Monday, August 30, 2010

Ride it out?

I love parenting most of the time. I have been very public about my ideals, including gentle, responsive parenting, child-led weaning, baby-wearing and cosleeping. I'm no martyr--most of the time I really enjoy those aspects of being a mom. The last few days, however, I've felt it creeping up on me: a growing sense of claustrophobia, a sensation of being touched-out.

My love language is touch, and it takes a lot to get me to think that it is too much. However, between wearing the baby, nursing three, and sleeping next to a couple of them, I could probably count on my fingers, with only a few toes, the number of minutes that no one else is making physical contact with me some days.

And while I expect to be up a lot in the night with a baby (who, funnily enough, has been sleeping 5 hours stretches since she was a couple of weeks old), our two year old has been trying to cope with some major disruptions in routine by nursing every hour and a half in the night. Our six year old is going through a very sensitive time where anything less than a whole-hearted embrace and showers of affection result in tears and sobs of not being loved as much as the babies. Last night when I gently but firmly told them both that I needed space there was great weeping.

I've been here before. While certainly not a place I enjoy, I've visited a few times in the last few years. I know that both their neediness and my discomfort are temporary. So, while I could choose to wean, or at least restrict nursing, and change our sleeping arrangements, etc, I am making the choice to ride it out. For one thing, even if I refused to let her nurse at night or to let them sleep with us, it wouldn't result in more sleep for any of us.

The real issues behind the insecurity--adjusting to a new baby, a new schedule, me working significantly more, and other things--are just things to ride out. In fact, adding a new change on top of them would likely just exacerbate the problem. But while gritting my teeth and going with the flow may work up to a point, I have some other tried and true strategies:

* Drinking lots of water. I learned when nursing while pregnant that hydration makes a huge difference!

* Seize the moment. There are so many things going on right now that my options are limited, but I plan to grab any moments I can for time alone. That includes savoring the fleeting moments in the night when all is quiet. It may also include locking myself in the bathroom with an iced coffee, a bar of chocolate and humming loudly with my fingers in my ears.

* Remember that it is my choice, and that it can be changed. Mentally acknowledging that I have the power to change this situation makes a difference. I am not a victim and I am not trapped. If it doesn't work, I can try something else.

* Grace. I give grace to my myself as well as my children. It is OK to feel irritated, angry, impatient or any other feeling. I won't live in that feeling--just let it go.

* Set boundaries when needed. Despite the tears, I didn't feel any guilt over telling the kids that I needed space. During the day, they can handle that calmly. The problem is that I am most likely to need that when we are all tired and less able to process things rationally.

* Remember. Remember how sweet they are and how quickly this goes by. Remember the times we have gone through this before and it passed.

* Get help. This is tacked on because it isn't always an option. Carlos is wonderful with the kids when he is home. (Of course, we are outnumbered two to one at this point...) I know that babysitters, MDO programs or other things are possibilities, too, but I don't feel it necessary for us right now.

For now, we'll just hold on tight to each other (perhaps a bit more literally than I would like) and know (and hope)that the ride will be over in a week or two.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Ragamuffin Band

I have long been aware of my own fashion ineptitude, and most of the time I am comfortable with it. However, as we played in the park today, I realized that it might have negative effects on my children.

My policy has always been that as long as it is clean and safety/weather appropriate for the outing, the kids are free to choose their own outfits once they are old enough to express an opinion. As babies, I dress them in very cute, but more importantly very comfy clothing. 100% cotton with no scratchy stuff.

Both grandmas have lamented the fact that their granddaughters missed out on ultra-frilly dress and tights as babies, but Ariana helped make up for it by going through a ballerina-princess phase as a toddler. For over a year, she wore either a tutu or a princess dress 24/7. Her tastes have grown more sophisticated as she has gotten older, and though she isn't opposed to a splash of magenta and sparkles, her current preference is for a brown or dark green ensemble with brown leather shoes.

Joel has two criteria for clothing: comfort and Spidey. It is no coincidence that nearly every photo he is in since the age of two shows him wearing a Spiderman shirt. He is very picky about softness, though. Therefore, his favorite outfits are super-soft Spiderman jammies. He will also wear Spongebob, but Spidey is the clear favorite.

Elena is still a nudist at heart (she may or may not have removed all her clothing while inside the playground at McDonald's last week :shifty eyes:). If she *must* wear something, she prefers Joel's old clothes, because she loves soft, Spidey and blue. She even has matching Spiderman shoes.

If we are going to some place where dressing up is expected, I make sure that the kids are appropriately groomed and for the occasion. But, if they are going to the park or some place where I expect them to get dirty and messy, I don't care what they wear or if their hair is perfectly coiffed. A quick comb through, and we're good.

Apparently, though, I am in a minority. As we played at the park this afternoon, I realized that my kids were the only ones who didn't look like they could be posing for a photo shoot at the park. The ones around us looked like models for Baby Gap, with adorable, perfectly coordinated outfits. The girls had hair perfectly arranged with ribbons and bows. All were immaculate.

In contrast, my own little band of ragamuffins looked decidedly scruffy. Ariana is going through a phase of hair chewing, so it was messy. She was wearing a green and gray long shirt with a matching sash, and green pants of the same shade but a different pattern. She had realized after we arrived at the park that she didn't have her shoes, and so was wearing an old pair of pink and white tennies with no socks. Joel wore his favorite Spidey pajamas. Elena had purple paint in her hair from some creative endeavors that hadn't yet completely washed out, one of Joel's Spidey shirts and a pair of his shorts.

