Hey! I wrote a blog post for the Ottawa Babywearing Group Blog! It’s about my “stash”…. whereby a “stash” is not facial hair or drugs but my stable of trusty baby carriers. Check out the post and go give the OBG Blog some love: it is a phenomenal and growing parenting resource.
I would say that life gets busier as the twins hit toddlerhood. I used to have time to blog but now, I take 30 minutes to check Facebook before I go to bed and that’s the extent of my online presence. I’m not sure where time went. It seems to run through my fingers like water, one day after the next.
Here’s what a day looks like when I work. I work 3 days a week.
5:15 Wake-up. That’s an hour earlier than the children. I need the hour to wake-up before the children descend on the kitchen. Believe me, this makes me a better person. During this hour, I drink my coffee and maybe do a bit of non-demanding work like formatting my writing portfolio. Most of the time, I read the paper and check what happened on Facebook overnight.
6:00 My three teenagers wake-up. No, scratch that. My two oldest teenagers wake-up. Their sister sleeps through the alarm, the pots and pans, and a nuclear apocalypse.
During the weekend, I make cookie dough that I roll into logs and refrigerate, kind of like a homemade Pillsbury cookie thing. As the kids get-up, I bake cookies for their lunches. It makes them better people.
6:15 The teenagers descend on the kitchen and start making breakfast and putting their lunches together. If they are in a good mood, this can be a pleasant time. When the grocery is running low, it is very unpleasant.
6:30 I realize that the youngest of the three teenagers is missing-in-action. I send someone, usually me, to wake her up. She looks at me with eyes wide open, she may even answer me. It doesn’t mean that she is awake.
6:45 The younger four start waking-up in no set order. This is when the fun begins. Except that it’s not always fun. I may or may not have a series of temper tantrums over this or that. I may wonder why they didn’t stay in bed, as I would if I was still tired. Mystery.
Between 6:30 and 7:20, I start harassing my teenagers to do their morning chores. They need to empty the dishwasher (so I can fill it), feed the dog (so it can go out to poop) and take the dog out to poop (so she can go in her crate for the day). This is the part where they start complaining about the unfairness of life: what, you mean that our meals are cooked, our bills are paid, and we have to empty the clean dishwasher?? What’s next? Put away the laundry that is washed for us??
If the twins are still sleeping, I have time to have a shower. If not, it will have to wait until everybody is off to school.
7:00 My spider-sense alerts me to the fact that I have not yet seen my youngest teenager. If we’re lucky, she’s up and getting dressed. If not watch-out because the bus comes in 20 minutes. She will touch down in the kitchen like a tornado and in a whirlwind of orders, barked and otherwise, will get ready to go to school. She may accusingly declare that since I made her in such a way that she doesn’t wake-up at the sound of the alarm, it is my responsibility to ensure that she is up and dressed at a reasonable time. Yeah, my kids say funny stuff like that all the time. The problem is that they believe it.
The twins are getting up. I nurse them and give them breakfast. Oatmeal with fruits or cold cereals with fruits and yogourt.
7:30 The first batch of children is off to school. I realize that my elementary school kids are still snoozing. Crap. I keep promising myself to get them up at 7:00.
My 4 year-old demands a “giant hug”. This means that I must sit on the couch with her for as long as her Hugness desires. It’s a pit stop for physical affection: when the tank is full, she drives away.
I rotate between helping the younger children with their breakfast and making 3 lunches. Our lunches consist of a main meal (sandwich, pizza made on naan bread, pasta with cheese…), a fruit, cookies, juice or water in a bottle and a snack like yogourt, apple sauce or popcorn (we have a corn popper. My neighbour wasn’t able to sell it at her garage sale 15 years ago so she gave it to me. Best money I never spent: we use it daily).
8:20 I shoo my elementary school kids off to school. This usually involve a mad rush for matching shoes and a desperate cry for “Did you sign my tests?” followed by a flurry of papers being pulled out of the bag as I am trying to push stuff into the bag. Chaos ensues.
