Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Littlest Reader

The napping schedule around here is fairly loose. Typically I nurse her down in bed anywhere between one and three and she'll sleep for one to two hours. Dory brings books to naptime, carrying a stack in her short, sturdy arms and saying "booksss, booksss, booksss." We'll read a few different ones, several times over (can you call yourself well read when you read "The Very Hungry Catepillar" and "Night-Night Little Pookie" several dozen times a week?) before she's good and dozy. When she wakes up she gives one short, loud cry that lets us know to come get her. I think she's so accustomed to us responding quickly to her, it doesn't take more than that.

This is the the foundation to what happened yesterday.

Dory and I read a stack of books and she fell asleep. Fast forward to an hour and a half later. Matt and I were in the playroom and heard some noises from the monitor. Dory stirring. Then... quiet. A few minutes later... rustling. Then... quiet. This went on for nearly fifteen minutes before I had to know what was going on. Walked into the bedroom and saw this...


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Help Haiti and Books and Back Packs!

First- over here at This Mama Rocks, she's running a great silent auction. All proceeds go straight to the Red Cross to help Haiti. She has lots of creative and cool family-friendly products up for auction. I'm bidding on the Mama Rocks Nursing Necklace and a Head Organics bath set. The auction ends this Saturday, Jan 30, so get over there quick!

Now on to- babywearing back in action! We've used our Beco Backpack off and on in the last few weeks (Dory sees it and announces "ba-pa"), but I thought I'd pull out our wrap and give it a try. This one is a Hopp (long) and quite comfy, though I'm still fiddling to get it just right.

She fell asleep there while I did the dishes. Hooray for babywearing!

And now- I thought I would mention some of the amazing parenting books I've come across lately. That topic sounds limited, but, oh no, my friend, oh no. My experience thus far- I'm learning about everything through these books. What inspires and motivates children, how adults treat them (or us, if you consider from the point of view of your own childhood), what these interactions show, how we can be better and more, not just to our little ones, but to ourselves, our families, our friends, our world. Sounds heavy only because it is. But they've all been such great reads, insightful, illuminating and so helpful. Or to put it this way, if you were ever a child, I expect any one of these books would catch your attention and make you think. Two of my favorites...

Lu Hanessian's "Let the Baby Drive." (All of these books are in my sidebar and you can follow the links to Amazon to "peek inside" most of them.) I think any parent would enjoy this book, but especially those of the five-and-under crowd. What a rich and insightful read about her experience as a first (and then second) time mother and her attached, intuitive approach to parenting. Learning to trust her baby, learning to trust herself, the changes to her relationships with her husband, her mother, her friends, interacting with other mothers- Ms. Hanessian hits all these subjects with a tender and genuine honesty that moved me. Add to the mix, she's a gifted writer and this goes straight to the top of my must-read list.

Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker's "Attached at the Heart." These adventurous, exceptional women founded Attachment Parenting International more than fifteen years ago and here is the book that expounds on the meaning and intentions of our amazing group. I had the great fortune to meet them both at the API Celebration in Nasvhille last year (read about that here) and they were warm, friendly, and kind. Exactly like their book. Read it! And come over to the AP side...

And that's where we are today. Help! Wear Your Baby! And Read!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Yo Ordinary Breastfeeding...

Before I started this post, I went to, a great and well-regarded site on breastfeeding, looking for statistics on the number of babies in America who breastfeed past the age of one. Than I remembered, I don't really care. My guess? Not many. Under 10% I'd bet (again, in America) and that's probably shooting high. While I've done my reading on the benefits of extended breastfeeding (of course it has a name- doesn't everything these days?), I'm not going to report that here. This is more of a what-works-for-us approach. And as a nursing mother of a bright, bounding, brilliant toddler, I thought I'd share some experiences here.

Thoughts on nursing a toddler... this is not your infant nursing. Those first six or so months, breastfeeding was a quiet time, a peaceful time, Dory still fit neatly in my arms, we gazed at one another or slept together while she nursed. This was a rich experience for the two of us and for Matthew as he often sat next to us, watching Dory's face as her expression relaxed, her eyes closed, she became dreamy, and eventually slept. We were serene, filled with love and tenderness. Those are the words I would use.

