Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for a New Perspective

I am truly blessed. I have an amazing family, and all of my needs are met along with many of my wants. My very own version of the American Dream is in full swing, yet I can be such a Debbie Downer when things aren’t perfectly smooth. Most of my life I’ve been waiting for what’s next and striving for more. In high school I thought about college and choosing a major. In college I wanted to get married and begin my career. During my first few jobs I was always on the search for the next best thing.

Life is messy and hard, but ironically that’s also the beauty of it when put into perspective. Shame on me for not always being able to see the bigger picture. I’m determined to work on living in the moment and appreciating things for what they are. This is life. It’s going on right now, and I certainly don’t want to take it for granted. I must stop looking for what's next or what's to come and instead look at what's right in front of me. I’m trying to see things differently and turn the challenges of everyday life into situations I’m thankful for.

My husband and I often have a visit from our daughter in the middle of the night. Sometimes she never even makes it to her bed at all. She doesn’t yet know three’s a crowd especially when she insists on bringing a few of her favorite lovies. There will come a day when we’ll want to give anything in the world to have her sleeping between us. For now, it’s not hurting anything so I want to be grateful for each and every snuggle.

My very intelligent toddler has decided to be completely disinterested in anything related to the potty unless it’s on her terms. It’s a control thing, and it drives me crazy. A wise friend told me that strong-willed children are better equipped to resist peer pressure later in life. I’ll buy that logic!

Short-order cook
Like clockwork, my daughter doesn’t want to eat what I prepare for dinner. Last night she said, “My tummy’s not feeling this. I want something else.” I really try to balance accommodating her tastebuds without responding to every whim. At the end of the day she’s a girl who knows what she wants and is not afraid to ask for it.

Let it snow
A few weeks ago I noticed it was a little too quiet and walked into the living room to find my daughter sprinkling milk on the couch, the entertainment center, the recliner, her kitchen, her train table and our dog, Shelby. I was furious. She was so proud. I asked her why in the world she would do such a thing, and she said she wanted to see it snow. By the end of the night I knew I had an extremely clean living room and a very creative and resourceful child!

Here’s to living in the moment and being grateful for it all. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

According to My Toddler - It's Important to Look Fancy When Going Out

On Saturday afternoon my husband and I decided to take our sweet daughter to a matinee. Ellie had her choice of seeing The Smurfs, Cars 2 or Winnie the Pooh. We were secretly hoping for The Smurfs, but Winnie the Pooh was the movie she selected.

We'd also told Ellie she could have some candy at the movies. She rarely gets candy so she was thrilled. She got even more excited when she happened to find one of her special dress up earrings in the car. She immediately wanted my help putting it on. "Oh, you want to wear your earrings?" I asked.

"Yes!" Ellie cheered. And then she looked at me as if she was about to share a very important life lesson. "These are fancy, and we're going out today," she explained.

I reluctantly put the oversized, pink clip on earring on her and asked where the other one was. She shrugged. "If you can't find the other earring, you'll probably want to leave this one in the car, right?" I was trying to coax her to come around to my way of thinking.

"Nope. It's beautiful, Momma," she explained.

I often find myself in situations like this with my precious toddler. She looked absolutely gorgeous and completely ridiculous at the same time. I have to decide whether or not the situation is worth an argument. I don't ever want to squelch her enthusiasm or individuality or creativity, but I also don't want her to be ridiculed. This Saturday, her "fancy" earring wasn't hurting anyone so off we went... one gaudy, dangling earring and three huge smiles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Dinner Options: Take It or Leave It

It's hilarious now to think about how I expected to be exempt from the picky eating stage. Because I made the majority of my sweet daughter's baby food from scratch I really thought my blood, sweat and tears would magically give me some sort of pass on this phase. I thought wrong. She used to love spinach, brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. And squash! Oh how she loved fresh squash. What happened? Now, she loves mac and cheese. She used to clap and cheer for fresh pineapple and oatmeal. Now she's learned she can be picky, and I think she senses refusing certain things gives her some sort of power. As if she needs more of that.

I want my child to be happy and healthy so I often find myself at a crossroads when she refuses to eat the dinners I've so lovingly prepared. I've tried the save-her-dinner-for-later tactic when she asks for a snack. But she'll still refuse it and will continue to let me know she's hungry. What kind of mother would I be to allow her to go to bed hungry?

I exaggerate when I say she only wants mac and cheese, but it's definitely a favorite. I don't expect her to have a mature palate at two and a half, but I do expect her to eat what's in front of her or at least try it. I try to be calm, but honestly I find it very frustrating. I definitely keep her in mind while meal planning and always have at least something I know she likes, but if it's not what she wants she'll pass. I don't want to end up preparing something completely different or caving and allowing her to eat dry cereal.

I feel like I'm in a lose-lose situation. I want her to go to bed on a full stomach, but I don't want to set the stage for her to think she can always manipulate the situation to get what she wants. So I'm asking for help, friends. Please share with me any tricks, tips or advice for having a successful, mac and cheese-free dinnertime with a toddler. I'm all ears.

Friday, July 8, 2011

All Breasts Are Not Created Equally

I follow a local chiropractor's tweets and recently saw one proving how mothers can better bond with their babies. Before I even clicked on the link I immediately knew it was about breastfeeding. Two and a half years later the thought still makes my heart sink.

I'd read the research about the importance of breastfeeding, and to me there wasn't an option. Of course I'd planned to breastfeed; I wanted to do what was best for my daughter. I signed up for the class, read the books, bought maternity bras and had a supply of Lansinoh on hand. I thought I was prepared. I never expected it to be easy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I'd never before heard of someone's milk never coming in. I didn't even know that was a possibility.

After my sweet daughter was born the nurse explained that typically babies have the most difficulties latching on. Not my Ellie. She latched on like a champion and continued to do so during our hospital stay. It wasn't until she was four days old that my husband and I became a little concerned. She seemed to be crying more, and my milk hadn't yet come in. I really felt nothing different. She continued to latch like she had been, but we began to realize she wasn't actually getting anything. Ellie's pediatrician confirmed she was losing weight but agreed that breast milk was best so we decided to give my milk a little bit longer.

I'll save you all the details, but overall I spoke with one lactation consultant by phone and met with two others in person. To this day I feel very angry toward them. The consultants agreed that though it's not normally recommended for new mothers, I should buy a pump and begin using it. So I did. I desperately wanted my baby to have what was best. Don't we all? I would pump for 25 minutes and only get about an ounce. I'd try to breastfeed Ellie first until she'd begin to get frustrated. Then I'd put the small amount of breast milk I'd pumped into a tiny bottle that was given to me by one of the consultants. This bottle had a very thin tube that was then taped to my breast so Ellie wouldn't lose the natural breastfeeding sensation. After that, I'd begin pumping again. "If you want it to work badly enough it will," I vividly remember one of the consultants saying to me. I grind my teeth at the thought of it. Of course I wanted it badly. I was obsessed with being able to feed my child. Only for whatever reason, I couldn't do it.

I was basically either trying to breastfeed or pump constantly, and she still wasn't getting enough. At one of Ellie's numerous weigh in appointments she was crying, and I was crying, and her doctor came into the room and offered some formula. Feeling defeated and hopeless and not wanting to starve my child I agreed to give it to her. Ellie sucked down the formula as fast as she could; it was obvious how hungry she was. That made me cry harder.

My husband is a good man. He'd been trying to gently tell me we should try switching to formula, but I'd been very adamant. If you know me well or know my family you know I come by it honestly; it's in my blood. But on the car ride home that day we agreed that changing to formula was the best option for our family. I was devastated, but I knew he was right. I'd done the best I could do. And I felt happy that our baby was finally full. I was also relieved that I could spend more quality time with her instead of being constantly hooked up to the pump. But I also felt ashamed, and I had so many questions without answers. My breasts were still duds. I'd read and heard so much about how sore they're supposed to get, and I still felt nothing. I'd prayed so hard to feel that pain and to be able to do what I was supposed to do and nourish my child. I couldn't understand why I was inadequate. I felt as though I'd failed at my first and most important role as a mother.

The formula quickly helped Ellie get back to her birth weight and then some. I was happy she was healthy, but continued to feel so guilty. And embarrassed. For over a year, at every well visit a nurse would ask whether or not she was breastfed, and I felt the need to explain that I'd tried. I'd really, really tried. I felt I was being judged at each and every visit. Maybe they were being critical. Maybe I was just paranoid. Why in the world didn't they just put that into her chart? It's not like I could begin breastfeeding at six months.

