Thursday, July 31, 2014

Books About Getting a New Sibling

I've been realizing lately that my two year old is really open to the power of suggestion. For example, this morning we were watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Daniel had to learn that he needed mittens and a hat to play out in the snow. A couple of hours later, she pulled her mittens and a winter hat out of her drawer, put them on and announced, "Snowing!" and then headed to the door and said, "Outside?" (Unfortunately she got her signals crossed on this one. She was supposed to be learning to dress appropriately for the weather. The message she got was that wearing mittens means you get to play in the snow. Even if it's been 100 degrees outside all week.)

With this in mind, I've been trying to prep her for some of the changes coming up in her life by getting books about the things we're going to be experiencing. For a month now we've been reading about Elmo's magical transition to a big boy bed in Big Enough for a Bed, and she now knows that Elmo picked out sheets with stripes, and she picked out sheets with horsies. The transition has been magical so far, so I think talking it up was helpful!

The biggest change we're about to experience is of course the arrival of baby sister, so I've been collecting books about that for the next couple of months as well. (She's getting two for her birthday, in fact.) Here are a few that I really love.

Books About Becoming an Older Sibling

A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban. Frances has long been one of my favorite characters, but I didn't discover this particular book until I was an adult. (We actually found it at a used book store and I jumped on it.) It's a bit above my two year old (mostly because it's a bit long) but for older kids it's so delightful, because it focuses almost completely on the older sibling, not on the baby. Frances is bugged that the baby is getting attention, so she decides to run away - ending up under the kitchen table. Her parents talk loudly about how much they miss about her, and how sad they are that her little sister won't have such a great big sister around, and it's just hilarious. (Luckily her chocolate sandwich cookie supply gives out before too long.)

I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole. (For the record, there is also an I'm a Big Brother and an I'm a Big Sister (Spanish Edition.) This book is pretty straightforward, but it's more up my two year old's alley with it's sweet pictures and short text. The pictures are so cute, and it's very simple stuff about how the little girl can help with the baby (if she asks Mommy), how she is still so special to Mommy and Daddy, and how being a big sister is one more way that she is special. Plus it mentions the benefits of being older, like being able to play at the park and eat pizza, which I think is a nice reminder to older siblings who lose some of the attention they were getting before.

The Berenstain Bears' New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I just love the Berenstain Bears. CB is mostly into their shorter books right now (Spooky Old Tree, C is for Clown, Bears on Wheels etc.) but I think this one is nicely in between those and the longer stories. It's quite cute, focusing on Brother Bear getting a big bed because he's outgrown his baby bed, and while he and Papa are making the bed and talking about what will happen to his old bed, Mama goes ahead and has a baby.

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer. Because who doesn't love Little Critter?

Best Ever Big Sister by Karen Katz. (And of course there's also Best Ever Big Brother, for fairness.) Karen Katz is always a hit with CB. Something about those big colorful babies in her books is just so appealing, and lift the flap is always a hit with the toddler crowd. Our copy of Where is Baby's Belly Button is totally trashed because she loves it so much, and this one is also adorable (and there also appears to be a couple of different versions for personalizing - I'm for sure seeing an African-American version of the big brother book along with the little blonde kid edition, so that's fun.)

There are so many books on this topic, and I think we'll be going to the library to find a few more in the coming months. We'd love to hear your suggestions!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Last Time

As an employee of Clark County School District, my husband receives fun little perks now and again. One of those perks happens to be free admission for him and a guest on the first weekend of every month to Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef. Because we A) enjoy getting out of the house and B) enjoy free entertainment, we have spent many weekends in the past few years visiting the aquarium with our little family. At 20$ per ticket for admission for children five years and older, it would be difficult to justify so frequent an outing, so we took advantage of the opportunity, noting every so often that when our oldest child turned five, we wouldn't be able to go as a family anymore.

My oldest child turns five at the end of the month.

 16 month old Hannah on her first trip to Shark Reef

When I realized that we were going to be taking our last weekend trip to Shark Reef as a family, my heart broke a little. We are entering into a new phase of life in our family. Sure, my husband will still be able to take our kids by himself, but things are shifting. Hannah will be heading off to kindergarten, Paige is starting preschool, and Sam adds a whole new dynamic to our family. Our family of three too quickly became a family of five, and I feel that I can't blink because I'm in danger of missing something vital. 

