Saturday, January 16, 2010

So the kiddos and I are on our own all day today, for 12 hours. M's working an extra long shift. This would be fine in the summer when we can get outside and play. But the weather here has been awful lately so we're stuck inside. I thought I'd give some ideas to help with cabin fever, and maybe someone will share theirs with me!

We get out the big poster boards and stickers and crayons of all sizes and make beautiful art! The big size of poster board means the kids draw only on that - no overlapping onto the floor.

We turn on some music and dance until we fall down (being in the first trimester of pregnancy, this doesn't take me long...) :) This gets out the energies.

This is really more of a daddy item, but anyway. Usually he puts one of the kiddos in the backpack carrier so that they can observe the process, and starts out on making something VERY delicious ( see the sidbar - my husband is a chef). Badden in particular LOVES watching daddy cook, and cries if he's not in the backpack to observe.

And of course, we have our old fall back.....
Our kids LOVE movies. Mostly the Pixar kind, but my aunt got them a dvd for Christmas - some British fieldmice, I think it's called 'Brambly Hedge'.... anyway, Chicken has taken to that, and we've watched it a few times now. We go through phases, but her perpetual faves are toy story, Ice Age, Shrek, and anything having to do with Sesame Street. Usually a movie is only on in the background, and we're playing a game along with it. But when it's nap time, a movie has incredible power to calm them down, and make them sit still and drift off to sleep.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

Recently some friends of ours had a baby. After about a week, the dad said something to the effect of 'you guys want THREE of these?! On purpose?!' I guess their babe is fussy, and it's been a struggle to get sleep, do anything productive, or generally EXIST with this one babe, never mind adding more kids to the mix.

We never had this problem. Sure, each new babe brings a couple weeks of adjustment, but I don't ever remember feeling overwhelmed or lost, for more than a day or two. And I really believe that we don't have just biologically 'easy' kids (if you've ever met Chicken, you'd agree here...she's a whirlwind)... and also I don't think that we're uber parents who have amazing abilities to 'train' our kids into being little angels. I'm absolutely convinced that it's because of our parenting methods (which, for the record are not OUR parenting methods... see here)

We attachment parent, and everything we do is designed to make our lives (and our kids' lives) easier. We wear our kids in backpacks or slings from the very first. It makes getting around easier, and babes are much more likely to sleep if they're snuggled in with momma or daddy, than if they're alone in a stroller. In fact, our son HATES strollers, and tends to cry when put in one. The closeness that wearing a baby forces brings us more cohesively together, and helps us bond as a family unit. I believe our kids are much more secure because of it. Even today, Badden prefers to be snuggled up to momma or daddy, more than anything else in the world (not typical for a little toddler).

We also co-sleep. I know there's a lot of controversy out there over this, but honestly I don't understand it. I always know where my kids are in the bed, and I've never had even a moment of 'oops! almost squished a baby!' I remove the pillows from half the bed, and put them up beside my head. They cuddle in and we all get a good nights sleep (mostly...until recently, please see this post). It also makes breastfeeding WAY easier, since I don't have to get up, get a kid, feed and then return said kid to a crib. I simply lift my shirt and go back to sleep. In fact, there were lots of times that I'd wake up and find Badden had attached himself while I was asleep. I can't imagine why someone would choose to formula feed a newborn* ...that's SO much harder...get up, make formula, sit up and feed...blech. Not to mention having to then WASH all those bottles, the expense of buying formula... no thanks.

Lastly, our first response for discipline is always a hug. I find that more often than not, when the kiddos are acting out, there's usually an over-stimulation problem (either from tiredness, hunger, too much noise, etc), and making them stay calm and still for a few minutes solves the behaviour issue. Not always, but definitely most of the time. So, instead of a time out, or (God forbid!) a whack across the bum, I scoop the offending child up, give them a big bear hug, tell them 'that's not nice, we don't X', and give them a kiss. Of course we have the occasional moment when this DOESN'T work, and the tantrum gets worse, but more often than not it's effective.

So, when someone says to me 'you have such easy kids' or ''re brave...3 under 3?!' I just smile. I think that if we all just learned to relax a bit, hug a lot more, and be closer as families, the world would be peopled with 'easy kids'.

*I know breastfeeding can be a challenge - it was NOT a cake walk with either kid, and we had varied success - Chicken was only intermittently breastfed for the first 6 weeks, and Badden was exclusively so...then intermittently until 3, believe me, I'm not ignorant of the difficulties. This time around, I'm steadfast in breastfeeding exclusively until weaning age.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I know I'm supposed to be blogging daily, but obviously that isn't happening. Let's talk about why that is.

Aside from school, work, babies, pregnancy, husband, etc... I've got a little boy who won't sleep. He turned one, and then decided that sleep was for BABIES, and as he wasn't a BABY, he wouldn't sleep. Period.


I'm exhausted. And in the middle of the night, when there's a toddler jumping on your head and pulling your hair in an effort to wake you up to play (and laughing hysterically about it, I might add), it's really really hard not to lose your cool.

