Monday, December 14, 2009

Jill's Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Since Kris was musing about Breastfeeding, I thought I would chime in with my two bits. Since I presently have a two week old baby, I apologize in advance for typing in a state of ridiculous sleep deprivation.

I did exclusively breastfeed both my boys for 6 months, and nursed them all the way to two, as per the World Health Organization's reccommendations. With my first son I swore I was quitting every two months. But it was such an easy way to get him back to sleep. It was so much easier than messing with formula and bottles. It would quiet him when he was overstimulated in the middle of grocery shopping. And weaning was such a chore that I just kept putting it off until, frankly, I was pregnant again and fed up with nursing. Basically, after the first few months, I breast fed because yes, it was healthy and good for his tummy and his brain and etc, etc.; but mostly I breast fed because I'm lazy and cheap, and I was staying home anyway, so there was no reason not to.

I think that most women, if given the right information and the time to get a good start in the first few weeks with their baby, can breastfeed. And I get frustrated that so many women feel like failures because they followed the wrong advice or were too overwhelmed by other concerns or had no help in their first weeks or months of breastfeeding, and quit before they wanted to. I feel like we are letting people down to promote breastfeeding as the best option, then berrate people who struggle and eventually give up on something that is causing them a lot of pain and heartache. At the same time, I think that women who choose to formula feed or pump and use bottles should not apologize for doing so. It is their choice to feed their child in the manner that works for them and their baby. I don't think it is our place to judge women's choices until we have heard their entire story.

I am also a total feed anywhere, anytime kind of person. I have buckled myself into the middle seat of the car and nursed my son as we drove through rush hour traffic (yes, I'm quite flexible). I have plunked down in the middle of a quiet aisle in clothing stores and grocery stores to nurse my baby (because I don't like eating my lunch in the bathroom, personally). I have nursed my baby in a sling in the middle of a dramatized tour of the tunnels of Moose Jaw, and in the middle of a hallway in a castle in Ireland. And although I do use a sling a lot of the time, other times I simply have a camisole with the front cut out under my t-shirt, with a zip-up hoodie in case its cold. You know what? I get less stares than you would think. I often have people come up to me and chat for 5 minutes before they realize that the baby is latched on. And when I do get stares and glares? Well, I have red hair and a flamboyant sense of fashion, so I generally get stared at anyway.

The thing about doing anything unusual in public (trust me on this one) is that if you act like its a normal thing to do, people will generally just filter it out of their field of view and assume you are doing something normal. If you are visibly nervous, you will attract attention. On the other hand, if your posture and facial expressions are aggressive or challenging, people will feel uncomfortable and you will attract attention. So I think the key to nursing in public is simple: wear clothes that are easy to nurse in or bring some kind of cover that you are comfortable with so there is no hassle. Maintain the mindset that you are doing something normal and everyday. Let your body reflect that reality, and generally people will follow suit. And if not, well then you will have a funny story to post on your blog later that day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I, or do I have to be?

I'm sure many of you have heard the term, "breastfeeding Nazi" tossed around from time to time. The first time I heard it was when I was expecting my first child. I had planned on breastfeeding, knowing that it was the best nutrition possible for my child and it was free to boot. I was at a party one night talking to another woman. She was a mother and she asked if I was planning on nursing. Yes, I replied. "Well, you just watch out for those breastfeeding Nazi's out there, if you want to give him a bottle, just go ahead and do it." she told me. She was very adamant about this. I gathered that she had had some bad experiences with other mothers in the past in relation to this subject. I didn't realise how divided a camp there was.
I was still happy to go ahead and give breastfeeding a go with my child once he was born. I didn't realise then how much work it was (and it really is a lot of work in the beginning). I also didn't realise how exhausted I would be, sheerly because I was a new mom. I had my first encounter with what you may term a breastfeeding Nazi about a week after my son's birth. It was one of the lacation consultant nurses. She was calling to see how things were going. I was simply exhausted and completely greatful that my parents had taken the baby out in the stroller for a couple of hours so I could have a rest. I really shouldn't have answered the phone at all. Her advice to me, get pumping while the baby was out. I was so tired that I started to listen to her on autopilot and pump. Wait a minute! Was I crazy? This was the first opportunity I'd had for uninterrupted sleep in a week. So I slept. I started to figure out what people were talking about. Nurse at all costs. Somehow that didn't jive with my notion of why I was nursing. I was nursing to offer my baby the best I could, but I also knew I couldn't offer him my best while I was exhausted.
I did eventually find a balance. I didn't pump in the beginning, I relied solely on nursing him. It worked. Eventually I did introduce a bottle. Sometimes with pumped breast milk and sometimes with formula. I stand by the concept that 80 or 90% breastmilk and 10-20% formula is better than no breast milk at all. He remained a nursing baby for the first year of his life. His brother nursed for the first 17 months of his life.
I'm getting ready for my third baby. I know that if at all possible (and I will do my best to make it possible), this baby will be a breastfed baby too. I started to think about nusing my baby yesterday morning. I was waiting at the mall with my boys for Santa to come for pictures with Santa. I was sitting on a bench with a mother of a 3 week old little girl. When her baby was hungry, she went to nurse her, but also made sure she was completely covered with blankets. So many blankets, I wondered if her child was overheating under there. That got me thinking about all sorts of stories I've heard of what it is like to nurse in public. I've nursed in public. I've nursed in restaurants, in stores, in the library, at the mall, and at church. I'm pretty discrete, but I also make sure my baby is comfortable too. There are places around the world where nursing your baby in public is not a big deal. Your baby is hungry, you feed it, case closed. Here in North America we have a little bit of a different culture. Your baby is hungry, go ahead and feed it, just don't make me uncomfortable in the process. Personally, I prefer to find a quiet, relaxing place to nurse. I like when malls provide couches and rocking chairs for nursing moms, not to hide us away, but to encourage us to be comfortable. I love that our library was nursing friendly signs in it, particularily near the couches and cushions in the children's section, so my other kids can read and play while I feed the baby. But I also know that there isn't always a quiet place to go to. And when baby is hungry, it's time to eat, NOW! The worst I've heard (and I hear it a lot) is people encouraging nursing moms to go sit on the toilet in the store washroom to nurse. Really? Would you eat your lunch on a toilet? Why would I choose to have my infant eat there? Have you seen the state of some of the public restrooms? Why isn't it okay to sit on a bench in the store to nurse? This is the part of me that questions how much a breastfeeding Nazi I have in me. As time has gone on I've felt more pressure to explain why I choose to nurse my kids and defend my right to do it. Those who don't nurse may wonder then why I wouldn't plan my days around my child's nursing schedule. Realistically, that isn't possible. Newborns eat every 3 hours for 45 minutes to an hour, from start to start time. So there are times when you feed the baby only to have them wanting to eat an hour and half later. It does limit your schedule if you live by baby's needs alone.
It leaves me in a place of limbo. I nurse my kids because I believe it is offering them the best I can give them. I understand that in the culture we live in, public nursing can make people uncomfortable. I'm not one to be in your face about it, I just want my kids to eat. I'm also not one to berate anyone who for whatever reason chooses not to nurse their babies, that's not my call, that's theirs. I wonder if the reason breastfeeding moms have gotten a bad rap of being 'breastfeeding Nazis' because we are working against the culture we live in. We live where breasts are seen as completely sexual, so we are funny and awkward about them. Take a look at a magazine rack and tell me what you see. A lot more skin than a nursing mommy shows. Why aren't we up in arms about that? Why isn't that labelled disgusting? Why aren't those magazine covers told to go cover up and hide in the washroom?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

DIY Christmas

Partly out of neccessity and partly out of the desire to be creative with my kids, we are having a bit of a DIY Christmas this year. (DIY=Do it yourself) It started with me not wanting to find the boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations. We are moving shortly after Christmas and really, within the midst of packing boxes, it just seemed silly to me to start unpacking more boxes. We had a tree, we just needed decorations. Well, we have paper, we have markers and we have imagination. The homemade Christmas ornament project began to unfold.
We started with a paper chain. I took an old magazine and cut out 2cm strips, lengthwse from the magazine. My 5 year old began looping the stips and I taped. He really had fun with this once we saw how long of a chain we were making. We did a few stop and measures to see just how far down the hallway he could go. Our paper chain is now our Chritmas tree garland.

