How Do You Keep The Holiday Season Calm?

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Today marks the beginning of a month packed with holidays and parties. Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years and all of the gatherings and such in between. Usually this means the start of a packed schedule and more chaos during the month. However, this year I am determined to keep a calm and peaceful atmosphere for my family. Part of the reason for this is that I’m 20 weeks pregnant and my son is very sensitive these days. Though the main reason is that I am always wanting to actual imbue the season with the peace that the season is meant for.

So this whole month I will be working on a series about my journey to balance the excitement that comes from mainstream Christmas with the inner calm that comes from it’s spiritual counterpart. Hopefully this will not only keep me more relaxed, but instill different values in the season for my son to grow up with.

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More Easy Handmade Waldorf and RIE Toys

This year I will once again avoid the malls and make my own Christmas gifts for my son and my nieces and nephew. Here is a list of toys that I’ll be working on, some incredibly easy and some a tad trickier. If you want more ideas, please check out my previous post on Easy Handmade Waldorf and RIE Toys.

1. Sensory Basket Treasures (6 months and up) This is actually a gift that even my 2 year old will still love. Fill this basket with pine cones, large bottle caps, fabric scraps or anything else interesting. They LOVE random odd things.

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2. Sunray Sensory Toy (Newborn – 1 year) – This is great because you can fill it will different textures, like mylar sheets or tulle. This one looks tricky but you can sew up any shape of fabric really easily.

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3. Soft fabric balls. (Newborn and up) 

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4. Felt Finger Puppets (1 1/2 and up)

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5. Sleeping Sacks for Dolls and Stuffed Animals (1 and up)

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6. Cardboard Box Appliances (2 and up)

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7. Blocks from Apple Branches (1 and up)

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8. Play Cape (2 and up)

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9. Really Cool Crayons (2 and up). Easy to make and perfect for tiny fingers.

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10. Yogurt Containers! (All ages) Seriously, these have always been such a huge hit, and will continue to be for some time. Open-ended toys are perfect for cultivating creativity in your little ones.

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Why Must They Grow Up?

unnamedMy son got his hair cut yesterday, all of his sweet baby hair just fell to the ground and this proper boy-looking child was underneath. Then today we had our second trimester ultrasound and say the baby in my belly for the first time, which sort of solidified the fact that a new baby is coming. Both of these things just made me feel the changes that are happening. My son only prefers me half of the time now and wants to do everything for himself. He is officially growing up and it is just going by too fast. I have spent almost every day with him since he was born and it’s still not enough. I can’t even say that I took any of it for granted because I really made sure to slow down, watch him and appreciate every stage he was in. It just keeps slipping away.

I want to stop time. In the moment when my son calls me in the middle of the night “my mama, i want my mama” and I pick him up and he snuggles on me while I crawl in his bed to snuggle him; I want to just stay in that moment.

When he asks me for help to put on his shoes and backs his little bottom into my lap; I want to let his little body sit on me forever.

Every hug is to short. Every kiss happens so quickly. When he says ‘love mama’ I want him to say it 30 more times.

He runs up to me to show me how fascinating a rock is; I never want him to stop sharing his world with me.

In the moments when he will nestle in between my husband and I, hugging us both and say “my mommy and daddy” I just want that to last forever.

His childhood is so fleeting and I just can’t appreciate this enough. I can’t seem to fully savor the moments before they fly by so fast.

He is growing up everyday; I notice this everyday. Always something new; less toddler-like and more child-like. It’s fantastic to see. I just wish it happened a little slower.

The Bad Sleep Habits We Taught Our Newborn

334808_2242411812124_180247475_oWhen my son was born I was a nervous wreck. I had many years of experience working with babies but they always started with me after 6 months. I had no idea newborns cried so much. I was lost. So I searched the internet. I found so many opinion articles and blog posts telling me how it was NOT okay for a baby to cry as much as my son was; how it was damaging his brain. I even had a woman leading an infant group tell me that babies experienced pain when they cry. Nonsense! These things are the worst things you can tell a new mom, especially one prone to anxiety. What I needed to hear during this time was that some babies just cry a lot (my son now talks constantly) and that my anxiety was making it worse. I needed to hear that babies fuss in their sleep. I needed to hear about purple crying.

So in an (often failed) attempt to have a silent and peaceful newborn as I imagined should be, we made a lot of mistakes.

I nursed him to sleep and then let him stay latched on for hours. Often holding in pee or literally starving myself as I sat there unable to move lest I wake him.

My husband bounced him on the ball so that he would stay asleep. This meant an hour or so of just movement to keep him in a state of half sleep. 

We followed the 5 S’s, also known as The Happiest Baby on the Block.

Even when he was asleep and made fuss sounds I would get nervous and nurse him. I was literally waking my child every 45-minutes to an hour to nurse him when all he needed was sleep. 

