Thursday, November 29, 2012

Playgroup Perspectives

Natalie and I have been attending a play group for a little while. It is organized by some women from church and each week a different sister hosts. This week was my turn. It was very educational.

6 mothers came, 5 of whom had an infant within a few months of Natalie's age and a child within a few months of 3-years-old, and one of whom had only a child in the 3-years range. So, there were 6 babies and and 6 older toddlers total. And 6 moms.

It was a nuthouse. First of all, I should have moved the table to the side of the dining room so more kids could play in there. As it was, our small living room was just a writhing mess of child limbs and toys for most of the afternoon. The major problem was not the lack of space, but the lack of child-proofing. With exception to the stairs, which are not blocked as we are using the gate to keep Natalie off of the Christmas tree, our place is pretty well adjusted to keep Natalie safe. There is very little that she can reach that is problematic. It seems that 3-year-olds are taller and stronger than Natalie. Kids were getting down and playing with glass Christmas ornaments, knocking down the gate that blocked off the kitchen, throwing decorative pinecones from the corner table, opening the doors, trying to eat the dog treats on the counter. It was unbelievable! I was just running from kid to kid trying to pry danger out of their slimy little fingers! I had made a little playdough, expecting that some of the older kids might be bored because we only have baby toys, so I set it out on the table. Worked very well- a few kids went over to it and sat nicely on chairs and manipulated their playdough. Perhaps I was too smug in my victory, because a few moments later, I turned around to see two kids throwing playdough at each other (the balls of playdough, of course, landing on the floor where the babies were already getting to it and putting in their mouths. Natalie, at this very second, puked a bright green puddle of playdough); another child had grabbed the salt and pepper shakers that I had so foolishly left on the table and had poured out a lake of salt and paper that covered nearly a quarter of the table; another child, who the salt and pepper shakers had been passed along to, was banging the glass shakers on the glass table top; while yet another child had abandoned his playdough and was now interested in a toy car, which he threw forcefully at our glass door a second later.

Of course, it must be remembered that playgroups such as these are not held for the sake of the children. No, no; playgroups exist for the sole purpose of allowing the mothers to sit around and relax, while their children destroy somebody else's house for a change, and complain about how hard it is to be a mother. While I was mainly busy with my hostess-ly duties of, well, making sure that my house was not leveled, I did try to keep up with the conversation and interject my thoughts on the most important topics known to mother-kind: potty-training (consensus: it is impossible); food and nutrition (stories of kids making messes, complaints of not knowing what to cook for dinner that is cheap, healthy and tastes like it was made by a five-star chef); breastfeeding (those trying to stop at 9 months because baby bites so badly and those still breastfeeding at 18 months because they like the bonding); family planning (how easy vs terrible infants affect the timing of having more children); and, most importantly: body image (subcategories: weight, dietary restrictions, exercise, clothing and,  most importantly, what pregnancy and childbirth have done to my body).

I was a little relieved when playgroup was over and I waved goodbye to the last moms and kids. I was beat. I was physically exhausted by trying to keep up with the kids and mentally exhausted at the realization of the new and seemingly unending challenges that I will face as Natalie continues to grow and we have more children. As I sat pondering, I feel it significant to mention that Natalie was hanging on the bar at the base of her highchair, drooling onto the floor- just staring as the strings of spit fall and developed into a puddle on the carpet. Her drool was bright green.

Anyway, I've got to go now. Just put Natalie down for a nap, so I need to hurry up and go sit on the couch and watch mindless daytime television and eat cookies. This place looks like a disaster zone, but somehow, I have used up all of my energy during the creation of this mess and have none left to do the cleaning up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Micah Playing With Natalie