Five year old Hannah at the same spot

With my kids growing at an alarmingly rapid rate, I find myself feeling nostalgic for the difficult, but simple stage of infancy and toddlerhood. Now that I'm facing school, sports and music lessons, drop off play dates, and generally letting go, I'm thinking of the days where my most important obligation was story time at the library, or a picnic at the park. 

This poem keeps coming to mind:

"Babies Don’t Keep"

By Ruth Hulburt Hamilton 
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

I'll admit, there are times when I've let distractions take me away from enjoying my babies, and that's okay. It's impossible to sponge up every precious moment and bottle it, and life needs to be taken care of. I don't have regrets. It doesn't mean that it isn't going to be painful to watch my daughter walk into her kindergarten classroom, and I'll still hate when my preschooler stops saying "tootie" and corrects herself, calling it a "cookie." Growth and change are painful, but still incredible. It's a beautiful ache.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Pit of Despair

Disclaimer:  I'm about to talk about deodorant and body odor and armpits.  If that grosses you out, please do not feel obligated to continue.  Honestly, it kind of grosses me out and they are my armpits so I empathize.  

So here's a thing. Apparently, I'm allergic to deodorant. I have been deodorant free for the last four months.  Some of you may realize that means, during the hottest, sweatiest months of the year, I have lived on the edge of feeling fresh and smelling disgusting.  Luckily, in those four months, I have only smelled twice (and that was after prolonged physical activity so it was to be expected).  That's not too shabby and overall, my experience sans deodorant has been positive.

Without going into too much detail, in March I  had an allergic reaction to my regular deodorant.  It wasn't the first time, but it was definitely the worst and longest lasting.  Generally, switching brands works and I move on.  This time, I switched brands and had another reaction.  After a visit to my doctor (mostly to figure out how to deal with my incredibly uncomfortable, itchy armpits), and after spending a boatload of money on deodorant, I was left with six sticks of deodorant, one bottle of Benedryl Gel (my new BFF), and the assumption that I must be allergic to the aluminum in regular deodorant.

Now I'm wishing this post from A Cup of Jo existed four months ago, because I spent 20 minutes in the deodorant aisle guessing what to buy and ended up with Tom's of Maine (unscented) and Crystal Body.  The Tom's didn't work (and caused a smaller, less irritating reaction, but a reaction all the same) and I was too nervous to even try the Crystal Body because I just wanted to not have itchy armpits anymore.  Also, once the reaction was finally and completely gone, I had zero problems with under arm odor and actually felt like I was sweating less.  It's hard to see the need for deodorant again.  The trick seems to be showering daily (which was already happening) and shaving every other day (also, already happening).  I occasionally use an essential oil (Lavender, Melalueca, or Purify from DoTerra) when I feel less than fresh, but that hasn't really happened.  I've spent days in the sun, walking around outside sight seeing, or just standing outside in the gross, humid, Maryland summer heat without any issues.  It's actually quite freeing, and it's less money spent.  Win win.

I know this would not work for everyone.  I know some people sweat a lot more or have to deal with body odor issues for various reasons.  But, for now, this is working for me and I'm kind of amazed. 

I'm curious if any of you have had similar problems or just choose to go deodorant free?  Is there a natural product you prefer? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reasons for a Winter Wedding

If I get married, I think I’ll have to be sure it’s in winter. (FYI, this is not happening anytime soon that I’m aware of, folks, so stop your girly squealing.)

     A. I love my friends, and I love supporting them as they mark important chapters in their lives.
     B. I also like having a summer where I get to do what I want to do when I want to do it (i.e. have a weekend at home doing laundry, cleaning, and wearing pajamas for 2 days in a row).
     C. Sometimes A. gets in the way of B.

It is wedding season folks. That’s right, the time of year when you don’t say “no” to anyone with a rock on their left ring finger because you know (or at least hope) that this is the only time they will be getting married, and they’re already stressed enough, and it is a big deal, and you darn well better be there to support them (and also because you want to be there to support them).

Remember my post about hating winter? I’m starting to reconsider. Not because of the freezing temperatures. Nothing will make me love those. But maybe having a reason to celebrate (after the holiday rush) would make me hate winter just a little less. (But only a little.)

