Thursday, July 24, 2014

My SAHM Experiment

Guinevere’s daycare closes for a week around the 4th of July every year.  It’s a private, in-home daycare, everyone’s gotta take a break every now and then.  Fortunately, since I am still on maternity leave, we didn’t have to scramble for childcare.  I just took care of both kids.  All day. By myself.  For a week.  Part of me was super nervous, and another part of me was excited.  I got over my nerves by reminding myself that stay at home moms take care of all their kids all the time.  They don’t get a maternity leave where the oldest goes off to daycare.  If they can do it, so can I.  Right?

I think every working mom has fantasized at some point, however briefly, about being a stay at home mom.  My fantasies usually occur as I am writing that check to daycare (oh man, two daycare payments are right around the corner – ouch!).  It’s also nice to fantasize about being able to spend more quality time with my kids and have time to do laundry, cook and clean.  Wow, you know it’s a sign of getting old when you fantasize about having time to do chores around the house!

So, how did I do in my week pretending to be a SAHM? (“Stay at home mom,” for those not up on the lingo.)  Honestly, it went surprisingly well!  Both kids were remarkably well behaved for the most part.  We may have watched a little too much “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” the first couple days, but hey, no one’s a perfect parent from the very beginning, right?  Guinevere is obsessed with Mickey, and it was the best way I could think of to get her to stay put when I had to feed Malcolm.

Here are some highlights from our week together:
  • -       Coloring with Guinevere in her Mickey Mouse coloring books while Malcolm napped nearby.
  • -       Having a dance party and folding laundry to the soundtrack of Carole King and Billy Joel.
  • -       Taking the kids to the park by myself to meet up with a friend and her two kids.  We went for a walk around the lake and then played on the playground.  I am very grateful to my friend for following G around the playground while I fed Malcolm.
  • -       Taking the kids to a lunch date with another friend and her baby.  I am so proud of my babies – they were very well behaved in a non-kid oriented environment.  Malcolm slept through the entire lunch and Guinevere made it a good 45 minutes before she started getting bored.
  • -       The weather was amazing and I took the kids for a walk almost every day.

And some lessons I learned from my week as a SAHM:
1.              Being a stay at home mom requires a lot of planning!  Unless you want to not eat and sit in front of the TV all day, you need to have a meal plan and plan out whatever activities you want to do well in advance. 
2.             In order to get two small kids out the door at a certain time, you have to start the process about at least an hour before you actually want to leave.
3.              Don’t tell the toddler where you are going until you are ready to leave.  Otherwise, you end up with a two year old wandering around the house saying, “Park, park. Go.  Go?  Go! Go Park!” and then dragging you to the door while you are still trying to get everything together to actually go to the park.
4.              A double stroller is a very useful tool, however, carrying one kid in an Ergo or similar, while the other kid rides in the stroller is a viable alternative.
5.              It’s ok to let the baby cry for a couple minutes while you put the toddler to bed.
6.         It’s ok to wait to clean the house until after the babies are asleep; in fact, it is essential to maintaining one’s sanity.
7.              It is important to schedule some sort of physical activity in the morning; otherwise the toddler will NOT nap!  Instead, you will be treated to a chorus of the “A, B, C’s,” counting, “reading” various books, and random singing and dancing all within the confines of the crib.
8.         Even if the toddler does not actually nap, having “quiet time” in the house from 1-2pm is crucial to one’s sanity.
9.              You are never too old to color in coloring books.
10.          Toddler hugs are the best!

We really did have a great week.  I haven’t been able to spend that much quality time with Guinevere since I was on maternity leave after she was born!  I was sad to see her go back to daycare . . . ok, sad and relieved.  I took an amazing nap her first day back at daycare!  She came home so tired that she fell asleep in her high chair during dinner! 

PS If any of my co-workers are reading this, have no fear, I am coming back! I have no intentions to become a full-time stay at home mom.  While it’s nice to pretend every now and then, it’s not something that is feasible for me or my family.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Anti-Pinterest No-Theme Birthday Party

Photo by Michael Spencer

I can’t believe Guinevere is two already!  But then I think about how much has happened in our lives since her first birthday last year, and it feels like she should be three by now! Like many moms these days, I started a Pinterest board about six months in advance trying to plan Guinevere’s birthday party.  But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to stress about themes, decorations and food - especially when I knew I would have an infant to deal with.  So I decided there would be no theme, and I would not have any coordinated decorations – nothing that would get pictures of this party pinned on Pinterest.  I kept it simple: a birthday party in the park.  I asked the guests to bring food for themselves or to share so that I wouldn’t have to stress about bringing more than cupcakes (though I did end up bringing some other snacks).  

