Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Advice and consent

People who know me have, more than once, told me that I am ridiculously independent. I have trouble asking for help, for one thing. This is something I have gotten better at out of sheer necessity since I became pregnant, and even more so now that I'm a parent (and a single parent, at that-— help is essential), but I'm still not great at it. I probably never will be.

I'm better at listening to, and taking, advice. While I will stand in the middle of a melting chunk of ice and insist that I AM FINE AND DO NOT NEED HELP, I am the first to admit that I don't know everything, and I like hearing other people's opinions and ideas on things. (So offer me advice how I should get off the ice. Don't offer, God forbid, to help!)

Except, apparently, from my mother.

Some of it is in the delivery, and other people who've heard my mother give advice to me have agreed with me that her delivery is... not necessarily helpful, or easy to accept. (Validation! I love me some validation.) Her incessantly negative opinions of, and advice relative to, bre.astfeeding in the first few weeks following Elle's birth was exhausting and frustrating. I'm still angry about it, to be honest, and rightly or wrongly I attribute some of my difficulties with bfeeding to the stress it caused.

However, that said, I'm sure she has plenty of good information to offer. She did a pretty good job raising me, after all. But for whatever reason, the hair on the back of my neck just goes right up and I can feel myself digging in whenever she starts offering her thoughts on anything to do with Elle.

(Sample: She called smack in the middle of one time when Elle screamed for 2.5 hours for no apparent reason. Mom: “What's wrong?” Me, exhausted: “I don't know. She's just screaming her head off.” Mom: “Is she wet?” Why, thank GOD you asked, mother! My baby daughter has been inconsolable for over an hour and I never even thought to check her diaper! Thank goodness you called with your wise counsel! Seriously, I just looked at the phone and didn't know how to respond.)

It's a shame, because if I was more open to her counsel, I'm sure I'd benefit from it. I'm just not.

My babysitter L, on the other hand, can say pretty much the same thing—- but I listen to her. She's got a son in college and has been watching kids for 15+ years, so she has a good base of experience to draw from. Her advice has been very practical and down-to-earth. I'm also reassured that she notices things about Elle and mentions them to me, so she's clearly paying attention and engaged, which I like a lot.

So I don’t have trouble with accepting advice from motherly figures. Just my mother.

Good to know.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday mornings are made for updates

I think there's a trend-- Elle is going down for her nap just when I should be leaving for pre-church choir rehearsal. And she really needs to go down for her nap; there's no cheering her up or hoping she'll fall asleep once we get to church.

Next Sunday is her christening. I think I'll have to get her up earlier (yuck) in order for her to nap a bit before we have to get her out of the house... It should be interesting. At least there will be other people there to babywrangle, what with my parents in town, and the various godparents and friends present.

So today, I've already finished ironing clothes for the week, written a thank-you note, washed the only dirty bottle, and decided not to dust. Thus, I'm messing around on the intarwebs, and hoping Elle wakes up in time to make at least part of the church service. We also have a baptism informational meeting afterwards, which (if nothing else) we should be able to make.

I've worked out how to make choir rehearsals on a semi-regular basis. But getting to actually sing... that's going to be a challenge.

Elle made her first trip to Ikea yesterday. She was angelic, which I am taking to mean that she's a fan of Swedish design. Also of Swedish food, because she was perfectly behaved while a friend and I grabbed a cheap lunch in their cafeteria.

They've redesigned the traffic flow/interior of my favorite Ikea, and made it much less open and much more difficult to maneuver. Bleah. You used to be able to wander around in fairly open aisles, and now you feel herded like a sheep. I understand that they want you to have less freedom to roam because theoretically then you'll buy more-- but for me, I'll buy less when I feel claustrophobic. And I'll be grumpy.

Of course, I still managed to buy. I got a small bookcase for Elle's room, as well as some more fabric collapsible storage boxes that are perfect for toys. They have a cute toy box, but the little fabric boxes are more portable and flexible.

