A Friday for Remebering.

Babystar and I are out of town this week for a funeral. It’s not the sad kind, except that all funerals are sad. My Uncle Frank lived to be 91 years old and was in good spirits but also in pain when I saw him last year. In fact, the wake was a little too serious this afternoon because the man who would make everyone laugh was lying in the casket instead of telling stories, joking with the adults, and lovingly teasing the children.


This guy.

I had this lighthearted learning-to-count post scheduled for tomorrow, but instead I am in a hotel room with my sleeping toddler in a town full of memories and so instead here is this.
(Turning forty and then a family funeral is making me soft. We will return to our regularly scheduled sarcasm shortly.)

So. Me. Nostalgia. 

I was a Teen Mom before it was capitalized. I had my first child at the so very young age of nineteen. This was 1996; MTV still played music videos and books still had paper.
There was no Teen Mom television show; there was no 16 and Pregnant. There was no Facebook, no Instagram, and no Twitter.

There. Was. No. Internet. Can you imagine? We still spelled out all of our words. OMGLOL.
Ok, there was a tiny bit of internet. We had America Online and we paid by the minute and the chat rooms were (mostly) full of creepy old men. Computer games were on floppy disks. We still addressed our emails like old-fashioned letters.

There were no DVRs. My son (and later daughter, born in 1999) watched Blue’s Clues on VHS cassettes like every other child of the Nineties. (Babystar watches Blue’s Clues on my phone in Target if she hasn’t had a nap.)

As regular readers know, just as my two children of the LAST MILLENNIUM were headed off to college, I had a brand new baby in 2015.

Back in 1996, the doctors would have called mine a Geriatric Pregnancy. In 2015, it was no biggie. I was an Old Mom, but so was everyone else.

(Um, who coined geriatric pregnancy? Because that person is clearly an asshole who has never met a pregnant woman.)

Raising babies in the 1990s and raising babies now is mostly the same but also ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

We still need to take care of the babies in utero.

I remember the excitement of the sonograms in the 1990s. We had one grainy black and white sonogram at the beginning of the pregnancy to check out the heartbeat and then one later on in the pregnancy to check the fetal progression (and usually find out the sex!). They were very exciting and you got a nice snapshot of a blurry black and white semicircle so you could try to figure out which side was the head.

In 2015, I had SO MANY SONOGRAMS. It felt like they lasted for hours. They were definite twenty to thirty minute ordeals. I remember wishing them over so I could go pee. The technicians checked out every little tiny part of baby in utero, which is AMAZING. Science is amazing! But it also took forever (to me), as I was expecting a quick slimy belly time and ‘ok there’s a baby cool beans’ and then boom, done.

We still need to birth the babies. 


Back in the nineties, my labor was induced with my first two babies because they both went past their due dates. My son was only five days past his due date (and it was a first pregnancy!) when the doctor insisted I head to the hospital for induction. He called me high risk solely because of my age and my poor little baby boy was born jaundiced after over twenty-four hours of labor — including over two hours of active pushing. After he was born, the doctor reached his arm into my body to pull out the baby’s placenta. (Yes, you read that right and it hurt more than the actual birth. Also, I’m sorry for that godawful visual but I LIVED it.) The nurses weighed and measured and bathed and swaddled my son before finally handing him to his father (not me) and I had no idea that there was any other way to do this childbirth thing.

I went to a different doctor when pregnant with my second child. My daughter was induced at ten days past her due date, but other than that the labor was easy. I’m sure it was just luck, because ideas had not changed much in two years and I still had never even heard the term ‘Birth Plan’.

Thankfully, we know much more about childbirth now. I think both the medical professionals AND the parents are much more informed. My doctor and I agreed from the beginning that we would not force baby to come before she was ready. I have heard from friends (and strangers on the internet) that babies are not even really considered late until two weeks past their due date. My placenta was delivered by the doctor. My baby was placed on my body as soon as humanely possible (she had an issue but it was resolved in minutes) and we had skin to skin contact, which we now know is as important for parent-to-baby microbe transmission as it is for parental bonding.

