Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Grandmothers We Go

Leaving my four-month old at Grandma's house for a whole weekend was a bit stressful. He wasn't sleeping well for us (really just getting up every three hours during the night, but still) and was having trouble taking a bottle like we wanted him to (chewing on it more than drinking anything). Grandma Ba insisted she was up for the challenge so I let her have both kids. Whereas I was more worried about him not eating, I should have been more concerned about him keeping them up all night. And I should have remembered his Woombie swaddler. He ate wonderfully (maybe thanks to the new Breastflow bottle.) but woke up every twenty minutes at night from the reports we got. I'd love to say that Rick and I were able to get two good nights of sleep to catch up and reset our systems but that wasn't really the case. I still had to get up to go to the bathroom and I pumped at six in the morning. Rick tossed and turned and was up at seven. I didn't sleep soundly and endured bad dreams and a fear that someone was in our house. Then I woke up to the phone ringing at nine saying all was well at Grandma's and everyone survived the night, albeit will less sleep than hoped.

The second night at Grandma's house was more successful. Iain slept for a five hour stretch at night and in the car for Rick's leg of the ride home since he met Grandma and Grandpa halfway to make the kid and car swap. And Ada was the perfect angel of course. I'm just happy that Grandma Ba and Grandpa Rich were willing to take both kids, slather them with love, and donate a few good nights rest to do so.

Moral of the story: Passing off your child into someone else's care isn't easy. Doing it at the last minute makes it even more stressful so try to start off easy and build. And consider bringing items the baby is used to like a swaddler, blanket, and Pack 'n Play.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I didn't mean to dress them up and take photos. It just happened. I'm pretty glad it did because we had a fun little photo shoot. These will be great for blackmailing them someday...
 It's also proof that Ada does kind of, sort of like him, maybe just a little bit...
Moral of the story: Take the opportunity to dress your kids up when they are young since they probably won't let you get by with it when they are older.

Don't Pump and Dump?

Saturday night, we went to a friend's wedding and I had about three drinks. I've always been taught that, as a nursing mother, I had to "Pump and dump" meaning that I could drink as much alcohol as I wanted to but then I'd have to go home and pump all of the milk from my breasts, and dump it down the drain. So that's what I did at one in the morning. Then, on Sunday morning, I decided to research the rules to see if I needed to "Pump and dump" again, just to be safe. To my complete surprise I learned that I didn't even have to dump the TEN OUNCES that I pumped last night! According to several articles I read by reputable sources on the Internet (here, here, and here), it isn't necessary to dump breastmilk unless it is within two to three hours of having an alcoholic beverage when you will be feeding your child or you are still feeling the effects of the alcohol. The alcohol doesn't stay in your milk but instead, gets worked out of your system just like it gets processed out of your blood. Once you sober up, the milk is sober too and no longer a threat to your baby. You only need to pump and dump if you are engorged and need to expel the milk for relief before you have sobered up and your body has had time to process the alcohol from the milk. If only someone would have told me that in the wee hours of the morning. Better to be safe than sorry, and better to be educated about it than not.

Now when my mom asks me what I learned at school today, I'll have a great answer. What? I'm not in school and she doesn't do that anymore? Maybe I had more to drink than I thought... Oh well.

Moral of the story: If you have a few alcoholic drinks, make sure you wait two or three hours, or sober up, before you pump or feed the baby to be sure there isn't any alcohol leftover in your milk. No need to dump.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Date Night Fail

Clearly, Rick and I had been out of the dating scene for way too long. We had been married eight years and hadn't had that many dates since Ada burst into our lives and tethered us to the house. Since we were so inexperienced and rusty, it didn't really surprise me when our impromptu date night went down the crapper.

The day started out in the crapper too, literally. As I was washing out Ada and Iain's cloth diapers, I went to flush the toilet and noticed that the water was turned off. Weird. I didn't get an email that we were having work done on our building. It was a convenient time for me to find out that I couldn't wash my hands since I was elbow deep in baby poop toilet water. It turned out the construction workers installing new fire hydrants down the street had broken a pipe and turned off our water without notice. Yippee!

After attempting to scrub my arms down with the contents of a tiny bottle of water, I checked my phone just to learn that all of my neighbors had to go to work without showering, and that the babysitter I had booked for the wedding we were to attend the next night was sick and needed to cancel. The day just kept getting better.

Luckily Grandma Ba and Grandpa Rich came to the rescue and offered to take my kids for the duration of the weekend. I just had to frantically pack the car and drive them out to Sycamore and drive back in time to miss the brunt of traffic.

