Sharks, Sunsets and Spring Break

The past few weeks have been tough, so sorry for the lack of updates. (Also, not being pregnant anymore has removed the system I had in place of updating you weekly on my growing belly and list of aches and pains.)

I’m really tired. The Toddler and I have been at odds a lot this week — he’s definitely struggling with sharing his mom, and I’m struggling to figure out how to split my time and attention between a needy two-year-old and a needy nearly-three-month-old. It’s leaving me feeling epically guilty and negligent of both of them.

Sleep has been hard, naps have been sporadic and interrupted and snatched with whatever terrible crutch I have leaned on. The TV has been on more than I’d like to admit, and we’ve had more grazing all-day junk snacks than lunches lately.

(Serious question: How does one establish anything of a nap routine with an infant when there are big siblings in the house?)

Compounding this unsurprising challenge, I have stretched myself as thin as possible in every other area of my life in the immediate aftermath of having a new baby.

I committed myself to quite a bit of freelance work (which sends The Toddler to daycare twice a week, but guess what: An infant still requires quite a bit of care! Oops.)

I launched the Ladies Craft Beer Society website and have been trying to find the time to develop a plan for both maintaining the website and formalizing some of the aspects of the club that have been pretty relaxed since it was created.

I’m also coordinating the earliest steps of a very exciting project–we’re going to be finishing our basement to essentially double our living space–which has meant a lot of phone calls (with either a rooster  crowing or a screaming toddler or both in the background) and people coming by the house and me having to try to clean.

We’ve been busy with social commitments — fun ones, like getting to go to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium for a birthday party — but those still take energy!

The Dad and The Toddler marveling at an underwater world. I took this picture while nursing Baby 2. I would like to sit in front of a shark tank for all future nursing sessions.

Oh, and we also have goats and chickens (and, Oh God, two hives of bees reserved for the near future) that The (very busy with work) Husband are trying to keep healthy and happy.

It’s no one’s fault but my own, but I’m feeling in pretty over my head right now.

Being present has never been a strength of mine, but I was reminded this week that this is a fleeting time, and although it is exhausting, it’s also beautiful. Baby 2 was having a fussy night on Thursday, and the only thing that calmed him down from a screaming fit was being carried around outside so he could watch the sunset. I had no phone, no lists, no free hands–just the weight of a baby in my arms, the sound of my own voice, and the cold March air on my cheeks.

While my biceps ached by the time the sun finally dipped over the horizon, I figured out that my wise little baby was trying to teach me an important lesson: I just need to put one foot in front of the other and try to look at the bright side when I’m having a tough time. (And also put my effing phone away more often.)

A sunset (but not the one Baby 2 and I watched together this week – I was phoneless and reconnecting with him in the midst of a really tough week.)

Fortunately, The Husband has some time off this week, and we’re going to try to strike a balance between tackling our to-do list, finding time to relax/recharge, and figuring out how to make life slightly less chaotic when he goes back to work. Wish us luck.

Sharks, Sunsets and Spring Break

Mother of invention

My Instagram feed is choked with ads for seemingly ingenious solutions to the myriad inconveniences and aggravations of parenthood. I am not immune to the siren’s song of an easier life offered by things like a bathtub shrinker or a shirt you can wear your baby in, despite my pursuit of minimalism (and to varying degrees of satisfaction). Sometimes, when you’re really tired and really desperate and really overwhelmed, you throw money at the problem.

I bet a mom invented whatever this is! Also it may look like these kids were ridiculously overacting, but The Toddler has demonstrated this move almost exactly, almost every singly time he’s carried food into the living room.

Somehow, though, motherhood continues to be difficult even though there are bluetooth white noise machines and refillable baby food pouches and dual-action breast pumps. In fact, I’m not sure parenting is any easier than it was 30 years ago without these space-age gadgets. (And back then you could leave your kids in the car while it was running for 10 minutes to pop into the store without someone calling CPS on you, and there was no such thing as sexting, so in many ways I think parenting back then might have actually been easier.)

