I'm passionate about philosophy, but after having my girls I'm even more passionate about Mommy Matters

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tis the Season to be Family

     Family has always been important to me, more important than anything else. As a teen I would rather spend time with family than with friends and I had a hard time getting used to missing birthday parties or family outings because of a conflicting work & school schedules. Now that I have a small family of my own and have chosen the career of a full-time mother at home, I feel a deep sense of gratitude and peace because I have the privilege of always being able to put family first. 
     During this Christmas season I have been pondering even more upon the importance of family life, as well as thinking of ways that I can improve upon myself as a mother for the year 2014. I have been wondering about my role as a full-time mother, wondering what my priorities need to be when teaching Squeeker and how I can make our home a safe haven for our family. I'll admit, I've also been looking for a bit of edification regarding my decision to stay home. Here are some things that I found, which I think are deeply profound and have strengthened my resolve and focus as a full-time stay at home mother. 
     These quotes and thoughts are all from LDS.org. I am of the LDS faith, also known as a mormon, but I hope that no one feels marginalized or judged while reading this blog. I only desire to share some beautiful words I have found, which have provided much illumination to me, and do not desire to exclude anyone not of my faith. I personally view being a mother as a sacred work, one that I constantly look toward our savior and heavenly father for help to accomplish.

     "Motherhood consists of three principle attributes or qualities: namely, (1) the power to bear, (2) the ability to rear, (3) the gift of love. ... This ability and willingness properly to rear children, the gift to love, and eagerness, yes, longing to express it in soul development, make motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world." "She who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, ... deserves the highest honor man can give, and the choicest blessings of God."  - President David O. McKay

     "Marriage is a partnership. Each is given a part of the work of life to do. The fact that some women and men disregard their work and their opportunities does not change the program." "When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner." "The Lord organized the whole program in the beginning with a father who procreates, provides, and loves and directs, and a mother who conceives and bears and nurtures and feeds and trains. The Lord could have organized it otherwise but chose to have a unit with responsibility and purposeful associations where children train and discipline each other and come to love, honor, and appreciate each other. The family is the great plan of life as conceived and organized by our Father in heaven." - President Spencer W. Kimball

     "Beware of the subtle ways Satan employs to take you from the plan of God and true happiness. One of Satan’s most effective approaches is to demean the role of wife and mother in the home. This is an attack at the very heart of God’s plan to foster love between husband and wife and to nurture children in an atmosphere of understanding, peace, appreciation, and support. Much of the violence that is rampant in the world today is the harvest of weakened homes. Government and social plans will not effectively correct that, nor can the best efforts of schools and churches fully compensate for the absence of the tender care of a compassionate mother and wife in the home. ...As a mother guided by the Lord, you weave a fabric of character in your children from threads of truth through careful instruction and worthy example. You imbue the traits of honesty, faith in God, duty, respect for others, kindness, self-confidence, and the desire to contribute, to learn, and to give in your trusting children’s minds and hearts. No day-care center can do that. It is your sacred right and privilege. ...Of course, as a woman you can do exceptionally well in the workplace, but is that the best use of your divinely appointed talents and feminine traits? As a husband, don’t encourage your wife to go to work to help in your divinely appointed responsibility of providing resources for the family, if you can possibly avoid it. As the prophets have counseled, to the extent possible with the help of the Lord, as parents, work together to keep Mother in the home. Your presence there will strengthen the self-confidence of your children and decrease the chance of emotional challenges. Moreover, as you teach truth by word and example, those children will come to understand who they are and what they can obtain as divine children of Father in Heaven."     
 - Elder Richard G. Scott
     "One apparent impact of the women’s movement has been the feelings of discontent it has created among young women who have chosen the role of wife and mother. They are often made to feel that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than housework, diaper changing, and children calling for mother. This view loses sight of the eternal perspective that God elected women to the noble role of mother and that exaltation is eternal fatherhood and eternal motherhood." "Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all. With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would now like to suggest ten specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children." - President Ezra Taft Benson 
     President Benson goes on to explain 10 ways mothers at home should spend time with their children. I will list and briefly explain them here:  
     1. Be at the crossroads. This means that we should be there for our children when they are coming home and leaving home, there to see them leave for school or on dates and there when they return.
     2. Be a real friend. This includes listening, really listening to them. It also includes talking, joking, laughing, singing, playing, hugging, and crying with them. Try to have one-on-one time with each child.

     3. Read to your children. President Benson quotes the poem "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan:

     "You may have tangible wealth untold;
     Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be — 
I had a mother who read to me.
     4. Pray with your children. Remember, "Out of the mouth of babes... hast thou ordained strength" (Ps. 8:2). There have been times in my life when I was at a complete loss for what to do. I felt like I had no one to turn to and I didn't know how to fix the problem I had in front of me. During those times, even during the years when I claimed agnosticism, I would feel myself pleading within my soul. To whom was I pleading? Myself? The universe? I know now that heavenly father hears our cries, even when we don't believe he is there. I believe it will help our children in the long run to teach them that we are never alone and our father in heaven will always hear us through the chaos and darkness of life.

