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The Blog of Phaea Crede

Name That Bird: Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!

See the rules for Name That Bird here.

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!
Author: Ruth Spiro
Illustrator: Irene Chan

One of the best books of 2016, Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! teaches little babies about the force that help birds, airplanes, and rocket ships fly. This is one of the only board books Mabel will let me read to her that doesn’t have flaps to lift or fuzzy kitten butts to pet, so I know it’s good.

And the protagonist of the book (along with a flight-obsessed toddler) is this beautiful birdie:

baby-loves-aerospace-engineering-spread
Source: Amazon.com

If we assume that the toddler is about average size, this bird appears to be between 5 – 6 inches high. Note the uniform greenish-blue feathers with yellow and white streaks on the breast, back and wings, and the orange-yellow cone-shaped beak of a grain eater. It also has a relatively short tail. All in all, cute bird!

The Illustrator, Irene Chan, was born in Hong Kong, but lives in Atlanta. So, while this bird could logistically be a native of either, I’ll start state side to make things a little easier for myself.

The blue feathers and cone shaped beak make me suspect a male indigo bunting or a blue grosbeak, but of course, our bird is referred to as “she,” and the females of those species are brown.

Blue_Grosbeak_s52-13-053_l_1BrianE.Small Audubon.org
Male Blue Grosbeak. Photo by Brian E Small Audubon.org

The next obvious guess is an Eastern Bluebird, but I personally think that ruddy and white chest is so iconic and our bird doesn’t have one. A Mountain Bluebird would be next obvi choice, but they don’t go near Georgia. Plus, no greenish tint.

Time to think outside the nest.

Let’s consider the endangered Cerulean Warbler, a very sweet wood warbler who lives high in the trees.

Cerulean_Warbler_b57-5-072_l Glenn Barley
Photo by Glenn Barley/Audubon.org

But the body proportions are a little off, the beak is a longer insect-eating type, and at just a bit over 4 inches, she’s a bit small to be our bird. Plus, the Cerulean Warbler is a uncommon migrant in Georgia.

Oriental Dollarbird is another intriguing option – native of Hong Kong, blue/green plumage, orange beak.

dollarbird_ift7707Iftiaque Hussain orientalbirdimage.org
Photo by Iftiaque Hussain/orientalbirdimages.org

Strikes against? This bird has attitude– which I love – but doesn’t quite fit with the kind and gentle look of our bird. Plus, at 11 inches, this species is way too tall.

And here is the real outsider: The Northern Parula:

parula_cleber Cleber Ferreira Allabout birds
Photo by Cleber Ferreira/allaboutbirds.org

Phaea, you say, that bird isn’t blue. Well, I say back, it’s a LITTLE blue. Blue-grey on the hood. Plus, a yellow breast, white wing bars & eye rings AND a green back, covering all the colors in the illustration. This bird summers in Georgia, and has a yellow beak, albeit an insect-eating type. At only 4.7 inches max, she’s on the small end BUT maybe we’re dealing with a small toddler?

So…what will we Name the Bird from Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!??

She’s a NORTHERN PARULA!

A few fun facts about the Northern Parula, via the Merlin Bird ID app.

  • One of the smallest warblers
  • Found in wooded areas
  • Winters in Mexico
  • Loves nesting in Spanish moss
  • Loud song that sound like a zipper!

Check back soon for more rounds of Name that Bird! And if you have a book suggestion for me, let me know in the comments.

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Introducing a new feature: Name That Bird!

Name That Bird is a game where I look at a stylized bird illustration from some of my favorite picture books and attempt to assign an actual species to it! I’ll be judging the species based on criteria like:

  • Field marks (keeping in mind that hybrids and unique variations DO exist in nature)
  • Beak shape
  • Size
  • Environment
  • Behavior
  • Illustrator’s location

Please note, this in in NO way meant to be shady to the illustrator. Not every drawing of a bird needs to be scientifically correct. This simply a fun game that I (a fanatic of both birds and kid lit) can nerd out about.

This is incredibly extra and I am very, very excited to take this way too seriously!!!

