Surrounded by Those He Loves

I came into Spencer's room the other day, and he had surrounded himself with his stuffed animals. A few seconds later, he started sneezing. I felt his pain, and this is the phrase that came to mind:

Ah, the life of an animal lover...

...with allergies.


Hannah, This One's For You

Everyone is different. All I know is what I know; but I have taken care of my share of babies, toddlers, and children. Some of my opinions regarding products and "must have's" changed slightly when I had my own baby. Most of them did not. I have a couple of friends who will be having their first baby this year, and I have many more friends who need to hurry up and get busy. =) I have been working on a list in my head to give to my dear friend-since-the-fifth-grade-and-still-loves-me, Hannah. Lists in my head are no longer a meaningful way to track and manage information, so, for what it's worth, I decided to "blog" it.

*Note: I am assuming that if you care to know what these things are, you will google them. I'm not going to describe what the product is, I'm going to talk about why you would need it.

1. Changing Table / Dresser Made Into a Changing Table: This is one of my opinions that did change after I had a baby. For a year I changed one of my "clients" on the floor on a changing pad. It was no big deal. My mother insisted that I would not want to get on the floor constantly right after delivering a baby. Listen to your mother! I did, and I'm so glad. I cannot imagine changing Spencer on the ground from 0-4 Months. After that, it varies. Spencer is a live wire, and always has been. By 4 months, I was so scared that he would manage to "get away from me" on the dresser we used as a changing table, that I discontinued its use. But, I have friends who still change their 2 year old on a changing table, and it works great. They'll probably have fewer back problems later in life, too. No matter where you change the baby, you must do it on a changing pad. Not just a blanket. Not just a "lap pad." Accidents happen. Friends don't let friends have to scrub poop out of their carpet / rug / upholstery. "Those who have ears, let them hear."

2. Pacifiers, a pacifier clip, and pacifier wipes to put in your diaper bag: Yes, I really do think you NEED all 3. I do not like a lot of "stuff," and I try to only buy things we truly need. We didn't have a clip or the wipes for at least 5 months, and I just look back now and think, "Lauren, what were you trying to prove?" Also, some babies don't like pacifiers. I've never taken care of any of them.

3. Baby Bjorn: I have tried a "better" carrier, and I have tried a baby sling. And again, I can only tell you what worked for me and the children in my care, but the Bjorn worked for 2 out of the 2 babies I have spent the most time with. There are a lot of reasons why I like this best, the main one being that once the baby can hold his/her head up, the baby can face outward. In my experience, babies like to see what there is to see. IF, you happen to be blessed with a baby that will actually sleep in public past a few weeks of age, the baby can also face you in the Bjorn. I never used that setting much.

4. Sleep Sacks [and, after that, Sleep Sacks for "Early Walkers"]: babies flop all around when they are asleep. This way, you will only ask your husband 50 times if he thinks the baby is cold, as opposed to the 100 times you would ask it without. You can buy them with a swaddling option.

5. Plastic bags made to sterilize things in the microwave: there are a lot of different brands, and I don't think it matters which kind. I used (and still use) Medela. Ok, here's the deal with these. You CAN sterilize pacifiers, bottle parts, breast pump parts, etc. in the dishwasher if you use the "sterilize" or "high temp" rinse option. The dishwasher will heat up the water to make it hotter than the temperature on which you have your hot water heater set. The only reason I did not always do it this way is that we didn't always have a full-load for the dishwasher. In those instances, these bags are great. You can also boil those things, that obviously sterilizes them. Again, you may not always have time to do this depending on how many duplicates you buy of things and how many people are standing around wanting to help you.

They also make hard plastic trays with domes that go in the microwave to sterilize stuff, and yes, then, you'd never have to buy those bags. (You throw the bags away after about 20 uses each--the Medela ones have boxes to check each time you use it, so you'll know for sure when to toss it). Here's my opinion on that one. First, the trays with domes wouldn't fit in our microwave. We looked at every at Target or BabysRus. Second, where will you store that Third, I never needed to buy another pack of the bags. I still have some. I do still use them occasionally, when Spencer is sick or when I decide it's time to feel good about life via assuring myself that my toddlers pacifiers are squeaky clean. Now, I have some left over because I only used them when I couldn't use the dishwasher or didn't have time to boil stuff. Lastly, if you go out of town, you can take 1 bag that takes up very little space versus packing a hard plastic thing that takes up a lot of room.

