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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breakthrough

Regular readers will remember that I have been having trouble getting housework done. This was mostly because I was attempting to function on next-to-no sleep with a baby who cried anytime she wasn't held and continued to cry until she was picked up. I think if either of those factors had been missing I would have been able to accomplish more. If I had been getting better sleep at night, I might have been able to handle doing chores while listening to a crying baby without crying myself. And if Pearl had been content to sit quietly in a playpen, on the floor, or in the bumbo next to me, I think I could have pushed through even though I was exhausted. But that is just an assumption, because I never was able to test either of those scenarios.

She still doesn't sleep so well at night, although it is better. At the worst of it she was sleeping in 5-10 minute intervals, and out of the about three dozen different things we tried to help her sleep better only Motrin, cutting out solids, and bundling her up super warm at night had any success, with Motrin being the far-away winner.

But in the last two weeks we've had a breakthrough. She let me get through with a load of laundry without crying. She even "helped" me fold the clean laundry. And I cleaned the bathroom yesterday while she played happily on her own. (cue angelic chorus)

What caused it? Who knows. But in the last month she has made huge strides. She has:

  • mastered crawling
  • mastered standing with support and cruising
  • started babbling
  • cut her first three teeth
  • started playing on her own
It seems like 7.5-month-old Pearl and 8.5-month-old Pearl are totally different children. She is so different that I have needed to completely shift my thinking about how the house operates.

A month ago, housework had to be done as fast as possible while trying to block out a screaming baby. The only way to eat was while holding her, so junk food and convenience foods had infiltrated my house.

But this week has been completely different. She will sit peacefully through a short lunch. Chores are leisurely affairs, made all the slower because Pearl can mess them up help. She loves pulling clean laundry out of the basket. She thinks that the dish washer is fascinating, and she loved pulling out the spoons from the silverware tray. She thinks the swiffer is a fascinating new toy. In short, this amazing transformation has turned her into a participant in many of the things I need to do anyway.

Now, this doesn't mean that all the housework is getting done. I'm still running on fumes all day long. I haven't figured out how to involve her in many things*, like sorting through the mail, cooking, and vacuuming (Pearl, like Luna, seems to take the name Dirt Devil literally), and I can't always find a safe place for her to play while I am doing those things. Those chores I can do with her now take twice as long due to her "help", but it is an incredible improvement if only because instead of dreading those times of day I can now find a joy in doing them with a happy baby beside me.

I'm half expecting the novelty of laundry or dishes to wear off in a few weeks, and we'll be right back where we started. But I'm going to milk this for as long as it lasts.

*Suggestions, anyone?

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Laura

    Babies regress sometimes, but the general trend is progress. I think you are finally seeing what we all promised you would notice: as she grows up, many things will get easier.

    Savannah is also terrified of our vacuum. We are lucky to have a Roomba, so we just turn it on and leave the room. We do run the dustbuster under her high chair a lot, and she HATES that.

    At 16 months, she is only just starting to "help" with cooking by strirring batter. Knifework and dealing with hot pots and pans are tough, though. I think our best success there has been in her learning to play by herself.

    But maybe you could look for more recipes that cook things whole -- things like chicken thighs or legs or whole chickens or chuck roasts or ground meats that are flavored with dried herbs and spices. You can always use frozen vegetables or things like whole sweet potatoes or snap green beans or corn on the cob that can be prepared without a knife. If you're comfortable that she's not going to try to eat them, you can give her a green bean or some corn outsides or the first sweet potato you washed for her to play with while you finish the rest. As you said, it doesn't matter if it takes longer, as long as you and Pearl are spending pleasant time together.

    Sorting the mail hasn't been a time-consuming chore in our house, but we do let Savannah play with anything we're going to be throwing out anyway. If you toss her a few envelopes or ads you don't need, she may feel like she's participating.

    These days we give her pretty much all our ads to play with since I've switched to a paperless system for checking grocery ads -- I put bookmarks to all my local grocery stores in a bookmark folder, and then right click on the folder to "open all in tabs." There should be an equivalent to this on most browsers.

    I say all this while being immersed in the world of a 16-month-old, so not only is this not guaranteed to work for Pearl, it also may not have even worked for Savannah 8 months ago. And we certainly aren't great at involving her in our chores yet, either -- we might well be doing less than you are -- so I'll admit that most of our success has been due to the Professor's extra-flexible schedule at present and Savannah's willingness to play by herself while we work. But hopefully some of this will help. :-)

  • Sherry

    I think Laura & you are onto something there. Involving her in things, whether it is what you are working with at the time, or later on with her own toys, is very helpful to keep her occupied while you are doing things. Have you tried setting up the crib near the kitchen yet? I do think that will help, giving her some toys to play with while you cut up things or work with hot foods. As long as you don't put her in there much, it might be a place she can go to play with some special toys for a few minutes so you can get dangerous stuff done. Also, Laura's suggestion of simpler meals would be good too. I know it will continue to get better as she gets older!

  • Heidi Girl

    Dear Blogging friend, I've been blessed with 4 children and all have been as you described. Trust me, I had to repent from envy many times over the last 15 yrs as my friends had these sweet babies who slept and loved to play on the living room floor. :) We tried everyone's suggestions and all failed. I came to the conclusion that God had purposes that I did not understand.
    You are a great mom, learning to involve her in your life. I love that mental picture. My kids began to turn a corner around 9 months. They usually progressed from there in everything, but the sleep..which for us took more time.
    What worked for me. The Bumbo seat, but by far my most favorite item was the baby backpack. Not a front pack. I'm talking about the kind you would use to go hiking with a baby. The backpack allowed for them to be secured out of harms way. They were close to me and stopped crying. I could cook.. chop things and hot stuff too. I remember being so relieved to eat real food again.
    Blessings, Heidi