Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What I Am Into - January 2012

While I've been very fortunate the escape the first-trimester nausea, the exhaustion hasn't stayed away in the least. It doesn't help at all that the exhaustion is coupled with a complete inability to fall asleep at night. Thank goodness my boys are tiny little rockstars who let me nap* during the day, and my equally wonderful husband often takes care of dinner. Even still, I am tired. And so, as much as I would love to stay up late and flesh out my many posts hanging around in my drafts folder, I'm going to take tonight to join Megan at SortaCrunchy in simply sharing What I've Been Into this past month.

* Of course, by "nap", I mean that I get to curl up on the couch with a pillow and blanket and attend to slightly fewer requests than I would normally have to. But I do get to doze in between them showing me their drawings and Lego creations, needing help in the bathroom, asking me to peel their oranges for them, and so on. I'll take what I can get.


What I Am Into :: JANUARY 2012

On My Nightstand:

I am about a third of the way through N. T. Wright's book Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. I am loving it. It is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. I so love it when a book lives up to my expectations!

The husband and I are reading through the Hunger Games trilogy together. We have finished the first two and are now well into the third one. The oh-my-goodness-we-can't-stop-here-how-about-just-one-more-chapter hasn't exactly helped my exhaustion. I am so glad we're reading this series. Intense, fascinating, and well-written, it's everything I could hope for in fiction.

Want to Read:

My to-read list isn't getting any shorter, and it's only gotten worse since a friend of mine introduced me to GoodReads, which is everything my organization-loving and book-loving self could possibly want in a website. In addition to most of the books I had on my list in November, I've now added:


T.V. Show Worth Watching:

Sorry, I'm just going to have to say it again: Once Upon a Time is the show I can't recommend enough right now. We also enjoy House and The Big Bang Theory, but it's OUaT that has me itching to get the kids to bed on time so we can sit down and watch the newest episode each week.

In My Kitchen:


I may not be nauseous, but I definitely haven't had much of an appetite for the past several weeks. It was a relief, then, to find myself thoroughly enjoying the Avocado Spinach Egg Salad Sandwich I made for lunch last week. This is definitely my new go-to version of egg salad sandwich filling. Perfect.

I also made Perfect Pot Roast (which lived up to its name) when we had company join us for the evening last week. Dinner was followed with a light dessert of peppermint tea and Lemon Sugar Cookies. The cookies were incredible. I'm embarrassed to admit it (because I did more than my fair share of helping), but we finished the entire batch in one day. One day. Oh my.

Other than that, our kitchen has been pretty boring lately. I prepare meals because the kids have to eat, but my imagination is sorely lacking in that department. My only pregnancy craving so far? Toasted peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches. Yum. I could go for one right now, actually.

In My Ears:

There's still a whole lotta Christmas carol singing going on around here. Well, not "singing" so much as "hollering". The kids have fully embraced some of the Christmas greats, including (but definitely not limited to) "Go Tell it on the Mountain", "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing", "Silent Night", and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". The carols are all the better for their childish translations. Take, for example, the boy's version of "Silent Night":

"Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
yon mon version Mother and John.
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace."

Or how about the toddler's excellent twist on "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"?

"I wish you a Merry Miss-miss,
I wish you a Merry Miss-miss,
I wish you a Merry Miss-miss,
AND A HAPPY NEW YOU!!"

Truth be told, there hasn't been much else playing around here. Maybe it's time to reintroduce these young'uns to something other than Christmas carols. The husband's brain just might explode if he's still hearing Christmas songs in February...

Pinterest Finds:

Pinterest, Pinterest. Why do you mock me so? So many awesome projects, so little energy to do anything more than gaze longingly at them.



I am basically in love with everything about this sweater. I must make it.



How cute are these tiny little quilt magnets? I'm picturing something nice and bright - maybe yellows, greens, and blues?



It doesn't get any easier than this, and I'm pretty much certain it comes with a "this will taste incredible or your time and energy back" guarantee.

What I'm Looking Forward to in February:

Oh-so-many things. February starts off with another midwife appointment, which should mean getting to hear Mystery Baby's heartbeat. Our five-year wedding anniversary is soon after. The husband doesn't read this blog, but just in case, I'll only let you know that I have Big Things planned and it will all be Very Exciting. Shhh, don't tell, he has no idea! February could also mean feeling the first flutters from Mystery Baby, although that particular gift could just as likely hold off until March - but perhaps February will at least bring a bit of renewed energy as I enter the second trimester? We shall see...

