Saturday, November 23, 2013

Good Night, Sleep Tight

I've been wanting to write on this for several months. Probably since the first week of Eilidh's life when I thought it would be a good idea for me to continue to do bedtime with Whit while allowing Eilidh and daddy to have some late night binding time. A few steps up and not yet three year old Whit asked "Mommy, aren't you bringing Eilidh?" He had obviously gotten the message that Mommy and baby are an inseparable unit. And thus began the new normal bedtime routine. Basically, it consisted of exactly what we were doing before, plus one. But in all seriousness, Eilidh had been participating in the bedtime routine from her first consciousness. She enjoyed reading bedtime stories as much in the third trimester as she seems to now and she gave Whit his first kick long before we got our first glimpse of her tiny toes.

So what am I getting at? I'm not really sure.  But here I am. Awake and waiting as I do most nights, for something to happen.

It's been hours since that regular little "tuff tuff tuff" signaled a sleeping baby. Hours since the last word of the last book was read and the lights turned out. But I know the night isn't over, not quite.

Maybe I'm waiting for the pitter patter of little (by comparison to adult) feet down the hallway announcing Whit's arrival.

Or perhaps it's the "Eh, eh, eh" noise from the monitor at my side that indicates Eilidh has woken up to find that she's no longer nursing and my arms are not around her. Translation? "Hey! Hey! Hey! Mama! Where did you go? Where...where?" I will trudge siren the hall, groggily pick her up and snuggle her up next to me. "Ah...there you are! I thought you had left me forever...mum...mum..."

Bedtime is such a touchy subject. "Is the baby sleeping through the night?" Is often one of the first questions a new mom or dad gets. I try not to ask that preferring instead "are you getting any sleep?" Most babies don't really know much difference between night and day that first week (or month) but I've found that as long as they are near you they will sleep, regardless of the hour.

When Whit was born, we placed him in a basket next to our bed. Thinking, logically, that he would outgrow it in about 6 months, and surely then he would be "sleeping through the night" and we could transition him to his crib in the next room.  Defying logic, our baby outgrew the 18 pound weight limit long before 6 months. So we transitioned him to his own room and I got up once, or twice, or three times per night to feed him and put him back to sleep sometimes dozing off in the rocker myself.  I'm not sure exactly how I survived.

When Whit was 9 months old I gave in. It was baseball season and I had reached my limit of functioning without sleep.  I would nurse him to sleep in our bed and most of the time I would fall asleep also; so we simply stayed.  When he was a year old we tried to get him in his own bed. I even took the rail off his crib and made it a "big boy bed." But most nights, again, I would fall asleep with him, wake up aching from being crammed on a crib mattress with a large one year old and would head back to my own comfortable bed and fall asleep just minutes before Whit would realize I was gone and follow me.

It took me a while to ask myself "why do we (modern western parents) think our little babies, whom we can barely leave alone long enough to use the bathroom during the day, are equipped to be without us at night?" Seriously, I am afraid of the dark sometimes, of course a young child who depends on their parents for everything would want to know where they are and want to be near them during the scariest time, night.

I'm not necessarily advocating co sleeping, I'll let the studies speak for themselves. And each of my children have their own rooms and their own beds. But I will be honest because I think we are all living in the same world even if no one says what I'm getting ready to say.

One, or both, of my children end up in bed with me every night. I can't remember the last time I slept without them. I've never spent more than part of the night without Eilidh by my side and frankly I don't sleep well when she's not there. A good night sees us playing musical beds only once and a not so good one sees both parents too tired to switch rooms and four people snuggled into a queen sized bed.

But I love it. I love being the first thing my children see when they open their eyes in the morning. And I love being squished in between two warm bodies as they gently fall asleep with the knowledge that I'm there to protect them. I love leaning down, kissing them gently, extracting myself from the "cuddle" and whispering "good night, sleep tight."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's in a name?

My sister posted the meaning of her name recently.  It was accurate, Kirk's and mine were as well.  That inspired me to look into the meanings of the names I have chosen for my children.  This isn't the first time I've written about names.

The name Whitfield is an English baby name. In English the meaning of the name Whitfield is: From the white field.
People with this name have a deep inner desire for travel and adventure, and want to set their own pace in life without being governed by tradition. For harmony and balance in their lives, they respond positively to beautiful things.

The name Eilidh is a Gaelic baby name. In Gaelic the meaning of the name Eilidh is: Light.
People with this name have a deep inner desire for travel and adventure, and want to set their own pace in life without being governed by tradition. People with this name tend to be idealistic, highly immaginative, intuitive, and spiritual. They seek after spiritual truth and often find it. They tend to be visionary and may inspire others. If they fail to develop their potential, they may become dreamers, or misuse power.

