Saturday, November 10, 2012

Big Week

It's been a while since I've shared some of Gavin's accomplishments and activities. I have a running list going on some scratch paper, and I can feel that it is about to get lost, so here's what's going on with us.

Gavin did his first real jump at the beginning of this week. He had been doing the knee-bend/toe-raise thing for a while, but recently I could tell that he was ramping up for the real thing. It's not the biggest milestone ever, but I really wanted to be there when it happened, and I was. And so was Josh.

At the beginning of this month, we were blessed to run away for a few days to visit some of our dearest friends. They have almost-seven-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) who sing constantly. Their repertoire is a healthy mix of Disney tunes and praise songs. While we were there and after we came back, Gavin would mumble a few notes and then say "song." Too cute! Well, today after a combined birthday party for his cousin and uncle, he sang "Happy Birthday." It was super close to being exactly right. He left off the last line, but, man, it was good. He sang it "to Grandpa" even though only Josh and I were there to hear it. We were SO proud!

A week that started with jumping and ended with singing...Mommy and Daddy are pretty excited. Here are some other things he's being doing over the past month or so:

  • These days, most things are classified as: so fun, so yummy, zoom or pet (like I want to pet the goose). He thinks it's funny to get it wrong as in "helicopter -- so yummy" or "race car -- pet."
  • Oh, and Daddy taught him "so messy" in a gravelly voice. Gavin thinks it's hilarious. I'm pretty sure that's going to come back to bite us sooner rather than later.
  • Sometimes he suddenly becomes excited about where we are. He puts both hands in the air and says the name of the place, usually park, restaurant or home.
  • He can almost count to twenty in English (that pesky fifteen) and to ten in Spanish (darn that nueve). He understands which numbers are bigger (for the most part) as evidenced by the following conversation: Mommy: "Two more Cheerios." Gavin: "Eight more? Nine more? Tennnnn!"
  • He has held up one finger to signify the number one for a long time, but today he held up two fingers and said, "two." That will come in handy since he is almost two.
  • He is always experimenting with something, and lately he'll say something in a normal voice, like "Daddy's car," and then try it without final consonants, "Da-Da Caaaaa." Of couse, he likes it when I repeat it and usually tries it a few more times after that.
  • He first said, "I love you" about five weeks ago, but now he says it often. Love!
Here are the current love tags (see blog intro):
Honey Bear, Snuggle, Snuggle Bear, Silly Guy, Pumpkin Pie, Sweetie Pie, Baby Boo

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Travel Leaps

My husband Josh and I are so blessed. We live near amazing family, and we get to visit amazing family in amazing places. If we had it our way, they would all live in one place, but try as we might to orchestrate that, so far our plans for other people's lives have been met with smiles, but no action...(so far...)

We have been able to travel to Colorado to see Josh's family several times since Gavin was born. The first time, he was only three months old and traveled like a champ. The second time he was seven months old. Being somewhat of an overachiever when it came to separation anxiety (he had it 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the "normal" range), it was a very stressful trip for him. (My main indicator besides trouble falling asleep had to do with poopy diapers, and trust me, you don't want me to go there.)

The next time we went was Christmas and New Year's, during which Gavin had his first birthday. He definitely still had trouble sleeping in a new place, but I also noticed something else. It seemed like he was growing up even faster in those two weeks than normal, in a good way. Before we went, he was pulling up every now and then but didn't really seem super interested. While we were there, pulling up and cruising around on the furniture became his new favorite activities. I thought maybe it had something to do with being around cousins closer to his age (3ish as opposed to 6+), but now I'm wondering if it also had something to do with the new place, the new people, the adapting--the traveling in and of itself.

When I publish this we will have just wrapped up a fall trip to see Colorado family. During the trip, Gavin turned 21 months. It was a great trip. The sleep adjustments went MUCH better (so relieved). The new faces/new places adjustments were somewhat rockier because now that he is older he is even more aware, has more opinions, has more ways to express them, etc. He is in the thick of the struggle between "I do it myself," and "Mommy, don't leave me." Even so, he warmed up to everyone nicely (relative to his extreme shyness), and he'll warm up to them even better the next time (we have a plan).

Once we were there for several days, I started to notice that developmental acceleration that I noticed during Christmas. The mom in me is relishing it --the doggone cuteness of it all. The scientist in me (which I didn't know existing until I had a kid) is pondering it. First, the cuteness:

His sense of humor was already coming along quite nicely, but it's taken a big leap. He often would initiate little jokes with Josh and me, and now he is doing it with other adults, even his almost five-year-old cousin. He is stringing even more words together and in even more meaningful ways (and with even more adorable inflection). Physically, he is trying more "stunts." Small things like taking steps down off of bigger curbs, but also big things like we took him to open gym at The Little Gym while on our trip (he goes weekly or more at home), and he wanted to walk the balance beam without holding my hands and did (what!? proud tears!).

One night was a picture of exactly what I am talking about. After playfully engaging his cousin during dinner, asking to dip his bread in hummus and (correctly) telling Coach (Grandpa) when to stop and go based on the color of the stoplight, he did all the motions to an obscure version of "If You're Happy and You Know It" almost exactly in rhythm.

Then before bed, he "taught" me how to play the "pretend you're sleeping and then wake up and laugh and snuggle Gavin" game that he and daddy had been playing while I was on a phone call earlier. He also did this pretty amazing thing while we were reading The Eye Book. A couple times recently, Josh and I would read an entire line except the last word and let Gavin fill it in: "They see a ___ (bird). They see a ___ (bed)." Tonight, we did that, and then he did it back to us. He said (in toddler-ease), "Our eyes see ___ (we said nothing, still unsure of what he was doing, so he filled it in for us) blue. Our eyes" (We started catching on.) "They see a..."   We blurted out, "Bird," probably more excitedly than when we first did it as kids. He went on, "They see a..."   "Bed!" we said. We let out some gentle good-job-buddy's, so as to not frighten him with the cheers that we going on in our heads. This was followed by all manner of silliness and cuddles and (mutual) adoring looks. After he was in bed, I might have been heard saying, "Best. Bedtime. Ever!"

Okay, so now that I've fully indulged my emotional-mommy side, I'll give my scientist-mommy side (though admittedly much less developed) a turn.

I think I'm starting to see why these trips stretch him so much, in ways that I never could on my own at home. But it's impossible for me to talk about it without first considering why kids feel so safe with mom and dad. Yes, we've been with them their whole lives, but we also know them intimately in the here and now. We know that "unna" can mean "under," "upside-down," or "Uncle Justin," and we use our context clues to interpret and communicate back with them. We know that they like to get all the cars to the bottom of the ramp before giving one a second run and that they often finish their meal with a few rice puffs. We know. And when it's in our power and their best interest, we accommodate. We are training him, but in some ways, he is training us. In my estimation, that's as it should be. It's the comfort zone.

It's not like when we're at home, I never take him out of his comfort zone. We experience new places, do play dates, learn lots of new things every day. But traveling is extended time out of the comfort zone. I'm starting to think there's nothing like all of sudden living with a whole lot of new people that your toddler hasn't trained yet. Warm, wonderful, welcoming, affectionate, observant and intuitive people--but still untrained. In this new environment, Gavin encounters a lot of humans with new ideas about how to play, how to joke, and how to do every day things, and I think--in the context of the continuing safe support of mom and dad who know these new people have Gavin's best interests in mind--this is a good thing.