Unfortunately, while the ride out to Sycamore was smooth and relatively traffic free, the ride home took two hours and I even detoured to avoid the one hour travel time from O'hare to downtown which increased to an hour and forty minutes by the time I actually got to the city. At least I didn't have the kids in the car to scream at me the whole way.

Once I got downtown, I ran to Target to kill time while Rick was finishing up some work. I didn't kill enough time because he needed to wrap up a few more lose ends before our big date night could begin. I decided to go home for a much needed power nap. Too bad that nap rendered me more tired than when I got into bed since I never fell asleep.

When Rick finally arrived home, I was in my napping clothes looking as far from "hot date" as you can get. He brought soup from Soup Box for dinner, which I didn't really even like, but awe, he was so romantic to bring me dinner. And he was all ready to catch a movie. Now I know why they say "catch a movie". You have to get there at the beginning and catch it when it starts or your date night fails. And that's exactly what happened.

Since I was moving so slowly from my crappy nap coma, we missed the first movie time in our neighborhood and tried to "catch" the eight ten show on the south side. By the time we got there, parked and got into line for tickets, it was eight twenty-five and we were done. There wasn't anything else worth seeing so we just came home disappointed and frustrated that we couldn't even figure out how to go on a date anymore. So sad.

Moral of the story: Keep a list of fun things that you can do on a moment's notice when you suddenly find yourself without kids. And I don't mean grocery shopping or laundry.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


When you see an opening, you take it and run.

It was bookclub Wednesday and it only came around once a month. Dinner was fresh out of the oven. Ada and Rick had just arrived from her day at preschool. Iain was down for bed and I grabbed a bite to eat with Ada on my lap matching me bite for bite, both being bites of my dinner. In my rush to finish preparing dinner and getting Iain down to sleep, I completely forgot to get ready for bookclub before we shut Iain into our cave of a bedroom with all of my clothes and accessories. We put him down in our bedroom and then transfer him once we no longer want access to the rest of the house, making it problematic to go back into our bedroom to retrieve things once he is asleep. Since I was running late and had had a crazy day, I decided to just embrace my lack of preparedness. I could have put makeup on, changed into a nicer top, put on earrings, combed my hair and found shoes that matched my outfit. Instead, I made dinner while watching an episode of Parenthood, ate and left. So what if I wasn't wearing a bra to bookclub and smelled like burnt breadcrumbs from dinner. My bookclub friends didn't ban me from attending. We didn't have a "no matching shoes, no bra, no bookclub" policy (at that point anyway). It didn't matter. That was why, when I saw the opportunity to duck out of the house, poorly dressed as I was, I took it. Brown tennis shoes, white socks, jeans, no bra, grey shirt, army green jacket, and a swipe of mascara was the best I could do. I don't know if anyone even noticed since I was not considered a fashionista of the group by far.

Moral of the story: It is better to be out of the house looking less than perfect than stuck inside missing out on your life. There is always more you can do and sometimes, it is better to just let it wait until you get back or let someone else deal with it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So Bleeping Lost

Yesterday I lost it. I was lost and I lost my temper at the same time which just wasn't the best combination. In an attempt to run errands and get groceries, I got turned around and the world seemed to be against me. My first and second errands went well, but coming out of the second errand, I didn't turn when I should have and was diverted three blocks by one-way streets. Then when I got to where I thought Costco was, I realized it wasn't there. That would have been okay if this wasn't a chronic problem of mine. For some reason, I can't for the life of me find Costco unless I look it up on a map right before I leave. I'm pretty sure I've called Rick about five times from where I think Costco should be, cursing into the phone as he tries to talk me down from my ledge and direct me to where the real Costco is located. To make matters worse, it was a Saturday afternoon in the City which is a notoriously bad time to be driving around. Even worse than that, the place where I think Costco is, just so happens to be the worst set of intersections on the north side of the City, in my opinion. (Ashland, Fullerton, and Clybourn for you locals). It is a six-way intersection near the river, and all three are pretty major thoroughfares that are incredibly busy on weekends. After I turned the wrong way, went over the river, came back over the river, sat through three lights to turn left, sat through another light to turn left again, and went back over to the wrong side of the river, I finally called Rick and said, "Don't laugh. I know I do this every time but I'm so mad right now I could cry. Where is Costco?" (Note that I have edited out all of the curse words. You can use your imagination to add back about twenty uses of the f-word for fun.)

