Posts made in April, 2010

Turn It Up

Posted on Apr 28, 2010 in Featured | 2 comments

Turn It Up

This morning, the first thing I have to say is that I Love (with a capital L) Amber Strocel’s series Crafting My Life. It happens on Thursdays and happens to be one of the reasons I like Thursdays. Our kids are the same age (reversed genders though) and she got laid off from her job at the same time as I sold my business. I relate to her series about finding out what you want for yourself while managing the needs and wants of two tiny people. She had good things to say when I asked the Twitterverse about Mondo Beyondo – and I’m glad she did because I really loved taking the class. This month her theme for Crafting My Life is dealing with negativity. All month, I’ve thought to myself, “What could I possibly have to say about dealing with negativity that wouldn’t be negative?!” I read her posts every week and found myself nodding, but it was speechless nodding. It wasn’t the nodding of someone who had something to add. You want to know why? Because my lizard brain, my protective (overbearing) negative voice isn’t just an occasional visitor, it’s a major part of who I am. I was diagnosed with major clinical depression when I was 21. That was all a long time ago. But even when I’m not clinically depressed, I consider myself a depressive. Kind of like an alcoholic might never think of themselves as cured, I think I will have to be on guard my whole life for those moments of slipping down the slope into a dark hole. I’m prone to negative thinking, pretty much all the time. I’m socially anxious. I’m a glass half empty kind of person. I don’t give myself enough credit. My self-esteem is in the moderate range. Oh and I worry. A lot. I used to spend a lot of time trying to be different. But in the last few years, I’ve decided to be kinder to myself and I have come to accept a lot of these things are just a part of me. It’s ok to be introverted and shy (even if they aren’t our cultural ideal). I remember hearing about studies that showed that pessimists actually have a more realistic world view than do the optimists. I might prefer to wear the rose coloured glasses more often, but at least it’s reassuring to know that I’m not delusional. Most of the time. I have come to accept that worrying, or preparing myself for the worst case scenario, is part of how I process things. I don’t do well with surprises, especially negative surprises so it helps me to work through the what ifs ahead of time. Usually–always?–the result is that things go far far better than I had anticipated. And that makes me happy. It’s all well and good to be accepting of my quirks but I can also waste a lot of energy on negative what if scenarios and sometimes–often?–it holds me back from doing things. That part isn’t so great. So what are the ways I cope with negativity? I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes it takes a good cry. But sometimes, it’s a really quick fix. It’s to put on an amazing song and TURN IT UP. Turn up the volume and turn up your attitude. This song has been with me for a long time. It came to me in those dark days when I was young and I lived in a big old house with 5 friends. My room was on the top floor and had big windows and a balcony. It was a hot summer evening, the house was quiet and the night air was just shaking my curtains as I listened to CBC’s late night jazz show After Hours. The song touched me deep in my soul. Listening to that voice, those horns, even a depressive had to admit that life is full of moments for Feeling Good. More recently, it was this song that made my heart sing: I heard a cover of...

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Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 19 comments

Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Last week at my local La Leche League meeting the topic for discussion was adapting to motherhood and one of the questions was “What did you to do to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb?” A young mother of a 2.5 month old baby responded by saying that she had let her baby cry and that it had been the good thing for him because now he is sleeping well. She went on to say that it had been terrible and that she herself had cried the first few times but that it had been the right thing to do. Considering the group, which was primarily made up of proponents of attachment parenting, the resulting discussion was incredibly supportive, thanks to the stealthy handling of our leader. She steered the conversation away from the specifics and toward the need to recognize that every baby is different, that every mom knows best what her baby needs and that we need to support each other in that. One of the other mothers piped up to say that she too had used sleep training with her baby and often felt judged for it. Some others brought up that they felt judged for going to their babies when they cried, and for not sleep training. Everyone reiterated that mothers know what is best for their babies. I was impressed with how the situation was handled but I sat quietly through the entire discussion. I am fervently opposed to crying-it-out (and you can read why here). I don’t believe it’s one of those minor parenting differences that we all have to accept each other on, like whether we cloth diaper or use disposables, whether we breastfeed for 12 months or 24, whether or not we use rewards for behaviour modification, or for that matter whether or not we use sleep training methods on older babies. I don’t believe that letting a 10 week old baby cry-it-out is just fodder for the mommy wars. The cry-it-out (CIO) method is not a choice that families come up with of their own accord. I am fairly certain that if every family were left to their own devices, to trust themselves, to trust their babies, the cry-it-out method would die out because it goes against our very instincts. Every evolutionary biological maternal instinct we have tells us to go to, pick up, and soothe a baby who is crying. This young mother said herself that it was terrible and she cried the first few times she tried the method.  An article I read while researching this post reiterated that point: The first night I cried for over an hour, long enough that my mom finally had to take a break and walk around the neighborhood while my dad kept watch. Anecdotally, I hear that over and over from moms, even those who are huge supporters of CIO. We all seem to think that parents and babies have to toughen up, that if they all just suck it up for a few days (or weeks) they’ll be the better for it, because someone wiser and more experienced said that this is what we are supposed to do. The only reason we continue as a society to use this method is because of pressures coming from outside the walls of our homes and I am beginning to think that we have a responsibility to stop this insanity. You think it’s harsh to call it insanity? Try this perspective: Leaving a baby to cry is a method that was popularized by doctors and paediatricians from the turn of the 20th century. This was a time when influential men like Luther Emmett Holt (1855 – 1924) and Truby King (1858-1938) were telling mothers that a strict schedule of feeding and sleeping should be kept. Their advice included encouraging regular bowel movements from the time the baby was younger than 2 months old by holding the baby over a basin and inserting soap suppositories, rubber tubing or an oiled cone into the baby’s rectum at the same time every day!! This...

