Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Violet didn't pick her costume out herself this year (I suspect this may be the last year that will be the case), but she did influence our choice. We wanted her to dress up as something she recognized, and she can definitely pick a cow out of a crowd. More importantly, it's the animal sound she knows best at this point. Her version of "Mooooooo?" "MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!"

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Fun

I'm a warm weather woman - I love sunshine on my shoulders and all the rest of it. I admit to lamenting the lapse of summertime every September, but I'm learning to love the rest of the seasons. This year, with Violet just over one year old, we're enjoying autumn traditions with a whole new perspective. Last weekend, her Utah grandparents joined us for some real fall recreation: a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Violet loved the tractor ride out to the field; on the way we passed a pasture full of turkeys, as well as the apple orchards Cabolo's Orchard offers in addition to the u-pick pumpkin patch we were headed to, where you can pluck your future jack-o-lantern right from the spot it where it grew. We snagged pumpkins for each of us, and picked up some squash and cantaloupe at their produce stand as well - all natural, as Cabolo's is a pesticide-free operation.

Sunday afternoon, we carved our pumpkin picks in the backyard. Violet, appointed judge of our friendly family competition, enthusiastically endorsed Eric's work; he also carved Violet's baby pumpkin. That's mine on the right. (Yes, I know its smile is slightly off-center. It was designed to be a quirky, endearing quality that would guarantee me the win. Apparently Violet prefers the conventional jack-o-lantern grin.)
All this and an adorable pumpkin hat, too? (Thanks, Mom!) I'm already looking forward to next fall.

Friday, October 24, 2008

We Can Do This In Our Sleep! Being Present All Through the Night

Nightime has confronted us with some of the most challenging parenting moments we’ve faced so far, but being present for our now 14 month old daughter at three in the morning is just as important as it is at any more reasonable hour. Though it isn’t always as easy, or as pleasant, as engaging her in a silly song, or reading Counting Kisses again, she doesn’t stop needing us when the sun goes down.

Our nighttime parenting has evolved in response to our daughter’s needs – and our fumbling attempts to meet them.The day she was born, she never left our arms until after midnight, when we laid her carefully in the plastic bassinet the hospital provided before turning in ourselves. As we gazed down at our brand new baby girl, she spit up a little, and we froze at the terrifying idea that she could choke while we slept. Without further ado, I scooped her up and climbed into the bed, where she slept in my arms, nursing on and off the rest of the night.

When we brought her home the next day, we carefully attached an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper to our bed, eager for her to sleep close to us. We were aware of the benefits of co-sleeping– including decreased risk of SIDS – and the Cosleeper made us feel more comfortable about sleeping next to a newborn. But the first time we lowered our sleeping infant onto its thin mattress she awoke immediately, howling in protest. We tried again, gently easing her from our bodies to this space where we had intended for her to sleep, but she made it clear she had other ideas.

And so the Cosleeper was relegated to serving as a makeshift nightstand until its eventual relocation to storage in the basement, and we began the process of trying to determine how to help our baby sleep. As a newborn, she slept best semi-upright on our chests, so for several weeks (or maybe it was months? it all runs together now) we took turns sleeping with her in the overstuffed recliner I’d grudgingly come to love during the last months of my pregnancy. When she was five weeks old, we discovered she was suffering from acid reflux, which explained her profound discomfort at lying flat on her back. But even after she outgrew the reflux at about four months, we still couldn’t seem to coax her to sleep for any significant length of time.

We made sure she wore comfortable pjs, was clean and dry, and had a belly full of breastmilk before bedtime each night. We tried putting her down in her crib and in her swing, with white noise and without, swaddled and unswaddled, on her back and on her side, with the nightlight on and off. And each time, about an hour after she succumbed to sleep, she’d wake, and we would go try again.

We also tried co-sleeping, hopeful that being close to us would provide her some comfort, but found that such proximity only stimulated her to fight sleep in order to nurse frantically all night - I awoke more than once to a find a puddle of my milk pooled under her head. So we’d try variations of other arrangements again, which would allow her to sleep more peacefully, if not for long.

We didn’t expect her to sleep through the night at six weeks, or even six months, understanding that nightwaking is normal. We were more than willing to attend to her in the wee hours, and I was happy to nurse her more than once overnight. But months of hourly (and occasionally more frequent) waking was wearing us down. Frustrated and exhausted, we stumbled through our days and nights, and desperately searched books on baby sleep for a solution. The mainstream consensus was clear: our baby should be sleeping through the night by now, and if she wasn’t, we should ‘help’ her by leaving her to cry it out.

