Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why My Mom Still Matters

As a new mom, I find myself dreading the day that my daughter suddenly doesn't need me anymore. I know it will come, as that's ultimately the point of parenthood, and of course I will be proud of her to be on her own. I certainly once thought I didn't need my mom anymore, and I was probably too cavalier in the way I let her know. But as I've started my own journey of parenthood, I've come to realize that even if I don't need my mom, she still matters a tremendous amount in my life.

My mom truly cares how I'm doing.

How many times each day are you asked, "How are you?" Probably more than you can count. And how many times does the person asking the question really want to find out the answer? Probably less than you'd care to know. My mom, on the other hand, truly cares to know about my day. We have daily chats on the phone during which she rejoices in my successes, feels pain over my sorrows, and helps me troubleshoot my challenges. The empathy of a mother cannot be matched.

My mom knows the real me.

My mom knows the person I am and always have been. She can tell just by a look on my face or the sound of my voice how I'm feeling. She knows what I really mean to say, even when I don't express it. She understands why I say or do certain things, what aspects of my personality are inborn, and perhaps most importantly, how I've grown. The best part is that despite all this knowledge of the real me, she loves me anyway. In a world that sometimes seems to require me to be anything but myself, the permission to be authentic with my mom keeps me grounded.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

5 Lessons Learned on Maternity Leave

Maternity leave was a whole new world from my customary 40-hour work week at an office. Once I kicked the baby blues and got into a groove, I was on the fast track to a surprisingly enriching lifestyle change. It was neither a "relaxing with a book all day" experience, nor was it "living in a dump because there's no time to do anything non-baby-related" - either of which would have surprised me less than reality. Instead, it was an exercise in prioritization, productivity, and perseverance that taught me these five important lessons, among many.

1. The magic of multi-tasking.

It turns out it is possible to be a good housekeeper and a hands-on mom at the same time, thanks to baby wraps and carriers. Once I discovered that I could wrap my baby on and do dishes, vacuum, or even fold laundry, my productivity went through the roof. I always felt very accomplished at the end of the day, and I scoffed at the pre-mom-me who used to waste her free time sitting around with her computer in her lap.

2. How to make naptime count.

Once I started being able to predict the normal timing and length of my baby's naps, naptime became sacred. Whether I finally enjoyed my daily cup of hot tea, worked on some household chore that just couldn't be done with baby in tow, or seized the opportunity to exercise, I learned to make every second of naptime count. In fact, I learned to be such an effective time manager over maternity leave, I'm pretty sure I was a better employee when I returned to work because of it. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Top 5 Cloth Diaper Rookie Mistakes

In honor of Real Diaper Week and tomorrow's Great Diaper Change, here is an article I recently wrote about my own cloth diapering journey. We've been cloth diapering for 4 months, and I've found the experience to be incredibly rewarding. It's awesome not to have to buy disposable diapers, to have a rash-free baby bottom on our hands, and, let's face it, to buy all the cute colors, styles, and prints that cloth diapers come in these days. But that journey hasn't come without its fair share of challenges. 

It seems that cloth diapering is really catching on as a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly alternative to disposables. I bought into the idea before my baby was born and referred to my decision as the "great cloth diapering experiment." It was exciting to do all the research ahead of time, and then when the baby was finally here, I found that I actually love cloth diapering! But that's not to say the process of learning to cloth diaper hasn't come with some bumps in the road. Here are five of the rookie mistakes I made as I started my diapering journey.

Buying ahead 

Before my baby was born, I wanted to have absolutely everything ready for her - especially her stash of cloth diapers. Unfortunately, I ended up with a lot of a certain style of diaper that it turns out I like less than others. I also purchased several newborn-sized diapers, but by the time we had used up all the disposable diapers we had been given as gifts and were ready to move on to cloth, our baby had already outgrown that size! I suggest doing a cloth diaper trial or rental program to start with, or perhaps purchasing a few different types of diapers and trying them out before investing in a large stash.

Not setting up a wash schedule

Ideally, cloth diapers should be washed every one to three days. When I was first starting out and had an admittedly small stash, I'd often run out of diapers because I wasn't washing often enough. Not washing soon enough can lead to staining, stink problems, and running-out-of-diaper emergencies, and washing more often than needed can be stressful and use an unnecessary amount of water, electricity, and time. I am finally on a schedule of washing mine every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, and have plenty of diapers to last me in between.

 Read the full article >>>

Interested in more about cloth diapers? Check out a friend's blog: Adventures in Fluff

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Keeping Your Baby Entertained

"I'm bored!"

Even though my daughter can't yet talk, I know she's sometimes trying to tell me she needs something new to see or do. As we enter each new phase of her life, we wonder in what new ways we can keep her entertained. I've written three articles that strive to shed light on the matter for other parents.

8 Stimulating Activities for a One-Month-Old

Once my brand new baby started to emerge from her haze of constant sleep, I found myself wondering, "Now what?" She wasn't capable of holding up her own head or grabbing things with her hands, but it still seemed there had to be some way I could entertain her. The following activities emerged as some of the best ways to stimulate my one-month-old.

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5 Must-Have Items for Your Four-Month-Old

It's amazing how quickly babies go from being unable to control their heads or arms to looking at and touching everything in sight! As the mom of a four-month-old, I want to make sure she's got the kind of items around the house that will provide her with the comfort, stimulation, and entertainment she needs. Here are some items that I've found quite helpful for life with a four-month-old.

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The Perfect Baby Toy: Why a Stuffed Hippo Takes the Cake

My five-month-old baby has a little stuffed hippo toy. Someone must have included it with a baby shower gift, and after I got it home, it ended up in a basket, heaped in with the rest of the teethers, stuffed animals, and rattles she was given. One day, it won the toy lottery when I (or someone else for all I remember) pulled it out for the baby, and it quickly became one of her favorite toys. And perhaps more importantly, it has become my favorite toy for her.

What makes this toy special? It has four characteristics which, when put together, I think make for the perfect baby toy.

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Entertaining Toys for your 6-Month-Old

Each new stage of an infant's life brings a new wave of toys and activities that optimally stimulate their senses and entertain them. When a mom in the online community I am part of asked for suggestions for toys for our six-month-olds, an extensive list emerged.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

8 Simple Victories That Make My Day

My idea of personal success shifted in a major way when my new baby came into the picture. Gone were the days when an everyday victory for me was no less than getting public praise at work, perfecting a new recipe for dinner, or beating a high-level player at online euchre. I once would have seen the current highlights of my day as trivial. On the contrary, I now view the following eight seemingly simple events as momentous occasions.

1. The non-leaky diaper. When I see my new baby make her telltale facial expression and hear the inevitable noise that follows, or when I pick her up from a nap and touch her bottom, I breathe a sigh of relief to see that her business was, thankfully, contained to her diaper. One less change of clothes for the day!

2. The long-awaited #2. While on the subject, babies can be quite miserable when their last you-know-what was even 24 hours ago. It's worth celebrating right along with the relieved little one when that long-awaited dirty diaper finally comes along.

3. The long nap. Babies have a short sleep cycle - only about 45 minutes. Long about two months old, my baby stopped being able to regularly make it through one sleep cycle to the next during her daytime naps. Every time 45 minutes rolls around, I hold my breath and stay quiet as a mouse. On the rare occasion that she makes it through without a peep or has one phantom cry and goes back to sleep, I do a little victory dance.

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