I have read that some parents are choosing to delay the cutting of the cord for a few minutes to help baby transition earth-side. I know that a lot of people are choosing midwives and doulas and home births. I love that there is a conversation between parents and the medical professionals. I love that we now know more about our options and have choices and voices as parents.

We still have to feed the babies.


In 1996, I took my jaundiced son home and a nurse came with us to set him up in what we lovingly called ‘his nightclub’. He had to spend almost every minute under ultraviolet lights with his eyes completely covered and the rest of his body completely naked. We were told to take him out every two hours to baste him. (Just kidding. We had to feed him and clean him and clean the dishtowel lined baking pan in which he laid. Lay? Lie? You know what I mean.) The nurse helped me with breastfeeding but also brought us ready made bottles of Similac from the hospital and encouraged supplementing ‘so mama could get some sleep’.

His bilirubin count came down and he was out from under the lights within a week, but the resulting nipple confusion from the bottles that we were encouraged to feed him made breastfeeding difficult. I know that NOW. I did not understand what was going on back then, so I kept offering the bottle when he had a difficult time at the breast. No one told me to stop.

I was much more successful nursing my second child, but again, I think it was luck. 

With my last little sweetheart, I was inundated with the benefits of breastfeeding before baby was even born. I had a Feeding Plan in place while still pregnant. The nurses at the hospital all checked to make sure baby was latching well, and even kept the baby in the room so I could feed her every two hours (or more) from the moment she was born. I took a breastfeeding class before leaving the hospital, where I asked about pumping so others could feed the baby while I slept. The woman teaching the class told me that was a horrible idea and if I wanted her to, she would be happy to speak with my husband to make sure that he didn’t feel like he had to ‘have a turn’ feeding the baby. (Um, I was just wondering if I would ever sleep again, but the message was definitely received. Hard no.)

About six weeks in, my sweet little baby started having screaming fits at night for over an hour. My firstborn did the exact same in thing 1996: the doctor called it ‘colic’, and it lasted for almost a year. In 2015, the pediatrician put ME on an elimination diet to see if something I was eating was affecting the baby. The baby was indeed sensitive to dairy via my breastmilk for almost the first year of her life. I now think that my poor baby boy had the same issue twenty years ago, but the doctors didn’t know to even try removing dairy from his diet.

Per the doctor’s recommendation, I started my firstborn on cereal at four months and he was eating jars of Beechnut by six months. Twenty years later, I read for hours the benefits of Baby-Led Weaning versus purees. I decided to feed this baby purees because she had no teeth by the time she seemed interested in food at seven months old. I made all of her pureed baby food myself to avoid preservatives and whatever other scary chemicals are in ready made baby food. I know IN MY HEAD that ready made baby food is fine and certainly more healthy that it was twenty years ago but the information overload really got to me so I felt like I had to make all of her food in order to be a good mother. The mommy guilt is strong these days.

We still need to raise the babies.

The internet is a wonderful and terrible thing. I love reading Mommy Blogs and being a part of parenting groups on Facebook. I can now get advice from literally hundreds of people within minutes. Twenty years ago, we had a handful of baby books and our friends and family to turn to for answers. Your friends and family generally won’t tell you the worst case scenario every time, but you can ALWAYS find that on the internet. Dr. Google is terrifying, irresistible, and always available at 2am when that last thing you need to do is freak out over your child’s symptom that is probably fine but might kill them immediately. My 21st century baby often had pretty severe dyschromia, which is like marbled skin tone, as an infant. The internet told me that it was totally normal except sometimes. She might be fine or she might need emergency medical treatment. Of course I called her doctor in the middle of the night who told me to get offline immediately and that I would not be able to miss it if my baby became limp and needed to go to the ER. I have tried with mixed success to stop searching baby’s symptoms, at least when the sun is down.

