Parenting

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and I knew that I would probably have some sleepless nights in my future. It turns out that I didn’t even know the half of it. No one tells you ahead of time how bad it can be or how to cope, but three kids later, I’ve learned a couple of things: 6. Babies Get Tired Every Two Hours Little babies can only be up for about two hours before they are tired again. Knowing this can make all the difference in how your days unfold. Knowing this can soften sleep struggles. Take note of when they get up and watch them after about two hours. It’s easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than to fight a baby who is either over-tired or not tired at all. 5. Babies Have ~45 Minute Sleep Cycles Thanks to Elizabeth Pantley for teaching me this one. We all sleep in cycles of deep sleep and light sleep, and we all wake up at various times during the night before returning back to sleep. The problems for parents and babies are: Our sleep cycles are different lengths (baby cycles being quite a bit shorter than ours). Babies wake more frequently than we do and often wake when we are in a deeper part of our sleep cycle making it more painful for us to wake up (though breastfeeding and co-sleeping both help to sync mother and baby sleep cycles). Babies don’t always know how to go back to sleep when they wake up during a lighter stage of their sleep cycle. This is why a baby who has a particular sleep association (like say, nursing to sleep as all my children have had) will wake hourly all night long and want to use that same method to go back to sleep. I happen to think that nursing to sleep is normal based on the biological systems that support it. However, it did help to know what was going on when my babies started waking hourly, or why a baby will only take 50 minute naps. 4. Put Down The Sleep Books I’ve said this before, but this one is pretty big for me so I will say it again: the more I read the sleep books, the more likely I was not in a good head space about our sleep situation. I’m not saying that you should never ever pick up a book on baby sleep. Many of them are super helpful. Some of them are not. Also, as I indicated with the two points above, it IS worth knowing a bit about the mechanics and biology of baby sleep and naps. Absolutely. But when you are obsessively reading more than one sleep book at a time, keeping sleep logs, counting wake ups, comparing last week to this week, plotting, strategizing, and reaching for another sleep book, there’s a pretty good chance that you need: support a break to clear your life of commitments to accept that this what is happening for you now, but it won’t last forever I’m glad I read some of the books when I had my first baby. But I’m also glad that I eventually realized that I never needed to read them ever again. (This also goes for googling: how to get my baby to sleep or why is my baby waking up so much). 3. It Sucks When People Tell You That The Baby Years Go Fast, But It’s True You know above where I said that you have to accept that this is what is happening now but it won’t last forever? You might have sworn at me under your breath. I hated, HATED, it when people said variations of “all this will one day be a memory” and I could have punched them in the throat when they even hinted that I would miss it. When I was in the depths of psychotic sleep deprivation, this is about the least helpful thing you could say to me. For someone who is struggling...

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Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

