Eight Months Old: Babies Grow Up

Haines turned eight months this week. Eight months. Eight months! This feels like the most incredible shock to me. How has he been in our lives for eight whole months?

Eight months is a baby that wants to get into everything. He’s crawling and pulling up on everything. Stand up with him and he’s walking a few wobbly, happy steps at a time with hands tightly grasping on for help. Each move forward is a little dance- the bouncing of feet and a swivel of the hips.

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Eight months is listening to non-stop babbling and laughter, punctuated by inconsolable wailing. It is teething and a faucet of drool that only stops for spit up. His spit up has reached new heights of grossness as it now comes with food and not just milk.

Eight months is watching the most adorable strawberry blonde tufts of hair peek from behind boxes and toys. The hair isn’t hurrying to grow in but his cradle cap makes it look like more.

Eight months means we finally have a night time sleep schedule with a solid ten hours of uninterrupted baby sleep. It doesn’t mean we have a nap schedule. Sometimes it means bouncing a baby for the whole afternoon while he whimpers. Sometimes it means driving around the lake for an hour. It is still being shockingly tired.

Eight months is less about mom and baby and more about family. There are still struggles to shift responsibilities from one parent to another but mostly, often, it feels good. Mostly it feels like we are partners and not only that, but that we have space for one another again.

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Eight months is a baby whose face is full of love. He watches his dad move around the house with total admiration and fascination. If I smile at him his eyes are so full of light and joy. Do we all start out like this, so in love with the world?

Eight months is having a small sense of routine and how things are supposed to go. There are predictable cries, predictable times of the day and things that just make sense. He’s asking for milk. It’s time for a nap. That whimper means he’s going to start wailing soon. It’s getting to know him.

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Eight months makes it harder to say goodbye in the morning when he’s so playful and interactive. I’m still glad to be at work and to have this outlet but I thought it would get easier to leave him in the morning. It doesn’t.

Eight months means my brain is still foggy but the visibility has improved. I see now how quickly this time passes. I can see now that I’ll get my brain back one day and in the meantime I’m doing fine with what I’ve got.

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My living room at the time of this post. 100% embarrassing- don’t care. 

Eight months is blogging while I hold a sleeping baby with a double ear infection. It is stressing all week about my workload until he’s sent home from daycare and now? Totally letting go. It’s not that important.

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Parenting and the Art of Conversation

Or How I’ve Become Incredibly Boring

I have nothing to say. Well, not exactly. It’s more like I can’t remember what I have to say. Like, during the week I’ll think “Oh, isn’t that interesting/funny. I’ll have to ask so and so about it when I see them this weekend.” Once I finally get to hang out with whoever, I can barely remember anything about them, let alone the cool thing I wanted to share. It’s more like, “Think of something to say. Um, I think they have a job. Just ask them about their job.” 

I have all kinds of thoughts. I read articles and blogs daily. I watch films and documentaries. Most of the books I read are worth talking about (not all, but we don’t have to discuss my secret love of Charlaine Harris’ novels). All the same if you were to ask me what I’ve read or seen recently I’d just black out. Um, Barnyard Dance? Goodnight Moon? I’m sure there was another book too…

I’ve blogged before about losing my mind and I had tried naively to attribute that to a social media addiction but taking Facebook off my phone really hasn’t helped. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m not on my phone all the time (honestly I don’t know what everyone’s doing on their phones- I run out of things to look at pretty quickly). I’m just tired. Haines even sleeps through the night most of the time but I’m still ready for bed at 9. I thought everything would turn around once he started sleeping decent hours, but it’s almost like I’m making up for the sleep I lost.

So if I run into you somewhere and stare at you blankly don’t be offended and please don’t write me off. I’m in here somewhere trying to remember something remotely interesting to tell you.

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Um, I like tea. It’s caffeinated right? I know I like caffeine.

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Do you want to talk about this kid? This is easier for me. 

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July: A Cure for What Ails You

Um, I don’t know if you’ve realized yet but July is basically over. And since the seasons still revolve around school in my mind, this means that summer is on its way out. (Although not in any way related to temperature. It’s hot and humid here!)