My firstborn’s first birthday party was a few friends and family bringing gifts and eating a cake that I made from a boxed mix and decorated myself. The cake was kind of ugly but no one really cared and I barely even noticed. Including sodas and paper plates and napkins, I probably spent $50.

Today I would post that cake on Instagram with the hashtag #PinterestFail.

Thanks to Pinterest, (and also thanks to having a much older sister that loves Pinterest), my millennial baby’s first birthday party was gorgeous and themed and crafty and we all drank out of mason jars and the entire house was decorated and we spent HOURS on DIY crafts and STILL spent $500. I love Pinterest but I also kind of despise Pinterest.


I totally let the 90s babies drink soda, but only Sprite because it didn’t have caffeine. I can count on my fingers the number of times my two-year-old has had juice. JUICE. She had never had soda. Maybe when she’s eighteen.

I remember telling my two older kids how big they were on their first birthdays and turning their car seats around so they could see the world. I will rear-face this toddler until she can convince me, via Powerpoint, why she is old enough to forward-face.

I dressed my first two babies in baby clothes. Baby clothes with Winnie-the-Pooh or ladybugs or dinosaurs or cutesy flowers or some other type of childish motif. My 2015 baby wears rock band tees and handmade pants made from organic cotton and purchased from an independent shop on Etsy. (And Cat and Jack from Target because we are basic/AWESOME like that.)


In the nineties, we worried about how much tv to let the kids watch. Now we have to decide if the toddler can play with our phones, our tablets, our laptops. I personally do not let my toddler play games on my phone or iPad but I GET WHY PEOPLE DO. I totally love that she can video chat with her grandparents and other relatives that live far away. It makes everyone seem closer. That helps, this week. And all the time. But also this week.

I used to print out photos from actual cameras that used actual film and send them with Christmas cards to our far away relatives. Now I can send pictures via text or email or social media. The extended family definitely feels more close. Babystar met a lot of new (to her) cousins this week so I suspect the FaceTime will be flowing. Are we the Jetsons? I think maybe we are, so why doesn’t my car fly?

I also FREAKING ADORE that today my phone is also a camera. AND it records videos! Twenty years ago a video recorder was at least the size of a tennis shoe and maybe the size of a pair of heavy boots. I have a few albums of baby pictures of my first two children, and a few videos from Christmases or school plays. I have literally over ten thousand pictures and hundreds of videos of Babystar already.

And I took a few of her playing with her new cousin-friends at the wake today. 


What is it going to be like raising a teenager in another fifteen years? Will we have self-driving cars by then? Please tell me we will have self-driving cars by then.

xoxo 

Forty.

I never thought I would be chasing a toddler at forty years old.

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I was a teen mom before Instagram and Facebook and the MTV show. I mostly just hoped I wouldn’t have GRANDCHILDREN by age forty. (I don’t. I somehow have two amazing college students with practical knowledge of birth control.)

My Teen Marriage didn’t last (surprise!) but I have been married to my current husband for over ten years. We tried for a baby almost right away, but then got sucked into the dark depths of Secondary Infertility. As anyone who has been through any type of infertility knows, it was HELL. After six years of charting and procedures and hoping and crying and crumbling, I gave up.

I had to give up. For my sanity and for my marriage, I needed to stop the monthly devastation. I had two unbelievably amazing children and my husband had two wonderful step-children. We were both very lucky, actually. And our family was complete.

My two wonderful children lived in Florida with their dad during the school year (another long story for another time), and I missed them so much all the time. I luckily had a job that allowed me to work from home, wherever that home might be. We made a hard decision to rent an apartment for me in Florida during the 2014-2015 school year. It was my son’s senior year of high school and my daughter’s sophomore year of high school. I found a three-bedroom apartment across the street from the high school for less than $900 per month. At that point, I was spending about $1500 each month on hotels and AirBnBs and airplane tickets and car rentals and dinners out with the kids in Florida. The finances sucked but it kind of made sense. So I moved there without my husband.