     5. Weekly family home evenings. Family home evenings are an intricate part of the LDS faith, because our religion is centered around the importance of the family unit. Once a week we gather together as a family, making sure not to schedule anything else on the same evening decided by the family, and take time to feel the spirit within the home. Family home evenings are about teaching each other principles of our gospel, but also about playing together and building relationships together through meaningful activities where everyone is involved.
     6. Be together at mealtimes as often as possible. This was difficult to do even when it was just my husband and I, but I know it is possible because I have seen big families do it. Talking together during dinner and sharing our experiences of the day keeps us tightly knitted together.
     7. Read scriptures together daily as a family. I believe that by doing this we will bring increased spirituality into our homes, especially when family members discuss what has been read and try to apply it to the family as a whole and individual family members. When people question our values, why mormons don't drink coffee or alcohol, why we get married in temples, etc. The answers all reside in the scriptures and the best way to support each other in our beliefs is to go to the source and better understand why for ourselves. This enables children to feel strengthened and sure as they live their lives according to the principles the family reads about in the scriptures.
     8. Take time to do things together as a family. This includes activities like birthdays, picnics, trips, dance recitals, little league games, school plays, etc. and has to do with making them special memory building times where as many family members are present as possible. When we are supporting each other in all of the activities we enjoy as individuals, we will respect and love each other more.
     9. Teach your children at home. President Benson says that it important to learn to recognize the best teaching moments, like at mealtime, while driving children to their activities, at the foot of the bed at the end of the day, anytime when we feel like our child needs some added knowledge concerning their life experiences. President Benson said it best, "Mothers, you are your children’s best teacher. Don’t shift this precious responsibility to day-care centers or baby-sitters. ... The Church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain you. Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them. ... Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time—lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling."

     10. Truly love your children. Most women are pretty amazing at this the moment they find out they are pregnant and it is the only thing listed that I don't think I need to actively work on. It is because of the love I have for my daughter that I sought out ways to serve her better in the first place.
     So, in my mind this time of year 'Tis the season to be family' more than anything else. This is why I'm re-prioritizing and refocusing on being the best woman, wife, and mother I can be. One small step at a time.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Me-ness and You-ness

     I've been wondering lately: where does my baby's personality come from? Which attributes are innate and which are extrinsic or learned as she grows? Many people say things about children like: she gets her stubbornness from her mother, or his sense of humor from his father, etc. There are other characteristics that are more physical as well: he walks like his mother or she sleeps on her stomach like her father, etc. Do people believe that these attributes are learned or innate? 
      Existentialists believe that we all arrive on earth as a blank slate, essentially, and we become by existing. Therefore, all attributes are extrinsic. I bought into this idea, for the most part, after learning about it in my philosophy courses at school and considering the impact of it in my own life. I made sense of it in the context of my personal religious beliefs as well, although I didn't take it to be necessarily true (as a philosophy student I question everything and take very little to be unquestionably/necessarily true). 
     Since having Squeaker I believe that I have even more reason to question the necessary truthfulness of this philosophical concept. She seems to have attributes, both characteristics of personality and of physical capabilities, that I neither taught her nor think that she picked up from observing others around her. For instance, why is it that Squeaker naturally started to push herself up onto her knees without seeing anyone else do that? Are people born with the tendency or capability to do this and simply end up doing it without outside help? Squeaker also seems to find some things humorous without the help of us laughing at it first or trying to make it funny. Is this just part of some kind of wired personality? Perhaps I am taking for granted the human mind (and body), as well as what it is capable of, even at an early age and during the susceptible time of life that is infancy. 
      It is possible that babies push themselves up to their knees because they see how their parents move and this is the first capable step they can make towards doing that. It could still be a learned step towards gaining an independent perspective, becoming mobile on one's own. Maybe the desire to emulate one's parents is innate then and the very act of trying to be independent is something we are all born with? Squeaker might observe the world and the reaction she has learned from us is the act of laughing or smiling, whether she actually finds something humorous is questionable. However, crying and sucking are things that we surely do not teach our children, are they then innate skills? They could simply be explained by existentialists as being initial reactions, coping mechanisms that are learned and reinforced within the womb and the moments after birth. Babies learn to suck and obtain nutrients or comfort this way within the womb. Crying might just be a knee-jerk reaction to a shocking experience, then it turns out to be the only way they can learn to communicate with us in those first months of life. 
      It is quite possible that I am simply arguing for both sides to the same coin and both innate and extrinsic features form the base for our attributes. Perhaps we cannot have one without the other. None of the things I have said here are yet well-researched or examples of how I would truly argue this out in a published work, they are simply meanderings of my mind and observations. 
      I am interested in your thoughts and perspectives on this subject though. Do we learn to be ourselves, is there a certain "me-ness" and "you-ness" that each of us is born with or is it both? Do we all naturally know how to become independent creatures, taking steps to do that with or without parental guidance, or are we all learning to be independent by observing others? We'll probably never know for sure, and that is the beauty of philosophy. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Unwinding and Reprioritizing

     Currently I have very little downtime in my life, but I have been trying to prioritize taking time for myself to do things I enjoy. I think it is really important for people to take the time to have fun with friends. We are social creatures after all. About once a month I have been setting aside time to go out for a girl's night with a couple of other friends. My husband takes care of our little girl for the night, and does a very good job without me, while I go out to dinner. We eat out at a place we either haven't tried or we simply don't go to often, then we do some sort of activity or go to one of our houses and watch a movie our husbands are grateful not to watch with us. 
     This last girls night out we went to the restaurant The Red Butte Cafe and Bakery, which served the best french onion soup I have ever had and sold way too many amazing desserts to choose from! We each ended up choosing one and shared them all at my friend's house while watching "13 Going on 30". Before we did that, however, we went to a fun place called Color Me Mine. I hadn't ever been there before, it is a really fun ceramic painting store/studio. The way it works is that you pay a flat studio fee, which gives you access to their paints, paint brushes, any other materials they have, and they fire your finished piece for you. Then you buy a blank ceramic item, they have things that range from cheap Christmas tree ornaments to a $50 piggy bank the size of my daughter. I chose a Halloween ghoul mug and painted it like a zombie. I have been watching and reading The Walking Dead lately, plus zombies are just plain cool. 
     I should also confess that, as silly as it may seem, I love mugs. Every time I'm in a cute store that has mugs, even when they are hidden amongst other merchandise, I will find them and covet them. My husband makes fun of me when we are out shopping, browsing someplace like Anthropologie, and I keep pointing out all of the cute mugs that I like. Despite how much he makes fun of me, he still bought me a cute owl mug last Christmas. He's a good husband.
     Going out with my friends is always a fun experience, and I love trying new things. However, I do always miss my baby and am happy to be home after a few hours. Some people feel guilty, and I did too, about feeling the need to spend some time away from home. I think that everyone feels this way sometimes and everyone needs to change up their schedule, experience new things. It helps us to feel alive and renewed, seeing what the world has to offer. This need, for me anyway, is met easily by just taking the time to enjoy these kinds of outings every once and awhile. Plus, I also love experiencing new things with my family and watching my baby girl figure out the world for herself. Everyday she finds something I consider to be mundane and thinks it is utterly fascinating, it's a new world for her.
     How do you unwind and what activities make you feel well-balanced? 

