Sleep training and the Garden Gnomes

We’ve now had three nights of sleep training, and I think we’re really making some headway. I’m not as regimented about the sleep training and I think some purists would be, but whatever I’m doing is working for both myself and Russ…so that’s all that really matters, I suppose.

On Night #2 (Tuesday night), I pretty much repeated the same sequence of events from Monday night. Dinner, bath and cuddly time (and a little playing with toys), then I nursed Russ one last time until he was nice and milk-drunk. Isn’t the best thing in the world a little milk-drunk baby? I love it. It’s pretty much the only instance in which you can use the words “baby” and “drunk” in the same sentence and have it be a positive thing. Then I laid him down – this time in the Pack n’ Play, for reasons I’ll discuss below – and waited to see how bad things would get. I’m pleased to report that, for whatever reason, it only took about 15 minutes from start to finish for him to go from ragingly pissed off to completely knocked out.

Now, why the Pack n’ Play, might you wonder? Here’s the thing, friends. I am insane. Not that I’ve been diagnosed or anything, but I’m not sure what else you would call it when an entire family of folks deals with ridiculously vivid, frightening night terrors. My mom, both brother, and especially my sister all have some sort of sleep “issue.” My sister has been known to hop out of bed and wander right out of the house and halfway down her 200-yard driveway towards the highway near her house – still completely unaware of what she’s doing. You could say I got it honest.

Not two months after Russ was born, they started getting really bad and much more frequent than they ever had. I might have spoken about them previously, but I have night terrors and also these things called Hypnopoptic AND Hypnogogic Hallucinations. I forget which one is which, but they’re hallucinations had in the moments just before falling completely asleep and just after waking. And they can get pretty darn freaky. Back in December, I swore that I saw a little evil garden gnome standing in the doorway and starting to come towards me. A garden gnome. Yeah, like the little Travelocity guy. Hat. Thick-rimmed glasses. A little evil smirk on his little pudgy face. That little dude might be cute on daytime TV, but when he shows up, uninvited, in the doorway of your bedroom at 1 am…not so cute then. Of course, these hallucinations often end up with me tossing and turning, poking Jonathan and asking him if he sees it, looking around for Russ in a panic, and – in the case of the garden gnome – letting out blood-curdling screams that send both Jonathan and Russ running for the hills. I felt as if I was glued to the bed, and I guess the terror just took over.

Of course, that’s just one of many regularly scheduled programs that my brain likes to run at really inconvenient hours of the night. One hallucination that has been an inexplicable standby for going on three years has been “the man in the flannel.” It’s a shadow of a man – a man whom, I believe, might be some subconscious representation of my Uncle Rick (who died in January 2006 of drug-related complications). He is tall, and I have never seen his face. He has Rick’s thin and bony build, and he wears a thick, red flannel shirt with big black buttons. On numerous occasions, I’ve looked up from a half-sleeping state to see this figure standing there and watching me. I know, right off the bat, that it isn’t real – but that just doesn’t comfort you much. As is the case with most all hypnogogic hallucinations, you just wait for the image to dissolve. The first time I saw Flannel Man was in late 2009, while staying at my parents’ lakehouse. He was very close to my side of the bed in that instance. I saw him once or twice more at the lakehouse, before he started visiting at my house. I notice that he shows up when I am especially stressed or excited by something going on in my life.

What’s really creepy is that in summer of 2010 – while I was pregnant and the Flannel Man was on somewhat of a hiatus from my sleep – my mom saw him during one of her dreams. She was upstairs at the lakehouse, woke up a little, looked up, and there he stood. Same jacket, same build. Who knows what that all means, but the Flannel Man has inspired more a few raised eyebrows over coffee as we recount the events of that night.

So I have been sleeping Russ in the Pack n’ Play while Jonathan is out of town, because that enables me to close off all the doors in the bedroom. The types of night terror/hallucinations I have are often prompted by the mind literally “filling in” a black space in the room – usually with lines, swirls, or images like spiders (all of which I have quite regularly), but sometimes with murderous garden yard ornaments and scary fishermen in grunge-rock-garb. So closing the bedroom door, the closet door, etc. is vital to helping my mind perceive the walls of my bedroom as one even, blank space – therefore giving the hallucinations less creative space on which to paint freaky imagery. Once Jonathan is back, I will be a little more comfortable putting Russ in the crib. That said, I think he is getting the main benefit of the sleep training, which is to help him learn to soothe himself to sleep and stay asleep for longer periods of time. We’ve definitely accomplished that.

Last night – night #3 – was another fairly successful one. He went down at 9:30 or so, since we were a little late starting to bedtime “ritual.” He took approximately six minutes to go from yelling and screaming to “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” Not too shabby, I think. I did notice that he woke himself up farting twice last night, but it was nothing that hopping up and plugging the paci back in couldn’t fix. If that’s all I have to do, for now, I’m happy with it. Both times, he spit the paci out within seconds of my plugging it in, so I’m not really sure how that even helped him soothe himself back to sleep. Whatever the case, he didn’t wake up for an actual feeding until 4 am.