But of course we visited one another.

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Imagine my surprise when three months into the school year (and three months into my Florida lease), my period was late. Holy crap. I could hardly believe it. I didn’t believe it. And then I couldn’t deny it. I took a pregnancy test and called my husband 700 miles away with the news.

I WAS PREGNANT! OMFG.

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But. I was living in Florida for the school year. The school year that ended in May. My daughter was turning sixteen in May. My son was graduating in June. Babystar was due on June 19.

That was a hell of a ride.

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I went to doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds without my husband. I heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time all by myself. I sat alone to take the gestational diabetes test. I drove myself to the hospital when I started bleeding early in the third trimester and sat in that hospital bed texting my husband five states away while he checked the airline schedules. (I was ok. The baby didn’t come until June.)

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I fetched my own ice cream. I spent too much money on pedicures just for the frequent foot massages. I ripped my cartilage and had to bind my ribs myself because the doctors I was seeing were not my own and were pretty horrible and I was not invested enough to find a new temporary doctor in Florida. I had strong faux contractions from about Week 22 and I laid awake night after night trying to get comfortable. I complained to no one. (Ok, those two wonderful college students might disagree.)

I didn’t set up a nursery, because I wasn’t home. I didn’t shop for the baby because I was too busy with my teenagers. (And we were too broke from supporting two households.) I basically tried to ignore the pregnancy. Not because I wasn’t excited — I was! I was that wary but ecstatic sort of excited experienced by parents that gave everything trying for a baby. But. But still, I didn’t want anything to take away from being in Florida with my teenagers.

Who were not at all amused, by the way. Well, my son thought it was hilarious. My daughter just rolled her eyes.

I threw a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for my daughter at 36 weeks pregnant. And I danced — in heels! I sat on backless bleachers for hours at 37 weeks pregnant to watch my son graduate high school. At 38 weeks pregnant, I sold as much as I could and packed up the rest of that Florida apartment and moved back home.

I went into labor two weeks later, on my due date. I was out running last minute errands for the baby. Everything was last minute with this baby. My son was driving but I wouldn’t let him take me home until we finished everything on my list.

I was right.

Babystar was born the next day.

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And all of a sudden I was paying attention. I didn’t put her down for months. You can’t spoil a baby, right?

Babystar has been the best little surprise. She definitely changed all of our lives. My daughter chose a close-ish state school and I am certain the main reason is her two-year-old BFF. My husband was Mr. Live Music and Football Games and I can count on my fingers the concerts he has been to in the last two years. My plan was ALWAYS to spend my fortieth birthday in Cape Town, finally reaching my dream vacation destination. Instead, I am having a movie night that will probably be a Moana double feature. First Moana, and then Moana again.

And I fucking love it.

My birthday blog post was going to be a story about me and how I felt about turning forty. And just like my life, this post was taken over by this tiny human that I never expected to meet. What’s forty? I’m too busy building block towers and pushing swings and reading picture books and blowing bubbles to care.

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The Art of the Bribe.

Bribery. Good parents would NEVER bribe their children, right?

Who can say? There is no way to contact these Bribery-Free Good Parents. They are all very busy explaining to Toddlers why the Good Parents need at least one hand and a small amount of quiet in order to make a phone call oh never mind the office closed hours ago.

Child Bribery is the reason banks have lollipops. Without lollipops, banks are basically the most boring place on earth. WITH lollipops, banks are a super fun treat.

Child Bribery is the reason that popsicles EXIST. I make popsicles so I can say, ‘hey, do you want a popsicle’ and Babystar will say ‘obviously’ and I have about four minutes to load the dishwasher or change my tampon unassisted or make a dentist appointment.

I don’t know what I will offer when she starts refusing popsicles. Twenty dollar bills?

Whatever works, y’all.