Like he does with Josh and me, he still tries to ensure his preferences prevail, but he also knows these new people are untrained, so he sometimes tries a new way in spite of his preferences. This is something that I could not artificially manufacture at home without considerable heartache on my part and confusion on his because he knows I am trained. I would not arbitrarily change things up. For a good reason? Yes, I would (a new sleep schedule is necessary, potty-training must ensue, etc.), but because of the bond we have, I wouldn't do it for the sake of shaking things up (maybe that's just me).

I think this adapting has been good for him. And as he is trying new ways with new people, it seems his mind is somehow opening up in other ways: "I am safe to joke with people who are not mom and dad," "I can do that balance beam with no hands," "I can talk more and longer," etc. I'm not sure how, but I don't think these developmental leaps while traveling are my imagination.

Of course, they absolutely might be my imagination. As I've mentioned in other posts, this mommy-scientist has a sample size of one, not something from which to draw conclusions. But my sample size of one is plenty enough for me to sit here and ponder my imperfect observations. Enough for me to relish his growth and progress. Enough for me to keep perking up my eyes and ears and heart and keep getting to know him better.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gavin's Playlist

My sweetie loves him some music. He listens intently, and he always has. I can remember as early as four months watching him in the "music trance" as we still call it (at 21 months). For Gavin, music can be a source of comfort, calm, fun, silliness and motivation.

For a long time, we subsisted on Toddler Pandora (with the exception of the Beatles Lullaby CD that he falls asleep to), but let's face it. Pandora can be glitchy or slow and requires wi-fi, which means in the middle of nowhere, in a basement or on a plane, you are out of luck. As much as I love free, I finally purchased some of our favorite songs and want to share Gavin's very own playlist with you, along with--in true blogger fashion--my opinions about why it's fabulous.

In no particular order...Gavin's Playlist

Johnny Bregar's entire Stomp Yer Feet! album which includes great blues-y versions of "If You're Happy...", "Bingo", "Alphabet Song", and lots more.

Elizabeth Mitchell's versions of "Freight Train", "Little Bird, Little Bird", "Peace Like a River", "Shoo-Fly", "This Little Light of Mine", "You Are My Sunshine", and Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds." I especially love "Little Sack of Sugar" and "One Day, Two Days..." because the lyrics remind me of an enamored, sleep-deprived parent just overflowing with cuddles and smiles due to pure baby cuteness -- kind of like how the love tags started with Gavin (see blog intro). Her voice is pure but not too sweet. Plus, she often has cute babies singing or talking in the background which Gavin loves. "Car, Car" will be my next download from her.

Sandra McCracken (wife of Derek Webb [now solo artist formerly of Caedmon's Call] and folk rock singer in her own right) put together the Rain for Roots project with several of her friends and released Big Stories for Little Ones. Spiritually-meaningful lyrics put to real music. I sometimes listen to it when Gavin's not around--especially track 2.

"Down By the Bay" from the Campfire Sing-Along album by Orange Sherbet and Hot Buttered Rum. A children's song with scat singing. Worth it.

Someone named Ukulele Jim does my very favorite version of "The Wheels on the Bus" (the things I have opinions about now as a mom are kind of ridiculous and rather exhausting, and yet...) It's another one with cute kids singing along, so it's one of Gavin's favorites.

Bob Marley's "One Love/People Get Ready"

The Beatles' "Love Me Do" and "Hello, Goodbye"

Switchfoot's "More Than Fine" -- I just had to. (Love them)

Caedmon's Call's "The Only One" (People get smarter when they listen to Caedmon's Call)

Raffi's "Down on Grandpa's Farm" (Gavin's current favorite), "Bananaphone" (pure silliness), "He's Got the Whole World", "Octopus's Garden", and "This Little Light of Mine."

"You've Got a Friend in Me" by Randy Newman (from Toy Story). Though I love Disney songs, Gavin is not quite into the drama and orchaestral fullness of them. However, he does love this one.

"All I Want Is You" by Barry Louis Polisar (from the Juno soundtrack) -- I may never have picked it if not for Toddler Pandora, but it became a favorite of Gavin's, and we like dancing to it.

If I decide to spend more money, I'll definitely be adding a Jack Johnson and a Frances England or two. 

Now it's your turn. What song(s) would you add? What's your child's current favorite?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Toddler Language Explosion

Blogging is interesting. My sister-in-law Angie has written a couple thought-provoking posts this summer about her struggle to know how much good and bad to put on her blog and when and how. (Check her out here.) My "friend" Jen Hatmaker (friend is only in quotes because we haven't met, but I'm pretty sure that I love her enough to make the friendship work even with that minor technicality in play) wrote several stirring, serious, passionate posts in a row only to -- with astounding humor and effectiveness -- relate five normal mundane things that irk her. (Check her out here.)

Here is part of my favorite paragraph from her recent post, which kind of describes my dilemma in writing this and (sometimes) other posts about Gavin.

From Jen a few days ago: The downside of being a pretentious ingredient snob is that ... You end up saying pompous things like, “Grocery store tomatoes are not 1/100th the quality of my Cherokee Purples in the backyard.” This actually makes people hate you, like when you complain about shredding cheese and someone says just buy the preshredded bag and you call it waxy and unacceptable and they are like I kind of wish you were dead."

When I share victories about Gavin like how he is talking up a storm, I wonder if people are like stop bragging already. Then there are times when I contemplate sharing struggles and questions like...

when will he stop waking up at 5am already and
can the child never sit in circle time in our mommy-and-me class and
does this mean that he will always be a loner and not function in society? (I was pretty sure that he would start kindergarten being able only to bang toys together and never use them as intended until he proved otherwise. But I obsess, I mean, digress! ...Ummmm...)

I find it difficult to blog about struggles that are not yet resolved. That's what anonymous message boards are for, right? Somewhere between my anxiety about looking clueless (so sad she never properly taught that child to sleep) and my anxiety about looking clueless (doesn't she know babies that age aren't supposed to do that yet), it's just hard to get it down on the page. BUT I am contemplating thinking about planning to try to be more open about struggles in my blog. (Can you tell I don't feel particularly compelled at the moment?)

So that's for later. This is for now. Gavin is talking up a storm! Please don't 'kind of wish I was dead.'

Gavin has been saying words for quite a while. At about 18 months, there wasn't anything he wouldn't try to say. Then at 19.5 months, he started saying two-word phrases like "big up" (he still loves to step up and down more than just about anything else) and later that week moved on to two-word (what the books call) sentences like "bye dad-dee" and "eat pear." We love it, and he is quite proud of himself!

Along with his new ability to put words together has also come a new level of jibberish that will soon become intelligible conversation. New intonations, new sounds and a new expectation for us to understand more than we do. You see, his pronunciation is often far from accurate. I have often considered helping those closest to us by charting his "N" words like lunch, down and dinner and his "M" words like balloon and violin get the idea. I remember excitedly texting Josh during his important study session when Gavin went from saying pink (for months pronounced "hum") to pink (pronounced "humnk") to pink ("mink") to pink ("pink") all in a morning. (Aside: even now I'm wondering if you are like doesn't she know that kind of pronunciation is a sign of a learning disability or conversely if you are like duh, all babies do that. Reference crazy-person rant above about blogging struggles.) 