Tonight is the last night before Jonathan comes home, so I’m looking forward to showing off all my hard work when we put Russ down together tomorrow night. I knew going into it that sleep training by myself might be biting off a little more than I could chew (I honestly do not know how single moms do it), but it’s actually been pretty easy for me. I doubt this is indicative of what a lot of parents have to deal with, but I’ve really been able to get a routine going with Russ when it’s just the two of us. I hope this can continue once Jonathan is back from his trip. Next week, he has another week of training in Orlando, and Russ and I will be going to Conway and the lakehouse to spend time with family. That’s another reason why I did the Pack n’ Play this week – it’s what Russ will be sleeping in all next week, so he might as well get used to it.

So that’s the update on the sleep training saga. More to come later.

"The only way out is through."

It’s been a rough couple of nights (err…weeks) at our house. The sweet and easy baby that we had, oh, just a couple months ago, has disappeared and has been replaced by this much fussier, much more restless little boy who is still a bit of mystery to me. Now, I knew this was coming. How, might you ask? Well, a couple of reasons. For one – and this is one that gets pretty irritating after just a short time – we’ve no shortage of relatives who love to remind us what pains in the ass we were as youngsters. Jonathan didn’t sleep all the way through the night until he was two or three years old. I didn’t “sleep,” per se, but rather laid awake in my bed and pointed out the parts of the human anatomy that I knew (quite loudly, I’m told). Just eyes, nose, cheek, stuff like that – nothing gross, thank you very much. But I have other reasons for having come to expect that one day, the “other shoe would drop.” I’m not sure where that phrase came from, but it’s inadvertently how I tend to live my life. If I feel like life is going a little too well, I sort of expect that there’s some sort of challenge or trial coming up on the horizon. I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s actually served me well in a number of situations, so I don’t mind it too much. And when I saw what a perfectly sweet, easy, sleepy baby I had at the beginning, I knew his “rotten” was just stewing.

Now before you go writing me off as a pessimistic jerk and a bad mom, keep in mind that a) all of this is said only half seriously (because I think we’ve established that I use humor to deal with things in every area of my life), and b) I love my little booger butt, no matter how “rotten” he might be at times. Russ is just getting to the point where he realizes the connection between crying and having mommy or daddy come comfort him or pick him up…and so he cries. All. Day. Long. And. All. Night. Too.

So we’re trying the “cry it out” method, in somewhat of a modified form. I know that’s sort of controversial, but we’re giving it the old college try. We actually had lazily attempted it a few weeks ago, going in to check on Russ every 5-10 minutes for an hour before saying “SCREW this” and just rocking him to sleep. But we’ve noticed his sleep getting progressively more restless in the last few weeks since then, and we just have realized that we’re heading in the entirely wrong direction. And this is true especially when you consider that not two months ago, Russ would go to sleep on his own in the Pack n’ Play or crib, and sleep for 8-9 hours, waking only once to nurse and then falling back to sleep almost immediately. We just need to move back in that direction.

Tonight is Night #1, and I’ll be documenting these efforts for the blog.

For Night #1, I did a few things – only slightly tweaked – that we normally do at night to help Russ get ready for bed. We ate dinner together (chicken enchilada leftovers for us, squash and pears for him) and then I sat him in his crib while I took a quick shower (I’m talking 5-10 minutes here). He got pissed over that, but I figured it was probably best that he went ahead and learned to like his crib and a few minutes in there while mommy got cleaned up wouldn’t hurt him. After that, it was time for his bath, so we filled up his tub and got him out of his clothes and diaper, then washed him with his “Bedtime Bath” and lotioned him up. After that, I cuddled him a bit and let him just chill out in his pack n’ play while I put away clothes. Then, the very last step, I nursed him until he was very drowsy and we took him upstairs to put him down in his crib.

He was NOT happy with this approach. So, at 9 pm, we kicked off the screamfest. We checked on him at least every five minutes, maybe even a little more often – I didn’t pick him up, but I put his pacifier back in his mouth, shushed him, and rubbed his arm or the top of his head to calm him down. Every single time, he’d get quiet and calm. Five seconds after I left the room, all hell would break loose once again. Rinse, lather, repeat. So we did that for 40 minutes before he finally got quiet. At this point, I told Jonathan “He finally gave up! BWAHAHAHAH!!!”

This prompted Jonathan to quote a song by my favorite band, Nine Inch Nails.

“I tried…I gave up!” he said with a laugh.
“Thank God for that,” I trailed off.
“Well, you know what, babe?” he said, hedging into yet another NIN reference, “The only way out is through.”

I’m really glad that we can work a little bit of rock n’ roll referencing into our parenting efforts. I hope our children will one day give us cool points for that, but I have the nagging suspicion they’ll just roll their eyes and go back to staring out of the car windows.

So, Night #1 is behind us (sorta). Bring it on, sleep training. Bring. It. On.

Blog Changes

I’ll keep this short and sweet, as I have a much bigger post that I’m working on and don’t want to get too far away from.

Basically, the baby blog thing was getting a little tired for me. Pregnancy was a fantastic, amazing, beautiful, eye-opening, freeing, spiritual, uplifting, revealing, and humbling process. I’m sure there are a few more adjectives out there that I could employ and still not really get close to hitting exactly what the past 13 months since I began this blog have truly meant to me. But it’s time to do something a little different and give myself some new dirt to dig in, honestly. Of course, so much of what I write about has and will continue to relate back to Russ because he’s essentially the thing that my world revolves around. But I have to be honest with myself that my personality and uh…”way with words” (heh) isn’t really always the traditionally sunshiny and nurturing type that people often expect when visiting a baby blog. There’s just a lot more going on than that one thing. So I needed something new to ponder, some new thing to call this scratching post of mine.

