Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Awards Season AGAIN!!!

Ooooooh!!!! Yay! My humble blog has been the recipient of TWO more awards this week!!! Thank you so much to Nicole at the young mama blog for my second Lovely blog award (It's down in my awards section). Now for some cut and pasting...

The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Here are my choices:

Okay, So I'm slightly altering this one and using this as an opportunity to highlight some of my favourite blogs, new AND old:

1. ArtyFeminist : I love her. She is one fab mama with a GINORMOUS brain and loads of creativity and passion to boot! Not to mention some scrummy recipes...

Right, from now on, may have to cut and paste some descriptions as girsls are making those horrible "We are waking up soon..." noises.

2. Feminist Childbirth Studies reflections of a literary scholar, mother, and aspiring birthworker on pregnancy/birth/parenting, our culture's (often-disturbing) stories and assumptions about reproduction and women's bodies, and birth's astounding potential for power, passion, beauty, humor, subversion, romance, healing, and joy

3. Freelance Mam

Okay, the hyperlink went mad so I'll write about freelance mam here. She describes her blog as "
My efforts to establish myself further as a writer, amidst the chaos of two small boys and a day job"

I describe it as lovely! Full of useful information as well as great stories.

4. PositivelyNeuroticMe

FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY!!!!!!!! And occasionally so heartbreaking I cry... Amazing woman, amazing blog. Need I say more?

5. Jen's Rantings

She reminds me of me. I love her. Does that make me vain?

6. WannabeDad

Okay, So I think I gave this to you before but I really think more people need to find you:)

Numbers 7 and 8 already have followings in the ridiculously high numbers, but on the off chance you haven't found them already...

7. Xboxfornappyrash

It is not fair for one man to write so well. I am very, very, verrrrrry jealous of his talent :)

8. Let's have a Cocktail

Verrrry witty woman...

9. HotCrossMum
'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

10. A little Messed up
Congrats on the Pregnancy and the fab blog!

Right. I'm going to break the rules and stop there as I still have another award to get to and one of the babies is waking up...

Thank you Hot Cross Mum for the "I love your Blog" award. Hee Hee! I love yours too! I also love tinygreenmama, madmammy, mommybrain, and sunshineandbubblegum.

Now for seven things about me!

Actually, I'll have to do that later. Baby number two is up and wanting some mama love!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tiny Dancer

My baby is a dancer.

This is something we've always known. Put on anything with even the vaguest semblance of a beat and she's off. Rock, country, showtunes, whatever.... if it has a beat, she's got the moves to match.

It doesn't even have to be music. Mid way through the rinse cycle, our washing machine has a tendency to rock out of it's own accord and everytime, without fail, the snot queen will stop what she's doing and rock out with it.

So imagine her delight when we took her to her first wedding this weekend.

"Ecstatic Bliss" does not begin to describe the joy that emanated from her tiny body as the band began to play and hundreds of people took to the floor to dance.

How, in all her 20 months of life on this earth, had such an extraordinary phenomenon as this existed without her knowledge? How long had people been meeting up to shimmy and shake and make such a joyous sound? And WHY oh WHY had we, her parents, kept her from them?

Well, she more then made up for lost time on Saturday night. From the moment her miniature mary janes hit the floor, she was off. She boogied with the best of them and screamed in protest if we so much as hinted at taking a break.

There was no end of suitors willing to partner her. Family, friends and complete strangers, she was anyone's for a song.

She even seemed to have an inborn knowledge of dancehall etiquette, turning to applaud the band at the end of each number. The seeds of a true groupie were sown as she lay prostrate on the floor in front of the stage making eyes at the lead singer.

At eleven o'clock, long past the hour she should have been in bed, we finally bundled up the little diva and took her home where she spent the next 12 hours in a dance induced coma.

And if there was any worry about her taste of the bright lights spoiling her for the simple pleasures of home, it was wiped away this morning as the rinse cycle started and her hips began to sway...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Power of Objects

There is nothing quite like the sense of foreboding one gets from ordinary household items once one becomes a parent.

Today's example? The lid from the jar of nappy cream resting on the arm of the couch sans rest of jar.

Pre children, this item would actually not be found in my house, however, had it's lid somehow been discovered there, the worst case scenario would have involved a jar of nappy cream with a dusty top layer. No biggie.

Add a few kids to the mix and that lid will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand nice and tall as the end result usually involves you, following a sticky, white, hand - printed trail around the house until you discover the culprit sitting on the kitchen floor, happily consuming whatever cream has not been used to coat their entire body.

Well, at least she's getting her zinc.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


If you could open up my head right now, you would be blown back by the force and sheer volume of thoughts and emotions that would hit you like a truck and leave you lying dazed and confused wondering, "What the hell just happened?"

