Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Morning Smiles

Feeling good today.

The sun is shining, and it seems that Chris's Cold has not, for me at least, developed into a full-blown (no pun intended) mucus festival.

Chris got up with Gwen this morning so I got to sleep in.

Gwen is sleeping SO well. Maybe it's only because she's a little sick, but my goodness. That child can sleep like a champ when she puts her mind to it!

Also because she's a little sick, she's a little bit more cuddly than normal. On a typical day we are lucky if she will consent to sit still in our arms for a maximum of five seconds - usually right before we put her to bed. The rest of the time it's "Get lost Mom, I've got places to go!" Yesterday she let me cuddle her for a whole minute which in Gwen-time is like an hour. It was so nice!

After a slew of busy weekends, we are planning a relaxing couple of days, with the only two outside commitments being church tomorrow morning and the pickup of a steam cleaner from Chris's parents. (TMI WARNING: BODILY FLUIDS AHEAD.) Why the steam cleaner? Because last night, as I was about to leave for a girls' night out, Gwen vomited all over her pajamas, her father, and her bedroom floor. Not spat up, but vomited. There were chunks of carrot in it. That she had for lunch four hours earlier.

Not sure why that happened, but, um, it sucked. Especially, I imagine, for Chris, who looked like he was wearing a vomit sash. I cleaned up Gwen and changed her pajamas while he changed his clothes and dealt with the carpet. Gwen seemed nonplussed by the whole thing, not crying or upset in the least - and surprisingly, she slept for over eight hours immediately after. We figured she'd be hungry after emptying her stomach, but apparently not.

Anyway, she seems fine today - which is to say she's still a little snot factory, but no signs of vomiting, diarrhea or fever. So *shrug* who knows what that was about?

Hope you're all having a good weekend, one leaning more towards the sunshine-and-sleep combination and away from the baby-vomit scenario.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Okay, we seem to have finally found something that works for getting Gwen to sleep - whether for naptimes, bedtimes, or after-3am-feeding-times. It's not easy for any of us, but it WORKS, and incredibly? It's so simple!

We put her in her crib and walk away. She cries (and sometimes screams), and then after a while she stops, lays down, and goes to sleep.

After spending nearly two hours trying to get her back to sleep at 4:30am, during which she screamed anyway, we finally threw up our hands at went back to bed, where we lay in the dark, listening to her cry, telling each other we weren't bad parents. Twenty minutes later, she went to sleep. Those 20 minutes weren't easy, but they were marginally easier than the 2 hours beforehand where we listened to her scream and we were standing up.

I can't believe after everything we've tried that all we needed to do was get lost and let her do it herself. I can't believe that after all this time we just needed to do what we started out doing in the first place. Hello! We are first-time parents, please ridicule gently.

Cold news

Bad news: After fending it off for about a week, I have finally caught Chris's nasty cold - the one that has kept him working at home for the past 2-3 days. Blech.

Good news: I am going to officially say that Gwen is totally weaned, so bring on the cold medication.

Better news: It looks like Chris is going to work at home today and tomorrow as well, so I can have a bit of a break while my immune system recuperates.

Crappy news: I think Gwen has the cold too. Other than the Norovirus, which nobody realized she had at the time, this is her first real illness.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Does It Count?

Gwen is getting very enthusiastic about waving hello or goodbye. Last week, she dropped a toy off her change table and then waved goodbye to it, which I thought was awesome. On Saturday, she was waving goodbye at her grandpa who was going out to walk the dog. The four adults in the room, of course, were also waving giddily and saying "Bye bye! Bye bye!" Then Gwen said "bah-bah" as she waved. Does that count as her first word? Does she simply recognize that that's what you say when you're waving your hand around? Or is that kind of the definition of communication anyway?

On Monday night, Gwen sort of slept through the night. She cried for nearly an hour first, as Chris and I took turns sitting with her. She finally fell asleep at about 8pm. The next I heard from her was at 3:45am - she was whimpering in her sleep. The whimpering continued on and off until 5am (with me sleeping on and off during this time), at which point I finally got up and made her a bottle. When I went in her room, however, she didn't seem awake enough to pick up, so I just sat next to her crib and rubbed her back for ten minutes. Soon she fell into a deeper sleep, I crept out of the room, and she slept until 8:30am.

(A moment of glorious, reverential silence in recognition of the day Gwen let me sleep in until 8:30am. O my daughter, how I love thee!)

So, does that count as sleeping through the night? She did need a bit of assistance there at 5am, but she didn't feed during the night, and that's pretty cool.

(Similar thing happened last night: long crying session, good deep sleep, no night feeds. But got up at 6:30am, which wasn't quite as pleasant.)

I think Gwen is pretty much weaned. I know for certain I haven't stuck my boob in her mouth in over three days, and before that I can't even remember the last functional nursing session we had (as opposed to the usual "hey look, there's Mom's boob, what a PERFECT teething toy!"). I don't think she's been actually nursing for a week or so. Wow. As soon as I get some money, I'm going to go buy myself a pretty, lacy, NON-NURSING bra.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sleep Training, Part Two

It's been just over two weeks since I wrote Gwen that letter. Tonight, we started sleep training again, from square one. As I type, Chris is in Gwen's room, bending over her crib and rubbing her tummy as she screams inconsolably. I know because my 20-minute shift doing the same thing just ended.

On Saturday night, we hit rock bottom. We left Gwen with Chris's parents while we went out to the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival. This event is organized by a friend of ours and we never miss it - it's always a wonderful show. During the intermission - around 8pm - I called home to see how Gwen was doing. Much to my dismay, she was still awake (we usually put her to bed between 7 and 7:30). When we got home at about 10:30, we were grimly placing bets about whether she'd be in bed or not. She wasn't.

The story is, she went to bed at 8:30, then woke up about 10 minutes before we got home. Chris's parents had then brought her back downstairs - where the tv and all her toys are, and where the lights were on and there were people to socialize with - instead of leaving her in a dark quiet room and soothing/feeding her back to sleep. Not sure why they did that, but I kinda think that confused the hell out of poor Gwen, who must have concluded that it was time to wake up, and yet her body was so exhausted that she couldn't quite deal with that either. When we got home at 10:30, I quickly whisked her upstairs and gave her a bottle while Chris thanked his parents and bid them goodnight.

I fed her and rocked her. I shushed her and walked her. I sang, I snuggled, I even put her in the sling. Chris had his turn too, doing all the same things. We gave her Tylenol and gripe water. Nothing worked.

At midnight, we piled into the car and headed for the highway. We were completely out of ideas. At 12:45am, she finally fell asleep. By this time I was nearly asleep myself - I am usually in bed by 10. We drove back home, having made it more than halfway to Parksville, and performed the elaborate maneuvers necessary to get her out of the carseat and into the crib without waking her up. She slept with her coat on that night.

One might have hoped that having gotten to bed at 1am would mean she'd sleep in the next day - but she was up before 7am. Chris and I were zombies all day, and commented a few times that we weren't going out for another date until Gwen was in middle school.

I don't know why we're back at square one with her sleep training. I'm not sure how we're going to fix all this again. But I know that we have to, or none of us are going to survive.