Did I get anything for me, you might ask? Yes. A soap dish. We all know who rates in the Plus One household.

One note-- I needed the bookcase for a good reason. A friend who works at a library in the area got me a stack of children's books from when her library was reorganizing its children's collection. Literally, we're talking about a stack of books at least a foot high-- probably higher than that! They are fabulous-- I'm going to wipe off the covers, just because, but it's a wonderful stash of books that hopefully Elle will love.

You can never, ever have too many books.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hairy issues

Postpartum hair loss: OY. I have always had TONS and TONS of hair, but now... I swear, where I part my hair, it looks like I’m going bald.

Doesn’t help that I need my hair colored, too, so you see the grey roots at the part. But SERIOUSLY. I know it'll stop and that I’m not likely to go bald or anything, but I'm not used to this thin hair crap. And I’m not happy about it.

No wonder my hair looked so good immediately post-baby; it was probably about twice as thick as it is now. Oh, well. I’d rather have thin hair (and my daughter) than still be pregnant.

Also, note to self: Self, you can’t continue eating like you’re brea.stfeeding. You’re not any more.


I was at a get-together of single moms this past weekend, and someone was asking me how it was going back to work. I admitted, honestly, that it hadn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. One of the other moms there nodded. "Yeah. Because work is way easier than taking care of a baby."

You know, she's right. I can't even tell you how much respect I have for stay at home moms now. For IT IS HARD. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun or rewarding, of course. But it’s hard, and I don’t think I could do it. I’m really glad to get home and see her, but when I get to work in the morning, I’m also happy to be there.

It helps that I like my work. I don't love my job, but it's the right job for me, right now, what with the new-single-momhood and all. I'm extremely lucky, because I've been at my job for a number of years and there's no question I have more flexibility because of the goodwill I've built up there.

Some women are wired to be home with their kids. I think I had Elle late enough in my life that I got wired differently.

But I sure do love coming home to her, and I'm glad I'm on a four-day week right now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday sniffles

We may not make it to church today... little Miss Elle woke up, had her bottle, and was down for a nap only a little more than an hour later, which is not her norm. I think she might be starting on her first cold. No temp, fortunately, but she sounds stuffy to me, and-- TMI alert-- she had a pretty loose BM this morning, which is another sign of a cold (apparently).

This is why I have six people reading this blog: FASCINATING DETAILS OF POO.

It's hard to watch a little one not feel 100%. Just like when she was feeling poorly after her first shots, I just feel helpless. I'm glad she's sleeping now, since (just like with us grown-ups) sleeping helps her little body. I'm also going to dig out my little humidifier and set it up in her room, and I have the suction bulb ready to go. Hot times in the old town tonight!

I do need to get some saline drops. Let's see if we can get out to the store today or not, but I'm not waking her up to take her to church. If she needs to sleep, she needs to sleep. And we may make it to church itself; I just may not sing.

There's a single mom's group meeting this afternoon. If she's still not herself when she gets up, though, we may need to stay close to home.

Friends came over last night to meet Elle, and the husband cooked dinner for us as well. "Us" as in his wife and me, of course; as much as Elle might like to try enchiladas with a poblano spinach cream sauce, I think that would be a recipe for disaster, don't you? They were deeeeelicious. He's an amazing cook.

Before he started cooking (in my tiny kitchen, which is not made for his level of cookery!), we hung out and caught up, and Elle was perfectly content to hang out on the husband's lap. Basically, she adored him, and he's really comfortable with babies. They don't have children-- never wanted them-- but are terrific to their niece and nephew, and like kids; that comes through. Elle was happy as a clam. She's such a social little peanut.

She was then so wired, of course, that it took her a while to get to sleep. :) Which may also be part of her tiredness today, I wonder?

Anyway, I'm reminded again how lucky I am to have such good friends. Whatever I did in my previous lives, it clearly wasn't all bad; whatever it was that led me to having such wonderful people in my life, I'm happy it did.