I'm having one of "those" days. The days where nothing makes sense and everything seems to either irritate or frustrate me or else seems hell bent on getting in my way. It's the kind of day where everyone needs something and there isn't enough of me to go around and god help you if you dare to even THINK or BREATHE the wrong way because I WILL notice and I WON'T be amused.

It's the kind of day where I have arguments in my head over things that not only have not happened, but which I have no real reason to believe ever will aside from the fact that I'm completely out of sorts and have lost all control over the thoughts that are spinning and shooting forth, completely unchecked, from my mind.

I feel like an overtired child.

I am an over tired Adult.

I want someone to come along and pick me up and with no expectations whatsoever to rock me in their arms until the sobs become sniffles and the sniffles, soft snores and all the thoughts that are racing will stop and fade away to be replaced by dreams as I feel my body relax and my mind let go and I fall so gently, asleep.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To print, or not to print...

My Printer hates me. I have a small window known as “naptime” in which to print off and edit several hundred pages of musings on various “birth and baby” related topics (Today we do the third trimester and all the joys that go with it, hello perineal massage!) this would be fine were it not for the small matter of my printer refusing to do the job for which it was named, i.e print the damn lot! Sigh... Oh well, think I'll take advantage of the quiet and have a cuppa.

Technology hates me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Oh God! I feel like I've been hit by a truck... What is WRONG with me? My head hurts, my body hurts, my eyeballs feel like they weigh about two stone each and everything around me is just a bit too fast and a bit too loud.

Am I dying? Is it the plague? Is it Swine Flu?


Wait a minute.

I'm the mother of a baby going through a growth spurt.

A Growth spurt which involves her feeding all. Night. Long.

Yeah, yeah, I know... Night time is when the milk is at it's most nutritious. Hence her hoover like latch which does not let up until the morning light streams through the curtains and big sis is ready to get up for the day while the tiny terror falls into a milk induced coma.

I know, I know, I know.

That doesn't mean I have to like it.

Night feeds suck.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shanty Town Part Two: The Reno's

The Artist at Work... Putting on the finishing touches.

Et Voila!!!

Home Sweet Home

Yup, we wallpapered the interior with pages from the Argos catalogue...

Shanty Town

This is what happens when you are sleep deprived, have some spare cardboard on hand and have a "great" idea....

Yup, I've built my daughter her very own shanty...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

Have you ever read a book that so echoed your own thoughts and beliefs that every page had you screaming, "Yes! Yes! That's me!!! Omg! That's EXACTLY what I think!"

Well, for me, that book has to be Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution." It was recommended by a friend back when the Snot Queen was small and the tiny one wasn't even a glimmer in my eye.

As I've mentioned before, I had a lot of ideas about parenting that changed dramatically with the birth of the Snot Queen. Controlled Crying is yet another gem that made perfect sense to me BEFORE I became a parent.

The idea seemed simple; Put the baby down, let them cry for a few minutes, go in, offer comfort and leave. Repeat until baby gets the message and eventually gives up and goes to sleep.

Key Phrase: Gives up

Babies cry for a reason. It is their way of communicating that something in their world is not as it should be. They may be hungry or tired, scared or in pain. Bottom line is that something is wrong and they need you. When they are left to "cry it out" the only message they recieve is that no one cares and so they eventually "give up" trying.

The thought of a small, helpless infant left to their own devices was more then I could bear and yet every parenting book I picked up all seemed to offer their own variation of letting your small one cry. It might work for a lot of other parents, but it wasn't something I was prepared to do.

Then I found Elizabeth Pantley ( I love, love, LOVE her!)

Her book not only offered effective ways of helping your child to sleep without resorting to controlled crying, it also took into account factors such as breastfeeding, cosleeping and other elements of attachment parenting which other books either glossed over or ignored altogether.

I have, with the author's permission, reprinted the introduction to "The No Cry Sleep Solution" It's nice to know that there IS an alternative.

Sweet Dreams...

Buy the book at Amazon:
USA | Canada | UK
Introduction To The No-Cry Solution

This groundbreaking new book explains the exact steps you can take to gently help your baby sleep through the night. So, prop your eyelids open, grab a cup of coffee, and let me explain how this book can help you to help your baby sleep — so that you can get some much-needed sleep, too.

How do I know so much about children and sleep?

I am the proud and lucky mother of four children who shine the light on my life, whether they're asleep or awake. There's my firstborn Angela, now 14, and leading me into the (so far) delightful experience of mothering a teenager. Not far behind her are 12-year-old Vanessa and 10-year-old David. And then there's two-year-old Coleton…ahh, Coleton. Our little treasure of a surprise who reminded me of all the wonderful things I love about babies. And who also reminded me that with babies… come sleepless nights.