My second idea was to make snowflakes. I cut 4 squares for each boy out of a couple of sheets of white paper, folded them into triangles and let them cut with scissors. It's such an easy little project, and it always looks pretty. Their snowflakes are now hanging on our tree.
My oldest asked if I would cut him out some Christmas shapes and let him decorate them. Sure. He made a bell, a candy cane, a tree, and a stocking like that.
For stars, I cut out star shapes from a piece of thin cardboard. The boys then glued pieces of aluminum foil onto them to make them shine.
They each made an angel as well. I cut a circle out for the face and took a triangle of paper for them to decorate. Once the triangle was finished, I made it into a cone shape (for the gown) and taped the faces onto the top of them.
We've had a lot of fun figuring out decorations this year. In fact, I may not get out the box of ornaments next year either. This little project of ours turned into a great way to spend an afternoon together. I know they enjoyed it too (especially my oldest) as they have boasted to several people about their Christmas tree this year.
We had so much fun with the tree that I looked for another Christmas project for us to do together. I found a gingerbread house. Last year, I attempted to bake my own, but my shape sizes got all out of whack and my royal icing flopped. This year I saved us some grief by finding a kit. It was well worth the $8.00. Very easy to put together and a lot of fun to decorate. They both love having their house as our dining room table centrepiece (especially if they can sneak a little treat off of it when we aren't looking!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Baby Belly

How sacred is your baby belly? Do you allow random strangers to come up and have a feel? There is something magnetic about a baby belly isn't there? So far I've been pretty fortunate with this pregnancy, or, perhaps this being my third I give off more "don't touch me" vibes? I remember having to take a lot more steps back when I was carrying my first. It's a funny thing really. Would you allow someone to touch you when you aren't pregnant?
I don't mind friends having a touch, after all, there's a person in there and that's pretty cool. I have one work friend who has never felt a baby move in utero ever. She's also asked permission, which I really appreciate. Unfortunately, this little one has no performer tendancies whatsoever right now. Today, she missed the jumping bean by about half an hour. I guess I'll have to time my little jolt of sugar a little better for our break time next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Parent is Born Blog Tour - Back to Work

Clever Mamas is pleased to be part of Mom Central and Pampers' "A Parent is Born" blog tour. Several parenting blogs are taking part in this fun initiative. We've been asked to give our best tips on one of two topics: How to cope with going back to work, or, baby/mama sleep tips. I'll confess that I need the baby/mama sleep tips for myself (my motto has always been get it while you can and enjoy it), but I do have a few insights into heading back to work.

I'm currently preparing for my 3rd maternity leave as I write this (2 weeks of work left!). Seeing as this is my 3rd baby, I've dealt with heading back to work after baby twice before. Both experiences were completely different. I had the good fortune of having a 14 month leave after having my first child. I enjoyed every minute of my time off with my son. I had the full year to nurse him and wean him. He was eating well and he had been left with sitters before. That would be my first going back to work tip:

1) Make sure your first day back at work is not the first time you and your child have had time apart. Take time during your maternity leave to go out without him.

2) Find a daycare provider that you really like and are comfortable with. This was my biggest struggle with going back to work with my first child. I didn't know who I was going to leave him with. We do not have family that lives locally to us. I was also going back to work part time. In the province I live in there is no part time infant care available at licenced daycares (infant describing any child under the age of 2). I needed to find a home daycare situation and fast. I did find one, but felt the pressure of "is this the right place for him to be at?" quite a bit.

Going back to work with my second child was a completely different experience. For one thing, I couldn't afford to take the entire year's maternity leave after having worked part time prior to having him. I ended up taking a 6 month leave, so he was much younger than his brother had been. I was still nursing him and just introducing him to solid food at this time. This made things a little trickier.

3) If you are nursing your baby, ensure that they are introduced to a bottle well before your return to work. Pump and freeze your milk so that you have enough supply for your child while you are away. Make sure you are not the only person who gives your baby a bottle. My husband drove our son to my work on my first day back because he (the baby) was in such a state over recieving a bottle from dad instead of mom. That is not an ideal situation. He did learn to take a bottle, from both my husband and our daycare provider, but it really was a learning process.

4) Build time into your day to express breast milk if you are still nursing. You want to keep your supply up and your freezer full for your baby. You know your workplace best. There are quiet, private places that you can do this. Talk to your supervisor if finding a place to express seems difficult for you. There may be a private office you can use on your coffee break and/or lunch hour for 15 minutes. I had 2 days a week that I travelled between 2 schools on my lunch break(I'm a teacher). On those days I packed a cold lunch, parked at a park on the way to my next school and pumped while I ate. It worked for me. You have to find what works for you. On my regular school breaks, I would lock my empty classroom door, cover the window, sit at my desk and pump. That worked too. It worked because I had to make the decision to find a way to work it. I did continue to nurse my son until he was 17 months. A lot of moms I speak to seem amazed by that, especially considering he was only 6 months old when I went back to work. It was something that was important for me,a choice I made as his mother.

My 5th and final tip on this subject comes from welcoming other mothers back to work after their maternity leaves:

5) Find a work buddy who understands what you are going through. Usually, another mother on staff is the one who will 'get it'. It is difficult to work outside the home. I know I wished I could stay home with my babies forever, but that just wasn't practical for our family situation. The staff I worked with had many women all around the same age and place in life. I remember catching the eye of one co-worker on her first day back to work and I saw 'the look'. I pulled her aside just to let her know that I understood. She took a deep breath and smiled through watery eyes. There were many short 'mama meetings' on the side as she adjusted back to working life. Sometimes just knowing you aren't alone helps so much.

What about you? Do you have any great Mama tips to share with the world? You too can join in on the fun. Go to and leave your best tips with them. You could win one of 25 $20 gift cards, or the grand prize of $500!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Follow up on Internet Safety and Kids

Jill's post this weekend really got me thinking about how safe have I been with my kids online? I know my settings are very high on Facebook (which is where the bulk of my pictures are stashed) and on purpose I don't use my children's names on this site because I do have a few pictures of them on here. I took a look at my blogger profile just to double check that my location was vague (it is) and that my name was just my first (it is). My mom (gotta love it when God speaks to Grammas!) was also prompted by Jill's experience to check up on my kids' safety online. The one thing I didn't think about was my regular blog. She's right. It doesn't take much for anyone to link this site with any other blog I write. My regular blog does have more pictures, names and identifying details in it. Hmmm, all of a sudden it didn't feel as good anymore. My blog was created for me to share with family and friends. Who else is looking at it? I didn't want to be extreme about it and erase everything I'd written these past number of years, but I didn't want it all left out there for whoever to track down. Fortunately, I remembered that blogger does have the ability to create permissions under its settings. I went into that and changed the permissions to by invitation only can read this blog. I feel a lot better now.
The thing is, is that I should know better and thought that I did. I don't have a Flickr account because I knew that it was too easy for just anyone to scam my pictures from it. Pretty much anything else I join online has high privacy settings set on it. I like that the internet allows me to easily share stories and pictures with friends and family who live in other parts of the country. We just have to be smart about it. There is a way to balance safety and fear. To enjoy what is available to us without being afraid of it.
A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have a leading expert in children and teen internet safety come to speak to the school district I work for (I am a teacher). Her name is Parry Aftab and she was one of the most interesting speakers that I've heard. I would really encourage all parents to take a look at her site "Wired Safety" (just click on the words). I hope you find her work just as helpful and insightful as I have, no matter what age your children are, there is something there to help you out.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kids Photos on Social Networking Sites

So, I had a kind of creepy experience today. I went to check my email, and there was someone requesting to be my contact on Flikr. This happens once in a while, as I am quite an active Flikr user. Most of my photos relate to crafts, swaps, and quilts that I am working on. Mostly the people who want to be my contacts are swapping with me, or are other people who do crafts or make quilts and who hang out in the same groups as I do. But this person was someone unfamiliar to me -- I had never received a comment from them or "seen" them on any of the craft-related and swap-related groups I generally post in.

Flash back: A year or so ago, before I had my laptop, I thought my desktop computer was going to crash because it was slowing down so much. It was a dinosoar and did not have a drive that could write anything to cd, and Yahoo! photos was shutting down and being overtaken by Flikr. So I paid my subscription fee and transferred all my family photos for the last 3 years to Flikr, without thinking much about it. Most of them I transferred with a "Private" Setting, but a few files had photos of quilts and crafts and my kids, so I left those whole files as "Public", meaning to go back and change them later.

Flash forward to today: So, I go to check out the profile of this stranger who wants to be my contact. And do you know what is in their favorites? Exclusively photos of little boys, mostly with blond hair and blue eyes, like my boys. The person is a single male, whose photos are all of dogs and vacations. Creepy. I think I will block you, thank you very much.

