Friday, April 5, 2013

Sophie, swaddling, and sundry stuff

Sometimes choosing a gift for new parents is so hard. With such bountiful options out there, it really is so hard to narrow things down. Even choosing gifts for yourself by registering is a daunting task. I remember spending days with suggested lists of products from Babies R Us, Target, and Walmart. I made an Excel spreadsheet with columns for items I’d chosen, different patterns for the linens, a column to categorize according to level of need, and one for what store they come from. I called family and friends to ask for suggestions as to products that they love, wish they’d gotten, or bought and never used. It was traumatizing. What if I didn’t get the right swing? Should I get a walker, a stationary activity station, an activity mat? All three? None? I think it took me half an hour to decide which pacifiers to register for.

Sometimes I wish I were more like my husband. His “hey, this one looks good” method is too quick and easy for me. Too stress-less. Every time I try to follow is quick pick lead, an endless stream of questions come to mind: “Do I really need this? Do I need more than one? Is this too expensive? Is it too cheap? Does this have the best color design? Will the baby like it?”

Will the baby care what design it on her bib? Absolutely not. Does that stop me from spending longer than I’m comfortable admitting picking them out? You know it doesn’t.

Now that I’ve been through it, buying gifts for our friends who are new parents has become a whole different experience. Now that I’m a mother, I have experienced a sampling of the plethora of products out there; I should just give them my favorite, the one I couldn’t live without, the one I never would have thought to buy had it not been gifted to me. There are still too many to choose!

Do I go with Sophie, la giraffe? Arguably the best baby teether out there. She was one of the first toys Lily could hold on to herself. She has lasted the test of baby chewing, pulling, throwing, and squeezing. To top it all off, she’s French! What more could this maman ask for? We actually have two: one that still squeaks, and one that I accidentally messed up by submerging with water and ruined her squeaker. (This is now our church Sophie.)

What about the washable liners that lay out on the changing table? On those days when we had 3 blowout diapers, and my washing machine just couldn’t keep up, these pads could easily be tossed in the laundry basket and changed out without having to replace the cover for the changing pad and without breaking the bank. You could have a pack of three of these changing pad liners for less than the price of one extra changing pad cover. A definite necessity.

Or maybe I should give the swaddler? I was always a terrible swaddler. When I was post-C-section and relying on my husband to change diapers and even after we’d come home and I was moving around a little more, I was never very good at wrapping Lily in a blanket and getting it to stay wrapped. He was a master. The nurse showed him how she did it, and he could always get it to stay wrapped nice and comfily. I, on the other hand, relied on the swaddler – the one baby product that we made fun of during the registering process. “How silly looking! It makes the baby look like she’s in a cocoon.” For a parent of an infant who won’t sleep unless tightly swaddled, the swaddler was one of the best gifts I received! Swaddling is also the safety way to keep babies warm while sleeping as it’s not recommended to leave them with loose blankets in the cribs as infants.
(This is Lily in her swaddler and her way too big hat at about 5 days old.)

Decisions decisions…

One really cool thing that we did at school for a coworker who had a baby this month is a dinner calendar. Everyone took a day (or two) and signed up a certain meal to provide for dinner for their family for the last two months of school. New parents have SO much to worry about; the last thing a mother needs to spend time thinking about is what she and her husband will eat for dinner. Cooking for me was one of the BEST ways my family and friends supported me in the weeks after Lily was born. So we all signed up, and 4 days after his baby girl was born when our colleague returned to work, he was greeted with a calendar and the following poem:

Congratulations to your family
on your beautiful baby girl!
No doubt she will be the center
of your forever-changed world.

So you can focus on sweet ________,
your adorable beginner,
and to make your lives a little easier,
we are preparing several dinners.

We send you lots of love,
and we wish you little fatigue.
We hope you’ll enjoy these meals
prepared by your friends and colleagues.

Much love,
your friends at _______

What is your favorite thing to give as a baby gift? Or what was your favorite gift someone gave you when you became a parent?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Plus! (a bilingual baby update)

It has been almost 9 months since I’ve last checked in with you. It was shortly before the start of the school year, and – as all my teacher friends know – all free time flies out the window when August comes rolling around. Of course I had a plan to write weekly posts updating you of my cooking, my crafts, and my communication with Lily girl; however, I rarely had time to actually do crafts or cooking let alone write about it. It has been a hamburger helper and “my husband the chef” kind of culinary year for us.

As I re-read my first (and only) post about bilingualism and Lily, I can feel my trepidation and uncertainty. I felt like a fool: a silly American girl trying to speak French to her American daughter. Half of me wondered if people thought I was strange, and the other half worried that there were Francophiles everywhere judging my incorrect French grammar and lacking vocabulary. I realize now that most of my fears came from my insecurity of being a mother at all, not necessarily the language aspect.  I still don’t know much. I still call my mother at the first sniffle or cough, and I have become a Google queen, but I have become much more confident in speaking to Lily in French.

I think the biggest bit of encouragement is her comprehension. When she was a two-month-old, her smile was less of a reaction to anything I said and more of an alert to something new in her diaper. Now she smiles and laughs when we talk. She seems to understand some of what I say. In fact, if I ask her where her tĂȘte or her bouche is she will gladly show me, smiling to show off her 5 teeth and counting. She loves to blow des bisous, and she waves bonjour and au revoir. My biggest fear initially was that I was doing more harm than good, stunting her English by clouding it with my haphazard French. My education and research told me otherwise, and now I’ve seen it for myself.

When she was 5 or 6 months old, we started trying to teach her some baby signs. I know. It’s crazy. English and French aren’t enough? You want to teach her sign language too? And it did turn out to be too much for me. Stopping to look up the word for something in French and its sign was just too time-consuming, so I dropped the signing and stuck with the French. Only two of our signs lasted: the sign for plus (which Lily changed and doesn’t even resemble the actual sign for more) and the sign for fini.

My next step is to teach her some songs with hand motions: Itsy Bitsy Spider-esque, but French. I have yet to learn any, but we’ll learn together. I hope to continue posting a little more frequently, but we’ll see what life has in store for us as summer approaches. I see trips to French story time at the library in our future… I’ll let you know how it goes.