And I thought about calling it that – “The Scratching Post,” but then I just felt like I sounded like a cat lady. And I thought about “The Peanut Gallery,” but was sure someone had taken that. I couldn’t sleep last night, in part because I was mulling over what to call this place. And then I remembered my mom.

In college, I wrote a poem as part of my senior thesis chapbook, and I called the poem “Compilation Piece.” It’s still my mom’s favorite poem. I’ll have to dig it up and post it here, but the basic gist of it was that it was me recalling a lot of really random and varying life experiences to try and explain where I was at that point in time. I was 22, about to graduate and get married, move away from home, and do all these new things. At the same time, I was dealing with some exercise addiction/obsessive dieting issues that were really challenging my sanity and continued to do so for a few more years before I got some help. And I know a lot of folks who are close to me are probably like “Oh, it wasn’t THAT bad, now was it?”

It was pretty bad, y’all. I mean, the thoughts that would go through my head relating to my self, my self worth, my body, my relationships with other people…it makes me sad to think about it. I was in a bad place. I’m really, really, intensely thankful to be past that at this point in my life. But anyhow, my mom loves that poem and calls up the ideas in it quite a bit.

“Well, ya know, it sucks about ______ (insert nasty situation happening with whatever), but we’ll learn from it. We’re a compilation piece, remember?”

What I love is that she says it, always with a smile and always with an air of optimism. So I decided that was the best thing I could think of to call this place. It could totally change later. Could be two years, two weeks, who knows. I’m not someone who automatically comes up with this super awesome, all-encompassing title for things. This is just my journal. Just where I yak about whatever. Hopefully you all appreciate it for what it is. I’d like to think you do. 🙂

Just a bully

“You’re just a bully, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”

I think those are the words I spoke to Shawn, a boy who spent several weeks of 7th grade getting behind me on the way up the main stairway of Conway Middle School, getting as close as he could, and then pulling my legs out from under me. Every couple of days – just when I thought the ordeal was over – there he’d be, pulling my feet out from under me and sending me face-first into the edge of the stairs. I still have all my teeth, but it was, needless to say, a pretty rough couple of weeks. I don’t remember exactly what brought it on, other than a standard-issue classroom disagreement in which he’d called me a name and I retorted with something smart. I wasn’t always one to physically fight back, but I’ve never met an argument that I didn’t at least entertain engaging in. And that set him off well enough, I suppose. How dare I respond to his high-and-mighty proclamation that I was ___. And you can fill in the blank – ugly, fat, too tall, stupid, too smart, whatever tickles you. I’ve heard them all.

Every time Shawn had a chance, he’d be right there, hands grabbing angrily at my heels. I must’ve been covered from shin to thigh in bruises. I don’t remember exactly what his “punishment” was (detention or something of that nature), probably because it wasn’t worth remembering. Believe me…if it had fit the crime, I would’ve filed it away in my “Humanity Really Is Worth Holding Out Hope For!” box. Mr. Bryant, our lecherous Assistant Principal, couldn’t be bothered to actually give a punishment that would seem logical or fair to most normal folks. There was a librarian that he was somewhat more interested in, if I remember correctly.

A few weeks before Russ was born, I was indulging in one of my favorite mid-Monday guilty pleasures – perusing the online arrest reports of my hometown newspaper, The Sun News (Myrtle Beach). It was an activity that saved time by satisfying two goals – keeping me abreast of the latest legal happening back home, and also serving as a quick and easy way for me to get updated on how a lot of old classmates were doing. So I couldn’t help but do a double take when I saw Shawn’s picture. Larceny, breaking and entering…yep, definitely the same guy. His face hadn’t changed much since 7th grade, except for the roughed-up scratches near his eyes and the obvious sanitizing spray-down he’d received during booking at J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

This is probably the point where a better person than I would’ve said something along the lines of “It was then that I realized that Shawn wasn’t that bad of a person after all, and I began to feel bad for him for all his misfortune/misguidance/bad childhood/etc.” But I’m sorry, I just can’t. The thing that really went through my mind?

I told ya so. Jerk.

See, all of this has come flooding back to me as I watch and then rewatch the video of Casey Heynes, an Australian school-age kid who has been bullied all his life – and the moment, the very instance, in which Casey snaps. I’ve been in Casey’s shoes, and watching that moment (the way hundreds of thousands of people have at this point) is something that is difficult to describe. It’s going to sound bad, but when I watch the little lightweight pipsqueak bully who smacks Casey a few times, punches him a couple more, and dances around him like some sort of annoying horsefly…well, I can’t help but silently cheer Casey on when he picks up the little brat, finally having had enough, and body slams him to the ground.

And yeah, the schools can talk about a “zero tolerance” policy on fighting all day long. They’ll never get it. They’re so convoluted and full of their own importance that they don’t see that Casey’s action IS the zero tolerance policy. Because for the rest of his sad, unimpressive little life, that bully that caught Casey on the wrong day will never attempt to punch somebody without at least thinking of what the consequences might be. Until the day he dies, I can promise you that – before initiating any kind of physical altercation – Casey’s face (and a loud thud on a concrete floor) will be the last thing that flashes in that kid’s mind before he starts bullying someone. There’s your zero tolerance policy, people. Write it down.

