Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Munchkin, (almost) 8 Months...

I can't believe the Munchkin will be 8 months old next week. It seems that Father Time boarded a supersonic jet- because he really does fly by! I can honestly say I can't go a full week without getting teary because Munchkin is doing something new, growing out of smaller baby clothes, trying to crawl, trying to STAND UP (!!!!), using his little pincher fingers to feed himself, and I am shocked to tears at how much he's grown. I love this age, but I do miss being able to snuggle with my little baby. Most of the time, Munchkin is more interested in wiggling out of my arms than in letting me hold him. It almost has given me baby fever again-except when I realize that I'm just now starting to get some decent sleep. Maybe I'll give my body and my Munchkin a little more time before we make him a big brother!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PYHO: Sisterly love

My sister-older than me by 4 years- and I, are survivors. We have survived the tumultuous stages of sisterhood and life that threatened to break us apart forever. Sounds melodramatic? Maybe, but it's true. Four years doesn't sound like much, except for when you break down the age differences like this:

Erin at 11: puberty, middle school, braces, pimples, figuring out boys, training bras, body image.
Me, then at 7: roller skates, Barbies, chapter books, playing pretend and figuring out multiplication tables.

Erin at 15: high school, a hierarchy of mean girls, figuring out boys, hormones, the rag, car envy, school pressure, pimples, body image.

Me, then at 11: See above list.

Erin at 18: college stress, school pressures, hormones, saying good bye to high school friends, figuring out boys, dealing with a little sister attending the same high school as her and praying I didn't embarrass her, body image.

Me, then at 14: See above list for Erin at 15, and add on: trying to become friends with her big sister, the sadness of losing her big sister to college, trying to figure out not just boys, but older boys in high school, and living up to the legacy my big sister had left in terms of academics.

Our relationship has run the gauntlet. Our path to becoming the besties that were are now was rife with fights. We would beat each other up, face slapping, chair throwing, hair pulling, punching over a variety of triggers. I constantly borrowed her things without asking. I pestered her, wanting time and attention from her. I made fun of her looks,(mostly because she was the slim one with fine, manageable hair while I was the "curvy" one who had hips, boobs, and a belly by the time I hit fifth grade. We won't even detail my lifelong battle with the red, curly/wavy/frizzy hair my father bequethed me. Thanks a heap, Dad.) I used my sense of humor to make her the butt of my jokes, and she used her brilliant mind and razor sharp tongue to slice my self esteem to bits. We knew each other's weaknesses and insecurities and used them against each other.

Then I hit eighth grade, and Erin was then in high school. The world we lived in tumbled down around us: our younger brother was sick, needing a heart transplant at the age of nine. This required our parents to take him to Boston Children's hospital, where the three of them stayed for three months while various family members stayed with Erin and I in South Carolina. Those months didn't automatically change our relationship, but it did begin to shift, to something less bitter, something less adversarial. The revolving door of family members (as blessed as we were to have them there to take care of us) united us. We were partners, and I can't speak for her, but I clung to the fact that at least the two of us were together, even if the rest of our family was torn apart by geography and circumstances.

I started trying to use my sense of humor to make her laugh, instead of make her cry. Out of all of my best friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors who all had sympathy for the fear we were facing over our brother's health, only Erin truly understood, because she was in it with me. Each day that passed by, waiting for news, missing our parents, worrying about our brother, she was in it with me. Wishing for a new heart for our brother meant that someone else's child had to die. What a confusing time for two adolescent girls, wishing for our brother's recovery, yet knowing what it would mean for another family. Feeling guilty if you laughed at a friend's joke, or went to the mall, because our brother was in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors, his body barely able to keep functioning. I don't remember Erin and I talking much about the situation, expressing our feelings outright to each other then; that wasn't really our family's style at the time. What I do remember is drawing comfort from my older sister, seeing the worry etched on her face, in the posture of her shoulders, and feeling more connected to her because of it.