Having to answer the dreaded breastfeeding question is something that has haunted me so many times. Just two weeks ago I took Ellie to her first dental appointment. On the paperwork I had to complete was a question about whether or not my child was breastfed. I checked that she wasn't and didn't have as strong of an urge to add a comment that she wasn't bottle fed by choice. I'm now more at peace with the fact that I tried my best, but thinking about it still stings a little. And although I can't and would never argue with the research that says it is best I can tell you for a fact that it's simply not possible for every mother. Even ones who also want the absolute best for their babies.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grocery Store Confessions

Confession #1 
I secretly wish bodily harm to the shopper who crowds me when I’m trying to pay for my groceries. Seriously, can they not wait two minutes for me to punch in my debit card passcode and get my receipt before they start eyeballing the gum and candy bar options?

Confession #2
Before I became a mother I seriously questioned the parenting skills of those who gave their toddler a cookie at the grocery store. I am now that momma and have even given my daughter a cookie before 10:00 a.m. That, plus a serious dedication to my list can get me at least through half of the store. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I know you raised me better.)

While we’re talking about snacks, I’ll also confess to opening a package I haven’t yet purchased. It’s usually puffcorn (You know, the popcorn without kernels or hulls.) or string cheese. This is typically the go-to plan if my daughter and I go after work and school when a cookie just isn’t going to cut it. I actually carry large paperclips with me just in case I need to keep an item closed enough to pay and get it home. Don’t judge; it works.

Confession #3
There are now items that frequent my list that I’d never in a million years have even dreamed about buying before becoming a parent. A couple of these include Easy Mac and the more expensive frozen veggies that can be easily steamed in the bag. I’ve even bought those Bob Evans premade mashed potatoes. The horror, I know. (Mom, again, I apologize.) But with those potatoes, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, a bag of frozen steam-in-the-bag peas and a loaf of bakery French bread, dinner is served in about as much time as it takes to unload the groceries from the car.

I believe the rotisserie chicken is a Godsend to any momma or dad in a hurry to make dinner. I’ve used one as the base for many a good meal including: chicken salad with celery, grapes and pecans; chicken noodle soup; chicken enchiladas; chicken Caesar salad; chicken tacos; pasta salad with chicken; and more! It’s truly an amazing must-have-it-on-your-grocery-list item. (If you also happen to be an Ingles shopper their Smoky Mountain Bourbon-flavored rotisserie chicken is truly fantastic.)

Confession #4
I'm in coupon hell. Have you ever watched Extreme Couponing on TLC? It's incredible and crazy, and it drives me insane. But I’m also amazed. I'm willing to pay more than $0.75 to feed my family for the week, but it would be great to keep my weekly grocery bill between $100 and $125. It seems easy enough. Only, it's not. I clip the coupons in the Sunday paper, print some online coupons and try to shop for what's on sale, but obviously I’m missing something. I don’t follow all of the rules of the hardcore couponers. I’m not willing to go to seven different grocery and drug stores, and I will not spend every free minute dealing with the coupons. I also won’t be turning my basement or my guest bedroom into a stockpile room.

What I find most frustrating is the realization of how inexpensively I could shop if I didn't really cook at all. I'm sure I could find enough coupons for canned ravioli or boxed tuna casserole and cake mix to last us a while, but what about people who eat real food? Don't get me wrong, my cooking has slowed down quite a bit since I became a mom, but I do want us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables occasionally.

Confession #5
My sweet baby girl has recently become my grocery store bodyguard. A couple of weeks ago she berated a man who’d invaded my space. I was stunned. We were in the cheese aisle; shredded cheese was on sale two for $4. It was the large bags so Ellie and I didn’t want to miss out. We were making our selections when this man began crowding us. I guess he could sense how much we love cheese at our house, but I could have told him that we weren’t going to empty the shelves. He actually reached in front of and across me to grab some cheese. I was about to back up and just let the rude guy have first dibs when I heard my child. “Hey, Man!” she shouted and pointed right at him. “No way! Back off!” I froze. I didn’t apologize for her or ask her to. Shocked, I quickly grabbed a pack of sharp cheddar and Parmesan and headed for the checkout. I never looked back. And I completely missed out on the mozzarella.

If you happen to see us at the grocery store please just give us our personal space or you may have my toddler to deal with!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lessons Learned From Vacation

My family and I have been back to reality from our beach vacation for just over a week. We had a fantastic time, and since then I've had time to think about the fun we had and the lessons I learned.

What I Learned About Myself
1.) I'm not nearly as low maintenance as I'd like to think I am.
2.) Being in the sun and sand fills my soul.
3.) My so-called "wash and go" haircut only actually works at the beach. The humidity turns my normally annoying waves into real curls. Huh, it's too bad I'm only there seven days out of 365.
4.) I really need to put my elliptical machine to better use.
5.) I used to have a bladder of steel when traveling. Since giving birth, not so much.

What I Learned By Observing Others
1.) Many tattoos are really very poor decisions.
2.) Always wear sunscreen.
3.) If you have naturally dark hair do not wear poorly lined white swimsuits.
4.) People who are rude and gutsy enough to light up a cigarette in an elevator really don't care about your opinion of the situation.
5.) If you have naturally dark hair and really wish to wear a white swimsuit be sure you have family and/or friends who will tell you the truth.

What I Learned From My Daughter
1.) Find the beauty in everything. 
While collecting sea shells Ellie would grab handfuls of everything and put it all into her bucket. When I asked her why she was picking up the broken pieces she replied, "Because they're beautiful, Mama." She was definitely right.
2.) Go hard or go home. 
When you're at the beach you should definitely make the most of it, right? That's my daughter's philosophy anyway. She would play so hard she'd have a difficult time finishing lunch before nap time.
3.) Always celebrate life. 
After a full day in the sun, a nice shower and a great dinner, she looked up and said, "This is the best party ever!" I couldn't have agreed more. 
4.) When someone is critical of you, ignore them and keep moving forward. 
While playing on the beach one day Ellie met a "friend" who was about twice her age. This wise four-year-old girl was also a little on the bossy side. I sat there listening to this girl's mother over share about her life while cringing and biting my tongue as the girl began to criticize my baby's sand castle building abilities. Ellie continued to do her own thing while the girl gabbed on and on that she wasn't doing it correctly. I proudly watched Ellie and smiled trying to continue to half listen to the lady. Ellie liked her castle and could have cared less what anyone else thought. I hope and pray I can help her maintain that confidence. 
5.) Sometimes a girl just needs to eat dessert first. 
My sweet baby's always in the mood for a popsicle (lately she prefers grape), and at the beach she changed her words from, "I wanna popsicle," to "I need a popsicle." Smart girl. And why not? We were on vacation. So I had one too!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Amy.

I need some serious guidance tonight about why some children have to suffer. I’ve recently learned of a family who is losing their young son. I’ve actually known about them for months, but the thought of what they’re dealing with makes me so incredibly sad that I’ve had to force myself to think of something else. Or, to be embarrassingly honest, I’m grateful my child is healthy, and I’m thankful it’s not my family who’s struggling with this. I cannot understand why You would take this child from his family? Or why You would allow cancer to?

I’m completely overwhelmed by the mere thought his family’s grief. Why him? Why this family? According to doctors he has only a few days left. He’s been released from the hospital and allowed to go home, but they’ll be spending Mother’s Day with a hospice nurse. The young boy is their only child, and I imagine that after realizing they can’t trade places with him they want to die too. I would.

How do you say goodbye to your baby? The mere thought makes me physically ill, and I have desires to wrap my own child up in my arms, quit my job and never leave my house again. It makes me want to go ahead and give my baby the popcorn and popsicles she asks for at breakfast. Why worry about her sleeping in bed with us? If I can keep her as close to me as possible maybe, just maybe, I can keep her safe.

My heart aches for this mother who will never watch her son drive down the driveway with a brand new license. She’ll never teach him to dance or swell with pride as he receives his diplomas. He won’t ever get the opportunity to choose a career path, and she won’t be able to brag about his most recent promotion. She’ll never meet his future bride or rock her grandbabies.

It’s completely and utterly unfair, and there’s no amount of “it’s God’s will” or “God must have a bigger plan” or “you never know what good things will come out of tragic situations” explanations to make me feel any differently. I’m pissed off. I’m sad and confused and helpless to change any of it. Everyone is.