 Painting my awesome zombie mug at Color Me Mine

My finished zombie mug and the owl mug that my husband gave me last Christmas.


Squeaker discovering her ability to stand up in bed.
Needless to say we lowered it as far as it could go after this incident.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Great Wall of Baby

     As most things concerning motherhood are, I have come upon a bit of a catch-22. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I purchased a baby gate with 8 panels from woot! because it was one of their daily deals. The gate is quite large when using all of the panels and I actually form the gate in a large circle around the entrance to our hallway, which gives my daughter the chance to play in the gate, in the hall and in her bedroom. However, even with all of the space, most of the time she ends up trying to climb the panels (yes, she is already pulling herself up to standing, ah!) and cries until I help her out. 
     It has been good for baby proofing because I already have baby proofed everything within the space where she is free to play and I don't have to worry about what she is getting into. There are sometimes when she is also content to roam around and play by herself, which gives me time to clean or cook or do other things on my own as well. I think it is really important for children to learn how to play on their own and slowly take care of themselves while adventuring alone. I've tried my best to give Squeaker the chance to have time by herself, where I don't interfere and I let her figure things out. This gate has become a good way for me to comfortably facilitate this free learning time because, again, there is a space where I don't think she will hurt herself or get into anything damaging.
     I'm wondering, however, if Squeaker is just in a phase of her life where she wants me to be with her everywhere she goes all of the time or if she will always hate this gate when she realizes that I'm not in it with her. I don't want her to feel abandoned or like I don't want to play with her, because I do and that's not the problem. I have a wicker chair inside of the gate where I will sit and read or do other things, but sometimes she gets upset because I'm not on the floor with her and she wants to literally be touching me all of the time. I'm hoping this gate will be worth it and help Squeaker more than hinder her, but so far I am torn about it. 
     I also have wood flooring in my living room where the gate surrounds the entrance to the hallway, so I have blankets on the floor for her to crawl on. As you can imagine, these quickly bunch up and end up making Squeaker slip. I'm thinking about investing in a rubber play mat as well, do any of you have recommendations for one in particular? 
      On a different note, I bought Squeaker her first Christmas gift! Husband and I went to the Salt Lake City Downtown Farmer's Market  and I ended up buying the cutest rag doll that Squeaker loved! I held it up for her and she immediately smiled, reaching for it and playing with the button on its dress. I only hope that she will be as excited about it Christmas morning. I'm thinking that this doll and the play mat might be the only gifts we get her for Christmas because I know that she will already be spoiled by her grandparents. I would love to hear about your experiences with children at Christmas who are really young. Did you get them much? I'm sure Squeaker will love to pull paper off of the boxes, but I think she is one of those kids who would rather play with the box than the toy, you know? 
     Another update that I'm excited to share, and contributes to the lack of posts recently, is that I have been helping a neighbor with her twins twice a week. She is going back to work part time and wanted to find good childcare for her twin boys, so a friend (who also has a baby girl) and I are helping out for 8 hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It is a lot of hard work and I'm so grateful that it's not just me with three babies all day, but it is still crazy with four against two. The twins aren't very mobile yet, but I can see it coming soon and it is going to get even more interesting very quickly! Call me nuts, but it has actually been really fun (although I am grateful that it is only twice a week) and I love being around so many babies. Seeing them learn from each other and play together is truly rewarding. I can't wait to have more kids of my own and see Squeaker become a wonderful big sister! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why do we use nicknames?

     It seems completely natural, not to mention sometimes very fun, to give people nicknames. Our close friends or family members and, of course, our kids. Where does this desire come from? What is a nickname designating?
      I've found that not only do I make up nicknames for my baby and my husband, but I also use the ones I remember hearing family members use my entire life. I find myself calling Squeaker "shorty", for example, and this is a nickname my step dad always used. Another example is my favorite nickname "squeaks" or "squeaker", which my biological father used sometimes and has obvioulsy become the pseudonym I use for her online. I've noticed many parents, including myself, use nicknames like "bug" or "stink bug". There are nicknames that simply shorten a person's name, like Squeaker's cousin has started to call her "Squeak" (well, actually a shortened version of her real name, but you get the idea). I find this tendency baffling, but I also really enjoy it.
     Perhaps we are simply finding more ways to voice our affections, whether it be in a teasing way or a loving way. Nicknames can also be cruel, but I don't want to get into those here because I want to focus on the nicknames we give our own loved ones. Sometimes I think nicknames are also used out of laziness or striving to create a closeness/informality. It seems odd, to me anyway, to call my mom "Amber" or my grandma "Lorraine". However, I have always called my step dad by his first name, even though he has been there to raise me since I was around 5 years old. At the time I think it was a way for me to make sure that I didn't replace my biological father and later it just turned into a habit. 
     In a way, nicknaming someone also adds a type of possession. I didn't use nicknames for my husband when we first started dating. I always called him by his full first name and in my phone contacts that was his name. Although, the more time I spent around his family, the more I started to call him by his family nickname instead. Eventually I had to change his name in my phone too, because I didn't know him by his full first name anymore, in a sense. So, in a way that name started by me becoming more familiarized with him and his family. However, I didn't use any of the other nicknames I use now before we got married. In some ways I think that my subconscious was letting me claim him as my own. Familiarizing myself with him more than anyone else and wanting him to know how close I felt to him enabled me to start calling him by other names like "honey", "babe", etc. It would be weird for anyone else to call him by these names. Similarly, it would be weird for one of my friends to start calling Squeaker by some of the nicknames I use for her. Squeaker is my little squeaker, not my friend's. 
     Has anyone else been curious about this? Names are odd things anyway, a name doesn't necessarily specifically designate an object as we sometimes think it does. There are many people named "John Smith", so the name doesn't signify one specific "John Smith". It is an ostensive definition, meaning that it is doing the work of defining something I can physically point to, for example: "That person to my right is 'John Smith'". I don't want to get too metaphysical in a mommy blog, but if you are interesting in further information, Saul A. Kripke wrote a book that I love entitled "Naming and Necessity" that deals with just this.
    Anyway, the real point that I'm trying to make is that nicknames are not essential to a relationship and they designate different things for each person using them. So in that way nicknames are silly and unnecessary, even misleading. However, they also can point to a specific being (like one's child) and convey love for that being, as well as some sort of endearing (I hope) possession.  
     What nicknames do you use for your kids and where do you think they came from? Why do you use them?

