A Letter to My Six-Month Old

6 month

Dearest Ainsley,

Wow, sweet girl, you are six months old! How did that happen?? Happy Birthday Miss A!

Your dad and I didn’t think we would make it to six months when you were first born. You were a precious little pumpkin but we were sleepy and to be honest, we weren’t sure what to do with you! As time has gone on, we’ve gotten to know each other better and fallen head over heels in love.

The love of a parent for a child is one that is hard to explain. There aren’t many – or perhaps ANY – words in the English language to adequately describe it. It’s so strong and so deep and it’s not something I could ever fully comprehend until I was suddenly in the midst of it. I had always heard that this kind of love is the closest thing we’ll ever feel to the love God feels for His children, only His is even greater, if you can believe that! What an incredible God we get the pleasure of knowing and serving.

You sure have come a long way in six months, my dear. Although you will not remember these early days we shared together, they will forever be imprinted in my mind. Here’s a brief picture of your life so far…

You were a bitty little thing when you were first born. You were swimming in your newborn onesies. Now you wear anything from 3-6 month clothes all the way up to 12 months depending on the brand. You are a very good eater and growing so much!

We are beginning to see glimpses of your personality now. So far, you are a bit timid in new situations but once you start to feel comfortable you are a chatterbox! You have really discovered those lungs recently and I get nervous sometimes during the day that our neighbors are going to think I am torturing you due to all the screaming. I am not sure they can tell you are making happy noises. Your “words” bring us so much joy. Every so often it will sound like you actually spoke a word of English. I think I heard you say “kiki” just yesterday, which would make sense since sometimes we call you “kiki ooh la la.” It also sounds like maybe you say “hi” every so often but it’s usually in the midst of other undecipherable sounds. And then a while back, in an epic feat of baby genuis, I think you said “agua.” Not too shabby, speaking Spanish already.

Just as you feel shy in new situations, you have also never been fan of new toys when you first try them out – that is, until recently. One toy you loved from the start is your pink convertible. Your legs wobble around and your mouth hangs open in awe of the fact that that a toy can be Just. That. Fun. It’s pretty darn cute. You also loved the musical instruments your friend Eden played for you last week. You giggled and squealed in excitement as she shook the tambourine and moroccos. I’m not sure I have ever seen you that tickled!

The past three nights you actually slept through the night. You were such a good sleeper at a really young age, sleeping through the night before you turned three months old. But then it all went downhill for a bit. I think maybe you started going through some growth spurts and were always hungry – even several times a night! Now you’re back to sleeping well again, only really waking up when your legs get caught between the bars of your crib. It’s a pretty sad sight actually and I haven’t figured out how to teach you not to do that yet. You have also gotten pretty skilled at rolling onto your tummy but not so much at rolling back the other direction. So occasionally I will have to help you out with that too. Silly munchkin.

You have been to quite a few places in your short life. We’ve driven to North Carolina twice and two weekends ago you took your first trip to Rhode Island to meet your cousin Wesley. We drove through, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut before making it to Rhode Island. You were such a trooper! You adjusted well to your first hotel stays and happily played with your picture book, monkey paci and birdie toy most of the drive. The few times you got upset, you were easily cheered up again. Your dad and I were talking about the fact that we cannot believe you are our baby! You’re so good to us.

Well love, I could go on forever but I think I’ll stop there. You truly are a gift. Each day I treasure my moments with you – snuggling in bed in our pj’s, cradling you in my arms while you nap or after you eat, singing, reading, chatting, hanging out in the kitchen while I cook or unload the dishwasher, going on walks and simply being together.

I love you sweet girl and hope you have the happiest of birthdays today.

Love,

One proud mommy

 

The Cure to My Miserly Ways?

Last week I was over at Mom It Forward talking about an idea Jake and I had to give back to others and ultimately model that mentality to Ainsley. We’re calling it our Blessing Jar. Here’s the back-story on how it came about:

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It’s easy to ignore my ugly qualities when I’m the only person affected by them. But when my kid is involved, that’s another story.