All I can do is pray for this family and beg for mercy that I’m never faced with their situation. I can also encourage all mommas and daddies to hold your babies very closely tonight and count your blessings.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bath Time = Memories + Gray Hair

This particular bath time took place on Sunday evening. We'd planted flowers and played outside all afternoon and evening. If the dirtier you are is directly correlated to the fun you've had, we all had an absolute blast. It was after 7:30 p.m., and an already tired two-year-old did not understand the necessity of getting clean. Here's how it went down:

Ellie: (whining) "It's too hot!"

Me: "It's too hot?" (checking water again)

Ellie: "It's too cold!"

Me: "It's not too cold."

Ellie: "Yes it is! It's cold! ... It's hot."

Me: "It's not too hot or too cold. The temperature of the water is just fine."

Ellie: "Okay. I want bubbles."

Me: "No problem. What's the magic word?"

Ellie: "Please!"

Me: "Okay, let's make some bubbles." (turns water back on and pours a little Burt's Bees Baby Shampoo and Wash into the water stream)

Ellie: "I don't want those bubbles!"

Me: "Ellie, it's too late. You have bubbles now."

Ellie: "But I don't want them!" (fake cries for a moment but then gets it together) "I want toys."

Me: "Sure. What's the magic word?"

Ellie: "PLEASE!"

Me: "Which bath toys would you like?"

Ellie: "All of them!"

Me: "Nope. We're taking a quick bath tonight. Just pick a couple."

Ellie: "Noooooo! I want all the toys!"

Me: "How about..." (insert nearly every bath toy option the girl has here)

Ellie: "No. I don't want that one." (repeats with each option)

Me: "Okay, no toys then. Let's just get you clean."

Ellie: "No! I don't wanna get clean. I want more bubbles."

Me: "No ma'am. We're not using more bubbles tonight."

Ellie: "Please, please! I want more bubbles! Puh-lease!"

Me: "How about your boat? Would you like to play with your boat?"

Ellie: "Yes! I want the boat!"

Me: "Great!" (hands boat to Ellie) "What are you supposed to say?"

Ellie: "Please!"

Me: "Well, that's a very nice magic word, but after you get something you want or need you should say 'thank you.'"

Ellie: "Thank you. I don't wanna play with this boat. I want my animals." 

Me: (losing patience) "Hand me your boat please. Here are your animals, and here are your cups. You have lots of fun with these cups!"

Ellie: "I'm ready to get out now. I'm all done now."

Me: "You're finished."

Ellie: "Okay, I'm finished." 

Me: "Yes, that's correct, but, no, we still need to get you clean. I'll wash you super fast!"

Ellie: "Okay." (begins playing with toys and putting them on the edge of the tub getting water on the floor)

Me: "Ellie, keep your toys in the tub. They're getting water on the floor." (takes hand towel and wipes up the water)

Ellie: (continues putting toys in the edge and getting more water in the floor)

Me: "Ellie, stop! Keep your toys in the tub. You're getting the floor wet." (wipes floor again)

Ellie: (continues to ignore me and put more toys on the edge soaking the floor)

Me: (very frustrated with an elevated tone of voice) "Ellie, I've already asked you twice to stop. Do not put another toy on the edge of this tub!"

Ellie: (in a singsong voice) "What's the magic word?"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Wonder 50% of Marriages End in Divorce

Marriage is hard. Add a child to the mix, and it's even more difficult. My husband and I have been married for nearly 13 years, and let me first set the record straight that we're not getting divorced. (Not today anyway.) But that's not to say he doesn't drive me absolutely insane. I'm sure you'd be shocked to learn I'm not always so delightful to be around, and I drive him crazy too; however, this is my blog so I won't bore you with those details. 

What I will tell you about are the times when I think I might actually lose it completely, like when it's his turn to clean up the dinner dishes, and he thinks rinsing and stacking them in the sink will suffice. I can't stand it when he doesn't empty his pockets, and I wash random items left in his pants. When he takes the initiative to throw in a load of laundry they end up mildewing in the washing machine about forty percent of the time. The other sixty percent they get dried and left to sit and wrinkle themselves to death until I salvage them from the dryer. And of course he and our two-year-old daughter, Ellie, are two peas in a pod so they're already ganging up on me. 

But then my little family and I have a day like today. It began with the planets perfectly aligned because Ellie slept until 8:30 a.m. That never happens! We enjoyed a nice morning, and this afternoon we went to The University of Tennessee's Orange and White Game, the annual inter-squad football scrimmage. Today was super special because not only was it Ellie's first time inside Neyland Stadium, but it was the debut of this year's t-shirt. This t-shirt was designed by the one and only Laddy Fields, my sweetie. I think I may be the only person in the history of Tennessee Football to ever tear up at the Orange and White Game. I'm pretty sentimental anyway, but today made me really misty-eyed.

Laddy and I married at a young age. We did the whole crappy apartment/multiple crappy jobs thing for a while. Laddy is the smartest person I know (although for some reason he can't manage to sort his clothes into the four color-separated hampers we have), but after college he hadn't decided what he wanted to do yet. Really, when you think about it, who has? At today's game I vividly remembered the night we sat in our tiny apartment in Bristol. It was the night before his interview for his first design job. I'm not sure what he'd written in his cover letter, but I recall it being very late and him being stressed to come up with an entire portfolio. Everything he knew at the time (and for that matter what he knows today) has been self-taught. He had a few books out that night trying to figure it out, and I hung around for moral support. I'm not quite sure how he got that job. I figure it was part luck, part skill, part charm and part divine intervention. 

Fast forward about 10 years and five increasingly awesome design jobs later, and there we sat watching his design on the jumbotron. I can't imagine being any prouder. Every artist in the state and beyond would love to have designed UT's Official Fan T-shirt for 2011, but it was my husband who was sought after. It was honestly emotional for me in a weird way. It's like we'd hit some sort of milestone. For as many times as we have no idea what we're doing or where we're going, I had peace that whatever happens, we're going to be okay. Mostly because we have each other, flaws and all.

It made me see how far we've come in a decade. We've moved to Knoxville, become home owners, adopted a dog and had a baby. We've been through a lot, both good and not as good, and we've been extremely blessed. And I'm going to do my best to hang onto this zen feeling, at least until mid-week when Laddy will forget to replenish the toilet paper.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

10 More Random Tips for Moms

If you're a mom, you're busy. Here are 10 more random tips I've found to make life a little easier, whether it's saving some time or money or just making things better. I hope you find them helpful too!

1.) It's Spring and time to ensure your little one is protected from the sun. Using the constant spray sunscreen all over and the sunscreen stick on your child's face is sure to make your morning routine, day at the zoo and/or afternoon at the park less complicated. Although you'll get less sunscreen for your money with the spray and stick options you'll save yourself time and energy without having to have a wrestling match and a big mess to clean up. Also, our pediatrician shared another tip; he says the name brands and generic sunscreens work the same. So buy the spray and stick, but buy the least expensive or the brand that's on sale. Oh, and while you're protecting your child don't forget you need sunscreen too.

2.) If you're a parent-to-be and shopping for a nursery you might be tempted to go all out and buy spectacular, matching baby bedding. Try to resist the urge. I read Baby Bargains, a great resource that warned me, but unfortunately I didn't heed the advice. Don't get me wrong it was beautiful, but it ended up in the closet much sooner that I'd like to admit. The reality is you can't use the quilt on a baby, you have to untie and remove the entire bumper when you change the crib sheet, not to mention as soon as your baby rolls over and begins to move the bumper becomes a hazard. If I had a do over I'd pick some really awesome crib sheets, save some money and call it a day.

3.) While you're saving money on the bedding, you can splurge on the SwaddleDesigns Ultimate Receiving Blanket. My baby received one as a gift, and she loved it from the very beginning. We actually bought another one so she now has one for home and one for school. We did initially use the blanket for swaddling, but even though she was over that very soon, the size is great, it's super cozy and it gets softer after each wash. It's a winner.

4.) Looking for a money and a time saver? Try using your hair conditioner in place of a shaving cream or gel. It works fantastically, and one bottle lasts so much longer. You can buy a Suave Conditioner for a little over one dollar. Be sure to give this trick a try!

5.) If you know about LUNA Bars you should keep them stashed everywhere; if you haven't, run to the grocery store right now. Each bar has 9-10 grams of protein and 3-5 grams of fiber, and these are great for an on-the-go breakfast or snack. My favorite flavor is Nuts Over Chocolate, and my daughter is a huge fan of these too.

6.) If your family is into music like mine, constant repeats of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep get old pretty fast. Don't get me wrong; there's a time and a place, but check out Rockabye Baby Music for renditions of classic rock tunes. They've taken legends like The Beatles, ACDC, Bob Marley, Aerosmith, etc. and turned them into fantastic lullabies. These tunes make the whole family happy, and that's pretty special.

