A good night sleep

I love sleeping through the night. I don’t think it’s something I appreciated enough before having children. I have never been the type of person to pull an all-nighter (be it for studying, partying or whatever). I’m almost certain that my only sleepless nights have been caused by extreme discomfort (the 24 h flu, a red-eye flight, months 6 -9 of pregnancy...) and never by choice. And if you know me and my daughters, you know that I didn’t suffer through too many sleepless nights with newborn babies – thank goodness.

Layla was my little sleeper. From day one that girl loved to sleep. This sounds like a good thing but it also meant that I had my work cut out for me. Despite the questioning gazes from others, I would wake her every 3 hours (during the day) and use all the tricks I knew to keep her awake while she nursed to make sure that she got a full feeding. After a couple weeks of this, she fell into a nice schedule of eating every 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours during the day and at night she would often go 4 or 5 hour stretches before waking up to be fed. Not too bad. By 8 weeks old, she was sleeping through the night consistently though I still had to work hard to keep her awake while she nursed). By 4 months old she was sleeping 12 hours a night (a-m-A-zing!)

Meaghan was/is much more “awake”. Where I only ever woke up once in the night to feed Layla, Meaghan was “2 x a night” baby for the first little while. I also rarely had to wake up Meaghan to feed her and she was almost always awake during her feedings – no cold face cloths for her! Despite being very different from Layla in both her eating and sleeping... Meaghan was also sleeping through the night by 8 weeks old and at 3 ½ months old, she did her first 12 hour night (Fan-tas-TIC!). Life is good on the “sleep” front.

Am I “just lucky”? No way! When I was pregnant with Layla, someone mentioned an approach/guide to baby sleeping and feeding patterns – Babywise. “On Becoming Babywise” (the book) tends to get a bad rap (especially from attachment parenting advocates) because it encourages parents to set the pace of life for newborns. People who criticize Babywise either haven’t read the whole book (and focus on the “schedule” side of things) or haven’t tried it. EVERYONE I know who used this approach were “lucky” enough to have their baby sleep through the night by 3 months. In my opinion, the Babywise approach is all about finding balance.

Without telling you to read the book I can tell you what I think are the 3 keys to this approach.
1) Making sure the baby is getting a full feeding (more of a challenge for nursing moms)
2) The order of the activities of sleep, feeding, playing (sleep first, feeding second and playing third) --- avoiding nursing baby to sleep (except at night of course!) and
3) Taking the time to figure out why baby is crying instead of assuming it’s always because he/she is hungry.

Speaking from experience, it takes work to get into the groove (a flexible schedule) – but Babywise gave me a goal to work towards... and it totally worked. Of course - there are exceptions to the rule. Some babies have terrible reflux or nasty eczema that has them awake and screaming for hours - but the new edition of "On Becoming Babywise" addresses such issues. It also takes into account growth spurts and other situations when the schedule really is VERY flexible.

With that said... I'll just add that it worked for me. Twice. However I completely understand that when it comes to parenting, different approaches work for different people AND nobody can tell you how to do it. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut :-P


Painting with Layla

With the new school year around the corner - and Brandon headed back to work full time next week - I am going to be on my own at home with the girls for the first time in a while. I know that this is what most moms are used to (and that I have been very very lucky)... but I have to admit that I am going to miss having him around - whether it's to grab Meaghan for a minute or entertain Layla while I do something else. All that said... I'm a little nervous and feel the need to be at least a little more prepared. I need a plan.

I know, I know... I'm nervous for nothing. For starters I'll only actually be "alone" with both girls a couple of days a week. Layla will be at daycare (for at least part of the day) 3 days a week. This keeps her spot for when I go back to work and will give me a chance to do all the laundry and housework without her "help" :-) AND on top of that - Meaghan is at an incredible age (4 months) where she is napping well and starting to entertain herself but not actually moving anywhere yet... therefore not requiring constant supervision (!) Nevertheless I want to be prepared for the days that I have Layla (my high energy, into everything, toddler) with me all day.

This need for a "plan" led me to my local craft store (with Layla) to purchase some much needed craft supplies. We left with paint, pompoms, feathers, children's scissors, glitter pens, construction paper, etc. I also bought an Usborne activity book for pre-school aged children - "Animal Fun".

