Adventures in Mommyhood

Eleanor’s Birthday Party

My birthday girl… She’s a beauty, isn’t she?

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Eleanor turned 1 year old on Monday, January 11, 2012. Because it was a Monday (even though it was Martin Luther King Day), we held the party at our home Sunday afternoon. We had everyone over at 3 – my parents, brother, and niece… Bronce’s parents, siblings, their kids, his grandmother, and his Aunt Deborah and Uncle Richard. It was a low-key affair… just some casual food and cupcakes. No games or anything silly. The only other kids present were Eleanor’s cousins Nonavea and Kathryn.IMG_0046

Cousins, enjoying themselves (Eleanor with Kathryn). I have so many great pictures of them playing together around this same basket… backs turned, intent on the toys at hand.

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Time for gifts! We opened them in the living room and set chairs all around for family to sit in.    

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Eleanor was gifted many beautiful and kind things… books, toys, some beautiful dresses, summer clothes, giftcards for Mommy and Daddy to get her some fun things, and a beautiful garnet charm (which I’ll probably wear while she’s growing old enough for jewelry!). We are so blessed to have such generous family and she enjoyed hanging out with all of them!

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I love this picture of Kathryn:

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Enjoying my two girls:

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Time for cupcakes! {In these pictures, notice on the wall behind the highchair that the weekly pictures I began when she was born are hanging on the wall. I printed each out and strung them from a colorful ribbon for everyone to enjoy. Most of the family had no idea I had done this and they really loved seeing them all!}

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We stepped outside for a family photo – this is everyone in attendance.

{Left of Bronce: my parents Bob & Jane, my brother Jim and his daughter Kathryn. Behind Bronce: his sister Lauren and her husband Rob. Behind and to the right of me: Larrry & Linda, Bronce’s parents; Bronce’s brother Spencer with his wife Melissa and daughter Nonavea; Bronce’s aunt Deborah and uncle Richard; Mamaw (the original Nonavea!)} 

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And… crazy!

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{Because I wanted to actually be in the pictures, I had a friend come do the photography for me. Best decision I made about the day! Photography by Taryn Yager}

Family Photos

I knew I’d have a friend come do Eleanor’s 1-year pictures and some family shots sometime in January, and when piecing together the details of her party I decided it would be best to combine the two events. (Which meant I didn’t have to drag my camera around during her whole party… such a relief. Those photos will be up in another post soon.)

During the hanging-out portion of her party, Bronce, Eleanor, and I slipped outside with Taryn to take some family photos. These are some of my favorites – she did a great job and I was blessed to have her there.

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{A huge thanks to my photographer friend, Taryn Yager}

She’s eating… what?

One of those proud Mama moments occurred the other day… it’s one of the ones I’ve been waiting on. I wasn’t even there (Bronce had Eleanor over at his parents’ house while I was busy with my small group), but I got all giddy when I heard about it nonetheless.

The family was sitting down for a meal of homemade chicken noodle soup… The adults each had a bowl full of soup… Eleanor’s 21-month-old cousin sat down to eat her meal of purees and apple sauce… and my sweet 11-month old girl ate a whole plate of chicken noodle soup (minus the broth). Family members who hadn’t seen her eat recently said {this is the moment… wait for it…} “She can eat that?”

Yessiree. My little girl is a table-food monster. At 11 months. And really, earlier… I just didn’t tell you about it yet.

I’ve read about these moments… when other parents will respond with shock that these tiny kids can put away a real meal of food… and it’s awesome. In fact, right now she’s eating a hearty breakfast of half a banana and a scrambled egg with a little cheese on top. No spoon, no fork, no mama-feeding… just a baby girl and her fingers, smashing food in her hair mouth. In fact, she’s not even wearing a bib at the moment (oops), just eating away and dropping a bit of food on the floor for the dog. It’s good stuff.

Yesterday’s lunch… spaghetti and sauce plus a few cheerios, totally self-fed and completely loved.  Notice the spaghetti is totally gone, but she’s left some of those cheerios behind. My girl knows what’s yummiest!

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She does tend to smash multiple handfulls of food into her mouth and store them up like a chipmunk. She especially does this with chicken… she’ll just keep chewing and chewing and chewing… eventually she’ll open her mouth to show it to me and I’ll scoop most of it out so she can work on swallowing the rest. Silly girl.