Our no-theme food table.

One stroke of genius: I decided not to frost the cupcakes ahead of time, and instead set up a "frost your own" cupcake station. This way a) I did not have to worry about transporting frosted cupcakes and b) people got to put as much or as little frosting as they wanted.  This worked great for parents with little kids as they could give the two year olds an unfrosted cupcake and not worry about too much sugar-craziness.
Cupcake station. Photo by Michael Spencer

I have some amazing friends and family!  Everyone pitched in and we had a great party – who needs a theme?  Some good friends of ours headed over to the park early to stake out the one table that I knew would have shade at the time of the party. Another friend brought a shade structure and some decorations that she had lying around her house.  Here's a tip: even if you have a party with no decorations, bring some sort of distinguishing feature, whether it's some balloons or a shade structure that says, "Happy Birthday," particularly if your party is in a large park, like this one was.  That way, when people text from the parking lot asking where you are, you can say, “Look for the Disney Princess banners” (or whatever decorations you are using).  
The shade structure.
I think I’ve mentioned here before (or at least I know I’ve said this on facebook many times) that I’m not a big party favor person.  The last thing any parent needs is a bag of stuff that collects dust or gets thrown away.  I decided, instead of goodie bags, I would buy a bunch of bubbles and set them out for the kids to play with and take home.  I also wanted to share with all my parent friends just how much I love this brand of bubbles.  They are called fubbles, and the dispenser is made so that toddlers (and their parents) don’t spill bubble solution all over themselves.  Seriously, you can tip that thing upside down and nothing comes out . . . though if you leave it on its side for long enough, or dip it in the water on your water table (G loves doing that for some reason), it will spill, but still not as much as regular bubbles.

G and her Fubbles.  Photo by Michael Spencer

After this year’s birthday, I think we are going to have many more birthday parties in the park.  I didn’t have to clean my house.  I didn’t have to provide any activities for the kids.  They all went over to the playground and played to their little heart’s content, or they chased each other around the grass, or they went down and stared at the ducks.  The adults were able to socialize and catch up with other parents.  We all had a great time . . . such a great time that, even though we scheduled a morning party so that G could nap when she got home, she was too excited to sleep and spent the entire time singing to herself in her crib!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Almay's Newest Ambassador

*This is a sponsored post.  All words and opinions are 100% mine.

What do I think of when I think of Almay?  Almay conjures up images of sugarplums and dewdrops, of course!  I used their green eyeshadow as a bon bon (and then soldier, family scene girl, etc.) in “The Nutcracker.”  All of us 6-year-old girls would gather around all the moms backstage and line up, assembly line style, to get touch ups on our makeup. 

As an adult, I still use their products (love their oil-free makeup remover!).  So when they contacted me to ask me to share their newest ambassador/spokesperson, Carrie Underwood, I was happy to do so.   In the video below, Carrie (yes, we are on a first name basis now) talks about why she chose Almay:

I appreciate her message that, even though she feels better wearing makeup, no woman has to wear makeup to be beautiful.  And when you do wear makeup, you don’t have to go overboard. 

The tag line to Almay’s current campaign is “So simple, so me.”  I have always had a simplistic approach to my every day makeup - perhaps because I cake so much on when performing.  But I definitely think that is a message I would like to instill in my daughter: whatever makes you feel best is right.  Women don’t need makeup to be pretty, but sometimes it’s nice to enhance your natural beauty.  And if you feel good, you will emanate beauty no matter what.

What do you think of Carrie Underwood as Almay’s ambassador?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Dreaded "C" Word: Colic

It’s one of those words that all parents of newborns hope to not have to deal with: Colic.  Unfortunately, we are currently dealing with it in our house.  Starting around 3 weeks old, Malcolm’s “witching hour” became more like “he-devil hours.”  He would be fed, burped and changed, and just scream inconsolably from about 7pm until 10 or 11pm.  Just when we thought we had him calmed down, he would almost fall asleep and then something would stir within him and wake him back up again, screaming even louder than before.  His screams are so loud that you can’t even hear the person standing right next to you.  When I took Guinevere to the doctor for her two-year check up, I was able to ask about it to make sure there was nothing seriously wrong with him.  She said it sounds like colic.

