The Me and Not-Me

I think this will be my most reflective post yet- literally. I have been fascinated by my baby's fascination with mirrors lately. And I recently learned that what I was mistaking for baby vanity is actually an exercise in self discovery.

Holding CeCe in front of a mirror brings out intense stares, smiles and giggles. I can only imagine what goes on in her head when she is checking herself out in the mirror.

"Hey girl- you look good. That loaded diaper does wonders for your butt. Ooh, that spit-up stain down the front of your jumper works for you. And your hair looks FAB-ulous. Rock that bald spot in the back."

But last week my former professor and awesome life adviser filled me in on a little factoid- mirror play is a major part of a baby's development in forming self-identity.

I've been searching for more articles on the subject, but here is the Wiki entry on the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan's mirror stage.

My dad referred to this as the "Me and Not-Me" discovery. Mirrors help a baby realize that there is a world outside of themselves, and this can stimulate verbalization through the need to identify all these new things that exist externally.

This also set off a lightbulb in my brain as to why CeCe always stares at other babies with such a puzzled expression. She has no idea that she is one of them.


Dinner with CeCe

Let's take a look at how our attempts at solid food are going:

Just hanging out in our high chair ...

          Snuck in a little applesauce ...

... and it apparently tastes like wet cement.

       "Why are they doing this to me?"

"Get that stuff AWAY from me."

    "These lips are sealed, Evil Woman with spoon."

I am eventually forgiven, and we live to try another jar of mush tomorrow.


Homework for expectant Dads

I will be the first to admit it- I am a full-blown, 100 percent, complete Daddy's Girl. And I have the feeling my daughter is going to be one as well.

The relationship between a father and daughter can go many different ways. It will either teach the girl that she deserves love and respect and build self-esteem, or it will become the explanation for why she is a stripper.

Because Matt is an only child, he did not experience growing up with girls the way my poor brother did. (My sister and I are pretty difficult human beings- my brother should be a great boyfriend.) So when we discovered I was pregnant with a little chica, I bought this book to help Matt prepare for the onslaught of pink, princesses and dress-up time that was soon to come:

"Tea Parties for Dads" by Jenna McCarthy is a slim read, so your man won't feel like it's more baby homework. It gives cute tips while providing explanations and guidance. So Dad won't just know to expect that your baby girl will want to rewind "Cinderella" fourteen hundred times per day, he will understand why she is obsessed, and can even turn movie time into a lesson on girl-power.

My favorite part is the princess cheat sheet - a list of the main Disney chicks, their male counterparts and a basic plot. A definite life-saver for a dad new to the world of tiny women.


Eating Disaster

Nothing is safe from spit anymore.

The age has come where anything my daughter can grasp in her chubby little fingers will go straight into her mouth. Toys, plastic or cloth; her own feet, clothed or bare; Mommy's fingers, Mommy's hair, Mommy's necklace, Daddy's glasses, any wet leaf or chunk of dirt trailed in on our shoes. All things look delicious.

It may seem that this list has no end, but there is one thing CeCe will not put in her mouth. And that is food.

The babe will be six months next week, and we are acutely aware this is the age where we should be introducing solid food. But Ce seems content to chew, gnaw and suck on the wrong end of her pacifier then insist on the boob when she is actually hungry.

We have tried rice cereal and oatmeal, and the baby resisted with the ferocity of a bucking bronco. She nearly flipped herself out of her high chair when I dared to put the spoon to her lips. Point taken, child.

It's a universal rule that candy is better than broccoli, so I thought we could appeal to CeCe's untapped sweet tooth with some fruit to get her in the swing of eating solids. I popped open some bananas and applesauce, and we made a small step forward. Babe no longer threw a hysterical fit at the sight of utensils, but we still couldn't get the mush to its intended destination.

I admire my daughter's unique approach to eating. Instead of allowing the spoon to enter her mouth, she had the innovative idea to stick out her tongue and plop it into the hollow of the spoon. She seemed to enjoy the taste, but the applesauce-laced cereal became more of an exfoliating facial scrub than a meal.

Any tips on how to break through this wall are welcome. Because I am getting desperate enough that my next step is just to slather her toes with mashed pears. At least that way I know it will get into her mouth.


