Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back from vacation

HP and I arrived back home after a week in Tennessee and North Carolina visiting family and friends.  The plan was for Henry to put in new counters in the kitchen while we were gone.  As usual, this house project had unexpected hitches and took longer than we estimated.  Instead of coming home to shiny new counters and a clean house we walked into a mess.  The kitchen counters are only halfway finished and currently unusable, we have no kitchen sink (or rather it is on the floor in the garage), all of our dishes covered in a fine layer of concrete dust, clean laundry still in the basket from before we left, dirty diapers left unwashed in the pail and reek of ammonia, and the rest of the house in general disarray.  The good news is that we have running water in the bathrooms, which we weren't certain would be true by the time we got back. 

State of our kitchen: No sink, unsealed counters, no cabinet doors, fridge and stove pulled out.  So pretty much finished and perfectly usable, right?

I will try and write a real post later this week, but for now I am off to wash dishes by hand in our tiny bathroom sink.  In the meantime, you can read about my experience living without a car during HP's first year over at Feeding the Soil where I wrote a guest post yesterday for Sara while her family gets to know their newest addition--baby Tate.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Entering toddlerhood

On the 4th of July, HP took his first steps.  It was one of those parenting moments I will come back to again and again.  I had heard other parents talk about watching their children meet the major milestones and I thought it couldn't be as great as they described.  Turns out, it is.  Pride, excitement, and happiness all mixed together as I watched HP take two tentative steps toward an empty box.

HP looks and acts more like a toddler every day.  Now that he's actually starting to toddle, there is no denying it.  Infancy and the first year were wonderful.  Hard, tiring, and humbling--but wonderful.  Who can resist the sweetness of a sleeping newborn or an infant who has just discovered his feet?  I will cherish the memories of his first months, but I am more than ready to move into the next stage.  When I glance across the room now, I no longer see the little baby who entered our lives a year ago; I see a curious, independent, little boy.  And I am loving it.

I love that he no longer sticks every object he finds in his mouth.  He can now play in our backyard without the danger of swallowing countless leaves, sticks, and rocks.  He still chews on them occasionally, but I no longer worry that he'll have a stomach full of rocks within five minutes of being let loose.

I love that he is able to communicate with us by pointing or showing us what he wants instead of the crying (by him) and guessing (by us) of the first months.  And adding words to the mix?  I cannot wait to hear what comes out of his little mouth.

I love that he plays little games with us. When Neil gets home from work he and HP head into his room for some play time. Neil will set up obstacle courses for him to climb through--including his own body--and I will hear him laughing and laughing.

I love how much more settled we all feel. HP's got a rhythm, and while it changes from week to week (or day to day), we generally know what to expect. A year in, and our family is more comfortable with our respective roles and routine. It no longer feels like we're struggling to keep our heads above water; we're able to enjoy the swim.

I know, I know. I am sure experienced parents are shaking their head at my naivety of what's to come.  Toddlers have their own set of challenges. I have no doubt that HP will test our patience as he exerts his will and learns his limits. But for now, I am embracing the fun this age brings.

Toddlerhood, here we come!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Moved to stand

I am usually in bed by 9:30.  Making it to the 10 o'clock hour happens less than once a week.  But on June 25th I was up until 1:00 a.m.  Why?  Because I could not stop watching the Texas Tribune's live feed of Wendy Davis' filibuster.

I alternated between crying and cheering as Wendy Davis, her fellow Democrats, and hundreds of citizens in the gallery fought to keep SB5--a law that would reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state from 42 to 5--from passing before the special session ran out.  A week later, looking at this slideshow still brings tears to my eyes.

Unfortunately, the defeat of SB5 may be short-lived.  Rick Perry called another special session the day after the filibuster and the law will likely pass even though the majority of Texans do not support it.

The proceedings have stirred up all sorts of emotions in me.  I am horrified by statements about rape by Jodie Laubenburg, one of the bill's primary sponsors.  I am angry that the bill's supporters are presenting the legislation as a way to protect women's health instead of what it is--an attempt to limit access to abortions.  I am shocked by the Republicans blatant disregard for the democratic process as they continually change the rules to suit their needs.