One of my biggest struggles is giving financially. In fact, years ago I took one of those online spiritual gifts tests and guess what showed up at the very bottom of my results list? Giving. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit actually.

It’s just really hard for me to give money away when Jake and I have so much debt. It feels like we will never get it paid off. Plus, I associate money with a sense of security. That’s always been the case so I can’t blame the outrageous cost of college admissions for that. In order for me to feel safe, I need to know we have plenty of money in the bank.

Now that I have a kid, I am realizing I may need to rethink things. I don’t want giving to be dead last on my daughter’s list of anything. Not last in her mind. Not last in her heart. I want her to be generous. But that’s wherein the problem lies. How will she ever learn generosity if she has the least financially-giving mom ever? I had been reflecting on this question for a while, when suddenly on Facebook, a possible solution appeared.

Several people shared the link to “The 52-Week Money Challenge” on a blog called The House Made Home. They talked about how this would be such an easy way to save up for something fun or add some cushion to our bank accounts. Every week you save a little bit of money starting with $1. The next week you save $2. And so on. By the time the year ends you will have saved $1,378.

Jake and I decided this was doable. A dollar here, two dollars there. We started dreaming about what we could spend the money on. A weekend getaway or a shopping spree?

Well, back to the problem I have with giving money away. I need to improve on this. I need to change my whole perspective so that I can be a better role model for Ainsley. I want her eyes to be open so that she is aware of the needs not only in our neighborhood but also around the world. I want her to believe that she has the power to make things better. This encompasses all kinds of things – not just money – but that is one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Right around the time that we made the decision to save up more for ourselves, my MOPS group did a craft. We made Blessing Jars. They are little plastic containers that we decorated during our meeting and could use for whatever we want. We talked about using them for ticket stubs and other random keepsakes or writing down date ideas and drawing one each week for date nights. These are all great ideas but it hit me later that one way we could use the jar would be to collect money and give it away instead of spending it on ourselves, as tempting as that is. It just made sense. We had already decided to do the 52 Week Challenge but instead of keeping the $1,378 we would donate it.

And that’s when our very own idea of a Blessing Jar idea was born.

We made the decision to practice what we hope to eventually pass on to our daughter. We are going to use the money for the good of another person or perhaps many other people and make it a yearly tradition.

As much as it pains me to give money away – and as much as it pains to me say that it pains me – I am looking forward to the challenge. I hope this can be a stepping-stone to becoming a more generous giver. And, that as my baby girl grows up, she not only sees this lifestyle but that she desires to emulate it.

Do you have any yucky traits that you are trying to change since becoming a parent?

Guest Post: Observations of a Working Dad

This guest post is written by the incredible husband of yours truly and can I just say, he is the best man I know. Check out his perspectives on being a working dad and what he thinks about stay-at-home parents too. This guy is a class act.

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A few years ago, Anne Marie Slaughter’s engaging article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” sparked an extensive discussion about the scope and degree of professional success women could achieve without sacrificing their commitment to family.  Many who were critical of the article, myself among them, nonetheless agreed with Slaughter’s central premise that women have for far too long been denied the kind of professional advancement available to men.  And that much more needs to done to open those doors.  But what us critics disliked was Slaughter’s implicit assumption that it was only women who desired the appropriate (and ever elusive) “work/life balance.”  She scrapped the stereotype of the homemaker mother only by reinforcing that of the distant and career-devoted working dad.  I’m not going to rehash that debate here—though I think it’s an important one that has continuing ramifications in public policy and private enterprise.

