Why the Bonnet?

Why the Bonnet?

“Stop making her look Amish.”

Chris and I changed many things in our lives once we found out that we were expecting; we censored our language, started using laundry detergent with cleaner ingredients, we re-carpeted our second floor, etc. We both agreed that we wanted to raise Millie differently than the loud, flashy, plastic, commercialized, technology-promoting, societal-norm.

When I envision a simplistic upbringing: knit clothes and wooden toys, piano lessons and singing together, rocking chairs, home cooked meals with fresh ingredients, speaking to each other around the dinner table, and church on Sunday morning. I understand that we may not be able to live this way 24/7, but striving for a simpler life is my prerogative. Texting my children that dinner is ready, eating McDonalds on T.V. trays while watching Pat Sajak on The Price is Right, is not my ideal family environment. For some families, I just described their quality, family-time and that’s cool for them, it’s just not the “goal” environment for us.

I first put Millie in bonnets when we began taking her outside of the home; she was around 3 months old. Not only are bonnets nostalgic and darling, but they also help to protect from the wind, rain, and sun. Millie was born with a full head of hair however, she lost it all within her first month of life and for the next six, she was a bald-beauty. In early March, I was worried that Millie would catch a chill if her head wasn’t covered, so she wore a bonnet. In the aggressive July sun, I didn’t want her fair skin getting burned so she wore a light, brimmed-bonnet to shade her face.

The bonnets she wears fit snug on her head, so they stay in place, and she keeps them on all day. Millie has knitted, brimmed, cotton, linen, embroidered, and reversible bonnets. Just as I change my accessories upon my outfit, she has different bonnet options. Her bonnets are nothing like the plain, white bonnets that Amish children wear. Millie’s bonnets have beautiful patterns.

We have received many compliments on her bonnets; at church, at the doctors office, exploring around Cleveland, etc. Once, a lady told me, “I love when babies wear bonnets, it makes them look like such, babies”. Isn’t that funny? Why are we so quick to dress our babies like adults, give them tablets, and sit them in front of a screen for hours at a time? I digress.

When Millie is older and can vocalize her wants more, maybe she will choose to not wear bonnets. Until then, Millie will keep wearing bonnets and I will continue nurturing and protecting my bonnet-wearing babe.

Locks of Millie

Locks of Millie

How is it possible to take such pride in a strand of hair?

White, moving follicles I observed from your ultrasound.

Hair that I washed while holding your body effortlessly in one arm.

Counting the strands you lost during your first nights sleep.

Covering, protecting.

Longer it grows; you are beginning to take steps on your own.

Growing thicker from the nutrition you continue to receive from my body.

Independently combing your hair by running a tooth brush behind your ear.

Your hair. Different than mine.

I cherish the smell of you through your hair.

Zumbini

Zumbini

Before I had a child, I knew I’d be the monitored screen time, oil using, breastfeeding, crunchy-kind of mama. When Millie was born, the television wasn’t turned on for weeks because I read in a parenting magazine that baby’s can sense when you’re multi-tasking, like folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. Multitasking can make a baby anxious so the tv remained off. My mom finally said, “You have to be able to put her down for a moment and the tv will help.” She found a channel called, Baby First and Millie was entranced!

The vibrant colors, the songs, the high-pitched voices, the close ups of baby faces; Millie loves it. There is a a flower in the corner of the screen and the petals change color based on the learning elements in that particular show. The best aspect of the channel, in my opinion, is Zumbini. I love to dance and Zumba is my favorite way to work out. Zumbini is a baby’s Zumba. It incorporates dancing, singing, instrument playing, ball rolling, etc. Millie loves to dance and sing to the short Zumbini episodes in our living room. She smiles and rocks her body – she is completely engaged! At the end of the show it instructs the viewer to, “Go online and register for a Zumbini class near you!” So, I did.

The class was being offered near my undergraduate campus so I felt comfortable with the location. The instructor was quick to answer all of my questions and she was just as helpful and kind when we met in class. I am a music teacher and a “retired”, collegiate Zumba instructor so one could assume that I would be judgmental towards another’s class however, I’m new at this parenting thing and I have nothing to gain from judging and everything to gain from creating experiences with Millie.

When registering for Zumbini, we received a book with the lyrics to all the songs in the class, music downloads, and a little doll (that has seriously won over Millie’s heart, she loves her, “TJ”). Zumbini promotes freedom for the children to do as they please as they listen the up-beat music. I dance with Millie on my hip, I dance in front of her while she sits on the floor, I play instruments while she puts hers directly into her mouth. At six months old, Millie was the youngest in the class however, everyone was willing to help her, they doted over her and her big, blue eyes, and it never felt like she didn’t belong.