And so I give you, in no particular order, my reasons for considering winter an ideal-ish wedding season:

  • As mentioned above, winter kind of sucks. Any reason to feel more upbeat in winter is welcome--so get hitched, and have a reason to celebrate! 
  • Winter weddings are far less common. After the last 10 years of having tons of summer weddings, I’m thinking our friends and family deserve a break from highly scheduled summer travel and gift-buying.  I feel the stress of saying “whose wedding are we going to next weekend?” and “wait, what did we get them again?” and “how do they expect me not to sweat through my clothing if it is an outdoor ceremony in JULY?”
  • An excuse to have a honeymoon (and subsequent anniversary) getaway(s) to somewhere warm? Um, that would be amazeballs. 
  • Off-season pricing for wedding venues--how many golf courses are charging full price in January? The same is true of gowns, right? When do new “seasons” come out for bridal gown designs? You’re bound to get a deal. 
  • Snow is reflective. Your photographer won’t even need those silver shiny disc things to get great pictures--the snow will do it for them!
  • Humidity be gone! Curls stay better, deodorant works better, and can we say sweat? Sweet! 
  • If someone passes out at the wedding, it’s not from the heat; it’s from their beverage choices, and you can kind of control what’s available to prevent that from happening. The heat, however, is not something that can be controlled. 
  • No need to worry about tan lines for your dress. You can go pale, because winter is the season of paleness. (For me, however, that season is all year ‘round.) Or you can just toss on a sweater or shawl over your shoulders. 
  • Permission to hibernate after the wedding. Winter = plenty of snuggle time with you and your new contractually-bonded partner. 

When do you think is the ideal time for wedding celebrations?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT: What do we inherit without knowing?

This past father’s day my siblings and I went together to get my dad a gift. Since I was able to get free shipping, I put the order together and each of my siblings paid me. None of this is earth shattering or new, or even interesting, until I opened a letter with a check from one of my brothers. Oftentimes you think about inheriting physical features from your parents: height, hair color, distinctive facial features, even your voice or vocal inflection.  When I opened that letter I realized that my brother’s handwriting is almost exactly like my dad’s, from the curl of the “C” to the combined swoop of the “St.” We tend to communicate through email, phone, or other family members, so I rarely see this brother’s handwriting. It was a nice reminder that not only do we get the physical features of our parents, but we also carry with us, for the rest of our lives, what they teach us growing up. They help shape us unto the people we are continuing to grow into, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Family Pictures

One of our family's traditions is our annual photo shoot. My mom always made it a priority to document our family's growth, and she passed that on to me, so every year I dress up my family in coordinating outfits and we drive out to a scenic spot.

In my minds eye, I expected our family photos would go something like this: 

Of course, my life (and I suspect yours) isn't reflective of a pinterest board, so our family photo shoot looks a lot like this:

 2011 was the first year I had two children. I spent lots of time and money choosing outfits, hair styles, planning nap time and feedings, finding a location and researching poses. Not a single member of my family cooperated.

After fighting with my two year old to be cooperative, trying to get my newborn to do something other than cry and want to eat, and becoming exasperated with my husband, I was sure the photo session was a bust. I went home and cried and cried and cried (and then I cried some more). Fortunately, our photographer happens to be my good friend Chelsea, who is extremely talented, and she knew what she was doing. Though we had several terrible photos, we managed to get a couple that have been my very favorite pictures of my daughters and my little family.

So I've learned to let it go and embrace the crazy. It's not so stressful to me anymore. So, readers, I'm inviting you to my home to see the pictures on my walls because I'm proud of my valiant efforts. Just know for every one of these:

There are just as many of these...

*Note: I am so grateful to my friend Chelsea, and I'm grateful that she is willing to include the crazy pictures in with the beautiful ones. A) They keep me humble and B) they keep me smiling. These are my kids and I'm so happy that they have giant spirits inside their little bodies and I wouldn't have them any other way. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TBT: Twins

As becoming a mother of two looms ever closer in my future, I can't help but think about my mom, who went from being a mother of one to being a mother of three when the first one was 15 months old. 
Even more amazing, because it was the 70s and they didn't do ultrasounds, she didn't know that she was having twins until the second baby started coming out. Synchronized heartbeats in babies face to face apparently makes it hard to tell that there's more than one in there.

When I think about all of the transitions we're going to be making in the next couple of months, this one always comes to mind:

I'm in awe, and I'm relieved that it's not me, but I don't think my mom was ever sorry that her life turned out this way (after the initial shock and crying wore off). If this is possible and joyful, I can certainly do two kids. 