{When I was pregnant with Silas, I decided that for this baby I would try not co-sleeping. I had co-slept with my older two children and had suffered through 18-24 months of hourly wakings. I knew I had to try something different, just in case it worked. At first, it worked beautifully but eventually, Silas developed the same sleep routine as his older siblings. When Silas was 16 months old, we moved from a 1900 sq. ft. house into our 300 sq. ft. converted school bus. Sleeping arrangements changed drastically. The most practical solution for all of us, considering that Silas was still waking to nurse between four and eight times each night and there was no room for a crib, was for me and Silas to share the queen-size bed, and for Aaron to share the double bed with one of our other children.} Here I am, a co-sleeper, once again, through practical necessity. I confess that I appreciated the time Silas spent sleeping in a crib. I appreciated the early days when he slept multiple consecutive hours and I was able to sleep soundly across the room but still wake when I heard him rustle around in search of me. I can attest that I appreciated the space in my own bed to fall deeply asleep for 45 minutes at a time between his hourly wake ups that went on for a year. I relished being able to get comfortable in any position I wanted without anyone touching me, even as I dreaded the many times I had to get up and down in a night. Those blissful deep sleeps free of a head in my ribcage, an arm across my throat, a foot in the face, or an entire body on my chest made the crib worth it, even when it didn’t do the job I hoped it would. As a reformed co-sleeper, I confess that I am grateful that our living situation re-imposed co-sleeping on me. I admit that I no longer tiptoe into bed for fear that the stirring of the duvet will wake the baby, as I once did in my first incarnation as a co-sleeper. I confess that now when I climb into bed, I wrap my son in my arms and pull his sleeping body up against my own. I confirm that a bury my face in the curve of his neck and inhale the smell of him. I do indeed pass my hands softly over his silky baby hair and rub them over him, feeling the ridge of his spine, the hollow of his back, the fullness of his belly, the way his little foot fits in the palm of my hand like a secret. I acknowledge that I hold on a little tightly, squeezing him into me, absorbing him, for just a fraction of a second as I breathe in his ear, “I love you.” I confess that as he stirs, and becomes aware of my presence in his sleep, I return him gently to his pillow, smoothing his fuzzy blanket over him, and patting him back into his dreams. I confide that I take his hand, heavy and limp with sleep, into my own hand, closing my fingers around his fist, as I settle into my own pillow and close my eyes. I confess that I am ok temporarily not sharing a bed with my husband. I wouldn’t sleep as well if there were another adult body in the bed. Alone in the bed with a toddler, I have the luxury and space to roll away from Silas between nursing sessions and get comfortable, just as I could when Silas was in a crib. I acknowledge that I have been given a gift: the chance to reclaim all that I lost during the year Silas slept in a crib. I even admit that sometimes I love it when he sits up in the night and says, “nurse. mama.” because it means that I have one more chance to memorize the weight and shape of unconditional love, that I...

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Seasons of Motherhood

Posted on Jan 12, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 16 comments

Seasons of Motherhood

For some time now, we’ve been without regular childcare. This is partly our own fault: our old babysitter moved back to England, and we tried out some new ones but they weren’t really great matches. Our little ones have also gone through some phases of separation anxiety so we didn’t prioritize finding someone new. We decided to let it go. The reality of this, especially with no extended family living locally, is that I spend 24 hours a day with my children (we even share sleep). For either Aaron or I to go do something (a dentist appointment, parent teacher interview, work, a beer/tea/movie with a friend), we have to schedule it so that the other parent will be home, or we bring the kids along if possible. Of course, this also means that it has been nearly impossible for Aaron and I to go out together. In fact, we have sometimes even resorted to waiting until we had family visiting from 2 provinces away before we would plan to go do something together (like belatedly go out for dinner for our 10th Anniversary). Yes, I know–as I type, I can hear whole parts of the internet bursting into flames over our unwillingness to preserve the sanctity of “date night.” Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this seriously impairs my ability to have my own life in addition to my role as mother. Obviously, I don’t have a career outside of raising kids, I’m not able to return to school, and my hobbies are sporadic at best. I won’t lie to you: sometimes that feels stifling and overwhelming. Sometimes I rage against the whole system (the universe, motherhood, biology–why aren’t men the ones with the boobs!?). Sometimes I just want some time for me. Sometimes I dream wistfully about what I’ll be when I grow up, I mean, when they grow up. Often, I stay up too late in the evenings, just to squeeze in a couple of kid-free hours after the last of our kids has finally (unwillingly) succumbed to slumber. It isn’t always an easy place to be. Lately, and by that I mean, since Silas was born (almost 2 years ago), I feel at peace with this. After 8 years of pregnancy and motherhood, have I finally just given up, and allowed myself to be eaten by the needs of my children? No, it’s more likely that, because Silas is our last child, I am buoyed by the knowledge that the end is in sight. Though, it’s also true that this peace over my voluntary position as a mother has burned as an ember deep inside me from the earliest days, from the first decisions that I made to set aside some of my wants and needs in deference to my children’s needs.Those choices represented an ever-shifting, intricate blend of willing sacrifice and practical necessity. Through it all, despite the times I sometimes fought against it, there was that sense of peace deep within. Call it intuition. I never questioned why I felt that way. I just knew it for what it was. So much of what I read or hear in our culture tells me that I shouldn’t be ok with stepping out of the work force for so many years, that I shouldn’t be ok with being unable to go on a date with my husband, that I shouldn’t be ok with nursing my toddler more than 4 times in a night. I hear the cautionary tale of the housewives who live their whole lives for their children, who exist only for the PTA meetings and to drive the soccer practice car-pool van, who meddle in their teenage children’s dramas, and who find themselves completely lost when their children leave for college. Yet, I don’t worry about any of those things. Ever since Silas was born, that little ember of peace and acceptance for the way things are has grown, and with it my understanding of why every single one of these sacrifices is ok with me. I have...