I think 5 is a good stopping point for now. Small doses is best as you watch your cash dwindle down to nothing. A two pack of pacifiers is $5...and yes, I have seen the latest prices of Baby Bjorns, but there are ways to procure things short of paying full retail. (Not stealing...)


The 16 Month "Calm"?

In the past week or so, Spencer has been eerily calm. We all have different theories about what is causing this. He has NEVER been calm. He made those articles about newborns sleeping most of the time look like total lies. I know he is older, and his attention span is longer (although it's always been on the long side), and he gets tons of physical activity these days.

There is just this haunting voice in my head saying, "There is no way he is ok! He must be sick or something!" I truly think he would sit and watch the television all day if I let him. I know kids do this, I just didn't think "healthy" 16 month old boys did this. My mom says I would watch tv all the time if she would have let me. But, it's not only when the tv is on. Even when we go outside to play he is just markedly calmer. He will still throw a fit if you just out and out cross him, and he'll still get riled up if you chase him and tickle him; it's his overall demeanor that has settled down to about 2,000 notches below his "average." A month ago I was bracing myself for full-fledge "terrible two's" sort of behavior, and now this. I'm not trying to create drama, I'm just uber curious as to whether this is normal--maybe more so with boys? I always feel deficient when it comes to understanding boys.

So, I'm just putting this out there for all of you "seasoned" mommies and daddies (anyone with a child older than mine, ha!). I nannied for a few different families, and I have not yet witnessed this particular phenomenon--so I'm stumped. I just hope he's ok. He has no outward signs of illness, and he just finished a round of antibiotics--so there should be no lurking infections. He was allergy tested a few months ago and only reacted positively to peanuts, they tested him for food and seasonal allergies, so I don't think we can blame the pollen--yet. What do you all think? The change is NOTICEABLE, not subtle. Have I stressed that enough? =) Does he just not feel bad for the first time in months? Teeth finally not hurting? Reflux finally totally resolved (we hadn't noticed him having problems lately)?


Studio Portrait Session, Take I

We attempted to get Spencer's picture taken old school--in a studio with ugly props that have no meaning to us, etc. It went very poorly. We arrived for our 9 o'clock appointment at 9 o'clock, only to "sit" and wait for at least fifteen minutes while they got things pulled together. Fifteen minutes is a big deal with a toddler. And since when do you make an appointment to sit and wait? If they'd been running behind, I would have understood, but we were the first appointment of the day, and it appeared they'd just rolled in to open up at 9, not concerned about the toddler whose blood sugar and sleeping schedules LARGELY affect his mood. All of my customer-service alarms went off, but I decided to smile, be kind, and go with it. We were here, and he was dressed, and we were doing this!

Spencer did not care for the photographer, nor did he care for her to look at him or talk to him or be around him in any way. This made for an interesting photo shoot. He screamed, ran out of the room over and over, threw fits on the ground, and was just generally unhappy. I kept thinking, "Yeah, this is why we never do this." But, they were having a "special" that included a ton of prints (of one pose) for $10, and the guilt set in that we'd never done the "traditional" pictures of him--although his life has been nothing short of meticulously documented with higher quality cameras than any of those studio people use.

Between grabbing him from other non-studio rooms, bribing him with bouncy balls, and hoping the photographer lady would back off and let me handle it (since she obviously didn't make "the list") she did take a lot of pictures. She did this while she attempted to ask her assistant random questions about backgrounds and if it was time to switch, etc. without me noticing. Even with a screaming toddler, I'm not deaf. Her assistant was obviously annoyed by her behavior, because at one point she said, "I don't know. It's YOUR shoot." My, we were just one big, happy family.

We (and I do mean "we") managed to get a shot or two where he wasn't screaming or lying on the floor. Of course, in my not-so-humble opinion, the background was ugly and blended in with his hair and clothes as opposed to contrasting with him in order to highlight him in all his glory, but we did it! So no one can accuse me of not subjecting my kid to the traditional torture all middle-class American children are typically subjected to in the picture-taking arena. At least now we have gifts for the grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparent.