 An interesting source I used when searching for nicknames and writing this post: nicknames

Friday, September 20, 2013

Timely Delusional

     How do you prioritize your life as a mother, or simply as a person? I have always felt like I have to accomplish a lot during the day, mostly because I get anxious when I try to sit and relax - leading me to always be doing something. However, this also ends up making me feel like I haven't quite accomplished enough as I slip under my covers to go to bed at night. There will always be at least one other thing I wanted to get done during the day.
     When I was pregnant, and during the first few weeks after having Squeaker, I was able to let myself heal and rest. In the last couple of months, however, I have been on overdrive again. You might wonder why I haven't written on this blog in over a week if that is the case. Well, that is the conundrum I am often faced with. Unfortunately, this blog is pretty low on my priority list when compared to going on walks with Squeaker, cooking, cleaning, or spending all the time I can with my busy husband. 
     How is it, I often wonder, that I never feel like I have enough hours in the day to finish all that I want to do? Why do I have to put so many things I enjoy doing on the low end of my priority list and then not get to them for weeks? I love to knit, but haven't done it at all since I was pregnant, I always wish I could read and write more, I also haven't touched my guitar since before I was pregnant, and sometimes I really just want a bubble bath. I know that these activities are unnecessary and they are personal, selfish activities for myself, but I can't help but wish I had more time to do them. 
     I know I'm not alone here, but it doesn't really help thinking that all other mothers (and possibly people) are in the same boat as me, it's just depressing. Lately I've started to get angry at the fact that the only time I have to do what I want to do - for myself - is around ten at night when I'm already exhausted and I know that I need to go to bed because Squeaker will be getting up at six in the morning. Some of it is a matter of priorities, putting cleaning and other home activities before myself, but a lot of the time I look around my house and think that I wish I had more done in that department as well. 
      I believe that there is something magically misleading about how time works. When I was in school I would think to myself, "I can't wait until I graduate because I will have so much more time to do what I want to do." And when I was working I would think to myself, "If I didn't have this job then I would have so much more time." Not even that long ago I was thinking, "When Squeaker starts to sleep through the night I'll have so much more time to do what I want to do." Well, I don't go to school, I don't have a job anymore, and Squeaker is sleeping through the night pretty much every night (not counting teething nights), but I am working longer hours than I ever have before and feeling more exhausted than I thought possible most days. It just amazes me to think about how we trick ourselves into thinking that someday - somehow - we will have more time, but the truth is that we never will. The only time I have is right now, so how am I spending it? 
     Although I do still feel like I need more time to accomplish all that I desire to accomplish, especially when it comes to personal activities and goals, I can't help but also feel grateful that all of the time I have I am spending with my baby girl. 
      So, please forgive me if you notice that my blog is a bit bare, or my house has crusted food on almost every surface, if my writing is sub-par, or the dinner is take out tonight. I'm a mom, I'm raising a unique individual with needs and I'm trying to do all that I can, in the best way that I can. Isn't that enough?
     Besides, I'll have time when my kids are grown up, right? 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Please Stop Biting Me!