And so here we are, my obligatory post about bullying. Or maybe I’ve had more than one post about it, I can’t remember. It’s an issue near and dear to my heart, you could say. Actually, I think it’s pretty amusing that in the year 2011, people have the nerve to act like bullying is some sort of new problem. Really, guys? Really? There was a day and time when people thought nothing of duking out their differences in a good ol’ fashioned fist fight. There’s a winner, there’s a loser, and there’s a pretty clear takeaway.

The only differences between the bully of old and the new, bigger, more technologically adept bully is that bullying is now on a 24/7 cycle, and consequences are in short supply. Think of it the way you would CNN. Twenty years ago, there was a lag between the actual event and the report. That’s not the case anymore. Remember something awful happening on Friday and getting that two days of rest before you had to return to school and face it all? Yeah, kids today don’t have that. A bully can access them anywhere – in person, of course. But then there’s email, text, Facebook, those ridiculously huge cellphone data plans. Not a month ago, I had to calm my poor niece, who was being harassed over text by a bunch of tools she goes to school with. Seems all these boys had gotten together and decided that she was going to be the entertainment for the night, even if she wasn’t physically in attendance. So they texted her and called her, hurling words like “slut” and “whore” at her – even though she’s 13 and has never done anything to deserve anything even approaching those awful words. It angered me so much that I had to be thankful that I wasn’t there. It was just the kind of thing that sets me off. Kids today are living in a war zone when it comes to bullying. It’s never-ending, and I am not afraid to tell you that if my teenage years had been experienced on such a level…well, I don’t know where I’d have ended up in some cases.

Parents books and magazines often instruct parents to have “the bullying talk” with their kids in a fashion that, to me, is almost like the “birds and bees” chat that usually occurs around the same age. Given the fact that teen pregnancy is still a real problem…do you think either approach is really working? Bueller? Bueller?

No. These days, it seems like our society’s efforts at addressing the bullying problem are little more than a mixture of half-witted parental posturing and government/schools continuing an established pattern of not knowing how to handle the issue. Sure, people say they want to see the problem improve, they want to help. They’ll do anything they can, as long as anything isn’t too unpleasant or difficult or – God forbid – inconvenient.

But unpleasant was something I got pretty used to while I was in middle school (and don’t worry, it didn’t get much better in high school). Like the time this ridiculously terrifying girl named Kamesha thought it would be funny to ask me for money – cash she knew I wouldn’t give her – and then beat the living daylights out of me when I told her I didn’t have any money on me. Kamesha had intentionally shoved me in the hall at the beginning of a school year, and just kind of decided that I was going to be the target. I know a lot of people would wonder what I did to deserve it, but honest-to-God…I didn’t do anything. I was just there.

It was just one of those truly heinous situations where somebody saw something in someone else that they hated and wanted to stamp out. I have my suspicions about reasons why she hated me so much, but they’re really just theories. But anyhow, she got her ultimate thrill that day when she wiped the floor with me. The best part of it? It was 3 pm or so, right after school, with at least 20 students standing around and waiting for their parents to pick them up. They sat right there and watched, some cheering, while this girl yanked me up by my backpack, pushed my face into the nearby brick column, pushed me down, punched me a few times in the head, and kicked me a couple times more. Because I wouldn’t give her any money.

Kamesha made pretty quick work of me, and you can bet I wasn’t going to fight back against her at that point. When my mom showed up five minutes after the aggressor was gone, I was a mess. We called the police and went over to the school office, where charges were filed. Of course, Kamesha denied everything, and you had better believe nobody that witnessed it was going to back up what happened. Months later, after having to continue to attend school with Kamesha, I had the privilege of sitting through a hearing with the Juvenile Justice judge, who seemed pretty keen on giving Kamesha the benefit of the doubt. It was only her second or third offense, after all. Less than two years later, Horry County Schools was kind enough to put me in a P.E. class at the high school with Kamesha.

But by then, things had changed. I’d finally realized something that today’s world seems to fight harder and harder to keep kids from grasping. I’d realized that the only person who could protect me was myself. The day after the Kamesha incident, I had asked my dad to show me how to protect myself. We went over some basic moves that he’d taught fellow soldiers in hand-to-hand combat classes back in his Army days. I was no Million Dollar Baby, but I was legit enough to make me realize that I could potentially get through high school with all my teeth still in place. There was some hope there. I had a little moxie in me after all. So by the time that Kamesha and I were “rematched,” so to speak, the fun of threatening me had pretty much disappeared for her. Oh, she still called me every disgusting, racist epithet and sexual slur she could come up with – some of them so beyond my street cred level that I wish had been around back then. But she didn’t try to give me another concussion. So that was cool, right? There were weaker people to focus on, and she’d already watched me maul a guy who had purposely hit me in the head with a ball during class. It lost its fun for her at that point.

