Back from the Walking Dead- Tales from the Sleep Deprived

Every night is pretty much the same routine around here. It has been since we exited the fog of those newborn, sporadic sleep hours and entered into a more regimented pattern…somewhere around 6 months. Chuck gets a bath, a teeth brushing, a book, a boob and a good rock in the glider. I cherish this time because I know it’s limited. She’s almost two and half and I know my days of nursing her are nearing an end. It makes me sad, but it makes these moments even more cherished. But, I haven’t always found the joy in this…this routine. 

Chuck has never been a good sleeper. She has always woken many times through the night and except for short periods of growth spurts and intellectual developmental milestones keeping her up, it was usually just because she wanted a snuggle and some mama milk. I was happy to oblige. Usually. I swore I would never be a CIO parent…that’s “cry it out” for those of you just learning the lingo. To me, it was cruel and barbaric to expect this tiny human who relies on you for everything to just magically be able to understand that you aren’t coming when he cries (the only means he has to get your attention) because you believe he needs to learn to “self soothe.” It made me angry, truth be told. I wanted this baby more than anything and dang if I wasn’t going to be everything it needed me to be at all times. I didn’t believe the world should revolve around your child, but I did believe that a certain grace should be extended during the infant stage. Afterall, babies don’t have the mental capacity to tell themselves, “you’re only alone for 8 hours. In the dark. Hungry. With poop on your butt. Suck it up bra. You got this.” No. Babies need mamas and papas to reassure them and nurture them and snuggle them at 2:35 am if that’s what they are requesting. 

Enter zombie phase. 
I remember one particular morning when Chuck was about three months old. She hadn’t slept AT ALL the night before and I had been up with her. Bless Hfoe’s heart, he had to work that day and I am sure his eyelids were like lead on his drive to work. Anyway, I remember making breakfast with C in my baby Bjorn (before I knew the “dangers” of non-ergonomic carriers. For shame!) and she wouldn’t stop crying. She had colic and though she had been fed and changed and cuddled and rocked and worn and shhs’d….NOTHING WORKED! I literally felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown as I stood there looking down at this itsy face with a huge voice that was powerful enough to shake my core. I never once thought about shaking her, thank the LORD, but I did think about how much I wanted to run away. I loved her more than anything else on the planet. But love wasn’t enough. I couldn’t help her and there was no one to help me. She needed sleep. It was that simple. Babies need lots and lots of sleep and neither of us were getting ANY. So, I took a huge, gut busting breath and laid her in her crib, swaddled and full-bellied, whispered in her ear that I loved her and walked away. I closed the door on my poor, screaming baby and I cried the fattest tears of my life listening to her, by herself, for thirty minutes of agony. And it was agony. I don’t believe any mother who has ever let their child cry enjoyed a second of it. It physically hurt me. But then, it was quiet. And she slept. And slept. And slept for the longest nap she had taken to that point. I’d love to say I did too, but I was too busy watching the monitor for movement and listening to it on full volume to make sure I could distinguish her breaths. It was like she needed me to release her to herself, to her own devices to get to dreamland because what I was doing wasn’t working. When she woke, I was still exhausted, but she was like a different kid! My little baby actually seemed rested and it did my heart good.
This wasn’t the beginning of some turning point. In fact, we had at least another year of awful nights and horrible naps because I felt so guilty about the time I let her cry. I just couldn’t do it. I read book after book, tried method after method and nothing, NOTHING worked! I even had a benevolent friend who had paid a sleep consultant for help with her son and she relayed all the info she learned to me. Even the expert advice didn’t work on our non-sleeper. 
When Chuckles was about 22 months old, I hit a wall. Do you know what almost two years of minimal sleep does to a persons mental state? I would argue it rivals water torture. Seriously! Those of you who have experienced it can attest! So, around the 22 month mark I just couldn’t take it anymore. She was in a toddler bed (one of the many things suggested to us to help her sleep better) and she would just get up and cry under her door until we would go in to rock her. I wasn’t breast feeding her overnight anymore thinking that would curb the wake ups. It didn’t. In all my desperate glory, I told Hfoe, tonight was the night. Tonight, when she gets out of her bed, she gets one chance to go back and stay in her bed. If she gets up again, she sleeps in the pack and play and if she cries, she cries. And boy, DID she! It was not pretty. Of course she ended up in the pack and play and of course she screamed. And we laid there listening to it. The horror of it. Surely the neighbors would hear or some mom around the corner would pick it up on her monitor and call CPS to find the child abuser on the block. It was horrendous. And then…she slept. And the next night, she ended up in “the baby bed” again. Screamed, a little less this time. And slept. Night three she stayed in her bed and cried. And slept. By the end of the week the crying ceased, the wake ups ceased and she slept. We all SLEPT! 