I know some friends will fall away now that I'm a parent, too, and even the ones who stick around will interact differently with me/us than in the past. I've seen some of that already. But I've also seen such amazing generosity and affection. It's humbling, and amazing, and I am so grateful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rambling thoughts on books and television and babies

I’ve always liked television. I’m a definite child of the boob tube, although when I was growing up the selection of programs for kids was far more limited than it is now. We never had cable, and even if we had, I doubt I’d have been allowed to sit in front of Nick Jr or Nickel.odeon or the Dis.ney Channel for more than a little while. Back in the day (as I smack my dentures), Saturday morning cartoons were the big show, and really all that was available. I didn’t know otherwise, so I enjoyed my TV when I could get it.

Books were my main source of information and entertainment, however, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Literally. I remember sneaking into the adult section of my hometown library. What was I sneaking up there to find? Books on English history. I'm pretty sure this is why the librarians never stopped me. If I'd been going up there for the bodice rippers, I might have been gently guided back to the kids' section. Heh.

I'm still a reader, but my love of TV has also continued into my adult life. If I have time, I’ll watch almost anything—from home decorating shows, to documentaries (I love documentaries, even about obscure subjects), to cooking shows, to cop shows, to dramas. I like shows that make me think, or make me laugh, or teach me things. So, basically, what I’m saying is that I like TV. It’s fun.

Of course, nationally, TV viewership has exploded since I was a wee sproglet. Circa 2009, the average American now watches more than 151 hours of TV a month—that’s about five hours a day. That number blows my mind. I have to say even in my sluggiest winter couch-lazing, I’m not sure I ever made it up to that number. And that number isn't even counting online viewing.

A slightly older survey found that the average child watches 1,680 minutes of TV a week—versus 3.5 minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children. And by the time an average child finishes elementary school, they’ll have seen 8,000 murders on TV. 8,000!! You can’t tell me that doesn’t have some kind of impact.

Elle hasn’t even rolled over yet (she’s trying, and it’s hilarious), but if I have the TV on in my bedroom while we’re getting ready, I can see her little eyes gravitate towards it. Even though I just have on the news, it’s shiny and bright, with colors and lights—tailor-made for baby eyes, and waaay more interesting than Mom’s face. But passive interaction with the tube doesn’t give her anything that helps her learn or grow. I read somewhere that they did some kind of analysis between a baby looking at a real dog, and a baby looking at a dog on TV, and the difference in how the baby’s brain was engaged was astronomical.

I’m not a saint. I’ll be using TV as a babysitter occasionally, and I’m not going to worry about it too much. I’ll try to limit it to PBS fare for as long as I can; I’m more comfortable with programs that at least pretend to be educational and aren’t peppered with commercials. But I know that can’t last forever.

I hope it lasts long enough, though, to plant in her a love of reading over TV. I’ve seen in my goddaughter that if you don’t learn to love books when you’re young, you’re never going to love them. You may end up liking them a lot, but you won’t love them. I want Elle to feel that books are magical, and that libraries are places of wonder. That finding a new book by a favorite author is like finding a gift meant just for you. That being deep in a good book means you hardly hear anything going on around you, because you’re off in some far-away (or make-believe) land, miles from your chair. That sometimes the way a book smells stays in your memory—I know, that sounds weird. But if you love books, you understand.

At this point, I’m just thrilled when she focuses on an object and smiles. But I know how quickly this roller coaster goes, and I don’t want to miss the window. I’m sure she’ll like TV, just like her mommy. But I also hope she loves books just as much as I do, because that’s the kind of love that leads somewhere.

My deep love for cop shows hasn’t really benefited me in any measurable way, as fun as they are. But reading? That’s paid off a thousand times over, and always will.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soup, naps, and once in a century happenings

Completely random thought: hot and sour soup is awesome.

By posting this I may be jinxing myself forever, but Elle seems-- seems-- to be settling into being a better napper. I know! It's amazing! I wondered if going to the babysitter's might lead in this direction, and it has. For now.