 

Let’s Rate the Piles of Crap in My Apartment

Someone once told me “dirty dishes, happy baby.” They meant to not worry about the messy house while my baby was young, because he needed me more than he needed a neat and tidy living space. Such good advice! Almost five years and one more kid later, I am still following it! But now it’s not by choice. There is just no time. And we live in…well not in total filth…but in total clutter because we would all rather run around outside than put this shit away. Instead, we just toss everything into a pile and say “I’ll deal with that later.”

We don’t. Let’s take a quick tour of the shit piles in my house:

IMG_9741

The train table is a popular place for piles and this one has it all. Some old toys that neither of the kids play with yet won’t let me get rid of, copious ride-on vehicles that are used for 15 seconds a week, a pile of papers, some representing just out of reach dreams (looking at your SCBWI folder!) and old photo booth photos, bills, a dangerous old candle and a forgotten cup of coffee.

Anxiety rating: ***

IMG_9734

In our living room we have a small desk for “writing”. It is actually used for piles. This one is a perfect snapshot if everything I hate in a pile: clothes that need to be put away, two backpacks that have no place to live, a script my husband wrote that is probably important so I’m too afraid to touch, a free Chick-fil-A book. Cleaning up this pile would take 4 seconds, but I literally will never find the time.

Anxiety rating: ****

IMG_9732

Fucking craft supples (the lighthouse houses half dead markers), barely-colored pages, and a pretty cute puzzle. I want to dump everything (but the puzzle) in the trash, but I can’t because the children need to be space to be creative?

Anxiety rating: ****

IMG_9740

This basket is intended to be for children’s shoes. It is instead a place to pile small coats, sweatshirts, and purses. I can’t fully explain why this makes me want to scream and curse, but it does. Maybe because there is a rack for hanging said items literally two feet before this basket, and yet it seems easier to just throw them in the basket when we come inside?

Anxiety rating: *****

IMG_9739

This pile is a real grab bag of shit. A bone for the dog. My good hat. A (probably) precious rock. A water bottle. Three small containers that all hold loose change and keys. If this photo was a still life painting, it would be titled: Failure.

Anxiety rating: ***

IMG_9738

What you are looking at is a box with a box inside of it which contains a ratty idea notebook and a bag of plastic jacks. Its a real Matryoshka doll of annoying shit. Is the notebook important? Maybe! Will the kids notice if I thrown out the jacks? Probably! Do I need two separate boxes to hold these two items? Apparently! Will any of this ever get sorted out? Fuck no!

Anxiety rating: **

IMG_9735

Oh god. This pile might be the one that does me in. It’s the perfect combination of things that could easily be put away (nail clippers, baby sweater) things that have no home (alphabet cards, duck stickers) things I never know what to do with (greeting cards that may or may not be special some day, a small blue radio), mysterious items (that black container…ratchets?), plus that FUCKING dangerous candle. The worst part is that everything is piled on top of my beloved filing cabinet, an item that represents order and organization. This pile is a slap in my face and I hate it more than any other pile in the house.

Anxiety rating: *********


If you divide the anxiety these piles of crap cause me with the happiness my kids have as a direct result of me not cleaning my house more, you’d probably not get anything because that’s not math. The only thing I know is that these piles may occasionally get picked up only to re-form in a slightly different location in my apartment minutes later.

I guess what I’m saying is that cleaning is awful and if your house looks better than mine at least I can say that I’m a better parent! Right?

9 Ways to Squeeze More Writing Time into Your Life with Kids

As a working mother of two young kids, finding time to write is nigh-impossible. What I want is to sit in my well-appointed office that doesn’t exist for hours at a time, crafting and creating. What I have is five minutes between bath time and bedtime when I’m hiding in the bathroom pretending to poop.

I’m not going to magically get more free time soon, but I’ve figured out a few ways to fit more writing into my day. Here are nine life hacks that actually work for me:

Have a notebook & pen in every room

I stole this genius idea from the original mom blogger/master of horror, Shirley Jackson. Put a notebook by your bed, in the living room to grab while the kids watch PBS, in the kitchen by the sink, in the bathroom (obviously), even in the car. Put one in every backpack, bag and diaper bag. Stash on by the washer/dryer. Throw a little one in the stroller. That way, whenever inspiration strikes, a pen and notebook will be within reach.

