This Tiny Spark

Growth and The New Year

I liked 2011.

I guess it’s easy to look back on a year and see all the bad spots, the times you wish you could’ve done better, or where you wish things had gone more your way. Heck, you could do that at the end of every day, if that’s how you wanted to live.

For me, 2011 was a year of growth. I watched Maya grow each day. Sometimes I think I actually SAW her grow, right there before my eyes, maybe a little bit taller or more clever or a bit less like the baby she was the day before. Early in the year we were given a big bag of handed-down clothes for Maya. I remember laughing as we held up the 2 year old clothes, trying to picture her fitting into them. Well now she does. And even when I try to fit her into a favourite shirt just one last time… there comes a day where it doesn’t fit anymore.

This was my first full year at being a mom. And I think I did a pretty good job for most of it. I learned a lot, about childcare, about family, about myself. I think I’ve cried more happy tears this year than I ever have, all brought on by beautiful moments with my little family. I feel more like ME than I ever have. It’s my first full year that I would call “depression-free”, which has allowed me to finally find the Me in there, behind the clouds of depression and tension of anxiety. And I like that Me.

Simon and I have grown closer through caring for our family, ourselves and each other. We’ve been together all year, in very close quarters, and I like him more each day. And I fall in love with him again every time I see him cuddle with Maya, or watch her excitement when he walks into the room. I am thankful to have such a caring, intelligent and hilarious man to wake up next to every morning. In 2012, we celebrate 10 years together!

I’m ready for the new year! My eyes and arms and heart are open.

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How to Buy Books for Children

Maya is a bookworm in every sense of the word. She devours books (sometimes by actually eating them). When she learned to give hugs a few weeks ago, she would only hug her books. To her, stuffed animals are seats for reading… why would she want to hug one?

You’ll know Maya wants you to read to her if you hear her yell “EHN!!!!” while throwing a book into your lap or face. And you have to read it. I made the rule that we have to read to Maya if she brings a book. I made this rule because I want her to love reading and books (she does). I did not make the rule to make us insane (it does).

Now you’re either shaking your head because “Who doesn’t want to read to their child?!” or you’re nodding along because your kids drive you nuts with books too.

Or I should say, it’s the BOOKS that drive you nuts. Why?

1. They are stupid. Sorry, but it’s true. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of kids’ books are boring and trite. I’ll be the first to say it… I hate Goodnight, Moon. Every time I read it to Maya, I find parts of it that drive me crazy. I love the idea of saying goodnight to the world, and I get that its a classic, but if you’ve read it a billion times, you’ll agree that it’s annoying. And don’t even get me started on Pet the Bunny. Creeeeeeepy.

2. The message is questionable. We have a book that I bought for a quarter before Maya was born, when I was getting all sentimental about what kind of mom I wanted to be. I decided to be the kind of mom that had a lot of books available for her kid. I should have been the kind of mom that pre-reads books before buying them. In the story, this fish has special shiny scales, but none of the other fish like him until he gives away all his scales. Moral: If you have something excellent, use it to make others like you. Hm.

3. The book is too big. My mom got Maya these excellent books with flaps and levers and pictures of real animals inside. They even rhyme! Maya is crazy about them, but we have to hide them and only bring them out sometimes. Why? The books are HUGE and awkward for Maya to haul around. She isn’t walking yet, so she has to crawl and push the book, and then try to hoist it into your lap. It pisses her off and gets her all screamy before you can even read page one. She loves crawling around the house with books, so it’s unfortunate that these are too big for her!

4. There are too many words on each page. Maya likes to read books a number of times in one sitting. The first time you can read it at normal speed. The second time, she wants to turn the pages. The third time, she wants to turn the pages at double-speed. And if you can’t keep up with reading the book, the plot jumps around and makes no sense (to you, she’s only looking at the pictures). So don’t buy those books that have more than a dozen words on a page because you will never have time to read them all!

Want to know the best kinds of books to buy?

Books that rhyme. When you get tired of reading them, you can rap them. Simon is the best at this, and can usually rap it to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme. These books are also easier to memorize if you want to “read” to your child while doing something else like trying to drink your tea.

Books that are funny. These are hard to find, and they won’t be funny forever, but it’s nice while it lasts!

Books with no words. It’s fun to make up a story, or just enjoy the illustrations. And your older child will enjoy making up stories of their own!

