Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Nutshell Meme

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Gave birth. Learned how to be a mother. Well, started learning.


2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I made an official resolution last year. This year, Chris and I have resolved to get in better shape, and to support each other in that goal.


3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Um, I did. Does that count?


4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.


5. What countries did you visit?
None.


6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Excellent exercise habits. (Note: this is the exact same answer I had last year too. Clearly I have issues.)


7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 24, 2008 - Gwen's birth. Every other day is a blur!


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Giving birth, without a doubt.


9. What was your biggest failure?
It's a tie - breastfeeding, or the failure to get back my pre-pregnancy body.


10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Norovirus. SUCKED SO HARD. 48 hours after Gwen was born, I had to (a) work on recovering from labour and birth; (b) learn how to parent a newborn; (c) deal with the roller coaster of postpartum hormones; and (d) expel violently from all orifices everything I'd ever eaten. The fact that I picked up this treasure of a virus from the hospital where I gave birth is a sterling recommendation for home births.


11. What was the best thing you bought?
Probably my new haircut. Possibly Gwen's swaddle blanket. Maybe even yoga classes, which was the first thing I started doing for myself by myself after Gwen was born.


12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine. Chris's. Sally and Janice's. Gwen's.


13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
"Dr" Hales.


14. Where did most of your money go?
Groceries. Car payments. Student Loan. A gym membership that I'm not even using.


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Gwen learning to crawl.


16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
"Goodnight, Sleep Tight".


17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? Happier, though I was pretty happy then too.
ii. Thinner or fatter? The same, which is tragic since this time last year I was five months pregnant.
iii. Richer or poorer? Poorer. Maternity leave does that to a person.


18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Taken more pictures (of the right moments).


19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Eating junk food. Obsessing over breastfeeding.


20. How will you be spending Christmas? We spent Dec. 23rd with my in-laws since the weather for Christmas Eve was unpredictable. We had Christmas Dinner with them and the Kellers as well. Christmas morning was peaceful, with just the 3 of us at our house. We'll be going to Powell River this weekend to see my family.


22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Yes, with my daughter. She is awesome.


23. How many one-night stands?
None.


24. What was your favorite TV program?
The Office.


25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope.


26. What was the best book you read?
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.


27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
"Snack Time", Barenaked Ladies' kids' CD. I recommend this for anyone who feels that kids' music doesn't have to be insipid and repulsive.


28. What did you want and get?
A good birth and a healthy baby. To complete a half-marathon in the fall.


29. What did you want and not get?
My prepregnancy body back by the end of the year.


30. What was your favorite film of this year?
"The Dark Knight". One of maybe ... three? ... films we've seen in the theatre this year.


31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33. I went down to Victoria to be with a friend for a medical procedure.


32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Being able to breastfeed.


33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Baggy mismatched clothes spattered with someone else's bodily fluids. Glamourous!


34. What kept you sane?
My husband and my friends. Blogging. My blogroll.


35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I originally had "John Krasinski" here, but I'm going to change my answer. if you interpret 'fancy' as 'have the most affection and admiration for', instead of making it all crushy, then I would say these three ladies are tops with me!


36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The election of Barack Obama.


37. Who did you miss?
My best friend. No time for our weekly chats these days.


38. Who was the best new person you met?
My daughter! Plus many of my new friends: Jessica, Bridgette, Alison.


39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
Here's the thing. Whether you trust them or not, people are going to do (or not do) as they choose. If you choose to trust them, you can deal with the consequences of their actions as they come, instead of tearing yourself apart every day worrying about what they may (or may not) do.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"These memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month Eight

Dear Gwen,
You are two-thirds of a year old today. I am numb with amazement.



There have been many changes this month. You got your first tooth, and then a few days later you got a second one. I think another one is coming in now, because your fist is in your mouth at every available opportunity. You also learned how to crawl. A friend of mine reported that when her son began crawling, his temperament improved vastly, as he could now exercise so much more control over his environment, company, and activities. This happened for you, too, but it only lasted a couple of days. It's as if this new skill of mobility enabled you to see how much more there was in the world to explore, and you're never content until you've explored the hell out of it.



To this end, you've been spending a lot of time on your knees or even on your feet, leaning against whatever object you can find to support you. This results in a lot of falls, either because you chose an unsteady obect for leaning, or because you have no idea how to get back down to all fours safely. (If you would just learn how to sit already, you might be a whole lot safer moving between those two positions!) You've gotten more bumps and boo-boos in the past two weeks than in the previous seven and a half months of your life. And the fun, I know, is just beginning.



Your newfound mobility and the power it brings you ensures that you are never, never still. If I want you in my lap, I have to tolerate your constant squirming as you twist your entire body from side to side, trying to see the entire room, making sure that you don't miss anything. You are not the kind of baby we could easily take out to a restaurant or other non-baby-centred activity. While I miss the cuddles and the feeling of you drifting off to sleep in my lap, I have learned to treasure the moments when you do relax in my arms, which come just before and just after sleep. At the end of our bedtime routine, I sway gently near your crib with you in my arms, singing a lullaby, and inevitably your body melts into mine and you lay your head on my shoulder and snuggle in. This never fails to melt my heart, and it's the favourite moment of my day. Another high point is when you wake up from your nap, hair rumpled and eyes dazed, frowning and blinking as you try to take in the fact that the world still exists. You move slowly during this stage, slowly enough that you are satisfied to rest in my arms and even nurse for a few minutes before your energy returns and you need to move on to more exploring.
Another development this month is that you have learned how to whine. I have always known that I despise whining in older children, but I had no idea that a pre-verbal baby could also produce that sound, the one that's developed to pierce straight into a parent's ears, burrow into his or her brain, and trigger the cerebral cortex, thus immediately entering "Stab Self in Eyes, Ears, and All Vital Organs Until that Hideous Sound Stops" mode. Your whine sounds like this: "nnnnnNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!" and because I haven't figured out yet what makes you whine, I am not very good at making you stop. Stabbing myself hasn't worked yet either.


Ten days ago, I did something new. I left you with your dad for an entire day and went to Victoria with a friend. I was gone for over eight hours, the longest we've ever been apart. You were absolutely fine, had a good time with your dad, and took your naps right on schedule. I was fine too. I can't believe that leaving you like that every day is only a few months away.



The diaper rash I was so worried about last month has gone away. I think stripping your diapers made the difference. It's probably something we should do every few months, regardless of your skin condition. You continue to enjoy solid foods, and I think in the next month or so you will start to be able to feed yourself a little better (which is good, because the dull and painstaking process of feeding you is starting to wear thin for me!). We've introduced fruits a couple of times now, and on some days when I'm really organized I manage to give you real food more than once a day, as well. The only food you have outright rejected so far is pears, though 'they' say you have to offer a food up to 30 times before concluding that your child genuinely dislikes it, so there will be more pears in your future. When I get around to it.



Another intriguing change this month is in the different ways you relate to your dad and me. When you first wake up, or when you are scared or hurt, you want your mom, and you make that quite clear. But no one can make you laugh the way your dad can. He makes you giggle loud and long and with absolute and perfect delight. The two of you have so much silly fun together, and I just love to watch.
This month, you also got to experience your first snowfall. As soon as I could, I got you into your snowsuit, took you outside, plopped you down on the ground, and took some pictures. I soon realized this was ... kind of all there was to do, with you and your first snow. You could barely move in the snowsuit, so crawling around to explore was out of the question. And your hands were inside warm cozy mittens, as they should be, so you couldn't touch the snow to learn about its strange texture, temperature, and taste. So after snapping the obligatory "Gwen's first snow" pictures, in which you are staring at me like you're trying to figure out what the hell I'm so excited about, I took you back inside, took your snowsuit off, and set you back on the course of your normal day with a resigned shrug. I guess next year's snowfall might be a little more exciting for you.