Why were these bad habits? Because my son got used to this way of sleeping, which was not his way, but our anxiety-filled minds solution to a problem that was possibly never there. Every single time he fussed we didn’t listen; we just jumped in and tried to solve the problem based on what outside sources were saying.  At 4 months, when things were really bad and we were all frustrated, we changed. I had a good talk with my pediatrician about purple crying and I found Janet Lansbury’s post on why I could calm down about the crying. So we slowed down. When he cried, I paused and listened to him. I calmed down enough to pay attention to what he was really saying to me. We had to face the fact that we had gotten him used to certain habits that did not actually allow him to get proper sleep. We realized that what he needed to get his sleep was to fall asleep on his own, in his own quiet and dark space. Not because someone told us that this is what babies need, but because we payed attention to him and followed our intuition. We went through a 3-day process where we explained the changes to him and supported him as he struggles through these. After a few days he had recovered from sleep deprivation and finally became a happy baby.

This was a hard process for me because at that time I was surrounded by parenting advice that said the only way to be a gentle and compassionate parent was to sleep with your baby and wear them and hold them all the time. This was terrible advice because it just didn’t fit our temperaments. My son is now 2 and very independent. He likes to do everything on his own and will often go into his room to play quietly by himself. We do have lots of quality time together, but it’s crystal clear now that he just wants his own space from time to time. Even when he is sick we try to sleep with him and he pushes us away. I mean, I prefer to have my own space when I sleep and also love time to myself to decompress so it would make sense that my son is like this as well.

We have another baby on the way and I plan on doing things differently. It’s not that I plan on NOT doing any or all of these techniques to help my new baby. Maybe they will work for this next child or maybe they won’t. The change I will make will be a mental one; this time it won’t be a parenting method that I listen to.  I will allow myself to calm down about the crying, pause and actually listen to what my new baby has to say.

How to Survive Sleep Deprivation and Be a Successful Parent.

970474_10201080480306490_1195714514_nI have no idea. Do you?

Seriously.

Most of us parents have had to deal with short or long term sleep deprivation during our parenting. Whether you have a newborn, a child with sleep issues or you just had to stay up until 2 finishing your novel, we have all been here. After years of off and on insomnia (my child sleeps, I don’t) I have yet to discover the secret.

But here’s what I HAVE discovered (or am constantly working on believing). Even when I am an awful mom with a short fuse, my child still loves me. I just love the viral video going around of the moms who doubt themselves and then see that they are SO amazing in the eyes of their child. They completely love us, so much! 

We are never going to be the mom we want to be. We cannot raise our children in a vacuum free of the unpredictable upsets of daily life. We all WANT to be kinder, more empathetic, have more patience etc; but then your own tired, out-of-control emotions override you and you see the worst parent you can be. You don’t want to wake at 5 and be a mother, you want sleep; you don’t want to read the pre-nap book for the 20th time, you want to go take a nap. Its okay, time to forgive yourself and move on. You’re doing your best and they see this. I’ve been loosing my temper with my son more (preggo hormones+little sleep=bad news!) and feeling absolutely dreadful about this. Last night he got mad at my husband, screamed and ran into his room. A minute later he came out and said “sorry yell daddy. ‘mere, hug”. So there’s the silver lining to my own sleep deprivation. Being grumpy with my son (and apologizing, of course) has shown him the model for being a human being. We make mistakes, we are accountable for our actions, we apologize and move on.

Well, I actually have learned some tricks; little ones that may not make me a perfect parent while super tired, but make things a tad less intense.

1. Drink water, lots of it!

2. Don’t over consume caffeine, it will only make you edgier.

3. Get outside, fresh air will do you good.

4. Don’t dwell on the negative. The more energy you spend fretting over how you are tired or messing up, the less energy you have to parent well.

5. Accept that you will not achieve much. Sit and relax and play with your kids. This may seem super tricky because most of us really want to get stuff done. But the fact is that stuff is not going to get done anyways, so let it go.

6. Lastly, HAVE FUN with your kids. (Here are 15 joyful tips on how to do so) Do silly things that make you all laugh. It will balance out the grumpiness your ids may feel from you and laughter is actually the best medicine.

So please, I would just LOVE to hear how YOU survive the sleep deprivation that comes with parenting. I’m still learning and as always, value your input. :)

 

When Are We ‘Giving In’ to Tantrums?

