Category: parenthood

Today while I was fixing lunch, Jonas and Susannah started doing that ‘fun kid thing’ where they opened their mouths and just yelled, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH” at each other as loud as they possibly could.

No argument, no anger, no issues.
Just yelling.
And the annoying part (aside from the sheer volume) was the dissonance. Oy, my ears.
So I put down the peanut butter and walked over to the table slowly. They stopped. (I think they thought they were in trouble.)
I opened my mouth and made the lowest tone I can muster (my range doesn’t go very low) with a nice big “OM” sound. Jonas’ eyes widened. Susannah grinned. They both joined me and matched my note.
I slid up the scale, and they’d take a half-second to hear it and adjust. (By the end of an octave, Jonas ‘got it’ and anticipated the shift. That was cool.) We got as high as I could go, and I started sliding down the scale. They sang it with me.
When we stopped, they both started giggling and I told them no more crazy screaming, please. They actually managed to just sit quietly while I finished their lunch plates, and ate happily together.
Now they’re upstairs for quiet time, and for some reason I’ve got “She made a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot*” running through my head.

*We used this tongue twister in a vocal warmup when I was in high school chorus. Yay for Mr. Ellis!

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I don’t love waking up all night long. Susannah’s at an interesting stage where some nights, she sleeps from 6:30 pm straight through until 6:00 am. But other nights, she wakes at midnight… and 2:00… and 4:00… more or less. She’s easy to get back to sleep; she just wants a sip of water from her canteen and to be covered back up with her blankets. But last night I was thinking about something interesting when Susannah woke up around 10:00 pm.

When she wakes up, she’s alone in her bed. The room is dark (unless she has turned on her Twilight Turtle). She doesn’t know what time it is. She doesn’t know where everyone else is.

Yet she calls out with perfect faith, perfect confidence. “Mama! I need a sip a wa-tuh!” She cries out my name knowing that I hear her. She tells me what she needs trusting that I will provide it.

Every great once in a while, her faith wavers. I don’t know why – maybe she has a bad dream? Maybe she’s not feeling well? But sometimes, rarely, her voice quivers and she calls out, “Mommy? Can you hear me? Mommy? Where ah you?”

She’s the same kid, in the same room, with the same Mama right across the same hall. But some nights, it’s just harder for her to know that I’ve heard her.

You know what? I get that. Most of the time, I talk to God – my Father – with faith. I call His name and I trust that He hears me. I tell Him what I need, or about the needs I see around me, and I believe that He is meeting those needs. But I have rough days when I cry out and I don’t feel heard. Or really rough days, when I don’t bother calling His name at all. And that’s just as silly as Susannah asking “Mommy? Where ah you!?” – because He is the same Father, watching over me, still caring, still providing. He is always ready to hear me and to minister to me, like a cool sip of water in the dark of the night.
It’s true that as a mom, I’m usually the one trying to teach my little people about God, about His love for us, about His plan for us. But there are moments when God teaches me something about Himself through my kids – and I really love those moments.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-10

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I posted on Facebook today that I heard my mother’s voice flying out of my head today. We were leaving the library, and Jonas had a stack of five books in his hands. As we passed through the automatic doors and neared the parking lot, I said, “Jonas, you have to pay attention to where you’re going. Don’t walk and read – you can read that in the car.”

WHAAAA—–????!!!!
I cannot count the number of times I heard some variant of that growing up. Don’t read and walk… don’t read at the dinner table… don’t read in the bathtub. (Although now they make these cool things, and since I read in the tub anyway, flouting conventional wisdom, how cool would that be? I digress.) The funny thing was, after a short period of time adjusting to my 5-year-old bifocals [CURB!] I was good at reading while walking. I don’t recall ever bumping into anything – anything major, that is. It was just “one of those things” my Mom always said. And today, without even thinking about it, it came out of MY mouth.
*****
Later today, Susannah was picking at a tiny scab on her leg. (This child is constantly dealing with bruises and scabs and various little injuries. Welcome to my world.) Now, here’s a dirty little secret: I’m a picker. I cannot stand to leave things like that alone. I don’t think I’ve ever just observed how long it would take my body to heal a little scab like that; I always mess with things on my skin.
But as I sat beside her, do you know what flew out of my mouth?
“Susannah, don’t pick at that. You’ll open it to infection!”
Hello, Dr. Chris Nebel, when did you take up residence in my Broca’s Area?
That was wierd.
*****
Yesterday, we had a few big rumbles of thunder. Jonas was having quiet time – not asleep, not absorbed enough in a major activity to ignore it. Down the hall he sped, onto the couch and into my arms he jumped. “Mama – it’s a storm! I’m scared of storms!”
I patted his back, and do you know what came to mind immediately?
“I know, baby. But remember: God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. We’re okay.”
Hmmm. Yeah, that wasn’t an original thought either.
*****
So here’s my take on losing my voice: in this case, it’s a good thing. They say that when we’re children, we think our parents know everything; when we’re teenagers we think they know nothing; when we’re parents ourselves, we realize they knew a whole darn lot. I think that this co-opting of my words is happening because the more I grow, the more I realize that the best wisdom comes from outside myself. Opening up to the wisdom of others, especially to the Creator of wisdom itself, and making it our own – that’s the only way to have a voice that matters.
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:13-16

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I think with a little boy, you just have to expect the unexpected. You really never know what they are thinking.