The music from Zumbini, incorporates different languages, styles, tempo, and time. I like that Millie is exposed to such diversity. The class materials include rhythm sticks, scarves, miscellaneous percussion instruments, balls, and bongos. Mill has taken two, nine week sessions and we don’t plan on stopping. This girl is shaking what her momma gave her!

Masters in Motherhood

Masters in Motherhood

It was always my plan to obtain my masters degree before getting pregnant however, my hormones had a different agenda. I work best under pressure, which is why I stay busy, but after listening to the advice of my husband and my counselor, I decided that after Millie was born, I would take a semester off. Millie was due in mid-December, the week after my fall semester finals, but due to preeclampsia, Millie arrived ahead of schedule, in early November; I still had four weeks remaining in my courses. Given the situation, my professors were completely understanding and they were lenient on due dates. During the first four weeks of classes, I completed many assignments ahead of time; perk of being a workaholic, and that helped a lot, too.

I quickly learned how to pump and type, simultaneously. Sleeping when the baby slept wasn’t a thing; while she slept, I did homework. I hate that her first month of life is such a blur in my memories. I wish I could’ve been more alert and aware but I was recovering and dog-tired. Thankfully, there were many pictures and videos taken during that time, and I indulge in them often.

I had almost gotten accustomed to my work load of sheer exhaustion when winter break began. Taking the spring semester off put me behind on my degree completion plan and looking back now, I wish I could’ve powered through. (The quicker I complete my degree, the sooner the repayment period begins for my loans, and the quicker my loans are forgiven.)

“May your college memories last as long as your student loan debt.” – a wise and financially broke man who attended college

I am very fortunate to be on a student loan forgiveness plan through the US government. I went to an expensive, private, music conservatory for my bachelors degree and I racked up undergraduate debt. I am five courses away from completing my masters degree from another expensive, private university and I tacked on graduate school debt. If I work ten years in public service (teach) while making my minimum, monthly student loan payments (120 payments in total) all the rest of my debt gets forgiven. Hallelujah!

Before I had Millie, teaching music was my life’s success and now, my whole life is Millie. She’s everything to me. Sometimes I wish I never went to college because I wouldn’t be in college debt and I would be able to stay home and raise my baby. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching music, I just feel guilty about teaching other people’s children during the day and not being there for my own. My grandma went into retirement and watches Millie at our house while my husband and I work; I am so grateful for her help and that we do not have to put her in childcare. I know that I am setting a good example for my daughter by working and continuing my education however, my heart aches every time I walk out the door.

I will be graduating with a Masters of Art degree in music and worship, in ten months. Typing that makes me smile. That will put me on a higher pay scale at work and it will free up more of my time to spend with Millie. I’m proud to be completing this journey with a baby on my lap – today, she pounded on my keyboard and erased a good amount of my book report. Millie will know that her mom valued higher education and working women. I pray that my perseverance will inspire her.

– now onto that book report that’s due by midnight.

Millie Met Mo’ana

Millie Met Mo’ana

We are so fortunate to live close to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Because I teach and have summers off, Millie and I have been able to go on daily adventures – the zoo being one of her favorites. She loves looking at all the children and is captivated by the fish at the aquarium. During the week, especially on days with spotty weather, the zoo isn’t overly crowded and we have the opportunity to talk with the staff that works directly with the animals.

The Columbus Zoo works closely with Western Lowland Gorilla conservations and learning about their success in the gorilla population was encouraging. Stephanie, the gorilla expert, told us the names of all of the gorillas and their ages. She was knowledgeable about their relationships with one another and their personalities. She informed me that “Mac”, the silverback in the enclosure, the grandson of Colo who was the first gorilla to be born in captivity, knows he’s handsome, will pound on the glass whenever he feels like it, is a surrogate dad, and is busy raising his two year old, rambunctious son, J.J. J.J. acts like any other toddler; he prolongs nap time, copies everything his daddy does, and plays about the enclosure. The gorillas habitat was observed and approved by Diane Fossey, one of the greatest mountain gorilla conservationists of all time. Stephanie says that these gorillas have it made at the Columbus Zoo, like the animals in the movie, Madagascar.