She's starting to wind down now, only whimpering instead of shrieking. I wish I knew what was upsetting her so much. Five more minutes until my next shift starts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Reading List

I'm trying to update my blog for the new year (a little late, I know, but these things take time). As such, since the pregnancy, labour, and birth part of my motherhood experience is over, I moved the books relating to those subjects to an Archived Reading List and updated the one on the sidebar to include more books on parenting - both references and tales from the trenches. Here's the new list:

What to Expect the First Year – WTE When You’re Expecting is Evil Incarnate. However, WTETFY is a reference I find myself turning to again and again to check milestones, sleep issues, food ideas, and more. I like the format as it means I can just skim and easily find things that interest me and/or apply to Gwen.

The Happiest Baby on the Block – Invaluable resource about “the missing fourth trimester” and how to soothe your baby. This book, along with our Miracle Blanket, made Gwen’s first few months infinitely more livable. The writing style is a bit drab, and possibly sexist in places, but nevertheless the techniques work.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution – I found this a great source of information about how babies sleep (and wake) and how much sleep we should be aiming for at any given age. Lots of great techniques, and copy-able worksheets and sleep logs are included.

The Mommy Myth: How the Idealization of Motherhood has Undermined All Women – If you’ve ever wondered about the image of a mother with infinite patience and ability for self-sacrifice, who wants nothing more from life than to experience life through her children … or been downright irked about it … this is a fascinating book detailing where the myth came from, what purpose it serves, and how we can escape it. Of particular note is the section on Celebrity Motherhood.

Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood – Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth) takes on motherhood, especially the challenges and isolation of the postpartum period.

The Mask of Mother Hood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything, And Why We Pretend It Doesn't – The “mask” is the pretense that motherhood is not only easy but intrinsically rewarding, that we spend every hour of the day (and night) rejoicing in how delightfully “worth it” our little ones truly are. This book dares to confront the posturing and dig into how much mothers sacrifice for their children – and how little society acknowledges.

Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety – Why *are* we so driven to make sure our kids get in the right schools, the right daycare, the right Gymboree program? Why are we so desperately pushing them to learn reading, writing, and math before they even enter preschool? This book examines the differences between mothering now and mothering half a century ago.

Mothershock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It – Compares the transition from woman to mother to that of a traveler in a foreign country: except that as mothers, while dealing with a language barrier, unpredictable customs, and of course intense sleep deprivation, we are expected to be President of this new and bizarre territory. A very enjoyable collection of essays.

It's a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters – Parenting boys is a different experience from parenting girls, each with its unique challenges and rewards. This collection of essays looks at the particular issues we face as mothers of daughters and raises important questions about how to raise them in today’s world.

Sleep is For the Weak – A collection of the best of the mommybloggers. These essays will make you laugh, tear up, sigh in recognition, and above all, realize that you’re not alone.

Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child's Natural Abilities - From the Very Start - Written by Magda Gerber, founder of the RIE philosophy. This is an excellent, easy-to-read resource full of ideas about how to treat your baby/child with respect, encouraging him or her to develop at his/her own pace. A welcome change from the "teach your child to read by age two" mavens.

The Baby's Table - Baby Feeding for Dummies. This book has ensured that Gwen has a variety of healthy and fun food to eat. Without it, she'd probably still be eating limp reheated green beans three times a week. The book is actually fun to use and super informative.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Nine

Dear Gwen,
This month has been HUGE. The differences between eight-month-Gwen and nine-month-Gwen are, frankly, staggering. Let's have a look at the amazing things you can do these days.
- You can crawl, pull to standing, cruise (furniture-walk), and climb stairs (as well as anything else that gets in your path)
- You can finally, finally, finally sit: both on your bum, and in virasana or W-sit position
- You can clap and wave hello/goodbye
- You can mimic sounds, such as saying "ah ah ah" after you hear the dogs across the street barking, or screeching back at the noise box as it hoots and squeals
- You can comprehend a lot of our words: for example, sometimes I will ask you to clap (without demonstrating) and you will clap
- You can get into anything and everything, especially the most fragile and/or dangerous things, within seconds

These new developments are not without challenges. You seem to have difficulty distinguishing "mine" from "not mine" or "toys" from "deadly items". On your playmat surrounded by toys, you will still make a beeline for an unobtrusive piece of paper left lying on the couch, or the remote control on the shelf, or my book on the coffee table. Or you will shun the play area altogether and go entertain yourself in the entryway, a small enclosed area complete with a shelf to pull onto your head and a baseboard heater to burn your hands on. Another favourite spot for you is behind the door in your room, where we have one of these. I can remember being entertained by those at my Gran's house long ago, too, so I understand the appeal.

Another challenge this month has been your sleep. I think you are so very busy exploring and discovering your world that you have trouble winding down and relaxing to go to sleep. I'm like that, too, but I have the good graces not to spend my winding-down time screaming like a terrorized banshee. You might want to look into that. These days as soon as I put you down in your crib to sleep, you immediately stand up and start shrieking. Your dad seems to have the magic touch at getting you to relax and go to sleep, but he's not always home at naptime. Nighttime isn't getting any easier either. Sometimes after your night feeding you go back to sleep very easily; other times it takes nearly an hour. I am very, very ready for you to start sleeping through the night, but have no idea how to encourage you to do so.

One thing I will mention about your sleep is that we have entirely discontinued use of the Angelcare monitor. Originally we planned to use it until you were a year old, but after a full two weeks of really challenging sleep patterns that culminated in you being woken at 3am by yet another false alarm, I was done with it. It took us over 2 hours that night to get you back to sleep, and I was d*mn well not going to risk you waking up to the alarm again. So I didn't turn it on. And then ... we just continued not turning it on. It was much easier than I thought it would be, to stop using it. I guess now that I've seen you being so incredibly active and capable, it's just harder to imagine you passively ceasing to breathe.

Speaking of your activity level, whenever I take you to our Mother Goose classes or playdates or the Healthy Beginnings group or Strong Start, here is what happens. I put you down on the floor and take off your jacket. Then I take off my jacket. By the time I have done that, you are typically about 15 feet away. I crawl or walk over to where you are and make sure you are safe and not bothering anyone. Whoever is nearby will strike up a conversation with me, which I will give about 70% of my attention to for a maximum of 90 seconds, because by that time you are 15 feet away again in another direction. So off I go again. Yesterday at Strong Start I had about 25 different 90-second conversations with the other parents there. Inevitably, about half of these conversations include the other parent looking at me with a mixture of admiration, amazement, and pity, as they ask: "Is she always like this?" When I answer in the affirmative, their pity deepens and is joined by a slight hint of "thank God it's not me!". They don't usually know what to say, although I got a terrific response from our friend Carly yesterday, who said, "You're not having another one, are you?"

It must seem unbelievable to those who see you at these groups in this gigantic rooms that must! be! explored!, but when you are at home, you're a little bit clingy. I can't quite understand how you can quite happily tour the classroom for 60 minutes or more without any regard for whether I'm even there or not, but when we get back home, I can't take 30 seconds to prepare you a bottle without you whining and trying to climb the back of my legs. In any case, this passion for exploration - not only of the room and the toys but of the other adults, children, and babies - has me feeling that you are going to thrive in daycare.

