Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sleepless in C-Town

As the title suggests, my husband and I aren't getting much sleep around here. My rambunctious little girl has decided to put herself on strike from sleeping in her own bed. I thought having to get up and rock her back to sleep in the middle of the night was bad, well this is 10 times worse! Sometimes she won't lay down in her bed from the very beginning, but mostly she will sleep in her bed for an hour or two, but then she's up, crying, wanting out of the bed, and for me to take her into our room. In the beginning, I thought this was just a phase and I gave in, mostly because I was so tired, and also because we aren't doing a bottle anymore in the AM, which used to help her go back to sleep, so now morning is coming earlier and earlier for us. But, now I am regretting ever giving in, because what I thought was a phase and turned into a full blown attack on our entire family's sleep patterns! It's awful! Plus, I feel like such a failure for even giving in, but I tell myself it's just because I'm still new at this whole mom gig, and that seems to make me feel better. I also vow to not do this with my next child. In fact, self-soothing will DEFINITELY be a priority with the next one. Period.

So, now I feel like I'm back to square one. I feel like we've tried EVERYTHING! We keep her up later, we've let her sleep with us (which is not working for ANYONE), we tried laying her down in the big bed in her room instead of the crib, and last night I let her scream and cry for AN HOUR with no avail, before I finally went in and got her to bring her to our bed. I just feel helpless, and I'm at my wits end. I wonder sometimes if my husband and I will ever get to lay in bed and have a conversation like we used too, or if I'll ever get more than two hours of sleep, or how I am I possibly going to be able to do this with another child when we decide to have one? All of these insecurities weigh heavily on my mind and I am just at a lose. I wish I could hire someone to just come to my house and tell me what to do and help me get Emma's sleeping patterns back on track. But, I know that probably isn't possible and I doubt they will tell me anything I don't already know. I guess I'm going to have to just buck up and get through it like my mom has been telling me to do. "You didn't sleep in your own bed until you were 3, Ashley!" She says every time I complain, so maybe this is just my pay backs.

I guess only God and Randy know how hard this has been on me physically and emotionally. They are the only true support system I have, (if you can call my husband's snoring, "support")! However, I do know deep down that I will survive. I will get through this. I will come out on the other side stronger and wiser. It's just I don't always feel like I know that!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Last night after an extremely rough day at home with my cranky toddler, my husband made arrangements for my wonderful mother-in-law to keep our daughter for a few hours while we went to the football game at the local high school. I had said earlier in the week that I would like to go, that I missed being apart of the excitement and fun that comes with a high school football game.

You know, there isn't much that beats the sight of the boys of fall making their way onto the field or the sound of their shoulder pads hitting someone's helmet a they take a hit. I love to watch the cheerleaders dazzling the crowd with the peppiness and school pride. And I'm pretty sure that the sound of a stadium when the home team makes a touchdown is one of my most favorite sounds in the whole world. I've always loved football games. It reminds of high school...a simpler time in my life. I know that teenagers have it rough these days, and not many people wish they could relive seventeen again. But, while I don't really miss my youth or inexperience, I do miss how carefree those days were, especially after I reffed a tri-match at my old stomping grounds today, Camden Christian School.

I love reffing! I love it because its less drama than coaching and I actually get paid. I also just love volleyball...I always have. And today our Varsity girls volleyball team played a out of town team that reminded me so much of my old volleyball team. As I watched those girls laughing and goofing around on the court together, and listened to them congratulate and encourage one another, it brought back so many memories of the camaraderie and friendship I shared with girls I used to play with. Home games, tournaments, and bus rides to the away games are still some of my most favorite memories, and I think I'll cherish them forever.

All this reminiscing makes me miss the excitement of seventeen. As I change diapers, wash bottles, push my screaming toddler through Wal-Mart, and wish that bedtime could come at 7:30, I think back to volleyball games, football games, sleepovers, group movie dates, and all those things that made seventeen so memorable, but I also know that my life, this place where I am at right now, is a place where I am and still am making many more great memories.

