Nighttime Parenting

My son has been awake in the middle of the night often over the last few weeks: because he needed to pee, or had peed in his sleep, had a nightmare, was cold, was hungry, transitioned between sleep cycles right as I was making some sort of noise like watching TV or talking on the phone.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been called on to nighttime parent much more frequently than I have in months (since right after my husband and I separated), and before that since he still nursed at night.

Nighttime parenting is one of those areas that can become controversial parent fodder very quickly. Some people can’t imagine having their baby in a crib while others would never consider having her sleep in the same bed. Many fall somewhere in the middle.
Continue reading Nighttime Parenting

5 Easy Ways to Take Care of Your Body

Lose weight. Exercise. Eat better. Well, sure, those are great ways to take care of yourself physically, but when you’re barely taking care of yourself at all because, say, you’re a parent to a young child or an older child with school and homework and music class and soccer, when are you going to fit in at least three workouts at the gym and how are you going to cut fat,cholesterol, carbs, processed foods, and sugar out of your diet?

For the first in this series of posts on self-care, I’m focusing on the physical domain. It is probably the area we all best know what we could or should be doing. We just don’t want to. Or it seems too hard.

So, here are some ideas for how to take care of yourself physically when you don’t have a lot of time or energy to do it.

Drink more water. Just take it with you. Maybe you need a good water bottle that won’t leach bpa’s, but carry one in your car. Keep a glass of water next to you all the time, so maybe you’ll just space out and drink it by accident because it’s within arm’s reach. Or drink a full glass of water before you drink your morning coffee. If you’re not convinced, read about the health benefits of drinking water. It does more for you than you ever imagined.

Take deep breaths. Oxygen helps you calm down. Stress hurts your body. Inhale. Exhale. In traffic. When your kid doesn’t want to eat the corn quesadilla he just asked for and you slaved over for two whole minutes including microwave time.

Take a multivitamin. I thought I’d figured out an easy way to remember mine: put it next to my toothbrush so I’d grab it first thing in the morning. But I burped vitamin for hours if I tried to take it on an empty stomach. It might be better for you to take one of the ones made for grown-ups with all sorts of extra calcium to keep you from getting osteoporosis, but if you don’t actually take it, it’s not having much benefit. So take your kid’s chewables and give yourself two when he asks for his. He’ll remember because they’re purple, orange, or pink and in the shape of animals. Maybe he wants a kitty today. You eat the elephant.

Remember that Food is Not Love. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Don’t buy junk food at the grocery store. If it’s not in your pantry, you won’t eat as much of it. Make yourself have to actually run out for potato chips or to Sonic for a cherry limeade. It will cut your calories.

Get enough sleep. There are all sorts of tips out there to have good sleep hygiene. They don’t actually work for me. But sleeping impacts mood, metabolism, and ability to function, among other things. Getting sleep is good. Maybe you give yourself a bedtime. Maybe you find a way of taking a nap on a Sunday. But get rest. You’ll be nicer to your kids. You’ll move faster through all the things you want to get done for yourself.  You’ll drive more safely. Figure out how to get enough sleep, then actually do that.

And from Zen Habits, your bonus not-as-easy physical self care method, find Fun Ways to Exercise.

Image by LostxIn Moonriver

Sonya Fehér writes about parenting, divorce, and self care at mamaTRUE.

Where Our Toys Come From

My son and I visited my mom for six weeks this summer. One of the most unlikely adventures Cavanaugh and I had is #81 on the list of 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12!: “A Place Where They Make Cool Stuff.”

We went to North Star Toys, which is our friend Tim and Connie Long’s toy workshop. It’s not a store or a place generally open to the public, which made it even cooler. Then they helped Cavanaugh and his buddy Nico make their own toy cars.

Tim cut out the bug car shape so the kids could see a jigsaw work. Then he smoothed the car down and ran it over a huge belt sander. (Can you tell Cavanaugh doesn’t like loud noises?) After that, Tim helped the boys put the wheels on their cars. Finally, the boys dipped their cars in food grad mineral oil to seal the wood.

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is getting to watch as Cavanaugh learns something new. Cavanaugh realized that the toys he plays with are put together somehow, and that not only are there components of the toys themselves but people who make them.
Continue reading Where Our Toys Come From

Take Care of Yourself and Your Kids at the Same Time

IMG_0633I started this year with the intention of learning how to be happy and how to take care of myself. At the time, I didn’t know I was getting a divorce or about to experience all of the changes and challenges that go along with it.

One of the major questions in this divorce is that I’m a SAH AP Mama and our son is not ready for preschool. He’s three and a half and a sweet, sensitive boy who has friends and goes to playdates, but doesn’t like big groups or a lot of noise. That means Cavanaugh and I are together most of the time.

My husband being out of the house means that the pretty intensive practice of attachment parenting just got a lot more intense, so the need for self-care is more important than ever.

So, one of my major questions has been how to engage in self care when I’m with my son.

