Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sleeping Arrangements

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I’ve never been a parent who labels my “style” of parenting into a category or wears it like a badge.

Not that I’m implying there’s anything wrong with labeling, of course.  I’m simply not exclusively any “type” of parent. I think I’ve borrowed a few ideas from different “camps,” ultimately adopting my own individual approach and tactics that mostly work, or don’t. For me. For us. For our kids. Individually.

I definitely don’t subscribe to a one-size-fits all parenting approach to anything because every baby and child is obviously different and unique. Even children who share the same DNA from the same parents are completely different and unique. Boy, how they are unique. For instance, some babies can’t sleep without being snugly swaddled, burrito-style, whereas others feel a sense of claustrophobia akin to be submerged underwater in an air-tight submarine. And these two babies are siblings. Imagine that!

With that said, you’ll never hear me saying I’m a natural-birthing/attachment-parenting/co-sleeping/cloth-diapering/exclusively-breastfeeding/organic-only/fill-in-the-blank-with-another-label type of mom, because there’s no way I could stick to any one of those, in my opinion, rather rigid, limiting categories, wholly and exclusively. I’ve certainly adopted and adapted from each of those, ahem, labels. I’ve loved “wearing” my babies in slings and Moby wraps and Ergo carriers, not really because it’s a “thing,” but more so because it’s convenient and hand-freeing and practical and overall suitable for putting babies to sleep. Some babies, of course. Because obviously, there are babies who absolutely loathe being “worn.”

If there’s some kind of provable psychology as to why baby wearing is “better” for babies or if they’ll somehow turn out to be nicer, more well-adjusted, less sociopathic, psychologically secure adults all because their mama once carried them through the Target in a piece of over-priced fabric on her chest, it doesn’t matter to me. All I know is it sure makes doing things easier and my babies love it, except the middle one, who didn’t.

I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here. But, seriously, does anyone have significant proof that babies are somehow better off because they were breastfed until six, worn until three and cloth-diapered until potty-trained? I’ve done a few of these “things” with my children solely because they seemed to be more convenient and take less of an effort (well, except cloth diapering, that took lots of effort, but saved money) and were just plain practical for me.

I personally like the idea of adapting and adopting a little from each category to tailor a custom-made style to raising my own, unique children. I’ve cloth-diapered a little here and there with my two youngest, but also have nothing against disposables, because we’ve used them the majority of the time with all three boys. All three of my boys have been breastfed (the baby still is), but the oldest also got formula mixed in, when I went back to work four months after his birth.

My almost three-year-old and the baby have been exclusively (again, a term I’m not even fond of) breastfed simply because I’ve been home with them the longest and frankly, it’s been most convenient for us all. I’ll just chalk it up to being lazy and cheap. No, really, I know all about the health benefits for both mama and baby, La Leche League, thank you. And I also need to clarify: I’m not still breastfeeding my almost three-year-old, I weaned him at fifteen months.

This is all an incredibly lenghthy preface and disclaimer to the original point of this post: co-sleeping. I want to talk about co-sleeping. Sleeping-co. The Family Bed. Whatever you want to call it. Again, I’m not even fond of the term co-sleeping, because, well, it’s another “term” that seems rigid to me, implying that children and parents are some kind of one-size-fits all, one-stop-shopping club you belong to and clearly, they/we aren’t. But, for lack of a better word, I suppose we’ve been a family that’s sort of big on co-sleeping. Not because it’s a “thing” or a theme or some ideology we subscribe to because blah-blah-blah parenting “expert”/guru/pediatrician with a lifestyle brand hawking a line of products says so, but because it has been the easiest set-up for us and our kids. Again, I’m lazy and looking for the path of least resistance.

For me, it’s always been so much easier to have a baby in bed with me during all of those seemingly endless, groggy, bleary-eyed nighttime feedings during the early weeks of infancy and even through early toddlerhood. Until they start developing elbows and kneecaps and learning how to Kung-Fu you out of bed. But before those more uncomfortable nights when you start waking up with a foot in your mouth, quite literally, co-sleeping has been nothing but warm and cozy and snug as four bugs in an oversized IKEA bed can be for us. Until it’s not anymore.

Lately, it’s starting to become less and less comfortable to have children sleeping in our bed (and we have a very large, California King-sized bed). The baby has used his crib all of two times in the past year (and those two times were just for napping). With co-sleeping, we’ve also trapped ourselves into the double-edged sword situation of making sleeping in the bed with us so comfortable for the kids, they don’t want to sleep anywhere else. Enter the challenge of now getting them to sleep in their own beds/cribs.