In his most calm, I-really-don't-understand-why-you-can't-figure-this-out voice he replied, "Damen, Division, and Clybourn."

To which I replied, "Oh, I'm at Damen so I'm close."

"Yeah, go right and then right again at Clybourn."

"What? I have to turn right? (Insert another long rant of expletives here.) I'm in the left-hand turn lane." At this point I was again stuck turning left at another six-way intersection. I sat through two lights before I got my turn. Rick mentioned that Iain was just waking up and I gave up my search for Costco and headed home. But not before I missed a turn that could have avoided me trying to and quickly giving up on, turning left at a wonky intersection at Ashland and Elston (another angled street). I ended up turning left on a dead end street near some warehouses, turned around and then headed north again on Ashland. A few blocks later I decided to make a quick stop at Jewel for groceries since it was on the way and I wasn't about to wage war with traffic and my poor sense of direction again just for some groceries.

To add insult to injury, my situation didn't improve once I got into the store. While perusing the aisles of Jewel, I asked a stock boy where I could find the frozen berries. "Aisle ten past the (garbled word)." I went down the aisle twice and finally asked another stock boy where they were and he said, "Under the sign that says, 'Toppings'". A whole aisle of food and one freezer door worth of frozen fruit. Not to mention that it was the ice cream aisle and I was in more of a mood to buy a case of Ben & Jerry's than frozen berries.

Moral of the story: Don't ask me for directions on how to get to Costco. Avoid the six-way intersections in Chicago on the weekends. And make sure to have curse-filled meltdowns when your children aren't in the car to witness them.

Iain Got a Nanny

We finally broke down and put up an advertisement for a part-time babysitter or nanny for Iain. For the first three months he was easy to manage since he napped so much, but trying to get work done this past month has not been easy. We only got one response, but we liked her. Her daughter, who is about my age, came with her to translate since English is her second language and Spanish is her first. She has four grown children and was a nanny for four other kids, practically raising two of them so she is clearly qualified. I think she's the Mexican version of Grandma Ba in that she loves babies and has that motherly glow about her. You can just see it. I think some of that is cultural too. Ada was instantly in love with her and her daughter.

Neither Rick nor I speak Spanish but I've always wanted to learn and have picked up enough along the way to at least communicate on a very basic level. The fact that we had foreign exchange students growing up and that I've spent time in two Spanish-speaking countries makes me more confident. That, and my pocket Spanish dictionary, and my seven years studying French which is structurally similar as I understand it. And I have her daughter and son's cell phone numbers and email in case we need to communicate anything difficult or critical. That still doesn't make it any less stressful to have someone new come in and watch your child. Rick hasn't even had him alone for an entire day yet. I plan to start out slowly and work from home the first day, and then go into the office for part of the second day. Rick hasn't had much luck giving Iain a bottle so who knows what we'll get.

I just know I'm relieved to have a plan and I don't feel so overwhelmed by doing it all myself. I just hope Iain goes along with the plan.

Moral of the story: Parenthood involves constant change. Try your best to adjust easily and know that it is okay to be emotional, but try to keep it in check.

Ada the Explorer

Ada is addicted to Dora the Explorer. What started out as an attempt to get her to talk a bit more and learn some new words, has turned into a nightly demand for more Dora. While I find it to be extremely annoying and hate getting the catchy songs stuck in my head, she thinks it is the best thing on Earth. Either way, she is learning new words and it entertains her while we have to put Iain to bed so Dora has been a big help.

And speaking of explorers, there is a new place in Chicago that just opened up called Explore and Much More where Ada's friend Clara just had her birthday party. It is a two-story space with an indoor playground, climbing wall, party room, inflatable bouncy room, and this air tubing thing that you put colored fabric and yarn balls into and it spits them out the other end for hours of entertainment.

Here is Ada pushing a ball into the machine. A blast of air escapes when she puts the ball in, and the ball is quickly sucked through the twisted tubing and shot back out into the room.
The whole place feels like a miniature version of something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, minus the annoying kids and safety threats. The kids were entertained for two hours and could easily have stayed much longer.

Moral of the story: Kids love to explore and learn new things. Exposing them to a variety of places and things, and maybe a little bit of television, can burn their energy and expand their minds.

