Friday, June 15, 2012

A story, as dictated by my five-year-old

Super Mario and His Missing Glove and His Missing Tooth

One day, well, I don’t know. Luigi had baby Mario as Micro Mario in his crib. And whenever Mario went to go fight Bowser, Princess Daisy went to her desk at school. And I don’t know what to keep about this story but this is a very long story if I should ask you.

Well, on with the story!

So, Mario went to Luigi Mansion and had a race with a million Mario racers. And then, as they were racing, Mario’s first tooth fell out of his mouth and into his pocket. And then we are convincing Bowser, well, punch one of the stories or books in his Mario book.

And then, well, I can’t tell you, well, I really can tell you. I was just trying to lie because Bowser told me to. Well, I had two hundred and a billion babies in my house and I couldn’t keep track of all of them. And I couldn’t tell all their names. They just crowded me and they even played video games like crazy. They even treated my house like a jungle gym. Well, they certainly didn’t brush their teeth. Except Tilly. She was the prettiest girl that I had in my family. Except for one billion. If I treat them like a monster, well, just mark that spot.

Well, whenever you have days like Mario, you can just call everybody you know and keep doing that.

The End.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three months (plus one week)

Oops. This post is a bit late...

C is now three months one week.

He is still growing like...well, like a healthy breastfed baby! I don't know his exact weight, but I'm guessing it must be around 18 pounds. He almost needs 12-month onesies and sleepers now.

My mom got him a really cute outfit-- shirt, pants, and tie-- which is size 3-6 months. I dressed him up in it yesterday to wear to church, but then he ended up spitting up all over it and so we had to change him. The shirt and tie fit perfectly, but the pants are already almost too tight. I really want it to still fit when we have our family portraint done (trying to schedule it for sometime this month), but we'll have to see. I'm thinking if I take a disposable diaper along and put him in that right before we take pictures, the pants will probably fit better than they do when he's in cloth.

He's been really fussy lately, which I chalk up to teething. He's been awfully drooly. We've had some pretty rough days and nights. I always say, it's a mercy babies have such short-term memories, because it must be so traumatic to be a baby!

He smiles and giggles a lot, in between his fussy times. Whenever I'm feeling down, all I have to do is look at my baby and give him a big smile and he smiles right back and perks me up every time :)

I used the baby money from my grandparents to buy a new umbrella stroller, and a couple of plastic drawer sets for C's clothes. Now we can finally use the pack-n-play for what it was designed for. Except now whenever I lay C in it, Z comes over and wants to climb in with him and I have to keep a close eye on him to make sure he stays on the outside.

Can't think of much else to report on regarding our (third) handsome little man. He's sleeping on my lap as I type this; my behind is starting to go numb, though, so I'm going to have to lay him down soon.

I want a toy box!

When I was pregnant with G (or maybe before, or maybe after-- don't bother me with details, okay?!), someone once gave the advice to never get a toybox for my kids. If I have all the toys in a toybox, they reasoned, my kids will have no choice but to empty the entire box every time they want a particular toy because-- count on it-- the toy they want will always be buried under at least a dozen other toys that they don't want. Instead, I should have large toys on shelves and smaller toys divided into smaller boxes which also fit on shelves.

I thought it was pretty sound advice.

Another piece of sound advice I received was this: Teach my children to always pick up a toy (or toy set) before getting out a new one.

I confess, I have not been good at all about following piece of advice #2. Which maybe explains why piece of advice #1 has turned out to be pretty useless, too. I've done my best (under a limited budget) to have "a place for every toy and every toy in its place," but-- well, scratch out the second half of that statement because, like I said, I'm terrible at keeping up with that and teaching my kids to do the same. Honestly, I just have other priorities.

Even when I do try, it's always a losing battle and entirely unfair, because while it might take me an hour or two to get all the toys reorganized, it only takes my boys minutes to recreate "toymaggeddon" all over again. I think they must have a secret fantasy of living in the ruins of Hurricane Gargantua.

Which brings me back to piece of advice #1 and why I've begun to come to the conclusion that, while it might have worked out great for the parent who originally gave the advice, it just doesn't work for us.