P.S.--We also have LOTS of wallets, so let me know if you need a little eye-candy to slide in next to your credit cards. I refuse to have piles of wallets sitting around our house indefinitely. Maybe they could be his business cards. Now, just to find him a business.

P.S.S.--It just dawned on me that it may be against the law for me to post this picture. Hmm. I can't decide if giving them "credit" could really qualify as that after the none too complimentary review above. I guess to keep everything on the up and up I need to say that this picture is courtesy of Portrait Innovations. Call for an appointment today, but don't expect to start at that time.

(Very) Short Stories from the Life of Spencer

Chapter 3: March

Spencer did a somersault by himself in his crib! We had a towel rolled up under one end of his mattress since he'd had a cold (to elevate his head a little to hopefully help him breath more easily), and I think the slight elevation helped him realize that he could do it. He then went on to do them in his crib at Gigi's without any rolled up towel at all. I've never "taught" him to do it, so when Jonathan came down the hall and told me that Spencer did a somersault in his crib, I thought, "Well, what is your definition of the word 'somersault'?" But, let me tell you, it is a PERFECT one! After I saw him do it, I felt bad for doubting Jonathan's notification. Spencer can't or won't do them by himself on the ground yet. I think it's easier to have the cushy mattress pushing back on you rather than the hard floor. But, he has tried it a few times and we've helped by giving him a little push.

I walked into the living room earlier this month and saw this. Like any good mother, I ran to grab the camera. We did ok until he decided to get down. He bent over to put his hands down to back off of the ottoman, but only managed to put one of his hands down on the ottoman. He put the other hand down on thin air, thus ending the photo session and beginning the tears and feelings of guilt and regret.

We have found the remote control both in one of my dresser drawers and in Jonathan's backpack that he takes to work. We also found a small wrench (from a set of wrenches Jonathan was using the other day) underneath the couch cushion. It appears Spencer is quite the little hoarder. I wish he'd tell me where he's stashed all his pacifiers.

In other news, Spencer thoroughly enjoys using his fork and spoon and has for a couple of months now. Sometimes he does it more carefully than others, but he will try to put things on the fork and then get it into his mouth. He loves to put his spoon in his yogurt or applesauce, but he doesn't do as good of a job at keeping it facing up so that he can it in his mouth as opposed to in his lap--that doesn't seem to bother him, though.

Lately, Spencer loves to gets really riled up when we have family over in the evenings. He lets a crowd gather, and then he walks to one person and gets their hand, he then proceeds to pull the first person over to the second person and then he takes the second person's hand. The job gets harder from here on out, since he has no hands left; but with much gesturing and corralling he makes sure to get every person present to follow him into his room. Then he makes everyone sit down. He'd make an excellent sheep dog. At this point, he gets so hyper that whatever interaction any tries to have with him from this point inevitably turns into him screaming at the top of his lungs, clapping as hard and fast as he can, and twirling himself round and round in circles. Finally, he'll run out of the room and get distracted by whatever is on the tv. He'll leave us all in his room indefinitely. BUT, if we try to come back into the living room, he starts the hand-holding / corralling all over again. Additionally, if I try to give him a bath while we have company over, he will fuss and climb out of the tub unless everyone stands in the bathroom and stares at him. And we don't have a big bathroom. It's quite a sight to see. Ah, the perks of being a firstborn--everyone obliges quite willingly!

He LOVES to rough house. He loves to be thrown on the bed and tickled over and over. He will sign "more! more!" if you quit. He loves to be thrown into pillows, dragged across the bed by his feet, dropped onto the bed from as high as you can get him, and tickled relentlessly. I always wear out way before he does. Along the same lines, anytime I lean over to pick something up, he giggles and then tackles me. He loves to climb all over me. He always wants me to lay down so that he can stand on me. This was fun for a while, but he is so big and strong now that I'm pretty sure he's going to hurt me soon. Unfortunately, when I say, "Ow! You hurt mommy," he shows no concern. It usually just spurs him on. I don't smile or laugh when I say it, because I only say it if he really did hurt me, and I'm trying to teach him not to do it. But, yeah, he's not concerned. Maybe the empathy part of the brain hasn't developed quite yet.

