It’s All About Poop: That and Other Lessons I Learned My First Year (and Two Months) of Motherhood

Posted on Feb 2, 2013 in My Kid Stole My Cool

My baby is fourteen months.  That means I’m two months late publishing this post.  So without further ado, the most important lessons I learned during my first year (plus  two months) of motherhood, not ranked in order of importance.  Feel free to pass this along to expecting or new parents – this info right here is priceless. 

1) Your conversations will mainly revolve around poop.  Deal with it.  While in Hawaii, my dad asked me what I had found most surprising about being a parent.  My response?  “How much I talk about poop.”  It’s gross, but it’s true.  When I was pregnant, I went out for coffee with a few other moms and the entire conversation was dominated by talk of poop and nursing.  How cliché!  I vowed I was not going to be one of those moms that could only converse about a baby’s bodily functions and breastfeeding.  Then I had the baby, and realized that all moms are those moms.  It is unavoidable.  Because that is what your life primarily revolves around, at least for the first six months or so.  Hubby comes home from work:  “Hey hon, the baby had four massive poops today!” Go to play group: “Hey ladies, how do you handled your child’s constipation?”  To the flight attendant on your cross-country flight: “I’m sorry, but I have to ignore the fasten seat-belt sign.  My daughter just pooped up her back.”  The babes poop.  All.  The.  Time.  And since a baby’s bowel movement is a major indicator of his or her health, it’s kind of important to pay attention to.  So no matter how uncomfortable you are talking the potty talk, get over it.

2) Celebrities aren’t lying when they say they lost their baby weight by breastfeeding.  I always assumed when I saw someone like Heidi Klum modeling lingerie like, three weeks after giving birth, and then credited her weight loss to breastfeeding that she was a) lying through her perfect white teeth to seem more relatable or something and b) had a personal trainer and chef to whip her back into shape mucho fast.  BUT SHE’ WASN’T LYING.  I mean, not completely.  She probably did have a personal trainer and chef and a magical tailor that designs all of her clothes to make her look 10 lbs lighter, but still, breastfeeding is the bomb.  Nursing burns tons of calories.  Besides pooping, babies eat.  All. The. Time.  So if you’re nursing, it’s basically like you’re exercising all day.  But while eating whatever you want and watching TV.  Awesome, right?

3) Babies make you tardy. I used to be a very punctual person; tardiness was – and is – a major pet peeve of mine.  Yet no matter how much time I allot myself to get out the door, I am constantly running five minutes late.  I’ll have the baby dressed, diaper bag on my shoulder, keys in hand – and Elisabeth will poop through clothes.  (See!  Everything is about poop!)  Or I’ll get the car loaded and Elisabeth strapped into her car seat and then realize I am wearing slippers.  I don’t want to admit how many times this has happened.  (See #9).  And obviously I can’t get a blog posted in a timely manner.  Not quite the same thing as missing a train because I can’t carry a stroller and 20-lb munchkin  up to a flight of stairs to the platform in time, but late is late.  Sheesh.

4) Babies and Cashmere don’t mix.  You may think this is fairly obvious.  But at some point you’re going to think, Today I want to wear something other than yoga pants and a ratty tee.  So you’ll chance it and throw on something pretty and soft and think, Baby won’t throw up on this gorgeous thing.  She just won’t.  She will.  All over it.  I have to tell you from personal experience that spit up on cashmere is particularly rancid.  And that trying to wipe off the spit up from the cashmere with water makes the odor unbearable.  Just throw the shirt out.  Or better yet, don’t be stupid enough to wear cashmere around the baby in the first place.  Seriously people, learn from my mistakes.

5) Don’t feel guilty about traveling with a child.  I still get extremely anxious flying with Elisabeth, especially now that she’s entering toddler-hood.  But you know what, if your kid cries on the airplane, yes it will totally suck and your fellow travelers may hate you, but it is only temporary.  The flight will end.  You will never see those travelers again.  You may have read about the parents that made little goody bags for the passengers seated near them when they traveled with their babies.  (I think it was twins, but I could be wrong.)  People just loved this idea.  I call BS.  If I had to make freaking goody bags for all the passengers seated near me on all the flights I take, I would go broke.  Just remember, all those people were snotty, crying kids once.  And who knows?  They might snore or smell bad or be rude to the flight attendants, so they probably aren’t perfect traveling companions either.  I’m not advocating that you let your child wail and kick and be a little monster on an airplane.  Obviously, you should do what you can to placate your baby and not annoy the people traveling with you.  But sometimes babies cry.  Their ears hurt.  They are over-tired and there is too much stimulation.  They are in a new, strange environment.   Don’t feel guilty because you need to travel, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking an airplane.