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this first month of the new year. It's been a good month, exhaustion aside, and I'm looking forward to February as well. What I'm really looking forward to, though, is the return of warmer weather! I've become soft out here on the west coast. I want some warm sunshine on my face, dry ground beneath my feet, and fewer excuses to sit around in front of my nice cozy fireplace.

Ah, well. All in good time.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Weekend Reading

In light of my sudden fears about all there is to teach my growing boy as he emerges from the hands-on younger years, each of these posts were an encouragement to me this week. Some were encouraging because they spoke to the same feelings and fears I've been experiencing, while others provided a peace that yes, it will be alright. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Mess-free finger painting

Last week I put together a mess-free finger painting project for the boys. This was definitely a success! I first saw the idea on Pinterest (you can find my Pinterest boards here!), where Mama Smiles had done this project using blue hair gel. I used tempera paint, making this a great colour-mixing experiment at the same time.


I squirted two primary colours into each of the three Ziplock freezer bags, put a white piece of paper under them, and taped the whole thing down with painter's tape. Then I let the eager boys have at it!


They first experimented with each bag to see what new colour was made when mixing the two primary colours together. Then they drew pictures, made handprints, and drove their cars over the paint to see the tire tracks. Turns out cars aren't exactly gentle on the bags. After a couple quick repairs with masking tape, the cars were parked for the rest of the activity.


Next time I will make sure I get all of the extra air out of the bags before taping them down. A couple of the bags had air bubbles in them, which were much harder to remove once the paint was spread throughout the bag. Painting worked much better with the air bubbles removed.


We kept the bags taped to the table all week, removing them only when we had company coming for dinner. Now I have them tucked away, ready to be brought out and reused again at a later time. In the meantime, good old fashioned finger painting is still a very popular way to pass an afternoon!





Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Winding Down at Bedtime: Three calming games

Some nights a snack, a bedtime story, a snuggle and chat, and lights out while the music quietly plays is enough for the boy to fall asleep. Other nights, however, he needs something more to help him sleep. During our nightly chat, we talk about our days - the highs and lows, our hopes and plans for the next day - and I often end our talk with a calming game to help him wind down and fall asleep. Whether I stay and play with him or just leave him to it himself, these games are great ways to relax the body and soothe the mind while waiting for sleep to come.

Goodnight Toes

A fun twist on the traditional counting sheep game, "Goodnight Toes" involves saying goodnight to each of their body parts, starting at their toes and going all the way up to their nose. "Close your eyes. Now say goodnight to each of your body parts, and relax it as you say goodnight to it. Ready? Goodnight toes...goodnight feet...goodnight ankles....."

Because he's a four year old boy and because I just can't resist the inevitable gale of laughter that follows, we're always sure to say goodnight to our poop as well. And our pee, and our blood, and our bones, and all of our organs. This might not be terribly Grandma-friendly, but it's a great nightly review of anatomy once the poop-induced giggle fest abates!

Goodnight Grandma

Similar to "Goodnight Toes", this games replaces body parts with people we love. "Lie in bed, close your eyes, and say goodnight to everyone you love," I instruct. Blessed with fairly large extended families and many dear friends, his list can get quite long. I often don't hear another word from him once I've left him to say goodnight to everyone he loves.

What Did We Do Tomorrow?

Not the grammatical error you might think it is, "What Did We Do Tomorrow?" is a game the boy came up with himself, and it is one of our favourites. It usually begins with a more grammatically-correct review of "what did we do yesterday?" and "what did we do today?", where we simply talk together about how the day(s) went and the various activities we did. The boy then flashes me his impish grin and asks me, "what did we do tomorrow?"

Well! Just let me tell you what we did tomorrow! Why, we went to the moon, we did! We had a picnic right there, but it was so windy that dust got all over our food and it wasn't as tasty as we'd hoped. So we flew back home, rinsed our mouths out with water, and had a picnic in our living room instead. And then those two sweet boys of mine? Why they put themselves to bed! Early, at that! It was fantastic. Mommy stayed up for a while and ate chocolate pudding (and saved some for the boys to eat in the morning, of course) and then went to bed early and had a wonderful looooong uninterrupted sleep. And that, my friends, is what we did tomorrow.