Painting is supposed to be fun... and after purchasing all the stuff required to paint at home I was very excited to sit down with Layla and give it a try. Sigh. These are the times where I realize that I have very high expectations of my two-year-old.

"Layla. Watch. You wet the paint brush, you wet the paint, then you paint"

"Don't mix the colors sweetie"

"Layla, what did Mama say?"

"Layla! You have to wash the paint brush before you use a new color!"


It's really very silly. What was supposed to be a fun activity for us to do together while her baby sister was napping turned into a frustrating half hour of me trying to control a toddler with a paint brush! I wanted her to use one paint color at a time, clean her paint brush in between BUT not use too much water... AND paint a picture with more than just one color. Too many rules Mama! I'm sure that's what she was thinking. In the end, I'm not sure I actually taught her anything about my "painting rules" but I still think she had fun. And THAT is what's important.
Next time I'll try and chill a little when she reaches her already blue covered paint brush for the white paint!

Hard to think skinny when...

Vacation... or rather... vacation food is totally cramping my "lose weight and get into great shape" plan for summer 2009 (see Where did my body go?). Although we've actually been in vacation mode all summer (I'm on mat leave and Brandon is a teacher) - we spent the last two weekends away from home - eating vacation food. The first weekend was spent at Mt-Tremblant with my husbands family and the other weekend camping at Voyager Provincial Park with friends.

The plan for Tremblant was to bring and make our own food. We rented a condo and didn't spend the whole time eating in restaurants. I thought that would save me... ha! With home-made chocolate chip cookies, chips, crackers and cheese and other tempting snack foods at my finger tips - how could I stay strong? With stops for ice cream or beaver tails... how could I resist? Well - I couldn't. Once I'd had my first few cookies and a couple handfuls of chips I made a conscious decision that my healthy eating resolution would be ignored for the duration of our stay. If you're going to cheat on your diet... you better make it count! When we arrived home on Tuesday afternoon, the eating healthy and exercise regime re-commenced... until Friday afternoon (!)

Camping food is only a problem if you bring the wrong type of food. But for some reason when you're shopping for you camping groceries you can't help but pick up the bag of Doritos, the marshmallows, and other treats that (if you're like me) you don't usually have in the house. Sigh. And then there are the treats that your friends bring to share. Delicious coolers, the fixings for yummy smores and more cookies. Once again, my decision was to cave in and enjoy the typical vacation food (and grab a handful of Doritos every time I went to the car for something!).

It's now Monday and we're back home again. Time to get back to a regime of self-discipline when it comes to what I'm eating for meals (and in between) and the time I'm putting into exercise. I wonder how soon our evening walk will include a trip to the ice cream store? Hey - at least I'm talking about walking to the ice cream store (!)


One Biased Mommy

If you have kids or know someone who has kids – you’ve probably witnessed (or perhaps been...) a parent who sees their children through rose coloured glasses. You know who I’m talking about – parents whose kids are only cranky if they’re tired (but they’re always tired?!), who are incredibly smart for their age, and whose whinny fits are “oh so cute, he/she is so assertive”.

From whiny and rude behaviours to changing diapers, being covered in spit up or sneezed on – I’ve realized something.... everything is a little less annoying and a little less gross when it’s coming from your own child. And this works in the opposite direction too. Everything good is just a little bit more good, a little bit more of a big deal... when it’s your own kid. Who knows... maybe it is God’s way of making sure that we love and support our kids no matter how bad or misguided they can be.

Thinking about all this forces me to take a look at myself. Do I see my girls so differently because they’re mine? Am I placing them on pedestals too much of the time? Am I laughing off or excusing behaviours that are driving the people around me crazy? I would like to think that I am above the parental bias that makes a Mom (or Dad) think that their kids are better than they really are or (gasp, dare I say it...) better than other kids. But although I try to steer clear from comments like “isn’t my baby so cute?!” or making excuses like “she’s just tired” - if I am completely honest I have to admit that I can’t help but favour my little angels – even when they’re bad, they’re kind of cute (right...) Sigh.