Guess what I spent the afternoon doing? I rifled through my entire Flikr account, making almost all the photos of my boys private. Weirdly enough, I found two photos of my boys that have not been posted in any Group that I know of that had between 100 and 200 views each - generally my photos have 2 or 3 views, and my quilts sometimes have 30 or 40. Where did those people come from? Who were they? And what were they doing looking at photos of my children?

That is my cautionary tale for today. Be careful what you casually post on the internet. Those of us who hang around in the friendly mom and craft and food and decorating parts of the web can sometimes forget that it it not really a safe place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

" Hurry Up and Wait"

In the film and tv industry (and to a lesser extent, in theatre rehearsals) actors often have to be on set, in make up and costume, with their lines memorized, ready to get in their places. Once they have achieved this state, they must wait for the camera to be focused, the shot to be set up, the lights to be properly adjusted, and many other technical details to be worked out before they actually get to go on set and do their bit.

The last few weeks of pregnancy are kind of like this. You get everything ready for the baby, make all your plans for who will go where during your delivery, get your bags packed, and then . . . you wait. The rest is up to your body, not you.

This is the stage we are in right now -- the hurry up and wait. Some days I feel like I'm going into labour, some days I don't. All trips out of town have been suspended. The smallest cramp or contraction or gas or sore back is closely monitored by me, in case it is actually a contraction. I've already been to the hospital and back once. Every night at bed time and every day as he goes to school, Andrew asks, "Do you think the baby will come before I wake up/ get home?".

There is very little you can do in this stage, especially once all the major preparation is complete. All you can do is keep up the dishes and laundry, fend off the curious phone calls and emails, and try keep a nice balance between being busy and well rested.

With my first son, since I did not have any other kids to care for, and I was on summer holidays from my job, and it was really hot. I watched all the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, and all the special features (yes, it took me a whole week) while I hid out in our basement suite. In the cool evenings I would go for walks.

With my second son, I was so busy chasing my oldest son and getting ready for Christmas. Then I obsessively researched natural birth and breastfeeding for a few weeks before the birth. I had a terrible cold and could hardly walk, though, so mostly I was just waiting for the pain to end.

This time I have been sewing and sewing and sewing .

The main point is to find something to do to keep you from obsessively thinking about the coming baby. What have you done to keep yourself busy in this ending, hurry up and wait, stage?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thinking about others

It's Operation Christmas Child week at Samaritan's Purse. If you've never heard of the program, you are in for a real treat. The premise is simple. Fill a shoebox with a variety of items that would be of use and interest to a child in a developing country (such as crayons, colouring books, small toys, soap, toothbrushes, t-shirt, hair barrettes and other small items). Attach a label that tells if the gifts inside are appropriate for a boy or girl and the age. Include a small donation ($7 per box) to cover shipping costs and drop it off at your local collection agency. It's a really easy way to teach your kids about the importance of giving to others in need. They can be involved by shopping for the items inside, deciding what the boy or girl would really like to have for Christmas. The Samaritan's Purse website has all the information you need to know about what kinds of things to include (and not include) as well as small videos to show your kids what the program is all about and the kids in need. You can find out more at the Samaritan's Purse website

Want to get your kids interested in helping in others, but think that you don't have enough time to fill a shoebox this week? Here's another suggestion for you. Try FHI's Gift Catalogue. FHI stands for Food for the Hungry International. It is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to work in developing nations with the idea of training the people there to overcome poverty. Their gift guide includes everything from chickens and seedlings, to bed netting and school supplies. You and your kids could have a lot of fun looking through and deciding what gifts to buy kids and families overseas. You can visit the FHI website at

Organizations like Samaritan's Purse and FHI not only allow you and your kids to get involved in helping others, they also help educate your children to become more globally aware of the living situations of others in our world.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Potty Time

Want to start a good old mama debate real fast? Ask how potty training is going. Here's a list of possible topics that can come out of this:
-when to start?
-are they ready?
-just underwear?
-right to the toilet?
-what about at daycare?
-what about leaving the house?
-night training?
And the list goes on and on and on. I don't claim in any way to be an expert at potty training. I have ideas. I have experience with one child and I'm starting to get experience with my second. To our great surprise and wonder, our second has decided to start training on his own. I really don't know how this happened and I have no idea how to make your child decide to do this. Our boy is 2 and a half. We struggled training his older brother until he was 3 and a half. We tried everything. We read potty books. We filled him with liquid and sat him on the potty every hour. We tried reward charts and treats. We paid out so much money in pull-ups that I should have taken stock in the company and nothing worked. He simply wasn't ready. Do you want to know what finally did it for him? Hockey underwear. He loves hockey and decided that he didn't want to get the hockey players dirty. That was it. That was his big motivator and it worked.
I think our second is being motivated simply because he wants to be a big boy like his brother. We've had the potty out for a while now and let him sit on it when he wanted with no expectation for anything yet. The hope has been that we would work on potty training at some point before he's three and the new baby comes along (I really don't like having 2 in diapers). Last weekend, he shouted to me from the bathroom, "Mommy, I peed!" and I had this little naked boy running excitedly around the house. Sure enough, on his own initiative, he had ripped off his diaper and peed in the potty. I was shocked. And very excited. The next day I went searching for training pants. The thick white cotton kind. He told me he wanted to wear underwear - so that's what we did. He wears the training pants first with pair of little underwear over top. He's extremely proud of this. At this point we are only doing this while we are at home. He hasn't yet gone potty at daycare and we're not pushing it. He's still wearing a diaper when we go out because I don't think he's ready for that next step yet. Once he's a little more consistent with using underwear and making it successfully to the potty then we'll venture out diaperless.
How has it gone since that first time last Saturday? Pretty good. He's gone potty at least once or twice each day when we've been home. The times where he hasn't quite made it there, he's almost made it and told me he has to pee or has run into the bathroom and just didn't quite give himself enough time. We're taking the stance of being relaxed and encouraging about it. It's a learning process. We know he's starting to pick up his own body cues which is great, and now it's just a matter of putting it all together. Sure there's extra laundry to do, but it's to be expected at any stage of potty training (just wait until it's sheets for night training, then the extra pants won't seem like much). At this point we're not buying him pull-ups, but that's not to say we won't at some later point. I like that he feels wet immediately with the training pants, but they soak up enough that it doesn't leave a mess behind. Training pants can be harder to find these days (not like when we were kids and that's all the option our parents had), I believe I found ours at Zellers. They are basically a thick underwear, made out of a similar material to long johns.
As with anything potty training is something that you need to find what works best for you and your child. I don't think there is a perfect way to do it. Just take a deep breath and relax, everyone gets it eventually.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sick and Pregnant

As opposed to being sick because I'm pregnant, or sick of being pregnant.
I have what is known as seasonal flu. No, it's not H1N1, the symptoms are different. I woke up yesterday feeling slightly achy, but decided to brave it out and go to work. I knew by lunchtime I'd be staying home today. Last night I faced the chills and fatigue. Today, the chills and fever are gone, but the fatigue and a cough remain (a productive cough though, which is good).
My husband very generously offered to make me up a Neo Citran, which I couldn't accept because of the baby. I don't like to take anything when I'm pregnant, I even kicked my 1 a day Diet Coke habit for this little one. And then I tried to remember how did I handle being sick when I was pregnant the last 2 go rounds. Here's some home remedy tips that should help you out if you are ever in this same situation.
1. A nice warm bubble bath should take some of the edge off the chills
2. Likewise a hot shower will create the steam to help clear out any congestion you may have.
3. Take the time to rest - that's why we have sick days! Yes, I took my 2 year old to daycare today, I wouldn't have gotten a nap in otherwise. And yes, I relaxed my TV time allotment rule yesterday afternoon so I could sit up on the couch curled up in a quilt. It's just a day, it's not going to ruin them for life. Use your sick day to really rest, not catch up on stuff. The dishes, laundry and other household things can wait, they wouldn't have gotten done if you'd been at work anyways! If you are a stay at home mom, this is the time to cash in favors from friends and family, ship your kids out for a little while.
4. Make your own hot honey & lemon drink. No, it doesn't have the medicine of a Neo Citran, but it does help soothe a sore throat and cough. I have big Starbucks mugs, so I use 2 TBSP of honey and one TBSP of lemon juice to the boiling water. Smaller mugs can use less.
5. Prop yourself up a bit for sleep time - it won't irritate your cough and you'll get some much needed rest.
6. Boost up on Vitamin C. I don't like oranges (most people find this strange) - but I do like other things that contain Vitamin C, such as red peppers and strawberries. Today I munched on fresh pineapple.
7. Drink plenty of liquids - keep yourself hydrated
8. Dig out the humidifier and get it going for yourself
9. Change your bedding and your PJ's - you'll feel fresher and know you aren't sleeping in your old germs
10. Clean your toothbrush - same reason as above
11. Make yourself a warm moist cloth compress to put on your forehead, cheeks and/or eyes to relieve pressure from sinus pain
12. Ginger has long been used as a home remedy - try some ginger tea or some soup with ginger in it.
13. Cash in a backrub from your significant other - it sounds silly but it really does help fight flu and cold (I don't know why, you'll have to ask someone else about that part)
14. A warm foot soak can help relieve pain and pressure
15. Use a heating pad on your back or wherever you are finding an ache.