I want a method for picking up my kids' toys that actually takes the same amount of time as it takes for them to get the toys out again. Which is why I have decided to get...dun dun dun...a toybox. Also, I want this toybox to fit into the closet, so at least once in a while I can put the toys away and actually have them stay that way for a while.

Nick and I used to be able to accomplish this-- sort of-- by putting the smaller toys in boxes and putting them up on a high shelf. Just the other day, the boys got out a shoebox full of various kids' card games and proceeded to take every single card out of its respective box and covering the entire bedroom floor with them. They reveled for hours in the mess. But when Nick came home, he decided he had to resort all the cards before putting them away. I tried to explain to him that it was a lost cause, but he was determined. He sat on the bedroom floor and sorted and boxed, amidst the boys continuing to throw around the cards that were still left. Eventually, he had all the cards back in their shoebox (he missed a few under the bed and behind the shelves, but it didn't matter) and placed the shoebox high up on top of the boys' wardrobe.

Well, the next day, it didn't take long for G to figure out that he could take a stool into the bedroom and reach that box of cards all the same. When Nick came home, he sighed, and all I could say was, "I told you so."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trash to Treasure Creation #3: RC Robot

About a week ago, the topper on one of the boys' RC trucks came off. While still awaiting Mr. Fixit to do his job, I came up with the idea to do this:

I knew all those old plastic containers would come in handy someday...

I finished it off with aluminum foil and metallic tape (the kind you'd use to tape up a dryer vent tube) to make it look shiny. It's fastened to the wheels with a couple of extra-large twist-ties poked into the plastic, then wrapped around the bottom. G provided the face:

G says his name is "Robot six-oh-seven." I personally think we should employ him as our Butler. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My take on Attachment Parenting

As I've said before, I've never been big on reading parenting books, or following the advice of "experts" to the letter. I believe in being flexible, responding to the unique needs and personalities of my children, and I improvise A LOT. I've read bits and parts of different parenting "methods" along the way, talked with other mothers, taken the ideas I thought I could use, shelved some for possible use down the road, and completely discarded others.

While I didn't start down the road of parenting with Attachment Parenting in mind (never even came across the term until G was almost a year old), of all the various methods out there, it does seem to come closest to my naturally-preferred "method."

I want my children to know that they can count on me. I want them to trust me. I want them to consider me and their dad as their "home base," where they will always feel welcome, safe, and confident. Of course I want them to be independent, too. And they are, as far as is developmentally appropriate for their age. The tools of AP, when used correctly, are intended to help a child become more independent, not less. But it's also an appropriate independence, a healthy independence. "Independence" and "Attachment" are not mutually exclusive ideas.

I also like to call the concept of attachemnt parenting "responsive parenting," as this is more the way I see it. My goal is not to raise my kids so we'll be attached at the hip forever; that's not healthy for anyone (least of all my future daughters-in-law). My goal is to be responsive to my children's needs now, so that down the road they will know how-- and be willing-- to respond to the needs of others. It certainly seems to be working in my oldest child.

I want to nurture a feeling of mutual trust in my children, and that begins when they are still babies. The "tools" of attachment parenting as designed to aid parents towards this end.
According to Dr. Sears-- the main author (along with his wife) of the AP method, there are "7 B's" to APing a baby, which are:

1. Birth bonding
2. Breastfeeding
3. Babywearing
4. Bedding close to baby
5. Belief in the value of your baby's cries
6. Beware of "baby trainers"
7. Balance

The most important of these I believe to be #7, as it ties into all the others. I believe the above tools need to be adapted to each individual family and circumstance. No one parenting method is going to be a perfect fit for everyone; but AP in general is a pretty adaptable method. Also, I don't believe it is necessary to utilize all seven tools throughout in order to achieve desired results; they just help.

1. Birth bonding is of course important. However, I believe it is wrong to think that a baby is doomed if he does not get to "bond" with his parents immediately. There are all sorts of situations where babies are not able to bond/be held immediately after birth, and they still have a good chance of forming perfectly healthy bonds with their parents later. My third baby was in the NICU for a whole week after he was born; I barely got to hold him for the first 2-3 days of his life. And yet, somehow, I feel even more bonded to this baby than I did with either of my other two even though they both got to be held extensively from the very start. There are many things which factor in to the parent/child attachment, and birth bonding is only one of them. Even adopted babies are capable of bonding very strongly with their adoptive parents. I believe babies are born ready to bond, and that readiness does not diminish within a matter of days, or weeks, or even months. Babies who are bonded with right after birth have a head start, that's all.

