Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Sunburn

My beautiful, fair-skinned baby got her first sunburn today. In her three and a half years of life on this planet, I have managed to protect her delicate skin from the damaging assault of the sun's rays. The smell of summer in the Songing household is sun screen.

Hope went to a friend's house for the day. Today, which happened to be the hottest day Wisconsin has seen so far this year. Today, when Hope decided she would wear a strappy pink sundress. Today, when the girls spent most of the day playing outside in the sprinkler.

I instructed the friend caring for my daughter as soon as I walked in the door and dropped her off that Hope would need sunscreen while playing outside. I mentioned how sensitive her skin is.

And then this evening as I packed for an upcoming family visit I noticed Hope's arms we very... pink. I took a closer look and found bands of reddening skin on her arms, the back of her legs, and the back of her neck. My heart dropped.

I know it's just a sunburn. I know it's practically part and parcel of childhood. I know it is not serious and will be gone in a few days.

But to see that damage to my baby's skin, damage that has been avoided all this time, damage I wasn't personally there to protect her from; angered me, frustrated me.

And whom am I angry at? Not at Hope, who, up until today, did not even understand what a sunburn was. Not at my friend even, who did abide by my instructions to apply sunscreen to Hope. (Although obviously not thoroughly enough...!!!) Not at anyone really.

I'm just frustrated by the situation. I'm frustrated that tomorrow morning my little girl is going to wake up feeling like her arms and legs are hot, tender, and itchy and that I won't be able to take it away for her. And though I've prevented this situation all her life, I wasn't able to prevent it this time. I'm frustrated that she is hurt and I can't help her.

...And yet, I know that this is only the beginning. She is three years old. I have no idea the situations and problems that are going to arise over the coming years. The scraped knees, the sprained ankles, the fights with friends, the broken hearts... the complete unfairness of life.

As the years pass, Hope will face more and more hurts that I am not able to fix. Hurts much worse, and longer-lasting, than a sunburn. And as a mother, I want to wipe away her tears, and hold her close, and take the pain away. And I can't. I would take the sunburn myself if I could... but I can't. All I can do is comfort her and encourage her and try to ease the pain in the little ways that I am able. And I hope as she experiences the pains of life, that I can explain to her that this pain will pass, and life will go forward, and she has the opportunity to be better because of it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cheese Fest

Now you know that I truly do live in Wisconsin. Tonight, I took Violet and Hope to Cheese Fest.

We live in a very beautiful, family-friendly area of the country in northeastern Wisconsin, known as the Fox River Valley. It's a group of cities, with populations ranging from 3,000 to 75,000, grouped around one of the rare rivers that flows in a northerly direction, the 200 mile long Fox River.

Our area has an abundance of community events and family friendly activities, year round. In fact, Appleton (the largest of the Fox Cities) was voted by RelocateAmerica as one of the top 100 places to live in the United States. And when summer comes to the Fox Cities, we overflow with community gatherings. Oddly enough, though they begin with a variety of words, they all end in Fest. And it seems that each city, from the small to the large, has their own fest.

There's Jazz Fest, Paper Fest, Brewfest, Irish Fest, and Sea Food Fest; and of course, my very first "Fest", attended this very day. Cheese Fest.

My husband had plans to go golfing with friends, which he does literally once or twice a year, so I decided to get the girls out of the house for the night and invited a dear family friend to discover what the community had to offer by heading to the local Cheese Fest.

I was pleasantly surprised. For a village (not "city", don't want to upset the natives) of 11,000, Little Chute threw a pretty decent party, or Fest to be more precise. There was a large variety of children and adult rides, carnival games, vendors, food booths, and a stage for performers- which was still being set up during our time there. The most convenient description would be that it was a county fair on a smaller scale.

We rode a plethora of rides, ate hot dogs and bratwurst (a Wisconsin staple), and enjoyed the playground on the park property the festival was being held on. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and experienced a little bit of Wisconsin culture for under $20.

So what are you waiting for? Step out and see what's going on in your community! That yearly event that you always hear about, but never attend. Go this year. You never know what might be in store!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Movie

A child's first movie used to be a rite of passage. My older brother's first movie was Star Wars and my husband remembers going to the theater for the first time and seeing E.T. "Used to be", not so anymore.

