Saturday, August 24, 2013

10 new mama observations

As someone who had very near zero experience with babies before having one myself, everything baby related is new to me. Diaper genie? Is that some sort of system that changes your baby's diaper for you? Because that would be awesome, and I would actually pay for it. Wipe warmers, strollers, and diapers are all new to me, and I'm finding quite a few laugh worthy moments in my limited time as a parent thus far. For instance, my 7 month old just whined, then simultaneously sneezed and tooted, laughed, and did it again. I didn't even know that was physically possible. There are also differences within myself that are quite unexpected. Here are my Top 10 new parenting observations.

10. I'm not sure when, but I'm fairly certain ninjas are breaking into my home and training my baby in their ancient sneaky ways. Why do I think this, you ask? How else could a little baby know the exact way to pull my hair such that it hurts the worst? Or act all snugly, make me let down my guard, and then kick in the most painful way possible, as though trying to lacerate me with his razor-sharp toenails? Also, how do you cut a baby's toenails?! When he's sleeping, he's in footed pajamas, making his toes inaccessible. When he's awake, his feet are CONSTANTLY moving. Ceaselessly. It's amazing, really. I bet we could generate electricity with those little kickers.

9. Have you ever noticed the things it's okay to do to babies while they're asleep that would be so incredibly creepy to do to adults? I can only cut Little Bear's fingernails when he's asleep. But the thought of someone cutting my nails while I'm asleep is deeply disturbing.

8. While on the topic of disturbing, has no one ever noticed the frightening connection between babies and zombies? Think about it. Both move slowly and can't quite control their bodies, but are also frightening. Babies are frightening because they're constantly trying to commit suicide. Once they can crawl, as soon as you place them on a bed, they crawl to the edge and try to hurl themselves off of it. Or they find tiny things you didn't know existed and try to choke on them. And all that hair pulling-- is he trying to get to my brain? Is my baby a ninja zombie?!

7. Throughout my childhood, and adulthood, now that I think of it, my mom has gotten this nervous look on her face and pulled me back whenever I neared the rail on a balcony. Until Little Bear's arrival, I never understood this. Now I do-- it's basic psychology. For years, my sister and I engaged in typical baby behavior; by that, I mean trying to throw ourselves off surfaces. We each succeeded; she fell out of a second story window and I rocked my carseat so it flipped me off of a dining table. We each survived unscathed, but we inadvertently conditioned our parents to keep us away from elevated edges.

6. Since my baby's arrival, a 6th sense has arrived. Not mine; his. I've had one for years; I have an uncanny ability to know when a baked good is done, even before the timer goes off. But my son knows when I've just snuggled under the covers  and decides I must need to be awoken. It's almost always when I'm right on the verge of sleep, and so comfy that he's the only thing I'd move for.

5. Now that my baby is a speed crawler and trying to destroy my house. In order to circumvent this, I've invented my own baby alarm system. He must be slightly claustrophobic, because he doesn't like the pack-and-play or just hangin out in his crib. So I fashioned a baby alarm system. I place toys that make music in a circle around the baby, so you'll know when he moves because he has to move the musical toy to get to the item he wants to break.

4. There's a National Geographic special available on Netflix Instant called Most Amazing Animal Moments. It's very inappropriately named; a more fitting title would have been baby animal murder. I watched about 15 minutes before seeig too many cute, non-predatory baby animals killed. Now that I'm a parent, my once-normal empathy levels have soared into excess. I can't watch a baby of any species die without actually shedding tears as I think about the poor mother. 

3. I'm finally finishing The Giver series, and the last book is entitled Son. I was worried it would be a doozie since I have a son and the plot centers around a mother separated from her son, and I was right. I even did something highly uncharacteristic: I looked ahead. If a certain outcome that I expected didn't occur, I was actually going to stop reading the book. Before Little Bear came along, I wouldn't have done that. But my elevated empathy levels have shaken me to my core.

2. Even before becoming pregnant, mothers shared their wisdom with me. Some of it was helpful, some of it was not. Because each child is different, the same approach may not work on everyone. I always at least listen for the grain of truth, and have found that friends give much better advice than strangers. Every mother is different as well; a stranger once told me that once you have kids, it's much easier when a pet dies. There is no grain of truth in that for me. Obviously losing my son would destroy my heart, but they aren't comparable losses. Losing Charlie is a lifelong sorrow. It's been six months since he died, and I still yearn to hug that fluffy mane daily. I'm finally not crying daily, but I'm still crying. I miss him every day, think of him every day, and speak of him every day. He was constant companion for a decade, preparing me for motherhood by teaching me how to love selflessly. My son was a source of joy during the dark days immediately following my beloved dog's death, but the pain of losing Charlie was not diminished simply because I had a son now.