Work with your natural sleep patterns  

Hello. My name is Phaea and I am a morning person. Once I finally accepted this about myself, it became a lot easier to just set the alarm for 5am and get some writing done. Shaving off an hour of sleep in the morning to get up and write in silence is doable. Losing an hour of sleep in the evening only makes me jittery and unable to fall asleep. If you’re the opposite, maybe that 9-10pm hour could be your most production time!

Have a working lunch

At work, this means actually taking a lunch break AWAY FROM MY DESK and on that lunch break, actually sitting and writing instead of reading Buzzfeed on my phone. This, by far, has been the hardest change to make!

At home with the kids, lunch time is a natural lull in the day. As a family of happy eaters, food often takes total concentration and can occupy our kids for at least 15 minutes. And, hey, sometimes 15 minutes of focus is all I need to work through a story beat or rework some tricky dialog as I feed myself with my left hand. Maybe your lunches aren’t as tranquil? Study the natural ebb and flow of your day and see if there is a different naturally relaxed time and jump all over it.

Talk out your ideas with your kids

This doesn’t only work if – like me – you are writing books for 3-5 year olds. As long as your material isn’t straight up inappropriate (ha ha) talking out your ideas while you stack blocks or build train tracks won’t bother your off-spring a bit. Plus, verbalizing ideas tends to give us a totally different perspective on them. This could be a win-win!

Take notes on your phone

 Every smart phone has some kind of notebook app and it’s a great way to jot down ideas while supporting your kid at T-Ball practice or even in those five minutes between parking the car and actually unpacking the kids and walking into the house. I even sometimes text ideas to my husband just to have on record, which usually confuse him quite a bit.

Read when you can’t write

 Reading to your kids isn’t just great for them – it’s educational for you. Even the simplest picture book can teach you lessons about storytelling that you can apply to your own stuff, especially if something isn’t working. Once you get to middle grade chapter books, you’ll basically be a YA literally critic, which could only be a good thing! I hope?

Set yourself up for success by setting your partner up with activities

On the weekends, I usually can pawn the kids off on my husband for at least a few hours to get some writing done. (He’s a stay-at-home parent, student, and adjunct professor so this is actually quite an ask!) To make this process as easy on my him as possible, I set up playdates, book library passes, or schedule other fun stuff for him to attend with the kids – if he so choses. If nothing else, it’s a nice gesture that acknowledges his support, rather than just yelling “bye!” and slamming the bedroom door shut behind me. This makes my writing time more relaxed and less guilt-ridden.

Circle in your betas sooner

Usually in the writing process we wait to send out our work to friends or critique group members until it’s polished. But because I have such a limited time to write, I’ve found that sending out work in pieces or even in the really rough draft stage is just as helpful notes-wise, and has the added side effect of keeping the creative ball rolling. I have a list of eight or so people from different areas in my life that I’m comfortable running even the vaguest ideas by. Often just hearing someone else say “this is good” is the boost I need.

Suck it up and turn the TV on

Yes, it riddles us with guilt, but an hour (OR TWO) of TV is not going to ruin the kids, and it provides you with precious writing time as you’re “watching” the kids. While PBS and Nickelodeon are on a lot in my house, we’ve also made TV time an active time with Youtube shows like Cosmic Kids Yoga, or a playlist of Just Dance videos. My son also loves the OK GO videos and he and his sister will dance to all of them in a row. That’s wholesome, right?

I said nine, but here’s the 10th and MOST IMPORTANT trick: don’t beat yourself up for not writing more! Recently I had the life changing thought: “there’s no rush”. The babies won’t be babies forever (sob!) and all the essays, picture books, and novels will someday get finished –albeit one sentence at a time while I’m pretending to poop.

I refuse to believe that your baby sleeps in a crib

Originally posted on parent.co

Hey, other parents? I need you to all stop lying to me about how your kids sleep in cribs. It’s really not cool. I get that, as parents, we have to lie about some things just to get through the day – that little Johnny has never bitten anyone before he bit my kid, for example. But this crib thing has got to stop. It is total nonsense, and you all know it.