Good work, Mom! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Worst Movies Ever

These are my personal opinions about the worst movies ever made, some of you might not agree, some of you might love these movies, some of you may be shocked that I dare insult these movies, some of you may grow to hate me, some of you might try to track down my home address to send me hate mail, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. And if by the end of the post if you still like me- you should know that I also hate girl scout cookies, that should do it.

1. Anchorman 2

Perhaps it's that comedies should never have sequels. Perhaps it's that the first movie set expectations so high. Perhaps it's that this movie is peppered with witty screen writers. Perhaps it's the promising plot line of the downfall of news integrity. There are many reasons this movie was the biggest disappointment since Star Wars The Phantom Menace.

2. The Host

When I was in the throes of newborn months I got the opportunity to go see a movie by myself- a rare and precious gift! Unfortunately I went to see The Host. I would have rather stayed home and cleaned up diaper blowouts.

3. [Insert Nicholas Cage Movie of Your Choice Here]

A philosophical question more complex than the chicken and the egg- is a movie bad because it has Nicholas Cage in it? Or does Nicholas Cage join movies that are already bad?

4. Taken 2

The good news is that there won't be a Taken 3 because Liam Neeson has now shot every person in Europe. Unless of course they journey to Australia or something but hopefully that family is officially over traveling.

5. Transformers 1-4 (5? 6?)

I've lost track of how many of these terrible movies have been made. Haven't we been through enough at this point? The Transformers recipe for success: bad acting - bad dialogue - bad plot + violence + robots + one skinny objectified woman = the worst movies ever.

6. Repo Men

This is a lesser known movie which some of you probably haven't seen but if someone rents this at a party let me save you some grief. After watching Forrest Whittaker become Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland* I was automatically sold on whatever movie he was in. Plus it had an interesting plot premise, a dystopian future where private companies sell organs to people on credit and must be repossed if the individual is not making payments. But like many movies before, it was a huge failure of little dialogue and unrealistic over-the-top violence like killing someone with a box cutter.

*On seeing the movie poster and an extremely vague preview for The Last King of Scotland I decided it was a movie about a mentally handicapped Scottish person (Forrest Whittaker) and assumed it was one of those feel-good, person with a disability accomplishes amazing things movie so I dragged my mom with me to see it. I was pretty scarred when I then watched a grisly account of genocide in Uganda and Idi Amin (Forrest Whittaker) hang someone up with meat hooks.

What's on your worst movie list? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Keep Calm and Don't Baby Proof Yet

Now that I'm in the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I'm starting to think about what needs to be done before the baby gets here. I have a list of projects to do, like making a blanket for the baby (not that she'll need it, but I made one for CB and it seems unfair not to do one for little sis), getting CB set up in a big girl bed, some minor updates to the nursery, etc. Since I was using my mom's rocking chair last time, we bought a used glider and I'm going to try my hand at re-covering it, because I remember spending a lot of time nursing in the rocking chair, and hey, it shouldn't be ugly if I have to spend lots of time in it.

I re-subscribed to all of those "YOUR BABY THIS WEEK" things that I got last time, and it is hilarious to me how much differently I feel about them this time.  (Except for Amalah's pregnancy calendar on Alphamom. I still think that one is just so brilliant and hilarious and helpful that it should be required reading for everyone who is pregnant.) For example, on week 26 one of them said that I should be using this time to baby proof my house - buy outlet covers, lock up poisons, get baby gates for stairs, etc.

First time moms out there, here's a tip: you do NOT need to baby proof at 26 weeks pregnant. You don't even need to baby proof at 39 weeks pregnant. You can maybe sort of start thinking about it when your baby starts doing that clumsy early crawling thing (especially if she's bashing her head on sharp corners - mine never really did so I didn't bother buying those rubber corner things), and you'll probably want to at least have some outlet covers by the time he or she is crawling around and pulling up to stuff, and by then you'll want to make sure that the cleaning supplies aren't in easily accessible cabinets that a little cruiser might want to crawl into and explore and gum. But I'm telling you: you will know when it's time. And it will be months after your baby is born, because newborns just kind of lie around and sleep and cry and look at you. They are not climbing up to the knife cabinet and then hauling the knives to the outlets so they can stick the metal points into them and electrocute themselves. 

