Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creating a Monster or Taming a Beast?

Just before Rebecca turned two, she began to exhibit the qualities of the dreaded Terrible Twos, nice and early - as was her way with most milestones. A sudden independent, demanding and more and more often as the next two years went by, downright mean nature overtook my sweet, calm, go-with-the-flow little girl. Usually directed at my husband and me, we often threw up our hands, exasperated and at our wit's end with this precocious daughter of ours.

I counted while I made her breakfast yesterday, and I asked her a total of 11 questions throughout the process. ELEVEN.

  1. What do you think you want for breakfast?
  2. Pancakes, great - chocolate chips or syrup?
  3. Chocolate chips, yum. Just put on the pancakes, or spread after they melt?
  4. Whole pancakes or cut into bites?
  5. What color plate?
  6. Would you like water or orange juice?
  7. Which kind of cup - big girl or sippy?
  8. Big girl cup - awesome! With a straw or without?
  9. The straw is sometimes tall - do you want me to cut it a bit?
  10. What color straw?
  11. Which table would you like to eat at - your little table or the big one?
I realize this seems extreme. I have realized this for quite some time. And yes, we use the mantra, "you get what you get and you don't get upset" very often - sometimes even successfully - but it doesn't always work. And Rebecca has become quite picky in her four-and-a-half years, and likes things just so. Or else...

Now, I don't think I have to ask every single one of these questions - if I just gave her pancakes on a yellow plate and OJ with a red straw in a blue cup she may eat them just the same. 

BUT - if she wanted syrup and not chocolate chips? Or wanted them whole and I had ripped them into bites (I mean cut them - who would just rip apart mini pancakes instead of using a utensil? Certainly not me...)? Or wanted the chips just placed on and oozy vs. my smearing them after they melted? Meltdown city. She'd refuse to eat them, and I promise you that girl's will is stronger than anyone I've ever met (except maybe her father). This is the girl who wouldn't potty train until she was just over 3 1/2, and prior to that would sit on the plastic bowl for twenty minutes, not let out a drop, then stand and pee next to it when we let her get up. Seriously, she's got some willpower.

So to head these tantrums off at the pass, especially once her sister was born, I got used to asking Rebecca the questions I needed answers to in order to get things done smoothly. I'd rather ask and do it her way than need to remake her breakfast or have her not eat anything. Because the only thing worse than a vindictive Rebecca, is a HANGRY one. For real.

So what I wondered yesterday is - is it better to ask these questions, ensure a smooth road and tame the beast that she can become, or am I in fact creating a monster?! I fear I know the answer here... but I have seen what comes when I assume the answers, so for now will not attempt to do so. 

Oh, and lest you think this is just about breakfast, I assure you it is not. In each scenario below, making the choice for her has resulted in a tantrum that it is just not worth it to have, in my opinion, when she will quite happily answer...
  • Which stuffed animal friend is coming to preschool with you today?
  • Which toothbrush do you want to use? Which toothpaste? 
  • What do you want to wear today? Which Frozen one - the Olaf tank? The Anna and Elsa tee? The longsleeve one? The Elsa dress? The Anna dress? The Elsa and Anna and Olaf and Kristoff tutu dress? Siiiiiiiiigh....
  • What movie should we watch?
  • What pajamas do you want to wear?
  • Which underpants are you going to wear?
  • Do you want to drive, scoot or walk to school?
  • Where should we go to dinner tonight? (On this one, Evan and I often override her decision. Don't come between us and our food, Bex...)
The past couple of weeks, though, I have noticed we are starting to potentially turn a corner (I won't say more - and wait for my next post, on jinxing things, to find out why). Recently she has been more easygoing, letting down her Terrible Twos / Terrifying Threes / F&%$ing Fours armor and even being... nice!!! It's so wonderful to see this girl again, and I think I can see a light at the end of this tunnel - one not filled with questions and tantrums, but amazing fun times with my big girl, and her little sister who - dammit - turns two in a little over a year.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Second Child...