We considered that advice, but as I wrote in this post, quickly concluded that cry-it-out wasn’t compatible with the attachment parenting approach in which we believed. At some point, we accepted that there probably wasn’t a silver bullet for our sleep struggles. The answer to the question of what to do for our daughter, a restless sleeper with high nocturnal needs, was simple, and one we’d known all along: when she cried, we would respond. Every time. Sometimes I nursed her as soon as she stirred, sometimes her Dada snuggled with her or patted her bum softly until she drifted back into slumber. We continued to bring her into our bed, and finally, one night when she was almost eleven months old, she finished nursing, rolled over, and went to sleep. It was the first night she’d actually slept next to me without nursing for a few hours, and she hasn’t been back in her crib since.

Co-sleeping feels right for us. Though she still stirs often throughout the night, just being beside us seems to lengthen each stretch of snooze - finally we can comfort her without waking ourselves! And when she does arouse, if she isn’t easily soothed back to sleep, she nestles next to me and nurses, and we doze off together again. Of course there are nights when we find ourselves exasperated at the fact that we haven’t enjoyed a night of unbroken sleep for over a year, but we are committed to giving her our presence even when it isn’t easy to do so. And when the sun comes up on her sweet face between my husband and me, I wouldn’t want any of us to be anywhere else.

Originally posted at API Speaks October 14, 2008.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

AP Carnival of Presence

If you're looking for bearded ladies, you're not likely to come across any at API Speaks' Carnival of Presence. What you will find is a collection of posts on the AP Parenting Month theme "Giving Our Children Presence" from a variety of bloggers, including yours truly. Even in the absence of funnel cake, it's worth a visit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sign Us Up: Sometimes a Full Schedule Can Mean More Time For Each Other

As working parents, the time we have to be physically present for our daughter is limited five days a week. Cosleeping affords us additional hours of closeness, but we’re unconscious for at least a few of those. Eric enjoys breakfast with her every morning, and I arrive at work later than I might otherwise like to most days because I’m having too much fun with her and her friends at daycare. But evenings offer us our best opportunity to spend quality time together. As October – Attachment Parenting Month – approached, I gave a lot of thought to the theme of “giving our children presence,” and wondered whether I was truly taking advantage of the hours I had with Violet after work . We did spend that time together, and I made sure some of it was spent giving her all of my attention, whether we read books, went for a walk, or played with the cat. But it was also easy to be distracted by housework, errands, and other chores, and as I reflected on the previous weeks, I realized I was spending almost as much time each night with an armload of laundry - Violet toddling behind me snagging the stray socks - as I was with my daughter in my arms . Time to refocus.

Eric and I had taken her to swimming lessons last spring, something we’d all loved. The program we’d previously attended no longer offered evening sessions, so I tracked down a new class at the local Y that was scheduled to start October 6. Perfect! Last Monday at 6:35, we were back in the water.

Violet took to it as quickly as she had the first time, all smiles even as the instructor cavorted between her and the other baby in attendance, splashing them in equal measure to get them accustomed to the aquatic environment. During our lessons six months ago, we worked primarily on teaching her to float on her back; this round has started out much more playfully, and we're having a blast with it. She's reaching for fun things floating around her, kicking her feet, riding around the pool on my chest, and holding on to the kickboard as I propel her through the water. On Monday, she even made her first trip down the slide!

We were having so much fun with swimming lessons, I figured why stop there? I'd been interested in checking out Mommy and Me yoga classes for a while, and now seemed like as good a time as any to give it a try. As luck would have it, the class I hoped to get into was starting this week. Scheduled for Tuesday nights, it fit neatly between our Monday and Wednesday trips to the pool, so I signed us up.

I can't say that I got much of a workout out of our first yoga class last night, but what I did get out of it was another hour of awesome interaction with my daughter. Some of the class was intended for mamas and babies together - we tried out several poses that incorporated our kids, and devoted time toward the end to baby massage. The rest of the yoga routine was more mama centered - though each of us sat back through parts of it to nurse our little ones. While we were participating, the kids were free to run around and check out each other as well as the toys we'd brought to satisfy their fleeting attention spans. Violet also enjoyed sitting beside me and imitating me: watching as I interlaced my fingers and stretched my arms upward, and then reaching her own arms high above her head. The conclusion of class called for us to lie on our mats, completely relaxed. Violet contributed by clambering on top of me to give me a kiss. I don't know about relaxation, but it sure felt good.

October has turned out to be a very busy month for us, but being busy isn't always a bad thing. In this instance, it's helped us to make sure we dedicate more of our time and ourselves to engaging our little girl, not just keeping her occupied. I don't know if we'll stick with such a packed schedule, but I hope that what we're doing now will serve as a valuable reminder even after classes are over to put everything else aside, at least some of the time, to focus entirely on spending time together. And when it's this much fun, why wouldn't we?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Share the Milk

I posted recently about Violet giving up the bottle, thereby relieving me of the responsibility of pumping milk for her to drink while we were apart . . . and just in time, since my supply had dipped sufficiently in recent months that I was only pumping about half of what she drank in a day. We’ve been (she’s been) eating away at my freezer stash all summer, but when she decided she was done with the bottle, and she wasn’t interested in imbibing my milk from a cup either, I was left with a little over 100 ounces of frozen breastmilk and no baby to drink it. Until I found MilkShare.

