How RIE saved my sanity

I remember when Jason was oh, about 7 1/2 months. He had just learned how to crawl. We were visiting my friend Stephanie and her adorable newborn D. We were talking about (what else) our babies. All of a sudden Stephanie mentioned a book she was reading by Magda Gerber. About  letting babies be by themselves and letting them cry. I was still totally into Attachment Parenting, so that was what I heard. I’m sure she actually worded it differently. But I could only think of how cruel it sounded.

Fast forward to toddlerhood. Jason had turned one, started walking, and all of a sudden I was trying to deal with a toddler. A kid with opinions. A child that whined. I was running circles in my head trying to figure out how to deal with this new stage in Jason’s life. Luckily I go to an amazing mommy group. Most of the women had homebirths with the same midwife. The midwife started the group, because she had a bunch of mommies with babies the same age. And we all know how you need support and someone to talk to when you are a new mommy. My friend Jeannette, who also had her boy with Margo the midwife, brought me along to the group. And all these crunchy moms gracefully included me into their circle. Even with my epidural, episiotomy hospital birth.

At Jason’s first birthday party I had invited my mommy group friends. And Stephanie, who also had used Margo for her homebirth, but obviously had a much younger son. This is where I first heard, and I mean HEARD, about RIE. Stephanie and some other moms were looking into taking a RIE-class. Not something I can afford. So I started researching the web. And stumbled upon Janet Lansbury’s blog. I read post after post and talked some more to my friends. We were all sold by now. Margo even invited Ruth Anne, a RIE-guru, to come speak at the mommy group.

That’s when I really started to relax about this whole parenting gig. I had about a dozen aha-moments. How much sense it all made ! For 12 months I had felt guilty every time I let Jason play by himself. When I didn’t entertain him. Or teach him new things. He never really cried as a baby. Only when he was hungry, did he start whimpering. But now. This toddler. Whining. Crying. More guilt. More stress.

Now I could relax. Breathe. Trust. Trust in my child that he will reach the next milestone in his own time. Forget about the hidden competition between moms to have your kid be the first. Instead bask in the knowledge that I was doing exactly the right thing by letting him figure it out.

The biggest aha-moment occurred when I read about the RIE-tenet of allowing your child to cry. Letting him know that all his emotions, the good and negative, were allowed and acknowledged. The moment I relaxed about crying and put the RIE-philosphy into action, it became so much better. Our relationship changed from tensely, anxiously awaiting the next outburst, to closeness and understanding.

And I learned something major about myself. I don’t cry. Or hardly ever. I didn’t even cry at my own father’s funeral when I was 14, because I was embarrassed. You know why? Because, as loving as my parents were, I somehow learned that big kids don’t cry. They are tough. Babies and weaklings cry. Even now, seeing an adult cry, makes me very uncomfortable.

This is what I want to avoid with Jason. I am sure that down the road, without RIE, we would have ended up there. It was the only thing I knew. So RIE did not only save my sanity. It saved my son’s acceptance of his own emotions. And it retrieved a big part of me. Though, as with everything, it is still a work in progress.


Posted in Boys, Child-rearing, Positive parenting, RIE, Toddler | Leave a comment

Birthday present

Last week I got to sew for someone else’s son. I love sewing birthday presents. Even if things always seem to go wrong whenever I sew for anyone else than Jason.

My friend in Belgium has a son who just turned two. However, mailing packages to Belgium will cost you an arm and a leg – and the recipient has to pay taxes on the package too. Totally ridiculous.

So I decided to sew a long sleeve and mail it in a regular large envelope. Technically, this is not allowed. But it has worked every time. And instead of paying at least $25, I was able to mail it for about $4. And, even better, it took only a week to get there!

O, my friend’s son Liesje, my friend, loves the Danish brand Albababy and Lily Balou. I got her to give me some links to her favorite websites for kid’s clothing. I have to say that Belgian brands are so much cuter than American. What’s up with that?