 Sure, I’ve seen babies sleeping in cribs on TV and in glossy magazine ads. I know that crib-sleeping is a thing that people at least believe to be true. I just don’t believe it actually happens.

 What’s my evidence, you say? Well, skeptical one, from the minute I brought both of my kids home from the hospital (where they failed to sleep more than 2 hours at a time in that little plastic bassinet) neither of them has ever let me put them down in a crib. The first month, they both slept on me. Months 2 – age 3.2, my son slept in our bed. That changed when his little sister was born. Now he sleeps in his bedroom…with his dad. Baby Mabel and I? We sleep in a king sized bed together. “Well sure…” you think “…you must be some giant hippie who digs woven wraps and cloth diapers. You probably cure your babies’ clogged tear ducts with tons of groovy breast milk. Of course you co-sleep!”

OK, you got me on the cloth diapers and the breastmilk thing, but the co-sleeping? That was never part of the plan! See, I like sleep. You’re talking to a gal who called 9pm bedtime at sleepovers. As a 22-year-old, I’d need a solid 10 hours a night just to roam around NYC and be angsty. If putting my kids in a crib netted me more sleep, I would do it in a heartbeat. But it doesn’t. Whenever I tried to put Harvey or Mabel down in our crib, no matter how sleepy/fast asleep they’d be, the second their butts hit the mattress they would spring awake, bucking and screaming, looking at me shocked as if to say, “Betrayal! I never expected this from you, warm one with the milk!” After weeks of this, curling up next to them in the bed wasn’t a choice, it was a posture of defeat.

THE LIES BEGIN TO UNRAVEL

Like a fool, I turned to my friends for advice. This is where the lies become apparent. “Anna” told me that she practiced putting her baby down when she was asleep, then just sleepy, and then totally awake. At the end of this exercise, her baby just fell asleep in the crib with a gentle smile on her face.

Anna is a dirty liar. Here’s what happens to me when I try this FAKE technique:

I put baby down in the crib, asleep. She wakes up and cries.
I put her down in the crib, sleepy but not asleep. She shakes off sleep and cries.
I put her down in the crib fully awake. She cries and screams.
I assume the posture of defeat.

I call on you Anna, other moms and dads: STOP WITH THESE LIES!

CONFRONTATION

I decided to go deeper and confront a mom-friend head on:

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 11.09.37 AM

Please note that she doesn’t deny it!

THERE’S JUST NO PROOF

Go ahead. Tell me your kids sleeps in a crib all night. Show me a photo of your kid in her crib. How do I know you didn’t just put her in there and take a photo? Show me a video of her sleeping in a crib. Could be CGI. Invite me over to watch her sleep in her crib. A) That’s creepy. B) I have two kids and I work full time. I don’t have time for that nonsense and you know it, so it’s an empty threat.

You are busted!

Here is a list of my friends whose kids also will not sleep in cribs.

Amelia.
Angelica.
Deanna.
Monica.

Yes, these are fake names. But they stand for real moms. Moms who aren’t afraid of the truth. The truth that no child sleeps in a crib.  Call me a crackpot. Call me a crazy person. How many men and women before me have had similar insults hurdled at them just for pulling the wool off societies eyes?

Other parents, stop this lie now for the sake of all future generations who suffer trying to get their children to sleep in a crib only to fail and think there is something wrong with their own parenting instead of the truth – that cribs are a lie invented by Big Crib and perpetrated by assholes.

Face the truth. Stop the lies. And join me by dragging that useless crib out into the middle of a field and burning it.*

Because it better not just be me. That seriously would suck.

* having my husband drag it to the curb after calling the sanitation department of  Medford to make an appointment to haul it away.

 

Two bedrooms, one bath (A day of maternity leave in a tiny apartment)

Originally posted on parent.co

Baby Mabel and I wake up in the big bedroom, formerly the living room. I change her diaper and open the door. The cat and dog stroll in and take their places on the changing table and bed, respectively.