Oh and just for fun, here are ours too.

People with this name have a deep inner desire to serve humanity and to give to others by sharing money, knowledge and experience, or creative and artistic ability.  People with this name tend to be a powerful force to all whose lives they touch. They are capable, charismatic leaders who often undertake large endeavors with great success. They value truth, justice, and discipline, and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. If they fail to develop their potential, they may become impractical and rigid.

People with this name have a deep inner desire to inspire others in a higher cause, and to share their own strongly held views on spiritual matters.  People with this name tend to initiate events, to be leaders rather than followers, with powerful personalities. They tend to be focused on specific goals, experience a wealth of creative new ideas, and have the ability to implement these ideas with efficiency and determination. They tend to be courageous and sometimes aggressive. As unique, creative individuals, they tend to resent authority, and are sometimes stubborn, proud, and impatient.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The best I can do

**updated **

It is October. That means pink everywhere and lots of talk about "the cure."  I've been known to purposefully wear blue on "pink out" days.  Why? Because so many well-known "non-profits" who tout "...for the cure..." spend a majority of their money on advertising and very little on actually curing cancer.

And I feel that prevention is the best medicine. So, for those of you who are also interested in preventing breast cancer, this is for you.

What seems to be the best prevention for breast cancer?  Letting your body BE.  Limit hormonal birth control or other hormone supplements during your lifetime.  Don't drink or smoke (in excess) and eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and low in saturated (animal) fats.

Oh, and having and feeding your babies is one of the best things you can do!  One study (a large, reliable study) showed that for every baby you birth, you lower your risk by 7%.  For each year you breastfeed, you lower your risk by 4.3%.

Doesn't sound like a lot?

I'm an American Caucasian woman with no family history of breast cancer, so I have an 87% chance of NOT getting breast cancer.  That means just about a 13% chance that I will.  The odds are just over 1 out of 10.  And here's where I get a little math happy.  By having 2 kids, I've lower my risk by 7% each time to just over 11%.  By breastfeeding for a total of just shy of 76 months (that's over 6 years!) I've probably decreased my overall risk by more than 50% giving me a less than 5% chance of developing breast cancer or reducing my odds to less than 1 out of 20.  This agrees with a 2010 study that indicates if you breastfeed for a total of 4 years or longer your risk of breast cancer is reduced to less than 6%.

Does that mean I'll never develop breast cancer? Certainly it does not, but I won't stop wearing my seatbelt or stop putting my children in car seats just because I'm a decently safe driver and have less than a 1% chance (1 out of 100) of getting in a car accident that could fatally injure myself or my children.  As a matter of fact, earlier this year I had a scan.  Despite knowing that my risk of breast cancer was so low, I was still terrified of what the scan would show.  I don't want women to have to experience that!

So how do we keep women from feeling like breast cancer is inevitable? Let's look at it this way....

I graduated high school with around 270 people, Let's say 150 of them were women.

If we go with the "average" 20 of those women (13%) will develop breast cancer.  But if we all had 2 kids and breastfed for 4 years (the World Health Organization recommends you breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years for each child) the odds would drop to 9% or only 13 women leaving 7 women who would never even have to face breast cancer....just in my graduating high school class.

Still not convinced?

Now let's look at America.  There are over 150 million women in America.  On "average" 20 MILLION will face breast cancer.  If everyone had 2 children, and breastfed for about 4 years, that lowers to 13 million.  Again, 7 are left... but this time 7 MILLION women would never have to face breast cancer. birthing and breastfeeding.  Isn't that amazing?!  And the "experts" think that the lowering of the risk could be even greater in women who have a family history.

Oh, and breastfeeding a baby girl reduces her risk of developing the disease also. My little one (who does have a family history of breast cancer) will have a much lower risk  of developing the disease after being breastfed for a physiologically normal amount of time and (hopefully) being able to go on and breastfeed her own children.

Every year, every month, every day you breastfeed lowers your risk and your child's risk for breast and ovarian cancers not to mention other health conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.

Some women choose not to breastfeed, and that's not what this post is about.  It's about what we can do to teach women the risks of not breastfeeding (or if you would rather, the life-saving benefits of breastfeeding) and to support women who want to breastfeed.

This October, I challenge you to look at how you can cure breast cancer by preventing breast cancer. Support a mom who is breastfeeding, provide information to a pregnant woman, attend a breast feeding event or donate to a breastfeeding non-profit.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let's do this

It's difficult for me to believe it was only two weeks ago that I shared just how close Eilidh was to being mobile.  Between then and now she's shown us several varieties of mobility.  My favorite is a bunny hop I'm still trying to capture.  Today she decided to work on the most efficient version.  She only moves toward important things: mom,  dad,  brother,  toys and food. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Free to be Three

Three is such a great number.