I digress.

I’ve been encountering a number of instances of necessity that are birthing ideas for invention that I simply don’t have the resources to bring to fruition. So, Internet, if you beat me to production on these items, please message me so I can direct you where to send the royalties. Here’s a list of things that, if they existed, would make my life a little easier:

Compostable, one-wear nursing shirts.

I just spent $30 on like 6 clearance-rack Target t-shirts to serve as my postpartum uniform for the next few months. I did this the first time around, too, when I was still figuring out my new (temporary?) body shape and not interested in spending real money on clothes. They’re actually pretty soft and not horrifically unflattering, but after one wear apiece I already can’t wear them out of the house without feeling like a dirtbag because they’re stained front and back with breast milk and spit up. (which, for those of you who have never gotten breast milk stains on anything, is like salad dressing or butter. It’s just grease stains.)

Yeah, yeah, I know I could pretreat. I could also hypothetically dust my fan blades or organize my pantry. The very nature of my life right now is I have to prioritize feeding my baby and keeping my toddler from accidental death at every turn over all other activities, so carefully sorting through my laundry and applying extra soap to every shirt I own is a laughable fantasy.

So, how about somebody invent really cheap, biodegradabe one-wear shirts that I can just toss on my compost pile when Baby 2 upchucks down my back? They could even be somehow made out of recycled cotton shirts from all those 5ks and local political campaigns that get dumped in developing countries when Goodwill rejects them. They don’t have to be particularly durable. They just need to be cheap. (Wait… is this secretly the LulaRoe business model?) And they need to be eco-friendly enough that I don’t mind wearing them once or twice. These would also be great in toddler sizes.

Child-proof humidifier

I don’t have any further guidelines on this. But I’m super tired of The Toddler picking up the tank on our humidifier and running wild with it.

Electrical outlets that are 6′ high on the wall

This is not an invention so much as a building specification. We installed those cool slidey outlet covers when we moved into this house, which is all well and good when there’s nothing plugged in, but we either have to shove heavy furniture in front of anything that is plugged in or just accept that we’re in a perpetual state of having half our stuff unplugged at any given time. (Yes I know we could buy these, but I would like it a whole lot more if more of my outlets were just at eye level. I’d hang pictures over them.)

Ceiling-mounted shelving on pulleys

For all those electronics, mugs of coffee, permanent markers and other items your toddler seems better able to reach with each passing second no matter what you do. There isn’t a surface in my house he can’t access, and we just aren’t blessed with enough space to have anywhere truly be off-limits. Again, yes, I could just get more organized! Have a place for everything and everything in its place! But whenever I suggest to my husband that he leave with both kids for at least a week so I can finally clean enough for us to live our best life, he looks at me like I’m crazy. And even when I get part of the way there over an especially fortuitous naptime, it’s undone in a matter of minutes.

It would just be nice to have very high, adjustable ledges and shelves all over the place that I can quickly set down my coffee to chase after The Toddler before he trips with a kazoo in his mouth and knocks out all his teeth.

Cheap, nonceramic lamps

First of all, I’m not talking about night lights, so don’t send me night light ideas. I’m talking about a light by which you can read bedtime stories.

This certainly must exist, but judging by the selection at my local and online go-to retailers, you’d think no one else’s two-year-olds spend their naps knocking lamps off their bookshelves. Why are they all ceramic? Why are any nursery lamps ceramic? You understand that babies become toddlers, right?

Lamps intended for children’s rooms anywhere in a house that has children should exclusively be made from wood, or… a metal rod shoved through a very plush stuffed animal, I don’t know. Yes, I know those both sound like fire hazards now that I say them, but they’re fire hazards no matter what when they’re switched on and lying sideways atop a rug.

Ok, so a cheap, nonceramic lamp that easily bolts to the surface upon which it sits.

With fully shatterproof, heatproof LED bulbs.

And a lampshade that doesn’t crinkle and break if you throw the whole thing across the room.