But Southern culture is a funny, fickle animal, especially when it comes to gender roles. After physically fighting back a few times early on in high school, I quickly grew a rep for having “issues.” I believe we call them “anger management” problems now a days? Funny, because I never heard that said about people who were just complete…oh, I dunno, abusive, sociopathic toolbags? Never heard it said about guys like Shawn. It seemed as if society has conveniently progressed far enough to expect a good Southern girl to act like a “lady,” even if that society didn’t necessarily treat her like one. Had I allowed myself to be further smacked around, I guess I could’ve had the small comfort of being “the bigger person,” even if that meant doing so with a cast and two black eyes. Comforting, right? At least, that’s how it was in that strange little town where I grew up. I asked the school administration to help me, God knows I begged. I was always met with a patronizing caress of the shoulder and a question as to what I could do to make the situation better. Again, the logic behind this was lost on me. I found myself in the same predicament I’d been in countless times in my very young life – what do you do when no direction is the right direction, but sitting still gets your ass kicked?

It’s a torturous thing to have to decide what you’re going to screw up in the process of trying to live your life, knowing that no decision will yield an overall positive result. But I knew that another couple of mental and physical injuries like the ones I’d sustained at the hands of my middle school counterparts would render me an even more weak and pitiful person than I already felt like just for having whatever defect made me an easy target in the first place. And I want you to read this very clearly, because this is something that every bullied kid probably thinks at some point. Read this a few times.

I know it’s that something is wrong with me.

And that’s such an integral part of the anguish that you go through when you can’t just get people to lay off you for a little while. You just want to breathe. But you know that there is something defective about you, that it’s ultimately your fault for not understanding how to play the game, how to hold your cards. And if you’re saying to yourself right now “Well NO, it’s not your fault,” you should know that I do agree with you…now. But it took me a long time to get to that place.

I will never be short of stories about people who made my life a living hell at one point or another. In a sick and twisted sort of way, I suppose each of those jerks secured a sort of legacy that would last them beyond high school – in many cases, the years of their lives that they would remember as the best, which I think is just beyond sad. And I don’t mind writing their names here – heck, there are at least 10 more that I can think of off the top of my head, but why dive into that sea of names? All they will ever be is a cautionary tale I tell to my kids. A laugh that passes through a wide smile as I hear of the latest ways that these bullies – who, for a brief time, seemed to have the upper hand – rose to the highest point of their lives at the tender ages of 12…15…17. Whatever the case, I realized a long time ago that those people were deserving of my pity more than my ire.

Just a bully. With a rap sheet and a record. With no talent and no character. With no courage and no depth. With a tragic story to tell, far more tragic than any tale you’ll get from me or kids like Casey Heynes.

Six months old

Today, my baby boy is six months old! It’s a little overwhelming to consider, but yeah…we’re halfway to his first birthday. I don’t know where it all went – the way I was getting all teary eyed while rocking him to sleep for his nap just a few minutes ago, you’d think I still had all those crazy postpartum hormones still coursing through my veins. I guess I just got a little overwhelmed – for what’s probably just the 8,572nd time since he was born – by the realization that Russ is growing up too fast for me. It could never go slow enough.

There I sat, rocking the little, snoozing bundle of warmth nuzzled up against my chest, remembering how I was sitting in that same rocker just under six months ago. The baby I held was far smaller and just a few days old, and I stared at him and cried because I just couldn’t believe that anything could ever be so beautiful, or that I could be so blessed, or that it was possible to love someone so much. I thought the newness and shock of that would wear off within a few weeks, but it really hasn’t changed that much. Every morning is still kind of like Christmas with this little guy around. This isn’t to say that many of those aren’t also sleepy eyed and groggy mornings…but it’s not that big of a deal. I can sleep when I’m dead, I suppose.

As Russ enters this second half of his first year, I know a lot of changes are on the horizon – teething, more words (right now, it’s pretty much just “mamamamamama” all the time), crawling, WALKING (heaven help me). The changes are going to start coming very quickly. Just this week, Russ has started pushing all the way up with both arms straight and looking around. Actually, I think he spent the entire time that I was in my shower this morning doing that – I had him in his pack n’ play with “Chuggington” on TV, and he was craning his neck to watch it. I came out of the shower and he was just perched there with both arms straight out watching the trains on the screen and chuckling. Ridiculously. Cute. And I know that once he gets mobile, he’s going to be hell on wheels. I mean, that’s any toddler for you, but I am really savoring these last few months of everything being so simple.

We had hit a rough patch last week with solids and the whole three-day-poop-strike, but things seem to be back to some semblance of normal now. We backed off of the solids, completely got rid of rice cereal, and just nursed for a few days. That seemed to “reset” his system pretty well, and then we brought back in the sweet potatoes midday. The purpose of solids at this point isn’t really to get a bunch of calories/nutrients in, anyway – it’s mostly “play time” and learning about new textures and tastes. Russ loves it, though – he’s a bit of a neanderthal about his food, honestly. If I take too long shoveling the baby food in, he grunts at me. And I don’t even try to start nursing him until I’m settled and comfortable, because once I start nursing him, if I try to unlatch him, he gets so angry that it’s kind of hilarious.

I need to start blogging more, but lately, I’m just kind of soaking things up. At some point, there will be more pictures, more video, more to blog about. But I’m just kind of sitting in the middle of this lovely world of mine and enjoying the view for now. And still, trying to figure out how six months have gone by since I became a mom. Crazy…

A fresh box of No. 2 pencils and a diaper full of TMI

I posted a status on Facebook earlier this week that drew quite a bit of attention:

“Next person who chirps at me “he’s teething” or “rice cereal will help him sleep better” is getting a No. 2 pencil in the eye. Even if you’re family. Rice cereal makes him go on a 3-day poop strike and yes, I know he’s teething.”