With my almost three-year-old, we were able transition him into his crib in a separate room (with his older brother who has always been a pretty fabulous sleeper) at about ten months. It was easy and he slept well like that for about a year. At two years old, when his baby brother was born, he turned into a crazy insomniac wild child who refused to sleep in the new toddler bed we bought him, that in turn the family dog took over, because there was no way our boy was going to sleep in it.

And we’re wimps and we weren’t going to let him cry it out for three nights.

So, we discovered the only place he would sleep was the living room sofa, with daddy becoming his own personal sleep valet and accompanying him to sleep each night. Something about his baby brother’s presence turned him into a child who did not feel secure enough to retire to his own bedroom each night, in his own bed — I’m sure out of fear that in the morning he’d discover we sold him to another family and replaced him entirely with his new baby brother, whom he was very unhappy about (I’m only exaggerating slightly here).

All this resulted in a year of him sleeping on the living room sofa.

Last week, after I finally put my foot down and said there was no way our almost three-year-old was going a day longer sleeping on that living room sofa, which was becoming a tangle of blankets and pillows and quite frankly — pee stains — we finally caved and purchased a bunk bed for the two older boys. And lo and behold, our almost three-year-old was actually excited to sleep in it, with his big brother securely overhead (and I’m sure the fact that we further indulged his Spiderman fixation with a brand new set of Spiderman bedding helped).

The next step, although I’m not all the way ready for it, is to move the baby’s virgin crib out of our bedroom and into his brothers’ room so that all three Wild Things can ultimately be in the same bedroom. I know the baby will not be happy with this at first and I’m anticipating some (gulp) tears, but I think it’s time. I think it’s time to end an era of co-sleeping and to finally have our bed back to ourselves.

It’s been a good, warm, cozy, convenient, snuggly run, but I think it’s time to leave off the “co” in sleeping and go back to just plain, old sleeping in this house.

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Lucky Number Seven

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Today, my firstborn son is seven years old.

I know the cliché is to say that time goes too quickly and they grow up so fast, but with him, I don’t feel that way. It seems like eons ago that I brought him home from the hospital, this chubby wise old soul, his dimpled cheeks flushed pink. He has always seemed older and wiser than his years to me and I feel as if, in some odd sense, he was seven years old even when he was seven weeks old.

He spoke in such full, articulate sentences by eighteen months, I could always understand exactly what he was saying and never needed to translate his baby speech. People were always in awe of how clearly he spoke, even as a toddler. He’s still a great communicator. He prefers to be spoken to directly and without mincing words, nothing sugarcoated. Because of that, I’ve always spoken to him more like an adult than a child. He uses words like “inappropriate” in the right context and can be borderline condescending when he feels someone is being “inappropriate” (i.e. that “someone,” usually meaning his two-year-old brother). This boy does not suffer fools gladly. But inside that often exasperated exterior, lives a fiercely loving and sensitive boy.

At times, I see glimpses of the teenager he’ll become. When I’m explaining to him why it’s important to complete mundane tasks such as brushing his teeth or making his bed, I’m met with epic eye rolls and a defiance usually saved for the most hardened of adolescents. No explanation as to why he needs to follow instructions is ever good enough for him. He will argue a point with you inside and out until you almost want to raise a white flag and surrender from exhaustion.

He’s smart and he’ll try to outsmart you. Sometimes, he’s too smart for his own good. When I catch those glimmers of teenager in him, I’m also quickly reminded that he’s still just a boy, a boy who has only recently left the stage of being a “little” boy and I see him struggling with that concept. He sees his younger brothers being helped with everything and doted on and I can sense there’s a part of him wanting to feel small and babied and doted on too and I make every effort to do that for him. We snuggle in bed nightly, just the two of us, and it’s at these moments that I’m made aware that at seven, he’s struggling to find his way, knowing he’s this unusually tall, overgrown child who is often mistaken for being ten years old, all lanky limbs and sharp joints, who feels older and younger at the same time.