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I’d simply like to make some observations about parenting from the perspective of a working dad.  A working dad who yearns to more often snuggle his sweet baby girl as she wakes up in early morning, read to her as she drifts off to sleep at night, bathe her and play with her and laugh alongside her.  And yet a working dad whose chosen profession makes many of those yearnings unfulfillable.  That’s not necessarily a bad a thing.  On this, Slaughter and I are in complete agreement: because of a set of deeply engrained cultural expectations, no one, man or woman, can rise to the top of American industry and at the same time show up to every after school dance recital, Saturday soccer game, and weekend swim meet, not to mention supply the innumerable intangibles that it takes to be an engaged parent.  In short, no one can have it all.  This has been a hotly resisted but inevitable conclusion I’ve drawn since joining the workforce and parent-force simultaneously.  It’s not new, but now it’s mine—my very first observation about parenting: it’s hard trying to excel at both fatherhood and work.

J and A 3

Jolting though it was, that’s not the observation that most surprised me upon entering parenthood.  What most surprised me was how exhausting it is to be a stay-at-home parent.  This one is a true observation; I’ve had no first-hand experience at this (which I’m confident is largely the reason our sweet daughter is turning out so well).  I’ve gained a new respect for moms and dads who’ve taken on these ’round the clock parenting duties—and somehow managed to stay enamored by their little ones’ every new discovery.  While I haven’t been there, I get a glimpse into this world each Saturday morning when I hang out with Ainsley so her mother can make some headway on the aggregated sleep lost the prior week.  After this mere half a day, I’m always stunned by how demanding and disorienting full-time, complete responsibility for another’s life is.  And as much as I dislike my work some days, I honestly don’t envy the always-on-call, never-get-a-break rhythm of stay-at-home parenting.  I don’t think I could do it.  And so I often watch in awe and amazement, baffled by the combination of her acquired insight and motherly instinct, as my incredible wife identifies and satisfies all our daughter’s needs.  I have no clue how she does it.  She is truly unbelievable.  This was my second observation: stay-at-home parenting takes a rare combination of patience, fortitude, persistence, humor, diligence, and an endless supply of love.  I’m convinced those who do it are super-human.

A and J

My third observation is more prosaic.  But it’s one that only those with the unique vantage point of a working parent can make, perched where we are between the frantic attempt to balance personal and professional success and the recognition that we could never do what our super-hero spouses do at home all day.  This last observation is the surprising rapidity and consistency of Ainsley’s development.  It’s something that you just can’t pick up on when your days are consumed with constant changing, feeding, burping, holding, both wiping tears and shedding them, and so much more that stay-at-home parents miraculously accomplish each day.  But I see it; I see the almost-imperceptible trends of growth hiding beyond the seemingly random array of noises, movements, and discoveries.  I see the gradual yet linear development in Ainsley’s pre-verbal communication, hand-eye coordination, head- and body-control, and much more.  And I see how quickly it goes, in real time.  Understandably, days at home can drag on for my wife.  The little things consume her time.  When Ang was pregnant we were once told that when we became parents the days would drag and the weeks would fly by.  That’s the perfect way of putting it.  Except that the working parent sees more of the flying and less of the dragging.  And boy is it fast.  We try to cherish each moment, but it seems that by the time we catch our breath, Ainsley is on to the next stage, discovering new facets of being a tiny human.

J and A 2

These three observations—that a sustainable work/life balance is hard (read: impossible), that stay-at-home parenting is harder, and that infant development is both rapid and consistent—likely seem commonplace to veteran parents.  After all, none of them are particularly novel.  In fact, they’re fairly predictable.  But they have, nonetheless, shaped the way I approach both parenting and work.  And for me there is value in pausing to make these observations.  And pausing to consider their implications.  It might follow from these observations, for example, that I need to let go of some of the sweeping ambition that has hung around from my single or young-married days.  Or maybe I need to give up some of my (vanishingly scarce) personal time to study more intently my daughter and her needs.  These observations remind me that she’s worth it.  She’s worth any sacrifice, any dampening of ambition, any changing of plans, any expending of energy.  She’s worth anything.  Because she’ll only be my cuddly, tiny, adorable little baby for so much longer.  And that’s something I need to cherish.  Life’s too short for it to be about anything other than investing in the ones we love.

J and A 5

Have thoughts to share? Comment below!