It's the number of strikes a batter gets and the number of outs a team gets in baseball each inning.  It's the number of children my parents had.  It's how many times I think you should try before deciding something isn't for you.  It's the number of times I will re-direct and remind Whit of proper behavior before stepping it up to the next level.  And it's prominent in when Kirk and I were blessed with Whit; after our third try and three days of labor, just three weeks before our third wedding anniversary.

Now that Whit is three, I've wanted to sit down and really get into what makes him three.  So, of course, three days shy of three months and three weeks after his third birthday, here it is! (did you get that math?)

What does it mean to be three?

I can't really remember but for Whit it means....

Being very entertaining running around a soccer field never touching a ball.
Giving the best hugs ever.
Being a great big brother.
Making up silly words and using them in actual conversation.
Finally understanding the rules to "Say what I say."
Not feeling weird about having soup and grilled cheese for breakfast.
Thinking its just as much fun to go down the chutes as up the ladders. 
Knowing that "W" is for Whit and "T" is for "tea" and "K" is for ketchup but not understanding that "Ckw" doesn't spell anything.
You say a lot of funny things
You think that everyone who is in your family must have the last name "Renegar"
That logic and reason can now be applied to most situations.

And then there's the hard stuff which is...

Being almost too old for napping which often leads to a late bedtime or a very difficult evening.
Having so many emotions you don't know what to do.
Learning how to separate your wants from your needs.
Understanding that the world isn't ending when you wants are not met.
Missing people when they aren't around.
The fact that logic and reason sometimes go out the window. 

Whit.... wait, correction, Whitfield Ian Renegar.  "W" for Whit and "R" for Renegar.  I think that's how he will be introducing himself for months.... is three.  Wow!

I've been lamenting how "big" he's been getting for over a year.  My favorite statement was that we were having another baby because he was so big and didn't need me anymore.  He barely fits in the rocker and takes up more than his fair share in bed.

But the truth is, he does still need me.  Three is a difficult time.  You definitely aren't a baby, but you are stuck somewhere in between toddler and child.  And three is a glamorous "tween" time like 12, not a child but almost a teenager and ruling the world, or 30, in between young and...not so young anymore.

Three is my greatest hope and my biggest fear. Three is when many people will tell you they began having memories that last into adulthood.  So much of what a child knows about the world is in place by three.  Three year olds just about get how the world works.  I want Whit to get that the world is a beautiful place where he can make a positive difference.  I want his memories from three to be golden.  I want three to be the foundation for a great and meaningful life.

Whitfield Ian Renegar, congrats on being three.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I like to move it

Eilidh is desperate to move! She has all the pieces but hasn't quite figured out how to put them together.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The sixth month

Wow! I cannot believe Eilidh is six months!  Happy Half-Birthday!

Everyone says time flies and your kids grow up faster than you can blink.  Although that's true, I've found recently that if I, to borrow the new buzz word, flow, I can "be" with my kids and truly enjoy them.  I'm sure I cannot express how blessed I feel to be able to see each and every development Eilidh goes through as she is doing it.  Here's what she's up to this month.

Eilidh recognizes friends and relatives and often gives strangers a "look" before deciding to smile.  Whit did the same, but Eilidh chooses smile much more often, she's such a friendly baby. She's recently discovered the baby in the mirror and I often need to move away from mirrors when we are trying to get to sleep as she will choose explore over sleep any day.

This week Eilidh was re-introduced to Raylan, someone I hope will be a good friend to her for a long time.  You could tell that she was a younger sister because she swiped whatever toy Raylan was playing with just as soon as she got the opportunity!

Eilidh has learned her name and she lights up when she hears it, especially when it is coming from Daddy.  She will "ah-Ah-ah" at Whit when she is trying to get his attention and often sounds like she is speaking to him.  She has a special puppy-dog whine when she wants something that she isn't getting and an "Eh-Eh" noise that she makes when upset.

Eilidh is very curious.  She is always touching things (she loves carpet) and reaching for objects that are outside of her circle but within sight (especially if those things belong to her brother!) She has outstanding hand-eye coordination and can pick up and manipulate anything that you send her way. 

Eilidh rolls everywhere, it's her chosen mode of travel.  She will sit and play until she needs to reach for something that is too far away and topples over. She is also quite the jumping bean and is very eager to crawl.  Sometimes I think her lack of sleep is because she's on a serious training regime - roll, up, try to crawl, roll, up, try to crawl...

Helping Mommy fold laundry

Watching her very first VT game!

Laughing at Heidi

Trying to decide which of Raylan's toys to take next

Add caption

Saturday, September 14, 2013


When do you truly know someone?  How long does it take to be able to peek into their soul?