Lila is on the move - she crawls faster than I walk sometimes, cruises around our sofa and coffee table, has started climbing onto stools and other low-lying surfaces such as the dishwasher, and walks quite well while holding onto our hands. We broke out Rebecca's old plastic walker, and yesterday she began to slowly master that too.

I am ready for her to walk - I really hate the crawling stage, when they are licking the floors (or is that just our child?) and picking up every piece of dust / hair / old Cheerio / other assorted crap that is apparently all over our floor they find because that's eye level for them. Also, crawling in public places is even worse than at our apartment - at least there I know whose Cheerios and hair it is.

We have an annual family trip in a month, and I definitely want Lila to be walking before that. Rebecca was only seven months the first year we brought her there, so not moving yet - that was perfect - and then the next year she toddled around at 1 1/2 years old. Having Lila crawl all around the pool is just not as appealing as her walking, so we're doing a bit of walking boot camp to make sure she's ready by then.

But - am I really ready for her to be WALKING!? That makes her officially a toddler, and hardly a baby anymore - which as we know, I'm okay with - but it also means... she will be even more of a terror than she already is!! I'm telling you - this girl is sweet as pie, but into EVERYTHING - cabinets, climbing shelves, eating shoes, licking the dishwasher, turning on the DVD player and eating the disc that comes out, sitting in the fridge, pushing items off the ledge of and into the bathtub, and the toilet - well let's just say, we now keep the bathroom doors and commode lids closed.

Rebecca never did any of this, I swear. That girl understood when we said no, and never tried whatever antic it was again. I never got why people needed the plastic guards for the front of their cable boxes and DVD players... until we had Lila. She has singlehandedly proven the worth of every childproofing (or as Evan calls it, "Evan-proofing") invention out there.

I've talked to so many people about this - the second child being crazier than the first - and SO many say that this happened to them too. I've come up with three reasons why:

1) Duh - they want to be like their older sibling. When Rebecca makes noise - ANY noise - it is like a bat signal to Lila. Her head whips around to find her sister, and she immediately must go to wherever she is. Which Rebecca loves, causing her to make even more noise than she used to (if that is possible), starting the never-ending cycle all over again. Don't get me wrong - nothing makes me happier than the two of them playing together and watching the amazing bond they are already forming, and I always stop whatever it was I was trying to get done to let them have their time together.

2) There is such interesting stuff around the house now - when Rebecca was born,we had toys suitable for her or else boring grown-up stuff. Now, there are Lila toys, Rebecca toys, in-between toys, art supplies and grown-up stuff... which, incidentally, is apparently not boring at all to Lila. Seriously, hand that girl a remote, cordless phone, cell phone, tissue box, bowl, spoon, or anything else that is not a toy and she is all about it. But don't you dare make it a Fisher-Price version of any of those items - what do you think she is, a fool?!

3) I'm not able to sit with her 100% of the time. With just Rebecca, I was either with her or doing something for her - now, I have tasks to accomplish for both of them - food or bottles to prepare, clothes to wash or pick out or change them into, diapers to change or a tush to wipe, toys or dressup outfits to put back in their rightful place (ha! yeah right.)... It's a never-ending dance, and Lila doesn't seem to like it.

