Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dogs are not my spirit animal, they're better.

Dogs are my spirit animal. No, dogs are better than my spirit animal because dogs are better than me. 

They are selfless, sweet, playful, patient, and rambunctious. Their love is beyond unconditional. Who else will lick your tears when you are crying, snuggle up to you when you are sick, tickle your toes with their nose, sit on your feet to show their love (okay, I lucked out here and my boyfriend lets me tuck my toes under him when I complain I’m too cold--contrary to what most people think, it’s an endearing act of love), and let you be entertained by them and their quirky approach to the world? 

I’m pretty sure none of my friends would play fetch with me or sit and watch endless hours of Matlock while I scratched them behind their ears (I suppose the ears part would be a bit much). 

Dogs remind us that there is life outside, that there is wonder in both the simplicity and complexity of nature around us, that love is what matters most, and that life is to be shared. So, happy National Dog Day! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Facebook Dilemma

I joined Facebook back in 2005.  I was in college and, at the time, Facebook was only available to college students.  Even then it felt somewhat overwhelming.  About the same time, several of my friends also joined Facebook.  At that point, Facebook was a lot more fun and we tended to browse communally, plus it helped me keep in touch with friends during breaks from school.
Before too long Facebook started changing and then becoming more and more public.  Facebook became a different beast all together when you added your parents and younger kids into the mix.  Now with all the ads and following and hiding profiles and blocking people and unfriending and privacy concerns, it's enough to make anybody's head spin.

I still check Facebook a lot, partly out of habit, mostly to check up on blog-related things.  I like that it helps me run this blog, keep in touch with long-distance friends and family, and even cultivate new friendships with friends of friends.  I do not like the negativity and randomness that spews out of my News Feed on a regular basis.  While I have some amount of control over that, I can't control what status updates people need or want to share.  And as lovely as all my friends are, I don't expect them (or me) to be optimistic 100% of the time.  That's not realistic.

I often find myself thinking of how to handle my Facebook dilemma.  I can't just stop using it (although I have been tempted to purge all of my devices).  I have already scaled back my interactions; most of what I post is automatically uploaded from Instagram, I tend to write a status, decide it isn't really necessary and cancel the post altogether, and I rarely follow any links.  This post, I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks.  Here's How It Changed My View of Humanity, recently popped up on my News Feed and I am intrigued. A lot of my frustration with Facebook is primarily linked to a lack of actual communication.  Too many Likes, not enough sincerity.

"Give the Like a rest and see what happens. Choose to comment with words. Watch how your feed changes. I haven’t used the Like on Facebook since August 1st, and the changes in my feed have been so notably positive that I won’t be liking anything in the foreseeable future."

I've decided to go ahead and test this out.  I will stop "liking" things on Facebook.  I'm hoping this will result in a more positive News Feed and a more personal  and loving one.  If I can turn Facebook into a method of sincere communication instead of just feeling bombarded by information I'm not actually interested in, then maybe it will start being more of a benefit and less of a burden.

Have any of you scaled back on social media?  How has it turned out for you? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Tips for Easing the Big Kid Bed Transition

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had recently made the transition from crib to big kid bed. Before this happened, I did a lot of reading on the interwebs looking for ideas to make the transition easier, I asked for advice from several people, and I did a lot of thinking about what I thought would make it work for my little girl (who turned two just a couple of days before we brought in the bed). Let me make it very clear that I am not professing to be an expert, and that I also know that every kid's experience with this is going to be SO different, just like every kid's sleeping habits are different. However, there are a few things that I think really helped make our transition a relatively easy one (so far - knock on wood) so I'm sharing them in the hopes that the next parent looking for ideas finds them helpful. Ready, go.