Did I know my husband when we got married, after eight years together? Do I know him any better now after 6 years of marriage?

Do you know that childhood friend with whom you've spent time for thirty, forty, fifty years?

Does a woman know her child after carrying him for more than nine months? After all of those one sided conversations with her ripening belly?

Yes.... and no.

I'll begin with you can never truly know the inner workings of a person's mind.  It is even more difficult to know someone who does not know himself.  But the underlying problem is that we are dynamic, constantly changing from one moment to the next.  Children especially grow and change quickly and it can be quite a battle to keep up with them.

Yes, you can gaze down with hazy, tear filled eyes at the still moist newborn in your arms and say "Hello, I know you!"

True, a baby recognizes his mother simply by scent and sound from the moment of birth.  But recognition is far from knowing.

Here's what I know.

I know when Eilidh is hungry.  I often know when Whit is tired long before he does.  I understand the nuances in their personalities and I know them each a little better every day.  I know that Eilidh rarely cries.  But I know the small, seemingly insignificant, looks and sounds that mark her needs.

I'm wet, please change me.
I'm tired.
I'm exhausted and I cannot take anymore.
I want to play.
Where did you go?
Are you gone forever? Come back!
I would like to get out of the car.
I am very ready to get out of the car.
Can we PLEASE get out of this car?
If you don't get me out of the car, right this minute.....

Knowing is a relationship.  Like all relationships, it takes work, time.

For me, our journey began when I knew I was pregnant with each of them and it will continue for longer than I am aware and encompass things I cannot now fathom.  A big turning point for me was Eilidh's birth.  Knowing that I alone was bringing her into the world gave me knowledge about myself and my abilities, and knowledge is power.  I suddenly knew that my limits were not what I had thought them to be and that, in fact, there may not be a limit to what I can endure and overcome.  I knew my husband on a deeper level. I knew that with God as my foundation and Kirk as my frame, I had built a house that would not crumble.

Our journey continues each time I know what my child needs, or wants, or is best for them.  I know that there are times when they are hungry, or hurt, cold or scared. I know there are times when they simply need me.  And I am secure in the knowledge that I will always be there for them.

I know I missed much of this with Whit. I can remember saying "I just don't know what he wants."  And on very difficult days "I just don't know him right now."

I know I'm blessed to be able to walk this path and cultivate a deeper knowledge of and relationship with my children. 
I know that everyone, myself included, does not necessarily get this with all or any of their children.  I believe this affects their relationship as their child grows and could potentially culminate in a raised voice behind a recently slammed door saying "You just don't know me at all."

Some women never know their strength and fortitude.  Some never know the freedom of having another upon whom they can fully rely. Some women and children begin their journey handicapped. Circumstance, ignorance, choice, and unknown or unchangeable factors can all block their path and make the way confusing. Some never know the joy of seeing their child at the moment of birth, never know the beauty of holding their child close and knowing that they are that child's entire world.  Some lose the knowledge and never regain it. Others fight and win it back with great effort.  Some never know the easy walk through the valley and only ever see the jagged peaks of danger, strife and pain.

I know that makes me sad.

I know that we can make things better.

My wish for all women is the same that I have for my daughter.

That she knows herself and her mind.  That she knows her strengths and passions.  That she knows she is loved.  That she knows she is safe. That she knows the joy of birthing and nurturing and knowing her child.  That she knows the world can be a good place and that she can make it better. And that she knows grace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Funny Things

Whit has said so many amusing things over the last few weeks that I find I need to write them down here else I would flood Facebook with "funny things Whit says."

On Soccer
ME: Whit, what number do you think you would like on the back of your soccer jersey?
W: mmmm...FIVE! Number five, Eric Renegar!!!!
ME: OK. Did you know Daddy was number five also?
W: Yeah, that was when he was young.

On Play time
    you're the Mommy Elephant and I'm the baby Elephant.
    you're the Mommy Bird and I'm the baby Bird.
    you're the Mommy Snake and I'm the baby Snake.
    you're the Mommy Worm and I'm the baby Worm.
and I can't forget my favorite and the most recent version. Mommy, I'm baby Shrek and you are Princess Fiona. 

On School
ME: Whit, It's time to go to school!
W: OK. Mommy?
ME: Yes?
W: I'm not going to cry, because school isn't scary.
ME: That's good.

On Identities
W: Mommy.
ME: Yes Whit?
W: Eilidh is a lady. And you are a lady too.
ME: Thank you Whit, you are a gentleman.
W: I'm not a gentleman, I'm a boy.
ME: OK, you are a boy.
W: I'm not a boy, I'm Whitfield Ian Renegar.  Mommy, what's my name?
ME: Your name is Whitfield Ian Renegar. What's my name?
W: Aunt Becka Renegar.