Our stories cover everything from the mundane to the fantastical. Sometimes (as with the early bedtime and chocolate pudding above) they're a mother's fantasies; other times, they're a child's dream come true; still other stories are so dull and boring that they come around the circle and become hilarious. After I've told a few, the boy tells me his stories, also ranging from the common to the exotic. Not only is this storytelling a nice way of winding down, but it's a great way to bond and to hear his perspective on things.


What have you found helps your child to relax at bedtime? Any tips, techniques, or games to share?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The big stuff

Somehow I thought these early years would be the hardest years. They were full of sleepless nights, marathon nursing sessions, and the long days of steady teaching, guiding, correcting, and connecting. There was simply so very much to teach a toddler. One day, I thought, things will settle down. These hands-on days of babyhood, toddlerhood, and the preschool stage would calm down eventually. His needs would be less demanding, his independent play would last longer, and maybe I'd be able to read an entire page in a book without interruption. I could sit and relax more often. Maybe I'd even get to sleep through the night again.

Now I have the privilege of bearing witness to the boy emerging from those years. He is entering the more independent years; his needs feel less demanding, less exhausting. He is no longer inclined to whack another child on the head for taking his toy, or to lie down and throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way. He knows how to help out, how to clear away his plate after a meal, how to tidy his toys at the end of the day. He is heart-meltingly affectionate towards his little "bruzzer". When he goes on a playdate with a friend and leaves me behind, I don't worry. He's a good kid. I know he'll be polite and will behave appropriately. He's growing up.

But now that those early hands-on years are ending, I begin to feel the tug of bigger issues. The implications of failure are so much more frightening than forming good dental hygiene habits or correctly identifying shapes and colours. How do I get across to a growing individual the necessity of hard work, the satisfaction of a job well done? How do I help him to understand the importance of speaking and writing well if you wish to be taken seriously? How do I encourage him to make the right choice even when it means taking the hard path? How do I ensure he develops an healthy, accurate, well-rounded view of God? How do I do all this and more without messing things up? I feel ill-prepared.

Those early years - curbing a little one's desire to throw food on the floor, teaching a small child how to gain control of himself when the desire to throw a tantrum begins to take root - suddenly feel like the easy years. The years ahead loom big and important and more than a little frightening. I know that the answer has its foundation in relationship and connection, but will it be enough?

Will I be enough?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Friday, 20 January 2012

When the husband's away...

When he told me he was leaving for a whole week on some fancy-schmancy school/networking trip, I had visions of quiet evenings to myself, delicious meals of the sort he would never enjoy, and everything running like a well-oiled machine since I wouldn't have to be waiting around or reminding him to get to his tasks. No, they'd just be my tasks, and of course I'd get them done promptly.

Yeah.

The first night went like a dream. The kids were in bed promptly at 8:00 and the toddler was asleep shortly after. The boy and I had our nightly snuggle and chat. I left him with a glass of water and came out to a clean, quiet living room. I listened to music while adding the day's memories to our family journal. Everything was as peaceful as my introverted self had imagined it would be. It felt a bit strange going to bed that night - I had this odd desire to take my laptop with me for company - but I went anyway and had two boys snuggling with me by the time morning arrived.

Wednesday was a longer day. Nothing stands out as making it particularly so, but long it was. Turns out it's kinda nice to have someone around to help out with the little things, like changing diapers or wiping bottoms or taking out the trash. Who knew?

The day ended on a particularly great note when the toddler tripped and smashed his mouth into the edge of the coffee table. The poor child cut his lip on the inside, opened a gash below his lip on the outside, and shifted one of his front teeth forward. There was, of course, a lot of blood, and an initial reaction on my part of oh-my-goodness-do-we-have-to-go-back-to-the-ER-already??? The gash on the outside probably would have received a stitch or two if we'd gone in, but in the end I decided it wasn't an ER-worthy wound, if only he would stop chewing on it and reopening it every time the bleeding slowed. That problem was quickly solved with a bandage; unfortunately, the poor child was absolutely furious about this solution and proceeded to angrily sob himself to sleep in my arms. I laid him down in bed and he had a nice long nap - which sounds perfect, except that he woke up at bedtime. He was still awake when I went to bed. Naps, while a nice downtime during the day, are never worth it with him come bedtime.

