Category: Parenting

Happy Seven Months Birthday, Abigail!

In the beginning of this month, Abi turned seven months old. Our silly little girl is more than halfway to one!

At seven months, she is able to sit up on her own, but usually prefers laying on her belly. She hasn’t crawled yet, but she’s getting pretty close. She loves to play with toys or interesting objects, and gets bored easily. She’s not content to just sit and observe things, she wants to explore with her hands. Holding her while trying to do anything else is very difficult, because she grabs everything!

For a couple of weeks, she seemed close to night-weaning, meaning sleeping through the night without having to nurse. But unfortunately, all progress was lost soon after that, when she started nursing even more frequently than ever at night. Typically she nurses anywhere from three to six times per night. Thankfully, three is more common than six.

She has teething pain and other signs of teething (like soaking her shirt in drool) sporadically, as she has since about three months, but no teeth have emerged yet. We can see them under the skin on her bottom gum, so I expect them to come out soon, but they’ve really been taking their time!

Somewhat concerningly, she still weighs 18 lbs, which means she hasn’t gained any weight in the last month. But because she’s still quite a chunky baby, still in the 64th percentile (down from the 78th), and seems active and happy, we’re not too concerned. She grew so fast in the first 6 months of her life that she’s probably just “catching down.” 😉

Abigail loves her nightly bath. She gets excited when we say “bath” and when she sees the tub. She starts bouncing in our arms and gets the biggest smile on her face! It’s really cute. On the flip side, she generally hates her after-bath lotioning, and usually cries or fusses through the entire lotion-diaper-pajamas process. But after that drama, she happily nurses to sleep, and the world is right again.

Just after turning seven months, Abigail said “mama” for the first time! Now it seems to be her favorite word, and she uses it frequently to summon her milk slave. For the record, she did say “dada” first, at about six months. It’s up for debate whether she had the intention, or was just babbling, but she did say it a lot so it could easily be her true first word. Now that she’s also said “mama,” I’m more willing to give the first word award to “dada.” ;P (In all fairness, Cody’s first word was “mama,” so it’s a good balance that we each get one.)

At this age, Abi takes three naps; morning, afternoon, and night. Technically the last nap could be considered part of her nighttime sleep, but we wake her up before we all go to bed as a family in order to give her a bath and keep her eczema at bay. She sleeps about 9-10 hours at night (waking up on average four times to nurse).
She has stretches of being content playing on the floor or in her bouncer, as long as a parent is close by. She also has stretches of being very clingy and crying any time she’s put down. She never really has times when she cries inconsolably, and when she is fussy even while being held, it’s a sign she needs to nap. Typically, she goes down fairly easily for her naps.

As the weather is beginning to warm up, I am enjoying dressing her in little dresses and skirts, showing off those adorably chunky baby legs! Oh what fun to dress a baby girl.

Happy Six Months Birthday, Abigail!

{This is very belated, as I wrote it but didn’t get around to posting it until now!}

Abigail turned six months old last weekend. I can’t believe we’re already halfway to one year!

Abi is still wearing some size 9 months clothes, and she also wears some things that are size 12 months. She weighs 18 lbs, and is tall for her age (or I guess you would say “long” at this stage since she’s not standing.)

She doesn’t sit up on her own yet or crawl. She still mostly likes to get around by rolling, or by us carrying her. She does travel pretty far by rolling and wiggling, so maybe she doesn’t feel too motivated to try anything more just yet. She doesn’t like to lay on her back, and always rolls to her side or belly when we put her down. Diaper changes are a struggle because she fights to be on her belly!

The biggest change this month has been her desire to explore things with her hands. She is no longer content to just watch the action, she wants to grab it for herself! She loves to grab, shake, taste, and slam anything she can get her hands on. Anything we are doing while holding her will be targeted. Because of that, we can’t really do much else while holding her any more. No computer, paper books, or cooking. She also tends to wriggle around a lot while she’s being held, which makes it more of a two-arm job. And unfortunately, our easy baby has disappeared, as she now demands to be held for a majority of the day. I still wouldn’t consider her high-need, because in other ways she really isn’t, but I also wouldn’t call her “easy” any more.