Yes, she started with purees (though her actual first solid food was a smashed up avocado that she played in fed to herself. I hoped to go all-real food (following this Baby Led Weaning website and book) but she really did love the purees for a time so we did use them regularly in addition to offering real foods. She’s eating just about everything we do… lentil soup (minus the sausage), spaghetti and sauce (without the red meat we were enjoying), baked chicken and steamed vegis, and she’s even had some sardines on a cracker when I was partaking last week.

 Eleanor, enjoying her first avocado at 27 weeks:

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I was going to sell my remaining purees to a friend last week, but we’ve had some issues with constipation now that she’s almost 100% off them and on real food, so I’ve decided to keep them around and use them as the base to add some chunks of vegis and protein rather than tossing them completely. I think she needs the added liquid in her diet.

Yes, we’re still nursing (around the clock… about every 3-4 hours during the day and 2-3 hours during the night). I always make sure she nurses first and then eats food (about 30-60 minutes later so she’ll actually want to eat something).

But won’t she choke? Yeah, that was my fear, too. But really other than a few instances where she packed her mouth too full, we haven’t had any issues. In fact, the food hasn’t been a problem, it’s been things like teething biscuits that have been more of an issue. I chop up her food pea-size for the most part to avoid this issue. And you’ll recall I took a CPR class early on with a friend, which has given me more confidence in this area. And, ironically, the only true choking scare we’ve had around here was when she ingested part of our Christmas tree the other night and got a pine needle stuck in the back of her throat. The websites I’ve listed below address the choking/gagging issue (because there is a difference and it’s important) in more depth.

Bottom line? It’s awesome. And so convenient because she can actually eat food with us rather than watch from the sidelines while I’m spooning mush into her face.

Resources I’ve used:

Mother of the Year award

I have a wonderfully transparent friend from high school who is a fellow blogger. Well, if by “fellow blogger” I mean “really successful online and has an awesome business and killer house.” Anyway, she also blogs about her family and never leaves anything out.

Case in point: Her most recent post, titled moty – the time I swallowed my foot

Oh, the hilarity. Coupled with the knowledge that I’ll be sure to provide my children with their own twisted learning opportunities in the future. Le sigh.

I’m also a huge fan of the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras. My mom watches Eleanor on Thursdays, so we often watch some of it together since I’ve got it waiting on my DVR from the night before.

As we watched it this week, with jaws slack due to the horror of what the mothers were saying and doing to their precious and innocent daughters, I turned to her and said “This makes me feel so much better about my own mothering skills.”

Ever felt the same way? Or caused a traumatic moment in your own child’s life?

Babywise… or not so wise.

[Edited to add the link to the AAP’s statement against the Babywise series of books and an additional article regarding the book at the bottom of this post.]

“Forthe LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” Proverbs 2:6

Babywise. That word prompts many responses from different mothers. You either recognize it as a parenting book/style or you do not. And for those who do… perhaps it was a source of comfort for you in the first few confusing months with your little one. Or for others, it caused more confusion than it helped. I’m wary of any book besides the Bible being thrown about as the final word on… well, on anything. But especially when it comes to child-rearing. Just as surely as my friends and I all have very different children, there are dozens of styles to raise them. How will you discipline? What style of labor/delivery did you choose? What will you feed them? Will they live on a schedule? Do you stay at home or work? These issues are all so… gray.

I was first introduced to this book when my sister-in-law decided to use this method to raise my niece. Wary of intervention from her parents and inlaws, she bought a copy for all the extended family members and asked them to read it. When I became pregnant with Eleanor I remembered that and snagged my parents’ copy, intending to read through it . Rather, throughout my pregnancy I was more focused on the labor and delivery part than the sleeping/feeding issues. After a few weeks of having her home with us, we realized we didn’t know what we were doing with her routine. We had no plan. {We didn’t even have a “pl…” /Friends shout-out!/}

So, I picked up that dusty copy of Babywise and read it while my girl slept in my arms. Our journey was rocky and I’m glad I’m more informed now. We’ve opted not to do it. For US. For OUR FAMILY. Allow me to be clear for a second… I AM NOT TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO. I’m asking you to be informed. Learn. Read. Find out some things you probably don’t know. Check out the clinical research (which you can find through the many links at the bottom of this post). This is not just one crazy mom talking here, this is a LOT of information. And… if after reading the research you determine to use this method for your family: Great. But again, it wasn’t right for us.