Thursday started off well. His lip looked much better when I removed the bandage. We went out to play with some friends. Had a great morning and headed back shortly after lunch, stopping for a sandwich and donut at Tim Horton's. Unfortunately, the long drive back home meant - guess what? - another nap for the toddler. Oh boy.

By the time dinner arrived, I was exhausted. After a long internal debate over whether it would require more energy to cook dinner or to take the kids out for dinner, I settled on going out. We went to IHOP, where I had salt for dinner. Or at least that's what the entire meal tasted like. I'm pretty sure I actually ordered pot roast with mashed potatoes and corn, but perhaps I misspoke. At least the kids enjoyed their pancakes. Dinner was followed with a run around the mall's play center, a (purchase-free!) trip to the toy store, and a few necessary groceries. I was pretty much feeling like Supermom by that point - I'd fed my kids, let them run around, and got groceries. Whoot! Top of the world. So what if yesterday's dinner pots were still soaking in the sink? Habits, schmabits. I'd get to them the next day.

By the time I dragged myself back into the house, got the kids' teeth brushed and pajamas on, and settled us all into bed, I was pretty sure I'd never feel awake again. The exhaustion. Wow. The toddler had another nap-induced late night, but eventually he was out and I was able to drift off into what felt like the most wonderful sleep ever.

Until 1:30am, that is, when I woke up to the discovery that, oh yeah, I forgot about the diaper part of the bedtime routine. That was pretty much the low point of the week. Bedtime routine is the husband's nightly responsibility. He gets them their snack, reads their bedtime story, brushes their teeth, puts their pajamas on, and doesn't forget about the diaper. You'd think it'd be a pretty common sense part of bedtime, but heck if I can ever seem to remember on those rare nights when the bedtime routine falls to me. Well, lesson learned. Don't forget the diaper if you don't want to be giving a bath and scrubbing poo off the carpet at 1:30 in the morning. I sure didn't want to be.

Fortunately, every morning is the start of a new day, and this day was definitely better. I took mercy on myself and dozed on the couch all morning while the kids played. I almost felt human by the time I got up. We had a quiet afternoon of crafts and books before heading out to a big sale at one of out favourite toy stores. Two hundred and some-odd dollars later, the boy's birthday gifts were more than purchased. (Fortunately, the purchases were all actually gifts I intended to purchase, so it wasn't a bunch of impulse buys, and I saved a good bit of money on them too!) Then it was out for dinner again (*coughA&Wcough*) and back home for a brief rest before starting the evening tidy. The kids cleaned the living room while I finally tackled the kitchen and a few other bits of housekeeping that had been neglected over the past couple of days. The toddler went right to sleep at bedtime and the boy, after our snuggle and chat, was asleep soon after. And I remembered the diaper.

So here I am, listening to music, eating chocolate-covered cherries, and rambling on in an incredibly unimpressive blog post (my apologies, dear readers; I blame the pregnancy exhaustion and promise you something far more fabulous in the days to come). We will see what the next days hold - will I remember the diaper? will the dinner pots get washed? will I sleep all morning again? - and look forward to the husband's return early Monday morning.

He might not be perfect, but it turns out it's pretty darn nice to have a partner to walk through this life with.

I miss you, Love.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Deep-breathing together

This, I think, is the most peaceful moment I have ever experienced.

It's late at night, but I've yet to quiet my brain enough to fall asleep. Little feet have just padded down the hall to join us in our room. We are all there together and I can feel the comforting presence of each of them.

The boy snores lightly from his pallet on the floor. The toddler is pressed warm and solid against one side; the husband's hand lightly rests against my other side. They are all here and it feels perfect. Comfortable. Safe.

The toddler giggles in his sleep. What are you dreaming about, Sweet Boy? Your silly brother? Playing outside? Puppies? ...Me? Later, as I am drifting off to sleep myself, he lets out a cry and I instinctively wrap a comforting arm around him, pull him closer, inhale his sweet scent before sleep overtakes me.

I remember the boy's younger years, back when I looked forward to the day when, at long last, he would sleep in his own room. Now that he does, I often find myself lying awake until I hear the sound of those quiet footsteps padding down the hall, the rustle of the blankets at the end of the bed, the reassuring sound of his deep breathing as he falls back to sleep.

Funny how things so often seem to happen that way, me pushing away with one hand and then reaching to grab it back with the other.