My Baby Registry Must-Haves

Have you ever opened a festively-wrapped Christmas present sitting underneath an elaborately decorated tree only to discover a pair of socks? Or maybe it was a package of underwear. And even not cute pink hip-huggers. They were big old white suckers that could have been used to sail a ship.
Your mouth was probably saying, "Gee, thanks Gran." But your head was thinking, "Seriously? How boring can a gift get?" That feeling completely reverses when it comes to a baby shower.
Everyone wants to bring the baby outfit that will make the crowd go "Awwww!", or the toys that light up and make obnoxious noises. (Of course you think it's cute- you don't have to hear it five thousand times a day.) People go crazy over pink frills or newborn sailor suits, and understandably so. They are freaking cute.
I definitely appreciated all the beautiful gifts from my friends at my shower, but over the last six months with CeCe, I have learned what really were the most useful things.
If you are looking at a friend's registry the day before the shower and these items are still left, do that mama a solid and buy them. They may seem boring and won't wow the crowd, but any mother can tell you these gifts are always winners: 
  • - Plain white onesies. Within six weeks they will all have poop stains up the back, and at any given time two-thirds of the supply will be in the laundry. You can absolutely not have enough of these bland, yet necessary, fashion pieces.
  • -Waterproof crib sheet. Stripping down a urine-soaked baby is enough of a hassle. Make clean up easier with a barrier between your baby's bottom and the mattress. I've thanked the Lord for our crib sheet three times this week alone.
  • - Diapers. And not just newborn sizes. This may not seem like a fancy gift, but one box saves $50 and a late night scramble to the store when Mom unknowingly gets down to the last Pamper.

  • - Nursing supplies (for the breastfeeding mamas.) Even close friends may find it awkward to buy a gift that pertains to someone else's boobs. But pumps are expensive and nursing pads are used frequently. Maybe get a group to throw in money and buy Mama that Medela. It's a lifesaver.
  •  - Gift cards. You think they are impersonal- a new mom thinks it is perfect. Mama may think she has everything baby needs. But within a month she will realize the baby bath she registered for sucks and wants a new one. Enter that beautiful little plastic rectangle you gave her, allowing her to purchase what she wants with peace of mind.


Daily Battles of an Army Wife

As much as I love writing about motherhood, I equally enjoy reading about other moms and their unique experiences. Which leads me to introduce our new contributing blogger!

Savannah and I went to high school together, and since our days as Tomcats much has changed. She is now a 23-year-old step-mom to 9-year-old twin boys. And her husband is currently serving in Afghanistan. Oh, and she just joyfully discovered that she is pregnant for the first-time. If this isn't a mother with some stories to tell, I don't know who is.

Readers, please meet Savannah:

"I was 17 and freshly out of high school when he walked into my friend’s basement, only having been back from Iraq a few days and wearing a t-shirt that said, “Nothin’ But Trouble”. I should have known that was the day I laid eyes on my future husband, Captain Nick Palmer.

We shied away from each other for a few years, him being an unsure 25-year-old single father of twin boys, and me not being of legal age to actually date him. However, fate ran its course in the end. That same night I met Nick, I also laid eyes on the twins for the first time as they were sleeping in their cribs. I remember saying, “They’re ADORABLE!” I never would have dreamed that in a few short years they would be calling me “Mom.”

Soon after, I headed off for college and the care-free life of a co-ed. Then over Thanksgiving break in 2006 I ran into “Trouble” again. That was it for me! He asked me on a date that night and in what seemed to be no time at all we were married on June 27, 2008. It was off to Fort Knox immediately to make our first home.

The transition from a party-hopping college student to a military wife and mother of two 6-year-olds wasn’t as easy as I expected. I had my share of bad moments: tears over the washing mashing overflowing with bubbles because I used too much soap (unfortunately, that wasn’t a one time occurrence), calling my mom and step-mom nightly for tips on how to cook, trying to navigate around a military post, and getting nasty glances from the nurses at Ireland Army Community Hospital when they did the math on what age I would have been when the twins were born.

My friends were hours away, there was no family nearby, and I had a panicked feeling that at times was hard to shake. On the other hand, seeing my husband every evening after work, getting beautiful bouquets of sticks, leaves, grass and weeds from adoring little boys, and walking with a little hand in each of mine on our way to their first-grade classrooms provided the incentives to keep me pushing through the growing pains.

Fast forward almost three years and four homes later and here we are. I’m now a 23-year-old stay-at-home mom. The twins will be finishing 3rd grade in a few short weeks and are involved in every sport possible. We have a dog named Roxanne who could give “Marley” a run for his money. Nick has been deployed to Afghanistan since May of last year, and thanks to his recent 2 week leave, we’re now 8 weeks pregnant. My how things change! 

Just when I’ve mastered house-hold chores, teacher meetings, and juggling this circus we call home, a whole new chapter in my life awaits. Things are tough, especially at a young age and with my husband and “battle buddy” on the other side of the world, but obviously I’m often up for a challenge."


My Mother's Day Card

Hallmark chooses some beautiful words to grace the covers of Mother's Day cards. But after becoming a mother yourself, the words you really need to use to adequately thank your own mom are not exactly poetic. This is what my card to my mom should say, although no respectable card company would ever consider this:


You endured constant vomiting, swollen feet, puffy fingers, hemorrhoids and countless other complaints while housing me in your stretched out belly. 

Once I arrived, you then suffered through stitches in places no woman wants to imagine, cracked nipples and the temporary inability to urinate without pain. 

You sacrificed sleep to deal with my hunger and loneliness, and then later sacrificed sleep to deal with your fears of my latest boyfriend and potential to sneak out of the house.