Our family emerged from that health crisis with scarred hearts and spirits, but thankful and triumphant. My brother's scars are visible- one long, red scar where his chest was cracked open and a new heart was placed. I think Erin and I also had "heart" transplants of our own. Our scars were invisible, but we were forced us to crack open our minds and bodies, taking out the old, malfunctioning, ugly hearts and mindsets we had towards each other, and replace them with a sisterly love and appreciation that continues to grow.

Today is my sister's birthday. I am Pouring My Heart Out in honor of her. I am so grateful to have her as my best friend. Since that difficult time in our family's life, we have spent countless hours on the phone, talking, laughing, crying. Erin knows me inside and out, and loves me anyway. She lets me be myself, neurotic, joke telling, foul mouthed, Super Mommy and Super Catholic wannabe, without fear of reproach or judgment. She keeps me sane, keeps me accountable, keeps my feet on the ground while my anxiety meter skyrockets upward. We have grown into adults, into women, into wives and mothers, celebrating the various seasons of life together. I love my sister more than words can say, and will be grateful for her friendship and love for the rest of my days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So You Wanna Save Money? Be a Consignment Shoppin' Diva

Today I bought 60 pieces of clothing for my son, including a swim suit and swim shirt, Easter outfit, two pairs of shoes, five pairs of socks, and enough play outfits and church clothes to last at least the next six or seven months. I paid $150.

Do the math- that's roughly $2.50 an item.

Twice a year my community has several large consignment sales for children's clothing, toys, books, shoes, furniture, strollers, and everything in between that you can possibly imagine. I. am. addicted. Finding bargains and avoiding the pain of paying full price for things is one of my favorite things, and makes shopping fun for me. It gives me a sense of euphoria to be able to find things I need, in good or great condition, for unbelievable prices. Here is a list of the things I've found for Munchkin at various consignment sales and our local consignment shop:

Fisher-Price Bouncy seat: $12
Graco stroller: $20
Baby Einstein Exersaucer: $40
Bumbo seat: $20
Infantino shopping cart cover, still in the box: $10 or $12 (can't remember exactly)
Numerous books and toys: All $10 and under
Baby Einstein DVD's: $5 a piece
Christening gown: $20 (I know someone who paid three times that for her baby's Christening outfit!)
Baby food bowls, spoons, forks and sippy cups: $10 for about 12 pieces
Baby bath tub: $8

This is just a small list, and it just includes the bigger items. Some other big items, like our high chair, I planned to buy at the seasonal consignment sale, but Munchkin needed one before the sale came around and I wasn't able to find one I like at our local consignment store. That is one of the downfalls of consignment shopping-you either have to wait for the large seasonal sale, or take what you can get at the local store. Now, this can mean that you find amazing jewels, like my Baby Einstein Exersaucer that I was thrilled to discover at our local shop. I had eyed the very same one at Babies R' Us the day before I bought it at the consignment store. I believe the original price is twice what I paid, and mine is in excellent condition.

It is really important to me, when I do shop consignment sales, that I buy quality items that aren't broken, have all the parts, are clean, not (too) faded and are at a reasonable price for their condition. Buying on consignment is a great way to save money, especially when you think of how much use, wear and tear children's items get. Also, if you do take good care of your children's clothes, stain treat them, wash them gently so they resist fading, etc., not only can you get use out of them with multiple children (if you are so blessed) but you may even be able to get some money back on them by consigning them yourself. What an amazing blessing to your family that would be, if you are able to find clothes at a consignment sale for a good price, your child(ren) can use them for as long as necessary, and then you make money on them by consigning them when you no longer need them!

