Thursday, July 29, 2010

A little of this and that...

First let me just say that I'm so glad my Baby Boot Camp post was helpful to some of you! To be honest I was nervous to post it. Everyone has such different parenting styles and views and I know some people are very opposed to letting their babies cry. And that's ok. Every situation is different and babies are all different and at the end of the day you just have to do what's right for you and your little one. As moms, we know what that is. The tips I mentioned worked great for me so if I helped even one mom get some much needed sleep then I'm happy. :)

It has been so cloudy here lately! It's always cloudy and cool on the coast in June (known as June Gloom) but usually by July we're back to sunshine. Normally I'd be so bummed because it's not great pool/beach weather. Last summer we lived it up and played so much I started feeling guilty about my easy life! Not the case right now. This summer I'm more home bound with Kole. Just thinking of the logistics of getting all three of us and all of our beach gear from the car to the beach is enough to wear me out! So I'm actually enjoying the cool weather for a change. Makes it feel ok that we're having a low key summer and staying home.

Aside from lots of playing and school camps, my girls are working on their ABC's and 123's. I'm so excited that Ellie will be in First Grade! I taught First Grade and have a filing cabinet full of fun activities that she is finally old enough to use.

Every week I lay some things out on my table that I want them to work on.

Makes it easy to grab something when Kole is sleeping and I have a minute to help them.

One thing I've learned with "homework" for little ones. Do it often, but keep it brief. I don't ever have them work for longer than about 20 minutes at a time. Much longer than that, the work gets sloppy and they are too easily distracted. Their little brains and bodies can't handle it! That's why it's nice to have everything laid out and close by. Then if I'm fixing lunch I can grab a page for them to work on while they wait.

Another motivator for having a positive attitude about homework is our star charts from last summer. They set some new goals and are working hard each week! If they get most of their stars they get a fun activity on Saturday with daddy...(the beach, seaworld, the zoo, etc.) Ellie had fun writing her own goals this time.

They take their star charts pretty seriously!

As for me right now, I'm off to do the ever so thrilling task of laundry. Blah. Here's hoping your Thursday is more exciting than mine! :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baby Boot Camp

{Once upon a time...}

My whole life I wanted to be a mom. I loved kids - so much that I flew through college (majored in Elementary Education) and was teaching my first group of first graders by age 21. I taught school (1st, 4th, and 5th grade) for six years to get Kenny through Law School but as soon as he had passed the California Bar, accepted a job with a great firm and we were settled in San Diego my patience had worn out. A baby! All I wanted was a baby.

Then I got what I wanted.
And suddenly I didn't want it anymore.

Ellie was a hard, fussy newborn. Cried when I tried to set her down. Cried when I bathed her. Cried when I held, rock and bounced her. And especially cried when I tried to get her to sleep. Once I finally got her to sleep she would only sleep for a little while and then would wake up and start the crying all over again. Days and nights started running together. I was stressed. I was exhausted. I was lonely and depressed. This was NOT how I had envisioned my life as a stay at home mom. It became clear to me that the main thing both of us desperately needed was sleep. I was learning pretty quickly that babies don't always know how to put themselves to sleep and then stay asleep long enough to get the rest they need. So I did the only thing I knew how to do. I started researching how to get my baby to sleep well. I bought and read books...lots of books...and I talked to other moms - friends of mine who had all been through the same thing. Everybody had different opinions and parenting styles and every book had different answers.

I'm certainly not claiming to be an expert, but I'm happy to share what I learned and what has worked for me with my three kids.

1) It's all about teaching your baby to put himself to sleep ON HIS OWN. Without swings, without rocking, without nursing/bottle, without pacifiers. Babies who learn how to soothe themselves to sleep on their own will be good sleepers.

2) Babies who take good naps, sleep well at night. You might think "my baby didn't nap today so she'll sleep great tonight" and it is actually the exact opposite. The more babies sleep, the better they sleep.

3) It's also all about sleep regularity. Babies thrive on routines and schedules
(which is great for me because so do I!). Naps and bedtimes should occur at approximately the same time. I work really hard to schedule my day around naps (which was easy with the girls and will be harder to pull off with Kole).

4) Be consistent in where you're putting your baby to sleep. I put my babies in their crib right off and that is where they always sleep. They learn early on that when I put them in their crib they are expected to sleep.

5) If you can put babies to sleep when they are first showing signs of drowsiness (yawning, zoning out) there will be little or no crying. If you wait until they are overly tired, in the beginning they'll cry.

