Monday, March 24, 2014

Bump Club and Beyond Presents Gearapalooza 2014!

This past weekend, I was excited to have been able to attend Bump Club and Beyond's Gearapalooza 2014! Austin was the first stop on the twelve city tour, featuring Jamie Grayson (aka The Baby Guy) at BabyEarth in Round Rock, sharing his multitude of knowledge about all things baby, maternity and parenting with a very eager crowd! 

I attended Gearapalooza last year as well, but I was far too busy trying to covertly sneak off and throw up (it wasn't public knowledge that I was pregnant yet!) to really take it all in the way that I wanted, so this year was much more fun for me! It was also wonderful to have sweet Jackson there with me, rather than just slightly more than a figment of my imagination!

Some of the wonderful sponsors and exhibitors that attended and lavished us with awesome swag included: Nuna, Cybex, Jane, Peg Perego, Beco, Baby Bjorn, Dr. Smith's, and many, many more! It's amazing what a difference a year makes, too! Last year, I ended up going last minute, and didn't really know anyone there. This year, however, I ran into several friends, including my awesome friend Traci who was manning the Dr. Smith's booth, several fellow members of Babywearing International of Greater Austin, the amazing group that took me under their wing when Jack was screaming around the clock and showed me how to properly use my ring sling/beco/moby/etc., a fellow nanny-turned-mommy friend, and a new mama friend I'd met one day while at Target. It really is a small world, isn't it?

As for the presentation, Jamie was just as awesome as last year, providing both information and entertainment and tugging at the heart strings of a gay-lovin' gal like me. The only disappointing thing about the day was that I didn't get a chance for a photo op with him….there's always next year though, right?

Can I also just say how much I adore Baby Earth, the baby store in Round Rock that hosted the event both this year and last year? Last year was my first time visiting the store, and though it's a bit off the beaten path for this Austinite, the selection cannot be beat, and the salespeople are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They're also offering delivery now, too - I know I certainly could have used to have diapers delivered a time or two in my life!

Have you been to a Gearapalooza event? What's your favorite new baby product on the market for 2014? What are the three baby items you couldn't live without?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Swinging Into Spring!

Today was a gorgeous first day of Spring, and as such, we welcomed it with a trip to the park. Not wanting Jack to feel left out, I let him take a little swing on the…well, swings! He loved it! He was very uncertain when I set him in it initially, but once I made it move, he was hooked. The cutest part was that every time he'd come back towards me, he'd get the biggest grin on his face and reach his hands towards me. Aww!

His initial reaction:

  Then he warmed up to the idea :)

Happy first day of Spring!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Erring on the Side of Love.

Before I was a parent, I had all sorts of opinions on what parenting should look like. As a nanny, I thought I knew more than your average childless person - and when it comes to experience with children, I did. But there is nothing - not even full-time nannying - that stands in for actual parenting experience, and all of those "I'll never…" I spouted out prior to having a child of my own, well, let's just say they've nearly all fallen by the wayside.

One of the biggest things I frowned upon was in relation to infant sleep (isn't it always?), and how I would surely sleep train my baby and never, ever let it become a habit to have them fall asleep next to me, or - God forbid - let them fall asleep in my bed. I also, on my pre-parenting blog that some of you may remember from years and years back, once posted about how horrified I was that there was a woman nursing what was obviously a toddler too old to be breastfed still - I mean, if they're old enough to ask for it, they're too old, amiright? (*please note the sarcasm*). To this day, that remains the only post I've ever written that I have later felt embarrassed about. Before you AP'ers roll your eyes and leave the page, however, let me get to the heart of this post: 

I was wrong.

Now, surely, we can all admit that there is no one way to do anything. But for me, for us, for our particular family, I am so thankful that despite having it all figured out prior to having my babies, I was open enough to parenting philosophies to embrace change and realize that attachment parenting is entirely worth all that you put into it. Extended breastfeeding? Check! I nursed Ava to 27 months, and will let Jack self-wean as well, despite the seemingly never-ending barbs of, "She's still nursing?", or "When are you planning to stop?" It remains one of my most proud accomplishments, and I've accomplished a lot! 

Though I was an almost immediate convert from eh-I'll-breastfeed-because-I-know-it's-best to OMG-this-bonding-is-my-favorite-part-of-having-a-newborn, I wasn't as quick to adopt bed-sharing. There is SO much negative stigma attached to bed-sharing, perpetuated mainly by those who know nothing about it and have been misinformed. Rather than the death trap it was made out to be by hospital staff and others, bed-sharing has actually been one of the most amazing gifts I could give, both to myself and to my infants. The first six months of Ava's life were spent in a constant state of fear: Was she breathing? Would she survive infancy? How could I know she was safe without staying awake and watching her breathe? We quickly purchased the popular AngelCare movement monitor that went under her bassinet mattress to ensure she continued to move and breathe, but in order to keep it sensitive enough, it was too sensitive, and the false alarms convinced me that I was awakening to my worst nightmare. Exhausted and at the end of my rope, I read this beautiful and eye-opening article from Dr. Sears when she was nearly six months old, and I've had a baby in my bed every night since. 