We bought a playpen for Lila, thinking that being inside of that with all of her toys would be great and allow me the freedom to accomplish all I have to without worrying that she was a foot off the ground somewhere, but she stands at the edge of it and screams bloody murder when you put her inside. So we use that quite sparingly to say the least. Instead, we either carry Lila around while we do things, let her crawl behind us whining as we do them, or throw the girl a remote control to get her to sit still while we take care of what needs to be done. Whatever it takes.
Caught amidst a gathering of her favorite thing - shoes.
I recently took my first long, solo car ride with the girls. Two-and-a-half hours down to Margate NJ with just one stop at a Target so Rebecca could go to the bathroom and Lila could eat a pouch. By the last half hour, Lila was D. O. N. E. with that car seat and would not settle down. I frantically searched the passenger seat for anything I could throw back to her to occupy her time, hands and mouth - and laid eyes on Rebecca's Croc. Yes, the one she had worn in the pool that day at camp. Much like a puppy, Lila has a penchant for shoes - licking, sucking on and taking bites of them. She can hone in on a pair from across the room and be next to them, with it in her mouth in a flash, it's actually impressive. So I am not proud of what happened next, but am proud that I had the instinct to wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe before tossing it to Lila - and wouldn't you know, not another peep for the rest of the ride. Hey, whatever it takes, right? Sigh...

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Changing Nature of Photographs

I love taking pictures and videos, and my iPhone is a permanent fixture in my hand because of that. I come by it naturally - growing up, my father was never without a camera in his hand and in our face.  Still camera images exist of all trips, milestones and occasions. The video camera was like an extra guest at all family events, and this was before it was the size of your palm. But he was onto something, because watching the videos that he made, and flipping though the albums of images of my sister's and my childhood is a favorite pastime of our family - and something our kids have grown to love doing as well. Seeing us when we were their age, or watching our wedding videos and seeing family members appear on TV makes them giggle non-stop.

If - knock on wood - anything ever happened to our family home, we knew that the first thing to retrieve was those albums - all the memories they contained are infinitely more priceless than any other object we owned. And I am at the point now of not knowing if the memories that I keep in my head are in fact my own or from examining those images and watching those videos year after year.

When leaving for camp, or one of my trips out West or to Israel, or even when I studied abroad in Spain my junior year in college, I spent tons of money purchasing film, developing rolls and reliving moments. You never knew what image you had captured, if all eyes were open, if someone had stolen your camera and taken an image without letting you know. Half of the fun of those trips was getting your pictures - doubles obviously so you could trade with friends - back from being developed, and we would sit often in the parking lot or store itself to flip through them immediately.

Since having Rebecca, and now Lila too, I take - at least - ten pictures a day. The most mundane moments have been deemed photo-worthy now that cameras are so easily accessible and I am certainly guilty of oversharing these on Facebook or Instagram. I send pictures to my parents and sister of the girls almost daily, and videos with increasing reckless abandon as well.

But...

I hardly have any photos printed or framed. We've never put any of the videos I capture on my iPhone on the television. And other than Rebecca's Welcome Book or the one from her first year of life (and I'll pat my own back for even getting those done), I don't have anything filled with the digital images I've taken for my girls to look through. I have a few hard copies printed every few months or so to give to family members, per pointed requests from them, but otherwise, they exist on my iPhone. Or - even less accessible - in "the cloud..."

We do look through my phone from time to time at old pics or videos and laugh, and when I take the time to bust out our Canon DSLR for special events I am better about uploading the images to the computer, but without the constraints of a 24-exposure roll of film (or the even better 36!), I am absolutely still guilty of overshooting. This then makes culling through and choosing favorites that much more of a chore, and one that gets pushed back and back until I have time (which - newsflash - is never).
video

I realized this weekend as I re-watched this amazing video of Rebecca and Lila on the beach in Margate that while photos and videos have become  a constant part of our every day, they are that much less special, which is bittersweet. So I'm going to make a point to go back to my family roots - to make the digital books so that we can reminisce together, even when my phone is out of juice or we can't access the cloud. And this time with the added benefit of them being stored there, in case anything does ever happen to them. Wish me luck... and the stamina I'll need to cull through the now 5,000 images on my phone...

Friday, July 17, 2015

5QFriday - Expectant Mommy Q&A!

