Friday, September 28, 2012

To video monitor or not? That is the question.

This was a huge source of contention in our household before little Teddy Bear got here.  I wanted the old school walkie talkies.  No frills.  No fuss.  What did TJ (the IT Consultant who loves every single digital gadget out there) want?  The video monitor with skype built in, 100 yard frequency, two way receiver, and blah blah blah (I stopped listening).

My very awesome accountant friends gave me a great baby shower and somehow the type of monitor got brought up.  Sidenote:  I swear I worked in Big Four accounting 2 years longer than I would have ever thought possible if it wasn’t for my specific team.  I love them.  Each one holds a very dear spot in my heart.  We would burn the midnight oil laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  We have had heated debates over the finer points of bathroom etiquette, where to stand in the elevator, the proper pronunciation of words, grammar, and I can’t even begin the “would you rather” discussions.  Imagine 8+ of the world’s most opinionated know-it-alls sitting at a conference table for 55+ hours a week.  It’s amazing we ever finished an audit. 

I literally cringed when the topic of the baby monitor came up.  The second I knew their stance, I knew I was done for.  I respect their opinions and once they put their foot down on TJ's side, there was just no way I would ever fight that monster.  They spent a good thirty minutes blasting me for not even considering the video monitor.  Way to push the pregnant lady under the bus guys…

So, now we have the video monitor. We compromised on the mid-range model. What do I think of the dreaded video monitor?  I hate that mother-trucker. Teddy stayed in our room for about four weeks and then we moved him to his own room.  We hooked up the monitor, turned the volume to max, and proceeded to freak out at every peep.  Around 2 months old he slept for eight hours, I kid you not…I stared at the screen the whole time making sure I saw a foot twitch, his chest moving, or any other signs of life.

I compare the video monitor to being addicted to some form of illicit drug (not that I have that experience).  The first step is admitting that you have a problem.  Keep in mind that I do not live in a mansion.  It’s a very small 3/2.  If the baby is crying, there is no doubt you will hear it.  Did that stop me from doing the dishes with the video monitor right by the sink just so I could keep an eye on him?  No.  Did it stop TJ from attaching the monitor to his belt while we were cleaning up for a party?  No.  Problem one: Having the monitor on you at all times.

Problem two: Volume control.  We have a sound machine in his room and we opted for the crickets.  (I wanted something country since I’m afraid he’s missing his down home roots by not being raised in Georgia).  One night when I heard him getting fussy, I stumbled bleary eyed into his nursery and then it finally hit me, “Wait a minute.  The crickets aren’t even that loud in his room.  He’s not making a sound at all.”  Duh.  Again, there is no reason to ever have the volume turned up so high, but as a new exhausted parent I was terrified my darling baby would need me in the middle of the night and I would sleep through it.

Problem three: the actual video.  After we admitted that we had a problem and we turned the volume down, it was time to turn off the video.  It has a switch to where the screen will go black if he’s not crying, but if he starts to make any noise the screen will turn on.  This was the hardest phase.  We would check the screen constantly just to make sure it was still working.  We would turn the volume up to make sure we could hear the crickets and then turn it back down once we knew it was still working.  Also, not to mention it’s kind of hard to relax and sleep with this huge glowing orb on your bedside table. 

So, what’s a new parent to do?  Do you go with the walkie talkies?  Do you go with the video monitor?  Do you go with the one that monitors the number of breaths and movements?  I have absolutely no idea.  You’re going to worry no matter what.  Sorry.  Truth hurts.
My sweet little sleeping angel. We have the monitor mounted above the curtains. It originally was perched right above the crib. As with all of the other steps, moving it further back was another step in the withdrawal process. The screen got cracked in our luggage on a flight and it was ALL I could do to stop TJ from running to Buy Buy Baby to get the higher tech version.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

10 Tips for Flying with a Baby 5 Months Old or Less

1.       It’s a heck of a lot colder in the airport and in the plane than you think.  Bundle up that kiddo in something warm and remember to pack a couple of blankets.

2.       Do not just buy the cheapest flight.  Pick the time of day to fly based on your baby’s schedule.  Teddy is happiest in the early mornings and takes a long nap in the late afternoon so we made sure to book our flights in the morning.

