Tag Archives: parenting

When I Get Bigger + Bigger

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Nora starts a lot of her sentences now with, “When I get bigger and bigger”. She says things like:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna put on my own shoes…and my coat and my mittens…and Ima gonna take my umbrella…and go outside and STOMP all the puddles. By MY-SELF.

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna walk all the way to the MU-seum.

When I get bigger and bigger…Ima gonna eat my LUNCH at work.

But last night, in the bath, she said:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna pick out my pajamas… And my DIAPER…and Ima gonna turn on the bath water and… Ima gonna get in the bathtub…by MY-SELF.

And I said to her, “But Nora, you did most of those things tonight. You got out your pajamas by yourself, you turned on the bath and I helped you into the water. When you were smaller, I had to do all of those things for you and now you’re getting bigger and bigger and you helped me.”

She just said “Yeah,” and went back to smearing bubbles all over her face.

I have found that when I am in the middle of parenting my toddler, I have forgotten how far we’ve come. At almost 2-1/2, Nora can’t do a lot, but she can do more and more each day. Each day, she is sliding down the stairs a bit faster, climbing on furniture with a bit more facility, and voicing her opinions more clearly and adamantly. And each day gets a little easier in some ways and a bit harder in others.

Like her, I want to train my eyes on those days when she gets bigger and bigger. But right now, living with my funny, helpful, smart and adventurous almost 2-1/2 year old girl is really good too.

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I’m Wearing Halloween!

halloween collage

Google Image Search for “toddler girls Halloween costumes” (left) and “toddler boys Halloween costumes” (right). Collage created  in PicMonkey.

This past weekend, we visited a nearby Goodwill to find Nora’s Halloween costume. As an October baby, she’s already had three Halloweens, but this will be the first in which she’ll sort of understand what’s going on. Her first year, we didn’t dress up at all, naturally. We went to one Halloween party dressed as new parents and she was part of our costume. Last  year, she wore a bee costume that her grandma found at a garage sale. The longer she wore it, the more Aaron and I were convinced it was supposed to be a bee costume for dogs. This year, we were ready to pick out her perfect costume.

At the Goodwill, and I’m assuming at most places that carry Halloween costumes, the costumes were divided into girls’ racks and boys’ racks. I dove into the girls’ side and Aaron and Nora started on the boys’ side. The girls’ costumes were homogenous, to put it kindly. Princess. Princess. Princess. Princess. Cheerleader. Pink Pirate. Purple doctor. Princess. Princess. Ladybug. Princess. There was variation on the princesses, of course. There were pink princess dresses white princess dresses, purple princess dresses. Some princess dresses had more tulle and others had more sparkly braiding.  I quickly grew frustrated and began hoping that somehow, I could find an appropriate costume before Halloween.

Aaron and I switched sides. On the boys’ side, there was a little more variation. Superhero. Superhero. Police Officer. Fire Fighter. UPS driver. Doctor. Zombie. Superhero. Pirate. Pirate. Superhero. Lion. Tiger. Winnie the Pooh. At least on the boys’ side, boys could imagine themselves as people with professions or as wild animals. I can understand that the preponderance of superhero costumes, with their weird foam muscles, is frustrating. But there was simply more diversity.

Luckily, Aaron found the perfect green frog costume on the boys side. Nora tried it on in the Goodwill and immediately shouted, “I love it!” Then, she ran up and down the aisles in the store, saying to anyone she passed, “I’m wearing Halloween.” I was so happy to see her embody one of the joys of my favorite holiday, even though she probably doesn’t know what it means to be wearing Halloween just yet.

We did a pretty good job this year. She loves frogs and she gets to be a frog. She doesn’t know that we picked her costume off the “boys” side and we probably have several years (I hope) before she cares which side the costume comes from. But, once she notices, we’re going to have to get more creative about imagining our costumes before we visit the store or creating our costumes from scratch. Or I’ll just have to take a (very) deep breath and help her pick out a princess costume, hoping that she sees that it’s one vision of her self among many.

Being Both Branch and Root

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My husband took this picture on our evening walk, on Saturday night. We were playing in the public art garden on campus, on a raised platform stage. Nora was running in circles and banging her feet on the boards. I decided to lift her up, so she could touch the leaves on the low hanging branches. This was five minutes before the evening meltdown.

Earlier in our walk, I made the mistake of telling Aaron that we were doing a pretty good job with her, as parents. Of course, as we transitioned away from the platform and back towards the stroller, she kicked and screamed, hollered her new favorite phrase, over and over. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.