We love you so much, Gwen, and every day you amaze us with your strength, your intelligence, and your wonderful personality. We are so happy and proud that you chose us to be your parents.
Love,
Mama




Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wizards in Winter - Christmas Light Display

I watch this video every year, and every year I tear up. I'm not even sure why. I think it's a combination of many things: the emotions that seem so intensified at Christmas, the pure magnificence of the piece of music, and my intense admiration for someone who does something - even something silly and whimsical - with their entire energy, bringing it to the point of excellence.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gwenlog

Day 7 of being trapped in the house due to snow. Parents still cruelly preventing me from pulling down the Christmas tree. I'm sick of milk and I hate all my toys. SEND HELP.



OH CRAP THEY CAUGHT ME ABORT ABORT.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I win at packing! But lose at Christmas!

I want you all to know that I did a phenomenal job packing for today's trip. Like, probably the best packing job I've ever done.


(That's IT. Seriously. Me + Gwen for four days and three nights. I ROCK!)

(Um, except obviously her playpen and Bumbo chair are not pictured here. The playpen is for sleeping and the Bumbo is for eating, since Gwen is not enthused about sitting in people's laps. (Or anywhere, really.) But luggage-wise? This is it. I am proud!)

Naturally, our trip was cancelled due to a blizzard warning. When your city's Fire Rescue Department sends out an emergency alert advising residents to stock up on lights, food, medicine, water, pet food, and gasoline - hmm, it just might be a hint brick from the Universe saying STAY THE HELL HOME. So, that's what we're doing.


I am very disappointed to be missing out on the English Family Christmas this year, a tradition that's been going for six years now. It feels strange that our extended family won't be as big a part of Gwen's first Christmas as we'd planned. But ultimately, what's important is that the three of us are together, we're safe, and we'll have our own quiet little celebration. As Chris pointed out, if ever there was a Christmas for plans getting screwed up, it might as well be this one, when Gwen doesn't know the difference.



I do, though, and I'm a little bit perplexed as to how to ensure that the upcoming Week of Being Stuck At Home With Gwen will be different from Every Other Week of the Year When I Am Stuck At Home With Gwen. It's still my Christmas too, and I want it to be a little bit special. I guess now I have to figure out how to do that.

But! More importantly. Behold my packing!


The Diaper Bag/Ferry Bag.


The above bag is all we need to bring on the ferry to keep Gwen fed, clean, and somewhat entertained.
Contents include:
Burp cloths (including a Christmas-themed one)
Three disposable diapers*
Plastic bag for soiled clothes
Whole-grain sugar-free "O" cereal in case Gwen suddenly shows an interest in finger food
Toys
Entire clean outfit in case of blowout
Receiving blanket because I have a bizarre fear of going anywhere without one
Long piece of fabric that turns into a wrap like this, for carrying Gwen
Nightlight clipped on edge of bag, not so much for the ferry but for latenight Gwen attendance in homes with unknown layouts
Diaper Cream
Disposable Wipes*
Changing Pad
Not pictured: The bottles and formula I would have added to the bag if we'd actually headed out this morning.


The Overnight Bag

Along with the diaper/ferry bag, this bag would have accompanied us into my aunt's house. It contains everything we need for dinner, sleeping, and the next morning.
Contents include:
Change of clothes for me
My jammies
Change of clothes for Gwen
Plastic bag in case of soiled clothes
Two pairs of socks for Gwen
Burp cloths
Three bibs, including two that are Christmas-themed
Container of wheat cereal
Dish and spoon
Jarred baby food**
Her reflux medicine and syringe
Baby Tylenol
Receiving Blanket
Fancy dress for dinner
More diapers*
Jammies & overjammies
mp3 player & speakers (we use this to play the hourlong track of ocean wave sounds she is used to while she sleeps; it helps soothe her, and cover other household noises)
Not pictured: Her lovey, "Mooey", which again would have been thrown in the bag this morning.
**Not something she gets at home, but seems a good plan for when we're travelling and don't have any idea whether the food will be suitable for her.


The Gibsons Bag


This is the bag containing everything needed for Gwen and I to spend two days and nights on the Coast with my sister. The previous bag could have happily stayed in the car during this time.
Contents include:
Changing pad
Gwen's bathing suit (we were going to go to the pool while there)
Swim diapers
Receiving blanket
Plastic bag
Burp cloths
More clothes for me
My bathing suit
More clothes for Gwen
More diapers*
More jammies for Gwen
More disposable wipes*
More jarred baby food**
More socks for Gwen
Not pictured: the jar of formula and bottles I would have added this morning if we'd actually been heading out.


*While at home, we use cloth diapers and wipes for Gwen, but when travelling, we do disposable. Mostly this reflects our respect for our hosts' homes and our unwillingness to fill them with stinky soiled diapers.


A post about luggage. How freaking lame. At least I'm not totally alone in the weirdness, though. And taking the photos in anticipation of this post made all the UNpacking I had to do today, a little less painful.


I'm now feeling a little blue over Gwen's lack of opportunity to wear the lovely Christmas clothes she has. She has two Christmas-y dresses, and last week I even went so far as to plan out which dress she would wear to which event, to make sure they got equal play (this is important when one of them was bought by a grannie! A grannie who was annoyed that the costume she bought Gwen didn't get worn for the Official Trick or Treating!). I thought Gwen could wear her red dress for the baby Christmas party on Friday, but that party got cancelled because of the snow. Then I thought Gwen could wear her lovely gold dress for the dinner tonight, but now we're not going. Church on Christmas Eve is looking pretty darn iffy as well. For the last few days, since we haven't been leaving the house at all, Gwen's just been wearing the same pair of jammies all damn day. This does *not* contribute to feeling like Christmas! Sometime in the next couple days I have got to pull it together, dress that girl up, and get in the spirirt.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Packing Shame

I'm currently in the midst of packing for a trip. On Saturday, Gwen and Chris and I are catching a morning ferry to Vancouver, stopping to visit Sally & Dean (& Finnegan), and then proceeding to Coquitlam where we will be meeting with the entirety of my mother's side of the family (18 people in total) for a holiday gathering. The next day, we drive back to Horseshoe Bay where Chris gets the ferry back to Nanaimo and Gwen and I follow my sister and her family back home to the Sunshine Coast for a little visit. (Sara bought a house a whole year ago and I haven't even seen it yet! Plus, funtime for cousins.)

Packing has never been my strong suit and since I became a mom it often dawns on me with sinking dread before a trip that I have to pack for two. Unfair! I've actually travelled enough with Gwen now that I have a list on my computer of every item we might possibly need, and it's my habit to go over this list before a trip and select the applicable items.

My current dilemma is whether I should pack one bag for the one-night stay at my aunt's house and then another bag for the two-night stay at my sister's, so I don't have to haul three nights' worth of stuff in to my aunt's place. This points back to my packing shame. I always feel ashamed when I arrive at someone's house with huge gigantic piles of stuff. I don't know exactly why I feel this way, where it comes from, whether it's rational, or whether anyone else feels this way*.

In any case, the one-night-bag theory is kind of moot when you consider that the gigantic items - the playpen and the Bumbo chair leap to mind - need to come in anyway, so who's going to notice what size my bag is at that point?

Oh! Also hate: the idea that in addition to the FURNITURE listed above, I will be arriving with (at minimum) a bag for Gwen's stuff, a bag for my stuff, and a diaper bag. Gah.

So, tell me what you think! Moms, when you travel, do you feel a little weird about bringing so much damn stuff with you, or do you not care? Do you manage to get by with less? Hosts and hostesses, how do you feel when guests arrive with umpty-eleventy-billion bags for an overnight stay?