Anyway, because he expects us to understand more these days and because--for new words or words with no context--we often don't, his (adorable) little toddler brain has a few go-to ways of dealing with it:

1) Just keep saying it. I can picture his patient, earnest little face now as he thinks to himself C'mon mom, you can do it. Reach back into that rusty brain. Remember, we were talking about this yesterday. Remember. Many times, it will click for me, and I'll know I'm right when he repeats my correct answer with confident approval. Sometimes, he'll even add a yeah which he then tends to follow by yes and uh-huh.
2) When possible, point. He'll usually try a couple times without pointing even if the object is right next to him. I love it when the object is not next to him, and he takes those cute pudgy legs over to it and then gently repeatedly points with one finger.
3) Take a better suggestion. If I am guessing, and say something that sounds pretty good to him, he'll sometimes (though much less often than you might think) change his mind. Crackers? Yes, okay mom. Since you're offering.
4) Give up. Sometimes, he'll just decide it's not worth it. I'll guess a few times as he stares intently at me, then he'll just calmly look down and go back to what he was doing like Yeah,'s really not worth it after all.
5) Whine or cry. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often, but he is a toddler after all, and more so every day. 

To end this already-too-long post, here are my favorite things he's saying right now. At this point, I am probably the only one still reading, so why not indulge myself?

scissors -- seh-sehs with equal emphasis on both syllables
olive oil -- he'll say it five different ways in one minute which is part of the cuteness, but it's one of the few times he makes an actual "L" sound instead of a "Y" sound. Usually it comes out ol-oh.
house -- it's spot on but almost a nasal sound
high five dad -- I miss this one about half the time until he patiently helps me catch on, so I don't really know how to describe it.
hug -- an oldie, but a goodie -- he says it like a cross between hug and huck, which is adorable, but it's that sweet face with eyebrows slightly raised and those arms reaching out that make me think I don't care how you say it, baby. Yes, I'll take one of those.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 does something...

The post below is complete, and now I'm sitting here trying to think of a creative, interesting way to open it. The more I sit here, the more I realize it is pointless to avoid the fact that this is a very technical post -- meant to be one of those that comes alongside another mom to help. Trying to open in a snazzy way is making me cranky (grin). So...I will just say that if you are looking for cute anecdotes about Gavin, stay tuned. In the meantime, please pass this on to a mom that may find it helpful.

Some of you may remember that we took Gavin off of all dairy in an attempt to reduce or eliminate his breathing issues. Well, it did seem to help with that and also with his sleeping! He went from getting up one or two brief times in the middle of the night (mostly for a re-plug of the pacifier) and also waking early (anywhere from a yucky time like 5 to an acceptable time like 6:30) to not waking at all in the middle of the night and most of the time having a normal wake time (between 6 and 7:30).

When we relayed our experience to his pediatrician, he seemed intrigued but not at all surprised. He said milk can negatively affect digestion, breathing and even the nervous system--any one of which could have been disrupting his sleep. We are thankful that our pediatrician intentionally integrates nutrition into his practice.

When jumping into this non-dairy adventure, I read everything I could about how to help him get enough nutrition without whole milk and found everything from "serve your baby a variety of healthy foods, and he/she will be fine" to recommended quantities of fat, protein, calcium and vitamin D and the best ways to get them. Of course, I jumped full in to the latter...bring on the calculations, checklists and overall obsessing!

Our family is far from perfect in this area, and as with everything, you should definitely check with an expert (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer), but with all the hard work I've done and great resources I've found, I feel compelled to share.

First, I will share an Excel sheet I created to help me determine how much calcium, fat, and protein Gavin needs at each age. The spreadsheet also contains a list of the major foods we use to get him there with the amounts of each nutrient listed above according to Super Baby Food or the product package itself (if they differed, I used the product package). Second, I will share what a typical day of nutrition might look like for Gavin. I looked everywhere for an example like this and came up with nothing. Like I said, I come at this with no credentials, but I offer this as a starting place for your own researching and planning. Third, I will list my primary sources and how they helped.

Non-Dairy Nutrition Calculator for Children 1 to 3 Years Old
This calculator contains formulas based on nutritional recommendations for children 1 to 3 years old found in the book Super Baby Food. The book itself contains recommendations for children 0-12 months as well. Since this post is particularly for parents who want an alternative to whole milk for their children and since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children not drink whole milk before the age of 1 year, I have put only the calculations for that age group to keep things simple.

To download the chart for your own use, just click the link below. You will be taken to an online version of the chart in Google Docs. You cannot edit the chart online, but you can download it from Google Docs onto your computer to complete for your own child. Click here to go to Google Docs to download. (Go to the File Menu in the top left corner and click "download" as Excel or as Open Document.)

A typical day of nutrition for Gavin
At the time of this writing, Gavin is 20 months. Keep in mind that he loves and has always loved his food. So, yes, he does eat all of this happily. If your child resists new foods, remember that most kids must sample something 7-10 times before they develop a taste for it. The important thing is to keep offering it. They don't have to eat an entire serving -- just taste it. When we were introducing tahini to Gavin, we planned to mix it into his cereal. We started with a 1 teaspoon mixed in and he did grimace the first few times. Once he was used to that small amount, we slowly worked up to a tablespoon. He gobbles it down now.

With each meal or snack, we give Gavin almond milk fortified with calcium and other vitamins. It has twice as much calcium as cow's milk but it's not the primary source of his fat or protein, so I'm not insane about him getting a certain number of ounces, but he usually has about 12-15 ounces in a day.

Breakfast: Some kind of berries and another kind of fruit usually blueberries and mango or strawberries and peaches. Also, his beloved Cheerios(R).
Morning snack: 1/2 piece whole wheat bread (you'll need to check the ingredients if you are eliminating all dairy - some contain whey) with almond butter (about 1T), a small amount of blackstrap molasses and usually either crushed pineapple, sliced banana or applesauce to help the almond butter go down. Also, some kind of fruit cut into bite-sized pieces or applesauce if we're out and about.
Lunch: 1 egg (hardboiled or scrambled), Green veggie like kale or broccoli (about 2T), beans (about 2T), 1 small orange or 1/2 of a large one.
Afternoon snack: Earth's Best oatmeal or Dr. Sears multi-grain cereal (3T) with 1T tahini (raw) and 
1-1/2 T wheat germ mixed with coconut milk (about 3 oz or to the right consistency). We used to also give an orange veggie like carrots or sweet potatoes, but recently I increased the cereal and saved the orange veggie for dinner. Mostly to make it easier for me -- especially when we're out.
Dinner: Meat or fish (about 2 ounces), orange veggie like carrots or sweet potatoes or winter squash (about 2T), sometimes tomato (about 1T), avocado (1/6 of a small one), 1/2 piece of bread. Recently, I've been concerned about making sure he's getting enough healthy fats, so I let him dip his bread in olive oil with Italian herbs sprinkled in. He loves it, and it is super cute to watch him dip and listen to him try to say olive oil.

This is just an example. We certainly deviate in one way or another most days, and like I said, we are far from perfect, so I would love to hear your suggestions. Just leave a comment below.

Sources that were helpful to me
This post would not exist without the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It covers nutrition for infants through toddlers, and even though I didn't start reading it until Gavin graduated from purees to finger foods, I cannot overstate its usefulness to me. My favorite features are:
  • A breakdown of how much of the major nutrients a child needs at each age.
  • A list of almost every fruit and vegetable you can think of and its primary nutrients and preparation tips.
  • A list of vitamins and minerals and the foods that are highest in them.
  • A list of super baby enhancers (things you can easily add to cereal or sandwiches to boost nutrition).
  • Nutrient table with baby-sized portions.
  • An example of what a-day-in-the-life of her baby's diet looked like (I looked everywhere for this online).
The Super Baby Food Diet is lacto-ovo-vegetarian (milk, eggs, veggies, grains). Gavin does eat a little meat, but no dairy, so I was not able to carbon-copy this diet for him, but the resources were a huge help in me piecing together our own thing. (The book does have a chapter on meat for those choosing that route and does not hate on meat-eaters.)