6) Create a bedtime routine and be consistent doing the same thing each night. This signals bedtime for your baby.

7) Young babies shouldn't be awake for more than two hours and are sometimes ready to go down for another nap after only being awake for 45 minutes to an hour.

8) If you're letting your baby cry to learn to put herself to sleep, be consistent! If you let her cry one night and pick her up the next she won't take you seriously.

9) Starting a sleep, eat, wake schedule with newborns gets them off on the right track.

10) The earlier you start sleep training the easier it is, but it's NEVER too late to start!

Back to Ellie...

At three months I decided to let her "cry it out." I told Kenny what I was doing and made him promise not to let me give in. When it was her bedtime I fed her and then rocked her singing a little song (starting a bedtime routine which is also key). Then I put her in the crib (awake), patted her and told her I loved her so much and it was time to go to sleep. I left the room. Ellie cried for 45 minutes that first night. I sat outside of her door and also cried for 45 minutes. Every 10-15 minutes I'd walk in and pat her tummy and tell her I loved her but she needed to go to sleep. I kept it brief. After 45 minutes of what felt like 5 hours of pure torture for me, she fell asleep. When she woke up in the night I cuddled her and fed her and loved her. Then the next night I did the same thing. When it was bedtime (which at three months isn't set in stone - usually around two hours after their last nap) I fed her, rocked her, sang the same little song and then put her in her crib awake. I told her I loved her so much and it was time to go to sleep. I closed the door and thought I don't know if I can do this again. Ellie cried for 5 minutes and then fell asleep. I couldn't believe it! That was it. That was all it took with her. She had learned how to suck on her little hand and fingers to put herself to sleep and from then on she didn't cry at bedtime. I always woke up and fed her in the night, but once she learned how to soothe herself back to sleep, she started sleeping better in the night. Before long she was going to bed and falling asleep by herself and also putting herself back to sleep in the night (all babies wake up periodically throughout the night). She was waking up happy and smiling and becoming a much happier baby and I was becoming a much happier mom.

(Ellie - 4 months old)

I did the same thing for naps. Put her in her crib (no bedtime routine) told her I loved her but she needed to go to sleep. Then we had a little bump in the road. She was falling asleep great on her own, but only sleeping 20 minutes. She'd wake up crying and I'd get her up and then she would be moody and fussy until I put her down for her next nap. She'd go right to sleep, but wake up 20 minutes later and be in a bad mood. I looked up what to do in one of my favorite books (which I'll share with you) and realized I was going to have to let her cry it out during her nap because she wasn't getting enough sleep. (When babies wake up rested they wake up happy and content and smiling) I put her down for a nap and then when she woke up after 20 minutes I let her cry. Not an easy thing to do, but I was more confident in what I was doing because it worked so well the first time. It took 4-5 days of letting her cry (she would cry about 15 minutes) and then that was it. From then on she would go right to sleep at nap time and after 20 minutes she would stir, suck on her fingers and then go back to sleep and sleep 2-3 hours. She'd wake up happy, cooing and smiling. Once she was sleeping well during naps she started sleeping straight through the night (no more night feedings!). And once I stop feeding my kids in the night (usually around 4-5 months for me - just whenever you can tell they don't need it anymore) I don't ever do it again! Sure you have night wakings once in awhile when they are sick, or you're traveling and not on schedule, and I get up with them and rock or comfort them, but I don't feed them anymore.

These are the three books I have learned a lot from and like the most. "Baby Wise" is all about sleep training from day one. Personally, I don't agree with everything in this book. The philosophy is to let babies cry and learn to sleep on their own super early - during the newborn stage. It is also all about scheduling (rigid scheduling) from early on as well. I've always felt like during the newborn phase (birth to three months) it's all about survival. It's such a hard time on the mother that I think do whatever works, even if it means putting baby in the swing to sleep, etc. BUT ... one thing I did learn from the book that helps so much is developing a routine early on. The pattern to follow is this: Feed time, Wake time, Sleep time, Feed time, Wake time, Sleep time over and over until you put them to sleep at night. The goal is that you're getting them to sleep without feeding them to sleep and their body is developing a pattern that will induce sleeping through the night. I have friends who follow this book and swear by it. I follow it too...the feed, wake, sleep pattern, I just don't let my newborns "cry it out." When it's time to get them to sleep I hold them, bounce them, rock them, put them in the swing, etc. Then when they're 3-4 months old I let them cry if needed.