Is that so much to ask?

Like I said, I don’t have time to bring any of these ideas to fruition, but I look forward with great hope and anticipation that these products will start showing up on my Instagram feed in the extremely immediate future.

Mother of invention

Crying, laughing

My two-year-old has been bouncing off the walls lately. At the rate he dismantles any attempts at cleaning, I feel like I’m living in a perpetual minor earthquake. And he is very demanding and impatient and exuberant, and when he’s yelling and the baby is crying and the cat is meowing and the rooster is crowing, I feel like I’m in way over my head.

It’s been stressing me out more than I should let it. But in addition to being rambunctious and headstrong, he’s been hilarious lately. Here are two examples from today, before I forget them.

puddle


Scene: Prepping for lunch, with The Baby in the wrap on my chest. The Toddler is wearing just a shirt and underpants because we went out to stomp in puddles and he couldn’t sit still long enough to put dry pants on.

Me: [Toddler], do you want edamame or peas with your macaroni and cheese?

Toddler [clearly distracted and not fully listening]: Penis.

Me [thinking I must have heard him wrong]: [Toddler]? Do you want edamame or peas with lunch?

Toddler [doubling down]: Penis.


Soon after, I was lying on the floor next to The Baby, shaking a lion rattle at him while The Toddler played nearby. I started singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight in my best attempt at falsetto. The Toddler quit playing, and I looked up at my tenderhearted little guy, and his lip was trembling and his eyes were welling up.

“What’s wrong?!” I exclaimed.

“Sing song, Mommy,” he wept. (Or maybe he said “Don’t sing song” I thought?)

“Is it making you sad? I will stop!”

“No, sing song!” he cried.

And then he kept making me sing it, so he could cry along to it. It was like looking at a two-year-old version of my melodromatic 10th grade self listening to Nothing Compares 2 U after I got dumped at prom. He couldn’t get enough of that feeling, and it was being elicited by his mom singing “a-wimoweh, a wimoweh.”

This carried on for a half hour. He gathered up a few of his trucks and tucked them into his shirt, explaining they were scared of “The Lion Sleeps Song,” and then squatting and shushing them like I do with The Baby.

“I can stop singing if they’re scared,” I pleaded, because he was still crying on and off and I felt really bad (even worse because I kept having to turn away from him so I could laugh.)

“SING THE SONG!” he insisted.

I mentioned that I sometimes like to listen to music that makes me sad. He asked me to find a sad song, so I pulled up this one (that I hormonally sobbed to the week after his brother was born in the wee hours of the night).

It made me cry right there, a little bit, and I could see the concern growing on The Toddler’s face. “It reminds me that I love you very much, and I’m so glad you’re here,” I explained. “It makes me feel happy and sad.”

He wrapped his arms around me and said, “I love you very much.”

I hugged him back deeply, and when he pulled away, he looked me in the eye and said very seriously, “Sing the lion song.”

And I did. And he cried a little more.


Finally, a bonus, because that got a little weird:

He found the bag full of plastic bags The Husband left in the pantry to take to recycle somewhere and pulled them all apart, piled them in front of our back door, and jumped around in them like they were a pile of dry leaves.

He’s making me absolutely crazy, but I freaking love that kid.

Crying, laughing

If You Give a Toddler a Fake Hotdog

Today marks two weeks since Baby 2 arrived. It also marks Day Four of The Worst Cold in the history of The Toddler’s Life, unfortunately.

We pulled The Toddler out of daycare the week before Christmas to avoid any terrible bugs during newborn-hood, and have been fretting over when/whether to send him back, because while being alone with a two-year-old and a newborn scares the crap out of me, it’s still less scary than an ER visit and a spinal tap for the newborn.

Nevertheless.

We made the mistake of taking The Toddler to the library on Thursday, the little library near our house that has an adorable little hotdog/ice cream stand that he loves to play with.

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Fake library food is the fastest way to get a toddler sick. (Image via Amazon.)