  • Have a good bedtime routine in place before you make the jump. Although our routine has evolved a bit to fit the needs of a growing person, the basic structure is pretty set and predictable, which I think makes changes easier. 90% of the time there's a bath, then we do jammies, we turn out the big light and turn on the softer lamp, we read some stories, then we turn out the light and CB knows it's time for bed. She tries to stall by asking for extra songs now, but she doesn't put up much of a fuss because it's SO predictable. I don't think it matters what you do as long as it's comforting and helps your kids feel that bedtime is coming. When we switched beds, everything else stayed the same, and I was amazed when that first night she just laid down and asked for a song like always. 
  • Talk it up. We read a book about a big kid beds for a month before the bed ever showed up. We pointed them out when we saw them on TV or in friends' houses. A couple of weeks before we brought in the bed I took her to Target and let her picked out her own big girl sheets, and then we talked about them a LOT and how fun it would be to sleep on her "horsie sheets" when she got her big girl bed. (This idea was partly suggested by the book we read and partly by my mom, who suggested making it a big deal around her birthday - getting her new sheets and a fun quilt as part of the exciting birthday newness - and I could tell that this would be something that would appeal to CB.) When the bed appeared and the new sheets went on it, she knew exactly what was happening and was pretty excited about it. 
  • Make sure the room is baby-proofed. The hardest part for us was the fact that the big girl bed meant freedom to roam the room. We ended up just embracing that a little at nap time and letting her know that if she wasn't sleepy yet she could play quietly for a few minutes before she went to sleep. (I was skeptical about this, but it totally worked, and since eventually I'd like her to still have quiet time after she gives up naps, it would have been okay either way.) This is fine as long as you know there's nothing they can get into unsupervised in their room - and I don't just mean making sure the plugs are covered. We may have accidentally left some crayons in her room during nap time one day and had to scrub some pretty artwork out of her new rug. Whoops. (Washable crayons for the win, though.) This may also involve figuring out how to keep the child in the room if they are constantly breaking out - flipping the door handle backwards so you can lock them in or getting on of those childproof door handle covers.
  • Give it time. I got a little freaked out when my little girl wouldn't stay in bed for nap time at first, because she'd taken a long time to go down for naps in her crib, and I was pretty sure that had only worked because she finally wore herself out and got bored. We ended up putting her back in the crib for nap time a few times because it just wasn't going to work in the bed - and then suddenly it did. I'm sure this will be different for everyone, but staying calm about it, making adjustments (we pushed back nap time an hour or so to make sure she was good and tired) and just insisting that this wasn't going to be the end of naps worked for us - eventually.
  • Regressions happen. A couple of weeks after everything felt very settled, suddenly my little girl was out of her bed and out of her room every five minutes. It usually lasted about 20 minutes at bedtime but it might mean she didn't get a nap at all. We had to get one of those childproof door handles and do some sleep retraining (after trying to make it work without for about a week) and it took lots of patience, but it's working again - for now. I'm sure there will be good days and bad days for naps, but for us, there always have been, so I'm just grateful for the ones that happen. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Books to Read Together: Pre-K and Kindergarten Edition

Reading a good book is always fun, but it's even more fun reading with someone else.  There's something particularly relaxing about finding a comfy spot and diving into a big pile of books.

Here are a few options for reading with your littlest book lovers.  

The Bear's Song

This was a random library pick because the illustrations caught my eye while browsing.  It's about a little bear who chases after a bee to find honey and the daddy bear follows to find little bear.  There are a few pages with lots of things going on so we could stop and find the little bear or other surprising things happening in the scene while we read.  It's a fun read with a sweet story and it really is beautiful to look at. 

Creepy Carrots

We got this book thanks to the Instagram of Janssen over at Everyday Reading. This is where I admit that I stalk friends of friends through social media because her daughters are adorable and they have impeccable taste in books.  Creepy Carrots did not disappoint.  I don't really know how to explain it, except to say my two year old nephew LOVED it and spent a good part of the book pointing to various carrot shadows and saying, "Ooooo! Ghosts!" and pretending to be so scared.  Also, there's a twist at the end that is delightful. 

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (and almost anything else by Dr. Seuss)

This book holds a special place in my heart because my Grandmother used to read it with me when I visited her.  It's a multi-generational favorite! It's the story of all the wonderful and amazing things a little boy sees as he walks home from school down Mulberry Street.  As much as I love this story, you pretty much can't go wrong when it comes to Dr. Seuss.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster (and, again, anything else by Mo Willems)

It's hard to pick just one Mo Willems book.  We read so many of them together and the whole family generally enjoys any of his books.  This one is especially good for younger ones.  The illustrations are eye-catching and Leonardo is a loveable little guy. 

Dracula (and other BabyLit Primers)

My nephew, who goes by Squish on the internet, is two and a half and has a small speech delay.  He's highly functional and pretty darn clever and kind of just seems to be avoiding certain parts of communication, but we are all working on helping him and his language skills are continually improving.  I bought these primers mostly for me, because they are clever and so pretty, but he loves them.  His favorites are The Jungle Book, Jabberwocky, and Dracula.  These give him a good mix of things to practice and a lot of things for us to point out to him outside of what is written on the page.  We can count the creatures on the pages of Jabberwocky and animals throughout the Jungle Book (although he does not struggle at all with making animal noises, it's his favorite thing to do). The whole collection is entertaining and, after multiple readings of the same books repeatedly, I haven't soured on them. 

The Quiet Book/The Loud Book

These books have the best pictures ever. There's so much going on in each of them, and they are so clever. They list different kinds of quiet and loud (swimming underwater quiet, surprise visit from Aunt Tillie quiet, hiccups loud (this one has a picture of the hiccuper being held upside down while holding his hands over his mouth during a concert). There are so many fun things hiding in the background (like the bunny heading into the woods with a roll of toilet paper on the campfire loud page) that we find something new every time we read them.