There were so many things that freaked me out the first time around, and I largely blame all of those dang baby emails telling me I needed to baby proof NOW and buy some flash cards with black and white squiggles and institute a bedtime routine the SECOND we got home from the hospital and get ALL THE THINGS in coordinating patterns and top rated blah-ty-blahs. The reality was that we actually could still go to the store after we had a baby. When we decided we wanted a swing, we actually went to a couple of different places and then ended up getting one at a consignment store, because even a couple of months in we had started to realize that baby stuff has a short shelf life. The exersaucer was awesome - for maybe five months, at which point the baby was mobile and didn't have much interest in it anymore. The changing table was totally necessary - until it wasn't. The crib was gorgeous and new - until my baby started teething and made it look like a beaver had hit it. 

Here was what I found to be true for me, and I'd love to hear what was true for you.
  1. The bedtime routine is wonderful - but it might not happen as soon as you get home. For the first few weeks, my baby went down at about 11 and would sleep for a little bit longer stretch than she did during the day - and that was because she was a magical sleeping baby of wonderment at night from the beginning. Many parents find that they are just in survival mode for the first months and do whatever they have to so that they get SOME sleep. After a couple of months, a bedtime routine emerged organically for us, her bedtime eventually moved up until it got to its current place (between 7:30 and 8:00 usually, although it tends to be a bit later in the summer because we like doing stuff while it's light). Think about the routine you'd like to establish for sure, but don't feel like a failure if it doesn't happen right away. You'll find what works for both of you before you know it. 
  2. You will know your baby sooner than you think. I remember being pregnant and feeling so panicked about how I would ever know what to do, but it didn't take long before I knew how to tell if my baby was hungry or sleepy. If there is one thing I wish every new parent could know, it's that you really should trust yourself. Experts are great and can be helpful when you're stuck, but you are the real expert on your baby, because your baby is an individual with her own little quirks that you will know better than anyone else. 
  3. You don't need ALL THE THINGS. Especially if you live in a small space and they won't all fit. You know why some people swear by swings and some by bouncers and some by slings and some never seem to be able to put their baby down at all? That's because babies are different. You won't know what yours likes until she gets here. At that point, if your baby seems to calm down really well when you swing her, buy a swing (maybe, if you want to - I'm also pretty sure generations of parents got by without them, so don't feel obligated). If not, don't. See what I'm saying? Swings and bouncers and co-sleepers and whatever are all enormous pieces of furniture that you will only use for a few months. You don't want to store them all, I PROMISE. 
  4. Baby shoes are really cute and really useless. They never stay on, they don't do much, and your kid will probably just end up wearing socks and footies most of the time. I didn't really need to buy any baby shoes until about 9 months or so, and most of the adorable newborn shoes I have only got used once or twice because they were somehow too big until they were too small.  I'm not saying don't buy the adorable tiny newborn shoes, I'm just saying . . . shoes are not the necessity for newborns that they are for older children or adults, and you will spend plenty of money on shoes in the coming years. Be moderate. 
  5. That thing that all of your friends couldn't live without? It might not be your thing. It might not be your baby's thing. People have been changing diapers for a long time without wipes warmers, is what I'm saying. (And without wipes, for that matter, but wipes are one of those things I would prefer not to live without.) 
  6. You don't need as many newborn and 0-3 month clothes as you think. You need them, yes (unless your baby is too big for newborn clothes, which happens) but they grow SO FAST at that age. They will literally be out of those clothes in like 3 months, unless you make tiny babies. And maybe that seems like a long time when you are a sleep-deprived parents of a newborn, but in clothing life terms, it's short. I have things that my baby got to wear once before she outgrew them because I got so many adorable tiny things from friends and neighbors. I now wish I would have exchanged some of them for 12 month versions of the same thing. (At least she's got a baby sister coming along to wear them now!) 
  7. Used stuff is often just fine, especially if it's plastic and you can clean it with a Clorox wipe. I spent my first pregnancy being sure that we needed all new stuff, but two years later I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the hand-me-down and the consignment sale. That stroller I painstakingly picked out and bought? Probably will be purchasing whatever decent double stroller I can find someone selling online to replace it. (Car seats are the exception here. Buy new car seats.) 
Mostly, take everything experts say with a grain of salt. Take this post with a grain of salt. Read some articles, find some books that ring true to you, and then trust yourself. You'll figure it out.