Baby days are very strange. Each day passes pretty slowly but the weeks just fly by. My baby is 7 1/2 months old. That’s insane! It really just seems impossible to me.

July was a bit of a rollercoaster. It started off drowning in mom guilt (mom guilt is to be defined as totally unnecessarily guilt having to do with parenting) but after some personal time it really evened out. It felt like the medicine I didn’t know I needed.

A Dose of Time Off

For weeks I had been nervously anticipating a 5 day work trip to Texas. As time got closer the more it became apparent that I really needed this time away. The week before we switched Haines to formula with bed time and wake up nursing sessions only. It was incredibly emotional and stressful for me, but traveling with minimal pumping was so much more enjoyable. I was sad to give up breastfeeding but this was a huge silver lining.

Over the past few months I’ve felt myself get more and more uptight. While I’m relaxed in many areas of baby life, the introduction of solid foods, baby sleeping in his own room and becoming mobile really threw me for a loop. Getting to eat fantastic food, drink good beer and hang out with awesome Austinites was really a total reset for me. I came back home with a fresh mindset and a whole lot more patience.

A Dose of Using My Brain

My time away and fresh mindset has allowed for a lot more reading! This July I read We Should All Be Feminists, Americanah, and Hunger. I’m working on A Manual for Cleaning Women and getting ready to start All the Lives I Want. I feel like a person with a brain that works! Woo hoo!

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A Dose of Love & Marriage

No one really ever talks about how a baby affects their relationship. It’s always just love and marriage and baby makes three. Well, sure all of that but it’s so much more. I’m not sure if I have all the words for it yet. It’s been challenging. I thought Tyler and I would be going through the same experience but we weren’t. Childbirth felt both traumatic and empowering. The changes in my hormones made me feel depleted emotionally and physically. Maternity leave was lonely. Those experiences were all me. Sure, Tyler was affected by them but he didn’t go through them. We came into each phase from completely different entry points and left with very different perspectives.

Somewhere around the 7 month mark there has been a shift. I can surely attribute part of that to sleeping more but it’s also communicating more. Our baby is happy and learning new things every day. We feel more like best friends and partners than we ever have.

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A Dose of Slowing Down

The weekend I got back from Texas I did nothing. Nothing but lay on the floor with a baby who is learning to crawl. Nothing but make silly noises and sing made-up songs to a tiny guy who thinks I’m very funny. I didn’t go to grocery store or clean the bathroom or do laundry or anything else on the long list of the things that needed to be done. I didn’t think for a moment about doing otherwise. It was the best.

Although work often makes me overwhelmed and anxious, I’m trying to keep this attitude while I’m at home. This time with Haines is important and although sometimes I feel like I should doing other things, this isn’t time I can get back. So I’ll just be over here blowing raspberries and trying to worry a little bit less.

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Yes, that is a creepy glowing owl bath toy. He’s way less weird in person. 

Switching to Formula: Mom Survival Tips

I follow a lot of moms on Instagram. I follow a lot of moms who breastfeed and make their own baby food and use cloth diapers and plan on homeschooling or any number of other demanding, admirable things. All of these inspire me and motivate me to provide the things I hope to for Haines. I can breastfeed, puree those carrots, cloth diaper and teach my baby all kinds of things. And go to work? (And by work I mean on someone else’s schedule.) Well, shit.

Pumping at work was never fun but started out really well. I was pumping more than I needed each day. Slowly things changed. It went from just inconvenient to downright difficult with meetings pushing my pump time or me just getting busy, forgetting or putting it off. Several times I’ve had to travel during the day and pumped either in my car or in a bathroom stall just enough to get through the day and be comfortable. Over time it’s thrown off my production and for several weeks I wasn’t able to produce enough for the next day despite increasing the number of times I pumped. Each day we had to dip into our freezer stash to have enough milk. It was depressing to watch my small stash disappear.

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I used to be able to fill this bottle. Then I got lucky if I could fill half.

