Daughter, Wife, Mother... this is what I do

Thursday, August 18, 2011

4 Whole Months

One year ago around this time, on our lunch break from meetings and classroom prep, Mandie and I were riding in the car and she said to me, "Next year around this time you will have a 4 month old! Oh my goodness!" I sat wide-eyed and said, "Yup." I had just told her that I was pregnant and I was definitely still in shock myself.

Well, miss Elle-Belle, today you are 4 months old. And I still feel like I'm sitting wide-eyed saying, "yup" to myself.

Month One

Your first month with us was so sweet. It was full of learning how to bathe you, struggling with breastfeeding, figuring out what to do about diaper rash, and snuggling you.

Thinking back to you in that first month, you were so teeny tiny. You slept best when you were next to me or your daddy. I spent lots of time on our cream couch with you. Mostly because I just couldn't pull myself away from you and partly because I was too exhausted to do anything else.

You also smiled at about 4 weeks. That was probably my favorite part of this month. I don't think anyone really believed me so it was our little secret for a while.

I learned a lot about my need for community and the worth that I get from achieving tangible things and not Jesus.

Month Two

This month was filled with lots of transition. You transitioned to staying awake a lot more, you finally transitioned to sleeping in your bassinet, and then transitioned to sleeping in your very own room when we moved to our new house. [A house that I'm sure I'll never want to leave simply because it will hold so many memories of you doing new things in it.]

One glorious, glorious morning I woke up to the sunshine in a panic because I was so used to waking up to your cries in the dark. Much to my surprise, you had slept for 6 long, luxurious hours. Thanks for letting me feel like a brand new woman. :) From that day on you mostly slept 6-8 hours straight at night. You spoiled me.

You let others in our little secret and started smiling in public, except you were still very selective. Most of the time you looked like you were sizing everyone up.

Your daddy and I spent a large amount of our time with you trying to get you to smile :) Your daddy is still pretty good at it, and I imagine it will be that way for some time.

Month Three

This might be most favorite month of all with you. There were so many firsts! You rolled over, you found your feet, you belly laughed. Someone said somewhere, that baby belly laughs should be bottled and sold. I fully agree. I still tear up when I hear that sweet little laugh. You had your first plane ride (you did great!), first cross country road trip (it would have been exhausting no matter how great you did), first boat ride (you weren't a fan of the constricting life jacket and 100 degree temperature combination), first beach trip. It was jam packed with lots of adventure. I learned that taking you with us on all these trips is not entirely restful, but I couldn't imagine being anywhere without you for that long.

You began sitting in your exersaucer and I watched with my own eyes as you learned that you could make things happen. You learned how to spin the clicking wheel with your chubby little hand and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. When I plop you in it now, you're a wheel spinning pro.

I'm learning that I probably will miss teaching this year, but I wouldn't trade getting to spend my days with you for the perfect job in the perfect school with the perfect coworkers and students. Never.

Three months have come and gone and we love you more than the day we met you. We love watching your little personality develop. You are joyful, easy to please, people-loving. I can't wait for what this new month holds. I love looking forward to so many new things.

I am realizing that you grow up much too fast for my liking. So I'm learning to do my best to enjoy each sweet little moment.

I'm so thankful that God picked me to be your mama and to shepherd your tiny heart. Praying that He is glorified in our family as we struggle to figure all of this out. Happy 4 months, my sweet little Love Bucket.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Mama Post] Babies and Sleep

I'm not writing this post because I've got Elle's sleep figured out, nor am I writing it because I've exhausted my research on the topic. I just want to open a dialogue on sleep and offer up my experience, anxiety and conclusions as of late.

For the first 8-10 weeks of Elle's sweet little life, she would sleep anywhere. I never really worried about naps, because she slept whenever she was tired. And she would sleep anywhere I went. At this point she was sleeping 6-8 hours a night on her own. I didn't have to do anything to help her do this. It was marvelous. I'm sure I didn't appreciate what a magical time that was for me.