Now, with a third child nestled in my womb, I know it is the toddler's turn to transition to sleeping elsewhere. We've already made the transition once; what happened? I scarcely remember, but I'm not disappointed to once again have his warm little body snuggled against mine each night. But the next few months, just as they were for his big brother when he was that age, will be months of gentle transition in preparation for a new little body in our bed. I feel a twinge of sorrow mixed with anticipation.

But here, right now, is perfection and comfort, all of us deep-breathing together.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sweet blessings

In August, these two crazy boys of ours...


...will be joined by a precious third Mystery Baby.


Thank you, God, for your sweet blessings.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Nice try, Facebook

Thank you, Facebook, for confirming my misgivings about the trustworthiness of your website.

Tuesday morning, I went to check Facebook and received a message telling me that my account had been disabled. I followed their "why is my account disabled?" link and was told that fake names are not permitted. I would have to submit my real name in order to regain access to my account.

Well, fair enough. Rules are rules and I had indeed been using a fake name ("Hippie Housewife") for my personal account. I had only created a personal account in order to create a Facebook page for The Hippie Housewife, in order to better interact with all you wonderful readers. I had, and continue to have, zero interest in having a personal account for my own use.

But if a real name was required, well, what are you going to do. I submitted my honest-to-goodness real name in their online form and waited to regain access to both my personal account and my blog's Facebook page.

Instead, I soon received the following email from an unidentified member of the Facebook team:

Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real first and last names and real birthday so you always know who you're connecting with.

Your account is temporarily suspended because your profile doesn’t list your real name. Before we can reopen this account, we need to verify your identity.

Please reply to this email and attach a digital image of one of the acceptable documents outlined below so we can verify your account information. We will permanently delete our record of this digital image from our servers after we use it to confirm your identity.

If you have a government-issued ID (ex: passport or driver's license) please attach that.

If you do not have a government-issued ID, please attach copies of at least TWO documents that:

- Are from a respected institution (ex: business, school, university)
- Combined show your full name, birthday, and picture

Some examples of acceptable documents include:

- School or work ID
- Utility bill
- Marriage license
- Legal name change paperwork
- Credit card (with the number blacked out)
- Birth certificate

If possible, save this file as a JPEG. Be sure to cover up any personal information that we don't need to verify your identity (ex: address, license number). We also recommend sending your attachments over a secure connection. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=148993491850191.

Once we receive your response with the proper identification attached, we can assist you further. In the meantime, don’t create a new account because this could make it more difficult to resolve your issue.

Note that we will not be able to take any action on this account unless we receive the proper documents. Sorry for the inconvenience.

For more information on our name policies, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=258984010787183

Thanks,
[unsigned]

FOR. REAL.

A website was actually asking me to submit photo identification to verify my real name.

Photo identification. To a social networking website.

You've got to be kidding me.

(I mean, what good is photo ID to them anyway? They can't even see me! Completely negates the purpose, no?)

Well, it was bad enough Facebook had my real name; they haven't exactly proved themselves to be trustworthy over the years. But requesting photo identification was so wildly inappropriate, it simply was not going to happen. Creating an entirely new account was also not an option for me if I wanted any hope of having The Hippie Housewife's Facebook page reactivated.

So I did what I do best: I dug into the issue, did a bit of research. Came up with some rather interesting quotes from the Facebook PR team, which I used in my reply to the ludicrous request for my photo ID:

According to the Facebook PR team:

"When we detect that an account may be fake, we ask the owner to verify his or her identity. In very rare cases where no other form of verification is possible, we may ask the account owner to verify by providing a valid ID. We'll never ask you to verify your account over email. Instead, you have to first go to www.facebook.com, enter your username and password, and then be told that your account is disabled and directed to a contact form in our Help Center (also on www.facebook.com) where you're asked to provide the required info. We intentionally made the entire process on-site so that people have more confidence that it's not a scam."

Instead, you have asked me to provide photo ID through email. Am I to presume this is a scam of some sort?

I provided Facebook with my real name this morning and would be happy to verify this identity in a way other than by emailing my photo identification. For example, I can reply to this ID verification request email with my alternate email address, which also contains my real name. Please let me know what other options are available for verification (third party verification, etc), as providing my photo identification is not an option.

Sincerely,
[Full Name]

That email was also sent Tuesday morning, two hours after receiving their request for proof of identity.