My favorite books are "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth and "Sleeping Through the Night" by Jodi A. Mindell. If you are going to buy a book to help you these are both great. I learned so much from these books. "Healthy Sleep Habits" covers everything and I have turned to it time and time again. "Sleeping Through the Night" is a great book to give you a step by step sleep training plan. If you have an older baby or toddler with bad sleep habits it's not too late to get them on track, but there will be more crying involved. "Sleeping Through The Night" is a great book I'd recommend for this. It offers practical tips on bedtime - rather than middle of the night training. It also gives other tips for problems with toddlers. We followed what it said to do when Ellie started climbing out of her crib and the solution worked great.

If you have a newborn or are about to have a baby, start all of this early. At night, don't pick them up the second they start fussing. A lot of times babies fuss for a minute and then put themselves back to sleep. If the fuss turns into a hungry cry, feed them...just wait a minute and see what they do first. Put them in their crib to sleep without sleep aids (pacifiers are great except then when they fall out your baby can't put it back want your baby to learn to fall asleep on his own).

With Kole, because I knew what I was doing, I started putting him to sleep in his crib at night about five days after I brought him home from the hospital. I have a rocking chair and changing table in his room so I'd feed him and change him in there. At about two months, I started putting him in his crib to nap whenever we were home (being the youngest of three, he obviously has to nap on the go a lot too). Sometimes I'd give him his pacifier, but if it fell out, I'd let him fuss a little to see if he would put himself to sleep. He would cry for a minute or two and then start sucking on his fingers and fall asleep. Because I was timing it right and consistently putting him in his crib to nap he picked up quickly what I expected him to do in his crib. He is such a good sleeper and I never even had to let him cry much. He's almost four months old, goes to sleep on his own around 7:00 pm, I wake him and feed him at 11:00 pm (right before I go to bed) and then he sleeps until 5:00 or 6:30ish am. If he wakes up at 5:00 I feed him and put him back to bed for another hour or so. If he wakes up at 6:30 we are up for the day. (I like my kids to go to bed early and get up early because I need down time in the evening and I'm a morning person but you can obviously adjust their schedule to whatever works for you and your family).

A word on "crying it out." I know. It's not fun to listen to your baby cry. A mother's instinct is to always comfort her baby. BUT you have to look at it as helping your baby get the sleep she needs. I went through 2 hard nights with Ellie and 4-5 hard afternoons listening to a little crying. That was it. Once it's done, it's done and she has been a great sleeper ever since. With Addison it was easier because I knew it was so worth it. She cried for around 20 minutes for 4-5 nights at four months old and then learned to suck her thumb and was a great sleeper after that.

(Addison - 4 months old)

With Kole, because I started it so early, he has hardly cried...maybe a little fussing for a minute or two and he's asleep. Stick with it! I promise no long term damage is done! My kids have no recollection of crying a few nights in their crib and it was WAY harder on me than it was on them. other tip. All of my kids have liked to snuggle their faces in the side of their crib when learning to put themselves to sleep so I set them in the corner of their crib at bed time. This was Kole asleep during his nap this afternoon...

He put himself to sleep, slept for almost three hours and woke up like this....

Good sleep habits are so important. Children need their sleep in order to be happy and healthy.

And moms need their sleep in order to survive the day with those happy, healthy children!

(Ellie - 8 months old)

{...and we all got a good nights sleep and lived happily ever after... the end!}

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A new look

Hope Monday is off to a good start for everyone! It was so fun hearing from all of you after my last post. Thanks for the feedback! I'll post about all the things I mentioned (and a few things some of you asked me about) but it's clear that Baby Boot Camp needs to be first on the list. It's coming soon! Right now I want to post about my sweet Ellie who has had an important couple of days.

She lost her first tooth (and had her first visit from the tooth fairy).

And she got a new do! Her mom was in the mood for some kind of a change and she was a willing participant. :)

I'm loving her new look and so is she.

My sweet baby is growing up.

And this sweet baby had a fun trip to the salon too...modeling different wigs for his sisters' entertainment. Poor kid. (Unfortunately not the first or last time this will be the case)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baby Love

Just a few recent pics of my little boyfriend. He is currently in my ALL TIME favorite baby stage (three months until whenever the crawling starts). Newborn craziness is over, not moving yet, perfectly content laying or sitting and looking around the room, loves rocking, totally portable, smiling all day, sleeping better at night, cuddly, chubby, absolutely adorable, happy baby. And Kole's chill personality is as good as it gets. This little guy is so good for me. My best natured baby BY FAR. Even though there is a certain element of craziness with three kids under our roof, I am enjoying every minute with my sweet Kole. So grateful I was trusted with this perfect little one. He makes us all so happy.
My little man. Can't you just smell the baby lotion? :) He has tired eyes in this last one - it was taken right before his nap. Not much crying or fussing, just tired eyes and a yawn or two. Please oh please let his current personality be a sign of things to come. (I so deserve it after my Addison. Love that girl, but I can only handle one of her.)