Well, as Elle is becoming a thriving 4 month old, she's much more alert, awake more often, sees all kinds of things and has a really hard time napping. She also has been going through her 4 month growth spurt (I think) so she wakes up a couple of times a night to eat. (However, there was one night this week she slept for 9 hours straight, so I think we're maybe climbing our way out of that one.) All this to say, I began thinking about Elle's sleep habits and thought maybe it's time to start some research on sleep training and what that might look like for our family. Now, as I said, I still have not exhausted my research on the subject, but I've read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth and have been talking to friends and thinking lots about my sweet girl's sleeping habits and how I can help her learn to be a better sleeper.

I don't know if I've shared this before, but when I do lots of research on baby-raising, I tend to get really anxious, "Oh gosh! I don't do this! I've ruined my child!" or "Oh gosh! My kid isn't like this. What's wrong with her?!?!" or "Dr. So-and-So says this. I CANNOT deviate!"

This dialogue goes on internally most of the time. On the outside, I try to project myself laid back and cool-as-a-cucumber. Ha! Maybe I don't fool some of you. Hopefully I don't.

Here are some things that are currently happening in our lives as far as sleep is concerned. Then I'll get into what I hope to change.

- I almost always nurse and/or rock Elle to sleep. I think Dr. Weissbluth calls this "Parent aided sleep." What I really like about this book is that it never says that this is a bad method. I've read some other books (maybe Babywise? I can't really remember) that say that this is NOT a good idea. Subsequently, I had this notion that nursing my sweet girl to sleep was bad. "Bad, mama!" But it was easiest and convenient for both of us. Her feeding times seemed to come right before bed time and nap time. So we went with it. But I just felt so guilty. Because I thought it was wrong. Because I thought I was messing up my child or creating some kind of unhealthy sleep association. False. I've since decided that I totally don't mind nursing her to sleep. I actually really love it. It works for us. My issue here is that she'll sleep in my arms like a champ. But when it comes to nap times, she has a tough time sleeping after I put her down. I'll get into this more in a minute.

-She has fallen into an almost regular nap schedule. She will get sleepy around 9:45am. If I wait until 10:15 to start soothing her to sleep, it's too late and she's a crazy lady. I did learn from Dr. Weissbluth that an infant who is overtired is much MUCH harder to get to sleep than an infant who is just entering the sleepy zone. I've learned Elle's tired signals and do my very best to get that girl lightly swaddled and calmed down really quickly. And honestly, it works most of the time. She goes right to sleep and often when I catch her at the right moment, she's much easier to put down after she falls asleep. Her morning nap ranges anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Yesterday her morning nap was 2 hours. Then she gets tired again around 12-1 depending on how long she slept during her morning nap. Here's where I didn't love Dr. Weissbluth. He expressly states that any nap under 45 minutes is not a viable nap and not restorative for her. So, when she would wake up after 20 minutes of napping, I felt like I HAD to get her back down. I would try, she would flip out because she was not wanting to sleep at all. Stress. What I realized is this: if she's not cranky after her 20 minute nap, that's all she needed. I'll keep an eye out for her tired signals and put her down if I can later, even if it's not at her regular nap times.

-I've started keeping a nap log. Similar to the diaper and feeding log they make you keep on your baby the first couple weeks of her life. But I just log when she sleeps and how long and what comes before and after the nap/sleep. This has just helped me figure out her sleep patterns and how much she's getting. More for my peace of mind than anything. And if she has a particularly rough day, I can look at how much sleep she got and see if it had anything to do with that. This makes me sound more anal than I am. It's not that big of a deal. I just opened a sticky note on my desktop and just write it in when I think about it. I started doing this to put myself at ease about her sleep habits. Another thing I didn't love about Dr. Weissbluth's book was that they really lay it on thick at the beginning of the book about what can happen if your kid doesn't get enough sleep. (ADHD, Learning Disorders, all hell will break loose, etc.) So I was freaking out a little. The nap log reassured me that she was fine. Also, trusting that God, who created her, is in control of her sleep and whatever happens as a result.