Because of how heavy she is, I’ve found wearing her to be a bit uncomfortable and hard on my back. So I don’t typically spend a lot of time with her in the carrier, but it’s definitely still useful for outings, and Cory still wears her for hours each day. Personally, I prefer to hold her in my arms, which I find to be easier on my back. She also seems more content that way, because I can shift her position and try different things to keep her entertained.

She did her first reach to be held this month, something I always find cute. She reaches for both me and her dad, though she does have a preference for me sometimes. She’s had a couple of episodes of separation anxiety from me, but she’s also accepted other caregivers easily. We even went out on a date, and left her with a babysitter!

Abigail has always seemed to eyeball our food, so when our pediatrician said we could start trying to feed her baby food, I thought, “why not?” And as it turns out, she is a great eater! It’s such a new experience for me to spoon feed a baby food and have her actually swallow it and open her mouth for more. So far, we’ve tried sweet potatoes, pears, peas, bananas, carrots, and cereal. She’s liked all of them except for the pears and cereal, and she wasn’t as enthusiastic about the peas as she was with the others. But she really seems to love sweet potatoes, bananas, and carrots. It’s exciting to see her accepting fruits and veggies already, and it gives me hope that she will be a good eater as she grows up.

Of course for now, she’s still so young that I’m not looking to make solid foods a big part of her diet. I still believe breastmilk is best for the first year. I typically feed her just half of a jar of stage one baby food (which is a tiny jar to begin with), then finish it off the next day and wait a few days before feeding her another one. I like the idea of introducing a variety of foods to her, but as I said, nothing beats breastmilk for baby nutrition!

Speaking of which, she’s still a great nurser and my supply is great as usual. She nurses about every 3 hours or so, and typically two to three times during the night. She sleeps with us in our family bed, and we all go to bed at about 10 PM (although Abigail frequently falls asleep before that). Cory gets up with the kids, usually sometime between 6:30 and 7:30. Occasionally, Abigail and/or Cody will stay asleep with me until I get up at 8. That means generally, Abi sleeps for nine to eleven hours per night.

She takes two naps at fairly predictable times now. Her first nap is in the late morning, around 10:30 or so, and her second nap is usually in the mid afternoon, around 3:30 or so. It can vary by a couple of hours some days, but that’s the most common. Her naps are about an hour long on average, but they can also be longer. When teething is bothering her, she has trouble staying asleep for naps and is restless at night.

As for her eczema and diaper rash: we finally beat it! The eczema could flare up again without warning at any time, of course, but for now her skin is clear. We bathe her in just water (no soap) every other day, and follow that with a full-body lotioning. The diaper rash was finally cured when we got a prescription for a steroid cream. It took about two weeks for it to fully go away using that, but it’s finally gone. Unfortunately, ever since we stopped the steroid cream, the rash keeps trying to come back. We put a light layer of Aquaphor on her at every change, but we still notice redness appearing every few days. When we see it, we put on more steroid cream for a day or two, and that takes care of it. It’s frustrating to have to keep using that, though, because I know it’s not recommended to use it long-term. Her skin is just so darn sensitive, and doesn’t respond to anything else! But at least for now, it seems to be under control, and she’s not uncomfortable any more. Thank God!

So that’s about it! Abi is a happy, healthy baby, and just the sweetest little nugget. Those chunky cheeks and big blue eyes, and her adorable smile… they get me every time. <3

Happy Five Months Birthday, Abigail!

Abigail is now five months old! She weighs 16.8 lbs and is almost 26” long. She is in the 78th percentile for weight, and 72nd for height. She wears 6-9 month size clothes, but some of her footsie pajamas are 12 month size. Her eyes are still the same shade of blue, and it seems likely they will remain blue at this point. Her hair seems to be more and more sparse, since she hasn’t grown any more that I can tell since being born.