But here’s the thing. Or, at least, here is the thing that I tell myself but is probably not true at all because Toddlers are wily af. Babystar has no clue that she is being bribed. She just thinks mommy is really nice and sometimes gives her popsicles along with a little personal space to eat them and drip them on the floor if that is her choice.

Boom. Mom of the year.

We have spent the last six years a few weeks this summer at various stores shopping for the Teenager’s dorm furnishings. (In case you don’t know, The Teenager likes everything to be just so. Dorm shopping involved a lot of Pinning and Browsing and comparison shopping and returning things and buying other things and returning THOSE things and buying other things.)

Babystar loves her sister and she loves going bye-bye (mostly) but everyone has limits. And of course she wants to touch everything in Home Goods and RUN SO FAST through Target’s aisles because duh. She is also learning sequences, and she responds really well to ‘first this, then this’. I can say first we change your diaper, then we go to the park. Or first lunch, then diaper, then park. So I always made the third thing fun. First we return sheets at Target, then we buy hangers at Home Goods, then we go to the splash park. First we get dorm snacks at Trader Joe’s, then we buy storage bins at Target, then we have a picnic with the airplanes. First Ikea, then Target (ALWAYS Target), then we can pick out a toy at Home Goods (while the Teenager decides on the absolutely perfect throw pillow).

Home Goods has the BEST toys, y’all. They almost always have discounted Melissa & Doug toys. And Green Toys. And books. There is only one small Toy Aisle so Babystar’s choices are limited (good) but the inventory is constantly changing so it is a new toy store every time (better). I am a huge fan.

During my three desperate ‘you can pick any toy’ days, I was pretty willing to buy whichever toy she chose. The most expensive thing there is usually still under thirty bucks.

The first Toy Bribe Day, Babystar chose Green Toys Sports Boats. There were two on the shelf; one was blue and one was orange. And they both had cool Duck Captains. Babystar could not choose a color, so I bought both. They were $5.99 each, and they are normally $11.99, so one was basically free, right? Isn’t that how math works? (I know. Shhh.) She loves them and plays with them every night during her bath.

 

The next Toy Bribe Day, Babystar chose a Melissa & Doug felt food sandwich set ($12.99). It is pretty sweet. Pretend food is apparently ALL THE RAGE in Babystar’s world right now. (I eat fake corn and take bites of fake ketchup several times a day.) So it is really strange to me that she has not even asked about the sandwich set since we brought it home. It is sitting in the top of her closet waiting for a rainy day (proverbial or actual) or perhaps Christmas.

 

The last Toy Bribe Day of the Dorm Shopping Extravaganza, Babystar chose a small pack of wooden blocks ($3.00). These blocks were on CLEARANCE at Home Goods. Home Goods prices are already basically clearance prices. I was very excited about the wooden blocks. I was mostly excited about the fact that they only cost three dollars.

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The blocks are meant to be a little town or something but Babystar loves to build a TOWER SO TALL TO THE SKY so she plays with them a bit different than intended. (Whatever; her blocks, her tower, her life.)

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And oh yeah, we all got pedicures before taking the Teenager to college. Babystar’s blue toes cost $10.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $20,564.60

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Do you use Child Bribery to make your life easier? What form? Does it work? (I’m clearly soliciting new plans, if you couldn’t tell.)

 

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All About that Basement.

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve decided that 2017 is the year that I GET ORGANIZED.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I have a lion living in my basement (and baby it’s ready to ROAR.)


In order to make room for my oldest chicken coming home to roost, I have been spending a lot of time cleaning out the basement and pantry and all of the closets.

I have paid the teenager $50 (in segments) to occupy Miss Babystar so I could have some uninterrupted time to sort through all of the valuable and necessary items crap.

I also paid College Boy $30 to occupy Babystar while I continued cleaning out closets. He needs SOMEWHERE to put the all of the stuff that we just drove here from Florida.