What I want to change:

-I really would like Elle to be able to fall asleep on her own. It would make having sitters and being at other people's houses around bed time/nap time alot easier. So we're going to work on that. Not sure what works best as far as this is concerned. Do I need to give up nursing/rocking her to sleep cold turkey and never do it again? Can I do a combo of both? Thoughts?

-Sleeping longer hours at night. Really this is more for my comfort than anything. Lately, things have been crazy at night. Like first 3 weeks crazy, so maybe I'm being overly ambitious because I'm so ready for a normal night of sleep again. But I feel like 10 hours on average is a reasonable goal for her. The best we've gotten in the past month is 9. And that was 2 nights ago. and the only time she slept through the night at all in the past month.

So I'm currently researching different sleep training methods, understanding that I'm mostly ok with my daughters' current sleep habits. She does pretty good and so do we. Again, just wanted to share my experience as a very unexperienced mother who's just figuring it out as we go (sort of.) Feel free to leave thoughts, comments, suggestions, what have you.

Happy Sleeping!

Post-thought: Little Love Bucket took a TWO HOUR afternoon nap. And her morning nap was ONE HOUR! WAHOO! This mama's happy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


So, this morning... I set myself up to spend some good time reading my bible. Elle had just fallen into a sweet angelic sleep, I had a (very large) cup of coffee beside me. (To make up for the sleep that was stolen right out from under me by my little Lovey. More on that later...) My brand new, shiny journal, Sharpie pen, and bible were at the ready. Good start to my morning...


Sweet angelic noises started coming from the swing where Elle was napping. She wasn't crying. Just not sleeping. So i let her play there for a while until the sweet noises turned to fussing. And then the fussing to crying. So I gave up and grabbed her for some cuddle time.

Then we did this:

If you don't feel like watching it, that's ok. I'm not offended in the slightest. I'll just tell you about it.

Elle and I read The Jesus Story Book Bible. This is not your everyday "Bible Stories For Kids" book. It's beautiful and wonderful and more often than not brings me to tears reminding me of the character of God. The whole purpose of the book is to retell these Bible stories in a way that explicitly lays out Jesus, God's Son, as the crux of the whole book. "Every story whispers his name." It's beautiful.

*Also, if you didn't watch the video, you missed out on Elle giggling while I read the story. Pretty funny to me, but I'm a bit biased I suppose.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this blogpost. As I sat there, reading to my 3 month old, God was so sweet and faithful to encourage me as His daughter. Here's what I read:

"So God breathed life into Adam and Eve. When they opened their eyes, the first thing they ever saw was God's face.

And when God saw them he was like a new dad. "You look like me," he said. "You're the most beautiful thing I've ever made!"

God loved them with all of his heart. And they were lovely because he loved them."

Along with being a new parent and wrapping my head around that "You're the most beautiful thing I've ever made!" sentiment (except my comprehension of this is but a brush stroke to God's masterpiece work of Love)... I was reminded that I, too am lovely because He loves me.

Often, subconsciously I think, I believe the lie that God is frustrated or exasperated with my stupidity, lack of discipline, cowardice, etc. (I really could go on and on with a list of words describing why God should be exasperated with me.) But the good news is that even though I am all of those words and probably to a far greater degree than I care to admit to myself, I am lovely. I am lovely to Him because Jesus was lovely to Him. He didn't leave me to fend for myself and try to earn my way back to Him. I often believe "God doesn't love me" as evidenced by my lack of trust, faithfulness, lust after fleeting gratification... but He does and sent His Son to show just how much He does, in fact, love me. He moved heaven and hell so that I could know his "Never stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."

