Thursday, March 7, 2013

Battle of the Wills

There's something exhilarating about a good, old-fashioned battle of the wills between myself and my daughter. Partly, I think, because we're very well-matched in this area. She is a worthy opponent. An expert at holding her ground.

But guess what, little one, so am I. Not all the time, mind you. Just when I feel like it. Eliza's the exact same way. Most of the time she does what I tell her. She's a very good girl. But when it comes to certain things, such as SLEEPING, this kid does not back down. She's incredible. I can't help but be impressed. We've let her cry it out longer than I was comfortable with and she was still going strong.

Early on I would get frustrated with her. There was door slamming and stuffed animal throwing. But then one day I realized it's just a competition. A competition in something I'm excellent at: Getting my way. This gave me renewed confidence.

However, I've never had such a challenging opponent. I'm an only child and I got my way quite a bit growing up. Not because my mother spoiled me, but because there just weren't any other kids around to protest my desires. Then I married this wonderful man who loves me so much that he's happy to go along with whatever I want (sort of). But then this child entered my life, somehow born an expert in getting her way.

So I learned to pick my battles. If I fought with her on everything it would be too much. But every so often, when I'm feeling spunky, we go at it. I stand my ground, she stands hers. Hours go by. There's crying. There's screaming. There's giggling and "I know I'm so cute you're going to give in" smiles. Then more crying. And finally, a winner emerges.

And guess who today's winner is. The one who's not currently asleep in her crib, that's who.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Potty Time

I bought Eliza a potty this week. I figure we should get her interested in the potty and see what happens. She's always (in her 17 long months of life) been pretty good about making transitions and wanting to move to the next level, so I'm hoping she just kind of figures out this potty stuff on her own. I'm pretty sure she can. I'll just sit back and encourage her. I bet I'll hardly have to do anything! (Yes, I recognize I'm just setting myself up for failure once more.)

So I put the potty in the bathroom. Eliza says "potty!" with great enthusiasm. We've established the difference between Mommy's potty and Eliza's potty. She's figured out how to take it all apart and sort of how to put it back together. She's determined what toys fit nicely into the bowl. She's learned she can use it as a step stool to launch herself into the bathtub. As you can see, our potty training is off to an excellent start.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I'm out of Cherry Coke. In fact, I'm out of any kind of pop besides my husband's Mountain Dew super blue beverage that I refuse to drink. Normally, being out of Cherry Coke wouldn't be a huge deal. Target is just a quick trip down the road. The thing about being out of Cherry Coke today is that it's 14 degrees outside.

I've been a stay (and work)-at-home mom now for almost a year and a half. Up to that point I had your average 9 to 5 type job which meant getting up early every day and leaving the house no matter how freezing cold or rainy or snowy it was outside. It never bothered me too much, but after all this time of working in the house, something in me has changed.

If it's below 30 degrees out, I do what I can to not have to leave the house that day. If it's rainy, I might as well just stay home. Snowing? That's kinda dangerous, I better just wait it out inside.

What is happening to me? I'm disgusted with myself. After all, I'm a Chicagoan. I've lived through some ridiculous weather. I've braved below zero temps. I've cruised down the expressway in a blizzard. I've slid around on black ice. These things didn't use to phase me. Now, I just can't deal with them. It's like I'm from Florida or something.

I like to pretend it's for Eliza's sake. I don't want her to get sick in the cold. I don't want to drive in dangerous conditions with her in the backseat. But really, it's me. Why go out in bad weather if I don't have to?

But then there's the issue of the Cherry Coke. What am I going to drink now? Water?! Is my lack of planning going to force me to leave the house in 14 degree weather? Does Peapod make emergency deliveries?

Thank heavens for my mother who just happens to keep a stash of Coke in her car, and can't resist an invitation to lunch with her granddaughter.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Failure Is An Option

If there's one thing I've learned from having a kid, it's how to fail. Not in some dramatic way. I'm certainly not perfect, but I don't think I'm a total failure as a mother or anything. I've just learned how to fail at the little things. Every day.

We have a pretty regular failure routine. I think of something that Eliza could do that would be convenient for me. I try to get her to do it. She refuses. I try again. She refuses again. This happens at least one hundred times.

What keeps me going, you ask? Two things: My sheer determination--as an only child--to get my way, and the rare occasions where Eliza, after hundreds of tries, has finally done the thing I want her to do.

For example: Eliza's pretty picky about her sleeping habits. I believe she may have inherited this from her mother, who cannot sleep or nap without perfect sleeping conditions. Despite this, I continue to try to get her to take a nap in the stroller while we're out. It worked once. Therefore, I cannot stop trying.