Rice cereal? Sleep? Lies, all lies!! Not to sound psychotic, hormonal, and sleep-deprived (though I am at least two of those things), but that really is how I’ve felt at several moments in the past week or so. But especially during these past 2-3 days, when Russ has been a poopless, sleepless, inconsolable, crazy, scream machine. This is not the baby I know. And given that growth spurts tend to fall on the “3s and 6s” (Watch, I’ll have QOTSA’s “3s and 7s” stuck in my head all day now), that means it’s about time – and it must’ve been far too long since the last spurt because I’m stumped. So, basically…growth spurt + constipated baby adjusting to some solids + teething = RIP my circadian rhythm. And his, apparently (since he’s decided that naps are for newborns and he’s over that, also…sheesh).

And did I mention that yes, he is teething? Because I just wanted to point that out before anyone told me he was teething. Refer to the Facebook status for further instructions. Yes, he’s teething. In fact, I noticed what looks like a FREAKIN’ MOLAR popping up. He doesn’t have any other teeth, is the molar really going to lead the pack? REALLY? These are all things of concern to me, the fuzzy-haired, droopy-eyed, hormonal, psychotic, worried mom. Yeah, like I said earlier. I’m that lady.

Oh, and this is going to be our fun post for the month. Because this is the one where we talk about my colon. Oh yes, friends…we’re going there. So, check out now if you don’t want to feel like you know me better. Way better. It would appear that Russ has inherited my anal retentive tendencies, and I’m speaking in literal terms here. I’m practically legend in my family for “the grunts,” the maneuver I was routinely doing from birth until at least four years of age. I would get so ridiculously constipated as a little one, my poor mother tried everything. Whereas most normal kids were raised on strawberry Juice Juice, I was raised on a steady diet of castor oil, warm prune juice (the kind with the pulp. yum.), whole wheat, and fervent prayer. Fast forward to Russ Wilhoit, the spitting image of his father in every way except for the sphinctoral kind.

Having started Russ on rice cereal and then sweet potatoes 4-5 weeks ago, we thought he was just taking to it like a duck in water. Seems that may have been a bit premature. I guess we just introduced new foods a little too quickly or something, because something stopped him up. It’s most likely the rice cereal and the bananas, so we’ll be steering clear of that for quite awhile. But I needed Dr. B’s perspective on how to back up (no pun intended) and regroup, and also on how to handle all the other things that are coming together on us right now. Not to mention, Russ has been running a low-grade fever for about 24 hours – and he’s never had a fever before, not once. It was time to just have a pro check things out and instruct us on what to do next.

So today was actually the first time I’ve had to take him to the doctor for anything other than a regularly scheduled well-child appointment. I guess I should be thankful for that (and I am). After what seemed like a ridiculously long wait (an hour) and questions from the office administrative staff about why I was still waiting (to which I replied “Uh…you tell me?”), Dr. B came in to check little man out. She said a few things, some of which surprised, some of which didn’t.

1) Yeah, he’s teething. Just wanted to clear that up for anyone else in my immediate or marital family who wondered. He’s teething. He’s been teething. He’ll continue to be teething. Honestly, I’d rather talk about the process of recovering from a childbirth “push hemorrhoid” at this point. Are we clear on that? So let’s consider the hemorroids, the stitches, the first post-baby poop (mine, not his), and exactly how much my bra size has gone up (and how far the girls have dropped after nearly six months of breastfeeding) to all be more readily accessible topics to broach with me at this point than “Oh, he’s teething!” I got the memo on the teething.

2) The “molar” is not really a molar – at least, Dr. B didn’t think so. She said it could be a little inclusion cyst that has popped up and should go away soon. She also said that the inclusion cyst wouldn’t be what is hurting him, it would be the pain from the front teeth that are starting to move up. So we’re at the beginning of what will probably be a lengthy and sometime trying process, but for now, we’re still at the beginning.

3) We’re ditching the rice cereal and sticking with sweet potatoes and maybe some oatmeal cereal from here on. Then we’ll start gradually and very slowly introducing more veggies and fruits. I’ll probably put off all fruits except for prunes for awhile though, because Russ’s tummy seems a bit sensitive. I know if he’s anything like me (and I think we’ve already confirmed that he does have my “ugly cry face” and my lower intestine, if nothing else), some fruits will really upset his delicate balance.

4) Russ’s sleep schedule may be thrown for a few days with the growth spurt and all the other stuff going on. His naps may be shorter. It will level off eventually, and once we know he’s feeling better, we can try the old cry-it-out approach. He is entering that clingy, I-want-mommy stage where he screams bloody murder if I leave the room for more than 6 seconds and I’m realizing that he’s just going to have to learn – over time, I’m sure – that I am not leaving him and that me being in a different room for two minutes while he’s in his pack n’ play does not equate to abandonment. At least, I hope it doesn’t seem that way to him or he’s gonna have one heckuva therapy bill in his 30s. I really just want my kid to be happy and healthy, at the end of the day.

Well…and for him to not go three days without a poop. Frankly, I think most of the world’s problems could be made significantly better if every one evacuated the ol’ colon at least once a day. Just sayin’.

Holy crap! I’m 27!