With a fair bit of determination and effort on my part, you are eating more foods and more often. Feeding you is still not my favourite part of the day, but I'm doing it, and most of the time you seem to enjoy it. Your appetite is unpredictable: sometimes you will finish off nearly a whole cup of food, other times you will eat only a few bites and then lose interest. In any case, the habits are getting established, and I guess that's good. Best of all, despite Dr. Dave's predictions, you don't seem to have a problem with dairy. You have eaten yogurt and cheese without any adverse results, and next week we'll be trying cottage cheese. I'm quite relieved that I don't need to stress about how to raise a dairy-free child.

After watching how quickly you went from crawling (December 18th) to climbing (December 26th) to standing (January 1st), I have made the prediction that you will be walking by the end of February, when you will be just over 10 months old. This is a bold prediction as 10 months is pretty early for walking, but if you apply your usual attitude of determination and stubbornness, I know it will be no problem for you. Already in the past few days you have developed a new habit: you pull to standing at a piece of furniture, then delightedly let go. So far this has always resulted in you toppling over backwards like a tree (and so far, I've always been there to catch you, so you haven't gotten too annoyed about it). But you keep doing it. I am in awe at your perseverance.

I am happy to announce that at nine months old, you have finally doubled your birth weight and are just over 18 pounds. Supposedly, that little milestone was meant to happen around six months old. Oh well! I try not to get annoyed when strangers ask me, "Oh, how old is she? Five, six months?" Of course, we only get that question when you are in my arms or a stroller - if they saw you crawling and climbing and cruising, certainly they would re-evaluate their guesses. You are also still a very tall baby. We had you stand at the growth chart on the wall for the first time the other day. You are nearly 30 inches tall. In only five more inches, you will no longer be able to sleep in your crib, for your own safety. I refuse to think about what life will be like when you no longer sleep in baby jail, and am hoping it takes you a VERY long time to grow that next five inches.

So, that's what life is like for you these days, Gwen. Your personality is emerging, and it's one of passion and determination. Though that presents some challenges, I can respect it, because I am the same way. This is a really fun age, and you are a very delightful little girl. We are enjoying you a lot and are so glad to be your parents.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Work, That is to Say, the Kind With Money

Recently I met a woman who described her days of paid employment before becoming a mother as "the time when I only worked eight hours a day".

A-freakin'-men. I think this is the best solution I've found to the problem of differentiating employed moms vs. stay-at-home moms, since we can't say "working" moms, because EVERY mom is a working mom, we work our butts off every damn day and all night too! "Stay at home" really does sound like you're just sitting around, and I'll be the first to admit that my day does include a hefty dose of doing just that, but it's not the sitting around of my carefree youth.

What you don't understand until you are in charge of a tiny and ignorant person is that you spend every minute of every day - the full twenty-four hours - with the well-being, safety, and volatile mood of another person constantly at the forefront of your mind. There's no "off" time. It's incredibly draining, even if to the outside world it looks as if all you did was sit and watch the baby play for an hour.

I've often heard about how distracted mothers are, how it's impossible to finish a conversation with one. I'm living that stereotype right now, now that Gwen is mobile. Yesterday at Mother Goose I had to excuse myself in the middle of the other person's sentence to rush across the room and prevent Gwen from knocking over a cup of coffee. Fortunately, the other person was a mom too, and she understood completely. Also fortunately, she shook her head in disbelief that someone had brought a hot beverage into a baby class. (That woman's child is only a couple of months old, and lays peacefully on the mat through the entire class. Someday, though, she'll understand.)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to announce that my return to work paid employment has been set for April 27th. Much to my dismay, I have not been able to find a workable part-time option, but I am optimistic about taking Janice's advice of using 1-2 vacation days per month to get an extra day a week with Gwen. That along with my 2 flex days a month ought to make me feel like I'm working part-time, even though I'm not.

I called the daycare I want to use a couple of days ago to find out what their waitlist situation is. I filled out an application and a deposit cheque back in July, so I really see no reason why Gwen should not be accepted, but I want to get the details worked out in plenty of time. And really, April 27th doesn't feel like it's "plenty of time" away. If I want to do any kind of gradual transition into daycare, such as leaving her for only half-days for the first week or something, I need to get on that. So I am. Except Daycare isn't returning my call. Angst and woe.

I have mixed feelings about returning to my job. I know I'd lose my mind if I were to stay home with Gwen full-time. I recognize that there are people who enjoy spending all of their time with children, and other people - like me - who don't. I recklessly assume that workers at a child care centre are the former, and I'm happy to hand my daughter over to them; though I'll admit I struggle with feeling like I should crave her company all day every day. I'm also excited for Gwen to have more stimulation, more attention, more social opportunities, and more activities than she gets at home. However, I have fears about how rushed I will feel. Right now the dishes, laundry, and meal preparation only happen because I do them during Gwen's naptimes. What happens when I'm at work? I worry about how that very brief time between end of work and Gwen's bedtime will look, and how much has to be packed into it (not only the necessary chores, but any semblance of quality family time as well). I feel sad when I think about all the things I won't be teaching Gwen: that grass is green and that both of those things start with G just like her name.

On the other hand, I have noticed a tendency in myself to look at Gwen as if she is my job. I notice this when I have the opportunity to go out and do non-Gwen-related things and leave her at home with her dad: I feel guilty, like I am slacking off on my job and leaving it for someone else to do. I know that's not the case: Chris and I are parents and it is a job we share. But I am the one who has taken a year off work (while Chris is still working full time) in order to take care of Gwen. Surely, then, Gwen is my job and it is justified that she demands so much of my time...? Now that I see this tendency I am almost looking forward to having a paid job, so that I can work on seeing Chris and I as equal parents, and Gwen as a family member, not merely a job. Not to mention seeing myself as a full person, not just a parent.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Floor Nap

A few days before we hit absolutely rock bottom with Gwen's failure to nap, I was once again trying to soothe her to sleep in her room, about an hour and a half past her normal naptime. She was completely overtired, crying and shrieking, but she would not settle down. I had put her down, walked away, and come back to pick her up probably about a dozen times.

Finally, at the end of my rope, I picked up the exhausted, weeping child and held her as I lay down on her bedroom floor. I positioned the two of us so that I could nurse, and as I rubbed her back and whispered "shhhh" she finally started to calm down. After a few minutes she drifted off to sleep, her head resting on my arm. I reached the other arm up as far as it could go and managed to snag a pile of cloth diapers from the change table to create a makeshift pillow for myself.

I lay there next to my sleeping child, stroking her soft downy hair, feeling the tickle of her breath on my arm. I watched her chest rise and fall and gloried in the chub of her cheeks and the pout of her lips. I rarely have the opportunity to appreciate Gwen in this way: she is never still, always a bundle of energy, not one for cuddling but quick to squirm and twist her way out of my arms to go find something to explore.