On the flip side, Eliza is now down to one three hour nap every day. If she happens to fall asleep, say, in the car before we make it home to put her down in her crib, we know we can kiss nap time goodbye. Regardless of this, I can't help but try to sneak her into the house and get her into bed where she will ideally take her regular 3 hour nap. This has never ever worked. Not even once, no matter how tired she is.

My husband is a little more willing to give up, but like any good husband he continues to support my frivolous efforts. Someday I will prevail. Until then, I'll just keep failing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Baby Stuff on the Cheap

One thing about me is that I'm cheap. No, not cheap. Frugal. No, careful with my money. No, no, careful with God's money. Yeah, that's it.

I've been this way for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would get hand-me-downs from my older cousin who bought brand name clothes. I always enjoyed getting her Gap and Banana Republic outfits because I figured I wouldn't be able to afford such fancy items. Then when I started shopping on my own, I realized you can get super cheap stuff just about anywhere with a clearance section. And a monster was born.

To this day nothing thrills me like an amazing deal. Having a child gave me a whole new industry in which to stretch my bargain-hunting skills. And there are some amazing deals to be had.

These are some of my favorite deal hunting spots but beware: If you're not ok with hand-me-down baby items, this list is not for you. And if you think that 30% off at Gymboree is a great deal, then we have different definitions of a great deal.

Clearance Sections - If you go shopping on a regular basis and have no trouble walking out of a store without purchasing anything, it's totally worth it to regularly check out the clearance sections in your favorite stores. Every so often you'll run across some crazy mark downs. Like an additional 50% off the already super marked down clearance items. But there will be lots of shopping trips with no good deals, so if you can't leave a store without buying something, it's not going to work.

Goodwill/Resale Stores - These are fun if you don't need anything specific and want to just look around. Goodwill is so hit or miss, but I enjoy going there and I can usually find a book or toy or something worthwhile. Here in the Chicagoland area we are blessed with children's resale stores, Once Upon A Child. They're dangerous.

Garage/Rummage Sales - Summertime around these parts offers tons of garage sales each weekend. It's nice and easy to peruse the ads on Craigslist and find ones that specifically list children's items. Rummage sales are even more fun since they're usually larger and stuff goes half price on the last day. I can't stress enough the joy of half price day.

Craigslist - I know the media says that everyone on Craigslist is a serial killer, but I've done quite well on it. I've found a number of great items at reasonable prices and even some free stuff that people just needed to get rid of! It's always worth a look if you need something specific.

Garbage Picking - This is the grandaddy of cheapness. And likely the line that many will not cross. But before you judge me, let me explain how classy my garbage picking is. In the Chicago 'burbs many of the towns have an amnesty garbage day each year--residents are welcome to put just about anything on the curb without having to pay extra. In some of the more wealthy suburbs, this has become a serious event. And yes, I participate with excitement each year. I've found car seats, bumbos, books, toys, and a barely used wooden kitchen set, complete with pots and pans. And since they're from impressively rich people, I figure they're probably not diseased or anything.

What are you favorite bargain-hunting spots?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Time to Be A Parent

My daughter is a little over 16 months old. Up until now, she's been pretty easy to take care of. She's listened to me when I said no and would get very concerned when I got upset with her. I haven't had to exercise many parenting skills beyond changing diapers and making sure she doesn't die. But the tide is turning, people.

In the last week or so, her reaction to me has been, in a word, horrifying. When I tell her no, she completely ignores me. When I get upset about something, she gives me a blank stare. And then maybe even laughs. What is this!? When she stands staring at me blankly while I lecture her about not touching they keyboard and mouse or attempting to launch herself off of the couch, all I see is her as a teenager giving me the exact same look.

"Oh, were you talking to me, mom?"
"Oh, are you saying you don't want me to do this?"
"I see that this blank look is enraging you. I will keep doing it."
"It seems I've forgotten every word in the english language, so I really have no idea what you're saying to me."

I have an insane toddler-teenager on my hands. Where did she learn this? She's figuring out things that should not be known to a toddler. It's scary. And a little bit funny. But mostly scary.

I see now that it's time to become a real parent. I'm sure it happens to everyone. Gone are my easy breezy baby days of only worrying about dirty diapers and what's for lunch. No longer can I get away with merely saying "no" and expecting complete obedience. I'm going to actually have to put some thought into this.

I can certainly outsmart a toddler, right? Right??

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Finally, Snow!

Well, it's February 2nd and here in Chicagoland we just got our first snow that fully covered the grass. Time to play!

Yeah, the snow pants are a little big. I'm determined to use them next year too.

