“Psssst…Gracie?” whispered Bean. “Are you asleep?”
“Well, not anymore,” said Gracie.
“Oh, good,” said Bean. “Cause you’re laying on my pig and I’ll…just…take….him back…if that’s okay.”
“Actually,” said Gracie. “I think that’s my pig. It was one of my presents.”
“Presents? I didn’t get any presents. What’d you get presents for?”
“Oh, you know,” said Gracie. “For being borned.”
“Yeah. I was borned, so people sent me presents.”
“What’s so important about being borned?” said Bean. “I was borned before, too, you know.”
“YOU WERE?!?!” said Gracie. “You were borned, too?????”
“Yep!” said Bean.
“Hmmm….” thought Gracie. “Then I guess I got presents because people liked me more than you.”
“HAHAHA!!” laughed Bean. “You’re so funny, Gracie!”
“What are you laughing at?” asked Gracie. “It could be true, you know. They really might like me more than you.”
“Oh, Gracie,” said Bean.Â “You’ve got a lot to learn around here, kid.”
Chris and I have been fighting. We’re not big fighters usually. We disagree and we argue like anyone else, but we don’t get into fights very often. Especially in the past couple years. We know each other and what our sensitivities are and we have a pretty routine, predictable family life. There’s just not that much to fight about anymore.
Enter a new baby.
We are going through the transition right now, though, that I remember going through with Bean, too. It’s the transition and reorganizing that comes with adding a person to your family. Suddenly, household responsibilities are changing. Needs are changing. Demands are changing. And in the middle of all that change, Chris and I are still trying to keep things as normal as possible for Bean Man.
And we’re doing all of that on minimal sleep.
Turns out that Miss Gracie is a demanding little diva. She’s been fussy in spurts and, unfortunately, those spurts are usually in the middle of the night. I don’t blame her. Being a newborn is hard work, man! You’ve got to get control of those pesky arms that continue to flail and somehow manage to find their way out of even the tightest swaddle. Add that to your already hard schedule of learning to eat and poop and do just about everything, and well…it’s a full day.
But you can’t blame Gracie for being a baby.Â There’s also the fact that we haven’t had a newborn around for quite some time. As much as we remembered from when Bean was born, there is really nothing that prepares you for living la vida newborn.Â Each baby is their own individual, unique person, so having Gracie as a newborn is very different than having Bean as a newborn.Â And regardless of how many babies you already have, learning to care for and love your new baby is a big job.
And on top of those things, I’m staying home for a while and Chris is working.Â That’s a big change in our dynamic.Â Chris comes home at the end of the day tired and ready for a break.Â And by the time he gets home from work, I’m tired and ready for a break, too.Â It’s not that Chris’s day is more or less stressful than my day and it’s not that one of us is doing something more important than the other.Â It’s just a different routine and one that leaves both of us tired and cranky at the end of the day.
So, when our middle of the night rendezvous with Gracie keep us up for the few hours of sleep we might actually get, both of us are frustrated and tired.Â And since it’s just the two of us standing there, we take it out on each other.
In the heat of battle, it’s easy to point fingers and lay blame on each other, but the truth is that it’s neither of our faults.Â We’re just tired.Â And we’re adjusting.Â We’re in the middle of a transition and a major change.Â And if the past year has taught me anything about change, it’s that sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.Â So, that’s where we are.Â We’ve taken a big, giant step back and, frustrating as it might be, we’re getting through it because we know the two steps forward will be here before we know it.
I’ve been asked a few times lately about how Chris and I manage our time as a family. With two full-time jobs, two kids, this blog, two dogs, and all the things those obligations require, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming around here. And, as one blog reader asked, “Do you burn dinner or do the laundry?!?!” How do you set priorities when everything seems like a priority?
When I had Bean and then went back to work, the only way to manage my time was, sadly, to lower my expectations. Sometimes, laundry was going to pile up. Unless I wanted to spend my precious little time at home slaving over the washing machine, there was just no getting around that. And, occasionally, take out was delivered to my doorstep. Sometimes more than once a week…
Now that Gracie is here, my expectations of our household have been lowered even more. Laundry often gets done only when I realize I have run out of burp cloths. Or underwear. And I’m lucky if the floors get swept once a week (and anyone with two dogs can tell you that once a week is NOT enough…). Our veggies frequently come out of Green Giant steamer bags and Tyson should send me a thank you card for all the chicken nuggets we consume around here.
You know, I say that my expectations have been lowered, but that’s not really what is going on, I guess. What’s happened around here is that priorities have been shifted. Laundry is a necessity, but is not a priority. Take today, for example. Every laundry hamper in our house is overflowing. Bean has no clean shorts in his drawers and I’m pretty sure Chris is out of clean undershirts. But, the weather was gorgeous outside and by 11:00 this morning, Chris and I were playing in the pool with Bean. Should I have been doing laundry? Absolutely. That would have been the responsible thing to do. But spending time as a family is a big priority for us and laundry is not. So, the pool wins.