*Though I will point out that in this post - which you should read anyway, for it is awesome - having "the smallest diaper bag" seems to be presented as a compliment. So there's some subtle but valid confirmation that I'm not alone in the belief that packing light is preferable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Random Snowy Update

It's snowing like mad here. Supposed to get another 15cm today. The same thing happened on Saturday, and we ended up staying overnight at the in-laws (we were there for dinner and didn't want to risk driving home). I'm quite surprised there is still traffic on the roads at the moment, but I'm betting within 15 minutes that will change.

The snow changes our plans quite a bit for the day. Karen was supposed to come over for Gramma time, but we decided to cancel that - not only should she stay home in case her power goes out (since they live in a rural area), but heck, it's not like I'm going to drive anywhere in this mess. I didn't really have anything critical to do anyway - my shopping is done, I was just going to hit the library and the gym and drop off a Christmas card to a friend.

Fortunately, Chris decided to stay home too. He was planning to drive to Port Alberni for work today. I was terrified that he'd get stuck out there and I'd be alone with Gwen for a day or two. Not that I couldn't handle that, of course, but having some backup is extremely helpful!

Speaking of Gwen, since this blog is supposed to be about her, I should report that she can now crawl. Having a mobile child has already taught me some interesting lessons, such as the true filthiness of my floor. I already knew neither of us were great housekeepers, but when I pick Gwen up from the floor and her clothes look like I've been using her tummy as a duster, well, there's a problem.

Also. Why is it that Gwen cannot manage - despite persistent efforts on her part - to get her veggies into her mouth, but dust bunnies make it there every time?

Gwen is also sleeping very well. There is not a shred of exaggeration when I say, "sleep training changed my life". It changed all of our lives. We've been 'on the program' for five weeks and naptime/bedtime is so much less of a challenge now. One misconception I had about sleep training is that it would lessen over time and that by this point, there would never be any tears, but that has not proved to be the case. I would say that most of the time Gwen goes to sleep without any kind of trauma, but once in a while - say, 15% of the time? - there is still a brief period of fuss and drama before she drifts off. I guess after the first night, when she cried for 14 minutes, I thought that time would progressively shorten every night until it was no crying, none of the time, and that has not turned out to be the case. Still, it's so much better than it was, and I'm so proud of her (and us!) for getting through the tough parts. I now have confidence that she can sleep pretty much anywhere, given a few familiar items and rituals.

I've been doing a lot of random tidying and organizing in the past couple of weeks, which I suppose is an effort to make room for our Christmas loot (and by "our" I mean "Gwen's"). I've had the freedom and ability to do this because a) I've been getting enough sleep at night to have the energy to get it done, and b) Gwen has become a much more contented girl as her mobility and independence have grown. For the past few weeks, before the mechanics of official crawling completely fell into place, she's been kind of semi-mobile: throwing her arms forward and dragging her lower body along behind her. There have been long periods of time, up to an hour even, where she is utterly happy to just mosey around the floor, exploring all kinds of things, while I sit nearby or putter around at some task or other. She's happy to know that I'm there, but she doesn't demand my attention. It was that perfect 'sweet spot' where she was mobile enough to entertain herself, but not mobile enough that I had to watch and follow her every second. I think that second stage will be arriving any day now. We'll be installing the baby gates today, by the way, and fullblown child-proofing will be getting underway next week.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whiiiiiiiine.

I have a nasty head cold. I think it's the third one I have had since giving birth. This is remarkable for two reasons: first, because when I was pregnant I had no colds whatsoever the entire time, so I've kind of forgotten how awful being sick is. Second, because when you are a nursing mom you can't take any freakin thing to make you feel better.


It's a very, very bad sign when you spend the entire night fantasizing about decongestants. Not winning the lottery, not discovering a calorie-free ice cream, not even a guaranteed method of getting your baby to sleep for 12 hours straight. Just plain old cold medication. The stuff that dreams are made of!


Even herbal stuff is contraindicated. I tried buying some herbal tea that was supposed to help decongestify me, but the box said "Not for nursing mothers". Even echinacea is off the list. The only thing I can actually take is Vitamin C, and whether that will even do any good is up for debate.


Seriously, how do other moms deal with this? I've had three colds this winter already, and we all know that being a mom increases the odds of getting sick as our kids share their toys and germs with equal devotion. And some moms breastfeed for years. Are we supposed to just suffer through the repeat illnesses, clinging to our Kleenex boxes and slogging around in a daze? There has got to be something out there that's safe for nursing moms. Otherwise we're going to flood the world with the force of our collective mucous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Healthful Eating Habits

One of the things I really want my daughter to achieve is a healthy relationship with food. I've mostly given up on genuinely achieving this for myself, though I can fake it really well. I've been pondering the ins and outs of this for the past little while as I introduce more and more foods to her, and try to lay the groundwork for her eating habits.

I've been attending Weight Watchers meetings for over three years, and we spend a lot of time at those meetings talking about, for lack of a better term, the psychology behind eating habits - whether healthy or not. We talk about comfort eating and emotional eating. Lately when I listen to and participate in these discussions I think not only of my own long-established habits and attitudes, but how I can help Gwen in the formation of her own habits and attitudes.

Thinking like this has certainly allowed me to see where those unhealthful habits get formed, though. We're dealt it right from the start. Take comfort eating, for example. As adults, we know we should eat for fuel, not for emotional comfort, and we strive to break that connection. But for an infant, there is no division between comfort and food. When Gwen was so tiny she couldn't even understand that I was a person, when all she knew was that she felt good and safe when I was nearby, she also learned that I was the source of food. The feel of a mother's skin, the scent of her, the warmth, the connection, the love ... and food. All in one. Is it any wonder we form those associations?

Nowadays, Gwen is getting most of her nutrients from a bottle, which she can mostly hold herself. She eats solids once a day and usually nurses (if only briefly) 2-3 times a day. And more and more, those nursing sessions are all about comfort, connection, and cuddling, rather than nutrition. I know because recently I counted how many times Gwen sucked before swallowing during nursing, and it was about 15 times. It used to be she would swallow every 2-3 sucks, but there's just not that much milk there anymore. Moreover, the times she requests nursing are emotionally dependent times: when she is tired, when we've been apart, when she's hurt. My point is, Gwen is definitely forming those comfort-food associations.

And let me be clear, I don't think there's *anything* at all wrong with that. I'm enjoying breastfeeding all the more now that it's a somewhat rare activity, and it makes me feel really good that I can make her so happy during those moments. And I'm certainly not worried that because she has those associations now, they will continue through the years and doom her to a lifetime of poor food choices. I just think it's interesting to observe how the habits that are so derided in adult life are all but impossible to avoid in the early months and years. And to wonder where one draws the line, and how.

Another interesting phenomenon is that of social eating. In our culture, it's hard to find any instance of social communal behaviour that doesn't include food - and usually, way too much of it. Think about it - the main event of the major holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) is a gigantic, gluttonous meal, and the theme of many others (Valentine's Day, Halloween, Easter again) is stuffing ourselves with chocolate and candy. Birthday parties centre around cakes. Anniversaries and other celebrations are marked by going out for dinner. You can't even get together with a friend or colleague just for the sake of conversation - you're "going out for coffee".

This is a major bugbear of mine, and I have some ideas about how to mitigate the negative effects of these customs as Gwen grows up. For example, I'd love it if we spent part of those humungous 'feast days' going for a walk as a family. (I'd love it even more if the meals themselves were healthful and well-portioned, but until I'm willing to take on the task of making and hosting them myself, I can't complain too much about that.)

On a smaller scale, we know that sharing meals as a family is a healthy thing to do. It builds our family connections, and there have been studies done to show that girls who eat dinner with their families on a regular basis are less likely to experience eating disorders. It's one of my goals for the New Year to get the three of us eating the same meals, at the same time (right now we have three separate meals at three separate times!). I am really looking forward to re-establishing the tradition of family meals, which was a cornerstone of my own upbringing.

