Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Life Lately

I've had so much to write and so few words lately.  I can never quite say what I want to, but I figure that writing something is better than nothing.

Life has been busy lately and I really thought July would be "slower".  What was I thinking?  With two little ones, I feel like I'm just trying to keep up with the naps, feedings, diaper changes (and potty breaks for Eliot), and squeeze in fun time before Chris goes to work out around 3:00 pm followed by dinner and bedtime at 6:00 pm (for Jack) and 7:00 pm (for Eliot).  We're always going, going, going, but I think we're doing a pretty good job.  We've had fun days at the beach, splashed around in the pool, started going for morning walks, and took trips to the park.

Chris's parents rented a beach house at the Outer Banks, NC for a couple of weeks.  We went for a few days of each of the two weeks.  We walked to the sound and splashed in the water.  On my birthday, Chris took me out to dinner and then we watched the sunset on the sound.

Now we're back home and getting back to normal.  I really need to go to the grocery store....  But, we started taking Eliot back to his soccer class.  We started going last fall.  He really loved it, but he had trouble following directions all of the way.  He would get so excited about one game they were playing that he'd have trouble listening to instructions and moving on to the next game.  It was frustrating because I'd have to go tell him what to do or remind him that he had to listen or we'd have to go home.  Also, if he lost his ball (which happened a lot since he was kicking so hard), he'd get mad at whichever kid took it.  And kids would also take his ball without him losing the ball too.  And it didn't work out.  So, we took a break to focus on summer fun.

We went back this week and it was a completely different experience.  Eliot listened and followed along.  I didn't have to go correct his behavior once.  If someone took his ball, he got another one.  In fact, a couple of times he and another boy would be going for the same ball, but Eliot would step back and let the other boy have it.  I was so proud of him.  Also, he wasn't just doing big kicks, but controlled and dribbled the ball. (Just as a note, these are non-competitive, team-building games using soccer skills, so I'm not trying to make him into a push-over in sports by getting him to "get another ball" if someone steals his.  It's not really like a full-on, competitive soccer game with score and goalies and all.  Picture red light-green light with soccer balls.)

There are times when, as a parent, I look at my kids and wonder if I'm doing OK.  The day-to-day can be hard.  Are we making progress?  Are we growing?  Am I disciplining and loving in the right ways and providing a good balance?  It is hard to gauge that daily.  However, when you take a step back and notice how your kid has grown over six months, you know you're doing something right.  Maybe he is getting better at sharing, listening, and controlling his excitement.  I can't wait to take him back to soccer next week.  I never looked forward to it before because it was so hard (and he was the youngest, which is also difficult).  Now, though, it was the highlight of my week.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Five Things I "Knew" About Parenting Before I Became One (That I was Wrong About)

Before I had kids, I silently watched others from the sidelines.  I worried if I'd be good enough of a parent one day, but at the same time, I oversimplified the act of parenting.  So, here are five things that I thought I had figured out concerning parents (and how I realized that I was wrong).

Parents develop parenting philosophies based on what they think is most correct.
Prior to having Eliot, I did a lot of researching about how to be a parent.  There were so many different parenting styles and philosophies out there.  While I believed there to be some wiggle room, I thought that parents created their philosophies before having their kids, like a plan of how to react.  I tried to create my own philosophy.  Paci = bad.  Formula = bad.  Spanking = bad.  Co-sleeping = bad.  Cry it out = bad.  Pottytraining before or after two-years-old = bad.  The oversimplistic list goes on. Then I had Eliot and entered survival mode.  I became the co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding momma who also gave her baby a paci and didn't successfully pottytrain until three.  My parenting philosophy was baby-driven with what worked, not some ideal situation.  And then Jack came along and my "philosophy" completely changed.  When he had trouble sleeping, I tried to co-sleep with him because that was what worked with Eliot.  No, Jack has to have his own space in his own bed in order to sleep.  Also, sometimes he has to cry just a little in order to fall asleep.  And a paci?  Forget it.  He is not interested.  While I fought to nurse Eliot for six and a half months, I am now fighting to get Jack to stop nursing at a year.  Each baby is so incredibly different and you borrow bits from various parenting philosophies for whatever fits your child, not some preconceived idea of what is "right".  Nothing will teach you how WRONG you are about parenting more than having two children who are complete opposites.

Bad behavior is a result of bad parenting, a lack of discipline, or both.
Maybe this goes along with the first idea, but I was pretty sure that undesirable behavior in kids (throwing tantrums, talking back, not listening, not eating, and so on) were just because parents were not parenting correctly or were not disciplining their kids enough.  Perhaps the kids were acting out in order to get more attention.  Or maybe they were disrespectful because the parents did not teach boundaries.  The thing is, toddlers and kids are self-preserving, self-centered monsters who sometimes have difficulty communicating.  Teaching a kid to share, be respectful, listen to directions, and do things they don't want to is a long, continual process.  You might catch a kid on a bad day.  You might see a kid melting down in a store because he is tired or hungry or unable to find the right words.  That doesn't mean that the parent is not doing their absolute best.  And in a week, that kid might get over the bad behavior and be a better sharer than you are.  Learning to be a caring, respectful individual is a long journey, so don't judge a three-year-old (or her parents) based on just a few interactions.
"I will have this cupcake."