What is colic, you ask?  Basically it is a term for any baby who cries uncontrollably for hours on end.  The classic definition is a baby who cries inconsolably for three hours a day, at least three days a week for three weeks.  No one really knows what causes it.  Some theories are that the baby may have gas issues, or that the baby’s nervous system isn’t quite developed or that the baby just gets so overwhelmed by all the stimulation during the day that the only way they can deal with it is to cry.  Regardless of the cause, it is ridiculously exhausting for the parents trying to deal with a colicky baby.  Trust me, five minutes of a baby screaming in your ear can feel like five hours! 

Apparently I was a colicky baby – I hereby apologize to my parents for having to deal with this.  I wonder if that’s the real reason my sister and I are five years apart – they needed that long to recover from/forget the colic (just kidding . . .sort of!).  If Guinevere had been colicky, we certainly would have spaced the kids out a little further.  The other night, a couple hours into one of Mal’s fuss-fests, I asked Aaron what the return policy was on babies!
Fortunately, our pediatrician was able to give us several tips to help us deal with a colicky baby.  She said she had a colicky baby, too, and she tried all of these tricks:
  1. -       Mylicon/Gripe Water: If there’s a gas component, we could try Mylicon and/or Gripe Water.  Based on the time of day that he typically gets fussy, she suggested using either or both of those to sandwich the 3-4pm feed. 
  2. -      Cutting dairy: She also suggested I try cutting dairy from my diet for two weeks to see if that helps as dairy in a breastfeeding mother’s diet may lead to babies being gassy. 
  3. -        Go for a drive: Since babies tend to fall asleep in the car seat, if necessary, strap the kid in the car seat and go for a drive around the block.
  4. -     Baby massage: The pediatrician emphasized the word “gentle” when she recommended baby massage, especially in the tummy region.  A component of this would be bicycling the baby’s legs to help ease any gas issues.
  5. -       Swing: Put the baby in a swing and set it to the highest setting – higher than you really think it should go, but it will calm the baby much more than if it were on a lower setting.
  6. -       Happiest Baby on the Block: She highly recommended watching the video that goes with the Happiest Baby on the Block book.  She said that it shows some techniques for holding the baby that aren’t necessarily instinctual.
  7. -       Patience: the final recommendation was patience.  Most babies outgrow colic by 3-4 months.  The pediatrician said, “I know that sounds like forever right now, but he will outgrow it and it won’t have any bearing on his future temperament.”  She also said if our patience wears thin during a scream fest, that it is ok to set the baby down in a safe place (i.e. bassinet, crib or swing) and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.  It’s better to have a sane parent than one that is on the brink of a meltdown.

Here’s what we’ve done so far: I’ve cut dairy from my diet.  It’s so hard, but if it helps, I will keep dairy out of my diet until the colic is gone.  If you know me, you know how difficult it is for me to not eat dairy.  I’ve often said that I could easily be vegetarian, but it is my love of cheese that keeps me from ever going vegan!  Aaron and I also watched the Happiest Baby video.  We received the video as a gift from some friends when I was pregnant with Guinevere, but never watched it because we didn’t need it.  I did, however, read the book and thought I remembered most of the over-arching ideas behind it.  I definitely recommend to anyone who has a fussy baby that they watch the video in addition to reading the book (or maybe instead of, if you don’t have time to read the book). We learned a new way to swaddle that was similar to, but slightly different than how we were doing it.  This new way seems to work much better than our previous technique for swaddling.  We also learned a new way to hold the baby, and the reasons behind why those techniques work. Aaron and I looked at each other and said, “I can’t believe we’re second time parents and watching a parenting video!”  But hey, every baby is different, and may require learning new techniques/skills/tricks!

So far, the combination of cutting dairy and using the Happiest Baby techniques seems to help most of the time, though certainly not always.  We are now usually able to calm him, even if only for a little bit, instead of having him scream relentlessly for hours on end.  Even though having a colicky baby is not ideal, we are dealing with it as best we can.  Please forgive me if you see me in the grocery store and I look completely disheveled and dazed.  I like to call it the “new parent zombie look.”  Someday I will look presentable again! (I can still be called a “new” parent when my second baby is new, right?)