While I was in the process of convincing Coleton to go to sleep at bedtime — and stay asleep, all night — I discovered many wonderful, practical, loving solutions. As an author and parent educator, I take pleasure in sharing these with you, in hopes that you'll get some shuteye, too.

How The No-Cry Sleep Solution can help you

Through months of research, personal experience, and working with 60 test case families, I have assembled and organized a wide variety of gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night. The ideas do not involve letting your baby cry — not even for a minute. You will create a customized plan for your own family based on the ideas, all within a simple and easy-to-follow framework. It's a method that is as gentle and loving as it is effective.

Let me tell you why I became passionate about writing this book:

Fourteen years ago, when my first child, Angela, was a baby, I faced your dilemma: She did not sleep through the night. On the contrary, she woke every two hours for my attention. As a new, inexperienced parent, I searched for solutions in books, articles, and conversations with other parents.

I soon discovered two schools of thought when it comes to babies and sleep:

1. One side advocates letting a baby cry until she learns to fall asleep on her own.

2. The other side says that it is a parent's job to nurture the baby — all day and all night — and eventually, when your baby is ready, she will sleep through the night.

In a nutshell, the two methods can be summed up as “cry it out” or “live with it.” I wanted neither. I knew there had to be a kinder way, a road somewhere between nighttime neglect and daytime exhaustion that would be nurturing for my baby and for me.

Those many years ago, I felt guilty and selfish when I began to wish for an uninterrupted night's sleep. To reconcile my own instincts regarding Angela's nighttime needs with the fatigue that hampered my daytime parenting was nearly impossible. Time passed, and eventually my daughter did sleep through the night — but not until after her second birthday.

“Cry it out”

Advocates of this method make it sound so easy: A few nights of crying, and your baby will be sleeping all night, every night. If only it were so simple! My research has shown that very few parents experience this effortless success. Many deal with weeks of crying for hours each night (for baby and parent, in many instances.) Some have babies who cry so violently that they vomit. Some parents find that the nighttime crying affects their babies' daytime personalities — making them clingy and fussy. Many find that any setback (teething, sickness, missing a nap) sends them back to their night waking problems, and they find they must let their babies cry it out over and over again. Many (if not all) parents who resort to letting their babies cry it out do so because they believe that it is the only way they will get their babies to sleep through the night.

My personal experience with “Cry it out”

At one point during Angela's period of sleeplessness, I did cave in to all the pressure from friends, family, and even my pediatrician, who recommended that “a few nights of crying” would solve our problem. (If you're reading this book, you know this pressure, too.) So one dreadful night, I did indeed let her cry it out.

Oh, I checked on her often enough, but each return visit struck me with my precious baby holding out her arms, desperately and helplessly crying, “Mama!” with a look of terror and confusion on her tiny face. And sobbing. After two hours of this torment, I was crying, too.

I picked up my cherished baby and held her tightly in my arms. She was too distraught to nurse, too distressed to sleep. I held her and kissed her downy head as her body shook and hiccupped in the aftermath of her sobbing. I thought, “This approach is responding to a child's needs? This is teaching her that her world is worthy of her faith and trust? This is nurturing?”

I decided then and there: They are all wrong. Horribly, intolerably, painfully wrong. I was convinced that this was a simplistic and harsh way to treat another human being, let alone the precious little love of my life. To allow a baby to suffer until she resigns herself to sleep is heartless and, for me, unthinkable.

I promised my baby that I would never again follow the path that others prescribed for us. I would never again allow her to cry it out. Even more, I vowed not to let any of her brothers- or sisters-to-be suffer the horrible experience we'd just endured.

And I never have.

Thirteen years later: The more things change…

At 10 months old, my fourth baby, Coleton, was not sleeping through the night. Following in his older sister's footsteps, and beating her record, he was waking nearly every hour for my attention. Now a mature, seasoned parent and professional parent educator, I found that my beliefs about letting a baby cry it out had not changed at all. I was certain that the intervening years would have produced new solutions. I thought I would find useful, concrete ideas in a book, and I began my search.

Nearly a month later, eyes glazed over with fatigue, I evaluated my finds. Before me sat a stack of articles and books — old and new — with the same old choice of two answers to my dilemma: Either let the baby cry it out or learn to live with it.