6) Your baby will fall off of the bed.  Or a chair.  Or some other high object that you generally don’t want babies falling from.  Elisabeth fell off a chair once and a bed twice.  The chair was Damon’s fault.  The bed was my fault.  The second bed was a freak accident.  She’s fine.  She was fine almost immediately after falling.  And so far she hasn’t exhibited any signs of permanent brain damage!  Point is, don’t beat yourself up about it when it inevitably happens to your baby.

7) Don’t feed your baby a hard-boiled egg the day you have your home professionally cleaned. Or ever.  Again, I beseech you, learn from my mistakes.  I thought hard-boiled eggs would be a great meal or snack for little Elisabeth.  They are easy to make and a great source of protein.  But they are the messiest thing ever.  I don’t know how this happened, but I was finding bits of yolk all over my house.  For days!  That ish got everywhere.  I can handle broccoli thrown on the floor at dinnertime; I’m not a big fan of finding old egg in the toy bin.

8) Babies are fickle creatures.  When Elisabeth was younger, she loved being on the changing table.  Changing her diaper was a breeze.  She also loved baths.  She also ate anything.  Tofu and spinach?  Sure!  I naively thought she would stay that way.  But one day, out of nowhere, changing her diaper became a contact sport.  I could not keep that girl still on the changing table to save my life.  Suddenly she hated baths. One night, she was happy as a clam, the next night, she screamed bloody murder when I put her in the tub.  Like the water was stabbing her.  Recently my champion eater decided that she only wants refined carbs and now will methodically pick out all the veggies from her plate and throw them on the ground.  What the heck?  How do they love something one day and hate it the next?  I don’t know.  But now I know not to expect them to stay one way for long.  They like to keep us on our toes.

9) Those brain cells you mysteriously lose while pregnant and caring for a baby will regenerate eventually.  Actually I have no idea if this is true.  I just pray it is because sometimes I’m such a forgetful hot mess it’s embarrassing.  I’m still holding out hope that my brain will function on level “intelligent” sometime in the near future.

10) Books lie! Their are about a bazillion and one books on how to take care of your baby.  I read almost all of them.  And I tried to follow their methods.  And I failed.  The one that told me to get my daughter sleeping through the night by 8 weeks – lied!  She was not sleeping through the night by 8 weeks because no matter how I tried to follow the book’s suggested schedule, I just could not keep my infant awake after she nursed.  Elisabeth was determined to sleep, so sleep she did, book be damned. The book that told me all it would take to calm my crying child was to swaddle her and give her a pacifier – lied!  Sure, sometimes that would work.  But every time?  Yeah, right.  I could go on, but I won’t.  There are so many “experts” out there all championing different things – they can’t all be right.  Ultimately, I figure you have to do what works for you and your baby (barring anything harmful or illegal) to keep you sane and your baby happy.

11) If possible, don’t have your baby during the holidays.  Planning a birthday party around Thanksgiving or Christmas is far too stressful.  And at some point the kid will feel gypped that their big day gets overshadowed by a national holiday.

12) Throw expectations out the window. Before Elisabeth was born, I had so many expectations of what kind of baby she would be and what kind of mom I would be, none of which came true.  I somehow thought that my baby would never have an explosive diaper in an inconvenient location (Again with the poop!  I can’t stop!), that she would be a good sleeper because I willed it so, that I would be one of those women that looked put together no matter how little sleep I had gotten.  Pshaw.  Like I can control when and where Elisabeth poops.  Or anything else for that matter.  Sometimes life just gets in the way and things don’t go as planned.  You want some more examples?  Behold:

was going to eat a totally healthy, mostly organic diet when I was nursing.  But then we lived in an out of hotels for months and Thai takeout and pizza delivery became staples of our diet.  Asking the pizza man, “Is your pepperoni organic?” just felt weird.

was going to start teaching Elisabeth baby sign language at five months old.  But as of around 11 months, the farthest I had got  in the Baby Signs book was to the page that recommended beginning at five months.

was going to keep Elisabeth on a strict routine once we got settled in Japan.  But then I realized that meant I would pretty much have to stay at home all day, every day to accommodate her three-naps-a-day schedule.  I am very grateful to be able to stay home with my daughter, but I don’t actually want to stay in my home all day, every day.  So Elisabeth has learned to be flexible, and I have stayed sane.  (See #10)

I was going to be a creative mom who makes up fun sensory activities to aid my child’s development or whatever.  But then I tried, and it was a disaster.  It’s just not me.  I’ll save the story of my finger-painting failure for another day.