Another resource that was helpful to me was an article called, "Is Milk Really Good for Our Children?" With studies quoted from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I found the information helpful. Just keep in mind, the list of calcium sources may or may not be listed in baby-sized portions.

For questions about foods not on my chart or in your other sources, you can use Self's Nutrition Data. Just make sure you are adjusting for baby-sized portions.

Final thoughts: If you have questions about this, I recommend you ask your pediatrician. If you have a question about the chart or our approach with Gavin, please ask it in the comment section below, and I will address it to the best of my ability.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Gavin is Doing at 17.5 Months

But first...the current love tags: snuggle, snug, snuggle pocket, buddy, baby boo, sweetie pie, honey bun. If you're new to the blog, I can't help it. They just come out. Not that I try to stop them...

So 17.5 months! Here's his latest and greatest.

He is totally taken with stepping up and down. I could take him to the best toddler play area ever, and he would find a step and say, "Up....n dah" at least a dozen times. And then he'd glance around at all the cool stuff and find another step and do the same thing. The more challenging step, the better.

Pouring - it might not seem like a big deal, but I was kind of waiting for it. I don't know why.

He is using his voice to do some new intonations to ask questions (like "Where's the orange egg?" which sounds more like "Ahh Ange?") and express surprise (like "There she is!" which sounds more like "Ahh-she!") It's the intonation and sometimes the hands going straight up in the air that makes it a question or an exclamation. I LOVE it.

To go along with the above: hiding eggs around the house has been a favorite game since we found them in Grandma and Grandpa's yard on Easter. It's just now starting to lose steam (in other words, he watches mommy hide the eggs, finds one and then moves on to something else). It's pretty amazing to me that now he can look in the bucket (yes, Easter bucket, not basket) and know which egg is missing. The pink one was missing, and after a few days of hearing "Ahh Hum??" (translated "Where is the pink one?") repeatedly and with looks of great concern, you betcha I invested some time in finding that egg!

One day in the ER (we've had a few trips due to his some-are-calling-it-asthma-some-are-calling-it-reactive-airway-disease), I was trying to distract him a few more minutes and started bouncing his Pooh Bear up and down in time with (my version of) the Winnie the Pooh song. He loved it. Now, he bounces Pooh in time to the song. When he wants me to sing faster, he moves him faster, and when he wants me to sing slower, slower. And today, he matched pitch with one of his toys. It sings "red," and he repeated, "red" on the same note. I felt pretty proud.

On Mother's Day, he started saying "cuddle" and hugging me. Aaaahhh! Even writing about it, I'm about to just DIE. It's so cute! Now he "cuddles" with Daddy, his cousins, his Pooh Bear and our dog Millie (once). This past weekend, he started saying "hug" and giving really good squeezes with both arms. Aren't you just dying?! Well, unless you don't know Gavin at all, and then maybe you're at least smiling.

He's doing all kinds of new gross motor skills: revving his cars before rolling them, bending his knees or lifting one foot when he sees another kid jumping (I hear they don't jump until they're 2-ish), doing toe raises, putting his feet into our shoes, not to mention all of the skills he's learning in our Mommy-and-me gym class.

Here's a scary one. Now he can look into the future and remember the past (somewhat). Today at lunch, I said that maybe we could read his "Wheels on the Bus" book when we were finished eating. About 5-10 minutes later, he walked over to the book shelf saying "bee" (bus). Of course, we found the book and read/sang it.

Daddy sometimes juggles bean bags for him, and it's so cute to watch him hold two bean bags straight up in the air as if willing them to fly in a juggling formation.

He loves making jokes, even if we sometimes don't understand why they are funny. He'll try just about anything to make us laugh. And his laugh is changing from a baby laugh to a kid laugh--a long, loud, delightful kid laugh.

My favorite words he's saying now are ride (that long "i" sound is new and just too cute), hug (of course) and go (because of the way he extends the "o").

I've had several friends say, "Every age is the best age," and I think about that often. So far, it's absolutely true.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mommy Wars

Am I the only one who didn't realize this was "a thing"? Mommy Wars -- apparently the phrase was coined in the '80's when I was still playing with pogo-balls and fashion plates. Don't get me wrong. I know there is competitiveness among mommies who ascribe to different theories -- believe me I know. I guess I just didn't realize it had a name. And also that moms in some countries don't experience it. I guess what I'm saying is, I thought it was normal. And, yes, I've been a perpetrator and a victim.

I found this post while looking for a devotional, and I found it very interesting...and moving. Mommy Wars in the Local Church: A Parable

It is the third of five in a series on the topic. I started with the third because it was the most recent one at the time, but I found them all uplifting and thought-provoking. And I thought we gals, gals who all mean well though we may have been inadvertent perpetrators at one time or another, could advance Mommy Peace and Mommy Grace and Mommy Dependence on God. I'm going to try to make that my thing.

Love you girls!  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just a Moment-o Please

A large part of the great thing about having kids rests in the little things. The things that maybe no one else would notice (unless they are with your kids hours upon hours) and if they did notice, they surely wouldn't think those "things" are as adorable or as significant you do.

My life is full of these little things, and I've been using a great app for capturing those little moments (who has time for a full-fledged journal?!) It is appropriately named Momento (by d3i for iPhone and iPad). This app allows you to record anything you want to remember and tag it (if you want), so you can find like items. (In my case, tags are simple: talking, walking, family, playtime...) You can also import feeds from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a dozen more online accounts, so that your "diary" is all in one place. The things you write directly into Momento can stay private, which is great because I am in love with my boy, but even I don't think that the whole world wants to know when he starts to say the word egg like "egk" instead of "agk." I don't pretend to be a tech review gal, so I'll just say it does lots of other cool stuff, and it's worth looking into. (It was runner up for Apple App of the Year in it's quite possible that you all have been using it for months.)

Here are a couple of those little things that I've enjoyed in the past week:
  • When Bob Marley's "Is This Love" came on, Gavin started grooving in perfect rhythm, and looked at me like, "I love this song," though he had never heard it before.
  • When we were at a playdate, he had just finished putting all of the Duplo Legos back in the bucket, and a little friend came over a took a few out and started placing them on the floor. He watched her and looked down at each Lego like, "I just put those away..."
  • He has started blowing kisses and saying "mwah" or "mah" as he does.
There are lots of little things, and I'm happy to say, they make my life very big.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Trouble with Waiting

The trouble with waiting to publish a blog post is that with a toddler, most things move at lightning speed.

For example, my last post was about the love tags we are using and also about how I was so glad Gavin was feeling better after a rough week. I knew I was forgetting some love tags, so before I hit "publish," I thought I'd walk away for a little while until they came to me. Not an hour later (at 10 p.m.), he wakes up crying and would not be consoled, which is all but unheard of these days. Finally after a diaper change, Hyland's teething tablets, orajel and ibuprofen, I gave him a second spot of orajel, and he relaxed and went to sleep.

I DID think of a few more love tags in that time, and I added them, but otherwise left the blog as is. It was still a bright spot in a hard week. I just wasn't sure when I published it if the rest of the night would prove to be so as well. As with most things toddler--that was up in the air.