She decided it was her job to wipe off every light.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The End of the World and Our Kids

Our sermons at church this month have been about prophecy and the possibility that the end times are near. In our small group, we often discuss how this will affect our children. The general feeling that comes through is fear. Fear that our kids will be living in particularly difficult times in the world. Fear that they won't have a chance to grow in their faith before they're faced with some serious spiritual decisions. And fear that we're not going to get as much time with them as we would like.

The majority of the folks in our small group seem to feel this way. I, on the other hand, am generally excited. I think it would be amazing if Christ returned in our life time. No doubt there are a lot of scary things that come with the world's end, but it's also, like, the biggest thing that will ever happen in the history of the world! Don't we want to be there for it??

I don't feel fear for my daughter. Maybe I should. Maybe I take it all too lightly. Yes, I'm concerned that she grows up knowing the Lord, in the church, learning what's right. Yes, I will definitely pray that she will grow in her faith. But right now, I'd rather focus on trying to teach her about God instead of worrying about what her life might entail as she grows--whether the end of the world comes or not.

I think it would be a great privilege for all of us if we are present for Christ's second coming. Christians have been waiting for that moment for thousands of years. It may come with some suffering, but the good far outweighs the bad.

My biggest concern for my daughter is that she knows the Lord and stays strong in her faith. I can't fill my mind with worries about the end of the world--or any other trials she'll encounter. My job right now is to build a strong foundation for her. Whether or not the world does end in her lifetime, there's no doubt she will come up against opposition. Her faith will be challenged and my job is to prepare her.

Most of all, I don't want her to be afraid. I do want to teach her about the end of the world. I want her to understand what the Bible says about it and that it could happen in her lifetime. I want her to look forward to it--be prepared for it--and understand why she needs to be strong in her faith. She doesn't need to know every gory detail right now, but she does need to know that it may come with some hardships. Hardships that will be completely forgotten when we are finally united with Christ!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Work Distraction

When I'm working sometimes Eliza wants to sit on my lap. Most of the time I try to discourage it and distract her with toys, but other times she's so cute I just can't resist. So I let her sit with me and she's usually pretty chill for about 5 or 10 minutes. Then things go awry.

She likes to touch the keyboard, the mouse, everything on the desk. But most annoyingly, she likes to touch my face. She inspects my eyes, my ears, my hair, my mouth. It's annoying and oh so cute. If only I didn't have work to get done.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Princess Weekend

My daughter's not even a year and a half and I'm starting to get seriously sucked into Disney Princess world. I didn't really want this to happen, but I can't deny that it's way fun.

It all started when my in-laws bought Eliza the Little People Princess Castle. Then we got more Princesses for it. Then we got Ariel's carriage. Then some friends of ours get their daughter the castle and we all got obsessed. Then we realized they had an Aladdin and Jasmine two pack and it was hard to find, so we were on a mission.

Well, over the weekend we found it. It was more exciting than it should have been. But Jasmine and Aladdin are from my era. I need them for my castle! ... I mean, Eliza's castle!

Then I did something even more disturbing and bought Eliza these amazingly gaudy Princess slippers. Amazingly gaudy and awesome. Things can only go downhill from here.

My Top Ten Baby Registry Items

Back when I put together my baby registry, it was completely overwhelming. The store gives you some enormous list of basically every baby item they carry and "suggest" that you include them on your list. Well, you can do that if you really want to, but in my opinion, half the things on those lists are unnecessary. Plus, it's really hard to determine what you're going to need when you're having your first child. Some things are better left to purchase after your baby is born and you have an idea of what their needs are.

Asking friends and family for suggestions is the way to go. Or just check out this list of my top ten registry items! I'm leaving off the biggies like strollers, car seats, cribs, etc. These are the smaller things that I didn't know I'd need so badly!

10. Bouncer. Or swing. Or both. Sometimes you just have to put your kid down to get stuff done. That's what these are for. My daughter loved her bouncer. She even slept in it at night for a couple months. It was a lifesaver for sure.

9. Pack 'n Play. Honestly, I haven't used our Pack 'n Play that much, but when I did, it was extremely necessary. It's especially handy for over night trips, or to use as a play pen once the kiddos start to be mobile.

8. Swaddle Blankets. I suggest the ones with velcro like the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle.

7. Baby Bathtub. There are a lot of options out there for baby bathtubs so you're going to have to spend some time looking at them. We had small bathroom when our daughter was first born so we got a fold up tub which worked really well for us.

6. Tiny clothes. I've found that people don't like to buy newborn size clothes because the baby grows out of them too fast. But know what sucks? When your baby is born and all their clothes are gigantic! I would suggest registering for just a few newborn size sleepers so your child has something to wear for their first month of life.

