Our Day Trip to Asheville

We took a little trip to Asheville to see the leaves. We have been to Hendersonville so many times already, we thought we’d change it up. Just for future reference, Asheville is not the place to go to entertain a baby for an afternoon. Well, that is, unless you don’t mind chasing her throughout the streets, trying to make sure she doesn’t get hit. Or, chasing her in hippy stores, keeping her away from crystals and peace flags. I sometimes think it could just be my child that is wild and unruly, but at this point, I’m going to pretend like that’s everyone.

Here are some photos from the day.

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I wish I had gotten some better photos of the girls, but they didn’t turn out. Boo.

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October Fun

I just wanted to post some photos from a recent outing with Ellie. It’s still warm here in Greenville, SC so she had on a cute short sleeve dress that was given to us second hand. We’ve already done several Halloween things, Boo in the Zoo, Enchanted Tracks, a Halloween party in the park, Boo Bash and Spooktacular Stories at the Library, and we’ve got more to do. Whew! Who knew that fall would bring so many fun family things to do. Greenville is an amazing place to raise kids, I never knew. I always wanted to live in a bigger city so I could find something to do, but now that I’ve got a child, there’s plenty. Actually, there is a ton more stuff once she turns 2, so who knows what the calendar will look like in 2015 🙂

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I’m still trying to understand aperture/ISO/shutter speed and which to manipulate when. I’m also learning about focus and where what should be centered, blah blah. There’s so much to learn, but it’s been really fun and something I can do while we go for a walk or play in the backyard. Plus, I enjoy my subject 🙂

Through the Eyes of a Child

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If only I could humble myself to view life through the eyes of a child. Everything is a new experience, nothing tainted by the wreckage of the past. Each person, a new friend. Each experience filled with a bit of fear but mainly, uninhibited joy. I hope as I go forward, I can let go of my need to know it all and live life as though it’s all new.

Being a Mom in the age of the Internet

I consider myself to be “above average” smart. I’m not blowing down the doors of the elite, but I can pick up information and comprehend it fairly easily. I like to read, and I like to learn. Those seem like beneficial qualities… that is, until you have a baby. The minute I found out I was pregnant, I was on the hunt for all of the information in the world so I would be the perfect parent. I would read it in a book, on a blog, or even better, on the internet, implement it, then the results would be perfect. Parenting is easy. Bam… done. No. No. No.

Let’s rewind and find out what exactly brought me to this topic this week. I just want to preface this by saying I am not open for discussion or debate on this topic. I don’t really want to hear what you think about it either as this will then lead me back to the previous paragraph. Thanks in advance.

It’s that time of year again and one has to decide whether or not to get the flu shot. Vaccines are a hot topic in the mom world, and a topic that will send even the most normal moms into a dogmatic rant about why or why not. I read the Vaccine Book by Dr Sears which was fairly moderate on the topic. I love moderate. Somewhere in the middle, that’s pretty much always where the answer lies. But I digress – back to my point which is that I read that book and decided vaccines are for me. So when Ellie’s pediatrician told me that she was old enough to get the flu shot last year, I hesitated a bit but decided that she was right and went with it. Fast forward to an article I read this year regarding the flu shot. It was fine, but reading the comments is what sent me into a tailspin. Some ladies were talking about this neurological disorder that people get from the shot. Ellie didn’t react to the one last year, so I thought it’d be fine but then I saw something about h1n1. They said this part of the vaccine was new, it was the part that caused the neurological disorder and insert paralyzing fear. If I don’t get the flu shot, my child is going to get the flu and die because I was irresponsible and a crazy anti-vaxxer. If she does get the flu shot, she’s going to get a life long neurological disorder that will forever plague me as a mother who blindly trusted a pharmaceutical conspiracy that has overtaken the medical industry. You can se that both are extremes, but that’s how people speak on the internet. I was so scared to make the decision, I had to talk to a couple of people about it.

