Another Year Older and What Do I Get?

I’m not sure which has been more exciting, sad, bittersweet, amazing: Ella turning one, or Cordelia turning one. Ella’s first birthday marked a major milestone. It meant many new things to come. But it didn’t mark the end of anything. Not really. She turned one and we had a new baby on the way. Cordelia turned one and it marks the end of so many things. As I type this, three girls stand in the kitchen helping pour, mix, and taste as they help daddy make muffins. There is no baby cuddled up on someone’s chest. There is no baby mewling to let us know what she needs. Instead we have a toddler screeching to let us know she’s excited, happy, or sad. Her words are tough to understand at times, but believe me she uses them all the time. Life is very different with a toddler, than it is with a baby.

A baby notices if it’s hungry, cold, tired…but it doesn’t notice the world around it. Cordelia notices.

She notices when her sisters run off to play without her. She notices when someone uses the iPod, explorer, remote, phone she copies. The first year is over. Time has flown and the years to come will be amazing to behold.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of her first birthday party. I didn’t really take pictures of the decorations, but maybe I will later. After all, a month later and they’re still up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Go to Sleep You Little Babe

When  expecting Ella, our Doula loaned us a book. We read it and thought ‘ha! This’ll be easy.” – then we had a baby.

It was pretty easy. But we didn’t follow the book’s advice for more than a week. The book relied on crying to let the parents know what the baby needed. But we usually knew Ella needed something long before she cried. In fact most babies give cues to their needs long before they cry. Why ignore our baby for fifteen minutes to an hour waiting for her to cry, when we could just run throughout the most likely culprits: hunger, needing a fresh bum, too hot/cold, sleepy, wanting to snuggle, wanting to be put down? It might take fifteen minutes to run through all of those possibilities in the beginning, but a baby’s a smart creature (and most parents are too) and soon baby and parents develop other tells that communicate those needs quickly.

With each of our babies, from birth until about twenty months, the two most important needs have been sleeping and eating. Ultimately I believe those are the two most important needs of all babies.

Ella slept in a crib on occasion. Not often, mind, but it did happen. She also slept in the stroller, sling, wrap, carseat, and on daddy’s chest once or twice. Once her nap routine was established (about 2 mos old) we were careful to protect that time. We were respectful of her sleep and didn’t make extra noise. Just as we’d expect others to be respectful of us while we slept. For Ella if we were out and about, moving, she’d sleep. No matter what. If she were cuddled against our chest, she’d sleep through almost anything. However, if she were in her crib, or on our bed she’d awaken and need lots of support to fall back to sleep.

We were told many times over that it was important to teach a baby to sleep through noises. We were told we should go out of our way to make noise while she slept. Certain people were rude enough to go out of their way to make noise when they came over. All in an effort to teach her to slept through noise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually work that way. Making noise doesn’t teach a baby to sleep through anything, it just wakes the baby. Oh certainly some babies may sleep through it, some may ‘learn’, but mostly all that happens is a baby becomes more and more tired. And the parents become more and more tired and upset.

When Ella was about 6 weeks old, she became sick. We didn’t realize just how sick until she was around two, but because she was sick, she nursed. A lot. We co-slept. This meant buying a firmer mattress, increasing the overnight heat in the house so we only had one lightweight top-sheet on the bed. We removed the extra blankets and pillows, and bought a bed closer to the ground (though we’ve only ever had someone fall off the bed while asleep once – and that wasn’t a baby : ) . All the ‘rules’ for putting a baby to sleep in the crib applied, but she was in our bed. Next to me only, not daddy. At first I didn’t sleep that much, I was very concerned about rolling on her. But every time she moved or I moved, I woke up.

