Saturday, January 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 4)

I did start this on Friday, but got distracted (imagine!).  I figured I may as well finish it up and post anyway.  You don't care whether it is QT Friday or QT Saturday (or Sunday, as it is getting to be!).
 Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Since Gus has been born, I have been pretty relaxed about housework (too be honest, I am always pretty relaxed / lazy about housework!). I do laundry most days, but that's really about it. Everything else is either ignored or done when Jon is home.  Everyone says that 3 months is this magical age where fussy babies stop being fussy and stuff like that (not that we have a fussy baby), but I think part of me thought that housework would all of a sudden do itself at three months as well, and I just needed to ride it out till then. I realised this week, though, that the things I keep putting off are never going to get done if I don't actually do them. And if I am going to be home all day every day for the next several months, I won't be very happy with a cluttered house all the time. So my goal is to do 20-30 minutes of dishes every day and 20-30 minutes of other housework. I might have to work up to this goal, but I think it is reasonable.

We have been going to Baptism class the past two weeks, and this coming week we get to schedule the Baptism.  I would like it to be sooner rather than later, but I don't know if we'll be able to fit it in before Lent. There are about 20 families on the course, and our parish only allows one or two babies to be baptised each week, so we'll have to see when we can do it. The course leader said that it doesn't matter what age you have babies baptised, but I don't really feel right delaying it too much! I was baptised at a month old, and most babies I have seen back home seem to be pretty young, so that is what I think is the "right" way to do it. Here, the babies are mostly older, and I know it doesn't matter too much, but it still seems pretty weird to me to see babies sitting up at their baptism!

The problem with the Baptism course is that it is held 8-9:30 at night. We have brought Gus with us both weeks; the first week, we didn't even think about getting someone to watch him, as we had never gone anywhere that he couldn't go before!  It means that he has a hard time getting to bed, though. This week, he slept on the way to the church and the way back, but was awake the whole time we were there. By the time we got home, he was overtired and couldn't fall asleep again. Poor thing! 

Gus and I have had a few dance parties this week. His favorite was to songs about trains, featuring Johnny Cash and John Denver.  I didn't include Folsom Prison, though, as I thought that was too depressing for a dance party.  Have a party yourself!
Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

I made this yummy banana ice cream today. It has only bananas in it, frozen, then whizzed up in the food processor.  It was really good, and felt really indulgent. Jon, of course, loved it. I will have to make it again, although the chances of finding overripe bananas in our house are very small, seeing as Jon eats bananas like there is no tomorrow. I think next time I am going to put peanut butter in mine,  or maybe drizzle chocolate over the top (don't want it to be completely healthy!).

Speaking of food, I am hoping to make some sort of energy bars this week. The blog Enlightened Cooking has several recipes; I think I am going to try the Lara-type bars first, which are basically just dried fruits and nuts. I have been starving all of the time lately (due to Gus's insatiable appetite, I am sure!), so it would be good to have a few healthy snacks on hand, and I haven't found any pre-made bars that I like and are a reasonable price. I would rather just eat cookies and cake all day, but someone told me that, even though breastfeeding mothers need extra calories every day, those should be coming from healthy foods. Hogwash!

My favorite thing this week: sometimes, when Gus wakes up, he opens his eyes, sees me, and gives me a huge smile.  Melts my heart!

Hope you all are having a great end to January!! Can you believe we are already done with the first month of 2011?!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good baby. Bad baby.

The words we use matter.  They, and the way in which they are interpreted by others, affect people. With our words, we create an atmosphere where certain things are valued over others. It may not be our intention to do so, but it happens every day.  

As such, I have been really annoyed lately by the use of the phrases "good baby" and "bad / naughty baby", by others and by myself. Babies cannot be good or bad; they have needs, and they express the desire for those needs to be met through the only way they know how, such as crying and fussing, among other cues.  It is our job as parents to be able to respond to their cues, or anticipate their needs, and provide for them.  Obviously, we are not going to get it right all the time (don't I know it!). But it does not make a baby bad if they continue crying until their needs are met.

Often people will say something like, "Is Gus a good sleeper?"  They get surprised if I say, "Yes, he is.  He wakes up a 2 or 3 times during the night because he has a tiny tummy and needs some food or isn't used to being by himself and needs to make sure we are nearby.  But I attend to his needs, he goes back to sleep, and all are happy."  This doesn't fit into the questioner's definition of good.  So I usually just say, "Yes, thanks, we are all happy" and continue on with the conversation.