I offered to hold her hand as we walked. She refused. I offered to sing her songs. I don’t. Eventually, I narrated all of the familiar things I noticed on our way home: the color of the green hydrangea, the gnomes on the president’s lawn, the garden trellis by the library. Nora calmed down, mostly, as I asked her questions about what we saw.

As we walked, I held on to the not-so-distant memory of lifting her body up to the branches and watching her touch the leaves. I remember the feeling of being rooted in place as she wiggled to get just a few inches higher. When her cries quieted and moved to questions, I reminded myself that I need to provide her both structure and freedom, not always in equal measure.

On this night, she got both.

Breastfeeding, At 22 Months

This post is a part of Mothering’s Blog About Breastfeeding event, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7th. See all of the posts, and join with your own, here!

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If I could talk to the old me, the mother of a nursing newborn me, about the path my breastfeeding would take over my daughter’s life, I would want to tell her, most of all: Don’t worry. During the first eight to ten months of breastfeeding, I was consumed with worry. My mind raced:

Is she getting enough?
Will my pump break down again?
Will she start (or ever stop) biting?
Can my supply keep up?
How will I know when it’s time to wean?
Will she ever wean?
How can I keep this up, for two years?

This panic about milk supply and pumping and biting and being enough made it so hard to fully enjoy the experience. I loved it, but it wasn’t easy.

Now, I am on the final months of my life as a breastfeeding mother, and it’s become easy. I know that sometime soon after her second birthday, my daughter will likely be fully weaned, a slow process we started from the moment she had her first solids. I am looking for ways to say goodbye to this phase of my life as a mother.

When I imagined “extended” breastfeeding as a mother of an infant, I couldn’t imagine enduring the toil of constant feedings, of constantly being touched. I never envisioned how easy it would be to nurse a toddler, how gradually we shifted from three to four feedings to one to two feedings. I never realized how much of a comfort it would be for me, as a working mother, to reconnect with my daughter at the end of the night, to hold her ever-growing body across my lap, to listen to her sigh and drift close to sleep, to be her source of comfort and nourishment.

I wouldn’t trade this sweet and finite time for any other time in our nursing relationship. I know it was built on the relentless work of breastfeeding on demand for the first year or so of her life. We wouldn’t have gotten to this easy point of drifting away, if I hadn’t worked so hard at putting our breastfeeding relationship as our highest priority during that first year. It influenced everything in our family’s life, from my work schedule to my husband’s care of our daughter during the day, to how we chose to spend our free time. My worry, even as hard as it was, served a purpose. Now, breastfeeding is almost an afterthought, an “oh yeah, did I nurse her last night?” as we discuss our evening.

I am so grateful for the work of motherhood in these 22 months, the mental and emotional work my whole family contributed, to develop and sustain our breastfeeding relationship. At this time next year, when I celebrate World Breastfeeding Week as a former breastfeeding mother, I hope I’ll remember the quiet, peaceful nights of breastfeeding, much more than the panic and worry. Most of all, I hope I’ll hold in my heart a small portion of the stillness that my daughter and I shared, for all those months together.

Living in Summer

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(All photos in the post are from my Instagram feed, altered in PicMonkey.)

I’m counting this summer as our first true summer as a family. Last summer at this time, Nora was a not-yet mobile 9 month old and we were embarking on a truly scary change in our lives: moving from Minneapolis to our small town in Wisconsin. It was a summer of hard choices, moving boxes, saying difficult goodbyes, and too many long drives. We were exhausted.

Even if we hadn’t moved states, we spent too much time worrying about sunburns and dehydration and sugar consumption, not worrying enough about having fun. We were (still) new parents and we were terrified.

This summer has been a gift. During the past two months, I’ve worked part-time, which means I’ve spent more days with Nora and Aaron enjoying summer. Since we live in a small town with limited entertainment, we’ve centered our summer experience on simple things: picking rocks in our yards, walking around the block after dinner, and exploring our local parks. It might just be where she is developmentally and it might just be our small summer activities, but Nora has bloomed this summer, into a wild, brave outdoor girl.

summer 1 txtShe collects rocks and sticks, tries to sneak them inside the house. She picks at dandelions. She can name three types of birds on sight (robin, sparrow, and cardinal).  She calls out to the bunnies she sees on our walks. She tromps confidently from our driveway to our neighbor’s house two doors down, to visit his dog.

summer 2 txtShe’s become a water baby. She can play forever in the kiddie pool, scooping water into cups and jars. Circling the four-foot pool, practicing saying “Excuse me” when she needs to pass by our feet. We play in the sprinklers, running back and forth while holding hands. She’s getting used to being sprinkled and enjoying it, rather than shying away.