Here are our top ten:

  1. Take deep breaths. When we’ve been running errands, it’s near the end of the day and energy is low, Cavanaugh’s hungry or sleepy, I’m feeling impatient, or any other circumstance you can name where just taking a minute is advisable, sometimes I remember to take deep breaths. Cavanaugh takes them with me. He’ll even suggest we take them occasionally.
  2. Go for a walk with the jogging stroller. I get exercise. He gets adventure. If he doesn’t want to be in the stroller, he can run alongside it. On the way back from the park the other day, he ran along yelling, “Hi grass. Hi roly poly. Hi garden.” Endorphins. Oxygen. Nature.
  3. Vacuum. Cavanaugh gets his popper and I get my vacuum and we have races, bump into each other and get the living room clean.
  4. Create something. It’s so easy to think my creativity has to take a backseat to mothering. Doing beadwork or crochet doesn’t work together right now, but Cavanaugh loves to paint with me. He tells me what shapes to make and then he colors them in. Or he draws things and tells me a  story about what they are. Pretty soon, we have characters, a scene, and a whole plot going. It might not be the poem I would have written on my own, but it uses the same part of me.
  5. Go out for a treat. Whether it’s the bagel shop for lunch or the coffee shop for a latte and chocolate milk, sitting across the table from each other in the middle of the day somewhere outside our house means we have conversations we don’t have any other time.
  6. Notice nature. We lie in the hammock and Cavanaugh drives his trains up my legs while I look at the trees. Eventually, he checks out the trees too. Or we go outside to say goodnight to the moon. Or we watch butterflies at the park or in our yard. Slowing down to just pay attention and be in nature centers us both.
  7. Sing. Sing a narrative of what you’re doing: “We’re walking up the stairs to look for Pigeon. We hope we can find him there.” Cavanaugh sings too. It’s like a musical with conversation in song.
  8. Drink water. We both get our glasses and drink at the same time, big delicious gulps of icy cold water. We pick up our cups and drink together again. We both drink more this way and it feels like a game.
  9. Chase a ball. Our favorite new game is to go to the basketball court with a big bouncy ball and throw it to each other than chase it. We get super silly, exercise, time outside, and play time together.
  10. Read with Cavanaugh before he goes to sleep and then lie in the bed after he’s asleep and read a book for me.

Sonya Fehér blogs about parenting, divorce, self care, and spirituality at mamaTRUE: parenting as practice

21 Creative Projects with Kids

Getting creative with our kids offers so many benefits: presence with them, a creative outlet for all of us, and fun crafts to play with, wear, or display. So I’ve put together a list of 21 creative projects to do with toddlers on up. I hope you have as much fun with them as we have.

  1. Dance party with kids’ music or adult songs. Do this with your family in your living room or as a playgroup and have other parents bring two of their favorite songs.
  2. Glue stuff. Get construction paper and glue sticks. You can make piles of yarn, metal confetti, tissue paper, glitter, construction paper shapes, or anything else you can think of.
  3. Make maracas out of coffee cans or yogurt containers. Have child fill with pinto beans or lentils. Duct tape top on. Glue or tape construction paper on the outside. Kids can decorate with markers or crayons.
  4. Learn how to make new colors. Get tempera paint and let child tell you what colors to mix to see what yellow and red make or blue and white.
  5. Marker faux tie dye. Let child draw on t-shirt with sharpie markers. When child is done, spray rubbing alcohol onto marker decorations. After alcohol dries, put shirt into hot dryer to set marker. Then you can run t-shirt through washer and dryer.
  6. Bake. Your child can pour in ingredients after you measure them. S/he can tell you what ingredient to put in next, stir, and put muffin cups into tins.
  7. Make your own playdoh. Check out recipes here.
  8. Cut. Hold construction paper up and let child use scissors two-handed and cut. Scissors that make patterns and cut with special edging are a real treat.
  9. Stamp. Using stamps with stamp pads is fun because it makes pictures toddlers don’t have the skills to draw themselves yet. Be sure to get washable ink pads.
  10. Gloop. Mix 1 cup cornstarch with small amount of water. If it’s too runny then add more cornstarch. Use a shower curtain liner, do it outside, or give kids gloop in a dry bathtub. The gloop is liquid or solid depending upon whether you let it run or squish it. It’s great for tactile exploration.
  11. Have an instrument parade. Put all your instruments out and march around the house playing different instruments. Trade to new instruments on each round or periodically.
  12. Popsicle stick puppets. Cut out animals or people or other shapes and glue to popsicle sticks. Then have puppets talk to each other.
  13. Play dress up. Wear hats or outfits then pretend to be someone else or that you are yourself being a firefighter, princess, builder, drummer, etc.
  14. Easel painting. You and your child can both have brushes. S/he may ask you to draw shapes, building, animals, etc. Then s/he can color it in.
  15. Play with shaving cream. Spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet with a rim or a nonstick 9 x 13 pan and give to child to spread around.
  16. Cardboard box vehicles or buildings. Take a big cardboard box and cut out windows or paint the outside. You can make a house, a train, a firetruck, a cave.
  17. Lunch bag puppets. Paint or draw on outside of lunch bags and make into puppets.
  18. Homemade cards using construction or card stock paper. You can write the quote or message and have your child draw or glue to decorate.
  19. Play with felt. Make a felt board by gluing a big piece of felt onto cardboard or other stiffer surface. Cut out felt shapes and then child can stick felt shapes onto felt board.
  20. Bubble bath dress up. Child can put on bubble beards or put bubbles in hair to make mohawks or anything else. Hold up mirror for child to see him/herself.
  21. Make up stories. You can start it or let your child start the story. Ask, “And then what happened?” to keep the story going.