Tonight, our bedtime talk centered loosely around babies. First there was this idea that Jonas and Susannah were “baby friends” when they “knew each other in my belly” before they each came out.

Then he wanted to know if Daddy came out of my belly, too. I explained that he came out of Mimi’s belly, and when I was a baby, I came out of Grandmama’s belly.
“So…. everybody… when they’re a baby….” he started.
I supplied, “…comes out of some mama’s belly. Yep.”
Next inquiry: “But, what about the daddies?” [I realize that at this juncture, he may have been trying to figure out the daddy’s role in getting the babies here. But I didn’t think that’s what he meant, so I didn’t leap in that direction.]
“What about the daddies?” I asked him back.
“Well, if you have a boy in your belly….”
“Oh. If you have a boy in your belly, you have a son. And if you have a girl in your belly, you have a daughter.”
“Okay.” He gets very quiet and thoughtful. Then he rolls over onto his tummy, dangles his long legs over the edge of my bed, and spins around so he can gaze out the window at the leaves which are blowing all over our backyard.
I finally spoke up. “You’re really trying to figure out this stuff about babies, aren’t you, bud?”
He casually tosses back over his shoulder, “Yeah, but I’m also trying to figure out the Clone Wars and Star Wars.”
That is SO not where I thought this conversation was going.

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So, a few weeks ago, I was in bad shape. Before I had kids, I was a 9-to-10-hour-a-night kind of sleeper. Nowadays, I can certainly function on less, but I still have a bare minimum requirement. And it was NOT being met. Not by a long shot.

The solution was pretty simple, once we hit on it, but if not for the guidance of a few friends (who, let’s face it, aren’t currently sleep-deprived) I might not have stumbled across this. So I wanted to share. (And I have a few pictures and links to add to this post – just can’t do it from this computer, sorry!)

***

A few months ago, we had started putting Susannah to sleep in the crib in her room for her first stretch of sleep, then bringing her to our room after her first wake, and then returning her to her room when Chris woke us all up around 4:00 a.m. That was working for a while…. but Susannah was getting restless during that stretch in our bed. She had passed the milestone for using her bassinet (though she hadn’t exceeded the weight limit, she was pushing up on hands & knees), so we were bedsharing. She seemed to want to stretch out and have more room; I don’t like sleeping with my babies on the edge of the bed without a rail (or the side of the bassinet/cosleeper) so I was keeping her between myself and Chris, which made nursing from both sides a leeeeetle more challenging. 😉 Basically: it wasn’t working very well.

My biggest belief about sleep & nighttime parenting is this: you’ve got to do what works so that your whole family gets the greatest quantity and quality of sleep possible. That’s a different arrangement for different families, and as far as the Nebel household goes, that’s a different arrangement just for us, at different stages!

So, since that wasn’t working, it was time for a change. I started trying to keep Susannah in her room for most of the night – I would go in, nurse her in the rocking chair, and return her to sleep. She usually wakes about 3 times each night, so that meant a lot of up & down for me. And when I get up, cross the hall, and sit upright for 10-15 minutes, I get FULLY awake. Then it takes me longer to wind down and fall back asleep. The result was that Susannah was sleeping a little better, but I was sleeping less (and lesser quality!). And then, slowly but surely, she started waking up more often, and taking more than just a quick nursing to get back to sleep. Bobbing and weaving in the dark of her room, I would rock and shush and plead with her to just sleep, please!?, sleep!

And that brings me to where I started this post. After a few weeks of THAT option, I was a wreck. I counted it up one morning: I’d had about 4 hours of sleep total the night before, broken up into 1-hour stretches. Not a recipe for a happy mama, at least not for THIS mama. Something had to change again. My gut told me that she had bumped up her nightwakings because she needed more cosleeping time – if not bedsharing, then at least roomsharing. I sent out a venting, “help me!” email to a few of my AP friends, and was reminded of the idea of sidecarring a crib. (Funny how I already knew about this concept; I’ve even suggested it to parents who are sleep-deprived and looking for solutions at API meetings! But in my own sleepless state, my brain just wasn’t functioning to pull this tool out of the box. Thank goodness for good friends!)

