Don’t Freak Out It’s Just A Baby

February 15th, 2018

Last week I was rummaging around in my cabinet for two sippy cups to give Linc and Finn. Somehow we own 473 take and toss cups and ZERO take and toss cup lips. Why am I apparently tossing just lids? Where did they go? And why doesn’t my Target sell JUST lid replacements? I ended up with one blue lid on a red cup for Linc and an old Lansinoh baby bottle for Finnegan. I gave them each a splash of chocolate milk in with their regular milk and then enjoyed the silence while I made coffee.

But while I was standing there watching them, it occurred to me that Finnegan was drinking out of a bottle even though Finnegan never took a bottle. I think my husband force-fed him a couple while I was at a conference when he was 9 months old. And I should probably count the one night in the hospital as a newborn when he needed to go under the jaundice lights. But for the most part, he rejected any milk that didn’t come straight from the source. But here he is, standing in the kitchen, happily feeding himself as if he’s been doing it his whole life, using one of the MANY bottles I purchased over the years out of desperation (none of my children took bottles despite my efforts, half-hearted or full-hearted).

And then it occurred to me I don’t remember introducing him to cow’s milk. He probably picked up a cup that belonged to someone else one day and drank it, and the next time he saw me pouring milk he just grunted to indicate he wanted some and now he drinks milk. I don’t know if it was after he turned one. I don’t know how much he drinks daily. I don’t know if he cares if it’s whole milk or 2% or organic or FairLife or whatever. He has no obvious preferences for any of it – Finnegan would like something milk-like in some sort of drinkable container, now please.

This is such a change from what life was like as a brand new mom. I remember literally agonizing over Evan’s milk intake (or lack thereof). And I don’t even have to remember, because this blog exists and if you go back to the archives around early 2010 you can see me write post after post about how he didn’t like food, how he wouldn’t take cow’s milk, how I was afraid he would never stop breastfeeding, how he made himself gag if he ate so much as a Cheerio, and how I worried SO MUCH ALL THE TIME about whether or not I was doing things right. I tried at least four different kinds of milk out of DOZENS of different sippy cups trying to convince a one-year-old he should drink it. I wasted so much time and energy and mental space trying to figure out a baby because it was my first time ever having a baby and I had no idea what I was doing.

Now my baby is almost 9 and there is all sorts of new stuff to worry about (no really, can someone explain why Minecraft is still so popular? and tell me which YouTube channels are appropriate?). But I’ve had three more babies and with each one the baby-ages have gotten easier. Finnegan knows three signs that cover all his needs: nursies, please, and night night. He will bring me a diaper if he needs one. He could go up and down stairs a full year before I ever let my first baby even try. He likes people, he likes new things, he likes food, he likes naps, he likes being worn, he likes walking, he tags along 6 days a week to other people’s activities and never complains. The thing is, I didn’t do ANYTHING to get this baby to be so agreeable. I cannot tell you how to get the same baby. My suspicion is benign neglect plays a big part, a result of having a zillion children.

The problem is there is literally nothing you can say to a new mom to get her to stop worrying. There is no way to gain the confidence you need to be a more chill parent without seeing your kids survive their toddler years despite your mistakes. Parenting is not one size fits all for anyone. You can read libraries full of books and talk to a thousand other parents and get all the advice in the world and still not do everything right. Especially if you take ALL the advice, because often it is in direct conflict. Parenting is learned by being thrown in the deep end and that’s terrifying when you don’t know how to swim, no matter how many books about swimming you’ve read.

But after 9 years of swimming I went from dog paddle to dedicated athelete…and now I’m back to somewhere around hobbyist. Basically I have forgotten everything I worked really hard to learn about babies with my first. The only thing that still applies is they need to be fed, they need a lot of sleep, and they’re adorable so you don’t abandon them. That seems to always be true.

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Snow Day

January 31st, 2018

We’ve had a lot of snow days this year. It’s not terrible. I like getting out of our responsibilities for a day. The worst part is that I have to do the shoveling but I just tell myself it’s a really good workout. Another thing that’s a really good workout is sledding. The third workout I got was getting everyone in and out of their winter gear. I’m exhausted.

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Heavy Adulting

January 29th, 2018

So here is a thing people don’t tell you about being a grown-up: no one knows what they’re doing. I mean, maybe some people know what they’re doing in some scenarios. I hope my doctor knows what she’s doing when treating me for medical stuff. I hope my hairdresser knows what she’s doing when she cuts my hair. I hope my kids’ teachers know what they’re doing when they try to teach division. But every single day as a grown-up I am faced with things I have NO IDEA how to do or how to manage or how to pay for or how to handle and most of the people I encounter aren’t doing much better. I have a very distinct memory of sitting in a college French class, having literally NO IDEA what was happening because I had been faking my way through French for years, and thinking “Oh my God, I can’t wait until I’m done with school and things are easier.”

Let’s just take a moment to laugh at poor, naive, non-French speaking College Suzanne. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Here’s a current scenario. Lincoln’s annual blood test came back with elevated lead levels in August. Since I forgot to take him for the test last year, they couldn’t tell if it was going up or down. Finnegan’s levels also came back a little high. Because lead is considered a public health issue, their levels were reported to the health district and now it is a THING. A thing I have been worried about constantly since August.