Books with hidden items or complex illustrations. I loved finding hidden things in books when I was a kid, and it’s still fun! It’s cool to find the little mouse (a popular choice) on each page, or to notice a detail you hadn’t seen before. Plus it’s a chance for your child to point out what’s interesting to them in the picture so you can chat about it.

Books you loved as a child. You probably already have it memorized, and your kids will love hearing about how you read the same book when you were their age. Plus I’ll bet your parents will laugh because they read you the very same book a dozen times a day.

What are your favourite kids’ books? What do your kids read?

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Equally Shared Parenting

Recently I watched a documentary called ‘The Evolution of Dad‘, which I highly recommend. The film follows a number of families that have more involved fathers than we’ve typically seen. There are stay-at-home dads who have been shunned from Mommy & Me groups, dads who sued their companies to get time for parental leave, and (what I found most intriguing) families doing Equally Shared Parenting. They had also written a book on the subject, and I found a copy at the library.

In Equally Shared Parenting (ESP), parents take equal shares of four domains: child-raising, bread-winning, household work, and free time. Want to see how the balance works in your family? There are worksheets you can print out on their website.

Simon and I have always aimed to divide up our work and family life as equally as possible. As I’ve mentioned before, he can do everything I do with Maya (except for breastfeed her!). Maya is happy with either of us and doesn’t seem to prefer one of us over the other. But we weren’t at the ESP level, either. Simon does most of the work, even though he works from home. I pick up a few jobs here and there, but the money-earning responsibilities are largely his. And in turn, I organize most of the household stuff. I know stuff like when Maya’s doctor appointment is, if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean, and what’s on the menu for dinner. This worked for us… for a while. But recently we’ve both been feeling worn out, disconnected and frustrated. It’s hard to be the one solely responsible for something, and it’s frustrating if your partner doesn’t understand what you do all day.

The changes we’ve made aren’t major. I’m going to take over some of Simon’s invoicing for his business, something he doesn’t like doing, but I am quite good at. He’s going to make dinner more often, and know what household stuff is going on. We stopped organizing chores based on who has always done them (for example: Simon – Taking out the trash, Me – Planning meals). And we are each going to make an effort to learn complex things that the other usually does (such as paying bills).

After a couple weeks of these changes, we already feel more relaxed. Simon no longer has to carry the weight of doing all the work, and still helping out with Maya. I don’t get burned out entertaining a toddler all day and my only break is a trip to the grocery store. Things are getting smoother, we both know what’s going on, and all of us are so much happier. We feel connected like we haven’t felt in years! Both of us are getting more free time (together and apart), and our house is clean. We are laughing more, Maya is sleeping better, everything is easier. I miss them when I go out and I love coming home again!

I think a major stumbling block of getting your partner more involved is giving up control. The dishwasher isn’t going to be loaded the exact way you like it… but who cares if the dishes are clean? And if you usually make a fancy meal, and your partner just boils macaroni… does it really matter? Believe me, that macaroni tastes pretty darn good if you didn’t have to make it! That said, if something is really important to you, make sure your partner knows.

Communication is key for this to work. We’ve struggled with communication over the years, as I’m sure many couples do. But for Equally Shared Parenting to work, you have to TALK. And you have to talk in a way that your partner can hear you and not feel attacked. It takes practice, and it isn’t easy. I really suggest reading books by John & Julie Gottman, or seeking couples therapy if this is a challenge for you. There is no shame in asking for help.

I will write more about ESP as we get more experience with it. But we are hooked! Let me know if you have questions and I will try to answer them.

How do you find balance in your relationship?

**Special thanks to Kat & Dan at Stone Photo for taking these amazing photos when Maya was 6 months old!**

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0 Cups of Tea

I don’t have a lot of vices, but I do like my caffeine! Coffee has always nauseated me, but I drink a lot of tea. Or… I used to.

All that changed when Maya was born. Actually it wasn’t TOO bad at first. Simon would make me a cup of tea, and I could sit and breastfeed and sip a hot beverage. But as Maya became more aware, she would flail her arms and legs in the direction of my tea. I couldn’t exactly hold a container of scalding hot liquid over her face any longer. So my tea would sit on the table… and go cold. I would still drink it, of course, but it wasn’t as delicious or satisfying.