3.       Make sure your baby is eating during takeoff and landing.  The cabin pressure equalizes and it can really piss the kid off.  However, if they are sound asleep and it’s not time for them to eat so they aren’t hungry, just take a deep breath.  If he’s sucking on a pacifier he will be okay.  At least Teddy was.  Like an idiot, I woke him up, tried to get him to nurse, and he wasn’t having it.  I got flustered and was miserable.  On the way back, we just let him sleep and he never made a peep.  Lesson learned.

4.       Have your husband (or flying companion) order a beer.  It’s stressful flying and everyone just needs to take a deep breath and relax.

5.       Sit in the front of the plane.  Even if it was smooth sailing for you, once you land you are going to want off that plane as soon as possible.  Everyone is going to stare at you with either hate or sympathy and you are just going to want to bolt for that door. 

6.       Fly Southwest. They don’t let you board early like all other airlines which is fair but annoying, but what they do have is a great attitude.  The flight attendants are wonderful, and if the flight isn’t oversold they will let you keep the kid in the carseat which is just heaven on earth. Right when you get the gate, just ask if there are seats are available and they will be very happy to let you keep your carseat.

7.       I’m a huge fan of bringing your stroller and carseat and just gate checking them.  I’ve read that a lot of people are fine using a wrap and walking with their babies, but I have a bad back and anxiety so it just wasn’t worth it.  There are pros and cons to bringing a stroller. Ask and I will tell.

8.       Give yourself an hour and a half at least (preferably 2 hours) before takeoff to make it through security.  Even if you are a pro, shit happens.  There’s going to be long lines, a slow TSA Agent, dirty diapers, and you have to bring A LOT of stuff and the last thing you want to worry about is what time it is.

9.       Leave the cute outfit at home.  I’m a big fan of footie pajamas for travel.  The zipper is really easy for quick diaper changes, it is warm and snuggly, and they have some pretty cute ones.  You’re going to get a lot of attention and you want your baby to be real cute, but you are going to scream when you are changing their diaper and doing your best not to touch anything.

10.   Just get over efficient packing.  Bring anything that you think you’ll need for the first couple of trips.  You will get made fun of. You will feel like an idiot.  You will bring tons of things that you won’t need, but it’s a learning curve.  Give yourself a break.    
(There is a ridiculous story for each one of these ten items, and I promise I could keep going with my advice.  I'll stop now.  You got any tips for me?  I'm all ears.) 
This was the first trip.  I have no blanket, just his swaddle.  He woke up freezing.  It's funny how putting a picture in black and white can make a crazy moment look peaceful.
This was our second trip.  Notice the huge blanket, pacifier, and sleeping like an angel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hi, ho. Hi, ho. It's off to work I go.

I’ve touched on it briefly, but in no exaggeration…no, really…I had one of the worst pregnancies ever.  I was sick for nine months.  Again, it’s too soon to go into too much detail; however, the gist of the story is I lost part of my maternity leave, didn’t get into a daycare in time, and wasn’t super duper happy with my job anyway.  Everything worked out perfectly for me to stay at home for a few extra months and start fresh with a new job.

It sure wasn't my original plan, but I wouldn’t trade these past 8 months for anything in the world.  It is unimaginable how quickly Teddy went from a ball of goo that wasn’t aware of anything, to the giggly, clapping, crawling little bull dozer that he is now.  I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to work for about a month now.  I only mentioned it to a couple of people.  Why?  Guilt, mostly.

I’m southern for crying out loud.  My main forms of communication are flirting and the guilt trip.  It’s what we do.  We don’t even realize we’re doing it.  For example, my sister leaves the exact same phone message when I don’t answer my phone.  “Surprise surprise.  You didn’t answer your phone.  What if this was an emergency?  I don’t even know why you have a phone.”  However, when I do answer my phone, I’m greeted with, “Surprise surprise.  You answered the phone.  I can’t believe it.”  I’ve tried pointing out to her that I’m getting guilt tripped no matter, but here again once a Tuggle woman has planted her feet firmly in an opinion you might as well take a cue from Sisyphus and roll a stone uphill (like how I just dropped some Greek mythology on you?).

I digress. I thought I was well acquainted with guilt.  I was wrong.  You have no idea what guilt is until you’ve had a kid.  The second he was born, I was tethered to this huge responsibility.  He never leaves my mind.  Ever.  There is no break from being a mother.  Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t exist anymore.  There’s no break for parents and it’s not something you can understand until it happens to you.  Then, insert the guilt for wanting a break.  You see what I mean?    

