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Oh, hello there blog. How are ya? Forgot all about you for a while. See, here’s the thing: I’m having a hard time finding balance around here.

Balance in my every day. Balance in my relationships. Just a general sense of balance in my life.

It’s so cliché to say that becoming a parent turned everything upside down, but it DID. Not in a bad way, just in a way I wasn’t totally prepared for.

Did you know five month olds are demanding? They are. Especially when they grab everything, put everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) in their mouths and notice — loudly — when you leave the room. Owen is SO MUCH FUN, guys. Like, loads of fun. But he also requires a ton of attention.

If this comes across as complaining, I don’t mean it to be. There’s actually nothing else I’d rather be doing than playing with my baby. But, I’d also like to, oh…I don’t know…keep my house clean. Or grocery shop without having to plan it around a nap. Or shower and wash my hair at the same time. (I washed my hair today. The last time I washed it was Thursday. We can all say “gross” together, it’s ok.)

We made the decision as a family for me to be a stay-at-home-mom, for Michael to go off each day to work and earn a living for our family. This is an arrangement I feel fortunate to have and I plan on continuing to do it until our youngest is in school. But, when people ask if I like being at home, I usually respond that I love it 95% of the time. The other 5%, I want to put on something non-spit up friendly and spend a couple hours alone and free of diapers, cries and the loneliness that can come when it’s just me and a baby.

That may sound a little selfish, but it is what it is.

So, balance. I’m working on it. I’ve been getting together with other mothers a few times a week. It helps break up the time alone in the house and I think the socialization is good for Owen. We take a mommy and baby yoga class. We walk.

I clean the house in 10-15 minute spurts, tackling the worst offenders first. The pile of dishes in the morning while he plays in his walker. The laundry while he lies on the floor grabbing at his chubby feet. Anything that is super quiet while he naps — IF he naps. And in between, we play together and I marvel as he discovers new things and smile when he erupts in big belly laughs.

And then, there’s this blog. A place I love to visit, but find myself stopping by less and less. And guys, I miss it. I miss YOU. I’m not going to be one of those bloggers who says they don’t care about the comments — I LOVE the comments. I’m a big ol’ comment whore. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the responses from you all that make writing worth it. The community, the stories, the friendships. I really miss it.

So, as I continue to work on the balance, I’ve decided to challenge myself to break out of this rut and for the month of December, I will be posting every week day. I’m putting it out there in black and white because I think it will hold me accountable. Do it. Just write. Write anything. I hope you’ll join me along the way.

- There’s a gift shop in town that I walk or drive by almost every day. Outside the shop they have a chalk sign with a countdown of how many shopping days are left until Christmas. Today is said 41. Forty one days! I always find myself thinking around this time each year that I have plenty of time to figure out what I want to give my family, only to find myself with very little time left and virtually no ideas.

Michael is the kind of “I don’t want anything”, which is guy speak for “I haven’t really thought about it, but if you give me some time I’ll probably come up with something. Like, three days before Christmas.” I used to be great at avoiding this by listening and more importantly, remembering, things he mentioned during the year, so I was great at surprising him. I LOVE surprises. I hate knowing what is inside those pretty wrapped boxes on Christmas morning until they’re opened. I think that’s still the kid in me. But even more than that, I love surprising others and seeing them happy over something I gave them. It’s really about the giving after all, isn’t it?

This year, however, he hasn’t mentioned anything! At least not anything that would qualify as a surprise. So I have (according to the sign) 41 days to figure it out. What are you getting your significant other? Any ideas I can hijack?

- I despise the phrase “You look tired.” Hate it. Because really, there are only two scenarios that go along with it.

One, you’re not tired. Not even a little. In fact, you feel bright and spritely, and you put on some makeup that day and did your hair and think you look super cute. And then someone has to point out that you look tired, which is really just a nicer way of saying “You look like poo”, and you wonder what the point was in getting all dolled up if you’re just going to look like poo tired.

Or two, you actually are tired, because you worked all week, or were up with the baby a couple of times during the night or are just, well, TIRED. In this case, they’re just pointing out the obvious by saying you look tired, which is really just a nicer way of saying “You look like poo”, and gee, thanks. That’s very nice of you.

And it’s not like we go around saying “You look fat today”, because that would be considered flat-out mean. Instead, we sugar-coat it and call it “tired”. Because “tired” is OK.

- Lately I’ve been having a crazy craving for chicken and dumplings. I think I’ve actually had it once in my life — way back in high school at Cracker Barrel — so I don’t know where this craving is coming from. I have no recollection about how it tastes, but it my head it sounds delicious. I did a quick web search for a recipe, and a lot call for cream of celery or chicken soup and that’s kind of turning me off to the idea. Is this actually a good dish, or am I just making it up? Is there a better way to make it without using condensed soup?

- Every time I put Owen in his play walker or Bumbo seat, he inevitably poops up his back. I’ve done a lot of laundry lately. Just thought I’d share. Maybe I’ll start telling him he looks tired after he does it. It’s much nicer than telling him he’s covered in poo.

I had read about it, this thing called sleep regression. I heard rumors of it happening around the four month mark, but was optimistic that the O Man would sail right by it.

Ha. Hardy har har.

No.