And I admit, the first night, I totally did. I had my very first moment as a parent where, somewhere around 3am, and with nary a moment of sleep, I had to bring him back to his crib, put him in, and walk away... lest something awful should happen. I have never had one of those moments before as a parent, and I didn't like that colour on me.

So last night when we had a repeat of the whole 'sleep protest' scene, I breathed. I hugged. I rocked. I played. Sure, somewhere around hour 3 I had some moments of anger, and at one point I woke up M to say 'you do it. I quit. I'm tired. YOU'RE IT.' But they were short lived. I kept repeating over and over in my head the advice of Jon and Myla Kabat-Zin in their book Everyday Blessings: be empathic. Put yourself in your child's place. They are not being 'bad' and it isn't THEIR behaviour that is the problem, its your understanding of it.

That's not to say that kids should behave however they want. Oh no. But in this case, my son was genuinely not tired. If he was an adult, he'd get up, maybe read a book, watch some tv, make a snack... but he can't. He's a baby. He relies on me. And so is it fair of me to tell him to change his feelings because they're inconvenient for me? No. I have no right to demand that he be sleepy if he isn't.

And so, I got up with him. Rather grumpily, and sort of stomped down the stairs, but we got up. And we played. He thought the grumpy and the stomping was HILARIOUS, let me tell you (which is even more infuriating at 3am....). But we played.

And then my wonderful husband came downstairs and relieved me, so that I could get some sleep. He did eventually get our son to sleep, and we all went back to bed.

The point of all this? Kids will provide nights of zero sleep. And that's ok. It's what they do. Just make sure you have a supportive partner who's sleep needs are less than your own, and you're aces. :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Best Parenting Advice

I love to talk to people about the Duggar family, from the TLC show '18 Kids and Counting'. They're an amazing family, with 18 (no, wait, 19) kids. They're very conservative Christians and don't believe in the use of birth control. As a consequence, Michelle Duggar has had 19 kids in just over 20 years. I'm amazed by this family for a lot of reasons. First, I'm only going on pregnancy #3 in as many years, and I can't IMAGINE doing this for the next two decades. I love my kids, I'm so HAPPY to have them so close together, but pregnancy is HARD. Michelle Duggar is a champ to do it so many times, so close together.

The main reason though that I find this family inspiring (aside from their refusal to use birth control, which my husband and I also will not do, but probably for different reasons), is their absolutely AMAZING parenting skills. I think that so many parents today have just missed the boat on guiding their children to become good, gracious, compassionate, loving people. In speaking with friends and acquaintances who have kids I'm often struck by just how self-focused most parents still are. They believe it's about being friends with their children, and giving their child 'everything they didn't have'. And while this might be true if what your childhood lacked was love, guidance and discipline, this is NOT sound advice if you mean *things*. I firmly believe that your job as a parent is to guide your children to be the best people they can be. To help them learn from your mistakes (where they can), and to provide a safe place to fall when they make their own.

I have a really hard time with the 'guidance' part - my natural inclination is to loudly correct, rather than gently suggest. But this really does not help your children to grow and blossom, rather it teaches them to withdraw and guard their feelings. Compassion and love need to be at the forefront, whether dealing with your children or with the person who cut in front of you in line at the grocery. After all, children learn more from what we do, than what we say.

And that is the best bit of parenting advice I've ever come across (and it just happens that it is from Michelle Duggar's blog). If you're a new parent, or a parent who is struggling with your children, I urge you to read their advice, found here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Best Birthday Cake

December 31st is Chicken's birthday, and to mark the occassion I left aside my hatred of all things artificial and made her a beautiful cake.

It's a vanilla cake, with (home made!) banana pudding between the layers, and sliced bananas on the top. It's all organic, with no artificial anything... well, except for the INSANE pink and purple sparkles. But you only turn 2 once. :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Best Granola Bars

Chicken eats a totally unreasonable amount of granola bars, and I wanted to find a recipe and start making our own, in an effort to reduce the amount of crazy things in her diet. I searched the interweb and found a pretty good inspiration recipe here.

I've altered her recipe though, and what follows is our best granola bar recipe, enjoyed by toddlers and adults alike in our house.

Manda's Best Granola Bars

2 cups of oats
3/4 cup of flax seed (ground)
3/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of sesame seeds
1/3 cup of hemp seeds
1/3 cup of dried fruit, trail mix, etc

2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
4 tbsp of butter

Toast your oats in the oven (spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake at 425 for about 8-10 mins or until golden brown, stirring a few times)
While your oats are toasting, combine sugar, honey and butter in a medium sauce pan, and melt.
Mix together remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl, and when oats are toasted, add them too. Stir in the melted butter/sugar mixture.
Make sure all dry ingredients are well coated, and then turn out into a cake pan that's been lined with parchment paper.
Spread the mixture out and press down hard. The mixture needs to be SUPER compacted in order to stay together well as bars.
Allow it to cool for a couple of hours, then cut into granola bar size pieces.


Delicious! :)