I'm getting a morning nap and two shorter afternoon naps. This is apparently pretty normal for her age, and I couldn't be more thrilled. She's getting the sleep she needs, and I have a few times during the day where I can get stuff done around the house. Or sit and ponder eternity. Or read trashy magazines. Anything!

What no one ever tells you is that, no matter how much you adore your child, if you have a baby that's up for hours and hours at a stretch, you can just plain run out of things to do. Elle can entertain herself for short periods of time, but she's social and likes interaction. If she's up for ten hours straight, not only is she a crabbypants because she needs sleep, she's increasingly difficult to keep occupied. I'm just not that inventive, apparently.

Which leads to last Saturday evening's 2+ hour screaming marathon. Tired babies are nobody's friend. Tired moms are nobody's friend, either.

So we had a great day today, including naps, and a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory with a friend. GPC is one of Chicago's hidden treasures, I believe, and I get out there a few times a year. (In the middle of a Chicago winter, it restores your faith that yes, someday, you will see green again!) It doesn't take all that long to go through, but it was a nice break.

Elle loves looking up at trees and leaves and the play of light on leaves, so the GPC was fascinating for her. As usual, she looked very thoughtful and a little bit worried as she watches what's going on over her head, but her concentration never wavered. And I got to have a good catch-up with a friend.

Part of the reason we went today was that the Conservatory's agave plant is flowering-- which, in the plant's 100 year lifespan, generally happens only once. It's so tall they've even taken out a pane of glass in the top of the conservatory. It was kind of cool. Yes, I'm a geek. I own it!

In the past I've gone and taken lots of pictures; today I didn't even pull out the camera. I'll have to do so next time.

And now, because my little girl is (hopefully) sound asleep, I'm going to treat myself to an hour of TV before falling into bed.

Saturday night in the fast lane, people. Try to keep up.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In search of the elusive nap

I may have mentioned that my baby doesn't nap. Well, after her first week at day care and my first week back at work, I need to amend that statement.

My baby doesn't nap for me.

She naps like a dream for the babysitter. Several hours in the morning, and at least a little while between each subsequent feeding. She'll nap in either the swing or the pac.k and play-- basically she naps. Anywhere. Beautifully. As she needs to do-- her little body needs to sleep to grow.

FYI, even with all that daytime sleeping, she's still sleeping well at night. She comes home from the babysitter in a great mood because of all her terrific napping. This is, of course, excellent.

So, how's the napping going back at home with Mom? Let's just say: not well.

Yesterday: nothing outside of naps in the stroller while we walked. That's her usual, with me. Then, I got a swing. She hates it-- screams, sobs, and this morning spit up on herself twice in protest. I ended up taking her out of it, changing her clothes (we can go through five sleepers in a day around here), and putting her in her crib. I did get about 45 minutes of sleep out of her then, and counted it as a win.

Right now she's up in her crib again, because she could barely keep her tiny eyes open. Is she sleeping? She is NOT. She's not howling nonstop, but she's crying intermittently and thus not sleeping. I'm going to hang on as long as I can and try not to pull her out, but I'm not sure that crying it out for naps is something I want to do. I'd have no hesitation on doing it at night-- if her excellent nighttime sleeping changes, I'll do it in a heartbeat-- but it feels vaguely like overkill for naps.

On the other hand, she needs to nap. It's not healthy for her to be up for 12 hours straight with just little catnaps. I know it happens, and I have multiple friends that have told me their children never did anything else, but I've got to at least try. If nothing else, this is getting her used to the idea that she goes into her crib during the day for some quiet time.

I haven't heard fussing on the monitor for a few minutes. We'll see.

In other news, the first week back at work went well. She's in good hands with her sitter, and I'm back out in the world. It's strange to be able to eat lunch without anticipating an interruption... other than the people I work with, of course.

Still no fussing. Cross your fingers for me.