By play with, of course, I mean, put in his mouth. I have to think this is where he caught this hellacious cold, as we haven’t been out and about much, otherwise.

Thank God The Husband is still on paternity leave, because The Toddler has required almost constant holding and snuggling, and when he does sleep (fitfully), one or the other of us is scrambling around throwing contaminated laundry in the wash and spraying Lysol all over the house while the other cowers in our bedroom with the baby, hoping and praying we’re keeping the two adequately separate to avoid spreading the cold.

The Toddler is up many, many times throughout the night, and I think The Husband is actually sleeping less than I am right now. I never thought it would be my pitying him for his exhaustion while we have a newborn.

And, of course, because each time we hold The Toddler, he is coughing basically directly into our mouths, The Husband and I both woke up with scratchy throats this morning. The inevitable is upon us. I’m just hoping my body is working overtime to load my milk with antibodies to keep Baby 2 healthy.

The only, very small, upside to all this is that The Toddler is on hiatus from running in circles all day long in our kitchen because he’s going crazy from cabin fever. Any screen time rules have been suspended for the duration of this cold, and all he wants to do is watch (overandoverandoverandoverandover) If You Give A Mouse A Cookie on Amazon Prime. Nothing else will do, and there’s only one season. So even this cold doesn’t hit me full force, the madness is settling in.

If You Give a Toddler a Fake Hotdog

Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

There’s nothing I like more than putting undue, arbitrary pressure on myself.

During my pregnancy with Baby #1, I set the pointless goal of having a baby before I turned 30. I was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant when my 30th birthday came and went without so much as a twinge of a contraction, and I spent the whole day sulking. Five days later, having been run through ringer of childbirth and sitting stunned and bleeding on the other side, I wondered what my rush had been.

(Yes, of course, I was over the moon to have my baby in my arms, but really, there was no hurry. I literally had/have the rest of my life to be a mother.)

This time around, especially as we serendipitously conceived on the exact same day as the last time, my goal for having the baby was no later than exactly the same as last time: Christmas Day. That means I have three more days.

What’s that, you say? Every pregnancy is different? Every baby arrives at his or her own time?

No one asked you.

Of course, my labors will be identical, down to the timing.

It’s been really difficult not to compare the two pregnancies. Even though I know dilation means zilch in the labor-prediction game, I’ve had a few checks and am, by my accounts, running behind where I was with Baby 1. Even though I feel like a fois gras goose choking down six mega-sized medjool dates every day.

Instead of acknowledging that A: I’m not overdue, B: Every pregnancy truly is different, C: I know what’s on the other side of labor, and it’s not going to be easier than pregnancy, and D: I’m mourning the one-on-one time with The Toddler even as I itch to be in labor, I am finding ways to blame myself for not having had the baby yet, as though I have any control over it whatsoever.

Even as I typed the last phrase of that endless sentence, here’s the internal monologue that piped in: “Of course you have control over it. You’re not getting nearly as much exercise as you did the first time around. Eat some [insert old wives’ tale food here–spicy food, pineapple cores, whatever…]”

I know this is irrational. I know that the timing of a birth is not even remotely a reflection on one’s personal fortitude, punctuality or virtue. I know this.

And yet. On Tuesday morning I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling crampy. I was having lots of not painful, but consistent, contractions, and for the first time decided to start timing them. An hour later, after six or so contractions, I woke up The Husband to inform him we may be heading toward baby time. Things remained steady through the morning, so we went to my scheduled midwife appointment, having to ask my mom to stay home from work to watch The Toddler. Everyone was excited in spite of themselves. I had my doubts, but was looking forward to some indication that labor might be on its way.

The midwife, whom I hadn’t met with before, was dismissive and vague. The nurse had me undress for a cervical check when I described my symptoms, and the midwife came in seemingly baffled that I’d asked to be checked (It wasn’t my idea, lady!) She didn’t even acknowledge the question of whether I was in labor, more than to tell me to come back in a week.