Memories like the day I finally got to marry my best friend, or finding out I was having a little girl, or dancing around my hospital room with Emma the day after my c-section...those memories rival the memories of any volleyball bus ride, football game or sleepover. They are all apart of my new adventure and I feel so blessed to get to experience it everyday. And even though I have my days when seventeen sounds and feels like it would definitely be more appealing than anything else I have to do that day, I just take a deep breath and remember that while I loved seventeen, I love being a wife and mother more. I love getting to be apart of the bigger picture and embracing what is to come instead of what is behind me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Life, Love, and The Pursuit of Drama Free Shopping

I love Wal-Mart. No, seriously, I LOVE Wal-Mart! When I got my driver’s license at seventeen, there were two things I wanted to do. One, I wanted to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru by myself and two, I wanted to go to Wal-Mart WITHOUT my mom. From that moment on my love affair with Wal-Mart has withstood my college years when I was really broke, my first year of marriage when I was…umm…busy, and my pregnancy when I was so ill from “morning” sickness I could barely make it through a shopping trip without visiting the ladies room. Yes, my love affair with Wal-Mart has truly withstood every major life change, but one life change neither I nor Wal-Mart was quite ready for: a toddler.

When I was pregnant, I definitely had on a pair of rose-colored glasses that only allowed me to envision myself pushing my sleeping baby, snug in her car seat, up and down the aisles as I happily did my shopping. And in the beginning, when my daughter was an infant, the promises of my rose-colored glasses were true. My daughter would sleep or quietly take a bottle, and the store was my escape from my new “stay-at-home” status. But, as my daughter grew and became more mobile those ideal shopping outings became less and less, and suddenly I was face to face with a mobile, one-year-old who wanted to do everything, BUT ride quietly in the cart.

And then about two weeks ago, it hit me, I AM that mother at Wal-Mart that everyone is quietly wishing would get her screaming child under control! I AM that mother pushing the crying child down each aisle pretending to be interested in canned peas to hide my embarrassment! I AM HER! And as this realization hit, I suddenly knew I was faced with a new challenge: a fifteen month old that cannot be bribed or bought, who simply hates the cart because it cramps her movement. She doesn’t really want anything (she’s too little to beg for toys…thankfully) and taking cookies or crackers in to distract her wasn’t really working. What’s a new mom to do?

So, after much thought, and a pep talk from a dear friend of mine who has already been through this rodeo once and is still going through it with her second, I decided the best way to get through this stage was by instituting either one or both of these changes for each outing:

  1. When I am able, I’ve shifted my shopping time from days to nights. This means that since my husband works during the day, sometimes I wait until he’s home from work, and we’ve had dinner before I head off to the store. This way he can stay-at-home with our daughter, while I get some shopping done in peace. It also gives our daughter some great one-on-one daddy time.
  2. If I have to take my daughter to a store with me, I enlist help! I am blessed to have a sister that is thirteen years younger than I am and she spends a lot of her summer days and afternoons after school with me while our mother works. She is a HUGE help with my daughter, and if I take her with me, she does a great job of entertaining my daughter. If my sister can’t go, sometimes I’ll buddy up and do my shopping with a friend or one of my other sisters who have kids, so my daughter can be entertained by watching other peoples children.

