Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Breast Feeding

Some say you can't get pregnant while you're breastfeeding. Not true. You might remember, my fertility returned when Penny was only a few months old. We used NFP (sympto-thermal method) to avoid pregnancy for another year or so. I was still nursing Penny about 4-5 times a day when I got pregnant again (December).

And here we are.

Pregnant, I have noticed a gradual decline in my milk supply. I don't attribute this to just being pregnant, but rather to my first trimester of eating very little due to morning sickness, combined with a nursling who eats very much in other foods. Since I got pregnant, we have reduced down to just one feeding per day, first thing in the morning.

Just one, and truthfully I'm not really sure if there's much in there to actually call it a "feeding."

I am ready to ween.  I am ready to ween.  I am ready to ween.

I say this out loud half because my boobs are proclaiming that they want a break before the next nursling comes in September, and half to convince myself that it's true.

I am ready to ween. I am ready to ween. But am I?

I mean, are we ever really ready for our babies to stop being babies and our kids to stop being kids? Of course we are excited for their growing up and becoming who they are going to be, but ready?

There's too much certainty in the word "ready."

Today was the first day Penny didn't nurse first thing in the morning. We woke her up early to go somewhere (in her jammies) so I was already out of bed and dressed when she got up. We didn't nurse. Didn't seem to phase her. I ended up nursing her the one feeding a little later in the day because I didn't want this day to be "the day" without being mentally prepared for it.

April, I've told myself, will be the month. I'll be halfway through my pregnancy and possibly starting to make colostrum for the new baby, don't want my sweet toothed kid to have a taste of that. We are also planning a weekend away (just the two of us) in May so I definitely need to ween before then. 

April it is.

So I guess that means I only have a couple days left.

Penny will be fine. She still nurses with enthusiasm when it's available to her, but she doesn't seem to need it if it's not. It will be out of site out of mind.

Me though, I dunno.

I think this milestone means that, for reals, she's not a baby anymore.  I've nursed this child every day for over 20 months.  I suppose every mother goes through withdrawals no matter how early or late their breastfeeding journey ends, or how many children they've had.

I am going to ween. But not without a few tears to say goodbye to that special thing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tax Time (and my new CPA)

Do you have a CPA?  I didn't until recently.

When life was simpler, in fact every year before I got married, I used to do my own taxes.  I liked the control, and the fact that I could take weeks to do them, or do them in the middle of the night on April 14th.  I was proud that I did my taxes myself, still am.

But now we have things like filing jointly, and investments, and dependents, and a small business that I do out of my house.  All kinds of grownup stuff.

It was time.

I turned to Mike Scherrer, of Scherrer CPA in Tempe, who I happen to have known since high school (Dad of my BFF).   Not going to lie, I had a hard time entrusting my taxes to someone else.  Have I ever mentioned that I am a bit of a control freak? And perfectionist?

But he made it so easy.

Back at the end of last year, he sent me a tax organizer packet to help me get everything in order and to guide our conversation when we would meet in person, before he would prepare our taxes for us.  Yes, PREPARE OUR TAXES FOR US, this is a new concept for me.  

Now, I didn't do the tax organizer until last week (did I mention I'm also a procrastinator?), but a more sane person not suffering from morning sickness for two months could have done it much earlier in the year.

Then we met in person.

Can I just tell you how refreshing it was to have someone that I trust, who knows me and my family, who also happens to be an expert on taxes and tax laws (and all things personal finance) handling this for my family this year?  He asked us questions that will lead us to tax credits that we would not have even known about on our own.  He also knows the ins and outs of tax preparation and withholding for small businesses, which is huge for me because the small (tiny) business thing is brand new to us Griffins.

Anyway, let this be a personal endorsement and referral to anyone here in the Phoenix area looking for a CPA.  You can contact him here, and please tell him I sent you!

And three cheers for this preggo and her husband for taking care of taxes before April!

Speaking of preggo, I'm 16 weeks now and feeling great!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Three Circumstances of Tantrums

We all delight in our children growing their vocabularies. For us it started with "ball" and "daddy/doggy," and has progressed to about 50 terms and phrases by now I would guess.

A toddler communicating using real live words is one of the most exciting milestones ever.  Penny's sweet little voice saying "Puffs, please" or "Night night, Mama" or "Hey! Apollo!" is about the sweetest sound I've ever heard. She wakes up in the mornings talking about her family members and telling secrets to her baby doll.  I love it.

Then there's NO, the one word that every mom dreads for their child to learn.  We've got this one in our house too now.  No.  Or "nope" as Penny says it.  Or sometimes "Nuh now" with a dramatic head shake if she really wants to emphasize her will.

As her vocabulary grows, so does her realization that she likes and doesn't like certain things.  And her desire to communicate what she wants and doesn't want.  As her opinion grows... so do the outbursts of frustration called [dundundun] tantrums.

Tantrums can present themselves all sorts of ways.  So far, we've only had the crying and throwing-oneself-on-the-floor-to-lay-down-while-crying kinds of tantrums... but I know that there are others. Leg kicking, door slamming, toy throwing, screaming, it's all coming.  She's still got 2.5 years left of being a toddler.