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She’s learned about the joys of so many summer foods: baby ice cream cones from the two ice cream shops nearby, grilled sweet corn, watermelon. If I peel it and chop it, Nora can finish a whole plum in ten minutes flat. She has a permanent stain on most of her clothes, from the juice of one fruit or another dribbling down her chin.

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She’s become brave. She rides both the baby swings and the big kid swings. She’s just learned how to conquer the slides. At the park closest to our house, she slides down the largest slide with a slight look of fear. But as soon as she gets to the bottom, she yells, “Again!” The bump on her forehead, by the way, has been healing for weeks, after a nasty trip on our driveway.

This is the way that summer is supposed to be when you’re a family with a toddler – full of bumps and adventures, lazy afternoons and evenings outside. We’re learning to relax and savor every bug bite and ice cream cone, every small moment that drifts by.

 

Things I Have Lost / Things I Have Gained

Lost & Gained

(Photos from my Instagram)

I was thinking this morning, in the half-formed thoughts I can manage while playing with my daughter, about all the things I have lost and gained in the past 21 months of motherhood. My mind seesawed all day.

I have lost poetry, the words that once hummed behind my ears. I’ve gained moments of mindfulness and stillness, as I’ve nursed and played and comforted. I’ve lost song lyrics, whole albums, that I once knew by heart. I’ve gained (sometimes regained) the simple songs and made-up silly songs she loves.  I’ve lost reading complex books. I’ve gained picture books from authors I never knew and the comfort of repeating the same words, over and over.

I have lost sleep, hours and hours of sleep, that I’ll never regain. I’ve gained quiet moments at midnight and two a.m., when she reaches towards me in her sleep. I’ve lost free time, save for one hour in the morning and one hour at night. I’ve gained a little girl who wants to spend every living breathing moment with me. I’ve gained the wholeness of our family. I’ve lost that part of my brain that holds short term memory. I have lost (and found) keys, my cell phone, the cat’s medicine, the grocery list. I’ve gained a happy mess of a life, where my every day objects are now nothing more than potential toys, potential tools for learning.

I have lost that last vestige of modesty. I have gained an appreciation for this lumpy body that creates and sustains life. I’m sure I’ve lost youth, more than my share in a year and a half. I’ve gained handfuls of gray hairs, a soft belly, new bags under my eyes. I’ve gained a daughter who wants, more than anything to be like Mommy and to have Mommy be just like her. I’ve lost my old definition of beauty. I’m still gaining a new one.

I wish I had lost the need to tally, to measure where I stand in comparison to all of my past lives. Every choice I’ve made has come with losses and gains, with sacrifices and unexpected miracles. But this most recent and dramatic change has left me raw and new, even these 21 months later. I don’t know when I’ll stop counting.

Links I Love, Volume 6

On time this week! W00t!

Progressive Parenting

One of my best friends sent me this TED talk by Colin Stokes describing the importance of sharing female-driven media with both sons and daughters.

On Huffington Post, Lyz Lens shared what her experience of not buying clothes for a year will teach her daughter about fashion. As a fellow conflicted clothes shopper, I totally agree.

A woman on Offbeat Families shares a story about explaining her Medusa pendant to her niece. While this is about an aunt-niece relationship, I’m calling it parenting…extended family parenting.

Birth & Breastfeeding

From Birth Without Fear, an old school story about an adoptive birth and supplemental breastfeeding. This mother’s determination astounds me.

From a doula and first time mama, a very honest account about establishing breastfeeding. Even if you have lots of professional expertise, this $#%& is hard.

Parenting When It’s Hard

Nell over at Whole Parenting Family, a pretty awesome Minnesota blog has a great post this week about cultivating gratitude, especially when you’re overwhelmed. Parenting a little is like living in constant overwhelm, so this is a great reminder.

Self-Love

Self-love is different than self-care, I think. Self-love is knowing deep in your bones your intrinsic value and beauty as a person, regardless of what is going on around you. Over at her blog, Vivienne McMaster is sharing 14 days of self-love leading up to Valentine’s Day. I saved them and read a big chunk today, which I really needed. Here are the one’s I love, so far:

* Liz Lameroux on rest
* Lori Portka’s 5 strategies for self-love, including peeing when you first have to pee.
* Amanda Oaks on movement (beware this one made me bawl!)

