My husband and I love those shows where they throw a guy out in the wilderness and he shows how to survive in seemingly impossible situations. The more I watch them, the more I realize that I likely will never need to survive in the Sahara or the Sub-Arctic. I do however find myself feeling on an almost daily basis as if I've been cast out into a strange world full of obstacles to tackle and unknown creatures to cope with. This will be the chronicle of one woman trying to survive the jungles of parenthood.

Friday, July 30, 2010

For the Local Mamas!!!

     Do you live near and/or will you be near the Portland/Gresham or Newburg area on Friday, August 6th?  Are you nursing a baby (or a toddler)?  If you said yes to both of those questions, you should have the Big Latch On on your calender! Come join in to attempt break the record for mamas and babies nursing simultaneously and support breastfeeding awareness.  Check out the website HERE, pick out a venue and show up at 10:00 a.m. (the BLO starts at 10:30 but they're asking mamas to show half an hour early to register and get settled).  There are lots of locations all over the area and it's a great, non-threatening way to promote the truth that nursing is normal to our culture!  If you have any trouble with the link above, the site for the Portland Big Latch On can be found here: http://biglatchonpdx.weebly.com/index.html .  The Big Latch On started in New Zealand and you can find more info on the NZ BLO at NurturingNZ's site here: http://www.nurturenz.com/latchon.php .  There's also a lot of great breastfeeding info in other areas of that site and on their youtube channel.

SAHM Seeking Time to Stay-At-Home!

     I was thinking today as I was loading my two toddlers, the dog and the double jogging stroller back into the car after a long walk out at the dog park today that the term "Stay-At-Home-Mother" is a serious misnomer.  You see, while wondering why I've been so tired lately, it finally occurred to me that we have been out at least once and often twice or more every day since last Sunday for sure.  It may have been longer, I can't remember Saturday.  If we went somewhere Saturday then it's been at least every day since last Wednesday.  I can't remember Wednesday either.
     It is serious work leaving the house with two toddlers.  First I have to figure out what time I'll need to leave in order to get back for lunch and a nap or decide to go after nap which only works if I'm going somewhere that doesn't keep business hours. I have to dress children, change diapers, feed tummies, pack the diaper bag and make sure there are clean, full sippy cups before even heading out the door.  That of course doesn't count showering and dressing myself.  Making our way to the car is always interesting, especially if there's more to take than just the kids and bag or if Sugar, the only one steady enough on her feet to go down the front steps reliably, has left the shoes I intend for her to wear in the car on our last outing.  If I have to take the girls out to the van one at a time, there's a strategy involved as to who's in the better mood and therefore less likely to have a screaming, whiny meltdown in the house while I'm strapping the other one into their seat.  If Sugar's the one waiting in the house I have to be sure I've got the house-key in hand since she'll lock me out. 
     Once you're loaded and get where you're going unloading is usually easier.  Spice goes into her carrier on Mama's back and Sugar either walks or is loaded right into a stroller or cart. (We always park next to a cart return at places that have them.)  After managing both girls through whatever we're doing the loading/unloading process is repeated as many times as necessary to complete our tasks.  Usually there's also at least one diaper change for each girl and at least one passing out of snacks in there too. By the time we get home and finish up that final unloading, not only do I need to take the girls in but usually I need to pee.  Two back-to-back pregnancies with big, low-lying baby girls takes a permanent toll on one's bladder that no amount of kegels is going to fix and I'm sure my neighbor lady has gotten quite the giggle watching me dance around on my front porch with my legs crossed and a baby under each arm trying to finagle the key into the front door before dashing into the house. 
     After repeating this process at least once and often two or three times on an almost daily basis, no wonder I'm tired!   It's amazing how much more exhausting everything becomes when you have two, tiny little hitchhikers assisting at every step.  I really think that a better term than "Stay-At-Home-Mother" would be "Leaves-Home-Frequently-And-Slowly-But-Doesn't-Get-Paid-For-It-Mother"  You know though, I did get to go grocery all by myself a few weeks ago and realized halfway through the store that I was lonely. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Appreciate the Man

