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.



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