By no means is this a perfect system, but it is definitely helping me get through these early stages of my daughter becoming a toddler. I still have days where I have to take her by myself and I have to be THAT MOTHER, but I know a lot of other mothers who have gone through this and I know, it is just a stage everyone has to get through, but I realize now that its nice to have a plan of action to help you get to the other side and continue your love affair with Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just Another Day

Saturday, the 4th, was my 25th birthday! I love my birthday, its probably my most favorite day of the whole year. I anticipate it, I make big plans for it, and I still indulge in my childish side by mentally creating a birthday "wish list". But ,this year I could not muster those feelings of excitement and anticipation that my coming birthday usually brings with it, instead I was left feeling like it was just going to be another day. Why? Why was this year different than all the other years? Well, one was because I helped with a wedding that day, and my selfishness and I could not bring ourselves to be excited for our birthday when we would be spending it stressed out and stretched to the max. While I love weddings and I was very excited for our friends who were getting married, I was still sad that I wouldn't be able to relax, go shopping, or even have my husband take me to dinner. It's hard to enjoy your birthday when it doesn't really feel like your birthday to begin with. The second reason is because I was kind of dreading turning 25 years old. I know that's silly and that all you 30 and 40-somethings out there are probably rolling on the floor with laughter, but for me, 30 is going to be hard and turning 25 meant that it was just that much closer. You see, I have loved my twenties...LOVED them! I love being young, and learning the ropes of motherhood and marriage. For me, this makes my life exciting. I'm not saying my life is going to end at thirty or that it will no longer be exciting, but as we mature and become more comfortable with ourselves we tend to lose some of the excitement that comes with learning and growing.

I know when I'm in my thirties or forties, I probably will look back and think how silly and immature I was in my twenties. But for now I'm just really enjoying them! Even though 25 wasn't my best birthday, it was still the beginning of a fresh new chapter in this crazy adventure I call my life. I'm looking forward to what God has in store for my life over the next year: maybe a writing breakthrough or a new baby? Who knows! Only God knows where my life is going and where He is going to lead me! All I can say is that so far I've really enjoyed the adventure! So, here's to 25, no matter how depressing it may seem, I'm still going to work hard at making it one of my best years yet!

When Is Enough Really Enough?

"High school is only the beginning of your self discovery. Someday you will look back and wonder why you never believed: that you ARE beautiful just the way you are, you ARE capable of so much more than you give yourself credit, and YOU are your worst enemy. Someday you will look back and marvel at the person you've become and wish your sixteen year old self could of met her."

I met a victim of hatefulness today. Not just any kind of hatefulness, teenage girl hatefulness. She had been crying, left to feel inadequate and ugly. The funny thing is, she used to be popular, one of the "in" crowd, but then she got something they all wanted and they turned on her. It was ugly. I've watched the charade play out all summer, but finally enough was enough, and today she broke. I wanted to hold her, to tell her everything would be all right. I wanted to show her that all of this is just a bump in the road. It will not define you, it will not hold you, but it will make you stronger. I wanted to shake the ones dishing out the hatefulness and torment, I wanted to sit them down and say, "I was just like you. I regret it everyday." I wanted to hand them a mirror to their future and show them that jealousy and hate is not what gets you ahead in life, and it certainly won't make the world sit up and take notice of you.

You know as I watch on the news about how "bullying" has escalated in our schools, especially among girls and through the Internet. My heart does go out to those kids who are the victims, and to the parents of the victims who are made to feel helpless by school systems that enable the bullying, instead of doing more to prevent it. In the educators defense, I know there isn't a lot they can do, but that doesn't mean that there isn't SOMETHING that can be done. I think schools need to offer workshops on bullying, and teach kids how to handle it. I also think that EVERY case of bullying that is brought up should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. How you might ask? Well why not start by asking parents to be parents and get access to their kids' Facebook and MySpace pages and read the emails and wall posts that are being sent. Instead of parents CHOOSING to be oblivious to what's going on with their kids and the internet, they need to be actively taking a part and being aware of what's going on.