But once again, looking at this from an infant's perspective turns the idea on its head. The nutritionist at the Health Unit encourages us to let the babies feed themselves when they begin solids, because spoonfeeding your baby is an interactive, attention-giving experience, and babies may overeat just to keep the interaction going. That is to say, the babies might be grooving more on the social aspects of the meal than the nutritive ones. (Obviously, with our teeny little 15-pound 7-month-old, this isn't exactly a huge concern for us.)

So let me get this straight. We don't want to teach our kids to associate mealtime with social interaction, because it might make them overeat. But then again, we want to establish mealtime as a family event that we share together, because that will make them less likely to have eating disorders. What a minefield! It's no wonder most of us have bad eating habits.

Just like everything else about parenting, you just do your best and cross your fingers. Wish I had time for more thoughtful conclusions on the topic, but the little darling is awake and I must run!

Friday, December 5, 2008

News from Gwenville

  • Gwen's two bottom front teeth continue to rise. They are now occasionally visible without placing your whole head inside her mouth. Feeding her is becoming a risky business as she is quite likely to bite.
  • Gwen is working *really* hard at learning how to crawl. Her latest mode of locomotion is to pull herself along with her arms, not realizing that her legs can get in on the action too instead of just dragging behind like useless appendages. She'll get there.
  • Gwen is becoming incredibly active and into things. In the 30 seconds during which she lies on the counter after a bath, being towelled off, she usually grabs the objects within reach - keychains, phone cord, and two power cords - about 4,839,015 times.
  • Many other moms have put up their Christmas trees and report that their babies show no interest in them. Based on the previous two items, I am thinking that this lack of interest will not occur in our house, and as such have decided to delay the Christmas tree until December 23rd. We'll probably take it down on the 27th. This is very, very unlike me.
  • We are taking Gwen to get her pictures done with Santa on Monday. I am a bit apprehensive about this, as she is not too interested in strangers at the moment. I feel sure we're going to end up with something like these.
  • Gwen is learning to wave bye-bye. Bye-bye, Gwen!
video

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Money for the RESP is a *way* better idea this year


Well, it's the last day of NaBloPoMo and so I figured I'd go out with a "bang", or at least a halfway interesting video. This is my first attempt at actually editing a video with my new software, and it turned out vaguely like I intended it to, so I am pleased. Hope you enjoy.

I couldn't figure out how to add titles, so Gwen would like you to know that this video is called "Dear Santa, I Don't Really Need Any Toys For Christmas, Because I Am Entirely Fascinated By Random Household Items."

video

Note: No plastic bags were harmed in the making of this film.

Also: In honour of the end of NaBloPoMo, I promise not to post again until I have some actual interesting content. Consider it an early Christmas present.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yoga Baby

Yes, I did prenatal yoga while I was pregnant with Gwen, but I had no idea she would actually learn anything there. Then again, she is surprisingly advanced.





This is a pose that Gwen does *constantly* - if you have seen her awake and not in someone's lap, you've probably seen her do this pose. Her head hardly ever rests on the floor, and we figure she's going to have killer ab muscles. It's "Half-Boat Pose".








Another one she's picked up recently is "Plank Pose". I especially like the look she's giving in the second picture, like she's losing patience with that student in the back who just isn't paying attention to her demonstration.

And finally, the only name I know for this one is "Superman Pose". In this picture she is not actually doing the full pose, but this is actually the way we do it in the Gentle class, so it's good enough for me.




She does "Downward Dog" all the time too, but I've yet to get a picture of it.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Thunk

Well, it finally happened. It's happened to many of my mommyfriends and my day finally came. Gwen fell off our bed when I turned my back to put away some laundry.

Damn, but that girl moves quick these days.

She seems to be fine. She cried for only a couple of minutes, and judging by the tone and pace of her crying it sounded a whole lot more like fear than pain. Her behaviour for the rest of the evening was normal so I don't think she jostled her brain or anything.

My first thought was to rush her to the emergency room, till I remembered my friend Amanda telling me she'd done that for her daughter Evangeline, and that the doctors had sent her home unless Ev demonstrated any strange behaviour. So I learned from that. Not soon enough to prevent my daughter from falling off the bed, of course.

So, yeah. I guess this means I should stop leaving her on the change table while I go flush her Bio-Soft diaper liners too, eh?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Teeth!

Yesterday Gwen cut her first tooth. This was exciting since I had practically given up on it ever happening - she's been "teething" for about three and a half months! The tooth (front left bottom) is not actually visible yet, but I can feel the edge of it poking up.

And then today, I am pretty sure the one next to it is coming up as well. She'll be full of snaggletoothed grins for all the Christmas pictures! Yay :-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stranger Danger!

Today's little outing was a walk to the nearby Save-on-Foods, with Gwen in the stroller, to pick up a refill on a prescription.

After picking up the medicine, I paused near the blood pressure machine to organize myself, stuffing everything into my backpack/purse. A woman in her fifties happened by and, naturally, remarked on how cute Gwen is. Her husband soon joined in the adoration. He leaned in close, commenting on her beautiful blue eyes and saying how much he and his wife would love to have a granddaughter like her. As is to be expected, Gwen started to cry.

She has a very distinctive fear cry, and these days it happens whenever anyone other than her parents gets a bit too close. As soon as the man approached I got down right next to Gwen and turned the stroller so that she could see I was still nearby, but this wasn't enough to avert the fear response altogether.

The man apologized immediately, and his wife chastised him a bit. "Don't get too close, Jim, you're scaring her. She doesn't know you." I waved away his apologies, saying, "It's okay, it happens all the time. Everyone wants to say hello to her, but she's just going through that stage where she's a little anxious about strangers."

Anyway, we exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I headed out of the store for home. As I walked, I wondered why I had been unable to accept the apology, why I had belittled Gwen's fear. I knew she would respond that way, saw it coming as soon as the man leaned down to greet her. I thought about how I could have avoided it: I could have said "Please don't get too close, she's afraid of strangers," but even to my own ears this sounded so rude and standoffish. I wondered about that. Wondered what right of ownership the community at large takes over babies, and how to balance that with my own responsibility to protect Gwen.

It's true, what I said. Everyone wants to say hello to Gwen, but if they get in her face too much she gets scared, and while we as adults know there is no harm meant and find it cute or even amusing, it isn't amusing to her. How do I respect her boundaries without offending friendly folks who only want a minute to adore her?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Busy (But Fun!) Day

This morning I finally got to take Gwen to her swimming lesson. Again, as soon as we got into the pool's changing room, she started hooting with excitement. She really does love the water. The lesson was good, we did some singing and some games and some splashing and so on. AND I did indeed dunk Gwen's head under the water! She didn't swallow half the pool as I feared, but she did look a little flustered and confused. Naturally I was instructed by the teacher to give Gwen huge praise and smiles and excitement no matter what she did, because if she came out of the water to see me looking frightened then she would get scared, so I complied and hooted with glee. What fun.

After swimming, we came home and Gwen had a good long nap, then we went out to visit my friend Amber, whom I hadn't seen since summer. We had a good chat about sleep and breastfeeding and husbands and housework and oh, so many things. Good times.

After Gwen went to bed this evening, I cooked a huge batch of pasta to freeze in single-serving portions because this is basically the only way I get to eat. I managed to badly burn my hand in the process and it is excrutiatingly painful unless it is constantly under cold water or being blown on. Not sure how I'm going to manage to sleep, but in any case typing is pretty agonizing, so I'm going to stop now! G'night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month Seven

Dear Gwen,

Today you are seven months old. The first time I took you to Healthy Beginnings group, we met a baby there who was seven months old. This seemed impossibly old to me. And now here we are. You, my girl, are impossibly old! In fact, two days ago your dad was putting you in your high chair and he turned to me and asked, “What happened to our baby? How did we end up with this little girl, with a personality and everything?”