While I may be slightly more patient and more forgiving of Layla’s annoying traits (busy busy busy... that girl keeps me on my toes and she is into everything) and unphased by Meaghan’s dirty diapers, spit up and fussy evenings (it’s possible that her “singing” is much cuter to me than to others as well!) - I think I should try to remember that not everyone shares my perspective of my own kids. No matter how good I think they are, I should probably take a step back every once in a while... and try to see them (and myself) through other people’s eyes. I think the following 2 questions cover it – 1) Am I exaggerating the good stuff and 2) Am I making too many excuses for the bad stuff? The answer to both of those questions is probably “yes”, but what can I say... I'm their biggest fan!

I’m just a mom who loves her girls.


The face in the mirror

Have you seen MULAN? After recently discovering that all the best Disney animations are available on YouTube in 8 to 10 minute clips - I've been catching up on the movies I missed between the years of babysitting jobs and now. The movies are fantastic. ESPECIALLY the ones with lots of singing. Those who know me well can appreciate how much I actually like the songs. Those who know me really well have seen me attempt to dance while singing my favorites. I've always said that a dream job would have me singing and dancing on Broadway and the Disney movie songs like "Be our guest", "Kiss the girl", "Circle of Life" are the best.

In Mulan, I've found a new favorite. She sings a song called "reflection" and it's the inspiration for this post.

Who is that girl I see - staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection someone I don't know?
Somehow I cannot hide - who I am - though I've tried...
When will my reflection show - who I am inside?

As I watched this on our laptop, Brandon overheard the song and turned and smiled at me and said something like "I bet you're thinking 'me too'..." - which of course I was. Sigh. I'm such a sap and he knows me too well.

So where am I going with all this? Point #1 I love music. Point #2 I'm a sap for the Disney musicals. Point #3 I totally wish I was trained in Broadway dance and singing. Point #4 Brandon is well aware of how sappy (pathetic?) I can be.... and Point #5 Who the heck am I? Who is that girl in the mirror? and why don't I always recognize her?... and why do I feel like I still haven't figured out what I want to be be when I "grow up"?

I've always been old for my age. While my friends were dating casually, I was looking at wedding dresses, applying for mortgages and shopping for major appliances. I was the first in my group of friends to become a mom. I've got a great (& stable) job where I'm often told I'm so "mature" for my age. My life is good. It's full of love, laughter and financial stability (the definition of which is different for everyone, but though I'm by no means rich, I feel like I am).

Still... I have to admit that I often find myself wondering if I'm in the right place in life, the right job, the right house, the right city. There are certain things that are non-negotiables like my husband and 2 girls - and I'm not saying that because I have to. I've loved Brandon for more than a decade now and I look forward to the next (at least) five or so. I adore my girls. Layla and Meaghan are beautiful, sweet little treasures that bring a lot into my life (including wanting to pull my hair out every once in a while!). And at 2 years and 3 months old, they still adore me too! Other than those "non-negotiables"... I would like to think that I am open to trying new things and changing things up. I would like to think that there's more to this life than being comfortable, having stability and as one of my good friends would say - blending in .

I know I'm not the first girl... I mean... woman (though when I go down this road I feel more like a girl than a woman) to say that I want to make my mark, I want to contribute somehow to my community and my world in a significant way. So who do I want to be when I grow up? How am I going to make my mark? This is feeling like my post on finding a hobby... once again... I'm trying to find myself. Why... at 27... with everything that I have in my life... am I trying to "find myself"?

Back to Mulan. Her story seems to unravel in a simple way, where she just "falls" into her purpose for life (saves her people, is honored by the emperor and meets the man of her dreams all in what seems like less than 1 week). But if I dig a little deeper, Mulan takes an unbelievable risk and overcomes incredible challenges before truly figuring out who she is.

It's like this... I say I'd love to dance and sing in Broadway, but I've never even taken a dance or singing class. How many times have I said that I want to be in amazing shape or lose weight and then eaten like a pig and sat on the couch (not anymore. I swear. I've been a local worker outer for more than 5 weeks now!). And there are lots of other examples of me "loving" something, but not doing anything or taking any risks to pursue it.

I have big dreams... someday I want to be the big boss. I'd like to do some sort of missions work. I'd love to have that cottage by a lake (or Ocean!). I also dream with Brandon about opening a B&B on our hobby farm one day. Maybe one or all of these dreams will come true - if I take the necessary risks... if I jump over the hurdles I have to... and if I dare to step out of my comfort zone.

After all - anything worth having (or being) is worth fighting for, right? Right.

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