I'd be lying if I said that it's been the easiest journey, but it surely has been the most peaceful, and the right one for us. I've been met with many condescending remarks and flat-out argumentative and misinformed busybodies, but never once have I regretted my choices to parent with as much love as I possibly can. My babies have never been left to cry themselves to sleep. I know that sleep training is the norm, and again, I'm not here to judge others parenting choices, only to lament what has worked for us, and what I know I won't regret looking back on. But sleep training - really a formal way of saying letting baby cry it out and learn to sleep alone - is not something that sits well with me, nor is it something that works for my family. I don't have all the answers. I don't know how my everyday parenting choices will inevitably effect my children in the long run. But what I do know is this: If I'm going to have to guess either way, isn't it better to err on the side of loving them too much? Isn't it better to be too available to them, rather than leaving them feeling abandoned and isolated? Isn't it preferable to have cuddled them too much, rather than not enough? Those questions formed the basis of my decisions to adopt attachment parenting techniques and formed the foundation of my own personal parenting philosophy, and so I ask today: 

What shaped your parenting philosophies? What pre-conceived notions about parenting did you abandon once your own children arrived? Which did you adopt as your own? What are some parenting resources or research articles that swayed your ideas about parenting?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jack's First Movie: Frozen Sing-Along at Alamo Drafthouse.

In an effort to help Jack adjust to being surrounded by a bajillion girls day after day, for his first movie, I took him (but mostly Ava) to see Frozen. Get used to princess movies, buddy. Anyhow, it was pretty awesome. Alamo Drafthouse serves a full menu of brunch and lunch food, as well as a full bar, and so while I didn't utilize the latter, we took full advantage of the opportunity to have lunch while singing along to "Let It Go" and while Jack nursed the hour and a half away. Here are a couple photos of his first princess flick :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ava Loves Jack.

Ava amazes me every single day. She's courageous, sharp as a tack, kind and generous, and beautiful. But more than that, she never fails to impress me with the way she treats Jack. Gone is the insecurity and uncertainty that naturally comes with having a new sibling and sharing your mom and dad, and, in its place, compassion and empathy for her sweet little brother who adores her so very much. So much of a person's character can be gleamed by how they treat those that they hold a position of power over, or who are dependent upon them and smaller and weaker than them, and while I know we're talking about a four-year-old and not a tyrannical leader, I'm still so impressed with the way that she treats him. I worried so much in the very beginning when he cried all day, every day, that she would grow to dislike him, but instead of telling him to be quiet and getting upset with him, she sympathized with him and comforted him, saying things like, "It's ok, Jack. Mommy loves you, Jack Jack. You're not alone." Swoon. Now that he's increasingly sweet and happy, she enjoys his company even more, and attempts to "play" with him without any asking on my part. Just the other day, I was pumping and witnessing this beautiful sight:

Each of those 10293812907412038 times I threw up while pregnant with Jack? Totally worth it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Has (Kind of) Arrived!

It's been an unseasonably bipolar weather here in Austin, with more ice days (aka: school cancellations) than in several decades, and warmer than normal days mixed in between (it's already broken 90 here a couple of times in February alone!). So, though I can't say anything about spring being here to stay, I can say that it was here for a matter of hours this past Friday, and we took full advantage of the opportunity to hit a local park post-ballet!

Though it was cold and rainy again this past weekend (so much so we skipped both the rodeo and Kite Festival, which was canceled after two weekends of inclement weather), it was gorgeous again yesterday, so hopefully spring is at least a wee bit *closer* to being here to stay!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Thinkery.

Last September, we made our last visit to the Austin Children's Museum as we knew it, and prepared for the grand re-opening as The Thinkery in its new location in December. I'll be the first to admit I wasn't a big fan of the previous museum. It was poorly lit (sounds like a silly thing to complain about, but when you're frequently trying to supervise five children - give or take - it's important!), parking was a pain in the butt downtown, it was undersized and, as a result, massively overstimulating, and just generally redundant. If you'd been once, you'd been a million times. So while I was excited to see what they would come up with next, I wasn't chomping at the bit to add it back into the rotation of places to go with kiddos in Austin. That's why I'm so happy to announce that I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the Thinkery. I mean, really-and-truly-enjoy, look-forward-to-going type enjoy - so much so that we're members for the first time ever! 

The Thinkery reopened in a space significantly larger than their previous digs, complete with an outdoor playscape that I swear calls to Ava when we haven't been in more than a couple of weeks. If I wasn't routinely wearing a wee baby while there, I'd be tempted to climb on that playscape as well! 

While some popular exhibits are back (Mi Familia comes to mind), many of the old favorites have been revamped, such as the go-to kitchen area expanding to a much larger "farmer's market" - a staple for our visits! 

There is also the story nook, which is also larger (I'm sensing a theme of enjoying how much larger and roomier everything is!), and a toddler-only area that is really cool! Nestled into the upstairs space there is also the gym-inspired move studio, that allows children access to all sorts of mats and other gymnastics type equipment, hula hoops, slides, and more - perfect for a rainy day, which we've had many of lately! 

There is also a water room upstairs, where kids can get soaked (and do, despite the smocks…) experimenting with chutes and other materials in water. To round out the upstairs, there are some really nice nursing lounges (though don't worry - you can nurse wherever you want per state law and my own experience. They're just there for your own comfort if wanted) and a kitchen lab that - if you can get there early and get a spot at - is a great place for kids to do some hands on science!

As for downstairs, one of the big highlights is what we like to call the "light bright room", where you can experiment and create with light bright pegs on darkened walls and tables, as well as create shapes with your body on an overhead projector on the wall. 

There is also the famed engineering area, where you can build just about anything out of anything, and a glass wall to paint - my personal favorite! 

Have you been to the Thinkery yet? What are some of your favorite areas?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ava's Valentine Party.

Yep, you read that right. Nothing is getting done in a timely manner these days :)

Here are some photos from Ava's Valentine's Day party at her school. I am so blessed to be able to make it to some of her events at school, depending on my work schedule, and this was an adorable party I loved being a part of!

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