At least twice a day I was stressing out watching my pump bottles stay mostly empty. So I upped my pumping to 5 times a day but still wasn’t making enough. I had really wanted to use breastmilk exclusively for Haines’ first year but the stress was taking over. It seems ridiculous but breastfeeding became all I could think about. Tyler, not surprisingly, was incredibly supportive of making whatever changes I needed. Right before he turned 7 months we introduced formula.

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Happy 7 months baby!

There was no immediate relief for my anxiety. Just choosing a formula made me feel insane! Organic or non-GMO, sweetened with lactose or something else, designed for less spit-up or to help with fussiness? Good lord. Eventually I just chose the one that seemed the most organic and hippie. This brought me some relief. The first few days were really hard. The best way to sum it up is I spent about 5 days crying. I didn’t want to give up nursing but with my first work trip looming, it felt like the best choice for everyone. Haines adjusted fairly well although he fought the first couple bottles and his stomach took a couple days to get on board. We ended up mixing his formula with breastmilk to help with the flavor and his digestion. We also cut out the little bit of rice cereal we were giving him (formula and rice cereal can mean constipation, just FYI).

We’re about three weeks into formula and feeling better about it. I’m still nursing before bed and for the first feeding of the day. Although it’s nice to still provide breastmilk for his health, it really comes down to that I wasn’t ready to give up nursing. I love the way it calms him when nothing else will. I love the comfort it brings him when he’s teething or upset. I love having that card up my sleeve and I love that it’s my card. No one else can do it.

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A lot of breastfeeding isn’t as sweet as I thought it might be. He scratches my face or pulls on my nipple often. Then sometimes it’s just hand holding and everything is just right.

 The cost of formula doesn’t help. It’s something I really wanted to avoid. It’s expensive and babies drink a lot. We’ve tried two brands so far with the Costco brand lined up to try next. Honest Baby and Whole Earth’s Organic have gone over well. The Costco brand is non-GMO and only sweetened with lactose so even though it’s not organic, I think I won’t feel terrible giving it to my baby. (Mom guilt to the extreme over here, y’all.)

Many people have commented on how relaxed I am with Haines. I pass him off to anyone who will hold him. I don’t tell people how to hold him or what he prefers and I don’t worry when I find him across the room with a baby-loving person I don’t know. But life in public isn’t life in private. I feel more uptight, more anxious than I ever have before. My mom hawk eyes have grown in. I worry about every bump and scratch even though I pretend I don’t. The switch to formula brought this out in me to the max.

But I’ve finally relaxed about our new feeding arrangement and I’m enjoying it. I love being able to hand off feeding to someone else when I’m in the middle of something else- like sleeping! Unfortunately it also means I’ve moved on to a new focus for my nerves. This week- baby swim lessons. (They’re actually really adorable! More on this later.)

Tips for switching to formula:

(I am not an expert. These tips are not for your baby, they’re for you. Chances are your baby is fine.) 

  • Buy a formula that is too expensive. Make sure it says all the right things on the label. This will make you feel less guilty about the switch.
  • Now go to Costco or Walmart or whatever and get the formula you can afford. Use that one next.
  • Start with a 75% breastmilk, 25% formula mixture once or twice a day. Increase the formula each day as you start freaking out less.
  • If you have some frozen breastmilk you can utilize save it to use at bedtime when it might be most comforting to baby.
  • Drink a glass of wine when feeding baby formula. Realize that feeding baby formula means that you can drink alcohol with less anxiety about it.
  • If you’re really freaking out, eliminate the bed time and morning feeds last. These are the sweetest ones and the hardest to give up (in my opinion).
  • Take a break and realize how nice it is that your boobs no longer hurt when you’re away from baby. (This is several days into your transition.)
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This is a baby on formula. He’s clearly pretty upset about it. 

Okay, you’ve done it. You’re onto formula now. Don’t worry, you’re only a few days away from your next big concern. Damn you diaper rash/mosquito bite/developmental cues/teething/sleep patterns!