I learned that the female gorillas take birth control pills once a day, the same way a female-human would. The female gorillas are tested each month to make sure that they haven’t gotten pregnant over the course of the month, by mistake. A “board” meets to determine which gorillas can breed according to their DNA compatibility. Because the gorillas at the zoo are promoting the conservation of their species, the board wants the bred outcome to be the best gorillas. What I found particularly interesting is that even with this board acting in the role of God, some gorillas don’t come out as they plan.

Kinyani, a beautiful female gorilla at the zoo, was bred and born in captivity, and she is deaf. She stays up high in the trees so that she can see the activities below and no one can sneak up on her (For his own enjoyment, Mac will sneak up behind her to smack her in the head.) Her deafness was not planned by the board however, Gods plan superseded.

Mo’ana, is a seventeen year old, female gorilla at the zoo. She was born and bred in captivity and she has a mental disability. Her body didn’t grow normally so she looks different and she has arthritis. She sits right at the glass of the gorilla enclosure and tries to feed the children hay, when they sit across the glass from her. Again, her disabilities were not planned, however her gentleness is a gift from God.

I have always loved gorillas and I felt especially close to them after learning that Colo, the beloved gorilla in Columbus – may she Rest In Peace, her parents were from Cameroon. I was not familiar with this country until earlier this year when I looked it up; 3% of my DNA is from Cameroon, according to Ancestry. I also learned that Colo’s mother’s name was Millie.

Twice, I have sat Millie by the glass to interact with Mo’ana. She seems timid as she looks at the gorilla and then turns her face into my chest. She doesn’t cry but she doesn’t smile at her either. I tell her all about the gorillas when we visit their enclosure. I hope that one day she will share the love that I have for these beautiful primates.

Managing Migraines

Managing Migraines

I’ve always hated bumper cars; I would drive around the edge of the raceway, as to stay clear of the congested middle. The steering wheel, violently shaking, was difficult to hold onto. WHAM! I was forcefully rear ended; stalked for the “bump”. My body jolted forward, my head ricocheted off the back, and I felt nauseous. This is exactly what has been happening inside of my head; bumper cars.

Light; crash! Noise; ouch! Touch; bam! Every sense was hypersensitive and I couldn’t focus. I didn’t have an appetite. I drank water and I ate salt; no relief. I took two ibuprofen and still, no change. I tried to sleep but was frequently interrupted to feed Millie. The pressure behind my eyebrows was difficult to ignore. I’ve never experienced headache pain like this before so this was new and unwelcome.

After waking up the next morning with an unsettling, dull ache beneath my skull, I made an appointment with my family doctor. My 20/20 vision was distorted from the intense pain and driving seemed dangerous. Thankfully, my grandma was able to drive me to my appointment as I rested my throbbing head.

I arrived at the doctors and was pleasantly surprised with the number on the scale. I was further impressed by my blood pressure, especially because eclampsia can occur after delivery and headaches can be a symptom. My lungs sounded fine and my heart murmur had subsided. After two neurological tests, I was told that I had been experiencing postpartum migraines. I immediately felt angry; yet another issue from pregnancy that I’ve never heard of. Postpartum migraines occur due to the hormonal fluctuations while breastfeeding; migraines can last for days at a time – great. I was instructed to lay in a dark room and stay on a regiment of ibuprofen; three pills, four times a day, with food. If I wanted to take migraine specific medication, I would have to pump-and-dump – not an option. I know others who dull migraines with caffeine however, because I don’t consume caffeine on a regular basis, my doctor did not think that caffeine would help me. I was instructed to go to the ER if the migraines got any worse. Thankfully, 48 hours later, the bumper cars subsided.

Preeclampsia, rupturing ovarian cysts, postpartum migraines; I’ll take it all as long as Millie is healthy. And praise God, she’s perfect.

Making Memories with Millie

Making Memories with Millie

Time is a thief; last week we celebrated Millie’s half birthday! She wore a pretty, smocked dress, attended church, and we ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. Whenever we take her out, people are so complimentary of her behavior and beauty. She’s achieving every developmental milestone; reaching and grabbing, laughing, visually following, drinking from a glass, intentionally rolling over, sitting independently, etc. Needless to say, I’m a very proud mama.

We didn’t take Millie out of the house for her first three months of life, with the exception of her pediatric appointments. She was born six weeks early and during flu season, so we didn’t want to take any chances. Eighteen years ago, my baby brother was hospitalized and placed in a medically induced coma due to severe RSV; time stood still, my family was terrified, but by the grace of God, my brother lived through it. Needless to say, I did everything possible to guard my sweet angel from germs; masks were bought and worn, guests were limited, flu shots were mandatory, and hand sanitizer was within reach.