I did a little poking around and found a great website with photos and tips for setting up a safe sidecar arrangment. When Chris got home from work that night, we had a new look to our bedroom! 🙂 The two of us switched sides (which was a strange feeling, after being accustomed to one side of the bed for going-on-8-years of marriage) so that I could be beside the crib, which needed to be up against the wall.

So here’s what’s working for us now: I nurse Susannah to sleep (or to drowsy, at least) in the rocking chair and put her down in our Pack’n’Play in her bedroom around 7:00 pm. She usually wakes up between 9:30-10:00 (which is usually when we are ready to go to bed, so that’s nice timing) and I bring her to our room. She is sleepy, and her diaper is dry – she nurses briefly and falls back into a deeper sleep, and I nudge her over onto the crib mattress. It’s perfect – I sleep great because she’s nearby (and those nursing hormones really do help mamas sleep!) and because I don’t have to get up to attend to her; she sleeps great because I’m nearby and she’s got a full tummy & a dry bum; and Chris sleeps great because I hover near the crib mattress and he gets two-thirds of our Queen to himself! Aaaah!

She wakes around midnight with a different sound in her voice – she needs to pee. I unsnap her jammies, sit up on the bed, and grab our Baby Bjorn Little Potty (which is stationed in the far corner of the crib mattress). Susannah pees, and then I refasten her STILL-DRY diaper, resnap her pajamas, and we settle down to nurse and go back to sleep. Chris usually doesn’t wake up at all, because I can respond to Susannah before she gets really loud or disruptive. Again, we all sleep great.

This repeats once more — for a while it was around 3:00 a.m., but in the last few nights her sleep is stretching a little longer, so it might be 4:00 or 4:30. She wakes up suddenly, with a fuss or cry noise that means “I gotta go!” Her diaper is still dry when I unsnap it; I offer the potty, she pees, and then we lay back down and nurse to sleep.

At that point, she is usually sleeping deep enough that she doesn’t even wake up when Chris leaves for work. (A big difference from before I started night pottying! I think it’s because before, she would go back to sleep in the wee hours of the morning but couldn’t get deeply asleep due to being uncomfortable in a wet diaper.) She seems to be sleeping in longer in the morning – until 6:00 at least, sometimes as late as 7:00 (and in a house where big brother wakes up at 5:30, that’s a big deal!).

***

I’m a big fan of cosleeping. It worked for us for about 5 months with Jonas, and then we returned to it on & off for short stretches sort of circumstantially (when traveling, when he was sick, stuff like that). I am just thrilled that putting the crib as a sidecar is making cosleeping work for us again – and that EC is helping us get better stretches of sleep, who would have guessed that?! – and that we’re back in a “happy place” at night.

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I was recently asked this question via Facebook email:

“Your profile picture reminded me that I’ve been meaning to ask you about baby carriers/wraps. Which ones do you like best and for what stages? Etc. I’m completely uneducated but have been really wanting to learn. Any advice you can give would be great!

Thanks!”

After I typed up my response, I realized it was a pretty good answer and decided to preserve & share it here.

Okay, check out The Baby Wearer — they have forums which are nice (and one is a buy/sell/trade in case you’d want to pick up a used on for cheaper, easier to try out a variety that way!) and good videos and tutorials on putting on each of the different styles. But here’s my 2 cents!

Newborns: LOVE a pouch sling. I have used a microfleece Peanut Shell, a stretch cotton Hotslings (which are available at both Target & Babies’R’Us online) and a reversible normal-cotton Munchkin Jelly Bean (available in-store at Target). I’ve loved all of them; the microfleece had more stretch than I accounted for, so it quickly became too loose as Jonas got bigger and I got smaller post-pregnancy, and I ended up selling it.

Jonas a few weeks old in Microfleece Peanut Shell

Wearing Jonas in the Peanut Shell microfleece pouch, about 6 days old
The Hotslings was perfect for the scrunchy-newborn phase, then didn’t fit so well for a while when Susannah was getting bigger, I hadn’t lost all my baby weight, and she still needed to be carried in the cradle position. It fits again now that I’ve lost the lbs and she is sitting up in the hip-carry position, so I’d say it’s worth the money.
Susannah 12 weeks in Hotslings; our friend Erin with Maddie 12 weeks in microfleece pouch
Wearing Susannah in Hotslings stretch-cotton pouch, about 11-12 weeks old
The munchkin-brand one doesn’t come in as-specific sizing, so it was loose on me at first, then it fit really well when the Hotslings was too tiny, and now it’s still working. Pros to that one: available at your neighborhood Target, no online shopping and/or shipping to deal with.