So anyway, why do I imagine that anyone cares about the internal puzzling of my blog-writing process? Well, there have been several posts that I published quickly, so they would be true at that moment. Then later, I learned a new bit of related information or realized I forgot something important. So recently, I went back to the posts and added comments to address the missing items.

Here are the posts with new comments:

Six reflections on pregnancy and the newborn days from this "poor little heady"
(If you're wondering why I'm OCD enough to go back and add the additional information, you may want to read this one.)

 Oh, the places I've pumped! (and other nursing adventures)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Current Love Tags

It's been a long time since I've posted love tags (the loving nicknames we are calling Gavin). We've just been through a trying week of breathing problems, fever, diaper rash and teething. What better time to recount our love tags. Here are the ones currently gushing forth.

Honey Bear
Baby Boo
Sweet Somethin'
Snuggle Pocket
Snuggle Pop
Sweetie Pie
Fussy Bucket (only when he's fussy, of course)
My Pumpkin Pie

Gavin is feeling much better now. So much so that he feels he can conquer the world, or at least, repeatedly walk toward and touch all of the off-limit items in the house (all the while smiling and saying "no" in acknowledgement). Oh well. I would much rather redirect a mischievous baby who is smiling than try desperately to figure out how to help a miserable baby who is just trying to make it through the day.

Today was a bright spot, and I am so thankful to my loving Lord for that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My New Mirror

And so it begins...toddlerhood.

In the past two days, Gavin's toddler attributes have increased significantly. I knew this was coming -- both the beautiful parts and the not-so-beautiful. I know that as he grows up, we will be able to bond in new ways. I think every parent has those things that they are looking forward to doing with their kids. I also know that he will practice asserting his independence in ways that are altogether unpleasant to me and that it's my job (eesh) to guide him down the right path. And I have been warned countless times that I will never be more familiar with my bad habits, idiosyncrasies and simple ways of doing things than I will be when I'm watching him imitate me. And so it begins...

Today, we did that bonding-in-new-ways thing. Longer giggles and tickles, taking turns sticking our tongues out, staring at each other while swinging on the swings. I love it. I love that face and that laugh and that tongue.

Yesterday, during meals and snacks, Gavin started requesting foods that were not being served at that particular time. Things beyond the organic rice puffs that he often requests, and much more persistently than in the past. This is so cute and so not cute at the same time. Cute that his brain is developing in new ways -- the things he thinks of to say and do are amazing to this first-time mom; not cute because I don't know what "app" means (since today it meant something besides apple), and I'm not going to give him Cheerios before and after every meal, and I can't make pears appear when there are none in the fridge. Sigh.

But today he really ushered in toddlerhood when he told me "no" for the first time. He has said "no," but it was obvious today that he was telling me "no." When I calmly walked over and said, "Do not tell mommy 'no,'" I didn't realize I was also pointing my index finger at him until he did it back to me. Ugh!

And so it begins. I knew that all my years of teaching toddlers and elementary school kids would not really prepare me for parenting, but it's completely surreal and a bit intimidating to watch my sweet, sweet baby Gavin to turn into a toddler. Experienced parents: stop laughing (please).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

March: In like a Lion, Out like a Lion

March was a whirlwind with lots of milestones and many challenges, evidenced by the fact that I am posting about it in the middle of April...

The challenges:
  • In the second week, my milk started decreasing more and more each day, and Gavin (14 months at the time) eventually decided it wasn't worth it, and on his lead we dropped that final nursing session (which had been first thing in the morning). However, even though it was led by him, I can't help but think that in some ways, he may not have been emotionally ready. The day after he weaned himself is when the nap problems (below) really escalated and also started affecting bed time. Poor guy. It's tough to be a baby/toddler!
  • The sleep problems actually started when he was 13 months (February) with the throwing of the pacifier (and the subsequent crying due to no longer having the pacifier) and escalated to fussing through entire nap times and then finally morphed into crying as soon as mommy left the room for nap time or bed time (that was a special trick reserved for mommy -- not daddy, aunts or grandmas). It was enough to make me batty!! Especially since we thought we had taught him to fall asleep on his own pretty well. There haven't been many things on this parenting journey so far -- with the exception of him refusing to nurse at 5-6 months due to acid reflux -- that have made me feel so helpless, so distraught and so angry. Not at him necessarily, just angry about the helpless feeling and whole situation in general.
  • At the end of March, we made a trip to the ER and were admitted to the PICU for two nights when Gavin got a cold that settled in his lungs causing wheezing, retracting and even a tiny part of his lung to collapse. We had seen the pediatrician earlier that day, but despite the treatments she gave us to do at home, it kept getting worse and worse. I am so thankful for the quality care we received from her and at the hospital. As often happens when we are in situations like this, my heart goes out and my prayers go up for those moms and dads caring for children with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
The resolutions:
  • Weaning: Once Gavin was still going strong with nursing at a year, I thought he might want to continue until he was 18 months, which I read is when most babies start to "self-wean." I was surprised that he wanted to stop at 14.5 months, but I was fine with it. I was relieved that it was directed by him and that I did not get any plugged ducts due to the weaning.
  • Sleeping: I couldn't be more serious when I say praise the Lord that the sleep problems seems to turning into sleep successes! Laying him down for naps is almost always a non-issue, though the naps remain shorter than they are for most kids his age. He is waking less at night (zero times last night, once the night before) and sleeping later without coaxing. This was a hard, hard challenge that I am not ready to write about in full detail. According to what I found in my research, a lot of kids have sleep problems that crop up at 13 months and then resolve themselves at 14 months. However, his sleep problems didn't resolve themselves. I practically got a degree in "baby sleep" by reading, researching and talking to other moms. Josh and I both worked very hard to implement what we felt were the right solutions. A trusted friend who is busy with four kids of her own took the time to coach me through it, and I am so thankful. And though there was the hard work and the friends and the theories -- all so important -- in the end, it was so plain to me that it was God's mercy that finally made things click. It wasn't so much that we had the magic formula. It was that God showered his grace on our desperate and clumsy requests for help. He is so good. And when we had our first breakthrough (much sooner than predicted), I couldn't stop thinking of the word "mercy." I found Psalm 28:6-9 and kept reading it and thanking Him. It says, "Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever."
  • Breathing (and sleeping): Again, I am praising the Lord that in the two weeks since we took Gavin off of his at-home breathing treatments (at doctor's direction), we've only needed to use them one time. One thing we are in the middle of testing right now is whether he is sensitive to milk. If he is, that might be contributing to his breathing problems. A different trusted friend mentioned Gavin's breathing problems to her doctor (D.C., A.C.N.), who suggested that dairy might be the culprit. He said that kids sometimes can have chronic breathing problems and ear infections if they are sensitive to milk. My husband wanted to talk with Gavin's pediatrician (M.D.) before we went completely off of milk (though we did start mixing half dairy milk and half almond milk to get him used to the taste, just in case). During Gavin's 15-month check-up a few days later, the doctor actually brought up the possibility of a milk sensitivity before we had a chance to. We told him that we were wondering the same thing, and he encouraged us to take him off of it and see what happened. I told him that we had been mixing half and half, and that it seemed to be helping and that Gavin even seemed to be sleeping better at night. The doctor agreed that better sleeping could be because we reduced the amount of dairy milk we were giving him. He said it could have been waking him by messing with his digestion, his sinuses/allergies or even his neuro-receptors (he said that recent research had revealed that milk could mess with neurological function, but I didn't get any sources or anything). As I mentioned above, the nighttime sleep is dramatically better. Before I might have had to get up two or three times in the middle of the night to give him his pacifier. Then around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., he would stir and need me every 20-40 minutes, until 7. Lately, there have been zero to one night wakings and very few early mornings. Thank you, Lord!!! Of course, with our sample size of one, I can't say if it's due to switching the milk, that he grew out of it, or something else. But for now, we are keeping him off of dairy milk and turning thankful hearts toward the Lord. Oh, and I am also getting yet another degree (Master's level) in "how to make sure baby gets enough calcium, fat, vitamin D and protein when he is not drinking milk." Actually our pediatrician didn't seem concerned. He said a healthy diet, a good multi-vitamin and soy or almond milk should be sufficient, but of course, I had already begun studying like mad before we met with him about it -- a fact that anyone interested in the topic will benefit from in a blog post that will be coming soon.
 The milestones:
  • First steps (March 5)
  • First tooth (mid-March)
  • Okay, so he is not ahead of his class when it comes to walking or toothing, but he is talking up a storm, which is SO much fun. He has too many words to list them all, but the cutest ones are:
    • Nose (very drawn out and nasal-sounding while he points to your nose with this cute look on his face). Also, toes and teeth, though we sometimes have to remind him what teeth are called. He will point to them and then look at us like, "Ummm..." We will say it, and then he'll smile and say, "Deeth."
    • Mango (sounds like nngo) 
    • Home (sounds like Hum). Since he was tiny, I would say, "Here we are at home, honey," whenever we pulled into the driveway. About a week or so ago, he started saying "home" when we would pull into the driveway, but now he says it as we approach the house while still in the street. He has the most serene smile as he says it and makes eye contact with me through the mirror above his rear-facing car seat. Melts my heart.
  • We also joined a play group and a mommy-and-me class at The Little Gym. Not milestones, so much, but he is loving the interaction and fun, new activities.
We are humbled and thankful that God was with us as March was roared like a lion right to the very end and that he has been bringing resolution to so many things this month. We are blessed and humbled at the support, suggestions, empathy and prayers of countless family members and friends.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What would your kids say?