Carrying the baby, I walk into three-year-old Harvey’s room, formerly the big bedroom. We find my husband and Harvey watching videos quietly. We all greet each other and the adults inquire about sleep quality and length. Mabel was up three times but slept til 8. Harvey was up once but slept til 6:30. My husband, Justin, and I cannot decide who had it worse. I suspect it was my husband due to the sleepily discarded PlayStation controller that tripped me outside of Harvey’s bedroom door.

Mabel goes into her vibrating chair as I make breakfast. My husband and I reach around each other and a large Moses basket on a rolling stand to get to the coffee. I dodge for the milk; he lunges for the butter knives. The Moses basket is uneffected.

Harvey jumps on the couch near Mabel’s vibrating chair so I pick her up and put her into the big bedroom for her nap. My husband tells Harvey, “No drumming,” so that the baby can fall asleep. The baby falls asleep.

Carefully, I remove first the dog then, more carefully, the cat who is louder and more pointed. They both lay down under the couch and on the recliner, respectively. My husband tells Harvey, “No drumming,” so that the baby stays asleep. The baby wakes up. Everyone freezes. The baby falls back to sleep.

Grandma arrives. Harvey and the dog jump and bark with excitement. The baby wakes up. I push Grandma and Harvey into his bedroom to jump on the bed and close the door behind them. Hoping to do some work, my husband slogs up to the bonus room, formerly the second bedroom but ornamented with a set of slippery stairs no preschooler would survive in the middle of the night in my opinion, which is the correct opinion.

I put the baby in a wrap and pace around the living room dodging the vibrating chair, the swinging chair, and the toddler-sized Papasan chair that nobody uses. The baby falls asleep. I put her down in the big bedroom.

Harvey and Grandma dash up the slippery stairs to the bonus room and play with the train table. Justin flees the bonus room and settles in the living room. I put my hand on Justin’s shoulder and squeeze it, briefly. Harvey and Grandma, dressed as a black cat and a unicorn, respectively, come to dance in the living room. My husband retreats to the kitchen. The dog is back in the big bedroom. I do not know where the cat is.

I use the one bathroom for the first time that day. As I use the one bathroom Harvey pounds on the door saying he needs to pee. Together we use the one bathroom and discuss what we are both doing in greater detail than I would like. I make Harvey wash his hands despite the fact that, “There no pee on them, mommy!”

The baby wakes up. Harvey and I leave the one bathroom. Harvey races up the slippery stairs to the bonus room where Grandma is waiting with the drum. The baby is now swearing at me in baby talk.

Justin withdraws to Harvey’s bedroom. I put the baby into a wrap and we take the dog for a walk. The baby swears at me until we get back to the house, then falls asleep. Inside, Harvey is drumming. Mabel stays asleep. I put Mabel down into her crib. Mabel wakes up. I put Mabel down into her Rock ‘n Play and rock her. Mabel chooses play and stays awake.

I sit on the recliner with Mabel. Mabel and I look at each other glassy-eyed. Harvey and Grandma want to dance in the living room. I don’t know where my husband is. I don’t dare look in the bonus room because I fear the slippery stairs. Harvey and Grandma go to the backyard with the dog.

I lay down on the big bed with Mabel and nurse her. The cat appears and screams at me. I pet the cat on the head while physically holding him back from the baby. His claws affectionately tear the flesh of my hand. I stifle back cries of pain so the baby won’t wake up. The cat bites me and I wail for my husband, which wakes the baby.

Justin removes the cat and the baby falls asleep and will remain asleep as long as I keep a nipple in her mouth. Hours pass. I don’t know where my son, mother, or husband are and I have no feeling in my right arm.

I remember a different small apartment from an emptier time. My husband and I are there, alone, slunk together on a raggedy couch watching movies until late and using the one bathroom one at a time. I kiss the baby. The baby wakes up.

Grandma announces that she’s leaving. I invite her to stay a little bit longer. She laughs at my killer joke. I assure her I’m serious. She looks at me through eyes that speak of a thousand sleepless nights 30 years past and squeezes my shoulder, briefly. She announces she is still leaving. I thank her and ask her where my husband is and she tells me he’s in the one bathroom.