I think the past month has been my favourite so far. You have really changed a lot over that time. First of all, the personality your dad mentioned is definitely in full effect, and that personality is a charming one. You are very social and love to be in new environments and with new people (though you are not so crazy about being there without your mom). You are a very intent person as well, looking at things with such intense concentration as you work on figuring them out, or just fascinatedly gazing out the window at the patterns the light makes as it filters through the trees.

You are so closely bonded to me that it’s quite sobering. When we are out together and someone approaches you to tell you how cute you are, you immediately look to me to make sure I’m still there, and to gauge my response to the stranger. The other day, you rolled over and bumped your head on the laminate flooring, and looked at me to see what my reaction would be. I smiled gently at you, and you carried on playing. I feel certain that if I had winced or said “Ooh, a bump!” you would have started crying.

The most powerful example of your emotional bond with me happened yesterday, when I was angry about something that was nothing to do with you. You started crying and fussing, which your dad says was because you were picking up on my mood. He even thinks that you understood I was upset and angry, but *didn’t* understand that it wasn’t your fault. I felt awful. I will try harder to surround you with love and patience, not anger and exasperation.

You are working very hard these days to become mobile. You can now cross an entire room at quite a rapid pace. However, I hesitate to call it genuine mobility because your movement doesn’t seem connected to your intention – it looks to me like you would very much like to be moving forward, but continue to push yourself backward, which just ends up frustrating you as you wonder why you’re moving farther away from your intended goal. I know you’re going to have it all figured out pretty soon, though! I’ll be genuinely surprised if you’re not crawling by Christmas, and I think it’s likely to be even sooner than that.

The mobility does have its drawbacks, though. No longer do you rest peacefully in my lap. No, you spend your time there rolling, twisting, squirming, moving, arching, reaching, grabbing, pulling, jumping, wiggling, and bouncing. I’m not against any of these activities per se, but my lap is not the most convenient place for them! Still, you do insist on having your lap time. You’re busy enough to make that a challenge, but still dependent enough that you don’t want to give it up. This conflict makes me think you must be on the verge of a big breakthrough and change.

Another huge difference in your life is your sleep. For the first time in your life you have a set bedtime *and* set naptimes. This routine has brought a lot of consistency and predictability to our lives, which I think has been good for all of us. In addition, we now put you in your crib awake and rely on you to soothe yourself to sleep, rather than putting you to sleep in our laps and then transferring you to the crib. Yes, this meant that we’ve all endured a lot of crying, but we really believe you were ready for this, and the fact that some nights you go to sleep very peacefully, without any fuss at all, helps us feel confident in that belief. Nowadays you usually wake up only once at night, at which time I nurse you for five minutes, then sing a verse of our favourite lullaby, and put you back in your crib until morning. You are definitely getting more sleep now, and the thought that you now understand your own ability to self-soothe is very gratifying.

The sleep training has had some interesting side effects, in that I feel way more confident as your mom and way more in tune with what you are trying to communicate. I think the week or so of me watching you closely for sleepy signals just helped me be more observant of you and your needs. Also, the fact that your sleep is now more predictable means that you are in a better mood during your waking hours, and I am more available to you during those times, since I can plan other activities for when you’re asleep and ‘recharge’ myself. In all, it’s been an incredibly satisfying time.

You have now been eating solid foods for a month, and I have to admit this is an area that’s really challenging for me. So far, in addition to rice cereal, you have eaten mashed potato, green beans, squash, sweet potato, carrots, peas, bread, and banana. Without exception, you have enjoyed everything I’ve given you, so that part’s great! The challenge is that I don’t understand how to watch you for food reactions, which may indicate allergy or sensitivity. You got a diaper rash shortly after eating squash, so I thought you might be having a reaction to that, but even after a week of not giving you any more, your rash still remained. A few moms have suggested that babies’ bodies are just more sensitive during this time as they start getting nutrition from different sources – that it’s not the food in particular, but the change in general that’s causing a reaction. It’s awfully hard to tell the difference, though. I’m thinking of taking you to my naturopath to see if there are sensitivity tests they can do to help me nail it down for sure.


All in all, you continue to amaze us with your abilities and your wonderful, engaging personality. You are the joy of our lives, Gwen, and we can't wait to experience all these changes with you.

Love,
Mama

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Surprise!

Gwen and I took a trip across the pond today to meet my cousin's new baby girl, Haylee. I have been really excited about this trip for a while but couldn't mention it because it was a surprise and I have no idea who reads this blog (probably not my cousin, but you never know!).

Haylee is beautiful and tiny and perfect and lovely and sweet. She is at that adorable newborn stage where she will just curl up in your arms and sleep through anything. I love that stage! I already can barely remember what it was like.

Gwen, on the other hand, entertained the shower guests by showing off how she could push herself backwards across the entire floor. Busy girl!
In typical form I only had my camera with me on the ferry, so I have no pictures of baby Haylee to show off. There were tons taken by my mom, my aunt, and my sister, so eventually they will show up in email and I'll show them to you all and you can humour me and pretend to care. In the meantime, here's a picture of Haylee at 4 weeks old, the day she came home from the hospital.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

YouTube Awesomeness

Because it's Saturday night and I've got nothing else.

Jaws Theme Parody

"Ooh Girl' - an Honest R&B Song

Take On Me - Literal Video Version (Pipe Wrench Fight!)

Everyday Normal Guy

Stacking Routine (Joel & Luke)

Sorry I can't embed the videos here, Blogger won't let me unless I download them all and I just can't be bothered. That's my level of commitment, folks. Feel the love!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chris saves the day yet again!

I was in my jammies and heading for bed when my husband said, "Laura, did you blog today?" Yipes! I had not! So for two days in a row, my continued participation in NaBloPoMo, as well as the blogosphere at large, is solely to his credit.

(Or, all his fault. However you want to interpret that.)

So! I will blog about Gwen's mobility.

On November 1st, Gwen somehow managed to get herself into the crawling position for about two seconds. I marked this on the calendar and then forgot about it. Mostly, so did she.

Until this past Tuesday, when we went to visit her [Honourary] Uncle Mike in Victoria. You know what Uncle Mike has that we don't have? Carpets.

You know what else Uncle Mike has that we don't have? A ten-year-old daughter named Zoe who crawled in slow motion around Gwen for minutes at a time, showing her exactly how it was done. Watching Gwen, you could practically see the wheels turning as she bored a hole in Zoe with her intense stare of concentration. Hell, as Zoe's mom Jenn pointed out, you could see the smoke pouring out of Gwen's ears as her brain worked overtime to figure this out!

I watched Gwen with increasing pride and anxiety, in about equal amounts. She started pushing up more reliably, and started lifting her knees off the ground and using her toes to push herself forward a couple of times. Everyone laughed with joy and excitement, drastically rethinking the earlier estimates that she'd be 'crawling by Christmas' and declaring that hell, she'd be crawling by next week! I laughed along, secretly freaking out inside, because OMG, once that girl starts crawling then life as I know it is over. Don't get me wrong, I am really excited about her being able to follow me from room to room so my daily chores don't become the stuff of anguished cries as I leave her sight for 0.02 of a second, but on the other hand I can picture my couch growing cobwebs as I may never get to sit down again, so busy will I be chasing her as she merrily scoots from room to room.

The very next day, Gwen had retained all the stuff she'd learned from the day before, and I could see it was taking way less mental energy to reproduce the positions and motions she'd figured out the previous day. Leaving that powerful brain free to figure out the next step. (Aiieeee!!)