When he was seven months old, I wrote this poem for him:

Life rushes by with the force of a wave

Before it drenches me

I need to tell you

Everything you are

September baby

With a shock of black hair

Mercurial, mild

Wide set eyes fixed upon the world

You kicked your way out with determination

Like now, when you kick mommy in your sleep

Your smile stops strangers on the street

Your giggle inspires a joy I can’t contain

You are curious

You are stubborn

You are sensitive

You are strong

You are full of peace, just like your name

You are a mystery, baby

And I devour your every move

How you run your tongue across your toothless gums and grin

The way you clench your tiny fists when you are elated and mad

The tone of your raspy cry

How proud you are when you stand on your sturdy legs, bobbing up and down

How your doughy thighs move like lightening as you crawl

I cement these images in my memory

They are as fleeting as the tides

Rolling in and out of life

With an ebb and flow I can’t control

Soon, you will grow from baby

To boy

To man

and it will blur into that space

between memory and make-believe

So this is how we can remember,

a time when you were only seven months

With two bottom teeth

And a smile that stopped strangers on the street

And a love from your mommy

As deep as the ocean.

In so many ways, he is still that seven-month-old baby, his personality set in stone from birth. All of those traits still apply to him today: curious, stubborn, sensitive, and strong. Although, those two bottom teeth he once had as a baby have since fallen out and been replaced with two permanent adult teeth. In fact, he has a mouth full of tiny baby teeth mixed in with oversized adult teeth and empty gums still waiting for new growth, an unwieldy combination of different sizes and shapes representing past, present and future, just trying to all fit in and find their place.

Which, I suppose, is very much like being seven years old itself.

Happy Seventh Birthday, my sweet, sophisticated son. You are the one who started it all and it’s been one wild ride ever since. I have learned immensely from you and these have been the best seven years of my life. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Scenes from the Seashore

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The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. ~ Jacques Cousteau

Summer, we’re not quite done with you yet. When you give us 102 degree heat waves in September, we head to the beach, where it’s a comfortable, breezy 82 degrees.

The truth is, I’m more than ready for Fall weather. But my two youngest are perfectly happy in the sunshine, splashing in the ocean, making mud sandcastles and collecting tiny seashells along the shoreline. If these photos and words had audio, you’d hear squeals of delight coming from these boys, who are happiest when sinking their feet into sand.

There is nothing better than the sound of your children’s laughter and this mama was content just listening to those squeals compete with the cries of gulls, while holding onto the sunshine and the salty air just a little bit longer.

Introducing…Copeland!

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Back in July, I photographed and interviewed beautiful pregnant mama-to-be, Audrey. She told the story of her and her husband’s four-year struggle to get pregnant, resulting in their journey with IVF in which Audrey ultimately became pregnant with a baby boy. Well, I’m happy to announce that baby boy arrived on August 25th, weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 oz.

They gave him the name they’d planned for him all along: Copeland Michael.

Isn’t he so handsome? I think he looks just like his mommy.

In Audrey’s own words:

“It was the most incredible and amazing thing I have ever done in my life. I am really loving every second with Copeland and with being a new mom.”

I haven’t met precious Copeland yet, but I hope to. I’m so overjoyed for Audrey and her husband Scott. They went through so much to bring their baby into the world. And now he’s here and he’s perfect.

Dreams really do come true.

One Year

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It seems like it was only last week that I was in the hospital, propped up on pillows as he peacefully slept in my arms, all freshly swaddled ten pounds of him, curled up under my chin, the busy sound of nurses opening and closing doors, in and out, in and out, bringing fresh water and crushed ice, running all those routine tests they run on newborns. He didn’t have a name for two days because we couldn’t decide which of our choices suited him best, until the woman handling the birth certificates at the hospital urged us to come up with one before we were discharged. I remember deciding on his name just minutes before she left for the day. His middle name would be Moon, because he was born on the day of  the beautiful Harvest Moon that September.

And then I blinked and today he’s a year old.

His eyes were so blue for the first six months, as blue as my grandmother’s were, these giant, knowing orbs staring back at me. I would look into his eyes and see her face, her features in his, her flat nose and high cheekbones passed down by generations of  her Native American ancestors, seemingly reincarnated in his gaze, as if reassuring me she was there in some form.

There are so many things I want to remember about his first year. I want to remember his funny walk, how he toddled at nine months with such confidence and precision he was nearly running by the time he reached his first birthday. How, today, when I catch his little cowboy gait out of the corner of my eye while cooking dinner, I laugh to myself at my mini John Wayne, moseying around like a wayward old soul searching for his horse.

I want to remember his baby laugh, how he scrunches up his nose and takes quick little breaths in and out until he nearly snorts, belly-laughing as if he’s never seen or heard anything so funny in his life. I want to remember how he asks “hot?” whenever he gets within two feet of the oven or when I scoop his steaming dinner onto his high chair tray. He watches me blow on his food to cool it down and then mimics me, making his own adorable attempt. He asks “hot?” for just about anything that means “caution” or “don’t touch.”  Any possible threat is now simply, “hot?”