Did anyone else have the experience of finding this was the "cool" book when you were in like 1st grade? I remember it constantly being checked out or off the shelves in our classroom. We recently rediscovered it and it is a huge hit. The detailed pictures, the clever alliterations, plus who doesn't love an alphabet that isn't super boring? It's a win and it just gets better the older the kid gets and the more they understand.

The Princess and the Pig

This book is hilarious. It's about a princess and a piglet who accidentally get switched as babies, and everyone just assumes that they have been put under spells by fairies ("It's the kind of thing that happens all the time in books,")  instead of figuring out what actually happened, so the pig is raised as a princess and the princess is raised by a farmer. The pictures are beyond delightful, the writing is fantastically funny, and it's just the perfect way to flip several classic fairytales on their heads.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. The opinions are our own. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I'm so glad you are my last love

There is a pop song that came out recently that keeps rubbing me the wrong way. Okay, actually, there are probably quite a few new pop songs that are rubbing me the wrong way these days (because, as we discovered in my last post, I am now old), but this one I have more of a reason than "ugggh, it's just so annoying!"

The song is as follows:

"I wish you were my first love/ 'cause if you were my first/ baby there would have been no second, third or fourth love..."

Well, apologies to the somewhat legendary singer, but I have to disagree. My husband was not my first love and, rather than wishing it otherwise, I wouldn't have it any other way.

If it weren't for my first, second, third or fourth loves, I wouldn't have learned about what kind of person that I wanted to become. If it weren't for my fifth, sixth and seventh loves, I wouldn't have known exactly what I wanted in the man I love. If it weren't for all the loves that came before the one that I find myself with today, my life wouldn't be this wonderful life I am living. You weren't my first love, Sam, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

My life has not been perfect up until now and it certainly is not perfect at this moment, either. It is, however, an incredibly entertaining, fulfilling, warm, loved and blessed life and I thank my lucky stars for every experience- good and bad- that has led me to where I am now. Hopefully, I am going to keep moving and growing and learning as life goes on. Hopefully, as my husband and I stumble and make our mistakes, we will never wish those hard times away. I hope I learn from them, and then appreciate them and then maybe even love them, because each and every one is helping me become the amazing wife, the mother and the woman I know I am capable of becoming.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How To Offend a Pregnant Woman in Ten Easy Steps

Now this isn't one of those chastising posts about what NOT to say to a certain group of people. You know how I feel about those. But rather an opportunity to laugh at some very unfortunate comments that were made to me during my first pregnancy. Oh, so many comments! So far this pregnancy has been disappointingly inappropriate-comment free. People must be off their game right now, so to help, here are some sure fire ways to offend any pregnant woman near you, they certainly worked on me.

1. Openly judge the timing of her pregnancy.

I think this one might have been my favorite. Shortly after announcing in my workplace that I was pregnant, a co-worker who I didn't know very well and probably never had spoken to before accosted me in the lunchroom.
Co-worker: So you're pregnant? (In an accusatory, non-congratulatory tone.) How old are you?
Me: (A little baffled by the seemingly unrelated questions) Um yes. And I'm 24.
Co-worker: (After looking me up and down and considering my age for a few moments) Oh. I guess that's okay.

It is? It's okay with you stranger co-worker of mine? What a relief! When I was contemplating pregnancy I thought not of my marital relationship or my financial stability or my emotional readiness, I thought only of you, co-worker! And your treasured opinions!

2. Express concern over her lack of maternal instincts.

When I announced my pregnancy to someone extremely close to me their first and only response was, "but you hate kids."

Every newly pregnant woman will surely appreciate this touching vote of confidence.

3. Diagnose her with a medical condition, especially when you have no medical experience.

When I was pregnant with my first baby I had majorly swollen feet. There was nothing medically wrong, except I was nine months pregnant in August and I had swollen feet. But everywhere I went people loved to tell me I had pre-eclampsia. My favorite ones were the ones who just wouldn't believe me when I told them I didn't.
Neighbor: You need to be careful because you have pre-eclampsia.
Me: (Gritting my teeth and trying to be kind) I know my feet are really swollen but I actually don't have pre-eclampsia, my doctor checks every two weeks.
Neighbor: Well has your doctor seen your feet?
Me: (Really gritting my teeth) Yes but pre-eclampsia is not just swelling, it is marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine and I don't have either of those things.
Neighbor: Well you have pre-eclampsia, I can tell. Be sure to tell the nurses that when you go to the hospital to deliver.

4. Ask her if she's sure she isn't having twins. If she says no, keep asking her, don't let the subject drop, there has to be two babies in there!