On Religion
W: Mommy, I want to read that book, the God one.
ME: OK. Do you want to start at the beginning?
W: Yes.
ME: This is Genesis, the first book.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
W: Mommy, who is God talking to?
ME: I'm not sure, He's just talking I think.
W: Maybe he's talking to Jesus.
ME: Maybe.
W: What does Jesus say back? 
On Travel
ME: Whit, can you take off your shoes? They need to be washed.
W: No! I need my skates (shoes)
ME: Why?
W: Because I have to go to Alaska! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Month 5

I can hardly believe Eilidh is already 5 months old. Of course, she's behaving more like a 6 month old, so perhaps it's both shocking that she is already 5 months and only 5 months.  Here are some quick updates from month 5.

* Weighing in at over 17 pounds and measuring over 24 inches (a petite baby for me!)
* Sitting up unassisted
* Rolling over any which way
* Trying her hardest to army crawl and making some backward progress
*Showing interest in foods (see video below)

Found her toes and got them in her mouth!

Met her great-grandparents on the Overdorff side for the first time!

Loves her Aunt!

And her brother

And her Nana
Some people would say I'm wrong to offer my 5 month old food and others wonder where the rice cereal and jarred food is. My answer is simple - Baby Led. Jarred food has only been around since the 1920's and we have centuries (and more) of healthy babies. Sorry Gerber, I don't really need you. 

Here's a video of what Baby Led Weaning (ie Baby Led Solids) really means. If you watch closely you'll even see her sign "eat" cool!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Wonder Month (Month 4)

If you read my previous post, we've now left the Fourth Trimester and become a "real baby!"

It's amazing the changes that a baby goes through in the fourth month. 

Did you know babies can communicate with their parents from birth?  Yes, all that crying means something.  How frustrating must it be for a baby, who cannot do anything for their self, to be able only to communicate through crying?  My grandfather is deaf, and although I've never learned or been able to practice as much sign language as I want to truly be able to converse well with him, it made sense to apply what I did know to communicating with my children.  We began teaching Whit signs around three months.  By the time he was seven or eight months old, he was able to sign "all done" and "more." I can distinctly remember one of his first signs "all done" toward the end of a swim lesson when he was 8 months old.  I took him out of the pool with five minutes left in the lesson and avoided a melt down.

Although it's not typically my style, I hadn't done much research on the idea of signing with your baby when I started doing it with Whit.  Seeing how successful I was, I began much earlier with Eilidh, around 6 weeks.  And it's paying off. Although she cannot sign, or even approximate signs yet, she is learning them and their associated spoken word.  This week for the first time I asked Eilidh if she wanted to be in the carrier and did the sign for "carrier."  In response I got a huge smile and lots of excitement. Eilidh is loving the carrier these days.  Many days its the only way to get her down for a nap.  She also shows an excited response when I sign and say "nurse."  And the best use? While Eilidh is usually content to be down for periods throughout the day, there are some times when she simply wants to be held. But it's impossible to change a diaper while holding the baby without getting covered in poop (trust me, I've tried). The solution? I put her down, quickly sign and say "let's do a diaper change" and immediately she stops fussing.

Baby has almost doubled in weight.  Eilidh, born at exactly 8lbs weighs in just a few ounces shy of 16 pounds. She's also 2 feet long! 

Did you know newborns can only see shades of black and white and their eyesight limits their field of vision to less than 2 feet?  By 4 months they can see colors and all the way across a room. Although babies can recognize their parents early on, around this time they can recognize voices and people from several feet away and they begin recognizing other important (or frequently seen) individuals.  

When I was pregnant, I began getting a sense of Eilidh's personality.  She was mostly quiet and sweet but she would occasionally get very fired up and she could certainly stand up to big brother Whit when he bumped her or simply laid down on my stomach (she typically responded with a kick or punch).  These personality traits are continuing to show themselves and we are getting to know her a little better every day.

Eilidh is a sweetheart. She will smile for just about anyone and is rarely upset. Eilidh has a special smile for most of the special people in her life.  Brother, Daddy and Papa are current recipients of one of the most dazzling.  I don't get a lot of smiles myself, but we have our own special look that we share. But watch out if she gets angry.... Today she dropped a toy and lost sight of it.  There's no object permanence at this age, so out of sight meant the toy was lost forever.  What a reaction she had! She also gets very impatient when she is particularly set on getting something and seems to loose all patience at that point.

Eilidh loves her brother and watches him almost constantly. She is eager to be doing whatever he is doing and blossoms when he shows her the slightest bit of attention.