There are so many other examples of this throughout parenthood. Tv can cause delayed learning in children, so burn your tvs!!! Your child is going to suffocate if she sleeps with you, oh but if you put her alone in a room, she might stop breathing and you won’t know, the rock n play can suffocate your child, cry it out, don’t cry it out aaaauuuuhhghghhghghghg. Each article, each bit of research breeds on your fear that you’re destined to ruin your child’s life by one stupid mistake you made when she was 6 months old. IT’S. OVER. WHELMING.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution. The most challenging thing for me as a new parent has been weeding through the information and finding out what’s true for me. I finally just had to decide that I’m only going to listen to a couple of people – my pediatrician, a couple of other mom friends, and Dr Sears (he writes a lot of baby books). Those seemed to be my best resources and then lastly, I had to learn to listen to my gut. After consulting with those people, listening to my gut, I finally decided to get her the flu shot, get myself the flu shot and then said a prayer that we don’t get GB syndrome. Every time I’m forced to make a decision, I just go with what I think and ask God for help. It’s the only way through.

You know, I don’t know if having all of this information is good or bad. I’ve learned a lot of things through reading that have really helped me in parenting. If it weren’t for Dr Sears baby book and the Wonder Weeks, I don’t know if I could’ve made it through some of the stuff. Many of the blogs I follow have a very supportive community and I’ve even emailed a write for one of the blogs several times. She’s always been responsive and very helpful. So in that sense, it’s been awesome. On the other hand, could I have come to some decisions on my own without those resources? I don’t know. But if you’re a new mom out there, the decision making gets easier I think. And I’ve heard by baby number 2, you care less haha. So we’ll see.

Finding Balance – Part 2

The easiest way for me to define finding balance in my life is the concession I make between being perfect and accepting that I’m not. I am a passionate person who wants to excel at everything I do (good quality to have), but because I am human, cannot do so. If I accept that I always give it my best shot, then that should be an excellent quality to have but because I tend to beat myself up for not achieving that ideal, it becomes a detriment. I become critical of myself and I become paralyzed with fear of trying to do something, anything. I can’t make a decision because I don’t trust that the decision I make will be the correct one. Hence, I am 34 still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I consider myself a jack of all trades, master of none because I start a new hobby, get super excited about it, put my all into it, then quit. My husband makes fun of me and says that I get into something new every 2 years. I used to get super offended by that, but he’s so right. Stupid husband.

So, what’s the solution? For me, it’s been accepting myself exactly as I am in this very moment. It’s accepting my flaws but also recognizing my strengths. It’s always trying to do the best I can and understanding that the best I can sometimes isn’t very good. What if I always gave myself a pat on the back for the effort I’ve given, even if the effort was subpar? My husband makes fun of me (in a different way this time) because I love reality TV. Yes, it’s junk BUT I really do gather some insight from watching it. Heather Dubrow from The Real Housewives of the OC said something so profound one day, I know, I know, but she said “Being a good friend means accepting me for who I am, all of me, including my faults and idiosyncrasies”. I thought to myself, yes, that is really true. That’s how I should treat my friends and that’s also how I should treat myself. As I learn to accept myself, I can then begin to accept others. My challenge each morning is to go into the world with a gentle heart and give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt. That includes idiots that cut me off and almost clip the front end of my car on 385. Father Pat always talks about from, through and to with regards to God’s grace. He says that we are given grace from God, we process that grace and then we are to give that same grace to others, no matter what they’ve done and no matter if they have remorse. Wow, what a challenge.

There is another side to that though, and that is knowing when it’s time to say something. Just by giving someone the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean that I can never speak up for myself. I actually believe the opposite is true. If my friend/spouse knows that I love him/her unconditionally, then I have the freedom to tell him/her that I’ve been hurt by his/her actions. What I mean is, when that person knows that I’m never going to chastise him/her, that my words are coming from a loving place, then he/she can listen, without fear, to my feelings and not feel threatened. That’s what i love about my husband. I know that I can tell him how I’m feeling and he will accept and listen to me. We may argue about it, but we both love each other and want to do what we can to have a positive, healthy relationship. The world is so quick to 1) judge and 2) condemn so I think people feel like making a mistake is the end of the world. I feel like we’re a couple of steps away from having public hangings again. That sounds negative, but to watch the media and how quickly it can take a person and vilify that person in a matter of 24 hours is scary to me. One must pay the consequences for one’s actions, but the media/social media can be a catalyst for such negative emotion. What if we just stopped participating in it? I wonder how it would all change? Could we give ourselves a break just a little bit more?