In the interest of being proactive, I've been talking to other moms, and trying to be very observant of my child and others in what sets off a tantrum.  I've come to the conclusion that there are really very few things that cause tantrums, some of which are kind of manageable.

I'm so mad I'm so mad I'm so mad!

The Three Circumstances of Tantrums

I'm no expert, but it is my experience that Penelope (and maybe all young toddlers?) gets fussy under only three circumstances:  she wants something she cannot have, she's attempting to communicate with us but we aren't getting it, or one of her physical needs is not being met.

1. They want something that they cannot have.  
We all get a little perturbed when our will is not the way, older kids and adults just know how to manage their outward reactions.  To me, this is the one circumstance of tantrums that generates normal, to-be-expected, acceptable tantrums.  It's just a rite of passage.  These little ones haven't learned how to cope with disappointment and frustration that comes with not getting what they want.  Getting upset is very natural.  These are teaching moments to be embraced.  Or at least endured.

We turned again to Dr. Harvey Karp for ideas on how to mitigate Penny's tantrums by watching his video The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  If the terms caveman ambassador, fast food theory and feed the meter ring a bell, you know exactly what I'm talking about.   Albeit kind of cheesy, we've found the techniques in the video (also a book) to be immediately affective in dealing with Penny's moments of outburst.  And I love that it gave Dan and I a common strategy and consistent parenting.  It's available on Netflix (DVD) or you can order it on Amazon.

2. They are trying to communicate something and the message just isn't being received.   
When a toddler wants to tell you something, they are going to desperately spit out all the gibberish and gestures that they know until they accomplish something.  

If the message doesn't make it through to us grownups, it's usually for one of three reasons:  
1. worst: we notice, but choose to ignore their communication completely, or at least temporarily  
2. often: we are oblivious of their communication to begin with (toddler communication can be so subtle when they first try to tell us something, before it escalates)
3. best case scenario: we try and try to understand them with equivalent effort and desperation, but we fail miserably.  

Regardless of the reason, it's very  upsetting to toddlers for them to give all they've got trying communicate with us, with no return.  It's devastating.  Imagine you're walking the streets in a foreign country and you don't speak the language and you really really really have to pee, but most people you come across don't acknowledge you, and if they do, they shrug that they don't speak English. And all the doors to public places are locked.  And there are fountains everywhere making flowing water noises. And you can't read any of the signs. Devastating!

I think the only way to alleviate and prevent toddler frustration in this category is this:  
Pay Attention To Your Kid. All The Time.   

Moms and Dads: this is our job.

I'm not talking about helicopter parenting (ew.)  I'm talking about thorough, responsible parenting.  Paying attention might mean putting my phone down in the middle of an important text message to give Penny eye contact and my undivided attention.  Or interrupting my friend's story from across the lunch table; "Sorry, just one sec," so I can respond to the soft "Mama help, p'ease" coming from the high chair next to me, the FIRST time, to reward Penny for 'using her words' politely.

Paying attention means that even when we are busy with something else, we still subliminally have our finger on the pulse of what our littlest ones are up to.  If I'm in the laundry room switching a load and Penny is playing in her playroom around the corner by herself, you bet my ears are constantly listening for cues and communication.  When we're on the [parenting] job, we don't get to tune out. 

The exciting news is that paying better attention to your kid also means you are more likely to understand them when it really matters.  If anyone can speak my toddler's language, it should be me.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but with everything else going on in our lives, it is very easy to miss things (like how she's saying "gate" not "K" -- or "help" not "Hope") if we aren't paying attention on purpose.

3. Physically, something's off.  
They're tired.  They're hungry/thirsty.  They're uncomfortable or something hurts.  
All bets are off for teaching patience and politeness to your toddler if any of the above are true.  

Sometimes Dan and I take too much advantage of the fact that Penny stays up late (usually to bed between 9 and 10pm).  If we are over at someone's for dinner, Penny usually plays pretty contently well past dessert, affording us more conversation time than most parents of toddlers could claim.  But if we drag it out too long, and Penny hits a wall and gets too tired, we pay the price when we get home, and have a stubborn and fussy toddler all throughout the delayed bedtime.  Is Penny at fault for not telling us that she was on the verge of getting tired half an hour before we actually left?  Please.  Who's the grownup here.  

As parents we should anticipate and meet our little toddlers' physical needs before we have a situation on our hands.  Isn't that why every single one of you reading this always has two snack options permanently packed in your purse or diaper bag?

And when things come up like teething and tummy aches, we just need to give extra cuddles and accept our sad and grumpy babes for who they are.

a sad and grumpy babe indeed, working on some canine teeth.

These three circumstances, that's it.  If I can eliminate some tantrums by managing her physical needs and paying better attention to her, that means I only have to deal with the rite of passage tantrums.  And those I can write off as teaching moments.  I'll take it.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Surviving Morning Sickness + Toddler

It is with a deep sigh of relief that I report that I have been feeling pretty fantastic this past week, so, knock on Ikea composite, I think I'm done with the 24/7 hangover called morning sickness.  At 14 weeks now, my biggest issues are waking up in the middle of the night to pee, food aversions, and clothes that don't fit me in the waist.