2. Breastfeeding. I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed all my babies without a single drop of formula. Some breastfeeding advocates will try to say that all mothers are capable of successful breastfeeding; I'm not so sure. We really just don't know how many babies in the past-- before the development of formula-- might have died from malnutrition because their mothers did not produce enough milk despite their best efforts; or how many mothers struggled with breastfeeding their babies until they finally gave up and handed them over to wet-nurses. Milk production is hormonally driven, and we know how unstable hormones can be. Since wet-nurses don't seem to be socially acceptable any more, a mother who struggles to breastfeed her child may in fact be left in the end with no other choice but to give her child infant formula. This does not mean she does not love her child, and giving a child formula does not doom him for the rest of his life. It is possible for a breastfeeding pair to feel detached from each other (I actually experienced this for a while with Z during my bout of post-partum depression); and it is possible for a bottle-fed baby to be very attached to his parents. I believe the attitude a parent takes towards feeding (and otherwise nurturing) her child-- moreso than what the child is being fed-- is more important to the development of healthy attachment.

That said, I have also come to believe that the most successful breastfeeding occurs when a mother nurses her child on demand, not according to a schedule. And yes, as an experienced breastfeeding mother, I can attest that it is exhausting sometimes. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

3. Babywearing can be a useful tool, but not as necessary as the others. That is, if you have a busy schedule, need to be on your feet a lot, have older siblings to care for, babywearing can be invaluable. But, simply holding your baby often when he needs to be held can be good enough.

I did not babywear at all with my first baby (we had a cheap carrier, but I only tried it out a couple of times nad I never really liked it, and G grew out of it pretty quickly). I didn't need  to babywear my first, since we lived with Nick's parents at the time and there was almost always some adult around (me, Nick, my in-laws, even my sister for a couple of months while she was here visiting) willing to hold him when he was fussy. I ended up wearing Z fairly often in the first months of his life-- it helped with his reflux; but he was such a chunky baby that I did not wear him very often once he was sitting independently. With this third baby, my back is in such bad shape and my baby is so heavy that, when I do babywear, I can't do it for very long. Babywearing, then, is not a tool that I use religiously. Referring to #7 on the list-- Balance-- In seeking a balance between meeting the needs of my baby and meeting my own, babywearing is something I only resort to in special circumstances (and when my back is not already killing me). However, I do try to hold him as much as I am able when he needs it, or else make sure there is some other adult around willing to hold him when I need a break. There are also times, though, when I have had to put him down (fussy or not) in order to take care of the needs of one of my other boys (try wiping a poopy bum with a baby in one arm-- it's not easy!), and that's just the way it is; I do my best to make up for it later.

4. Bedding close to baby. This does not necessarily mean sleeping in the same bed, but that's how it's primarily worked out for us. We have a king bed, so it's been easy to co-sleep safely and comfortably. We did not start out co-sleeping with our first, however. G slept in a bassinet quite happily for the first 4-5 months of his life; when he woke in the middle of the night to nurse or in need of a diaper change, Nick would get up, change the diaper, and then I would sit and nurse him until he was ready to be put back down. Sometime around 5 months, he grew out of his bassinet; we transitioned him to a crib and he hated it. It was so hard to get him to go down in it; if we tried leaving him to cry, he just got more and more hysterical and I, for one, came to the conclusion that the struggle wasn't worth it. We started co-sleeping, and it was beautiful. G even stopped needing to nurse in the middle of the night, since if he did start getting a little fussy I was right there to notice and I would just pop a binky into his mouth and he would usually (growth spurt periods excepted) go right back to sleep before he even became fully awake. We all got a better night's sleep, and we were all much happier as a result. When G was just over a year old, we were able to successfully transition him to a toddler bed without ever having to resort to cry-it-out methods.

