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It Takes a Family

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I’ve often reflected that the short eleven months that I’ve been a mommy have taught me more about life and love than my previous twenty-six years on the Earth.  And if I did not appreciate my large family before, then I definitely know better now.

To start.

We have a lot of family, which means that my daughter has a lot of family.  As the very first grandchild on this branch (on both sides) she has six doting grandparents, three aunts, and three uncles.  Most of this family lives within an hours drive either north or west.  A smaller chunk live about three hours away – a trek by car, but near enough to be there when necessary.  This means that she also gets her fair share of spoiling and we get our fair share of “help” (most of it welcome).

There are many benefits to having such a large family so close by.

  1. It’s usually not difficult to find (free!) childcare short notice.  When The Boy and I came down with a vicious stomach bug (or something) I was able to call my stepfather to pick me and my daughter up from school.  He then drove us home and took care of us until my husband showed up.  At this point, he grabbed the baby and a bag full of clothes and took her away for the night, so that we could throw up and crawl across the floor in peace.  (I was literally crawling across the floor.  It was disgusting.)  All this was the day before we buried my grandfather (his father).  This event meant that we had tons of visiting relatives looking out for our daughter (My grandfather boasted that he had over 100 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.  I think he may have even had three great-great-great-grandchildren…but after a while, we started to lose count.) even when we couldn’t be there.
  2. There are at least six different people I can call for medical advice before calling the pediatrician – seven if you include my “big sister” (a close cousin) – and at least another three aunts that I can easily contact online for help.  (Hey Aunt Michelle!  Hey Aunt Jerri!  Hey Aunt Sam!)  Whatever Petals comes down with or gets into, I can almost guarantee that one of the moms have dealt with the same problem with at least one of their multiple kids.  When I was breastfeeding, there were three moms to help me with that.  When I agonized over switching to formula, I had at least two moms to help me with that.  When Petals fell asleep on her tummy, even though the doctor told me I should put her on her back, I made about three phone calls to my parents, just to figure out that the best thing to “do” was to let the baby sleep.
  3. These people represent as many different approaches to child-care as I can imagine.  I’ve picked up so many different techniques from having a variety of role-models and drawing off of their experience.  Sometimes, it can get a little…trying…to have so much helpful advice pumped your way or to be teased for your “crazy” idea that you’d teach your baby to sign (It’s like when your mom reminds you to say “thank you” before your twenty-year-old self has a chance to say it.  It’s good advice, but sheesh!) but more often than not, this advice is looked for and welcomed.

From our families we’ve learned to trust in ourselves and to accept help when it is offered.  The older Petals gets, the more I believe in the notion that it takes an entire village to raise a child.  Now I see why people live with extended family in other countries!  It’s much easier to raise kids that way! There have been times when the two of us were so worn out and frazzled that we needed a third or fourth pair of fresh eyes on our baby.  There have been times when we just didn’t know what to do, and we needed a third or fourth fresh brain to concentrate on the problem.

I am so grateful for my family.

I couldn’t do this without them.

Well, maybe I could.  But it would be much more difficult.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

New Year, New Baby

Yeah…

This is a picture heavy post.  Looooong overdue.

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On another note, Petals’s screaming for food or diaper changes has got to go.  I’ve been trying signing to her – milk, more, food, daddy, mama, finished – but the only ones that she has picked up are the standard “Hello” and “Good-bye”…and she knows how to reach up to picked up…and she knows how to clap her hands in celebration.  (Interestingly enough, she also knows how to hold out one hand to play patty-cake.  We didn’t teach her that one.)  I’m contemplating buying books or baby DVDs, but I have no idea which one would be the most helpful.

Right now I have Baby Signing Time songs stuck in my head.  Perhaps this is a sign.

And on a COMPLETELY unrelated note…

My hair looked awesome the other day.  I wanted to share.

Yup. Look at those locs. Awesome.

Picture Time!

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Wow! It’s hard to believe that it’s already time for Petals’s nine month photos. It seems like just a few days ago we were bringing her home.

Yesterday our photographer, and long time friend, Allie Mullin, came over to hang and photograph our rapidly growing child. What I like most about her, as a photographer is that she followed Zuzu’s lead and took pictures of her in her natural setting-crawling around the living room amongst her toys. By the end of the shoot, she had Petals eating out of her hand. Literally.

I cannot wait to see the pictures because I know that they’re going to be great.

Ready for the New Year

Sometimes babies have physical growth spurts, and sometimes they have cognitive ones.  It would seem that in the past two weeks, Petals has had both.  It’s been a very exciting time around here as Baby Girl has put on about two pounds, lengthened out quite a bit, and begun interacting with the world in a way that’s fascinating for the grown-ups.