Gavin has been doing so many cute, quirky things lately, I've created a fill in the blank to share them with you. It is written from as if Gavin were saying it. I'd love to hear what your kiddos are doing, too! So post a comment to the blog with answers from your kids' points of view. (Extra spirit sprinkles and gold stars if you do it on the blog instead of on Facebook.)

1) My current favorite book(s) is/are: ________________________________.

Gavin's answers: The Eye Book (Theo LeSieg aka Dr. Seuss), My Mother is Mine (Marion Dane Bauer), all the little photo books that Mommy filled with pictures of our family -- both near and far.

2) My newest trick(s) is/are: _______________________________________.

Gavin's answers:
Saying egg (sounds something like "ahk," but very purposeful),
putting together a puzzle (I still need lots of help from Mommy, but it's so thrilling when I put the pieces in their spots that I pat my legs and smile an excited, proud smile),
stacking blocks (as opposed to just knocking them down, though I am good at that, too),
saying "bye bye" at the end of our mealtime prayers.

3) When I'm deep in play, nothing can throw off my train of thought like: ___________________.

Gavin's answer: Hearing Mommy or Daddy open the refrigerator. I stop what I'm doing and come a-crawlin' because I love to "count" the milk jugs in the door and feel the cool air.

4) My current favorite non-toy toy(s) is/are: _____________________________.

Gavin's answers: A colander and slotted spoon, socks and pictures of babies that Mommy cut off of the boxes my toys came in.

5) Something that makes me laugh is: _________________________.

Gavin's answer: Throwing my pacifier behind my crib. I'm not sure why Mommy doesn't laugh. I think it's hilarious!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Six reflections on pregnancy and the newborn days from this "poor little heady"

My friend's husband has this phrase he uses for her when she's over-analyzed something or honed in on a detail that no one else would notice or just thought too deeply about something that others would gloss over. "Poor Little Heady." I wish you could see the silly way he strokes her hair and looks at her when he says it. It's pretty adorable and pretty true most of the time.

But I have to admit there have been times when (after picking up this phrase from our friend) my husband has used it to describe me. And this blog post might have an element of "poor little heady."

Below are six brief reflections on my pregnancy and my early days as a mom. And while I mean every word, I don't want you to think I'm taking any of these too seriously. I am not saying any of these things made me a good or bad mom or that they made any material difference to anyone but me. Because, after all, sometimes I can have a poor little heady that thinks about things..., well, just because it's always thinking about things.

Three things I'm glad I did when I was pregnant (you know aside from the serious things like eating right and avoiding skydiving):
  • Sing. Not only that, but I'm glad I sang the same song. My husband read in the Brain Rules for Babies that songs babies hear often in the womb sound familiar to them even after they are born. So I wanted to pick the perfect song for him to remember. One that I would not get tired of singing. One that had lyrics about God and love. Based on my introduction, you shouldn't be surprised to know that I actually put a lot of thought into this. I picked just one song to sing because music is really important to me -- at the time I was singing on the praise team at my church -- and it's always around me. I thought that since he would be hearing so many different songs, I wanted one to stand out. I picked what I call the campfire version of Jesus Loves Me/Amazing Grace, which I come to learn is Paul Colman's Medley of Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me. It's a beautiful, lyrical version, and I continued to sing it after he was born. It was one of the songs that comforted him in his early life. There were times when I sang it and I could swear there was a look of recognition on his face (kind of like a tiny, pleasant double take). I'm sure the look of recognition was my imagination, but it still made me happy to know we had been bonding with that song since he was in the womb.
  • Pregnancy Journal. My husband and I waited almost 10 years before we started trying to get pregnant. I had no idea how the pregnancy would go because I had some health issues (that actually miraculously got better with the pregnancy). I was already 33 when we got pregnant. I just had the sense that, "I'm not sure if I will ever get to do this again," so I wanted to take time to reflect and to have a way to remember. Though my reasons were serious and sweet, the journal I chose was lighthearted and silly. It's called The Belly Book, and though there are places to record serious reflections, it also includes questions such as, "When you were in the womb, I thought you were: ___ a girl, ___ a boy, ___ a boxer. The funny little questions helped get my journaling juices flowing. There are places for pictures of the growing belly, places to record stats from the doctor visits and more. I love that I have that keepsake of such as special time.
  • Cord Blood Banking. I hope we never need it, but I am glad that we did it. If you are considering it, just remember to order the free kit well before you think you'll need it, so your blood pressure doesn't go up with the thought, "Oh no, what if he/she is early, and I haven't done this yet." Not that I'm speaking from've just heard that can sometimes happen...