The rest of Tuesday went by with no reply. Wednesday...no reply. Thursday morning, I woke up to find the following email waiting for me:

Hi [FirstName],

Your name information has been corrected, and we have reactivated your account. Please note that this name change is considered final and you will no longer be able to edit the name on your account.

Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Your account must comply with all of the following authenticity standards:

• Fake names are not permitted.
• Initials cannot stand in place of your full name.
• Nicknames can be used, but only if they are a variation on your real first or last name, such as 'Bob' instead of 'Robert'.
• The use of professional and religious titles within names is not permitted.
• The use of special characters within names is not permitted.
• Impersonating anyone or anything is not permitted.

We apologize for any inconvenience this policy may pose. If you are concerned about your privacy, you can always restrict who can find you in searches from the Privacy page, which can be accessed by selecting the “Settings” link at the top of every Facebook page.

There is also a section to list your alternate (or maiden) name on the Account Settings page. People will be able to search for you by both your account name and your alternate name. You can select whether your alternate name will appear along with your account name on your profile, search listings and friend requests.

If you have any further questions, please visit our Help Center at the following address:

http://www.facebook.com/help.php

Thanks for your understanding,

Barry
User Operations
Facebook

Well thank you very much, Barry. I never did receive a specific reply to my email; Barry's email came as a stand-alone email from another support address. But I'm not complaining - not about the resolution, anyway.

What I do find infuriating is the idea that Facebook would have the audacity to actually request that a person email a digital copy of their photo ID. How many people take that request at face value and provide Facebook with that sort of information, believing they have no other choice? Or, alternatively, how many others just snort at the request and create a new account altogether?

Well, Facebook, you have certainly confirmed my misgivings about you. Congratulations on now possessing my real name, but heck if you'll ever convince me to email you my photo identification.

Nice try, Facebook.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Gentle Discipline for Babies

From The Hippie Housewife Facebook page:
"Was wondering if you could share anything about positive discipline and redirection for babies? I am always finding wonderful articles for toddlers and older children, but I'm sure I'm not the only one that wants to hear more on the subject for babies. Thank you!"
____________________________


Babyhood is, for many, a delightful stage, filled with the joys of watching your new child go through all their exciting firsts: first smile, first roll, first time they reach for you, first time sitting up, first crawl, and on it goes. But it can also be the stage where parents feel the most helpless when it comes to discipline. After all, a baby cannot talk, lacks the reasoning skills of older children, does not comprehend cause-and-effect, and has yet to achieve understanding in many areas. What is a parent to do?

Prevention

Prevention is the single most effective tool at this age. Keep dangerous or breakable objects out of harm's way. Provide plenty of baby-safe space for exploring. A few necessary off-limit objects are fine (ours, for example, included our Wii and one shelf of books), but a room full of not-for-baby items squelches their ability to explore, learn, and grow in a healthy and age-appropriate manner.

Prevention also includes the baby's physical and emotional well-being. A baby who is tired, hungry, overwhelmed, or lacking connection with their primary caregiver will be less equipped to cope with the situations that arise in day-to-day life.

Build relationship

This is the time to be focusing on building the parent/child relationship through the development of communication and connection, not training the baby towards obedience. At this stage, the "Seven Baby B's" outlined by Dr. Sears are an excellent launching point. These seven tools include:
  1. Birth bonding
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Babywearing
  4. Bedding close to baby
  5. Belief in the language value of your baby's cry
  6. Beware of baby trainers
  7. Balance
These tools are typically a parent's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to the child's cues. As the parent and child learn to communicate through the giving and receiving of these cues, a strong connection grows between them. This connection and its resulting mutual trust and sensitivity will form the basis of the parent/child relationship and become the foundation upon which future discipline will rely.

Distract, redirect, and follow through

Other top tools during babyhood include distraction, redirection, and follow-through. Remain cheerful and matter-of-fact throughout. "Oh, not for baby! Here's your toy, let's play over here." Say it and then do it. Calmly and consistently follow through by picking them up, removing them from the situation, and moving them to a more acceptable activity. These tools can be applied to a number of situations, including wiggling during diaper changes (distract with a toy or song), touching off-limit items (redirect to an appropriate object), or wanting to crawl away when that's not an option (distract with a busy bag).