Don't Bite My Butt

A few days ago, Ada showed signs of teething. She has twenty teeth, which is a full set, but her back molars must have been bugging her. She was running around chewing on everything in sight. The edge of our square ceramic dinner bowls and the dishwasher racks offered some relief, to my surprise. She was like a new puppy without a chew toy and I was a broken record stuck on the same phrase all morning, "Not in your mouth, Ada." I finally realized that she needed something designed to relieve her teething urge to chew things when I was doing dishes at the sink and turned around to find her teeth clenched around the metal button on the back pocket of my jeans. It was a scene straight out of Madagascar where Alex the lion bites into Marty the zebra's backside after missing a few meals and Marty turns around while Alex's mouth is still on his butt and says, "Alex, you're biting my butt." I was a bit more annoyed when I said, "Ada, stop biting my button."

Luckily, our friend Rosalyn had just given us a pacifier holder for Iain that she made and I had recently scored a free teething pacifier with a flat plastic piece on it instead of a nipple. I put the two pieces together, attached it to Ada's pajamas and her "bite everything in sight" phase quickly passed.

Moral of the story: Once your child has teeth, store the teething toys instead of passing them on. There might be a time for them to resurface.

Rock around the Clock

There was a song I listened to as a kid with my dad by Bill Haley & His Comets back in 1955:

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock rock
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock rock
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight

It had a fun beat and played on the oldies station when we were in the car. Unfortunately, the last few weeks have made this song more of a description of my parenting duties than a fun song. I blame Ada for bringing home yet another cold and giving it to Iain. With the cold, Iain decided he didn't want to sleep for six, seven or eight hours at a time anymore but instead, he got me out of bed every two or three hours. After two weeks of that pattern, Rick and I had both had enough and pulled out the baby sleep training book. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the one someone gave us by Marc Weissbluth. I wrote previously about how I hated the book because it went into detail about the importance of sleep and naps and so many other things I just didn't care about when I was a sleep-deprived zombie trying to get my child to shut up and sleep. Knowing how frustrated I was last time, I decided to skim the book and only read sections that jumped out at me as being relevant. Thankfully, Rick started doing the same. It was not pretty.

I can't remember how long it has been, but I'm guessing we haven't had much sleep for the past three or four weeks now. Last week was much better since we figured out, from reading the book, that Iain should be ready for a nap within two hours of waking up and that he should have three naps a day at this point, but not necessarily on a schedule quite yet. I started paying more attention to when he woke up and staying in instead of having him nap in the stroller at the park while Ada played. Rick started getting up with him at night and rocking him back to sleep, wrestling for an hour sometimes, without me appearing for a feeding until eight hours had passed since he went to sleep. It wasn't easy, but it worked so far. Last night, instead of putting him down at six and getting up at nine, midnight, three, and six again, he went down around seven, I fed him at two thirty, and he woke up at six thirty. We are off to a good start.

I'm no expert, and I refrained from going apeshit on Iain's pediatrician when she suggested some kids "Just don't sleep as much. All kids are different." (My kids will sleep. End of discussion.), but I think the key to a well-rested family is catching sleep issues early and training your child to sleep well. I'm not sure if we did something right with Ada or if she just likes to sleep, but she is the best little sleeper I've ever heard of. She goes to bed just before eight and gets up between six and nine in the morning. Some days she gets fourteen hours of sleep and she still naps between one and three hours a day, unless she's at daycare and then her nap is less than an hour. Training her wasn't easy and came with long, sleepless nights and tears, mainly hers, but it worked.

Moral of the story: Educate yourself on the various sleep theories out there and see what works for your family. It isn't easy, but if you are persistent, lucky and successful, the payoff can be rewarding --assuming you like a good nights' rest.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Pee Pee in the Potty

Finally! Ada had an actual pee pee in the potty! First, she peed in the bathtub. Then, I found a wet spot on the bathroom rug where she was drying off. And finally, when I asked her if she wanted to go pee pee in the potty she said yes. So, with Iain on my lap and Ada on her little potty, we heard our first real tinkle noises as she filled the potty. I quickly gave her a high-five, started squealing with joy and beaming with pride, all while I clapped loudly to make a big deal of her success.

Iain, hater of loud noises, quickly broke up the celebration with his fearful screams of terror. He was not a fan of the potty celebration at all.

For the first half-an-hour I was excited to start potty training and got Ada's big girl pants out. She ran around naked for about an hour before she had an accident on the bedroom floor while Iain fought taking a nap. At that point, I counted to ten in my head and gave up. I couldn't do the whole potty training thing and infant fighting naps thing alone.

Unfortunately, Ada hasn't used the potty again since then...and it has been two weeks. Maybe this weekend...or next...

Moral of the story: Potty training is a waiting game. You have to wait until both of you are ready.

