Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coping with the Stomach Flu - really don't read this one until you have to

This is a very timely post for me, today, as we have just had the stomach flu run through our family. Of course, it had to hit the day before we were going on Christmas holidays, but that is another story. As I write this, i want to remind you that I am not a doctor, just a mom with a few years of experience with kids and flus.

Please, please, if you have any serious concerns or questions about your child, take them to your family doctor, the emergency, the walk in clinic, or phone the local health line (do you have those in the US? I LOVE provincial health lines and health guide books. They have saved me so many trips to the emergency for things I could deal with at home).

That being said, here are some practical tips for making it through the nastiest parts of the stomach flu:

The thing about small children, I would say under 5 or 6, is that they don't actually have enough body memory of sickness to know when they will throw up. They don't have that adult "I'm about to be sick" instinct. They know something is wrong, they sit up in bed (or on the couch, or at the dinner table) and everything erupts from their stomach onto the closest surface. So, while you can sort of teach them to use a bowl, you need to know that their first throw up will probably be on one or more items of furniture or carpet. The first thing to do with a kid who has just thrown up is to pick them up and put them into an empty bathtub. This keeps them contained and somewhere easy to clean.

If I have other kids awake and running around, i deal with the vomit first so no one gets into it. I quickly gather supplies: paper towel, a plastic bag, a laundry basket, a few rags and a bucket of soapy water. I move through the soiled area as quickly as possible. First, pick up what you can with paper towel and put them immediately in the plastic bag to try to keep the contamination down. Then, throw anything fabric (sheets, pillows, couch covers, placemats, rugs) into the laundry basket. These can be laundered or spot cleaned later. Then wipe the area down with one rag dipped in soapy water. Then dry the area with a second rag. With this process you can move pretty quickly through a relatively large area of vomit (like when your four year old panics and gets up and starts walking across the room, stopping to throw up on various pieces of furniture in your living room). Then tie up and throw out the plastic bag, put the bucket and rag in the kitchen sink and go to help your child. If the washing machine is on the way, throw the fabric stuff in the washing machine as you go by.

Diherria, similarly, tends not to have any warning. For a somewhat older child it can be extremely frustrating, because they have finally mastered their bowels and now they are suddenly not co-operating. Try to calm them down, stem their panic, and sit them on the toilet as quickly as possible. Keep their pants around the legs until you are ready to put them in the bath, and take their clothes off in the bathtub. This means you will have one less surface to clean. If you were lucky, you may avoid having to clean up anything other than the child's clothes. If not, follow the process for vomit, above.

Now, help your child. Remove their soiled clothes and wipe them down with a warm cloth and some soapy water. If necessary wash their hair. Get them clean, and if they feel up to it, give them a nice warm bath. Be calm and explain what has happened to them if they are a young child, as they will not understand what is going on. Get them a bowl or container to put future throw up in. A light metal bowl is perfect, because it is usually the easiest to clean.

When they are done in the bath, towel them down and get them clean, easy to remove clothes. Bring the bowl and towel with you and go and get an extra blanket or quilt. Lie the child on top of the blanket or quilt to act as a buffer between them and their bed or the couch. Put the towel nearby for catching vomit or wiping them up quickly, and put the bowl right next to them. Explain again what the bowl is for. Ask them to lie still. Get them comfy, and if it is the day time, let them watch a video or look at books or colour if they are not tired enough to sleep. After a little while offer them a drink of apple juice mixed with water.

Stay nearby so you can comfort and coach them through their next bout of sickness.

You will probably repeat this process several times before they are through with throwing up. Just be patient, and try to remember that they are not doing this on purpose to inconvenience you -- they are sick and little and need your comfort and calm.

If your child is throwing up and they can not even keep down water or apple juice, get someone to go and get some pediatric electrolyte. It will help to rehydrate the child and return some nutrients to their body. It absorbs quickly, so that even if they throw most of it up, they will still absorb some liquids and nutrients from it. If the drug stores are all closed, get someone to go to 7-11 and get you some Gatorade. It is obviously not great to give to children, but it gets the job done at 4am.

With a baby, you can use the same process, although you will also have the additional complication of cleaning your own clothes, as well. If baby is old enough to sit in the tub, put him or her there while you change your own clothes. If not, take off all their soiled clothes and lay them on a towel on the floor while you quickly get changed. If you are using cloth diapers, you might want to pick up a package of disposables to keep down the laundry until the flu has run through your clan.

If you are breastfeeding, you have an extra advantage, as you don't really have to worry about baby getting dehydrated. Just feed them as much as they want. They will absorb some, and throw up the rest, but at least they will be getting some nutrients and liquid into them because breastmilk is digested so quickly. Expect them to nurse a lot, both while they are sick and for a few days afterwords.

Once your child has stopped throwing up, gradually encourage them to drink more of the electrolyte stuff, especially if they were throwing up for 8 or 10 hours straight. After they have kept this down for a few hours, they can try some apple juice again, some crackers, toast, rice or broth. Keep them on light foods for a day or so and gradually introduce other easy to digest, non-greasy foods to their diet until they are back to eating normally. Even if they want the ice cream everyone else is having after supper, leave off on giving it to them for a few days until you are sure they are feeling better. It may simply exaserbate their stomach and start things all over again. Take it easy for a few days. Even if the child seems pretty fully recovered, try to keep things pretty low key and restful until they are back to normal.

Lastly, wash your hands religiously and get your rest. The only thing worse than a sick child is a sick mother with a sick child!

Here's to hoping that you don't need this advice this winter!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breakfast Cereal - my rant of the week

I just read a Yahoo article about breakfast cereals.  The headline being:

Parents, Don't Be Conned by Sugary Kids' Cereals

 It goes on to tell about how parents give in to the demands of marketing and their kids and buy the cereals.  But then, surprise, surprise kids aren't getting filled up or getting proper nutrition in their diet.  I know big revelation.  You can read the article hereI'm a little bit taken back about the whole thing.  You see my kids don't eat sugar cereals.  That's not to say they wouldn't, but the fact is, we don't buy them.  You don't want your kids to eat sugar for breakfast, then don't get it for them.  My kids don't pour spoonfuls of sugar on their cereal either. That option has never been presented to them.  So am I in the minority here?  I didn't think I was.  We're pretty basic in our cereal choices.  Currently on hand we have Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Honey Clusters Fibre One and Peaches and Cream Oatmeal.  Yes, my kids eat any and all of the above.  My three year old's favorite is Fibre One.  He loves it, and given the choice will pick it 9 times out of 10.  I say kids can be raised to eat well.  They just need to be given the option to do so.  Be the parent here. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dressing for Winter and Car Seat Safety

I was reflecting today how autumn seemed to slip away from me.  I can't avoid it any longer, after all Christmas is next week and we've already has a few dumps of snow in our neighbourhood.  Winter (or at least winter weather) is officially here.  It's cold.  We're into our mittens and warm hats.
Being Canadian, I take knowledge of how to dress for the weather for granted.  It gets cold, you add a layer, no big deal.  I have a friend who has recently moved here from Pakistan and the weather is quite a shock for her.  She finds the 10 degree (celcius) days of autumn cold.  She finds the -3 (plus a windchill to make it feel like -10) unbearable.  She was over the other morning for tea after we had dropped our sons off at school.  We both have daughters about the same age (1 year).  I undressed my little girl from her hat, mittens, lined fleece suit and boots and let her play.  My friend took a lot longer.  She removed a snowsuit, not one but two fleece suits, a scarf, mittens, and boots before her daughter was free to play.  "Is that too much?"  she asked.  "A little."  I said.  Her daughter may be warm, but also may be too warm and overheat.  So what's appropriate dress for cold weather like this.
Here's what my little one usually wears: a onesie with a sweater or a long sleeved shirt over top, a pair of babylegs (baby leg warmers), a pair of pants, and then either her snowsuit or a fleece bunting suit overtop.  A warm hat (that she can't get off herself) and mittens, socks and boots complete the outfit.  That's really all that is needed.   I'm a little wary of the safety of scarves (they can be tied too tight too easily, or, the end can get caught in a stroller wheel and pull to choke).  If you are out and about with a stroller you can always add a layer by adding a blanket too.
A lot of moms don't realize how big and bulky their little one becomes when dressing them for winter.  This affects the safety of strollers and car seats.  Fortunately, there is a lot more awareness around this issue.  Here's some ideas and tips to help you out.
First believe me when I say that adding snowsuits and layers affects the safety of the car seat.  You can check it out yourself.  Bring your car seat inside your home.  Dress your little one in full snow gear.  Now put them in their car seat.  Buckle them up.  Now take them out of the car seat.  Remove the snow gear.  Put your little one back in the car seat and buckle them up.  Take a look at how much excess seat belt has been pulled out to allow for the snow suit.  Quite a lot!  You may wonder what the big deal is.  Unfortunately there are instances of families being a car crash.  Due to the force of the crash the baby was fully ejected from the car seat because of the amount of room let out to allow for the snowsuit.  So what can you do?  You want your little one to be both warm and safe.
1.  Dress your baby in a lined fleece suit.  It's thin enough to be safe, but warm enough to be warm.  You can always add a blanket on top.  (I've found this to be the best with littler ones)
2.  Have your little one in their snowsuit until you get to the car.  Take the snow suit off and belt them in the car seat.  Then, put their jacket on backwards over their arms. (I do this with my older boy who is three.  He doesn't wear snow pants in the car.  He brings them if we are going somewhere that he needs them, but most of the time he leaves them at home.
3. Little babies in infant seats can use a car seat cover.  You want to get the kind that fits over top of the whole car seat as opposed to the kind that you belt in.  Nothing should be behind your little one in the car seat.  I don't know why they continue to make these things, but they aren't safe!
Winter can be a pain for lots of reasons.  The multi-layer dressing is just one of them.  Give yourself time to do it right.  Lets keep our kids warm and safe this winter!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Concerts