Right now as you read this, you think you know how the story's going to end. You want to hear that I lay there on the floor with her in absolute bliss for an hour or more, so grateful that she was finally able to sleep, and maybe even getting a few winks myself. You want to hear that I revelled in the chance to be still with her, to cuddle like we did when she was tiny, to stroke her velvet skin and silken hair. You want to hear how I used the time to reflect on how fast she was growing, understanding that I would spend years yearning for precious moments like this where time seemed to stand still.

I want the story to end that way, too.

But it didn't.

Instead, I lay there for 15 minutes and then, when I felt she was truly asleep, I slowly and painstakingly worked my arm free from under her head. I oh-so-quietly placed a few pillows around her so that if she rolled over in her sleep, she wouldn't bump into the legs of her crib. And then I stealthily crept out of the room.

I forget what I did next. Can't remember what it was that seemed so important to pull me out of that moment and back into the real world: dishes? laundry? the book I was reading? maybe just the thrilling promise of some time to myself, to fill with whatever I chose. What I do remember is that it was only a few brief moments before I heard a bump from upstairs and discovered that she'd woken up and was now crawling around the room. She must have woken up nearly as soon as I'd left.

I thought I was writing this post to explain what a bad mother I am, to point out yet one more way in which I failed my child by being too impatient to put my own life on hold just to support her need to nap. But as I reflect on the incident, I'm given a new insight. I fill my day with stimulation and accomplishments, never satisfied with sitting still and "doing nothing". Is it a coincidence that Gwen spends her every waking moment seeking out activity and excitement?

So perhaps I'm not such a bad mother after all. Busy, yes - my personality demands it. And Gwen's does too. In future years, we'll probably enjoy being very busy together. And in the meantime, perhaps I'll be a little bit more understanding of her inability to settle down, stop squirming, and give me a hug. After all, she comes by it honestly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In retrospect, it seems silly to have buried the news that GWEN CAN SIT way at the bottom of the post

Holy crap. I've been busy as hell, obviously, and haven't had any time to update. Weirdly, not much of what I've been up to has to do with Gwen.

On Thursday night, I went to WordStorm. I was invited by a mommyfriend, Adrienne, whose adorable son Lucas was born the same day as Gwen. She and I have thus seen each other at many baby-related events and gradually got to know one another. A few weeks ago, I gave her my contact card, primarily so she could find me on Facebook. The card also has this blog's address on it, and the next time she saw me she told me she'd found the blog, read some archives, and was blown away by my writing and ALSO super gratified to read that I'd had a hard time with many of the stages she'd had a hard time with. That made me feel really good because that is EXACTLY why I write: so someone out there will feel less alone. Also, she happens to be a Journalism and Women's Studies major, so this marks the first time someone who Knows Of What They Speak has complimented my blog writing. Wow. That made my day!

Anyway, Adrienne brought me along to WordStorm, which is a spoken word event held once a month in Nanaimo. It's kind of like an open mic for writers, and they even compete for cash prizes. I had SO much fun. I have always believed that I disliked poetry, but it turns out that I like poetry when it's read out loud to me by the person who wrote it. And Adrienne introduced me to one of her friends as "a writer". OMG.

Then on Friday, I went out to a Girls' Night with some of my mommyfriends. It was glorious. We had a spa party: soaked our feet, dabbed on facial cream, and ate way too many Nanaimo bars. And talked talked talked talked talked. I love my friends so much: sometimes it almost feels like I am closer to them than I am to my husband right now. I guess because ultimately, my day-to-day life is a lot more like theirs than it is like his.

On Saturday evening we all went out to a local SCA event where I got to juggle the fun of sitting at the head table with a baby and Royalty. It was about as challenging as you'd expect, but I did manage to enjoy myself. Chris took Gwen home near the end of the feast, but because I am president of our local SCA group I had to stay to the bitter end (which was 1am).

If you're following along you will notice right about now that I was out three nights in a row without Gwen, while Chris was on full-time Dad duty. Impressive, yes?

Sunday was jam-packed with shopping and prepping and cooking for Operation Feed Mah Baby and, simultaneously, The Buechler Initiative (eating healthy meals, together, at a reasonable hour). I don't think I got a moment to myself until 4pm that afternoon. And then that evening, I got a call from my church asking if I would let my name stand for church council. After talking it over with Chris, I've decided to say yes. Our much-beloved pastor is leaving, and I can see no better way to ensure that things don't fall apart during the transition than to help be part of the solution. I help out a lot at church already so in a way this is a recognition of that. I'm a little nervous about the length of the term - three years - but I know if it's impossible I will be able to resign early.

Other news (in bullet form, since this post is getting lengthy):
- Gwen is starting to sit. I've even seen her get into the sitting position on her own a couple of times. YAY.
- She can also do virasana, aka W-sitting.
- I have started talking to my boss about returning to work. The news is better than I'd expected. I still have fears about how I am going to fit everything in, but I know that millions of other women have figured this out and I will too. This week's plan is to confirm daycare (wish me luck).
- Gwen's Uncle Mikey, my best friend, bought us "No!" for Christmas. The songs are awesome - way better than The Wiggles - but they are still stuck in my head all. The. Time. (Robot parade ... robot parade... AAHHHHH!!!)
- Gwen and I went to Strong Start yesterday, which was great fun. I think we will be going again, often. I only didn't go today because I thought I'd look like a loser with no life if I showed up two days in a row.
- The weather is improving, THANK GOD. The past two days, I have been able to get out for walks with Gwen. I even saw a robin yesterday. Spring WILL come again!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Operation: Feed Mah Baby

So, while we were visiting family over the holidays, my sister staged a little intervention (not like this one, though) to convince me that I need to feed Gwen more. Not more formula, more food. Yes folks, Gwen is nearly nine months old and her entire solid food intake was in one meal a day and consisted of a tablespoon or two of rice cereal along with maybe a tablespoon of limp (cooked, frozen, reheated) vegetables.

But in my defense, it's really hard to know what a baby should be eating. Every source out there is full of disclaimers about how different every baby is, and how it's really hard to quantify their appetites and how the MOST important thing is for them to enjoy the experience, not for a parent to be stuffing more food than they want down their tiny throats. And then there is that whole notion that kids don't really need solids for nutrition until they're over a year, so I was not getting too fussed about the fact that Gwen only got one solid meal a day.

(Um, that is, most days she got one solid meal. Sometimes she got none. Okay, maybe we did need that intervention.)

Feeding Gwen solid foods has been a challenge for a few different reasons, but before I get into that let me praise her for the one thing that has not been a challenge: she enjoys eating and has understood from day one (well, day 174) the mechanisms needed to do so. She never tried to nurse from the spoon, she never spat her food at me, and though she has made a stunning variety of amusing faces upon trying a new food, she has always been eager for a second bite. So that part works well. Now let me tell you the parts that don't.

1. I am terrified of Gwen choking. This probably needs no further explanation. Yes, I've taken the infant first aid class, but no, that doesn't mean I feel confident about putting those theoretical skills into practice. Anything that is big enough for her to pick up and maneuver into her mouth is big enough for her to choke on. So fingerfoods are out. When I feed her things that are supposed to be fingerfood, like O*s, I break them into like four pieces. I have a problem.