I'm working on a few different posts and not sure which one to focus on - seems I'm a little scattered lately. (Been starting too many projects and not finishing anything.) So I'll let all of you decide. What are you in the mood for?

-more home decor
-my baby boot camp (how I get my babies to sleep well)
-how I organize my pictures on my computer (been asked this question by a few readers)
-or anything else you can think of...within reason. (since I've already admitted to you all that I don't wash my hair that often. Funny. I feel like some big dark secret is finally out in the open and I'm free to really be me. HA!)

Let me know your thoughts or this blog is in serious danger of becoming an "all about my baby boy" blog. I really am trying to be good about not posting the 50 pictures I take of him every day. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Home Decor (post 1)

Lately I've had a "house bug" - the urge to completely change and re-decorate my house. I think this happens to me whenever I have a baby because I'm spending a lot more time at home. Four years ago when Addison was a baby I did a lot of decorating and then got burned out with home decor and haven't done anything major since. But now...I'm getting tired of my decor and have a lot of new ideas in my head. I'm definitely feeling antsy to mix things up a bit! Realistically I don't know if I'll do much because we are hoping to buy a bigger home sometime in the next year or so. But either way, whether we buy a new house or I completely tear into this one, I feel a change coming on. Because of that, I wanted to post some random home decor pics over the next couple of weeks. When I look back at my scrapbooks from our time in Virginia (when Kenny was in Law School) my favorite pages are the ones that include pictures of our little apartment. Those are the pictures that bring back the best memories. This house we're in now will always be so special to me. It's the house I brought each of my babies home to. Some of these pictures I've posted before and they were all taken when things were cleaned up. I'll also have to get some of our day to day mess. I don't ever want to forget this home we became a family in.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Recap

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Ours was great - feels like we're finally getting into more of our normal routine since Kole joined the family. After waffles Saturday morning the girls threw on their suits and Kenny took them to the beach. I was going to go with them, but Kole was DYING to hit the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, so the two of us headed to the mall.

I had been eyeing these boots in the catalog and couldn't resist. LOVE THEM! So does Kole. He was so excited about my boots that he feel asleep for the rest of our outing. He is my all time favorite shopping companion. I modeled my new boots for Kenny and he loved them too. Right up until I made him take a picture of them. We have an unspoken understanding in our marriage. He puts up with all of my picture taking/blogging/scrapbooking and I tolerate his over the top football addiction... and his inability to hang up the bathroom towel after he showers.

After we returned from the beach and mall, Kenny and I left the kids with their favorite babysitter and went to see Eclipse. LOVED IT. Almost as much as my new boots. Then we came home and had a BBQ and ate on a blanket in the backyard. The girls were loving their Saturday. Ellie was flying high and kept saying how Saturday was her perfect day because it included all of her favorite things - waffles, beach, babysitter, and hot dogs.

Ellie is such a little joy to have around because she is always so happy and easy to please. She loves being together as a family and looks forward to the weekend all week long. She's always drawing little pictures of the five of us and hanging them around the house.

I was especially impressed with this one. The detail in the drawings, well planned journaling, the sun in just the right spot allowing your eye to flow towards the picture, hearts bordering the page and framing everything so nicely, and then the perfect pink ribbon embellishment - just enough without overdoing it. This work of art clearly screams scrapbooker! A girl after my own heart. :)

Addison, who usually puts new meaning to words like patience and choose your battles, has been quite a little sweetheart lately. She can usually be found in her room putting together outfits or
reading books to her dolls.

And with this little guy around every day feels like the perfect day.

So grateful for weekends like this one with my family.

p.s. Thanks for your sweet comments after my 'let's talk hair' post. Guess I'll keep it the same for a while. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let's talk hair

Haven't posted for a few days - I've been too busy cooking! ;) First let me just say thank you so much for your sweet comments on my last post. Not only for all of the great recipe sites (which I've been checking out and will be incredibly helpful) but also for your words of encouragement. I've always known I have the best blog friends in the blogosphere. :) And speaking of a really sweet comment, here's one I got a couple of weeks ago:

"Maybe I can ask this question under organizing? It really deals a little more with time management. How do you do your hair? It always looks so nice and styled, healthy, and pretty. When you were writing about being in a funk, I identified with wearing my hair in a pony everyday because it takes extra time to do my hair and I just need girlfriend advice. Like do you wash it at night after the kids are asleep? in the morning and let it air dry then blow dry the style, straighten and add a little curl with the iron? how long do you think it takes you to do your hair? I mean I think it takes me over 15 minutes just to fully blow dry. Is there a product you really like? I guess I wanted to ask an expert in style and time management! Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy your honesty, tips, ideas, and love for life! God bless!"

