Thursday, March 29, 2012

On a Golden Springtime

On a day like today who could stay inside?

Food always tastes better at a picnic!

Where are you eating lunch today? Where is your favorite picnic spot? How are you enjoying spring?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pancake Art


I bought a turkey baster at the local thrift store the other day for $.75 so I could make pancake letters. Tonight, V decided he would make us pancake shapes for dinner. He asked everyone what their favorite shape was, and then he proceeded to prepare the pancake batter DSCN6391(with help). He actually did really well “reading” the directions, and by the last ingredient (Eggs) he knew to look in the right column for the amount. I was really impressed with his ability to read a chart and sound out some of the words on the package!

I let him do a few shapes (a triangle, and a star, and a heart) and then I took over and tried my hand at some fancy pancake shapes. I had way too much fun, but the kids got a kick out of it. Our little friend who is staying with us (and is 3 months younger than J) told us his favorite shape for pancakes was “circle” and even when I made airplane, train, and dinosaur pancakes he still opted for a “circle” pancake. I’m not sure he realized what a novelty it is to have pancake art for dinner!



Do you play with your food? Do you let your kids help in the kitchen? What is your favorite “breakfast for dinner”? What is your favorite pancake shape?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Preparing for Sleep Training–or Sleep Training for Newborns

(Note: this post was originally written in April 2009, and is kind of a follow-up to another post I wrote about sleep. Since most “experts” will tell you that it isn’t really possible to sleep train an infant younger than 6 weeks, but I believe that any kind of training starts in the womb – or at least when the baby is born – these are my thoughts on how to “prepare” your baby for sleep training. Just like we have to teach our children how to use the potty, we need to teach them how to sleep. Sure our bodies need sleep, but how many of us really listen to our bodies anyway? We need to teach ourselves and our children how to listen to their bodies and take care of them. Here’s how we taught our #2 how to have good sleep habits)

I think J is finally figuring out the whole day/night thing. She still has her evening "fussy time" as I call it, but yesterday it happened earlier in the day - which means bedtime ends up being earlier! (and I'm hoping it will do the same today!). She's starting to be more alert when she's awake, and sleep less easily during the day (i.e., she doesn't guaranteed fall asleep in the car on the way somewhere. She may nod off, but will wake right back up when we get wherever we're going. Last night she fell asleep at 8:30, stirred around 9:30 (i.e., woke up, sort of) - I was able to soothe her back to sleep without picking her up! She slept until 6am, with a feeding around 2am.

I'm hoping this will continue tonight. So far things are looking okay!
Now, I'm no expert on newborn sleep, but I've been reading a lot about sleep, and looking specifically ways to teach your newborn how to sleep. Unfortunately, because babies aren't usually developed enough to figure out the sleeping thing until after 6 weeks, most sleep books say just that - "Your baby will probably not learn how to sleep well until after 6 weeks, so don't worry about it now." Okay, so they don't say it just like that, but basically, that's what all of them are saying. Most books on sleep training don't even give any practical advice until your baby is around 4 months old. So I have been scouring every bit of reading material for things to do to help your newborn sleep well - because I believe that you can at least do something. Most sources had one or two good ideas, but none of them had enough to give you an arsenal of ways to get your baby to sleep. I think hitting them with everything you've got is usually the best way to go.
First, before I continue - three very important points to convince yourself of. Do whatever it takes to really REALLY believe these three things, and you will save yourself a lot of frustration and tears:
  • Newborn babies are not really sleep-trainable until six weeks after their due date (now, before you get all discouraged, READ ON!)
  • There are some things you can do to try to help your newborn's sleep organization mature a little faster - just don't hang all your hope on it.
  • The term sleeping through the night, for a newborn (i.e. younger than 4 months) is 4-5 hours.
Okay, now that you've got that through your head, here are the things to do to help your newborn sleep through the night earlier (while these things may not necessarily work right now, be assured that they will eventually help - and if you get used to doing them now, you may avoid problems later):
  • Turn on the lights/open the blinds during the day (when the sun is shining), and when the sun goes down, keep the lights low (or off) where your baby is in the house. It's really tempting to keep the lights on in the evenings when you wish your baby would go to sleep, but she's not, so you're up doing things like the dishes, watching a movie, playing on the computer, etc while you wait for baby to decide to go to sleep. I'm not saying doing these things are bad - just try doing them without the lights on (okay, doing the dishes will probably be kind of hard). This will help baby adjust faster to light=daytime, dark=nighttime. Remember, baby just game from 24hr darkness, so the more you can do this, the faster baby will figure out the light/dark thing. I think this is the most effective idea I found.
  • Keep stimulating activities to a minimum after "bedtime." You get to decide what "bedtime" is - Since I would eventually like J to be going to be around 9pm, that is what I call "bedtime." The most surprising thing I found out about stimulating activities is that eye contact is a stimulating activity for babies! Making eye contact with a baby causes their pupils to dilate, raises their heart rate, and all that other crazy stuff. So, no eye contact with baby after the time you want them to fall asleep.
  • Put your baby in his/her bed to sleep. This idea was from The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I didn't have any problem with this, but her experience convinced me that this is pretty important - she always let her baby sleep in her arms during the day, and so her babies wouldn't sleep in their cribs at night since they just wanted to sleep in her arms. So, the best way to get baby to sleep in his/her bed at night is to...? You guessed it - let him/her sleep in his/her bed! So during the day, for naps, make sure your newborn naps in his/her bed.
  • Try to soothe without picking them up after you've laid them down to sleep. It makes sense. Just let them lay in the crib/cosleeper/bassinet/whatever and try to get them to go back to sleep without picking them up. It worked last night for me, I'll let you know if it keeps working.
So, I think for newborns, those are the key ideas. There's not much else you can do for your newborn (and remember, J is only 3 weeks old, so by newborn I mean REALLY newborn). After 6 weeks, basically any sleep book will have good advice for helping your baby develop good sleep habits. Most people don't give advice for how to help your newborn sleep through the night starting from day 1, so this is the list of what I have found that is really newborn sleep advice.
Oh yes, and one more piece of advice - make sure your husband is as convinced as you are of the first three facts (mostly the one that says pretty much no matter what, you can't expect your newborn to sleep through the night until after 6 weeks).
Note: I would add that you need to remember that you should cuddle your baby ALL THE TIME when he/she is awake! Just not at sleep time. Sleep time = sleep time, not cuddle time. I have found that doing a LOT of cuddling when baby is sleepy but not asleep is very effective to getting baby to calm down and go right to sleep. Just try to resist the urge to always be holding your sleeping baby.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

