Hello! Welcome to my blog! Here I post my thoughts about my family and whatever else I feel like talking about. Feel free to comment!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Real baby advice

So one of my friends is going to have a baby very soon. I promised her way back in the early stages of pregnancy that I’d compile a list of REAL advice for a first time mom, not all that glossy magazine and parenting books you come across endlessly in all sorts of places. And, now that the baby’s due next week, here’s the list of REAL baby advice that no one tells you. (In no particular order.)

1. When you’re at the store, park as close as you can near a cart corral.
Seriously. It’ll save your sanity. Here’s why: At first, you’ll probably have a baby in the top part of the cart, in a carrier. You’re done shopping, and if you parked anywhere else, you have to lug a  huge car seat and your purchases into the car to all be tucked away. And you’re going to be exhausted because that is second nature after having a kid, so the less distance you have to carry kids and other stuff, the better. Even when the kids are older, this is good too, because you’ll want to hurry and get your stuff to the car before you or them have any more breakdowns. (Nervous for mom, behaviourial for kids.)

2. New babies don’t care about clothes.
Yeah, they care about the big things, like food, diaper changes, being held and loved. But for at least the first 6 months, clothes are not a big deal. When you’re going out, yes, it’s nice to have the cute outfits and matching socks and hats and bows, but that’s for adult sentiment. Not babies. When you’re at home and it’s just you, the baby and the dog watching The Wiggles at 7:30 am, that baby doesn’t care if it matches or not. As long as it’s dressed, that’s all you need. And besides, whatever it’s wearing is going to get soiled in some fashion, so it might as well be something cheap and comfortable. Goodwill or other store like that is a good place to look for early baby clothes. It’s cheap, and if it needs to be thrown out because of a blowout from one end or the other, you don’t feel guilty. And a side note, if you think it’s warm enough for baby, don’t think you have to put clothes on. Just something to cover the bottom up, and maybe something to cover a diaper too. Because those little hands will soon figure out how to undo diaper tabs. And that’s not pleasant. Trust me. On the other hand, I’m sure you’ve heard “Dress the baby in one layer warmer than yourself.” This really only works if it’s cold, I’ve found.(and don’t forget a hat)  If it’s hot, dress it in the same as yourself. It’s really just a judgement call. Do what feels right. You can always put layers on a baby or take it off, just as yourself.

3. Cloth Diapers.
I don’t care if your baby wears them on their butt or not. Pick up a package of these. The cheap white 12 count package is fine. Cause these make excellent burp cloths, and once again, for the first 6 months, you will live with these things. Seriously, have one under your baby when laying down after feeding, and if not under, within six inches of it. Cause random projectile vomit happens. Sometimes a lot. They’re machine washable and disposable if need be.

4.  Try to sleep sometimes when the baby sleeps.
This is an oldie but a goodie. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. And you’ll say “Oh, I don’t need to sleep, I need to get stuff done!” etc etc. Yeah, well, forget it. I’m not saying you should sleep EVERY time the baby sleeps, otherwise, true, the laundry may not get done, or the dishes, or a shower for you, or anything else, but at least once a day during the first three months, up to the 9 months or so, TAKE A NAP DURING THE DAY WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. You need it. And whatever else you’re doing can wait. Those dust bunnies aren’t going anywhere. Let them sit. You need to take care of you too.

5..  The diaper bag is your new best friend.
So pick a practical one. You’ll be lugging that thing around for probably at least three years, so get one you’ll like. Make sure it has lots of pockets so you can’t find what you want when you need it. Also, for you moms, don’t carry a purse and a diaper bag. Just throw everything into the diaper bag. But make sure you at least get your wallet and stuff out if dad takes the bag without you.

5a.  A side note on clothes and travel.
When packing for your baby’s diaper bag, even if you’re just going to the store for “5 minutes”, pack a whole extra set of clothes. Because Murphy’s Law is especially true for babies and bodily fluids. My rule is “Pack a set of clothes for your baby. Then an extra set. Then one more set.” Because some days, it’s going to be that way. Extra messy. Baby clothes are small, you can always stuff an extra shirt and pants in somewhere. Some day, you’ll be glad you did.

5b.  Plastic bags.
Whether it’s the plastic shopping bags from the grocery store or little one gallon bags you can find in the baby section, have some in your diaper bag. Because someday you’ll have a extra messy diaper you can’t toss right away, or something gross you need to keep separate from everything. Carry these around. The environment will understand. It’s okay.

6.  Baby Gates.
Not exactly a thing mamas need to worry about right away with little babies, but a point nonetheless. When you’re looking for baby gates, and you’re looking at the selection, keep this in mind. Don’t buy the cheapest baby gate. I’m not saying you have to buy the expensive modify your house ones, but if you think you can just buy the $10 ones and have it work right, you’re wrong. Buy the $20 ones. It’ll save you so much hassle.

