Mom guilt over the best day ever 

It was a beautiful, sunny day. DK was two months old. My house was a mess, I was a mess. I wasn’t feeling great, so that afternoon DK nursed and snuggled and slept in my arms while I ate chocolate covered raisins and I binge-watched Heartland on Netflix. 

Looking back, it was the best afternoon ever, but I didn’t enjoy it in the moment because I felt guilty about watching 6+ hours of tv on a sunny afternoon. I felt like I should have been doing anything else. Cleaning, eating something healthy, drinking more water, sleeping. “Sleep when baby sleeps” is the advice we new moms get. Yes, good advice – but DK slept best in my arms and I did not want to put him down so that I could rest only to have him wake up a few minutes later crying. It was easier to just watch Heartland and eat raisins. So I worried that he’d never sleep anywhere but my arms and I’d be one of those mothers who turns into a husk of her former self that people whisper, “she’s too attached…” behind my back. 

But time moved on and DK sleeps like a champ in his crib next to my bed. I didn’t need to worry that I was giving him a bad habit of sleeping in my arms. I lost 5 more pounds, so I didn’t need to worry that I would never lose my pregnancy weight because I ate so many chocolate raisins. My husband came home and didn’t even care that the house was a mess. The next day was sunny too, and the next, and the next (a perk of living in sunny California) so I didn’t need to worry about not taking advantage of the nice weather. You can take the girl out of Canada, but you can’t take the Canadian out of the girl. 

Now I look back on that day fondly as a very special time I spent with my son, snuggling him and watching scenes filmed just outside my hometown in the Foothills of Alberta. 

I’m going to stop feeling guilty for feeling guilty about that day. *Sigh*, being a mom is tough! 

Going to the library with a baby 

When you wake up at 4 am with a baby, by noon you are ready for a stiff drink. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with my son and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to stay home with him everyday – but one can only take so many hours of pass the toy back and forth before needing some additional stimulation.

I try to keep us pretty scheduled as I am a planner by nature. Every morning around 9 am we leave the house. Most days we just go for a walk.  I take DK for a 5km loop around our neighbourhood that passes two parks, the library, a grocery store and a Starbucks (and yes, I almost always stop for a English breakfast tea latte). 

Once a week we head into the library to take out some books. 

Sculpture outside my local library

I love the library. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl and my mom would bring me to choose books to read for the week. As much as I love it, however, I find the library overwhelming. You could read ANYTHING. When shopping for books at a bookstore, I am limited by my available spending money. But at a library…I can take out as many books as my little heart desires (and that I can feasibly carry home). I can read them front to back, skim them, or return them unread. 

With children’s books, I could conceivably take out a hundred picture books a week and manage to read them all, but DK would quickly lose interest.   As DK is 7 months old, it doesn’t really matter what we read together, as long as we read. I get into the children’s section and I’m paralyzed. How do I choose? 

All this freedom is exhilarating but I’m also trapped by the possibilities and often leave empty handed, unable to make a decision. Does anyone else experience this?

And so, I’ve begun to take books out by theme. DK is learning to make the “deh” sound, so the first week I took out 5 books about ducks. 


Then, one morning that week we went for a walk at a local park with a duck pond and looked at ducks. We played with his rubber duck, we sang songs about ducks (5 little ducks) and we quacked. We looked at a picture of Donald Duck. 


Basically, any way I could bring up the word duck in our play, I did. 

Week two, I took out 5 books about dogs. On our walks, whenever we saw a dog I’d point at it and say, “look at the dog!” 

We sang “BINGO” and “How much is your doggy in the window?” too many times. We went and visited our friends with dogs so DK could touch and smell them. 

It’s week 3 now, and today we took out books about pigs. We have plans on Thursday to go for a walk at Rancho San Antonio to Deer Hollow Farm where I think we will see a pig. DK also loves the This Little Piggy rhyme and we have a toy pig to play with. 

I like doing the theme because it helps me stay focused at the library and it also challenges me mentally to come up with new games and activities that fit within the theme. 

Some ideas I have for future themes are:

  • Grandmas (grandma’s coming to visit)
  • Trains (stop at the Caltrain station and see the train go by)
  • Airplanes
  • Trucks
  • Cats
  • Cars
  • Birds
  • Gardens
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Boats
  • Fish

There are a million options!

Would this method work for you? Which themes would you try?