Then Agatha came along. Things were a bit more difficult. 3.5mm was maximum distance she could be away from me. However after the rough go we’d had with Ella nursing non-stop in the bed (she was very malnourished due to undiagnosed celiac’s disease), we were determined not to co-sleep. So the first 2 nights after Agatha was born I rocked her to sleep, and faithfully tried to get her into the crib. For two nights and days I slept in the chair with a baby cuddled against my chest. On the third day I realized how ridiculous I was being and Agatha came to bed with us as well. She’s 3.5 and still in my bed, and I’m happy with her there. She sleeps great, and so do I. Though occasionally I’d appreciate it if she didn’t feel the need to sleep on my head :p

We were careful to protect the girls’ sleep. When they napped or went to bed for the night we tried to keep the noises to a minimum. Partly for our sanity, the longer they slept, the happier they were and the more time Ryan and I had to ourselves. But also knowing that babies who develop good sleep habits by sleeping in a dark, quiet environment are more likely to be children with good sleep habits*, and then adults with good sleep habits who awake feeling refreshed. There was no reason for us to make noise. They were sleeping and as everyone knows it’s best to let sleeping babies lie.

*Note that you can’t force a baby/child to sleep, but rather create an environment conducive to sleep and see if the baby will actually accept your offer. Especially if you have a baby that has difficulty falling asleep it’s important to protect that sleep. If that means whispering from the hours of 10AM until noon everyday for two years, then do it. A rested child is a lot more fun to be around : )

Cordelia’s been a different baby from the other two. She fights sleep more than the others, but is more likely to sleep on her own. We still co-sleep, but we suspect the transition to night weaning will be easier, shorter than with the other two. Of course we have a few months or so before that’s likely to happen (assuming same course as the two big girls). Cordelia’s put herself to sleep more than the others, she doesn’t nurse to sleep very often, things are different. But we still protect her sleep. While she naps the girls are moved to a different level of the house if they want to be noisy. The dog is politely told to be quiet, or go in his kennel (on a different level of the house).

It has never been an inconvenience for us to respect our children’s needs. At 3.5 and 5 our big girls are great sleepers. They go to bed on their own, and sleep through twelve hours. They don’t fight bedtime, they have a very positive relationship with sleep. Even if they awoke many times in the night it’d be okay. The important thing for us is the positive feeling they associate with sleep. It isn’t a stressful event where they plead to stay awake and we say ‘no’. Instead if they wanted to stay awake, we’d say ‘sure’. Of course most nights they ask to go to bed between 6 and 8 depending on how busy our week’s been.

Sleep is such a touchy topic. A baby is ben and a week later everyone wants to know if she’s sleeping through the night. Hate to break it to you folks, but 5 hours is sleeping through the night and it isn’t normal or safe for ANY baby to sleep through the night until 6 mos of age – and not until 2-3 years before it’s expected they’ll sleep longer than that without getting up. So if your 3 yr old gets up once a night, count yourself lucky – many 3 year olds get up 3 or more times a night. And if your one year old gets up twice, she’s doing pretty good. I’m very lucky. I don’t know how many times my 1 yr old gets up, as a breastfeeding, co-sleeping mama my baby latches on and off without waking me.*

*Unless it’s after 5AM, then it’s too close to wake up time anyhow – and then I’m grumpy.  

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Ain’t Got Rhythm

Recently several Mamas I know were talking about daily rhythms – whether they have one or not, how to find one, and how to keep it. Someone mentioned I’d be a good person to talk to about not having a routine (we’re not really routine people around here). But this really got me thinking. We don’t do routines, we don’t really have a schedule at all and try to avoid timelines as much as possible. We prefer to go with the flow. Deadlines leave me frustrated and usually results in me yelling at least once. I don’t like yelling (contrary to popular belief) it just leaves me feeling very anxious and stressed out – and then more yelling. A vicious cycle I want to avoid.