If your child is the victim of bullying, I'm not saying you should go calypso like that dad on YouTube a few months ago who posted a video screaming and ranting at his child's offenders. But, I think there is a better way to handle it. For instance, you could tell them to refrain from deleting the messages they are receiving and print the messages out, especially messages that are particularly threatening. I think its best to print "screen shot" versions of the messages, so that the people you are seeking help from can see that the messages really came from Facebook or MySpace. After the messages are printed off, they should be brought to the school attention, and possibly given to a school counselor, so that they can help address the issue with the bully. I then think as parents you should take an active approach to encouraging and supporting your child that is the victim. Kids commit suicide usually because they feel lonely or rejected. So, you should do your best to curb those feeling of loneliness and rejection. Spend extra time with that child doing things they love to do, or encourage them to get out and do things with the good friends they do have. Tell your child how special and irreplaceable they are and give them legitimate reasons why they are so special! For instance, you could say, "I'm so glad you're around, no one would ever take the time to help your brother/sister with their homework like you do." or "Those girls on that volleyball team are lucky to have you on their team, you're a real go-getter and you're always willing to take one for the team!" Whatever your child good at or most helpful with, then pick those things out and make those positive comments to them frequently. I know that teenagers aren't big on talking to their parents, I certainly wasn't when I was in High School, but make your kids feel like they can come and talk to you about anything no matter how bad. It's important for them to feel like their are consequences for inappropriate actions, but they should never feel like you aren't available with a listening ear and an open mind. Do your best to put your parental instincts on hold and not make harsh decisions when your kids come to you with a problem. It's important to keep that line of communication open.

If your child is the bully, own it! I know its hard to choose to see our child's faults, especially in comparison to other children, but if your child is being accused of bullying, get online and look at the emails too, and print them off. Maybe the bullying goes both ways, and its not just your child, and you won't know unless you do some investigating. No matter the situation or the reasons why, bullying should be addressed quickly and should not be accepted as an appropriate form of handling any problem.When kids are allowed to be bullies in school, they will most likely still be "bullies" as adults.

Bullying is never appropriate behavior and its time that we as adults and educators quit overlooking it, and start taking this growing problem more seriously. When I saw that girl today, I wanted to know more about her situation and the girls who were harassing her. I wanted to save her, if you will. Isn't it time that we all do more to "save" any victim of bullying?

If you know someone or if your child is a victim of bullying, then here is a great website for tips and advice on how to handle the harassment: Dealing With Bullying.

Family Matters

My husband doesn’t particularly care for my family. But, for the most part, he has done a great job of tolerating them and putting up with our antics. You see, my husband comes from a very low-key family. In his family, no one ever really gets excited, conversations usually include every one, and everyone speaks in a nice, normal tone. The only reason they have a family gathering is for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and possibly for Easter and someone’s wedding. And when they do get together, the men all sit around his grandpa’s dining room table and talk cars, and the women migrate to the living room and quietly chat about anything and everything. His family, as he puts it, is just normal. I, on the other hand, beg to differ, because my definition of a “normal” is bigger and louder, like my family. In my family everyone knows everyone’s business, even if they shouldn’t! When we get together we all talk loudly and on top of each other, and when we argue, everyone argues! It’s an explosion of yelling, screaming, and “Hey, hey!” We get together every Sunday at my grandma’s for lunch, and EVERYONE’S birthday is a big deal whether your turning 2 or 42. We all have a knack for story-telling, and we have a keen ability of making the story a lot more interesting just by our tone of voice and how loud we choose to tell it. Yeah, we are a little crazy, but we love each and support each no matter what. Despite our craziness, we mean well and haven’t kicked anyone out yet, except a few of my cousins’ boyfriends.

Needless to say, when we go married trying to mesh our two families together became an impossible feat. My parents’ families had always done a great job of celebrating major holidays and birthdays with each other, but I knew getting Randy’s family to do things like that with my family wasn’t going to work. It became a huge struggle for us and our marriage, and to be honest we still argue about where we will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas…especially now that our daughter is in the picture. Working out our family situation is an ongoing process, and its one we have yet to master, but sometimes I like to think we are getting there. For instance, there are times when my husband has to go outside and just breathe when he is with my family, and there are times I chew my fingernails to the point of bleeding because I’m so bored when we are with his. We still fight about big holidays and where we should spend them, and some Sundays we don’t go to my grandma’s for lunch, we go out with his parents. And yes, my family was the most annoying family at the hospital the day my daughter was born, and my husband patiently put up with all their antics, even though he really just wanted to kick them out. All in all, our marriage works because of compromise and our willingness to try to meet in the middle. We deal with each others’ families the same way.