1. Every day is new and exciting. This has never been truer. Before Little Bear, I was never so aware of change and advancement. Now I see changes in all of us: Nala's patience has increased day by day, Layla's remarkable tolerance is tested, J's innovative playing changes, my love for my whole family grows, somehow, daily. But most of all, Little Bear changes every day. He learns to pull himself up, or makes a new sound, or alternates crawling and using furniture to practice waking (at less than 9 months!) to get to whatever his little heart desires. While he discovers his world, I see it in a whole new light along with him. 

Mischief? Me? No!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Post traumatic baby disorder

Please note that I am not making light of PTSD; I'm merely using the most well-known and appropriate comparison to illustrate my point.

I've noticed a peculiar shift since little bear's arrival. For one, little things can make me completely tense and freeze as though blinking might make a difference. Another occurrence is the ball of anxiety that now lives in my throat.

Our baby monitor has this handy feature so that you aren't constantly hearing white noise: it simply clicks on when it detects a sound. When little bear is napping or asleep at night and the baby monitor clicks on, I freeze and become as stif as a statue. I hold my breath, not daring to even blink. When it clicks back off without any crying, mostly because it picked up the instrumental music we play  while he's sleeping, I find my heartbeat is so accelerated I must be burning calories while standing still. Before you get jealous, imagine having an elevated heartbeat and tense body at 3 a.m., when you've been peacefully sleeping, and now you can't fall back asleep. 

Other times, I'll be getting ready for bed or prepping for the next day when I swear I hear him crying. I watch the monitor, waiting for the lights to flash as they do when it detects sound, fearing that if I blink he'll wake up. But it's all in my head-- he's silent, sound asleep (for the time being), and my fears are manifesting into phantom baby noises.

Now on to that rubber ball of anxiety that has taken up residence in my throat. As a laid-back person, I never thought I'd be one of those people who check on their baby three times before they can go to sleep. But now I find myself tip-toeing into his room, peering at the crib, and even once putting my hand on his back because it was too dark to see the steady rise and fall of his chest. I hear stories of terrible things happening to other families, car accidents and SIDS and horrors galore. Immediately I place my family in that situation, and I'm absolutely heartbroken. I've always been empathetic, but now I'm too much so to even read the newspaper. 

It isn't just tragedies that strike fear in my heart. Often J and little bear will be playing, and my mind knows that everything is fine, little one is giggling as J  tosses him a little in the air. But I gasp. Audibly. I know if it wasn't safe, J wouldn't do it. I know if little bear was scared of felt endangered, he'd cry. Yet still my heart stops and I see every which way it could go wrong.

This is a side of parenting I wasn't warned about. Even the most innocuous occurrences seem fraught with danger. I worry incessantly, and if it were an Olympic sport I would surely take the gold. But it's a hindrance, and one I'm working to overcome. Yes, the world can be a dangerous and scary place. But I'm an adventurous spirit, and I refuse to let fear rule. I'll still probably gasp too often, but that's OK. Now if only the baby monitor would let me get some sleep.

Friday, August 16, 2013

10 signs you're a Disney kid

We may have all grown up with Disney, but it sticks with us more than we know sometimes. Here are 10 signs you're a Disney kid.

10. When you hear James Earl Jones' voice, your first thought is "Mufasa".

9. Every mermaid reference brings Ariel to mind.

8.  The mere mention of necessities brings to mind a certain tune from "The Jungle Book".

7. If someone suggests you're in danger, you're automatic response is, "Danger? Ha. I laugh in the face of danger. Hahaha!" Then you find yourself scurrying away from angry hyenas. Okay, maybe not the second part.

6. "Part of your world" is still your go-to shower song.

5. When you have a tough decision to make, Pocahontas' song comes to mind, "Do I choose the smoothest course, steady as the beating drum... Or do you still wait for me, dream giver? Just around the river bend..."

4. You often remind your friends they haven't ever had a friend like you, a la the Genie in Aladdin.

3. After an especially good dream, you smile and hum Cinderella's "A dream is a wish your heart makes."

2. Reading makes everything better-- just ask Belle. Reading with the Beast is part of their falling in love sequence.

1. You sing (Disney songs, of course) while you work, just like Rapunzel, Snow White, Giselle, and Cinderella.

There you have it-- proof you're a Disney kid! What do you think sets you apart as a child of Disney's renaissance?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

National make it stop day

Remember the good old days, when stores would annoy you by putting the next season's merchandise out way too early? Back to school would come out in July, Halloween in August and Christmas in September? I'd take that over the latest trend of having every single day be national something day.