I knock on the door of the one bathroom and ask my husband if he got any work done. He sighs from behind the door. Harvey pounds on the door and tells my husband he needs to pee. They both use the one bathroom.

I put Mabel in the swinging chair and she cries. I put her in the vibrating chair and she cries. I trip over the toddler-sized Papasan. I hate the toddler-sized Papasan. Harvey wants to dance in the living room. The cat is stalking me from the slippery stairs. The dog has been left in the backyard.

It’s nighttime and the children need to eat dinner and go to bed. They don’t, but then hours later they do. I fall asleep in the big bedroom next to the baby in her Rock ‘n Play. I don’t know where my husband is, but wherever it may be, I hope that he’s happy.

Co-sleeping is killing my body but I still won’t give it up

My lower back burns. My shoulders are rocks. My spine is a rod of pain. My hips feel “tight,” but “tight” doesn’t even begin to describe how they actually feel — “twisted rods of pain” is more accurate. If a normal person woke up feeling this way, they would check themselves into urgent care. But being in total physical pain is my normal, everyday status. Why? Because I co-sleep with my toddler and this is simply how my body feels now.

When Mabel was born in October last year, she spent two days sleeping in a plastic hospital bassinet. On day three, she came home and immediately moved to safely co-sleeping with us in our king-sized bed, because she totally refused to sleep anywhere else but attached to my body (the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation against infant bed-sharing be damned). 425 days later and counting, she’s still here, waking up between 3-6 times a night to nurse.

You’d think there would be enough room for everyone to sleep comfortably, but you’d be wrong! To accommodate Mabel, I sleep on my side, my bottom arm outstretched or bent at the elbow with all of my weight on my delicate shoulder bones. Whenever she wakes up, I curl around my daughter and arch my back — just enough to likely cause permanent damage — to get a nipple into her mouth. She nurses somewhere between 15 seconds and 15 minutes, and we both fall back to sleep in the same position.

You might be asking: is this a safe and comfortable way to sleep, Phaea? No. No, it is not. But due to total and utter exhaustion, I rarely rally enough focus in the middle of the night to move my big, dumb body into a less painful position. When Mabel greets me in the morning with a cheerful “Mama,” I don’t so much wake up as unfold with a creaking sound, accompanied by cascades of stabbing pain down my spine.

Who would be crazy enough to sleep this way for 15 months, you ask? Shhhh, I say. It hasn’t only been 15 months: I slept exactly the same way with my son for the first 18 months of his life and 12 more months after he’d been night-weaned just for fun! Then Mabel was born and the process started over again.

It’s no surprise that four years and three months of sleeping on my shoulder with a hunched spine has made my body feel like s**t. I asked New York City-based physical therapist, Jessica Benardello, PT, DPT, to explain it to me: “Ideally, when you are laying in bed, you want your spine to be in a neutral position with no space between you and your pillow/mattress. There should be no twisting or side bending.” Whoops!

“When your spine is out of its neutral alignment,” Benardello told Romper, “especially repeatedly over time, changes can happen within your body. Some muscles may shorten while others lengthen and then they become inefficient at doing their jobs. Nerves can be compressed as the exit the spine or as they travel down your extremities which can cause pain, numbness, or loss of motor control.”

So I still have numbness and loss of motor control to look forward to! That’s cool.

But despite it all, I absolutely refuse to give up co-sleeping. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives, spine be damned. First and foremost, research by attachment parenting guru Dr. William Sears has shown that co-sleeping is great for kids, leading to more confidence and happiness. That’s pretty important. But, co-sleeping has also been great for me. Neither of my kids slept for more than an hour at a time, even in a fancy-shmancy Arm’s Reach bassinet. If I hadn’t finally just brought them to bed with me, I’m 100% certain I’d have spent the last four years and three months wide awake.

But co-sleeping isn’t just about means to an end. Co-sleeping is bonding time. As a working mom, I spend 10 hours a day away from my girl. She still cries when I leave every morning. Often, so do I. Instead of nursing her, I sit in a little room and pump milk with one hand while typing with the other. The minute I get home, we cling together like monkeys. But the evening routine is exhausting, with rejected dinners, meltdowns over bath towel animals, and story time negotiations. When I finally find myself nursing her to sleep, I’m both relieved and disappointed. Another day is gone, and it seems like I missed all the good stuff.