And so on and so on.  I didn’t do a lot of things I thought I would.  But I did do a lot of things I didn’t think I would do!  And Elisabeth seems pretty happy and well-adjusted.  And brilliant.  So I must be doing something right.  I now know it is impossible to predict how your baby will behave, and how you – a newbie parent with no previous experience – will react to that behavior.  I’m guessing my next kid will act completely differently than Elisabeth, forcing me to relearn everything over again.

13) Sleep is overrated.  Heh.  I’m lying.  Sleep is sooooo underrated.  You’ll understand when you’re not getting any.

Your turn!  What unexpected lessons did you learn your first year as a parent?  Please share!

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What Would Martha Do: The Birthday Blowout

Posted on Jan 24, 2013 in Pinterest Stole My Cool

What Would Martha Do: The Birthday Blowout 3

Elisabeth and I recently attended one of her little buddy’s first birthday party.  It was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” themed and it was so freaking cute.  I have got to give this mom props.  She is moving in a matter of weeks.  She has no furniture but “stick furniture” – the stuff the base loans you once they have packed up and shipped out all your real stuff.  Besides being sans furniture (and most major kitchen appliances, I would assume), she was and is undoubtedly dealing with the major stress of organizing and executing an overseas military move.  Yet she pulled off a seriously awesome first birthday party for her little guy. Colorful lanterns hung from the ceiling to look like the little caterpillar!  The food served was all the food the very hungry caterpillar ate – strawberries, oranges, sausage, cheese, cupcakes!  I mean come on!  So cute!  So creative!  Even birthday boy Jonas had an adorable little onesie that corresponded with the theme.  I was admiring her handiwork when I realized, We are crazy.  The whole lot of us.* This mom is probably one of those women who pulls together cute and creative theme parties effortlessly.  I’ve seen some of her baking creations, so I assume she is talented in these sorts of things.  But while coordinating a move?  And without a Kitchenaid?  My goodness!  That is love for child right there. If it were me, and I were moving, I would also have thrown Elisabeth as rockin’ a party as possible.  Even though she wouldn’t remember it.  Even though it would probably cause me unhealthy levels of stress.  As it was, Elisabeth’s party fell just days after Damon returned home from deployment and on a holiday weekend.  What was that about unhealthy levels of stress?  Yet I’d be damned if she didn’t get a memorable first birthday party.  (Um, a second first birthday party.  She also had a party when we were visiting the states.  She is so the first child.)  I blame – as I often do on this blog – Pinterest.  Because Pinterest has placed...

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Cookie Hell. Or, That Time Girl Scouts Turned Me Into a Dealer

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 in Adulthood Stole My Cool

I do not do drugs.  I do not condone drugs.  I never experimented with drugs.  But maybe if I had, I’d be better prepared for dealing with Girl Scouts now.  Stay with me. While I don’t believe in doing drugs, I do believe in volunteering.  Last year I wrote about volunteering with Girls on the Run, a wonderful organization dedicated to making health and fitness fun for young girls.  While we don’t have GOTR on NAF Atsugi, we do have Girl Scouts, another organization committed to building girls of strong character.  Or something like that. As you may be interested to learn, I was once a Girl Scout.*  So when I learned that the Atsugi Girl Scouts were looking for volunteers, I thought, Why not?  I figured it would be a great way to get more involved more in our community and give back a little of my time to an organization that had given so much to me.** I was wrong.  Very, very wrong. Due to my schedule, I was unable to volunteer as a leader.  Instead I was asked to take on the role of Cookie Manager.  (Co-Cookie Manager is more accurate.  I have a saint of a partner, Kat, who is way more on top of this thing than I am, bless her soul.)  It wasn’t really what I had in mind, and truth be told, I didn’t really know what the job entailed.  Again I thought, Why not?  If that’s what they needed me to do, by all means I would manage me some cookies. What I failed to take into account is that people go bat-$&!% crazy for girl scout cookies.  Straight up psycho.  People want their cookies, and they want them now.  Let’s be real for a second – they aren’t even that good.***  But it’s as if we as Americans have some weird, nostalgic connection to these cookies that compel us to buy, buy, buy and sell, sell, sell.  And the fact that they are only offered -gasp!- once a year in -gasp again!- limited quantities strikes an urgency in us to get...

