Progress, Evolution & Perspective

I frequently see posts on Facebook or articles out there about “the right way” to parent. Guidance is the friendly way to define these tidbits. Guidance is always helpful. I appreciate so much the guidance I’ve received in my life. But I find some of the guidance out there seems to come with a grain of judgment. It’s as if I’m not doing it right if I don’t take the guidance. And when I say “I”, I really mean “we.” I have a bone to pick with this guidance. I have a bone to pick because I truly don’t think there’s one right way. I truly think everyone ought to do it the way that works best for them.

Most of my friends and family know I have a few things I am stubborn about when it comes to raising our kids: 1) I do everything within reason to give them balanced organic meals full of vitamins and the right fuel for their bodies, and 2) I do everything within reason to keep them away from screens. These are “my things.” And every parent has their things, things that are highest priority that they don’t waiver on when possible. I know some parents prioritize manners. I know some parents prioritize sleep training. I know some parents never raise their voices at their kids. I obviously value those as well, but they’re not “my things.” And that should be okay. I shouldn’t feel guilty about that and if you give your kids fish sticks and french fries and stick an iPad in front of them at dinner you shouldn’t feel guilty either. We’re all just operating under what we value to be the most important things for us and our families and sometimes the most valuable thing for our families is some sanity for ourselves…can I get an amen?

It probably sounds so cliche but I really do wish there was less guidance in the world and more understanding. We should all feel comfortable sharing our learnings, but we should all feel comfortable taking in other people’s learnings. No one person knows everything, except for maybe Gandhi and Oprah. Lord knows I’m not perfect when it comes to these things, but I am working and striving toward it.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now and spend a few moments focusing on the progress of my peanuts. Piper, oh where to start with Piper. Piper is such a little wild child. She goes and goes and goes until she absolutely stops. She climbs up everything – in fact, today when I picked her up from school she was literally climbing up the baby gate. I’m pretty sure if I wouldn’t have grabbed her off it she would have made it over. She also loves to climb up all the bars to the top of the jungle gym platform at school. She’s visibly proud of herself whenever she accomplishes anything or gets something she wants. She’s getting her lower molars in and tonight at dinner she kept saying “ice.” Whenever she would say it I took a piece of ice out of my ice water and gave it to her, to which she replied with a larger than life smile and bounced up and down. Speaking of up and down, her new favorite thing is to stand up while yelling “up,” and then squat down while yelling “down.”

Her sister then joins in and they both go up and down together. Piper recently learned how to “kiss” and she is blowing kisses all the time. Brian says it’s because she likes the sound it makes. I also think she just really loves to be hugged and kissed. When I kiss her it makes her so happy and content it’s amazing. She doesn’t want to get in her car seat, really ever, so I just hug her and kiss her pretty much nonstop for a little bit and she seems to calm down enough for me to buckle her in. The most innocent and beautiful thing is to see how Ellie interacts with her now. When Piper makes the kissing face, Ellie blows her kisses and when they’re close enough to make contact they actually kiss. It’s so sweet and pure. It’s also great to see them play together so much. Now that Ellie’s in a different class with older kids it seems like she’s maturing exponentially. It’s hard for me to believe Ellie’s going to be 3 years old in less than a week. I remember when she was born it felt like 3 was an eternity. It’s funny how kids change so much so quickly and it’s also funny how they change us so quickly. Here are a few pics of the girls and their silliness.

With her water bottle from Santa that Ellie has now bogarted.

With her water bottle from Santa that Ellie has now bogarted.

She loves her giant teddy bear!

She loves her giant teddy bear!

Vroom

To a baby at school, Harper

Ellie Reading to a baby at school, Harper

Ellie's first day of "skiing" was mostly composed of eating snow

Ellie’s first day of “skiing” was mostly composed of eating snow

She can't resist climbing into our bed at night and I can't resist taking a picture I'm sure she'll despise when she gets older:)

She can’t resist climbing into our bed at night and I can’t resist taking a picture I’m sure she’ll despise when she gets older:)

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Getting Toddlers to sleep

Piper has never slept through the night. Okay, that’s a lie. She has slept through the night one or two times since she was born. We didn’t do any sleep training, we thought things would be easier because she’s the second and we made one major mistake. Ellie slept through night at 3 months, then not at 6 months and so on and so forth until present. I wouldn’t say our girls are horrible sleepers, but they’re just not that good. Since we moved Ellie to a big girl bed she pretty much got out of it every night and joined us. She was also difficult to put down, so we ended up joining her in bed until she fell asleep and letting her go to bed a little later, somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 usually. Often times we would fall asleep with her when putting her to bed, making it a less than enjoyable evening for whoever got groggily woken up by the other – usually Brian!

With the lack of sleep and the lack of our desire to invest time in reading how to fix the problem, along with my lack of desire to let her cry it out, we weren’t left with many options. Enter sleep doula. Yes, this is a thing.

We found a reputable one and she came to our house to meet and bless us with her sleep wisdom.

