Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas to All!

This will be momma's last post for 2012, taking my Christmas holidays to the fullest starting today.
Today's post is for all my readers, fellow mommas and daddies, their families and especially all little ones experiencing their first Christmas for 2012. Just a quick note to send along my wishes for a safe, happy and healthy holiday. May you eat too much, stay up too late, enjoy all guests, and see Christmas as it was meant to be seen - through your children's eyes. Let your inner child come out this year and soak it up. If it is baby's first Christmas soak up all the attention on him/her, the curiousity with the paper, packages, lights and food, and all new toys.

On a more sad note, I am reminded of all the families this year from Newtown CT who are going to have a very heavy and sorrowful Christmas. My heart hurts for each and every child, parent and teacher that wakes up with a missing piece this year, with a huge gaping hole that no amount of Christmas cheer will fill this year, and especially for all the victims who will not get to rush and see what Santa brought this year. It is so wrong that I am running out of words to describe just how awful it is.

My must for this tragedy - do something extra nice for someone this holiday in honor of this negative event.  Bring some positive note to it, do not let the whole thing be in vain and keep them in your thoughts, especially when things like greed, frustration, disappointment and petty things like road rage start to get the better of you this season.

Take care, be safe and have a great holiday! Stay tuned for some momma topics upcoming in 2013! Thank you for your readership and feedback, I hope you will continue to read my new posts!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas - Changes this year

As I try to recall Christmases of the past, I am struck by how things have and will change this year more than any other, including the years that I first moved away from my parents. My infant son in his short life and stature has caused more changes than I have ever experienced at one Christmas or another.

Many of the changes are good or fun, one of the first things is how we have to be more careful with what we put out and where. Our living room saw many additions this year as the once wide and empty spaces suddenly were filled with an exer-saucer, a baby swing,  a floor full of safety mats, endless toys, books, teddy bears and blankets. Trying to squeeze a tree in our already cramped living room was fun this year. We had to downsize some of our typical decorations or move them to other places - either we didn't have the space or it just wasn't safe to put them out. My son isn't quite crawling yet, but he rolls, kicks, shifts, and somehow ends up exactly where we try to prevent him from getting. We had to consider things he may get his hands (or his feet!) on and either move or remove the item from our normal Christmas decor.

Another thing is how already, Christmas has shifted to be all about him, in a good way! For fun, we have all the gifts under our tree (except the ones for him) are all from him. Seeing tags written with "To Mommy" and "To Daddy" brings a smile to my face. I know that he is not aware of Christmas or Santa yet, but we will do our best to include and expose him to our traditions to get him familiar. So far he's definitely curious about the tree and the colored packages that make a nice sound when he kicks the paper and he is enjoying my dancing snowmen and singing bells.

Family members are excited to have a baby in the mix this year as children really are what Christmas is all about. While we are excited to have our growing extended family coming and going around us, we are also a little wary of this too. Finding that balance between our own immediate family time and time to see all of the newly made aunts, uncles and grandparents may not always be easy. It will be busy, but we are going to try to have some of our own quality family time to set our own traditions and appreciate our new growing immediate family. Aside from this we are going to try to please all other family members in some way or another, realizing that they all can't be with us all the time and we will have to do our best.

Another area of caution we are aware of is the undoubted parenting "advice" we will recieve as a result of merely being around so many of our relatives for such an extended time. This is a very sensitive subject for all parties invovled, particularly when everyone will have the best interests of our little guy at heart. That being said there are certain things that will be tolerated and some things that won't, and finding that way to delicately address this is going to undoubtedly be a challenge. I personally don't want any tension building or feeling the need to defend my parenting choices, especially over a happy time like the holidays.

Another major change for us this year is what we are able to do. For the past number of years it has just been the two of us and we spent our holidays attending various dinners and parties, and hosting our share of these events- coming and going as we pleased. While we still have plans to attend/host this year, it will require some more planning time. We have to consider our son's schedule for meals and naps, and have ample supplies ready for our out-of- home activities. We cannot instantly commit to an event as sometimes we will require a babysitter.  I am also determined to maintain his bedtime routine, so there are some events that we simply won't be able to attend. I'm not saying that I will never waiver from this rule, but it will be for a very special event if I do. It just isn't worth it to mess him up and end up being up all night with a fussy baby for weeks after Christmas is long over, trying to get him back on schedule. 