At the time, I might have also called it: intense. Constant. Demanding. No one else could provide what I had (especially as Dory wanted nothing to do with a bottle). She nursed on demand and her demands could be high. That is the other side. But, now, in that dreamy way we all have when we move farther away from a certain period in life, I mainly remember how calm and loving our nursing time was. And stationary. Very stationary.

No longer. My nursing toddler is a child on the GO. When she was smaller and I would settle down to feed her, I tried to remember, bring a glass of water, a good book, a snack, wear something comfortable- you're going to be here for a while New Mama. Now my main thought? Lady, hold onto those boobs.

Dory still breastfeeds on demand, but it can be anywhere from a half-hour nurse to bed to a thirty second drive-by.

She can nurse: sitting, laying down, kneeling, standing, bending over, kicking one leg to the back (then switching sides), draped across my belly, performing baby yoga, and sometimes even dashing across the room.

There is no understanding of modesty. For her, that is. Regarding my modesty. She happily yanks up my shirt or thrusts her arm down it, tugs at my bra straps, unzips my coat. She'll find a pillow, settle on the floor, and pat the space next to her, seeming to say, c'mon Mama, let's get this dinner going. Too bad we're in her grandparents' living room. If given her druthers, she likes the whole chest-area available, (buffet-style, you might say), but this typically only happens at bedtime, when she and I are cuddled in bed and I'm just glad to be sitting in one place for longer than two minutes.

The cuddle time. That's my favorite, when I hold her in my arms, she taking up all of my lap, nursing happily, and gazing up at me with such total trust in her eyes. Sometimes I'll make silly faces and she'll smile. The tenderness in that moment is inexpressible.

For us, there is so much value in this relationship, this extended breastfeeding. There is an immediate comfort for her- this is something she knows. In this world where she has- how many new experiences a day? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Who could say for sure? This is something dependable, faithful. Even our relationship, maybe especially our relationship, shifts and changes all the time. She tests boundaries, limits, possibilities, her own power. As she gets bigger, more mobile, more independent, more adventurous, this- the safety of her mother's breasts- is still a constant. The power of a comfort zone is a rich and heady thing when your world grows exponentially every single day.

A friend of mine, when I asked her about nursing her eighteen month old, expressed it this way: "She has an emotional connection to breastfeeding. As she gets older, she won't need this anymore, but right now this is still a need. I wouldn't feel right taking that away from her." That sums it up for me.

But for anyone who would like more reasons for prolonged nursing (scientific ones, not my woo-woo, namby-pamby, follow-your-gut stuff) you can read up on benefits here. Excellent info. For more on this method termed "child-led weaning" API gives a good, brief description here. And for La Leche League's thoughts(THE authority in breastfeeding) on the subject bop over here.

And for any mamas out there, thinking, "just us?" you're not alone! We have surrounded ourselves with like-minded mamas, most following along on this "extended" schedule, past six months, nine months, a year, and beyond. I think I speak for Dory and I both when I say: Power to the nummies!

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Post Brought to You by the Letter 'P'

Dory's vocabulary grows in the most interesting ways. I expected it to run along the lines: daddy, mommy (OK, maybe I hoped it would by mommy, daddy, but either way...), doggie, bath, I want to go to the park, I'm going to a movie with my friends where are the car keys...

Turns out, learning how to speak a first language is a bit slower, more erratic, and far more entertaining than I imagined. I've seen friends with their children, translating, with a parent's expert ear, conversation that is totally alien to me. Dory has been no different. What I consider perfectly formed words might still be incomprehensible to your man on the street. To my mind, she has a list of words that she's more than mastered now. Some are traditional: daddy, dat (that), doggie, bat (bath), ucks (yucky) and, most recently, mommy. Some I did not expect that she just loves to say are: duck and sock. All day long, socks come off and on from the joy of announcing "shhhock" as she tugs them off her plump little feet. And she absolutely thrills anytime she can point out a "duc-K, duc-K, duc-K." She knows a few of her friends' names: Ike (Isaac), Emme (Ember), and Lana (Alana, and, technically, the name of her friend's mother, but still). Favorite problem word? Uh-oh.

By far, though, what sends her quick, bright mind into frenzied delight: the letter 'P.' Anything with the letter 'P.' Appa (apple). Hipa (hippo). Pwoops (oops). Pot (Spot, based on her favorite literary character). Pata (pasta). Pei-pei (pee-pee). Po-hee (potty). Pway (play). She's even tried piwhoa (pillow).

