You might have missed…

I put up some posts that were a little (okay, a lot) late. You might have missed them in your feeder, I’m not sure if Google Reader and the like catch old back-dated posts.

Eight Month letter to Eleanor

A weekend with family in South Carolina

Baby Girl’s 9-month Letter

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Nine Months

As each of these month-a-versaries passes, I’m more shocked by the passage of time. My little girl is growing up so quickly! People have been stopping me in stores for months to let me know that it would happen quickly, but I’m constantly reminded just how BIG you are! Doing some newborn photo shoots lately has reminded me of how tiny and squishy you once were… You’re still my little girl, of course, but you’re just getting so big and learning so much all the time!

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You’re ringing in this month with seven teeth. I’m not even sure when the last two appeared… Somehow you went from five to seven seemingly overnight. 

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You’ve got such a personality, too. You’re beginning to get very vocal (lots of mamamamama and dadadadada… and yes, the “mama” came first! Good girl!) and love to chatter at us all the time. You’re hilarious in the grocery store, chattering away at the groceries and checking out all the people around us. I find myself repeating “she never meets a stranger!” and it’s so true… You’ll smile, laugh, giggle, and awkwardly stare at just about anyone.

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You’ve been standing up for months, but I feel like you’re getting so much closer to walking! You cruise around and climb through the craziest obstacles. Your daddy likes to put you in “predicaments”… meaning, he’s always putting things in your path to confound you and see if you can figure out how to get through. I know he thinks he’s being silly, but I think it’s actually helping you learn how to get around better as you navigate those various pillows, chairs, toys, tossed blankets, etc.

Your new favorite thing is to play in the pantry while I’m cooking dinner. We have a few of these water gallons on the floor and you enjoy knocking them over and scooting them around.

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You’re eating really well. We give you lots of finger foods to try out, but you’re still a lover of purees. I’m trying to break you of that habit as much as possible so you won’t be weird about textures. I try to share part of my plate with you wherever we go so you get used to lots of different tastes. You’ll try anything, which is encouraging. And by “try”… I mean “smash it around and smoosh it in your hair”… but that’s good too.

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You play HARD. You’re awesome when it comes to playing by yourself. We’ve expanded your play area to the whole den (we jam the ottoman into the wide doorway to the hall and pull kitchen chairs up between the recliner and the kitchen) and you’re all over it. You push toys around, toss them out of your toybox, sit and “read” books (meaning: chew the covers and yell at the pages), and love to cruise around the couch looking for one of the real tv remotes or my cellphone to grab and chew on.

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You’re not really sleeping better… in fact we’re about to start working on your nights hardcore. Waking 4-7 times a night is just not cutting it, and while I don’t mind nursing you in the night, the constant night-waking is just too much and not necessary.

You’ve started this cute thing where I put my head near yours and say “bonk!”… you lean forward and tap your forehead to mine. Each time we bonk foreheads I say “bonk!” outloud and you just giggle and giggle!

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The week before you turned 9 months, we went to the beach. You had a great time! The condo floors were tile, which freaked me out the whole time as I was convinced you were going to bash your head, but you loved it and they didn’t seem to bother your little knees. I’ll write more in another post, but you did a great job down at the beach, too. You weren’t too keen on sand so you stayed on our towel/sheet and played with your toys in the shade, only stopping when daddy took you on long walks down the beach.

Girlie, you’re amazing.

Family Weekend

The first weekend of October Eleanor and I traveled with my parents to Central, SC where Jim and Kathryn live. Bronce couldn’t make it (bummer), but we were determined to enjoy the weekend together and have a good time. We headed over Saturday morning, picked up my brother and niece, and went to a neighboring town’s fall festival. It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon.

I have quite a few sweet pictures like this from various trips, but there’s just nothing sweeter than Kathryn holding the hands of her Daddy and her Papa.

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Mom and Kathryn, watching the festivities.

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There was a big square dancing demonstration followed by some line-dancing. Obviously I had to show Kathryn my awesome moves. We’re stomping away…

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Mom found this airplane for Kathryn at one of the booths. I remember these from when I was little… made of really light wood, you put the pieces together in pre-cut slots and the plane actually flies decently well when thrown straight. Kathryn never really mastered it, but she had fun swooping it around.

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Mom and Dad… Grandee and Papa… with Kat

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Fairy Wings

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Painting Pumpkins

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Papa with his littlest granddaughter. Eleanor did a great time out in the heat and had fun.

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Love, love, love this shot of Kathryn. The “cat” face-paint isn’t the best, but man does she look cute!

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After church Sunday morning we headed for a local Chinese restaurant for some lunch before the Knoxvillians hit the road and headed back home.

“Kathryn, are you cold?”

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Me with my sweet girls. Kathryn says they’re sisters. I love that.

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Mom with her granddaughters.

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Jim and Kathryn. Man, they’re not afraid to be silly together. It’s the sweetest thing to see them trying to out-crazy each other. Jim looks weird, so in my opinion he wins.

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The family together (minus Bronce). Sweet memories.

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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?

Eight Months

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You’re such a little mover, working your way all over the place when we let you crawl around free. It’s been fun watching you grow!

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I love the quiet time we have together when you’re nursing. Lately you’ve been more playful – your free arm is always doing something – pulling my hair, tugging the ribbons on your lovey, or throwing your blanket on the floor. When I nurse you on the right you always take your right hand and stretch to your foot, kicking it straight up toward your head. Somehow this doesn’t even interfere with what you’re doing, you little gymnast.