(Wasn't that awesome how I said that needed no further explanation, and then I explained it? Am excellent writer! Publishers, plz send book deal immediately!)

2. I hate dealing with the mess. If Gwen is eating cereal or any other non-fingerfed substance, it ends up all over her face, her hands, her hair, and so on. I've watched my friend Jessica feed her daughter Brenna a container of applesauce: Brenna sat calmly on the floor of my living room while Jessica spooned the sauce into her mouth. That is not how things go with Gwen. There's a reason that we go directly from high chair to bath tub in the evenings. And since I don't want to give Gwen more than one bath a day, that means I don't want to feed her more than one messy substance a day either.

3. I hate dealing with the tedium. Since she can't finger feed herself (since anything big enough for her to manage would choke her: see Item 1), it means I am feeding her. Which I find really dull. Dull enough not to even talk about it.

4. She has never given me a clear hunger signal in her life. Remember when she was a tiny baby, and would rather sleep for six hours than wake up to nurse, even though she was starving and losing weight like crazy? Yeah, we've never gotten this whole hunger cue thing figured out. On most lists of "ready for solid foods" indicators, "has a different cry to signal hunger" is number two. Number one is the ability to sit unassisted. Excuse me, waiter, but there seems to be some FAIL in my soup.

5. I don't know what the hell to feed her. Some sources say just give 'em whatever you're eating. Others say you should introduce foods one at a time to make sure that if there's a reaction, you know what foods to eliminate. Some sources say you shouldn't cater to a sweet tooth by, for example, mixing fruit into their cereal, because then they will never want to eat bland foods (such as plain yogurt or whole grain bread). Other sources say you should feed them lots and lots of different flavours because otherwise you'll end up with a three-year-old who will only eat mac'n'cheese. All this conflicting information is almost enough to make me long for the simple, halcyon days of the Exclusive Breastfeeding Reich. (Almost.)

6. I'm really picky about what not to give her. I don't think there's any reason for her to have sugar until her first birthday cake. There's no reason to have processed foods in general, I guess. There's also a slight concern about a possible dairy allergy/sensitivity.

So, we've eliminated processed foods, dairy, sugar, finger foods, and messy foods. What's left? A tablespoon of limp (cooked, frozen, reheated) vegetables. YUMM.

Well, sarapants staged the intervention, and stood by while I wrung my hands and fed Gwen progressively larger pieces of O*s. Gwen continued to survive, and I gradually calmed down. And then Sara gave me a book called The Baby's Table and told me I would find all my answers in there.

In the week since then, I have been making a good effort to feed Gwen solids more than once a day. We've settled into a bit of a routine, where if I am preparing a meal for myself I will prepare one for her too. It's actually made things a bit easier, because I don't have to worry about keeping her entertained while I try to grab something to eat; instead, we eat together. I'm still not 100% satisfied with the content of her meals, but at least the frequency is on the rise.

I've also done some research: read The Baby's Table and found a neat website that is loaded with recipes and information. It was here that I was able to get an idea, at last, of how much a nine-month-old baby should be eating. The answer? Oh, about five or six times as much as I'm feeding her. Yeah, I've got some work to do.

My work starts in earnest tomorrow, for tomorrow my spud order arrives with fresh organic fruits and veggies chosen specifically for recipes in The Baby's Table. In the next couple of days, in amongst everything else I'm doing, I'll be prepping a few new dishes for Gwen to try - actual meals, instead of plain limp vegetables. How exciting! I hope she's hungry. Of course, if she is, I'd be the last to know.

*They're not Cheerios. They're not even Nutreeos. They're Barbara's Bakery Organic Breakfast Os sweetened with natural fruit juices and made with organic oats and corn. I can't even think of a way to make fun of myself as much as I obviously deserve.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Adventures in Consignment

Many months ago, I became a consignor at a children's consignment store here in Nanaimo. I figured it was a good solution for Gwen's outgrown stuff: I could drop it off at the store, they could either sell it or donate it to a women's safe house, and I'd get a bit of money out of it without doing a lot of work.

The first time I went there post-drop-off, I learned I had a credit of $12. I spent this credit buying a snazzy new onesie for baby Ira. This made me happy.

That was the first, last, and only time this consigning thing worked out.

The next time I went to the store, it was some months later. I arrived at 9:52 and the store wasn't set to open until 10am. I sat in the parking lot and waited. At 10:05 I hadn't seen any signs of life. I went and tried the door, which was locked. I used my cell to call the store. No answer. Unimpressed, and well aware of my Gramma Time minutes ticking away, I went on with the other business of my day. An hour or so later, having finished everything else on my list, I drove back to that particular end of town for a second try. Hooray! They were now open.
I hauled my big bag o' outgrown items into the store and set it near the desk. The clerk, a teenage girl, informed me that "ACTUALLY? We only take items on Tuesdays and Thursdays." I blinked. How was I supposed to know that? There was no sign on the door, I had received no phone call. And ACTUALLY? I'd already made two trips to her store, I wasn't about to make a third. "Do you want the stuff or not?" I asked. She continued to treat me rudely for a few more minutes, and I was ready to leave, but she finally decided she would deign to put a label on my bag.

Over the holidays, I sorted out a lot more of Gwen's stuff, and passed much of it on to friends of friends who are having babies this year. But there was still more, and I put together another bag of stuff for the consignment store. Today being Gramma Time, I once again headed downtown to drop it off.
I arrived at the store to find the windows papered over and this sign on the door:

In a different time, I would have screamed and raged and written letters and demanded my money. I have dropped off probably $200 worth of stuff and all I ever got for it was $12 and a ridiculous dose of attitude. That's ... kind of like stealing, isn't it?
But there's no point in getting all het up about it. The people who ran the store, based on above evidence, are not only unhelpful and ignorant but also ineffective (how smart do you have to be to make the only children's consignment store in town a success?) and yelling at people like that is pointless. So I will wave goodbye to all my money and tell myself that they probably donated all the stuff to the safe house before collapsing. Then at least I can feel like I gave to a good cause, instead of feeling like I was ripped off.

The day was not over, however. I still had a bag of stuff in my car, and there was more to my mission: I was searching for a particular item for Gwen. I wanted to buy at the consignment store if possible because (a) it would be cheaper, especially if I had a credit; and (b) it's better for the environment to buy re-used goods if you can. As previously mentioned, there is no other children's consignment store in Nanaimo, but I knew there was one in Ladysmith - 25 minutes away. So off to Ladysmith I went.

I arrived and set up a consignor's account. If I'd thought more clearly about how badly my experience with consignment has been thus far, I may not have bothered. But at the same time, I still don't feel like selling the stuff myself, and if it ends up being donated to a local charity with no $$ in my pocket then no harm done, right? Then I set about exploring the store. I was looking for one thing in particular.

Gwen got a LOT of toys for Christmas. She wasn't really too short on toys to begin with, actually. I took a picture of her toy box on December 24th, knowing it was the last time all her toys would fit inside.

And here is what her play area looks like now.

This isn't working well for any of us. The mess drives me crazy, and I think having so many toys scattered around just overwhelms Gwen anyway. I wanted to get something like this for her, so we could take out 1-2 bins' worth of toys per day, then put them away and use different toys the next day, so she's always got something new to explore.