The first woman I talked to told me the level wasn’t actually that high. But she wanted to come out at do an assessment. Two people came and I gave them a tour and showed them the house and told them about the bathroom renovation and how it took forever and the walls were all knocked out and it was so dusty and filthy for weeks. They both agreed the construction probably caused the high level and they didn’t seem concerned. Those people knew about lead but thought it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Then I got a call from someone else at the health department that wanted to do the testing the first set of people said I didn’t need. So sure, testing is fine, I’d love to know what I can do to stop the lead exposure. That woman was a nightmare – more than an hour late, unorganized, unfriendly and basically told me I was a bad person for letting the kids live here. So that was super fun. I spent days panicked over how we could afford to have all the trim in the entire house stripped and repainted while staying in a hotel so the kids weren’t exposed to more lead. Not to mention the fact that ALL the windows probably have lead and we just spent every penny of our renovation savings on fixing the bathroom and kitchen ceiling. That woman knew how to do testing but not how to keep her rude opinions to herself. Also she knew nothing about how to fix the problem.

Then I got another call from the first lady at health department. She suggested that I talk to the people at our town’s community development program because the town has grants available to help fix lead paint issues. I told her I had checked out their website and we didn’t qualify. She suggested the qualifications were more like guidelines than rules, so it might be worth talking to them. I talked to them. I filled out a ton of paperwork. I hauled the babies up and down the very steep stairs to their office to turn in reams of tax returns, bank statements and notarized forms. I’m still trying to get the last form filled out by my mortgage company. But after I dropped everything off, it was radio silence. That guy knew he could help but not how to make a phone call to tell me the status of my application. Also, he quit, so he isn’t the guy to talk to anymore.

Last Saturday I got a phone call from a very nice guy who said he needed 3-4 hours of my time to do a full lead inspection for the town. I was confused, because didn’t we just have a lead inspection? He assured me the one done by the health department is subpar and not what the town needs to write an abatement plan. Which they need, because apparently we’ve been approved for a grant to fix our lead issues. He didn’t know, exactly, because that part isn’t his job. His job was to come shoot his little lead paint tester gun at every painted surface in (and out) of my house. He was VERY good at that job. It turns out NONE of that trim has lead paint. None of my walls or radiator covers or doors or even my cool painted antique bedframe have lead. What does have lead is the outside of all our old, peeling, drafty windows, as well as the original paint on the porch and some on the basement stairs.

I am SO relieved. It’s too cold to play on the porch right now, the kids never go in the basement and the inside of the windows are ok. No one is being actively poisoned by lead. The nice inspector is going to write a report and come up with solutions for how to replace all 26 of our original windows and abate the lead on the porch and the basement stairs. He doesn’t know how, exactly, because he’s not a contractor. But he knows the people who can help.

And then, the day AFTER that inspection, I got a letter in the mail from the community development program saying we had been accepted into not just the lead hazard removal program but also a property improvement program. TWO grants to help fix the house. We’re going to be able to solve our lead problem without taking out a huge loan or selling everything we own.

I didn’t know the town even had a community development office. I didn’t know anyone was giving out money to replace old windows. I didn’t know this is something we could have done ages ago. I didn’t know because that’s not my job. But I also didn’t know who to ask for help, which is the frustrating part. There isn’t a class in college or high school or elementary school that teaches you how to just ADULT. Putting all the pieces of this (and, like, a dozen other problems I’ve had in the last month that are far above my normal paygrade) together is hard. Sitting on my couch watching Master Chef reruns and browsing Facebook is easy. I feel like that’s what being an adult boils down to most of the time – using all my energy to deal with life stuff and then waking up and doing it again the next day and the next day and the next day and as soon as I feel like I’ve actually crossed something off my list 5 new things get added. OMG it’s going to be like this forever now, isn’t it?

I’m not ready for that, so let’s just focus on how in the next few months I’m going to get new windows. Hopefully. Because until that happens I’m going to worry about it every day and never really get to enjoy anything. I know that much.

 

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My Family, Documented

January 18th, 2018

The list of things that have gone wrong in the first two weeks of January is laughably long. I broke a filling, the kids shatter my laptop, my power charger fried my battery, we had several snow days/delays, I forgot to take the kids to swim (and karate and cheer), and Linc finally potty trained but not without peeing on every pair of underpants he owned. We now own more underpants AND as of this morning he’s officially done with diapers. I also got my computer fixed, ordered a new battery, made it to all our activities, and scheduled a dentist appointment.

I’m feeling very accomplished despite the setbacks, especially since on top of regular momming and housekeeping and cooking I’m also taking a photography class online. I’ve taken a few classes from Clickin Moms before and they’re always great, so when an ad for the class called The Documentary Approach crossed my Facebook feed, I saved the post. I kept going back to it and finally decided it would be a great way to keep me inspired during January.

So far we’ve focused on light (which is terrible in January) and this week is composition (which is something I thought I was good at but now I’m not so sure). It hasn’t been good for my confidence, but it has been good for my creativity. I am really, really looking forward to warmer weather so we can go outside and I can take pictures somewhere besides my house though. As much as I love documenting our life, I really like taking aesthetically beautiful photos in between so much reality.

 

 

 

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Velvet Mill Winter Farmer’s Market

January 8th, 2018

We had to get out of the house on Saturday so we went to the Velvet Mill, where Stonington has their farmer’s market in the winter. I had to wear the baby on my back to keep him from a) running away and b) freezing to death between the car and the door (also the mill is huge and drafty and most people didn’t even take off their hats and scarves inside). When I have a baby on my back my photography really suffers – he’s wiggly and throws himself back if he can’t see what I’m looking at, it’s hard to carry my camera strap on my shoulder when the carrier strap is in the way, and crouching down/bending over is hard when your balance is being thrown off by 28 lbs. But I still managed to take a few pictures at the mill (plus a few after).

All that delicious farmer’s market food and my kids begged for cheeseburgers for lunch.

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