The Compact Trumped by Convenience

Ten months into The Compact I finally broke down. I bought the latest book for my book club since I only had a week left to read it and it wasn't at the local used book store. I was overwhelmed with things to do, and tried to keep the spirit of The Compact alive, but convenience won out. I just didn't have time to shop around online for a used version of the book. I did put two copies of it on request at the library, but the wait list was such that I wouldn't have had it before book club. Even if I did find a used version online to buy, I would have had to consider all of the resources that went into shipping it to me when I had a Borders book store three blocks from my house.

Even worse, I didn't even use a coupon.

Moral of the story: As a parent, time quickly becomes your most valuable resource.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Couch Vs. Bed

Amanda: Iain, your nap wasn't very long. We should go take a nap together since you got me up too much last night, and way too early this morning. Where should we take a nap? Mommy and Daddy's big bed, or the couch?

Iain: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. (He fell asleep while nursing.)

Amanda: Well, you threw up on the bed this morning and I haven't had a chance to change the sheets. Plus, your sister left crumbs on the bed from her muffin, and the clothes we were wearing when you threw up on me are in the laundry machine in the closet so, it's kind of loud in my room right now. Probably not the best option.

Iain: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Amanda: But the couch isn't much better since the cover is still off the main cushion from when your sister's diaper leaked last night and your dad had to wash it. And all of the blankets are on your Pack 'n Play to insulate you from the cold weather. And there are three extra pillows on the couch that your dad was using in place of the chaise cushion. We'd have to move those and grab a few blankets.

Iain: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Amanda: The couch it is. Let me just set you down while I move a few things and get comfortable.

Iain: Ah. Ahhhhhhhh. Ahhh-ha. (Translation: I'm up and my diaper is dirty Mom!)

Amanda: Well then, let's change your diaper and get you into an outfit that fits a little better. You've already outgrown this one.

Iain: Ah. Ahhhh. Ah. Ahhhh. (Translation: I'm up. Let's play Mommy!)

Amanda: Seriously? I thought you were still tired? Apparently I thought wrong.

Moral of the story: No matter how many times you beg your baby for a longer nap or a few more hours of sleep at night, they won't understand you. Accept the things you cannot change, and ask someone to watch the baby so you can get some sleep.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two to the Tenth Power

I finally accepted the fact that I'm going to have to hire more help to handle having two kids. With Ada, we passed her off to a friend here or there and it wasn't that big of a deal. Most people could handle one kid. Even if they had a child of their own, they could still handle two kids fairly easily. Now with Ada and Iain, it doesn't work that way. I can't easily ask my friends with two kids to watch my two kids. It just isn't that easy when one of them is an infant. Once their kids and my kids are all a little older, then it will just be a wild toddler playdate. Until then, it is a struggle to decide which screaming child you tend to first if you are watching two infants. Yours? Or theirs? If you settle your own child first, then you might be seen as favoring him and neglecting the other child. If you pick their child first, you then neglect your own and it might take longer to troubleshoot their child's needs when you likely already know what your child wants and how to deal with him more quickly so you can then completely focus on their child. Either way, someone gets neglected, even if just for a little while. Unless you are a super-duper baby whisperer, which I am not.

Since having Iain, I keep hearing, and repeating, "I expected the second child to be twice as hard, but having two is exponentially more difficult." We have accepted that as truth and understand that we have very little alone time these days. Right now, for instance, both kids are napping, I'm writing and my husband is supposed to be studying for his Architecture exams. I can only hope that he'll get to study for half-an-hour before Ada wakes up, and then Iain will follow her shortly after that. Either way, I'm thankful that our children occasionally nap at the same time to give us much needed breaks.

Moral of the story: Having a second child is like going from juggling two eggs in the air to juggling three. It changes everything; timing, concentration, planning, strategy, and technique. Just try not to let any of them hit the floor and hope that you don't have to eat or go to the bathroom.

Why Our House is a Mess

Rick: "My plate with the pear core on it is still over here on the desk."

Amanda: "What? Why?"

Rick: "Iain and I are moving to the living room. One hand for the baby, and one hand for my beer. That's all I've got," he says while grinning ear to ear and holding his beer high.

Amanda: "Nice. You're such a #%$*head," I mutter as I dump the core into the garbage and put the plate by the dishwasher.

Note: Swearing is excusable when Ada is asleep, as she was during this exchange.

Moral of the story: Husbands can often be counted as a third child. They are helpful when they want to be, but often leave more messes to be cleaned up.