I first thought about writing this post last spring when I had the worst experience at a children's school concert.  I could not get over how rude some of the parents were!  This lady stood up right in front of me to get pictures of her little one on stage, when I asked if she could sit down so the rest of us could see she rolled her eyes at me and said "ppfff!"  Seriously!  I mean I know how precious it is to see your little one on stage, but the rest of us want to see our darlings and get a great picture too!
I've been on both sides of the school concert scene as a parent and as the school music teacher.  There are a few things to keep in mind when going to these events that can make the school concert experience enjoyable for all.
1.  Stay in your seats and keep the aisles clear.  Kids are ushered up and down those aisles to get on and off the stage, they need the space.  There's nothing to make a concert slow down than constantly having to move people out of the aisles.
2.  Stay seated and out of the way of others.  Yes, your little darling is precious, but so are the 20 other little darlings up there, their parents want a good view too.
3.  Plan to take the time off work for the whole concert.  All the kids in the school have worked hard for this performance.  There is nothing more distracting than parents coming in and out of the gym.  The worst I ever saw it was a packed house at one school I directed.   For the first 2 acts (the kindergarten and grade one students).  By the time the school choir was on to close the show there were only a handful of people left in the audience.  One of my students was in tears because there was no one there to hear them sing.  Most school concerts are under an hour.  I know you really want to hear your own kids, but you wouldn't go to a professional performance for the first act only would you?
4.  If you can't be there for your child, find someone who can.  I can't begin to tell you how many students have been so upset letting me know that no one will be watching them.  I always tell them that I will be there for them, but it isn't the same thing is it? 
5.  Invite the immediate family and keep it at that.  Most of us have camcorders (even built into our phones now) to show off later on.  Think about how big your school gym or auditorium is and how many kids are in the school.  Is is really fair to other parents looking for seats if you have both parents, siblings, grandparents from both sides, plus Aunt Gladys and your neighbor across the street who just adores little Johnny?  Yes, these people love your child.  Why not video instead and have a movie premier at your house the following weekend?
6.  Keep little siblings restrained.  You may think it's cute to have your 2 year old climb onto the stage, no one else does.  If you think your little one won't stay in their seat/in their stroller/on your lap here's a perfect time to cash in a babysitting favor. 
7.  Show good audience manners by not chatting once the performance in underway.  That includes in between acts when the MC's are announcing and during acts that are not your own children.
Reading this over, I know a lot of it sounds like ridiculous common sense.  This is just my insight to real parent behaviours I've seen over the years, repeatedly, really and truly.  I hope everyone enjoys their time at their school concerts this year.  The kids have worked hard and love having you there!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Babyfood Recipes

A few months back I posted how I was going to attempt to make all of my daughter's food. She is 10 months old now and I have been successful at it.  Yay!  It's been a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I thought I would share a few of my recipes and tips with you all.

Chicken and Veggies

I usually buy a rotisserie chicken when I go shopping to use in meals.  To use it with baby food, I take about a cup of meat and chop it up.  I add it to a baked squash or a few baked sweet potatoes in a mixing bowl. Add a little bit of chicken broth and puree with a hand blender.  She loves it.

Beef Stew

1 pound stewing beef - cut into 1 inch slices
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into chunks
1 cup frozen peas
enough water to cover the food
1 tbsp beef boullion

Boil everything together until the meat and veggies are soft.  Add water as necessary.  Puree with a hand blender.

Apricots and ?

To make a good apricot puree, re-hydrate dried apricots with a enough water to cover them up.  Boil for about 10 minutes.  Puree right in the pot.  I like to make apricot plus another fruit mix.  To make apricots and bananas, I take 2 bananas, slice them and lay them out on a piece of aluminum foil.  Scoop a good portion of the apricot puree on top.  Add a little bit of vanilla (1 tsp).  Wrap the fruit up into a package and bake it at 325 for 20 minutes.  Once the fruit is all soft, empty the packet out into a mixing bowl and puree everything together with a hand blender.  I do the same with apricot and apple, just substitute a couple of peeled, cored and sliced apples for the banana.  And yes, I've done this with just the apple and banana and it works great too.  Very tasty!

How to store your baby food:

Spoon into ice cube trays.  I label the trays with a dry-erase marker so I remember what's in there.  The next day pop the cubes into freezer bags, make sure to label them and date the food, so you know what you have and when you made it.  Baby food in the freezer can be kept and used for 3-6 months.  Thawed food can be kept refrigerated for a couple of days.  The great thing with the cubes is that there is very little waste.  You get a good sense of how much your little one will eat and you just need to defrost/heat that much.  I usually microwave 2-3 cubes for about 40 seconds.  But be sure to stir and check the temperature before you serve it.  You don't want your baby to get a burnt tongue from a hot spot.  Have fun and be creative!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snack Pack, Share a Smile Blog Tour

I clearly remember the first time I saw my son smile. We had had one of 'those nights'. He was 7 weeks old and not going to sleep for anything. I was a frazzled, determined new mom. I decided that I was going to leave the house that day and take him to the Babies in the Library program anyway. I was going to have a semi-normal life, no matter how tired and frustrated I was. That morning at the library as I sang to him, it happened! He smiled for the first time. All my frustration from the night before melted away and in its place was perfect love for this tiny boy.
We've shared a lot of smiles since then, whether it be from having an impromtu dance party, or fixing a favorite meal together, life is pretty good. One thing I try to share with my kids is that they are blessed. Not everyone has the basic things in life that they do. They hear about the 'big picture' from us. The big picture is that they have a warm place to live, clothes on their back, a school to learn in, a family who loves them and food on the table. Not every child can say the same.
This is why I was happy to team up with Mom Central and Snack Pack for the Snack Pack, Share a Smile Blog Tour. Snack Pack is aiming to raise $20 000 for food banks across Canada this Christmas. Here's how it works:

Log onto Facebook, look up Snack Pack Canada, Like the page, Share a Smile and:

•A $1 donation will be made on your behalf to, Food Banks Canada. You can also opt to Share a Smile and Snack Pack will make the donation on behalf of one of your Facebook friends.

•You’ll receive a ballot into their weekly prize draw (for those who have registered for the contest)

•PLUS You’ll earn a point towards one of the fun Smile badges! Remember, the more often you smile, the more donations, ballots and badge points you’ll collect. It’s no surprise that Smiling everyday would have its perks.

It doesn't take much time out of your day to Share a Smile. Let's make sure that families across Canada don't go hungry this holiday.

*Disclosure - I am participating in the Snack Pack program by Mom Central on behalf of Conagra Foods Canada. I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hopes and Dreams Giveaway! - Aquafresh Advanced Blog Tour - Winner!