These are just some of my tips. You probably have some of your own to add to my list. Let me know in the comments section. Feel well and take care of yourself!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is this supposed to be funny?

As I was teaching today I was reminded of something I really, really can't stand. Not just one, but many students wear shirts to school with a negative message on them. Now, I get that they are supposed to be humorous, but I just don't see how these shirts and messages strengthen the family and build up the child. Here's some real life examples I've seen.
"If I see it and like it, you buy it - any questions?"
"Sister for sale cheap"
"My parents are clever, but not as clever as me"
"Spoiled Brat"
"If you don't like my attitude then stop talking to me"
"I'm not trying to be difficult, it comes naturally"
As we live in a society where we complain about loss of family values, I just wonder what messages we are sending to our children. When we buy clothing like this we (their parents) are saying it's okay to have attitude, it's okay to be negative about your sibling, it's okay to be in charge of your own parents.
Think about messages you've seen on shirts. Do your own kids have clothing like this? Why? I'm curious. What kind of child do you want your child to be? Are we just buying into the message that kids have attitude so we'll just go with it? Or, are we striving for something else? The kids we raise are our future adults. They are decision makers. It is our responsibility to bring them up the best we can to help them become the best they can. The next time you are looking at graphic tees for your kids why not get one like one of these? (also ones I've really seen):
"Dream Big"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's in a name?

I've been spending a lot of time on the message boards at lately. One of my groups is all women who are due in the same month as me. One of the hot topics seems to be "what do you think of this name?", or, "is this name getting too popular?", or, "Name poll please". And really why not? Picking a name for your baby is a completely personal, permanent decision that will affect your child for the rest of their life.
Of course I have an opinion on the whole naming your kid thing. I find picking a name extremely difficult. Not just to pick one I like, but one my husband likes and one that doesn't have a negative effect on either of us from past associations (ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-friends, ex-students). Yes, ex-students is the one that affects me most. I've been teaching for 11+ years. In that time I've worked with a lot of kids and have a lot of name associations. It's because of this that I have some advice for parents to be when it comes to naming your child.
First and foremost, pick a name that you absolutely love. You will be hearing it a lot.
Then try it out. Call it out loud a bunch of times. Say it fast, say it slow. Does it say anything to you that's different than you originally intended? Here's an example. I taught a girl named Sonata once. Pretty name, pretty song. Now try saying it fast. Do you hear what I hear? "Snot-a". What about the name Tierney? Looks pretty, sounds pretty. Do you hear anything else with it? What about 'tyranny'? Maybe not what you had in mind at first?
What about middle names and initials? Sometimes they spell words. Be careful what you are unintentionally spelling. Did you know that Michael J. Fox's middle name is really Andrew? He used a "J" instead of an "A" because he didn't want to be called Michael, a fox.
Think about nick-names too. Is the name you love going to get shortened into something you or your child may grow to hate?
What does the name mean? Is that important to you? I love the name Mary, but Mary means bitter. It makes be think twice about using it. Does your name have a meaning at all? Think of Suri Cruise. That is an example of a made up name. There is no meaning (unless you want to attach one to it). Or does your name mean something or associate with something that your child may not enjoy? I've taught a Pagan. Maybe her parents are pagans, but will she be? Delilah is a very pretty name gaining in popularity these days but I think Rachel on FRIENDS said it best, "my daughter's a biblical whore". (or something to that affect - before settling on Emma).
Speaking of which, how much does media and celebrity come into play when naming your child? I've taught Mariahs, Shanias, Kobes and Kieras. Emma was extremely rare before Emma was born on Friends. We're starting to see Maddox and Shiloh thanks to the Pitt-Jolie family.
How about popularity? Does that matter to you? I grew up as one of a few Kris's. Mine's Kristen. I've been Kris, Krissy, Kristi and Kristen over the course of my life so far. I was known as Krissy D. in school to differentiate me from Chrissy N. Had my brother been a girl he would have been one of many Jennifers that came out of the '70's. Jennifer is the most popular name among my friends. They survived it.
In my teaching career I've seen the wave of Ashleys and Jessicas. The Nathans and Ethans. I've had classes with 4 Brandons and variations similar (Brendan, Brayden, Brennan). Right now we're seeing the effects of girl M names - Makayla, Madison, Mackenzie, and Megan. Most classes I teach have at least one Aidan version (Jayden, Cayden, Brayden, Bayden, Kaydan, and Zayden - both male and female). And J's are usually Josh or Jacob. Many girls right now are Kira, Kiera, Kayla, Kara, and Kayla. Not sure where the name you love fits? Ask a teacher friend. Check popular names list (and check multiple spellings - Makayla doesn't usually make the list but when you look at all the spelling possibilities, it's one of the top ones (McKayla, Michaela, Mackayla etc).
And about spelling. Does spelling count? Well, do you want your child going through life spelling their name? Or, having someone not knowing what they said? I've had one Micheal in my career. I can imagine how often he says not Michael (traditional) but Micheal (made up spelling). Maybe he just goes by Mike by now?
And think about things like pre-made items with your child's name on it (mugs, piggy banks and bike license plates). Can you find your child's name in there? Does that matter to you? Do you think it might to your child?
How much does family influence matter to you? Are you prepared to defend your choice should your parents (or his) hate it? Or, do their objections make sense. Are they thinking about your child and how they will live with the name you want to give them? Maybe their objections are genuinely valid? Are you able to stand up to your own when they think they have found the perfect name for your child? My Nana was so sure and so insistant that we call our second child David. Nothing wrong with the name David, in fact we know lots of them, just not the name we wanted for our son. One thing to remember when it comes to family and baby naming, they've already had a shot at naming their kids, this one's yours.
And do you love the name you love so much that you are okay with keeping it no matter what? One my husband's good friends and his wife have a little boy 2 months older than our oldest son. Both boys have the same name. We had picked it and fell in love with it when I was 4 months pregnant. I couldn't believe that they had the same name all picked out. Oh well, 2 little boys who are extremely loved are growing up with the same name and sometimes they play together.
I'm just waiting now to see what happens with these next round of babies. You see my counterpart on this site, Jill and I are both pregnant (again at the same time - round 3). Our oldest kids are 7 weeks apart, our seconds are 7 weeks the other way around and now her next one is coming in Nov. and mine in Feb. We both have 2 boys and I'm just wondering if these babies are girls. I have a girl name all picked out and have for a few months now. Wouldn't it just be funny if she beat me to the punch? (although if she sticks with the "A" theme it won't happen). For the record I currently have no boy name picked out, but my husband has one he loves.
When it comes to naming your kids, it is up to you. You love what you love for a reason. So let it be. And let it be what it is. These are just tips and things to think about that I've learned and thought about along the way.
To find out more about naming your baby check these sites out:

-Find name meanings and store your favorites in a name basket -

-Name generator with suggestions for first and middle names that go with your last name -

-List of most popular names by countries around the world -

-List of the most popular baby names in Canada, 2007 -

-Tracking the most popular baby names since 1879 in the USA -

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tired Days

So, I am now 34 weeks pregnant and I have a two and a half year old. On days when my older son, Andrew, is at school, I spend a lot of time keeping Aaron out of mischeif. On days when Andrew is home, I spend a lot of time breaking up fights and stopping Aaron from smacking his brother over the head with everything. Add to this that end-of-pregnancy insomnia, and boys who think 5:30 is a perfectly reasonable time of the day to be up and about, and you get one tired mama.

I know this trend is going to continue indefinitely. Once the baby comes there will be middle of the night nursing sessions and diaper changes every 2 - 3 hrs, and no naps for mom during most days, since the two older boys don't nap regularly.

This is not new to me, since Andrew was not a good sleeper, and woke regularly once or twice a night until he was four or so. Sleep deprivation has been a pretty constant companion since I had children.

So, what can you do to get through the day when you feel like your head is full of cotton balls and you can barely drag your feet off the ground? Here's a few of my suggestions:

  • - let go of unimportant tasks - do only essential household chores. This is not the time to decide to scrub the walls or wash the windows. This will only exhaust your further.