My friend Brittny is one-of-a-kind. Truly. Hilarious - outgoing - thoughtful - hilarious - did I mention hilarious?! She cracks me up more than anyone else, and since she lives in DC, our in-person laughing sessions are few and far between. 
Brit and I bachelorette party-ing it up back in the day!
Thankfully, this weekend we are getting together! It's my annual Summer Girls' Weekend at our friend Leslie's family's house in Margate, NJ. One of my favorite traditions, everyone comes with their spouses, kids, and this year - the bun in Brit's oven!! That's right, a little baby Brit is on the way - watch out world... So in honor of her pregnancy and the soon-to-be newest member of our group's second generation, here are Brit's answers to my 5Qs...


1)      What part of having a baby are you most excited about?  
I cannot wait to see what amazing cocktail my husband and I have created… AND to have an actual cocktail (I dream of mojitos)! The notion that there is going to be a little being infused with both of our crazy personalities keeps me up at night with excitement, and (admittedly) a little fear for her toddler and teenage years. The thought of constant entertainment thrills me to no end. I can’t wait to feel that instantaneous love and all that will ensue as she grows.
A month after marriage, we fell into the typical cliché and adopted a 7 year old golden retriever from my mother-in-law. Never having grown up with a doggy, I had no idea what to expect. We’re obsessed. The unconditional love, the pull to leave work/a party/a baseball game ANYTHING because you just want to be with that little furry pup and the fact that she made us a “family” and not simply a couple has changed our lives. I cannot even begin to imagine that I’ll soon be feeling these same emotions (quite a bit stronger, I’m sure!) for a little piece of us that I’ve been carrying for the past 9 months. It’s going to be a special thing. 😊

2)     What makes you the most nervous to think about?
The fact that I may be a little naive as to how hard parenting actually is—ok, very naïve. Growing up I was pretty much a professional babysitter. I spent 75% of my teenage years bring grounded so I figured I might as well get paid for it and learn some “life skills” along the way. I would wrangle a family of 4 kids with ease—loading up the Suburban and carting them to hockey/tennis/out for fro yo like a mini Mama. I felt a true satisfaction after they were all snuggled in their beds at the end of a long day.  So just ONE is going to be nooooooo problem—right?! Wrong. I am confident that I will soon find out otherwise. I do not have that 16 year old energy, the carelessness of thinking that 2 packs of Gushers wont really hurt in the long run, a full-time job, a mortgage….shall I go on? I’m in for a rude awakening.

I’m also worried about juggling work with the baby— things like firming up the “routine” and hoping that returning to reality in January isn’t going to be hellacious. I’m super organized and very on top of things at work and oddly let personal matters (“bills? what bills?!”) go by the wayside on the home front. Fortunately, my husband is amazing and keeps me in check. I realize that I have to apply the same rigor and organization and planning to my family’s personal life that I do to my professional life. Translation: time to grow up. 

3)     What is the craziest thing that has happened to you while pregnant?  
I work in the only building in Washington, DC that employs full-time elevator operators. There is one in particular—a little spitfire—that I have grown especially fond of. We batner, and it was going well… until I got pregnant. She has become my daily “self-check”  mirror each time I board that elevator. I struggled initially with “dressing the bump”—really wanting to steer clear of Pea in the Pod’s finest empire waist dresses which tended to dwarf my petite (at the time) frame. So—I creatively thought I would try to squeeeeze my way into my pre-preg frocks… well, not so much. As the belly grew, my hemlines lifted and my once work appropriate dresses got a little… scandalous. It may or may not have looked like the bump and I were headed to “da club” and not "da office." One day I was wearing a particularly form-fitting dress and my personal mirror and devil on my shoulder (aka. Ms. Elevator Operator) bluntly advised me to “start wearing maternity dresses.” “This is one!” I giggled (blatantly lying through my teeth) while trying to simultaneously pull down my northbound hemline. She looked me up, down then dead in the eyes while shaking her head:  “No… no, it’s not.” Lesson learned.