Question from Reader: “My child is 2. He has been throwing lots of temper tantrums. I wanted to ask, Shouldn’t we just ignore temper tantrums? I sometimes try to hold my kid but he refuses to be held. Sometimes the tantrums are about a reason I cant comprehend and sometimes its about going for a car ride or playing more outside. Do I give in or ignore these issues or just watch him cry which makes the situation worse. Also could you please tell me how and when to say no to my two year old. How to deal with temper tantrums he often cries unconsolably or lies on the floor in protest. My younger baby is nine months he hits him too, when he sees him crawling he sometimes randomly goes and pushes him. I don’t hit, scream less but I give in to threatening like I will not take him to places or hit. Which I feel is wrong”

Dear Reader,

I completely understand the worry of ‘giving in’. I think when we are addressing their emotional need this is perfectly acceptable AND helpful; going back on the limit you have set in order to quell the tantrum is what I would consider giving in. Follow through with your limit. Then offer support in a way that feels right for your child. Some children do need hugs and snuggles during a big emotional upset, like hugging it out. Some like my son, and possibly yours, do not want this and prefer space. I first ask my son if he’d like me to be by him and he usually says no if it is me he is mad at. So I let him know that I’m near and here for him right when he needs. So I’ll sit and wait and usually within a few minutes he has released the big feelings and comes back to me. So I think perhaps there is this fine line between ignoring and giving the space they need. If our child does not want our help, we don’t need to fix the tantrum but let them have their emotions and be nearby when they do want us. If this is challenging emotionally to hear their big voice and feel discomfort, say to yourself and even your child “It’s good to have emotions and to release them and I will give you the freedom to express yourself.”

Life is hard with 2. Sounds like you are doing a great job and I agree that the hitting and knocking over of the baby is not ok. So keep setting those limits to hitting and perhaps even offer up what he CAN do, like give toys or talk to the baby. Stay close when you notice the behavior and gently, physically stop the hitting and say “I won’t let your hit, you may do a or b instead”. Your 2 year old is testing you to see what behavior he can and cannot do.

Here are some additional links to help with tantrums and hitting:

Biting, Kicking, Hitting and Other Challenging Behavior

Coping With A Toddler’s Emotional Outbursts

Handling Strong Emotions

5 Easy Tips to Help You Connect With Your Toddler

1. Get on their level.

2. Make a gentle physical connection.

3. Meet them where they are.

4. Affirm their feelings.

5. Set clear boundaries.

I know for some this level of communication with a toddler seems silly, but I assure you that they understand. Toddlers are much smarter and more attuned to their surroundings than we give them credit for. When we take the time to really connect with them they appreciate this and the result may be a more harmonious space in your home.

Why I Changed my Mind About Vaccination

ImageSo if you have followed my blog you’d notice that most things I do are pretty ‘crunchy’ and you are correct to make that assumption. We use floral remedies and homeopathics, eat whole and local foods and my method of parenting is one of boundaries (not punishment) with love and respect for my sons needs. I even had a home birth and went to Waldorf teacher training. Well, along with all of these things it comes as a shock to some that I am very PRO-vaccination. Not to fear if you are not pro-vax as I won’t be bombarding my blog with this topic in the future, but I wanted to share my journey from anti-vax to very pro-vax.

When my son was born I lived in Seattle where there were a few cases of Pertussis and pneumococcal and HiB were threatening to come back, so at 2, 4 and 6 months we had only these 3 shots. I never worried about him going about public with me or frequently visiting a Waldorf school where most do not vaccinate. Now I live in Portland where 5.8 percent of kindergarteners entering school in 2013 chose vaccination exemptions; this does not even include homeschool and private school numbers! This rate is so shockingly low that ‘herd immunity‘ basically does not apply to us anymore and the risk of an outbreak is terrifyingly high.

“If enough parents in a community refuse or delay their children’s vaccinations, an infectious disease can spread among many individuals. The outbreak can threaten all unvaccinated children, vaccinated children and adults who have weak immune systems, and babies who are too young to get their shots.” (Scientific American) Do you know what this means? I AM currently in the group of those who have weak immune systems and soon my newborn child will be as well. Measles is contagious 4 days before any signs/spots occur, chicken pox is contagious 1-2 days before any rash appears and whooping cough is contagious for up to 2 weeks before- all according to CDC sites. The problem is that you can catch these illnesses and be spreading it before you know and before there are signs.

Mostly the reason why I care so much now is that it’s not just about myself and my family, its about doing my part in society to help eradicate these illnesses. Sure, you can survive these illnesses if you are a healthy person with a strong immunity, but you cannot prevent yourself from catching and spreading. There are MANY out there that cannot vaccinate because of health issues or age and these are the people I worry about. After selectively vaccinating my son the first time around with very minimal complications, I have no problem doing this with my second as well as keeping my family up to date with boosters. Even if we may be strong enough to fight these diseases, not vaccinating makes us possible carriers that could infect those who are not strong enough to fight these off. I’m Pro-vaccination because I care deeply about the people in my society and not just about my loved ones.

I’m not writing this to ‘convince’ you about vaccinations and especially not shame you for your choices as this is not my style. I understand that you are making the choices you believe are best and respect that. If you really don’t believe in vaccines there is nothing I can say to change your mind. I won’t even try. I am sharing my story to those on the fence who are or were in my shoes. You CAN be crunchy and vaccinate, it’s perfectly acceptable to be a walking contradiction. Once you live in an area where ‘to vaccinate or not to vaccinate’ has REAL consequences it’s pretty easy to allow your mind to change towards supporting your family and your community in a different way than you imagined.