  • - if you can't sleep, at least rest - ask yourself what you can do that will take the least amount of energy. Read your toddler books or do puzzles or draw - anything that will keep their attention and not require a lot of activity on your part is good.

  • - take care of your body - make sure you are not making things worse by being hungry, thirsty or feeling blechy. Drink water, eat healthy food, brush your hair and put on some clothes that are not going to bother you. You will still be tired, but at least you will be otherwise comfortable.

  • - ask older kids to do things for you - if I leave everything accessible, my oldest son is now capable of getting cereal or toast for him and his brother. This means I can ask him to get breakfast while I catch 20 more minutes of sleep. I now sleep until 6am wether the boys are awake or not, since they can meet their own needs in the morning.

  • - drive places you would usually walk to - I am a big fan of walking wherever we can. I like to get us all out in the fresh air, get some exercise and explore the town. But when I am really tired, I drive two blocks to the park. If I exhaust myself in the afternoon, I will not have the energy to make it through the day.

  • - be proactive with your kids - if you see them starting to get squirrely, send them out in the yard before they start fighting. If its is close to snack time, give them a snack before they start to melt down. Put your toddler in time out the first time he does something, so he doesn't escalate the stakes to see how far he can go. I remind myself that even though I am tired, the more I do now the less I will have to do later.

  • - keep your temper - don't waste your energy on stupid arguments or on getting frustrated. Shut down conflict with your kids as quickly as possible. I find that this is not the time to try to talk about feelings or reason with angry children or identify emotional roots to problems. When you are tired, it is time to send them to their room until they stop screaming, so that only one of you is screaming

  • - call in the reinforcements - do you have family locally? Give them a call and ask if they can take the kids for a few hours. Can your husband come home for lunch? Have lunch ready when he gets there and nap while he eats with the kids. Hire a teenager to come once or twice a week so you can nap while they play with the kids.

  • - focus on the present - when I am tired I tend to drift. I daydream, I analyze the past (never a smart thing to try to do while you are tired) and I am generally more prone to introspection and distraction. Focusing on what is going on around me, and letting everything else go for the time being (since I am too tired to come to any rational conclusions anyway) is really the best thing I can do.

What do you do when you are tired to keep things sane?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Socks, socks and more socks

Yes, I'm really writing about socks. You see I have two boys. The are 2 and 5 years old. When my youngest was a baby socks weren't really an issue. It was pretty clear whose were whose. As they have gotten bigger the distinction between socks became increasinly blurred. Let's face it, there isn't much of a difference between a sock for a size 7 shoe and a size 12 shoe is there? After muddling through the laundry folding yet again I'd had it. Particuarily with the cute matching socks that they each had. I took all the socks, and did away with them. I then went sock shopping. I had one clear goal in mind. Jeremy's socks were in no way to resemble Elijah's and vice versa. I came home successful. Jeremy's are all from Old Navy. They are all one colour, say old Navy on them as well as 2T-3T. Elijah's I got at Winners. They are all white with gray soles. Perfect. Never a mis-match again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bathroom Break

My oldest son is 5. He still comes into the ladies room with me when we are out without my husband. I'm not at all comfortable sending him into the men's room by himself. The same is true when we go to the pool. At this point no one seems to be questioning his presence in these places. In fact I've seen other mothers with their 5 year old boys in the ladies changing room.
And why would we send them elsewhere? It's a sad state of our times, but true that we don't know who is in these rooms. And we don't want to risk our sons to the whims of perverts.
But how long can I safely keep him with me? At what age is it inappropriate for him to be there? And then what do I do?
I've seen some older boys(8-9 years old) in the ladies room. I'm not comfortable with this. Some of them peek - not good. I can understand why their mothers would keep them with them. I just wish there were more family friendly alternatives.
Some malls and pools (thank goodness) have created family washrooms and change rooms. I'm very glad for this. But not all are there yet. Our pool has family changing huts, which is great, but no lockers near them (the lockers are in the changing rooms). Most restaurants have a ladies and a men's room, nothing else. Some malls have a 'family room', but it is usually designed for nursing women complete with a lock and key (so if another mama is in there with her little one, you are out of luck).
I really don't have a solution, just a lot of questions. I'm sure there are plenty of other mamas out there who have been through this delemma already and have ideas. I'm hoping that some of you can share with me and other readers. Please leave your ideas in the comments, I'd really appreciate it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Clever Thoughts: Taking the Long View

Some days, I despair that my children will ever be civilized. They fight, the whine, they scream, and they tear the house apart. I spend all day breaking up fights, cleaning up messes and putting them in time out. I come to the end of the day wondering what I have done wrong.

With my older son, I have found myself worried at every stage. I was worried he would never get potty training. I was worried he would never be able to make friends and approach other kids to play with them. I was worried he would never be able to pedal and steer a bicycle. I was worried he would not be able to handle a full day of school. And yet when the time came, and he was ready, he did every one of these things.

On my part, each of my son's successes has taken a lot of patience and consistent teaching from me (and unfortunately has also included a lot of frustration as I had to repeat myself again and again). But it has also taken a lot of trust and faith in his growing understanding of the world and innate resilience.

With my second son, I find that I am a lot more willing to take the long view. There have been a few times when he has started to potty learn. Each time, it has lasted for a few days, then he has gotten bored or interested in something else and I have ended up washing about 10 pairs of pants and underwear a day. With my oldest son I would have reacted with frustration. I would have yelled and demanded and lectured and spent a month washing 10 pairs of pants and underwear and scrubbing my carpet and wondering why my son just can't seem to "get it". With my second son, I just put him back in diapers and choose to try again later. Because I know that he will eventually be ready to go to the bathroom on his own, and I know the limits of my patience.

I am coming to believe that one of the crucial differences between an over anxious, frustrated parent and a relaxed, trusting parent, is simply taking the long view. I have learned to ask myself, "Is this just a stage? Will he still be doing this in 2 years?" If the answer is no, I have some patience with the behavior and do what I can to wait it out. If the answer is yes, it will still be a problem, then I try to stay patient as I teach my son that this behavior is not acceptable, and help him to learn alternate behaviors. Or I find out what I can do to help my son on his journey towards independence or skill building.

My oldest son has always been a kid with a low tolerance for frustration. Funnily enough, his mother was the same kind of a kid. Together, we're learning to banish the phrase, "I'll never be able to . . . " and are replacing it with the phrase "I'm learning to . . . ".

Do yourself and your kids a favor. Take the long view.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh the wonders of pregnancy

I'm pregnant. 21 weeks currently. My husband is continually amazed at the way my body reacts to pregnancy. For example, I've had a stuffy nose on and off. My husband asks, "Are you okay honey? Not feeling too good?"
"I'm fine, just stuffy - pregnancy you know".
"Really?, because that makes sense?!".
Oh yeah. Pregnancy affects your whole body. Some are fabulous side effects. Beautiful skin, nails and hair. I'm warm in the winter for the first time in my life (I'm usually always cold). Some are not so wonderful. I currently cannot brush my teeth without my gums bleeding (and no, I haven't suddenly become a sporadic teeth brusher, still twice a day, just like always). I'm also having a cramp in my bottom from sitting for a while (I haven't figured out why exactly, but I'm pretty sure it's a pregnancy thing).
From the top of your head to the tips of your toes pregnancy takes over the whole of you. And I haven't even begun to mention things like mood swings, bizarre dreams and lapses of memory (my poor husband had to apologize on my behalf to his sister because all of their September birthday gifts (3 in her family have September birthdays) came in October - my fault completely).
Your body is a pretty amazing thing. I know there are probably scientific reasons for all of this. I just find it funny (and my husband finds it just bizarre) the way it takes over all of you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giving Our Kids Our Best