     I have been experiencing something that many other breastfeeding mothers experience, my baby has started to bite. Now that Squeaker has two lower teeth and is going through intermittent teething pains, she has been biting me every time I try to breastfeed her. It really hurts too, more than once I yelled in pain and Squeaker looked at me in shock, not understanding what the problem was. I tried telling her "no" and being serious with her (for the first time, it doesn't really make sense to scold a baby), but she would just smile and of course didn't understand.
     I debated about what to do and started to give her breast milk in a bottle if she bit me, but she continued to bite me every time. Some people have said that flicking the baby's cheek or other such strategies solve the problem, but I didn't want to do that. It's one thing to try to talk in a serious voice to a baby, but it feels different to start punishing them when they don't understand, plus such conditioning strategies take time and consistency. I don't judge people who use this method, it just isn't for me. There were people who also said that their babies stopped biting, they just did it for a little while or a couple of times, but Squeaker started to do it fairly consistently. I didn't really want to take the risk anymore and I also didn't want to give up breast feeding, Squeaker hasn't ever had formula.
     Now, as a preemptive measure I pump three times a day (which ends up producing 9-10 ounces each time) and give her bottles five times a day. That has been working out well, but it does take extra time. Little by little I warmed up the bottles less and less, so now I can pretty much take the bottle strait out of the fridge and give it to her that way. That is one way to make it take less time, but the pumping itself still can't take much less time. Three times a day is the least amount of times that I'm willing to pump because I don't want to stop producing. 
     It has been a weird transition, but in the end I think it is worth it to be able to keep feeding my baby breast milk. Plus, I won't have to get bit anymore. 
     The five times that I feed Squeaker per day start out with as much breast milk that she will drink, but three of those meals I feed her solid food too. For breakfast I feed her oatmeal and fruit, at lunch I give her some meat or beans with rice and vegetables, then for the afternoon I just feed her breast milk, for dinner I give her more meat or beans with rice stuff (but don't push it as much as at lunch) and make sure she gets a couple of different vegetables or fruits, and for her final meal (which is only about 1.5-2 hours after dinner) I give her more breast milk just before bed. She has been getting used to the schedule and drinks more for the two times a day that aren't supplemented with solids.
     Just so all of you know, if you are considering going the homemade baby food route, Squeaker doesn't like the jarred baby food very much anymore (Squeaker's pediatrician said that might happen because it is more bland than the food I make).
     Through some trial and error, as well as a lot of research, this is what has started to work for me. I hope this helps those of you who are going through the same thing or might go through it someday.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Baby Proofing AH!

     My little girl is so close to crawling, I can't believe it! She keeps getting on her stomach and straitening her arms, then straitening her legs until she is on her tippy toes. She also gets on her knees and tries to scoot herself forward, it's so cute and amazing how quickly she is learning! It is all very exciting of course, but also scary and not always fun. All of you know why: baby proofing! We have been trying to do this little by little, taking mental notes of the things she likes to get into that are potentially dangerous and what we can do with them, but we haven't done a whole lot in actual physical changes yet.
      The other day I babysat for a friend and went from having one 6 month old to also having a 20 month old and a 3 year old. It was pretty chaotic, to say the least, and a trial by fire when it comes to baby proofing/child proofing. My books, computer, records, chargers, and pretty much everything else within a small person's reach came into question. I think I should get an award for being able to keep track of them, even when we were in the same room. It was a good experience actually, because I do know more about what I need to do in the future with Squeaker. However, that was only for a couple of hours and someday soon she will be roaming around doing the same things except it will be around the clock!
      There are so many childproofing products, I'm not sure what would be helpful or necessary. How many gates will we need and where should we put them? Should we use hardware mounted or pressure mounted gates? What type of plug covers are the best? Do we need to anchor all of the furniture? How necessary are edge guards or window guards and stops? Plus there's the toilet and kitchen cupboards. In the end, I wonder if I should just keep going without them and see what happens. However, if that means that Squeaker will end up in the hospital then I don't want to risk it.
     So, I'm thinking that anchoring the furniture is pretty important. Covering the plugs (hopefully with ones that Squeaker won't figure out how to take off) and making sure any cleaning supplies or other chemicals are in a locked cupboard. Plus stairs need to be gated off, of course. Beyond that, does it just come down to what is a nuisance? 
     I want to know why babies, and kids in general, always seem to want to get into exactly the thing you don't want them to get into. Is it a law of physics? Squeaker loves my cell phone and I don't know how to make her stop being so curious about it, without just letting her have it and then ruin it. She might not ruin it completely, but I know that she'll put it in her mouth and subsequently drench it in drool. I can tell she's going to be a handful, getting into absolutely everything she can get her hands on and then getting mad at me when I don't let her have it. Again, it's an exciting time, but also a scary/difficult one.
    Anyway, I'm a new mom who is looking up way too many unhelpful websites. We need help, what are your experiences? What do you wish you knew before your baby started crawling and walking around? What has worked for you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Take on Baby Led Weaning

     I want to start off by saying a big thank you to my friends who shared their experiences with me (you know who you are). I love being able to ask other mothers about their choices and see how they do things the same or differently from how I do things. 
     So, for those who don't know what baby led weaning is, click this link. I found that website the most helpful. I have written other posts about my concerns when it comes to starting solid foods, it is a hard transition to make. However, when Squeaker was almost 6 months old she started to get interested in the foods we eat, she had doubled her birth weight, and she was sitting up without much assistance (comfortably in a high chair). So, that is how I decided to start experimenting with giving Squeaker solid foods. I heard about baby led weaning from a couple of different people, but didn't feel comfortable to start out with. Mostly this was because she was just getting used to different textures, I was afraid she would choke and I wanted to have more control of her food intake. Squeaker actually started eating solids very quickly and liked them almost immediately, so I wanted to be able to measure how much she ate of what. I started off with soft foods and would either mush them up with a fork or purée them with breast milk: avocado, sweet potatoes, and bananas mostly. 
     A few people have talked to me about mesh feeders, but I have not used them. This is mostly because we don't have any extra money right now to buy one, but I also figured that I could just purée the food or give it to her in small pieces. They do seem like a good idea though and a lot of people recommend them.
     Now that Squeaker is close to 7 months old I have been starting, little by little, to give her pieces of food that are big enough for her to hold and that she can suck on. I do, however, purée a lot still. Today I gave her a cut pickle spear and she bit off a piece that was much larger than I thought she could bite off. Luckily she coughed and spit it out before lodging it in her throat, I am pretty sure she would have choked on it though because I left the skin on. I have a friend who baby led weaned her baby exclusively and he also had a close call with a piece of pickle with the skin, but that was the only thing that he came close to choking on. Recommendation: skin the food before giving it to them. Squeaker has also bit off a large piece of watermelon and it made me nervous, but she did gum it long enough before swallowing. In the end it seems to be teaching her to eat independently and like many different types of foods. I think that when Squeaker controls her food she is more willing to try different things, but she will also just smear food around a play with it. Since Squeaker has been teething she also likes biting down on the foods I give her, like the pickle, instead of just sucking on them. I think baby led weaning could help comfort teething babies by encouraging chewing, but it could also lead to inadvertent choking like I described.
     My biggest reason for not exclusively baby led weaning Squeaker is because of the possible choking hazard. Another friend has given her baby bread with crust and two different times her baby has choked, so it might also be a good idea to take the crusts off the bread or only give your baby bread with a soft crust. I know that babies will cough or have difficulties with eating any different kinds of textures as they learn to properly work their tongues and swallow, but I hesitate to let Squeaker eat big chunks. I know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on babies, but never want to have to actually do it. 
     Another reason I have a hard time with baby led weaning: it is messy. When I give Squeaker juicy foods especially, I will strip her down to her diaper and let her have at it. I can imagine outfits getting ruined though, even when Squeaker wears a bib. It also takes me awhile to clean up afterword and she hates it when I clean off her hands and face after eating.  
     I also really like feeding Squeaker oatmeal, which I would have to give her with a spoon anyway. I guess that when parents solely baby led wean they don't give their babies oatmeal or other cereals, but I like to feed oatmeal to Squeaker because she gets her daily iron and fiber from it.
     So, there are a few things to consider when deciding to baby led wean. 
  • Cons:
  • Pros:
    • helps with interest in new foods/baby is less picky
    • don't have to purée
    • don't have to use spoons
    • promotes the introduction of diverse textures
    • baby likes eating solids more because they are in control and handling them
    • comforts teething baby
    • helps baby to develop mouth muscles and the fine motor skills of hands
    • promotes independence in general
    • helps baby to learn how to self regulate food intake 
     My recommendation: hybrid and don't leave baby alone with food (even finger foods that seem completely safe. Do what works for you and what you are comfortable with. Not all mothers or babies are the same, so follow your instincts. I give finger foods to Squeaker and purée other foods, plus I giver her some iron enriched cereal everyday. The time between when a baby cannot spoon feed themselves and when they can is a weird transition period. Take it day by day, meal by meal.  