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Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Posted on Apr 26, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 3 comments

Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Last week I ended up in a group setting where I sat quietly by as a new mother explained that she had let her 10 week old son cry it out. I had no idea how to respond. Mere hours before I had posted the following on my Facebook page: Young babies cannot tell time. They have no way of knowing that it’s been only 5 min or 5 hours since they last saw you. They also do not have object permanence which means that if they can’t see, touch, smell or hear you, it’s the same as if you don’t exist. When they call for you and you don’t come, they have no way of knowing that you are still there but in the other room. Talk about terrifying: to be helpless and your primary caregiver no longer exists. No wonder their little brains are flooded with stress hormones. BBC News – Crying-it-out ‘harms baby brains’ news.bbc.co.uk Dr Penelope Leach says recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries. I should be clear here that I am talking about young babies. Newborns. Infants. Babies under 6 months old for sure (regarding the reference to object permanence). Newborns cry because they are hungry, cold, tired or need their mothers. They do not cry to manipulate. They cry to tell you they have needs that must be met. For older babies, over 6 months, over 1 year, various methods of sleep training is perhaps an issue of personal parenting choice. I personally still try to avoid it but I can see that modified versions of cry-it-out, like crying-in-arms or Dr. Jay Gordon’s advice can be helpful, especially for working mothers. I concede that willingly. Older babies can learn to wait occasionally (ask any mother of more than 1 child). Older babies do need to be taught that sometimes they have to go to sleep when they would rather play. Older babies can be taught sleep associations that do not involve wearing out her mother. But a 10 week old baby? No. That baby is crying to tell you something. There are plenty of articles and studies out there that discuss why CIO (cry-it-out) is harmful. This one discusses the history of the practice and offers an alternative: crying in arms. This one discusses attachment theory. These articles are only a drop in the bucket on the subject and both are well researched and referenced. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Leach that leaving a young infant to cry is damaging to the brain as well as to the baby’s emotional development, and to the relationship between mother and child in terms of the child trusting that their caregiver will respond to their needs, requests for help. Crying is the young infant’s primary form of communication. They need to trust that you will respond to them when they communicate and that trust is vital to ongoing attempts to forge a bond of attachment. I don’t use this word attachment in a fluffy way; I am talking about the attachment that psychologists study in humans and in animals as being necessary to our very survival. Perhaps the main reason for the persistence of the CIO method is the misunderstanding that it works. Certainly, many babies do eventually stop crying and sleep, but unfortunately, this is often cited as being linked with the baby becoming so stressed that he or she simply shuts down as a means of coping with extremely overwhelming negative emotions, similar to victims of post traumatic stress disorder. These babies pass out from exhaustion and fear, from crippling levels of stress hormones in their tiny developing brains. They do not go to sleep because they have learned to self-soothe. Given the new body of sophisticated, cross-discipline research on attachment and brain development outlined in this article, it is clear that a baby’s willingness to accept sleep training after reportedly brief periods of protest is no less than a cycle of hyperarousal and dissociation responses that is damaging to...