Motor Skills
Both gross and fine motor skills have taken a leap forward in the last few weeks.  Babies can grasp objects, sometimes pick them up and can navigate most anything to the mouth; good practice for feeding themselves in a few months.  Eilidh likes pretty much anything in her mouth but especially watch out for your fingers! She will also grab my face and bring it right up to hers for a kiss and enjoys holding my hand when she is nursing or trying to fall asleep.

Typically developing babies begin to do "big" things like sitting up and rolling over between the fourth and sixth month.  Our over-achiever did both almost two weeks shy of 4 months (albeit she was born nearly 2 weeks later than "typical").  This video shows a small portion of her newly honed mobility.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Months 1-3

AKA, the fourth trimester

Have you ever noticed how needy a newborn baby is? How most of them are not "good babies" that soothe themselves to sleep or can be left alone, even untouched, for most of their day (and night)?  Not to mention that they are sort of boring.  Seriously.  They are super cute to look at, but mostly it's eat, poop, sleep, poop, eat..... and so forth for the first three months.

Picture this.... you come home after a long day and instead of walking into your comfortable 72 degree house, hopping into your comfortable bed and listening to your favorite song on the radio you open the front door and are flooded with freezing water and terribly loud noises.  It's what every new baby experiences. Forget the enjoyment of being rhythmically squeezed for an average of 8-24 hours. Think instead of what must be processing through their brains.  Shock, fear, anxiety?  Whit was decently calm when he was born, but he was somewhat drugged up from my epidural.  Eilidh experienced her birth the same way I did, naturally medication free. And she came into the world screaming.

I can remember reading somewhere that it helps a baby to sleep if you swaddle the baby and wrap a sweatshirt that smells like you around an old-fashioned alarm clock and put it near their head.  Something about being wrapped up tight near a warm, familiar scent and that tick-tick-tick fools them into thinking they are in the womb again.  That seems like a lot of work to me.

The truth is, human babies are born about three or four months too early. Their brains are only 1/4 the size of an adult brain.  The next closest mammal newborn has a brain 1/2 the size of an adult.  But humans are bi-peds.  Even in the best birthing positions, the ones that open up the hips as much as possible, wouldn't birth the head of a three or four month old baby. Human babies are the weakest and most vulnerable mammal at birth. 

So what do we do to deal with these "needy" babies?  There are so many items on the market that you can buy to help soothe your baby but I've found on this subject (as with so many others) that I took the easiest and least expensive route (that's not me saying I'm cheap and lazy...) Mommy's arms make baby happy, so use them! 

Here's my advice for some of the common complaints.  (And my excuse for not posting much during this "fourth trimester")

Baby only sleeps when... I'm holding him, he's sleeping with me. So do it! Hold, sleep, whatever it takes.  But do your research and do it safely. If your arms are tired or you find the housework piling up, call in reinforcements or consider wearing your baby.  Side note: Daddy sleeping with baby on his chest makes Mommy swoon.

Baby wakes up if I place her on her back. So lay her down on her belly until she's fully asleep.  If you are concerned about SIDS, stand over her like a hawk and then flip her to her back when she's good and asleep. Side note: The first night she was born, Eilidh went to the nursery to be weighed and checked out. The nurses told me she would only settle when placed on her side. At first I felt disappointed that they knew something I didn't, but I realized that I hadn't actually put her down yet.... and now I'm grateful that I knew going in she wouldn't sleep on her back unless she was very deeply asleep.

Baby wants to nurse...all...the...time....So do it.  Ok, that's not a possibility, but introduce a pacifier if you need to, sucking feels good to them, releases all sorts of good endorphins.

I'm exhausted. Buck up, your baby will eventually be a three year old, still exhausting, but in a different way. Seriously though, sleep when you can, however you can and enjoy those precious seconds when you are awake and not delirious from lack of sleep. And maybe next time you'll get a "good" baby.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Home Sweet Home

For the last decade or so, whenever someone asked where I was going [on a trip], I would reply "home."  That evolved the last five years to "home to Virginia" to highlight the fact that I had two homes.  Knoxville became my home in so many ways.  We had close friends there, careers, we were beginning to put down some roots.  We brought two babies "home" there.

But one can never truly sever the ties to their hometown.  This is the only home Kirk can remember and likely it will be the only one that Whit and Eilidh know.  Although I can remember many places that I've lived, this is the only one that ever truly seemed like home to me.  Our roots run deep here and I suppose they always will.

Anytime Kirk and I would come back to this place it was as if time slowed down and we could breath more deeply.  Our five years in Knoxville flew by and the one year we spent in northern Virginia the first year we were married was the blink of an eye. 