7.) If you hate to iron as much as I do check out Downey Wrinkle Releaser. If you don't mind to make an extra stop at Dollar General they make a version that's just as good for about one-fourth of the price of Downey's. All you have to do is give you clothes a mist, and the wrinkles will smooth right out. It's obviously not going to put a crease into anything, but creases and pleats are out anyway, so you'll be good to go. It works like magic!

8.) Try Burt's Bee Diaper Ointment for the hands down best of the best diaper cream ever.
9.) Tis the season for pollen, allergies, colds and coughs. Pick up some Vicks Baby Rub (or traditional Vicks VapoRub if your child is two or older). Many people have forgotten about this old-fashioned treatment, but when my daughter is coughing and restless I rub it all over her chest and back, and it works wonders to soothe and comfort her.

10.) Boogie Wipes can save you and your child from a complete meltdown in public. These saline wipes are gentle on little noses and their mildly pleasant scent can hypnotize (not really, but they do work really well) your kids into thinking they actually enjoy having their noses wiped. Brilliant! Plus it's a mommy created and mommy run business. Click on the link above to join the Boogie Bunch and get a $0.50 off coupon (good through Dec. 31, 2011) emailed to you.

These are just a few things that have worked for me. I'd love to hear what tricks make life happier at your house.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Birth Story and How I Missed My Opportunity for an Epidural

Last week I received a letter from my OBGN explaining he's moving to Charleston. I agree it's a great city, but still. Doesn't Dr. M have an obligation to me since I'm surely one of his favorite patients? I understand he's super busy, but a form letter, really? It just feels so impersonal after he's been so, ahem, up close and personal. The sad news of his departure did cause me to remember the happy details of the day I became a mommy.

My sweet baby was due on Christmas Day in 2008. We were convinced she'd arrive early, but we were mistaken. I remember waddling into work on December 26, somewhat disgruntled that I wasn't snuggling my newborn. That night my semi-OCD/hyper personality kicked into high gear. I cooked dinner and began taking down Christmas decorations like a mad woman. My husband just followed my lead and worked like crazy too. Smart man. After our decorations were wrapped and stored for the next year I finally sat down to rest. And then it happened. It was almost midnight, and my water broke, but not in a large gush like it happens in the movies. It was just a trickle so I wasn't fully convinced. A friend of mine had been mistaken once and was turned away at the hospital because she'd actually just peed on herself. (The horror, I know!) I vowed that would never happen to me.

God bless Google. After a little research I was pretty sure it was amniotic fluid. So I showered and shaved (of course) and we were on our way. The car ride was strangely uneventful, not at all like I’d imagined. I wasn't having contractions so we leisurely made our way across town and debated whether or not this was really happening.

My husband had expected to pull up to the front of the hospital and wheel me inside. Instead, we simply parked and walked in normally. In my mind I should’ve already needed those breathing techniques I'd practiced for months, but, nope. Nothing. The triage nurse confirmed my water had broken, and I was admitted. Hooray! We were ecstatic we'd soon meet our baby girl. The emotions were overwhelming; we were elated and a little shocked it was finally time. It felt surreal and at some point I remember us becoming almost giddy. I was nervous about the unknown, and my husband was worried about how I would respond to the unknown. In case you don’t know, I’m a little bit of a planner. I like to think I fly by the seat of my pants, but I’m only kidding myself. When Dr. M walked in we were both relieved.

It was about 2:00 a.m., and he suggested we rest. In hindsight that would have been an awesome idea, but the thought of sleeping was laughable. He also offered the epidural at any time, but I declined. I was very afraid of being stuck in the bed, unable to move around. In my mind my labor included walking the hallways, eating ice chips and bouncing on a birthing ball for at least a little while. And I honestly still felt nothing.

Dr. M came in a few times to check on us. He's so laid back and funny (a lot like my husband); I'm pretty sure that's what makes him so charming. He has a knack for making you feel at ease; nothing really gets him rattled, or if it does he doesn’t show it. When my contractions started they were immediately pretty hard. By about 6:45 a.m. they were quite intense. I’d been told it would take an hour to feel the effects of the epidural after the initial request, so I decided I'd be in trouble if I waited much longer.

Do you have any idea what 7:00 a.m. is for most hospitals? Shift change. (That’s something they should’ve discussed in those birthing classes I dragged us to.) I buzzed, and the new nurse assured me she’d be in soon. I thought I'd feel better if I stood up, but I immediately felt a lot of pressure. I put my fear of pooping on the table while pushing on the backburner and became terrified I was going to pee all over the floor. As politely as possible I asked for the nurse again. I hadn’t met this nurse yet, and I didn’t want to get on her bad list so soon, but I knew I couldn't wait either. I did what I had to do and began to pull the monitors off myself so I could get to the bathroom. It’s pretty amazing how fast that gets their attention; they came running.

I immediately felt better after what must have been the greatest pee of my entire life, and I knew I'd be okay. I was able to smile again and get back to the bed. I’d progressed to 8cm and was fully effaced. Dr. M called for the anesthesiologist asap and waited with us. Surprisingly, I felt okay. The contractions were still coming consistently, but after relieving the pressure from my bladder I could definitely deal. We talked and joked, and we officially met our new Labor and Delivery Nurse P. She was fantastic and encouraged me to try to have the baby naturally. I laughed at the idea. That was not my plan. Within 10 minutes a nice looking gentleman pushed the epidural cart into our room. Ahhhh, I was ready to feel nothing, but Dr. M. wanted to check once more. He then broke the news to me that in those few minutes I'd dilated fully, and it was too late. I remember his words perfectly, "Amy," he said slowly and calmly, "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you're not going to be getting an epidural today."

I'm not entirely sure what I said or how I looked (My husband refuses to give me specifics.), but I do know (via confirmation from LD Nurse P) that I had about a 30 to 45 second out-of-body freaking out period before I got my game face on. LD Nurse P was incredible, and although we’d just met her, we loved her immediately. Neither Dr. M or LD Nurse P ever left our room. I'd like to think it's because we were their coolest patients, but I suppose they knew our baby was coming super quickly.

I'll give my husband mad props too. He was uncharacteristically directing people (It's true a ton of people show up, and it's true you won't care.) to get me cool washcloths and encouraging like a coach of the year but not in a cheesy/condescending way. I always knew he was a great catch!

I remember Dr. M kidding me about how much longer it would take and that strangely put me at ease. I think he told me I’d only have a few more hours of pushing. Sarcasm is a way of life for my family, so his joking made an unfamiliar and scary situation seem reasonable and doable. I also remember him chilling out in the rocking chair while I was working overtime on no sleep to perform a miracle. But I found this bizarrely amusing at the time and remember calling him a slacker. I actually only pushed for about 45 minutes, although it felt much longer than that. I was extremely fortunate; the best way I can describe my experience is crazy intense and difficult, but not one of freakish, intolerable pain. My sweet Ellie came into this world looking beautifully perfect and bright-eyed.

My husband was so infatuated with being a brand new daddy and the awe of our gorgeous child I recall the nurse having to tell him it was time to take pictures. He was, and is, one proud father. Please say a little prayer that she never fully learns just how much she has him wrapped around her finger. And it's been like that from the very first breath she took.

While I was getting stitches (lovely) Dr. M's cell phone rang. He'd stayed late to help make us a family. His ringtone, ACDC's Thunderstruck, was the first song my daughter ever heard, just another reason to love him.

Having a baby is such a powerful and amazing experience, and it's even more special when you can share it with people as wonderful as Dr. M and LD Nurse P. Knoxville's loss of Dr. M is definitely Charleston's gain. I can't imagine him not being there if we decide to become more than the three musketeers, but I'm sure it would be fine. We may just have to track down LD Nurse P. Either way, we’ll always cherish our wonderful memories of Ellie's birth, even though it was nothing like we’d planned.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

10 Random Tips and Tricks Every Mom (and Dad) Should Know

I've compiled the most random list ever of tips and tricks which will make your life as a parent or soon to be parent or someone who just knows parents who need help, easier. Some of these have been shared with me and others I've learned the hard way. So, sit back, relax and take in this top 10 list. You'll want to share with everyone you know... or at least those who you like.