There’s a ton of definitions about how long constitutes sleeping through the night at this age, but there’s a general consensus that a 5+ hour stretch before eating is pretty good. Up until about a week ago, we were doing just that. Even more, actually. I’m hiding under the table whispering this…but we actually had some seven and nine hour nights in a row. Sure, I woke up panicked and engorged at 4 a.m., but in a really blissful way. And truth be told, I got used to sleeping more than three hours at a time.

I got used to it real quick.

Then a couple of nights ago, it was a five hour stretch. Then the next night, it was three. And now we’re back to waking almost every hour and a half after 11 p.m. and guys….I AM SO TIRED. I’m dragging myself out of bed each morning and self-medicating with budget-busting chai purchases. And I can’t be mad at him, because he’s four months and is not purposely trying to drain me of all sanity. At least, I don’t think so.

I’ve read the books. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child sits on my nightstand with dog-eared pages. I believe the teaching that sleep begets sleep and have worked diligently to get him on a bath-book-massage-boob bedtime routine. When he would only sleep in a swing and I asked you guys for sleep advice, you all reassured me that I needed to relax because he would eventually give up the swing for the crib (he did) and to try and adopt the this-too-shall-pass mentality.

So I’m trying, again. I mean, I get it. He’s learning new skills that make his brain work overtime. His sleep patterns are starting to mimic those of an adult’s, but he hasn’t yet mastered soothing himself back to sleep all the time. And on top of that, he’s teething, so we have a whole grab bag of fun to work with.

Usually somewhere between 4 and 5 a.m., I bring him in bed with us to nurse lying down and get a couple extra Z’s. While I’m not anti-cosleeping, it’s not something I wanted to do exclusively, as while dad and baby snooze just fine, I sleep lightly, constantly checking to make sure the covers aren’t close to his face and because of that, I’m always freezing because the days of snuggling under my down comforter are long gone.

At his four month appointment, he clocked in at 27 inches and just under 20 pounds. The kid is in the 97th percentile and eats like a champ. We’ve decided to wait on all solids, including rice cereal, until he is six months. He’s definitely a boob man, and he wants it all night long, even if he’s not hungry. He’s using me as a human pacifier to fall back asleep. (And no, he won’t take a real pacifier, because that would just be too easy, now woudn’t it?)

Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready for sleep training.

I’ve been resistant to full-on doing it until now because I really felt he was too young, but it’s time. He’s shown  he can sleep for longer stretches and the pediatrician says that at his size, he can absolutely go five (or more) hours at night without eating. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, and always wait a few minutes when he wakes at night to see if he can settle himself back down. Sometimes he can. More than often, he can’t. He’ll be screaming like a banshee until I walk into the room, where I swear he smiles, winks and laughs to himself.

So I get up. At 11, at 1:15, at 3, 4 and 5:30. I soothe and nurse and while I truly love the quiet moments nursing my sweet baby boy, I’d love it even more at say, just 2:30. Or just 4.

Out of all the sleep training methods I’ve read up on, I’m most comfortable with doing a modified version of the Ferber method. If you want to know all about it there are tons of websites, but it involves letting him cry for short periods of time before going in to soothe him. This is of course assuming that nothing else is bothering him (pinching clothes, soiled diaper, actually time to eat) and that he’s not sick.

I’ve heard from fellow mothers that in anywhere from 3 days to one week, their babies really got it and they were blessed with better sleep until the next growth spurt/illness/what-have-you. I know there is no recipe for a perfect night’s sleep — especially at this age — but there has got to be better than what we have now, which is basically the sleep pattern of a newborn!

I’ll let you know how it goes, and I welcome feedback and stories of personal experience; just none of this “your child will hate you forever because you let him cry alone for 10 whole minutes you horrible, horrible mother” stuff. I’ll be telling that to myself when I’m lying in bed on my hands forcefully willing myself not to get up for another six minutes because OOOH THE CRYING.

In third grade, I was really jealous of some of the girls in my class — the girls who wore dainty gold necklaces with a small cross or star of David hanging off of it. The flashier girls had diamonds on theirs. I thought they were beautiful.

It was almost like a club; those girls who wore the necklaces. Not anyone could wear one. I couldn’t wear one. I wasn’t in the club.

Sure, we decorated the Christmas tree and read the children’s bible with mom. We hunted for the hidden matzoh with my cousins and spun the dreidel. We experienced the religions my parents had been raised in, but with their own twist. It was more about family, kindness, being a good person. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything…except for that shiny jewelry. The priorities of a child.

When people would talk about prayer it used to make me uncomfortable. I associated it with religion — speaking to a specific god.

Do I believe in god? Yes. My god doesn’t have a name; it is not male or female. It is just something bigger than me. Something that makes this crazy world go ’round. But, I never really talked to it. Until recently.

When I became pregnant, I started praying every night. I prayed for the health of my baby, for a safe delivery. A friend once told me that she never really prayed until the moment she found out she was going to be a mother. I understood that instantly. When my baby was born, it was the closest I’ve ever come to understanding religion.

Since that day, I’ve prayed daily. Small thank-you’s, hopes and wishes for the people I love. I don’t know if I believe in the “power of prayer”. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But in the chance that it does, it doesn’t hurt to do it. Especially since really, my prayers have been answered.

Lately I’ve been searching for the perfect necklace to represent being a mother. I haven’t found it yet, but when I do, I will be wearing my baby’s name around my neck every day, permanently a member of the club. Because that baby is my heaven, my world. And proof to me that there’s something –someone — out there.

Owen voted!

Did you?

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