Saving Money the Hard Way: 6 Things That Are Worth the Extra Cash

I’m notoriously cheap. I will save money wherever possible. My family regularly tries to convince me I’m extreme (which could be accurate). My mother has kicked me out of her dressing room before for scoffing at a price tag. I come by it honestly though! My PopPop signed all his cards from “Cheapo J” which was no exaggeration. At his recent memorial service, someone mentioned how he would take the rubber bands from the newspaper and put them on his wrist to save for later. He would save them until they fell apart. (I’m not nearly this bad. I keep my rubber bands in a drawer.)

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My handsome PopPop!

There are times in your life when the cheapest option is the only option. You just deal with it. You stay in the 16 (or 32) bed dorm when you travel. You eat Oodles of Noodles every night and you sleep on the world’s oldest mattress…possibly on the floor. Then there are times when you get to choose. You choose where to spend and where to save. Sometimes you have a lot of choice and sometimes only a little, but still the choice is yours.

For  my life, saving is key. Having a focus on saving is what allows us to create an emergency fund, pay off our credit card and put a few dollars in to HEB’s college fund every month. Despite that, there are things that are typically worth the extra money.  All of this I’ve learned the hard way:

Flights:

Flights can get expensive fast BUT purchasing the cheapest flight can often mean driving to a bigger airport, leaving or arriving obscenely early or having multiple layovers. It’s not always worth it. I’ve slept in airports, arrived in my destination (or home) at all hours of the night and taken flights with 3 layovers. Sometimes I’ve done this to save just a few dollars. If the difference is the only the price of a dinner out or less, just cheapen up somewhere else. It’s not worth it on travel.

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I’ve slept in many dorms and airports with my ultimate travel companion, Anita. 

Clothing:

I am not in favor of purchasing name brand or designer clothes. I don’t see the point, but then again it’s not my thing. It is; however, worth it to buy clothes that will last. Time and time again I’ve skimped on clothes just to have the hem immediately unravel, the cloth start to pill, or a hole develop. I always mend what I can but I will also either continue to wear it way past appropriate or put it away without replacing it. I can’t buy it again! (Also, I rarely return anything but that’s just a personal flaw I’m working on.) Now, I’m trying to focus on buying higher quality clothing during sales or at outlets so I can get more bang for my buck. I have unreasonable expectations on the number of years clothes should last which means I have to invest!

Dining Out:

I love eating but often times when I go out to eat I start to nickel and dime things. $2 extra for shrimp? Nope. $1 more for the wine I want? Nope. This is often the biggest problem when I travel. The airport isn’t a great place to find good eats but you can feel satisfied (most of the time) if you spend an extra few bucks. Since everything is ridiculously priced, this like physically hurts me. Regardless I always regret buying the crappy sandwich instead of a decent salad or whatnot. I end up pissed off and still hungry. Just pay up!

Pet Care:

There are several times we’ve had to reevaluate being cheap on dog costs. The cheap dog food gave her the itchies. The cheap flea collar gave her… fleas! Deciding not to do dog training classes made me want to lose my mind. In the end we bought better dog food, bought new flea medicine and invested in dog training. All good decisions. Never again will we go the cheap route on these (just kidding, I learn these lessons over and over again).

Home & Garden:

Our somewhat trained dog is a digger. She digs holes in various shady areas to take cool, dirt naps. Then sometimes she also digs in nice soft dirt to bathe in the sunlight. You know where there is nice, soft dirt? My garden’s raised beds. Quickly we determined our garden needed a fence. Despite knowing that Clara is really good at getting into everything we put a welded wire fence with rebar “fence posts”. We used bungee-cords to close our garden fence which Clara has gotten through time and time again. I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson but we still haven’t fixed it.

I also refuse to let Tyler buy a weed whacker so there’s 3-foot grass surrounding my beds. It makes me not want to go into the garden and weed. Will I never learn?

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Before the weeds took over. 

Budgeting Help:

I’ve tried to manage our budget a couple ways. The simplest is using Excel spreadsheets. Tyler and I kept all receipts for several months and once a week I entered them manually. It was hard to keep up with and I ended up dreading money management time. I also used Mint for a while but it wasn’t user friendly. It always read my purchases incorrectly and put them into the wrong categories. I also had trouble figuring out my budget history. Better Than Never blogger Chrissy talked me into trying YNAB, even though it isn’t free, and I’ve been using it for over a year now. I feel like I have more control over my spending and that I know what’s going on without a pocketbook full of paper receipts. It’s worth doing their 34 day free trial. Use my referral link to give us both a free month!