There are, of course, quality levels of consignment sales/shops and the items themselves. Some sales/shops are pickier than others when it comes to quality of items, others allow pretty much any ol' stained, severely faded clothing or broken toys to be consigned. You must be very picky about how you spend your time and money when it comes to these sales. There are no returns, no guarantees or warranties with these items, at least that I've found. Making a list of things you need, by order of size, season and priority is a good idea. Also, do some research ahead of time to get an idea of how much certain items go for at retail value- such as double strollers, Exersaucers, Bumbo seats-as well as the retail value of certain brands- Baby Gap, Carter's, Fisher Price, Baby Einstein, Graco, etc. For example, my mom and I went to a large seasonal consignment sale today. It is the second to last day of the sale, which means that most items were 30% off. Tomorrow, most items are 60% off! Anyway, we had finished most of our shopping but I wanted to check out the double strollers. (Don't get any ideas- 8 month old Munchkin is enough for me at the moment!) A friend of mine is due in June, and her firstborn is only 2. She had gone to the sale a few days earlier in search of a double stroller, but hadn't been impressed with the selection or prices on what was left. Fine, that's her perogative. When I checked today, there was a beautiful, high quality PEG PEREGO double stroller for $185. With the extra 30% off, the stroller was $130. Still pretty pricey to be buying something used, yes. Now I know that Peg Perego is a pretty pricey brand. So $130 seemed pretty decent to me, but I wasn't sure how decent. I checked online for the retail price of the stroller. SEVEN.HUNDRED.DOLLARS. Moral of the story- have at least a general idea of the retail value for the big name brands. You may just end up finding a gem, a high quality item that will last through several children. Even if you don't know how much a certain brand usually runs, just whip out your cell phone and do a quick Google search like I did. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

No matter where you live, how many children you have or what ages they night be, the chances are good that you can find a consignment sale or shop to suit your needs. In my area alone, there are 4 seasonal consignment sales (which means they happen twice a year), and one of which is put on by Mothers of Multiples. You only have to have multiples to consign at this sale, but anyone can shop. Think of how many double strollers you'd be able to find at a sale like that!!

Maybe you've got plenty of disposable income or just prefer to buy things new, tags still attached, no other child ever having worn or played with the things you buy your child. That's fine. (Although I have found several clothing items with the tags still attached-some industrious women shop the major clearance sales at popular children's stores, buy cute clothes outrageously marked down and then consign them. To them I say, "You Go, Girl!") But I encourage you, if you're even the slightest bit curious about consignment sales or shops, try it! Try it for fun, for saving, for your family, to be an example of good stewardship, or just to try something new.

My last bit of advice: as I've said before, not all consignment sales and shops are created equal. If you try one and are unimpressed with it, do at least two of the following things: either go later on a sale day, or get there earlier next time to scoop up the best stuff first, OR try another consignment sale or shop altogether.

Happy (consignment!) shopping!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pour Your Heart Out-The Pain that Brings Change

"My arm pit hurts."

Snort. "Really? That's...weird, honey."

I rotated my shoulder and gingerly pressed my fingers into the sore part of my under arm. Huh. Whatever, I thought. It's probably an ingrown hair from shaving. Gross, but no big deal.

A few days later, at my yearly gynocologist appointment...

"So, Emily, everything looks good and looks healthy. We'll have the results of your Pap in a few days. Do you have any questions or concerns?"

"Well, it's kind of weird, Dr. L, but my arm pit has been hurting a bit for the last few days."

"Hmm, well let me just check it out and do another quick breast exam."

Seconds passed as she gently but thoroughly examined me.

"Well, I don't feel any lumps or bumps. There are lymph nodes up there that can get swollen if you've been sick, and actually your mammary glands go up that far, so you may have some milk up there since you're still nursing the Munchkin. If it doesn't go away in a few days, give us a call and we'll check it again."

"Thanks, Dr., sounds good."

About a week later, however, the pain hadn't subsided. In fact, it was more noticeable. I tried checking the area myself. I couldn't feel any lumps or weird things, but then again, I didn't often feel up my arm pits so I wasn't sure what I was looking for.

The suspense, more than the pain, was killing me. I had all kinds of scenarios in my head for what could be causing the pain, but I realized that worrying did nothing. So, I called back Dr. L and made another appointment.

"Well, Emily, again, I don't feel anything. I'm sorry this is still bothering you. I'm going to make an appointment for you at the Breast Center so that they can check you out and so that we can be on the safe side."

