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!