     I need to report to you an historic event. Last Sunday evening, we went on a date. Why, you might ask was this such a big deal?  Well, it was our third childless date since Spice was born (one of those was SuperDad's company Christmas party which I don't really count) and the first time that both girls stayed with a sitter for the whole night. Yes, I spent eighteen hours away from my baby. We both survived and I somehow managed to avoid texting to ask how they were doing until morning. This post actually is not about leaving baby for the first time though. You're going to have to figure that one out on your own.
     Instead, this post is about remembering that our spouse's are not just parents. Generally I had thought I was fairly good at this. We try to get a little time that's toddler free every day and we do talk about things other than the kids. We watch movies and "stuff" (I won't get into "stuff", my mother reads this blog. Well, I like to think she does anyway.) It's funny though how something as simple as dinner, a walk and a second-run cheapie movie can change your perspective. (We saw Shrek 4 and I liked it regardless of what the critics may have said). It reminded me that I need to put a little more effort into having fun with my husband and remembering just how much I really like to spend time with him. There were reasons I moved 1800 miles across the country to marry this man and I'm cheating both him and myself if I don't take the time to look at him as the man I fell in love with (albeit in an updated model) instead of just as my husband or co-parent.
     All this just to say, take some time to make things all about you and your spouse. Even if you can't or choose not to leave the kiddos with someone else and get out alone, you can still make the activity all about you and let them tag along for once instead of planning for family. Or take some time after they're in bed to really reconnect with each other over something you enjoyed pre-kiddos as people instead of just parents. I know that I personally need to take time to appreciate the man in my husband. (And if you caught the TMBG reference you get double points.)

(A More Real) Love Story from Anita Renfroe

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Parenting in the Digital Age

     I know that generally speaking, electronics and software aren't thought of as necessary baby equipment and really that's true but I have to say that I love knowing that I have literally thousands of pictures to capture my daughters' first years.  Especially since for some of the weeks in those years I was in such a haze due to dealing with the everyday needs and desires of two babies spaced a mere 14 months apart, one husband who was just as overtired as I was, one severely displaced dog and myself that I don't totally remember all that happened during those vital, growing months without looking back at the pictures.  There's no way I could have amassed such a record of their babyhood without a digital camera and a fair share of the disk space on my computer. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology though we have those beautiful (and some less beautiful as I'm by no means a professional photographer) images.  Also thanks to Google's Picasa software (which you can download for free, I highly recommend it) I can find what I'm looking for in the multitude of shots.
     There is a downside though of having the precious pictures of your children preserved as a tiny bit of memory in a chip somewhere, they're way to easy to lose! I was deleting some duplicate pictures off our camera card the other day from a few months ago that had already been transferred from the card to my computer but never were removed.  Our pictures from the Fourth of July were still on the camera and had not yet been moved over.  I bet you can guess where this is going.  Yes, I deleted one of the new ones.  In fact, it was one I particularly wanted as it was a picture of Sugar gazing up at the fireworks in nearly the same pose that she was in while doing the same on her first Independence Day two years ago.  I was so bummed out.  I had only taken the one shot of that so there wasn't even a similar substitute. 
     Then I thought to google whether there might be a way to restore the photo.  Sure enough, I found lots of people wanting me to pay them lots of money to get my picture back for me and in amongst the ads was a blog post pointing to a free software download specifically for restoring pictures on camera cards.  I figured for free, it was worth a shot.  It took a while for the software to run before I could go in and see what it had found. Wow, was I impressed with the results! It not only pulled off the picture I was wanting (the last one to be deleted from the card) but also all the pictures I'd deleted that day and pictures that had been taken and deleted over a year before (the earliest was from when Sugar was about 7 months old) that hadn't been overwritten yet.
     The software is available free for download here at snapfiles.com and is very easy to use.  Neither I nor my avast! antivirus software noticed any weird tagalongs when downloading. (I love that my virus scanner sounds like something a pirate would say almost as much as I love the fact that it runs much smoother than my old McAfee did.) It does suggest not taking any more pictures on the card or messing with the data until you've run the software so that you don't overwrite the photos you're hoping to save. I would suggest making a new folder for the restored photos so that you don't have to sort through them to find the one(s) you're looking for as you never know how many deleted photos may be lurking around on your disk and it's much easier to delete the duplicates after pulling the ones you need if they're all contained.
     Since accidentally deleting photos is one of those things that is likely to eventually happen to any of us that use a digital camera I thought I'd share my new found trick and suggest that you bookmark either the download page or this post so that if you someday do the same thing, you'll be able to spring into action and save your shot. Now if only I'd known about this back when I mistakenly erased the pictures of my great-grandmother's 95th birthday from my mother's camera card.  (Yes, I really did. Yes, I still feel awful.)
     And now for the picture and couple more thrown in just for fun and grandmas. (Grandmas always want more pictures.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

When it all goes BOOM!