I tested the boundaries and you never once strangled me, although at times I'm sure it was difficult to refrain. 

You allowed me to make stupid decisions without rubbing it my face later, and cheered on my potty training efforts like I had won Olympic Gold every time. 

Thank you for dealing with my crap and allowing me to live to have a child of my own, so that the tables may turn and I am now the puffy, sleep-deprived mad woman of the family."

I recognize all of this now that I have a child. But I have to say the one thing that hits my heart the most on my first Mother's Day is this: I know how much I love my daughter. And the knowledge that someone loves me that much is powerful enough to knock me to my knees. 

Happy Mother's Day to all the women out there who contribute to raising a child. Whether you birthed your children, adopted, are a grandparent or just a strong female presence in a child's life, today you are celebrated. Now go get back in bed and make someone bring you flowers and pancakes.


Online Overshare

Technology is changing the way we do everything it seems, but there is one area where I am not too keen on the revolution. While I am thankful for medical advancements such as the epidural and the invention of Skype so CeCe can see my parents on the computer, I think that social media is affecting our pregnancies in a way that has many negatives.

Did you tell your friends you were pregnant face-to-face or through Facebook? Did you talk about it, or tweet about it? Have you been declared the mayor of your OB's office because you've checked in there so many times?

I do like the idea of getting updates about my friends' future babies when life gets too busy for a personal report. But does the Internet encourage over sharing?

My first point stems from fear. We don't like to talk about the chances of miscarriage, but they are very real for far too many women. I remember my mother advising me to wait to tell people I was pregnant until I passed that window. But now we are announcing our exciting news to the world the second after we pee on the stick. For every person you tell you are pregnant, that is just as many people you will have to face if the unthinkable happens. The devastation would be enough without having to answer inquiring wall posts or DM's about your pregnancy.

Beyond the scary "what-if's," I also look at the intimacy of it all. Matt and I agreed that when we have a second baby, we are not telling anyone until my regular pants no longer fit. Nine months is a long time. Women are pregnant for the better part of a year (or what seems like one million years) so there will be plenty of time to share with the world past your first trimester.

Countless commentaries have been written about our generation's assumption that everyone wants to know our every thought. We are obsessed with reporting on our daily tasks and thoughts (note: "Mary is in the bathroom" is NOT something I EVER need to know.)

There is a line to be drawn. For example, I do not want to see a Facebook status informing me of how effaced your cervix is. I do not want to see a tweet updating me about how dilated you are, and I will completely understand if you do not immediately post pictures of your five-minute-old baby. It's like your uterus has it's own Blackberry. Go ahead and tell us you are in labor. Yay! Then put down your phone and immerse yourself in the moment.

I know this may read as hypocritical. I write a blog where I chronicled my pregnancy experiences. I just think there is a difference between keeping a journal meant to express feelings and empathize with others, and blowing up your news feed with daily pictures of an expanding belly starting at week three.

What do you think, readers? Do some women take it too far when sharing personal information in social media? Or am I just an old-fashioned grouch at age 23?


Mommy's Make Up Bag

I remember my first solo trip out of the house after my baby was born. And by solo, I mean just me and the baby. My mother had gone back to my selfish father who wouldn't let me keep her as a free, live-in nanny forever.

I took CeCe to the grocery store and the startled reactions of fellow shoppers made me realize – I looked like I had hit by one train coming and one train going. Raccoon eyes doesn't begin describe the appearance of a mother with a three-week-old. My hair was still sopping wet from my five-minute shower and I'm pretty sure my shoes didn't match.

I have since learned how to fake the appearance of a put-together, “Why yes I had to time to blow dry my hair” Mom. Although I'm pretty sure, they don't really exist. To create the illusion, here is what I keep in my diaper bag at all times: 

  • Clear mascara. No worries about tarantula-leg eyes or the mascara running down your face when you have a hormonal crying jag over nothing in particular. Also, it helps tame crazy eyebrows after you've collapsed face down in a pillow for a mini-coma.
  • Facial highlighter pen. I used this in college to hide hangover eyes and the magic transfers over into motherhood. Dabbing just a touch on those bags can make you look like you got a full four hours of sleep. 
  • Headbands. I have never been able to make a messy ponytail look chic. Mine always look like I am a mental institution escapee. Even if your hair isn't brushed (or washed) I found people are willing to overlook that if there is a cute piece of fabric to distract them.
  • Chapstick. No need to use lipstick, especially when it will end up all over your baby's face after a kiss attack. Simple chapstick will keep your lips looking polished without taking any time at all to apply.
  • Face moisturizer. I hardly ever wear all-over face makeup anymore. A good lotion makes my skin feel better than a layer of powder or beige goop. And at the end of a long day with your baby, the last thing you're going to want to do is a 30-minute makeup-removal routine.

But whether you decide to go completely bare-faced or glam it up like a Kardashian, just remember to smile, Mama :) That's a feature that needs no cover-up.