Friday, September 15, 2017

What New Moms Really Want



My cousin had a baby last week, and it has me thinking...what do new moms really want, and what do they need? I know that she had a baby shower and has the things she "needs" (you don't need as much as you think you do, new moms. I promise. That fancy diaper bag is cute and all but it will be covered in poop sooner than you think) and we all know too well that wants and needs are two very different things, especially right after you have a baby and really you just need sleep (a shower is either a want or a distant memory at that point). I was thinking too that my wants and needs changed drastically from my first baby to the upcoming baby, and I think by now I'm much better about making them crystal clear to visitors. So in that spirit I'm going to randomly stop by sometime in the next few days with some home-baked, easily freezable, no-prep required food (healthy muffins and nursing cookies) and stay for only a little while to ooh and ahh at her new little wonder, and then be available by phone if she needs me in the immediate future. The reason is this: I don't want to tell her ahead of time because I don't want her stressing about cleaning up or looking presentable...those things are nigh impossible for the first few months post-partum anyway. If the baby is sleeping, I don't want her waking the little darling up (I could do a whole other post about waking a sleeping baby and the idiots who always want you to do just that), and if she's not I won't stay long anyway. Nobody likes it when someone comes to stop by and stays all day, as it wears out the host's hospitality very quickly. I'm dropping off food because real home cooking is a want and not a need when you're at home with a new baby (food=need, home cooking=want). I'll let her know that if she needs anything, I can be there in 45 minutes. But here's what I really want to say: I know what it feels like, so don't put on a show for me. It is magical but it is hard AF and I get it.
Here are some quick pointers for new mom visiting. I realize that the norms may be different in different families or different parts of the country, but here's what I could come up with from my own experience.

wants:
  • home-cooked food, as mentioned above.
  • little gift for mom. Something she'll use, like a coffee shop gift card or Netflix code or nursing scarf. Something mama doesn't have to share (it's all for her). Little luxuries like this are precious! Cozy blankets are great for this.
  • the promise of future baby-sitting

needs:
  • someone to listen.
  • food of some kind. don't come over without food or coffee. You shouldn't do that to anyone, new mom or not.
  • to attend to her newborn, and not necessarily you. If the baby starts crying, that is your cue to HELP or LEAVE.
  • an assurance that EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE in the long run, and that she is doing great.

might be nice:
  • someone to hold the baby for 10 minutes while the new mama takes time to...(take a shower, walk the dog, nap, play games on my phone, whatever)
  • maybe pick up a few groceries
  • take other children out, if there are other children

absolutely do not do this:
  • plan an overnight visit (or an all-day one at that) if you do not plan to help the new parents.
  • nitpick over preferences, especially parenting-related ones. Everyone does things differently and now is not the time to bring up anything not safety-related. I promise you that the new mama will remember this always, and not fondly.
  • HERE IS a useful guide of things NOT to say to a new mom, from Pregnant Chicken
  • bring your own drama. You're a grown up, you should know better.
Can anyone think of things to add? Seasoned mamas, what is your take on this topic?

PS Ill be bulk-baking my nursing cookie recipe soon and posting the results, so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer Accomplishments, or How I got Nothing Done and Had A Great Time Doing It




