cute baby in the other room is really here to steal his favorite toys. R (constant nudity)

Your turn. Happy Halloween.

Contest is over. Congratulations to Courtney of Chaos Is Us. She's the winner of a 12-month subscription to Parenting magazine.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. And she hardly ever wakes up her husband when he's sleeping. Really.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Good Mom

By Kelly

I was a good mom today.

I say that with no small amount of satisfaction, because many days, I’m not.

I don’t listen well. I don’t play often. I’m not amazed enough.

Simply put, I’m not wholly present. I’m always splintered. I eat lunch with Connor AND check my e-mail. I play Legos AND fold the laundry. I feed the baby AND read a magazine. I quiz Natalie on her spelling AND browse through Twitter.

Multi-tasking is a valued skill when it comes to producing a newscast or editing a newspaper.

It is not a gift when it comes to being a mom.

But today, I had very little on my To Do List. That gave me some breathing room. Instead of measuring my day by accomplishments – laundry folded, dinner made, thank you cards written, lunches packed – I wanted to focus on just being with my kids. I wanted to remember that my most important role each day is being their mom.

So this morning, I watched “Sesame Street” with Connor and Teyla. (The number of the day was 20. Twenty! I’ve never seen the Count go that high before.) I introduced Teyla to the joy that is dancing to Michael Buble. (“Sway” was her favorite. Mine too.) I sat at the table and finally played Legos with Connor, something he's requested every day for the last four days. (Although, truthfully, he didn’t really want me to touch anything. “No, not that one, Mom, I’m playing with that one,” was his constant refrain. So I mostly just watched. But I watched with undivided attention.)

After school, I took the kids to the park. It was sunny and brisk. The wind made our noses pink and our hands tingly. Afterwards, we came home and had hot chocolate (our first of the season) and apples and pretzels and marshmallows. I gave the baby a bath and I sat on the fuzzy matt next to the tub and enjoyed her splashing.

And just now, I put Teyla to bed without nursing her to sleep. (Night three of Sleep Training Boot Camp in the Love Well household.) It wasn’t the most pleasant part of my day, but I feel good about the fact that I’m not just leaving her alone in her room to figure this whole sleep thing out. I stayed with her, comforted her, reassured her. I did what a good Mom does.

That is, I was there.

So often, that’s the crucial piece of the puzzle. I need to remember that. And then live it.

Kelly can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Wall

By Kelly

I am tired.

Really tired.

I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in … well, I don’t remember how long. Since July maybe?

I know this is to be expected. It’s part of the baby package. And, to be honest, I don’t have it as bad as many new moms. Teyla, like my other two children, slept relatively well when she was a newborn. By the time she was eight weeks, in March, she routinely slept through the night.

It was not something I took for granted.

But by the time summer rolled around, the dirty diaper started to hit the fan.

I nurse Teyla to sleep, which is what I’ve done with all my babies. I’ve made that conscious choice, even though I know many people advise against it, because it’s easy, it makes my babies fall into a milk-induced coma and sleep is better than coffee those first few months.

But here is where I pay for it.

Teyla is now nine months old. And instead of sleeping through the night, she gets up once. Or twice. Or maybe three times. Or sometimes – help me, Jesus – even four. And each time, she expects me to nurse her back to sleep. After all, it’s what we do. I’ve taught her this. She knows no other way.

It’s hard to refuse a baby who is standing in her crib, crying out for me. Her eyes are usually shut, her dark, damp hair curled wildly around her face. Her fleece pajamas beg to be cuddled, and she stops crying as soon as I pick her up, as soon as she gets a whiff of mom.

But gosh darn it, I’m ready for a full eight hours. And frankly, I think she is too. She isn’t napping well anymore, and she seems a little unsettled with the constant waking, as if she’d like to sleep longer but she just isn’t sure what to do.

With my older two were babies, I charted a course back to sleep using the guidance of one of my favorite parenting books, “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.” Tracy Hogg, an English nurse and baby coach, has many wise pieces of advice. But to me, her resounding message is this: Everything you do conditions your baby. Babies react to what you, as a parent, have intentionally or unintentionally taught them to expect out of life.

Teyla is the perfect example of this. She has always nursed to sleep. Therefore, when she wakes in the middle of the night, she knows no other way to return to dreamland than to breastfeed.

To break this bad pattern, Tracy advises that I back out of the habit slowly. The first step is to nurse Teyla a little less each night when she cries. I should unlatch her as soon as she falls asleep and lay her back in her crib. Eventually, the hope is that I can get to a point where she doesn’t need to nurse at all, that she would settled just by me picking her up, or even just by me patting her on the back reassuringly.

But it takes time and patience to get to that point.

And when one is tired, one has little patience.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But last night, as I rocked in the chair and nursed Teyla back to sleep yet again, my weary brain hit the wall. "This can't continue," it said. "You know what to do. Make a plan, put on your big girl panties and do it. You need some sleep. She needs some sleep. No one can teach her this but you."

Truth from the wall. Ouch.

Anthropomorphizing at 4:30 AM? Bigger ouch.

Obviously, it's time. See you on the other side.

It does exist, right?