What experts say about the mutual agony of “cry it out”

I did find much new data that reinforced my abhorrence of letting a baby cry it out. Dr. Paul M. Fleiss and Frederick Hodges in Sweet Dreams: A Pediatrician's Secrets for Baby's Good Night's Sleep Lowell House, 2000) have this to say about such training programs for babies:

“A child cannot comprehend why you are ignoring his cries for help. Ignoring your baby's cries, even with the best of intentions, may lead him to feel that he has been abandoned. Babies are responding to biological needs that sleep 'experts' either ignore or deny. It is true that a baby whose crying is ignored may eventually fall back asleep, but the problem that caused the night waking in the first place has remain unsolved.

“The most sensible and compassionate approach is to respond immediately to your child's cries. Remind yourself that you are the parent, and that giving your baby reassurance is one of the joyous responsibilities of being a parent. It is a beautiful feeling knowing that you alone have the power to brighten your child's life and banish fear and sorrow.”

Kate Allison Granju, in Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child
(Pocket Books, 1999), writes:

“Babies are people, extremely helpless, vulnerable, and dependent people. Your baby counts on you to lovingly care for her. When she cries, she is signaling — in the only way she knows how — that she needs you to be with her.

“You know what it feels like to cry in fear or distress. It feels terrible. And it's no different for your baby. When your baby cries he experiences physical changes. His blood pressure rises, his muscles become tense, and stress hormones flood his little body.

“Babies who are subjected to 'cry it out' sleep training do sometimes sleep deeply after they finally drop off. This is because babies and young children frequently sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. This deep sleep shouldn't be viewed as proof of the efficacy of the [cry it out] method but rather evidence of one of its many disturbing shortcomings.”

Dr. William Sears, in Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep (La Leche International, 1999), says that letting a baby cry it out creates “detachment parenting” and goes so far as to warn parents against this approach:

“Parents, let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice.”

How does a baby feel about crying it out?

No one truly knows how crying it out affects a baby. After all, one cannot raise a baby twice and note the difference. And no one really knows how a baby feels when he is left to cry it out. Jean Liedloff presents a likely perception in her volume on anthropology, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Addison-Wesley, 1977.) Here, she describes a baby waking in the middle of the night:

“He awakes in a mindless terror of the silence, the motionlessness. He screams. He is afire from head to foot with want, with desire, with intolerable impatience. He gasps for breath and screams until his head is filled and throbbing with the sound. He screams until his chest aches, until his throat is sore. He can bear the pain no more and his sobs weaken and subside. He listens. He opens and closes his fists. He rolls his head from side to side. Nothing helps. It is unbearable. He begins to cry again, but it is too much for his strained throat; he soon stops. He waves his hands and kicks his feet. He stops, able to suffer, unable to think, unable to hope. Then he falls asleep again.”

Renewed resolve, but tired nonetheless

So, reading all these books had strengthened my resolve not to let my baby cry himself to sleep. Nevertheless, with the perspective of experience, as a mother of four, I refused to feel guilty for wanting a good night's sleep. I wanted sleep. I wanted answers.

There had to be answers.

My research began in earnest. I searched the library and bookstores, and I took to the Internet. Observations and laments were easy to come by. But solutions? The same two schools of thought appeared over and over: “Cry it out” or live with it.

Parents, though, seemed to fall into only one category: Sleep-deprived and desperate. Here's how one mother described her condition:

“I am truly distressed, as the lack of sleep is starting to affect all aspects of my life. I feel as though I can't carry on an intelligent conversation. I am extremely unorganized and don't have the energy to even attempt reorganization. I love this child more than anything in the world, and I don't want to make her cry, but I'm near tears myself thinking about going to bed every night. Sometimes I think, 'What's the point? I'll just be up in an hour anyway.'”

Leesa, mother of 9-month-old Kyra

At this point in my own research, I began thinking that other parents going through the frequent-night-waking ordeal would have ideas to share. So I sought out those parents. And there, in the bits and pieces of conversations of personal experience, articles, books, and other sources, along with my own experimentations with my little Coleton, I began to find solutions. There in the interpersonal exchanges between parents who have tried every conceivable method, I began to find ideas that did not sentence a baby to hours of nightly crying. I found the solutions that offered more peaceful paths to the rest so desperately needed by the whole family.

I also researched the scientific reasons that babies wake up at night and dissected truth from fallacy. I picked apart the myriad solutions I'd read about, immersed myself in whatever I could find on the subject, and kept in regular contact with other sleep-deprived parents. Slowly, from the middle ground between the misery of crying it out and the quiet fatigue of all-night parenting, rose a plan - a gentle, nurturing plan to help my baby sleep.