 It will take some juggling and a more flexible attitude this year than in previous years but ultimately, I am very excited to enjoy my son's very first Christmas. I hope to have the best experience possible with all of our loved ones. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Socializing - With and Without Baby

It's that time of year. The time when your social calendar fills up, when all your friends and family try to squeeze in a visit or a party over a short period. I love it - the dinner parties, restaurant meals, coffee dates, holiday get togethers - it's great. This is my first time with a baby as a scheduling factor for these things.I've touched on this briefly with my posts about going out without baby in Mommy Time and with baby in Family Outings.

There are times when it is very appropriate to take baby with you. Afternoon events, early dinners, events with other children or special occasions are all acceptable to myself and my husband. However, having just become sticklers for his bedtime routine we are planning to be careful where we take him, and how long we stay. Having spent the last couple of months with a restless sleeper, I  personally do not want to backtrack on any progress we have made. So as as hard as it is going to be to avoid certain outings or having to duck out early just when things are just getting good, I know it's a baby's world and I'm going to have to stick to it or pay the consequences.
Then there are times when bringing baby is not the best option. lt may be at a time too late in the evening, a place that it is innappropriate for a baby, or just an event that would be much nicer to do without having a baby to shift attention away from the evening's purpose. These times it is necessary to have a babysitter available to watch the little guy.

Having a babysitter requires a certain amount of preparation. First - I am still breastfeeing so I need to pump enough milk and ensure that it is properly thawed in advance. Second I need to consider if I have to pump while we're out - if I go too long it can get very uncomfortable, so I may make plans for that. Then I need to find an available sitter and ensure that I include enough time for my son to get used to him/her before I leave. He's at the stage where he sometimes gets a little spooked by people he hasn't seen in awhile and needs a little time to warm up. It also helps me to get ready if the person comes early. It can be hard to shower, blow dry, and primp with a baby in the house, at least on a time crunch. Finally, I need to have time to direct the sitter to the specifics for my child and the more time I allow the less likely I am to forget something.

I am very lucky to have a group of family members who are more than willing to sit for me and I feel so comfortable leaving them with my son. We have a no contact unless emergencies deal and I enjoy this rule. I am very much looking forward to our Christmas activities - both with my son and without him, both types are very important for us as a family!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Bedtime Routine

My son was a great little sleeper from month two to month four. Then it stopped. He started waking up in the middle of the night, once, twice, sometimes three or more times. We combated it first and treated him for what we believed to be teething pain. A fresh nummy, some benadryl, sometimes a feed - we dealt with it. I thought it would be temporary, that it would fix itself. Wrong.

After two months of these unpredictable wakings that actually turned into predictable ones, we'd had enough. My son actually started becoming predictable when he woke in the middle of the night. Sometimes I would wake up to his cries and without even looking at my digital clock, I would know around what time was. While we did feel that it was his teeth initially, my husband made a solid point. "He wasn't waking up at the EXACT same time every night and suddenly having teeth pain." Point taken. But how do we handle it?

First strategy -we tried letting him cry it out when he woke in the night on a couple of occasions. Turns out the little guy has endurance. One night after an hour of steady screams we caved. We fed, changed and allowed him to fall asleep with us. I dug in my heels a few nights later and tried this tactic again. This time he cried intermittently for a period of two hours. Let me tell you, at 3am and onward - listening to cries and analyzing them for that long can do horrible things to you. I became agitated, frustrated, desperate - not to mention exhausted. No way can I doze off with him crying like that, I don't think it's in my biological capabilities as a mom.  So after that two hour stint the score was Baby - 2, Momma - Big Fat Zero.

Like fate, the next morning with heavy, coal black bags under my eyes and headache from lack of sleep, I was watching Canada AM when something caught my attention. A baby expert ( I have no idea her name) was emphasizing the importance of setting and keeping a night-time routine for a baby to get used to going to bed. I had heard of this concept before, but never paid it much heed, I always thought my son was much too young. Apparently he is the perfect age!

 Up until that point, we always had let him direct when he wanted to go to bed, waiting for him to rub his eyes to signal us, or allow him to fall asleep naturally after feeding. He had no set bedtime and could go down anywhere from 7:30 until 9:30 on any given night. Knowing this and listening to the segment, one thing really resonated with me what the expert said. If the baby does not have a routine before going to bed, he/she WILL wake up and cry out in the night time. Definitely. Wow.