Well, the consignment store didn't have anything like that. But what they did have was the Vintage Fisher Price Record Player. My parents still have the one from when I was a kid, and it still works, because toys were built like that back then. The record player works exactly like a music box: the 'records' have pokey bits on them that pluck the tines of the music mechanism in the 'needle'. It doesn't take batteries, but it takes ingenuity: to get to work, a child needs to place the record properly, wind it up but not too much!, place the needle, and then turn the switch on. My nephew Andrew has mastered these skills and the sequencing, and he really enjoys playing with the record player when he's at Granny & Grandpa's. The adults get a kick out of the fact that it's the only record player kids his age will ever see. And tweens are confused because they can't figure out how to plug their iPods into it, or where the CDs are supposed to go.
Anyway. I love this thing. I think it is kitschy and cool and brilliant and I was so surprised to see it tucked away on an upper shelf in the consignment store that I had to grab it. Had to. Did. $14.99.

I continued prowling around, ostensibly looking for windup toys. My next treasure was the Tupperware Shape Sorter Toy. I had wanted to buy one of these for Gwen for Christmas, but balked when I learned they sold for $39. This one, however, was $11.99. Sold!

Just as I was leaving, a cute little stuffed dog caught my eye. It looked vaguely educational and quite interesting. It was also priced at $3.99. Sold! It turned out to be the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Puppy, and Gwen LOVES IT. She was completely entranced with it nearly all afternoon. For a talking toy, I quite like it, too. The different body parts all have a few different songs and rhymes when pressed, so you're not hearing the same five sound bytes five hundred times in a row. The songs are quite good, too. Awesome buy for four measly bucks!
The terrific irony, of course, is that I went shopping to address the fact that Gwen has too many toys, and instead of a storage solution I came home with three more toys. Explaining that to Chris was fun. But seriously, how could I pass up these deals?!
Obviously, I need to stay away from shopping altogether.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No Naps, and Also No Sitting, But We're All Still Alive

I am so grateful for the responses I received to my anguish-filled post on the weekend. I guess the rewards of motherhood sometimes come from people other than your child.

It was very irresponsible of me to then not update for two days, perhaps leaving you all to believe that either Gwen or I met with an untimely end. This is not the case - we are both still alive, and in fact, even having some good times together. But for the past two days, I have done absolutely nothing to encourage Gwen to nap. All the fight has gone out of me for the time being. And because I am not spending upwards of three hours a day fighting with her to get her to sleep, we're both in better moods. On the other hand, it also means that she has slept 40 minutes on each of those days, so I haven't had time for things like this blog. Or, say, an entire uninterrupted thought. But whatever.

This afternoon as I was feeding Gwen some lunch in her high chair, she actually started to nod off. It was both hilarious and sad. Sad because I felt sorry for her, to be so damned tired that she was nearly falling asleep in the middle of a meal, in an uncomfortable position. Immediately, I weighed the options. I could let her fall asleep in the high chair and take funny pictures of her to post on my blog. Or I could take her upstairs and put her in the crib so she had a chance of a decent nap.

I took her upstairs. I'm not an uncaring mommy, just a tired one.

Anyway, we figure what is going on with Gwen is that something - teeth? tummy trouble? constipation? - is causing her enough pain that she cannot get to sleep unless she's completely exhausted. This theory is borne out by the fact that she pulled the same falling-asleep-in-the-highchair trick with her dad tonight over dinner. Her usual bedtime - the one we aim for, though she doesn't always play along - is 7pm. Tonight she was in her crib and dead asleep by 6:10pm.

In other news, I took Gwen to the chiropractor today to follow up and make sure the treatments she had in September are still effective post-crawling. Dr. Dave reports that while there is nothing at all wrong with her chiropractically speaking, he is concerned about her failure and/or disinterest in sitting. "Sitting unassisted for brief periods" is a six-month milestone - Gwen is going on nine months and doesn't sit at all, assisted or not.

I have mentioned this to various friends and family members in the past, and the response I usually get is , "Oh well, why would she want to sit, she's got places to go!" Which is true, she is a busy girl. But there's a difference between "cannot sit" and "cannot sit still". The inability to sit does impact her life: for example, she has to use a bath seat in the big tub, which reduces both her freedom to enjoy her bath and my ability to clean her effectively. Furthermore, because she can't or won't sit on my lap to eat finger foods, the only place I can feed her is a high chair - which greatly limits our ability to feed her at places other than our home.

Dr. Dave stressed that I should not freak out about this, and in fact I am not. I am, if anything, pleased that someone believes this is worth following up on, and is pointing me in the right direction of how to do so. Stay tuned for further (equally fascinating) bulletins in this area.
This is Gwen's version of sitting. She's up on her hip, not on her bum.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dear Gwen: Special Edition

Dear Gwen,
I know, it's not even newsletter time. But we need to talk. Mostly, I need to talk.

Because I need to sleep.

Before you came along, I felt mildly apprehensive about the lack of sleep I knew I'd experience as a new parent. But I had no idea what you had in store for me. I like getting my 8 hours a night, but I can get by on less. Six is entirely passable. This was before I understood the vast difference between six hours of sleep in a row and six hours of sleep spread over eight or ten hours. Not all sleep is created equal, I guess.

My next terrible misconception is that things would get better after three months. They didn't. Like, at all. And when we finally decided to do sleep training at seven months, I seemed to have this expectation that since you went to sleep in 14 minutes the first night, you would take 13 minutes the second night, 12 minutes the third night, and so on until about 2 weeks later when you would just fall asleep mere seconds after I lay you, sweetly smiling, in the crib. And, you know, that you would just continue to do that every night (and nap) from then until you moved out. Yeah, NO.

So now you are 8.5 months old, very active and intelligent, and we are back at square one with your sleep. The fact that you can now pull to standing means that you are no longer safe to just "cry it out" in your crib, since the ability to stand brings the likelihood of falling, and since you haven't figured out that you need to lie down to go to sleep. Nor have you figured out how to get down from a standing position, since we're on the subject, so even if you were ready to lie down, you couldn't. This means our nighttime and naptime routine now includes the following:

- I lay you in your crib
- You stand up in your crib
- I pick you up and lay you down again
- You stand up again, with increasing agitation

Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you are hysterical and cannot possibly hope to sleep. What are you gaining from this experience?

I'd be perfectly happy to give up on the nap altogether, since you seem so opposed to it, but this doesn't please you either. Instead, you become the Whiniest Babe in All The Land, determined to destroy my will to live with your endless whimpering. WHAT DO YOU WANT? You don't want to nurse, you don't want to play, you don't want to cuddle, you don't want to sleep ... is whining just an end in itself for you? Because if so, we may need to review our Parent-Child Contract. And our tenancy agreement. Soundproofing, for example, may be in order.