I babysat my younger sister and brother so much when I was growing up, and I definitely resented them for a long time because of it. I’m over it now, but I still tend to mother them. (They would probably appreciate it if I would stop. Nope.)

The Teenager and College Boy adore their little sister, and they play with her all the time. HOWEVER, when I ask them to occupy her for however many hours while I either work on something at home (or shower), or get out alone with my husband (rare, but it does occasionally happen), I pay them our area’s going rate of $10/hour. I think it keeps them from resenting her (they play with her plenty on their own), and it definitely keeps me from taking advantage of them (because that is expensive, yo, and I don’t have a job).

We HAVE actually gone out to two (!!!) concerts recently and it cost us $190 in combined babysitting so we clearly need to find shorter concerts that are closer to home.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: I really want to know. What is the going rate for babysitting where you live? (I pay my kids at the lower end, actually, but I deserve a small discount for BIRTHING THEM.) Do you pay your older children to babysit your younger ones (if you have that type of situation)? Did you babysit siblings in your youth? Did your parents pay you (mine did NOT)?

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,149.45

 

A Kitten and a Goose.

We have a new member of the family. Meet Tillie.

Yes, we have a kitten. I already love her but what the hell was I thinking!?

Tillie moved in just four days before all of the parties and the people and the everything and I think I was sleep-deprived and my omg-cute-kitty brain overruled my logical brain and now we have a kitten. I’m not sure how much I can blame Babystar. The oldest two kids have been begging for a kitten for YEARS. The husband has wanted more cats since our previous super awesome sibling cats passed away within a week of each other very early in my pregnancy. Well, ever since he got over their passing. They were really cool cats, and he already had them when we met. (RIP Lando and Possum.)

We live very close to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and we often stop in during our walks to say hello to the animals. And apparently it is Kitten Season. Babystar always liked the animals, but on the visit in question, she fell in HEAD OVER HEELS LOVE with a particular kitten. He was gray and white and his name was Frankenstein and he had a sister that was also available for adoption. She sat in front of his cage and talked to him and played with him for so long that I decided to adopt them both. When I asked about them, I found out that a couple was literally filling out the paperwork at that very moment to adopt them both. I saw them; they looked nice. Case closed, right?

Nope.

I made the mistake of texting pictures of Babystar and kitten to the fam. Whoops. The Teenager was up, showered, and at the park to meet us and plead her Kitten Case within the hour. So we stopped in again on the way home from the park for no reason other than to see if Babystar went to the same kitten.

Of course she did.


But Frankenstein already had a family, as I explained once to the ToddlerMonster and about fifty times to the TeenageMonster.

And then we met Tillie. She was in the cage next to Frankenstein, and her name was actually Lily. There were two identical cats listed on the picture, named Lily and Millie. But only one kitten was inside.

Someone had just adopted Millie and left Lily behind.

So of course we decided that the ToddlerMonster would make a fine kitty-sister for her, and we immediately adopted Lily and changed her name to Tillie. (Well, actually they were about to close so it was the next day right when the AWLA opened but immediately sounds so much better.)

Babystar was choosing a collar and toys for her and then running to show her (!!!) while I filled out the paperwork. It was adorable. And they really are like siblings. They fight over toys and attention and already love to play with each other.


But the kitten isn’t on Babystar’s tab. It was time for more cats. Or cat, singular, in this case. If anything, Babystar is the reason we didn’t get two.

Oh, and the Goose. We checked out a few story books at the library recently, and Babystar became enamored with one of them. Goose, by Laura Wall. She asked to read this book over and over and over and she can now ‘read’ it herself. I highly recommend this book, and we bought her a copy from Amazon for $7.20 (it’s still on sale!).


(No, that is not an affiliate link. I need to learn how to do that next-level blogging stuff. It’s just there because it is a cool book. If you buy it and you like it, feel free to mail me a quarter or whatever. Just kidding but for real could someone teach me how to make money blogging?)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $18,657.41