(Note: This post was originally written on our private family blog on April 14, 2009. J was a few weeks old, and V was about 2 years old. I thought I would edit it for a this blog and post it because I really love this book and will still swear by it, and I wanted to share some of these things with others. The best thing about this book is that Dr. Weissbluth doesn’t endorse any one method of “sleep training” – the book mostly talks about why sleep is important, and the science behind sleep, and then talks about basically every possible sleep problem, and potential solutions. He seems to be very flexible and he seems to acknowledge that kids all have different temperaments, and what works with one might not work with another. These are the kinds of parenting books I like the most – ones that teach principles rather than methods. Although there are plenty of methods in here, too, but you will have the understanding of the principles to make up your own methods, or make your own adjustments that will work for your family. I wrote another post about sleep that I am going to publish on this blog as well.)

A friend of mine read this book – Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child -  to teach her baby good sleep habits. She wrote a very positive review about it on her blog, and so I recommended it to a friend of mine whose 3 month old is having a hard time sleeping longer than 2 hours at a time at night.

Then I thought, hey, maybe I'll check it out from the library and read it myself. It turned out to be a very good investment... I guess the fact that I didn't pay anything makes it a very good investment - gotta love the library.
Well, I read it at first with the idea that it would help me make sure J developed good sleeping habits. V was already sleeping 10+ hours at night and taking a good 2-3 hour nap during the day. I learned a LOT about sleep and the need for sleep and how our bodies develop sleep habits. I discovered that when I delay V's afternoon nap for any reason, it makes him overtired and that explained the reason he was waking up throwing a tantrum after late naps. Dr. Weissbluth says that he is confused and disoriented which causes him to be emotional and inconsolable after a late nap. The reason I was ever postponing V's nap was mostly that I was just waiting for him to become so tired that he would crash on his own. V has always been really good about soothing himself to sleep at night, but has never been very good at soothing himself to sleep for a nap. That was never a problem when he was a little younger, because it was fairly easy to get him to fall asleep by rocking or whatever. But now that he's a little older, he fights and fights and fights sleep. Well, Dr. Weissbluth recommends doing the "silent return to sleep." It works for little toddlers who won't go to bed at night, and I discovered that it works for little toddlers who won't stay in their bed to take a nap during the day. Basically it works like this - when your little sneaker gets out of his bed at night, you pick him/her up without a word, without even looking at their faces, and put them gently back into their beds without a word. You don't scold them for the behavior, you don't talk AT ALL. This clues them in to the fact that night time (or nap time) is not "play with mommy/daddy" time - it's go to sleep time. Now, I am of the mind that if your kid gets out of bed because they've had a nightmare, it's totally okay to soothe them and love them and talk to them, but I think Dr. Weissbluth would say the same thing. The "silent return to sleep" is just for the curious little toddler who won't stay in his/her bed. Like V - he just likes to get out to play.
Yesterday, V and I laid down for his nap, I read him a book, sang him a song, and said "Have a nice nap." Then left his room. I heard him get up and start playing with his toys, so I went back in, picked him up, and gently put him right back in his bed. The second time he got out of his bed, I went in to get him, found that he was poopy, changed the diaper and put him back in bed without any interaction and without acknowledging him at all. I went in a third time. On the fourth time, I thought he was out of bed, but he was just laying there quietly in his bed. So, not to have him mistake good behavior for unacceptable behavior, I gave him a quick kiss, softly said "Thanks for staying in your bed," and left. A few minutes later, he was fast asleep. It was amazing.
Now, fast forward to today's naptime (I just put V down about 10 minutes ago). I read him a few books, sang a few songs, and said "Have a nice nap." He got out of bed once, trying to get some more books. While I want V to have a desire to read, I also want him to be a well rested child (this has become even more important to me after reading this book). So I gently put him back in his bed. He sat awake in his bed for a few minutes, talking to himself, or singing to himself. Just about two minutes ago I heard some noise, I thought was him playing with toys in his room. I cracked the door to check, and there he was, eyes closed (still sort of awake), snuggled in his bed with his blanket. He put himself to sleep even faster today than he did yesterday! It was amazing.
Anyway, so Dr. Weissbluth's book has done two things 1.) taught me a LOT about sleep, and how important naps are for babies and young children, 2.) helped me teach V how to stay in his bed at nap time - GONE are the days I spend an hour (or more!) laying with a crabby V while he fights sleep. I hope I can keep consistent, so this will stick. And I'm much more convinced that it is SO important to allow V a nap at 1 or 2 pm every day. Too bad Church interferes with that on Sundays. Maybe making the weekdays more regular will help with Sundays. I'll let you know!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raising Readers

Our kids love books. They will sit for hours "reading" books. And this little girl - sneaks out of bed every night to get some books from their bookshelf:

It's kind of messy, but it is also one of our favorite spots in the whole house.

Do your kids love books? How did they develop that love? Do you read to them? Do you have books where they can easily pick their own books (and put them away)?

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