I’m sure it didn’t help that I was exhausted from being up all night, but she made me feel stupid (especially as a second-timer) for thinking I might be in early labor. I felt bad inconveniencing my mom and The Husband, getting everyone’s hopes up, and have been questioning my ability to tell what’s happening with my body ever since. I’ve also had stress dreams every night about the baby being “sunny side up” as the midwife suggested it may be, and if I’m not upright or leaning forward on an exercise ball, I feel like I’m sabotaging my chances of a good labor.

Sorry, this post has devolved into the paranoid ramblings of a very tired, very hormonal and very pregnant woman. I know I should be patient. I know I have no reason to be in any hurry. My toddler reminded me of this when he fell asleep in my arms for his nap today, both hot palms pressed against my cheeks as we sang, “You Are My Sunshine” to each other. It was heavenly, and I know I will be torn in two missing it while I’m holding a new baby, just as loved, whenever he or she decides to arrive.

And yet, there was still that mean thought whispering in the back of my head as I relished this fleeting time: You’re leaning back too far in the chair. The baby is going to be facing the wrong way. Get up and get on the exercise ball. Do. Not. Be. Present. In. The. Moment.

Ugh.

Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

I’m officially 37 weeks now. Which means, in addition to the baby being basically fully cooked and safe to come out, I am officially eligible to labor in the tub at the birthing center, if I want. Hooray!

But let’s talk about Week 36.

The primary features of Week 36 this time around:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Lightning crotch
  • Hairtrigger crying reflex
  • Stress eating, and the subsequent return of heartburn

Pregnancy-wise, it wasn’t too rough of a week. I think I’ve finally completed the midwife circuit at the practice I go to, and I’m now on a weekly appointment schedule. At the 36 week appointment, I got the Group B strep test (presumed negative, as I didn’t get a phone call), so I won’t have to get antibiotics during labor.

Life-wise, it wasn’t an especially pleasant week. I’m still swamped with freelancing work (which is a good thing! And a fun project! But not the greatest timing on my part), had to spend two daycare mornings dealing with minor but inconvenient car issues, and The Toddler is once again going through a weird developmental phase (please, God, let this just be a phase) where he is refusing to nap and regressing with his potty-training habits. The Husband, too, was stretched thin, and worked late three nights last week, so while he did his best I felt like I was flying solo through a lot of turbulence.

The Toddler napped one. time. last week. And has had about four costume changes a day, thanks to his refusal to tell me when he needs to go. On the bright side, no naps means he is crashing for bed by 6 p.m. But then again, so am I.

All of which made that freelancing work pretty tricky to tackle, and all preparation for his family birthday party on Saturday had to wait until Saturday morning, which meant by 2:30 on Saturday afternoon I was just frantically running around the house, tears streaming down my face, as I tried to put everything together at the  last minute. I’ve got to stop being enormously pregnant during the holidays.

Fortunately, The Toddler’s grandparents and aunts and uncles were (at least outwardly) unbothered by our mediocre food offerings and only wanted to shower the Toddler in gifts and affection. He had a blast, and is enjoying the infusion of new toys. (And my mom gets to live to see another Christmas, despite her gift of a thousand-decibel tractor toy with no off switch, because she watched him Saturday morning so we could pull everything together.)

I don’t have any additional pregnancy wisdom or whining to throw your way this week, so here are a few shots of the quick-and-dirty advent calendar I put together for The Toddler. Obviously, it’s way too late for this to be useful for this year, but maybe it will come in handy next year if you feel obligated to make something homemade but want to keep it super simple (like, say, if you’re enormously pregnant.)