I mean, it makes sense. Most of us adults are creatures of habit and we all have some sort of bedtime routine. Even things like brushing our teeth,  locking our doors, reading, changing into our pj's - we typically do these things the same way, setting the way for sleep. Why should a baby be any different?

Feeling desperately tired and defeated, but still determined to try anything, we set a routine that very day.  We started with a bath, lotion, vitamin D, Pj's, snack, story, bed. This whole process takes at most 45 minutes. All of those things we have been doing on a nightly basis anyway, but we hadn't followed any type of order or time frame. Now promptly at 7pm every night, we start and stick to the order.

So far we have discovered that he is starting to go to sleep around 7:30, and is crying less when he goes down. He has woken up at least once that we are aware of in the middle of the night, but has settled and gone back to sleep.  But here's the clincher - he is sleeping through the night again! It really does work! It didn't take long either.

Some of the perks from our efforts are that we feel less tired in the day and evening. Something unexpected that has happened - we actually have time to spend together or do our own thing in the evening! His bedtime is earlier than I ever could have hoped and I get to have more than one hour of time where I don't feel the need to sleep nor am I interrupted by baby. It's given us some much needed relaxing time and allowing us to wind down before bed. I am from here on in a bedtime routine supporter!

Momma's Musts
  • Set a routine! Figure out what time seems to work for your child, what steps you want to include, what order they will go in and then put it in place. Most importantly - STICK to it!
  • Watch for tempting schedule glitches. Company is coming to see baby, who cares about bedtime right? You want to go visiting or shopping in the evening as a family? No big deal what time you get home, right? Wrong!  I'm not saying NEVER break routine, but when the baby is still having night time issues, get the routine into a solid, nightly event before daring to change it even the slightest. Even then, beware!
  • Be patient. It may take your child a couple of weeks or even a month or more to adjust and produce the desired results from the routine. Some of this will depend on how consistent you are, how old your baby is, and what your baby is like, as I've said before - Every baby is different!
  •  STICK to it!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Ok - Bring on Christmas!

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For those of you that saw me as a grinch in my Christmas Rush...already post, please don't judge me so swiftly. I am now ready and have officially been bitten by the Christmas bug.

This time last year I was about thirty pounds heavier and a thousand times more tired, with my little one all nestled inside, and wondering what Christmas of 2012 would hold when there would be another person in our home. The uncertainty I felt then feels so different now as look back. I was so excited to have a child here for Christmas and now that is my reality. I had been wary last year, worried I wouldn't have a clue what to do when my child was born but now a more confident parent fills that space. I'll probably never know exactly what to do about everything but I am much more sure of myself this Christmas than last year.

This year my son watched from his exer-saucer as myself and my husband decorated our home. Amidst the chaos of boxes of lights, garland, snowmen and Santas; there he was right in the middle of it. The faint clicking of the attached toys on his saucer filled the background as we scurried around and tried to fit our tree into our already cramped baby-friendly living room. I can hardly believe that he is here, I had memories wash over me as I pulled familiar decorations out of the boxes. Last year I had reminded myself when I put them away that the next time I saw them I would be a mommy. It's a surreal feeling remembering these thoughts.

I find myself listening to Christmas music all the time in the house now and hoping that my son enjoys the tunes. I point out Christmas icons to him such as Frosty and Santa, and chat to him about Christmas traditions. I want him to watch the Grinch with me when it comes on, read some Christmas stories, and can hardly wait for him to be old enough to appreciate Christmas movie classics like Home Alone and National Lampoon.

We took him to his first Christmas parade and while it was more for us, I feel like he really did get something out of it. Any sirens or loud noises scared him, but the remainder of the parade grabbed his curious attention. I watched his eyes dart between the waving clowns and dancing acts. I saw him look up at the characters walking down the streets. I like to think he enjoyed himself. I sure did and I feel more excited for years to come. They say Christmas is for children and I really believe this. His excitement will bring out mine and the excitement of everyone else in his life as he gets older.

The next few weeks will be busy, and busier perhaps because there is a baby with ever-growing needs in the mix this year. I find the space in my house filling up with decorations, presents and very soon, houseguests. My social calendar is rapidly filling up right through December - and I am loving it. I am not sorry that I resisted the Christmas feeling a couple of weeks ago, waiting a little longer has made it all the more worthwhile to me. That being said I am ready now and looking forward to what this season brings with it!