While she walked us through the training for Piper, we decided to start with Ellie. If you have a toddler that’s going to bed later, taking awhile to get to sleep and waking up throughout the night (and perhaps joining you in bed), you must read this. It seems I’ve had a lot of friends who have been in the same position.

First, there are a few products she recommends you invest in, of course! What parent doesn’t need more crap to buy?

        • Kinderglo Night Lights – we went with the Elephant (for Ellie), but there are lots of animals to choose from. The most important feature of this night light according to the sleep doula is the fact that it has a red setting. There is a great YouTube Video on how to use them if you don’t like to read instructions.
        • Extra Tall Baby Gate – this is the one we decided to go with, but there are plenty of others. The important thing is that it’s Extra Tall.
        • Kid’s Alarm Clock – again, lots of choices. The key is that they visually indicate to your little one when it’s okay to get out of bed. To be honest, we never used this, so I’m not sold on it. However, we have friends who swear by it, so it works for some and not for others.
        • Sound Machine – we happened to already have these for both the girls, but she did mention it’s best to use an app to test the decibel level. Sound machines are best at 60 decibels.
        • Lovies – many options, the most important thing is that you have more than 1 so that when one is lost or you’re washing one, there are back ups that look and feel the same.
        • Video Baby Monitor – I think this a nice to have for some people. For me it’s a must-have. Ellie makes some noise throughout the night and I’m one of those people who would respond prematurely. Having the monitor is kind of like my security blanket.

Once you have the goods, the only thing left to do is implement the steps. Sleep Doula follows a philosophy from The Sleep Lady®’s Book, Good Night, Sleep Tight. Here are the steps (as we recall them from months ago):

  1. Put the baby gate up on your child’s door
  2. Set the alarm clock and explain to them what it means, i.e. “When the bunny is awake, you can get out of your bed. If you wake up and the bunny is asleep, it’s time to go back to sleep.”
  3. No milk within an hour of bed time – apparently milk causes kids to go potty more than water
  4. Create a bed time routine and DO NOT deviate – the recommended one goes like this:
    1. Have dinner no later than 6 pm
    2. Take baths
    3. Go to the bathroom
    4. Brush teeth
    5. Read a book
    6. Turn the alarm clock on red
    7. Turn the sound machine on
    8. Leave a couple of ounces of water in a sippy cup next to their bed
    9. Tell them you love them and goodnight
    10. Make sure they have their lovie for comfort
    11. In bed with the lights completely off no later than 7:30
  5. Nights 1-4: Sit in a chair right next to your child’s bed until they fall asleep. Stay there for 10 minutes after they fall asleep. Do not do anything other than exactly this.
    1. It’s likely your toddler will say many things, but the most important thing is to comfort them with words and do everything you can to keep them in the bed. We found that things like “we can do that tomorrow” and giving options seemed to work. You’ll find your own communication wins.
    2. If your toddler will not listen, you have to threaten (and follow through if needed) to leave the room. It’s their choice to stay in bed and listen or if they don’t you’ll have to leave. If you have to leave, you can stand outside the gate with it closed. You can see them and talk to them and you can tell them you cannot come back in until they get back in their bed.
    3. If she gets up in the middle of the night and is genuinely crying (not just fussing – check your camera), you can go to the gate, but they have to get back in their bed before you can come in the room. Once they’re in bed, you can come in and hug them and give them kisses for comfort, but do not get in the bed with them and do not let them get out of the bed. You can sit in the chair until they fall asleep and follow the same routine.
  6. Nights 5-8: Move the chair a few feet away from the bed and do the exact same thing as #5
  7. Continue this process for four nights until your chair is at the door
  8. After you’ve sat in the chair for four nights right by the door, you move the chair and stand by the door
  9. After four nights of that, you stand outside the gate
  10. In order to get to the point of leaving your toddler in bed awake, you have to gradually leave for small periods of time and build up to leaving right after they lay down in bed. We said things like “I have to go help daddy with the dishes, I love you, night night.” At first I would leave for 10 seconds and come back (usually because she demanded it), then we got to 15, 20 and so forth.

After about 4 weeks (from the beginning) Ellie was sleeping in her bed through the night. Some nights are still harder than others, but it’s never an hour long ordeal to get her to sleep. She sleeps through the night most nights in her bed most nights and she’s much more rested during the day. She’s happier during the day and she naps well during the day, something that was challenging before. According to the Sleep Doula, kids who don’t go to bed on time get worse sleep at night and kids who aren’t well rested aren’t as happy, don’t behave as well, and have a hard time napping. For me, it was really hard to stand my ground on these rules because I want my girls to feel loved and supported always. I can honestly say with this routine I don’t feel like Ellie ever felt unloved, scared, or lonely. There were definitely times of adjustment and difficulty, but the end result is a much happier child, who has a routine and boundaries. When she goes to bed she says “I love you” and “night, night” back to us, she closes her eyes and she goes to sleep peacefully (most nights;).

Some day we’ll get to a solution for Piper – perhaps by the time she’s a toddler. Baby steps, right?