5. Sheet Savers. I didn't even really know these existed until someone gave me some. They're nice little mats that lay in the crib to catch whatever fluids might leak out of your baby while they sleep. Changing crib sheets is a major pain. These are a great time-saver.

4. Bumbo. Yes they keep getting in trouble for babies falling off of counters, but why are people putting their babies on the counter?? If you use the Bumbo as you should, it's pretty fantastic. My daughter was just dying to sit up, but she couldn't quite do it. She was so happy to be able to sit in the Bumbo. I also suggest getting the little tray attachment. My daughter ate in hers a lot when she first started solid foods.

3. Taggies. Something I did not know about babies before I had one is that they are obsessed with tags. I love these taggies. I buy them for all my friends with babies.

2. Noise Machine. I'm partial to this one because to this day I sleep with a fan on for white noise.

1. Boppy. Before I had a child, I thought the Boppy was just a huge ripoff. I still think it's way too much for what is basically just a pillow, but I can't deny that I used mine a ton and my one and a half year old daughter still sits in it to look at books. It's incredibly handy for nursing and to wrap around baby when they're starting to sit up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Parenting and the Internet

I think parenting must have been easier back in the old days. The majority of advice came from your mom and the other ladies around. Ok, sometimes that can be stressful. But the internet has given us a whole new source of "expert" advice--and stress and pressure.

When my daughter was first born there's no doubt I had no idea what I was doing. I got great advice from my mom and other moms I knew, but I also spent plenty of time online reading articles about what I should and shouldn't be doing with this kid.

I certainly learned some important things from all that reading, but it often just served to make me paranoid. The problem with listening to the experts is that no two babies are the same. Sure, there are lots of things that would be ideal--sleeping through the night, breastfeeding without a problem, hitting all the right milestones--but I'd bet that most babies don't fulfill all the ideals and we're left feeling like failures.

After almost a year and half of being a mom, I'm finally learning to just take what comes. My daughter never rolled over. That's cool, she just sat up one day instead. We still rock her to sleep at night. No problem. I chose to (try) not to get worked up about these things or to force her to change, and we're all happier for it.

When her sleeping started getting sketchy around 4 months, I decided to do what the articles said and try to get her to go to sleep on her own. After some months of frustration and hour-long "cry it out" sessions, I decided to forget the experts and just rock the poor kid to sleep. And it worked. She slept better. We slept better. And we didn't even suffer the horrific consequences the experts assured me would happen (which, if you're wondering, is that she will never ever ever be able to get herself back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night causing us to have to constantly get up to sooth her).

I'm not saying all experts are wrong. I still read my share of articles online, but I've learned not to stress when my child isn't living up to everything they say she should. They don't know me or my kid. All that matters is that my daughter (who is currently making out with a plastic strawberry) is happy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Toy That Insults Everyone

For Eliza's first birthday last year, she received this Little People Princess Castle from her grandparents. At first, I was just slightly annoyed that it was another large toy we were going to have to find room for with little pieces we were going to lose. Then we got it home and played with it and realized it's basically the best toy ever.

It's like every girl (and mom's) dream--princesses, singing, dancing, castles--it just doesn't get any better. And to add to the fun, for Christmas Eliza got the pack of all seven princesses, as well as Ariel and Eric's underwater carriage. I was beside myself.

We brought it all home and tried out all our new treasures. Each princess sings a different song and says a few different things. That's about when I started wondering about the hidden agenda of this toy.

Now I'm not ultra-feminist or anything, but some of the messages coming from this toy surprised me. Most notably from Snow White who happily sings, "I'm waiting for my prince, to sweep me off my feet." Ok, let's be honest, lots of women in real life are probably thinking the same thing (maybe not in such a bubbly tone), but nobody wants to admit it. So either Snow White is an extremely brave and strong woman for admitting that she wants a relationship or she's stuck in the dark ages. We'll see how that plays out for her.

This all isn't helped by the fact that we now have 9 women living together in a castle with one man. And the only way to get more men is to buy them in a two-pack with their princess.

But it's not all good for the men. Upon our return home with our brand new Eric little person, we realized...he doesn't speak! I guess that's how the princesses like their men. Dressed up fancy and mute.

Then there's Princess Tiana, the African-American princess from The Princess and the Frog who, with her mammy style accent and talk of cooking giant meals, is just a little bit questionable.

Despite all this, I can't help but love this silly castle. We'll just have to fix Eliza later so she doesn't go through life believing that womankind's sole purpose is to find a husband, men are better seen than heard, and black people leave the "g" off of all words ending in "ing."