Three things I wish I had done when Gavin was tiny:
  • More skin-to-skin. Everyone from doctors to granola mamas cite the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, as well as dad and baby. I was excited about this extra way to bond. Both Josh and I had skin-to-skin time with him when he was a newborn before and during that first nursing session. I also did it a few other times (like when he had wet his clothes and it was getting too close to feeding time for me to fuss with putting new clothes on him right away or when I got out of the shower just in time and nursed him in my robe) but, frankly, since it was winter (and I am cold-natured) and since I was a new mom (and pretty overwhelmed with the clip at which that little guy needed food) and since I was still healing (from delivering his darling little head that was turned the wrong direction), I have to admit: at the time, the thought of adding one more step by undressing him and/or me was just a little more than I wanted to do. Still, I wish I had done it a few more times. Not because I don't feel that we are plenty bonded and not because I think there is something in his development that is lacking, but just because he was only tiny once, and those times we were skin-to-skin were pretty special.
  • Sign up for Huggies and Pampers rewards. Okay, this is silly, but true. Now that I am collecting points for ALL the diapers and wipes that we use, I am thinking of ALLLLLL the points I threw away. Again, not that I really could have added one more thing to my plate in those early days, but it sure would have been nice to have saved them to enter later...
  • Floss my teeth every day (like I used to). This may sound silly or nerdy, but I am dead serious about this one. After Gavin was born, it was definitely one of the things I let go. But if someone had told me that at that next dentist appointment after delivery, the dentist would discover my first-ever cavity which would be followed by my first-ever root canal, I would have stayed up the extra minute to take care of it. When they discovered it, I told my boss, and she said, "Oh yeah, I should have thought to tell you that the baby can steal your calcium and make you more vulnerable to stuff like that." The cavity had extra opportunity to grow undetected since pregnant women can't have X-rays. Now, the root canal wasn't actually that bad -- I was as shocked as anyone. It was more the idea that, for so long, I had all of my teeth, and then I had to say goodbye to one of them. It was actually very sad. See what I mean...Poor Little Heady...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wonders and Woes

We just came back from Gavin's first trip to the library for toddler story time. Appropriately, the story time consisted of one story, several active songs and rhymes, puppets and a very energetic and fun story/song leader.

We had a great time. Gavin tends to be mesmerized by music anyway. Add to that a room full of mostly older toddlers and their mommies, daddies and grandmas singing and dancing, and you can imagine: it took him awhile to relax.

They started with "The More We Get Together," which Gavin and I have sung many times while reading the Caroline Jayne Church illustrated book of the same title. We also did "The Ants Go Marching One by One," which Gavin and I sang for the first time earlier that morning thanks to our toddler station on Pandora.

Once Gavin got relaxed enough to do something besides stare wide-eyed, he enjoyed dancing with mommy, dancing on his knees while watching the other kids and parents and, eventually, crawling toward the other kids.

As I mentioned, it was mostly older toddlers. It just gave me a glimpse and a listen (in surround-sound stereo) of what we are in for. The wonders and woes of true toddlerhood. The wonders of their sense of humor, their long-term memory and their pure joy of discovering something new, which are all more developed and more intense than Gavin's at this stage. It seems like those developments are really far away, but many of these kids were not that much older than Gavin, so I know they are coming sooner than I think.

After story time, everyone went from the little meeting room to the children's book area where they had coloring sheets and puzzles. There, the woes of toddlerhood became much more evident. I was surprised by how more than one three-year-old tried to hit or grab something from my (tiny) baby. Okay, he's a tall 13-month-old, but still. After one such incident of pushing by the older child, a sweet, well-meaning grandma corrected me when I gently took a puzzle piece from Gavin and gave it back to the three-year-old that was playing with it. She said that her grandson "needs to learn to share." A true statement, but not on my baby he doesn't. Grin. We'll come back after he's practiced a couple times on someone his own size.

It's not like I've never observed a toddler before. Though the fact that I am taking the time to record such simple observations may lead you to believe otherwise, I've spent many, many hours teaching that age in childcare centers and church nurseries. It just seems that raising a child is so mind-consuming that my memories of those days have faded to somewhere far in the background. It makes sense -- I need all my up-front brain space for "How do I convince him that morning does not start at 5:20?" "How many rice puffs has he had today?" "Now, what do I need at this, my fifth trip to Target in four days?" I'm convinced the same thing will happen with all of my adamant intentions of being an understanding, fair, empathetic, and maybe somewhat cool parent of a teenager. I won't be able to recall those plans let alone implement them when I'm done with potty training, first day of school, soccer teams, riding a bike, first sleepover and all the et ceteras that I cannot even imagine. I also know that the opportunity to reflect on these toddlers comes because I am seeing everything through new eyes now. Wide eyes. Mommy-of-a-baby eyes.

Overall, it was a really fun time for both of us. In fact, it made my day. I've been wanting to let him be around kids his own age on a more regular basis, which has been harder than I thought it would be. It was very stimulating for Gavin -- both during and after the story time. And it's possible that my eyes were glossy as I watched him recognize songs we've sung at home and try out new things. Something tells me we'll be doing that again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Words and would-be words

I told Josh, "From now on, when I say, 'Gavin said ____,' you'll know I mean it sounded like he said it or he was copying me, not necessarily that he knew what he was doing or that he will say it again anytime soon." And then he did start saying certain things consistently. It's all happening so fast that I feel compelled to record it.

Gavin's Words (He meant to say it and says it consistently.)
Ball (Ba)
Dog (Da)
Daddy (Daddy) -- Today he said, "Hi Da!"
Mama (Mama)
Uh-oh (Just such a perfect uh-oh)
Pear and Bread both sound like (Prrreh)
Puffs (Pfs)
Picture (Pah) - He loves looking at photos of friends and family
Puzzles (Pzz or Pah)
There she is -- referring most often to our dog, Millie (da dereee - it's more the inflection that sounds exactly like it)
Gotcha (Ga or Da)
No ( least it's not said defiantly yet...)
Cup (Cuh)
Car (Cah)
Down (Da)
Up (Uh or Up)
Play (He's just starting to say this, so it's hard to describe it because I haven't heard it enough)
Chair (Cha)
Broccoli (Bra)
Socks (sometimes he reverses the k and s sounds, sometimes it's very close)

Gavin's Would-Be Words (He mimics the sounds - most of them we've only heard once, so it's hard to write exactly how it sounded, but they are still fun.)
Thank you (Da Do)
Little Pooh (as in Bear)
Little Book
Rock (Rah)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My first (sort of) guest bloggers talk about nursing

My last post was on nursing and prompted some discussion among some of my friends and family who have also struggled with breastfeeding. I find their experiences inspiring and their commitment to providing what breast milk they can/could encouraging. They enthusiastically gave me permission to share their stories.

Before I get to their stories, I wanted to list a few resources, so they don't get lost at the end. My post called, "Oh, the places I've pumped (and other nursing adventures)" has some resources listed about breastfeeding and can be found by clicking It also has my story and was the starting place for this post.

Here are some other resources that I thought might be important based on my guest bloggers' experiences -- they want you to have all the resources possible to help with whatever breastfeeding trials you might encounter:

Final thoughts before we get to the stories: I hope this post provides the encouragement it was designed to -- these stories of charting new paths through treacherous territory are supposed to draw attention to the "new paths" not the "treacherous territory." Certainly, everyone's experience is different, and many women don't encounter the trials found in my story or those below.

I also hope that no one who reads this blog experiences any shame about breastfeeding -- no matter what your experience is or may have been. As women, let's keep speaking up and speaking out to provide each other the help we need to make it on this rewarding and exhausting journey called motherhood, an often mystifying blend of art and science. Hearts out and hats off to you all!

NW’s nursing story

I'm still very new at all this and kind of feel like a fish out of water, but I'm open to sharing my experience.

I went into this with the idea that I would give breastfeeding a try and if it worked, it worked; if not, no big deal. So I was pretty shocked at how disappointed I was when it wasn't working and we were told to supplement because my little guy was not gaining weight. I felt like I was a complete failure and that I was starving my child.

Even though he nursed 15 minutes on each side and showed no signs of hunger, he was only gaining an ounce or two a week and rarely having a poopy diaper. The doctor deduced that he was getting just enough to not be hungry, but not enough to be full, and that he couldn't/wouldn't work hard enough to get much milk out. We decided he defiantly got the lazy gene from my side of the family. I think he also had a bad/shallow latch because it was pretty painful for me. I never could get him to get his mouth very wide open. He has a bit of an recessed chin, so I don't really even know if it was physically possible for him to open his mouth any wider. All the lactation consultants we saw were completely useless. 