4)     We all know people offer their unsolicited advice when you're knocked up - What has been the BEST advice you have gotten from a mom so far? 
So true. I also think that some people get a personal thrill and satisfaction in regaling you with their horror stories.  (“Oh, but that won’t happen to YOU….” ) I’m honestly pretty open to advice (from people that I trust and love) as I feel that prior to getting pregs, I really glazed over the baby talk until it actually applied to me. Ahem, earmuffs to my amazing friends who now think that I blocked out the past 5+ years of convos—that wasn’t the case, I swear... ;) Bring on the good tips….I need em’! I've been fortunate enough to have a parade of friends who are Mommy role models to me. 

International Supermom Leslie “How does she do it?” Meunier (another 5QFriday contributor) advised us to get out and about while we can (first 6 months) before baby gets on a strict schedule. Many others have told us that your life does not have to stop when baby comes. Take them out, travel with them… I’m game! We have a bevy of bars and restaurants literally around the corner from our house—city living!—I don’t want to be a prisoner in my home when baby arrives. Baby in a bar anyone?

5)     What advice do you have for other pregnant women?
It goes by quickly—as does everything. OK, I am lying a bit. The first trimester can seem to be a never-ending haze of napping and comfort food but then it starts to fly. Be good to yourself—sleep when you want to sleep, eat when you want to eat and practice lots of “self-care.” That little lovie is relying on you to be good to your body.  If this is your first, enjoy the precious time with your mate/husband. Despite your hormones, remember that you’re a team. He's part of what got you into this predicament in the first place! If you’re sweet to him (“paws, not claws,” mine is constantly reminding me) he will be sweet right on back to you. You’re in this together although many times it may feel like the burden is yours alone. It is not. I found that when I am active (walking, spinning, pilates...whatever your poison) I feel better. When attempting to shave your legs without toppling over is the first of many hurdles you’re going to encounter all day, try your hardest to remember—being pregnant and growing this special little life is an absolute gift. It’s the ultimate gift that will keep on giving and I’m looking forward to meeting mine at the end of August.  (Lesley's Note - I've always been eager to meet every single child my friends have had - but this one? For some reason, I can. Not WAIT. To see what Brit and DJ have created :) LOVE YOU GIRLLLLLLLL!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#WarriorMomCon

The first time I went to sleepaway camp, I remember coming home and feeling... different. More mature, I guess, having had experiences away from home and the only friends I'd ever known. 

The summer I went away to Israel, when I was 17, I remember coming home and feeling changed. More connected to my Judaism, to the new friends that I'd made and the country I'd fallen in love with. I had such profound experiences there that truly made an impact on me and I remember to this day. (Sadly, my mother made me remove my more visible reminder of that trip - the upper ear cartilage piercing I got against her wishes - within one day of being home, when we were meeting my grandfather for lunch. Teenage angst sigh...)

This weekend was yet another trip that has newly defined me. I can't stop thinking about it - rolling around the facts we learned inside my head, recalling stories I was told and that I shared with others, replaying the funniest and most poignant moments of the weekend over and over. I have been almost in a daze since returning home to my darkened apartment late Sunday evening. I feel like I'm somewhat straddling two worlds, as part of me has stayed either in Boston or in the dark days of my postpartum past, reeling from discoveries that the weekend led me to make. 
The night we all met - pre-conference cocktail party!
Tatted up!
What were those discoveries?
- That I'm not 100%  healed as I thought and willed myself to be. If that is all it took, I'd be set. But after only four years, and since having a baby just ten months ago, I'm still more in postpartum depression and anxiety's grips than I realized. Through guilt (I mean REGRET. Regret. I regret missing the first few months of Rebecca's life, and worrying through the first couple months of Lila's. I regret not remembering Rebecca reaching the milestones that Lila is now hitting. I regret the burden I have put on my husband. I regret that I still have days when my mind is fuzzy and patience short.) Through bouts of anxiety. Through rage issues that flare up when the anxiety does. Through the medication that I take daily to help me get to the point where I currently am.