But then I get to fall asleep curled around her like a giant question mark, kissing her forehead and holding her tiny hand. If you don’t know, that is a description of bliss. My happiest moment of the day. You could say the reason I wake up in the morning is to cuddle with my daughter at night.

So yeah – I won’t be giving up co-sleeping anytime soon. Here’s what I will do. I will make an appointment with a physical therapist (as Jessica gently suggested). I will fight off sleep and move my body into a less painful position in the middle of the night. I will stretch in the mornings and book myself some massages. I will attempt to care for my body as lovingly as I care for my daughter.

Or maybe I’ll just kick my husband out of bed. Honestly, we could use the space.

A letter of apology to baby number two

Originally posted on parent.co

Dear Baby Number Two,

Let’s get this out of the way: I really love you.

Just because you’re my second child doesn’t mean my feelings are in any way diminished.

And I’m doing a lot of the things the same way as when I was pregnant with your big brother. Tracking your growth via fruits and vegetables on an iPhone app, for example. I also gave up coffee (and once you know me, you’ll know how hard that was), unpasteurized cheeses, and deli meat. Rest assured, your mom is watching out for you.

But I am also failing you in so many ways.

The last time I was pregnant was also the first time I’d ever been pregnant and I attacked the process head on. Twelve-week-long birth classes, dozens of attachment parenting books, babywearing and holistic parenting seminars – I was on fire.

I believed that knowledge and stubborn effort were the best ways to guarantee success in my labor, delivery, and the subsequent health of my baby. And it all went pretty well. You brother was born relatively easily and is a healthy, happy three-year-old now. So being such “pros” your Dad and I decided to do it all again with you. And, well, things are slightly different this time around.

The first thing I dropped was the prenatal yoga. Last time, I vigilantly went to class every week to become a relaxed and kink-free mama vessel, bonding with other slowly swelling women over the course of six months. I remember siting in tailor pose amongst all those pregnant bodies, one hand on my heart and one on my belly, breathing and connecting with the tiny life inside of me. It was truly transcendental stuff.

This time around we can’t afford prenatal yoga classes. All that extra money is going towards your brother’s private nursery school co-op, not to mention our new car payment due to a larger family vehicle (it’s a Passat! You’ll love it!) and paying off a bad warranty on our last car purchased in 2011. Yes, the wheels were put in motion for failing you even before your big brother was conceived in 2012.

Sure, I occasionally manage to roll out the ol’ yoga mat and do some stretches, but your brother always jumps on me when I do. He thinks it’s especially funny to lay on my back during child’s pose claiming he’s “a lizard on a rock” – and he’s right; it’s really funny. But our yoga wrestling makes it hard for me to connect with the child in utero while shielding against attacks from above.

Along with the prenatal yoga goes the prenatal massage and prenatal acupuncture that I so believed in the last time around. Again, you’re probably thinking, “Mom, wasn’t that stuff for YOU?” but I assure you it was for US. Your brother and me, I mean.

I can’t afford to do that with you. Although, I can get your dad to make a fist and rub my lower back once in a while when he’s not busy taking care of your brother or making dinner. It doesn’t feel good exactly, but it’s something.

Then there’s the body pillow. This is a C-shaped pillow made for pregnant women to sleep in the best possible position (on their side) for both their own comfort and the comfort of the baby within. I’ve read that the body placement supported by the pillow is crucial for achieving the optimal birthing position of head down, feet up. 

Well, your brother took the pillow. He likes to wrap it around himself and call it a nest. I tried to take it back but it’s hard to get him to sleep as it is, so I just let him keep it. Sure, I’m uncomfortable at night but at least you finally stopped being breech at 30 weeks! That’s all you, girl.

It certainly wasn’t a result of the 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day recommended for moms-to-be, because I’m not doing that. I don’t have time between working 40 hours a week and then taking care of your brother while your Dad makes me dinner. I swear I’ll make it up to you! Not sure how, but I will!