Fortunately, I then took her back home to the land of laminate flooring. No traction = no mobility. And my girl stays a baby just a little bit longer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sometimes Blogging is Hard **updated**

I couldn't think of much to say this evening, so at about 7:15pm I had a bright idea. I would just post a video of Gwen feeding herself some squash! Her [Honourary] Uncle Mike had just told me how much he enjoyed the video of her first solids, so I knew at least one person would appreciate it. Plus I could post the adorable pictures of her covered in squash afterwards.
Perfect! Easy! Cute! Cliche!

Only one teensy problem. Only the first 30 seconds of the video came out properly - the rest is too dark. So, I need to edit the video.

No problem! Chris got me video editing software for my birthday! Fire that shit up!

Um. We uninstalled it because it kept crashing the computer. So we need to reinstall it.

Okay, so I reinstalled the software and then Chris found out why it was crashing my computer. It was a driver problem! Or something! I don't really know or understand or care! But the important part is that Chris spent about an hour and a half figuring this out, finding the right driver, downloading it, installing it, and then installing the program again.
Leaving me fifteen minutes to learn how to edit video, edit the video, post it, and still be in bed by 9pm.

Here is the good news! The software is really damn easy to use. It took me less than two minutes to figure out how to cut out the latter portion of the video.

Here is the bad news. The software only saves video in one specific format. Which Blogger does not accept.

Dear readers, tonight I fail even at phoning it in.



EDIT! Chris fixed everything. I clearly should have known that despite all other software for the past oh, 15-20 years keeping their "Save" options under the "Save As" tab, that Adobe deems it appropriate to keep these options under an entirely separate menu called "Share". I am a total idiot for not figuring that out. But at least I can feed myself without food ending up IN MY HAIR.
video

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Portable Gwen!

I am so incredibly proud of my Gwen.

Yesterday was Day 6 of sleep training. I took her to Victoria for the day and overnight. Talk about throwing a wrench in the works, right?

She handled it beautifully.

I timed the drive down so that we were leaving right around her morning nap time. We even went through the naptime routine before we left, with me reading her a story as she sat in her carseat by the front door. She fell asleep in the car and got a decent nap during the drive. Then when we arrived at my friend Mike's house, we went downstairs to the room where Gwen and I would be sleeping, and spent some time hanging out there, so that when I went to put her down for her nap, she wouldn't be in an unfamiliar room.

I brought *so* much stuff from home to help her feel comfortable, I felt a little ridiculous. But it all paid off!

A couple hours after we arrived, she was looking really tired, so I went through the naptime routine again, lay her in the playpen, and waited. She cried for only a few minutes, and then slept for two hours.

That evening, Gwen and I had a great visit with Janice at her new (beautiful!) home, then we stopped by medieval dance practice on our way back to [Uncle] Mike's place. When we got back to our temporary home, it was about an hour past Gwen's usual bedtime, but I felt it was important to do the whole bedtime routine. So I put her in her bumbo chair and fed her some cereal, then we went upstairs and had a bath. Then pajamas, bottle, storytime, prayers and lullaby, and into the playpen with her lovey (a gorgeous soft stuffed cow named "Mooey" that Mike gave me for my birthday last year). She babbled and cooed to herself for a few minutes, during which time I snuck out of the room. After a while, she began to cry, but that only lasted about 10 minutes. And then she slept for 6 hours.

When she woke in the night, I fed her for a few minutes and then put her back down. She barely even cried before going to sleep.

OH! And the other amazing thing is that as of Monday, GWEN NO LONGER SLEEPS SWADDLED.

Every night after Gwen goes to sleep, Chris says to me "Good job, honey." But really, it's all her. She has learned so much in the past few weeks, and I'm just so damn proud of her. I'm especially excited about the fact that she handled the trip to Victoria so well, as now I can travel with her without worrying about messing up her schedule. Quite a contrast from a few months ago when I could *only* get her to nap in the swing, and so felt afraid to take her anywhere.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Singularly Unfair, and Utterly Typical (possible TMI)

Today is Gwen's first swimming lesson at the pool. I have been looking forward to this for months. In fact, I was excited enough last night that I had trouble falling asleep!

So it stands to reason that this morning, I woke up with the first period I've had since July 2007. Of course I did. Dammit!

Also in the category of bizarre bodily functions, this morning as I changed Gwen's diaper the following happened:
I took off her dirty diaper, cleaned her up, and applied diaper cream.
She peed.
I got out another cloth, cleaned her up, and re-applied diaper cream.
She pooed.
I got out *another* cloth, cleaned her up, re-applied diaper cream, and waited for her to invent some new bodily function for me to deal with.

I suppose all we need is for Chris to start uncontrollably crying, vomiting, and running his nose, and we will have all bodily functions covered in this house. Kinda like when I was in labour, except then I did them all myself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Subversive Mommies!

I had a playdate at my place today. I invited 5 moms and babies over for a couple hours. I did the same last week and it was a smash hit, but this week everyone backed out for one (completely valid) reason or another. Only one mom showed up. Fortunately for her and for me, she is an awesome person and so we had a great visit while her son played.

(Oh, and did I forget to mention? Gwen was asleep when they arrived. So it wasn't much of a playdate after all, I suppose.)

Anyway, we had some great talks and discovered that we are both fans of the RIE philosophy of parenting. We also discussed the 'dark side' of motherhood and the stigma against ever admitting to anyone anywhere that mothering is a really difficult job. I told her about "The Mask of Motherhood" and offered to loan it to her when I finish reading it. Wouldn't it be fun to have a moms' book club where we read and discussed books like that?

I told Alison (for lo, that is her name) that one of the reasons I really liked and respected her was that she was the first mom I'd met anywhere, at any of my groups, to admit that her baby was a difficult one and that she sometimes floundered. It's all too easy to fall into the "oh my baby is so cute and wonderful and motherhood is my dream job and rainbows and flowers spill out of my kid's butt on an hourly basis! Joy!" which is totally nonproductive, because when that attitude is everywhere then every mom goes back home and looks in the mirror and thinks she is the only one who doesn't feel that way. So I thought it was awesome that Alison was being honest about it. It was so refreshing, I think I might have a mommycrush.

I also pitched the very subversive idea of not going crazy with the birthday parties next year. Because really, we are all having a great deal of fun getting to know other moms and babies, and we often get together in quite large groups, which is wonderful. But I started thinking about it and it's entirely likely that we will be invited to 20-30 birthday parties next year. And that means buying 20-30 gifts and giving up 20-30 Saturdays, not to mention being expected to throw my own knock-down shindig for Gwen (and let's not even think about the whole concept of oneupmanship when it comes to kids' birthdays...). It just seems insane. So I suggested that we have group birthday parties, like celebrating all the spring babies at one party, all the autumn babies at another, and so on. And maybe just skipping the gifts, because seriously, do we need more toys? Do we, people? (If we really do, isn't that what grandparents are for?)

Alison thought that was a great plan. We are subversive mommies!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Filler

I totally don't have anything to say today, but NaBloPoMo demands that I post anyway.

I humbly suggest if you want something interesting to read, you check out my blogroll. Alternatively, here is an adorable picture of my daughter the drama queen.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Social Me

In a weird way, becoming a mom has made me *more* social instead of less. How odd is that?

Gwen and I went to a playdate this afternoon, which aside from being great fun, was the place of various discussions about future social plans. A Christmas party was suggested, as was a group trip to see Santa for the babies' pictures; an evening of scrapbooking; and a Wii/Rock Band/Singstar party. While some of these include the babies or are centered on the babies, the latter is an adults-only activity and is thus a real departure. Getting together just to socialize? For fun? Because we enjoy each others' company? Woohoo!