My first trimester was rough.  Some days I thought I might be dying.  With my first pregnancy, I may have thought from time to time "oh this must be morning sickness" -- it wasn't.  I had no idea how very real and debilitating nausea could be for a lady with child.

Most of it is a blur now, but I think I only survived this first trimester (with a toddler in the house) because of the following:

I was blessed with so much help it brings me to tears when I think about it.  I had parents and in-laws and cousins and neighbors and friends doing so much for me (and a ROCK of a husband).  Accepting help can be very difficult for stubborn Type A's such as myself, but desperate times call for complete surrender.

Want to know how to help a newly pregnant lady with a toddler?  Come over and do her laundry, wash her dishes, or clean a bathroom.  Take her child for the day, or even just stay and play with toddler for an hour while mommy sleeps.  Give toddler a bath.  Show up at her door with Powerade in two different flavors and check in with her via text to make sure she's drinking it.  Bring dinner for her husband and child (and don't be offended if mom doesn't eat much of it).   Pick up her husband's dry-cleaning. Pick up her prescriptions. Walk their dogs.  Go to the grocery store for them.  You get the idea.

Not all pregnant women have family and friends as nearby and available as I do.  If this is you, please reach out.  Ask for help on your Facebook wall.  Email the pastor at a local church, even if you don't go there.  Call a neighbor that you don't know very well, but who seems nice and you always wave "hi" to.  You NEED it.  It's OK to ask for help.  Make a list of things that others could do for you (laundry, dishes, carpools, watering plants, grocery list, etc.) and keep it by your front door, that way if someone pops in and asks what they can do, you don't have to come up with something on the spot.  There are people who are willing and able to help you out, some who might surprise you.

For Dad: Reassurance
Dan came through my sickness phase a badass the same way he did after my C-section two summers ago. But even the most incredible people need encouragement.  For Dan it was constant reminders that this was temporary and this was normal.  Dan's biggest fear was that I was going to end up in the hospital (which is not entirely irrational) or that it was going to last all nine months (also not entirely irrational) or worse.  It helped a lot to hear testimonies from other people who(se wive's) had been sick during their pregnancies, and see them alive and well now, with beautiful children to show for it; light at the end of the tunnel.  I don't know about yours, but my man only operates full throttle when he has a certain peace of mind about our life.  It was important to try to remember his needs too, even when mine were so demanding.

For Toddler: Childproofing, Entertainment and Sustenance 
Both of the major common areas in our home are child-proofed enough to where the adult in charge can turn their back on Penny for short periods of time and rely only on only their sense of hearing to make sure everything is kosher.

For the spurts of time that I had no help (mostly in the mornings), I literally lay half-asleep on the couch while Penny entertained herself, fed herself and watched TV.   And I don't feel bad about it.

I would wake up in the morning, nurse her (yes, still breastfeeding over here), and then use what little energy I had to: make a little breakfast plate for her consisting of a variety of non-staining finger foods and a sippy of water; set up a coloring area with washable crayons and dollar-store coloring books; set up a puzzle or other toy area area; close all the doors to all the rest of the rooms in the house; and turn on PBS kids -- before homesteading on the couch for three hours.  

I would, of course, with adrenaline, get up off the couch to change a poopy diaper or handle anything that went wrong, but for the most part I rested.  I didn't even rise to clean up food spills -- that's what dogs are for.  

I know the theme songs by heart of every PBS Kids show between Curious George and Sid the Science Kid.  When Charlie Rose came on, I knew it was time to refill my giant water cup and get Penny some lunch.

There were some days when I felt guilty that my toddler was cooped up in a house with a lethargic mother, glued to the tv (sooooo much tv).  But people, I'm telling you, it was survival, and it was temporary.  And Penny is fine.

Essential Oils and Drugs  
We use all-natural doTERRA essential oils daily in our house.  My first trimester I relied heavily on the DigestZen Blend to ease my nausea and intestinal issues as much as possible.  When wearing a nightgown to and from the bathroom all day wasn't an option, I had to get over my I hate medication thing and take some drugs.  I was on Zofran dissolvable tablets and Dulcolax.  Not going to say I *loved* either of them, but they sure did help, a lot.  I also found on-the-go relief from these Queasy Drops by Three Lollies, a gift from a friend.

Letting myself get behind  
I had photo sessions from December that still needed post-processing, and high aspirations of doing our taxes early.  I had tons of things I wanted to do with Penny to capitalize on the Arizona winter weather.  I had blog post after blog post that I wanted to write.  I wanted to have another garage sale.  All of this had to get in the back seat, and I had to be ok with it.

Thank you
Welp, glad that's over.  Thanks so much for the outpouring of support I had from all of you during my sick time.  I hope to be able to return the favor or pay it forward for each and every one of you some day.  

What did you do to survive morning sickness in your pregnancy?

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