5 Observations From 5 Months of Parenting

Ainsley turned five months old yesterday. Five months, people! Being a mom has been the weirdest experience ever… I’m convinced stay-at-home moms exist in their own time continuum, where the days sometimes trudge along at the same pace in which I am running these days (i.e. SLOW) and yet the weeks and months fly by. Seriously, how have five months come and gone already and what happened to that tiny, porcelain doll who used to fit perfectly snuggled against my chest? She has been replaced by this real, live, squirmy, squeaky human being.

5 months

They say babies change a lot between three and five months of age. I am not exactly sure who “they” are but they’re right. She has a personality and I am beginning to understand what makes her tick… and what ticks her off.

Here are five observations from five months of parenting:

1. The Parental Exaggeration Phenomenon (aka PEP): It’s kinda funny how as first time parents every little thing is a big deal. Like how the first time Ainsley got the smallest stomach bug and had one bout of diarrhea we almost took her to the ER. One bout. Emergency Room. And also how the first time Ainsley let out the tiniest little decibel of sound we started telling the world she laughed. We didn’t know it at the time but we were totally lying to everyone. I am not even sure what that sound really was but a laugh it was not. And then it happened. A real laugh was born in the 3-4 month range and it was the world’s sweetest sound. And mommy and daddy also laugh at how silly we were, thinking that first, whatever-you-call-it, was actually a laugh. Check out the real deal here.

Belly Laughs

2. Mommy Cred: At the beginning I was terrified of everything. I was afraid my baby would stop breathing in the middle of the night. I was afraid to drive with her. I was afraid she wasn’t getting enough food. I was afraid she was getting too much. I was a wreck 23 hours a day. So last weekend, Jake, Ainsley and I went on a road trip to North Carolina. The timing was perfect because a while back our preggo friends jokingly asked if we could come to their gender reveal party. Naturally we laughed in their face a little bit and said “yeah right, we wish.” I mean, a weekday road trip, are you kidding? Just a few days later though Jake was asked to attend a recruiting event for his law firm in Durham, NC. Divine coincidence? Hard to say but it sure worked out well for us. Jake was able to stay in town an extra day for the gender reveal but had to fly back early the next morning. So while we all made the 5-hour trek together, it was just Ains and me on the drive home. My goal was to make it to Richmond which was a little more than halfway. I have a friend who lives there and this seemed like a good opportunity to visit and break up the trip. Sadly, Ains woke up to eat before we made it to Richmond and then at some point after that had a silent-but-deadly blowout. I have no idea when but when she woke up from her nap she was screaming bloody murder. Of course at that point in our journey there wasn’t anywhere to stop so I pulled off the road and stripped her naked in the passenger seat. While seemingly impossible, she managed to increase the volume and intensity of her screams while laying in her birthday suit with the door open and 32 degree air blowing on her tiny body. (Please don’t call CPS on me, she has totally recovered I promise). It was both my saddest and proudest moment as a mom thus far. I felt terrible for my lovey all cold and stinky and whatnot but at the same time, this formerly frail mom turned into a bada$$, diaper-changing superhero over the course of five months. Mommy cred – through the roof but please note, I will not be including pics of the aforementioned event.

3. Easing in: Just as I couldn’t be the diaper changing whiz I am today overnight, sweet baby girl needs time to ease in to things too. I have noticed that whenever I am introducing a new toy or activity, her gut reaction is to resist. I don’t blame her. I am the same way. Here is when we introduced the Exersaucer for example:

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Also like her mom, she doesn’t do much to hide her disgust. Here is when we introduced the tray that attaches to the Bumbo:

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Also not a fan at first. A hundred bucks says she will be loving both of these in the next week or two. She is her mother’s daughter.

4. I am the student and Ainsley is the teacher: Whereas at the beginning of my parenting journey, I obsessively read everything I could online and anywhere else in order to figure out what the heck I was doing, I have since become a student of my daughter. She is my best teacher. I realize now that all kids are different and while I want her milestones to be met perfectly on par with all the other kids, she is her own unique person and I want to treat her as such. In observing her I have become a much more astute mommy and can now predict when my kid is going to have a meltdown or start giggling, fussing, etc. The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out still is when she is going to have a major poop blow out. If there were any rhyme or reason to that it would really help me out when we’re out in public. Oh well.

