Thursday, March 29, 2012

If you give a toddler a blender...

~He'll finally eat an entire dinner because he'll be so distracted playing with it that he doesn't notice us shoving food in his mouth like there's no tomorrow.

~He'll take it with him everywhere he goes all evening, uttering ear-piercing shrieks anytime anyone comes anywhere near it.

~He'll take it with him in the bath, causing me to utter yet another one of those parenting comments that I never thought would cross my lips: "I don't care if the blender is his new security object, I draw the line at letting my kid take a kitchen appliance to bed with him."

Other weird things Ian currently enjoys? Biting the erasers off of mechanical pencils, all shapes and sizes of vacuums, eating mac and cheese off the kitchen floor, and dancing around the kitchen holding the iPod while it's blasting the soundtrack from "Smash." Ok, maybe the last one just shows good taste.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


The unfortunate thing about motherhood is that it doesn't come with a biweekly paycheck. We don't get the reassurance of money in our bank account to validate our worth as employees. More often than not, my little tyrant-bosses reward me with sticky fingers, sleepless nights, messes of epic proportions, sassy backtalk and eye rolls, open-mouthed kisses, tight hugs around the neck and an occasional "I love you, Mommy."

But yesterday, I was fortunate to have one of those rare parenting paydays that's even more valuable than money in the bank.

I knew it was going to be a crazy weekend. Piano festival for Ashlynn on Friday night and Saturday morning. Violin Federation for Abby on Saturday afternoon. Violin Federation judging for me mid-morning, and my husband flying out in the cold and dark of Saturday morning before any of the rest of us were thinking about waking up.

But against all odds, it worked.

The best part? Abby got a superior and rave reviews at Federation, then Ashlynn got eight out of eight superiors at piano festival, and was ranked first in three categories. She even got invited to perform her duet with her friend Katelyn in the honor's recital Saturday night. She was so excited she was, quite literally, bouncing off the walls.

Doing the music thing with my kids isn't always easy. In fact, it's rarely easy. I've had lots of times where I've questioned my sanity, questioned whether or not it was worth it. Saturday made up for it, and it wasn't just about the good ratings at the competitions. The best part was watching how thrilled my girls were to be able to perform their best and see their hard work pay off. I had a smile on my face all afternoon seeing my girls beam with pride at what they were able to accomplish.

So while a weekly paycheck wouldn't be all bad, it's days like this that make the hours of practicing, the tears, the money spent, and the endless drives to and from lessons worth it for me as a parent. It's a lot of work, expense, frustration, and time for everyone involved, but seeing their smiles of satisfaction and joy at accomplishing something so worthwhile reimburses me tenfold.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Things I'm learning this week

It's not all about long division, geometry, and past participles around here, folks. Nope, I'm doing lots of learning, myself.

For example, I've learned that a toddler and a bottle of red salad dressing can make a very, very large mess on our already ugly beige carpet. Likewise, a seemingly small amount of toothpaste goes a long, long way when Ian's involved.

I've also learned that buying a violin for my own kid when I'm a violin teacher turns me into one of those indecisive pain-in-the-rear end Suzuki moms that used to drive me crazy during the10 years I worked at the music store. The good news? We are now the proud owners of a very nice 3/4 violin, which at the rate Abby is growing will last us around 8 months. Then we get to start the whole process over again.

I've learned that even my littlest of boys belongs outside as much as possible. Hallelujah for the return of sunshine, blue skies, afternoons outside with dozens of neighborhood kids, and Max wearing "fip fops" every time he heads outside to play. And while Ian still has to learn that running, walking, or riding his cute little toddler bike in the street is not ok, I am so grateful for these wonderful afternoons where I've been able to send my kids outside to wear themselves out.

I've learned that chalk art on the driveway is another sure sign of spring. And it makes me smile every time I look outside.

I've re-learned that having piano festival and violin federation on the same Saturday is more than a little nutty. Add my husband flying to Turkey the morning of both and I have a recipe for Crazy Town.

I've learned that when I committed in September to homeschooling for an entire year and said "No matter what, I won't make any permanent decisions about my childrens' education in February in March," it was very nearly prophetic. Because in the midst of fever-y babies, spelling tests, and fighting children, a public school right down the street, Sesame Street for the boys and a nap for me seem pretty darn appealing.

I've learned that a 20 minute nap on the way home from violin lessons will power my baby for three hours past his bedtime.

I've figured out that applying for health insurance plans has taken years off my life. (How I love me some irony....) And there's nothing like detailing all medical procedures, surgeries and hospitalizations for the past two years to make me feel like a train wreck. Also, for us, there's not a worse time of year to have our group insurance terminated (stupid job) than February.

And, I've learned that even two years post-op, writing the words "Cranial Vault Reconstruction with a Frontal Orbital Advancement" still has the power to make me shudder a bit.

And today I've learned that even though the crazy at my house sometimes makes me feel like I'm about to go over the edge, after witnessing what many other people are facing, I've decided I'll keep my crazy. At least it's comfortable, thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What it's really like to breastfeed a toddler

Yup, I admit it.  My baby boy is 16 months old.  Closer to a little boy than a baby, really.