Art with a Baby

I don’t always have my $h!t together. In fact, most days I feel like I’m running a marathon without shoes on (and I only have one kid…how do the mothers with more than one kid do it?!). But sometimes, I impress myself. Therefore, it is worthy of a blog post.

One of my “mom goals” is to do some kind of art activity with DK every month. When I was a kid, my mom sent homemade calendars to my grandparents every Christmas of our artwork and photos of us doing art. It was a nice keepsake, and I actually got my calendars back from my paternal grandparents when they both had passed away.

In January, I started documenting DK’s artistic growth by doing a monthly art project. Obviously, at 6 months…his artistic talent is limited and probably will still be limited at 12 months, so I’m not sure what kind of “growth” we will even see. But hey, at least we will see his footprints and handprints grow over the year. I hope to do a monthly art activity for the calendars over many years, so that one day he can look back and see how he just smeared paint around with his feet at 7 months…but at 3 he was painting with a brush.

Spoiler warning: If you are DK’s grandparent, you may wish to stop reading now…or you won’t be as surprised as you could be Christmas 2017.

Here are my art activities so far:

  1. January

I took an idea from Pinterest and put a sheet of paper in a ziploc bag, added some finger paints, taped the bag to the floor and let DK smoosh it around during tummy time. He mostly liked scratching the bag with his nails, which I’ll admit made me second guess this whole “mess-free finger painting” claim from the Pinterest mommy blog. Would his tiny baby nails pierce the plastic and smear paint  all over his hands? With the stealth of a cheetah would he put his paint-covered fingers in his mouth before I could stop him?

The good news is that Ziploc lived up to its name and kept that paint zipped and locked inside, despite the scratching.

DK also didn’t cry and moan in protest of being on his tummy, so I consider this art project a success.

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2. February

As Valentine’s is fast approaching, I thought we’d do a Valentine’s themed painting with DK’s footprints in bright red paint. Perhaps one of my most genius ideas was to do it with him in his Exersaucer Doorway Jumper. This way, his hands were nowhere near the paint, meaning his mouth was nowhere near the paint.

While his feet were already covered in finger paint from the footprints, I got out a big sheet of paper, taped it to the floor with some masking tape and dipped his feet in some more finger paint. He loved smearing it around on the paper!

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For clean up, I made sure I had a wet cloth nearby to wipe up any paint splatters that got on the floor, and I prepped a mixing bowl of warm water. When he was done painting, I put his feet in the water to splash around a bit, which he also loved. So clean up was mostly just wiping up a few water splashes and drying off his feet.

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Stay tuned for future art projects with DK!

 

 

Sous-Vide Save

I’ll admit, at first the concept of cooking meat in a plastic bag at bathwater temperature grossed me right out. How will I  not get food poisoning? But then my husband asked for a sous-vide cooker for Christmas, and as he is the world’s hardest person to buy for, I bought the Anova Culinary PCB-120US-K1 Bluetooth Precision Cooker from Amazon and hoped for the best.

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But now, after trying sous-vide cooked meat, I am a convert – and not just because my husband now cooks dinner. This thing is amazing for busy families.

Basically, it’s a heating element that attaches to the side of a big pot full of water. It heats the water and keeps it at a consistent temperature. You put your food down in the water in an airtight bag (I use ziploc) and set the temperature (for example, 150F for Chicken breast). It takes about an hour to cook chicken breast at that temperature, but it doesn’t overcook it if say, your kid is having a huge temper tantrum and you’re knee deep in tears. You can even cook it ahead of time and then put it in cold water once it is done to hang out and wait until you’re ready to eat it. Once you’re 3 minutes away from eating, all you have to do is pull it out of the bag and sear it in a frying pan or on the grill on under the broiler to crisp it up a bit and voila – delicious, juicy but not stewy meat. I season/marinade the meat right in the bag. So far I’ve made chicken breast, chicken thighs, steak, and eggs and the results have been flawless every time.

In my home, the hours between 4:30 and 7 are chaos. It’s impossible to cook anything, so we are either starting to cook dinner after DK goes to sleep and eating at 8:30 (too late for me) or I’m eating over the sink before I start bedtime routine before my husband is even home. With the sous-vide, it makes it easy to do the prep earlier in the day during naptime, put it in the sous-vide before we start winding DK down for bed, and then finishing the dish off with a sear and a side salad once DK is asleep.

 

 

Getting Baby to Sleep

*Warning, this post is a bit contentious – and I’m firmly in the attachment parenting camp.*

It seems like I have two choices: sleep train using the cry it out method or co-sleep. Parents who have tried it all claim that those are the only two options that work.