So I borrowed my inspiration from both brands, mixed it with my favorite Tee for Two-pattern, et voilà:



I’m happy to say both O and Liesje loved it. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t find yellow rib knit at Joann’s, so I had to use interlock on the cuffs and neckband, which makes them less stretchy. As I said, my gifts never come out quite as perfect as I envisioned them. But Liesje is a seamstress herself, so I was comfortable knowing she would appreciate the effort that went into it. Which she did.

In the meantime I have been keeping up with sewing Jason’s wardrobe. A couple of weeks ago I noticed he had outgrown most of his t-shirts. Have I mentioned how much I love the Tee for Two-pattern? :

I have been experimenting with mixing the pattern up and hiding the raw edges. I think I like it better when they show.

And you might have noticed, I have gone appliqué-crazy. It’s definitely a learning process, but Jason doesn’t mind if his helicopter doesn’t look perfect.

Or his ant. Yes, my boy loves ants! I made it with googley eyes glued on first. Fully aware they might fall off very quickly. Which they did.

At first I decided it didn’t really need eyes then. But I feared that without it might look like a turd with feet. So I did my best to give it an eye and a mouth. I hate embroidering, so I used my machine. Hmm, not great looking … But again, just perfect in Jason’s eyes. Btw, you notice the wavy hemming? Jason woke up from his nap just as I was sewing the hems. That’s what rushing gets me. No-one notices when he is wearing it, so why bother with fixing it?

My big boy and his dogs. (Pembroke Welsh Corgis in case you are wondering.) They do grew up too fast. Especially Jason, who must be half sasquatch. So tall, but still so cuddly. My heart loves it, but my back … Not so much.

Posted in 19 month old, Albababy, Boys, Knits, Lily Balou, Sewing, Sweater, t-shirt, Toddler | Leave a comment

Sleepy musings (OK, whining)

I had one blissful week of sleep. And then it was all over. Again.

Ever since Jason stopped sleeping through the night at 5 months, I have anxiously awaited the time when he would go back to being a good sleeper. I have never done any sleep training. In part because I do not want him to cry it out. And in part because he spontaneously started sleeping 10 hour stretches as a 2 month old. If he could do it then, he should still be able to do so. Right?

I’ve never been able to figure out why he started waking up frequently. (Since I am not a psychic.) It was probably a mix of things. Teething. His first tooth erupted at 5 1/2 months. 4 months sleep regression. Becoming more aware of his environment. Growing pains (since he’s a big’un.) Or maybe quite simply the fact that his little night-wakings became louder as Jason got older, waking me up, thinking something was wrong and nursing him. Thus getting Jason into the habit of needing to nurse to doze off again.

Who knows?! The person who figures out how to get kids to sleep like an adult without crying will be a millionaire. Fact is that two weeks ago Jason started only waking once during the night, sleeping 7-9 hour stretches. This coincided with him finally eating a lot more solids. I was ecstatic. Yet afraid to hope this would be the big turn-around. It wasn’t.

Jason’s two year molars are apparently 18 1/2 month molars. And I hate them. I’m actually starting to resent the frequent night-feedings and early mornings. But I also cannot get past the guilt I would feel over forcefully night-weaning him. So I am stuck in a sleep-deprived, grouchy limbo. Someone please come save me!

Posted in 18 month old, 4 month sleep regression, Breastfeeding, Montessori, Sleep, Toddler, two year molars | 3 Comments

Buyer’s remorse

As any new parent, my husband and I fell into the Fisher Price marketing trap. Or that’s what I call it. And now we have a garage full of expensive junk I would never buy again. Just thinking about how much money we could have saved makes me want to be able to travel back in time to tell those two excited parents to be “You do not need a crib! Or a swing. Not even a huge clunky stroller!”

This is one of the few times we used that swing. Jason was 3 days old and we had just arrived home from the hospital. We of course wanted to try out all the baby gear.