Similarly, this evening I went out to a birthday dinner at one of Nanaimo's fancier restaurants for a woman I know through various mommy groups. That is to say, we know each other only because we are mommies. It's really interesting to be part of real friendships being formed out of the mere coincidence of our babies' ages. It's slow going, because at any gathering of moms it's all too easy to just fall back on talking about the kids; in fact, it can be a real challenge to talk about anything else. But it's rewarding when it happens, as you get to know the real person behind the baby bit by bit.

I think I am more social now because I have to be. I have to get out to playdates and story time and so on, not only for Gwen's entertainment and socialization, but because if I just stayed home with her all day every day I WOULD GO CRAZY. The fact that I am consistently seeing the same moms a few times a week, and that we always have a conversation starter ("So, how is ____ sleeping?") makes the social aspect of these outings far less intimidating.

Tonight was a different sort of event and I was worried about it at first. The other moms I knew weren't going, and the only person I knew was the birthday girl. But I fit in, and I had a great time, and everything was totally fine. I think that the past few months of taking Gwen to various outings has been good for me. I guess I'm getting socialized too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sleep Training: The First Glitch

Today went pretty well, all things considered. It was draining to know that I didn't have backup to trade shifts with me if it took Gwen a long time to fall asleep, but I was determined not to sabotage our progress so far by confusing her and changing techniques. Here are the results:

Up for 3 hours in morning: cried for 27 minutes: slept for 40 minutes
Up for 2.25 hours: cried for 17 minutes: slept for 40 minutes (damn that 40minute hump)
Up for 2.75 hours: cried for 14 minutes: slept for 2.5 hours

That last nap would be the glitch. She got up from her second nap at 1:05, and from then until 7pm (bedtime) was way too long to be awake; plus, she showed me signs of tiredness around 3pm. Figuring she'd have another 40-minute doze, I put her down at 3:30 and she fell asleep at 3:45.

She didn't wake up until 6:10. Which is when we are usually feeding her dinner.

So yeah, not sure what the rest of the night is going to look like now! We're going to give her dinner shortly after 7, then do bathtime and the rest of the bedtime routine, aiming to put her down around 8. Hopefully she'll be tired enough to go for it, or we may be in for way more than 14 minutes worth of crying.

Sleep Training = Success!!

(First of all, if you haven't read last night's post (including all the edits), you should.)

So, last night Gwen slept from 7:14pm until ... ready? ... 6:28 this morning.

Yeah. We didn't hear a peep all night. And when we heard her this morning, it wasn't crying or fussing we heard, but sweet little noises as she babbled away to herself happily.

It felt like Christmas morning. Honestly, that's how happy and excited I was.

I wanted to wait and see how long she would stay content on her own, and also to reinforce what the Sleep Sense program suggests, that 'morning' doesn't start until 7am. So we waited half an hour. She was still happy, fribbing around in her crib. Chris went to get her and brought her into our room, where we turned on a (semi-dim) light and sat up so that we could demonstrate that it was indeed morning. We nursed, and cuddled, and played, and sang a couple of songs.

Now it's 8am and she's happily drinking her bottle beside me in the playpen (hooray for bottles with handles!). I plan to watch her signals carefully this morning and use a similar routine to get her down for a nap. This will be a challenge since I won't have Chris to trade off with me in 20-minute shifts, but I'm hoping that after last night's good sleep (11.5 hours! Holy crap!) she will be primed for good nappin'. Also, I think going back to the "old way" of getting her to nap would just confuse her. We're having such great success so far, I am motivated to keep working on it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Liveblogging the Sleep Training!

We went through our bedtime routine and put Gwen in her crib at 7pm. Chris took the first shift while I went downstairs and set a timer for 20 minutes. Gwen cried for 14 minutes and then fell asleep.

I'm pleased with the small success of that. Chris says it was the hardest thing he's ever done. I'm so proud of both of them.

We'll see how long she stays asleep. The plan is not to feed her unless/until she sleeps for four hours. Next waking is my turn.

Edit, 8pm: It's very typical for Gwen to wake up at the 40-minute mark. She has wiggled and squirmed a couple of times but no crying out (yet). If/when she does, I have to wait 5 minutes before going in to her. If she manages to get over the 40-minute hump without fully waking up, it'll be a really good sign.

Edit, 8:45pm: Gwen is still asleep! She made it past the hump. I'm so proud of her. So far this is going really well, but there's still a long night ahead of us, so I'm heading to bed to get as much sleep as I can before whatever happens next.

Edit, 9:55pm: I'm too wired to sleep. Every time Gwen makes a move (I can hear and see her on the video monitor), I'm totally alert and waiting to see what happens next. She has already come to a light sleep and put herself back to sleep twice. I feel almost ashamed that I didn't have faith in her ability to do this. I also feel odd about not being needed. Didn't expect that.

Right now I'm kind of debating what will be harder: trying to put her back to sleep without feeding her (if she wakes before 11:15) or feeding her but not letting her fall back to sleep on my lap. What a night. Still - whatever comes of the rest of tonight and the rest of the training, I am just so incredibly happy and excited because we have already learned that she can do it. She can put herself to sleep. What an amazing girl we have.

Now if only *I* could calm myself and get to sleep...

Thoughts on Sleep Training

Full-on sleep training starts tonight.

I ordered the Sleep Sense program yesterday and read pretty much the entire thing over the afternoon/evening. We are ready to start.

(Incidentally, I chose this program for a few reasons: I've heard good things about it, her philosophy seems sound to me, and the author lives just a hop, skip and a jump across the water in Sechelt, which somehow makes her more of a real person to me.)

(Also, the No-Cry program was totally not working. Every night we did the same thing, and every night Gwen gave us a different result: anywhere from 40 minutes to 10 hours of sleep. Maddening! My patience was starting to wear very thin.)

I put Gwen down for her nap just now, in the usual way: nursed her to sleep on my lap, then gently transferred her to her crib. I marvelled at the fact that tonight, by my own choice, I will trade this peaceful routine - who doesn't love to have a sleeping baby in their lap? - for a night of crying, screaming, and anguish. Not all of it Gwen's.

But that choice, I am convinced, is the right one. It makes sense to me that a baby (or child, or adult) who goes to sleep in one place and wakes up in another will feel disoriented and upset. It makes sense that that baby would then cry out and insist that the original circumstances be re-created so she can go back to sleep. It makes sense that if those circumstances involve my lap and my breast, I will need to be physically involved every single time she wakes. And it sure as hell makes sense that I can't continue to provide that forever.

I know tonight will be hard. But labour was hard too, and we got through it because we knew the result would be worth it. Falling to sleep on one's own, learning to self-soothe, is an absolutely vital skill, and one that Gwen will use all her life. It will be worth it.

Look forward to more posting tonight while I listen to my baby scream in protest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Milestones

I was just a smidge concerned recently - and probably wouldn't have been at all, if I wasn't a longtime reader of Schuyler's Monster - that Gwen didn't seem to be using any consonants in her babbling. She would say a lot of "ah ah ah" sounds, but no ba or da or ma or ga. A mere twelve hours after I confided my concern to Chris, Gwen started saying "ba ba ba". And she says it with great gusto and delight, too.



The other thing she's a bit behind on is sitting. She just doesn't seem to have any interest in it, to be honest. The picture below shows a typical moment where Gwen decides she doesn't want to sit on a lap anymore and arches her back until she's either standing or lying down.

I don't know why she's got such a hate-on for the sitting, given that it's one of my most favoured hobbies. At six months, she is supposed to be starting to sit unassisted for brief periods of time, but she won't sit at all unless you hold her forcibly in that position. My best guess is that the issues with her sacrum, which have since been worked on by her chiropractor and resolved, set her back a bit in that regard. I'm sure she'll get there eventually.