When Z came along, I figured we'd do something similar with him. He also started out in a bassinet, and since he slept 6-7 hours a night from the start, it worked pretty well. He'd sleep most of the night in his bassinet, and then when he woke up in the early morning, I would lay down and nurse him and we'd both go back to sleep this way. He grew out of the bassinet very quickly, though, and since we had gotten rid of our crib (which G hardly used), the only other option for a while was to have him full-time co-sleeping with us. When we purchased bunk beds (and accompanying mattresses) for the boys, we were finally able to transition him to a twim mattress on the floor, where one of us could lay with him as he fell asleep, and in this way we got our own bed back-- at least partially. But Z turned out to be a much more needy baby and toddler than his older brother, and it took a very long time to get him sleeping all night every night in his own bed. Weaning him at last at 22 months helped a lot, but even now there is the occasional night where he ends up climbing into bed with Daddy in the middle of the night, when he wakes up after a nightmare or because he's sick and needs extra comfort.

We've been co-sleeping (at night, not during naps) with C since the first day we brought him home. It's working out pretty well so far, but we'll see how things go as he gets older. The only challenge with C is that he will usually go down between seven and nine, sleep for a couple hours, and then want to be up until eleven or midnight. It's exhausting at times, but it's not something I'm willing to fight at the moment. He's only three months old, and I figure as he gets older he will become more naturally regulated; and if it doesn't happen naturally, there are things I can do with him to help him along without having to result to strict crying-out. But, that brings me to tool #5.

5. Belief in the value of your baby's cries.

Crying is a baby's first language. I don't believe that my baby ever cries without some reason, even when I can't figure out what that reason is. After three babies, I've become pretty skilled at reading certain "cries" to understand what my baby needs: to nurse, to poop, to pass gas. Babies cry when they have sour stomachs, when they're teething, when they're too cold, or too warm...

I even believe there are some things that babies cry about that I as a parent can't possibly understand: imagine, for instance, having a severe itch on your left pinky toe and not being able to adequately communicate with someone to have them take care of it-- of course you're going to cry! And then you'll wonder why no one's fixing it, and you'll cry even more! It must be so aggravating!

When I've taken care of everything I think my baby needs and he continues to cry for something that I can't figure out-- when there's absolutely nothing else I can do for him-- the least I can do is hold him.

My baby cannot be spoiled. An older child can be, yes. And it's a difficult thing, figuring out where the fine line is between babyhood and childhood, between the "unspoilable age" and the "spoilable." But by becoming well-tuned to my baby's needs when he is young, I will be better able to distinguish between these true needs and pure wants as he grows older. But right now, at the age he's at, I believe there really is no line between need and want. If he wants his mommy, he needs his mommy. And I intend to be there for him as often as is humanly possible. As I said before, especially with two other children, there are times when I have to put him down and let him cry for a few minutes while I take care of a more pressing need elsewhere. But I will always come back to him, because I want him to learn that he can depend on me, that he can trust me.

6. Beware of "baby trainers." This is a touchy subject, and I'm not so certain it really belongs as a "tool." It's more of a warning than a tool, semantically speaking. But I understand the general idea behind it, and that is to beware of those on the opposite end of AP trying to discourage the efforts of the AP parent. There will always be extremists who advocate strict scheduling in every aspect of a baby's life. And this, I believe, does indeed do more harm than good. But there is a place for a certain degree of scheduling in certain circumstances, if it's what's in the best interest of a particular family unit. If a parent is doing her best to understand her baby's needs and to be responsive to those needs, guiding that child towards a more structured lifestyle based around the child's own natural "rhythms" can be a good thing. I have to admit I have not been very good at this myself, and things often get...chaotic in this household as a result. But my kids won't be this young forever, and eventually everything will even out. I've tried scheduling my kid's lives more in the past, and it's always been more stress for me than it's worth. Like I said, I like being flexible, and if a little bit of chaos is the price I pay for staying true to my own personality, I'm willing to pay that price. It's better for my sanity in the long run, and it's not going to hurt my kids.

7. Balance. As I said before, Balance is key to successful APing. I would drive myself crazy if I believed that I had to be 100% attached to my kids every moment of the day in order for them to be happy. All of the above tools are just that-- tools. Not rules. And even if I were to adopt just two or three of them, I would already be well on my way to achieving the ultimate goal of attachment parenting, which is a happy, healthy, secure, and confident childhood for each of my children.