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Sometimes it takes money to save money!

Some things are just worth the extra money, when and if you can. Good food and good booze are hard to give up so my spending is always high in both of those arenas. WE primarily eat at home which helps balance that out. Location is also key so I’ve always been willing to spend more and/or live with less to live where I want. In Austin my apartments were older but never farther than 5 miles from work. Who needs fancy appliances? For a year I lived within walking distance. This is perfection in my eyes. Forget driving. Screw bike riding. Walking for your commute is by far the most cathartic. Road rage be gone! In Wilmington I maintained the same rule. I wanted to live within bike riding distance from work. Of course, now that we have a baby we don’t ride to work. (Bicycle, I miss you so.)

One day I’ll learn to invest where it’s worth it without wasting money on cheap options ahead of time…

 

5 Ways to Survive Without Sleep (AKA Being a New Parent)

Oh cruel, elusive sleep. I miss you so. In all my non-parenting years you had so rarely failed me. Sure, the occasional illness or stressful time kept me awake but generally we were faithful friends. I was kind to you, you were kind to me.

I didn’t understand how good I had it. A friend once called pregnancy the empathy gauntlet. You get a little taste at how difficult it can be when you don’t fit in spaces, when your body doesn’t feel like yours, when you suffer from low blood sugar, when you have dietary restrictions and so forth. And then there’s the insomnia. You’re incredibly tired but you can’t get comfortable, can’t stop feeling anxious, can’t sleep.

And then the baby is born. Now you could totally sleep if you were only given the opportunity. Nope!

Haines was sleeping 8 hours at 10 weeks (sometimes) so we thought we were golden. We thought we were rockstar parents. It turns out we were just naive. Since I returned to work he’s slept through the night only a handful of times. Sometimes I think he knows that I’m about to break down and he gives me an extra hour. Sometimes he seems a little less aware. When I was on maternity leave, not sleeping sucked but it was manageable. Tyler always made an effort to give me a break and often got up with Haines when he inevitably woke up at 4 or 5 so I could sleep an extra couple of hours. Now that we both work those days are few and far between.

I realize that babies often don’t sleep through the night. I knew that going into this whole “having a baby” thing but I just didn’t get it. Like childbirth, breastfeeding or pregnancy in general I knew what it meant in theory but not in practice. With Haines’ arrival all of the sudden I realized that new parents (or not so new parents) all over the world were in this situation. They were raising children, going to work, taking care of their home and not sleeping through the night. It blew my mind. That might sound crazy to you but it’s a whole new world when you’re suffering through a day of work after a night in new baby hell and you realize this is just the norm.

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Mornings are hard.

Truly it was a revelation. And then the people on the news are saying all these crazy things like don’t drive if you’re tired. Like they said if you miss an hour you could be in danger. Miss an hour?? What if you have a baby? Then you’re always tired.  You always miss an hour! How am I supposed to go to work? (Side note: obviously there’s a difference between being baby tired and being truly sleepy while driving which is really unsafe.)

The Sunrise Series

Now we’re in the beginning stages of testing “cry it out”. Everyone told me you’ll know when you’re ready to sleep train. The moment I felt less responsive to Haines’ crying at night, I knew I was ready. I was tired enough to listen to him tough it out. We’re on day 2 and we’ve seen some minor improvement. In the meantime I’m trying these survival techniques:

  1. Consume absurd amounts of caffeine: I now prefer to drink black tea several times ado. I’m also being a little more forgiving with my soda consumption. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
  2. Limit my alcohol intake: I don’t drink as regularly or as much as I did pre-baby life due to breastfeeding and the lack of sleep but I’m trying to take it down a notch again. It makes me too sleepy and takes away from the quality sleep I am able to get from time to time. It’s not my first choice but I surely it’s only temporary. (PLEASE!)
  3. Make time for exercise: This is significantly easier said than done. I normally work out on my lunch break but lately my lunch break has been spent working. This negatively affects how much energy I have in the afternoon but also my attitude. Being able to be somewhat positive is directly tied into exercise for me.
  4. Lowering the expectations: Sometimes I go to bed at eight. Sometimes I don’t do any dishes. Sometimes I barely remember to brush my hair before work. We all do what we can.
  5. Ask for help: Tap your spouse for a shift. Call a relative. Get a babysitter. At some point it’s about survival. Take a nap. I got to take a couple naps in Florida and my mom and sister took Haines for each night in Oklahoma. It was magical. I was like a whole new person for a couple days.