I did not foersee how important language would be right about now. She's almost eighteen months and Matthew and I are realizing, she understands a lot. I mean, A LOT. We-have-stop-saying-that-word a lot. We started to notice it around fourteen months. She seemed to understand us beautifully. Her brilliant parents? Not so much. This was the trouble. We couldn't understand her and this was incredibly frustrating for all parties, as she would speak traditional toddler "eh-eh-eh" (sometimes accompanied by pointing) and Matt and I took turns trying to figure it out holding out random items and saying "this? you want this?" I noticed, we were treating her the way a lot of Americans in foreign countries behave: speaking LOUDLY and slooooowly. It wasn't pretty and not, probably, our best moments as parents, though we were trying.

Then- dum-dum-dum-DUM!- inspiration struck. Sign language! Our friend, the aforementioned Alana, started teaching her daughter sign language when she was about four months old. By one year, her child could sign almost one hundred different signs and understood almost twice as many. Yep. World domination is next on her baby's list. I marveled at watching her sign different animals, wanting to go up or down, play on the swings or the slide eat crackers or cheese. It was amazing.

We started on a much, much smaller scale with a few signs for Dory, the ones we could remember and that seemed to be important for her to communicate. Eat (as in "do you want some food?"). Milk ("or would you prefer some milk?"). More. Thank you. Oh, and bear (that was all Matthew, big Chicago fan that he is- and let me tell you, Dory cannot see a bear without enthusiastically signing it, probably her favorite sign to date).

Now we're to the point where she shows us when she's hungry, wants to play, wants to sleep, wants Mama (by signing milk), and she's even made up her own sign for color which is to wave her hand through the air like she's writing (right now, Granny Suzanney is murmuring, "Baby Genius, like I told you...")

My thoughts on signing? Absolutely worth it. If there's a Baby Two, we'll start much earlier. What a relief and pleasure to communicate with her without it dissolving into tears (on her part) or behaving like monkeys at the zoo (that would be Matthew and I). We picked up a book from the library on Baby Signs and took off. I've even wondered if the signs have helped with her language because we waste less time trying to figure out what she wants and spend more time talking to her like the interested and brilliant little person she is.

And for any of you wondering, yes, Dory has said her first curse word. The one that rhymes with "sit." And, yes, she has on several occasions pulled it out and said it a few times, just to practice, I guess.

And yes, it was Mommy who slipped and said it. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Get By With a Little Help...

Well, you know the song.

Tonight was our second monthly Mom's Night Out and an even bigger success than the first. A group of us mothers, about six to eight of us, from our local Attachment Parenting Group formed a weekly playgroup a few months ago, to give our little ones more time together and ourselves a chance to visit. That idea took off and it didn't take long (only two months or so- we're a bright group) to decide another off-shoot might be a mother's night out. Our first dinner came together hastily and with great enthusiasm shortly before the holidays and here we are, not even halfway through January, with a second one behind us.

And it is such a good time. We meet at a casual restaurant (they must serve adult beverages- this is a MUST- even if those of us partaking are limited to one or two glasses) and chat, catch up, and talk about everything but our children.

Wait- no- that's some other group. We talk almost exclusively about our children. Our husbands. Our families. And the childcare books we're reading, teachers we're listening to, parenting questions we field, criticisms we handle- we run the gamut of everything child-related and I absolutely love it.

There is, I've discovered, a surprising depth to the relationships I have with these women. I didn't know a one of them before Dory. I couldn't tell you where most of them were born, how they grew up, favorite color or even their ages. Yet our children threw us into this ocean of mothering together and we have gravitated to one another. When we do get together, like tonight, the immediate familiarity is surprising and very, very comforting. We're beyond the early stages, beyond the "how does she sleep?" "when did he start solids?" type of questions. The fast intimacy of motherhood leads us to meaningful and genuine conversation that energizes and strengthens me. We are, I feel so strongly, in this together.