Best sources I found: 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rules and Guidelines for Harmonious Living

     I've been considering the importance of having rules and guidelines for daily living while raising kids. Babies and children need structure and routine, but they also need to be OK with change and ready to adventure on their own. How much freedom is too much freedom and when are rules too strict? How have you found the middle ground? I'm finding it, more or less, by trial and error. 
     Here are some examples of things I am struggling with: what should I be OK with when it comes to babysitters and grandparents giving my child things to eat or play with, how many times (if any) should I pick up a toy that my baby has thrown on the floor from her high chair (possibly intentionally), how do I comfort her and also try to help her get to a point where she can comfort herself?
     The main reason that I have begun to dwell on this subject is because over this past weekend we were out of town visiting family. We had the opportunity to see my step brothers and their families, who all have children as well. We watched how other families organize themselves and how other parents discipline their children. I witnessed many things, from eating Cheetos off the floor to being put in time-out for minor misconduct. Every child is different and thrives on different forms of guidance, but there also has to be continuity with how parents treat all of their children or there will be one saying, "She was able to do that, why can't I?" and another saying, "You can't do that, only I can." 
     One topic that came up for discussion while spending time with the other mothers was that of sleepovers. I loved sleepovers growing up and during the summers, more often than not, I would either be spending the night at a friend's house or they would be staying at my house. However, it is scary thinking about how difficult it is to trust others with your own child and also sleepovers can become catalysts for mischief otherwise avoided. So, how do we decide to make a rule for our house about sleepovers? We could have them only at our house, only with family members (like cousins) instead of friends, no sleepovers at all, or trust our kids and the people they are staying with by letting them have as many sleepovers whenever/wherever? (based on how they have behaved or if they finished their chores) It's hard to know for sure, I hear horror stories about molestation cases during a harmless sleepover and imagine how easy it was for me to possibly get into trouble when I wasn't at home during the night. I think this is a rule that needs to be made and decided upon before our kids get to the age where they are asking us about it. If we already know then we won't have to debate when the time comes.
     Other things are good to have guidelines about and make decisions based on the individual child, such as sugar intake. This can become more flexible, but have a general guideline attached, such as "You can't eat ice cream until you have eaten something healthy." Then the parent can make the decision as they watch their individual children make their own choices - good or bad. Parents can also take into account how each child reacts to having sugar. 
     Anyway, these are just a couple examples of how I think there are rules that need to be made, but it is also possible to have guidelines instead of hard rules about everything. I'm learning the hard way about some things though. It took me picking up my baby's toy and giving it back to her for what seemed to be the 100th time yesterday, for me to decide that I am going to have a three strike system for this situation. She throws the toy off from her high chair and I will give it back to her once, assuming that it was an accident. I will give it back to her after she throws it a second time, but with a warning that if she does it one more time then she won't get it back. Then when she does it the third time I either leave it on the floor or take it into a completely different room so she won't be able to have it anymore. I know that Squeaker is only 6 months old, but you have to start somewhere, right? I don't want to start putting these rules into place when she is 2 years old and is used to me giving it back to her 100 times. If she starts off young with certain rules or guidelines in her daily life then they won't be such a shock later, hopefully. 
     There are some things I wish I would have made decisions about already, instead of having to take the situations as they come. For instance, some babysitters and grandparents want to give Squeaker things I'm not comfortable with her having yet, but it took me seeing one of them giving Squeaker some licks of a Popsicle to realize this. I know that a Popsicle won't kill her, but I don't want her already getting used to having sugar as a daily thing or even something that she gets occasionally, but wants more than her other food. Bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, these things should be the most sugary things she is taking into her body at this age (in my personal opinion). So now I have to back track a bit and start making decisions about what I am OK with her having and then be very clear about that when I leave her in the care of someone else. 
     I also wish that I knew better about when to comfort her and when to let her be. I'm figuring it out, slowly, and there are certain cries that I know are signs of her needing me, but she is starting to whine a lot as well. She is teething, and I want to help her as much as I can, but I also don't want her to think that I will constantly be fixing her problems and carrying her around the rest of her life. This is especially true for when we have another baby, I imagine it would be traumatizing for Squeaker to find that she is no longer the center of my universe when I have been treating her that way for so long. Now that Squeaker is a little over 6 months old I am trying to help her learn to self-soothe and cry on her own more. I am open to suggestions in this department. 
     Anyway, how did you start to decide on rules and enforce them in your home? Do you have flexible guidelines too? Are there certain rules that you wish you had decided upon earlier?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stranger Anxiety and Other Tid Bits

