Thursday, May 7, 2015

Growing Too Fast

Felicity is getting so big! She is picking up signs left and right, understanding so much more of what we say, following simple instructions (well... sometimes ;) ), and is so active! She is enjoying things that are SO much fun for me, like starting to do pretend play (pushing her baby around in a stroller, pretending to drink from her play cups), coloring with crayons, and bringing me books to read all day long. She will select a book and then back up until she reaches me, and plop in my lap. I am really enjoying her love of stories! Felicity now "tickles" us by doing wiggly fingers and making a high pitched noise. She is enjoying our (almost) daily walks with the neighbors so much more than she used to, and will relax in the stroller, eat her snacks, sing and talk. At the park, she does most slides by herself (!!!) and is now trying to climb ladders...terrifying for mommy! Felicity's language seemed to explode overnight and she's picking up a new word every few days. Her current word list includes:

no no
Addie (one of the children I babysit for)
choo choo
hi baby
yucka (what I say for yuck/yucky)

There are parts of her growing up that are making me really sad, though! Even though her independence is super precious and exciting, it can also be hard sometimes. She has an opinion and doesn't always want hugs/kisses like she used to and is slowly learning to interact with other children as we struggle through age appropriate but hard things like hitting, throwing, sharing, etc. The hardest part so far, though, is self weaning. I didn't think Felicity would wean this early. In fact, I thought I would have to encourage it in the future (for fertility meds) and dreaded that day, as I have always liked the idea of baby led weaning. So, in a way, I am grateful that the process has begun. But, on the other hand, I never imagined it would start at 14 months! A little over a week ago she decided, cold turkey, that she no longer wanted to nurse to go to nap or bed at night. Those are 2 of the 3 times she nurses in a day, with the other time being when she wakes up between 4 and 5 and joins us in bed. Luckily she has not dropped that one yet, because I don't think my mommy heart could take it all at once! I'm hoping she keeps that at least a few more months. Though it's nice to have Steven be able to put her to sleep (he could before but not without me nursing her first unless I was not home), her weaning has also made the bedtime process *very* lengthy. We are trying a new routine, now that her old routine has gone out the window, but I think the combination of her quitting nursing at those times plus all the things she has going on developmentally was a recipe for disaster for bed time! Thankfully she is still sleeping well once she goes down. I'm happy to see my girl growing, healthy, and becoming independent but, man, it's also really hard! We went to baby story time today, after not having been for about 2 months due to nap time, and it became very, very apparent that my girl is a TODDLER. We will be moving up to toddler story time next week. Toddlerhood comes with a lot of hard changes, but it is also a blast. Although I can't wait until my sister has her baby (any day now!) so I have a cuddly newborn to love on again :).

Friday, May 1, 2015

Goodbye Baby; Hello Toddler

Long time no see! As you'll see below, I've been pretty busy lately. Felicity keeps me on our toes, I keep us active (for both our sanity :D), and I've picked up quite a few more babysitting hours to help our finances and give Felicity exposure to other kids. I also haven't had much inspiration to write, but hopefully that will change soon :). 

TODDLERHOOD IS HARD. I am so glad Steven and I have been (slooooooooowly) reading a parenting book for a while now, because we are already having to use some of the things we've learned! I guess I didn't expect to have issues until Felicity was closer to 2, which is probably naive since I've spent most of my adult life caring for small children in one capacity or another. But it still surprises me that at 14 months she is exerting so much independence and showing just how impulsive toddlers can be. I think it is exacerbated by the fact that she has always been ahead physically and her little brain hasn't caught up yet. I am beyond blessed with a husband who has a large say in our parenting- who wants a large say, and has been willing to do the work with me to figure out our parenting style, and then to find practical things to do or say when situations arise. We have settled on gentle/positive parenting, which is a nonviolent way of disciplining, guiding, and teaching your children. It seeks to have children behave because they want to and understand why they should, rather than out of fear or demanded compliance. The word discipline is derived from the word "disciple", so we like that positive connotation rather than the negative one it usually carries. I need not mention that, like all parents, I'm sure we will struggle and falter along the way, but having a framework to work from has already proven helpful to us. I have found so many great resources that fit how we'd like to parent/are learning to parent, so I thought I would share some of them here in case they might help someone else along in their parenting journey:

Aha! Parenting is probably my favorite and, though it can become an overwhelming rabbithole, pretty much addresses anything you could ever want to know from infancy through the teenage years. I have already gotten so many ideas from this site! I signed up for their emails, too, and some I delete because they don't apply, but some have great tips and reminders.  

This blog post only addresses throwing (our current target behavior), but the principle they use to deal with throwing can apply to so many other behaviors. As we learned in the social work world, all behavior is communication. I particularly find practical, hands on (rather than ideological) ideas helpful. Giving me things to say and do in a given situation, from a gentle framework, is so helpful to us as parents who are in that very frustrating moment with an impulsive toddler. Instead of sitting there trying to think of how to react or, worse, reacting poorly because we *don't* think, we can take a statement directly from this post. That's not to say that's how it always happens, of course, but it's a vast improvement on not having any practical ideas in our tool kit! 

Janet Lansbury's site is a bit harder to navigate but is also really helpful with ideas and, what I really love, information on development (cognitive, social, emotional, etc). It's easy to think your kid is a jerk if you don't know what's going on and why, and this website helps you to realize what things they are lacking at various ages, what things they're gaining, and how you can help them. 