I teach. That's my job. Yes, I'm fortunate to get all my weekends and vacations off and I'm glad I do, but that's not why I do it. Ask most teachers and they will tell you they teach because they love their job. They couldn't do it otherwise. As my teaching career has progressed I've found it taking more and more energy. It could be that I'm a little older than I was when I started, but the more likely reason (from my own observations) is that the kids I'm seeing need more from us. I have kids who come to school hungry, who have worn out shoes and too small clothes. I had a student last year during the coldest part of winter tell me how lucky I was that I had heat in my classroom because they had no heat in their home. I know it's sad. It's very sad. And it's very draining.
Lately, I've been wondering if I'm giving my very best to my kids at school and less and less of my best to my own kids at home. It's a tough one. I'm a working mom. I want to give my best in both places. Both places deserve my very best, but how? How when you have a high energy job can you come home at the end of the day and still be fresh? Also knowing you have house things to do? Dinner. Laundry. Homework. Baths. Swimming lessons. How can you be your best and have quality time and make sure your own kids are happy? I'm really conscientious of this right now. Because of that I know I'm not getting it, but I can start taking steps to 'get it'.
Here are some things I'm trying to make better time for my kids and with my kids:
1. Game Time - my oldest son and I have started playing games like Memory and Go Fish. My youngest isn't ready for these games yet, but likes games like hide and go seek and pop bottle bowling
2. Bedtime routine extentions - Instead of rushing through brushing teeth and cleaning up to pop the kids into bed, I'm starting bedtime earlier. It gives us more story time, prayer time and talk time. I picked this one up from my own mom. Both my brother and I have fond memories of talk time before bed each night.
3. Taking my kids out for 'dates' - just one kid at a time. It can be as simple as going down to Tim Hortons to share a hot chocolate or taking a walk around the neighbourhood. They know that all my attention is on them when we are on our 'dates'.
4. Family Day Saturdays - unfortunately, this one we can't always do as my husband's work schedule causes him to work some weekends, but most Saturdays are days we set aside to be with each other. We go hiking or to the beach in the summer, now that's it's fall we can still do outings, they are just a little different. This past weekend we went to the farmer's market and the apple orchard to go apple picking.
5. Having the kids give me a hand where I need it. Both my kids like to help in the kitchen so why not give them a chance to help make cookies or stir up some juice?
I know these are just little things and I have a ways to go. What ideas do you have to make the most of your time with your kids?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


So I admit, I usually buy play-do. I don't know why really, it's pretty easy to make. We haven't had any in the house since we moved and my son kept asking (read nagging) for us to get some. Of course he would ask once again while I was making dinner. Seeing as I was in cooking mode, I decided to make some up. Here's the recipe I used:

1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup salt
food coloring

Mix all ingredients (add food coloring last). Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan, let cool slightly, and knead until blended and smooth. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

The trick with making play-do is to work quickly and don't let it stay on the stove too long. Maybe making it while I was making supper wasn't the best idea, some of it stuck to the pot - the rest turned out great though and the kids love it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Helicopter Mamas

I've fought the urge to be a helicopter mama since my oldest was a baby. I remember the moment that I knew I could fall into that trap. I was meeting with my other baby group mamas and Elijah tumbled. My instinct was to reach out and immediately comfort him. One of the other mamas asked, "why don't you just see what he does?". He got up and was fine. Hmmm, the possibility that I could be reinforcing the idea that falling means hurting flipped me out a bit. Sure my son needed me and the love and affection we gave him, but he also needed parents that let him start to explore steps of independence.
It can be a tricky combination. Watching over and guiding without smothering. Letting him find his way without being indifferent. I didn't (and don't) want to err too much either way. I've been teaching for 11 years and I've seen parents that do both. I've seen kids with no structure and no one really watching out for what they are doing. I've seem more parents that do everything for their children. It's the ones that do everything that have been on my mind this week. Probably because I know that could be me and I've been working hard to avoid that about me.
This week my son started round two of swimming lessons. Me, when I take him, I bring a book and settle myself in a chair close by. I glance up to see what's going on, but I trust the swimming teacher to do what she does. I did have a little giggle at one mama who didn't take her eyes off her son and had a towel ready for him as soon as he got his face wet. The result? Her son didn't take his eyes off his mama, meaning he also didn't listen to the swimming teacher and join in to do what he was there to do. Now, I know that this mama had the best of intentions (as we all do), I just made a note for myself for future reference that I don't want to do this with my kids.
How can I make sure that I'm giving my sons the sense of independance the need while still nutruring them without smoothering? Tall order isn't it? Here's a few tricks I've picked up:
1. I have them carry their own things, school backpacks, their jackets when they get too hot (especially if I already have an armload of my own), library books...small stuff.
2. As soon as they show they are able to dress themselves, they do it themselves. My youngest currently does his own pants, but still needs help with his shirts. He tries his socks and is sometimes successful and sometimes needs mom's help (he's 2)
3. Set them out for success whether they are with you or not. Having taught kindergarten for a few years I know how much time it takes to get 20 little ones dressed and outside for recess. I know my son can get ready on his own and I make sure he has the tools to do it without me. He has velcro shoes because I know he can't tie laces yet, why would I send him with lace up shoes?
4. Let them know you are there and watching without hovering. Whether on the sidelines of the soccer field or the swimming pool, I know what's going on with my son and he know's I'm there. Sometimes he'll look over for approval and we'll exchange a 'thumbs up', but mostly I want him to be learning what it is he needs to know.
5. Encourage them to take a break when they are frustrated with something (a puzzle, a lego structure, printing...) but then encourage them to come back and finish it, guiding them along (not doing it for them).
6. Start early with household age-appropriate jobs around the house, making their own bed, setting the table, putting away their own laundry, making sure their laundry gets into the laundry basket, putting away their toys...
What sorts of things to you do to help guide your children to independance, without smothering them?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I Love Babywearing

Hey, I just found out that its International Baby Wearing Week! So I thought I would tell you about my experiences wearing my baby.

I have worn both of my sons from the time they were a week or two old. Andrew, my oldest, was a very fussy baby. He has always been slow to adapt to new situations, and this was extra true of his early life. He was not happy to be out of the womb, and had no problems at all letting everyone know this fact with his powerful, banshee-like scream. He wanted to be with me, see what I was doing and be involved in my world from the beginning. He would only sleep in my arms or on my tummy, settle and relax when he was in physical contact with me or my husband, and he hated to be anywhere away from home. I learned early on in our relationship that if I wanted to do anything but sit in a rocking chair all day or be screamed at, I would have to find a way to stay in constant physical contact with him while still moving around the house.

So, I became the ultimate baby wearer. I wore my son to the grocery store. I wore my son at church.I wore my son around the house. I wore my son to playgroup and on walks and to the mall. I wore him to comfort him when we were away from home. I wore him to soothe him when he got to the end of the day and couldn't handle the big, bright, noisy world any longer. I wore him to help him go back to sleep in the middle of the night when his tummy was full and he was still fussy. I tried all different kinds of carriers, and had different favorites for different situations. I learned that for us, babywearing worked for almost every situation.

My second son, Aaron, was a much more relaxed, adaptable child. But since I had a two and a half year old and it was the middle of winter when he was born, he spent a lot of time in the sling or, by his preference, the mei tai. He got to watch his brother play and watch his mommy sew and cook and clean and he got to snuggle with Dad in the evenings while Mom had a shower, all from the comfort of his favorite snuggly fabric homes. In many, many circumstances, babywearing allowed me to meet the needs of both of my young children very effectively. Andrew could get the attention and action he craved, and Aaron could get the nursing and snuggling he needed to thrive as an infant. As Aaron grew, he would happily stay in the sling for part of the day, and then fuss to get out. I would lay him on a blanket or bouncy chair on the floor where he could satisfy his greater need for play and movement and watching his brother.

This is me, just over two years ago, wearing my second son, Aaron:

And this is my husband Dave, wearing Aaron when he was about a month old. Dave used to wear Aaron at night, after Andrew had gone to bed, so I could have a shower and some time seperate from my newborn.

Because I live in a smaller community, I used to be known as the babywearing lady. I was the only one in town who wore her baby all the time, and out in public. But I have noticed more and more women using slings over the five years I have lived and parented here, and I think it is a great thing. Here's a few reasons why:

- Easy attachment: most early childhood experts these days agree that a child's attachment to parents or other care givers in the first year or two of life is essential to their later emotional health and ability to relate to others. Essentially what this means is that as we as parents learn to listen to and respond to our child's needs, we teach our children that the world is a safe place, that they are loved and valued and that when they communicate, someone listens. Later on, children who have strong early attachments tend to be more resilient. When our babies are right there with us, they feel safe and secure. They can easily communicate when they are hungry or uncomfortable, and we are more able to respond to their early, non-screaming cues because they are so close at hand. There are lots of responsive parents who do not wear their children, but in my experience it can make it easier to respond to your child's needs.

- Free hands: when you have a baby or small child, you will end up carrying them a lot. Children like to be close to their parents. We provide them with a sense of security and safety as they enter the wide, confusing world. A sling or wrap allows you to carry them while pushing a grocery cart, getting coffee, making supper or chasing your older children.

- Instant entertainment: our culture is really into stimulating and entertaining our children from the time they are infants. I believe one of the best ways to stimulate your child is to wear them in a sling. From about 3 or 4 months on, my boys loved to be carried forward facing so that they could see everything I was doing. What could be more exciting than a cupboard full of packages or a shiny sink of bubbly soap and dishes? How much more interesting would it be to see people's faces instead of their knees when they are visiting with your mom? Real people and objects are fascinating to babies. So let them get up close.