I can handle repetition.
OK, this is going to sound awful, but there are times when I feel like I am going to pull my hair out due to the constant repetition of phrases and questions that don't even make sense.  I LOVE that Eliot talks.  He talks all the time.  He says the funniest, crazies, sweetest things.  I can't make this stuff up.  It is GREAT and fills me with so much pride.  But sometimes he just gets going and almost cannot stop himself.  He will ask the same question or say the same statement over again until not only have I answered, but I have to have answered and reacted in the right way.  One time I decided not to answer him to see how many times he would repeat himself.  He stood in front of me and said the same sentence more than twenty times.  He has gotten better about repetition since then, but, golly, it can be intense.  Sometimes when we are watching tv, he will tell me everything that is happening, like I just can't see it for myself or something.  Fortunately, when he wants to talk but has nothing to say, his stock phrase is, "Mommy....  I love you."  I can deal with that.

 I'll only post photos of my kids looking at the camera and smiling.
I've always really been into photography and documenting everything.  I thought it was weird when people would post pictures of their babies crying.  Before I had kids, I stepped it up a level, though, and decided I would only post photos of my babies smiling at the camera.  Yeah right...  I plan to write an entry on that at another time, but Eliot has always been the worst at smiling at the camera.  He would look at the camera at times, sure, but he'd look so incredibly serious and upset.  Even if he were having a blast as a toddler, he would immediately stop smiling when a camera came out.  Jack was better about looking and smiling at the camera, but he is starting to shy away from it too now.  Ah.
 You can almost hear me begging, "Will you please just look at the camera for one second?"

And lastly, it is bittersweet to watch babies grow up, but I will go with the flow and not complain.
Everyone warns new parents to savor each moment and I can honestly say that I never wished away my babies' infanthood.  I enjoyed the newborn phase through all the sleepless nights for the amazing, short period that it was.  I tried to remember every piece of every milestone.  I try to take tons of photos.  I write letters.  I write blogs.  I take videos.  But I can't capture it all no matter how hard I try.  And despite trying to love every day and accept that they will grow, they keep growing up too fast for me.  Parenting keeps getting easier in some ways and harder in others.  I let go of an adorable phase and welcome an even more fun one.  But it is still hard.  And they sure aren't slowing down just for my comfort.  I will just have to keep on loving them every day no matter if we're having a good one or a bad one.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Life Lately

The whole month of June seemed to breeze by.  It was a good month, but a lot kept us on our toes.  I accomplished a lot of dissertation work.  We had quite a few visitors.  We dogsat my parents' dogs while they were on vacation and watered their palm trees.  Our AC broke--but we got it fixed the next day, so no big catastrophe.  Eliot visited his grandparents in Woodbridge for about five days.  We had Jack's party....  Nothing bad, just a lot of little events that made it difficult for us to maintain a routine.

I think July will be much more calm, though.

Jack had been fussy almost all of June.  He was crying more than he was happy, which can really wear a momma out.  I noticed that a tooth broke through on the bottom yesterday, though, so maybe that was part of his fussiness.  Also, I know he has just been so angry about not being able to walk for a while.  He wanted to run around with freedom like his brother, and when it didn't work out right away, he would cry in frustration.  And then he walked!  And then he wanted to be able to stand up without pulling on anything.  More tears.  And tears when he would fall down.  However, he started standing straight up and doesn't fall much anymore, so he is happier.

People warn you to "watch out" when baby starts walking, but for me, it honestly seems so much easier.

Before Jack could walk, we couldn't just hang out in the backyard.  The kid will eat anything.  He loves to choke on gumballs.  He consumes dirt by the fistful.  And if I sat him down on a blanket, he would crawl off to find dirt to make a mess.  If we were outside, I would need to hold him the whole time.  Not so easy.  However, now that he can walk, he loves to stroll through the yard, touch new leaves on bushes, kick the soccer ball, climb up (!!!) and go down the slide, play in sandbox....  The list goes on.  He is so busy and entertains himself.  I love it!
I mean, trips to Target are harder now because he wants to walk around the store and shop too, but I usually try to only go to Target once a week so I don't buy the whole store.

I try not to write about my dissertation on here too much.  It's boring to read about when you are so detached.  I have spent the past few weeks gathering data, though, which is great.  I needed 30 participants to respond.  I have 37!  I will continue gathering data over the next week because the more data, the better.  Then it will be time to analyze the data, which I know will bring me so many new hurdles that I had not clue about.  But I've come THIS far.  I know I can make it through.  And after kicking around this idea for four years, I am so excited to see the results.  I have SO many ideas of different ways to adapt the study and expand it for future research, which I hope to do maybe next spring--of course, after I finish up my dissertation.

 A tropical storm is supposed to come through on Friday, so we got in some beach time today.  We played in the sand, swam in the bay water, and had a picnic on the beach.  By the way, if you live near the beach, do yourself a favor and invest in one of those little tent-shelter things.  $20 at Target.  Best.thing.ever. because it doesn't blow away like all of my umbrellas and I can keep the babies in some shade when they seem hot.  Anyway, Eliot fell asleep in the car on the way home.  That never happens.  He was oddly fussy.  After his bath, I noticed that he was warm.  Yep, he has a fever.  Enter crazy worrying about dry or secondary drowning (even though he didn't come close to having any sort of "struggle in water" at the beach).  After some Tylenol and another nap, he seemed a lot better.  Well, he woke up sweating and screaming first, but then he evened out and ate dinner.  I'm hoping he'll get over this quickly and easily.