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 (

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 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.



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