And last, L. R. Knost is my favorite book resource. She has lots of great stuff online, and on her facebook page too, but her book (The Gentle Parent) is what we are going through slowly and is actually in 3 parts with one being a workbook to help us, which I'm really excited about getting to.

Last but not least, the cutie pie who inspired this post!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Year In: How Are We?

As you may have noticed ;), the last year of this blog... ok the last year and oh... 9 or so months, have been largely BABY BABY BABY. I thought I'd write a bit about how Steven and I are doing, especially since I've written a lot about what a hard adjustment I/we had to parenthood. A year later, I'm happy to report, I almost feel like we're doing better than ever. There was a lot of struggle and hard work to get to this place, but I am so happy we're in it, and I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts (read: probably until next pregnancy/baby lol). 

Our initial struggles, as expected, revolved around adjusting to being parents and lack of sleep. We were snippy, exhausted, and learning way more than we were capable of retaining in our dazed states. Not to say we couldn't use more sleep still, but we are getting a LOT more sleep now and it makes us much more rational and forgiving of each other. Later, we struggled financially. We were dealing with the loss of about 40% of our income (since I quit my job to stay home) and going through our savings very quickly. I began to search for babysitting jobs and for months it seemed as not much panned out. I began praying about it (I really suck at that sometimes), and more babysitting jobs than I could handle began falling into my lap. Between that income and our tax return, we've been able to replenish our savings a bit as well as stay afloat of those things that don't fit into our budget (medical bills, etc). And we've mostly figured out how to actually meet our budget after lots of hard work and cutting out as much as we could. We went from feeling deprived and frustrated to realizing just how much we have and how lucky we are we can make this work, and that attitude shift has really raised our happiness level! It will require constant hard work and attention, but it's a great team building activity because neither of us can do it alone (we both have to be on board). When we do poorly, we have to work together to figure out what to improve and how, and when we do well we get to celebrate that together. 

We've brought faith back to the forefront of our life, which somewhat got put on a back burner when we were just merely surviving. We're back to praying the rosary, novenas occasionally, praying before meals, and encouraging each other to stay connected to our faith in whatever way is best for us right now. We figured out a month or two ago that Felicity is much less of a beast if we wear her during Mass and, though I still have to focus on her a lot of the time, that has really helped me to catch snippets of Mass. Luckily the grace is there whether I can pay attention or not! When my parents visit, we leave her with my mom during Mass and that gives us a chance to absorb and enjoy; a nice treat! Our faith lives look different still than they did a year ago and I imagine they will for quite some time, but we're at least focusing on it now and that feels really refreshing!

Probably the hardest thing for us was feeling like we lost "us"; the things that we enjoyed as a couple basically stopped for a while. We didn't have time for cooking fun meals, or energy for hobby dates (me scrapbooking, him working on a game), I couldn't stay awake through shows or movies, Steven was getting home too late for family walks, on Steven's days off we were focused on the baby or on catching up on things that needed to be done... the list goes on. For quite a while, we didn't go on dates, which we did probably weekly until Felicity was born. We did go on a date when Felicity was about 3.5 months old because we were on a family vacation and my parents watched her. That was lovely and SO needed. When she got older, closer to 7 or so months, we began switching date nights with our neighbor, which is the only way we can afford a date night! That has been so amazing for us because it makes for a cheap night out and we fully trust them to watch her, plus their house and family is really familiar to Felicity. It is seriously a dream come true, and the time for ourselves once a month or so is wonderful! We've slowly added back in things that we used to do pre-baby, like board game nights. We haven't had a chance to go to the movies at all since she was born, but we've had some fun movie nights at home where we go to Target for the popped popcorn, grab a red box, and watch a movie after she goes to bed. It's not the same, but it's special and helps us reconnect as best friends and spouses, rather than as parents. We are currently reading a book about remaining spouses after baby and, though it's geared towards couples during pregnancy, it's brought up some good discussion for us about what we are doing well at and ways we can improve. 

All the little things that were identifiers of us as a couple changed- even the things we were adamant wouldn't change. Steven and I are huge cuddlers. My love language is physical touch and his is quality time, so cuddling meets both those needs perfectly. We used to lie in bed for hours cuddling and talking. Every night when we went to bed, we'd cuddle, sometimes talking and sometimes silent, until we got comfortable to go to sleep. When we watched shows on the couch, we'd cuddle. Anyways, this was one thing we talked about during pregnancy that we didn't want to change. But that was when we thought our baby would sleep in the cosleeper. Once she joined us in bed, a decision we both thought was best, our cuddling quickly went to almost 0. During the times where she was on the outside of me and Steven would try to cuddle, I was just too touched out. Imagine that- physical touch as a love language and still I was touched out. Once we picked out a few new shows on Netflix, we were able to add some couch cuddling back into our lives. After Felicity moved to her bedroom a little over a month ago, our cuddling quota has been and continues to be filled. It's amazing what a good hug can do for your marriage! 

So here we are, a year later, and though "us" has changed, we both feel very content and like we've gotten each other back. It's been a wonderful and also trying year, and we've grown so much as a couple through all of it. I feel like we're stronger than we were, that we understand each other and our needs more, and that we love each other and respect each other so much more than we did just a year ago. There were times I thought we might never feel like we used to. And in a way, we don't, but this really is better. The dynamic of coparenting is so different when you're used to just being spouses, but it can also be really enriching once you come out of the trenches of the newborn and infant days. There's always room for improvement, though! Next on our list is taking an overnight trip at some point- just one night probably, but mommy's not quite ready for that yet ;).