However, in the morning when he wakes up, he routinely wants his huge stuffed dog put into his crib. He immediately covers him up with his blanket (and requires you help him get it on the dog just right). He then either sits on top of the dog, or hugs him, or offers the dog a paci and a cup of milk. It's really cute, and it makes me think that empathy HAS in fact developed, but that he'd much rather exercise it with his dog than with his mommy. And, I have to point out (mainly because I hope I remember this someday) that we never showed him how to offer his dog his cup or said, "Does the doggie want any milk?" or cued him to do this in any way. One day, he just walked up to his dog and offered him his cup. Oh, their little minds!

We have attempted to have more "play dates" lately--you know, between whatever virus of the week we've managed to eradicate from Spencer's body. And, I have really enjoyed them. Spencer, not so much. I've been amazed at how opposed he is to settling in to play when there are other people around that he doesn't know very well. He acts totally different than when we have family over. It surprises me that he is like this, but I think it's a little big of his daddy's personality. Also, he doesn't care for the other kids touching his toys--and that's totally normal. Thirdly, I'm not sure he knows what to do with me focusing on other adults and attempting to not focus on him. And finally, I think he's really peeved when the other adults aren't focusing solely on him (but instead on their own children). Needless to say, we have to do this more, both for my enjoyment and his potential enjoyment. And we will. I just hope he hurries up and enjoys it! He doesn't shy away from social play in general. He loves it when we go to someone else's house. He just gets a little "maverick-y" on his own turf. Update: as of this morning we had a very successful play date! I only invited one mommy and her two little ones, and I think that might be key with Spencer. I was very relieved to know that I can now cross"sociopathic tendencies with visitors" off of my list of things to worry about.

One of Spencer's beloved movies has actors and animals in it (as opposed to cartoon characters). At one point, Mary and her little lamb take center stage. As Spencer was watching this at my parents' house the other night, he immediately jumped up and (in his own way) called Angel, their bichon. He wanted Angel to come sit by him so he could pat her like Mary was patting her lamb on tv. After all, Angel does bear a striking resemblance to a little lamb (at least in to a 1 year old), and we all had a good laugh.

Spencer's aunt Hillary was generous enough to give him some croutons off of her salad last night at dinner. However, after a few uneventful bites, Spencer thought he'd challenge himself by attempting to stick the whole thing in his mouth (this was a very over-sized crouton from a restaurant--I'm not as over-protective as I may be sounding at this point). When he tried to consume it with little success, I assisted him in taking it out of his mouth. He showed no appreciation for this act of precaution. Then, I broke it into a couple of pieces, while he screamed at me and started turning purple, all the while keeping my cool and telling him what was going on. Then, since his mouth was wide open from screaming, I stuck one of the smaller pieces in there, to encourage him to move on from his disappointment and enjoy the savory crouton. This was seen as an act of aggression. If we hadn't been in public, I would have left it at that. Children can sense your desperate desire for them to stop screaming themselves blue in the face. He was motioning for Hillary's salad, and we handed him a (smaller) whole crouton. He IMMEDIATELY shut it off, popped it in his mouth, and went on with dinner. I looked up to see both of my parents making very little effort to hide their uncontrollable laughter. This story is really only funny if it is not your responsibility to teach this child alternate ways of dealing with these horribly frustrating life events.


Before and After Easter, Shocking Stories, and Sunscreens

Disappointingly, I still haven't gotten pictures of Easter from my dad's camera, and no words could ever express how adorable Spencer was, so this will have to do for general entertainment as well as serve to give reasons and excuses for why I have not gotten the pictures or written anything significant about Spencer, life, or Easter.

At the Kelley household we managed to bookend the Easter holiday with two illnesses. The week leading up to Easter, Spencer had your run-of-the-mill upper respiratory virus. It wasn't too bad, although he did run fever. He is considerably easier to take care of as a sick toddler than he was as a sick baby thanks to his love affair with the television that has blossomed into what resembles a full-fledged chemical dependency. I know that I should be more concerned about his screen addiction, but truth be told I'm just thankful to have "a moment" every now and then.

Those of you who knew him as a baby know that it was quite the "hands on" experience. I pretty much had my hands on him until he was weaned, started reflux medication, crawled, and pulled up all in the same week at 6 months old. Even after that, until a few weeks ago, he preferred that his mother be at his beckon call. (Who wouldn't?) So, I am enjoying the moments where I do laundry or prepare meals without him screaming for my undivided physical and mental attention while pulling down my shorts/sweatpants/skirt--yes, he would actually pull my clothes off while he stood next to me screaming to be picked up.