Simon bought me a fancy mug for Christmas last year that keeps my tea hot ALL DAY… plus it has a lid so I wouldn’t spill it on the baby. The downside is that it is bright orange which we all know is the most attractive colour to infants. Or maybe they are inexplicably drawn to burn risks in the form of sugary Earl Grey. Either way, it became very hard to keep that mug away from Maya. But at least I wasn’t choking back cold tea during her naps anymore.

And then the memory loss set in. Well it’s hard to say if it’s memory loss or brain-overload, but I can’t seem to make myself a good cup of tea anymore. Most often I forget the tea bag is in there, steeping away to lethal tea-potency. I also frequently forget to add sugar, a problem that is much worse when my tea is over-steeped. The other day I forgot my tea was steeping… but I’d also forgotten to add the tea bag to the cup, so I was just letting a mug of hot water slowly go cold on the counter, and not really getting any closer to a tasty drink.

The only time I get a good cup of tea? When Simon makes it for me. Or when I buy a delicious Steeped Tea from the Tim Hortons. I imagine I can get a reliable delicious hot drink… in about 10 years… right around the time I teach Maya to make it for me!

When was the last time you had a hot drink? And how did you manage it?!

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Goodbye, Dreamfeed

When we did sleep training with Maya about 5 months ago (using The Sleep Easy Solution, in case you’re interested), I added in a dreamfeed to our nightly routine. That’s where you scoop an already asleep baby out of the crib and nurse her, in order to keep her from waking up hungry later in the night. And Maya’s been sleeping 12-13 hour nights without a peep (unless she’s sick or teething, of course), so I’d call it a success!

But now she’s 13.5 months, and she hasn’t seemed very hungry when I go in to nurse her before I go to bed around 11pm. For about a week now, I’ve been reducing the length of the dreamfeed by a minute each night. Last night, she barely nursed for a full minute before popping off and reaching toward her crib. So I think it was the last time!

It will be weird to not have to nurse her during the night. To find her awake and reaching for me. To miss out on those sleepy baby snuggles, her little head floppy on my shoulder as I place her back into her crib. It’s one more step toward her independence, and once again she’s ready for it before I am.

And yes, there will still be many many times that she will need me during the night: teething, nightmares, illness, growing pains… but it’s not the same. At some point you realize you’re holding a child, not a baby.

So Goodbye, Dreamfeed. And thanks for all the snuggles.

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My Babywearing Review

(All opinions are my own and I have not been paid or reimbursed in any way to promote these products)

Babywearing is a term used to describe someone carrying their baby using a sling, wrap or carrier. I am a huge fan of babywearing and I love talking to other parents about it! But something about babywearing make it overwhelming for the unitiated, so I thought I would share our experiences here. I haven’t had experience with all kinds of carriers, but these are the ones I’ve used!

Simon wearing 5 day old Maya in the Moby Wrap

Stretchy Wraps – When Maya was a newborn, we carried her often in the Moby Wrap. This stretchy wrap was really convenient because I could put it on, and then slip little Maya in. During her growth spurts, I would wear just the wrap, and tuck her against my skin so I could easily nurse her, and keep her calm. She would snooze all day in there! The Moby was also Simon’s first chance to ‘wear’ Maya and he was hooked instantly. When Maya was about a week old, Simon wore her out in the wrap. People were honking at him and waving from their cars… they were so excited to see a dad out with a baby on his chest. Very cool.

The downside of stretchy wraps is how short their usefulness lasts. Once Maya hit 15 pounds, it was impossible to keep her in the right position in the Moby. It kept stretching out of shape and putting a strain on my back. Stretchy wraps boast a maximum weight of 35 pounds, but I wouldn’t suggest it to someone once their baby hits 20 pounds (and sometimes even before that!)

Slings – A sling is usually a long tube of fabric that you fold up and throw over one shoulder. There are a number of baby slings on the market. Ours are all Hot Slings (Simon and I each have one, plus we have a fleece one for wintertime), and I would recommend them. We didn’t get much use out of them when Maya was little because she didn’t like lying down in a cradle hold in the sling. I’d all but given up on the slings, when a friend mentioned the hip carry. Instead of lying the child in the sling, you slip their bum and legs into it, and let them sit on your hip. It puts the weight on your opposite shoulder, and is very comfortable! It’s a great way to carry a child that can already sit on their own. Maya loves the view she gets from my hip! It’s also a great solution if you just need to pop into the store and don’t want to be lugging a huge baby around. Plus it frees up your hands.