     This last Friday Squeaker and I visited her pediatrician for her 6 month visit. We learned some good things that I want to share, including what is OK for a baby to eat at this age and what isn't, teething information, infant pain medication information, and rashes from drooling (including how to treat them). In my opinion the most interesting topic that came up, however, was the subject of "stranger anxiety".
     Stranger anxiety came up because lately Squeaker has been more nervous and anxious around new or different people, including her pediatrician (whom she has always been friendly and smiley with in the past). She has also become more anxious about animals, most notably dogs, and loud noises, such as the blender when I'm making her baby food. The pediatrician says this is all normal and will pass somewhat quickly, but in the future (around 13 or 14 months old) Squeaker will most likely go through another phase like this one, but even worse. It all has to do with stages babies go through when they start to observe and try to understand the world around them. The future one, which occurs with most children, can also make the child have aversions to his/her parents sometimes. I've seen kids go through this before, little ones only being able to be consoled by his/her mother (or father) and not wanting to have anything to do with anyone else. Going through it with my own child is a whole different story though. For instance, Squeaker will go through this anxiety with people she has been so comfortable with in the past (like her own grandpa) and I feel bad because the person trying to interact with her wants Squeaker to like them. It's not that Squeaker doesn't like them either, she is only a baby. No one takes it personally, of course, but it is still difficult. I hope that both this phase and the one to come are quick. Do any of you have recommendations for what helped your kid(s)? Do all children go through stranger anxiety, at least to some degree? 
     One of my friends said, on the subject of fearing animals, that all of her children went through a time when they were scared of dogs, but it passed quickly and the fear turned into curiosity instead. I hope this is the case for Squeaker. The pediatrician said that the best way to deal with it is to simply console her and make sure she always feels safe with me or her dad. "It isn't possible to spoil her during a stage of stranger anxiety," she said, "It is good for her to have a secure base wherein she feels safely protected [Husband and I] so that she feels better about adventuring on her own later." It's very interesting to me though, that some people simply innately have a deeper anxiety about strangers and new situations than other people do. It will be fascinating to watch as Squeaker grows to see how her own personality develops and find out if she is more extroverted or introverted in that sense. 
     On the other subjects we discussed with the pediatrician, she said that the only foods to really avoid at this time are: honey, milk (other than breast milk or formula of course), juices, and anything that would obviously be a choking hazard - like popcorn. The honey still is interesting to me, if anyone reading this doesn't know why babies shouldn't have honey it is because there is a small risk that it may contain spores that cause infant botulism. Milk is pretty much obvious, the baby isn't getting all of the nutrients he/she needs from other sources of milk and can even get sick from having cow's milk too early on. Juices are too sugary and aren't a good source of nutrients. The pediatrician also said that water is OK but it isn't adding anything. If the baby simply needs more fluids because of constipation or being in the sun then water is OK. The choking hazard needs no further explanation. Two foods that are OK for Squeaker now (or soon), but were not before, are peanut butter and eggs. Peanut butter, just a small amount on your finger given to your baby once a week, from this point on helps the baby's body get used to it and hopefully prevent an allergy/aversion to it later. The eggs are good to add protein into the baby's diet and can be added to his/her food intake around 7 or 8 months old. I'm excited to try different foods with Squeaker and see what she likes. So far she likes everything she has tried and really loves her grandpa's garden-grown squash. 
     Squeaker has her first tooth! It has slowly been pushing its way out for the last two weeks and is definitely visible. The pediatrician said that Orajel (and other types of topical gels) are not really helpful because they only last about 10 minutes. Most of them also contain benzocaine, which the FDA has said can give children methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder where oxygen that's carried through the blood to the tissue drops to dangerously low levels and can cause death. So overall, these medications are not advisable to use, which is news to me. The teething pills/tablets, according to the pediatrician, are also not really helpful but I neglected to ask for more details as to why she didn't recommend them. I think it came down to her thinking that they simply don't really help the problem or make much of a difference. However, infant/children's Tylenol is fine, as it has been pretty much from day one in very small amounts, and by 6 months old (or by a certain weight) a baby can now safely take child's ibuprofin. The pediatrician recommended both of these medications to be used as needed and only 2.5mL (1/2 tsp.) every 6 hours. I don't like using medications and try to only take them, or give them to Squeaker, sparingly. So, other things that are helpful and recommended: a cold wash cloth (wet or simply cooled in the fridge), teething rings (also possibly cooled in the fridge), cold or frozen fruits that they can gnaw on, maybe put frozen fruit or some ice pieces into one of those mesh feeders that prevent chokable chunks from getting through, etc.  
     As a consequence of teething, Squeaker has been drooling a lot. Subsequently, she has been getting rashes on her chin and around the corners of her mouth. Apparently these types of rashes and dry skin patches, even going down to the folds of the baby's neck, are normal for babies during the entire time they are teething (a few months old to 2 years). I asked what was best to use on these types of rashes, because Squeaker pretty much just tries to lick anything off that I put on them and I don't know what is OK for her to ingest. The pediatrician said that lotions are not good to use, even if they are scent free, but that lanolin or petroleum jelly (vaseline) are OK to use even if the baby licks some of it off. She added that lanolin is probably a better barrier and will stay on better even when the baby is licking it. 
     So, these are the things I learned recently and I hope they helped. Let me know what has worked for you or what questions you might have about the things your little one is going through. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Truly Important Things