Yesterday I thought the problem might be teething, so I even broke down and gave you Tylenol before your nap. Made no difference. It took over 90 minutes to get you to go to sleep. And then you slept for an HOUR. Gwen, this is not a good situation for either of us. You need your sleep (you really do!), and I need time to myself. I count on your naps to allow me to get some housework done, as well as having a shred of personal time. Having that time is what allows me to regroup and continue to take care of you when you're awake. Just as you are not in a good mood when you give up sleep, I am not in a good mood when I give up that time. It really works better for both of us if we spend that time apart, both refueling in our own ways.

I got to a very dark place last night, Gwen. It was 3:30am and you'd been awake for over an hour. I'd only slept for about two hours before you woke me. I had tried everything I knew how to do to get you back to sleep, but nothing worked. Over and over again I calmed you down, lay you in your crib, and enjoyed the two seconds of silence before your wails pierced the night again. Your dad, who was supposed to be up for the day in only another 90 minutes, finally had to spend another half an hour soothing you before he finally succeeded in getting you to sleep.

As I lay in bed, wide awake, listening to him walk across the floor with you, I started to ask myself some serious questions. I wondered if I was really cut out for this motherhood business anyway. After all, shouldn't I be able to put my own child to sleep? Or, failing that, be capable of the self-sacrifice needed to sit up with you all night and be cheerful about it? I wasn't able to do either of these things. Instead, I lay in bed and wished that you had never been born. I wondered if I was the only mother to ever question herself in this way.

Please don't believe that I would do anything to hurt you, Gwen, because I wouldn't. And the question of whether I am cut out to be a mother is obviously a moot one, since you are here now, not going anywhere, and I am a mother, ready or not. There's nothing anyone can do to change that. And I know that this stage won't last long, and that in years to come I will barely remember what it felt like to be so sleep-deprived that I imagined sneaking out to sleep in the car just so I couldn't hear your whining anymore. So sleep-deprived that I wished someone in this house was a drinker, so we could give you a slug of brandy.

I know the Rules of Mommyblogging demand that I end this post with the "it's all worth it!" disclaimer, maybe even throwing in "motherhood is SO rewarding!" for bonus points, but I don't feel that way today. I don't feel rewarded. I don't feel like it is all worth it. I feel like sometimes, it sucks. Sometimes, no matter how much I give and give and give, you treat me like crap and then scream in outrage about it. I feel like I am barely hanging on to my sanity, and I really don't like the feeling that I'm always one missed nap away from losing my mind - and yet, what alternative do I have?

Please, Gwen, I am doing my best. I'm still new at this, and I know I'm not perfect. Please, just meet me halfway. Allow me to take care of you, and then allow me the time to take care of myself. I promise I won't steer you astray. You're my daughter, and I love you, but I can't do this alone.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Stuff that's Working

I hesitate to call this post anything like "tips" or "advice" because everyone's experience is different. But I wanted to gather a few of the things that have worked for us in the past eight months, in case any readers out there see something that gets them thinking. - the organic, local grocery delivery service. I thought I could only get produce from Spud, but I was quite wrong. I can get nearly everything I used to get at the grocery store (one notable exception is baby formula). While it's true that the products themselves are slightly more expensive, being organic and all, I think I spend less on groceries now than I did when I went to the store, and here's why.

  • No impulse purchases (ie, "It's on sale! I'll buy twelve!")
  • No junk food purchases
  • I know exactly what my total will be before I check out, and if it's too much I can pare down

This also means I plan my menu more instead of approaching the grocery store with some haphazard idea of what I need, coming out with twenty things that don't add up to a single meal, and then throwing out half the stuff I buy. All that, PLUS it's good for the environment. The Spud website tells me every week how far my groceries will travel from the farm to my door, and compares it to the average distance from farm to big box grocery store (2600 km). I try to keep my total under 100km.

Add to that the convenience of not having to get to the grocery store with a baby in tow, and you've got a clear winner. - a DVD rental service that works through the mail. Chris and I turned to this about a year ago when we found that whenever we found the time to get to the video store, whatever we wanted wasn't available. We'd usually wander around the store all dazed for half an hour until finally grabbing something out of desperation, which inevitably turned out to be crap. lets you create an online list of all the movies you have any interest whatsoever in seeing. Then, depending on what membership you pay for (we have 3 rentals at a time), it sends you that many DVDs, based on the availability and the priority you assign. (When you make your list, it automatically assigns priorities based on the order in which you add the movies, but you can edit this if you want to.)

As soon as you watch a movie and send it back, another one gets shipped to you. There are no late fees because there's no return date. You always have good stuff to watch in your house. Shipping is free. You pay your monthly fee and can then rent movies as fast as you can watch them. Everyone wins.

This works especially well for us because we get most of our movie information from the 'net, so it's super easy to hop over to the Zip site and add something to our list. There are lots of older releases on our list that would never have drawn our attention at a video store, and also many obscure/foreign/documentary titles that a local store probably wouldn't even carry. And not having to go to the store, of course, appeals to our laziness.

Cloth diapers - surprisingly, after eight months of diapering I find I like cloth diapers better than disposable. I always knew I wanted to use cloth, purely for the environmental reasons. But since we use disposables when we travel, I've had ample opportunity to try both, and I can honestly say that for me, the fit, absorption, and ease of use for cloth is superior. Also, the cost can't be beat. There is a large outlay of cash at the beginning - I think I paid $200 for my starter kit - but if my calculations are correct, that's equal to about a 3-month supply of disposables, while the cloth diapers will last a couple of years.

Smaller loads of laundry - right after the cloth diapers, I have to comment on my new laundry philosophy. Giving credit where credit is due, this was my sister Sarapants' idea; in fact, I think our Mom suggested it to her. My previous methodology for laundry was as follows:

1. Wait until you have nothing to wear and/or laundry hamper is overflowing.
2. Spend an entire day/night washing, drying, folding, and putting away everything you own.
3. Repeat.

When you have a baby, especially a baby in cloth diapers, this just doesn't work anymore. We all know the laundry increases exponentially when a baby joins the family, but the bigger factor here is the extreme decrease in available time. I just can't spend an entire day and night doing laundry anymore. However, I do have smaller chunks of time throughout the day (naptime! Yay!). So I now do one small load of laundry pretty much every day. Either Gwen's diapers, or her clothes, or grownup darks, or grownup whites. It still irks my OCD to leave clothes in the hamper after sorting the laundry, but I press on, because it's much more likely that I'll have time to do that load the next day than that I'll succeed in getting two loads finished in one day.

Bathtime/bedtime routine with INSANE teamwork - pretty much every baby sleep book or website will tell you that you need to develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. Ours moves from dinner at 6, to a bath immediately after, then into pajamas, bottle feed, storytime, prayers, lullaby, and bed no later than 7pm. We work together on this every night, but switch off the jobs: basically, one person deals with Gwen while the other prepares the next task and then cleans up from the last one (ie, getting the bath ready then tidying up the highchair after Gwen's dinner).

It's gotten to the point where we barely need to communicate during this routine, since we both just work together so smoothly. The whole thing - from finishing the meal to getting Gwen into her crib - usually takes about 20 minutes, but during those 20 minutes we are both constantly in motion, focussing on the tasks at hand, working together and separately to ensure that Gwen has a smooth and enjoyable transition to bedtime. It's one of the few times that we spend all together as a family, all doing the same thing, and it's a task that I feel we definitely excel at as parents.