MilkShare is a resource created to connect breastfeeding mothers willing to donate excess breastmilk to babies whose families aren’t able to produce enough for them on their own. Of course it would be more convenient to pick up a can of formula at the corner store, but families seeking donated milk through MilkShare recognize the unrivaled benefits of breastmilk, and are willing to work tirelessly to provide it to their children.

Less than an hour after I posted my introduction and offer to donate milk on the MilkShare Group message board, I received an email from a mama from a neighboring state with a little boy just a couple months younger than Violet. We began corresponding, forging an instant connection over our kids and other common interests, and making arrangements for the transport (thank goodness she’d done this before!).

When I checked my email later that evening, I discovered eight more families had responded to my post. The devotion of these parents (and in one case, a grandparent) to seek breastmilk for their babies was both inspiring and heartwrenching for me. I couldn’t help but wonder things like, “am I sending my milk to the baby who needs it the most?” I wrestled with that for a while before coming to the conclusion that every baby deserves breastmilk, and it’s not for me to say that any baby needs it ‘more.’ I just wish I had more to give.

My ‘milk baby’ just celebrated his first birthday, which means the milk I will be sending will be well-suited for him, since it was pumped just after Violet turned one (the composition of breastmilk changes over time to adapt to a baby’s changing nutritional needs). Due to damage to her milk ducts caused by surgery years before her little guy came along, his mama wasn’t able to produce enough milk for him on her own, but for the last year, she and her husband have dedicated themselves to providing him with breastmilk by seeking out donors like me.

Here’s how it will work: my milk baby’s mama sent me a cooler full of ice packs, freezer bags to replace the ones I had used, some gourmet organic chocolate, and explicit instructions from her husband on how to pack the milk to ensure it stays frozen as it makes its way to their little guy. On Monday, I’ll assemble it all (minus the chocolate!) and call for a FedEx pickup, and my milk will be on its way to another baby’s belly.

This is all be done with Violet’s approval, of course. Before I agreed to donate, I sat down with her in my lap, and told her there was another baby who needed mama’s milk, and would she mind sharing with him? She just grinned at me and signed to nurse, and I assured her that the milk that came straight from the source would always be all hers. There may have been some tears shed, but they weren’t Violet’s. I’m a bit sappy these days, it seems.

Maybe a little more sappy when it comes to this subject specifically. I am amazed and inspired at the lengths people will go to to get breastmilk into babies. Milk donation is no small task on either end. Donors devote hours of effort to pumping, washing parts, and periodically sterilizing components. Recipients spend countless hours contacting donors and arranging for shipment (also no small expense). I understand their commitment because I share it: breastfeeding my daughter, and promoting and supporting breastfeeding in general, has become so important to me. I’m honored to have the opportunity to provide even a few days of such nourishment to one more baby. Bon Appetit, little buddy!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stuff We Like: Father Goose

Music is something that’s important to us, and we wanted to encourage Violet to enjoy it too at an early age. Part of our preparations for bringing home baby included setting up a tiny speaker set for what was to become her iPod, loaded with lullabies that we still play in her room around the clock.

Of course, she hears a lot of our tunes, but we’ve accumulated quite a collection of kids’ music as well . . . about 24 hours of it to date. In keeping with our musical tastes (preferences for world music, jazz, blues, reggae, folk, and classic rock – aversions to country, rap, hip-hop, and pop), Violet’s playlist ranges from African Lullaby to the Baby Loves Jazz Band, to our favorite kids’ CD: It’s a Bam Bam Diddly, by Father Goose.

Essentially reggae/ska aimed at the shorter set, It’s a Bam Bam Diddly is a blast. In addition to the Goose himself (aka Rankin Don), the album includes performances by favorite kid's music artist Dan Zanes – and even Sheryl Crow. The title track could get anybody on their feet, as could "Come Down the Line" and "Chi Chi Buddo." My other personal favorite songs: "Jig Jog Gee" and "By and By."

In the world of children’s music, we’ve found a lot that we like, but nothing like Father Goose!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Attachment Parenting Month 2008: "Giving Our Children Presence"

Attachment Parenting International (API) has designated October Attachment Parenting Month, and this year’s theme is “Giving Our Children Presence.” It’s such a great reminder for me; I know for me it’s easy to caught up in the everyday details, and while I’m with Violet . . . I’m not always with her. I’m looking forward to thinking about - and writing about - ways that we give our presence to our daughter and ways that can we can give her more. I’m also looking forward to reading and responding to other parents’ thoughts on the subject over on API Speaks this month. After Violet’s gone to bed, of course. ;)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008