On the surface it might feel like we don’t got rhythm, but underneath there’s some funky syncopation. Each morning we wake up and there’s a certain feel in the air. We don’t always do the same thing everyday, but the feeling is the same (‘Oh Gawd, is it morning already?”) Opps. I mean we wake up peacefully and cuddle in bed, or roll out of bed and let the big girls watch the baby while I take our dog out to pee, or I leave the dog in his crate and get everyone else breakfast and then take him out, it’s different each day, but our mornings are always busy. At some point I also use the morning to do the only bit of cleaning I’m likely to do in a day. Then some time between eleven and two I have a coffee (Oh how I love my espresso machine). This usually involves me making everyone a coffee (the girls either only have a 1/4 shot each or decaf) lol the rhythm of our day would be very different if I caffeinated the girls.

Our days flow. We don’t have set times for anything. There’s no set order. Some days we leave the house for the first time at five in the evening. Other days we’re out the door for eight. But there is a rhythm to it. A certain feel. The difficulty isn’t in finding rhythm, but in choosing what the rhythm will be. Will it involve yelling and stress, or will the rhythm involve flowing and taking each moment as it comes? Rejoicing in the water seeping out of the bathroom into the hallway carpet? Okay, that particular moment broke my rhythm – but the girls loved it and just laughed as I seethed on the outside of the locked bathroom door.

“We’re cleaning it up mommy. Our bathroom floor is so clean now. You’re gonna be so happy.” Those words woke me up to the sweet deal I got going on right here. The rhythm isn’t in our daily actions, but rather in our daily feel. I regulate how I respond to each situation. The rhythm is found in those moments when I stop and decide the beat I want before I begin talking.

P.S. I LOVE Phineas & Ferb

 

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On Becoming a Mommy

Some people are born into families that love and respect them. They grow up knowing their self-worth. They know the worth of those around them. Some people are respectful of others because it doesn’t occur to them, even in moments of anger, not to be. Some people make great parents. I am not one of them.

I am the best me I can be. I am the best mother to my children I am capable of being. I would like to think that is good enough. And maybe for today it is. However, I want tomorrow to be better. I want to be better.

As we enter Lent and reflect on our lives and grow closer to God I look at the way I parent and know the most direct path to God is through my Children. Each moment I choose to be calm instead of yelling, respectful instead of spiteful, I move closer to God. And closer to my children.

Over the years, the actions of others impacted me greatly. Maybe not enough to instantly change the path my parents started me on, but enough that I knew an alternative path existed. When I was seventeen, I babysat for a wonderful family. Everyone was happy. It was plain to me that the children loved and respected, not feared, their parents. I didn’t have an opportunity to witness their parenting in action very often (I was the babysitter after all), but there were clues. An article on the fridge said children might feel shame or embarrassment if a parent corrected or disciplined in front of others. They used a secret word to let the children know they needed to talk in private. No spankings, no standing in the corner, no yelling, shaming, insulting.

Years later I was blessed to meet some wonderful people who have shown me that it doesn’t matter how a person parents so much as why they parent. These friends have parented in ways I said I never would. However it’s plain to me that their children are no worse for wear from the style of parenting. What’s the difference?

Respect.

As parents we don’t automatically deserve respect. We must earn it. One way of earning it is being respectful to our children. One parent may spank, another may talk, still another may use time-out. It doesn’t really matter (IMO). What matters is the feel of the exchange to both parties. Do both the parents and the children leave the exchange feeling loved and respected? If so, then everything will work out okay. But if the parents feel like they’ve given-in, then they leave resenting their child. If the child leaves feeling like his/her parents didn’t listen, didn’t understand, or did’t didn’t care, then they’ll be less inclined to talk to the parent in the future. That child will be less inclined to heed the parents advice, and will more likely go against the parent’s wishes in the future. Unless both parties feel respected there will be no real resolution and no real connection.

It’s a tricky road to walk. How does one learn to be respectful? It’s usaully pretty easy to see when I haven’t been respectful. Broken hearts glisten in tears rolling down sweet little faces. But choosing the gentler path can be difficult.

