Hopes for “Normal”

In my mind, I clearly remember the first time I noticed the bright pink sign on the door to my room in the post-partum wing.

The night before, Elliot & Finn arrived in the world and were swept away to the NICU. I had been down to see them after we got the clear from the NICU staff the night before, and we went back down first thing the next morning. We spent the morning holding Finn when we were allowed to do so, staring at him in his isolette, and holding Elliot’s hand since we couldn’t actually hold him. We brought our parents in to meet their grandbabies for the first time. We were trying as hard as we could to be “normal” parents and do “normal” things with our newborns.  That afternoon, we headed back to my room to take a nap between hands-on times. I’d been on my feet all morning, leaving my wheelchair behind as much as I could so I could interact with both boys, and at less than 24 hours post c-section, I was running out of steam.

Mr. Blue wheeled me to the elevator and down the hall.  The nurses asked how the babies were and shot sympathetic looks our way. We got to the door of my room, and there was the sign: a bright pink laminated sheet of paper with a single, giant letter on it.


I stared at that letter N for a moment, confused by what it was or what it meant.  Slowly, comprehension spread through my mind.  The “N” was for NICU. It told every nurse, doctor, etc. that there was no happy family inside that door, that when they entered no baby would be nursing on its mothers breast, no proud father would be introducing his child to family. Instead, it was an empty room where someone clearly slept but nothing else.  This wasn’t the place that a family would spend its first days together. It wasn’t the place that a recovering mom could lie down with her child in her arms.  It wasn’t a celebratory place. It was just a place to sleep and take meds and grab the occasional shower.

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How to Use Dry Shampoo

As a busy mom, I am always looking for shortcuts to reduce my time getting out the door. Since becoming a mom, I’ve taken to packing lunches, setting up my coffee machine and picking out CB’s and my school clothes the night before. As far as the actual morning goes, I’m still working on finding shortcuts, but my absolute must-do and favorite shortcut is using dry shampoo and washing and drying my hair less frequently.

Besides saving time, dry shampoo is healthier for your hair. You have probably heard that sulfates in shampoo are bad, bad, bad news bears. They are the same ingredients that are found in dish detergent, which make them extremely harsh on your hair, stripping it of its natural oils. Over time, hair grows accustomed to shampoo and whenever it’s not shampooed, your hair feels super greasy because the natural oils freak out and try to overcompensate for the oils that have been previously stripped. Very technical terms, I know.

There are sulfate-free shampoos on the market, some better than others. I use the L’oreal brand, but if it wasn’t so expensive, I’d use Wen instead. You can also make your own non-shampoo, like this cool gal – I definitely want to try this, but I’m not quite ready to make this big leap yet.

Anyway, I wash my hair maybe once every 3-4 days and can go as long as 6 if I have to. This includes days of “working out” (i.e. taking my dog for a brisk walk in the hot sun or throwing in a Jillian Michaels DVD), playing at the pool (with my hair up so it barely gets wet), etc. When I first started reducing the number of washes, it took a bit of time to “train” my hair to get used to the lack of shampoo. I’d start by washing every other day and wearing my hair up in a ponytail on the second day so the hair grease was less obvious. Classy, I know. On non-hair-washing days, I simply put my hair in a ponytail or bun and hop in the shower. The ends of my hair will often get wet, but it’s not a big deal. You can also be like my sister and wear an old lady shower cap instead.

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Gifts for One Year Old Under $15

Juliet got a wonderful array of birthday gifts this year. We truly feel blessed she was showered with presents, but truthfully at one she is just as enamored and interested with the wrapping paper, boxes… heck even a pile of laundry. Besides that she has so many hand me down toys to boot. When friends and family would ask for suggestions, I told them to not go crazy since she really wouldn’t know the difference.

I scoured online to see to find nice age appropriate toys for her age set for less, and compiled this list of toys under $15.

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We Have A Social Worker

I know, right? It doesn’t really sound like a good thing. But truly? It’s one of the best things that has ever happened to our family. Let me backtrack and explain exactly how it is that a social worker came into our lives, and what it is that she does that is so completely invaluable.