It occurred to me that my children might easily be judged by their appearance. While things like brand names are of no importance to me at all, I don't want to seem neglectful, and I certainly don't want my kidlets to be looked down upon because of my indifference to fashion or my hopelessness at hairstyling.

On the plus side, they climbed trees, played in the sand for hours and had a glorious time, and I wasn't the least bit concerned about dirt or climbing mishaps messing up their clothes. Still, a little balance isn't a bad thing. This is an area I need to work on.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mothers' Intuition

A few weeks ago I picked up a book on Intuitive Parenting. I haven't read the whole thing, but I have mixed feelings about it. It claims that we are connected to each other and can communicate through those connections non-verbally.

Aside from the book, I've learned over the years that my children and I are linked in ways that might surprise some people. I wake up a few seconds before my babies wake up in the night. I can often tell if they are having a nightmare or are sick or upset before they wake up, because "something" alerted me. Even though we don't schedule at all, if my baby begins to cry, my milk comes down, even though we are miles apart. I can't tell you the number of times I've been on my way home and feel my shirt get wet a minute before Carlos would call and tell me that the baby was fussing. Our bodies are that in synch with each other. Less conclusively, there have been several occasions where I would look at them in an uncomfortable position or irritating item of clothing and feel the sensation in my own body.

I've posted before about Ariana's sensitivity to others (Help! My daughter is a Betazoid!). Reading this book, a lot of things clicked about her reactions to certain situations and people.

I've always believed in the supernatural. I know without doubt that God speaks to us. In some situations, the idea of us speaking to each other doesn't seem too far fetched to me. In many cultures, the idea of a special connection between loved ones that allows them to communicate on an unseen level is commonplace. Whether you call it psychic communication, telepathy or whatever, there is actually growing evidence that energy fields in our body can communicate with other bodies. It is pretty cool.

Because I believe that evil exists, too, I want to be careful and not open myself up to every spirit that is out there. Yet, as a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit is inside of us and can give us knowledge that bypasses normal channels, so to speak.

It is an interesting topic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Showers of Blessings. And pecan shells.

Today was such a perfect day! After several days of hellacious heat, we were all going stir-crazy. This morning was beautiful and comparatively cool (double-digits instead of triple-digits), so we jumped in the van and headed to the park.

As we walked along the shaded entry, it sounded like it was raining. I looked up into the trees thinking we were getting a shower. Instead, I saw tons of squirrels, and was pelted with bits of shells from the pecans they were munching on. I've never seen so many at once! Elena and I both thought it was pretty funny, and were giggling together.

Ariana went to conquer the monkey bars, Joelito started burying himself in the sand box, Elena jumped into her favorite swing, and Amaya snuggled down in my wrap and took a nap. While I pushed Elena, the lady next to me struck up a conversation. Living in the buckle of the Bible Belt, we come across a lot of people who are unbalanced spiritually (and probably mentally), but everything she said was so encouraging. It was really sweet, and I felt very encouraged after she left.

Ariana, who had been endeavoring for months to master the monkey bars, crossed several times without hesitation. She was so proud of herself for sticking with it and managing to do it! Despite blisters on her hands when we left, she wore a huge smile. She also spent a lot of time watching over Elena as she explored.

Elena is usually the most intrepid of our little crew, but she kept stopping herself and saying, "Be careful! Don't fall!" today. I wasn't sure whether I should be pleased that she had internalized the idea or to regret saying it so often that she didn't have the confidence in herself to go ahead. Sigh--I think a continual part of motherhood is questioning my balance!

Joelito climbed unhesitatingly to the top of every structure in sight. A couple of times he wasn't sure how to get back down, but he made it successfully. All three stayed within the area I had told them to be in, played nicely with the other kids there, and left without complaining when it was time to go. I hear so frequently that children who are not spanked (let alone not punished!) are brats who terrorize everyone around them. I usually hesitate to use my own kids as examples, because there are certainly times when their behavior is not what it should be (generally because *my* behavior hasn't been what it should). However, the truth is that most of the time they are delightful, considerate, respectful and helpful kids. I really love being with them and taking them places because they keep it fun for everyone.

Once it got a bit too warm for comfort, we left the park and visited my beloved nephew and in laws. I am incredibly blessed in having a sister in law whom I would choose for a friend any day. She is an amazing mom and person in every way! We stopped for Mexican limonadas on the way home. There are always things that we might like to change, or times of stress and difficulty, but on days like today I feel like I've been soaking in showers of blessings. And pecan shells (I think I still have a few bits in my hair!).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pillow Talk

Some of you may have read a recent article about how fewer couples in the US are sleeping in the same bed. With the arrival of Amaya, we have joined that group. Our current arrangement breaks down along gender lines, with Carlos and Joel sharing his room and all of us girls in our bed. To be honest, I miss having the guys in with us, but Carlos is getting more sleep since Joel doesn't wake up during the night.

Before, our nighttime routine involved me nursing/cuddling the youngest to sleep while Carlos told superhero stories to the others. Sadly, I no longer get to hear the adventures of Ipis and Upis as they valiantly help Spidey and Spongebob defeat the evil Whipped Cream Bandit at the Goofy Goober. The cool part is that Ariana has taken up the torch and is now making up stories for me. :)

As a child, my mom would tell me stories. Later, my sister and I made up stories for each other. That continued well into my teens, and some of my favorite memories are of staying up all night with my sister sharing stories. I still make up stories for the kidlets, but it is much more entertaining to hear the stories that they come up with! The only problem is that I get too sleepy. Yeah, somehow we have got it a bit backward--the kids are staying awake and I'm conking out. I think we need to move our bedtime up a bit so that I don't fall asleep during the stories. :D