I was stunned. The Breast Center? As in, a real mammogram? I'm 29 years old. The Breast Center is for people who are older, or who have--Cancer. Breast Center?! It's just my arm pit, I screamed internally. I don't need the Breast Center!

The Worry Dragon took over.

"Oh, okay. Um, how soon do you think they'll be able to see me?" I wanted this over with as soon as possible.

"Probably the next few days. They'll fax us the results and we'll call you as soon as we get them."

As I drove home, my whole world came crashing down on me. I.Am.Not.Even.Thirty. I have a seven month old little boy who needs me. This is just some pain. In my arm pit, for crying out loud! Sure it's near my breast, but I can't have Cancer. No, no, no. Who's going to take care of Munchkin if I have to go through treatments? The Wiz has to work to keep us afloat! My mom? Super Grammy she surely is, but she works full time too. Stories of family members going through chemo and radiation speed through my brain. There is no way I can handle this. The thought of not being able to pick my son up, feed him, play with him, change his diapers, read to him- I couldn't stand it.

Okay, breathe Emily, I told myself. Dr. L didn't seem too worried. She didn't feel any lumps. It is way up in my arm pit. I'm not even 30 years old. Just breathe.

Then the Worry Dragon started up again: This is how it starts though. A routine doctor's appointment, a seemingly innocuous pain. What if it's Lymphoma? I have lymph nodes up there. And Cancer knows no age limits. My friend's wife just finished treatment for breast cancer and she's not even 35.

It was right then, thinking about my sweet baby's drooly, gummy smile, big blue eyes and chubby cheeks that I made a vow to myself and to him.

That's it, no more, I thought. If I can get through this unscathed, if this pain turns out to be nothing, I'm changing my life. Mind over matter. The Munchkin, the Wiz, they need me. I have to take care of myself better than I have been. I vow to turn my eating habits around to give my body the proper fuel and nutrition it needs to operate at optimum level. I vow to suck it up and actually exercise to reduce my stress and keep my body healthy. I can't take care of anyone else if I don't take care of myself. "Please, please, please, Lord. I just want to be here for my son, to take care of him, to see him grow up. I will be a better steward of the gifts you've given me if you'll just make this pain be a non-issue," I prayed.

My appointment day found me seemingly controlled on the outside, with a pit of worry in my stomach. I pumped as much milk as I could like the nurse had advised me, and took my pump with me. I was dreading the thought of putting my lactating breasts into a mammogram machine, but I'd do what I had to do.

I was the youngest woman in the waiting room, probably by about 15-20 years. The looks of curiosity mixed with sympathy in the other women's eyes unnerved me. I wanted to scream, "I don't have Cancer! I'm fine! Really!" But instead, I kept my mouth shut and sat quietly waiting to be called.

As I sat there, I tried to steel myself for what this appointment could bring, but how do you prepare yourself for the worst? My mind kept going back to the Munchkin, the Wiz, and how much I wanted to be there for both of them. It occurred to me that the strength that it takes for women diagnosed with any kind of cancer is immeasurable, and I felt sure that I did not possess such strength. I started looking around at the women sitting in the waiting room. Some with bald heads, or a slight fuzzy covering of downy hair starting to grow in. I wondered if they worried,"What if it's back? What if it's not gone yet?" Others with no signs that Cancer had touched them yet, waiting for their routine yearly mammogram. I could imagine that tiny voice, that tiny fear in the back of their minds,"What if they find something?"

I said a silent prayer for all of us- all women- that we would have the strength to face whatever we were dealt today.

As I sat in the patient room, irritated by the rustle the paper gown made every time I fidgeted, the worry was replaced by guilt, thinking of all those moments I took for granted with the Munchkin and the Wiz. Every middle of the night nursing moment, I should have said a prayer of thanks. Every pair of The Wiz's shoes I tripped over in the bathroom should have made me shake my head and chuckle, instead of shake my head and stomp my foot in exasperation. Because every moment, every smile, every second of our lives is a gift. I should have said a prayer of thanks that I was alive, that I was blessed with a healthy baby, and with the ability to nurse him. I should have said a prayer of thanks that my husband was healthy, and loved him for his forgetfulness and quirks. Because that's the beauty and gift of life. Being present for these moments is priceless.