For me it starts by seeing the patterns. I know certain things will happen everyday. I’m in the middle of doing something and one of the girls needs me. I know she needs me before I provide my undivided attention. I know that every day, one of my girls will inadvertently hurt someone else. I know these things happen and I can choose how to respond before it happens. Having a plan in effect takes the stress from the situation and allows me to show my children how much they mean to me by not yelling. That plan gives me the opportunity to bypass my knee-jerk response. Now I need to work on moving that plan into other areas of my life. Into other relationships.

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How do you measure, measure a day?

I’ve discovered writing of any kind is rather difficult when I’m only getting a few hours of actual sleep a day. It’s also difficult when I find it easiest to type while sitting down, and a certain little girl doesn’t like it when I sit while she’s sleeping on my back. I have about 12 unfinished posts right now. They may or may not ever get finished, but they’re there.

This post will be an update for those who like that sort of thing. For Ella’s 5th birthday we took the girls to Disney World. We had a blast on our pirate adventure!

Pirates & Pals Cruise

 

We took the girls on the Pirates & Pals Fireworks cruise. Patch the pirate was awesome – every child won a prize (including Cordelia).

 

Tom Sawyer's Paint Brush

 

We went to Tom Sawyer’s Island and Ella was super excited to find one of the hidden paint brushes. Here’s our Snow White next to where she found the discarded brush.

 

Lilo & Stitch Cake

 

We had a mini birthday party for Ella at Citricos. The Gluten-free cake was fabulous! We were very proud of how calm all of our girls behaved while we sat and ate at a fancy restaurant. It’s normally difficult for them to remain seated and relatively quiet, but that meal they did great. Such a proud momma moment.

 

Kissed by Anastasia

 

Cordelia loved all the characters, and they loved her. Hehehe. I could spend hours talking/writing about our trip and if anyone would like to know more, feel free to ask. However for now I’ll leave it here.

Since our trip Cordelia’s taken her first steps, and is growing like mad.

Agatha’s struggling to gain new independence, unfortunately she wants to do the things Ella does, and She’s just not quite at the same level yet. It’s a frustrating struggle to watch, but every time we try to step in to guide her we just make things worse for Agatha. So we step back.

Ella’s slowly gaining new freedoms. We let her go down the street and around the corner to the mailbox on her own. We’ve also let her go to the field across from us on her own. We have very good visibility of where she is even when she’s on her own, though it’s still a bit nerve wracking. Despite my inner fears I know she’s capable of doing these things on her own. We talk about how she can stay safe, what her fears might be, and what she could do if something specific happened.For instance what to do if she sees a car coming and she’s already in the street. What to do if she’s in the field and another person arrives. What to do if she gets frightened. We talk about these things. In the beginning I guided her with some suggestions, but now she has her own ideas. In one or two summers I believe she’d be safe to go to the playground several blocks away on her own. It’s difficult to allow our children to grow up without stifling them, but as Crush says:

On another note, Ella lost her first tooth. Her little gap toothed smile is so awesome! It’s so tough to see my little baby grow up and realize so many minutes have passed and I barely even noticed them.

Proud Girl

 

To top everything off, we’ve added a new member to our family. A couple days before Christmas Ella asked Santa for a dog. She wrote a letter and asked for a dog that would be okay for our allergies, she wanted food and water dishes, toys, and a puppy bed. If Santa brought the dog, then he wouldn’t cost us money (one of the reasons we said we couldn’t get a dog now). We carefully told her Santa doesn’t usually bring living animals and she wasn’t likely to get a dog for Christmas. Then we waited and hoped everything would be okay. Santa did bring her a dog. An old Ty beanie baby puppy I had. BUt Ryan and I talked. And talked. And talked.  We talked  figured about 20-24 inches should be about the right size for a dog. Not too big, not too small. We weighed the pros and cons of various breeds. Decided on the top three choices. We then said as soon as we got a fence in the spring we’d get a dog. But then we talked some more. a specific breed would be great, but the cost would be astronomical. Instead of a specific breed, we decided we’d just wait until we happened to meet the right dog, even if it was likely to shed.