- Discreet breastfeeding: once you get the hang of it, it is easy to discreetly nurse your baby or small child in a ring sling. Not only is is discreet, but you can steady the baby's head with one hand and continue shopping, vacuming or watching your older child play at the park. I have often had people not even realize I was nursing while babywearing. I find this is most effective in the early months. Both my boys liked to have their heads out of the sling to nurse after about 5 or 6 months.

- Travelling simplified: both Kris and I have traveled internationally using slings. When you want to check out that cool shopping district in another city, or eat lunch in that pub even though you know your child is going to be hungry soon, or get on the bus and head out to that attraction without having to lug a stroller on board, or take your child with you as you wander through a ruined castle or abbey that is on uneven, unkept ground at the side of the road, a sling or wrap is your best friend. In your own town or city it means no more lugging around a 20 lb car seat through the mall, or manouvering an unwieldy stroller up the elevator.

- Lazy person friendly: Honestly, I am pretty lazy. I try to do things the easiest way possible that is still virtuous. For me, babywearing is one way I can promote attachment with my child, keep them entertained, get things done and go where I want when I want to. Sounds pretty clever to me. How about you?

If you have worn your baby, what have you enjoyed the most about it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clever Thoughts: Brush Your Child's Teeth Thoroughly

I know, I know, not very profound today.

But then, I spent my second hour long session holding my 5 year old's arms down and saying, "Wiggle your toes, don't move your head. Hold your head still so the dentist can work quick so we don't have to come back. Breathe through your nose. Its okay. Hold still. They're almost done with the drill."

Before we got into our first appointment with the dentist (a pediatric one we had to wait to see and drive two hours to get to), my son was having trouble chewing meat and uncooked vegetables because his teeth were sore. He was choking down bigger pieces of meat and having stomach problems because he wasn't chewing properly. He stopped eating salad, carrot sticks, crusts on bread, seeds and nuts, and numerous other crunchy foods he had previously loved last winter. I can imagine it will take us a few months to get to the place where he is comfortable eating those foods again.

We have brushed our older child's teeth every night. But he is very sensitive and intense and has a killer choking reflex. So for about a year, to really get in there you had to hold him down with your leg, hold his mouth open with one hand and brush with the other to get those back teeth clean. Needless to say, we didn't always brush the back teeth as thoroughly as we should have.

And we gave him milk in bed after his teeth were brushed. Soy milk, since he's allergic to cow's milk. About 2 months ago (after the first session with the dentist) it occurred to me that soy milk has a lot more sugar than cow's milk. So now he gets water. As does my 2 year old. I certainly don't want to have to go through this with a second child, if I can help it.

So that is my very practical clever thought this week. Take care of your child's teeth, even if they make a big fuss about it every night for a year or two (or three . . . ). Later on you will both be glad that you did.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Not Me Monday

I definately did not buy a bag of candy to bribe my kids off the playground so that we could continue on our mini road trip. And I certainly did not continue to offer them candy whenever they appeared bored and started to be loud for no apparent reason. Because my kids are always perfectly well behaved and do exactly what they are told without a fit and sit perfectly quiet in the car for hours at a time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kid Picture of the Week

Fortunately, I have firefighters at my house, just in case!

Have a great kid picture of the week to share?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clever Thoughts: Letting Other Mamas Be

On one of the forums I frequent, I am in a Due Date club for women having babies in November. It is a crunchy forum, and the women who post there have a big diversity of views. Some women are planning to give birth at home, some at birthing centers and some in hospitals. Some women are dead set against using any medication during child birth, don't want to be induced and will refuse any interventions unless there is an emergency. I am a little more flexible -- I took pain medication with my first birth, but not with my second, and I gave birth in a hospital because it was impractical for me to give birth at home. One of the topics that has come up is getting angry at women who are choosing to have a birth with more interventions.

I can understand this perspective. I find it hard when I hear other women's birth stories and I can tally in my head the number of un-necessary interventions they underwent, and the resulting difficulties in their birth. I am a little dismayed that a lot of women don't even consider experiencing natural childbirth. I am sad that women didn't do more research when I find out that they are experiencing a lot of physical difficulties after birth because they made a decision to allow an intervention that they later regretted or that had bad side effects.

But then, my first labour was 13 hours, and my second was 3. I was healthy, and did not experience any complications in either of my pregnancies. Neither of my babies were breech or overdue, or experienced any other serious medical conditions during labour and birth. I have had it easy.

In this arena, as in so many other areas of parenting, I have learned to just let others be. So often it is easy to quickly judge a woman by her choices in regards to birth, breastfeeding or parenting. We compare them to our own, and can quickly dismiss her as a friend simply because she has different opinions. But I have found that equally as often, when I hear the full story of why they made their choices, I can understand. I have never been in their place. If I had been in labour for two days with no sleep, I might choose to get an epidural, too. If I was experiencing post-partum depression and had a low milk supply, and very little support or information on how to change the situation, I would likely switch to formula, too. In these and so many other situations, I have learned that what is important is the story that underlies the choice, rather than the choice itself.

Let's try to make a practice of really listening to one another. It is through hearing the stories of other mamas without judging that we come to build true friendships. It is through dialogue, not judgement and derision, that we can share information and experiences that might be invaluable. And you never know: that mama with a completely different parenting style might just teach you something about discipline, or about listening to and nurturing your children, that you wouldn't have known otherwise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Contest Alert!

Hi Everyone!
I (Kristen) am hosting a contest over on my book blogging site, Bookworm Kristen. There is an opportunity to win an autographed copy of either Cleopatra's Daughter or The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. To check it out, click here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kid Picture of the Week

We recently moved into a new place. Our boys are sharing a room for the first time. I walked in to check on them one night and this is what I found - like a couple of cuddle puppies.

Have a great kid picture? Link it up here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on Thursday

(Bear with me as I fill in for Kris for a moment.)
This past weekend was my oldest son's 5th birthday. He was born on Labour day (seriously, what baby could resist?) and so his birthday often falls on a long weekend, right before the first week of school. This year, we invited about 8 kids to his party, but many of them were going away or had already made plans for the weekend. The day before the party, after I had baked a cake, I learned that only two guests were likely to show up, and only one parent confirmed that their child was for sure coming. I knew that my son would be disappointed with a smaller party, but at 29 weeks pregnant, and with my part time job and assorted lessons starting the following week, I really didn't feel I had the energy to change the day and do all the inviting and planning a second time.

What would you do? Have the birthday party anyway, with the possibility of only one guest, or change the day and re-invite everyone to the party two weeks later?

I am not as clever as Kris, so I don't know how to do the survey thing. Please leave your opinion in the comments section. Thanks.

Clever Thoughts -- Setting the Tone

In my worst moments, I tend to let everything in my life slide into chaos. This is partially because I enjoy the swirling adrenaline rush of chaos, and mostly because I am easily bored by routine and repetition. I would rather think up some new and novel way of doing things every few weeks, in order to keep my mind occupied, than keep to a functional schedule that works. I tend to get caught up in grand schemes and plans rather than actually attending to the things going on around me.

Unfortunately, this is not a very effective way to operate as a parent of small children, especially if one is the primary care giver and home manager. So every few months, when things start spiraling into chaos, I tend to get frustrated. My first reaction is to get angry at my children for not being innately good and well behaved, and then frustrated with the lack of self-cleaning my house seems to be capable of. I wonder when someone will invent a machine to fold and put away my laundry. I wonder why no one has thought to create a carpet that eats dirt. I wonder how long it will take my children to figure out that eventually someone is going to get hurt if they keep swinging plastic golf clubs around.

Then the realization dawns: There is a miraculous invention whose purpose is to teach children to be well behaved, to tidy up after themselves, and to put down that golf club before someone gets hurt. It is called a parent. It is actually my job to set the tone for my household. It is my job to make sure everyone is clean and fed and relatively content and disciplined. If I think the kids need a new activity, it is up to me to pull out the playdoh, or the crayons, or shoo everyone out the door and off to the park. If I think someone is about to get hurt, it is up to me to stop the dangerous activity. If I think something needs to be changed around our house, or in our daily or weekly schedule, it is my job to figure out and implement that change. If I don't do it, it will not get done.