Someday, I’m sure she will accuse me of being creepy because of all the sleeping pictures I have of her!

Don’t get me wrong, this has not been a fix-all, never-go-back kind of struggle. We repeat this routine every few months because the kiddo wants snuggles. I get it. I want snuggles too and if she COULD sleep in bed with us, she would have since day one. But she can’t. Because she doesn’t sleep well, between her constant tossing and talking in her sleep, something about being with mama and papa makes her restless. So, dispite my own desire to bed-share, it’s not what’s best for her. But, regardless of how many times we must repeat this THING, it works for us. She isn’t abused or mistreated or emotionally stunted or mentally insecure. In fact, if you ask anyone who knows her, she is probably one of the sassiest, most well-adjusted two year olds you may ever have the pleasure of meeting! 

I guess my take-away from this as I sit here rocking and cuddling my silently nursing, snoozing kiddo is that, Mom, you need to do what your gut is telling you to do. I still feel guilty about and wouldn’t recommend letting your newborn cry it out, but if you need to let your toddler cry, they will survive. If you want to bed-share, do it. If your mama instinct says to get up every time your baby cries, for crying out loud, do that!! I did! Only you and your husband can be the judge of what is healthy for your family. But I warn you, you need sleep, too, you are absolutely not being the best you can be for her if you are a zombie. I know. I have been the walking dead and I am finally back from the grave. It’s pretty wonderful. 
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Jamberry, BAMberry!

Ok, so I have been super curious about this Jamberry nail thing everyone is so crazy about right now. When one of my best friends from back home decided to have an online party, I thought this would be a great time to check it out. They have some really cute prints for your nails! Surely this stuff couldn’t really be that great, though. I mean, I am a mom of a VERY busy toddler. We go to the beach and the pool and the park and my manicures always last about 2.5 minutes unscathed. That is when I get them done, almost every NEVER! Unfortunately, the week of her online party, I missed out on ordering because I was mid-travel and I lost track of time. I did, however, manage to win one of her party games due to my uncanny Disney trivia knowledge. That’s a whole other story.

Anyway, when I missed out on ordering from the party I was bummed. But, the Heather announced that she was going to become a consultant and she approached me to do the “7 Day Challenge,” talking about it to all of you. Challenge accepted! She sent me a sample in the mail and the day I got it felt like that day in 5th grade when I got my first pen pal letter! So exciting! I quickly opened the envelope and ogled the adorable prints she had sent me. I promised myself that, tonight, once the nugget was sleeping soundly, I would treat myself.

The best laid plans….

Around dinner time, the kid started melting down. She stubbed her toe or something else just as common that I can’t completely recall right now, and I had to do something to calm her down before she would settle for bed. Instantly, I thought of the fresh little present sitting on my counter in the bathroom! With the promise of “pinkies” as she calls painted nails, we headed to the bathroom for a quick pick-her-up.

She’s pretty pumped about her “pinkies.”

It worked! These things are so easy and quick to put on that even my two year old could sit still for the process. She was so in awe over her flowered ring fingers that the tears automatically dried up. We did her nails on a Monday night and since I’m a mom and my days blur together…I finally took the challenge “after” picture 9 days later instead of 7! I am amazed. The painted nails looked horrible after only a couple days of chlorine and sun and playing in the dirt. But, these Jamberry accent nails still look like day one! If they do this well on a kidlet, I can’t wait to see how they will look on me!

Freshly painted and ready to rock!
Nine days later and still JAMMING! Paint looks icky, but the accent nails are hanging on!

When I finally make time to do myself, I will report back and maybe I will have a little giveaway in store, too! Keep in touch! Until then, check out Heather’s website!

I received free product to conduct this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

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A Date With Chuck At Stonefire

I was asked to attend a media event where food and beverages were given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. As always, opinions are strictly my own.

As a blogger, sometimes opportunities come your way that excite you even more than they probably should. Usually for me, those opportunities involve food. Because I love food…free food is even tastier!

When I had Chuckles, our church family rallied around us with support and dinners. For two weeks after we brought our little bundle home, we had dinner magically delivered to our door by our brothers and sisters in Christ who wanted to help a new mom and dad to just relax and enjoy bonding with the new baby. It. Was. GLORIOUS! One of those memory-making dinners was from Stonefire Grill. I had never eaten at this place before, but whether it was post-delivery hormones talking or not, I was hooked on that scrumptious barbecue and garlic bread to write home about!