This is news that I need to be reminded of every single hour of my life. It is good news. and it is for me. and for you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vacation and Kale Chips

So, you know how everyone always says "I need a vacation after my vacation!" Well... I really do. Taking a 3-month-old on a cross country road trip to Missouri and then immediately flying to a beautiful beach in Mexico is quite the feat. I'm proud to say that we all survived, but we're a little wiser than we were when we left. I won't say that we'll NEVER go on vacation again with an infant, but we will think a little bit harder about when and where we vacation next time.

All that to say... yes, it was not quite as relaxing as the vacation I used to know and love, but it was wonderful and fun all the same. Here are a few highlights:

Lake Ozark, Missouri
-Hanging with some of our favorite people in the universe.
-Sunset boat rides.
-Watching the finale of "Friday Night Lights" with previously mentioned favorite people in the universe.
-Cooking lots of yummy, clean, meals.
-Cheating a little bit on our Eat Clean diet. :)
-Dock swimming.

It was beautiful. See?

Playa del Carmen, Mexico
-Beautiful beaches. White sand and blue, blue water. Perfection. You can see this perfection behind my sweet squinchy-faced love bucket. Taking pictures of beautiful beaches takes a backseat to her. I honestly forgot to take one. But you get the picture.

-Definitely cheating on our diet. The food was too yummy.
-Delish mojitos any time.
-Gia (Elle's grandma- my MIL) hung out with her many times so that I could take a nap, workout, get a massage or lay by the beach. All of which I did and enjoyed thoroughly and did NOT take for granted.
-Surprisingly delicious Japanese food! Who knew?
-Hanging with Kailey, Alexis and Steve all week. Such a fun fam.
-Connecting with my sweet hubby. Love that man.
-Immediately getting hooked into The Girl who Played with Fire. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a few months ago and had mixed feelings about it. After reading the 2nd in the series, all my qualms with the first were laid to rest. Everything that annoyed me about the first book was totally necessary to make The Girl who Played with Fire as awesome as it was. I can't wait for the movies!! (The American ones. I can't handle the subtitles in the Swedish version.)
-Laughing with my sweet baby girl. She's hilarious and so much fun right now. See?

Confession: This picture is from the lake the week before. But, how could I NOT put this face in the blogpost. She's the cutest.

That was the best (and the worst) from our vacation extravaganza with a 3-month-old in tow.

Now for the good part... as some of you may know, Tyler and I have embarked on the Eat Clean Diet. Think: Less of a fad diet, more of a lifestyle change. Nothing processed. Not much dairy. Lots of whole grains, fiber and lean proteins. It's been pretty great. I actually really love eating this way.

The two things I miss the most? 1. Milk from a cow. More specifically the cereal that I put in my cow's milk. There are two very sad boxes in our pantry of Kashi Honey Sunshine that are just begging to be eaten. But it's just not the same with Almond milk. 2.Chic-Fil-A. I may or may not have driven by there today to maybe get one little waffle fry and one little chicken nugget and may or may not have found out that they give away small waffle fries on Fridays from 2-4pm. I also may or may not partake in these free fries. They are also giving away free breakfast the last week in August.

But, hey... this is a lifestyle change. Caving every now and then is part of a lifestyle. I'll go crazy and binge on things like oreos and rocky road if I don't.

Back to my original thought. Kale Chips. Kale is packed with all kinds of nutritional goodness. Wikipedia calls it "the most nutritional vegetable in the world." However, if you've ever tried to put Kale in a salad... it's just not that palatable. Fear not friends. Here's a great way to eat Kale and satisfy your chip craving all in one. I've been making these weekly since I found out about them.

Kale Chips

1 bunch Kale
2 tbls Olive Oil
Seasoning Salt to taste
Red Pepper Flakes (if you like a little kick)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Trim the stems off the Kale leaves and tear or cut the leaves into even-ish bites.
3. Use your hands to mix in the Olive Oil, Salt and Red Pepper Flakes (if using)
4. Spread seasoned Kale onto a foil covered cookie sheet in one single layer.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges of the leaves start to brown.

Now, pop one of these bad boys in your mouth and soak in the nutrients. Enjoy :)