But most of all, I am inspired.  Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, Kirk Watson, Rodney Ellis, Royce West, Judith Zaffirini and countless other men and women are fighting to protect women's rights in a state where the odds and the political system are stacked against us.  And not only that--they are doing it with dignity and respect that are too often hard to find in politics.  They are an example to us all.

On Monday our family stood with them and thousands of others on the steps of the state capitol to protest the legislation on the first day of the second special session.

I know that there are caring, compassionate, well-meaning individuals on both sides of the debate.  Life is complex and this issue, like most, is not black and white.  But it is exactly because of this complexity that I do not presume to know or understand another's circumstances and believe that family planning decisions are best left to the individual.

We may not win this battle, but Governor Perry, considered yourself warned.  Senator Davis was right when she said in this article: "I know that it's not a lonely fight that we are going to be fighting.  We are going to be joined by a chorus of voices from all over the state and even all over the country."

(Also, check out this awesome print one of my friends made, inspired by Wendy Davis' filibuster.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Long nights

Here's me and HP this morning.  Please note our matching crazy morning hair, carefully styled by a night of tossing and turning.  HP's clearly thrilled to be awake.  (Actually, he was, he just did not like the little light that comes on before the flash goes off.)

In HP's twelve month post I said he was handling teething like a champ.  I take it back.  We have had two long nights as his molars work to come through.  Really long.  So very, very long.

Night one I was in his room with him from 3:15-7:00 a.m., in addition to at least three wake-ups earlier in the night.  There were so many tears, and nothing Henry or I did comforted him.  Night two I was with him from 10:00 p.m.-4:30 a.m. (and once or twice before that) at which point I crawled back into my own bed for the last two hours before he was up for the day.

I had forgotten what it feels like to be this exhausted.  I know it was like this for months on end when HP was first born, but how quickly the memories fade!  I had gotten accustomed to the luxury of sleeping through the night and this abrupt change has been rough--for all of us.  So rough, in fact, that it had me questioning my desire to have a second child.  Because not sleeping?  Is physically painful.

The first night I felt frustrated with HP.  I know, I know.  He is just a baby who is uncomfortable and in pain.  He is not trying to make our lives difficult.  But after the fourth wake-up in the middle of the night when no amount of nursing/rocking/singing/snuggling helps, my patience was wearing thin.

Knowing in advance what we would be facing, I adjusted my attitude last night.  I opted to stay in HP's room instead of going back and forth, hoping we would all sleep better.  Since HP likes to sleep on a padded area right next his mattress, I used his bed.  He would crawl up next to me when he was upset and then crawl back down when he was ready to go to sleep.  It took about half an hour to calm him down the first time he woke up, but after that I could quickly soothe him with a hand on his back when I heard him stir.

Throughout the night I would tell him (and remind myself) HP, you're getting new teeth right now.  It hurts.  You are so brave.  It's okay to cry.  I know you are in a lot of pain.  Saying the words out loud seemed to help us both.  The first night my thoughts were somewhere along the lines of: Why won't this child go to sleep!  I am so tired!  I can't do this!  He's still crying!  Aaahhhhhhh!  Those thoughts, while true, helped no one.  I have no doubt that HP could sense my thinly veiled frustration.  Changing the words I said out loud reduced my irritation, helped me empathize with HP, and validated his feelings.

Sadly, the more positive approach did nothing to limit the extreme exhaustion I feel today.  But this too shall pass.  Eventually these nights will be a distant memory and we will be well-rested again.
If you can hear me, please hurry up and break through.  I do not know how many more days/nights our family can handle with our sanity intact.   
One Tired Mama
** I want to update this post to acknowledge that Janet Lansbury's blog and the RIE parenting philosophy was the inspiration for my new approach to HP's teething pain.  She has helped me see that my primary goal should not be to stop HP from crying, but to acknowledge his pain and let him know that it is okay to express his feelings.  I hope to write more soon about how my parenting has changed after learning more about RIE.**