That’s all for this week!

What links did you love this week?

Links I Love, Volume 4

Each week, I will post links about the things that I’m thinking about, reading, watching, or doing, and of course, they’ll be content that I love. In this practice, I’m hoping to curate my own storehouse of media that showcases my interests. You can find all of the Links I Love posts here.

Poetry

Of course, I loved Richard Blanco’s beautiful inaugural poem. The lines about the work of our hands especially moved me when I heard it.

Winter

I am a Midwest transplant, but I’ve lived here for the majority of my life. I accept winter as part of the package, but I never revel in it. I endure it. Minnesota Public Radio shared these breathtaking winter photos, to answer the question, “Why Minnesota?”

Parenting

A Missouri doula at the awesome blog Talk Birth shares her own perspective on the answer to every new mom’s question’ “Why didn’t anyone tell me it was this hard?” This post had me weeping, honestly.

Sticking with the honesty theme, the author of Dear Baby shares her own successes and failures as a mother if two toddlers. While I only have one, which is plenty, I really resonated with her words.

This week at Offbeat Families, they are sharing stories of alternative families, from adoption to Child Free. This story of two dads/partners parenting their foster child is simply touching.

Creative Practice

One of my favorite bloggers, Liz Lameroux, wrote beautifully about seeking truth through self-portraiture. I find that I’m really captivated by this movement towards self-portraiture as a healing practice.

I’m winding down from this month’s Mindful Writing Challenge. I really enjoyed this post from Writing Our Way Home, the hosted of the small stone challenge, about losing the little me through mindful awareness.

What links did you love this week?”

What I Want to Remember Today

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Nora inherited a scuffed green table and two chairs (one red, one powder blue) from one of my colleagues. She loves to sit on the chairs, dangle her feet, and slide off.

She learned, just today, to say, “awesome”, with perfect diction.

She loves to do the dishes with me. Today, while I was scrubbing, she repeatedly dunked a two-inch Homer Simpson plastic figurine in the water. Each time, she’d say, “Where go? Where go?” then rescue him from the depths.

After dishes, we are both soaked to our elbows. Almost every time.

She has so much joy contained in her little 30 inch frame. She’s taken to running around the house shouting, “yaaaaaayyyyy!” when she is really excited.

She also has so much frustration. Whenever she gets thwarted – an object taken away, attention redirected – rage makes her shake and she starts to cry or stomp or fling or bite or kick.

Everything passes quickly. Her little rages die quickly, either through hugs or re-redirecting attention to something new. I averted a full-on tantrum tonight just by sitting on the floor and reading one of her favorite books. She sat down with me, calmly, to read.

She loves laps. She says “lap, lap,” backs up and tries to sit on our laps when we’re on the floor with her. Sometimes she misses by a few inches.

I’m exhausted after she goes to bed. Like yawning, tearing up, dragging down the stairs tired.

When she’s older, I want to remember all these little moments, these every day times when we wash dishes, and read books, and color at lime green baby tables. I want to carry it all – the rage, joy, and exhaustion -with me.

Links I Love, Volume 2

Each week, I will post links about the things that I’m thinking about, reading, watching, or doing, and of course, they’ll be content that I love. In this practice, I’m hoping to curate my own storehouse of media that showcases my interests. You can find all of the Links I Love posts here.

Parenting

  • Over at Dear Baby, a beautifully touching post, written to the author’s two children. I can’t summarize it very well, without it sounding trite, but I know I’ve had the same ephiphany when looking at my daughter.
  • I love positive, overcoming obstacles breastfeeding stories. Birth Without Fear, an awesome natural birth blog, featured one recently with a gorgeous photo shoot.

Body Love

  • I just discovered Vivienne McMaster’s blog, through a couple of different sources. Her big creative project for the past several years has been self-portraiture.This week, she provided a retrospective of all of her selfies, showing the evolution of her artistic eye.
  • Offbeat Families featured photos from “A Beautiful Body”, a forthcoming book featuring photos of new mothers. I love the honesty of these photos. This is what mothers really look like. I also recommend reading the full post from the photographer’s website. Her story is fascinating. Note: these pictures do include (tasteful) nudity, so it’s a little NSFW.

Social Justice

What are you loving this week?