In no particular order, here goes:

1.) You don't even have to have a child to benefit from this gem. It's called SUDS - a specialty product, and I truly believe with this product, one old toothbrush and a little elbow grease (as my mom likes to say :) I could clean up the world. This all-purpose cleaner is a miracle! It gets stains out of clothes and rugs amazingly, and it's water-based with no ammonia, harsh chemicals or fumes. It's a little pricey so I use it only for laundry or carpet emergencies, but the list of options this stuff will clean goes on and on and includes bathrooms, grills, woodwork and glass to name only a few.  I buy it locally in Knoxville, Tennessee, at The White Balloon at the Gallery Shopping Center, 7240 Kingston Pike. I've also seen it at Smart Toys and Books in Knoxville.  There's a number on the actual product if you'd like to go old-school and order by phone with your VISA or Mastercard; it's 1-800-551-7837(SUDS). Plus,  I found it available online here, but I've never shopped from this site. Whatever or however, just make sure you stock up on SUDS. You won't be disappointed.

2.) As your child gets older, he or she is going to get bigger. And bigger and bigger and bigger. And it'll happen fast! While 10 to 15 to 20+ pounds doesn't feel so heavy, it is. It's especially a back killer when you're constantly leaning over, picking up, carrying around, putting down and repeating about 17 trillion times each day. Learn to squeeze your butt checks together when picking up your child. I know it seems silly, but I promise you it'll save your lower back. Seriously. I'm still not sure why or how it works, but it's true. And I know this from experience. I credit Dr. Cole from Hosenfeld Chiropractic with this tip. It's gold I tell you!

3.) Okay, if you have an infant who is hmmm, let's say less than chilled out and relaxed like your husband, and more high-strung, type A personality like yourself (or vice versa) you may want to give running the vacuum cleaner for a while a try to see if it calms your child. I know. I thought the same thing when I first heard it, but when you're truly hanging onto the edge of your last strand of sanity you'll try anything. If it works run like the wind to open iTunes and spend $9.99 so you too can have one solid hour's worth of vacuuming called, Colic Sweep Vacuum Cleaner White Noise. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. Plus, you won't wear out your own vacuum, and you can take it with you when you travel. Win-win! Mad props to whoever possessed the sheer genius to record and market this. I'm jealous.

4.) Looking for summer shoes for your kid? Look no further. Check out KEEN Kids Newport H2. They're $50 and worth every cent. I can't imagine you not loving these for spring and summer. Your child can wear them with or without socks, they're waterproof, comfy and super durable. Did I mention they're rated a perfect five stars after 105 customer reviews? These are a must have; they're really the only summer shoes your child needs.

5.) If you're using formula, plan to eventually use formula or know anyone who is using formula go directly to Babies R Us and pick up the Munchkin BPA Free Formula Mixer or just order it here. It's portable, works well and is very inexpensive at just over $5. Go ahead and pick up two so you can leave one in your diaper bag.

6.) If you're baby's still wearing diapers (like mine, sigh) go for the Diaper Champ instead of the Diaper Genie. With the Diaper Champ you can use your regular garbage bags instead of having to buy special refills, plus it's about $5 less.

7.) Just say NO to the wipes warmer! Picture this. You've used those warm wipes on your sweet baby's bottom for the first few weeks of her life. It's time to get out of the house to get some fresh air and of course show off your beautiful child. Unfortunately, that warmer isn't portable. So you get brave enough to take your baby out in public where you want her to prove herself to be the perfect baby you know she is. When she needs a diaper change you pull out a freezing cold wipe. You touch this frigid wipe to your pride and joy, and I guarantee she will show herself, and not so much in a positive way. Although I was warned I still had to learn this one the hard way, my friends. I hope you won't have to.

8.) There's only one chair you'll ever need for your child. It grows with him and allows him to be right at the table with the rest of the family from the very beginning. It's the Stokke. It's the bomb. And you need one.

9.) Looking for an app for your toddler? Check out First Words. They're fabulous, and your child will love them and learn letter recognition and beginner words. It's very cool and worthy.

10.) If you're looking for inspiration or hope or a smile, I urge you to spend a little time with StoryPeople.  These guys are brilliant and sweet and funny and passionate, and they just flat get it right. It won't be time wasted. Here's one of my many favorites: "this is a dress-up box for the future & it's filled with stuff like courage & love & play because they're the only things that are any use at all when you get right down to it."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If I Had A Million Dollars

If the love of money is really the root of evil then I could join the cast of Wicked.

Okay, so I’m probably not that bad, but lately I’ve wasted entirely too much time and energy being envious of what others have and do instead of just being thankful. It's not that I expect uber-extravagant things like a huge diamond or a yacht, but I can't help feeling worthy of more. I'd like to enjoy more vacations and regularly scheduled massages and mani/pedis. My daughter deserves the best of the best of everything. My house should be cleaned by someone other than me. I'd prefer to do more shopping at Pottery Barn and less at Target and not feel guilty when I splurge on hair products from the salon. I'd like to sweat from personal training sessions. And why can't I have a fancy soaker tub and granite counter tops? I suppose wanting more is the greedy American way, but that’s no excuse. 

I’ve had this ridiculous sense of entitlement; it’s definitely not the way I was raised, nor is it the way I want my daughter to be brought up. The truth is I'm very lucky. My needs are all met as well as a lot of my wants. I have the love of a good man, and my daughter is the smartest and most beautiful little girl on the planet. My parents and in-laws are alive and well; they’re also still married and love each other very much. My incredible sister, brother-in-law and niece are loads of fun. Most importantly, we all have our health. And that’s where I credit my job for providing wake up calls to shake me out of occasional pity parties like this.

During my workday it’s not uncommon for me to get a good dose of reality. I hear about patients struggling to meet basic needs because they’re trying to pay health care bills. Very recently, I was leaving for lunch with M., a colleague and friend, and we stopped to greet a gentleman who'd just walked into our office. He was a very tall, handsome, well-put-together man in his mid-40s. He shared that his wife was having a difficult time emotionally dealing with her disease, and he was concerned he wasn’t doing enough to help her. He proudly showed us a picture of the two of them; both had bald heads. He struggled to keep from breaking down, and so did we. The love he had for his wife combined with the pain he felt because he couldn’t fix things seeped from him. 

I can’t keep from thinking about this man and his beautiful wife whom I’ve never met. And given the recent disaster in Japan I'm embarrassed for having so many unnecessary desires. Why do I want more for my already privileged two-year-old? Would you like to know what's most important to her? She loves bubbles and play-doh and paint. She loves helping me cook and dancing around the living room. She loves going outside to explore and collecting treasures like sticks and leaves and rocks. She loves to slide and eat popsicles. I'm extremely fortunate she's such a happy, healthy child. And it’s my job to teach her just how blessed we are…with exactly what we already have.

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy.” Proverb

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s the end of February and time to take a look at how I’m doing with my three goals for the year. So for better or worse, here goes:

Resolution # 1 - Loose the guilt and rediscover a hobby or two, and maybe even go on a date with my husband (i.e., The Good) 

Believe it or not, my husband and I left our daughter with an actual babysitter and hit the town for a night out earlier this month. It really happened! It wasn’t just an elaborate plan in my mind. Having time alone to remember why you like each other and why you decided to get married in the first place should never be underestimated.

I was concerned that Ellie would be sad we were leaving her. (It’s that crazy daycare guilt haunting me again.) But my husband and I agreed the timing was right and stayed the course. I’d talked with Ellie about Ms. L (a teacher from her school) coming over, and she was excited. I still hadn’t fully explained that when Ms. L arrived, we'd be leaving. When it was time to have that conversation I was nervous. As eager as I was to spend some quality time with my husband I doubly dreaded the thought of her being upset.

Here’s how it played out:

Me: “Ellie, Mommy and Daddy are going to go bye-bye for a while, and you’ll stay here with Ms. L.”

Ellie: “Good idea, Mommy.”

When we were walking out the door she endured our hugs and kisses and gave us a quick and nonchalant, “See ya later.”

It was as simple as that. She was as thrilled to get us out of the house as we were to go on a date. That evening we enjoyed a funny show and had a nice dinner, which we of course filled with conversation about Ellie. I’m thrilled to report my guilt about date night has greatly diminished, and I’ve already scheduled Ms. L for another night in March. Yay us!

Resolution # 2 – Shed some pounds and become a healthier momma (i.e., The Bad) 

This continues to be more difficult than it should. I accept that making healthy choices is a lifestyle change, and incorporating exercise into my daily routine is an ongoing battle. But the workout gods don’t seem to be on my side. It’s frustrating because in a 24 hour day, I’m only aiming for 30 minutes. I occasionally get a workout in, but I’m inconsistent. UGH! I get so disappointed in myself.