She wakes up on average three times per night to nurse. She tends to be a somewhat restless sleeper, but I think that is because of her recent flare-up of eczema, which is making her itchy. The eczema appeared suddenly almost two weeks ago, starting on her cheeks and then spreading to the rest of her body. We started giving her daily baths and lotioning her afterward, which is apparently the most important thing to do for treating eczema. We also moisturize the most affected areas of her body a few times during the day. After about a week, it has mostly cleared up, but not completely. I’m not too concerned about it, but it is an annoyance.

We also have been fighting a diaper rash with her for over a month now. We’ve tried everything including coconut oil, traditional zinc oxide diaper rash creams, petrolatum ointment, anti-fungals, cortizone, and airing it out. She also wears “natural” diapers (without chemicals, dyes, or fragrances) and we use “natural” wipes (which contain mostly water and gentle, plant-based cleaners). The most successful treatment has been the petrolatum (Aquaphor) and a special healing ointment we bought called “Bee Magic” which contains honey, bee pollen, and other bee-related substances. Using those with every diaper change, she has almost completely healed several times, but then the rash will flare up again for no apparent reason. As of right now, it is “manageable,” meaning not getting any worse, and not severe enough to be very concerning. Like her eczema, it is more of an annoyance than anything. Diaper changes are a hassle because she tries to scratch herself, so we have to put mittens on her hands and try to pin down all of her limbs while smearing two types of ointment on her. As you can imagine, it’s basically an olympic sport. Rinse and repeat every two hours!

Anyway. She loves to sleep on her side now, and usually sucks on her thumb while sleeping. She tends to have a mid-morning nap and an early afternoon nap, each lasting one to three hours. I can usually tell when she’s tired because she will start to act grumpy. She’s so easy to put down; I close the curtains, put the white noise on, and then rock her. It takes just a few minutes for her to fall asleep. She doesn’t wake up when I put her down in bed, either. Easy peasy!

She doesn’t like her swing, so we haven’t used it in weeks. She prefers her bouncy seat, floor seat, play mat, high chair, or playpen. Of course her favorite option is being held, and she also loves to be worn in the carrier. This week, I was able to take her on a walk in the stroller, and she sat happily in the upper seat (it’s a double stroller). She also went in the baby swing at the park and loved it.

She loves grabbing things, including skin, hair, and faces. But toys will also suffice. She likes sucking on tags, soft toys, and teething toys. She will almost always roll to her belly when she’s laid down to play, and she can now push up high on her arms (push-up style). She also is starting to push her bottom up by bringing her knees under her. It’s a small step towards crawling, which is exciting. Abigail cannot sit up on her own yet, but she’s getting close. She can roll easily from back to belly and vice versa. She actually can move pretty far just by rolling and wiggling.

Generally, she’s very smiley, giggly, and a content observer. She laughs at people when they burp or blow raspberries, and she still finds peek-a-boo hilarious. Cody likes to snuggle her and try to make her laugh.

This month we will offer her some solid food for the first time. She seems interested in our food when we eat, so we’ll see what happens. We’re going to start off with some simple pureed baby food and baby cereals mixed with breastmilk. I’m excited to see how she does.

My sweet baby girl is growing so fast. I love this stage!

Do You Believe In Magic?

For the past few months, Cory and I have been struggling with Cody’s behavior and figuring out how to best discipline him. I’ve discovered that three year olds, AKA threenagers, are a whole other level of challenging. Forget “terrible twos,” it’s the threes that really get you! At least, that has been my experience so far.

Anyway, I started reading more parenting books, re-reading some of my old ones, and doing research on discipline methods. As an attachment parent, my first instinct has always been to try using “positive discipline” methods which do not include punishment. I’ve read books that have taught discipline methods such as simply staying calm, using specific ways of speaking, or relying on a toolbox of tricks. Some of them were helpful some of the time, but I struggled with not having a more streamlined, consistent, and most importantly effective way of disciplining. When my attempts at applying what I’ve learned failed, I would resort to anger, which wasn’t effective either and left me feeling guilty. (In other words, I’m the “bulldog” parent. Cory, on the other hand, tends to be the “pushover” parent.)

Finally, I found a resource that started to help. I found a website, centerforparentingeducation.org, which provides a lot of realistic, practical, and evidence-based advice about a variety of parenting challenges. It helped me to better understand the developmental stage that Cody is in, and it also opened the door for me to accept that punishment, in the form of gentle consequences, does have a very important place in parenting. I highly recommend parents check it out to educate themselves and improve their parenting skills!

Still, even after my research, I was having a hard time applying a lot of what I learned to real-life situations with Cody. That’s when I came across a book called 1-2-3 Magic. I believe that this program is an answer to my prayers about how to handle Cody’s discipline! The ebook popped up as a suggestion for me when I was looking for a book to read on my tablet; I bought it and devoured it in two days. Since then, I have already seen excellent results, and I have felt very empowered and calm as a parent.

The 1-2-3 Magic system is simple, gentle, and effective. It involves cutting out unhelpful parental behaviors like nagging, yelling, lecturing, and spanking. Instead, discipline comes in the form of time-outs, or other consequences, which are enforced with very few words. There are also a handful of tools in the program for encouraging positive behavior. Most importantly, the program focuses on strengthening the parent-child bond, which is irreplaceable not only for disciplining effectively, but for enjoying our children!

We have been using 1-2-3 Magic for a week now, and of course we are still not perfect and never will be. But when we use it right, I am able to stay completely calm and still gain Cody’s compliance. It has honestly been a game-changer for me, even in this short amount of time. I was at the point where I admitted sadly to Cory that I wasn’t enjoying Cody anymore because of the constant struggles with his behavior. Now, I feel like a new parent, and I’ve been enjoying my son again because discipline is calm and quick. It is really a wonderful thing!

You can find out more about 1-2-3 Magic here. The book is available on every major ebook platform, or in physical form through many retailers. If it wasn’t clear already, I highly recommend this book for all parents!

 

There are no affiliate links in this post. I am simply a fan and I want to share my discovery!

Also note that 1-2-3 Magic is for children over the age of about 18 months to two years. “Discipline” for babies should consist mainly of prevention, redirection, and distraction. Consequences aren’t appropriate for these little ones, because they can’t understand at this age! 😉

No Offense

Hey you!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been away from blogging for awhile now, focusing on some other priorities. After Abigail is born and I’ve settled into my new life (and new careers in both life coaching and birth education), I plan to get back into regular blogging mode! Until then, I will continue posting updates on my life and things I am particularly interested in writing about, when I have time. 🙂

So first, life update!

Since my last post, I graduated from the Christian Coach Institute as a Professional Christian Life Coach. I am not actively seeking clients at the moment, because of the imminent birth of my daughter, but at the same time I’m certainly not going to be turning anybody away who’s seeking coaching. My plans for my coaching business right now are to begin building it up and finding clients sometime in early 2018. After I’ve coached for a few months, I plan to complete my certification, which adds a credential to my name and gives me more marketing opportunities.

I also was just certified as a Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor, which means I can now officially teach Hypnobabies classes. It was a lot of work, and I am so happy to have achieved this accomplishment. Just as with life coaching, I plan to begin offering classes in my community in early 2018. I am very excited about that, because natural birth with hypnosis is something I am super passionate about!

Cody is doing well, and we are both growing a lot through this late toddler stage. Although tantrums, whining, and crankiness are a normal part of our lives at this point, it’s also a time full of fun, laughter, silliness, and new discoveries. His personality is developing more and more, and he’s still a very sweet, affectionate, and intelligent boy.

Abigail is also growing well in my belly. I’ve gained a lot of weight (which is a good thing of course!), and she’s an active baby. She also looks beautiful and perfect, based on our last (and likely final) ultrasound. While we still have approximately 8 weeks to go until she’s likely ready to come out, we are pretty much done with our preparations for her arrival. All that’s left to do is wait, rest, stay healthy, and keep practicing my hypnosis techniques for our beautiful birthing!

Our pets are doing well, all healthy and happy (except for Marley’s usual neurosis of course). Our house is coming along with some final projects we want to get done before Abigail’s birth, after which we plan to pretty much leave everything alone for a good long while. Houses are expensive to improve, did you know? =J

That’s pretty much the gist on my life at the moment. The next focus really is bringing baby into the world now, and I’m looking forward to this next stage very much.

And now, onto something else I wanted to talk about. Briefly, though, because this is already kind of long. 😉

As any parent knows well, people love to judge. Family members and strangers, and sometimes even friends, can all be quick to tell you what you are doing wrong as a parent. It’s something that I already knew to expect when I became a parent, and truthfully hasn’t bothered me much so far.

When Cody was a baby, there were less things to judge about, perhaps. Yes, I got comments about our choices of co-sleeping and extended nursing, and some about vaccinations, “helicopter parenting,” and so on. There were complaints about him crying occasionally, but most people understand that babies cry, so that wasn’t too bad. For the most part, the baby years weren’t a time when I felt very judged as a parent, and certainly not in any ways that bothered me.

But these toddler years, they are something else. Cody is a two year old, going on three, and he acts like it. There are tantrums, public outbursts, and generally embarrassing behavior frequently. Most of the time, I handle it pretty well, because I know that it’s pointless and unnecessary to feel embarrassed or get angry at him about what I know to be normal behavior for his stage of development. I know that as a parent, my job is not to control my child, but to nurture, protect, and guide him. That includes discipline, of course. It does not include punishment, expecting him to act like an adult, or reacting to his behavior in ways that are not logical or productive.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with my parenting choices. Whether it has to do with his behavior in public, my disciplinary style, how I choose to protect my child, what I choose to feed him (or allow him to eat), or even things like the length of his hair, there are opinions on all sides about it. People might choose to share those opinions by staring, glaring, commenting to others, complaining to me, giving me advice, or telling me what they feel I’m doing wrong. All of those things have the potential to be offensive, especially when I’m already in a stressful situation with my screaming toddler.

But I learned something recently about this. It is my choice, whether or not I will be offended. Realizing that, to me, makes all the difference.

The truth of the matter is, kids will be kids. Some people do not understand that, or they forget. Sometimes, people are having a bad day or are in a bad mood, and they might not treat frazzled parents with as much grace as they should. Other times, people just have strong opinions about parenting (or hair length). It’s really not about me or my child–it’s about them. It’s not my problem, it’s theirs. Because you know what? My job is to be the best parent I can be to my child. My responsibility is not to please my relatives or friends, let alone random strangers; it’s to do what I believe is best as a parent. As long as I’m not being abusive, I don’t have to defend or explain my choices to anybody but God, myself, and my spouse.

With that mindset, it’s much easier to choose to not be offended. When others judge me, my child, or my parenting, I don’t have to take it personally. I don’t have to let it bother me. I can remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, and feel at peace with that. I will never please everybody, and that’s okay. Because I am a good mother, imperfect as we all are. I am doing my very best, and I know that God will do the rest. And even though my son is only 2 ½, I am already proud of who he is. Most of all, he knows that he is loved. To me, that says everything.

The {Bedtime} Struggle Is Real

bedtime-struggle

I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.

Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!

Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.

It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!

I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.

We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.

Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.

So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!

Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.

As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.

What I’m Into in December

december-char

December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

Terrible Terrible Tantrums

tantrums

Ah, the dreaded tantrum. We’ve all seen one. Many of us have judged a few parents for their inability to control their toddler’s public fits. Many of us have been those parents, unable to stop the embarrassing displays of unrestrained fury from our youngest family members. It’s as if your toddler having a public meltdown is a glaring sign of failure as a parent. But why?

I have learned through my studies in child development and now my actual experience that tantrums are a very normal part of development. Contrary to popular belief, tantrums are not “bad behavior.” Having an emotional meltdown is not misbehavior—it’s part of being human. Are tantrums unpleasant, embarrassing, and unwanted? Why yes. But again—they aren’t misbehavior.

The reality is that toddlers have a lot of big emotions that they don’t know how to handle. If we, as adults, can’t always handle our emotions maturely, then it really isn’t reasonable to expect toddlers to do so. It would be much better for everyone if we all realized that tantrums are normal, and not a reflection of bad parenting. But when a toddler is crying on the floor, kicking and screaming, what should a parent (or caregiver) do?

Some people lecture or scold the child. “Get off the floor right now! You stop that, or you’ll have a time-out.” Or, even better, “Stop crying!” Sometimes, these scoldings are even accompanied by spankings, or other punitive measures. I always find myself wondering, why? They aren’t hurting anybody (if they are, they can be restrained with compassion). They’re just expressing their emotions the only way they know how. And when did it become acceptable to respond to another person’s tears and pain by yelling at them to stop crying, or worse, by hitting them? Apparently, only with toddlers.

Other parents, desperate to end the drama, concede to the demands of their little tyrant. This isn’t really a good long-range plan either. It teaches kids that they can get what they want by screaming, crying, and making a scene. That’s no good either!

What I’ve found to be a respectful, yet effective middle ground is considering the reason behind the tantrum, and responding accordingly without compromising your dignity, or the child’s. When a toddler is throwing a fit because of separation anxiety, I offer comfort. I may gently rub their back, hold them, or offer comforting words. I also respect their right to reject any physical comfort. I offer my presence, and my patience while they express their pain and, hopefully, eventually, calm down.

If a toddler is throwing a tantrum over not getting their way, I may offer my empathy, ignore it, or try using distraction. Remember, even adults feel upset when they don’t get their way! If a toddler is throwing a tantrum for an unknown reason (as mine often does), I offer comfort, and if rejected, I ignore it or, again, try using distraction. When I simply don’t have the energy to deal with it calmly, I ignore it.

I recognize that there may be reasons I don’t know about for the emotional outburst—teething pain, boredom, frustration, and so on. As such, I try to never react to a tantrum with anger or an attempt to control it. The only time I would step in to exert control would be to prevent a child from injuring himself or others, which can be accomplished with a hug-hold (holding the child around the torso and over the arms from behind).

The key, for me, to being peaceful in the face of tantrums is realizing that I cannot control the actions of the child, whether it’s my child or somebody else’s who I’m caring for. I can only control my own actions, and my reactions. I can only guide the child’s choices to the extent they will allow me to, and enforce necessary limits within my power. Stopping a toddler from having a tantrum is not necessary, or always possible. Reacting to it calmly and reasonably is both.

The Fear of the Cry

Being around a crying baby is stressful. As a parent, being around your own crying baby is, at least to me, extra stressful. The noise is designed to be attention-grabbing—simultaneously grating and pity-inducing. It’s just annoying enough for us to be motivated to act, yet sad enough that we’re inspired to be gentle and loving as we take care of whatever the crying baby needs. Crying is a well-designed behavior for babies to be able to express themselves to their caregivers, so that we know when to feed them, change them, play with them, hold them, and help them go to sleep.

Crying may have been designed primarily to allow babies to express their needs, but sometimes, especially as a baby grows older, crying can be about expressing other things as well. Older babies and pre-verbal toddlers often cry to express emotions such as frustration, anger, and of course sadness. Even young babies cry for no obvious reason at times. Sometimes babies cry even when their physical and emotional needs have all been met, and no attempts to comfort them will help. Sometimes toddlers just seem to feel cranky, and there is nothing that can be done to change their mood. In times like these, the crying can feel like an unanswerable problem that you are being demanded to solve.

Cody is an excellent example of this. He cries and whines a lot, and often there is nothing I can do to make it stop. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea why he’s even crying (and I suspect neither does he), and all I can do is sit with him in my lap while he works through it.

I’ve realized lately that I have a subconscious “fear” of Cody crying. Or, more accurately, I feel that I always have to “fix it” when he cries. Being his mom is extra-stressful because he’s not an easy, content baby. I am constantly on alert as to what might upset him next. I try to keep him happy but I often fail, simply because of his personality. The resulting stress, frustration, and exhaustion is what I imagine it would feel like to work at a job where your boss is constantly criticizing you, day in and day out.

Of course, Cody is not my boss, even though it can feel like it sometimes. As the parent, I am the boss, and I’m confident in that role. Yet part of being a parent means putting your child’s needs above your own. Attachment parenting in particular values nurturing, understanding, and compassionate treatment of one’s children. As an attachment parent, I strive to build a relationship with my son of mutual respect, trust, and love. Because Cory and I don’t simply do whatever we want with no regard to what our child wants, it does demand more from us as parents. I see Cody’s feelings as valid, and I won’t deny him comfort or closeness, which are emotional needs. I don’t expect him to act like an adult, or to be convenient for me—his only job right now is to learn and grow. These are important principles to me, as a parent.

The problem is when I assume that because of these values, it is my job to fix it any time Cody cries. Yes, his feelings are valid and yes, it is my job to meet his needs, including emotional ones. But that doesn’t mean that my goal should be to keep him from crying. In fact, allowing him to express himself, sometimes through crying, is one way that I can support his emotional needs.

When Cody becomes frustrated with something, I can try to help him figure out the problem or suggest a different activity. When he’s angry or sad because of a limit that we enforce, I can offer empathy and perhaps a distraction. When he’s whining, I can ignore it so that he learns to express himself in a more effective, respectful, and less annoying way. And when he’s crying simply because he feels sad (and he’s not hungry, thirsty, tired, bored, in need of a diaper change, or having pain or discomfort) then I can hold him and give him comfort until he feels better. It’s okay for him to cry. It’s my job to be there for him in those times, not to fix it, but just to love him.

One last thing I want to emphasize is that crying is not a misbehavior. It makes me so sad and frustrated when I see parents or caregivers chastising a child for crying. (It’s even worse when children are scolded or told to “be good and stop crying” when they are crying as a result of separation anxiety. Separation from parents can be very frightening and upsetting for young children. They aren’t being bad for feeling sad!) Often children have no other way to express their feelings because they haven’t developed the ability to use their words effectively yet. And even when they have, crying is still a normal way of expressing emotion. Children are people, too, and they have every right to feel whatever they feel, whether that’s sadness or anger or frustration or confusion or anything else. It’s not our place to judge whether their feelings are justified—that helps nobody. Instead, the focus should be on accepting and responding appropriately to feelings at any age. Emotion is not something to fear, be ashamed of, fix, or avoid. It’s a part of who we are, as humans, and we can all do better in learning to express and respond to feelings.

I’m getting better every day at not fearing the cry. But I don’t want to get to the point where I habitually ignore it either. Instead, I try to respond by taking action when appropriate, and realize that sometimes there’s nothing to do but just be there to listen, and that’s okay too.

Stevie the TV is My Friend

First of all, if you know where “Stevie the TV” comes from, then you just might be as much of a Friends fan as I am. And if you are, then you may also understand my love for TV in general. But if not, then just know this—I really, really like TV. I love the stories and the characters and the overall entertainment value that comes from television (I also love reading and watching movies, for the same reasons).