I’m sure you all have golden children who starting sleeping through the night at 2 weeks and have never stopped but I’ll be over here lying on the floor trying to convince my baby to take a nap. You’re supposed to model appropriate behaviors right? I’m all over it.

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This is a rare sighting of a baby napping in the wild. Capture the moment- it may never happen again!

 

 

June: A Time for Balance and Reflection

This month has been a total whirlwind. It’s been pretty stressful and incredibly wonderful.

June has brought:

The realization that I can’t do everything.

I ended up having a wee little breakdown at work somewhere around the time my managers realized they’d given me too much to be responsible for. I’m working on delegating things more proactively and prioritizing more appropriately. Some things will just have to wait.

Similarly at home, I’m attempting to be a bit more relaxed about things. Contrary to my family’s beliefs our messy, often dirty home does bother me but by the time the baby goes to sleep it is hard for me to care. To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember. In the evenings I often think, what is it I said I was going to take care of tonight? I can’t remember it until way later. (Dear sleep, please come back.) I’m at the point now where I’m behind on birthday gifts, thank you’s, letters, cleaning, yard work, meal prep. The list goes on. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever stop so I’m trying not to stress about it.

Adventures with baby

HEB turned 6 months on June 14th and every day it seems he has learned something new. This month he has found his voice and babbles or makes noises nonstop. He’s also found his tongue which is always sticking out now. We’ve started to introduce food and he’s on the verge of crawling. Our house is desperately in need of baby proofing!

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Nectarines should be worn as well as eaten.

Haines also took his first flights this month. We traveled two weekends in a row by plane which was totally stressful and honestly not that bad. He slept at least 50% of the time as it’s hard for him to resist a snooze in any mode of transportation. We were prepared the rest of the time with toys and our best funny voices. I don’t think any passengers hated us.

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We survived the Atlanta airport!

Quality family time

We don’t see any of our family nearly enough. Our closest family member lives only 4 hours away but we haven’t visited in over a year. Our other parents and siblings all reside in other states or countries so our visits definitely aren’t frequent. This month we got in two visits though which made June a pretty awesome month.

Father’s Day weekend Haines and I traveled with my mom, sister and her girls to Oklahoma for a long weekend. The newest member of our family got to meet my aunt and uncle on my mom’s side as well as several of our cousins. We were celebrating the life of my grandfather who passed away in October. It would have been his 99th birthday that weekend! While a sad occasion, I loved hearing the stories about PopPop- some familiar, some new to me. Our family is hardly ever all in one place so it was hard not to feel overjoyed at the chance to be with everyone.

Last weekend all three of us flew to Florida to be with Mum-Mum (Tyler’s mom). Unfortunately our reason for gathering was another sad one as Mum-Mum’s husband passed away a few weeks ago. He was truly a unique soul and I got to learn so much more about him during his celebration of life. We chatted with friends and family and saw so many great photos of Eric through the years! Just as the weekend before, the feeling of being together dominated. We hadn’t seen Tyler’s mom or his brother and girlfriend (BFF extraordinaire Natalie)  in several months and the reunion was much needed!

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 Time for reflection

We spent a significant portion of the month with family celebrating loved ones we can no longer be with. There is an obvious silver lining to this. We were reminded how important those individuals were and are to our lives as well as how grateful we are to have wonderful people in our lives. I have a healthy, growing son, a supportive husband, incredible friends all across the world, and a loving family from my parents to my siblings to the cousins, aunts and uncles I don’t often get to see. We’re a lucky bunch!

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