Lucky for me, I was presented with the chance last week to be a part of a media tasting event at Stonefire Grill introducing their new summer menu options. I, of course, jumped at the chance! I rsvp’d for me plus one, thinking this would be a wonderful date night for Hfoe and myself. After all, it’s not so hard to shell out $10 an hour for a sitter if dinner is comped! But, alas, hubby had to work on the night of the event. So, with a very deep breath and a few meditative  moments of preparation for the unpredictable toddler emotions, I took Chuck as my “plus one.” My good friend Melissa over at MelissaDell.com has a daughter that is Chuckles’s age and they are buddies. She was in the same boat, so we made it a double mama-daughter date.

On the drive over, the girls sang Disney songs and held hands across carseats….this was looking promising for good dinner behavior! And they didn’t disappoint. From the moment we walked into the restaurant patio, both girls were so well behaved. I am sure they were just as impressed as I was at the reception we received from the Stonefire crew. We were greeted by the owner’s son and summer menu co-creator, Justin, and presented with our choices of seasonal brews, wines or in my case, passion fruit tea. Sensing the toddlers’ short attention spans, Justin intuitively asked if he could pull together a couple children’s menu items for the girls to get them started. Sure! And the mac ‘n cheese was the hit of the evening for one blondie with discerning  taste!

Leave me alone, mother. This mac ‘n cheese is divine!

Now, for the mama food. Yum! That is pretty much the summary of my experience. My first bite was from the new Keen Green salad, with it’s kale, quinoa and avocado. It’s not something I would probably generally order at this place I love for barbecue, but I was pleasantly surprised at the fresh, delicious flavors that were perfect for summer! Next came the roasted cauliflower pita and the Capresse sandwich. Which one is my favorite? I can’t choose. I never prepare cauliflower at home after I had an unfortunate experience once with a mushy restaurant side dish, so when I saw the pita, I was hesitant. But, so as to be able to give an accurate review, I tried it anyway. I am so glad I did! Chuckles even liked it! My highlight of the sandwiches I tried, though, was the turkey salad. Oh my goodness…and I mean GOODNESS! I would NEVER have thought to order this light of an option and receive this explosion of flavor! Over all, the dishes presented to us this evening were a smorgasbord of tasty choices fit for warmer weather, but still filling enough for lunch or dinner.

Golden State Kale Salad

Roasted Cauliflower Pita and Keen Green Salad
Capresse Sandwich and Traditional Turkey Sandwich

The cherry on top of our evening was dessert. With a powder sugar-covered brownie and a slice of cheesecake, my plans of taking the girls to get yogurt after dinner for their good behavior quickly went out the window…gladly! Chuck couldn’t even wait for me to snap the picture before she dove right into the brownie!

Someone was a little impatient!
Baby bug approved, too!

To say the food was delicious would be redundant and an understatement, but my overall experience for this fun evening at Stonefire Grill was exceptional. I was happy to see how kid friendly the staff and menu were and how mama friendly the new summer menu additions are. It’s good to know on those nights Hfoe has to work late and I just don’t have one more creative dinner in me, I can take the kidlet down to Stonefire for a thoughtful, healthy meal.

My girl and me…excited about the full bellies!

We visited the location at 6405 FALLBROOK AVENUE
WEST HILLS, CA  91307, but please visit Stonefiregrill.com to find a location near you and run there for dinner tonight!

Thank you so much to the folks at Stonefire Grill who made our evening so enjoyable and yummy!

I was asked to attend a media event where food and beverages were given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. As always, opinions are strictly my own.

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She wants another diaper genie? How rude!- And other comments on a second baby shower…

When we first found out we were pregnant with this little bug, we were understandably hesitant to show happiness, joy or even hopefulness, since just the month before we had lost Blue. But, slowly, as the months have gone by and the tiny heartbeat remains strong and the kicks come more regularly, the existence of this growing little nugget is cause for more and more excitement. We talk about names and plan our future adventures with a fourth family member in mind. It’s finally FUN!

Bug’s first headshot.

 

I am halfway through this pregnancy and with the 20th week comes the onslaught of many decisions, plans and, well, opinions! The latest question posed in my birth group (yes, I am one of those women who discusses things like breast tenderness and morning sickness with total strangers…SHOCKING, I know!) is “Would it be acceptable to have a baby shower for my second/third/fourth baby?”

Until this pregnancy, I never questioned it. Of course you should shower EVERY baby with love, attention and celebration because life is a miracle no matter which way you cut it. Heck, I have thrown a couple of subsequent child showers for friends myself! Had I performed some etiquette taboo?! For shame!