As the tech rotated the ultrasound over the tender spot in my under arm, I couldn't bring myself to look at the screen, or at the tech. I knew that with every squint of her eyes or pursing of her lips, I would jump out of my skin. Instead, I closed my eyes and waited.

"Lord, be gentle in Your mercy," I thought.

Silent moment after silent moment passed. She left and brought in another ultra sound tech. They murmured to each other, gently rotating the sonogram wand and pressing into the tender spot in my under arm. I tuned them out, concentrating on the rise and fall of my breath.

Finally, she spoke.

"Well, Emily, it seems that this is just a lymph node that's causing the pain, probably from the cold you've had. I don't see anything worth worrying about, so you're good to go."

"Wha? It's okay then?" I felt my hunched shoulders slowly start to relax and tears pin prick my eyes.

"Yes. If anything changes, like if you start feeling a lump there, or a little b.b. sized marble type feeling, give us a call back. But you go on home now and nurse that sweet baby."

I left the office speechless and grateful. On the way out, I repeated my silent prayer for the women still waiting, and went home to my sweet baby, determined to make good on the vow I had made.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mommy baby doesn't have any friends!!

My Munchkin is the coolest. He is the most laid back, funny, happy baby. He makes the cutest zerbert/raspberry noises while he intensely focuses on playing with his toys. He is friendly towards all people who smile or talk to him in stores. Recently we attended our second play date with several of my former coworkers and their children. The babies ranged from 6 months to almost a year old. It seemed that we all got pregnant right around the same time. The first time we had a play date, Munchkin was cool as a cucumber. He wasn't sitting up yet, so he spent the majority of his time laying on the floor, or bouncing in the bouncer seat. Other babies were a little overwhelmed by all the action and noise. Not my baby. He had a blast.

This last time, not so much.

He was sort of a weepy, fussy mess almost the entire time. Granted, the play date was running into his nap time, and it was almost his nursing time.

But I left that last play date panicking. As I have been reviewing our daily schedule and life, I've realized that although I do plan around Munchkin's nap and meal times, I haven't really been doing a very good job at planning activities for him.

I signed him up for a story time at our local library a few months ago, but we've never been able to make it there. In my defense, the story time for his age group starts at 9:30. Exactly when he is usually snoozing away for his first morning nap.

We've visited the zoo with friends and their kids. But the kids spent the whole time in their strollers. It's not like they were actually interacting.

I've had a standing weekly appointment with a girlfriend of mine to walk. But her little one is now 2 years old and not exactly interested in hanging with a Munchkin who can't keep up and play on the playground with him. Can't say that I blame him, either.

I'm feeling a little selfish, a little foolish, a little clueless. Selfish because I feel like I've been putting my needs before his- carting him all over creation to run hither and yon, instead of enrolling him in some class to meet other babies. Foolish because I feel like all other mommies know to do these kinds of things, and maybe I'm late to the game. Clueless because I am not sure where to start, how it's going to go, and if we can afford to enroll him in anything.

Thankfully, we have an all ready paid up gym membership, which does provide child care. I think I'm going to try and swallow my Mommy Anxiety and try it out next week. I'm not making any promises- the first couple of times may only be for 10 or 20 minutes, but hey, it's a start, right? It'll get us out of the house, mommy gets to exercise, Munchkin gets to learn that when I drop him off somewhere that I am ALWAYS going to come back, and maybe he'll get to play with some other babies close to his age.

Another good thing is that a few of the places I've researched- My Gym and Kindermusik-allow parents to bring their children for a free preview class before enrolling. I am extremely happy about this. This way I can gauge how beneficial and fun these programs will be to the Munchkin's well being.

Lastly, I've joined a local mommy's group. So far I've enjoyed the two "Mommies" nights with these ladies, and I hope I can start bringing Munchkin to some of the play dates and make friends.