This is what I would do if I could get  a do-over. (But I won’t, since we are a complete family of three.) Skip the crib. Co-sleep. And if Jason would still prefer to sleep on his own (like he did as a tiny baby), I would immediately get a Montessori floor bed.

Around 11 months Jason started screaming whenever he was in his crib and awake. So we dragged the queen-size mattress from the guest bed to Jason’s room. And we all love it.

It is great for those fussy nights when you have a hard time staying awake while nursing. Since you are already in bed, you can just fall asleep! And only one parent at a time gets slowly kicked out of bed by a trashing toddler.

I also love how Jason will now wake up, climb into the arm chair and read books. Or play with his stuffed animals. He is not stuck in a cage with nothing to do but cry for mom or dad.

Here is the one baby gear item that turned out to be a must-have. The vibrating baby bouncer.

Whenever Jason fell asleep nursing and I needed to not hold him, I would gently transfer him to the bouncer. He would nap and I could watch my shows. Because let’s face it, sitting in the same arm chair nursing your child down gets old quickly.

My biggest must-have? A baby carrier. (Read this great blog post about babywearing.)

Be it a wrap. (Moby wrap in picture.)

Or a more structured carrier. (Ergo in picture.) The ease of having your two hands free, while holding your (mostly) sleeping child close to you is so much more convenient than using a stroller. We only really started using the big stroller after Jason turned one. And by that time he had been in a convertible car seat for 6 months. So having a lighter umbrella-type stroller would be a lot nicer. Too bad we are too cheap to buy a second one.

And there is one last thing I really recommend for moms with strong babies. The Woombie-swaddler. That thing saved our lives. Jason slept through the night because of it for two months. (And then he stopped. Yay us!)

You see how it has a zipper. Genius! There is simply no way out of it.

Using cloth diapers, breastfeeding and skipping the unnecessary baby junk we could have saved a ton of money. At least two out of three is not that bad. And there’s always Craigslist to sell the used stuff. To other clueless first time parents. Let’s hope they don’t read this blog post.

Posted in Baby gear, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cloth diapering, Montessori, Montessori floor bed | Leave a comment

Hoodie fail

Ya can’t always win … I bought this pattern a couple of weeks ago. It took me a while to get started on it. Impatient as I am, printing out a pattern, then cutting out and taping together all the pattern pieces is not high on my list of favorite activities. But since the cold weather never lasts long in SoCal, I decided to get down to business.

It took me several naps and some frustration to finish this project. I ended up attaching the sleeves for the liner in my own much preferred way. I did not like sewing a sleeve to an already sewed up arm hole. Too much fiddling around. I prefer to leave the sleeve open, attach it and then sew the sleeve and side of the garment all in one go. If that makes sense.

I had a lot more curse moments. And then got a very disappointing result.

I cut out the 2T size pattern and it is too small. The sleeves and jacket are too short and the hood barely fits Jason’s head. What can I say. My 18 month old is huge. And apparently not all 2T’s fit him. I am not blaming the etsy seller. She did give a list of measurements that went along with her sizing chart. I was just too lazy to measure Jason.

At least I now know how to make a hood. And I will change the pattern to fit my gentle giant. Add a zipper instead of buttons. Maybe skip the super annoying liner. And streamline the body a bit. You live, you learn. Next up: Made-by-Rae’s skinny tee pattern!

Posted in 18 month old, Boys, Hoodie, Knits, Sewing, Toddler | 1 Comment

Know your buttons

This is not a post about sewing. It’s about knowing what sets you off. This morning A., the 18 month old boy I babysit, was pushing my buttons. Luckily I have grown to realize two things. One, 18 month olds do not push your buttons on purpose. They are not trying to annoy you. They are not being ‘mean’. They just are. And secondly, knowing which ridiculous things set me off, helps me control my response. It prevents me from snapping. Most of the time. (I am not perfect!)