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Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

It seems to me that 90% of parenting you have to learn from experience, as you go. You can read books, have friends tell you all the dirty details, consult the experts, but until you find yourself discussing the consistency of poop at dinner with the neighbours you probably didn’t know what you were going to do, or what you’d have to do, to raise an infant to adulthood. In light of that, there are some things about parenting that I did not get as a parent of only one child. It was the experience of parenting multiple kids that taught me these little truths. **Here I must insert my disclaimer to say that I don’t mean this to be condescending to parents of a single child, whether it be by choice, by accident, or because they just haven’t had their future kids yet. I am only speaking to my experience of having learned these things through the act of parenting two or more kids. This isn’t an attack on parents of one, especially given the fact that even if parents of one never learn these things, they have other strengths and positives in their situation that I will never have the chance to experience.** Here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know when I only had Rain: It wasn’t all my parenting. It was mostly the kid. Sure, I’ve had some positive effects on my kids…but all that smugness, thinking that I’d done all these things right (or for that matter, even the guilt about the things I thought were my fault)? So much of it is just the personality of the child or the circumstances at the time. My son was toilet trained in 6 weeks. My daughter took 6 months. I don’t get points for any of it, except maybe being willing to go with the flow. Every kid has the potential to be an asshole. And an angel. Yes, even mine. And yours. You know that mama bear reaction you have when a bigger kid on the playground is being mean, aggressive, or bossy to your kid? When they throw sand in your baby’s face, or snatch a toy, or kick your sweet darling in the back because they went down the slide before your kid got off? You know that feeling when you look at the other child, thinking that he’s totally rude and aggressive, downright nasty, maybe even a brat (and you haven’t even gotten started on all the ways it’s the mother’s fault). Your kiddo seems so little still next to the other kids and you are biologically programmed to want to protect them from all harm. How about this? Your three year old is throwing a tantrum and has accidentally punched your three day old baby in the stomach. Your first reaction is to protect your baby, and you feel yourself going mama bear on your precious first born. But then you see how he’s hurting and confused and still little too. You realize that it could be your kid on the playground being mean, aggressive or bossy to someone younger and you love him anyway. You realize that all the kids out there are sometimes the rough ones, the selfish ones, the rude ones, and sometimes, the sweet ones, the funny ones, the little ones. When your kid is going through a difficult phase, you recognize it as a developmental stage or the full moon or a long day or a bad mood and worry less about what that means in the long term. You finally understand that they aren’t defined by a snapshot of their behaviour on any given day – they are all of that and more. After that, it’s a lot easier to be charitable to other people’s kids, and to your own, when they don’t play nice. A little crying isn’t the end of the world. With my firstborn, every time he cried it was earth shatteringly upsetting to me. I jumped to soothe and fix it every time. Once you have two kids that...

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Quintessential Childhood Gifts