I have to be honest, I had an action-packed summer planned, full of pinterest-worthy activities and educational opportunities and tons of other stuff, but it just didn't turn out that way. Life had other plans for me. As of the last week of June, here's what I had planned:
  • A Space Camp week, complete with age-appropriate, hands-on activities, adorable snacks (think rocket-shaped fruit pops), and crafts that would make all 3 kids consider becoming astronauts. To be capped off with a trip to liberty science center. (I dedicated a whole entire pinterest board to this, I was so serious)
  • Swim lessons every day
  • Twice weekly family hikes during which I could teach the kiddies about hiking, orienteering, nature and whatnot
  • Trips to local historical points of interest. There are a ton around here.
  • Enroll Cua in 3-year-old preschool.
  • Summer Reading Program at the Library.
  • Sign boys up for soccer.
But guess what we actually did? Well, here's some of it:
  • Finished potty training Cua. Finally!
  • Went to swim...sometimes. It didn't work out like I had planned. We had some issues that led to me reconsidering preschool for Cua and maybe life in general. He was just not having it, even though Stenni was amazing and a great role model. I'm starting to think that he's just not ready for organized activities, and that's ok. He's got time. But we had fun at the lake anyway.
  • Hiked occasionally with no specific itinerary or goal in mind. This was relaxing, and much better than I could have planned. I think the kids got a lot from it. Maybe.
  • I won a blue ribbon for these cookies from the state fair (I posted this recipe years ago!). We went to the fair a lot and learned a ton about livestock and agriculture. It was helpful, but hasn't prepared us for all of our chicken-related challenges (see below).
  • Lost a few birds to a wild animal of some kind, one outside and one in the coop, within about 12 hours of one another. I'm still not sure what kind of animal did the damage, but I'm guessing it was a fox. But one of the birds was Lemonade, our favorite, who we had raised from about a week old. Some of us are still grieving, hard, and some of us learned a little something about how to shore up a chicken coop a little more thoroughly. Ah, farm life.  
  • We actually all did summer reading at the library, and it was amazing! I even joined in this year and read grown-up books. 4 of them!
  • Froz started walking! A little late (as in, we already went to the dr, who told us there was nothing wrong, but still started asking around for specialists because he was almost 18 months old late. Dr said he was basically just lazy and big bro and sis did everything for him so he didn't really have to walk), but better than never. We went to the park and played outside a lot to encourage walking and running around.
  • I DID NOT sign the boys up for soccer. Maybe I never will. I get the team sports thing, but do the parents really have to suffer? Plus between Cua's absolute refusal to deal with organized activities and the fact that Froz just started walking, I think we'll give it another year (at least).
  • Spent a ton of downtime, as I struggled with morning sickness and general exhaustion. Yes, BABY #4 IS ON THE WAY, and I'm more than halfway there at this point. I've used this as an excuse to not get any of my original summer to-do list done.
But now Stenni is back in school, Girl Scouts starts soon, dance starts next week, and everything is getting crazy again. I know that we will eventually fall back into that rhythm for a while, just to be thrown off by Christmas and then a new baby. But it is what it is. I've gotten better at taking things as they come because my plans got torpedoed this summer almost as soon as I made them. I think it worked out better that way.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Two boys at home vs. One girl at home: It's crazy different, y'all



I know that I used to think having kids of any gender was going to be kind of the same either way, at least when they were babies.  Like, aside from the obvious, how different could having a baby boy be from having a baby girl? As babies, they kind of do the same things, right? Eat, sleep, poop, scream, repeat. Most of my family had only had one or the other (boys OR girls), and so no one disabused me of this notion.

I Was Wrong. So Very Wrong.

I try to raise the kids in a pretty gender-neutral fashion. We all cook, we all clean, we all go to the zoo and the aquarium and play with ninja swords and be princesses and dress like pirates at the Renaissance Faire and I don't care if my boys wear dresses or my girl plays football (although I'd be bored to tears, so I hope that she doesn't). That kind of stuff just doesn't matter to me. I'd like Stenni to learn to change her own tires and kick some ass and I'd like Cua to learn to bake bread and someday clean his own toilet. But I was not prepared for how the day-to-day operations and mechanics of having only boys in the house all day differed from having a girl in the house, especially now that she is in school all day long. The boys...they just don't like the same things. I pretty much just run around after them and try to stop them from destroying everything they touch, and then collapse into bed at night.

I look back at this blog and the posts from when Stenni was a baby and a lot has changed. But most glaringly different is the fact that I can't beg, bargain, badger or otherwise convince Cua to do a craft with me, bake with me, or pretty much do anything besides run around throwing rocks and smashing things (ah, boys). And the baby? Well, he's a baby, what can I really expect from him besides cuddles and cuteness?  Stenni could always be persuaded to paint or draw or craft or cook with me but the boys are just not interested.