Because finding the balance in the gray area of life can be overwhelming sometimes, I have a couple of simple thoughts I use on a daily basis.

  1. In my defenselessness, my safety lies. I am a perfect child of God and though I have flaws, I am exactly who I am and where I am supposed to be. I don’t have to defend that to anyone. I also have nothing to fear.
  2. In this very moment, I don’t have to worry. Whatever it is that in on my mind is in the future, so I can wait until that moment arrives to worry. Otherwise, in this very moment, I have control of my situation and I at least have the hope of getting control over it
  3. The answer is to respond with love. If I don’t know what to do, how would love respond?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Baby Products – What Did I Really Need?

The baby industry is booming and it’s amazing all of the stuff that you can buy for your little one. I feel like it’s mainly targeted to new moms because in reality, by the time you’re ready for the second one, you know what you really need and it’s not much. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while because so many of my friends are having babies, so here is a list of the stuff I did and didn’t need.

What came in handy

1. Diapers – duh. That should be the first thing. I kind of screwed myself because I planned on doing cloth diapers and that didn’t happen, so what I wish I would’ve done was have a diaper baby shower. It may sound stupid to a new mom, but diapers are expensive, getting to the store is tough, and it’s nice to have a supply of all sizes of diapers. Newborn diapers are kind of useless unless you have a really tiny baby, but having lots of size 1 and size 2 diapers are great. Ellie went through approximately 90 diapers a week. Yes. Yes, she did. If you’re going to do cloth diapers, great, just have a lot because babies pee and poop a lot and they do NOT… well, let me back up and say Ellie peed and pooped a LOT and she did NOT like having a dirty diaper. So stock up on whatever you can pre-baby.

2. A group of friends to make you dinner. Even though I wanted to hide because I was 1) afraid Ellie would get sick and 2) I was breastfeeding all of the time and worried about people seeing me, food was nice because I was not able to cook myself. My mom stayed a week and cooked a lot which was awesome, but having people bring you food for the first couple of weeks is super important. Don’t be afraid to ask if no one offers! But people will. On a side note, you may be tempted to cook/clean while the baby is sleeping. DO NOT DO THAT. I REPEAT, DO NOT DO THAT. Sleep when the baby is sleeping. Seriously, you need it.

3. Boppy or Nursing Pillow – I held Ellie a whole whole lot, but it was nice to have a little prop for her to sit on too. She loved her boppy and we used it up until she was able to sit on her own.

Here's Ellie in her boppy as a newborn

Here’s Ellie in her boppy as a newborn

I also had a Rock n play which I really liked as well. I used both a bunch but I can’t say whether I would recommend buying both. I was given both of these and utilized them greatly. Would I go back and buy both if I had to, I’m not sure. I’d probably just stick with one. And if I’m just sticking with one, I’d pick the boppy 🙂

p.s. I didn’t use my nursing pillow as much because I had an overactive supply and had to lay on back to breastfeed. I ended up using a regular pillow a lot.

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4. A Wipes Warmer! This would be on some people’s no list, so it depends on your baby. I had one, took it back before she was born, then went back and got it because Ellie would cry every time I wiped her bottom and I figured out it was because she was cold. She didn’t like the cold wipes on her fanny. Once we used the warm ones, she didn’t cry anymore. well, at least about getting her bottom wiped.

5. Muslin blankets – Ellie is hot natured and sweats a lot so even in the winter, she used to muslin blankets a lot. They’re also easier to swaddle even though Ellie did NOT like to be swaddled. I personally like Swaddle Designs and Aden & Anais. I didn’t use these to swaddle as much as just lay them on her in her boppy and in her car seat.

6. Car Seat – another duh. The infant carseats are nice because you can take the seat out of the base and carry the baby, although it sucks to buy two carseats. If you’re trying to save money, they have lots of convertible car seats that start at 5 lbs all the way up to 45 lbs. If you do that, you will have to get the baby in and out a lot, which is annoying. Personally, we bought the Chicco series, they Keyfit 30 and the Nexfit. I really liked both of them and will recommend those, especially for small cars. (I have a prius). I would also recommend following The Car Seat Lady and Car Seat of Littles on facebook. They both have videos, tutorials and great info on installing carseats, what’s best for you, etc. If you message them, they will respond in a timely manner. It’s awesome.