Specific issues

Biting

Biting while nursing is often the first "discipline" issue that arises in a child's life. For the sake of the continued nursing relationship, nursing manners and boundaries must be established at a developmentally-appropriate level, often beginning with boundaries regarding biting. The most effective way to demonstrate that biting is unacceptable while nursing is to immediately end the nursing session. For a more detailed discussion of what to do when baby bites during nursing, see Kellymom's article on "When Baby Bites".

Particularly during teething, biting is common even when the child is not nursing. The most important thing to remember is that this is a stage. Truly, this too shall pass. However, the fact that it is normal and usually temporary does not make it something that should be encouraged or accepted. Be alert in order to prevent most bites, but if a sneak-attack does get through, let the baby know how it felt with a startled exclamation: "Ouch! Biting hurts!" (Be careful, however, not to overdo it and make the reaction an object of desire! Just keep it firm and simple.) Then replace the undesirable action with a positive one: "Here, you may chew on this."

Hitting

Ideally, the parent will be alert to the forthcoming hit and will be able to catch the baby's arm mid-swing. Regardless of whether the hit lands or is stopped, however, the response remains the same. Similar to biting, this response should include a) an exclamation and b) a replacement action. Our script has remained the same: "Ouch! Hitting hurts! Touch gently." Then, while stroking the child's hand against our cheek, we repeat the word "gentle". As the baby grows, this script is soon shortened to a simple reminder of "gentle", at which point the child replaces the would-be strike with a gentle stroke of our cheek.

Practice this word during calm moments as well. "Can you show me gentle? Oh yes! That's so gentle." It then becomes a fun bonding moment in addition to a reinforcement of the simple phrasing.

Screaming

One of the most common questions from parents of babies is how to make them stop screaming. Once they've found their voice, screaming and shrieking is an exciting way for them to experiment with this exciting discovery, but it's often not so exciting for the parents!

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to stop a child from excitedly shrieking. The best proactive measure, however, is to turn the opposite skill - whispering - into a fun game. Practice talking as quietly as you can, and then as loud as you can, and then quietly again. This develops the skill of using a quiet voice and associates it with a single word that can then be used when the screaming starts.

What to avoid

Physical discipline is inappropriate for any stage, and babyhood is no exception. Parents are often admonished to slap legs, squeeze hands, pull hair, pinch arms, swat mouths, and spank bottoms of even the smallest babies, always accompanied with dire warnings of raising spoiled, self-centered little monsters if you fail to properly put them in their place right from the beginning.

Studies, however, have repeatedly demonstrated the damaging effects of physical discipline. Slapping hands has been shown to reduce healthy exploration and risk-taking, and the resulting lower self-confidence leads to lower IQ scores. The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to become noncompliant, aggressive, and antisocial. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking under any circumstance. It is a form of punishment that becomes less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child outgrows it.

The word "no" is often a favourite among babies, and for good reason: it is typically the word they hear most often throughout the day. Avoid overusing the word "no". If possible, phrase your response differently and offer an alternative. Consider if there is a way to say yes. Can you sit down with the child to safely explore the item of curiosity? Can the "one-finger touch" rule be implemented with an older baby/toddler? While saying no is often the easier route to take, a child's learning can be greatly enriched when a parent seeks to find a way to say "yes" to healthy exploration. (Yes to every request for a cookie or a new toy? Not so healthy. Good judgement and common sense must always be the rule.)

Summary

Babyhood is the stage to be focusing on forming and strengthening the parent/child relationship. While this relational focus should remain throughout all stages, it is of particular importance during this formative year when the relationship has not yet been established.

With that focus in place, there are some tools that can be used to gently guide a baby through the trials of his or her first year. Proactive prevention, both in terms of the baby's environment and the baby's physical and emotional well-being, will set the child up for success and allow him or her the greatest opportunity to grow and explore in a healthy and age-appropriate manner. In addition to these proactive measures, distraction, redirection, and follow-through are excellent tools for guiding babies towards acceptable modes of play and exploration. Undesirable actions can be gradually, calmly, and consistently replaced with acceptable alternatives: teething toys instead of biting, gentle touches instead of hitting, whispering when necessary instead of yelling, and so on.

Ultimately, remember that babies grow out of the baby stage. They will grow out of it. There is often little you can do other than remaining proactive and keeping your responses calm. As they grow in their understanding, more and more gentle discipline tools can be added, but for now simply keep in mind that a baby is a baby. They are not being "bad" or "defiant" or "manipulative"; they are simply responding to the world around them in the only way they yet know how. Those reactions will be increasingly replaced with more appropriate responses throughout their childhood, but this need not, and indeed cannot, all happen now.