I want to remember how much he loves food and the little eating happy dance he breaks into after taking a bite of something particularly delicious, swinging his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder, smiling with his entire face.

“Nummy, nummy, nummy,” he says.

I know these memories of his first year will fade and fall into that place between memory and make-believe, where I won’t be able to remember the sound of his baby-voice saying “Ma-ma,” or which month he started saying it. Was it seven months? Or was it eight months?

I’m already forgetting.

I know he has seven teeth now, but I can’t recall the various weeks they all pushed through his gums. I know with certainty he loves to use those seven teeth to bite me. He’s bitten the skin of my forearm so hard, he’s left bruises. For some reason, he thinks this is quite hilarious.

At one year, he is a mild-mannered, independent little spirit. He doesn’t need anyone to entertain him, because he can amuse himself. I had no idea a shampoo bottle stolen from my bathtub could give him such a thrill. When he needs me, he’ll find me, peaking around the corner and running into my arms, his own arms outstretched like bird wings. At this age, he’s so much more attached to me than my other sons were. If he hears my voice in the other room, even while playing with daddy, he’ll inevitably find me and seek me out, looking for cuddles.

He claps for himself and waves “goodbye.” He loves to wrestle with his middle brother  and can really hold his own, even when brother gets a little too rough with him at times. He’s strong and coordinated, gentle and sensitive all rolled into one.

Last weekend, we held a small first birthday party for him in our favorite park.  Family and friends stopped by, some with babies of their own. The “Love you to the moon and back” theme was fitting, considering his name. We hung giant white “moon” lanterns in the trees and played a soundtrack of  songs with “moon” in the title. Whenever Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” played, he bobbed his head and clapped his hands in rhythm. This boy loves to dance.

We sipped lemonade and iced tea, ate sandwiches and salads and devoured the most delicious cake. We sung Happy Birthday and he clapped for himself and laughed. After attempting to blow out his candle and asking “hot?” he promptly picked up his cake with one hand and shoved it squarely into his mouth. And then, as if on cue, it started pouring down rain as the party came to an abrupt end. It was such a nice day, mellow and serene, just like the birthday boy himself.

Happy First Birthday, my little moonbeam. This year went by much too quickly, but it has easily been one of the best of my life, simply because you’re in it.

A Week in Photos

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We tried to squeeze the last few drops out of summer, before a certain young man started second grade earlier in the week, when I was promptly informed that “second graders don’t have their parents walk them up to their classrooms on the first day, mom.”

Okay, big guy, we’ll make sure not to embarrass you.

So, we didn’t greet second grade with a lot of fanfare this year. It was nothing like entering kindergarten or even first grade. I barely was able to get a second grade photo out of him in his new school shoes and backpack. He seemed pretty nonchalant about the whole concept of starting a new school year, so we all kept it low key.

I’m prepping for a very small birthday party in the park for the baby, who turns ONE on Wednesday. The party will be nothing like the big blowouts we held for his brothers’ first birthdays. We have a long tradition in our family of celebrating first birthdays with huge, obnoxious affairs (I’m talking pony rides, okay?) because I happen to have a mom who loves to throw a party. Lucky for me, I usually defer to her and let her take the whole thing over.

This year there’s no time, or energy to plan anything that elaborate. We’ll have some food, we’ll have some cake and we’ll blow out a candle to celebrate our baby’s first year. And even though he’s officially a toddler now, I’m certain I’ll call him “the baby” until he’s 42. Because he is and will always be “the baby,” even when he has facial hair and an Adam’s apple.

So bye bye summer, hello new memories and milestones, new school shoes and new knowledge. Bye bye babyhood. I’m having a really tough time with that one. Probably because I know it’s the end of an era. I’m packing away the swaddling blankets and the tiny 0-3 month gowns, the baby rattles and the burp cloths and all the other remnants of infancy, knowing there probably won’t be another newborn baby in this house to use them.

But I know they’ll get worn and loved  by other babies in other homes who will grow into them and out of them, just like mine  once did. Because that’s just what babies do. They grow. And soon, they’re second graders telling you they don’t want you to walk them up to their classroom anymore.

And one day, they’re grown men putting the same 0-3 month gowns on their babies that they wore as babies themselves.