Go to an animated feature at a theater now and you'll see children as young as a few months- even weeks- old at the theater along with their families. Not that it's a problem, sometimes if the family is going to see a movie, taking baby along is the only way to make it happen. But my point is that more often than not, children as young as one and two years old are almost as accustomed to making the trip to the movie theater as the trip to the grocery store.

Well, call me old-fashioned or over the top, but I was hoping my daughters' first "real" movie would be a special event they would remember for years to come. So we've been watching and waiting for the right time for Hope to go to the theater.

An obvious prerequisite was that she have the attention span to sit through an entire full-length movie at home. That requirement was only recently fulfilled. The next step was to wait for a movie to come out that my particular three year old would actually watch. For her, this means animation only. To her, real people= boring. To top it all off, Mommy (that would be me) is pretty particular about what movies Hope is allowed to watch at all. Even if it's a movie supposedly made for kids, I don't think a bunch of added-in adult humor, even though it goes over kids' head, is necessary. And although it's nearly impossible, we try to avoid toilet humor in movies. That comes naturally enough to kids already, I don't feel the need to encourage it further by providing my daughter with new material.

Hope's and my criteria was finally met with Disney's newest release UP!

We made a big deal with Hope about going to the movie theater. We talked to her in advance about how she would have to whisper during the movie because there would be a lot of other people there watching. We talked up the popcorn and asked her what kind of snack she would want.

All the preparation must have paid off because Hope's first movie was a success. A few moments were intense for her and she covered her eyes. The movie was during and past her bedtime as well, so she did get tired and was reclined in my lap by the time the movie was over. And due to her sensitivity to loud noises, Hope spent approximately half the movie with her hands over her ears. But overall, Faith thoroughly enjoyed the theater experience and our choice for her first movie.

On a side note, if you're going to take your newborn to a movie with you, a few tips. One, make sure they're well fed and either rested or ready to sleep during the movie. Two, be prepared to feed them- breast or bottle- or have a pacifier handy, should they start to make their presence known in the middle of the movie. Third, sit near an aisle so that, should the previous two efforts fail, you can make a quick exit to avoid disturbing other theater patrons. Fourth, and finally, as a last resort, if your tiny movie watcher should become inconsolable, be mentally prepared in advance that you may have to leave the theater altogether and possibly miss seeing the whole film and waste the money you spent on a ticket.

(That being said, I suppose it's quite obvious that we had a family with a small baby sitting directly behind us during the movie that was not entirely respectful of those around her. She definitely stayed within the parameters of proper theater decorum though. Also, I say the above as that this is what I would mentally prepare myself for if I chose to take an infant to a movie theater. In reality, I've chosen to avoid all of the above and just not do it.)

All a child's firsts are new and exciting hurdles their parents leap with them. And Hope's first movie was a very fun one to leap. It makes me excited for Violet's first trip to the theater...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Baby's First Hair Cut

Violet went for her first hair cut a few days ago at almost fourteen months. The only interesting news to report is how spectacularly uneventful it was.

If you know anything about Violet, you know that she is energetic, loud, active, and friendly. If any further description is needed, my husband and I often refer to her as Hurricane Violet. ...Enough said.

Even with Violet's amazing overdose of personality, it seems that she has the same gift as my eldest daughter in that she magically loses said personality when placed in a stylist's chair. Odd, but true. We sat Violet in the adorable chair which looked like a pink airplane in a kids' salon , and she went almost limp, stopped smiling, and just stared.

I expected tears, or a burst of hyperactivity, or grabbing of the scissors, or even a full-on tantrum. I didn't expect... nothing.

I wish I had more advice to offer, but as this is how both of my daughters responded to their first haircuts, I can only go on theory.

In theory, I would prepare your child for their first haircut by "practicing" at home. You may not think they understand yet, but no matter what their age, sit them in a safe chair and, holding a pair of real or pretend scissors, pretend you're cutting your child's hair. Before, during, and after the pretending, explain to them that they are going to be getting their haircut and this is what the stylist will do.