As I think about my family and my husband’s family, it causes me to think about other families. Do you and your spouse come from totally different types of families? How do you cope with the bi-polar differences and make family life work for you? I think this important thing to consider, especially if you are planning to get married or are newly married. The truth be told, when you get married, you marry their family too…period. I’m not saying you have to sleep with them every night or even talk to them every day, but they will most likely celebrate most major life changes with you, such as, the birth of your first child (even your second, third, and fourth), big holidays, graduations (from kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, and college), and marriages. They will have an opinion about everything, whether they tell you to your face or through Aunt Marge. They will want you to visit, write, and call. They will simply be your family, because they are the one you love’s family. The important thing is not whether you love them like your spouse, but that you learn to tolerate and accept them for your spouse. If patience is a virtue, then mastering patience with your spouse’s family redefines that on a whole new level. The most important thing to keep in mind is that their family loves them just as much as you do, and that is reason enough to respect them and accept them for who they are.

The Bottle Battle

My daughter has always taken a bottle, since she was about two weeks old. I tried breastfeeding, which didn’t really work out for us, so I switched her to a bottle and the rest is history. In addition to being bottle fed, she never took a pacifier. Unfortunately that meant that the bottle became the way she soothed herself. Even at only a few months old, she would cry like she was hungry, I would make her a bottle, and she would just suck on it until she went to sleep and hardly even drink an ounce! Because of this, I knew from the very beginning that breaking her of her bottle would be a challenge.

My mother-in-law has made a point of sharing with me from the time I was pregnant that my sister-in-law broke herself of a bottle at nine months, and my husband went not so willingly from bottle to sippy cup at a year. My mother, on the other hand, thinks my daughter should be allowed to have her bottle until she is two, because she is a nurse and she knows it easier to track a child’s fluid in take with the bottle. So as you can see, I have conflicting opinions on both sides of the fence and I find myself having to drown it all out and choose what my husband and I think is best for our daughter. So after months of deliberation and quiet arguments with my husband, I have come to the decision that I want to ween my daughter off the bottle by eighteen months.

This is a daunting task for me. Sometimes I think its going to be a bigger adjustment for me than it is for my daughter! I mean, there is nothing better than being able to hand her a bottle at 6:00 A.M. so that we can quietly drift back off to sleep, even if its only for an hour. I also relish the fact that I can hand her a bottle in car when she is being fussy to ensure a quiet, drama free ride home from the grocery store. Yes, part of me knows that giving up the bottle is going to be the biggest challenge because I enjoy the benefits of it more than my daughter does. However, I don’t want my daughter to be three and still clinging to a bottle to help her drift off to sleep or make her behave in the car, and I know first things first I must come up with a plan and stick to it!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and the main advice I can pick up is to do it gradually. “They” say I should start by reserving bottles specifically for nap time and bedtime. After a week or two of that, I should move to only giving a bottle at one or the other, and then I should introduce a soft tipped sippy cup with warmed milk for the other, and eventually I’ll have her taking the sippy cup for both nap time and bedtime. So, this is my plan! She may go peacefully, and she may go with guns a blazing! But, either way, I have to stick to my plan and do what I think is best for my daughter.

I know there won’t be any traumatic childhood memories from this experience, and I know that the sooner I do it, the “easier” it will be, but I’m still dreading this part of the journey, probably more than the “wanting to shave her legs” and “liking boys” part of it. I guess the bright side is that I don’t have to break her of a pacifier too, right?! So, here we go…onward! Onward into another great unknown of my parenting experience! Wish me luck!

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