There are lots of opportunities out there. One of the biggest things is that all of these opportunities take me well out of my comfort zone. I can be extremely introverted, self-conscious and awkward in new social situations. I am just holding on to the belief that will all of the opportunties around us, that the Munckin and I will find a few that will really fit our needs and help us both grow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Baby Nirvana- 7 Months

The Munchkin is doing so many new things, growing so fast and changing every day. I can't believe he's going to be 7 months old tomorrow. Life with a baby changes on a daily, if not hourly basis. Just when you think you're hitting your stride as a couple, he goes and changes things up on you. But I have to say, I feel like this age right now is pretty great. Each stage that he's been through has had its ups and downs, and the same goes for 7 months. Here's what's new:
-The Munchkin is now sitting very well, unassisted. He's not mobile yet, though, so I can sit him in the center of some blankets, surrounded by toys and he can entertain himself while I get some things done. The beauty of him not yet being mobile is that I don't have to worry about him getting into all sorts of mischief while I'm in the kitchen unloading or loading the dishwasher.
-He is very good at entertaining himself for decent periods of time. The other side of this coin is that he is a lot of fun to play with, too! I've always loved playing with him, but now it's becoming more interactive, he's more engaged and his giggles are to die for!
-He is eating three meals of solid food, in addition to nursing. I've been making the majority of his food, with the exception of prunes. I just buy the already made baby food prunes because I don't want to mess with trying to make them myself. But so far, he eats prunes, pears, rice cereal, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, avocadoes, and nectarines. He does pretty well with the eating, and is starting to form small rolls and creases on his sweet little legs. It was an adjustment, trying to remember to thaw out some baby food every couple of days, or adding in the task of making the baby food to our schedule, but I'm getting used to it. I do have some back up jars of baby food in the pantry, for when we're going to be traveling during lunch time, or if we run out of homemade baby food when I need some.
-I'm less stressed about the napping thing. (This week, at least. :))
-He is less tolerant of long periods of time in the stroller. It's harder for me to run errands, go shopping, etc., because he gets fussier faster. I'm not sure the reason for that. He does, however, enjoy our outdoor walks. For those, I just put him straight in the stroller instead of clicking the car seat into the stroller. I suppose I should just stop using the car seat in the stroller any more, as he's getting bigger and sitting up on his own.
-He seems to be focusing more on stories and the baby signs that I show him.
That's all I can think of for now. I wonder how life will change once he starts actually cutting a tooth, becomes mobile, and starts feeding himself. Saints preserve us! :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Merry St. Patrick's Day

Yep, that's what you think it is. I'm so ashamed. Don't be too hard on me! :)

Pour Your Heart Out: Nap time is...

Nap time is... a delicate dance,

An anxious battle,

Your sweet, warm breath warming my neck as you nuzzle into me,

Your little hands reaching up to stroke my face while your eye lids slide closed,

A roller coaster ride, anticipation building as we approach the 30 minute mark, relief flooding in as you sleep on, 60 minutes, 90 minutes...phew!

Fearing that every tip toe I take around the house is like an elephant's stomp to your quiet, delicate, sleeping ears,

Sometimes a gentle reprieve for a tired mommy after poor night's sleep,

Time to myself to blog, to read, to fold laundry, to lie down, to eat, to breeeeeathe, to miss you,

Gut wrenching anxiety when I hear you sigh, then stretch, then start to yell-a mere 20 minutes after falling asleep,

A necessity for a happy Munchkin,

Questioning myself, my mind flying through all those warnings in all those sleep training books as I allow you to fall asleep in my arms,

Packing you up in the car after over an hour of trying to get you to nap, praying that the motion will lull you,

Rearranging plans, play dates, errands, schedules for the day,

Wondering if you're still breathing after napping for 2 hours strong, an unusual event for my Munchkin,

Fussing at Daddy for talking too loudly on his cell phone,

Wordlessly threatening the dog for barking at a squirrel outside your bedroom window,

Silent fist-shaking at the UPS man who ignored the "Please Knock, Sleeping Baby on Board" sign taped over the door bell...

Mommy's mini-vacation...