I didn't think that I would get married as young as I did (20 years old), I imagined that if I got married then I would be at least done with graduate school and have a "career". I had many academic goals and hated it when people distracted me from them.
     There was a time in my life when I was 19 and decided to forgo dating for awhile, the guys I dated were weird and I didn't have fun with them. They were just distractions, I wanted to focus on school and work. Then Engineer came into my life. We were in the same institute class at the University of Utah. We were nice to each other, casually said "hello" in the mornings before class. There were a couple of times when I was curious about what he was reading or doing, but I never asked. I didn't want to get involved and I figured that if he was interested in friendship or dating then he would come talk to me. By the time it was about half way through the semester I figured he wasn't interested and we would simply continue saying "hello" every once in awhile. However, one morning before class, Engineer asked me what I was listening to. I love my music and listen to it often, plus I enjoy talking about it. Needless to say this was the right question to ask in order to begin a new kind of relationship. We talked awhile before class about the music we liked and how neither of us had been to a show in awhile, then class started and that was that. Well, I thought it was anyway. For some reason I couldn't get this guy out of my head the rest of the day, he was sweet and listened. He seemed different from other guys I knew, but I reminded myself that he had just asked me about my music and I hardly knew him. Maybe he would turn out to be a good friend, but nothing more. 
     The next time we talked before class he said he wanted to make a deal with me (I'm pretty sure "deal" was the word he used). I asked him what kind of deal and he said that since neither of us had been to a show in a long time, if either of us heard about one we wanted to go to then we should go together. I agreed to this, it sounded like a fun plan and better than him flat out asking me on a date, only to take me to a movie I didn't want to see. I decided that this was a good excuse for swapping cell phone numbers, which we did, and I actually remember thinking about how excited I was to get his number. The rest of the day I thought about how much I wanted to text him, just because I could. So, when I was on the train heading home after school I sent him a text, it was something flirty and stupid that had to do with the weather like "it's pretty windy out there, just making sure you didn't fly away". I felt like an idiot. I couldn't believe that I felt this way about a guy, usually it was the complete opposite and I only gave out my number or took a guy's number because I felt obligated or cornered into it somehow. The guy was always the one to text me first too, I didn't go out of my way to flirt with guys. Anyway, he was nice and we messaged back and forth for awhile before I decided that I would definitely need to find a show to go to soon. Luckily, I did and decided to get the nerve to ask him to go with me. That is how Engineer was clever enough to get me to ask him on our first date. I even sent him the text messages in German when I told him about it (he went on an LDS mission to Germany and was/is fluent in German). I was such a dork, using Google translate and sounded like a moron. He seemed to like me anyway, probably thought it was cute and weird.
     We went to a Vampire Weekend show, I made him a mix of their music before we went because he hadn't heard them before (this was at the beginning of 2010 when their music wasn't in commercials and video games yet). I actually went over to my friend's house and discussed what I was going to wear before he picked me up, Husband is probably going to get a huge head after reading this because I haven't told him all of these details before either. After I had my clothes right, my hair and makeup done (I actually wore lipstick, I never wear lipstick) I waited for him and began to panic when he was a little late. I remember thinking that this was the first time since I had started college that I wished the guy wouldn't stand me up and he was totally going to. (I literally did wish that the guys would just not show up so I didn't have to go, or would call and cancel.) He called me (I thought it would be to cancel), but said sorry that he was running behind and he would be there soon. I was relieved when he showed up at my door. We ate dinner before the show and I remember talking most of the time, which he was fine with because he is a pretty quiet guy at first. Seeing Vampire Weekend was really fun and we still talked between songs, got to know each other little by little. He was surprised when he found out I was only 19, I asked him how old he thought I was and he said that I seemed more mature. When he first talked to me he thought I was at least his age (21), if not older. He knew just what to say. 
     Well, there wasn't anything exciting like holding his hand or kissing on our first date, but I felt like it was still a success. He did too and we were together a lot after that. The rest is, as they say, history. We only dated 2.5 months before he asked me to marry him and "yes" was the easiest answer I've ever given to any question in my entire life. We had been ring shopping a little, I showed him some things that I liked and he made the final decision on which one. The day he asked the big question he actually tricked me because I thought he was picking me up to check another jewelry store. When he came into my apartment he said that he had something he had been meaning to ask me, very casually and I had no clue it was such an important question. Then he got down on one knee and asked me, I was so surprised and couldn't believe this was the moment I would never forget: the moment I became someone's fiancé.
     We were only engaged for a little over two months before we were married in the Mount Timpanogos temple. It was the best pain-free day of my life (the best painful day of my life being the one when I brought our daughter into the world, of course). The reason I decided to write about this today is because it was three years ago today that we were married and I am even more in love with him now than I was then. I think it is important for people, especially busy parents, to stop and really ponder upon their significant other, remembering why they chose each other and how it felt to first fall in love with them. It is so easy to forget these important things during the rat race of life, but I am grateful that I have remembered it all today. I feel closer to Husband than I ever have before because we are raising a beautiful child together.
     I didn't know that falling in love, getting married, and having a baby would become such welcomed distractions from my chosen path. I would rather be at home with them, being a stay at home mother, than employed by someone else or continuing my education away from home. The life I enjoy now has brought me more happiness than I thought possible. 
     I love you Engineer/Husband/Hot One! Thank you for being the man I need, a wonderful husband and an amazing father to our baby girl.