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!