This means a few things. For starters, I have to find different ways to keep my creative juices flowing, probably on my own. It hasn't happened yet, but I know it has to. Also it means that we spend a lot more time outside enjoying nature (and by enjoying nature I mean throwing rocks and mooing at my neighbor cows).
I mean, there are still things that we can do that we always did. We can:
  • play in the yard
  • go to the zoo
  • hit the library
  • go for a hike
  • watch a movie
  • read books
  • mall walk
  • go to the playground
But aside from that? I'm kind of at a loss. It's different having a baby and an almost-3-year-old too, because the attention span just isn't there and I do have to keep constant watch on the littler guy, who is just starting to crawl so he isn't always where I put him anymore.

I have to say that I miss having Stenni at home but she likes her school, and I like that she likes it. She needs things of her own to enjoy, without me and the boys. But I do enjoy more outdoor active time.

So that's where I'm at today. What do you guys think? Those of you with both, what differences are there for you and how do you overcome them?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

the skinny (j/k, fat, so fat)

So here's the skinny on what I've been doing since I last updated: moving and being pregnant. And that's pretty much it. I mean, there's been other stuff too. We went to Disney as a family, twice (I'm gonna have to do a series on that because OMBloody Hell there's so much to know before you go, especially when you take a zillion kids), we did some serious entertaining, Stenni started public kindergarten, hubs and I became landlords, my little Cua turned one and then two! And other things. So I'm back to entertain/infuriate/disappoint the masses for a while, at least until my new little Fritzy gets here in like 7 or 8 weeks.
So how about you cholos? What you been up to? Missed you!
-V

Friday, July 24, 2015

Magic Mike XXL and my Mother of the Year Award

I recently went with a girlfriend to see the movie Magic Mike XXL, as we had seen the last one together. Don't judge me, btw, because you know you saw it too and if you didn't? I don't even have time to get into all that. I haven't been to a movie in a movie theater in almost a year either, so it was about time. Plus it was girls night! So naked dude movies and burgers.
Anyway, my almost-5-year-old daughter caught me looking at my phone and laughing at lunchtime today and asked me why I was "staring at my phone and giggling." My girlfriend who had gone with me to see the movie had sent me a YouTube clip of a scene in which one of the "male entertainers" was trying to make a convenience store checkout girl smile while dancing around to "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. If you saw the movie, you'd know that this particular scene was far more hilarious and cute than racy, and there was pretty much nothing suggestive and no nudity besides some male toplessness, which kind of doesn't even count.
So my daughter sneaks up behind me and asks, why is that naked man dancing in the store?
I'm all, he's only shirtless, not naked. Let's be real. You see that that man has pants on, right? Right?
And she's like, mom, that's still not allowed. He should know better. And she shakes her head and walks away.
So I put down my phone, stuffed some mac and cheese in my face, and gave myself the Mom of the Year award for accidentally letting my kid sneak-watch scenes from Magic Mike.
Also, if you want my actual review of the movie? Hilarious and heartwarming. Everybody gets what they want in the end, but after a lot of stripping at a stripper convention (which really exist maybe? I have no clue). It was way funnier than the first one. Lots of partial nudity and adult situations though, so if you don't like that? Probably don't go then, I'm guessing. But if you're ok with that? Then you've probably already seen it, because I'm a little late on this one. I'm kind of lucky it was still playing, since the latest showing was at 4:50. But in real life that means I can still eat dinner by 6:30 and be in bed by 9. A+ mom time all around.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How did you decide whether or not to homeschool your oldest child?