Honestly though, I can’t really believe how much my life has changed in the past year. When I turned 26 last year, I was entering my second trimester of pregnancy. I had just started getting maternity clothes (in fact, my parents got my some for my birthday). I was looking forward to the best year of my life yet. Year #26 brought about dramatic transformations of my body, my mind, and – most of all – my heart. As I sit here on this birthday morning, sipping some coffee and watching Russ take a good nap in his bassinet (yes, he still fits in it at almost six months old…small miracle, right?)…there isn’t a thing I could ask for, truthfully. If you had stopped me on my 20th birthday (SEVEN years ago…kinda crazy) and asked me what life I wanted in the future – this is IT. Completely. This is the life I dreamed of and I just can’t believe that I am so incredibly blessed.

God has a funny way of leaving signage on the roads we travel in life. For a few weeks now, we’ve felt like it was our job to just sit back and let him drive, but we knew something big was coming up. Monday, we found out what that was. Jonathan has been working really hard towards bettering his career, and he got a big promotion at work. I am so proud to say that my husband – still 26 years old, at least until June – is now a SENIOR auditor in his department. To give you some perspective on that, the other SA is in his mid-to-late 30s. I am so stinkin’ proud of my husband. He just is an incredibly hard worker, someone who will give you the shirt of his back and who doesn’t mind breaking a sweat and getting some blisters in order to achieve his goals. I’m constantly impressed with him, and apparently I wasn’t the only one. He completely deserves this, but we both had to marvel at the way God brought this all about for us. So that was a nice early birthday “gift,” honestly. It has calmed a lot of questions we had about how we were going to keep our savings up and work towards future goals as a couple and as a family.

As for my “official” birthday stuff, we keep it pretty simple. It’s funny how our birthdays calm down as the years go by. Six years ago when I turned 21, everything has to be “just so.” It was all about me (as it should be at that age, honestly), there was partying to do, and all my pals (and even a few family members) were there to help me with that. We had a great time, but I honestly don’t know how I ever put away quite that much booze. It’s a little scary. But even years before that, there was always a ritual birthday thing that my mom and I did together. From about age 10 or 11 on, mom would let me cut school on my birthday (as long as I was doing okay with my grades) and we’d made an appointment for me to get my hair cut. I LOVED getting my hair done. I’d shop through hair magazines for a cut that I liked and we’d go and have it done and I just felt so grown up. After the hair, we’d go to the mall and go shopping. I usually ended up getting a ton of clothes because my mom and I can really kill a good sale. And as per tradition, after the hair and the shopping, we’d go to Red Lobster and have lunch. Why Red Lobster? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t really go out to eat all that much when I was a kid or the fact that the waiters always brought me extra cherries in my Shirley Temple. Whatever the case, birthdays were always so much fun. Mom and I would have a blast. Occasionally my sister would take off work and come along with us, and those were even better birthdays.

I have always looked at my life and marveled at how charmed it seemed. I mean really…it’s a charmed life. Sure, I’ve gone through “stuff,” the trial and tribulation of certain challenges. But overall, it’s a damn good life. I don’t deserve it all. The best birthday gift I could ever imagine was laying next to me this morning, cuddled up against me after his early morning feeding. I looked at him and thought to myself “Wow…yeah, it won’t get much better than this.” And I love that. In Year #27, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Look at what I’ve accomplished in the last six or seven years:

I graduated from college.
I met and married the greatest guy I’ve ever known.
I moved to a new place and learned that home is not stationary.
I adopted a rescue dog who is the sweetest animal in the world.
I bought my first house and did renovations to it…three times.
I climbed out of the pit known as disordered eating.
I repaired a rock-bottom body image.
I beat exercise addiction.
I realized that I was damaging my marriage in some ways and took action to fix it.
I saw NIN perform three times, including one show where I was front and center, on the rail, and go a wave from Robin Finck. I mean, HELLO?!!
I conceived a healthy baby and had a healthy pregnancy, despite docs’ claims that I wouldn’t be able to. (That was all God, by the way)
I gave birth. Oh my GOD, I gave birth to somebody. That is CRAZY!!
I took a chance on becoming a stay-at-home mom, despite the scary economy.
I learned to have faith.
I learned to accept and even like the person that God made me.
I learned to live.
I found my joy.

Not to toot my own horn here, but I look at that and I’m really excited. If I can accomplish that in just six or seven years, I wonder what I can do in a lifetime. Whatever it is, I hope I can make those who love me proud, and I hope my children will know that it was all for them. I guess that just about says it all.

The latest things

So I’ve really been sucking at keeping my blog updated lately, but I guess you could say I’m just not super motivated to write a lot these days. At first, Russ was changing at a pace that was – while certainly impressive – still enough that I could afford to take time to jot it all down. Now, it seems like he’s just blazing through all the latest developments at such a pace that I can’t even wrap my head around it before he’s gone on to the next thing.

It’s humbling to realize that I don’t matter in this equation. My only purpose is to be the mother that he deserves and to help nurture and teach him and develop him into the amazing little boy (and one day, grown man…whoa) he’s going to become. I’m not saying that I literally don’t matter, but you know what I mean. I hope. I’m of quite minimal importance, and that’s okay with me – actually, I freakin’ LOVE that!