To most of us (i.e. me before Gus was born and I started thinking about these things more in depth), a good baby is one that fits in well with the way adults live our lives. Babies become good when they don't cry too much, sleep through the night, and have a generally happy temperament. This doesn't leave room for all the variety of feelings and emotions that we as adults are allowed to express. It doesn't allow children to have their own personalities. A baby that needs a lot of physical closeness with a parent isn't bad; it may be inconvenient to accommodate the child's needs in our adult-centric world, but that is not the child's fault.  I read a phrase a few months ago (not sue where, maybe at Raising My Boychick?): the radical idea that children are people. This really struck me, that babies are not just blobs waiting to become, they are real people with a personality and a full range of emotions, needs, and desires. It seems stupid that I had never realised that before, but it has really affected the way I relate to Gus.  He is not just a set of behaviours to be molded the way I want; he is a person that is trying to communicate his needs to me. (I just started reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, and he talks a lot about this as well.)

All of that leads me back to the beginning: if I don't think that Gus is expressing bad behaviours, but rather needs to be met, then I don't want to use words that are coded with moral undertones. I don't want him to grow up thinking he is a bad person for expressing his emotions (i.e. crying). Right now, the words I use probably don't have a lasting impact on him, but start as you mean to go on, they say. So I am trying to cut out the use of the words good and bad.  For instance, when he is finally falling asleep in the middle of the night, I try not to say good boy. If he doesn't know the difference between night and day, it is my job to teach him that.  I am not very adept at this yet, but with time, I think I will improve.  What do you think?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reflections on Gus’s 2nd (-ish) month

I thought since I wrote a reflection on Gus’s first month, it might be nice to continue that month by month, or at least on a semi-regular basis.  I just thought of it this week, though, one week after the two month mark. Oh, well, close enough for government work, as they say.

I feel like the main theme for this month has been oscillating back and forth between feeling like I am really getting the hang of this whole parenting thing and feeling like I have no idea what I am doing. I think a big part of that is because the month was dominated first by Jon being home sick for a week, throwing off our routine (don’t you know you are not allowed to be at home, Jon! ), and going to the USA for two weeks at Christmas. On top of that, I think Gus was (is?) still at a stage where his schedule was a bit wobbly—it would seem like he was getting into a certain routine for a couple of days, and then it would abruptly change again.

The most exciting thing about the month was that he is really breaking out of his shell and interacting with people more.  There are days where he will be awake for quite a few hours and really engage with you. It is so neat to see him so curious about the world.  We got a set of black and white books as a gift, and he loves them!  You open up the book to a page that, frankly, looks pretty boring to me, but his eyes just light up.  He’ll start cooing and his arms and legs start going.  It is so funny to watch. 

Another thing Gus has picked up this month is the desire to be rocked all the time.  It seemed to start when we were in the USA. Luckily, there were lots of people around to take a turn at the stand-up-and-hold-Gus-for-hours-on-end duty. He would just stare over your shoulder, entranced by whatever happened to be back there.  And lick your shoulder.  Yum, sweater.  I don’t know why he started wanting this all of a sudden, but I find myself spending ages every day just rocking him. Sometimes during the day I’ll just put him in his wrap and do some chores or whatnot, and he is happy enough. But when he is awake at 11pm, I usually just spend an hour or so walking around the bedroom with him in my arms. My arms are getting really strong!

He can be so much fun to be with, although I do get tired before he does a lot of days. He’ll usually only be awake for about 90 minutes to 2 hours at a time.  This includes time spent changing diaper, feeding him, and trying to get him to fall back asleep once he starts to look really tired! I have found that I feel really guilty when I don’t engage with him for the rest of the time.  I figure, it is only a relatively short amount of time, I should be able to play with him for that long.  Plus, I worry about two things: that if I don’t engage with him all of the time while he is awake and alert, he won’t develop properly (!), and secondly, that if I leave him to play by himself for 5 minutes on Monday, I’ll just become a lazy parent, and by Friday he will be left to his own devices all of the time, because I can’t be bothered.  (I have similar fears about using a pacifier, that I will get to the point that I just shove it in his mouth whenever he fusses, rather than actually attending to his needs).  I don’t know where these fears come from, as I don’t think either (any) is likely to happen.  When we were in the USA, my dad pointed out to me that Gus actually sometimes likes to be by himself and doesn’t want to be held 24/7.  It is true: he is starting to play really well by himself (when I let him!), kicking his feet, and gnawing on his hands or sucking his thumb.  He is a real sweetheart.

The other thing that stuck out this month was that it is still really hard to let other people have him. When we were in the USA, there were so many people that wanted to give him kisses and cuddles, play with him and hold him.  And I loved it, that so many people love him.  In theory.  In practice, I had to really work hard to convince myself that he was okay when other people were holding him. After a day or two, he started to become more fussy than normal.  I had no idea why he was being like that or what he wanted.  I decided that he must miss his mommy, because he is so used to just being with me all day every day, it was hard work being with all these other people so much.  Or maybe that was just how I was feeling! We had a great time with all the family, but I made a more conscious effort after that to be sure to get my own cuddle time in with him!