I’m a new mom, so maybe in six more months, I’ll also be trumpeting the “those are the only things that work” mantra – but surely they can’t be the only things that work? Right? (*cue cricket chirp*)

Right now DK is 6 months old and he sleeps in his own crib a few feet from our bed in our room. I like it this way. He’s close enough to see and I think we both feel more secure this way. It’s not exactly co-sleeping (I love my pillow and blankets too much to co-sleep safely), but he’s also not alone in his own room.

We have a bedtime routine, ending most nights with me snuggling him until he’s asleep, at which time I transfer him to his crib. He sleeps from about 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm, gets up to breastfeed and then most nights he goes back to sleep until 5:30 am. It works for me, I can’t complain. And yet I have this nagging feeling that I need to teach him how to put himself to sleep and self-soothe and if I don’t, bad sleep regressions will happen. Maybe it’s because all of my friends sleep train their kids, so I feel like I need to follow the crowd and do it too…but I just want to take a moment to stand up and say NO. I don’t want to let my baby cry it out.  And here’s why:

  • DK is just now discovering the joys of peek-a-boo. He doesn’t understand that when I cover my face with a towel that I am just behind the towel. He doesn’t understand that when I leave the room, I’m just next door and will come back. He sees me gone and thinks I am gone. Letting him cry it out alone in his crib isn’t teaching him to self-soothe. It’s teaching him that no one is coming for him. That he is all alone. What a heartbreaking thing for anyone, not just a baby, to learn.
  • Neuroscience research has taught us that infant brains have very few neural connections but that by age two they have thousands of neural connections (Narvaez, 2011). I love taking Devon out to experience the world, see new things. I want to raise a child who is curious about the world. Even though he won’t remember the trip we took to the aquarium, his brain is growing and making connections and I believe the experience at the aquarium is a formative experience that will impact how he interacts with the  world. Sleep training is the same – sure the sleep training gurus say that he won’t remember being sleep trained, but the experience of being left alone in a room, crying with no one coming to help him or comfort him is a formative experience that impacts how DK will interact and trust others throughout his life. If I said “no, sleep training is fine, it’s not a formative experience”, then I might as well also say that going outside, playing with toys or seeing my smile are also non-formative experiences for DK and that therefore I shouldn’t bother since he won’t remember. The logic just doesn’t follow.
  • There’s a reason that it is so difficult to hear your child cry and not respond…it’s not part of our innate human biology. When you think that for most of human history we lived in the bushes and had to worry about predators, it makes no survival sense to let an infant cry, alerting all the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) to the location of a delicious meal.
  • Remember when we thought second-hand smoke was just fine? Now we know better but that can’t undo the damage second-hand smoke caused. That’s how I feel about sleep training. The studies that have been done aren’t very scientifically reliable (Narvaez, 2014). We don’t know enough yet about the long term effects of sleep training, but the experience can’t be undone. It may be long-term pain for short-term gain and I’m not willing to take that chance with my son’s mental health. I’m by no means a perfect mom, and I’m sure there are a lot of ways  I will  unintentionally  traumatize my child…but I’m not going to do it intentionally through sleep training.
  • Why do we have kids? I had DK for many reasons but one is to put a responsible, caring, curious human being on this planet. Sometimes the world is so dark, I wonder why bring a perfect little light into it only to have it extinguished by greed, hatred, violence etc. But maybe my little light is going to be the light that solves poverty. Or brings peace. Or finds a cure. I want DK to grow up feeling that he matters. That his actions influence others and that others influence him. I don’t want him to ever feel like he can only count on himself, that he can’t rely on the support of his family, his friends, his community. But I worry that sleep training teaches him that he is alone and he can only rely on himself. That no one out there will comfort him. What a terrible and unnecessary lesson to learn.
  • I look to the example set by the parents of adults I admire. They didn’t sleep train and their kids turned out to be wonderful, kind, caring, generous, ambitious, independent, curious, loving adults. Case closed.

As I mentioned above, a lot of my friends believe in the power of sleep training. And they have been in the trenches a lot longer than me. I do not mean for this blog post to upset them. These women are wonderful mothers and I respect them a lot for all the love they give their kids. Motherhood is not easy and we each know our kids best. I just know that sleep training is not for me and it’s not for Devon. And if any other mothers out there feel similarly, reach out to me. We can encourage one another and together find workable solutions that don’t involve crying it out.