It is amazing to me in this day in age of ultrasounds and fetal dopplers and regular checkups how anyone can think someone might be harboring a secret second baby in there that no one has noticed yet. It's just amazing.

5. Comment on how much bigger she is than another pregnant woman you know.

One unfortunate day, I went to a bridal shower for a relative and another woman there happened to have the same due date as I did. Through the whole shower I was treated like a circus act as people would have us line up next to each other and then invite all their friends to come see these pregnant ladies- "They have the same due date, can you believe it?! Look at how much bigger that one is!" Hint: I was the enormous one that people were gawking over.

6. Criticize her eating choices.

One day I walked into the house with a bag of groceries. Out of the top of the bag some potato chips were poking out. My neighbor then took the opportunity to tell me that I really shouldn't be eating those as I had already gained too much weight in her opinion.

7. Criticize all her life choices. Tell her things like paint fumes and pedicures will surely kill her unborn child.

My favorite part about these comments was the subtle insinuation that I hadn't done any research and had no knowledge of what was potentially unsafe for my fetus. And the insinuation that someone else, say a middle age man with no medical expertise, had more knowledge on the subject than I did.

8. Remind her how many people die during childbirth.

Always a nice comforting thing to say to someone who is about to experience childbirth. Be sure to follow it up with a "I would never do it. I don't know what you were thinking."

9. Tell her the worst labor story you've ever heard.

One day in between loud mouthfuls of an extremely pungent and bad smelling lunch, my coworker decided to regale me with her boyfriend's cousin's sister's birth story. I don't remember the exact details but I'm pretty sure she was in labor for a full week, almost died several times, and then finally birthed a baby with two heads.

10. If she says she's feeling uncomfortable in her ninth month of pregnancy, suggest she get out and go for a run! When she stares at you bewildered tell her about all the other women you know that ran marathons right up until their due dates.
Enough said, am I right?

So to all of those people who have just been asking me stuff like, "how are you feeling?"and other niceties, feel free to use any of these tips to step up your game! You have a lot of offensive comments to make if you want to keep up with my last pregnancy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rocking Out

Hi! My name is Jill and I am a rocking-aholic. 

I can't stop rocking my one-year-old to sleep.

If you have a baby, as soon as you pop the thing out you will suddenly find yourself the recipient of all sorts of advice. It comes from everywhere- doctors and nurses, well-meaning family members, books, online forums and, of course, the all-knowing entity that we call Google. The advice given is, of course, all over the map and incredibly contradictory and makes you want to rip your hair out, but you keep going back to it because 97.6% of the time you have no idea what you are doing as a parent.

Sleeping and eating have been especially hard for me as a mom. Not my sleeping and eating (I do both of those very often and very well), but getting my child to do so. I have had many battles with my husband, my baby and myself over those two issues and I have a feeling that the battles aren’t going to go away any time soon.

We have employed all manner of techniques to get our boy to sleep. For months, bouncing on an exercise ball was the only thing that kept all of us sane. For a while, he would never fall asleep in the car, then he would only fall asleep in the car and recently he has decided to boycott sleeping in the car again. He never, ever fell asleep while nursing until he was ten months old and then, all of a sudden, it was the only thing that would get him to nap.

Sheesh! Someone needs to warn parents that babies give you whiplash.

Recently, my husband and I have been trying to set some new routines for the Bean, as I have started backing off of nursing. It is actually going surprisingly well (KNOCK ON WOOD), but it definitely has its moments. Waking up at night has been particularly hard, since he doesn’t do it very often and nursing was the only thing that ever calmed him down. Last week was the first middle-of-the-night wake-up since the great nursing drop-off and, lucky me, my husband was working late. I had no idea what to do, so I went into the nursery, picked the dude up and figured, what the heck- let’s try rocking him.

I sat down in the rocking chair and he just laid there. I started rocking and he snuggled his head into my chest. I settled back and then, eventually, he slept.  My Bean is many things, but cuddly is not one of them and in that snuggly moment, every part of my body sang as he lay there and let me hold him. I pulled a book up to read on my phone and rocked him for two and a half glorious hours.

That was two weeks ago. Since then, my reaction to hearing him cry has gone from, “oh, I wonder what is wrong?” to, “Something is wrong, I must go rock him!” I have no self-control whatsoever. It doesn’t even have to be actual crying! Any noise that isn’t laughter? Let’s go chill in the rocking chair. In fact, the whole reason I am writing this post is because he is currently in his room, trying to settle himself down and go to sleep (which he is perfectly capable of doing on his own) and all I want to do is go in there and rock him.

I’m addicted, folks, but as far as addictions go, it could be worse, right?

Right. Remind me of that in a month, when I have rocked him to sleep so many times that he no longer remembers how to go to sleep any other way. In the meantime, however, I need to go check on my baby. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in his room, rocking away.