A simple addition to this plan, but one that makes a huge improvement to the rest of the evening, is that while I give Gwen her bottle, Chris goes downstairs and puts all her toys away. This means that when I finish getting her to bed and come to rejoin the adult world for some adult time, that world is CLEAN. And that makes a huge difference to my psyche.

Miracle Blanket - speaking of Gwen's sleep, there wouldn't have been any of that for the first seven months of her life if not for this blanket. They call it 'miracle' for a reason. We were pretty sure we'd be swaddling her until her first birthday, although she outgrew the leg pouch around 12 weeks and from then on we only swaddled her arms. However, once we did sleep training she seemed to suddenly lose her need for swaddling. Still probably the best $30 I've ever spent. - yup, still on the topic of Gwen's sleep. I don't think I had any clue, until becoming a parent, how sleep becomes the all-encompassing topic of constant conversation. There was a time, only a few weeks ago, when I could not answer a simple question like "How are you?" or "What's new?" without somehow referencing Gwen's sleep. It truly was the only factor that influenced my life, my sanity, and my mood. Or, for that matter, my will to live.

Anyway, the sleepsense program is the one that worked for us. Here's what I believe sleep training boils down to:

- Knowledge of how much sleep your baby needs; willingness to do what it takes to get him or her that sleep; and acceptance that to do so will almost definitely involve some tears
- Creating a solid bedtime (8pm at the latest), a good bedtime routine, and a night-waking strategy
- Put the baby in the crib awake; create the environment and opportunity for sleep, then let the baby choose how to respond

One of the things I felt made the Sleepsense program different from other books/websites/etc. is that it helps you formulate a specific, step-by-step plan for the bedtime routine, the naptime routine, and how you will deal with night wakings. It even goes so far as to provide forms for the parents to fill out and sign with the acknowledgement of the fact that "sticking to this plan consistently for at least 10 days will help my child learn to fall asleep." For me personally, having a document signed by both of us helped me not give in when I thought I couldn't stand it anymore.

I have never been more proud of Gwen than as I watched her learn to fall asleep somewhere other than my lap. And I'm infinitely glad that we dealt with this issue before she learned how to stand up in her crib. (More on that in another post.)

What's been working for YOU lately? Care to share?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trip to PR, and Happy New Year!

Hmm, didn't mean to disappear there! Sorry. It's been so long since I posted, I think I'd better just sum up.

We went to Powell River to visit my family last weekend! Gwen got to spend time with her grandparents, her auntie and cousins, and even her great grandparents.

She especially seemed to enjoy the bustle and activity of her big cousins, Andrew and Scotty. It won't be long till she's right in the centre of the action.

(Scott is blurry in this picture. This is an accurate portrayal of events.)

Gwen was pretty busy too. She can now crawl AND pull to standing AND immediately zero in on the most dangerous place to do either of these things! So she spent a lot of time here.

The trip home was INSANE. An earlier sailing was cancelled, which meant our afternoon was filled with fears about our own sailing being cancelled, combined with the knowledge that even if it wasn't, the boat would be crowded with all the people who'd planned to take that earlier boat. We spent over two hours in the ferry lineup! With Gwen! While the skies poured copious amounts of rain on us! Guess how fun that was!

(Hint: the answer is zero. Zero Fun!)

Once on the Island, we were greeted with flooded roads, blowing snow, and near-whiteout conditions. We drove the Island Highway from Comox to Nanaimo at 40 km/hour. It's usually a 60-90 minute trip. This night, it took us 2.5 hours. We got home shortly after 10pm, and Gwen kindly informed us that she'd gotten plenty of sleep on the drive, thank you, and would now like to stay up until midnight! That was mostly okay with us, frankly, since we were just so happy to be home safely.

So, that was our trip. We're now trying to get back to "normal" - whatever that is. Gwen's new mobility has made it a real challenge for me to find computer time, but I have a couple posts brewing that I hope to put together soon. In the meantime, I hope you are all having a wonderful New Year, and that you have something in your life that you enjoy as much as Gwen enjoys her applesauce.

Mom, that was quite a stretch. Do you really believe nobody will see through that bizarre segue to conclude that you would concoct any flimsy excuse to post a picture of me making a silly face?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I have another post in the works about where I've been for the past week, but it's full of photos and Blogger stubbornly refuses to upload them. So I'll do this post first instead!

I have a ridiculous amount of resolutions this year. Usually I only make one or maybe two. That's because my tiny brain can only focus on a few things at a time. This year, for some reason, I keep thinking of more things I "need" to fix or improve. Perhaps I am feeling a little bit out of control in my current life, and am overcorrecting a little? Let's not examine! On with the resolutions!

1. Get back to goal weight. (I probably could have gotten a lot more exercise this season if I'd had to deal with ONLY the baby OR the snow. Having to deal with both effectively killed any hope I had.)

2. Fix our family dinner situation. (We have been eating three separate meals at three separate times. This makes me crazy. We are on our way to fixing this!)

3. Feed my daughter more foods, more often. (This is also underway and is meeting with great success.)

4. Become a more responsible consumer. (To me this means that when I buy my daughter a toy or some clothes, I should be reasonably certain that said product was not made by children scarcely older than Gwen, working under slave labour conditions in a Third World Country.)

(Note: I have no idea how to accomplish this. There will probably be some learning involved.)

5. Say "please" more often.

6. Be less negative. (I don't know if you've noticed this? But I can be a bit of a party pooper. Sometimes my pragmatism gets the best of my whimsy. As evidence, I don't believe I've ever used the word "whimsy" before. Look out, 2009! I'm gonna be whimsying all over the place!)

I guess I could sum all of these up by saying that I want to set a better example for my daughter. I want her to be environmentally responsible, polite, kind, healthy, and, um, whimsical, so I have to learn how to be those things and then show her how. The one area where she sets a good example for me is in healthy eating. I make sure she gets veggies every day and doesn't eat junk food, and to this point she's had only a minute amount of sugar. I really noticed the disparity when we were sharing food over the weekend, and I was eating chips and sweets and feeding Gwen only veggies and whole grains. I thought, if there's no reason for her to eat this crap, there's no reason for me to eat it either. Flawless logic, but putting it into practice will be a challenge!

And now, since this blog is called Blogging for Two, this post just wouldn't be complete if I didn't include Gwen's resolutions. I'm pretty sure these are right.

1. Learn to walk. The parents may be all excited about me crawling, but I don't see them flopping around on a dusty floor all day. Walking on two feet is clearly where it's at.

2. Eat everything I can find. It's the only way to be sure.

3. Learn to talk. The parents can only be bent to my will if I clearly communicate what that will is.

4. After I learn to talk, I'm going to come up with a great comeback for the word "No". You bet I am!

5. Stop bonking my head so much. It frickin' hurts, and makes me look foolish. Can't dominate the world if I look like a dork!

6. Grow even cuter, to distract from my plan of world domination. Note: not sure if this is actually possible.

By the way, this is apparently National De-Lurking Week 2009, so leave me a comment! I'd love to know who's out there reading. Thanks!


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