I’ve realized if I don’t exercise in the morning it’s not going to happen. So, earlier this month I revisited the nicest gym closest to my home. I accepted a free membership for a week to ensure I’ll be spending my money wisely if I commit to an actual membership. What’s embarrassing is the fact I haven’t made it there to give the one-week test run a try. Thank goodness there's no expiration date. Things happen; either my daughter’s up half the night coughing or my dog’s puking. The adage really is true: if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Last Tuesday morning, I set my alarm for 4:45 a.m.; the class at the gym I planned to try began at 5:15 a.m. (Crazy, right? My thoughts exactly, but if they hold the class I suppose people show up. I guess it’s doable.) Early to bed, early to rise; I was in bed by 10:00 p.m. My workout clothes and shoes were waiting for me in the bathroom, and I’d already ironed my clothes for work. Surprisingly, even Ellie was cooperating and had gone to her bed—amazing! I was on top of it, or so I thought. At about 3:30 a.m. we were startled awake from extremely loud shrieks and pounding sounds. At first we were unsure if the sounds were coming from inside or out. It sounded like our home was being attacked. Screech! Thump! Thump! Thump! It was truly frightening. Our dog, Shelby, a 90 pound lab-mix, went berserk; she couldn’t decide whether to growl or cry so she did a combination of both.  I ran to get Ellie. She was terrified and screaming, and Shelby continued to bark and whine. My husband was impressively on the job to handle the situation. In his underwear, he threw on a sweatshirt, slipped into his dress shoes, and grabbed a flashlight and a baseball bat. It was certainly a sight to behold, and if I’d been thinking clearly I would have taken pictures or grabbed the video camera. At the time I was too afraid. When my husband came back inside he explained the strong wind had blown our crawl space door open, and neighborhood cats had found their way underneath our house. He’d chased/coaxed the cats out and locked the door to our crawl space. (We later discovered that only one of the cats had actually escaped, and one was still trapped. But that’s another story.) We’re not sure whether these cats were fighting or involved in some kind of freakish mating ritual. Regardless, by the time things had settled down our queen-sized bed held our toddler, our dog, my husband and me. I only had about 25 minutes until my alarm would have gone off. Needless to say I bailed and reset it.

I don’t intend to just make excuses. The reality is I must dig deeper and find the willpower to overcome these types of obstacles in order to make taking care of me a priority.

Resolution # 3 – Develop and nurture some friendships (i.e., The Ugly)

I’m ashamed to admit I have done nothing to build or rekindle friendships. Lucky for me there’s 10 more months in the year, so there’s still time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Persistent Popsicle Princess

The scene takes place at about 7:45 p.m. in our living room. It’s just before bedtime, Ellie’s sporting cute, purple cupcake PJs, and she’s already brushed her teeth. A previously DVRed Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is on TV and almost to the hotdog dance scene. We’re getting ready to select books for our nighttime stories.

Ellie: I need a snack. I wanna popsicle.

Mom: It’s too late for a popsicle. Would you like an apple?

Dad: I’ll peel you an apple. 

Ellie: No! I wanna popsicle! (frowns) 

Dad: How about a banana?

Ellie: I don’t wanna foonana. I WANT A POPSICLE! I want red. Please! Please, Mommy! Please, Daddy! I wanna popsicle!

Mom: You’re not going to get a popsicle tonight. It’s almost bedtime. You may have an apple or a banana. 

Ellie: I WILL HAVE A POPSICLE! RED! (stomps foot and crosses her arms)

Dad: (with a much firmer tone) You’ll have nothing making demands and acting like that. You may have an apple or a banana.

Ellie: (fights tears) But I need a popsicle. I need a popsicle in my mouth. A red popsicle. PUH-LEASE!

Mom: (tries hard to keep from laughing) Would you like an apple or a banana?

Ellie: (sighs and looks defeated) Okay. I’ll have a foonana. 

Mom: I think I’d like to have an apple.

Dad: I’ll get it.
(Dad leaves and returns with a banana, an apple and a knife, and he hands an opened banana to Ellie.)

Ellie: Thank you, Daddy. (She smiles and takes one bite.) I don’t like foonanas anymore. I wanna popsicle. Please, Daddy! 

Dad: You may have a popsicle tomorrow… not tonight, but tomorrow. 

Ellie: I will have a popsicle tomorrow?

Mom: Yes. Tomorrow you may have a popsicle. Would you like to share my apple tonight?

Ellie: Thank you, Mommy.
(Mom and Ellie eat the apple.)

The scene changes to the next morning in our bedroom. Ellie has found her way to her parents’ bed at some point during the night. The time is now 7:03 a.m.

Mom: (smiles) Good morning.

Ellie: It’s tomorrow. I wanna popsicle now. A red one.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's Inside My Bag? Here's a Clue: The Contents Would Make MacGyver Envious

My husband constantly ridicules the size of my purse. He jokes and laughs until we’re traveling and need something, and I can usually pull it out within a minute or two … or okay, maybe five. I’ve always carried a large bag, but now that I have a two-year-old it's only magnified. I agree that it's huge and clunky and quite heavy, weighing in at a whopping 10.1 pounds. But it contains everything I may ever need. It's ridiculous, I suppose, but I justify it by thinking of myself as one prepared mommy, albeit with a sore shoulder.

In no particular order, here goes:
  • My day planner – It's old school I know, but don't judge. I still like to see a month at a time. I literally enjoy penciling in my appointments, and I'm not ashamed.
  • Wipes – I wish I’d known the many uses of wipes before having a child! Who knew?
  • Three diapers
  • One rice cake in a baggie
  • Travel utensils for Ellie
  • My wallet – Although I carry an enormous bag I don't carry a George Castaza wallet like a few of my friends. Ahem. You know who you are.
  • One small hairbrush
  • One small booklet of ocean life stickers—These work wonders for keeping a toddler entertained for about one minute and 15 seconds.
  • One mini Play-Doh (blue)
  • One small bottle of bubbles
  • My iPhone
  • One baggie of Goldfish Crackers
  • My keys
  • Floss
  • One Shout Wipe – It's been in there for a very long time so I’m pretty sure it's dried out by now. But I think I’ll keep it just in case.
  • One package of Boogie Wipes —These are a little on the pricey side, I know, but in public they save me from wrestling with my daughter to wipe her nose. So they're worth it. 
  • Four glass lens cleaners
  • One box of matches from Bottega in Birmingham
  • One Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer (lemongrass sage scent)
  • Two safety pins
  • Two sunscreen samples
  • Travel size Tylenol container that actually contains Excedrin Migraine (It's really the only way to go.)
  • One coupon for $2 off Pull-Ups —I'm debating whether or not these are actually worth it. 
  • One pair of fingernail clippers
  • Five band aids—Make that four; Ellie saw these and discovered a boo boo that needed immediate attention.
  • Burt's Bees' Cuticle Cream 
  • One sample of Neutrogena Moisturizer
  • One Swiss Army Knife— I've had this for years. And who knows when you'll need a toothpick, tweezers or pair of mini scissors?)
  • 11 tampons – I agree that this seems excessive, but if you've ever been without and had to beg, borrow or steal one it's best to have plenty of extras.
  • Two individual containers of unsweetened apple sauce
  • Two packs gum: one Orbit (sweet mint flavor) and one Extra Dessert Delights (key lime pie flavor)
  • One Mickey Mouse book
  • One small pack of M&Ms (This is my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency treat.)
  • One sample size of Starbucks cinnamon spice-flavored coffee
  • One Knox County School Coupon Book —I’m vowing yet again to utilize these throughout the year to keep from scrambling in August.
  • Two disposable bibs – I know I’m not saving the planet with these, but they’re a lifesaver when eating out.
  • One apple
  • One small bag of pretzels (These are leftover from Halloween and in the shape of pumpkins.)
  • Two ink pens (both black ink)
  • One Lubriderm hand lotion
  • One lip gloss (night iris) and one lipstick (guilt free) – I still rarely reapply after the morning despite my mother's best attempts throughout years.
  • Two pairs of sunglasses (Ellie’s and mine)
Well, that’s it. Organized or fanatical? You decide.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

10 Tips You Need To Know If You Also Have Gyno Prep OCD

I had my annual gynecological exam last week. And even though the doctor, nurses, their sisters, uncles and friends and I’m pretty sure a few people who were just walking by watched me push out a baby two years ago, visiting the gynecologist still causes me a crazy amount of anxiety. My husband doesn't understand this and has joked that I "get fancier for the doctor than [I] do for [him]." I'm patiently biding my time for his turn to get to bend over for a prostate exam.