Congratulations to Anna! The winner of our Aquafresh Advanced Blog Tour!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mean Little Girls

This morning I was chatting with a friend of mine who shared that she was concerned about some of the social stuff going on with her daughter at school.  I said, "She's in 3rd grade right?", "Yes" - "Let me guess, friendship fighting, best friends one day, worst enemies the next" , "Exactly".  Yep, that's 3rd grade girls alright.
How did I know?  I don't have a 3rd grade daughter yet (that's 8 years away), but I've been a teacher for a long time.  I've mostly taught in elementary schools and I've observed the change.  Some girls start a little bit earlier, but I find grade 3 is a real peek time for this kind of behavior.  Girls who were so sweet to each other at the end of second grade come back in 3rd with a whole new attitude.  It's like there is a whole new social awareness happening.  The way I see it, is that when kids were a little bit younger they accepted the attitude of everybody in my class is my friend.  Now that they have grown up a little bit they are experimenting socially.  They realize that there is a little more to friendship than just being in the same class, or going to the same ballet lessons.  They are becoming more self-aware.  They are trying out and finding out who they are.  They see that they have some say in who they socialize with.  It doesn't always come out in a great way.  In fact a lot of the time it's just plain mean.
This is the age where it's not uncommon for a girl to come up to me (a teacher) on the play yard at school and say, "Michaela won't play with me", or, "Ashley won't leave us alone".  Honestly, you can't make kids like each other.  You also can't make kids play together.  What you can do is teach them to be kind to each other.
These kinds of behaviors are normal, but need to be curbed as it becomes a type of bullying that is known as relational bullying.  When your daughter first experiences it (either as the aggressor, or, the receiver) it is an opportunity (and an important one) to teach her about bullying.  Yes, it really is bullying, it's just not the blatant physical bullying that we often associate with bullying.  It is just as destructive and hurtful.  And it is more common with girls than with boys.  It does carry on to their teenage years (well depicted in the 2004 movie Mean Girls).
Some girls are more compliant, people pleasers, longing to be liked, have a friend and fit in.  They will be more succeptable to being bossed around, being told by someone that they aren't friends with them anymore, or that they don't have the right kind of shirt/bracelet/fill in the blank to be part of a club.  These kids need to be taught how to look for a good friend.  A true friend is someone who you can trust (not who tells your secrets), will listen (not take over the conversation), who will respect you, who will be empathetic and loyal.
Then there are the more aggressive little girls.  These are the ones more likely to be in charge, or fight to be in charge.  They are more dominant and make more decisions about their free time/play time.  Many girls fight for this power position.  What these little girls need to be taught is how to look at life from someone else's perspective.  They need to be taught feeling words.  They need to have their energies guided towards leadership in a more positive role, perhaps on a sports team.  They need to have opportunities to lead, as well as learn to step back and be led.
It's not easy.  It's not easy to be that little girl.  It's not easy to parent that little girl.  It is an important time in your daughter's life.  This kind of relational bullying is something that will continue on for years in her life, but you can help her deal with it today and learn how to deal with it in the future.  To learn more about girls and relational bullying, I recommend the book, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.  It is the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls.  It is a highly recommended read for parents of girls.  It will bring you back to your own childhood when that 6th grade sleepover turned into the nightmare you've tried to forget, opening those memories and giving you a tool to help your daughter through these years.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Toys are Open Ended

The other day, my boys were running around playing Star Wars. This is their latest obsession. In my older son's case he is so obsessed that he claims he can't do his school work because he keeps getting Star Wars thoughts (I find it hard to argue with this kind of logic - Star Wars is more interesting than a day filled with French phonetic work sheets, but that is a whole other post). The great thing about it, though was what they were using as props.

Jedi robes? Check. Made out of the yellow capes I made them for Christmas two years ago. These capes have been superhero and villain capes, knights, kings, Narnians, pirates and now, Jedi knight capes since I made them two years ago.

Light sabers? Check. Well, the handles were made out of column blocks from the block set I bought them for Christmas three years ago. The laser part was in their imagination, which has the added bonus of not being able to actually hurt anyone (though from the number of "cut off hands" that I saw missing, you would never know it).

Open ended toys are toys that can be used in many different ways. They are, ironically, more "interactive" than toys where you push a button and the same thing happens repeatedly. The child must use their imagination and creativity to engage with the toy. These toys are not only the longest lasting, but they are the ones that really build brains, despite what toy marketers would have you think.

Here are some ideas for open-ended toys you might want to get your kids this Christmas. I've tried to list things that are suitable for all different ages:

- blocks
- animal and dinosaur figures (not branded characters, just animals)
- softies
- dolls, plus their blankets, strollers, and clothes
- balls, beanbags, beads, stackers,
- dress up clothes and accessories (doctor kits, badges, swords, hats, etc)
- art supplies (markers, crayons, scissors, scrapbooks, paints, stamps, stickers)
- open ended building sets such as lego, construx, or mega blocks
- play kitchens, food, pots and pans, dishes, tea sets, shopping carts
- playmobil or other sets of people with accessories
- cars, trucks, and trains with or without tracks to build
- cards, marbles, dominoes, high sky balls
- hockey sticks and nets, basketballs, tennis rackets and balls, and other sports equipment
- craft supplies for sewing, knitting, beading, card making, or crochet
- not to mention boxes, pipe cleaners, bits of string, recyclables, kitchen utensils and the other open ended things your kids will find for themselves around your house.

These toys will last your kids for years, get tons of play time, and help your child really build their brains and bodies. Pick some toys that are suitable for your child's interests and age and get them playing!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sharing a little childhood

I've been having a proud mom moment these days.  Those who know me know I'm a voracious reader.  My dream job when I was 9 was to become a children's librarian.  (I didn't, I'm a teacher).  We all have something in our childhood past that we want to share with our kids.  For me, that's Disneyland (we haven't gone yet) and certain books. I know, books.  I have such fond memories of books.  Not picture books, but kid novels.  I've been looking forward to the day when one of my kids would share a love of these books with me, and it's happening!
My oldest child is 6.  He too loves books.  This past summer we read through our first chapter book together (James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl).  He loved it.  He wanted to read Stuart Little next as he loved that movie, but we have yet to find a copy. So I put off getting another chapter book as he settled into grade one and this year's hockey season.  Then a couple of weeks ago I went looking for books for my kids at the library with my younger son and daughter while the older one was at school.  My eyes fell onto the shelf where the Beverly Cleary books are.  Beverly Cleary!  Was it possible?  Could one of my kids be ready to share in a love of Beverly Cleary?  I picked Ribsy, the tale of Henry Huggins dog who gets lost at the shopping mall and has all sorts of adventures trying to get back home.  The verdict?  He loved it.  We would read half a chapter or a chapter a night before bed.  Finally he said to me, Mom, I just want to keep reading, so we spent a good hour on the couch as I finished reading the book to him.  And he wants more.  He was so excited when I told him that there was a whole series of Henry Huggins books.  This week we brought another one home (Henry Huggins, the first in the series).  It's funny because I didn't think about Beverly Cleary to share with my sons, I had the Ramona books in mind to share with my daughter when she got big enough.  I've discovered that the Henry Huggins books were the first written by Beverly Cleary who was a librarian at the time she wrote them.  The boys at her library were looking for books about boys like them so Henry Huggins was her response.  The first one was published in 1950 and they hold up well.
So there's my mom moment of the week.  Sharing books of my childhood with my son.  What kinds of things are you looking forward to sharing with your kids?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Night, another sleep battle

And so goes the continuing saga of sleeplessness in our house.  I apologize if this post is a bit of a blur.  Last night had all the signs of being promising for sleep.  My daughter was sleeping in her crib by quarter to 8.  It was around 9 that my husband heard her cries.  She spent the next half hour or so wide awake with me before returning to her crib asleep.  And I thought alright, I can deal with that.  I went up around 11 to go to bed myself.  About 5 minutes later she was up and awake.  I spent the next hour dealing with her cries.  I tried everything.  All the basics.  I fed her, changed her, rocked her, sang to her, gave her Tylenol...nothing.  She would drift off occassionally for about 2 -5 minutes, but then would wake up with a piercing cry.  Finally, took her downstairs to see if there was anything there I could offer her.  Something inside me thought 'frozen waffle'.  So that's what I gave her and it worked.  She immediately stopped crying and started gnawing on the waffle instead.  In minutes she transformed from Mrs. Cranky, no-sleep child to Happy Baby, complete with giggles and wanting to play.  Well, what do you do in a situation like that.  Clearly, she was having some sort of teething pain and the waffle was helping.  I let her play and called my mom (she's in a different time zone than me so she makes a great person to call when I'm up late).  About an hour later, my daughter started showing signs of fatigue and drifted off to sleep.  I had planned well, making up the play pen downstairs for her and the futon into a bed for me, so that we wouldn't keep the rest of the family up.  I'm proud to say that we both got some sleep (though not nearly enough).  She woke up at 5 to nurse and slept until 7.  I'm hoping she goes down well for her morning nap because I really need more sleep too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sleep is a precious commodity at our house