I think a lot of times, people don’t stop to consider and then clarify what statements like that can sound like, especially to those who haven’t experienced parenthood for themselves yet. So I don’t want to leave any gray area here. I used to hear people say stuff like that and I’d think to myself “What the heck are you talking about?! Of COURSE you matter! What a ridiculous statement!” I’m going to hazard a guess that there are some moms out there who mean that statement quite literally – usually the ones who go days without brushing their teeth or hair, who are still wearing their husband’s pajamas five months postpartum (during the daytime…out to lunch…at a Golden Corral), and who think working out is for selfish SOBs who must not love their children if they don’t spend 24 hours a day with them. That’s such crap. I’m sorry, but that really sucks!

The truth of the matter? In order to be a fully involved, efficient, healthy, and happy version of yourself (and yourself as a parent, especially), you can’t completely lose yourself. Lose yourself if you will in how wonderful your child is, how beautiful this time in your life is, how spectacularly selfish your life may have been before you had this kid to depend on you in every way. But you have to maintain some semblance of what makes you who you are and what makes you happy. I mean…ya know, unless your name is Charlie Sheen, you’re a lifelong addict, and what makes you happy is using the word “winning” all the time, poking Playboy bunnies, and doing massive, epic amounts of cocaine. Then…you probably want to consider changing things up a tad.

But in my case, one thing that helps me maintain my sanity in all this new parenthood craziness is hitting the gym a couple times a week or doing some sort of exercise at home. I also am really enjoying cooking and baking. And sometimes, when nothing else will do, putting the baby in the car seat and heading out for an aimless drive through the Dark Corner countryside is something that will almost always quiet my mind and comfort my heart.

But enough about me.

Lately, Russ is just changing so much, so quickly. I look at him, and then at the calendar that is now two days shy of my 27th birthday and 13 days shy of his six-month birthday and…I blink.

I’m just in disbelief. Wasn’t I just 14? Wasn’t I just 20? Where’d it all go? Most of all, isn’t there some way I can go back to September 1st and start this whole amazing thing all over again? But then again, Russ is just now becoming soooooo much fun. I mean, the newborn baby stage is AMAZING and divine and heart-wrenching and perfect and beautiful. It’s all that and a box of Girl Scout Cookies. But now, at five and a half months old, he’s HILARIOUS.

In the mornings, I pull him into bed with me and cuddle him under the comforter and he says “MA-MA-MA-MA-MA-MA” over and over again. And he will scarf down a container of baby food prunes or sweet potatoes with such fervor that it’s almost hilarious – he even “yells” at us if we take too long shoveling them into his open trap. He’s starting to flirt with little baby girls (already…) in the gym daycare nursery. No kidding! I came in to pick him up after my short workout yesterday afternoon, and he was giggling and smiling and jumping around in the exersaucer while staring at a little girl named Naomi (but pronounced “nigh-oh-me,” which I just LOOOOOOVE) who was wearing head-to-toe pink. He’s got such a personality on him, it’s hilarious.

And things are going so well for our little family. In a beyond-crappy economy where we really should be struggling like crazy, we’ve somehow managed to keep it all together and we just feel so blessed. Jonathan’s job is chugging along and he’s doing really well there. He has a great group of people who are not only professionally supportive of him, but who were a huge network of support as we welcomed Russ and got used to life with him. And we’re starting to talk about how we’re going to move forward in our family’s life together, what matters most to us, what doesn’t matter, etc. One thing we’re surprised by is how our house plans have changed over the past two years. This isn’t especially well known info, but I guess it’s fine to put it out there on my own blog…

Two years ago, Jonathan and I were completely rehauling our current house in order to try and sell it. We went on the market a week or two before the real estate market bottomed out and our house never sold, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were going to buy or build this great house – I mean, this really gorgeous, custom, 2800 square foot Craftsman style place. And one day, when our kids are teens, we’ll probably build a “dream house” of some sort. But we’ve completely changed focus. Now, all we’re going to need – and not for another 4 or 5 years at least – is enough square footage and bedrooms to accommodate the 3 (or 4) kids we’re hoping to have. We don’t care if it’s “custom,” or if the flooring is brand new, or if there’s a pool. We just want to be out near Travelers Rest or Greer, raising our kids, with a place that we can improve upon. We’ve dropped our eventual budget for that move by thousands of dollars, and we couldn’t be happier with the move to a simpler way of life.

The goal here is to focus on what’s important. I think Dave Ramsey calls it “deferring pleasure” until you can actually afford it. The less we spend on a house, the more we can save towards our kid’s college fund(s), our retirement, etc. The house and all that will take shape as the time becomes appropriate. But for now, we’re going to continue cramming our family into the house we currently own. It’s a great house. We did all the work on it, and we’re proud of it. It will be a tight squeeze when we have a second child (and all the toys and trappings of small children) in a few years. Then it’ll be time to think about making a move to a bigger place. But we’re going to time all of those decisions with what is right for the kids, and we’re not going to worry so much about how stylish things are, or whether the house is “move-in ready.” Our kids won’t care about that stuff. Why should we?

Anyhow, that’s my attempt at forming some coherent thoughts for the day. I’d say it’s completely possible that I might log back in after a few hours and continue rambling. I’m just not that put together right now. My mind is mulling some stuff that I had posted about recently, but then decided to take that post down. Because it’s still not quite figured out just yet. But we’re happy and doing well, and that’s all I can ask for. Well, actually, with my birthday coming up Friday, it’s not. I’d also like a new nursing bra and a pedicure.

Such a far cry from the birthdays of my early 20s…:-)