Woo wee.  The guilt for deciding when to stop breast feeding.  The guilt for when he should go to his own room.  The guilt for wanting a nap on a cold rainy day but he’s wide awake.  The guilt for just wanting to eat at the table with your husband.  The guilt for wanting to just go to the pool without taking 2 hours to pack everything you need.  The guilt for the first time you are holding them and take a corner too fast and they hit the doorframe.  The guilt for the first time you spend the night away from them.  It's never ending.  (Don't worry, you kinda get used to it.)

Now, I’ve made the decision to go back to work.  Lord help me, the guilt factor which I thought I was maxed out on, just got multiplied by 10.  I start work on October 1st, and it’s like this ticking time bomb in the background of my life.  The second I signed my offer letter, I tip toed into his room, picked up a perfectly sleeping baby, held him in my arms, and cried. 

Any time I get excited about joining the workforce again (because who are we kidding, I will always be a worker bee), a HUGE wave of guilt cascades over me and I think I’m going to drown.  Am I a terrible mother for working?  Is Teddy going to forget me or something?

TJ looked at me, like I had lost my ever-loving mind when I finally voiced my concerns.  He cocked his head to the side like a questioning dog, and he asked, “Do you think you aren’t going to be his mom come October 1st?” Ugggh.  He just doesn’t understand.  Of course, I’ll still be his mother, I’m just afraid that my 8 month old son is going to judge me…wait, what?  Damn.  Maybe I am crazy.  I am 50% excited and 50% devastated.  He did tell me to just give it 3 months and if I think I've made the wrong decision then just quit.  I may have the most understanding husband in the world, but I'm a firm believer than men can never fully grasp a mother returning to work.
A quick look at my sabbatical from work:
January - First day home from the hospital
February - First trip to the lake

March - Picnic in the yard

April - Easter in Georgia

May - First time in the pool

June - First trip to the beach

July - Before West Nile 2012 ruined our outdoor play time

August - Supporting Nolan and team Georgia

September - First Dove Hunt

It's been amazing.  In fairness most of the pics occured on the weekend anyway, but I'm still pretty darn sentimental right now.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Want To See My Underwear?

If you are ever curious about what kind of undies I wear, just pop in unexpectedly and use the spare bathroom.   I take a bath every night (most nights with a glass of wine) to just calm down from my day.  I leave the clothes in the floor even though it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to pick them up when I walk back to our room.  My bathroom at my parents house has an awesome laundry shoot, so I’ve never had to take my dirty clothes any further than the bathroom (at least this is the excuse I give my husband every time someone knocks on the door and I go dashing into the spare bedroom to pick up my clothes). 
By the time you’d get out of the shower, mama would already have your bed made up (partly because she knew that I’d hop right back in that bad boy and go back to sleep).  She’s the mom that does not ever sit down.  Ever.  There are always dishes to be washed, clutter to be put away, a yard to mow.  I am very much Mary Tuggle’s daughter.  I LOVE things to be clean and in their place, but I’ve also got a touch of Johnny Tuggle which means I’m perfectly happy letting things slide and sitting and enjoying the party.  I think I have a good balance of things, but once again, this whole “having a baby” has thrown a wrench into my identity.  How much do I clean and how much do I just play with my little baby and make a mess?
For one reason or the other, I feel like the foot traffic at our house has nearly tripled since having the kiddo.  It’s easier for people to come over here at night so we don’t have to worry about a babysitter and people just want to come by and see his cute face when they are on errands. I’ve found myself keeping the house presentable way more as to limit the panic attacks when I get a text that says, “Is now a good time to pop in?”
One of the harder things to adjust to life at home was how much I clean.  When we both worked and it was just two of us, we’d clean at night, get up and go to work, come home, and the house was still perfect.  We’d just clean up the kitchen and our room, but the house stayed relatively clean.  Wooo.  How I miss those days.  It took me forever to figure out which rooms and when to clean with the baby.  It was a nightmare.  I empty the dishwasher at least twice a day, do a load of laundry a day, and I always have something in my hand transferring items from one room to the next. 
Does anyone have a nice clean house all the time?  Are we the only people that scramble to make the house look presentable when guests come over?  Don’t get me wrong, right before we go to sleep the house is immaculate, but I’m not trying to clean the house ALL day.  I straighten things up but as our day progresses from room to room there will be little things left, dishes hanging around, and dog toys all over the house. 
Like I’ve said before, I’ve no doubt got a touch of OCD so it’s very painful for me to have a cluttered and messy house.  Nothing does my heart more good than when I go to a friend’s house and see dishes in the sink, because that’s real life.  Dishes are dirty.  You can’t walk 10 steps without stepping on a dog toy.  Clothes are thrown all over the floor even though there is a nice empty laundry basket in the corner.  The mail you started sorting two days ago is spread out on the coffee table.  Books are strewn from one end of the nursery to the other. That’s real life. 
All that to be said, I’d still like you to give me the 15 minute warning that you are headed over so I can shove things under the bed and in the closet and pretend like I’ve got this whole mommy thing down.
This little mess maker is worth it though.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Driving with a Baby Around Town**