That is, of course, until I was faced with dissenting opinions by some of those people closest to me with the talk of a second shower for this baby. Apparently, “no one does that.” And, “it’s rude and seems like begging for gifts when you should already have everything from baby one.” And my favorite, “Why would you want to do another shower. Didn’t you get your fill of silly games the first time around?” Soooo…..

My first response was one of surprise because I simply didn’t know this position existed. And then I felt a bit defensive. Being a person who questions EVERYTHING, I wanted to know WHY no one does it, WHY it’s rude and WHY anyone WOULDN’T want to celebrate every additional child with which they are blessed.

What I have found is that just like many “etiquette” traditions that seem outdated and maybe even offensive, the “only have one baby shower EVER” argument is routed in old fashioned necessity. Back in an era when people were broke and popping kids out every year, it was seen as rude to expect other people who were just as broke and child-full as you to give you the necessary accouterments for every child YOU bore. Gifts that were given the first time around were often handmade and constructed to outlast 1, 2 or 5 kids. Very little was disposable and many things were handed down from sister to cousin to friend. There was no such thing as a sonogram to determine the gender of the growing little bundle of joy, so everything was created with neutrality in mind. Swings were made of wood instead of hot pink or Navy blue fabric making them perfectly acceptable for 4 kids of different sexes. Little boys wore dresses for crying out loud! Relatives and acquaintances alike brought food to the shower and for weeks after the birth of the baby and also helped out as a village with the older children to give mom the chance to bond with baby. In these ways, mother and baby were gifted and it was seen as a bit greedy to ask for more. In short, a “shower” was simply an outlet for a get-together of gift-giving.

This looks totally safe, right?
Girl or boy? You tell me.

And on that note, shouldn’t I still have everything from Chuck? I mean, she’ll only be almost 3 years older than this kid. Surely we have all the baby items to be handed down. Well, no. Actually, we pretty much have to buy everything except toys and clothes if this baby is a girl. We were in a really bad car accident when C was 10 months old and her carseat had to be “totaled out.” So, rather than replace it with another infant seat so close to her first birthday, we bought her big kid seat that she is still using. She is also still using her crib that has been converted into a toddler bed because I was trying to be so efficient with our purchase the first time around. In addition, she still uses her booster seat at the table because we never bought a high chair and her bouncer and swing were passed to friends and acquaintances who were in need. Every baby needs new diapers, wipes, burp cloths and toiletries since those obviously don’t pass from one child to another. So, no, we DON’T have everything if that is the argument against a shower. Every family has circumstances of which you may not be aware. Don’t be the judge. Instead, maybe ask “do you have everything you need?” That’s so helpful! And let’s be honest…nobody “needs” many of the gifts they receive at a shower anyway. Three diaper genies are given because people are thoughtful and love to celebrate a baby. Not because that is a number one necessity for kidlet!

Fast forward to today, 2014. Things are a bit different. Most people, including Hfoe and me, are perfectly capable of taking care of all the children we choose to have. My baby is not going to go naked if I don’t have a shower. My child will have a place to sleep and play and eat if nobody buys us a crib, a playmat or a highchair. In fact, I don’t want anyone to buy that stuff for us. I want to be self-sufficient. But, I also WANT to have a shower. It is NOT about the gifts. It is about celebrating this little life that Hfoe and I (and I suspect MANY of those who would be invited to a shower) have prayed so diligently for. It is about recognizing this baby is just as special as Chuck and just as wanted as baby Blue was. I want to talk and laugh and play silly games with those people who love this kid already in celebration of his or her BIRTH day. And isn’t that what a shower is today anyway? A pre-birthday party? I mean, why is it considered perfectly acceptable for people to throw a birthday party for each of their five children every year, but heaven forbid a second baby get a shower?!

I guess my point is this…in the old’n days, showers were for much needed gifts. Period. Today, showers are for celebration and eating good food and laughing at the joy on a new mom’s (or second-time mom’s) face when she feels that little one kick in a room full of her favorite people. Gifts are nice, but they aren’t the purpose. Gifts help, but they aren’t necessary. Gifts are fun, but they shouldn’t be a point of contention. If your focus is on the “rudeness” of ASKING for gifts, when in reality no gifts have been asked for, perhaps the person in the mirror is really the one with the skewed outlook. Give with a happy heart, but if you can’t, don’t. You will still be welcome at my party!

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Wait! More Kisses!