I know because I've been there

Most books on babies and sleep are written by experts who, while well versed in the technical and physiological aspects of sleep, simply and obviously don't understand on a personal level the agony of being kept up all night, night after night, by their own babies ... or the heartache of hearing their little ones cry for them in the darkness. In contrast, I've experienced the foggy existence of sleepless nights. And having four unique children has afforded me the realization that, while it is possible for a very young baby to sleep all night, it is certainly the exception.

These "expert" books are typically complicated, difficult to read, and woefully short on solutions. I waded through stacks of books bursting with information about human sleep, but all lacked specific solutions to the sleeping-through-the-night-without-crying-it-out dilemma. Sure, the reader learns the mechanics …but still she's left wondering one basic question: How does she teach her baby to sleep?

To show you how things were going for me when I began working on my sleep concepts, this was Coleton's actual night waking schedule, logged on tiny bits of paper one very sleepless night:

Coleton's Night Wakings
12 months old

8:45 P.M. Lie in bed and nurse, still awake
9:00 Up again to read with David and Vanessa
9:20 To bed, lie down and nurse to sleep
9:40 Finally! Asleep
11:00 Nurse for 10 minutes
12:46 Nurse for 5 minutes
1:55 Nurse for 10 minutes
3:38 Change diaper, nurse for 25 minutes
4:50 Nurse for 10 minutes
5:27 Nurse for 15 minutes
6:31 Nurse for 15 minutes
7:02 Nurse for 20 minutes
7:48 Up. Nurse, then up for the day

Number of night wakings: 8
Longest sleep stretch: 1 ½ hours
Total hours of nighttime sleep: 8¼ hours
Daytime nap: One restless nap for ¾ hour
Total hours of sleep: 9 hours

And I did this for 12 months! So, you see? If you are there now, you really do have my heartfelt sympathy, because I have been there too. And I can get you out of that sleepless place, just as I did for my baby and myself. That's a promise.

I picked my way though ideas and options, experimenting and applying what I was learning. As my research progressed, so did our improvement. As Coleton began to sleep better, I was deeply involved in the research and writing of this book, so naturally, I continued to apply what I was learning. More time passed, and Coleton finally followed in his sister's footsteps and began sleeping 10 straight hours without a peep. (At first, I would wake up every few hours worried. I'd place my hands on his little body to feel for breathing. Eventually I realized he was just peacefully, quietly asleep.)

This is Coleton's log after using the strategies I'd learned during the writing of this book:

Coleton's Night Wakings

7:50 P.M. Coleton lays his head on my lap and asks to go “Night night.”
8:00 To bed. Lie down to nurse.
8:18 p.m. Asleep
6:13 a.m. Nurse for 20 minutes
7:38 Up for the day

Number of night wakings: 1 (Improved from 8)
Longest sleep stretch: 10 hours (Improved from 1 ½)
Total hours of nighttime sleep: 11 hours (Improved from 8¼)
Naps: One peaceful nap, two hours long (Improved from ¾ hour)
Total daily hours of sleep: 13 hours (Improved from 9 hours)

Amount of crying involved: ZERO

Here's a footnote that will please many of you. Throughout this entire process, Coleton continued to breastfeed and to sleep with me. Through my own experience and working with other mothers, I realized that co-sleeping/breastfeeding babies can sleep all night next to Mommy without waking to nurse, contrary to popular thinking. If you are determined to continue breastfeeding and/or co-sleeping with your baby, you might be able to do so and get some sleep, too!

My “Test Mommies”

Once I had found success with Coleton, I searched out other families who were struggling with their baby's night wakings. I gathered a group of 60 women who were enthusiastic about trying my sleep ideas. This test group is a varied and interesting bunch! When we first met, their babies ranged in age from two months to 27 months. For some, this is a first baby, some have older siblings, and one mother has twins. Some of the mothers work outside the home; some work only at home. Some bottle-feed, some breastfeed. Some co-sleep, some put their babies to sleep in a crib, and some do a little of both. They are all very different from one another - yet they are all exactly the same in one important way: When we first met, they were all struggling with sleepless nights.

These mothers dutifully completed sleep logs every 10 days and emailed me on a regular basis to keep me informed of their progress. They asked questions, (boy, did they ask questions!) and as we worked through my sleep plan, they provided the information and feedback that helped me refine my ideas. Read their interviews here.

Proof! It works!

At the start of our work together, none of the 60 mothers had babies who were “sleeping through the night” according to the medical definition of the phrase: sleeping a stretch of five or more hours without waking.

As the test group of mothers followed ideas in The No-Cry Sleep Solution:

By day 10, 42% of the babies were sleeping through the night.
By day 20, 53% were sleeping through the night.
By day 60, 92% were sleeping through the night.
Once these babies reached the five-hour milestone, they continued on with more sleep success, some achieving sleep stretches of nine to 13 hours.