It was a beautiful spring day the first time I drove with Teddy in the car.  I got him loaded up for just a quick drive to Sonic for a watermelon slush.  I’d gotten the all clear from the doc to drive again (have a mentioned what a pain a c-section is?), was off the pain meds, and TJ was back at work.  I put my big sunglasses on, opened the sunroof, rolled down all the windows, turned up the radio and started singing along to my old school mix of Jay-Z’s, “99 Problems,” and I was off.  I backed out of the driveway and was a happy camper.  I had driven maybe 30 seconds and peaked in my rear view mirror.  I damn near swerved into oncoming traffic!  His blanket was flapping in the wind, he was in full sunshine, and I was officially the worst mother on the planet.  I immediately turned off the radio, rolled up all the windows, and closed the sunroof.  I spent the next 3 minutes of the drive to Sonic apologizing to Teddy but promising one day he will understand how great it is to drive with the windows down. 

I learned my lesson pretty fast and got used to windows up, radio down driving.  We continued this way without incident for a few weeks.  This spring was glorious and I spent most days at the park with several friends.  We were trying out a different park and it had stairs so I was going to leave my stroller and car seat and just carry him.  I made sure to pick a shady spot because my black car with black leather seats heats up pretty quickly.  Mental high five for being one step ahead.  We had a great time and a few hours later it was time to pack ole Teddy Bear up and get ready for the nap.  Ut oh.  He fell asleep in my arms on the walk back to the car.  Ut oh.  The sun had moved and my car was sitting there baking.  Ut oh.  My back was already hurting from the long walk and lugging my little chubby fat fat baby.  Panic.
I opened the door and felt the heat wave wash over me.  I immediately cranked the car and blasted the air conditioning.  Do I leave the cranked car to walk back to my friends? There’s no shade for me to sit and wait.  It’s either roast the baby standing in the parking lot or roast the baby in the warm car.  I decide to walk back to my friends and just let him sleep on me, when I look back and see them packing up too.  Crap.  Fine, I’m going to risk it in the car.  I check the buckles and they weren’t hot so I loaded him up.  I don’t know what was more dangerous: the fact that I had a baby in a warm backseat or the fact that I was driving 50 mph on back roads. Mother of the year – I am not.  I arrived at our house and jumped out to check on him.  News articles of babies dying from being left in the heat are running through my head and I can feel my heart beating.  Did I just kill my baby?  I swing open the door and there is sweet little Teddy, sound asleep, peaceful, and happy (albeit a smidge sweaty).  It was a balmy 75 degrees and I just knew that I roasted the baby.  It’s official.  I’m a crazy person.

Fast forward several months to last week and we are on a nice Sunday drive.  Teddy is 7 months old and we are in TJ’s truck.  Teddy is babbling in the backseat and TJ has to swerve kind of quickly to miss some debris in the road and Teddy literally starts yelling.  It’s the cutest thing we have ever heard.  He can now reach the shade on the car seat so he plays with it and just has a fun ole time.  TJ turns a little too quickly to see what Teddy would do (enough for me to give him a look and him to say he was sorry).  Teddy braced himself for the rest of the ride home but was laughing the whole time.  I think we might have a racecar driver on our hands after all. 
Here a couple of pics from the day TJ was driving.  Seriously, the kid is hanging on for dear laugh.  I wish I had recorded his giggles.

*We just drove four hours for some Labor Day fun and that post will be coming soon... "Driving With a Baby Damn Near Caused a Nervous Breakdown"