Amy, thank you so much for that comment. It made my day! Especially since I am in a total hair rut right now and ready to chop it all off. I'm sharing this comment on my blog for two reasons: first: because Amy, I didn't know how else to answer you, and second: because I get asked two questions all the time. One is "how do you do your hair?" and the second is "how long does it do you have time to maintain it?" Many of you have asked me about my hair on this blog and I haven't answered anyone so I thought I'd take the time to do that now. :)

So. Here's how I do my hair. (BTW - I thought about taking pictures of the 'hair steps' I go through to explain this, but there was no way to do it without taking pics of myself with the tripod and looking and feeling like a total dork)

My hair is naturally curly. So is Kenny's which is why we have kids with hair like this:

If I just let my hair dry on its own it would look like this:

(Halloween 2008 - Kenny and I dressed up as ourselves from High School.  Oh yes.  I really did wear that dress!)

Great for the late 90's or for Halloween. Not so hot for right now.

So right out of the shower the first thing I do is put some Enjoy straightener (purple bottle) on my hair. I've tried lots of straighteners and I like this one the best. Then I blow dry my hair straight one section at a time. I pull it all on top of my head with a clip except for the bottom section. I blow dry just that part, then I blow dry the middle section, then the top. I have really really thick hair. So thick that I have to get it thinned every time I get it done just to keep it from being out of control. So straightening it takes me 15-20 minutes. Then I section my hair off again and take my curling iron (a regular 1 inch) and curl each piece like I'm curling it in a ringlet, but a loose one. When I get to the top section I just slightly curl my bangs, etc. off to the side. This takes me around 25 minutes to do. When I shower, do my hair, and put on make-up I'm looking at spending at least an hour.  There is NO WAY I could maintain this everyday.

So here's my little secret. I don't wash my hair that often. I know. Gross. Yuck. You're all probably totally disgusted, but I've always told it like it is on this blog so why stop now.

Because my hair is naturally curly, it holds curl really well so I can go to sleep at night and wake up and have my hair look pretty much like it did the day before. I shower with my hair piled in a clip on the top of my head and then just put a curl or two in it to touch it up, put on some make-up and go. Takes 20-30 minutes instead of an hour and a half. If I'm exercising really hard I have to wash it more often and then I rely on a pony tail. But if not, I can go for days. In fact, I like my hair a lot better on the second or third day than on the first day I wash and style it (the curls look looser and aren't as full). I usually wash and style it 2-3 times a week. Sometimes I'll shower and blow dry it straight right after I put the kids to bed and then get up and curl it in the morning. Other times I shower and blow dry it early, then get the kids up and ready for school, then curl it while they're eating breakfast or something. So THAT is how I maintain this hair style and the funny thing is, because I can get this style to last for days, this is the EASIEST hair style I've had by far.

(This looks like about a third hair day - looser curls)

Which is why I don't know what to do with it. I'm kind of tired of it, but I'm nervous to cut it because I don't want a style that is more work. San Diego is humid and my hair does NOT want to go straight here so straightening it is a high maintenance do for me. Short hair is hard because I have to style it every day. It kinks in the night and can't be salvaged.

I've had my hair short:

I've had my hair in between:

I've had my hair long:

I've worn it straight and curly. Layered and not layered.

Short bangs:

and long bangs:

And nothing has been as easy for me to maintain as my current style has. So I'd love a little girlfriend advice from all of you! Should I change it (and if so, any suggestions?), or should I leave it as is?

Oh! One other thing. In the past I used a really expensive curling iron, and then I bought a cheap $10 one from Target to take to Italy (Kenny and I went for our ten year anniversary and I needed one that would work in European outlets). My hair curled so well on our trip with the cheap one that I stopped buying nice ones and haven't spent more than 10 bucks on a curling iron since! (maybe they're frying my hair and I don't know it...)

{Italy 2007}

Hope I answered everyone's hair questions and hope you aren't too disgusted. (speaking to the whole five of you who actually made it through this long, boring post)

Wishing you all nothing but good hair days in your future! :)