 

Super-simple Toddler Advent Calendar

Materials

  • 1/2 yard green felt
  • A way to affix the felt to your wall (maybe Command strips/velcro? I’m lucky to have a brick hearth that holds the felt all on its own)
  • Several yards of cotton string (I used craft baker’s twine)
  • 25 buttons
  • Yarn or ticker cotton string the length of your mantle
  • Multicolored cardstock
  • Hole punch
  • 2″-ish circle template (I traced the inside of a roll of masking tape)
  • 25 clothespins
  • Metallic Sharpie
  • 25 stickers (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut out a triangle shape from the felt. (Mine is about 30″-36″ tall and 18″ wide at the base).
  2. Sew 25 buttons onto the felt to give your toddler a way to hang up the ornaments.
  3. Hang the felt tree on the wall with Command velcro strips/brick.
  4. Cut out 25 circles from the cardstock. Number them 1-25.
  5. Punch holes in the circles and tie a loop of string to each.
  6. String up the yarn/string on your mantle and evenly space the 25 clothespins out.
  7. Pin each ornament up on the mantle, clipping a sticker behind each. (For older kids, you could also write something on the back of each ornament — an activity they get to do that day, a special memory you have with them, a riddle, whatever.)
  8. You’re done! Just help your little one take down an ornament each day and hang it on a button on the tree. I like to use the empty clothespins to hold Christmas cards as they come in.
Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

The latent sense of not feeling prepared for the baby at the end of this pregnancy is becoming more of a constant buzz in my consciousness as I find myself at the end of my 33rd week of pregnancy. Assuming I go into labor around the same time I did with my first, I have just five more weeks to get my shit together, and my to-do list looms long and neglected while life keeps getting in the way.

At 33 weeks, the baby is somewhere in the 17-19 inch range and anywhere between 4 and 6 pounds, and the estimations from here on out look to be pretty sketchy at best, as babies start to really diverge as they approach their final birth weight/length. Judging by the movements I’ve been feeling lately, the baby is mostly feet. One weird progression I read in my weekly updates is that, while awake, baby is keeping his or her eyes open in utero. I wonder what it looks like in there.

As for me, well…

I think this about sums it up.

I’m humongous. I can’t stop eating, but also, heartburn. I can’t breathe. It takes me 30 seconds to roll over in bed and a full minute to get up off the floor. My back hurts if I’m on my feet too long (oh, and also if I’m sitting too long). I’ve been super emotional–crying over very silly things, or for no reason at all. My abdominal muscles hurt from being stretched. I’ve had a few dizzy spells. I’m getting to the stage where only really long maternity shirts cover my huge, huge belly. My huge, huge belly that my toddler thinks is a trampoline.

And while I’m starting to look forward to not being pregnant anymore, this past week with The Toddler has also reminded me that I’ll be trading in immobility and indigestion for mind-numbing sleep deprivation.

While I’ve been using it as a blanket excuse for every behavioral hiccup for the past five months or so, The Toddler is finally, truly sprouting two-year molars, and that has manifested in really rotten sleep. He’s pretty miserable, and his parents are pooped. I think it’s affecting his dad more than me, because in the middle of the night, I am the last person The Toddler wants to see. So I get to go back to bed while The Dad tries to soothe him. It’s a good thing we put a twin bed in his room.

Though the teething hasn’t been particularly fun this week, we have pressed on in one important way toward preparing our household for the baby: The Toddler has started going to daycare (though we’re calling it “school”) a few mornings a week. I’ve been both meaning to do this forever and putting it off, first because my freelance work has been so feast-or-famine, and then because I wanted to feel he was fully through potty training before I threw off his routine.

So when my freelance work picked up this week, it ended up being the perfect catalyst for getting him out of the house a few mornings a week. (And, conveniently, the perfect excuse for further baby-prep procrastination.)

The Toddler has been struggling with drop-offs a little, but otherwise has a great time. And so has his mom! I’ve gotten a bunch of work done–mostly the paid version, but this morning I spent most of daycare time blowing leaves that have piled up on our front sidewalk and then did some shopping.

I picked up some stuff for my hospital bag (future post to come–after my next midwife appointment this week I plan to finalize my checklist to share with you) and for those special breastfeeding-time play kits to keep The Toddler occupied. That, too, will be a future post.

In the meantime, here’s hoping those teeth pop so The Husband and I can catch up on some sleep and tackle more of our to-do list.

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival