Category: Parenting

7 Things I Learned {And One Thing I Ignored} From ParentShift

I recently read a parenting book called ParentShift. This book describes a positive approach to parenting that the authors call “heart-centered”.

Some suggestions in this book are ones I completely and strongly disagree with—such as the opinion that all punishments and rewards are bad disciplinary tools. I am still a proponent of 1-2-3 Magic, which I have found to be very practical and effective for my family. {We use time-outs, removing privileges, logical consequences, as well as verbal corrections and praise}.

However, what I did love about ParentShift is the focus on children’s emotional needs.

It can be easy to forget that children have emotional needs that look different from adult needs. Many times, unwanted behaviors stem from unmet needs, or a misunderstanding of where children are developmentally and what they really need. This book does a wonderful job of creating awareness in this area.

Here are some of the helpful insights and tools I learned from this book:

 

1. Children’s emotional needs can be boiled down to the acronym SPECIAL.  

S stands for smile, which represents fun, laughter, and play. Children need to play and laugh to be emotionally healthy. Silliness is part of being a well-balanced kid!

P stands for power, which represents children having choices, gaining competency, and being given responsibilities. Allowing children to make some of their own choices, and create their own personal boundaries, is powerful and important. Training children to do things for themselves, teaching them skills, and expecting them to contribute to the family’s chores are all important ways of not only meeting children’s emotional needs, but raising productive individuals.

E stands for exploration. This represents allowing children to follow their interests, try new things, experience life, and experiment with the world around them. In young children, exploration is a need to see, touch, and taste things. In older children, it may look more like trying different sports or hobbies, choosing their own electives in school, and forming their own worldviews.

C stands for connection, which essentially means having meaningful and engaged relationships with family members, particularly parents. High-level connections are created when we actively engage with our children. Parents can foster strong connections with their children by meeting their emotional needs, being supportive, and of course, being loving.

I stands for important. Children need to feel that they matter, and that their opinions are important to their parents. While parents may often know what’s best, there are also times when we simply have our own opinions, which are neither right nor wrong. Taking our children’s feelings and views into account helps them to feel important, which they are!

A stands for attention, specifically quality attention and listening. Giving children some undivided, focused attention each day—think eye contact, loving touch, and active listening—helps to meet their emotional needs. 

L stands for love. Children need unconditional love, affection, and acceptance. They need to know that they are treasured and cared for no matter what. As a Christian, I believe that our unconditional love is a reflection of God’s love for us and our children, and teaching children how valuable they are to God is the best foundation for a healthy self-esteem.

 

2. Parents should keep an eye on the balance of their children’s emotional bank accounts.

When we meet children’s emotional needs, we make deposits into their emotional bank accounts. When we have conflict with our children, we make withdrawals. It can be helpful to remember that while every parent will (and must) make withdrawals at times, we are also able to make many more deposits. Fun, affection, focused attention, and active listening are all great ways to fill up a child’s emotional bank account.

 

3. There is a difference between reacting and responding.

When parents simply react to their children, they often lack intention and do or say things that they later regret. But when we take time to respond thoughtfully to our children, we can feel more confident in our parenting. In stress mode, the brains of both children and adults are reactive, rather than responsive.

It serves us well to use a technique called Pause-Breathe-Ask when we find ourselves, and/or our children, in stress mode. This simply means that we stop before saying or doing what we immediately want to say or do. Then we breathe deeply a few times, which helps our brains to disperse those stress hormones and lets our reasoning abilities come back online. Then we ask ourselves, what does my child need in this moment? Doing Pause-Breathe-Ask allows us to better do our jobs as parents, rather than simply reacting impulsively. It also models self-regulation for our children.

*This part is my opinion, and not in the book. I would add that when it comes to tantrums, children are already in stress mode, and they are unable to be reasoned with at that point. Allowing children to express those emotions {have that tantrum} is necessary before offering comfort or discussing feelings. We don’t need to give them attention or attempt to punish them, we can simply ignore them until they are calm. It’s also okay to calmly and gently help them move to an appropriate location when they are expressing their emotions loudly.

 

4. Children’s developmental stages and individual temperaments are important

Understanding where a child is developmentally means being educated about what behaviors and abilities are typical at their specific age. Understanding a child’s individual temperament means learning about who that child is uniquely, in terms of eight key characteristics: emotional intensity, persistence, sensitivity, distractibility, adaptability, regularity, activity level, and approach to new things. There are no “good” or “bad” temperaments—we are all created different, and that’s okay! Having a clear understanding of a child’s stage of development and individual temperament is helpful for parents to create realistic expectations.

 

5. Parents must set limits and boundaries.

Limits are rules set in place that are based on health, safety, respect, and responsibility. They vary by family, but there are many universally accepted limits as well. Boundaries are our personal limits of what we will and will not accept. Limits and boundaries should be reasonable, age-appropriate, consistent, and explainable. That means that there should be a reason for each limit and boundary—even if that reason is simply, “I am not comfortable with that.”

We should also allow our children to set their own personal boundaries. Children should be allowed to decide what they wear (within reason), how much they eat, how they feel, whether they want to be touched, and what interests/hobbies/sports they want to participate in. Children’s privacy should be respected, with agreed-upon safety measures in place.

 

6. Sibling rivalry can be managed with many tools.

Parents can prevent sibling rivalry as much as possible by meeting each child’s needs, treating children uniquely for who they are, avoiding comparisons, avoiding taking sides, encouraging teamwork, making “sharing” fair and respectful, teaching children how to calm themselves down, and being aware of triggers {such as too much screen time, not enough sleep, too much sugar, etc.}.

When fights between siblings do happen, parents can simply ignore bickering, squabbling, and other minor (though annoying) fighting. When fights heat up to involve name-calling, bullying/intimidation, or are about to or have become physical, parents should intervene.

 *This is my approach, and not in the book: for sibling rivalry that goes beyond bickering, I use 1-2-3 Magic and count them both.

 

7. Power struggles can also be managed with many tools.

Prevention is the best medicine, and power struggles can often be prevented by offering choices, adding fun, keeping limits and boundaries reasonable, and maintaining a strong connection with our children.

When conflicts arise, we can simply state the limit or boundary in a friendly tone. We can use “do” statements instead of “don’t” statements—”please use a quiet voice in the house,” instead of “don’t yell.” We can use one-word reminders—“shoes,” instead of “put your shoes away”—or even a simple gesture (such as pointing to the shoes). We can also let our children save face; allowing them to have the last word or display of attitude is fine, as long as the rules are followed and everyone moves on afterward.

*In 1-2-3 Magic, this is also discussed. As long as the child isn’t trying to rub their attitude in your face, like following you around with a pouting expression, then just let it go. A little door slam, eye-roll, or exasperated sigh never killed anyone. We aren’t raising robots, we’re raising human beings. 

 

Those are the gems of wisdom I discovered in the book, ParentShift. I didn’t find the entire system to be practical for my family, for the ages and stages of my kids right now. And I didn’t appreciate the heavy-handed message that parents are essentially ruining their children by continuing to use other systems.

However, I can definitely see the benefits of using many of the concepts and tools in this book. Especially as my children get older, I hope to move away from punishments and rewards more and more, and be able to use only positive discipline tools—but for young children, internal motivation is not very powerful, and parents often do need to create external motivators.

Even in my preferred parenting book, 1-2-3 Magic, an emphasis is placed on the goal of gradually moving from a “dictatorship” to a “democracy.” By the time children become teenagers, they are much more able to be active participants in their own discipline—they are able to feel strong intrinsic motivation, help decide on family rules, contribute meaningfully to the running of the household, accept responsibility for their mistakes, and brainstorm and follow through with making amends when necessary. The goal is ultimately raising adults, not children. {Adult kids may always need their parents, but they can also be responsible, competent, critically-thinking, and self-motivated. This is the goal!}

Spiritual Lessons from My Journey into Motherhood

 

Being pregnant was such a special time in my life. Although I didn’t have the most comfortable pregnancies, I did really enjoy the process of bringing new lives into the world.

Currently, I am not planning on becoming pregnant again. Instead, my husband and I plan on adopting a baby. Reflecting on my journey into biological motherhood over the past few years, there are a few important lessons I have learned.

 

Childbirth Doesn’t Have to be Terrifying

Before we were married, I went through a phase of thinking that I would never want to have children. At first, this was mostly due to fears about the birth process, and how horrible and scary and painful it would be. The simple mechanics of it just seemed horrifying. I have a low pain-tolerance, and a phobia of needles and medical environments in general. I didn’t want to have to face any of that. I thought that instead, we should adopt—even knowing deep down that having biological children was part of God’s plan for me.

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, learning about natural childbirth was the thing that started to change my mind about birth. I learned that women’s bodies were made to do it. I learned that birth doesn’t have to be medicalized. I learned about midwifery, homebirth, and using hypnosis for childbirth. I learned about supernatural childbirth, and how my faith in God can be used powerfully to experience a better birth. These things gave me the confidence I needed to overcome my fear of childbirth, and welcome the opportunity to bring babies into the world with the miraculous gifts of pregnancy and birth.

 

The Risk Is Worth It

There’s a saying that becoming a parent is like choosing to have your heart walk around outside of your body. And it’s true! Being a parent is incredibly risky. You love this other person so much that it’s beyond words, and the idea of them ever getting hurt or making a bad decision is terrifying to you. You have everything invested in your children, and yet very little control over what happens to them. That idea scared the living daylights out of me, and it was one of the reasons I was afraid to become a parent.

It took a very painful experience for me to understand that the risk of losing a child, while terrifying, does not outweigh the worth of being a parent. Being a parent has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life, and I couldn’t imagine not having this privilege. I was meant to be a mother. It’s one of God’s callings on my life that I can’t deny, no matter what pain or risks I have to face.

But I had to learn this through the experience of pregnancy loss. My husband and I lost our first baby, Sam, only six weeks into our pregnancy. At first, I was in a place of anger, utter heartbreak, loss of trust, and loss of hope for the future. Other people’s words of comfort often felt like a slap in the face to me. They told me that I should hold on to God, but I was furious at him. They told me to keep trusting him because it was all in his plan, but I felt like my trust in him was broken. Most of all, I despised it when people told me that we could try again. The thought of trying again, of putting myself at risk for heartbreak again, was a terrible thought. I felt that it wasn’t worth the risk.

It was from this place of darkness that God showed us the light. Through the guidance of some godly people in our lives, God showed us the simple truth that he is good. We learned that our miscarriage was not God’s doing or his plan for us, but an attack from the enemy. We also learned that God is bigger and stronger than our enemy. We learned what living victoriously in Jesus really means.

Without those lessons, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the fear, as parents, of “what might happen.” Instead of living in fear, we trust and believe that God has his hand over our family. I don’t have to worry about what might happen to my kids because I know that God’s got them. They are in good hands.

 

The Big Picture

Sometimes, even with strong faith and trust in God, we can experience loss and trials in this world. It is a broken world, after all. We may not be of this world (as Christians), but we are still in it.

I try not to entertain thoughts of what might happen in scenarios of my greatest fears. I believe that we should discipline our thoughts and train ourselves to think about good things, not horrible ones. But I do have an understanding that my faith might not always protect me or my family in this world. Bad things could happen. Christians can lose their children tragically, just like anybody else.

But instead of fearing for this, I focus on the big picture. The big picture is my human approximation of what God sees. He sees things in light of eternity! This life seems so big to us. It seems like everything. But what we often forget to realize is that compared to eternity, this life is just a drop in the bucket. What we also often forget to realize is that compared to an eternity in paradise with God, this life is basically a poop parade.

Now, I know that sounds pretty negative. But it’s not, I promise! Realizing that this life, our bodies, the earthly things we have, and our comfort in this lifetime is all temporary… well, it’s actually so freeing. If we lose our earthly lives, we gain something better– eternal life. As long as you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, that is!*

So if my faith is not always enough to save my kids or myself from suffering, or even death, then I can have peace and comfort and joy even, knowing that there is something unspeakably wonderful ahead.

As a parent, there is no greater comfort. I know that it’s going to be okay, literally NO. MATTER. WHAT. There might be suffering, but suffering is temporary. An eternity of JOY is ahead, and that is something to celebrate. This is why we praise God! Isn’t he awesome?

 

 

*Have you accepted Jesus as your savior yet? Do you want to? You can, right now!

Just pray this prayer:

God, I know that I am not perfect. I have sinned, and that means I am not worthy of you. But I believe you sent your son Jesus to Earth, and he lived a perfect life and he died on the cross, as a sacrifice for me. Jesus, I invite you into my heart right now. Please come in and forgive me of my sins. Make me right with God. Help me live my life in a way that pleases you.

In Jesus name,

Amen

If you prayed that prayer, then you are now a redeemed child of God! You just made the best decision you could ever make. Your eternity is secured! Go ahead and celebrate that. And please share it with someone. Leave me a comment or send me a message. Go find a church you can be a part of, and continue to grow in your faith.

Happy First Birthday, Abigail!

My little baby is now a one year old! The time has flown by even faster the second time around.

Abigail is a very sweet, curious, active, and silly girl. Here are some of her traits and quirks at the age of one:

She likes to put on things like socks and hats and shoes. If she sees shoes on the floor, she will try to put them on her feet, or if they’re adult-sized, she’ll settle for wearing them on her hands and sliding around the floor on hands and knees. When she sees her own shoes, she insists on wearing them. Socks are also a frequent target.

She still puts a lot of things in her mouth. She especially likes to find tiny pieces of whatever on the floor to put in her mouth. Although I vacuum often, it’s impossible to keep up! I have to watch her closely to keep her from eating things she shouldn’t. She also likes to put things in her mouth that stretch the limits of what her mouth should be able to hold, like a ping-pong ball. (Little weirdo.)

She is becoming more vocal, and makes all sorts of silly sounds. Her and Cody spur each other on in making loud and silly noises, then cracking each other up laughing. She doesn’t say any words regularly, even though she has said “mama” and “dada” a few times.

She hit two milestones before her first birthday: her first teeth finally emerging, and her first independent steps. She now has two front bottom teeth just peeking out, and it looks like her two front top teeth will be next. As for walking, she doesn’t use it as a primary way of getting around yet, but she thinks it’s super fun to stand up, take a few steps, and bask in our adoration.

She loves dancing to music she likes, usually something with a beat. Her trademark move is to twist side to side with her arms out and elbows crooked. More recently, she’s been experimenting with some foot-stomping. 🙂

Abigail is still quite clingy, but she is more willing to go to other people to be held than Cody was at this age. She accepts brief separations from us with little fussing. Cory and I can attend church services together, go on date nights, and let family members help us with the kids when we get together! It’s a treat.

Around the house on a daily basis, it’s unpredictable whether Abigail will want me to hold her all day or perhaps play independently for some of the time, allowing me to get stuff done. The first kind of day is hard, because I’m very task-oriented and being handicapped by a baby demanding to be held constantly is frustrating. The second kind of day is less common, and very appreciated. It will be nice as she gets older to see her become more and more independent, and get a little bit more of my own time back.

Part of Abigail’s clinginess is her habit of grabbing the shirt of whoever is holding her. She almost always has one hand fastened tightly to the neckline of my shirt. It’s becoming more common for her to take it a step further and shove her hand right down my shirt. This can be annoying when we’re in public and she nearly exposes me to the world. I also have to put my foot down when she starts getting a little too “touchy feely.” (Here’s one of the weird things I’ve had to say all too often as a parent: “Stop touching my nipple!”)

Unfortunately, Abigail’s naps are not very good. She takes only one nap most days. ONE. At this age, Cody was just transitioning from three to two naps. Abigail is already down to one, and I fear for what lies ahead. Her one nap isn’t anywhere near the luxurious three hour naps Cody used to take up to the age of three. Nope, she’ll give me an hour on a good day. (Maybe up to two hours on a marvelous day, but sometimes only 40 minutes on a not-so-great day).

Even that one nap is often a struggle. She usually falls asleep nursing or in the carrier, and I attempt to move her to her bed. We recently bought a crib for her (the first crib we’ve ever used, since Cody never had one). We put her down there for her naps, and we reserve the right to plop her in there at bedtime if she decides to pull another midnight wake-up party.

On a happier note, she is an excellent eater. She eats many foods, and is not picky. Almost anything we set in front of her, she will eat enthusiastically. Of course we have to serve her foods that are soft enough for her, and cut into small enough pieces, since she only has two tiny front teeth. But that doesn’t stop her from being a little foodie! It’s so lovely to see our child happily eating fruits and vegetables. Cody didn’t eat ANY solid food until he was two years old, and even now at almost-four, he doesn’t eat fruits or vegetables except on a rare occasion. So suffice it to say, it’s wonderful to see Abigail enjoying food so much at this age.

That’s pretty much it! Abigail is a joy, and seems to only get cuter by the day.

 

 

Happy First Birthday, my sweet girl! Mommy and Daddy and brother love you sooo much! You are my treasure.

 

Happy 10 Months Birthday, Abigail!

Little Abi is now 10 months old. It’s a fun age, but also a challenging one!

She takes two naps per day, about an hour give or take. Really, that’s not much for her age, but I’ll take what I can get.

She sleeps okay at night, sometimes only waking up a couple of times to nurse, but more often she wakes up frequently and is restless. I blame it on teething, because ibuprofen seems to help. Speaking of teething, she still doesn’t have a single tooth. They’re in hiding!

Abigail loves to explore. She crawls everywhere (always on her hands and knees now instead of her belly), climbs on things, pulls herself up to stand, and puts everything in her mouth. She can climb up the small slide we have in our play area by herself, on either end (ladder or slide). She climbs up the stairs any chance she gets. She keeps us on on our toes!

She is eating baby food, but only to supplement her primarily breastfed diet.

Her diaper rash has finally healed, and only has mild flare-ups now. The ointment that finally worked for us is called Triple Paste, and I am so thankful for it.

Abi gives “kisses” sometimes, involving putting her open mouth on my face (or Cory’s). It’s pretty cute, actually. Probably the cutest thing she does on a regular basis is playing peek-a-boo. She loves it when we play with her, but even when we’re doing other things, she’s constantly seeking out fabrics to use to cover her head and then pull them off, with a look of pure delight on her face. She will use clean laundry from the basket, the play scarves we have, or even the skirt of her dress. It’s super silly!

She is extremely clingy. She wants to be held pretty much all the time, but sometimes her desire to explore triumphs and we will get a few minutes of a break from holding her. A few times a day, I have to put her in her playpen and let her cry so I can take care of some basic needs for myself, Cody, or our many pets. It can be pretty stressful.

We wear her in the carrier often, too, but she tends to not like it when I wear her facing in unless she wants to sleep. It’s difficult to wear her facing out and get anything done, because she’s very grabby. So the carrier doesn’t help me much in that way, but it is often how we put her to sleep for naps or bedtime.

Abigail loves her brother, and they often make each other laugh just by looking at each other and being silly. She also enjoys patting the dogs when they’re not too rambunctious and overwhelming her. She especially loves following our new kitten, Leo, around the house as he explores. She tries to pet him, and our other cat Luna, but they usually move too fast for her to get a lot of pets in.

When daddy comes home from work, Abigail gets very excited and crawls to him so he will pick her up. But in general, she tends to want me to hold her. So when Cory is home, I often have to stay out of her sight in order to get things done, because as soon as she sees me she will start fussing and trying to get me to hold her.

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.