I really have to admit that my buttons are indeed seriously ridiculous. My biggest one is that I do not know how to share. On a visceral level sharing upsets me. I need some serious psychotherapy just for this one. The only person I do not mind sharing with, is Jason. Anyone else, even my husband, gets an instinctively dirty look when they ask me to share something.

So when A. grabs a toy out of Jason’s hands, I have the knee-jerk reaction of getting mad. I really would like to jump up, yell and scold A. “That’s Jason’s toy!” I know. Cuh-razy. This morning I gave the kids wooden clothespins to play with. A. opened and closed it a couple of times … And then pulled the two legs apart and broke it. You can imagine my dismay. I shared something with someone and that someone broke it. The little kid in me was appalled. But, knowing my buttons, I just got up and took the clothespins away.

The better reaction (I think) would be to see A.’s dismanteling of the pin as him learning about how these things are built. I should have just let him continue learning. But I’m not there yet. Nope.

Another button: control. I like things to go a certain way. As if things ever go the way you would want it with toddlers! I need for the house to be clean, the sippy cups to be on the table, the puzzle pieces to be in the puzzle, … You catch my drift? I have long ago learned to let go of a lot of my control issues. It was that or my sanity. But this does not mean I do not wince every time either kid makes a huge mess eating. Or when instead of drawing with their crayons/chalk, they start playing with them. (“I told you you NEED TO DRAW WITH THEM”, I quietly shout in my head.) Oy, the more I type this out, the crazier and unfit to take care of children I seem.

I definitely am a lot more sensitive with other kids. Jason rarely pushes my buttons. Whining will do it, though. And incessantly fighting me when changing him. (It’s not supposed to be this hard.) But realizing why I am getting upset, really helps. I am teaching myself to first breathe … And then analyze why I want to yell at that moment. After this exercise I usually find the strength to respond calmly and firmly. (“Jason, I see that you want to get up right now, but I first need to close your diaper.”) Or to just let it go. (Yes, the kids are throwing the puzzle pieces everywhere, but that’s OK.)

And yes, sometimes I still snap. That is also OK. Jason needs to know mamma is not perfect. And you know what? It helps me work on something else I suck at. Apologizing.

Posted in 18 month old, Boys, Positive parenting, RIE, Toddler | 2 Comments

Time-out? Yes, please!

Yesterday Jason had his 18 months appointment at the pediatrician. After every baby well-check visit the doctor gives you a hand-out with “helpful” information for that age.  I saw there was a big section about time-outs. How to do it, when and why.

Now I practice positive parenting. Which means that I do not punish Jason, but I also do not reward him for doing what I would like him to do. In positive parenting time-outs are viewed as a punishment. A time where you show that when your child does “something wrong”, you retract your love for him for a couple of minutes. Yes, I do agree that it sounds a little harsh. But I agree with the concept of showing your child you love him, even if he did something that got you aggrevated.

Back to time-outs. The hand-out really got me thinking. Why do I never find that I feel Jason needs a time-out? Not even to calm down when he gets too wired? Part is probably because he has a calm, easy-going personality. But he is still a toddler learning to cope with frustrations. He still gets overwhelmed by certain situations. And he has definitely started getting into some power struggles with the other 18 month old boy I babysit.

But you know what he does when he feels things are too much? When he starts whining non-stop or throwing things? He puts himself in time-out. Jason will walk over to me and he will ask to nurse. Sometimes I really don’t feel like it and I will offer water or a snack instead. Yet whenever he really needs that time-out from life, the calm nourishment that comes from nursing, he will insist on it.

Whether we are outside or inside, he will usually spend longer than 5 minutes contently drinking his milk. And then when he is finally done, he gets up with a big smile, renewed energy and a zest for life.

It makes me grateful that we are still breastfeeding at 18 months. Even though in the middle of the night I often silently curse when Jason wakes up again because he wants to nurse. It does make life easier for me. And more importantly, it makes life easier for Jason.

Posted in 18 month old, Breastfeeding, Extended breastfeeding, Time-out, Toddler | 1 Comment