One way that we can guarantee good cuddle time is at night.  Gus does have his own bed, and sleeps at least part of the night almost every night in it.  But I do love having him next to me to cuddle at night. Some of my friends with babies Gus’s age are trying to get the babies out of the parents’ bed. I really am not ready to do that!  Part of it is that he just seems so little, too little to expect him to be on his own all night every night. Especially if he needs us with him, I’m not prepared to deny him something that he needs. But I think I probably need him with me more than the other way around!  As a family, we are still all really happy with the arrangement we have, so I think we’ll keep going like this as long as it works for us, and not worry about anything that says he must be doing x because he is y months old.

I think that is month two in a nutshell.  A lot more calm than last month, and less emotional—I feel like I am usually in control of my feelings now.  The overwhelming love for this little guy still hits me strongly, but I hope that never goes away!

Friday, January 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 3)

Man alive, it's been a long time since I last wrote.  There is a lot on my mind, but I can't seem to sit down and write it out, so I thought I would do a Quick Takes today just to do an update.  Hopefully I can write more in the next couple of days!

We had a great Christmas!  The three of us travelled to the USA to visit my family, and it was definitely worth it.  We were a bit worried in the week leading up to the trip, as Heathrow was completely shut down due to snow only 6 days before we were scheduled to leave, and it took several days for it to get all the snow cleared and the planes back in place.  But the day that we left (Christmas Eve), almost all of the planes were going, and the airport actually seemed pretty quiet, although our flight was completely full.

Gus did really well on his first flights--a good indication for things to come, I hope, as he will be making that journey regularly! I would definitely recommend flying with a newborn.  He mostly slept the whole way, although we did walk him up and down the aisles a bit (I guess we were lucky there were no long periods of turbulence).  Breastfeeding was a little tricky, trying to get a comfortable position where I wasn't flashing anyone and Gus wasn't kicking the man next to us!  We had an empty seat next to us on the way back, which made it a lot easier.  And I wore the Moby wrap the whole time, so I could just tuck him into it while he was sleeping and felt secure enough to get a bit of sleep myself (when I could get comfortable!).  I also liked to put him in it when the seatbelt light was on, as his only harness otherwise would be my arms.

Everyone was so excited to meet him, as well.  He was the star of the show wherever he went, and he hardly had a moment to himself!  His cousin Ben (18 months old) was especially sweet.  One day when Ben was over, Gus started crying.  Ben saw Gus's pacifier laying on the table and brought it to him, then noticed Gus's blanket and brought that over as well.  He was so proud of himself for helping to comfort the baby!

Gus is developing by leaps and bounds.  In the two weeks we were in the US, we all noticed changes. At about 7 weeks, he started really smiling a lot more, and in reaction to people.  Really exciting--and absolutely adorable! Also, from about 8 weeks, he has really started discovering his hands.  They are always in his mouth, sometimes the whole fist (or both!) and sometimes just the thumb. It was really sweet the first morning that I woke up and saw him lying next to me, just sucking away on his thumb, happy as could be.  And this week (9 weeks old), for the first time I took him out for a walk in the carrier, and instead of falling asleep within a few minutes, he kept his head up and looked around at the world.  It was probably 15 minutes before he decided to rest his head and go to sleep.  He is so curious.  Oh, and I almost forgot, yesterday he started rolling onto his side!  He has done it quite a few times now, so I don't think it was just a fluke, but I also am not sure if it is something he can do anytime he wants yet.  I thought maybe he would continue and roll onto his front, but it seemed his arm was in the way and he couldn't figure out how to get over it.  He didn't seem too fussed about it, though, and I am sure he will make it over soon enough!

At the moment, I am quite pro thumb-sucking, although I am afraid I am going to live to regret it!  My theory is, if he sucks his thumb, he can comfort himself as needed, rather than me deciding when he needs comforting and how.  I also fear that if I use a pacifier too much, it will be used in place of actually attending to his real need.  This probably wouldn't happen, as I hope that I am a pretty attentive parent, but I do fear becoming lazy.   We do use the pacifier to help him go to sleep, as needed, though.  The sucking really seems to help him settle.  

I still haven't ordered a stroller or cloth diapers, and Gus is 2 months old!  I really need to get on top of that, but they are both quite big expenses, and I hate to spend so much money in one go--I think Jon is rubbing off on me in that respect! I am planning on getting the Quinny Zapp Xtra stroller, which is suitable from birth to about 3-4 years old, has a seat that is forward- or parent-facing, and can be used with the carseat we have.  I haven't decided about diapers yet.  I think I might buy about 6 in two or three different styles and then get a few more of our favourite after a month or so.

Pictures from Christmas!

Gus's first Christmas

Our family (oops, Jon's glasses are falling off!)

Four generations (my mom and her mom;  I don't seem to have a copy of the one with my dad and his dad, but will post it later)