Another great survival tactic for a first haircut would be arriving at the salon a few minute early. Give your child a chance to look around, take in the new sights, smells, and faces. Talk with the stylist for a few minutes before they begin cutting your child's hair so your son or daughter can see that this is someone you are comfortable with and trust.

If the stylist will let you- and most will- hold baby in your lap while they're getting their hair cut. This will make them more comfortable, and you can help hold them still as well.

A little forethought and preparation will go a long way in making your child's haircut a smooth experience. Hopefully it's as uneventful as Violet's!

Jon & Kate Plus... Controversy?

Anyone who knows me knows I've been a huge supporter of the TLC reality television show Jon & Kate Plus 8 for the past few years. Like many other reality shows about big families, it's the premise that makes it intriguing: How does a young, normal American couple go about raising one set of twins and a set of sextuplets? But it's the specific people on this show, Jon and Kate to be exact, that have made it such a big hit.

As soon as I started watching the show, I immediately liked the young married couple on my screen. They were funny, quirky, and friendly. They were honest and candid about the difficulties of raising eight young children and were open with the fact that they, like all of us watching, are not perfect. But perhaps what was most endearing about the Gosselins, was their normalcy. They seemed like someone who could live next door to me, go to my church, or meet at a kids' play group. I always had the feeling watching the show that if I ever met Kate and could just talk to her one-on-one, we would be friends.

That being said, I've been as disturbed and saddened as anyone else with all the publicity surrounding the show the past few months. There's no need to recap it all here, suffice to say rumors of unfaithfulness have abounded- and been denied- on both sides of the marriage. The latest debate surrounding the show is whether TLC has violated child labor laws in the state of Pennsylvania. All of the gossip is mostly just what it seems- gossip. But there is undeniably some truth in Jon and Kate having marriage problems. This was confirmed from their own mouths on their season premiere Monday, May 25.

Jon & Kate Plus 8's season five premiere was one of the saddest shows I have ever watched. Towards the end of the episode, the producer interviewed the Gosslines sitting on the couch together, as they often did as of two seasons ago, and asked them questions about how their marriage was going and what was going to happen in the future. They were both very vague, Kate in an angry way and Jon much more apathetically. They even went so far as to bring up the actual topic of a possible impending divorce and the ramifications of such a move. But it was heartbreaking to see two people who were so obviously once in love and unified in raising their family sitting next to one another and talking about their marriage as if they hardly knew each other. It was like... well, something you would see on TV, or in a movie; except this isn't just TV, these are real people, real lives... a real family.

After watching the premiere, I couldn't stop thinking about the show, and the family behind it. Sadly, it took almost a whole day before it occurred to me to pray for the very real people behind all the tabloid headlines and gossip columns. And my heart ached for Gosselin family as I did.

I don't think there's any use in pointing fingers and casting blame. Everyone who has watched the show could make a list of where Jon and Kate has each gone wrong, and they could each make their own lists that would be even longer.

I do know that it's been apparent that the couple who just last season renewed their vows, publicly proclaiming to the millions who watch their show- and more importantly, their children- that they would always be together, has been growing apart the past year or more. By Jon and Kate's own admission, the increased popularity of their show, the release of two books (so far), the frequent filming, speaking engagements, and interviews has caused their lives to speed up to a frantic pace. It's been sad to watch the slow, but steady, decline.

As much as I love the show, and the Gosselin family, I can't promise that I will continue to watch if the couple continues on their current path. I will continue to love Jon, Kate, Cara, Mady, Alexis, Collin, Hannah, Joel, Aiden, and Leah and will support them with my prayers. And I will not spread vicious gossip and rumors about them that only assist in tearing down a family that is just as real and fragile as my own. But I will not watch a show about a marriage falling apart as my own personal entertainment.

I don't feel I have a place to advise the Gosselins. After all, I don't have a television show, a published book, or even sextuplets or twins. I can't say what I would do if I were in their position, because I'm not. It's easy to say from the outside in what the answer is, much more difficult when you're in the middle of the storm. I can only say, from my limited and humble perspective, that I hope with all my heart that Jon and Kate would end the show before they would even consider ending their marriage. I do know that no television show, no book, no speaking engagement, and no amount of money is worth the price of a marriage.