Susannah 6 months in Munchkin Jelly Bean pouch
Wearing Susannah in the Munchkin reversible cotton pouch, about 6 months old


I’m also a big fan of wraps with newborns. It’s basically a 5-yd long piece of fabric, which sounds really simple, but I’ll admit there is a learning curve for how to tie them and feeling comfortable with getting the baby nice and snug. If you’re new to babywearing, probably not the first choice or what I’d advise if you’re only going to buy one carrier to start with. The wrap I’ve got at the moment is an Ellaroo on loan from a friend – because she ONLY used it during her newborn phase and thought I would as well. I’ve used it on and off for 8 months, but Susannah is now heavy enough –and my other carriers are working well enough– that I’m not reaching for it constantly, so it’s probably time for me to send it back.

Susannah 2 months in loaned Ellaroo

Wearing Susannah in Ellaroo wrap [“Claudia” colorway] at Cincinnati Zoo, about 3 months old

Little baby, with neck control: this is when the fun begins! I have 3 ring slings in various fabrics. These are the best, most versatile babycarriers out there. If I had to recommend a single carrier if you’re only gonna invest in one, I’d recommend a ring sling. Don’t get a padded one (ie, that “Original Baby Sling” they carry at Babies R Us) — the padding gets in the way of the rings and a lot of mamas can’t get a truly perfect fit. I adore my linen one (by TaylorMade), and I have a few friends who have silk ones they like. Go ahead and pick a fabric you love because you can wear this every.single.day. for a year! It is workable for newborns too – but because I own way too many carriers (heehee) I just don’t reach for my ring slings at first. You can carry baby in the cradle, or “sitting” upright with feet criss-crossed Indian style up against you, or on your hip, and even in a back carry with these. This is also the only carrier I’ve ever been able to nurse in while babywearing, so if you’re planning to breastfeed that’s something to consider too!

Jonas in linen ring sling; our friend Staci with Devin in identical sling

Wearing Jonas in TaylorMade linen ring sling, about 6 weeks old

Susannah 3 months in loaned 'fancy' sling at Jason's wedding

Wearing Susannah in loaned silk ring sling at my brother’s wedding, 3 months old

The other great style you can use once they have a little neck control is a mei tai. Mine was custom-made by a friend, but a popular brand is BabyHawk. You can tie them on in front or in back, and there are several different ways to wrap the ties. These are also referred to as ABCs for “Asian Baby Carrier” and there are a lot of brands that make really pretty ones! The nice thing about a mei tai is that it distributes baby’s weight across both shoulders, which is nice. And a back carry is AWESOME for getting stuff done around the house and outings like the zoo, the mall, any time you’ll be walking a good bit.

Susannah 8 months in mei tai back carry





Wearing Susannah in custom mei tai, about 8 months old

Heavier baby:

I have an Ergo carrier, which is an SSC (soft structured carrier).

Wearing Susannah in Ergo, 6 months old

It has heavy-duty clips like backpacks for hiking have. You can technically start using these with tiny babies, but I usually prefer my lighter-weight carriers and wraps when the babies are little. The Ergo is nice because it has an amazing belt that really distributes the baby’s weight and helps you not develop a pressure point from the carry. Easy on and off when you have a toddler who wants “up! down! Up! down!” — adjustable for both mom & dad’s sizes, plus it’s a fairly gender-neutral looking carrier. Most dads I know won’t wear a ring sling but they’ll do the Ergo because it looks like a backpack.
Another brand that’s similar is the Beco – I don’t have one of those, but several of my friends do and love it. [Edit: I purchased a Beco 4th Generation in spring 2011 to use with baby #3. I tried on a B4G when Susannah was a toddler and couldn’t believe how slim and sleek it felt! Since I’m rather short and have narrow shoulders, the difference it made was wonderful. I was able to get a really comfortable carry and felt like the straps were much less bulky than my Ergo. And in a silly note – Beco’s come with some simply gorgeous fabric choices for the decorative center panels! I couldn’t justify the cost when Susannah was already 19 months old, so I waited. Now that another newborn is on the way, I bought a secondhand B4G from a mom in my Attachment Parenting playgroup. I can’t wait to tuck this new little one in for a ride!]
Conclusions:
The only thing I really DON’T recommend is a Baby Bjorn. Research shows that the way the BB positions a baby isn’t best – it allows all of their own body weight to hang at their crotch and puts unnatural pressure on their hips. We had one with Jonas for a few months, but after I read that (and once I started seeing all the cool carriers that are out there!) we got rid of it.

Hey, I just had another thought — you might want to check the Attachment Parenting International website – if there’s a local chapter near you, they often have “babywearing libraries.” Our chapter has 20+ carriers and we bring it to each meeting so parents can see them in person, try them on, etc before they buy one. Among lots of other great resources, their website offers this article Babywearing: A Natural Fashion Statement.

Hope that helps!
Michelle

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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