7.  Savor it.
The first year is going to fly by. (So will the next few years, but the first year, especially.) Take some time when they’re little, especially in the first weeks and months when they can’t squirm away too much yet, to just hold your baby. Remember what it’s like for them to be so little, tiny and helpless. Look into their eyes and wonder what they’re thinking. Watch them when they’re reaching for a new toy or trying to catch a mobile over their head. There’s nothing quite like watching a baby when it’s learning, when you can see the gears turning. Remember that new baby smell and feel. Because it’ll be gone before you know it. I’ve already started that, and even though my kids are still young, at 8 and 6 I look at them now and say “where did the time go?” Next thing I know, I’ll turn around my kids will be 18 and 16, and almost grown up. So yeah. Cherish it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Riding the emotional rollercoaster

So, for some reason, I've been having all these feelings lately, and two sessions at the computer later, the following word vomit came out. It's raw, barely edited and probably choppy and whatnot, but I don't particularly care. It's how I feel, and it's off my chest. It's about a crazy time in my life, when my dad died when I was 17, (July 1996), my grandpa died when I was 18, (January 1997) and my mom died a week before my 19th birthday. (October 1997)

So yeah. You were warned. Emotions abound ahead.


I have random flashes of childhood memories. It’s unknown what triggers them or what they “mean”, if anything. Suddenly it’s so strong, the feelings, the memories, the little things. How things felt, the smell. Little details flashing. A distinct textured wall. A sign outside. Distant memories come crashing back. And the realization that there is no one to ask about details, or even, “hey, do you remember this?”  No one is left. In the last couple years I was talking to my grandmother about something that happened, and we both realized that all the other people who where there are now dead, it’s only me and her left. That’s sobering at times.

Sometimes, I feel lost. Like no one is there for me. I know deep down this isn’t true, but the feeling is still there, deep down. I can’t call my mom and dad when I want, to ask advice, or vent about life. I don’t have that. And it’s said, whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. It’s true, but sometimes I’m not strong enough inside. Sometimes I’m just a scared little girl who wants to go home to mom and dad and have them protect me, like they always did, and take care of me, like they always did.

I go to their graves once a year. I don’t really get time to do any more than that, since I live 6 hours from where I grew up. I put in my flowers, maybe pull a few weeds. Take a step back and stare at the meager headstones, like somehow the image that is already permanently burned into my brain might have somehow changed in the last year. Which of course it hasn’t. But I stare anyway, letting my thoughts wander back to two days of two funerals which I barely remember, lost in my grief. I usually stand on the graves for a couple of minutes, and watch my kids run and hop around the section of the cemetery, looking at names or sniffing fake flowers or reading dates. With one more look down, maybe one more brush off of some dirt, then a deep sigh, then I move on to the next of the family tombstones.

After a few minutes reflecting at some other family stones, I usually head back to my parents’ graves one last time for a couple more minutes of reflection and staring before heading back across the road to the car. I mean, what else can I do? No amount of grave sitting or wailing or reflecting is going to bring them back. Six feet under where I was just standing are the physical bodies of my parents, and have been for 15 years. There’s nothing I can do about that. It must be hard for people who know me to see me, the only one left, just staring at the graves like there can be some kind of connection still if I look hard enough. Even if I’m with people, it’s still a very alone experience. Something that no one else can ever understand.

Most of the time, I function fine. There are some days that chaotic year and a half of my life doesn’t actively cross my mind. Those events did change my life forever, and shape it at a young age. But it isn’t always first and foremost every day any more. It’s been too long for that. But some days, it’s as if it just happened. Usually around anniversary dates, but it’s almost too early for that, as if grief has a timetable, which i know it doesn’t.

Time does heal all wounds. But not completely. The deep wounds still leave scars, and the scars can hurt too, even if it’s faint at times. I only in the last 5 years had tremendous guilt for the way I treated my mother after my father’s death, even though we were both too caught up in our own grief to realize what we were doing to each other. I’m trying to forgive myself.

Then the ‘what if’s’ hit me. What if they’d survived? What would my life had been like? How could I have done things differently? But I can’t dwell on that for long. I can’t say how it would have been different, and I’ll never know.

One of the oddest feelings is realizing you’re an orphan. It’s not as heartbreaking as seeing a small child lose both their parents, but realizing it can be hard. For me it was in my sophomore year of college, when I had to declare myself an orphan or a ward of the courts for college financial aid. To see that in black and white, so clinically, is jarring.

In the next 2 to 3 years, my parents will be gone longer than I knew them. That’s a weird feeling. But I’ll probably always miss them, and grieve, to a point. I could probably be 70 and sitting in a quiet corner somewhere, and have that bit of wonder, of longing. Of what might have been.

I feel like i’m forgetting them. Their voices, especially. I’m thinking of contacting my grandma and see if she has any old cassette tapes that she can send me, so I can somehow get it converted to digital and then I won’t lose that part at least, although she’ll probably think the cheese has finally slipped off my cracker.. One of my favorite pictures is one that is last dated picture of my mom and dad and my uncle. Not only because it’s one of the last pictures I can find of my father before his death, but because of the details. I can look at it and say, ‘oh, yeah, that’s the color of the kitchen wall,’ or ‘hey, i remember the little donkey salt and pepper shaker holder my mom had.”.. things like that. After my parents died, after the house was taken down and before the new one was in, I went over to the land. Even though it was absolutely flat, I used the well as a memory placeholder and from there retraced my steps through the ‘house’, ending in the kitchen where I would look out the window over at my grandma’s house.

When I go to my grandma’s house now, I’ll still gaze over there, even if the corn is too high and the house is different. I almost wish I could go over there now, just for memories’ sake, but I don’t want to alarm the current residents by having some random woman standing in the yard and driveway staring off into the distance, remembering. Like the lyrics from the Miranda Lambert song, The House that Built Me.

You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can
I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

Time may pass, voices and pictures may fade, but the memories never will.