Those who know me well may have heard my paper towel gyno story. For those who don't know see tip #10 for a better idea. I'm pretty sure that experience caused my gyno apprehension. I believe your gyno visit goal is to get in and out with what you need without being the one who is discussed over lunch. I advise this knowing I’ve been the topic of that conversation, and I pray there's never a repeat.

Here's my list of dos and don'ts for your next annual visit:

1.) Never schedule your appointment after 11am. The later in the day you wait the greater your risk of a faux pas.

2.) Treat or give yourself a pedicure the day before. Note: if you wait too late in the day you risk sheet marks, and if you wait until the morning your shoes may ruin your handiwork.

3.) Choose your clothes the night before, including bra, panties, socks, etc. Be sure every article you select fits properly. You definitely don't want to stress over skin indentions from items that are too tight. Note: trouser socks are especially dangerous and also increase your risk of sweaty feet. Note: avoid trouser socks at all cost on the day of your exam.

4.) Don't eat asparagus the day before your visit. You'd hate for your urine sample to smell funny.

5.) If you don’t wax, you’ll want to wake up early to allow extra time for a perfect shave. Everyone will be glad you did.

6.) Of course you'll wear deodorant, but don't overdue it. You don't want unnecessary white residue on your armpits when you have to lift them during the breast exam. And if you think you need extra deo on the day of your appointment you might want to rethink what you're wearing on a daily basis.

7.) I used to pack a washcloth in a baggie to be able to give everything a good once over before the actual exam. My current gyno's office provides those towelettes in the bathrooms and exam rooms. This saves me from having to think about it, but it also shows that some women need the reminder. If you're unsure whether your office supplies the wipes do yourself a favor and take your own.

8.) Decide your shoes carefully. I have a friend who wore some really cute, leather knee boots to her exam. This was the first time she’d worn them, and she wore them without tights. At first thought, this was a smart move (See #9), but when it came time for her to get undressed she realized the boots were stuck. God love her. She had no choice but to sit on the edge of the table with those boots dangling over the side. You can bet at lunch that day every person working in the office received hilarious commentary and pictured her in the stirrups with those knee boots.

9.) It really goes without saying, but if you'd even consider wearing hose or tights to your visit you need much more help than I can provide. If you don't have an option and must wear hose to work, make your appointment the first one of the day, pack your hose and put them on after the exam. Or better yet, take a sick day, and enjoy a great lunch and shopping after your appointment. You’ll most definitely earn it!

10.) When you’re in the exam room, and the nurse tells you to get undressed the doctor will be right in, you’ll want to rush like a speed demon to remove your clothes. You don’t want to have to say “Wait, please,” or (God forbid) have the doctor open the door without knocking while you’re standing there half-naked. But I beg of you to resist this urge and take time to ensure you’ve been left appropriate coverage, i.e., gown, large sheet, etc.

This is something I wish I’d known about a decade ago. I had an appointment with a new gyno and had to endure a dreadfully long wait before my name was called. The nurse was in an obvious rush trying to catch up and forgot to place the appropriate items on the examining table. I was later told there was supposed to be a small paper coverlet for my breasts and a larger one for overall coverage. I undressed in a flash, walked over to the table and unfolded what was the equivalent of a Bounty-sized paper towel. There was nothing else. I kid you not. If I hadn't have been completely out of birth control pills and desperately needing a refill on my prescription I would have run out of there and never looked back. If this happened to me today I would either get dressed again, open the door and ask what the deal was or wrap the covering on the actual table around me toga-style. Instead, I was young and less creative so I sat shamefully, legs-crossed on the table, and placed the Bounty over me diagonally, attempting to cover my nipples and the top of my pubic area. When the doctor walked in, my chest and neck were bright red and burning up, my heart was racing and I was shaking my crossed leg like I was high on cocaine. Of course the doctor realized the mistake, ordered the nurse to get me the large paper sheet and turned to face the door until she returned. Ultimately, I got my prescription along with plenty of free samples and never graced that practice with my face ever again.

I encourage you to remember my story and these tips for your next visit. I promise you’ll thank me for it in the long run. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Share a Family Bed or Not…That is the Question

Co-sleeping ranks high on my list of things I vowed I wouldn’t do. I never judged those who share a family bed; I just never imagined it working for my family. I always worried about my child getting crushed and about losing valuable intimate time with my husband. Then I gave birth to a child who’s never slept very well. Early into parenthood my husband and I would have done just about anything to get some rest. That included placing her in bed between us.

If she’d snoozed restfully with us we probably wouldn’t have the same dilemma two years later. I’d have eaten my words, and we’d all be blissfully well rested from the same bed today. But that didn’t happen. When she sleeps, she tosses and turns, kicks and mumbles. I’m not complaining, but she’s never mimicked the peacefully sleeping babies in the movies. Ever. I’ll admit when co-sleeping works it’s fantastic. When she can be quiet and still we’re all cozy, and her Bert’s Bees-shampooed hair scents the air. She’s so content and loveable it’s overwhelming. Unfortunately those times are rare.

Her pediatrician isn’t concerned about her lack of sleep. She’s very healthy, above average in height and weight for her age. I vividly remember standing in the brightly colored, alphabet-themed examining room when he patted my shoulder, smiled and explained, “Some children just don’t need much sleep.” It’s ironic. Her father and I really used to love sleeping in, at least what we remember of it.

She currently starts off in her bed after our routine of bedtime stories and songs, but most nights by about 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. she’s over it and ready to snuggle or play. We’ve never fully let her cry it out at night, so maybe that’s our biggest problem. We’ve made unsuccessful attempts with the Ferber Method; wanting her to know we’re always there for her (even at 3:00 a.m.) conflicts with teaching her how to soothe herself. To be fair she does sleep through the night between three to four nights a week, just not enough to get into a real rhythm. And there are no specific differences in her food, activity level/overstimulation, etc. for when she sleeps and when she doesn't. It's a mystery.

If we go with the family bed our queen just isn’t big enough. We’ve recently investigated buying a king-sized bed, but that seems ridiculous. Should we really spend the money to appease our toddler, hoping a king would provide enough room to avoid the late night karate kicks and early morning arm flings?

She’s also smarter than we are. When we’ve tried the Super Nanny/returning her to her bed, she knows exactly what to say to trigger our second-guessing. “I miss you,” or “in there,” (pointing to our room) or my all-time favorite, “I just wanna be with you.” The girl has skills. We either abandon our mission allowing her to join us or one of us begins the entire, exhausting nighttime process again.

My sister suggested a sleeping bag in our room for when she got lonely. She could come into our room to be near us, but we’d still have our space in our bed. The night we tried it out she wanted her daddy to lie down with her, and then she waited him out. As soon as he fell asleep I sensed her eyes on me. (That’s a crazy, almost eerie feeling, isn’t it?) She said, “Up there,” and climbed in.

Our sleeping (or lack there of) situation is a challenge. We aren’t weak and spineless like this in other areas. We stick with our parenting plan regardless of tears or tantrums, but we’re softies at night. We realize we’re not doing any of us any favors, and something has to give. We have to make a decision and stay the course: either buy a king and really give the family bed a whirl or suck it up and insist she sleep in her room since her toddler bed isn’t just in there to look pretty.

Is a magical solution out there?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My 10 Favorite Things About Being Ellie's Mommy

I am the mother of a two-year-old. It's happened so quickly, but I have to admit I’m relieved I can now say, “She’s two,” when I’m asked instead of having to keep track of the actual months. It’s amazing how my sweet daughter went from being a baby to a little girl. Just like that. I love that she’s company now; everywhere we go she has questions and makes interesting comments. I have a feeling my own nonstop, inquisitive behavior as a child might be coming back to haunt me sooner than later.

I’ve narrowed all of the crazy wonderful things about being Ellie’s momma down to 10. Here goes:

10. She's a chef in the making. 
Every single time I’m cooking, she wants to help. She pulls one of our dining room chairs over to the counter so she can help give a stir or add a pinch of salt and pepper. She’s been known to give me a little too much help on occasion, but it warms my soul that she’s so interested in something I’m passionate about. I’m thrilled to share a kitchen with her for years and years to come.

9. She’s a little kamikazi!
A couple of weeks ago we went to a nearby bounce house. After going up and down a huge slide with me a couple of times she insisted on going by herself. I prayed she wouldn't fall the whole time she was climbing. I was terrified, but she was fearless.