Another six-month milestone is the recognition of her own name. I tested this a few weeks ago, sitting to one side of Gwen and calling out to her. Sure enough, she turned towards the sound of my voice - trouble was, she didn't really seem to care if I called her "Gwen" or "Poohead". It was the tone and voice she was responding to, not the word itself. Although it's really funny to watch your infant daughter respond when you call her "Poohead", it's probably something we shouldn't do too often. In an effort to teach her her proper name, we've started using it to great excess. "Hello, Gwen's Dad," I will greet Chris when he comes home from work. "As you can see, Gwen is happy to see you. Aren't you, Gwen? Yes, Gwen, you are happy to see Gwen's Dad. Hey, Gwen's Dad, did I tell you that Gwen's name is actually Gwen? And not Poohead?"



The milestone that Gwen has reached and surpassed, on the other hand, is separation anxiety. Last week, my mother-in-law arrived for Gramma time while Gwen was asleep, and when she woke up, she was right pissed that I was nowhere to be found. She screamed for a solid 30 minutes, despite bottle, walking, shhing, and various other attempts to soothe and/or distract. Fortunately, I arrived home at about that time. I admit that leaving while she was asleep was not the ideal scenario, but there wasn't much else to be done at the time.



Even when Gwen is fully awake and in a social mood - which is most of the time - she is starting to really check in with me (or Chris, when he's around) about other people's attention to her. I went to meet my mom and her best friend at Woodgrove Mall this past weekend, as they were on the Island for some shopping and a theatre production. Gwen gave her Grannie (whom she doesn't see very often) a big gummy smile, then turned to find me and make sure I was still nearby. At this stage, it is still pretty flattering to know that she values me above all others, though I'm sure the novelty will wear off rapidly.



I read that separation anxiety is not actually the fear of being physically separated from the parent, but a cognitive stage - a realization that the infant is in fact a separate person from the parent, which causes fear as she realizes that I won't always be there. It's sad, but also exciting to realize that she is going through such complex learning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Old Wives and Changing Rules

A conversation I have often with other moms is about change, as in how "the rules", or more accurately guidelines, change constantly. It's almost a running joke how unwelcome it is to new moms when we hear advice from our own moms (or moms-in-law), not to mention 'helpful' would-be grannies on the street or at the grocery store, because whatever those moms were told 10, 20, 30 or more years ago is just not what we are being told now.*

*Note that I don't say what we're being told is right and what they were told is wrong, because I know good and well that in 10 years (or less!) all my knowledge will be thought of as useless as well.

One example of this is the introduction of solid foods. A generation ago - so I'm told by the public health nurses - it was recommended to start solids at 3 months of age. Babies of this age were not able to chew, so it was necessary to puree all their food, and thus an entire industry of pureed/strained baby mush in tiny jars was born. Nowadays, we are told not to start solids until 6 months, at which point babies are better able to mash the food in their jaws (even if teeth are not present, which they sometimes are). Thus, foods don't need to be pureed, just mashed a bit into bite-sized pieces. We are advised to skip the jarred baby foods altogether and just feed baby whatever we are eating.

I can't help but think of how this isolates the generations from another, when we are taught to scoff at what the "old wives" have to offer. It just ends up adding to the feeling that we are completely on our own, floating in a sea of conflicting information, frantically trying to sort the good from the bad. Whenever a group of mommyfriends get together, we compare notes with a quiet desperation, seeking confirmation from others that what we're doing - in regards to sleep, feeding, play, bathing, discipline, language, and a host of other things - is similar to what others are doing, and is therefore tenuously "right".

Monday, November 10, 2008

Naps - or not

This morning Gwen and I hosted our first playdate, which was quite a success. We had 4 other moms and babies over, friends that we know from the drop-in, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Babies babbled, moms vented, it was all good!

So, after everyone left, I figured Gwen would be quite keen for a nap, as she'd been up for nearly three hours and had had a lot of excitement in that time. I changed her diaper, made her a bottle, got her swaddled and rocked her to sleep. She slept for twenty-five minutes. This is bad.

Lately Gwen has been having the "forty-minute wake-up", which I gather is pretty common among babies. She wakes up *exactly* 40 minutes after we put her down to sleep. Elizabeth Pantley ("The No-Cry Sleep Solution") recommends setting a timer for (in this case) 35 minutes, and waiting outside the door so you can go in at the slightest peep. I've tried this a couple times with good results, but my 35-minute timer didn't do me a damn bit of good with Gwen waking up ten minutes before it went off! Holy crap!

I rushed back in, nursed and rocked her back to sleep, and lay her gently in her crib. As soon as I straightened up, she started crying and fussing. I picked her up again, swayed back and forth trying to soothe her. No dice. I sat back down in the rocking chair and tried to nurse her. Not interested. Her eyes were wide open and she was ready to rock and roll!

So, fine, she's up. Fuming and grumbling about the annoyance of a baby who sleeps for twenty-five freakin' minutes, I let her be awake. She played in her crib for awhile, watching me fold laundry, and then hung out with me in the kitchen while I chatted online with my sister. When she started to get whiny and fussy, I figured it was naptime again. Changed the diaper, made the bottle, swaddled her up, and rocked her to sleep.

Once again, she woke up as soon as I started to put her down in her crib. Didn't even deign to sleep for 25 minutes, this time around. Bright eyes, wide awake, ready to party - after maybe three minutes worth of sleep on my lap.

Not adequate!

So to review, Gwen's day has been:
9:15am awake
10am - 12pm playdate
12:15pm asleep
12:40pm awake, rocked back to sleep
12:50pm fully awake
2:30pm rocked to sleep
2:40pm fully awake
2:45pm into swing because Mom is out of ideas!

By the sounds of things - or more adequately the lack of sounds - I think she has gone to sleep in the swing, which is nice on the one hand but not really a great solution. We had gotten away from the swing altogether and now its use is starting to increase again. She's going to be too big for it soon and we won't have it to fall back on ... what will I do then?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Identity Crisis

It's Sunday morning and I am soon to be heading out to church. It looks like I'll be going without my baby, which will be only the second time since she was born that I've done that. She's sleeping, and I'm definitely not waking her up just to give myself the privilege of stressing out about whether she'll stay quiet and content during the sermon. Heck no, let the child sleep!

I get out without Gwen three to four times a week: to yoga class, to Weight Watchers, during Gramma time, and occasionally another outing such as today's to church. Yoga and Weight Watchers are okay, but during other outings I usually feel pretty weird without her. Like I've gone out without my pants, or something.

The first time I went to church without her was just a few weeks ago, under the same circumstances. Chris stayed home with the napping Gwen while I went to church, and when I got there, another baby from our mom-and-baby group was being baptized, and his little siblings and cousins were there, and then in addition to the family we usually sit beside (whose younger daughter is the only other child under ten at our service), another family with three little ones showed up and sat down beside me. So I was completely surrounded by kids, and didn't have my own to cuddle. I felt all left out. Which is completely bizarre, I know.

It's even worse when I go out shopping, which usually happens during Gramma Time. I'll inevitably end up at Babies R Us or the Wal-Mart baby section, perusing the goods and wondering what Gwen "needs". And there will inevitably be other moms and dads and even grammas there with their own wee ones, and I'll smile dotingly at them, and maybe even ask "How old?", and then realize that my mommycred in the form of my own adorable baby is absent, and so I just look like a weirdo. A mamawannabe.

Maybe my own identity has been so swallowed up by the identity of Gwen's Mom that I don't know who I am, or how others view me, when I don't have her there to instantly serve as my introduction. Moms meeting in public places strike up conversations quite easily, and without my Gwen I don't have the "in" to join the discussion, because who am I if I'm not carrying a baby?

Being a mom is really weird sometimes.

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