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Mele Kalikimaka

Posted on Jan 11, 2013 in Travel Traumas

Mele Kalikimaka 4

I want to be in Hawaii right now.  But who doesn’t, right? That’s where Damon, Elisabeth and I spent a wonderful but far-too-short week last month for our Christmas vacation. Growing up in Southern California, I always longed for a White Christmas.  Snow was such a novelty!  When I was young, we spent several holidays visiting my grandparents in Ohio.  We built snowmen!  We made snow angels!  We caught pneumonia!  Man I loved those Christmases. Eventually we transitioned to exclusively California Christmases.  No more snowmen.  No more snow angels.  Our California Christmas tradition?  A walk on the beach. A walk on the beach!?!  That’s, like, the ANTI-Christmas!  Despite our protestations, my parents dragged my brothers and me to the blasted beach year after year after year.  We (the brothers and I, not the parents) would grudgingly trudge through the sand complaining about the horrible burden placed upon us by living 10 minutes from the ocean.   I still love the idea of a white Christmas, though having now experienced several unpleasant winters as an adult (think: Snowpocalypse 2010), I am slightly less attached to the white, fluffy stuff.  And after a somewhat eventful last year (a new baby, travel that included 3 continents, 4 countries and countless states and cities, a Permanent Change of Station to Japan, a deployment, etc., etc.), nothing sounded better than a relaxing week by the beach. Even the monstrously long travel day (yes, day – over 24 hours thanks to delays) it took to get to Kauai didn’t damper my spirits.  Because I wasn’t traveling with the baby alone!  As soon as we had settled into our (inexcusably small for an international flight) seats on the airplane, Damon whipped out his iPad and headphones. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” I asked. “I am going to watch a movie,” he responded. “No, you’re not,” I replied and promptly plopped Elisabeth into his lap. That was the start of my responsibility-free week.   Well, not totally responsibility-free.  I still had to feed the kid and stuff, but it was the closest I’ve come to responsibility-free in...

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Happy End of the Holidays

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Travel Traumas

Happy End of the Holidays 0

Happy New Year! Now that that’s out of the way, can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the business and stress that naturally accompanies the holiday season is over?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays, but now that I have a little person to contend with, I also love when they are over.  Here is my holiday recap, starting in mid-November, because that is really when craziness descended upon my household. Nov 12: Elisabeth and I return to Japan after a great visit to the States.  We deal with jet lag, inexplicable amounts of unpacking (somehow, I came home with more than I left with), and prepping for… Nov 17th: Damon’s Homecoming!  Woohoo!  Except… Nov 15-16: I come down with nasty stomach virus and turn into a worthless corpse laid up on my couch.  All the cleaning, baking, and other general Homecoming activitizing (yes, that is a made-up word) that I inevitably left for the day before Damon’s arrival does not get done.  That will teach me not to procrastinate!  (Eh, it probably won’t.) Nov 21: Elisabeth turns 1!  The realization that my baby is no longer a baby turns me into an emotional wreck.  But only for a moment because there is party planning to be done! Nov 22: Thanksgiving.  Our friends host the squadron for Thanksgiving dinner.  Being the control freak that I am, I get inordinately stressed out about this event.  And I’m not even the host.  Has everyone RSVP’d?  Who will bring what?  Are there enough chairs?  Will my food be edible!?  I should probably work on these control issues.  I should probably also not worry about my stuffing ruining Thanksgiving since there is enough food to feed a small army. Nov 24: The big birthday party! (Still to be written about in detail; it is imperative that I record how psycho I went over this event as a reminder of what not to do in the future.)  Following a major holiday with a major birthday party is not ideal.  The grocery shopping, the cooking, the planning for one of...

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Processing

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

I don’t really know where to start. I never post about “serious” things on this blog.  I am an opinionated person, but I very intentionally stay away from headlines, politics, etc. because this blog for me – and hopefully for you readers – is a way to get away from all that.  It’s supposed to be a lighthearted look into my life as a new mom, a way to find the funny in the everyday.  But there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of funny right now. I had a load of things I wanted to write about – and I will, eventually – but I can’t get the Sandy Hook tragedy out of my head.  Sitting down to write about my daughter’s birthday party knowing those 20 children will never have another birthday party seems somehow disrespectful.  And utterly heartbreaking. I feel at a loss.  Every time I see another news report on Newtown or a profile of a victim, I fight to keep my composure (not very successfully).  Honestly, I’ve tried to avoid it, cowardly though that may sound, because it becomes overwhelmingly painful to try to process this tragedy.  I wonder, if this had happened before Elisabeth was born, before I was a parent, would it feel so intensely personal?  And then I realize that as horrible as I feel – someone with no personal connections to that community – I cannot begin to comprehend how the families of those killed must feel.  How do you comfort those families? How do you honor those precious children and their brave educators? I don’t know.  All I know is now that I’m a parent, the idea of anything happening to my daughter is single-handedly the most terrifying, gut-wrenching thought.  I pray fiercely that she will never be exposed to such violence or tragedy, that she will be able to hold onto childhood innocence for as long as possible.  And now my heart has broken over and over not only for those children and teachers so senselessly killed and their families, but also for all those children who...

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