I'm at a crossroads: the memo came home from Stenni's preschool the other day, an official-looking memo about kindergarten sign-ups, complete with requests for vaccination records, birth certificates, sign-up dates and places in alphabetical order by last name, and all that jazz. Sign-ups are in less than a month. I still don't know if I want to send her to public school or not. I like the idea of homeschooling, but I don't know if I'm capable or organized (OR PATIENT) enough to really teach her everything she needs to know at home. I worry about her attention span. I worry that she won't listen to me. By all accounts, she is well-behaved at both school and Sunday school, but of course she's different at home with mom, which isn't to say that she's a terror or anything but we are both very strong willed and have been known to butt heads occasionally. So would she listen to me as a teacher or view me as an adversary? Who knows.
I'm not worried about socialization. For what we were paying for her preschool, I can send her to tumbling/dance once a week, plus all of the free events at the library and camp and VBS in the summer. But I'm really concerned that she will think that school at home is not serious enough and that I'll end up super frustrated. Also: I went to public school up til college. It wasn't super great for me, but I'm ok I guess, and nothing truly traumatic happened because of the school system. I'm not cool with common core or all of the testing, and I think it's a breeding ground for mediocrity because of the trend to teach toward the middle. Which is not the teachers' fault, they are only doing the best with the resources that they have, which are few and far between since people basically demonize them for the public. And to be honest Stenni is much more outgoing than I am, and infinitely better at making friends and making the best of a situation. She might just blossom in the school setting. Would it really be more for me than for her?
I imagine that a lot of moms have had these (and tons of other) issues in the past, so I could really use the wisdom of the world here. What was the deciding factor, or was it a more pros and cons thing? I know that some people feel super strongly one way or the other but really? I don't. I just really don't  know what would be better in the long run.
So other moms of the interwebs: How did you decide to homeschool (or not)? What were the deciding factors? Anybody else flying by the seat of their pants?
For our family, homeschooling isn't a religious thing, it's more that I feel like the classroom in general is more likely to kill creativity than nurture it, and might eventually squeeze all of the natural love of learning out of my Stenni. And that would be a tragedy, but of course it is also still a hypothetical at this point.
Can anybody offer any insight? Any great resources out there? Help!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dear Winter: I Hate You.

pic courtesy of bigfoto.com

I know that in the winter, I don't shut up about my seasonal affective disorder, or how much I just hate winter in general. Here in the northeast, it just seems to drag on forever (although I feel like the fleeting beauty of fall almost makes up for it, almost), and this past week or so has been the worst of the worst. There have been snow storms, ice storms, migraines, and (GAH) the super bowl to contend with. Gross. On top of that, Hubs has put in about 40 hours of OVERTIME in the past week or so which means, you guessed it, that I have here at home too. Being stuck in the house is no picnic, but board games and crafts (and Netflix) have made it ok, as well as knowing that even though it feels that way, this will not last forever! Also with Valentine's Day around the corner it is helping me to have something to focus on in the short-term. The days are only getting longer from here on out!
If you, like me, need a lift this winter, here are a few links to help you out:
  •  Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, Anne blogs about the things that are saving her life right now (she is dealing with some seasonal bummer-tude too). For me? It is between spending the remainders of my Christmas Starbucks giftcards so I have a reason to leave the house, you know, besides grocery shopping and preschool drop-offs, and the coveted "Mom Time" when I get the house to myself for a few hours and turn my brain off. Oh, and doing bootleg Leslie Sansone walking videos from youtube in my living room *if* the kids decide to nap during the day. She's a guilty pleasure, and I know I can't really count it as a workout, but I love it. So what is saving you right now? It's a hell of a question to ponder.
  • Be glad you don't live near me. A town nearby is considering outlawing sledding. You heard that right. I don't really sled (part of the whole "avoiding the outdoors in winter" thing) but when I take the kids to the field by the legion to drag them around for a few minutes, I can't imagine being given a ticket for it! Instead, focus on the million reasons why you should never come to New Jersey (all sarcasm. It's gorgeous here, despite my seasonal hatred for everything).
  • Boardwalk Cats. Atlantic City has taken quite a beating lately with all of the casinos closing and the economy kind of tanking and though I would once have wandered around that town for days, now I wouldn't leave the relative safety of the boardwalk, because that's how bad it's getting down there. But you don't have to leave the boardwalk to make friends with these adorable felines, who live under the boards and are part of a trap-spay/neuter-return program there. I have personally befriended many a boardwalk cat and also considered taking them home in my purse but you know what's worse than driving 4 hours home with a feral cat in your car? Winter, but not much else.
  • The Walking Dead comes back this Sunday, so there's that to look forward to. Here's a link to the first two minutes of the mid-season premiere, courtesy of AMC. Poor Maggie. But Beth was not making for terribly riveting television. Now we know that they're heading somewhere outside Richmond, though, at least in theory.
Chew on that for a while. I'll be jacking up the heat and dreaming of Wildwood in the summer!