I'm bummed out that Micah will pretty much be gone all the time for about the next 2-3 weeks. He has presentations and projects, not to even start thinking of final exams to study for!
Good thing that, in those precious few moments that he does get to be at home, Micah can really let his mind relax.
So- Thanksgiving at Aunt Nancy and Uncle Ron's was fabulous. But I left feeling very badly. For the second consecutive year I failed at making this recipe. I followed the recipe exactly. I even watched the video! Last year the layers were just messy, but at least it tasted good. This year it turned out even worse. The crust wasn't crunchy, it was weird and gross. Then the top layer didn't set- it was total liquid. I don't understand it! What am I doing wrong? More importantly, what an idiot am I if I can't even make a stinking jello salad?!?! These thoughts plagued me. My only consolation was that I also made these fabulous chocolate cheesecake truffles which turned out AWESOME! Had a bunch of Philidelphia Indulgence spread that I got for way cheap that I wanted to use so I found this recipe and instead of oreos, used crushed graham crackers, to mimic the cheesecake crust taste and flavor. Never did a double boiler before, but it was surprisingly easy. Now I know!

Natalie has been doing well, though I think that she might be getting a tooth because she's been more desirous to take naps than usual. That, and she's drooling gallons.
I wanted to take some cute pictures of her in her Sunday clothes, but after about 2 minutes, she just started crying and wouldn't stop unless she was picked up, so here's the best we got:

Got this discarded bookshelf. I had just been thinking that morning how badly I need a higher surface to put things in Natalie's room. She is getting taller and can now reach anything on her dresser. When a neighbor placed this by the garbage, I made Micah drag it in. Natalie enjoyed sitting in it. It has no shelves. I'll have to come up with something clever to use...

And here's a series that Micah took that I thought was funny...


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keeping Up With Natalie

It has been a mighty busy week since our return from Wilmington!
Last week went by in a blur. I had the usual things keeping me busy during the day: Natalie, exercise (almost to my target weight! Yay!), Natalie, keeping the house in order, Natalie, putting up Christmas decorations, Natalie. You know, stuff like that.
Natalie is figuring things out pretty fast. In just the past few days, she has learned to put her sippy cup into the cup holder of the stroller, take off her socks, climb down stairs feet-first and stick her finger in her nose. Those may seem like small things, but I imagine that they indicate pretty significant intellectual gains. She takes a few steps, but she's very deliberate about it, so it might be a while before she's completely walking. I'm glad, because she will probably have fewer falls than kids who want to take consecutive steps before they have the balance for it.
Speaking of injuries.... we've had a lot of them lately. Quite a few pinched fingers from toilet lids, the trash can lid, and dressed drawers. She puts one hand inside the lid, then puts her weight on her hand on the outside and crushed her poor little hand and doesn't know what to do to stop it! It's so sad. She has had a lot of bumps on the head, but usually when she is playing, she doesn't mind- gets right back up and continues after whatever she was pursuing. Yesterday she pulled a chair down on herself. Our chairs aren't very heavy, but it was still pretty traumatic for her because she was stuck under it!
Natalie has been exploring cupboards. Thank goodness my dad gave me some child-proof latches that they couldn't use. So, we've at least got the chemical and tools cupboards childproofed, but she continues to get into the bathroom cupboard and our pots and pans.

I didn't mind that much at first, until she climbed in and sat on the edge- I was so worried that she would fall back and hit her head on the tile! She likes to climb up on the dishwasher and sit like this too. Drives me nuts!
We have finally gotten down a system that keeps her out of the dog food. Sammy eats out of tupperware and we keep the lids on when he isn't eating. Here, after shaking it, hitting it on the floor and chewing on it, Natalie tries her luck at opening it using a baby fork as a tool.

Despite how much she moves, she still has the cutest, chubbiest little thighs. Little roll crease and everything!

My receipt from CVS yesterday. This week, CVS and Walgreens have crazy awesome sales that make tons of stuff free after in-store cash rewards. This transaction was for $90 of stuff, after sales and coupons I paid with $47 of Extracare Bucks, then a little over $3 for tax and received over $64 of Extracare Bucks printed on the bottom of my receipt. Cashier said it was the best she's seen yet! Could have done even better, but they were out of several things.