- That self-care is SO important. Yes, I came back from this weekend away a bit rocked and more than a bit exhausted - but I crept into my daughters' room when I got home, studied them sleeping and took a photo of each, so I'd remember how I felt. Filled with gratitude for them, and the overwhelming desire to wake them up (I didn't - what do you think I am insane!?).


Monday morning when Lila awoke and I got her from her crib, she wouldn't leave my side. When I had to wake Rebecca for camp, she did a double take, jumped up and into my arms with the hugest smile. Taking time for me, gives me more room for them.

- That support - true, unconditional support - is invaluable. The women I met held each mom there in the highest regard. We heard about each other's lowest lows, and shared pictures of our kids - our highest highs. We told stories of the darkest days and cried, and quotes from our littles that made the room erupt in laughter. We assured each other of things we know is true - that we are all great moms, and the exact right moms for our children. 

- That Warrior Moms are incredible; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6iQp-JdjkU&sns=fb 

- That a room full of moms needs really good AC.

- That education is SO important. Women need to know more about maternal mental health issues. Pregnant women need to see a list of risk factors to determine where they may fall. Pregnant women need to see a list of various symptoms that they may or may not find themselves dealing with, so that if they do, they know to get help. New mothers need to be given clear materials that stay top of mind during a time when so much information is being thrown at them. The partners of new mothers need to be given materials that will help them recognize an issue with the other - and fathers should know about their risk for postpartum depression too. As should adoptive mothers. There is SO MUCH that is unknown. So much that is misunderstood. So much information to get out there.

- That Postpartum Progress is made up of incredibly strong, powerful and courageous women. 

- That I will will be attending every Warrior Mom Conference in perpetuity. 

- That I have only just begun to use my experience and my voice for good.




Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gone Warrior Mom Conference-ing!

Tomorrow I am heading to Boston for a few kidless days that will be filled with - well, talking about having my kiddos! I am off to the inaugural Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference. With the theme of, "From Pain to Power," it is the first-ever maternal mental health conference solely focused on the patients themselves, and it is going to be all of the things - fun, funny, sad, scary, triggering, cathartic, healing and - AMAZING.

I can not wait to be in a room filled with more than 100 Warrior Moms. Women who went through the same types of experiences I did, and just.. get it. If I could tell you how it feels to be in a couple of Facebook groups with people who just inherently understand the struggle, the feelings that (yes, still) come along with it, and don't need you to say anything more than, "Having a hard day..." to know to just send virtual thoughts, strength, love and good vibes... empowering doesn't begin to cut it.  Some of these women I've never met, some I have gotten to know online or via phone through my work on the Climb and on the Board of Directors, some of them I've met before if only just for an hour or two, but I can't wait to see again. There have been jokes about the sponsors we should have attracted - Kleenex, waterproof mascara, and I'll throw big pharma into the mix.... and deep gratitude to those who have sponsored the event, making it possible for us to gather, heal, learn and strengthen ourselves. It is going to be life-changing not just for attendees, but for those we then go forth and help afterwards...

Items on the conference agenda include a panel on Educating and Empowering, speakers presentations entitled, "Thriving after Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders" "Making the Most of your Advocacy Online," and "Expanding Outreach to Underserved Communities." There will be self-care workshops and I am thrilled to be one of the peer facilitators for the breakout sharing group discussions  on Sunday morning.

I am going to be exhausted - though having my own hotel room without a nine-month-old who can't seem to get the hang of putting the damn pacifier back in her own damn mouth and for whatever reason finds it appropriate to be waking up at 5:30 recently bodes well for a couple of good nights of sleep... if the anxiety stirred up by these discussions allows that to be the case.

So - I've been MIA coming off of the Climb and gearing up for this (not to mention keeping my freelance writing and PR business chugging), and will be MIA this weekend - but come Monday, I am starting a new chapter - Lesley Neadel, Postpartum Advocate. I just made up that title, I think, but I'm going with it - and it's going to be the most fulfilling role I've held to date. I can't wait...