When we decided to venture out with Millie, we quickly learned that getting ourselves and the baby ready was not for the faint of heart. It took many tries before we made it out of the house on time and clean. Our first attempt failed miserably; Millie blew out a diaper worse than she ever had before; poop was up to her belly button and smeared all over her back. How did it get in her hair?! Thankfully, we had some wiggle room in our schedule for a quick bath, got her dressed in a new outfit, and cue chunky spit up – all over herself and me. We decided to stay home and try again another day. Our first successful outing was to church. My husband and I are musicians on the worship team so a family member graciously watches Millie whenever we are serving the Lord. I have still not utilized our church’s nursery. Our church has a beautiful nursing room where I am able to feed Millie and still hear the sermon; it’s comfortable and I’ve met many other wonderful moms there. On Mothers Day, Millie made it through an entire church service for the first time! What a gift!

Can’t we agree that taking pictures for Easter, at the mall, with an oversized rabbit is just weird? What do you even say to him once you’re on his lap? Feeling some societal pressure, I dressed Millie with a carrot headband for a quick pic with the bunny. The people manning the stand were very informative and patient when I asked questions; “Do you delete the pictures after we order? Can we drape a blanket over the bunny’s lap so she doesn’t have to touch the costume?” As we stood in line, enclosed by velvet ropes, I observed the children and their parents interacting with the rabbit; kids were crying as their parents were bribing for smiles. I quickly realized that the bunny pictures weren’t for us; I unclipped the velvet rope and left the line.

At Macy’s, I let my MIL push Millie in the stroller. Due to the amount of clothes draped over the front and her purse clipped to the handle, not to mention the diaper bag, the stroller tipped over from the weight imbalance. This startled Millie and woke her from her sleep. Luckily, she was still strapped into her car seat, which clips into the stroller, or she may have come flying out! You should have seen the faces of the women shopping around us; jaws on the floor. I froze. Who’s stroller was that? Once I realized that it was my child that was screaming, I grabbed her out of the seat and held her close; I spoke to her softly and she calmed down. Accidents happen and it was brushed off with a laugh; Praise God, she wasn’t hurt.

We are Columbus Zoo members and Millie has had two grand adventures there! On her first trip, she spent time with Gam (my mom) and saw the colorful flamingos, playful tiger cubs, an elephant, and a rhino! She loved looking at all the people. My mom took Millie into the gift shop where she smiled her no-tooth, heart wrenching grin at a stuffed tiger. Of course we came home with the tiger. Her second trip to the zoo was with my husband and me. We took her into the petting zoo; none of us touched the animals however, she got to experience them much closer than ever before. Millie was so intrigued by the goats! We spent time at the aquarium where she could watch the fish swim; it was the perfect place to nurse her as it was dark and air-conditioned. We will be going on many more zoo adventures!

My big sister, from Delta Phi Epsilon, married her soulmate! We were thrilled when the invitation read “3”. We didn’t want to interrupt the ceremony with a crying baby, so we joined the festivities at the reception and we were surprised to see so many other babies there. The golf course club house was beautifully decorated and there were many vegan options for us to eat. Mille was an angel; she curiously looked around and chewed on her Sophie Giraffe. When she needed changed, I was astonished to find that there was no changing table in the women’s restroom. I asked a staff member where I could change her, I wasn’t about to squat on the floor with my floor-length dress, and she informed me that the venue is currently being renovated but that she could set up a table for us in the women’s locker room. As I was leaving the locker room with a freshly changed baby, we ran into the blushing bride! We had an intimate moment together before rejoining the party. We were also able to return to that room numerous times during the evening to change and nurse in private.

We raised more than five hundred dollars for the March of Dimes and participated in their three mile walk for awareness! The weather was not what we had expected – cold and windy so I decided to wear to Millie, facing me, and she slept the entire walk. Carrying 15lbs while walking a brisk, three miles wasn’t easy however, neither is having a preterm baby. We walked among family, friends, NICU nurses, and strangers who bonded together for a worthy cause. I so appreciate everyone who helped to support us and the March of Dimes!

Millie has been to church, the doctors, the zoo, her Papa’s, two restaurants, a vintage market, downtown, her daddy’s work, my work, the mall, two stores, the photographers, friends’ house’s, and a wedding! We are preparing for a trip to see her grandparents in Virginia next month. See, I don’t keep her in a bubble!