7. A GREAT WRAP – I put that in all caps because my wraps, yes I had multiples, came in handy. I was lucky to be given several and I used ALL OF THEM. I had the Moby wrap, the Maya wrap, and an Ergocarrier.

  • The Moby wrap was awesome for Ellie all the way up to probably 6-7 months. I carried her in it a lot and there was actually a time when the only way I could get her to sleep was to wrap her in the Moby and walk her around. It was great and I would recommend for 6 months and under. Some people use it longer, but there came a point where Ellie flat out rejected being in it. Every baby is different and you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. There are other brands that are similar and they may be great, I have heard good things. I really liked my Moby
  • The Maya wrap was great for a side carry and what I liked most about it was how easy it was to get her in a out. If I wasn’t trying to get her to sleep, if we were downtown or walking around, or if I were cooking, something like that, I would put her in it. She could see, I could see, I had free hands and again, it was the easiest to get her in and out. I used this from probably 4 months – 10 months. I know people use it when they’re smaller but I really only liked it for side carry. You can get any ring sling, this is the one I was given and I really liked it.
  • The ergo has been great from 6 months on. I use it for hiking and later for getting her to go to sleep, when the moby just wasn’t working. I still use it now for hiking, although now that she can walk, she isn’t much of a hiker. I know others have Kelty’s and other brands that keep the baby off of the back but Ellie isn’t interested in that AT ALL. So the Ergo it is. I like it, I don’t love it. If I could possibly try a Tula or a Lillebaby, I’d love to do that, but since I bought the Ergo, that’s what I would stick with. I wish I had a more summer friendly one as well, but since Ellie wants to walk now, I’m not going to buy anything else.

If I could only buy one, I’d go with the Ergo and get the infant insert. If you think you’re going to wear your baby a lot, I would invest in at least 2. I’d do the moby and the ergo or a wrap and a soft structure carrier. Every baby is different, so you may want to wait and see what you like. Ellie doesn’t like to be in a stroller so I wear her almost all of the time. Now that she’s a year, I really just carry her or she walks, but I’ve worn her most of her life. Also, it took her a minute to get used to being worn, so you may have to introduce it slowly.

8. Lastly, I recommend the Baby Book by Dr Sears. I have read a lot of baby books and this one was the best by far.

What I didn’t use

1. My jogging stroller – very sad. It was expensive so it REALLY sucks but 1) I kept getting mastitis every time I ran so my body was telling me to take it easy and 2) Ellie didn’t like being in the stroller. I tried a bunch but it became more of a hassle. I’m going to try again with the next one, and maybe that baby will like it better, but she just never got used to it. Your baby could like it and it will come in handy, but for us, I could’ve saved that $350.

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p.s. I have friends who loved theirs, so it is a case by case thing

2. A swing – I was lucky that my sister in law let me use hers because we only really used it for a couple of months. If I had spent a lot of money on one, I would’ve been upset. The real reason is that Ellie grew out of it really quickly. She was at the weight limit at 5 months. It did help her sleep sometimes, but really, it wasn’t a necessity. Maybe if I had spent more time with her in the jogging stroller, haha.

3. A crib – this one is controversial and you just have to do what’s good for you and your baby. But for me, I could not sleep with her in another room. So she sleeps in our room. Still, and I don’t foresee that changing. There’s a lot of drama and controversy around it, so again, do what works for you. Here are some different resources for you in case you had the same challenge as me

http://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/

https://www.isisonline.org.uk/

http://evolutionaryparenting.com/tag/co-sleeping/

4. A pack and play – I just didn’t use it. Really ever. My sister in law gave me one, thank goodness, because Ellie never went in it.

I’m sounding like a broken record here, but every baby is different. My child likes to be held. She isn’t one to lay quietly in a stroller,on the ground, anywhere. So, these are what have been handy for me. There’s other stuff that I used like a high chair, stuff like that, but these are what came to mind while writing. I hope it’s been helpful for you!