Piper’s 8 Months!

One more month until the doctor says she should be sleeping through the night! I don’t think I can wait that long though so I’ve sought the council of a sleep doula who is putting together a program for us. It seems the problem is the association with feeding and sleeping so we’ll change our bedtime routine stat.

As far as development, Piper is humming right along. We’re pretty sure she says “hi” and “mama” now, based on the context of the words. She’s also standing on her own and she’s taken one step after standing a few times. She’s such a funny character – when she wants something she grunts really loudly. She’s started drinking some water and if we give her some and she wants more – grunnnnttt. If we give her food and she wants more – grunnnnttt. The other night we had some amazing salmon, so I rubbed some between my fingers to break it apart and she was devouring it! We did the same with egg yolk and she really digs it. She’s super sleepy in the below photo, but sometimes they can’t be perfect, eh?

Piper's 8 Months

Little Miss Sassy-Pants?

As you all know, we love our Ellie boo so incredibly much. She is the light of our lives and makes us smile ten times more than before (and we smiled a lot before). She is however, starting to develop quite a little personality.

Most of this new personality comes with all the excitement we could possible bear. She’s starting to color, which is so fun to watch. She listens for the most part, when she puts the crayons in her mouth, and I tell her that we don’t eat crayons because they will make us sick. She’s really enjoying reading her books, especially the dog ones. She loves playing peek-a-boo, especially when she’s the one raising something up over her eyes and dropping it down. She’s really starting to get some coordination when it comes to playing her little musical instruments too. Her aunt Ashley got her some musical toys for in the tub and she’s really starting to be able to play the drum well. Tonight when we were in the bath, she gave me a piece of the xylophone and the stick. I showed her how to play it and then gave it to her and she did it perfectly – well, as perfectly as you would expect from a one year old!

The part of her personality that’s starting to come to light that isn’t as adorable is her slightly sassy side. It baffles me where she gets this from, but she really does know that she doesn’t always have to listen. Don’t get me wrong, Ellie listens for the most part. For example, she holds her sippy cup over the side of her high chair and we say “Ellie, hold on tight. If you drop that cup, you won’t get it back.” Lately she responds so well by pulling the cup back over onto her tray, to which we give strong encouragement. I suppose there really is just one thing Ellie cannot resist: Max’s dog dish. 

Ellie frequently hangs out in the kitchen with us, playing with whatever spoons and kitchen tools tickle her fancy. Lately though, she can’t resist meandering on over to Max’s dog dish. We say “No Ellie, we don’t touch Max’s dog dish. Max doesn’t like it when we touch his food. We don’t eat Max’s food.” Nothing really gets her attention though and she remains focused on the prize. A part of me wonders if it’s because she snuck a few of Max’s kibbles into her mouth a couple of times and she happened to like it. Regardless of the reason though, we must find a way to stop it.

The other thing is that she’s been quite the challenge with sleeping lately and I’ve started to read articles that suggest it might just be her way of acting out. Some of the articles are saying that she now knows what she needs to do to get our attention. I definitely agree; when she screams bloody murder, I do whatever I can to stop it.  The question is now, at age one, whether this is helping her or not. Also, some articles say she could be going through a bout of separation anxiety. She definitely has been more clingy in the past couple of weeks. Also, when I try to put her to sleep, she screams every time I lay her in the crib, but Brian has the magic touch. In the back of my mind though, I wonder if she’s just teething and in a ton of pain. She’s gone through similar sleeping spells in the past when she’s gotten teeth in. They’ve lasted for weeks on end, even though most of the articles say teething only lasts a few days on average. I just think Ellie might be outside of the average when it comes to teething. Is that naive of me? When I went in tonight after she cried and screamed for a few minutes, she calmed down a bit and started chewing on her binky and then her finger. I went to put my finger in her mouth and she started screaming bloody murder again.  It seemed obvious to me, but how long do I let that be the excuse, if that’s what it is?

This being a parent stuff is tough. I took Ellie in to her annual appointment a couple of weeks ago and the doctor asked me how things are going. I said “They’re totally awesome when she’s not sick or teething.” He chuckled.

Sleeping

Yay! Ellie slept through the night last night! She went from 8:30-7 without waking up or needing to eat.  She had gone the prior three nights without eating, but this was the first time we didn’t have to get up at all.  For other parents out there, I really want to share our methodology.  A lot of people told us if we wanted her to sleep through the night we had to just let her cry it out, but I had a seriously difficult time accepting that.  After doing some research, we found an alternative called the No-Cry Sleep Solution.  We thought it was pretty hokey, but we did it for three nights anyway and apparently it works!  Here is a link to the information: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/books/0071381392.php?nid=172&isbn=0071381392.  All we did was read this blurb, rather than buying the book.

My first week back at work was good and we had such an awesome weekend, first visiting with Grandma and Grandpa Doman at Lake Tapps and then going down to Hood Canal.  We went to the Tahuya parade, Brian went crabbing and we visited with family a ton.  Here are some fun pics of our visit.