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

My son Rain, having recently turned seven, received some classic gifts that inspired my sister and I to brainstorm a list of the quintessential childhood gifts. Here is our suggested list of gifts for every boy and girl up to the age of ten. These items have been proven to inspire and delight and it is our feeling that they awaken the curious mind of the child to all types of creativity, without pretense and without self-consciousness. In every case, a real working item should be gifted, not a toy version. In addition, I’ve listed a classic book to be read aloud at each age. A hardcover edition of each of the suggested books would also make lovely gifts.   One Year Old A ball to encourage give and take, and laughter. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown               Two Year Old A set of wooden blocks to awaken the builder, planner, dreamer. A Baby’s Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg               Three Year Old An apron (for kitchen and workshop) and a small tape measure to share the joy of creating, working with our hands, and accomplishing tasks around the home and to teach that everyone, no matter how small, can lend a helping hand. The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne               Four Year Old An instrument (smallest size djembe drum, a harmonica, a recorder, or a small ukelele) to kindle a love of music and introduce the idea that music can come from anyone. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White               Five Year Old A hardcover 4×6 inch sketch pad, travel set of pencils or crayons in a proper tin, wooden box or case, a flashlight to encourage freedom of expression without limits (on paper consumption or seeing in the dark). Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl                 Six Year Old A magnifying glass and a compass to encourage exploring the world with an open heart. Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie               Seven Year Old Binoculars and the classic Swiss Army Knife, a small messenger-style bag for excursions (over the shoulder, many pockets, preferably used) to facilitate adventures. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder                 Eight Year Old A watercolour paint set and a pad of watercolour paper to delight in colour, shape, and light, and to instill a love of making art. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis                 Nine Year Old A game set with more than one game such as chess, checkers, backgammon (preferably in a wooden case) to teach strategy, sportsmanship, companionship, and the care and appreciation of all things finely crafted. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien                 Ten Year Old A hammock to embrace one’s inner world, inspire imagination, and to while away the lazy days of childhood. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling             Tell me – what would you...

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Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off?

Posted on May 12, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 0 comments

Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off?

…{This is a draft from a couple of years ago and I wanted to run it because tomorrow I anticipate one of those Mother’s Days that doesn’t quite measure up. When your kids are young, the success of Mother’s Day often depends on the planning of your partner/co-parent and this year Aaron has a lot going on. Our business is busier than it’s ever been, we’re building a cabin, Aaron’s looking at buying some new equipment for our business this week. There’s a pretty good possibility that there will be no gift, no card and no relaxing day given that Aaron hasn’t had a free moment to shop, we have no groceries in the house and we’ll probably spend the day at our building site. And still, I don’t hate Mother’s Day. I still think it’s a good idea. Have a read below if you want to know why.}…   In case you somehow missed it, yesterday was Mother’s Day. I had a really great day and surprisingly, after 5 years of Mother’s Days it was the first time I had an open conversation with Aaron about what I want for Mother’s Day. Hopefully, that will mean that future Mother’s Days will be just as enjoyable. What do I want? I want to sleep in a bit. I want someone to say Happy Mother’s Day when I wake up. I want to spend the day together as a family, maybe go for a walk, maybe garden, maybe go for lunch. I don’t want a day focused on getting stuff done.  I don’t want to be solely responsible for child care for large portions of the day. I don’t need a gift. I don’t mind making dinner. I just want to spend a nice day together. And maybe every few years it might be nice to be surprised with a pedicure or massage. This seems pretty simple in the wants department. That’s pretty much how yesterday went and that’s why I loved it. It was simple but it was still an acknowledgement that I am appreciated. Over the weekend I read a lot of blog posts about Mother’s Day. Most were along the lines of “I hate Mother’s Day. It’s too much pressure. It’s fake. It’s a Hallmark Holiday. It never measures up. I don’t want to be given corny poetry and flowers telling me that I am good at cleaning the house and washing laundry. I don’t want all this built-up fuss over ONE day when my family should do nice things for me all year, should appreciate me every day.” You know what? I get that. I’ve had crappy Mother’s Days. I’ve had days where my family forgot. They sucked. And it’s true, we should appreciate our moms and dads every day of the year. We should randomly do nice things for people for no reason all year long. But know what else? The truth is we don’t. We forget. We get busy living our lives. We take each other for granted. We take relationships for granted. We think of picking up a gift just because but we don’t end up acting on it. It seems extravagant or we’re in a hurry or we don’t have the money. How often do you sit down with the kids and draw I love daddy cards, just because? I don’t do it as much as I should. It’s sad, but it’s true. That’s why we have birthdays. That’s why we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. That’s why every day of the year is an acknowledgment of something. This week is Nurses Week. Should we abolish Nurses Week because we should appreciate nurses every day? May 5 was International Day of the Midwife. Should we not go to the effort of thanking our midwives and spreading word about the job they do just because it’s an arbitrary day on the calendar that has nothing to do with anything? I realise that often these honorary days come across pretty phony and I agree with a lot of the Mother’s Day...

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