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Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Posted on Apr 13, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 20 comments

Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice! This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself. ~ 8th Principle of Attachment Parenting, Attachment Parenting International. Sometimes I think this oft-overlooked 8th principle is the most important principle of the Attachment Parenting philosophy. Sometimes I think that it’s the part that makes all the other principles possible. However, for me, it is also the hardest principle to implement. And I don’t think I’m alone. It seems that striving for balance and finding time for self-care are on the minds of most parents in some shape or form. There are a lot of sites out there rife with advice on how to do this. Jen Louden of Comfort Queen talks about renewal, comfort and making time for yourself, with coaching geared specifically for women. Sarah Juliusson from Mama Renew gives tips and offers workshops for mothers. Renee Trudeau wrote a book called The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Advice varies from lighting candles to attending week long child-free retreats. There should be something there for everyone. And in many ways, there is. However, dear reader, what does one do when trying to honour our own needs pits us against our children? I recently read Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, by Mary Kurcinka. The book outlines the different ways that a child can be spirited and has scales for rating your child on the various aspects. There is also a section where you rate yourself. I was reading the book because I suspected that my powerhouse of a four year old was spirited and he did come out mildly spirited based on our appraisals. What surprised me was that in some ways I am spirited as well (I think Kurcinka would term me spunky). And here’s the kicker: Rain and I are spirited in opposite ways (for the most part). He rated low on the things that I scored highly on and I rated low on the things he scored highly on. An example would be that Rain is fairly exuberant (for those familiar with Kurcinka’s book, you will recognize my attempt to use a positive label) and I am sensitive. Rain rates highly for energy; he is always wiggling, always on the move, always making noise. He can’t talk; he yells. He loves to bang on drums. I scored low on energy. I have always been quiet. As I child I preferred to read, colour or draw rather than join in on a team sport for instance. It drives me crazy that my husband shakes his leg or drums his fingers when relaxing on the couch. I tend to be still. I rate high however, on sensitivity. I am a far pickier eater than anyone in my family, I am always cold and I find noise extremely stressful. I am often reminded during the course of my day that excessive noise is used as a method of torture and as a means to end hostage situations. I have also been known to joke that having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain. When our house gets especially noisy, I feel myself tensing up and my reactions to otherwise innocuous behaviour become harsh and grouchy. I react like someone being attacked. I counter-strike. I understand that kids have lots...

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Leaping

Posted on Apr 6, 2010 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured | 8 comments

Leaping

The summer of 2002 everyone must have thought I went crazy. I started dating a friend (who was also the ex-boyfriend of a long-time friend of mine) and by the end of the summer, we announced that we were getting married in September. When I called my parents to tell them I was getting married they didn’t even know I was seeing anyone. That was only half of it. We also bought a 1984 Bluebird schoolbus and told everyone that we were going to convert it and live in it, in the middle of Vancouver. We owned it for a year and were slowly trying to do the conversion on the weekends and not making much progress. We thought if we moved into it, our progress would be quicker. My older sister and her family were moving to Vancouver around that time and we came up with the idea to try to find a house for them to rent where we could park the bus in their backyard. We thought we would subsidize their rent for two years before looking for somewhere else. We started keeping our eyes open for good potential houses. As we went about our business in the city, there was one house that we always noticed had the perfect space. It was on a corner, backing on to a huge green park with a lake complete with swimming beach and where the farmer’s market is held on Saturdays. On Sunday nights, there is firespinning in the park and every summer there is a lantern festival that attracts 10,000 people. The park is in the middle of metro Vancouver in a vibrant diverse multi-cultural neighbourhood. The yard was perfect and had just the right space for a 40′ long bus. My brother-in-law came to Vancouver to house hunt for his family and one evening, after dinner, we drove by the house just to give him an idea of the kind of sweet space we were dreaming of. A few days later, Stewart came back from his search with the classifieds and grinned “You’ll never guess what house I just looked at!” We couldn’t believe our luck that the house was actually for rent! We went to the open house with the landlord and there were a lot of other contenders. The rental market in Vancouver has been tight for a few years now and the house was reasonably priced. We thought it best to be upfront about our plans to park a 40′ bus on the property rather than ending up with a mad landlord on our hands later. We were very worried that the landlord would never want to rent to us with our crazy idea to park a bus there. The weekend passed slowly with much hand-wringing and driving by the corner wistfully staring. At the end of the weekend, the landlord called to let us know that he had decided to take a chance on us and it was ours. We called it the Destiny House. We stayed for 5 years. We got to know all of our neighbours. We built a parking pad for the bus, redid the whole yard including putting in a 40′ long veggie garden beside the bus. I developed a close relationship with my sister who I’d never been close to as she is seven years older than I am. Both of my kids were born there and all of our children grew up more like siblings than cousins. We became fixtures in the neighbourhood and we learned the meaning of the word community. What started as a bunch of crazy spontaneous ideas in 2002 became the most magical experience. I could never have imagined such a perfect vision of this dream made into reality. I wanted to live in the bus in the city and by taking a leap of faith, it came out way better than I even envisioned it. We’ve moved on now but we’ve been having a lot of discussions with my sister and we now share the mondo beyondo dream of creating a...

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