To be honest with you, I’m completely fine with a house that is often in a state of repair. We’re clean enough and we’re clothed in mostly clean clothes.Â And that’s good enough for me. Take, for example, these pictures of my house at this very second:
This is my kitchen counter. It’s the catchall for things that don’t have a permanent home. It drives me nuts and about once a week, I frantically sweep everything from the counter into the trash can. Then Chris gets mad because I threw out his latest copy of some geeky magazine. Then we fight. Then next week the counter gets messy all over again.
My kitchen at the moment is fairly clean, but no matter the state of cleanliness in our house, Bean’s toys are bound to make an appearance. This time it’s Rex from Toy Story. I think he’s waiting for food to fall, just like my dogs. Evolution at it’s finest.
Since we’ve been spending so much time outside, my back porch and yard are constantly littered with junk. Toys, pool floats, acorns that Bean has collected from the front yard. Thankfully, this mess stays (mostly) in the front yard, so my neighbors still think I’m relatively neat and orderly. Suckers.
And, as we speak, there is a putting green in our living room. It’s been there for three days. Chris has been working on his golf swing and he dragged this out for practice last week. The dogs think it’s a patch of grass and they sprawl all over it like they are napping in the sunshine. Bean thinks it’s a runway for airplanes. Why haven’t I moved it yet? Not sure, really.
I’m okay with all of this most of the time. It’s just the price of living with an active, happy family. But I do tend to panic a bit when family is coming over.Â My parents never have laundry hanging around and they make their bed every single morning and I’ve never seen them run out of milk in the middle of a recipe.Â And Chris’s mom is so neat and clean that even her shampoo bottles in her shower aren’t gunked up or tipped over or running down the side of the shower curtain.Â Our families raised us to be clean, neat people by setting that example for us and so when they come over to visit, I want them to see those qualities in our household, too.Â But the reality is that our household is in a much different place than theirs.Â Neither of them have pets or babies or toddlers running around.Â Neither of them have two working adults in the house.Â Our house is just very different than theirs right now.Â And so I’ve had to adjust a little bit and allow myself some slack.Â I’m doing the best I can and that’s going to have to be enough.
The most important thing for Chris and I is how are kids are raised.Â I don’t care if they grow up and say, “I always had to dig clean underwear out of the basket in my mom’s room,” but I would feel like I’d failed my children if they grew up and said, “My mom was too busy with laundry to spend time with me.”
When I was pregnant with Bean, one of the things on my baby registry check list was an activity mat. I decided not to get one because I didn’t think we’d use it any time soon. I didn’t think newborns could use an activity mat. But when Bean Man came along, I quickly realized that, like anyone else, newborns can get bored – and quickly! Who wants to just lay in a swing or bouncer seat all day long? Even being held gets old after a while. The nice thing about an activity mat is that it gives the baby something to do. And by “do,” I mean it gives them something to look at. Visual stimulation is important, even at the very beginning, and having a place to put the baby that can be somewhat entertaining to them is really important.
Because we hadn’t registered for an activity mat and because our wallets were stretched so tightly after Bean’s birth, we found one of the cheapest activity mats and figured we’d test out the whole visual stimulation thing without spending a fortune. If Bean was even mildly interested, we’d go buy something nicer. Turns out that Bean loved his simple activity mat!
I don’t remember which type ours is, but it is the Tiny Love Super Delux Light and Music Gymini Activity Mat. Don’t let the name fool you though. The “super delux” part meant that there was one toy that lit up and played music.Â Other than that, it was just a mat that popped up easily and had hand toys attached.
Let me pause right here and tell you that any Tiny Love product has been a big hit in our house.Â They make affordable, stimulating, good quality baby products.Â We have a ton of their baby toys and they’ve all been totally worth the $4 or so we’ve paid for them.Â I really like that brand.
What I loved most about this activity mat was that it had a lot of little loops where you could attach toys.
That meant that we could change out what toys Bean was looking at (and, later, playing with) depending on his preferences. It also means that the activity mat has lasted a long time. We are using it now for Gracie and it still looks good as new because we’ve replaced any old, ragged hand toys with new ones. And that’s a lot cheaper than having to buy a whole new activity mat.
Gracie is quite a fan. She just recently started enjoying the activity mat and she is loving it these days. She stares at the toys and even flails her little arms around trying to reach for them.
But what she really loves is when Bean plays on the mat with her. He lays down next to her and shows her the toys and talks and talks and talks to her about them.
Gracie loves when Bean talks to her. She stares at him and starts cooing every time.
And if she does happen to get upset, Bean knows just what to do. He grabs her binky and tries to give it to her very gently.
When Bean had the activity mat, he loved it for the bright blinking lights and cheesy music. But we’ve long since lost that toy and so the mat is a little less flashy. But Gracie doesn’t seem to mind at all. Being able to change out the toys to keep her interested helps and it’s for that reason that I recommend this activity mat to anyone with a baby. But I really think it’s the person who plays on the mat with Gracie that keeps her attention to most!