And he's still breastfeeding.  Several times a day, in fact.  And several times a night, too.  (Yawn)

I nursed Ashlynn until she was 30 months old.  Yup.  2 1/2.  She was almost fully potty-trained by the time she was weaned.

I nursed Max through two surgeries and until I was nearly halfway through Ian's pregnancy. He was 18 months old when he weaned.

(I'm also admitting to recycling most of this post... Having two boys almost exactly 2 years apart feels like having the same baby twice. I've been chuckling lately at some of the absurdities that come from toddler breastfeeding, and remembered this post!)

I didn't start out to be a long-term breastfeeder.  I knew with my first daughter that I wanted to breastfeed.  We got off to really rocky start, and we didn't find a good rhythm until she was well past six months old.  By the time she was a year old, I was pregnant again, and we continued nursing until I had very little milk left and she became disinterested.

When I had my second daughter, breastfeeding was so much easier.  When she hit a year, I didn't think anything of it.  She still seemed like such a baby to me- I couldn't imagine depriving her of something she obviously loved and still needed.  So we kept nursing.  When she turned two, and we still liked it.  It was easy, it was a way to connect.  She peacefully weaned around the ripe old age of 2 1/2. 

There's a lot of good reasons to continue breastfeeding past the "normal" 4 months, 6 months, a year that are more typical in our society.  For example, did you know that in the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements.
(Source: Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet.)

There have been studies done that suggest the longer a mom breastfeeds, the more she reduces risk of getting cancers herself.  And of course, we're all familiar with the stats that say breastfed babies get sick less often (someone forgot to give that memo to my boys...) have less allergies, etc.

That's all fine and good.  But all the boring statistics don't give the real picture.  So, in an effort to normalize toddler nursing, (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?) here's a look at what it's really like to breastfeed a toddler, at least in my world.

Nursing a toddler means learning about all kinds of different nursing positions.  Toddlers are resistant to the nice neat cradle hold of their infancy and are instead more determined to see if they can, in fact, nurse upside down.  (Just for the record, my daughter could.)  Other favorites include nursing while standing up, sitting up so they can watch tv and nurse at the same time, and laying flat while trying to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the nipple as far as it will possibly go.

Nursing a toddler means laughs.  Laughs as they learn to blow raspberries while nursing and spray milk everywhere.  Laughs as you tickle them while nursing and they try desperately to laugh and stay latched at the same time.  Laughs as they finish nursing, pop off, announce "all done!" to anyone within hearing distance and then say "bye," pat your breast, and wave to you as they toddle off to their next adventure.  Laughs as they pop off just as your milk lets down, and they feel the milk spraying all over them.  And lots and lots of laughs when he presses on your breast to make the milk spray again and again.

Nursing a toddler means that you can fix almost anything.  Tantrums, overtiredness, overstimulation, and bonks on the head can all be healed miraculously with a little bit of cuddle up with mommy time.  I've even been know to cure a case of pink-eye or two with breastmilk.  Don't tell my kids.

Nursing a toddler means that there are some busy days where your toddler won't nurse at all because there's too much going on, and you go to bed wondering if he's started to wean himself.

And nursing a toddler means that the next day, you'll probably nurse 57 times to make up for it, and wonder if he'll ever wean.

Nursing a toddler means nursing in some pretty crazy places.  When my daughter was two, she was going through some pretty crazy separation anxiety and refused to go to our church's nursery.  I was supposed to be playing the piano in primary, and her dad was working on Sundays, so she used to come sit on my lap while I was playing the piano.  Of course, sitting on my lap wasn't anywhere near good enough, so I quickly became an expert at nursing and playing the piano at the same time.  The best part?  No one ever knew that's what we were doing.  We've nursed on airplanes, in sacrament meeting, at the Conference Center, in the grocery store, etc.  If we've been there, chances are, we've nursed there.

Nursing a toddler means that you may never get the shower to yourself again.  I had a little visitor pull back my shower curtain yesterday morning.  His face lit up and he immediately started signing "milk" over and over again.

Nursing a toddler often means (at least in my life) nursing frequently at night too.  I think it's just as important that these busy little people get their needs met at night just as they do during the day.  Sure, I miss out on some sleep, but I do get the pleasure of seeing him stir and sign "milk" in his sleep as he's rolling over.   It's so stinkin' cute!

Nursing a toddler means built-in breaks in my day. Ian always wants to needs to demands to nurse sometime very soon after meals and the minute I get done teaching in the afternoons.  It's such a nice way to sit or lay down, relax, and spend some quality time with the baby.  It also works well when there are yucky chores to be done: "Honey, you're going to have to do the dishes, the baby needs to nurse."

Breastfeeding a toddler means very little worry about dehydration and less worry about adequate nutrition.  My boys are very susceptible to stomach bugs, and I always worry about dehydration. But luckily, breastmilk starts to be absorbed in the intestines in as little as five minutes, which means even if my boys keep throwing up, there's a good possibility that there getting at some nutrition. Plus, I know that even if his diet in a normal day consists solely of club crackers and mac and cheese that the breastmilk he gets will make up the difference.

So I know I'm not the only one out there breastfeeding past the age of one. What are your thoughts and experiences with toddlers and breastfeeding? 
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