I've been "home" for less than a month and there are some times when it seems I never left.  The fact that our furniture still sits in a house in Knoxville is about the only thing making our time there tangible.  Surprisingly, the feeling I always had while on vacation here hasn't left me.  I would say that it has something to do with me being home with the kids, but I experienced that in Knoxville both last summer and after Eilidh was born. It just isn't the same.  There's something to be said for country life; there just seems to be more here.  Far fewer things, places and people, to be sure, but  more space, more time, more.... living.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brotherly Love

It warms my heart each time I see Whit hug, kiss or otherwise show affection to his sister.  I mentioned early on that Kirk was doing a wonderful job teaching Whit to interact positively with his sister.  He comes from experience as the bond he shares with his own younger brother is one of the strongest I've ever seen.

Don't get me wrong; I love the relationship I have as an adult with my sister and I'm capable of teaching Whit and Eilidh how to have loving interactions.  But the sibling relationships of my younger years were more likely to be punctuated with fights and competitiveness than hugs and kisses.  The relationship I now have with my sister evolved when we were both "adults" and in college together.  I pray that I can continue to grow the relationship I have with my younger brother now that he is an adult as well.

Discussing the dynamics of sibling relationships gets me thinking.... like so many other things in our society, it seems that sibling relationships are affected by what we perceive to be be "normal," ie, sibling rivalry, jealousy, fights.  But what if, like so many other things, it didn't have to be that way?

Many modern American families have two working parents which means children are cared for by someone outside of the immediate family from a young age, sometimes as early as 6 weeks.  In a typical day care setting, children are put into different sections based on age.  Even if your kids attend the same day care, they will get very little interaction with each other during the day.  By necessity, it continues on the same way throughout their years of elementary, high school and college.  Technology simply adds to the dilemma.  Anyone who has witnessed the moody teen sitting at the dinner table absorbed in their smart phone can see that although they are present, they aren't really "present." By they time they are adults, the sibling bond has weakened to a point that sadly many siblings fall out of contact with each other or rarely visit.

On the other hand, people talk about how closely bonded twins are. Does that 9 months (6 of which they are mostly unaware of the other's presence) really make that big of a difference? Or is it that they spend the majority of their formative years together? They share rooms, share a birthday, share life experiences.  Parents don't want their singletons to have to share or even have a close birthday, but no one bats an eye that twins ALWAYS (well, mostly) share that special day.

I am a family person.  Family to me comes before everything except my personal faith. So when I found out that I was pregnant with Eilidh I knew that I wanted my children to be together as much as possible, especially during the day if I would be returning to work.  We planned to continue to send Whit to pre-school but the rest of his day would be spent with a private care provider where he would get to interact and create a bond with his younger sister.  Of course, now that I will be home until God sees fit to send me back to work, I know, and am grateful that they will  get this daily interaction.

Getting kisses from Eilidh

Let me show you how to play with this moose...

Monday, June 17, 2013

A journey of faith

You can say "God has a plan" or "The universe knows best" but it comes down to the same thing.  I don't believe much in random chance.  Things certainly happen for a reason. 

When Kirk and I got married 6 years ago, I knew it was right.  But I was still a little nervous.  I prayed about it for weeks before hand, "Lord, just give me a sign that this is the right move, I don't want to make a mistake."  The answer?  A dream in which I was marrying someone else! I woke up in a panic and then when I realized that it was just a dream and I was, in fact, marrying Kirk, I knew everything was going to be OK.

Less than a year later I realized our relationship had grown more in the previous 10 months than the 8 years prior.  We were in turmoil.  I was facing surgery and we knew we were ready to move on from the hustle and bustle of life in Northern VA.  We didn't know where we were going, just that we were going. I had already non-renewed at the schools at which I was teaching and Kirk turned in his resignation on a Monday morning.  Monday afternoon he got a phone call from a friend about this job at a brand new high school in Knoxville, TN.  He applied, was interviewed over the phone and offered the job in the same day.  We never looked back.  It was easy.  We simply packed our things,  jumped in the U-Haul and drove south.

For those that know the story, Whit was our miracle baby.  We wanted him for so long and it wasn't until we gave up control that we finally got him.  "All in God's time" became our mantra.  It wasn't easy to give up control over things and rely only on faith, but we did it.  We took a backseat to our own lives and let God be in control. And we were rewarded.

2 years later I found out that the baby we were going to try for in the fall had decided to come a few months early.  I had just told Kirk we were going to be more relaxed the second time around and "The baby will come when God sees fit." Surprise! God saw fit a little earlier than we were planning.  That's what we get for planning!  Eilidh is such a delightful child and her timing was perfect.  She showed up on the evening of a rain delay just a few days after Grams showed up and a few days before spring break.

Now, I've been praying (and crying) about my desire to have more time with my children since the week Whit was born.  I never imagined that I would want to be a stay at home mom, and maybe I still don't want to be "only mom."  But I do want the opportunity to love and nurture my children more than I am getting working full time. Every time I prayed about it I got the same response.  "Be still and wait." Not an easy answer to get for 2 years....