Slings have had a lot of bad press the past few years. A few unsafe models were being sold, and babies could not breathe properly while lying in them. Always use your carrier safely, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and use common sense.

Wraps – The woven wrap is the epitome of babywearing. You know you’ve met a really hardcore babywearer when you see her and her child encased in a beautiful wrap that has been complexly tied around their bodies! I do have one of those beautiful wraps (a Storchenwiege), and I have worn it… a few times. It’s not hard to use, but it does take practice. I wish I had practiced with it more when Maya was little because she has no patience for it now! That said, there are tons of great ways to wear your baby with a woven wrap, and it can last from newborn through to toddler. I know lots of people who swear by these wraps and are pros at tying them. I just need to get more practice!

Simon with 4 month old Maya in the mei-tai

Soft-Structured Carriers – The SSCs have really become popular lately, and there are at least a dozen well-known brands that are readily available. I bought an Ergo when Maya was a couple of months old, and had limited success with it. It just didn’t seem to fit us correctly, and I couldn’t get it to be as comfortable as I’d hoped. We then switched to an Ellaroo Mei-Tai, which I love for its simplicity! I like that I can wear it, then pass it to Simon who just puts it right on. No adjusting of buckles or straps, just tie it on and go!

Lately I’ve fallen out of love with the mei-tai. Mostly because Maya is getting bigger (23 pounds) and goes through stages (or times of day) where she insists on being held. I love holding and snuggling her, but dinner doesn’t make itself. I have tried putting her in the mei-tai, but it is only comfortable for about 30 minutes since I can’t get it as tight with a big toddler in there.

So I’m looking into buying a Boba 3G which I’ve heard really great things about. I like that I will be able to use it with my big toddler… and with a newborn in a couple of years. A couple of friends have highly recommended it, so I think it’s time I took the plunge! I’ve been hesitating only because my local stores don’t carry that brand, so I need to have a friend ship it on to me here. I’m very excited to be able to wear Miss Grumpypants when she wants to be close, without having to constantly adjust the mei-tai.

How do you wear your baby? What are your favourite carriers?

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Connecting with Parents Online

I spend a lot of my time online, and I know that many other parents do too. When I’m not asking Dr. Google what’s wrong with my child (haven’t you ever searched for images of butt rash?), I’m chatting with other parents, mostly other moms. LOTS of other moms.

Where do I find all these moms? They are everywhere. Here are some places that I’ve found parents to talk to at all hours of the day or night, just in case you want to find some too!

Twitter

Twitter is my favourite place for all-night mom support. When Maya was very tiny and nursed around the clock, I would chat on Twitter with other moms who were up with their non-sleeping infants. If you’re breastfeeding, look up the #bfcafe hashtag, especially on Thursday nights at 7pm PST when everyone gets together for a Twitter Party. It’s a great chance to get your questions answered by other moms and lactation consultants, and to give support. And for great ’round the clock support, search for the #zombiemoms! Still learning about Twitter? Here is a great tutorial. And if you like to follow hashtags (#), check out TweetDeck)

Facebook

Two great ways to connect with other moms on Facebook are through Buy/Sell/Trade Groups and Meet Up Groups. Have a search on Facebook for your local area and see what’s out there. I took one of our local face-to-face groups to Facebook because it’s a great way to quickly connect with everyone. Since planning ahead with a baby is basically impossible, you are able to send out a note to say “Playdate today at my house, 1pm!” and everyone will get the message right away. The Buy/Sell/Trade groups are also a good way to meet people and get a great deal in the process. Buying or selling your child’s gently used items on Facebook is easy, supports local families, and saves you money.

Due Date Clubs

Some of my best online friends were met in a Due Date Club while I was pregnant with Maya. They were all pregnant too, and due in October 2010. It was great chatting while we waited for our babies (some of the moms already had older kids, so they were a wealth of knowledge), and now we are all parenting 1 year olds! It has been such fun to send little gifts, video chat, and really get to know these amazing women and their families.

Blogs

Yep, there are a LOT of “mommy blogs” out there. I have a bunch linked at the bottom of my site if you want to know which ones I regularly read. I would suggest finding someone that seems similar to you and writes about what interests you. I organize all the blogs I read through Google Reader, which I would really recommend familiarizing yourself with if you want to get into blogs. You can even add my blog to your feed by using the RSS link on the top right of the page!

How do you meet other parents online? Did I miss something?

 

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