Yesterday I posted my cry for help from my early rising boys.  Today they slept in till 7, which is wonderful.  However...
my daughter did not sleep much last night.  She wanted to, just not in her crib.  She wanted to sleep in my arms, all night.  She didn't want her soother either, just nursing - but not really nursing.  At about midnight I passed her off to my husband so I could get a little sleep.  He brought her back in around 1:30.  Again, she wouldn't sleep in her crib.  So we brought her into our bed.  She did sleep, but not well.  I lost track of how many times she woke up.  Around 5, I brought her down to the couch to sleep so my husband could get some rest.  She woke up twice more before 7.  Needless to say, when she went down for her mid-morning nap, so did I.
The culprit?  We suspect separation anxiety.  It's just in this past month that we've started leaving her to play in the nursery at church during services.  I was teaching Sunday School yesterday and I could hear her crying pretty much the entire time.  Today, she cried when my husband went to school (she's never done that before).  And every time I went into the kitchen from the living room she would either crawl to find me, or just start crying from where she was. 
So I am trying to figure out what to do.  I'm pretty sure the normal routine of our week with settle her back down again, but the fact is I have to leave her in the nursery to teach Sunday School.  I used to bring her with me, but now that she is so active she is more of a distraction so I can't do that anymore.  Next week, I think I'm just going to stay in the nursery with her to get her used to it again (I'm not teaching next week).  Any other suggestions?  I can't do the sleepless night again and function well for my other kids. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Cry For Help!

I really don't know what to do about this one.  It's a new parenting challenge for me.  My older son has started getting up really early in the morning every day.  By default, my younger son is also getting up very early every day (they share a room).  This makes for 2 very tired, grumpy boys.  My younger one I can get to nap in the afternoon (he's 3), but the older one is in school so there is no nap time.  We have a house rule to not get up unless they hear me, but sometimes they are mistaking their sister's 4:30am feeding for a wake up call.  And I really don't want to shout at them to go back to bed which would only further wake the baby up.  And by the time she's back in bed, they can be wide awake.  They will go back to bed but I know they don't go back to sleep.  Tonight I'm going to put a digital clock in their room and tell my older son what time it's okay to get up at, but I don't know if it's going to work.  Any ideas?  They used to be really good at sleeping until 6:30/7am which is perfect for their schedule.  It's the 5 am that's killing me.  I'd like to blame last week's time change, but really, shouldn't they be adjusted by now? 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Day.  The idea of war and going to war seems so far removed for some in our society.  Though Canadian soldiers still work towards peace in our world, for most it's something that is out of sight out of mind.  We often take for granted the peace that we have.  Our children can walk to school without worry that they will be caught in sniper fire along the way.  We don't worry that the school will be bombed while they are busy inside learning.  Not every child in this world can say that.  Our grandparents and now great-grandparents lived in a very different time.  A time where war was part of their life.  It is up to us to uphold the memory of that.  Since my children were wee babes in arms I've always taken them to the local Remembrance Day service.  We wear our poppies with pride.  I've taken the time to teach them why November 11th is so important.  Here are some ideas how you can do that with your children too.

Veteran's Affairs Canada has youth and educator guides for Remembrance Week 2011 that you can find here

The Royal Canadian Legion also has resources under Poppy/Remembrance on their site here.

Canadian Musician Terry Kelly created a fantastic song and video that stresses the importance of taking the time to Remember called A Pittance of Time. You could watch the video with your children and discuss it and the accompanying story. 

Take your children to your local Remembrance Day ceremony this morning.  Talk to a Vet after the service is over.  If your child does not live in a province that recognizes Remembrance Day as a holiday, then why not go to their school for their assembly?  It will give you a jumping off point for a chat later on tonight.

Whether or not you agree with current world conflicts and Canada's involvement in them does not negate the fact that we have men and women who have and are willing to risk their lives for us.  Please take a moment today to remember and give thanks for them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Homework Help

Now that we are a couple months into the school year chances are your child is facing the daily task of homework. I'm both a parent and a teacher so I've worked this angle on both sides.  Here's my take on homework and some tips for success.

Homework comes in differnt forms

1.  Daily Reading - most teachers will have some sort of reading program in place.  The benefits of daily reading practice, reading for pleasure and reading with parents are huge.  Some reading programs are simply to read books and log them.  Others have a more detailed plan, such as reading journals to fill in. 

2. Extra practice - this is where your child's teacher sends home some work that reflects what they have been learning in school, reinforcing what has been taught

3.  Work that wasn't finished in class time - this is where your child needs to compete work that should have been completed in class

4.  Projects - any sort of bigger, ongoing work related to a concept in school.  These projects usually require some research time and may or may not involve your child getting together with another child to complete work together.

5.  Family homework - these are tasks related to what your child is doing in school that gives you and your child opportunity to work together

6.  Spelling words - usually sent home on a Monday and tested on a Friday.  These words will be commonly misspelled words or words related to a topic of study.

How much homework to expect?

The general rule of thumb regarding homework is about 10 minutes a night per grade.  For example 30 minutes for a student in grade three.  This is not an exact science.  Some children will fly through certain tasks.   You know your child best.  My son will take no time at all to work through a math sheet, but balks at printing practice.  It shouldn't take him as long to do as it does and wouldn't if he didn't fuss about it so much.
If it seems like your child is getting a lot of homework for his age see if you can find out why.  If they are getting a lot of work not finished at school sent home there is usually a reason.  Is your child talking or daydreaming instead of working?  Do they understand the work set in front of them?  Talk to your child's teacher to see what is going on.  Most teachers have a homework philosophy.  Ask for an appointment and see what is going on and how to make a plan together for best success. 

Setting up a home plan

Routine and schedules are so important for your children.  What kind of routine do you have at home?  How are you supporting your child's learning?  What kind of work space do your children have?  Have you built time in your day for homework?
Here's what our routine currently looks like.  I know that on Mondays we have hockey in the evening and Wednesdays we go to a community dinner at my husband's college.  This means that afternoons before supper are the best time for homework.  We never do homework immediately after school.  I know that my son has had a long day at school already and needs a break.  We spend a good half hour to an hour at the school yard playground to play.  Once we are home, my kids have a snack.  Then it's time for homework.  My son unpacks his backpack with me there.  We read his planner together and check his homework folder.  He works at his homework at the kitchen table.  This way I'm close by (making supper) for any help he needs.  It is also a flat working space.  Practice reading (for reading journals) we do together on the couch (although reading logs we do at bedtime).   For his spelling words we have gotten into a routine of me randomly quizzing him whenever throughout the week (in the car, after supper, at bedtime, whenever).   Repeated practice works.
Home plans are also great for supporting school projects.  If you see a class project has been assigned, then help your child plan out when it will be worked on.  (The night before it is due is not the time).  Teaching them how to plan out larger tasks and breaking them down will help them later in life.  That could be for when they have large essays in college, have a work project at work, or even getting their taxes done. 

Supporting homework, not doing homework

Teachers know when parents do their child's homework.  It's pretty obvious to us.  You can guide them through it if they are stuck, but it really doesn't benefit your child if you do it for them.   They also know when parents don't take the time to help their child.   You can help your child simply by setting up a homework routine and making sure it gets done.   If getting homework done is a big production (an exasperating fuss) that's when you need to come up with a plan.  Homework isn't going to go away.  I added 'homework without a fuss' to my son's sticker reward chart.  That's what works for him.  What works for you child?  Is there a deeper issue going on?  Are they having difficulty for a reason beyond that they don't want to do it?  That would be a reason to sit down with your child's teacher to discuss.  Remember that the best meetings with your child's teacher are going to happen when you set up a time and go in with an attitude to work together to help your child. 

But my child doesn't have any homework!

There are three reasons for this:
1.  your child is not bringing it home on purpose (aka - they don't want to do it)
2.  your child is disorganized
3.  your child's teacher has a no-homework program 

If the answer is #1 - find out why they don't want to do it and help them as best you can to get it done
If the answer is #2 - then you need to look at teaching your child some organizational strategies, or, find out if there is a deeper issue in terms of organization.  Most classrooms have student planners in which they are to write down their homework or any important information that needs to be communicated at home.  Do they have the proper books that they need to get a job done?  Are they bringing everything home that they need to?  Do notices and assignments frequently get lost?  Maybe they need a folder to put every important paper into. 
If they answer is #3 - this is a new model that some schools and teachers are trying out.  The only homework assigned is class work not done and reading at home.  