What are some of your favorite ways to get creative with your kids?

Sonya Fehér blogs at mamaTRUE: parenting as practice about parenting, spirituality, and divorce.


Three Year Old Weans Himself

Nursing at 11 months

No, child-led weaning is not propaganda spread by La Leche League. It truly exists. I’d begun to wonder, honestly, even though I’d heard stories of friends, and friends of friends, whose children had weaned themselves. But now I’ve experienced natural weaning firsthand and I’m here to tell you it actually happens because my son just weaned himself!

In fact, he stopped nursing on New Year’s Day, but I’ve been waiting to make sure it was real, that I didn’t jinx it by declaring that it was so. Call me superstitious, but I didn’t want the milk gods to revive Cavanaugh’s interest or engorge my breasts.

This weaning has been gradual and I wondered if it would ever happen. What I kept reading and hearing is that children wean themselves when they’ve fulfilled the need to nurse. They won’t need a pacifier or to suck their thumb. They will be able to get food and comfort and whatever else that sucking reflex provided them from something else. Sure, I kept thinking, but when? Continue reading Three Year Old Weans Himself

Holiday Expectations Denied

Almost first thing on Thanksgiving my expectations for the day were dashed. Our friends who were supposed to come over for Thanksgiving dinner had to cancel because of illness. I was glad they didn’t want to share their germs and totally understood. It didn’t hurt my day so much as change what I thought it would look like. The whole holiday weekend (and maybe my whole life) has gone that way. So I’m thinking about expectations.

My last therapist said that both expectation and worry are stories we’re telling ourselves. Our story is unlikely to play out as we imagine. Her point was that we should just stop making up stories and live in the present moment. I like the idea, but the reality is that often we need to plan ahead, which requires thinking about how things may go and what we’ll need to do or get, where we’ll need to be.

So what happens when we plan ahead and events don’t go as anticipated? Well, on Thanksgiving, instead of cooking our food earlier in the day to ready for our guests, our morning was so long and leisurely it lasted until about four in the afternoon. Mike and Cavanaugh built train tracks from the train table through the living room, around the couch, and back to the train table. I would never have had the patience or attention span for this. Cavanaugh was in utter heaven and Mike got to spend hours of focused time with his son. It was definitely a day to be thankful for.

Part of why the day was good is that I’ve been trying hard to let go of what I think things should look like. Who am I really? Only one of three people in this family. Why should it be my plan, my expectations fulfilled?

It happened again over the weekend when we were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree. Rather than finding decorations in the garage, Cavanaugh discovered a attery-operated holiday train set we just inherited from a friend. He was so taken with it that he cared about nothing else. I found myself getting frustrated, even mad. I had a whole picture of how the afternoon was supposed to go. We were going to listen to cool Christmas music, hang lights, tell Cavanaugh stories about where the decorations came from. He didn’t care at all.

Luckily, I was able to stop myself from the bad mood I felt coming. I’ve started noticing recently that I feel my body heat up when I’m getting angry. I literally need to cool down. So, I walked outside to repot a plant and left Mike inside to help with the holiday train. When I entered the house, Cavanaugh walked into my arms. The tracks kept popping apart and the train wouldn’t ride the rails. He just looked so disappointed.

I gave him a hug and said we’d go figure it out. We walked into the sunroom and tried one more track maneuver. Rather than throw it out the window, I suggested in my playful parenting voice that we just put the tracks back in the box and let the train run on the floor. We could pretend the whole room was tracks. Mike followed my lead and pretty soon my husband and I listened to Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas album as we got ready to decorate the tree. I didn’t even try to make up a story about how it was going to go. I just experienced it as it happened.

I hope to be able to do the same throughout this month, through the cookie decorating parites we’ve been invited to, the tree lighting and caroling, and whatever other holiday events we’ve got on the calendar–but may or may not go to depending on what’s happening in the moment.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did it go as expected. What kinds of plans and hopes do you have for the rest of your holiday season?

Sonya Fehér is a co-leader of the S. Austin chapter of Attachment Parenting International. You can find her at mamaTRUE: parenting as practice.

Creating Holiday Traditions

Last year, all I felt like doing for Thanksgiving was resting and giving thanks. This year, I am antsy and ready to do stuff, holiday stuff. Our son just turned three and has been so much more aware of special occasions –his dad’s birthday, Halloween, his birthday– that this is the year we can start explaining what Thanksgiving and Christmas are, start helping him to know there are traditions we’ll participate in every year.Family traditions feel to me very much a part of creating a secure base, something we can expect to happen, that we can count on doing with the people we love. Continue reading Creating Holiday Traditions

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