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.

Flea Market Style

In September I joined a moms group. One week we talked about mom fashion and finding our true style. I took a style quiz and it emerged that my style is classic with a little bit of whimsical. Yes, that sounds like me. I’d never in a million years wear a loud patterny bright shirt; I stick to basics in a striped or solid: navy, grey, black, burgundy, plum, cream, white. But look closely at my classic grey tee with navy cardigan and jeans and you will see that I am, in fact, wearing Lion King earrings. 

My home decor style is similar. I like to have a cozy home with classic patterns and colours (navy blue, cream, grey, burgundy) but with a little bit of whimsy in every room. I secretly/not-so-secretly love wandering through flea markets, consignment shops, antique malls and thrift stores for things for my home. I’m a sucker for a kitschy little trinkets to add some whimsy to my decor and I have to be careful not to accumulate too many or it stops being unique and starts being hoarder-style-weird. For examples, here are a few of my favourite pieces:

In our bathroom we have this frosted window that looks into the nursery. I’ve put this picture of these ladies frolicking on the beach, to go with our classic white monogrammed towels.
I love plaid. I love navy blue and beige. I also love this snail throw pillow I got online through Society 6.
My beloved cat, painted by my grandma in ceramics class in the 80s. As a little girl, I loved this cat so much that I asked my grandma to write my name on the bottom of it so I would get it when she dies. My grandma is still very much alive, but she sent me this cat a few years ago and I just love it.
On one side of my mantle, some classic black and white photographs (my husband and I, newly engaged; a candid photo of my other grandparents at their wedding), an owl figurine and two dancing figurines also painted by my grandmother, also given to me.
The other side of my mantle includes some family photos, some more owl figurines and some pear candles.
Imagine my delight when we moved into this house and haphazardly placed in the kitchen backsplash are these beautiful Redwoods tiles.
My favourite object is this little shrivelled pepper, carved out of wood and wearing a green dinner jacket. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. It made me laugh so hard, tears were streaming down my face while I stood in the aisle at my local Goodwill. I named him “My only friend” and he’s just the most hilarious trinket I’ve ever seen. I love him so much, I got him a pet whale bottle opener with the same facial expression.

My good friend Sarah likes refinishing furniture as a hobby and is always on the lookout for some new pieces to work on. We’ve been meaning to check out the San Jose flea market for a while now, and since I have my new goal of checking out a new place every week, I thought I’d see if she wanted to head there Sunday morning.

It was not what we were expecting at all. Mostly booths of new items, no antiques or furniture, and only a handful of used-treasure boutiques. I was expecting something like Calgary’s Crossroads flea market or Portobello road, but it reminded me more of the open air bazaars I saw in Guatemala. Definitely cool to visit, but I’m not really in the market for what was being sold. 

But we did check it out and had a great time doing so! Next we are going to head to Antiques Colony in San Jose to see if it’s more like what we had in mind. 

Hopefully we will find a true flea market to wander through in the Bay Area! I’m on the hunt for an interesting soap dispenser for my back bathroom.

Celebrate the Rain

It is so easy for the weather to affect your mood. I know that back in Canada, if you didn’t stay positive and focus on the wonderful aspects of winter, you’d feel blue the minute the clock struck midnight on January 2nd, ending the white Christmas holidays and beginning the bleak slog through January, February and March. 

Here in Silicon Valley, the weather is amazing all year long. It rarely gets below 10 degrees Celsius and with the drought happening the past 4 years, winter means sunny with a chance of showers about 15 days/year. 

This year we are definitely getting more rainfall than anything I’ve seen since moving here 2.5 years ago. A few weeks of grey, rainy days and you’re bound to be moody. 

Over the holidays my wonderful mother-in-law told me how growing up on the farm, rain was something to celebrate. Rainy day blues didn’t exist. When she was raising my husband in town, she was determined to continue to celebrate rain and make sure her kids enjoyed rainy days just as much as sunny days. They would go for walks in the rain, splashing in puddles and looking for worms. 

In thinking about this more, I remember my mom doing something similar – at least once on a rainy day, we went for a picnic – in our living room! It probably was no big deal. My mom probably just pulled some leftovers out of the fridge, threw them in a backpack and sat with us on the floor while we ate cold macaroni one rainy day when she was losing her mind with cooped up toddlers – but it is a special memory of a rainy day. 

It does not rain often in California, so when it does, I want to celebrate it with Devon and take him outside to enjoy it. So in the spirit of adventure, we went for our morning walk and rejoiced in the rain!

Things I don’t miss about Canada

 New year, new blog! 

We went home to Alberta, Canada for DK’s first Christmas. We were home for three weeks and it was wonderful to see family and friends, eat at favourite restaurants, and see familiar sights.

Beautiful but frigid prairies!
As much as I miss living in Alberta and I say that California’s lack of seasons makes it sub-par to Canada…now that I’ve done winter with a baby, I can honestly say I don’t want to move home until my kids are out of car seats. 
So for moments when I am so homesick it hurts, here is a list of things I don’t miss about Canada:

1. Worrying about road conditions 

Sure, in the Bay Area we plan our travel around rush hour traffic. But in Canada, you plan your travel around whether the highways will be closed due to blizzards, freezing rain, high winds, black ice…

Driving home from New Year’s Eve

2. Worrying about whether the baby is warm enough. 

I leave the house in California without checking the temperature outside. Sometimes this means my baby is a bit underdressed…but even underdressed DK is not going to die in 10 degree Celsius weather. Not the case in -20C. 