5. Strange Sadness: I never imagined how sad it would be to say goodbye to some of her old clothes. Ains is still super tiny. 9th percentile in weight. Up from 6th percentile though! So we are just now getting rid of her 0-3 month clothes and it really made me sad. I spent at least an hour the other day looking through old pics of her wearing the stuff that is now folded up in Trader Joe’s bags and tucked neatly away in the closet. While I am glad she is growing, I wish I would have just sat and stared at her a little longer in some of these outfits. They represent my little newborn and the fact that she can’t wear them anymore shows just how fast time really flies. One day she will be wearing the clothes with the little T next to the number and then small, medium or large outfits and I will surely lose it then.

Here are some of the cute outfits that no longer fit. Top row: handmade necklace onesie from cousin Dawn, blue polka dot onesie and cupcake hoodie. Bottom row: Santa dress which Jake picked out the day we found out we were having a girl and Duke onesie with ruffly sleeves.

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Anywho, that’s that. Five months have come and gone. Soon she will be six months and that just sounds really old. What have you observed your first few months of parenting?

Linking up with Still Being Molly

My 5 Favorite Non-Essential Baby Items, Ages 0-6 Months

When Jake and I first went out to register, we spent over three hours in the car seat section of Buy Buy Baby. I thought I had done enough legwork – you know, asking friends on Facebook for their top registry picks, talking to fellow mommy friends, researching on the internet. I printed out, like, 10 pages of comments along with other info I could find online and brought it with us to register but it wasn’t enough. We still spent more than three hours with the Buy Buy Baby salesperson asking questions and looking at every model of car seat they had. By the time we were done, my big, preggo body was so tired that the only other section I could handle  was the nursery where I just sprawled out on a rocking chair and lulled myself into a catnap.

We finalized our registry and got most of the items we asked for along with many generous gifts we didn’t ask for too. Lovely handmade quilts, tons of clothes (I would kill for even half of Ainsley’s wardrobe) and enough gift cards to purchase furniture and whatnot.

We all know what the essentials are right? Diapers, wipes, somewhere for baby to sleep and so on. But you could spend a small fortune purchasing the many, many, many other items the baby store people try to convince you that you’ll need. Some of which are helpful. Some of which are totally unnecessary. If you’re on a budget, like we were, you will need to narrow things down. In addition to the obvious stuff, here are my favorite non-essentials. Obviously, you need to make your own choices but here is what we’ve loved and our reasons why:

1. Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play

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Ainsley was diagnosed with reflux at three weeks old so lying flat on her back has always been uncomfortable… up until about three weeks ago when we transitioned her to her crib at night. Before that though, Ains was in her Rock’n Play all the time. Day and night. As evidenced by the above pics. One thing that is great is she can subtly move the chair while sitting in it which allows her to rock a bit. Babies love that. We even bring it with us on vacation. Most essential, non-essential piece of furniture by far.

2. Snap-N-Go Stroller

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The Snap ‘n Go Stroller has been a lifesaver. My delivery was brutal and it took weeks to heal. I could hardly carry around my six pound baby let alone heavier objects. The great thing about the Snap ‘n Go is that it is light and easy to use. All you do is place your infant carseat in the frame until you hear it click. Sadly, Miss A is not loving being in her carseat anymore so I am not sure how much longer we will get away with using this as our primary stroller but I will keep trying as long as possible.

3. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer Book

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This book totally changed the way I view my child and helped me create a realistic schedule for our days. It was recommended by several people before I finally went out and bought it. I’m so glad I did. Here are my takeaways:

  • Ainsley is a tiny person. She is not “the baby” but rather Ainsley Grace Charles and although she has not been on this earth for long she still deserves to be treated with respect.
  • E.A.S.Y. – Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time. It doesn’t work perfectly. At least not in our house. But it does help. Let’s say Ains is fussing and I can’t figure out why. It helps to have a framework for the day that I can use as a guide as I figure out what’s wrong. If she’s just eaten, it may be that her diaper is wet. Or if I can rule those out, maybe she’s tired. There are also some charts that help decode baby body language (like what it means when they arch their back or frantically kick their legs). Those alone are worth buying the book for. You can get a used copy for crazy cheap on Amazon.

4. Carseat Canopy

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One of my favorite showers gifts was our carseat canopy. An awesome family friend made ours and it has come in handy on more than one occasion. For starters, with the winter we are having it has helped Ainsley stay warm and protect her adorable porcelain skin from getting too dry and cold. The other thing though, and people said this would happen, is that strangers will touch your child. No joke. This just adds an extra layer of protection between you and those who aren’t aware of the concept of boundaries.

5. Security Binky Blanket

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I can’t remember when but Ains reached a point when she learned how to grab at things. She will grab at anything within reach now.  It’s fun seeing her reach this new milestone but the problem is, she grabs blankets and pulls them over her face when I am not looking. So I found this tiny blanket that attaches to her paci and she absolutely loves it. Now, in addition to her loving the way it feels, I don’t have to worry about her being suffocated by a bigger blanket.

Like I said – it’s all a matter of personal opinion. These are a few items we have grown to love. What essential, non-essentials do you recommend?

Linking up with Still Being Molly

The Book That Will Change Everything

As I look back on the initial weeks following Ainsley’s birth, I am thankful for some bright spots amidst the sleeplessness and near-debilitating anxiety. For example, remember how all my preggo friends who were due around the same time had their babies before me? Well, once we all had our babies I stopped being bitter and none of that mattered anymore. I was grateful that we shared our pregnancy journeys together and I was even more thankful that they were along for the postpartum ride.

So one night around 3:00am, in a state of delirium, my friend and I were commiserating about how hard our lives were. It’s kind of ridiculous thinking back now. Here we were, two new mommies of beautiful, healthy baby girls and all we could think about was the hard stuff. It took weeks before we were truly able to appreciate how blessed we really were. Are.

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But that was the frame of mind we were in so… we were texting back and forth, trying to stay awake so we wouldn’t accidentally nod off and drop our children and somehow our conversation took a hilariously inappropriate turn. We started coming up with chapter titles for the book we would one day write, promoting a celibate lifestyle. Sex is not worth it because it could lead to pregnancy, we thought. And pregnancy could lead to childbirth. And spiraling down the rabbit trail we went. (Please note: it was 3:00am, we were delirious and we love our children very much.)

And still, that conversation continues periodically as we encounter new stages and challenges. Other friends have joined in too. So I wanted to share said titles with all of you. (Please note: There are more, far too inappropriate to include in this public sphere, but I invite all moms to let your minds wander…)

  • Chapter 1: Nursing is Not Natural (Subtitle: Just because moms produce milk and babies can suck, does not mean nursing comes naturally)
  • Chapter 2: Formula Poop Stinks
  • Chapter 3: How to Properly Remove a Poop-Saturated Onesie (Subtitle: This little factoid is a game changer)
  • Chapter 4: What’s a Shower? (Subtitle: Is that odor me?)
  • Chapter 5: Is that Poop or Food Stained on my Shirt?
  • Chapter 6: Creative Substitutes for Nursing Pads (Subtitle: Because who has time to go to the store?)
  • Chapter 7: My Everything Hurts
  • Chapter 8: How Could My Husband Do This To Me?
  • Chapter 9: I Don’t Know Myself Anymore
  • Chapter 10: The Diaper Is For Peeing On, Not The Changing Table

Possible book titles include:

  • The Many Layers of Motherhood
  • My Complicated Mom Life
  • How Could My Husband Do This To Me? (Subtitle: See Chapter 8)

Want to help us brainstorm more? Join us in the comment section below. This book is sure to be a New York Times Bestseller.

 

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