You can sleep, too

There are no good reasons for you to live as a sleep-deprived martyr. There are ways to get your baby to sleep without resorting to all-night cry-a-thons.

In summary, I don't believe babies should be left alone to cry themselves to sleep. Or even left to cry as you pop in every 10 minutes to murmur comforting words without reaching out to touch him. But I also know that you can — gently and lovingly — help your baby to sleep peacefully all night long. So give The No-Cry Sleep Solution a try, and plan on seeing some wonderful sleep results.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution (McGraw-Hill 2002) by Elizabeth Pantley

Monday, September 14, 2009

FOUR in the bed?!?!?!?

When I was pregnant on the Snot Queen, I had very definite ideas on how my baby would be raised.

Co Sleeping did not figure highly in these plans.

In fact, it didn't figure at all. As far as I was concerned, our baby would be sleeping in a cot, in its own room, from day one. I had read Gina Ford, well, skimmed actually... okay, I read the introduction where I was promised a perfectly timed eating, sleeping, pooping, contented little baby and then threw it aside to be dealt with later when I got to the boring bits, i.e the rest of the book.

At the time, it made sense to me. Babies were brand new people unaccustomed to the ways and means of our world. It was our job as parents to train them in these ways. They needed cots and nurseries, black out blinds and white noise machines. Above all else though, they needed ROUTINE.

Yes, that great, oft repeated word from every baby book ever written and whispered into the sweet shell like ears of new mothers all over the western world. Routine, like Jesus and low fat cheese spread, would save us all.

What I hadn't planned on was a week's stay in hospital after the baby was born. A week where night after night, my new little citizen would scream the ward down if I so much as pointed her in the direction of her plastic bassinet. It was on or around the fourth night into our stay that one of the midwives suggested I take her into the bed with me.

A week earlier, I'd have looked at her like she was insane and reported her for negligence. Good Lord! I had enough trouble with the concept of the baby in our room, let alone in our bed!

It's amazing what a little sleep deprivation will do to those hard set ideals.

It was the best. Night's. Sleep. Ever.

For the rest of my stay, myself and the tiny being who would eventually become known as the snot queen, slept cocooned together in my fuzzy red housecoat. Day and night, her warm little body would lie curled against me, rising and falling with every breath.

Once home, she spent a few nights in a Moses basket next to our bed. She hated the basket though and as it was I would invariably doze off during the night feed and wake up with her still in my arms.

We tried a cot with the same result, thinking maybe it was space she craved. It wasn't though, it was us.

By the end of month two, "Our Bed" officially became "The Family Bed" and I became extremely well read on the subject of co sleeping and its many benefits.

I learned about how, with proper safety precautions taken, co sleeping was a great guard against cot death. Babies who cosleep spend less time in what is known as "Level III" sleep, a deep sleep stage where apneas are most likely to occur. As well, during sleep sharing, the infant's breathing and heart rate line up with the mother's and should the baby have an incidence of apnea, the breathing of the parents would stimulate the baby to take the next breath.

Also, babies who co slept, were found to have far lower levels of cortisol, a stress related hormone.

I experienced for myself how much easier it made breastfeeding and would often wake to find she had latched on and fed whilst I was asleep.

Deborah Jackson, my favourite parenting author of all time, wrote a brilliant book on the subject called "Three in a bed" which I can't recommend highly enough.

When I found out I was pregnant on number two, friends and family who were "concerned" about our sleeping arrangements started making helpful suggestions about how the Snot Queen would have to be moved into a bed of her own and how the new baby should really learn to sleep in a cot.

We nodded and smiled and listened politely to everything they said.

In the end, we got a bigger bed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Because I'm Worth it?

It was what Oprah would call, "A defining moment."

It was early days in the love story that is me and J. We had just moved to Scotland together (as you do after five weeks together) and were looking at places to rent. The estate agent turned to us and asked what we did for a living. J listed off the field he was studying and named the company he had recently worked for before leaving Ireland.

Then it was my turn.

In the millisecond before I opened my mouth, I took a quick inventory of my life so far and this is what I came up with;

Age 15: I enter and place second in the Juvenile division of the Provincial Arts and Letters Competition for a Watercolour I'd painted.

That same year, I published two pieces in the largest province wide Newspaper in Newfoundland and also performed my work on Canada's National Radio Station, CBC.

Two months shy of my 18th birthday, I packed my bags and moved 1022 miles away to study at one of Canada's most prestigious Journalism schools.

Even though I never finished the course, I did spent an additional two years living and working in Ottawa where I starred in an Independant horror film, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Yup that's me in the catsuit...