Lo and behold, not long before Eilidh was born we started hearing rumors about a job opening in our hometown.  I knew moving home would mean that I would have the opportunity to stay home more, but I didn't want to be selfish.  If God intended for me to work, that's exactly what I was going to do.  I didn't encourage or discourage Kirk to apply for this position.  OK, I encouraged him to apply, but didn't really give him much advice on whether or not to take it (much to his chagrin).

For the first time, following our life path became difficult. It was like trying to read the exit signs on the interstate in the middle of a torrential downpour at night.  Not exactly clear. So we slowed down; we had to tread carefully and let the situation unfold.  We had to actually make a decision this time.  As the time to make the decision drew closer, the path got a little clearer.  And then, there we were, at the cross-roads and the sun came out and shined on the sign that said "Exit here."

I prayed a lot that day and, for the first time in a long while, got a different answer.  "God, what should we do? Should we stay? Should we go?"  And, quite clearly "Go, your work here is done."

What does the future have in store for us? Who knows! (Well, some one knows).  It's a good thing I like surprises and I'm patient, because I doubt I'm finding out one second before I need to know.  And now that I've learned (OK, I'm still learning) how to let go of control and TRUST it's getting a little easier.

It's like the songs I've heard Whit singing the last few weeks, maybe not just by chance.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.....

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey...   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Photo Update!

 So I know I haven't been forthcoming with a blog, but at least I've been busy with the camera! Eilidh still has a fair way to go to match the number of photos that Whit has racked up, but I'm trying.
The Crazy Eyes

With Grams!

Whit raiding Daddy's golf bag...and shoes

snoozefest take 2

The first go with the baby gym, she loves the mirror
Gym time is more fun with company

The best part of the reading festival? The play area!

Babywearing at the Reading Festival

More festival fun

ER at 2 months

Look at me go!

Daily batting practice...pants optional!

End of the year lunch with Daddy

This is my friend Marcus

Chillin with Aunt Val

Wow....supermom! Naptime!

Sydney, Whit and Opie (formerly known as Nana)

Shhhh....don't tell Nana we had a snack in her bed!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Scratch and Sniff

Don't you love that newborn smell?

No, not the smell of spit up or dirty diapers.  Just that fresh from the womb smell.  I love it.  I can't get enough. I can remember when Whit was first born Kirk said "He smells so good! He's like the perfect combination of you and me!"  I think I may have spent the majority of Eilidh's first days or even weeks in this world smelling her.

When my aunt and uncle were visiting and Aunt Pam was holding a fussy Eilidh, she said "I think she just wants to smell you." Sure enough, when she snuggled her head in my armpit, those eyes closed and she went right to sleep. 

So that got me thinking... is there a scientific reason for that?

Higher estrogen levels during pregnancy lead to an increased sensitivity to scents.  Although estrogen levels fall after birth, that sensitivity to pheromones sticks around. But why?  Perhaps during pregnancy it protects a woman by steering her clear of spoiled food, smoke and chemicals (this is the average baby website answer).

More likely it's much deeper.  Pheromones are produced by both mother and fetus during pregnancy.  After the birth, the baby (who has been smelling Mom's amniotic fluid for months) recognizes her mother by scent first.  As their relationship outside the womb continues, the baby begins to recognize the scent of her mother's milk and sweat, especially from under the arms (not as gross as it sounds!) the closest sweat glands to her face while nursing. Since babies are genetic combinations and variations of their parents, the pheromones given off by each are similar meaning that baby can recognize Dad (and Dad can recognize baby) by scent also.  These pheromone bonds, especially the strong ones, can last a lifetime.  They have been shown to influence the person a son or daughter chooses to start a family of their own with.

Since I love the way a new baby smells, the first thing I did when I picked up my nephew was lean down and smell him. Whit was pretty fresh himself (just over six months old)so even though E smelled good, my body reacted and my brain immediately sent the message "This is NOT your baby." 

Sure, smelling your kid may be a bit animalistic.  But in all reality, we are animals...albeit intelligent ones.  Newborn puppies would die if they couldn't smell their way to their mother's milk.  Luckily we don't have that problem.  But allowing baby to smell you, wearing your baby so that you can smell each other and leaning down to smell the top of their head while they are nursing, reinforces that pheromone bond that you spent nine months creating.  There's even research that shows encouraging your older children to smell the baby's head (where most pheromones are given off for the first few months) can increase sibling bonding. 

Forget perfumes and strong smelling soaps - that natural smell is what baby wants.

So the next time you see a baby, let that inner animal out.  Go ahead and smell it.  I'll even let you sniff mine if you want.