Thursday, July 31, 2014

The birth story of Francisco Anthony (warning: long!)

To kick off The Happy Wife Project, I'm part of a great blog hop of moms! We're talking about our expectations of what we thought parenting would be like—and what it turned out to actually be. Be sure to read all the stops along the way!

Before I begin my contribution, you should know that this birth story is VERY long, very personal and not for the squeamish. If you're not up for that, this is a good place to stop reading and come back later for a different post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Attachment something

I tend to approach every challenge in life as though I were preparing for a test in school: by studying up and reading everything I can find about it. It worked great when I was a student—I always did well on tests—but I'm not sure it's quite as effective when dealing with Real Life. Still, it's what I'm used to, so I keep doing it.

In keeping with this habit, lately I've been reading up on baby development like it's my job. Guys, I swear, I should've pursued a career in neurology. Infant neurological development is FASCINATING. I've been asking around for book recommendations (please leave your favorites in the comments!) and someone mentioned "The Baby Book" by Dr. Sears. I was interested, but before requesting it from the library, I decided to read the free preview chapter on Kindle.

It turns out that "The Baby Book" is about attachment parenting. Who knew? Well, you did, probably, so don't laugh, but I didn't. I also had no idea what attachment parenting was. I had vaguely heard of it from that ghastly Time magazine cover story a few years back, but pretty much all I knew was that it had something to do with not letting other people hold your baby? Maybe? And considering I love to pass off the baby to the welcome arms of friends and family, and my very social and extroverted baby loves it as much as I do, I was pretty sure this strange attachment-parenting thing was not for me.

So I innocently began reading the first chapter of "The Baby Book" and pretty much the first thing I found was a list of the seven principles of attachment parenting. I scanned down the list and stopped in surprise. The list included baby-wearing... co-sleeping... breastfeeding... belief in the signal value of baby's cries... woah. I practice all of those things.

I turned to Frank, who was sitting next to me on the couch. "Hey honey," I said. "I think we're attachment parenting." Great thing to figure out when your baby is nearly 3 months old. :p

We are definitely not super strict about following those principles, or any style of parenting—our philosophy still is, and always will be, the fancily-named but very low-key policy of adaptive response. But it is cool to know that there is a name for what we're doing! Have you ever had the experience of finding out belatedly that there is an official name for something you've been doing all along?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Building community

Just checking in while Frankie naps and I'm putting off getting work done...

One of the hardest things about moving back to Chicago was leaving the little community Frank and I had formed in Virginia. We had/have such good friends there. One thing that made it a little easier was that several of our friends also moved away from the area around the same time we did. But when we first moved back here, despite having my family in the area, we felt a real lack of community in friends at a similar life stage as us.

In my typical overly friendly way (some of you guys might remember how I used to make friends by going up to talk to strangers after Mass... scratch that, I still make friends that way!), I set about trying to correct that lack when we moved here. It took time—more time than I liked. Frank heard me complain incessantly, when we found out I was pregnant, that we didn't know a single other young married couple expecting a baby in Chicago (and we didn't!). I was worried we would have to do this whole young-parenting gig all by ourselves.

But here we are, a year later, and we have been beyond fortunate to find a lot of other young married couples and new or expecting parents in Chicago. Most are close to us in age, and some of them are even younger than us! It's such a great feeling to get together for our little (silly named) "lactation parties" or cook-outs or movie nights or husbands' softball games. Having a community of young couples who share core values and fun interests has been a total godsend for us, and it just keeps getting better as more and more of our friends get married and have kids. It is so good to feel not alone in this crazy adventure—to have friends who are also dealing with marriage and pregnancy and being first-time parents while trying to establish their careers, pay off student loans, stick to budgets, make difficult decisions about finances and health care and childcare and going back to work, and generally being adults—really, friends who see marriage as a cornerstone rather than a capstone. (And for the record, I am a big believer in marriage as a cornerstone!)

I've also come to realize that community doesn't have to be confined to geography. Last week, dear friends of ours who live in San Diego asked us to be godparents to their beautiful little baby. This is such an honor, especially since the role of godparents or "padrinos" is a huge deal in Cuban culture! Even though we won't be able to be present at the baptism, we cherish this special bond with these friends who feel more like family, and I'm grateful that our community of mutual support extends across the country. The blogging community also makes me feel that way, which is why I love it.

There isn't really a deeper point to this post. I'm just really glad we've reached this point where we have a lot of other friends at our same stage in life. That's all. :)

And of course, some gratuitous baby photos... it wouldn't be a post without them, right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Frankie in his happy place

I've been making weekly videos of Frankie to share with family that lives out-of-state so they can feel connected to his life and watch him grow. I use goofy voices and silly narration to make them laugh ... just to warn you in case I sound a little crazy in this video. ;)

Frankie's favorite place in the world is Mama and Daddy's bed. We put him down on it and he giggles his head off. Last week I had a mission: to capture his happiness when he gets to hang in the big kids' bed. I'd say the mission was a success!

When Frank's dad saw this video, he said, "I think Frankie is talking to angels." I thought that was so sweet. All the family said this was their favorite of the videos I've made, so I figured I'd share it with you to brighten up a Tuesday ... just don't judge us for the mess!


Frankie in his happy place from Theresa Barber on Vimeo.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A minimalist nursery in our 1BR apartment (with photos!)

After all the talk about keeping our baby stuff to the bare minimum, and the list of baby stuff we amassed before the birth, I thought you might like an update on what that looks like in practice. Our goal was to spend as little as possible and keep the baby stuff from taking over our apartment, and I think we've done a pretty good job.

We converted my dresser into a changing table by stacking cheap blankets on top of it, rotating through them whenever one gets dirty. You can see the wet bag for cloth diapers on the right (we use a combination of cloth and disposable):

The nice thing about this set-up is that we can expand the size of the "changing pad" as Frankie grows, plus we didn't need to buy anything new. 

The top two drawers of the dresser hold my stuff, and the bottom drawer is for Frankie's clothing and cloth diapers. It turns out that baby clothing is TINY so all his outfits (and he has at least 30!) easily fit in one drawer. If we had a whole dresser for him, I honestly don't know what we would do with all the other drawers!

As for bedtime, Frankie sleeps in a little travel crib next to our bed. It's just the right size!

I set up this "nursing station" in the living room, with a stack of books to read while nursing, a charging station for my phone, water, snacks, etc. Several moms suggested doing that and I'm so glad I took their advice! The quilt was mine when I was a baby. We can easily move the quilt and nursing pillow to the bedroom when we have company coming over and want the room to look a little more grown-up.

We also have a container in the bathroom for Frankie's bath supplies and two cubbies in the closet for all his blankets, swaddle cloths, sleep sacks, etc. (I have one of these which I share with the little guy). We keep his stroller in the trunk of the car and just pull it out whenever we need it.

The one thing I would like to have if we had more space is a swing. I've heard they are lifesavers. But I substitute my own low-tech "swing" by putting Frankie in his car seat carrier and rocking it back and forth with one hand while reading a book or checking my phone with the other. That works for now, and maybe we'll get a swing for the next baby. :)

Finally, we have this little bouncer seat where I set Frankie when I'm cooking/showering/doing anything where I can't wear him. He loves it, especially with his musical beehive toy that we tied to the top. Here's the little man modeling it himself:

Andddddd that's it! That's all the baby stuff in our apartment. It's working out really well so far. We don't feel like anything is missing. It is so true that you don't need a lot of stuff for baby. We are loving the minimalist approach!

p.s. I stumbled across this article called "Getting ready for Baby: what do I really need?" and thought you might enjoy it! It definitely describes our approach!