Homework can be a daunting task if you aren't prepared for it.  It is even more daunting if you and your partner work full time, and/or have your children in full time extra-curricular activities.  It shouldn't be so overwhelming it can't be done.  Look at how your family spends their time.  I'm a big believer in the following things happening every day:
-outside play for at least half an hour (longer is better)
-family meal time (sitting down at the table together)
-setting routines for daily tasks (making beds, brushing teeth, making and eating meals, bath time, bed time...and homework)
-reading time
Other things are better in moderation
-extra curricular activities
-screen time (TV, Computer, Video Games)

Your child is going to have many, many teachers in their lifetime.  All of them will have their own philosophy in regards to homework.  Some will be big believers in repetition and mastery, others will be believers in the no homework philosophy.  Whichever kind of teacher (or teachers) your child has this year, you can be prepared and organized to help your child achieve success.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pregnant and no where near a big city

No, I'm not announcing a fourth pregnancy - that isn't going to happen!  Andrea, aka Mama in the City, wrote a great guide to being pregnant in Vancouver this past summer.  (You can read about it here).  That got me thinking about the differences between being pregnant in a city like Vancouver and being pregnant almost anywhere else in Canada where finding anything maternity can be few and far between.  You see I moved to the big city of Toronto when I was 7 months pregnant.  The thing that struck me the most (besides all the traffic) was all the maternity stuff!  I mean we are talking the 'regular' maternity stores like Motherhood and Thyme being commonplace and then there are all sorts of local maternity boutiques!  There were also second hand stores that carried just maternity clothing.  I couldn't believe it.  It was a little late for me (being that pregnant, and carrying my 3rd child, I wasn't into buying maternity at the time) but I was just delighted at the thought that I could.


I have been pregnant in a semi-decent sized Canadian city 3 times.  That city is not big enough to carry any sort of maternity store, just a maternity department in Wal-Mart.  (There was a Thyme at one time, but it closed down).   A friend suggested checking out the second hand stores as she always had success there, I didn't.  So what do you do to get through your pregnancy?  Here's what I did:

1) I found the closest city that had Thyme and Motherhood in it.  The drive there took over an hour so I took the time to shop.  I tried on a lot, thought through what I would need (especially for work to look neat and professional) and bought most in one shot. 

2) I was fortunate to have people that loved me that lived in a larger city send me things.  I gave birth to my second about 6 months after my sister-in-law did.  Once she delivered she sent me all her nice maternity stuff.  My mom also went shopping and mailed me some things - a great treat!

3) I discovered that while our local Old Navy did not carry the maternity line, they did have a box behind the counter of maternity things.  When people bought Old Navy Maternity from another store or online and wanted to return it, they could return it to any Old Navy Store.  That store keeps it behind the counter.  Go and ask, see if your store has a box.  I found a great sweater that way.

4) Speaking of online...the internet is full of maternity wear.  Most maternity stores have an online store.  Motherhood has the best selection I've seen.  You can also find cute maternity selections on Etsy. Make sure to check out their sizing guide to make your best guess at a good fit.  Most sizes correspond to your pre-pregnancy size.  Be prepared to buy a few things a little bit larger than that too, just in case.

5) Check out your own closet to see what may 'stretch' to help you through.  My yoga pants that I use for working out I wore all the way through my pregnancies. 

6) Some of you are fantastically talented with a needle and thread.  Have a look through some maternity wear patterns and find some great fabric to make some things that you need.  (I wish I was that talented!)

Being pregnant was one of my favorite times in my life (even though I was so sick for each and every one of my children).  It doesn't have to mean hiding away, or wearing a big canopy like our mothers and grandmothers did.  We can still be fashionable and feel great about ourselves, even when maternity clothes can be hard to find.  I'm curious to hear how other women living away from a big city got through.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding a New Rhythm

So, since my frustrated post last week, I have been thinking over what I need to do to get us back on track. One thing we have been missing in our home these days is a Rhythm or Routine.

Before I was a teacher or a parent, I used to roll my eyes when the word routine was mentioned. Seriously, did people really need routines do be able to get things done? Couldn't they just do it when it needed to be done? Couldn't a group of children just hand out papers, without me having to find a system for them to hand them out? Couldn't thirteen year olds just "get into groups of 4" without my help? The answer, my friends, was no. Not unless I wanted a ruckus. In my early days of teaching, I discovered that the reason school classrooms have routines is because students behave better and feel more comfortable when they know what is coming next. Less time can be spent by teacher and student getting through basic, daily tasks, and more time can be spent learning. I discovered that when I established regular routines and transitions in my classroom, and explained and practiced these processes with my students, over half of my discipline problems disappeared. I learned that the word for this is "Proactive Discipline".

"Proactive Discipline" is one side of the getting kids to behave coin. It is the part where you set things up so that it is easy for them to follow the rules and routines because they are clearly laid out. When kids know what to expect, they are less anxious. If they know they will get to have a video at 4pm, for instance, you don't have to fight with them about wether you will or won't watch a video at any given moment of the day. Instead you can simply say, "We will watch our video after our rest time, like we do every day" or, with an older child, "We will watch our video at the same time we always do, at four o-clock".

The other side of discipline, of course, is "Reactive Discipline". This is the side of the coin where you react to your child's behavior. When children refuse to follow established routines and rules, then you are into reactive discipline. But if there are no rules and routines in place, then you must react to every situation seperately and each one can become a power struggle.

What we have been lacking since we moved is an established, daily routine. This is partially because our days do not yet have the order that comes from things like steady work and one regular caregiver. But we can try to keep some things the same, like a daily outing to the park, a daily time for breakfast and lunch, and a snack after school to keep everyone's blood sugar level even until supper is ready. These little details just help keep everyone feeling physically well and make it easier for us all to be calm.

Trading Toys

This is an aspect to parenting I didn't see coming.  My 6 year old son and his classmates trading toys out on the school yard.  You see, we don't let him bring toys to school.  Then one day as we were walking home I knew something was up.  It was the little secret smile he had on his face, combined with his hand in his pocket.
"What's in your pocket?" I asked.
"You know there's something in my pocket?"  He's amazed at my Supermom capabilities.
"This, J. gave it to me" and he holds up a Bakugan. 
"And I'm going to give him my Obi-Wan ship because I don't play with it that much anymore." (the Obi-Wan ship is a small McDonald's toy, not a big deal)
"Are you sure you don't want it anymore?"
"and it's okay with J's mom that he give this Bakugan to you?"
"I think so"
"well, if you are sure, then I guess it's okay"
And it was for about a week or so. Then he decided he wanted to trade back. J happily accepted the Bakugan, but can't seem to find the Obi-Wan ship. Oh well, I chalk it down to learning experience for my son. 
So where do you toe the line?  I didn't mind the ship because it was a 'free' toy.  But what about other things?  I'm really not big on this whole trading business.  Is is just a way to learn about the real world?  Or is it a way for your kids to get taken advantage of?  From teaching I know the problems trading can create.  Friendship fights, theft, distraction from their school work are just a few reasons why schools have banned popular trading items (Pokemon cards and Silly Bands are some recent examples of banned at school items).  Most schools discourage bringing toys of any kind as they are susceptible to being broken, lost or stolen.  For now, I've left it with my son that his toys are for sharing, but not trading.  He seems to agree that this is a good idea...for now,

Shopper's Drug Mart V.I.B. Blog Tour

 As part of our partnership with Mom Central I (Kris) recently received a sample package from the new Shopper's Drug Mart V.I.B. program.  V.I.B. stands for Very Important Baby.   Inside I found the following items:  a V.I.B. bib, samples of diapers (Huggies), wipes (Huggies), baby wash (Johnson and Johnson's),  body wash (Aveeno) and lotion (Aveeno baby), and a coupon booklet for extra Optimum rewards.  Their baby program also includes receiving a first birthday card on your child's first birthday.
I don't know about you, but I love getting free stuff.  When my kids arrived, I signed up for as much free baby stuff as I could because baby stuff is expensive.  This would be a great package for a new mom to receive.  You can sign up for the Shopper's V.I.B. program here.  If you sign up before December 1st, you could win one of 50, $50 Shopper's Drug Mart gift cards.  Plus as a new memeber you'll receive 2500 points the next time you purchase any Pampers diaper products.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Visit www.shoppersdrugmart.ca/babycontest for full contest details and information on how to enter without a purchase. Approximate retail value of prize is $50. Chances of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Correct answer to skill-testing question required to be declared a winner. Must be a Canadian resident and age of majority or older in province or territory of residence. Valid Shoppers Optimum Card® required to participate. Contest ends December 1st, 2010.