There are basically two issues involved in Babywise… Crying It Out (CIO) and scheduled feedings.

We tried it with Eleanor when she was about 5 weeks old and I was tired… I started first with scheduling her feedings during the day. Rather than feeding her willy-nilly, which is what we had been doing, I started feeding her on the 3-hour increments as the plan dictates. The book states over and over that a 3-hour schedule is reasonable for a baby of that age, and in a few places does clarify that small babies need to be demand fed. However, even with that disclaimer, there’s not much in the book to support the demand-fed method of feeding (which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, etc.) and it’s highly ignored as a strategy for infant care.

I found out the hard way that scheduling caused some issues – my milk began to dry up and my daughter stopped gaining weight. She was born at around the 48th percentile and within a few weeks slipped down to the 8th. The pediatricians started freaking out, talking about malnutrition and “failure to thrive” and all sorts of qualifiers for my poor daughter… the worst was when the discussion began around admitting her to the hospital to get it back up. The culprit? 3-hour feedings. She just needed to eat more frequently than that! Mistakenly I was told I wasn’t making enough milk. [note: that wasn’t my problem and is often misdiagnosed by the uninformed] I had to supplement with formula (and read kellymom.com carefully for ways to supplement and increase my own supply through pumping simultaneously).

Eventually we got her back up to a healthy place (though Eleanor seems destined to be a long-n-lean girl, currently somewhere in the 10-15th percentile for weight and around 80%+ for height) and I was able to resume nursing 100%. Yes, she’s still a little girl, but the growth trends are the most important thing and she’s doing great in that respect. Also, I became more aware of the different growth charts… This page on growth charts at kellymom.com does a great job explaining the difference between the ones typically used by pediatricians (which include mostly formula-fed babies) and the other ones (which use either a combination of formula-fed/breast-fed or strictly breast-fed infants). Learning all that information has helped me be a more well-informed mom and freak out less.

As for Crying It Out… we tried. She’s not a great sleeper… she only ever slept well in some sort of seat: her bouncer/papasan chair or the swing or even in the crook of our arms. Transitioning her out of the bouncer (and out of her swaddle – our little girl was rolling over fully swaddled at 4 months!) made the problem even worse right as I returned to work – in fact, since that time she’s never slept through the night and still gets up a few times to nurse. Part of that is due to reverse cycling, an issue I’ve chosen to embrace as it means she just needs her mommy more of the night since she doesn’t get me consistently in the days.

At times we’ve tried the CIO method… but our sweet, mild-mannered daughter becomes panicky and makes herself sick, completely freaking. out. And that’s only after about 3 minutes of it. It just wasn’t a good fit for us. I’ll admit there are times I have to put her in her crib to cry when she’s really riled up and over tired (sometimes she just needs to work out the anger or over-stimulation to be able to settle down!) but she’s never been able to cry herself to sleep. And this mama just can’t handle it emotionally anyway. I’m already away from her more than I can stand… if she’s in her room and crying for me I’d rather pick her up and just love on her till she’s ready for that nap.

In addition to those personal encounters, I’ve done a great deal of research and found that many women share my experiences and struggles with scheduling their babies. Those little guys and girls just don’t want to fit our pretty schedules sometimes! And… for good reason. There is a great deal of actual clinical evidence to support the things I encountered. You can read more about that at the links below…[these narrative writings contain a great deal of clinical support in the links at the end of the post]

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) statement about Babywise

A discussion of the AAP statement.

Above all… I’m just asking for education. I’m fine with differing opinions, preferably when they’re educated.

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, getinsight.” Proverbs 4:7

Safety Classes

Last night a friend and I attended an Infant/Child CPR class at a nearby hospital. Our little cuties are just 5 days apart, so Jennifer and I have had many conversations about our fear of choking as these little people are wandering around our houses and putting everything in their mouths. Here are our little ones, Luke and Eleanor, playing together… looking rather sneaky if I might add!