I will now insert the "Good Parent Disclaimer", lest anyone fear that I have not heard the evils associated with babies watching too much television--the kid goes outside, on errands, to other peoples' houses, and to the playground frequently and is in no way replacing those times with television watching--that being said, when we are out all morning or all afternoon, he runs to the living room the moment we enter the door and begs for his movie to be turned on. Oh, how passionately he misses it.

After Easter, Spencer got a sore on his torso. This is not completely uncommon for him. He has lots of sensitive skin issues for which I'm sure he'll thank me someday. The problem was when it got infected and looked like something "concerning" to say the least. My parents, medical professionals that they are, instantly jumped into action (because, of course, it was a weekend). They got us all squared away until we could see the pediatrician on Monday, including a call from my mom around 11 p.m. to tell me to go check on Spencer to make sure he wasn't lying in bed with a fever dying of sepsis. (Not her words exactly, but I could sense the tone.) With much protocol, antibiotics, hibiclens-ing, and nasal swabbing to "decolonize" we waited on the culture to come back. The pediatrician and my dad thought he had MRSA. Good times. Luckily, it was just regular old staph. I got to call my friend whose 6 month old had been around Spencer the day before and tell her the good news. If her kid ever gets MRSA, we can't be linked to it. I felt a little bit better. Meanwhile, the antibiotics have been not so kind to my little one, but I will never complain about "having" to give them to him. I can't imagine how miserable he would (still) be without antibiotics, and I am thankful that I have access to them.

Speaking of the need to kill harmful living organisms that are everywhere trying to invade your body, I knew Friday morning was going down hill when Jonathan had to knock a condom out of Spencer's hands at the park. Yeah, seriously. There are no words. Except, I guess that people who use condoms in the park aren't that concerned about picking up after themselves. Just sayin'. MUCH hand sanitizer.

Spencer is very busy these days. He loves to gather rocks when he plays outside. He puts them in the car with him, or in his wagon. He carries them into the house. He tries to eat them. He is also perfecting his climbing skills. I found him on the console table the other day. He had climbed onto it from the sofa. I told him that was a "no." He pulled a plug half-way out of the socket and shocked himself. I heard him screaming and ran in to see him right by the outlet looking horrified. He cried. I cried...need I say more?

We DO have every outlet covered, but not ones that we have things plugged in to. He can take off the outlet covers, although he doesn't find it very exciting. What he does find exciting is to unplug things, and then stick his finger in, I guess. So, we will be replacing all of the round 1 covers with the sliding switch plate kinds. If you haven't bought the first kind yet, I wouldn't bother. All this, and my mom swears neither me nor my two sisters ever cared anything about the outlets. She's probably halfway right. I remember sticking dry spaghetti into one, but I think I was probably 7. So, lesson learned: You will feel like a HORRIBLE parent if you buy the less expensive child-proofing item only to have it fail to protect your child. Other lesson learned: I pretty much can't leave Spencer in a room by himself alone for any amount of time right now, which is very sad.

Sunscreen season is here as well. I can't bring myself to put it on Spencer or me everyday of the year like the AAP recommends. But, we will be using large amounts of it this summer. This brings up a whole new set of sensitive skin issues. I bought a couple of different types to see if we could get away with the generic brands. I typically cannot use generics for these sort of things, but maybe he'll be less sensitive, or maybe the generics will be better. Fingers crossed. Feel free to leave the name(s) of your favorite and least favorite sunscreens. It isn't cheap, so trial and error is frustrating. I'm not a fan of trial and error in any situation. Why wouldn't I just do it right the first time? One of life's hardest lessons for me is that you can't always fail-proof things. Sometimes no matter how much you read, or ask, or try--some things just doesn't work out. And it isn't fair. And you've "wasted" time or money or both. I HATE that.

So, how about y'all? Ringing in this spring with multiple illnesses? Amazed that your DVD player still works day after day? Knocking barrier methods out of your children's hands at public parks? Electrocutions? Hoping sunscreen doesn't leave chemical burns on your babies face like it always does on your own?