Disclosure - I am participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart v.i.b program by Mom Central on behalf of Shoppers Drug Mart. I received a gift card and a new baby gift pack as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hopes and Dreams Giveaway! - Aquafresh Advanced Blog Tour

One of the first things we did after having our kids and filling out all the paper work that goes along with having kids, is fill out more paperwork.  This second round of paper work was not for birth registrations, or Social Insurance Numbers, this paper work was to help save for their futures.  My husband and I both know first hand that the costs of post-secondary education is huge!  But without it, the outlook for the future is small.  We also know that with 3 kids it's quite possible that we could have all three attending at the same time.  That's a lot of money!  I think most parents want what is good for their kids.  They want to give them the best possible start for their future.  That's why we started putting money into RESP's for all 3 of them.  It's not a lot of money each month, but we figured if we didn't start now, the costs would hit us too much in the future.  Each of their certificates contains the same verse on it:  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  -Jeremiah 29:11.  We believe that to be true and we want to give our kids the best possible shot at a good future. 
Because of that belief, I'm happy to partner up once again with Mom Central to tell you about an opportunity to win up to $10 000 towards an RESP for your child.  Wouldn't that be great?  Who wouldn't want free money towards their child's education?  To enter that contest, just visit Aquafresh Advanced Futures, it's that easy.  I did.

Well you know that we like to give away stuff ourselves at Clever Mamas, so in conjunction with  Aquafresh Advanced and Mom Central, we are giving away a Philips Sonicare for Kids Toothbrush valued at $70(MSRP) and a sample of Aquafresh Advanced toothpaste!  Here's how to enter:  in our comments section, just let us know one tip for getting your kids to brush their teeth (we have a "teeth time" song in out house).  Don't forget to leave your contact info too!  Contest closes November 22. 

Disclosure - I am participating in the Aquafresh Advanced Futures program by Mom Central on behalf of GSK. I received a sample of Aquafresh Advanced and gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

And the Winner is...

Congratulations to Anna, our winner of the Cheerios Milestones giveaway!  Your book will be on its way to you!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Not Feeling So Clever

Hello, friends. You will have to excuse my serious absence from this place, but I haven't been feeling particularly clever lately. Moving three small children across the country and trying to adjust to a new place, plus trying to go back to work, get one in school, and find some sort of childcare for the other two is kicking my butt. I feel overwhelmed, exhausted and at the end of my rope. I have not been a parenting star these last three months.

There has been way too much tv watching, yelling, finger waggling and bribing, and not nearly enough routine, calm and consistent consequences, positive reinforcement and personal attention. Part of the problem is just trying to keep the kids quiet so we still have tenants above and below us at the end of their leases. Part of it is trying to keep the kids calm while we spend time organizing and building and sorting. Part of it is the erratic schedule of appointments with government offices and substitute teaching on random days and passing kids back and forth around us. And part, of course, is the inevitable greif our children are experiencing as they miss their friends, their school, their church, their babysitters, their yard, their freedom and their sense of security. Comments like, "The sky is still blue, Mom" and "I made friends at my last school because I thought I would be there forever. I don't want to make friends again." are common these days.

In the midst of all this chaos I don't feel up to the challenge of giving any of you advice or thoughts on parenting. When my kids are screaming at me in the mall, hitting kids at the park with sticks and awake arguing in their room (located below our upstairs tenants' room) at 4am, or punching each other in the back seat while I try to drive down the highway in busy traffic, I feel pretty lame and out of control.

The thing is, though, that my goal has never before been to control my kids. It has always been to guide them and shape their innate personalities and gifts. I have always tried to show them the consequences of their behavior and help them to find positive outlets for their energy and frustration and excitement. But when you are trying to stop them from disturbing others' and keep them within the new, different limits imposed on them by living in close quarters in a big city, you really do feel like you want to control them.

So, today, I have a few questions for you, friends. I'm okay with the baby age, its the older ones, especially the six year old, who are really frustrating me. Here goes:

-if you live in the city, or in community, what are your limits on noise, jumping, screaming, etc for you kids? How do you impose those limits?
- how and when does your child do their homework (30 min or so a night, after a full day of school) and get them to bed on time?
- how do you teach them to be kind to one another?
- how do you help them to be considerate of siblings and neighbours?
- how much "give" do you give when they are adapting to new situations or otherwise stressed out? How do you do that when you are stressed out yourself and trying to figure out the new rules yourself?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Night Weaning

One of our faithful readers has asked a question about weaning, and I thought I would respond with a little bit of my experience. Usually, around 15 months, I get tired. Not just sleepy a bit during the day, but more of a bone deep, mind numbing, I haven't-had-a-long-stretch-of-sleep-in-18-months exhausted. All higher brain functions has ceased. All emotional control starts to fall away, leaving me a grumpy mommy just on the verge of breaking into a seething rage at any moment. Its not a happy sight, ladies.

This is the time that I usually consider the first stage of weaning for me -- night weaning. I know that a toddler at this age does not need to nurse for nutritional reasons. They are eating enough during the day to sustain themselves. They are simply used to the comfort of sucking back to sleep. Since they are sleeping right next to me, it takes more energy to settle them back to sleep in any other way. But when I start to deeply and seriously wear out, it is time for a change.

I would not suggest night weaning before your baby is eating a lot of solids during the day, or before they are able to make it through the night without being hungry. If you notice that baby is busy during the day and consuming most of their calories in the night, start to slow them down and encourage them to eat and nurse more during the day before you attempt to night wean. It will probably take a week or two to get them into better day time eating habits. Once they are eating better during the day, you can start night weaning.

First, let me say that there is a great section on this in Dr. Sears' The Baby Book. He mentions that since the baby is used to being comforted back to sleep, you need to give them a transitional comfort to help them back to sleep. The first stage should be to try to just pat or snuggle baby back to sleep. If baby starts to cry, Dad should get up with baby and walk / sing / snuggle him back to sleep. In this way, the baby is not deprived of comfort, he is just comforted by a different care giver.

This never worked for us, because my husband needs more sleep than I do, and he was working full time while I was staying at home when our babies were this age. This is just a fact about our physical make-ups that we both know. I can get by with less sleep than he can, so I do.

Kris suggested introducing a pacifier. This worked with her middle son and helped him to soothe to sleep and transition from the breast to nothing. This is another great option if you baby is comfort sucking and will take it. For some kids a teddy bear or other softie or blanket might be helpful in comforting babies back to sleep.

Usually, after a week or so, kids get used to their transitional sleep object, and realize they are not going to nurse back to sleep. They start to move from sleep cycle to sleep cycle a bit more smoothly and no longer wake you up as much at night.

For my kids, transitional objects didn't work, so I got up and walked them in the sling or rocked them. Yes, this did mean that my sleep was interrupted more for a few weeks. But I kept the long term goal in mind and kept with it. They would cry for a little bit, and then gradually fall back to sleep for two or three wakings. With both boys, I found that it was the 2 or 3 am waking that was the most difficult. I don't know if they were actually hungry, or just less tired and more willing to fight, but this waking was the most persistent and was the one where they would put up the most fight.

For this waking I followed one of Dr Sears' suggestions, and told them "The nums come back when the sun comes up". This gave them a tangible signal for when they would get to nurse again, and it gave me some way to reassure them that this was not forever. With my oldest son I realized that this was not the best thing to say in a northern climate in June, since the sun comes up at about 3am, but none the less, it was helpful.

For this waking, we had a few days of crying and screaming with my oldest son. I rocked and snuggled him and eventually he fell back to sleep. He learned in about a week that he was not going to get nursed. This was still the waking stage where he had the most trouble falling back to sleep, but after about 2 weeks of nightly sling walks, he did start to fall back to sleep just by snuggling next to me in bed. By the end of the second week, I only had to walk him in the sling a couple of times a week, and by the end of the month we didn't have to used the sling at all.