EleanorWk31_0020 I’m deeply afraid of a stray penny or big chunk of dogfood causing something traumatic. So, we decided to attend the class offered at Parkwest Hospital. We decided on that class because Jennifer delivered at another hospital in the same system… UT Medical Center, where I delivered, offered a class that included some other things we weren’t interested in (like baby massage… as if we could hold our kids still long enough for that!).

Anyway, after the main part of the course they showed a safety video which listed things to look for around the house. One stood out to me bigtime.

You see, when we lived in Nasvhille, Bronce was an intern at a law firm that dealt with a child abuse case where a kid was intentionally scalded with hot water. Yep, it still gives me the shivers (and the desire to beat someone, but that’s another story). So when they started talking in the video last night about hot tap water, my ears perked up. Catch this fact: 140-degree water will cause 3rd degree burns after only 3 seconds. Woah! And if you know anything about household hot water heaters, that’s not outside the realm of unlikely.

The video suggested running hot water into a bowl and using a thermometer to check your water temps. So, of course, while Eleanor was napping this morning, I did that.

Pic_0000 That was a high as the temp got, after a few minutes in the still-running water (you can see the stream flowing just behind the thermometer). I submerged my hand and it was H-O-T, but my hand came out red, not burnt. It’s still dangerous, but not of the skin-graft variety. We’ve adjusted our hot water heater down already (well, once we went too far down and the luke-warm showers were awful!) and I may make another small adjustment, but I’m glad to know it’s in the realm of “safe.”

I’m glad I took this little step to check and very glad we took the CPR and choking class last night. I’m still going to be a watchdog for anything dangerous, but it’s not overshadowed by the fear that I won’t know what to do if something happens.

Go ahead… sign up for your own CPR class! And check your water temps, too. 🙂

Fertility

Fertility is one of those awkward things. Unfortunately in our society, it seems to be either a “got it” or “don’t” scenario. Three out of six of my closest girlfriends have dealt with fertility issues. One finally conceived after a long time of confusion and pain, one may never conceive (and has adopted), another is still in the thick of it after 6+ years of struggles. I know of one miscarriage.

I have a daughter. I still remember taking the pregnancy test and feeling both joy and sadness when I realized we had conceived quickly and without assistance. I don’t regret Eleanor, of course, but my heart hurts for friends who saw how easy it was for us and aren’t walking that same path.

We had been married 8 years when Eleanor came along, so we had seen the eager anticipation from family and friends about our timing for children… and then somewhere around years 3-5 of marriage people just stopped asking. Many probably wondered if we’d been trying and hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. Occasionally someone would ask, but usually the subject was quiet. We simply weren’t ready (note: you’re never ready) to have children earlier in our marriage, though I’m sure many assumed otherwise.

I’ve hurt some friends with careless questions over the years. I’ve also hurt friends with careless questions when I knew full well they were struggling and I continued to ask over and over how they were doing. …as if they weren’t consumed with it. And if they weren’t, I just brought it to the forefront again. I was reminded of this recently and realized how callous I have been.

Having kids and not… It can be a wedge between good friends. As Eleanor gets bigger and consumes more of my mind and heart, I’m more aware that there’s less other stuff to talk about in my life! I feel a gap forming between me and girlfriends I was close to… before. It’s a hard thing when the issues on my heart are breastfeeding, natural labor, and car seat safety.

I’d like to think some of my concern over hurting their feelings is my own over-estimation. Maybe I imagine it’s harder on those friends than it really is. I hope that’s true.

My prayer for my friends:

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 113:9

Family

Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought about what makes a family (and what breaks it, but I’m not going there). We’re thankful to be surrounded by lots of people who have chosen adoption to build their families. I love that family can be created where there is no blood relation. Bronce and I have been blessed to gain family through adoption, through marriage, and {perhaps the best way of all…} through time and intention.

We spent some weekends traveling in June to visit some family. We spent one weekend with my brother, Jim, and his daughter, Kathryn. We spent the next weekend in Nashville visiting our best friends and old neighbors, the Adams family. Both of these groups are family to us for different reasons.