Settling In

I’ve been fairly busy over the past couple of months as is the case when one as an infant. We’ve done a lot of things like travel to VA for a wedding, visit the library and pool, get a couple of colds (first time she’s been sick), and finally start walking. My plan, as I always state in the beginning of every blog post, was to write at least 2 posts a week, but it just hasn’t happened. I re-start my plan and we’ll see where it takes me.

 

She's bigger than this now, but I'm too lazy to upload the photos from my camera

She’s bigger than this now, but I’m too lazy to upload the photos from my camera

 

We’re officially past the 3 month mark of me quitting my job, but in reality, I was so afraid of completing letting go, I tried, unsuccessfully, to do a couple of things on the side. Once I realized I was going to have to make a choice, I was forced to completely trust in the Universe and my own intuition. I’ve felt called to stay at home with Ellie most of her existence on this earth, but following one’s heart versus listening to one’s head is a scary thing. I’ve always had a side that is very logical, very black and white, very mathematical. I think that’s something that’s helped me be successful in life so I’m very grateful for it. But as every character asset can become a defect when out of balance, my logical side can hold me back from breaking out of my comfort zone. The interesting thing is that when I was drinking heavily, I put myself in scary situations all of the time. I was out there, living on a prayer, so to speak. I had no security, didn’t know what was going to happen from day to day, and didn’t even really have any fear about it. I created so much chaos for myself that it seems as though once getting sober, I made it a point to never live that way again. The last fourteen years have been about creating a safe, secure place for myself, clear of anything that could cause me instability. The fear of not knowing what was going to happen next has been squelched. In a way, that is good, but this year is about finding balance.

 

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Now, I am here, finally settling in to this whole motherhood thing and the interesting thought I’ve had so far is that even though it’s what I feel like I should be doing, it’s hard. It’s really hard. I know that I’ve written about it before, but I will continue to say that it’s hard. And for a while, I kind of felt like I was failing at it, that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a mom, because it feels super uncomfortable a lot of the time. What I mean by uncomfortable is that she’s fussy a lot, she wants me to hold her a lot, she doesn’t understand that mommy needs to go to the bathroom, she doesn’t understand that I need to make a phone call. I have to be “on” all of the time, and I think that I’m just, kind of a selfish person that can’t be selfish anymore. When she’s happy, it’s the best thing ever, but most of the time, she’s teething, going through a wonder week, going through a growth spurt, has a cold, etc. I think the real problem lies in the fact that I am afraid to ask for help. I HATE asking for help. I was brought up to be self sufficient, and that I am, but while I understand that are women out there in the world that are single mothers and have to do it, I don’t. So ask for help. I’ve realized that I REALLY need some self care and even though I’ve started attending meetings regularly again, I need more. So I talked to my husband about this and said, I need at least 20-30 minutes of yoga a day. Can we make a deal that I can have that? He, of course, said yes. There will be times though, that only one of us can work out, and I need to say, my turn. I need to stand up for what I need because if not, I won’t be able to give Ellie the love, understanding, empathy that she needs from me.

 

Fun at the Matt house

Fun at the Matt house

 

The last thing I’ll say in this rambling post is that I’ve realized the other issue I have right now is that I’m scared of big emotions. And Ellie has some BIG emotions. Actually, I have some BIG emotions. When Ellie has her BIG emotions, my BIG emotions come up. I guess I’ve been really good at managing my life in a way that I don’t have to feel tired, angry, depressed, whatever. After having a baby, I have to deal with tired (a lot), worried, fearful, angry, hungry, depleted, etc. When Ellie sleeps really well, I sometimes check to make sure she’s breathing. I mean, having that underlying fear can take a toll on one’s psyche.

 

The neat thing about all of this is that I know I’m growing as a person, and that God has big plans for me (as He does for everyone). He gave me a baby that challenges my weaknesses and forces me to depend on Him for strength. Every character flaw I have is being challenged with this little baby, and as much as I am supposed to teach her about life, she is teaching me as well. I hope that my message doesn’t sound like I dislike what I’m doing because I definitely do not. I love being a mother and I think when I grow the most is when I’m challenged without the possibility of escape. And so I’m grateful to have this opportunity to look inside of myself, and continue to heal old wounds so that I can a shining light in someone else’s life.