How would you like a nice, natural birth for example? Your dad and I were so great about prepping for your brother’s birth. We practiced contractions and relaxation exercises almost every night, studied the labor process from the medical angle, and hired a doula to help out with the birth. We aren’t doing any of that this time. Shit. Failed you again.

Look, I’m doing a lot of things right by you. Did I mention giving up coffee? And the soft cheeses and deli meats? Okay, okay, okay…I’ve eaten a little deli meat. But I microwaved it first! And one time I accidentally drank a milkshake made with soft serve without thinking. And yes, that week I was on Cape Cod I ate fish a lot more than recommended because of mercury levels – but other then that I’ve been a saint! Or at the very least a good mother!

Being the second child has got to be hard. I get that. You’re faced with hand-me-downs, split attention, and possibly getting bitten out of jealousy (so I’ve heard). But there are some benefits, too. A confident mother who has an inkling of knowledge about newborns, for example. Isn’t competence worth a few yoga classes and slices of ham? You also are getting a pretty great older brother. He may be a pillow thief but he’s also funny, sweet, cuddly, clever, and very, very excited to meet you. Your dad is pretty great too (did I mention he makes dinner every night?)

And between you and me, because you will be my second and last child, you’ll always be my baby. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I’m not sure – but I’m pretty sure that’s not a fail.

Just the two of us

Originally published by Boston Parent’s Paper – Jan 2014

I’m raising my 2-year-old son with someone who has a very different parenting philosophy than my own. Sure, we’re on the same page about the important stuff like vaccines, but it’s the minutia that trips us up. For example, that other parent insists on establishing lots of rules and limitations, whereas I tend to be more lax. That person has systems in place to get through the day, whereas I fly by the seat of my pants. My so-called partner in crime also has the gall to be calm and collected; I am almost always on edge.

I’m not talking about my husband; we get along fine. It’s myself from a few hours before that I have a problem with. She just sets me up for failure!

Take the seemingly reasonable “No more watching YouTube” rule that she established at 10 a.m. after an epic tantrum regarding my son’s intense desire to watch one more version of “The Wheels on the Bus.” When I broke down and clicked play mere hours later just so I could run to the basement and change the laundry, I cursed the woman for making me feel doubly guilty – once, for letting my 2-year-old watch YouTube and twice, because I was rebelling against my own decree.

Ditto the day after we finally had the car cleaned. Morning Me’s new rule about not eating in the car seat to maintain cleanliness was smart and just. But Afternoon Me absolutely needed to throw a cereal bar at the baby so that his screeches of “Snack!” didn’t force her into a traffic accident. Who does this Morning Mom think she is anyway? Does she want me to crash the car?

Often there are only minutes of separation between Stern, Confident Mom and Lazy, No-Backbone Mom. “Throw wood chips one more time and we’re leaving the playground,” the former will say. But when the woods chips are inevitably thrown, the latter will shudder at the thought of pulling a sobbing toddler from happily playing, not to mention the hour or two we still need to fill before naptime, and she’ll balk. I’ll think to myself, “If you can’t throw wood chips when you are 2, then when can you throw them?”

“Never,” whispers Good Mom inside my head.

“Shhh,” I answer her. “Shhhhhhhh.”

Once in a while I’ll sit myself down to try and agree on a unified game plan for childrearing. “Little kids need structure and clear rules to be set and stood by,” I remind myself. “They require these lessons demonstrated over and over again so that they can understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. Did you even readany of those books I got out from the library about raising healthy toddlers?”

Ashamed, I admit to myself that I did not. Disappointed, I shake my head before turning to my son who has spontaneously started dragging a black crayon across the white dining room wall. “Paper only!” I firmly remind him. “Paper only!” He agrees, happily adding squiggles to his wall design. Mom A is annoyed. Mom B thinks, “Eh, whatever, that crayon will probably wash right off.”

What can I do? I’m only two moms. And both of those moms, like all of us moms, are just trying to do the best they can. Maybe someday we’ll be on the same page, but until then, I’ll try to give both selves a break.

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