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We play every day in your “pen.” It’s an area in the den floor where I take our large ottoman and block off a part of the sectional. The fourth “wall” is created by your stand-up music toy and your canvas toy box. You love to sit with me in the pen and play for hours. You look intently at a toy for a while and then toss it over, crawl to the box, pull up, and get something else out to play with. Adorably, sometimes you stand there and start tossing things out till you find the one you want.

ElranorWk32_0018 While sitting on the floor together you eventually will give up on your toys and meander over to me. You use every means possible to stand up on my legs – pulling on my shirt or my hair, often using both hands wound in my hair to wrench yourself off the ground. I’ve read that motor development begins at your head and develops down – this is evident in your masterful and strong hands but sometimes-confused placement of your feet. When trying to climb (on me or the couch or anything else), you’re pulling with your arms rather than pushing off with your legs.

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And what are you climbing for? Well, sometimes for my face – you like to stand with our faces close and stick your sideways tongue out at me.

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Other times you’re on the look for one thing… buttons. Cordless phones, remote controls, the computer mouse… whatever you can find that will be bumpy and good to chew on. Nevermind if you somehow activate the parent-control buttons on our cable box and I don’t know how to undo it… Hah, we’ve even given you your own remote (batteries removed and the battery cover is permanently attached so not a choking hazard) but you lost it quickly. Well, maybe we lost it. Either way it’s a mystery.

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Teeth… oh teeth. Good grief. Your bottom two have been in for a while but you’re in the process of getting three top ones in at a time (two center and the left canine). I didn’t think the canines were supposed to come in for a while! But… they’re coming. Baby tylenol, teethers, and patience. Those are necessities now. Meanwhile you twist your tongue and chomp on it to the left side of your bottom teeth. It’s such a cute little squishy look.

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You’re also loving kitchen utensils.

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You’ve started reaching out to us a lot, in your crib, from the floor, getting out of your carseat… It’s sweet and I’m happy to pick you up anytime you come for me with your sweet smile!

And, because it’s Football Time in Tennesse…. Go Vols!

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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

Seven Months

I’m amazed I’m already writing this letter! I’m also amazed I’m a week late. Okay… no, that doesn’t surprise me in the least. Timelines and deadlines are flying by me right now and it’s only with my carefully-written to-do lists that I even manage to get stuff done around the house. Like laundry. Yes, I have to write that down on my list. Otherwise I get out of the shower in the morning and realize I have no clean pants… which has happened more times than I’d like to count in the last few weeks.

Anyway, Eleanor is technically 7 months and one week old by now… But who’s counting? Oh wait, I am…EleanorWk27_0010

Baby girl… I think more fun things have happened in this last month than any previous. I remember my friend Robin telling me that the 6-12 month window is the hardest because of increased mobility, and WOW can I just say that’s soooo true. What we defined as “crawling” at the end of last month is nothing like your achievements at this point. You’re flying around the house and are always underfooot! You’ve gained a lot of confidence in your ability to get around, though you still have some wipeouts every now and then (which are super dramatic and teary).

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We started you on cereal and baby food and real food a few weeks ago. We’re doing a modified following of the Baby Led Weaning practice, though I don’t always have organic vegetables on hand for you and we’re giving you baby food regularly too. So far you’ve loved avocado and sweet potatoes (steamed and also plain baked ones).

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Eating

As soon as you got comfortable moving around you started seeking UP positions… You’ve always loved being on your feet and bouncing in our laps, but now you’re actively reaching for toys and things up high, pulling your little body till you’re standing all by yourself! We have some fun activity table toys for you to play with and you’re enjoying all the sounds. You’ve gotten great at lowering yourself back to the ground, too. Every now and then you still take a tumble, but generally you’re doing well at adapting to this new view of the world.

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You love buttons. You become fixated on the remotes in the den, so we’ve confiscated and unused remote and removed the batteries so it can be your toy. You will sit still and play with that thing for twenty minutes – it’s incredible how many new ways you find to chew on the edges (or smash it around on the ground).

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Though you’re not sleeping any better at night (still waking to nurse 3-6 times from 11pm-6am), you do take some killer naps sometimes. Often when you awake, you’ll play quietly in your crib and I’ll hear you moving around. When I go to peek in at you, you’re pulling up on your bumper and peeking through the slats at me. Sometimes you’ll be standing completely up, looking over the rails for toys you can’t quite reach.

 EleanorWk27_0026We see glimpes of your personality shining through all the time. From your response to daddy’s relentless tickling and the way you reach for us or play shy… the defiant way you try to roll off your changing table every time we address a dirty diaper… even the way you crawl around trying to pick up the air conditioning floor vents to see what’s in them (I fear the day you realize there’s nothing there but to toss a toy down the metal vent would be fun… yeesh). You get a sweet look on your face and stare at your hands as you wiggle your fingers and turn your hands over and back. It’s precious watching you discover these body parts and the way to manipulate them.

EleanorWk29_0001Your smile is the brightest part of my day, sweet girl. As more of those teeth come through (and they’re trying!), I know we’ll have some tough moments but seeing that grin and your precious arms reaching out to me confirms I have the best job in the world as your mommy.