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New Year, New Tricks:

  • Yesterday, Petals clapped her hands together for the very first time.  And then kept clapping.  And kept clapping!  I wasn’t sure if this was a fluke not, so of course I had to keep testing it throughout the evening.  The three of us headed out to party the night away with a few good friends, and it was great ringing in the New Year with a baby who was able to cheer with us.
  • Petals “gives kisses” by throwing her forehead (or cheeks, or nose) at someone’s face and can do this rather reliably.  She also comes at faces with an open mouth.  I’m still not sure if she’s trying to give a kiss herself or eat my face.  This started about a week ago.
  • Petals now “dances” when she hears music, bouncing up and down to the rhythm.
  • She can say “Hi, Dada” – she says this to everyone she meets – and attempts to mimic other sounds.  We could have sworn that she copied her daddy saying “Kitty Cat” last night, but it could have been a coincidence, as we haven’t gotten her anywhere close to anymore “k” sounds since then.
  • The other night she got supremely frustrated with me when I was still trying to play at about 5:00 instead of feeding her.  She screamed, crawled over to her high chair, and sat in front of it – as if that were the only way she could get the “feed me!” message across.  It worked.
  • Petals likes to play the “wiggle your body” game in her high chair.  I think that at some point I got an “attitude” head with her while eating, and she decided to copy it.  It’s a thing now.  She also likes to tilt her head to one side and enjoy watching other people do the same thing.
  • Petals LOVES Cheerios and scrambled eggs.  These have now beaten out sweet potatoes as her favorite food.  She still can’t stand to see anyone else eat anything that she’s not eating.  Don’t even think about trying to sneak a sandwich or a bowl of cereal into your gob when she’s not looking – it’s like she can feel someone trying to snag a bite without her.
  • Petals got new toys for Christmas that really seem interesting to her.  There is her baby walker (Which currently holds the Abominable Snowman in it’s passenger seat.  He’s a good companion for someone who’s just learning how to walk and falls alot, because as you know, “Bumbles Bounce”) which she still isn’t so sure about.  There is her new baby doll, which giggles, coos, and blows raspberries.  And then there are the host of other toys that help her developmentally – blocks for putting things “in” and “out”, a Baby Einstein keyboard for figuring out cause-and-effect relationships, and a teether/toothbrush from keeping her two pearly whites pearly.

New Year, New(ish) Goals

Of course every new year people set out resolutions like “Exercise” or “Eat better”, admirable resolutions made more earnest by the recent holiday excesses of eggnog and pie.  However, since I started those goals in 2011, I’m just going to resolve to keep it up for 2012.

  • One of my Christmas presents was a membership to the local YMCA.  This is awesome, because they have a nursery – staffed by some lovely people – which will make it easier to work out with a baby.  They also have Mommy and Me classes that I can’t wait to start with Zooboo.
  • I’ve also been trying to cook healthier meals on a more regular basis.  It’s not that I don’t know how to cook or don’t have any ideas about what to cook, it’s the actual doing it that’s difficult.  Between baby wrangling, grading papers, and trying to keep up with simple hygiene, it’s a lot to handle.  When it’s a choice between listening to the baby screaming in her high chair, trying to stir a hot pot of what’s-it with a baby on your hip, or sending The Hubs out to pick up some hibachi…well…the hibachi,as delish as it is, wins out too many times.  I used the past break to try to hone my quick fix meals skills.  My goal was to cook a good dinner at least five nights out of a week.  I’ll write about those unsuccessful results later.
  • I’m also going to finish the application, and actually get it in on time, for a fellowship with the local university.  This 18 month fellowship offers opportunities to conduct educational research and get some great experiences that I can take back to the classroom.  I’m tired of complaining about stagnating in my career and ready to get out there and do what it is I’ve wanted to do as far as edumcation is concerned.

Pshew!  I’ve got a lot to do in the coming months!  I’d better go get started!

Baby’s First Christmas

We are super excited about Baby’s First Christmas here.

She’s seven-months-old.  It’s the perfect first Christmas age, in my humble opinion.   Why?  There are more than a few reasons.

  1. She loves boxes right now.  Putting things in boxes, taking things out of boxes, turning boxes over to see what happens, and tearing boxes to shreds are some of her current favorite things.  I think that she will absolutely love getting a few boxes and ripping the wrapping paper and bows off of them.  Her eyes will gleam with delight when she discovers the tissue paper inside.  These boxes will provide hours, if not days, of baby entertainment.
  2. She doesn’t want presents.
    1. There is absolutely nothing that she wants, which means this Christmas is gonna be cheap for us!  We’re going to wait to see what other people get for her (so far she’s gotten an awesome coat and bath toy from some of our favorite people) and then fill in some stuff that she needs.  I’ve already got a pack of diapers I’m planning on wrapping up for her, and I’ve been eyeing some more cardboard books – as she only has about four and we’ve “read” those so much that I know them by heart.
    2. Also, the fact that she is oblivious to the materialism that has become attached to Christmastime also means that if, in the event that someone gets her something that we don’t want her to have, we can hide it without repercussions!  Sweet!
  3. She smiles at just about everything– which means that every single Christmas picture she takes is completely adorbs.  In fact, every single picture she takes is completely adorbs – at least to me.

    Naked Baby in a Santa Hat

  4. She still enjoys trying new foods and she’s relatively easy to pack up and cart around – these are both pluses, as we plan to head to church and then dinner with my mother’s family.  Portability is key around this time of year, especially because we’re used to travelling around to make the Christmas visits.
  5. We have a great excuse to get a tree.  Now, I don’t really love love love Christmas.  Not only am I annoyed with people who claim that there is a War on Religion and that one cannot wish another “Happy Holidays” without Jesus taking umbrage, but I’m also annoyed with the same people who indulge in materialistic excess and capitalist greed in the name of Jesus, who, in my mind, was a Super Hippie who wanted to share love, fish, and bread with people.  However, the one thing I really get excited about is decorating the tree.  This was the first year in our, what, six year relationship? that The Boy and I have had a good reason to buy, decorate, and maintain a (fake) Christmas tree.

These are all great reasons.  Maybe it’s the cute baby, and maybe it’s the eggnog, and maybe I’m just getting a Christmas high off the glitter that has overtaken our table, but I’m super looking forward to Christmas this year!