My second son was more persistent (we have found that this is simply his personality in all things). He fought for about two weeks, and would be awake for up to two hours during this time. I would rock him and read him books with the lights dimmed until he was ready to fall asleep, so that he wouldn't wake up his brother and cause complete chaos. I have a vivid memory of the night he finally realized that mama was not going to give in. We had been reading books, and then he started throwing the books away. I tried rocking him in the chair, and he climbed out. I tried walking him in the sling, and he climbed out. I sat him on the floor. He sat and started at me and screamed for a while. I persisted with telling him "No nums until the sun comes up." He quieted, looked at me for a minute, then collapsed sideways, asleep, on the floor. I left him there, grabbed a blanket and collapsed next to him.

I know, this sounds terrible. But sometimes, my children's wants -- not their actual needs, but their preferred way of operating -- has to come second to my real, actual needs. In this case, my need for real sleep so I could function properly during the day, took preference.

For us, this was the first step to weaning. I waited a few months for this to settle in before I proceeded to daytime weaning.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Most Annoying

My son was watching Caillou this morning.  Caillou is the one TV character that drives me around the bend.  He is so whiny!  Seriously, it bothers me enough when my own kids whine, why do I have to listen to that on TV?  And it's not even that good of a show?  How in the world do my kids like this stuff?  This started an interested chat with my husband who said, "So, you feel the way about Caillou, the way I feel about Dora and Diego."  The both of them shout everything.   Dora offends him the worst of all.  He just wants her to shut up already.  So what about you?  Who do you think is the most annoying children's TV personality?

*I usually don't let Caillou be on the TV because he's THAT annoying to me, but I went out to do errands, leaving my son home with my husband who let him watch it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I am a hockey mom and proud of it!

In the States there is a phenomenon known as the Soccer Mom.  Sure those exist up here in Canada, but really, there is nothing like the Hockey Mom!
The Hockey Mom doesn't mind getting up at 6am for her child to be on the ice at 7.  She clutches her cup of Tim's for warmth as she watches from the stands.  The Hockey Mom is not perfectly made up.  She does not spend practice time emailing on her iphone.  She is bundled up for warmth, and uses her iphone to take video of the practice to send off to Grampa.  The Hockey Mom may or may not drive a mini van but you can be sure any car she has has enough trunk space for the hockey bag and stick.  The Hockey Mom welled up with pride the first time her child stepped on the ice clutching their stick.  They may not have known how to skate, but this wasn't skating, this was playing hockey and the wee tot was convinced they knew how to do it.  Hockey Moms don't have fancy manicures because we tie a lot of skates, tight!  Hockey Mom's know that every piece of equipment is important and that airing it out after each practice and game is just as important.  Hockey Moms are usually not competitive.  They are their child's biggest fans, but also know that hockey is a true team sport and cheer everyone along.  Hockey Mom's know the importance of bringing an extra water bottle for the end of the game.  We totally get it when our kids play with pucks and hockey cards instead of traditional toys.  We also know why the Peter Puck DVD is one of our kids favorite videos.  We record games on TV for our kids to watch the next day because Hockey Night in Canada is just a little too late for them to watch in real time.  Hockey Mom's celebrate every pass, every goal and every save.  Hockey Mom's know that their child probably won't make it to the NHL, but that's okay because they have the love of the game.

For Better or For Worse ran some great panels on the ins and outs of hockey life that you can find here

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Signing With Your Baby - A Guest Post

We are so pleased to introduce our friend Anna of Anna's Place to you.  Anna is mom to a fantastic toddler (that's her cutie in the video below) and has been teaching him to sign as part of his language development.  She is our first guest poster and we couldn't be more happy to have her share on Clever Mamas!

Signing “Please” and “Thank you“

At 15 months while a very chatty child, my son actually only has about 5-6 words that he says, on the other hand he also has about 5-6 words that he signs. When my son was about a year he started pulling at my shirt when he wanted to nurse, and I have always thought that type of communication is unacceptable, so I decided to teach him to sign so he would be able tell me what he needs.

We started with a few basics such as “hungry”, “all done”, “more”, “nurse” (“milk”), and have added to them as needed.  My favourites are probably “please” and “thank you”, which he uses consistently; I am so happy that we were able to start with good manner from such a young age. Recently I decided we are going learn the sign for ‘Sorry”, this for when I accidentally bump him into something or step on him, but also for when he intentionally smacks me or disobeys.

While I am at work my son stays with his grandparents who are also pleased with the results of signing; I encouraged them to sign with him by sending along cue posters and a link to an online video signing dictionary (http://www.babysignlanguage.com/).

Both my husband and father-in-law were concerned that if my son started signing, he would be delayed in actually learning to speak, however based on research it is reported that children who sign actually have advanced literacy skills (this fact from my mother, an OT at the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre).

Other advantages to signing with your child:

·         Less frustration from both parent and child in communicating with each other

·         Teaches good manners early

·         Reportedly can increase IQ and creativity, and improve spatial reasoning

Teaching him was relatively easy, I worked on a few signs at a time, I would use his hands to mimic what I wanted him to say and we always speak the word when we sign it. I think we taught him to sign “please” and “more” while eating ice cream, so it went very quickly. I am not fussy about him getting it exactly right, he rubs both hands on his belly for “please” instead of one hand on his chest, and he smacks his mouth with his hand for thank you instead of bringing his hand down from his chin. Just as I don’t expect his spoken works to be perfect, I don’t expect his signs to be perfect.  I have to say I was probably more pleased with his first signing than I was when he first started talking, this could be because his first spoken word was “no” and his first signed word was “please”.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembered in my heart

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  Losing a baby is still a taboo subject in our society.  Nobody wants to talk about it because it is so sad.  Nobody knows how to deal with it either.  I have been pregnant 6 times.  I have 3 living children.  Yes, I still mourn those lost babies.  I do wonder who they would have been.  They are remembered in the hearts of myself and my husband.  It is our hope that we will one day meet them in heaven. 
There are 4 women friends in my life who have lost their infants. One of them just this past summer.  Yes, it is incredibly sad and you don't know what to say.   Let them know they are loved and that we miss their babies too. 
Take a moment to remember all of those lost babies today.  They are dearly loved and missed.

For more information visit Remembering Our Babies

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheerios Milestones Blog Tour - Giveaway!

I have three children, ages 6, 3, and 9 months. In the past few months my 6 year old has lost his first tooth, started full time school in grade one, and is now reading books using his head voice. All big steps.
My 3 year old has stopped coming into our bed to sleep in the middle of the night, had his first night away from mom and dad staying at Gramma's hotel room, and voluntarily started to eat a variety of meat and a few veggies (this is a real feat for my pickiest eater).
My 9 month old just in the past month has begun to sit on her own, feed herself small snacks like Cheerios, and push up on all 4's in an attempt to crawl. At her age, her milestones come quickly, they are harder to spot in my older two kids.
I look at my kids and wonder, wow! When did this all happen. I recently saw a few pictures that were taken at my (now) 3 year old's first birthday. No longer is he this chubby cheeked little baby, but a slimmed down rough and tumble little boy. At first glance a picture of my (now) 6 year old had me questioning if it was his brother in the picture, not him because he was close to 3 at that party. This time last year my daughter was still growing in the womb, making me ill with morning sickness.
The phrase I hear most often from parents with older children, is enjoy it, it goes by so fast. It's only when I start to look back that I see that it does. When did this all happen? Not so long from now, this stage will be gone too.
How do we mark time? How do we remember our kids and celebrate each step of life. My husband once remarked that he wanted to set a constant video camera on each of them so we don't miss a thing. With my first child I was very dilligent in keeping up his baby book, with my second, not so much and well, my third has one that I keep meaning to write in. I do however have a plethora of pictures. Yes, I'm that mom, the one who takes her camera everywhere and posts a million pictures on Facebook. My blogging life is another way that I keep records of where my kids are at and what they are doing. I'd like to say that one milestone sticks out over another, but with three kids so much is happening all the time, that the little steps are what adds up to the biggest changes.
When my daughter was in the NICU earlier this year we celebrated the smallest changes. Out of the incubator, first attempts at nursing, taking half a feed by nursing, nursing completely on her own until finally she was cleared to come home, almost a month after her birth. All little steps that on their own seem so small, but together made the biggest difference in the world.
Mom Central is teaming up with Cheerios to celebrate the milestones that your children have made. You can be a part of the celebration by visiting cheerios.ca. You could have your child featured on a special edition Cheerios Box and WIN $10,000 towards an RESP from TD Canada Trust! It's very easy to enter, that contest closes on Dec. 15, 2010.
Here at Clever Mamas we are happy to partner up with Mom Central and Cheerios with a little milestones giveaway of our own. We are giving away a Cheerios Play Book. To enter just leave us a comment sharing one of your children's milestones. Contest is open to Canadian residents and closes on October 29th. The winner will be drawn at random the following day. Please include your email contact information so we can reach you if you are our winner!
Disclosure - I am participating in the Cheerios Milestones program by Mom Central on behalf of General Mills. I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Night Waking in Older Babies

One of our faithful readers, Bec, asked us about our experiences with frequent night waking in older babies. And let me tell you friends, I have experience with this. My oldest son, Andrew was a terrible sleeper. Not only was it hard to get him to sleep, but it was hard to get him to stay asleep. He would wake up every 2 - 2 1/2 hours to nurse. All night long. For months and months and months.