Eleanor travels well in the car (she’s a rockstar, seriously), but has decided she won’t nurse anywhere but at our house. As a result, both trips took place over the course of separate Saturdays – 4 hours there and 4 hours back to visit my brother… 3 hours there and 3 hours back to visit the Adams the next weekend. Here are some of the great memories we made:

In South Carolina it was HOT. Like, 95 degrees hot. With an outdoor excursion being either an hour drive away or unshaded, we opted to head to the nearest Chic-Fil-A to play on the playground with Kathryn. It ended up being perfect!

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Jim and I got in the slide and played with Kathryn while Bronce hung out with Eleanor and talked to us from below.

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Kathryn and Eleanor were adorable together:

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They fell asleep in the car holding hands.

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We hung out at Jim’s place for a while and went to a riverwalk with the girls on our way to dinner. We took some great family pictures there.

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The next weekend we visited the Adams family in Nashville. They lived on our street when we moved to Spring Hill in 2004. A neighbor introduced us and we completely hit it off. They’re our best friends in the world and we have a bond with their family unlike anything else. When they adopted their boys 4 years ago, we were present at the ceremony. We were thrilled to realize that we were headed to Nashville on June 18 exactly 4 years after they adopted them – so we got to celebrate Adoption Day together! Kindra and I spent some time away from the house with Eleanor, but due to the dreary, rainy afternoon, we all spent most of our time gathered together in the den of their home. As a fun bonus to our visits, their house is the exact same floorplan as our old Spring Hill house, so it’s fun to see how they’re making use of the space with their growing family.

These pictures of Kindra and Jason with Eleanor make my heart smile. They last saw her in early March when she was 7 weeks old. They were so excited to see her and hold her.

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Kindra is so beautiful here. I think Eleanor is going to look like her with dark hair (I assume E’s blonde is only temporary) and bright blue eyes.

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They boys posing with Eleanor.

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Chris is totally enamored with her. Like… wants to hold her all the time, wants to play with her, took pictures with his camera (and showed her the results, naturally)… He’s super sweet with her.

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A yummy ice cream cake to celebrate Adoption Day.

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Family portrait:

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Wait, that’s more like it…

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Just the girls.

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Just a Sunday afternoon

One of our favorite things to do with Eleanor on a lazy weekend afternoon is to head downtown. We love to break out the stroller and wander through the Market Square area of town – a great “mall” area with lots of shops, restaurants, and ice cream places. On Saturdays we enjoy the farmer’s market and browsing the artisans’ wares, but Sundays are a quiet lazy day downtown and much more laid back.

Today, we started with an early dinner at Tomato Head, a lovely organic restaurant known for its pizza and salads. Here are Bronce and Eleanor hanging out while we waited for our food:

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After lunch we got some ice cream and wandered around. Randomly some guys started dancing… no wait, make that tap-dancing… on the stage in the middle of Market Square. It was the strangest experience. About 6 guys in trendy jeans and t-shirts who looked ready for bar hopping got up on the stage and started doing tap dance routines while a photographer took photos of them. They were incredibly talented, but seemed so out of place. It felt very West Side Story, like they were going to start singing at any moment.

Anyway, here’s Eleanor trying to get my ice cream. She smashed her hand in it a few times and we made a real mess, but it was fun.

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Bronce wanted to wander around Mast General Story for a while so I entertained myself by trying out various hats on Eleanor. She was not impressed but we thought it was funny.

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When Bronce wandered downstairs to check out some outdoor stuff (no elevator, so we were stranded upstairs with the stroller), we decided to take some self-portraits.

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And last, here’s Eleanor giggling while Bronce kissed on her.

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Tooth!

Baby girl started cutting her first tooth last Sunday allofasudden. We were sitting at a late lunch celebrating Father’s Day with my inlaws. She was at my feet beside the kitchen table, trying to get out of chilling in her bouncer, when suddenly she started screaming bloody murder. I assumed she was hungry (it was about time for that) and took her to a bedroom upstairs where she proceeded to shriek for about three hours. In between the bouts of yelling we managed to get home, but only an occasional ice cube stuffed in a washcloth would provide any sort of relief (she wanted nothing to do with the frozen teethers). Monday morning?… tooth!

Ohmygosh, is that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

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Friday afternoon she started screaming again so we figure the second one is coming soon.  She’s such a sweet girl, I hope she doesn’t start biting when she nurses… eek.