I have had the good fortunate of really good friendships in my life, with Matthew, my parents, people I grew up with, people I've met in other places, people with similar passions and interests. And I'm just so glad parenthood proved no different; I'm so glad I know these other women all with children born within a few months of Dory (a cosmic coincidence? I think not) who are genuine and open and relatable. I feel grounded after a playgroup or a dinner. Of any of these women, I might never learn a favorite movie, first job, or political party, but, in our own way, there are few people I will ever be closer to than this group, this tribe of amazing mothers and women I'm so glad to call friends.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Play? Play? Play?

If you happened to wander through our house yesterday, here's what you would have noticed... Upstairs, at the top of the landing, two Christmas cookie trays, with orange peels scattered on and around them... Downstairs, on the living room floor, all the library books for the week in two piles and a bag with legos... On the dining room table, a fat Sesame Street coloring book (with the cover torn off) and a big plastic baggie filled with crayons... And in the kitchen, dish towels and dishcloths scattered all around the floor.

What did all these mysterious items signify?

Well. The orange peel (from breakfast) was a game she invented, where Dory and I took turns tossing pieces onto the Christmas cookie trays. The books were from a little reading we had done that morning. We built with the blocks, but mainly we experimented with putting all the blocks into the bag then dumping them all over the floor again. For twenty minutes or so she sat in her high chair and I sat on the other side, and we colored. The dishtowels, that was from her mid-morning snack, when I asked her to get a towel out of the cabinet which I spread out on the floor like a small picnic blanket. Dory then pulled five more dish towels and cloth napkins out and spread them all around the floor herself.

That was one morning's worth of play for us. What was neat, I thought, about it, surveying, the tremendous mess we could make in about two and a half hours, was the common denominator: teamwork. Whether we used an item designated, by being large, colorful and costing thirty times what it took to make, a "toy" or a mundane item from around the house that Dory deemed a toy, we had a great time because we were using it together.

Right now feels very intense, in how much she's going, doing and exploring, all while wanting someone (myself, her dad, a grandparent) very involved in the play. In The Discipline Book Dr. Sears explains in "the time between the ages of fourteen and eighteen months... the high energy toddler wants to do everything, but he still needs mother involved 'big time.'" We are definitely at that stage. And I've realized, while I can sneak five minutes here on the laptop or ten minutes at the stove while she plays on the floor next to me, this is another time to just Go With It (words I'm thinking about tattooing across my forehead) and PLAY. There is something incredibly fulfilling about letting go (not minding this blog will take me several hours to post, based on how often I can sneak back for two minutes), getting over it (there is mess wherever we go- there just IS) and giving myself up to this time in her life. In the same way she needed commitment as a newborn to be nursed and held almost constantly, she needs commitment that someone is willing to explore this great, big, wild world with her. And as enter into her seventeenth month, I'm finally getting it- I might be a slow learner, but I do get there. So after one morning's worth of serious play, the house is mildly wrecked, I'm still in my pajamas, and haven't brushed my hair or teeth and Dory is absolutely delighted and looking for another room to trash- I mean explore. And it was a seriously good time.

I take comfort from the Sears when they write: "Hang in there through eighteen months" because your child will start to play and imagine all on his own for longer stretches of time. And when they explain "by the time your child is six... [he} will check in for breakfast, be out the door, check in for lunch, and be gone again" I try not to dissolve into tears. This parenting thing- it's a mess, isn't it?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Presenting... Presents!

Pictures I know a lot of people have been waiting for... Christmas shots!

These are highly abbreviated. This girl, between Matthew and I, our family here and our family in Texas, had FOUR Christmases. That's not a joke or the latest Vince Vaughn holiday film.

Dory had a grand day. She loved opening her gifts, they never seemed to overwhelm her and she wasn't even bothered by the constant flash of cameras going off.

(a baby grand piano- in pink)

(a rocking horse)

(a piggy bank- a wise thought in these trying economic times)

(monkey hat- fashionable and warm)

(another piggy bank, this one shaped like a Chicago Bears helmet)

(a pic of the abundance of gifts)

(stacking blocks)

(more blocks)

("Good Night Moon"- the glow-in-the-dark puzzle)

(Dory inside the chute off the side of the indoors tent- that's right a TENT- she got)

So Dory, this is your second Christmas- how do you feel about that haul?

That's what I thought.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and, I'd like to personally thank all Dory's grandparents and her great-(and cool!) grandmother for doing their part to bolster the economy. It was good work by you all.