Additional Resources:
The Hows of Discipline
Gentle Discipline for Toddlers
Attachment Parenting Series: The Seven Baby B's

Do you have any specific baby-related discipline questions? What tools have you found to be most effective during the baby years? Share your baby-related gentle discipline tips in the comments below!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Back to routine

After being away for 22 of the past 25 days, I feel like I may never leave the comfort of my own home again. I'm staying here, boarding up the doors, and hiding out for, oh, the next decade.

I'll probably change my mind by next week. Maybe.

As we were driving home, I asked my husband what he was most looking forward to about our arrival. My stuff, he said, and I could completely sympathize. There's nothing like your own bed, your own pillows, your own closet, your own food in the fridge, your own whatever after being away for a while.

My own space, he added, and again I nodded my agreement. If there's one advantage to being an introvert married to an introvert, it's that your spouse totally gets it. There's no "why don't you want to talk to me?" or "why aren't you spending time with me?" or "what did I do to make you so angry???" No, after the chaos and intensity and social demands of holiday travels, there is only understanding. You go sit in your corner and I'll sit in mine and neither of us will say a word for the next two evenings. At least.

But as nice as it is to have my stuff and my space, the thing I am most happy to have back is my routine. It might be a pretty sad routine compared to the more structured individuals out there, but it is our routine and I love it nonetheless.

And for me, that routine includes this blog. This is my one precious outlet, my place to process and grow, my voice. Oh, did I miss it. I've determined from the start to refuse to allow my writing to become a chore or requirement, so I let it slide during our busy December instead of forcing out something just for the sake of having something to post. But now December is gone and January is here and my fingers are itching to get at this keyboard and let out the words that have been building up inside.

Oh, but I make it sound as though our time away was nearly torturous. Quite the farthest thing! I was able to, along with my sisters, throw my parents a 30th anniversary party with all their closest friends. My baby ("baby"!) turned two and we celebrated that with my family as well. I was there when my niece's adoption was finally, after a long and heart-wrenching twenty-one months, finalized and made official, much to our joy and relief. There were board games played, good movies watched, and far too much food eaten. Christmas with my in-laws was filled, as it always is, with much laughter and happiness. We rang in the new year with prayer, singing, and communion - by far the best New Years Eve I have ever spent. My beautiful sister-in-law became engaged to a man my boys adore. (What can I say? I'm a mother; if you're that awesome with my boys, I can't help but like you.) Our holidays were wonderful and saying good-bye was as difficult as it always is.

But now we're home and home we're staying.

For a decade.

Possibly.

We'll see.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2012: Presence and Habit

I love how each new year feels like a blank slate, a renewed hope, another chance to refocus.

2010 was my year of grace and intention. Building on that, 2011 was my year of joy and rhythm. Now a new year is here and I have felt its themes building deep within me for the past few months: this will be my year of presence and habit.

Presence

Grace was a life-changing lesson for me. Seeking joy in all things only deepened that lesson. This year, it is presence that I seek. Oh, that word: presence, both God's and mine. I seek to be continually aware of His presence, a steady communion with God, a communion that arises from constant prayer, daily Scripture reading, and more time to simply sit and be still in His presence. I also desire for myself to be present in whatever moment I find myself in - because, after all, this moment is all I have.

Habit

If I have learned anything from my years of intention and rhythm, it is that intention requires habit. Our lives are governed by our habits, by those seemingly-small daily patterns that are engraved on our hearts and minds. A process I began last year, I seek this year to continue to bring about sustainable change in my life by intentionally creating positive habits, one at a time. Each changed habit is one step closer to the life I envision and desire to live.


This will be an eventful year, but I hope also that it will be a quiet one. Our past two years have been very outward- and community-focused; as I begin this year, however, I feel very inward-focused, contemplative, and peaceful. I desire, as I practice Presence and built Habit, to commune more deeply with my family and with God. We have found community and it is good, we will sustain it, but perhaps in a quieter (more habitual) way than our previous years of seeking and building.

From grace to joy to presence.

From intention to rhythm to habit.

Presence and habit.
Habit leading to presence.
Presence leading to habit.

This year will be good.

May your year be filled with joy, love, and peace!