Writing this is bittersweet, because in less than a month Ellie’s case will be closed. I think I feel a little like a swimming student who’s been getting along super-great with a floatation device. “Okay, we’re going to take that off of you now. You can do it! Come on– you’ve got this. You don’t need it anymore,” says the coach. “But I do. I do need this. So give it baaaaaack,” thinks the voice in my head.

Ellie has been doing really well. Her teacher at school noticed towards the end of the year. Other adults we’ve encountered, both socially and in the world-at-large, have noticed (and their positive comments have really been important to Ellie). We’ve noticed at home, too. I can’t say I was that surprised when Lena* (not her real name) brought up closing Ellie’s case. I was starting to feel a little ridiculous getting such wonderful and helpful services when Ellie was clearly doing so well. But, hello denial– I pushed that thought far, far into the recesses of my mind. Because can we really do this? Can we survive without her?

The happy graduate

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Mom Knows Best… Oh, that’s me!

There was an article floating around about how when moms know best, it can be the worst. Although the article is talking more about allowing others around you (specifically the dads) to help more, it made me think about that phrase “mother knows best.”

I remember the first few weeks of caring for a newborn, there were so many questions and options to think about. A conversation with Mr. Pencil went mostly like this:

Mr. Pencil: “So… what should we do?”
Me: “I don’t know… what do you think?”
Mr. Pencil: “I don’t know, what do you think?”
Me: “I don’t know, what do you think?”

There are so many unsolvable equations involved with parenting. What time should he start going to sleep? When should we up his bottle dosage? When should we start sleep training? Is being a little cold better than being a little hot?

No matter how many guide books you read, they will never be able to give you the best answer for your baby. So basically when we don’t know what the heck we’re doing, it all comes down to the parents. What? Why? Because I’m the mother, duh! Oh right. If there is anyone in the entire world that should make a decision, it should be me! But I can’t help to keep looking around me thinking, “Wait… am I doing this correctly? Is this the right decision?” Even a nod from a total stranger would give me a boost of confidence. But when there’s nobody around you, I often feel like I’m spinning in circles just making random guesses. Is this what parenting is like?

Here are the guesses decisions I make on an everyday basis for my 3 month old:

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When Baby Doesn’t Sleep Through the Night

The question I get asked most frequently when it comes to Little Oats is, “So is she sleeping through the night?” My answer? A snort, vigorous head shaking, and an incredulous, “No.” I’m not quite sure where this fascination with sleeping through the night comes from; it seems to be the holy grail of baby behaviour. But of all the mommy-friends I have, there is precisely ONE who has a baby sleeping through the night. It seems to be more the exception than the rule.

As a newborn, Little Oats slept in 2-3 hour stretches, waking frequently to nurse around the clock. Her sleep started solidifying into 3-4 hour chunks around three months… right in time for the four month sleep regression. At four months, Little Oats was waking between 2 and 4 times per night, but she was getting a decent amount of sleep (and so was I). Naps regulated around 7 months, and she was down to 1-2 wake-ups nightly. I felt like I could live with this situation; I was getting about 4 hours of sleep in a stretch, and we were managing fairly well.

And then, 9 months hit. While I had read a few times about the “9 month sleep regression,” I didn’t expect it would happen to us. I didn’t think that her sleep could get a whole lot worse than it had been, and I wasn’t prepared in the slightest.

But it hit just the same.

The day after Little Oats turned 9 months, naps became a fight. Bedtime became a struggle of epic proportions. It would take hours to get her to sleep (often times giving up and just letting her watch TV with me), and when she finally fell asleep, she would be restless and wake frequently. Naps were skipped all together, or fought to the point that Little Oats would fall asleep at 5:30pm and mess up her night time sleep even further.

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What We Bought (and What We Tossed) for Baby No. 2

One of the most daunting tasks for first-time mamas is researching a never-ending list of baby products. I remember the neurosis very clearly – in fact, the first time I set foot in a Babies ‘R’ Us, I almost hyperventilated. There was just so. much. stuff.

The second time around, I thought very little about stuff. We reused just about everything we had for our first son, who was 28 months when little brother came along. That said, we still bought a few odds and ends, and got rid of a few things, too. Here’s our list:

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