Chester says 'Hi'

We went to a couple puppy meet & greets the local rescue societies held. WE didn’t get  puppy, but we did find a picture of a sweet looking pup named Chester. He was about 5-6 mos old and a lab/shepherd cross. He was housetrained and very intelligent. We decided to meet him. The foster mom later let us know he was likely a shepherd crossed with a wolfhound, and he was only about 4-5 mos old – and almost 50lbs. He was already the size we wanted the adult dog to be and he still has lots of growing to do. We met him anyhow. And thought he was great. BUt we said no thanks, he’s just too big. The next day we met him again. And kept him. Chesterfield (because he’s gonna be as big as one) has been an amazing little (giant) puppy. He eagerly learns new commands and wants to please his people. As a bonus he’s eagerly getting me into shape. I used to runs  decent amount, even now I’m pretty fast (at least for short distances) but this puppy can give me a 50 meter head start and pass me in seconds. This little puppy can drag me behind him without even needing to break into a full run. lol it’s a good thing this little puppy has learned ‘come’ and ‘sit’ so quickly. Otherwise I’d never catch him!

Chester beside our bar stool

Before getting a dog we bought the supplies we were likely to need, and the girls had a chance to check them out. The crate was an instant hit. They played jail for hours on end, taking turned being the cop and the bad guys. Cordelia was sent to jail for eating too many cookies. Agatha for laughing too much. I love my girls!

Let us out of Jail!

 

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Five Years

Due to moving, and computers crashing I don’t actually have new baby photos of her right now, however from about six months on here is Ella over the last five years:

 

It’s amazing how much she’s changed. I’m so proud of all the things she’s done and all the things she’s going to do. I have a girl who’s so full of energy, spirit, life. I smile everyday, knowing I have some part to play in this awesome little person’s life.

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Fact 252

It’s a fact that you can’t trust everything you read.

Disney Junior Fun Facts To Understand Our World

Whether on the internet, in the newspaper, a magazine, or a book, we need to question the information handed to us. As parents, our relationship with our children involves some leading, and a lot of following. We strew different topics through our children’s lives and wait to see what catches their interest, then we follow along for the ride ready with something new when, and if, their interest wanes. They might not find a certain topic particularly interesting, while a different one catches their fancy. The first topic gets tucked away for a different day, while we seek out more information on the topic they’re eager to learn about.

Encyclopedia’s and other such books are great resources for strewing. So many different topics to pique someone’s interest in one place. However, it’s important for parents to have either a passing knowledge about the subject matter, or double (triple) check every resource. Otherwise we could inadvertently lead our children to false information.

The page pictured above came from a book Ella got for her birthday. Can you see what’s wrong with it? There are many people who might not see what’s wrong. Their children in turn also won’t know the information’s incorrect. Is it a major cause for concern? With this specific error, no. However, some incorrect information could lead to any number of problems depending on the information. As a nurse it’s important the information I use to influence my practice is accurate and from reliable sources. Neither life nor death is on the line when it comes to children’s books, but teaching our children young to be discerning readers will help them later in life.

This doesn’t mean we need to know everything in order to guide our children’s education (teachers certainly don’t) however it does mean there are certain things parents should do to ensure their children get accurate information. First read everything either before your child gets it, or with them. With young children (i.e. not reading yet) you can change the words to reflect the real information. As children get older you can point out the inaccuracy and find the real information together. It becomes a learning moment.

Unfortunately there’s also the possibility that a trusted source, a source that should provide accurate information, makes a mistake. For instance the Disney Press company is usually pretty good about providing accurate, if brief, information. This book in particular also has a list of respected individuals that vetted the book prior to publication. Though none of them seem to have any particular geographical knowledge. Otherwise one of them might have noticed that Newfoundland is not, in fact, a country. Of course the information about glaciers is correct (I hope).

One last thought. Just because the book is about one topic, glaciers for instance, doesn’t mean there isn’t valuable information about other topics. A short paragraph about glaciers also gave information about the geography of our planet. No subject stands alone.

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