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. Most recently, she wrote about how much she loves Sunday afternoon naps, which makes perfect sense in light of this post.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dose of Reality

By Kelly

Hi. My name is Kelly, and I’m a parent of three children. Natalie is 7, Connor is 4 and Teyla is 8 months. As you might suspect, we’ve battled our fair share of colds over the years. In fact, Connor and Teyla have colds right now. My walls echo with the sounds of coughing, congestion and crankiness. Mom is ever present and ever needed.

Too bad the FDA doesn’t trust me to decide how to treat them.

The news yesterday that drug manufacturers are voluntarily recommending that over-the-counter cold medicine not be given to children younger than four annoyed me. The story line is that many parents overdose their kids, who then end up in the ER, because they don’t read directions properly. Plus, no studies have ever proven cold medicine to be effective in young children.

Huh. Could have fooled me. I’ve watched a child who couldn’t breath through a congested nose – even after the dreaded BBOS* had been deployed, even in a room filled with mist from a humidifier – fall deeply asleep 30 minutes after swallowing a small dose of infant cold medicine. Sure seemed like the drops made the difference.

But what do I know? I’m just a mom.

Here’s the deal, FDA. I know you’re considering getting rid of children’s cold medicine altogether. But I do read directions. I keep track of my dosages. I understand that acetaminophen might be in more than one product. And while I don’t reach for medicine as soon as my child starts to sniffle, I don’t want you telling me I can’t give them medicine when I think it’s warranted.

My kids shouldn’t be penalized for other parents’ ignorance.

Whew.

After all that, I think I need a glass of wine.

Except, if I think about it, I could overdose on that too. And it doesn’t really solve anything. It just masks the symptoms.

Don’t tell the FDA….

*Blue Bulb of Suckage

Kelly is usually found blogging at Love Well, where she’s rarely controversial and 95% more pleasant.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

If You Give a Child a Muffin (Tin)

By Kelly

I'll admit it: Lunch is the ugly red-headed stepchild at my house.

I have a long-standing love affair with breakfast. Egg scrambled with spinach, bacon, mushrooms and avocado. Pancakes sprinkled with cranberries and blueberries or maybe bananas and brown sugar. French toast topped with pecan praline crumble. Rosy grapefruit. Fragrant strawberries. And coffee. Lots of  dark, rich French-press coffee.

And dinner? Well, dinner's the star of the show. My whole day is centered around dinner. I look at my meal list as I'm eating breakfast and decide what time I need to start cooking that night. I get meat out of the freezer. I double-check my vegetable drawer to make sure nothing has jumped the shark since my last trip to the market. It's the one meal where I know everyone in my family will get at least one serving of protein, fruit and vegetable on their plate, if not in their belly.

But lunch? Meh. It doesn't do it for me. I'm not a big sandwich eater, I get bored with leftovers. It's the "I guess I have to eat something now or I'll raid the candy cupboard at 4:00 PM" meal.

As you might imagine, my take-it-or-leave-it attitude has rubbed off on my kids. Natalie, age 7, would eat a frozen-then-microwaved burrito every day if given the chance. Connor, age 4, prefers PB&J. I usually grab whatever leftover is closest to growing fuzz.

But a few weeks back, just before school started, I decided to give lunch a temporary jolt and plan a Muffin Tin Lunch. The concept isn't unique with me; I've seen it explained on numerous blogs and in several parenting magazines. The basic idea is to serve a lunch of several small portions of food, cleverly (and cutely) portioned in a muffin tin.

I decided to take the concept one step further and use the muffin rows to explain the basic food groups I try to get my kids to eat. Thus, we had a row of fruit, a row of vegetables, a row of protein and a row of grains. I also upped the ante by including one item in each row that my kids normally eschew but might like if they would just give it a try. For example, Natalie insists she doesn't like strawberries. So I made sure a couple went in the fruit row. Connor says he doesn't like peppers, so I put a couple of slices of sweet yellow bell in the veggie row.

When I called them to lunch and produced two muffin tins filled with morsels, their faces lit up. They were completely delighted. They were a little put off by my insistence that they must take at least one bite of everything in their tray to earn a treat. But they quickly overcame that hurdle and giggled through their lunch of "samples." (Four words: Sam's Club on Saturdays.)

In the end, Natalie discovered she liked yellow bell peppers. Connor decided he didn't like grape tomatoes. And I found a way to get my kids to try some new foods without resorting to bribery.

Moral of the story: If you give your kids a muffin tin lunch, they're going to ask for more.

(Bonus post-script: Here's the power of Google. Late last night, I did some quick research to see if I could credit someone for inventing the Muffin Tin Lunch idea. While I didn't find the source, I did find a brilliant blog called Sycamore Stirrings that hosts Muffin Tin Mondays. She even comes up with themes for the lunches, such as "shapes" or "favorite children's book." Check out this page for some truly inspirational ideas. Or just Google "muffin tin lunch." There are tons of great sites out there.)

(Pictured in my muffin tin lunch: yellow peppers, baby carrots, grape tomatoes; chicken strips, brie cheese, bison sausage; oyster crackers, graham crackers, leftover bread from Outback with butter; cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes.)

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, when she isn't fantasizing about breakfast.