     Happy 4th of July Weekend!  It's officially the weekend for most Americans (our weekends start on Saturdays here, not Fridays so we've got another day to go) and everyone is gearing up for celebrating our nation's birth with food, family, friends and of course fireworks!  Now in general, most Independence day celebrations are designed with families in mind so you'd think this should be an easy one but whoever it was that thought up these family friendly occasions was obviously thinking more about what the kids would enjoy than what would make their parents lives run more smoothly.  Right now I'm busy making a list of all the things we'll need to bring beyond the regular bag of diapers and change of clothes to childproof this kid-friendly holiday.  You'll notice there are NO fireworks on our list, fireworks and kids just are not a good combo, especially when it comes to preserving mothers' sanity.  This is why we go watch a big fireworks display where the professionals are setting them off.
     Emergency Snacks: We usually share a picnic with another family with kids for the 4th of July which makes things somewhat easier as there's no grill for anyone to burn themselves on and anything too foreign is usually left at home but I never can tell when my girls are suddenly going to turn their noses up at the sandwich fixings, chips and bite-size veggies and fruit that they normally relish. I'll make sure to have some wholegrain crackers, string cheese and juice boxes (a rare treat at our house) so there will for sure be something they'll eat to keep the crankies away if they're feeling picky.

     Sun Protection: In addition to our normal concern about keeping their skin safe from the sun, Spice was just started on an anti-biotic that specifically states to prevent prolonged exposure to natural or artificial sunlight.  Because I so often take my one year old tanning. We'll be camped out under our  sun canopy with sunhats, barrier sunscreen (Blue Lizard Baby is our favorite) and hats.
     Water: I've just heard it's supposed to be over 90 on Sunday. Blech. I have the best luck keeping them hydrated by bringing their straw cups to tote around and sip on and then filling extra waterbottles with ice and water to keep filling the straw cups from.  That and filling waterbottles for their water reminds me to fill some for ours too! I always toss in an extra, empty straw cup too because someone always manages to either lose theirs or get it so dirty that I can't get it clean without taking it home for a scrubbing.
     Seating and Containment: We have one of those nifty $6 ground cover blankets that I can never remember the name of for the first time this summer and I love it.  We'll also bring camping chairs for us and the girls and probably just the single jogging stroller.  I'll have a mei tai and a ringsling for Spice if she gets clingy and we'll probably throw one of the superyards in the van to pull out just in case someone decides that staying with the group is over-rated. I know that sounds like a lot but when you're talking several hours in an open field with two hot, overstimulated toddlers up past their bedtime you need options.
     Entertainment: Haven't totally decided what to bring here yet.  We always bring a few books, Cat (Spice's lovey) and a baby doll of some sort and we may stick to that since there will be other kids to play with.  I might throw in some bubbles too and if things get too out of hand there's always my phone, my necklace, whatever I happen to have in my hair and my wallet as the standard backup "toys" of choice.
     Clothing: One change of weather appropriate clothing for every child (two for anyone under the age of one), sweatshirts and leggings/long pants since it always seems to get chilly as soon as the sun is down (and for bug protection) and pajamas for all kids who will be arriving home more than half an hour past their normal bedtime hour.  They WILL fall asleep in the car, you will NOT want to deal with them after you've not only woken them up getting them out of the car but had to rummage around for pjs and then shove their cranky, sleepy little limbs into them.
    First-Aid: Summer is definitely the big selling time for first-aid stuff I think.  We'll have our bug repelling fan thingy just in case the mosquitos show up in that gap of time between the sun going down and the field being overtaken by clouds of smoke from the fireworks. Band-Aids for both real and emotional boo-boos, preferably the kind that are clear or pictured thin, waterproof plastic that covers the whole pad since that's the only kind they'll keep on. Liquid Benadryl, never leave home without it, especially if you have kids or dogs that may eat or play with random unknown things they find laying around on, crawling through or growing out of the dirt. (Liquid especially because it's easier to get into a person or pet whose throat is swelling up due to an allergic reaction.)  Cloth diaper safe rash cream for possible heat induced-rashes (although I will say that switching them into the fleece covers on top of their prefolds when it gets real hot has led to so many less heat rash diaper rashes than they ever got in 'sposies). Aloe for whatever spots on himself my red-headed husband misses with the sunscreen. Anything we need for something more serious I figure we can depend on the fire fighters stationed at the field for the fireworks to supply.
     Ear Protection: Earplugs are a big thing for us with our girls.  Since we're already dealing with one kiddo with compromised hearing (Spice is single sided deaf) I don't chance risking their hearing any further.  It only takes one loud noise to damage a child's hearing and lots of moderately loud noise over several years (think fireworks, sirens at parades, loud music at outdoor concerts) can slowly impair their hearing into adulthood. Make sure ear plugs or sound blocking earmuffs are on your holiday must-bring list too.
     I think that's it.  What's unique to your family's must have holiday gear list? Anything on your list that I should have on mine to make my life easier?
 Pictures are from last year's 4th of July picnic, easily survived with careful planning.