Excitedly looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow and then Christmas-music-playing-season after that!
Micah has been extremely busy with school. It will be awesome when the semester is over and we leave Atlanta and I get to have his undivided attention for a couple of weeks. Yay!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paco Returns

It has been an exciting week! My mom flew down to Atlanta to spend a few days with us, then drove with me to Wilmington to welcome Paco home from his mission. I didn't whip out my camera nearly enough, but here are a few shots:
That would be Paco's flight, flight 5040, from Atlanta. On the ground!

I could not believe the wear on this suit- just look at those knees!

"So THIS is tio?" Natalie doesn't know quite what to make of uncle Paco at first, but she warmed up to him in the following days.
Paco shows off some of his sport apparel posing in front of a Peruvian flag.
Blake was especially excited to welsome him home! Blake is in the Brazil MTC, but his likeness is still at home!
While Paco has learned a lot and probably changed in many ways, it was so cool to see him and realize that his is still Paco. He will face a lot of adjusting I am sure, but he doesn't seem as awkward as I had anticipated. I think that by January when he returns to school, he will fit in just great. He will be going back to the dorms where many of his friends from Freshman year have stuck together and lived. I am glad that I got to meet them a little bit. They seem like great guys and I'm glad Paco will have them around.
While Paco's return was the purpose of the visit, there were a lot of other things to enjoy. The abuelos got some grandchild time. Here, my dad puts dishes into the dishwasher while Natalie takes them out...

We got to enjoy seeing a play that Gabby was in that was pretty entertaining. Also enjoyed some torta de tres leches at a welcome-home sort of party. I was surprised that more people didn't come. But hey- more torta for me! Hahaha. It was way delicious. Between that goodness and the general munching that is involved in treavel, I gained 3 pounds in 6 days. Yikes! Back home, back to my diet and exercise plan.... just as soon as the rest of that cake we brought home is gone :)
Micah came up on Friday and we drove back home to Atlanta yesterday.  So, after 2 months of dual-car special powers, we are back down to 1 car. I know that I have been carless at home with Natalie for plenty of time and I could do it again, but I want the car now to get to aerobics and play group, so Micah will likely be searching for a scooter with great energy.
Travel did not agree with Natalie's sleep, so we're renewed in our efforts to get her on a decent schedule and work on waking up less at night.  We are reaching the end of our limits though. We can not emotionally, psychologically or physically deal with the sleep deprivation for much longer. I've already become completely desensitized to her cry. The noise is annoying, but I don't feel any guilt or sympathy for not responding. She's either going to have to learn to sleep or just become an oversensitive, blubbering mess with anxious attachment problems for the rest of her life. It's sad. I feel like I'm a much different parent than I could be if I got enough sleep. I am way irritable and impatient, not very warm and definitely not as cheerful as I'd like to be. Blah. Parenthood is hard.
Though even tough situations have some silver lining. For example, I have learned that Natalie's hair will do this:


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trick or Treat

Here is Natalie in her costume. I dragged her to the store dressed like this and got lots of "aawwww"s.

We had a lot of fun trick or treating. We collected donations for UNICEF so that I didn't feel as embarrassed to use my child to get candy for myself. Here, Natalie and I examine the spoils. The folks in the Spalding Woods neighborhood were very generous- we collected almost $30 to donate. Also, they had the good stuff- lots of chocolates :)
Natalie only cried once- at a house where they had this little skeleton guy who was motion activated and shrieked and started shaking as we approached. The lady passing out candy felt bad. I felt embarassed that she felt bad, since Natalie was fine 20 seconds later.
Micah came with us and walked Sammy. Micah went as a hungry PhD student who got home late and didn't get any dinner before leaving for trick or treating. Sammy went as a metrosexual (ie he wore his handsome sweater). It was a pretty cold night, but no extemities were lost, so it's all good.

Natalie got to eat a miniature reese's cup and kit kat. I was worried that giving her candy right before bed was an ameteur parent mistake, but she actually slept better than average! Maybe it was enough sugar to induce a brief coma?