My family is pretty smart. Not in a pretentious, “we have better genes than you,” way, but we are generally pretty intelligent folks. I am the oldest of five siblings and as such, I have been blessed to watch the younger kids grow up and discover their brainy-ness along the way. D is next in line after me and the kid is a genius. No, really. He legitimately has a genius IQ as discerned by an actual clinical test when he was a child, not the half-baked kind from IQtestForFree.com. After D comes K. K knows something about everything. And he will let you know it. Every time. It can get really annoying because just as you buck his know-it-all attitude, Dr. Google tells you…he’s right! Let’s just say I will never challenge him to a game of Trivial Pursuit! Third middle child status falls to S. S is the quiet intellect whose way with numbers and relationships will see him running some fortune 500 company one day. He not only has book smarts, but he has a genuine heart and intuition for people that goes beyond intelligence. Finally, the baby of the family, my sister M just graduated from high school. Not only did she play varsity basketball and volunteer for her church in her spare time, but this smarty also managed to graduate second in her class of over 600 kids! With this honor came the responsibility of delivering a well-prepared, funny, yet inspiring speech to her fellow classmates, while simultaneously trying not to cry and remembering to breath. She nailed it! I know because although my whole family lives nearly 2000 miles away, I got to be there for her special moment. It meant so much to me that she sacrificed the plane ticket to come see us in CA which was originally to be her graduation present, in favor of Hfoe, Chuck and me being there on that day.

Chuck was less than thrilled to take family photos after graduation.

Following graduation, M did, in fact, come back to California with us. She used the money she had been working for all semester to buy her own way out for three weeks in this sunny place. We had big plans to conquer all while she was here and we came pretty close to that goal. Between shopping on 3rd Street Promenade, ogling giraffes and zebras at the LA Zoo, doing Disneyland and beaching it up from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica, she checked quite a few things off her “to do in LA” list.

Meeting Goofy at Disneyland with Aunt M.
Impromptu parade watching in Santa Barbara. Summer Solstice. Who knew?

Of course, Chuck was in Heaven having her aunt attend to her every beck and call. The daily mantra first thing every morning became, “M comin’ toooo?!” I loved watching my baby sis play with the most precious person in my life and build a relationship that so many of my friends with close families experience on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, this sweetness was sprinkled with brat face moments as well. There were a few times I got the very clear picture of what having two will resemble. An 18 year old knows quickly how to antagonize a two year old and a two year old knows LOUDLY how to protest! But, mostly, the sounds of giggles and nightly games of chase while I cooked dinner just filled my soul with happy.

The Giant Sea Otters were the highlight of the zoo day!

Probably the biggest highlight while M was here was the cruise we took for Hfoe’s and my 5 year anniversary. The ship sailed for three days just out of Long Beach harbor to Ensenada, but the getaway was exactly what we needed. Plus, I felt like such a rich kid travelling with my own personal nanny! We had a delicious dinner every night and fun activities during the day. Chuckles really dug the kids camp and came back with a smile on her face after every session with them. M and I got some one on one sister time one night when Hfoe settled in early with the nugget. We went to see a comedian who, despite his title, really wasn’t all that funny and we decided to leave. Besides, the karaoke was far more hysterical to listen to! Hfoe and I also got a romantic date night which seems to be few and far between these days with the cost of childcare. So a big, fat THANK YOU to M for her gift to us of watching the kid so we could have alone time! We debarked the boat in Ensenada as a family and explored La Bufadora and the adjacent market place. We didn’t buy much, although I’m sure many a deal was to be had. M did experience a “first,” but I will let her share that story for herself!

Mini golf champs on the boat.

Once we returned to LA, we only had a week left with my sweet sister. I think the realization of that hit us and caused us to kind of take it easy, soaking in every moment those last few days. We swam at the local pool, shopped a little more and just watched movies at home pretending this is what we do every day…ignoring the impending reality. We spent Independence Day boogie boarding and barbecuing on the beach in Ventura, rounding out a perfect visit with a perfect, sun-soaked afternoon.

No trip to LA is complete without Sprinkles cupcakes.
Aunt M is a genius for sure…too much to carry? Use a sled!

I suppose this post is a bit of a diary of sorts for me. It’s not my typical entry, but I do have a message, a thought I hope to inspire among my readers.

Goodbyes are hard.

Cherish your family. If you live close to them, make time to see them. Some of us don’t have that luxury and it is a sad, heartbreaking day when you have to take them to the airport only to hear your two-year old shout, “STOP! WAIT! More kisses!!” as your baby sister walks behind security ropes to get on her plane back home. I love my family more than I can express and although I know three weeks with each one of them isn’t possible, I want it. I want them and I hold them each in my heart every day. And of course, we Facetime. Thank the Lord for genius technology! Who knows, maybe one of my smarty siblings will invent the next generation device to keep us “close” when we can’t be. Hey, while you’re at it, could one of you work on the teleporting thing?

 

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