For instance, today is national s'mores day. Yesterday was book lovers day. I've also seen sisters day, cousins day, ice cream day, Star Wars day. One day the Internet mistakenly had it be 2 different national days of something on the same day-- the horror!

But really, it has to stop. Can we stop obsessing over every day standing for something? Can today just be Saturday, and if I happen to make s'mores, that's great? Do I have to see every restaurant post a different s'mores recipe? Can I just enjoy a book because I love reading, and not because some random person decided to arbitrarily declare it book lover's day?!

This is really just a plea to stop finding an odd reason to celebrate. If you want to celebrate, why do you need a reason? Do we really need a whole day set aside to celebrate ice cream? Can't we just enjoy a nice ice cream cone just because we feel like it?

By the way, I love my sister. But I don't need a national day to tell her so, because I make sure she already knows. So arbitrary celebratory day deciders,take a break. Maybe tomorrow is even national take a break day. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No-watch list

It's been 4 months since my Charlie passed away, and I'm still missing him and grieving. Typically when life turns dark, I pop in a Disney movie for a bit of encouragement. But losing Charlie means many Disney films are off limits, for various reasons. Here are the movies I can't watch:

- The Lion King: Charlie was so lion-like because of Simba and the gang. Watching it without him just seems wrong.

- Bolt: The touching story of a girl and her dog, who become separated and go to great lengths to reunite with one another. Charlie and I had that same kind of relationship, so watching Bolt find his girl just serves to remind me that I'm currently a girl without her dog. Side note: we still have two amazing dogs that I love dearly. But my relationship with them is different than my relationship was with Charlie. I cherish them and am so thankful to have them, yet watching them pick up his habits and duties is bittersweet. Layla has started laying in his preferred spots while Nala has started comforting us when we're upset.

- Homeward Bound: Much like Bolt, this follows three pets who leave their pet sitter to find their family. One of the dogs is older, and his kid fears he's too old to make the journey. The ending always makes me cry, but now it's worse, because I don't get to see Charlie in his old age. He was only 10 when he died, robbing me of six Charlie filled years I was expecting to have. For most of his life, I would lay his front paw straight when he would tuck it under him, because that habit gave my other collie, Duke, arthritis. Poor Charlie endured 10 years of paw-fixing and didn't live long enough to avoid arthritis.

-All Dogs Go to Heaven: This is the movie that gave Charlie his name. The story of a bad dog who learns to be good through the love of a sweet little girl. He's her dog and she's his girl. He ultimately sacrifices everything for her; a feat my own Charlie would have done without a moment of hesitation. (Not technically a Disney movie, but it's animated and I love it so I'm counting it).

- Because of Winn-Dixie: Another girl and her dog story, set in Florida. A 20th Century Fox and Walden Media film, I'm including it regardless of the lack of Disney ties. It's a touching story that primarily follows the book, also a great read. 

-Up: Every time I see Dug, I wonder what Charlie would say if he had that collar. Probably, "I love you." And,"I can smell you!" Also: "How do I open the pantry door?"

- 101 Dalmatians: Despite the obvious loving dog-family incomplete without all its members present, there's a collie that comes to Pongo and Perdy's aid. Always helping, collie's are.

- Lassie (television and films): This is the most obvious one. I'd often tease Charlie about Lassie's feats, such as climbing a ladder to rescue Timmy from hornets and an owl protecting her young. But while watching the television show around Christmas, while super pregnant with Little Bear, I looked forward to the baby and Charlie having a close relationship and getting into all kinds of shenanigans together. That is, perhaps, the hardest part of losing Charlie: I still imagine him in my future. When Little Bear throws some of his baby food on the ground, I still expect Charlie to trot over to help him clean it up. I subsequently find my eyes getting overly misty when I imagine the bounty of food my son will throw or knock onto the floor in the coming years, and the big brown eyes that aren't here to light up with joy while licking the carpet.

I've lost many people I love, many in the past two years. The worst part of grieving is letting go of the image of the future you'd held; the pearly dreams of seeing your dad hold his first grandchild, of watching your boy grow up with the dog who had been your faithful companion for a decade, of not having your grandmother witness your son's first Christmas and birthday. These are the moments I hold in my heart, imagining the joy I'd see in their eyes or the softness of his fur under my hand. These are the memories I create in my mind when I linger in the space between asleep and awake, dreaming of a future that isn't possible.

Do you have any films you avoid when grieving? Or any that help get you through it? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.