Inevitably, if I don't set the tone, my children will. And soon, things will resemble W.B. Yeats' Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

And we don't want that, do we?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Second Trap

I was playing a game with my youngest last weekend. The church nursery has an old Blue's Clues book that has different coloured shapes in it. I started to ask him which colour each colour was and what shape each shape was. He got some of the colours, but not all (he always got yellow, he loves yellow). He didn't know his shapes either. That got me thinking. Did his brother know his shapes and colours at the same age? (2 1/2). I think he did. I started to feel terrible. Have I fallen into the second trap?
You have heard and seen the second trap right? It's the trap of everything gets done with and for the first child. You have more time alone with them simply because there isn't another child taking up your time and attention. The second still gets time with you, but it is often shared time. I know I don't read as many pre-school basics books with my second as I did my first because I read to the both of them at the same time. (He may not know his shapes, but he sure does know the differences in construction vehicles).
Is the second trap inevitable? Sometimes I think it is. I also wonder if being aware of it helps decrease it. I know I've started to spend a little more one on one time with my second since I started to clue into this. I've also started to realize a benefit that my first child never had, an older sibling to teach him things too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kid Picture of the Week - Week 3

This seems to be Aaron's favorite way of falling asleep lately. He often goes for a little motocycle ride with Dad after supper. Since he's stopped napping, he occasionally falls asleep. We're hoping he grows out of it before he gets his own motorcycle.

We thought it would be fun to start this as a weekly meme. I don't know how to do Mr. Linky, and Kris just moved, so she doesn't have internet access yet. If you want to add your own Kid Picture of the Week, just leave a comment sending us to your blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Clever Thoughts -- Self Image and Parenting

I have a secret to tell you all. Most people would not believe it when they first meet me, but I am quite insecure. Completely overconfident in my ability to do anything I put my mind to, but not particularly good at liking myself. I don't like how excitable and emotional I can be. I don't like how dramatic I can be about everything. I don't like the fact that the humm of the computer in our study or the sound of the water heater in the basement can drive me crazy. I don't like that my list of interests and activities is so ecclectic and nerdy, or that sometimes I say things that make people stare at me like I have a second brain growing out of the side of my head. It drives me crazy that I can tell you all about the role of the chorus in Ancient Greek drama, but couldn't tell you what street my friends live on or what I am planning to do next Thursday. Essentially, there are a lot of things that bug me about myself.

There are a lot of things that bug me about my oldest son, too. Like the fact that he can get so caught up in the story that is going on in his head that he can't remember to put his shoes on. Or that he refuses to wear certain clothes because he doesn't like the feel of them against his body. It drives me crazy that he is interested in things that seem so odd and that he puts ideas together sideways sometimes to come up with weird and novel games. I wonder why he can use his blocks to build these fantastic, dreamlike structures, but has to come home and practice so he can build a rectangular car lot like his friends at school. I wonder why he has to scream every time something surprises him, why we have to have a daily drama about wether he can have a third cup of juice or not, and why he can get so excited about things that he is literally feverish.

Since school is back in, here is a little exercise for you: Compare and contrast the two lists above. You might notice something. The things that bug me about my son are, in essence, identical to the things that I do not like about myself. They are the things that got me teased at school, and that have made it hard for me to live in my family. They are the things that have made me vulnerable and the things that frustrate those around me. They are also some of my greatest strengths and the things that make me the unique individual that I am. They are the things people find endearing, and the things that fuel my creative, if rather scatterbrained, way of being. They are the things that are most essential to my personality.

I am coming to the realization that I need to learn to accept myself more. Not for my own sake, so much as for my son's sake. If I want him to be comfortable in his own skin, I have to show him the positive sides of the traits we share. It is my responsibility to teach him how to cope with the annoying noises and textures and incongruities that irritate both of us. It is my responsibility to help him tame his intensity so that he can express it in a way that is socially acceptable, instead of pushing it aside until it burst through in bouts of strange, over dramatic behavior. It is my responsibility to give him the tools to sort through his intense thoughts, feelings and experiences so that he is not overwhelmed by them. It is my responsibility to learn to like and manage myself so that I can help him to like and manage himself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kid Picture of the Week

Have a great photo from this week? Post it on your blog and add a link in our comments! We are big into superheros right now. I love to indulge my boys in this sort of thing, so we made masks yesterday:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Thursday

Happy Thursday everyone! I'm up to my ears and eyeballs in boxes packing this week! We move house on Monday and it's been quite a challenge packing with two busy boys around (I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of their toys!).
Last week I talked about a situation when a child hurt my son at a public playplace. The parent was oblivious to this. I wondered how you all would handle it. The responses were varied (and I'm so pleased at how many people stopped by and took the time to respond!) The majority of you (60%) are a lot braver than I am and would speak to the parent about it. I'm just so bad with confrontation I guess. Good for you though! That really would be the appropriate thing I think. I am just scared of getting into something with people. That's just me though!
Onto this week's topic:
This is a 'hot topic' and I know can get some people's gears up. I was thinking about bed sharing with your kids. My husband and I didn't intend to share a bed with our children at all. It is something that happened out of necessity to sleep. Both our boys have crawled into our beds at one point or another. Our oldest has been out of our bed for a few years now and our youngest still will crawl in around 2 or 3 in the morning at times. It seems like this is North America's big no-no. Yet, many people swear by it (just like rocking their kids to sleep - guilty!). I read a post by an older parent recently who stated she rocked, cuddled and slept with all 5 of her now grown children and they all turned out well. Other people are turned off completely by this. They believe it is wrong. Babies sleep in cribs on their own and that is that. Where do you stand?

Do you bed share with your baby?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clever Thoughts -- Read Good Books to you Kids

Mama culture these days is big into nutrition. We are encouraged to watch what we eat while we are pregnant, breastfeed, serve whole foods to our toddlers and preschoolers, and avoid fast foods, hydrogenated fats and processed everything with our older children when ever possible. Ironically, food marketers have caught on to this push, and now offer "trans fat free" Coco Puffs and candy made with "real fruit juice". McDonalds reminds us that their chicken nuggets contain "protein". On a bad day, these processed, pretend healthy foods can be easy to give in to. We can say to ourselves, "Well, at least it contains real fruit" as we hand Jonny his third package of electric blue fruit snacks to keep him quiet during rush hour.

In a similar way, we are encouraged to do all kinds of strange things to boost our child's brain power and early literacy skills. Flashcards with giant photos of apples and red triangles are made of chunky cardboard so we can start using them with our 6 month old (does chewing a book count as an early literacy experience?). Books of computer generated, flat characters with badly rhymed couplets teach our toddlers about counting and opposites. Television characters of every description appear in "learn to read" books that are really just brief summaries of an episode of their show. Kids eat these books up as fast as the fruit snacks or fries, and we can think "Well, at least they're reading something."

But are they reading something that will encourage a healthy enjoyment of literature in the future? Will it help them develop an awareness of word and language play? Will it give them an appreciation of plot devices, character development and story structure? Will the pictures encourage their enjoyment of colour, line, form, movement and expression in art? Will the book feed their minds and souls, or will it simply fill up their empty tank of literacy experience with garbage?

You might be thinking, "There are no picture books that can do all that!". I beg to differ. If you look at many perennial favorites -- the books our parents read to us and our grandparents read to them -- you will find books that develop more than just early literacy skills. They develop an enjoyment of playful language, vivid characters and fast moving, interesting plots.

Take a Dr. Seuss classic like Green Eggs and Ham for example. It contains two quickly drawn but distinct characters - the grumpy, pessimistic naysayer and the ever hopeful and enthusiastic Sam-I-Am. It contains all kinds of repetition, rhyme, and language play. Its plot is basic but contains a conflict (will he eat the eggs and ham or not?), a rising action (the various animals and vehicles are added to the words and pictures), a climax (the train careening into the boat and everything crashing), a reversal (he likes the eggs and ham) and a conclusion. Seuss' simple line drawings contain all kinds of expression and action and silly sight jokes to be found by the attentive viewer. This book introduces children not only to literacy (the ability to read words on a page), but to language play, plot structure and simple comic devices.

I love reading books like these to my boys. They giggle and laugh at the same places every time. They repeat the phrases over and over. They insist that I read these books to them for weeks at a time. They sit and look at the pictures and point out subtle details of expression and action to me. It feels good to read them to my children again and again, just like it feels good when you can sit down and serve your family a home cooked meal.

So do yourself and your children a favour. Don't buy into the hype of prepackaged, processed reading materials. Search out good books for your kids. And read them together whenever you can. And if they occasionally want to snack on a horrible summary of the latest Spiderman movie, let them indulge. You know that generally, most of the time, their minds are well fed.

There is a great list of Twaddle free books over at Simple Mom. Check out her top ten favorites, and then scroll through the comments for a huge list of authours other people (including me) love.

What is your favorite Good Book to read to your child?



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