The thing about this is that it is not really hard on the baby. They only partially wake up, wheras Mom usually wakes up fully in order to deal with the baby. This means months of sleep deprivation. Did you know that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture? Serious sleep deprivation means loss of short term memory and generally living in what I used to call "the fog". This is the state where you can carry on automatic tasks, like washing dishes and changing diapers, but you can not hold an intelligent conversation without spacing out. So first things first, here are some tips for taking care of yourself, tired mama:
  • catch a nap sometime during the day when your husband or someone else can watch the baby
  • cut your "to do" list in half - lower your expectations of how much you'll be able to do in a day
  • drink water and eat healthy and take care of yourself. This stage is an endurance challenge so your body needs good fuel
  • try not to take it personally -- your baby really isn't trying to control or manipulate you, he's just being a baby
  • remember that this too shall end -- not as soon as you would like, but you will get more sleep eventually
Second, there are a few gentle, non leave-your-baby-to-cry-it-out things you can try to help your baby sleep longer, or help their wakings bother you less. Most of these are tips I've gleaned from The Baby Book by Dr William and Martha Sears, and The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

  • make sure your baby is getting lots of nursing in during the day -- sometimes when babies start crawling and cruising and walking, they are so excited that they forget to eat. At night time when there are no distractions they realize their little tummies are really empty and so they wake up to eat a lot
  • make sure your baby is getting lots of touch during the day -- crawling and cruising babies still need lots of touch. If your baby has been down a lot during the day, but has been used to lots of time being held and cuddled at a younger age, they may wake up needing reassurance and reconnection. Some extra time in a sling or in someone's arms right before bed time can help.
  • try to let baby fall asleep in the same place and position they will wake up in. Elizabeth Pantley compares falling asleep nursing and waking up without Mom there to falling asleep in your bed and waking up on a tile floor. It can be disorienting to wake up somewhere other than where you fell asleep. So try to let baby do that last little bit of falling asleep on their mattress or in their crib. If you are breastfeeding, try to pop your nipple out right before they fall asleep so they don't expect it to still be there when they wake up.
  • a baby who is waking about every 2 1/2 hours is basically waking up each time they hit a new sleep cycle. We as adults also wake up every 4 hours or so, but we usually fall back to sleep without noticing. Babies who are used to only being soothed or falling asleep in one or two ways will often be unable to fall asleep without their usual sleep prop. If you help baby to fall asleep in different ways -- in the stroller, in a car seat, in a rocking chair, in Dad's arms, or in a sling, to list a few -- it can help him to learn different ways of being soothed. This might lead to more ability to self soothe and sleep longer stretches
  • try to think of any practical things that might be bothering your baby -- is he teething? cold? hot? wet? constipated? having tummy troubles? hidden allergies? stuffy nose? -- any of these might lead to frequent wakings due to simple discomfort
  • if none of these seems to be getting anywhere, and you breastfeeding, just take your baby to bed with you. Work out how to nurse him laying down, and nurse him back to sleep when he wakes up. You will be much less sleep deprived if you just have to roll over and offer some quick comfort, than you will if you get up, feed or rock the baby, then lay him back down every 2 1/2 hours.

Lastly, it might just be that your son has a very sensitive or intense temperment. Intense kids often become fully alert very quickly. This means that when they have that short waking between sleep cycles, they have trouble falling back to sleep because they come fully awake. The only cure for this one is time. My most intense child didn't sleep for 8 hours straight until he was 3. At six, he still often wakes up once and night, and never sleeps more than 9 hours. Some kids are just wired that way. It makes for tired mamas, yes. But one day, he will sleep for longer. Just wait it out, and do what you can to help him learn to sleep sounder.

Now, Bec, get off the computer and go take a nap!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Teething Troubles

My little girl could be nicknamed 'Queen of the Drool' right now.  She has been teething seriously since June and no teeth through yet.  She soaks through her shirt within an hour of wearing it.  I've been looking at ways to help her out because let's face it, when you are 8 months old and in pain that you can't figure out, you need help.  Also, I don't want to keep her on Infant Tylenol (or any other form of medicine for that matter) indefinately.
Here's my list of top 'help my baby out while teething tips.

I will admit that I heard about the first one with my first 2 kids and was nervous to try it, so I didn't.  A mom that I trust completely mentioned it to me last week.  She said it was the only thing that helped when her little ones were in teething pain.  So, very cautiously and completely supervised I let my daughter try it out.  Basically, you let your baby knaw on a frozen bagel.  The bagel kind of flakes off into little pieces as they wear away at.   So far there hasn't been an issue with choking, but like anytime I give her food, I'm right beside her ready and aware.  She loves this so much and goes from crying in pain to happy girl almost instantly.

The Whoozit series of toys from Manhattan Baby.  These are the basic Whoozits.  We call them Mr. Whoozit and Mrs. Whoozit.  They are easy to hold and have lots of places for baby to chew.

I heard someone describe Sophie the Giraffe as Baby Crack once.  I was a real skeptic about it.  My mom bought her one (what would we do without Grammas?)  She goes to town on Sophie.  Again, it's a very easy to hold toy and it was designed especially for this purpose.

Never underestimate the power of a cold, damp face cloth.  You know you have a ton of them in the house anyway for baby's bath and wiping their face after meals.  My daughter loves chewing on them.  Sometimes I wet them, twist them and freeze them, but she's just as happy to take it from me unfrozen.  I know some keener moms who dip the cloths in breast milk and then freeze them, but I'm not that organized.

Finally, never underestimate the power of Dad's (or Mom's) thumb. My older kids call this my daughter's favorite teething toy and it's true.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We Had Rice - teaching your kids to be more globally aware

A couple of nights ago we had rice for dinner.  That's it, just rice.  Not even very much of it.  And a glass of water.  No, I'm not lacking in kitchen creativity, I'm trying to teach my kids something.  Here in North America we are some of the most blessed people in the world.  The problem is, we often don't think about it.  We take it for granted.  My kids get 3 meals a day plus snacks.  Numerous children in the world cannot make the same claim.
I don't know about you but I get so tired of hearing complaints from my kids:
"I don't like this"
"Do I have to eat this?"
"I'm bored"
"I don't have enough toys"
"I want this"
"There isn't enough playtime at school"
"A Bath!"
Some of these are accompanied by eye rolling and lots of "ughs".
So what do we do about it?  I know the line of "starving people in Africa would love this" when I was a kid made me think, "well, ship it to them then!"  I want to take a slightly different angle with my kids.  I want to make it real to my kids.  Yes, there are starving children in the world.  Yes, there are children who don't have the opportunity to go to school.  Yes, there are children who don't have clean clothes, or toys, or a mommy and a daddy...
I believe if we teach kids about it early enough, maybe they will want to do something about it.
So we had rice.  A simple meal that many survive on once a day.  After dinner we read a story based on real boys and events in the Sudan, called:  Brothers in Hope.   This is a wonderfully written story that tells it like it is.  My kids were riveted.  There were questions along the way.  There was a little bit of shock as to how these boys survived and what they lived on.  And I think, an impact into my boys' hearts.  That night at bedtime my 3 year old added a prayer for the boys of Africa that they would be healed.  My 6 year old prayed that the rich people would share their food with the poor.  He also told me that he wanted to use some of his allowance to help.
This isn't the first time we've talked to our kids about living conditions around the world.  We often talk about the "Big Picture".  The big picture is food in our tummies, clothes on our back, a school to learn, a home to live in, clean water to drink, a doctor and medicine when we are sick, and a mommy and daddy to love and take care of them. 
Little by little, this is a message we want our kids to know. They are extremely blessed people and it is our responsibility to pass our blessings on to others.  How do you teach your kids global awareness?



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