I then upped and packed my bags again. This time it was off to the wild, wild west where I spent five years living and working in the Canadian Rockies. It was also where I got my first ever job in retail. Within a year, I was promoted to floor supervisor, I was then put in charge of shipping and three years after I started, was given my own shop to manage. Not bad for a beginner!

I couldn't stay put though, and so in 2004 hatched a cunning plan to tour the World. May 2005 found me in Ireland with a one year working Visa in my hand and a few hundred Euro in my pocket. Again, I worked my way to a managerial spot in one of the first jobs I got.

I taught myself to play guitar and write songs, to paint and write and take beautiful pictures. I did the photography work on a friend's album and performed in countless theatrical productions. I campaigned against landmines and raised money for charity. I spent 12 years in the guiding movement and can tie knots and put up a tent like nobody's business. I can even cook chicken underground!

All of this and more went through my head, but this is what came out;

" Oh, I'm pretty useless! Ha ha!"

The estate agent gave me an odd look and then continued on explaining how the sitting room converted into a bedroom when you moved the couch and pulled the bed out of the wall. J was horrified, both by the sitting room cum bedroom as well as by my less then stellar self description.

Useless. Twenty Five years on this planet and I didn't have the confidence to say one positive thing about myself.

What's worse is that I didn't see anything wrong with the statement. I tossed it off with a laugh and would have forgotten all about it if J hadn't called me on it there and then (and for the next four years, seriously, the man won't let it go!)

What was wrong with me that I couldn't talk about my accomplishments? That I couldn't be proud of what I'd done? What was it that made me look at all of the pieces that made up who I was and come up with "useless?" Why couldn't I credit myself for anything?

Because I didn't have a degree. I didn't have any "qualifications" for the things I did. I had no training and therefore, no validation.

Yes, I could paint wonderful pictures that won awards, but was I an artist? NOOOOOOO! Artist's go to Art School silly! Doesn't Count.

I'd been published, surely that made me a writer? NOOOOOOOO! I dropped out of Journalism School and besides, I hadn't published anything in years! I hadn't submitted anything either because of that... Doesn't Count.

Well, I play piano and guitar and write my own songs, surely I must qualify as a Musician? Again, no. No Training? Doesn't Count.

Even the position I had earned, that of Shop Manager, I couldn't declare myself as, because I no longer worked there, so it obviously didn't count.

That was my way of thinking. I didn't have a piece of paper, so it didn't count. Therefore, neither did I.

I passed up a lot of oppurtunities over the years because despite having the skills, I never had the qualifications and because I didn't have the qualifications, I didn't have the confidence to say "Hey! I can do this!"

Or even to try.

I'm writing about this today because even though I've come along way since that day at the house with the Sitting Room cum Bedroom, I still have moments of doubt, moments that hold me back from doing the things I want most.

I am in the process of editing 250 pages of a manuscript I've spent the last year working on. I still have more to add, but the bulk of the work is done and I know that if it's published, it will do very well.

And therein lies the problem...

Getting my book published means selling myself. My still (technically) unqualified self who hasn't submitted anything for publication in over ten years.

It means sitting down at my computer and writing a few hundred words about how great my work is and how deserving I am of their time and money. Look at me! Look at Me!

It is Me vs. The Estate Agent times a million.

I'm scared shitless.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Great Boobs of Fire

Well! It seems that breasts are to be the theme of this week's blogs...

What do you get when you combine a high fever, chills, mad dreams about Yes and No Campaigners for the lisbon treaty calling me out to a roundabout in the middle of the night to discuss the treaty's effect on parents, extreme thirst, aches, dizziness, nausea and oh yeah! GIANT ENGORGED BREASTS OF FIRE!!!!

That's right, mastitis.

The fun never ends...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Night Weaning: Part 2

There are certain things that no one tells you about breastfeeding. Things you have to discover for yourself.

Like the pain you will feel when trying to night wean your toddler.

When after weeks of "success," they suddenly wake screaming in the night. Wanting one thing and one thing only.

The one thing you can no longer give them because you know that it will undo the weeks of work that have come before.

So you try to comfort them in other ways.

You hold their arching body and dodge their grabbing hands.

You sing and shush softly, softly.

You read books.

You offer cups of expressed milk.

Which would be grand were it hunger that drove them...

You feel frustrated.

Why don't they understand?

It will be there in the morning, afternoon and even in the evening...

Just not the night, anymore.

Why does it feel like a battle

you against them

someone must win

and lose

why does there have to be a loser

You feel guilty, because they are so little.

If it were just the one, it would be different. You would feed them whenever, wherever...

But there is another mouth to feed...

a smaller mouth that needs you more.

So you do what you have to

to keep them both going...