3. Pushing grocery carts across snowy parking lots. 

I hate hate hated doing this when I lived here. I still don’t understand why we don’t put bike tires on our shopping carts. It would make it so much easier. 

4. Pushing old-ass weathered broken rusty shopping carts through the grocery store. 

The wheels are ALWAYS jammed with mud and gravel and crap from pushing them around a snowy parking lot. 

5. Pushing a stroller through a snowy parking lot. 

6. Not having the leisure of changing DK’s diaper in the back hatch of the truck. 

Seriously, how do Canadian moms change diapers on the go?! There are hardly ever change tables where you need them and my fallback option of changing DK’s diaper in the back hatch of our Outback would probably be considered child abuse in the cold Canadian winter air. 

7.  Car seats in the winter. 

I would probably not leave my house for months at a time if I lived here over winter again with a kid in a car seat. You can’t put them in a warm snow suit in the car seat anymore because the straps can’t get tight enough. Getting DK out of the house, into the cold car seat without a snowsuit on him is

Miserable. He cries every time. 

8. Grocery prices

We are so lucky to live so close to where most of our food is grown. Buying groceries in Canada easily adds $50 to your bill, doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for a day or a week’s worth of groceries. 

9.Plugging in the car. 

No, we don’t have an electric vehicle, but we still have to plug it in on frigid nights to keep the battery acid from freezing. One of the worst stomach sinking feelings is when you are cozy in bed and you realize, “damnit, it’s going down to -31C tonight? Gotta go outside and plug in the car.” Might be worse than when you’re just snuggling down in bed to go to sleep and the baby wakes up. Might be. 

10. Shoving baby hands into baby mitts.

Why is it that when a baby has your hair in its clutch, that fist is clenched so tight, but when you’re trying to shove their hands into a baby mitt, they spread their fingers as wide as possible so that their thumb just won’t go in without bending backwards?

So on a positive endnote, you know how they say from desperation comes innovation? Behold my greatest invention!

My friend Sophie made these booties for DK at my request

Crocheted booties with a soft string that attaches them together and goes up DK’s pant legs. Put the booties on, then the pants and voila! Booties that don’t fall off. I know, genius right? 

2017: An adventurous year

I recently finished reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. It was a well-timed read as I have a 6-month-old son and after 2.5 years out of the workforce waiting for my green card as an H4 visa spouse, I am soon going to earn my work permit. But I’m not going back to work.

The Lean-In lover in me is like “What?! Not going back to work?! You rocked at work. You took the work world by storm. You would kick ass at work in the culture in Silicon Valley.”

But I don’t want to go back to work and I’m fortunate enough that our financial situation allows me to make that choice. I never in a million years thought that I’d be so invested in or dedicated to another person. I didn’t go through 9 months of pregnancy, 17 hours of labour, 90 minutes of pushing, 6 stitches and 6+ months of breastfeeding so that someone else could find out the kind of things he finds funny or see the look of disgust on his face when he tries a new food only to open his mouth and beg for more a few bites later. I want to be there for all his moments – the good, the bad and the ugly.

I am happy at home, but I enjoyed reading Rubin’s memoir of her second happiness project and making her home a happier place.

One thing that stuck with me is the idea of assigning a theme to the year. Since moving to the Bay Area 2 and a half years ago, I’ve explored very little of it without my husband. I don’t know why…I used to check out new things by myself in my hometown of Calgary all the time. I went out to dinner alone to try a new restaurant, I took a tour of an old cemetery alone, I went to a weekend festival alone. Maybe it’s because I had lived in Calgary my whole life and I knew it like the back of my hand; There weren’t an overwhelming number of places left to explore, so when something new came along, I wanted to check it out. When I moved to the Bay Area, living away for the first time in my life – everything was new. Every time I left my apartment I was exploring something new…and it was just exhausting. I don’t consider myself a very adventurous person. Sure, I like novelty sometimes, but I’d rather re-watch Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time then go see a new movie in the theaters.

Inspired by Rubin’s example, I decided to explore more of my environment and assigned the theme of Adventure to 2017. I want my son to experience so many things in the world, and I am energized to explore the world with him because he’s seeing it all for the first time.

We went to Muir Woods for the first time in November

Some specific goals to bring about this theme of adventure in my life include:

  • Check out one new place in the Bay Area each week. It might just be driving a different route home, shopping at a different grocery store, or taking DK to a different playground.But I also want to check out some of the local tourist attractions that I haven’t seen yet and be a tourist:
    • Ano Nuevo state park
    • Big Basin Redwoods Park
    • Happy Hollow
    • Winchester Mystery House
    • The Lace Museum, Sunnyvale
    • Emma Prusch Farm
    • San Jose flea market
    • Ed R. Levin County Park
    • Alameda Quicksilver County Park
    • Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont
  • Try a new recipe or cooking technique at least once per month. This month we’ve bought a sous-vide cooker and have been experimenting cooking meat with it. I will never bake a chicken breast again.
  • Check out TACO, the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra. I’ve been meaning to attend their monthly gathering for a while now. I’ve been playing violin since I was a child and I miss having a reason to play it, but I’ve been so hesitant to show up at TACO because what if it’s terrible? But that’s the point – it’s supposed to be terrible. A fun, casual relaxing place to play music together – being perfect isn’t the point. So yes, I’m going to do it. Their first session is January 29th, so check back for an update on how that goes!