I gave up trying to feed him from the breast after two weeks because in addition to him not gaining weight, neither of us were enjoying it, and my stress level was through the roof. However, I decided to exclusively pump for a year or as long as I'm able to produce milk. After I switched to pumping and bottle feeding him so that I could tell just how much he was getting, he gained 10 ounces in one week and had regular poopy diapers.

Before I finally made the decision to pump and bottle feed, I felt that I was being selfish by insisting on breastfeeding when it wasn't working for him. No one really ever told me there was another option besides formula. I'm not one of those women who thinks that formula is the devil; obviously, I know lots of kiddos that were fed formula that turned out wonderfully (my sweet niece and nephew being two of them!), so I don't know why I have such an overwhelming insistence on providing breast milk – especially since formula would be so much easier. But as for now – three weeks in – I’m going to try doing the pumping thing. I pump every two hours and he eats every three, so pretty much every hour on the hour I'm either pumping, feeding him (or sometimes both at the same time), or sleeping! Don't know how long I'll be able to keep that up for, but I'm going to give it a go!

I know it's not 'technically' breastfeeding, but I think it's important for women out there to know there's another option besides formula if breastfeeding doesn't work out. It's time consuming and at times restricting (I'm pumping 10 times a day to establish my supply, so it's hard to get anything done/go anywhere between his feeding schedule and my pumping schedule). At times I think about how much easier it would be just to use formula, but I'm stubborn and decided this is what I wanted to do, so it's what I'm going to do.

NG's nursing story

I wish there was more information on the problems some moms have nursing. Nursing is not always as easy as some people would have you believe. I spent many hours crying because I wanted it to work so badly for both my boys. I would have given anything to have enough milk. I loved the bonding. But it was emotionally and physically draining to have my babies crying 20 minutes later because they were starving! So—committed to giving them as much breast milk as possible—I pumped, oh the places I have pumped and for only 2 - 3 ounces TOTAL!

To top it off, I recently had to throw more than 50 ounces of milk away that I had stored up because it went rancid in the freezer. Apparently some women have an overproduction of a hormone that makes the milk bad once frozen! So, on top of not having enough milk, the milk I did freeze was bad! Since I couldn't pump enough for a full feeding, I froze the milk I pumped at night and formula fed the night feeding in the hopes my little guy would sleep longer! It took me forever to store up enough milk to freeze...three nights of pumping to freeze one bag of milk! It was heartbreaking. It is very inspirational to see others sticking it out through trying times, too!

JM's nursing story

Just to ease any "mommy guilt" for those who find they cannot successfully nurse—I couldn't, and though I grieved about missing the experience, my two teenagers are happy, healthy, totally well-adjusted youngsters who don't care that they had to settle for pumped  breast milk and formula. I wrote about my experience for a magazine called "Get Born" (since defunct). It was a total shock to me that breastfeeding doesn't always work, so I'm glad there is more info out there to prepare new moms now.

By Jeanette Minnich

                The title of the book caught my eye, "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding."  I felt an urge to pick it up, to see if it contained the secret that I didn't know--that would have changed my life.  But I didn't pick it up because it would be pointless.  My kids are 10 and 12 now.  It's too late--and anyway, I've come to terms with my inability to breastfeed.


                I've always been what is described as "well endowed."  Most of the time, I've been happy about this--except when the fashion of the day favored the flatter chested.  I naively assumed that one day, these ample breasts would be ready for the hungry mouth of a suckling babe.  I envisioned myself, Madonna-like with a lovely baby snuggled in my arms, the lights low, the edges blurred, classical music playing in the background.  As my first pregnancy progressed, I bought the rocking chair where we would sit at night, fulfilling my fantasy...

                My first inkling of danger came during one of the last pregnancy classes, when the instructor made an off-hand remark about inverted  or retracting nipples.  These conditions might make it difficult to breast feed, she commented, before telling us how to see if we had one of these conditions. 

                At home that night, I squeezed one of my nipples.  Horrified, I watched it totally flatten out--there would be nothing there for the baby to latch on to!  In a panic, I called my instructor and she reassured me that I could wear plastic devices that would draw my nipples out, solving the problem.  Praise the Lord, we have the technology!

                So, during my last few weeks of pregnancy, I walked around feeling like one of the Valkyries, with impenetrable breast shields standing erect in front of me.  I tried not to bump into anyone, lest I injure them.  Did I mention that my already ample breasts had grown to roughly the size of watermelons?  They had lethal potential.

                My first child finally arrived (ten days late), and I confidently announced to the nursing staff that I planned to breastfeed.  They woke me up every few hours and watched me struggle to get my daughter to latch.  I was awkward, and so hot and sweaty, and just not able to do what I thought would come naturally.  Finally a nurse suggested that if I wanted to be sure my baby was getting adequate nourishment, maybe I should supplement with some formula?  Disappointed, but fearful of starving my hungry child, I agreed.

                The next few weeks were torture.  I tried and tried to breastfeed.  I had a La Leche coach come to help, and I called all my experienced Mommy-friends. They all advised patience and practice.   I think my daughter successfully latched a total of two times. Meanwhile my breasts became engorged, my nipples cracked and bled.  The pregnancy class teacher had said nothing about breast pumps, assuming we could address this as a "returning to work" subject.  I had to send my husband out on an emergency run to buy a breast pump and some beer (I was told it would help with the engorgement).  I overcame my humiliation and rubbed something called "Bag Balm" on my nipples, feeling a new sense of empathy for all the dairy cows of the world.  Nothing worked.

                I learned to pump, and fed my baby breast milk from a bottle.  My fantasies of breastfeeding were overcome by the nightmare of breastfeeding--trying to discreetly feed a baby in a public place while silently crying with pain a friend described as "enough to curl your toes."  Within a month, I gave up the effort.  I started to recognize some of the benefits of the bottle.  First, it didn't hurt.  Second, my husband could share the arduous feeding schedule.  Third, since the baby was still drinking breast milk, I was fulfilling my mission of building her immune system.  Finally, it made it easier to return to work when my six-week maternity leave was over.

                Still, some niggling part of me grieved over missing the experience.  I talked to friends who told me that bottle feeding at the hospital had sabotaged my efforts.  The baby wouldn't have starved if I'd held out and demanded that the nurses let me breastfeed.  I listened doubtfully.  I was sure my failure reflected deeper flaws with me--my anatomy, my lack of determination, my cowardice--because any "real woman" can breastfeed.

                I faithfully pumped and fed my daughter breast milk for 6 months.  Eighteen months after her birth, I gave birth to a son.  This time I would show the nurses who was in charge--and since I only had to stay in the hospital one day, I could work on my technique without so much pressure.  Surely it would be different this time.

                Again I tried to breastfeed, and again I failed.  We had to move when my son was four months old, so I sold my breast pump and switched to formula.  I convinced myself that it was best for all involved--and my children have grown up happy and healthy.  Of course, they know nothing and would care even less about my breastfeeding struggles. 

                Over the years, I've realized that I'm a good mother and a good woman,  in spite of my retracting nipples (which, ironically, still harbor a drop or two of milk).  I've moved on and gotten past my disappointment...except when I catch sight of a mother breastfeeding, Madonna-like, with classical music playing in the background.