At the same time, before Cody was born, I had some very clear ideas in mind about what I wanted for my kids as far as media exposure goes. I’ve never liked the idea of the two-year-old-playing-games-on-the-ipad phenomenon. I don’t think it’s good for older children and teenagers to spend hours upon hours each day playing video games or messing around on the computer. And even though I love TV myself, I don’t really believe that it can be healthy for children to spend hours a day watching it. Cory and I both want to make sure that our kids are active participants in the real world—not screen-obsessed like most kids seem to be these days.

That’s still an important goal to me, but since Cody was born, I’ve had to find a middle ground between what I originally planned and what actually works for my day-to-day life. Originally, I’d planned to have a strict rule about “no screens” until our kids were two years old. But once Cody turned about two months old, he started to sleep less and spend more time being awake and alert, yet he wasn’t content to lay on his back and play by himself for any reasonable amount of time. I started to spend most of my time sitting or standing around holding him, and frankly, I quickly became extremely bored. Finally, one day, I turned on the TV in a desperate attempt to entertain myself. Ever since then, Cody has been receiving a top-notch education at Friends University, where he’s minoring in psychology through the Pretty Little Liars program and enjoying the state-of-the-art music program, The Voice, in his spare time. Recently, he’s also shown interest in the How I Met Your Mother course of study. This kid is going to be a TV expert before we know it!

In all seriousness, though, I have struggled with our decisions in this area. The experts all seem to agree that TV should be avoided for children under age two. Even though Cody seems to be developing perfectly and hitting all of his milestones, I still worry that somehow we’re doing irreparable damage to his little brain by letting him watch TV with us. It’s one of those things that I see many parents doing, yet doctors and articles and baby books still warn me not to do. And since I tend to question everything I’m told, I decided to look a little deeper into the reasons behind these warnings. Is TV really so bad for kids?

I discovered that basically, TV is considered to be bad for young children because it takes time away from activities that are very important to their development. Playing, interacting socially, and exploring the world are all vital activities that babies and young children should be spending most of their awake-time doing. Children’s language development can be particularly affected by having insufficient verbal interaction with people around them—reading and talking to your baby is really important! It’s also been “proven” that so-called educational TV programs designed for children have no positive benefits to their development. So basically, sitting your child in front of the TV to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse doesn’t actually count as positive development time.

Still, I have to wonder if TV is really all that harmful for children who also spend a lot of time each day getting the stimulation they need. I can’t help but feel that children’s shows could be a very useful tool to keep little ones entertained for short periods of time, allowing parents to get a few vital things done around the house (always within viewing distance of the child, of course). And in my case, TV helps me keep my sanity when I’m losing my mind with boredom, and gives me a mental break when I really need it. Most of the time, Cody is happy to just be held while I stand and sway, watching an episode of one of my favorite shows. In fact, sometimes when he’s upset no matter what I try to do with him, holding him while I watch TV is the only thing that works.

The reality is that Cody spends a lot of time each day playing and discovering his world. We read to him every day and talk to him constantly. Each day he spends time playing independently while we do chores, and we spend time sitting on the floor and playing with him. We go on walks and errands, exposing him to sights and sounds out in the world. But even with all of that, there is still so much time in the day, and we do spend some of it watching TV with him. But you know what? I think that’s okay.

In a perfect world, I would have endless patience and Cody would play happily with his toys and listen while I read books to him all day long, and we would follow a carefully regimented yet flexible schedule of developmental activities. But this is not a perfect world, and the truth is that often, I just need a little Friends in my day. For the time being, Cody allows me to enjoy this small pleasure, and until he no longer cooperates with me on this, I plan to continue enjoying it. It’s still important to me to make sure that Cody has plenty of stimulating activities in his day, and TV is something that we save for after all of the other activities, or for short breaks in between them. Plus, when we watch it with him, we see it for what it is—entertainment for us, distracting and appeasing for Cody, but not educational or helpful for his development. But personally, I think it’s okay to have some time like that in our day. Not every moment has to be a learning opportunity.