8. She's a little lady.
It’s so ironic that a tomboy like me can have such a girly girl who's so interested in jewelry, feather boas and makeup. She got her very first haircut recently, and I was worried about how she would deal. I shouldn’t have; she hopped right into the chair by herself and soaked up every ounce of pampering!

7. She's a dog person. Thank God!
She’s crazy about Shelby, our family dog. They’re best buddies.

6. She knows what she likes (and what she doesn't).
The girl has a voice and wants it heard, and she's tenacious enough to stand by her decisions. In the mornings she likes to have a choice about what she wears. Every. Single. Day. As long as I narrow it to two outfits she can decide. I'm trying hard to embrace this because I don't want her to second-guess her decisions like I have a tendency to do. Plus, this gives me ample opportunities to practice my yoga breathing.

5. She's an artist.
My daughter loves crayons, paint, markers, etc., but she’s not a big fan of coloring books. She likes plain paper so she can create her own images.

4. She thinks cleaning is fun.
Ellie has her very own broom and likes to use it. She also loves to help me empty the dishwasher and assist her dad with the vacuuming. I’m wondering how we can preserve her interest in this and not squelch any cleaning enthusiasm. I’m probably a little too anxious for when we'll really benefit and too naïve to acknowledge she’ll hate it once she’s old enough to really help.

3. She knows and loves her tunes.
I adore that she loves to sing and does so at the top of her lungs. What I don’t love is when she sometimes asks me to hush so she can sing louder. (We’re working on that.) She likes music of all types; she digs everything from The Beatles to Nickel Creek to The Black Eyed Peas and of course all tunes from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

2. She doesn't want to miss out. 
She’s not much of a sleeper, my sweet baby girl. But I don’t ever want to miss the party either, so how can I really fault her? That's what I remind myself each morning when the alarm blares and Bobbi Brown herself couldn’t cover my dark circles.

1. She's a girl who likes the simple things. 
I bought Ellie a new Cookie Monster toothbrush the other day, and she jumped up and down and pranced around like it was the greatest thing on Earth. And of all the wonderful Christmas gifts she received from friends, family and Santa, would you like to know her favorite? Bubbles.

Ellie exceeds all of my expectations every day and is the greatest gift I can ever imagine. And while she honestly drives me absolutely insane at times I wouldn’t want her to be any other way. I’m the luckiest momma in the world.

“I always wanted to invent something that would move around & make funny noises & would change the world as we know it & I forgot all about that until we had kids & now I see I came pretty close.” 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go (You Guessed It; I Didn’t Win Mega Millions Either)

Well, I didn’t win the $350+ million lottery last night. Major bummer. I had some big plans for that money, although I had to Google how you even play (how many numbers, the range, etc.) Don’t laugh; it was my first time playing, and I figured someone had to win. Right?

I wanted that easy money pretty badly; it would’ve been a quick fix for my anxiety of going back to work after the holidays. Remember when you were a kid spending the night away from home and felt homesick? It’s that pit of your stomach achiness, that uneasy, queasy feeling that makes you wish you could crawl into bed and bury yourself underneath the covers. That’s the best way I can describe my feelings on Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed having the last two weeks of December off. I enjoyed it too much if that’s even possible… so much that I dreaded the mere thought of heading back to reality.

My little family and I crammed as much fun as possible into those two weeks. We spent most of the first week at the beach. It was freezing, but we still had a blast. We traveled to Virginia to visit family for Christmas and then headed back to Tennessee for a small birthday celebration for our now two-year-old. The end of the second week was spent doing tons of laundry (only because we had nothing left to wear) and lots of playing. I can’t imagine having a better time or feeling any more elated, which leaves me wondering what if I was a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I’m not exactly sure why I persecute myself thinking about it because it’s not in the cards for me. On paper my husband and I could make it work, but like most people there are far too many variables for us to play that game of Russian Roulette. What would happen if my husband lost his job for some reason? How would we save for college? What about our retirement? I suppose I could become one of those extreme couponers to free up some money if we only wanted to eat the processed, couponed items. (I’ve tried to understand the hardcore couponing, but I still don’t really get it. I mean there’s only so much pasta, yogurt and cereal one family can eat.) Ultimately, it’s best for our family to remain a two-income household.

And if I’m really being honest, I know I’m a better mother because I work. I am a social person. And my job? Well, I’m very fortunate. I work for an organization that I’m incredibly passionate about. I earn a fair wage, have excellent vacation and have the flexibility to leave to pick up my child if I need to. For the most part, I genuinely like the people I work with, and that, my friends, is huge. (Of course, there’s always a handful of colleagues who... well, let’s just not talk about them.) So why do I think about what might have been if I chose to stay at home or if I’d become a teacher and had my summers free instead of changing majors in undergrad? No idea, but I do realize how lucky I am, and I’m going to work on counting my blessings more and spend less time wondering if that other grass is just a tad greener. Chances are, it’s not. But when the MegaMillions game reaches $350M again, you’ll find me standing in line with my few dollars. I’ll be dreaming of what an excellent volunteer and donor I’ll make when I win.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Let’s Get This New Year Started! Three Resolutions for 2011!

Maybe I’ve been watching a little too much Special Agent Oso, but I’ve narrowed my New Year’s resolutions to three special steps in order to have a successful 2011.

Resolution # 1 - Loose the guilt and rediscover a hobby or two, and maybe even go on a date with my husband

A few months ago a friend of mine made a lot of sense when trying to convince me that it’s okay to take time out for me, but I still struggle with it. I’m not entirely sure where the guilt comes from, but it’s there, and I’m not even Catholic. My friend asked if I wanted to raise a strong, independent, well-rounded daughter. And of course I do. Then she told me that I needed to lead by example, showing my daughter that it’s good to have interests of your own. It’s how you discover or remember who you really are and how you find out who you want to be.

While I completely agree with her, I’m tortured by the thought of leaving my daughter at school longer than I have to or hiring a babysitter to watch her, and if I’m being completely honest even leaving her with my husband for an extended period of time. I know, I know, it’s borderline crazy. I’m not sure why I have such strong feelings. She goes to an excellent school that she loves, and her teachers are fantastic. We don’t live near family for them to babysit, but we’ve had offers. I honestly appreciate them, but know I’ll most likely never accept. We recently scheduled a babysitter, a great young lady we know from Ellie’s school who’s great and perfectly capable. And Ellie knows and likes her, which is a big plus. But my husband’s unexpected sickness that day forced us to cancel, and I was secretly relieved. I do plan to reschedule with this young lady; I’m just not sure when. As for leaving her with my husband, I’m not sure where that comes from. He’s incredible, and we truly are a parenting dynamic duo. I think I’m afraid I’ll miss something, so I try to schedule any errand I’m running without her during naptime. I don’t know what it is, but I do know I must work on it. Admitting your challenges is the first step, right?

Resolution # 2 – Shed some pounds and become a healthier momma

I’m such the cliché. I have a two-year-old, and I’m still carrying around baby pounds and then some. UGH! I kept telling myself that the pounds would go. I’m not sure what fantasy I lived in because when you aren’t a member of a gym, hit snooze when you’d planned to exercise early and eat more than you should, the pounds are not going to mysteriously melt away. Unfortunately. No matter how much you will them to.

I’ve secretly had thoughts that maybe I was just destined to be a fatter version of my previous self. It’s about 30 pounds, give or take. (I haven’t been on the scale lately so I don’t know the exact number. I don’t need even more guilt.) What I do know is that there’s no magic miracle other than moving more and eating less. Sounds easy enough, but damn is it ever difficult.

In order to accomplish this goal, my husband and I gave each other an elliptical for Christmas. It’s currently still in the box, but there are plans to get that baby up and running. Soon. For real.

Resolution # 3 – Develop and nurture some friendships

Is it just me or was it much easier to have friends before you were married? When you’re in a relationship you have to deal with couple friends, and that’s a whole new ballgame. Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to find four people who genuinely like each other and want to spend time together. Add a child to the mix, and whoa, people tend to drop like flies. I know because I spent years doing the dropping before I had a child of my own. It’s not intentional; it just happens. There’s just less in common. I can remember how annoyed I’d get listening to new parents go on and on about their kid(s), and then I became the irritating parent. I don’t talk about my daughter incessantly on purpose; again, it just happens.

This year, my husband and I are going to make an effort to develop some friendships. We’re going to open ourselves up to find people with similar interests and then work to build those friendships. Maybe that means reconnecting with old friends, maybe it means looking for new ones, or both. Either way we’re going to give it a go for 2011.

Cheers to the New Year! Bring it on!