But you don't talk about it, much. Because it's hard to explain that you don't want to stop. That you love feeding both of your babies, that it's not a matter of weaning one completely. That isn't what I want. It just seems sometimes, like there are so many people out there wondering, "what is she doing? Why is she still feeding her toddler? When does she plan on stopping?"

To say that I'm having any difficulty whatsoever invites floods of well meaning advice, always with the same solution.

It's okay to stop you know.

But I don't.

Want to stop that is.

But that is the only answer anyone seems to have whenever I hit a bump in the road, which contrary to popular belief, is not that often.

God I've gone off track here!

But I feel a lot better now.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Run Away with Me

I am not a runner.

I hate running with a passion that sears my soul and makes my eyes hurt.

It is a cruel and unusual punishment which certain lycra loving members of the population, namely runners, insist on calling "fun" but which I can only label as "Torturous."

So why on earth, you may well ask, did yesterday evening find me decked out in a pair of torn off sweatpants, a puke stained T-shirt (Baby puke. My standards of cleanliness haven't sunk THAT low) and a pair of Dunnes finest runners as I left the house at a speed some might call a "jog?"

Because I'm crazy.

Because at some point each year, I am blinded by the glow of health and brightly coloured spandex that emanates from the pavement pounding members of the local running club and decide that I want to join their ranks.

Never mind that I hate the feeling of my lungs burning out of my chest.

Never mind that this tends to happen within 5 minutes of leaving my house.

Every year, I decide to go for a run.

Every year, it ends badly.

This year was no exception...

I left the house at around 7:30. The kids were fed, the dishes had been cleared back and there was still an hour left before baths and bedtime. I had downloaded three Michael Jackson Tracks into my phone and had my headphones jammed firmly into my ears. It was slightly misty, but I didn't care.

I was ready.

For safety's sake, I figured I'd walk down the hill and start my run at the foot. Being uncomfortably aware of the less then stylish state of my clothing, I chose to walk down the grassy slope that was hidden from the main road way behind a load of trees and hedges. I also wanted to rock out a little to "Man in the Mirror" and preferred a certain measure of privacy in which to do that...

To say that the ground was wet is an understatement.

Do you know how slippery grass and mud can get after a week of rain?

Midway down the hill, I found out as I fell flat on my back and slid on my arse to the bottom where I was greeted by every walker, jogger and evening stroller in town.

Still, I was not to be deterred and set off at a limp to the nearest trail. The first couple I met moved to the side to allow me to pass. The dry side. My side of the pavement was covered in a giant puddle. No bother! I'd simply jog around it.

Remember what I said about wet ground?

It was like running through a bog. I was soaked to the ankles. The fun factor was rapidly diminishing as was my enthusiasm as I yelled out a few choice words.

Two more slip ups and a near miss with a car later and I was officially done.

I decided to take a short cut home in an effort to end the humiliation a little bit sooner. When I reached the end, it was locked. With a defeated sigh, I turned and headed back the way I came. Midway home I was passed out by the local running club.

Salt. Wound. Rub vigorously.

By the time I finally trudged through my front door, I was soaked to the bone. My arms were numb with the cold and any exposed skin was turning a funny shade of pink.

As I peeled off my wet clothes and stepped into a steaming hot shower, I vowed with passion, "NEVER AGAIN!!!!"

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No More Stuff: One month in...

It's been almost a month now since I started the "no stuff" challenge so I'm well overdue for an update. I'm also overdue for a "Great Weight Update" but after last night's Dorito Date and Todays Chocolate finger fun.... well, let's just say that hell will have to freeze over (or else it will have to stop raining here in the south of Ireland) before I go anywhere near the vicinity of a scale any time soon.

Now, being a rather "frugal" (cough - cheap! - cough) person to begin with, the thought of buying nothing (or close enough anyway) didn't exactly fill me with fear. Quite the opposite in fact! I was rubbing my hands gleefully at the prospect of having an excuse to shop for second hand bargains and to use my own creativity and ingenuity to make do with what I already have or just plain make anything I need.

I've had shoes posted to me from a mother who's daughter had outgrown them. I in turn, sent two pairs of the snot queen's old shoes to another mam. We've traded toys with friends, made our own fun and switched the tiny one over to cloth nappies. We've also sold or given away several of our un-needed items on rollercoaster.ie, a popular Irish parenting site.

I suppose the greatest realization that I've made is how little we actually need and how, with a little ingenuity, the things we want can be ours without costing the earth (in more ways then one!)

Ransacked: Part 2 - When babies are Quiet...

As you may recall, two weeks ago today our house was ransacked by tiny vandals. We thought we were safe, that they wouldn't strike twice. We were wrong...