Advice (Unsolicited)

Today was one of those days when I started checking the clock at 11am to see if it was time for my husband to come home.

Both of our kids have been sick–the puking, fever, diarrhea sick–and stuck in the house for almost a week now. The 2.5-year-old was much better today and probably could have/should have gone to daycare.

How do I know he’s better? Because he spent the day hitting, kicking, throwing, refusing to nap and coming up with other fun ways to channel his “I’ve been in the house all damn winter” frustration. Meanwhile, the 1-year-old is still vomiting and having diarrhea explosions. And I’m running on fumes after several nights of changing vomit-filled sheets and playing with bath toys at 2am.

Which made my job as a mom incredibly trying today.

I hate how I feel during days like these. It reminds me how I felt all last winter, when I was (unknowingly) living through postpartum depression and anxiety–cagey, unable to leave the room for fear of someone (aka my baby) getting hurt, and like I don’t have the creative reserves as a mother to know how to turn the situation around.

The difference between today and how I felt last year, though, is my ability to recognize that I’m in the middle of a tough day. I’m now able to see above the chaos, even when I’m in the middle of it. To think to myself, ¬†“What would turn this situation around? What does this moment need?”

Unfortunately all the (pretty cool) things I came up with today didn’t turn the situation around. What’s the message in this? What’s the lesson?

All I know so far, 15-minutes after handing off the screaming bundles to my husband and hightailing it upstairs to sit in the dark, is this:

Some days are tough.

Some days will feel like living inside of a tornado all day long.

Some days you’ll have a toddler throwing rocks at the glass door while the other one is puking and crapping all over himself in the playroom.

All you can do is try to stay calm, try not to yell, and do your best trying to figure out who to attend to first. And hope you have the blessing of getting another go at it next time.

Okay so it’s really just one idea. But it will buy you 15, 20, maybe 30 minutes if you’re really lucky and keep switching things up.

And before you think I’m some super crafty mom, you should know that it’s only after suffering through far too many hours of whining and referee-ing and tv-refusing and time-outing that I finally found something, ANYTHING, to make two toddlers happy at the very same time.

So here goes: Bring the snow in.

Here’s how to get the most out of this brief respite from trying to find indoor entertainment for the kind of toddlers who proclaim, ” I NEED to run!!”

  • Make a big deal out of you going out to get the snow. Act like it’s a tundra expedition.
  • Bring in a big ole heaping pile of snow in a bowl.
  • Set the kids up at the table with a few kitchen utensils.
  • BUT NOT EVERYTHING. You’ve got to save some tricks if you really want to get attention span mileage out of this.
  • A rectangular glass casserole dish comes in handy as long as you can trust your toddler not to smash it over his brother’s head.
  • Transferring is key–give them scoops to transfer the snow from one dish to the other. I have no idea why, but toddlers really get off on this.
  • Just when their attention starts to wane, either declare it time for mom to go get more snow…
  • …or step up your game with the accessories. I bought more time with trucks, then melon scoopers (because the 2.5 year old was fascinated in making miniature snow balls), then “snow ice cream cones,” you get the idea.
  • Once they’ve had enough, clean up the mess with an old towel, but keep out all the goods. If you’re lucky, they’ll be begging you for more snow after nap.

So that’s what I’ve got. What are your tricks?

Breastfeeding (If you so choose)
If at first you don’t succeed, call a lactation consultant. If she isn’t nice, find another one. These people have decades of experience and want nothing more than to help you feed your baby. Katie Powers in Florida was a godsend to me, and the lactation consultant I had in Sleepy Hollow, NY fought to get my baby out of the NICU the first day post c-section so I could nurse him. Lactation consultants are angels disguised as boppy pillow- breast pump-toting nurses.

Pump, and pump a lot. Stock up the fridge with reserves for when you go back to work. Money in the bank.

Bottle feeding
Don’t buy a cupboard full of one type of bottle until you know for sure your baby likes it. Pre-baby, I had no idea babies had bottle preferences. I thought bottle selection was all about BPA and good design. Thus, I had a cupboard full of Born Free along with some other cool designs we found at Giggle, only to find out my son wouldn’t drink from a silicone nipple. (I was too tired to even attempt to figure out why.)

What worked best? Cheap-o Playtex Drop-Ins. Nothing “green” or pretty about them. Worked like a charm.

For baby #2, we got a free Playtex Ventaire (the bendy kind) at the hospital. I never would have bought this bottle, but baby loved it. However, he would only use the thin version, not the wide bottle version. (I learned this after buying a whole mess of wide ones.)

Diapers
Do not buy a truckload of N, 1, or 2 size diapers! They will fly through these sizes and you’ll be stuck with them. In fact, you’ve probably inherited a bunch of these anyway–for exactly this reason.

Diapers.com is a lifesaver. I tried their brand of diapers after Pampers changed to that nasty “Dry Max” technology, and they are fantastic.

Buying Baby Stuff
Order everything online. Diapers.com gets to our house in 2 days flat. If they don’t have it, Amazon.com will.

The Amazon.com Prime membership is worth every penny. It gets you free 2-day shipping and overnight shipping for $3.99/item. This means you can also order last-minute birthday party gifts without having to endure a toy store on your lunch break.

On Schedules
Some babies fall into their own rhythm. Others really need your help. My firstborn was one of those. When he was 5 months old, a friend of a friend recommended The Contented Little Baby. I still worship the ground that friend’s friend walks on. Even if you don’t need to put your child on a rigid schedule, this book of daily schedules for your baby’s first year, gives you a rough idea of what a day should look like.

I remember being a new mom and trying to arrange playdates. “What times are good for you? Our times are x and x,” moms would write. I had no idea what times were good for us. Until this book.

2 Biggest Takeaways from The Contented Little Baby:
* You need to get your kid up and start feeding them in order to fit in x number of feedings per day if you want them to sleep at night.

* Every nap affects how well your child will or won’t sleep at night. If they nap too long, too late in the day, OR too short or too early in the day, you’re probably looking at a crappy night sleep.

On Getting Through the Day
There will come a time when your cuddly newborn expects you to play. All. Day. Long. And having one-sided conversations about trucks gets old when you’re living off 2 hours of consecutive sleep, decaf and mini-muffins. Get out of the house. You’ll feel less tired than if you’re on the floor rolling a ball back and forth. And it’s absolutely amazing how getting a cranky kid out of the house snaps them out of it. And if you’re lucky, baby will be exhausted by the time you get home and will sleep for a couple of hours. At which point you should NOT be doing the dishes–hello!

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is probably the best advice in the world. Such good advice, in fact, that in our house, we call it “sleep when the little monsters toddlers sleep” and will probably keep amending it all the way through their adulthood.

Your Mood
How much you sleep at night has a direct correlation with how much you’ll cry during the day. This is normal. It will pass.

Don’t judge how you feel about work until you are a week or so away from the end of your maternity leave. When baby #1 was four weeks old, I couldn’t imagine being well enough or having the brainpower or even interest in going back to work. By 6 weeks, I was thankful to have an office to go to a couple times a week.

You’ll probably never be quite happy with whatever work/at home arrangement you have. Try to stick to whatever decision you’ve made for a few months without thinking about it constantly. Give it a good trial run. Then, if it’s not working, you can test drive a new schedule.

Remember how I said it will pass? Well if it doesn’t, talk to your doctor. Seriously. I had NO idea I had a form of PPD. And I read the Brooke Shields book! ¬†Somehow, when you are in it, you are least likely to see it. If something doesn’t feel right, let your doctor know. I wish I could get those months back of feeling like an anxious wreck.