8:21 The second batch of kids are gone. I take a deep breath and feel like a deserve a drink. I have a condescending thought for all the people who think that 8:30 am is early. Normally, I should be getting in the car to go to work. More likely though, I am still un-showered and in my pjs. My husband comes out of his home office and asks: “Aren’t you going to work?” I reply: “Of course I am, why are you asking?”
8:30 Showered, sort of dressed, hair…. bah. Whatever. I look for my daughter’s socks. I pick the first two. They never match. One day, I gave her matching socks and she laughed. She doesn’t even know that socks come in matching pairs, this child of the Hand-Me-Downs. Manage expectations People, this will keep you sane. I look at what my daughter is wearing. It usually involves layers, textures and patterns. Lots of patterns. I tell my husband that the Montessori teachers must appreciate the fact that she dresses entirely on her own. He doubts it.
8:40 The “You’re late” school bus drives by my house. That’s the bus I’m never supposed to see because I’m supposed to be long gone, driving my daughter to preschool. We get in the van and drive away.
8:50 Drop-off at preschool.
9:30 I get to work. I write correspondence for a federal Member of Parliament. What this means is that when people write to their MP, I answer. My boss reads my replies and edits them as needed. I can tell how his week is going by the amount of edits. He can probably do the same. I work 3 days a week. On the days I am not at work, I would be going for a run with the twins and my dog.
2:30 I get off work, pick-up a few food items on my way to preschool, pick-up my daughter and possibly other people too. There is a graph that explains when and where I am to pick up which child on any given day. It was trained into me. “This is not a drill, soldier. This is a live project. You’re a go.” (Except that Matt Damon is not in the van with me).
4:00 I get home with my daughter. The teens are already home. The twins are crazy cranky and initiate the whole whine-and-cheese fest for mom. I nurse one while the other has a complete meltdown. I nurse the other. If I am lucky, I still have some frozen meals prepared. If not, I have to make supper while my three younger children compete to see who can drive mom nuts the fastest to the most spectacular effect. I play a game of kids-whack-a-mole involving serving 4 different snacks while trying to keep the twins from doing what twins do best: induce chaos. With one hand, I make supper while keeping the kids from raiding the fridge with the other hand, and closing the cupboard doors with the other hand, while retrieving the hand-mixer with the other hand, while getting a twin out of the (stored) deep-fryer with the other hand, while grabbing a juice bottle just before the other twin pours it on his face with the other hand. Twin whack-a-mole is a fun game except that my sense of humour is deficient.
5:15 I fix myself a double cappuccino. For the second half of the day.
5:30 or 6:30 We eat. And by “eat” I mean that I stuff my face with one hand while feeding the twins with the other. My husband and teenagers are trying to have an intelligent conversation about world events while the younger children exercise their right to free expression. My husband tries to tell me something. It usually ends with “….nevermind, I’ll tell you in 25 years.”
6:30 The twins have their baths and get ready for bed. I get the 4 younger children cleaned and ready for bed while my husband cleans the kitchen. On any given day, there is a waltz of activities and teens comings-and-goings. By 7:00 pm, the twins are down and we get bedtime routines started for the next 2. My husband and 7 year-old son are reading The Chronicles of Narnia together. I go lie down with my 4 year-old until she settles enough to fall asleep. This may require a few stories and more songs. I may go a little nuts as I sit there with her, mentally running through my to-do list like an endless reel.
8:30 By now, the four youngest children are asleep for sure. We cycle laundry, finish cleaning the kitchen. My husband and I often go for coffee or ice cream in the evening if the house is somewhat under control. Or we may go on a grocery date. I know, so hot!
10:00 pm Ideally, we would go to bed now. In reality, we can still be found chatting with our teenagers or wasting time watching a movie (him) or checking social media (me). This is when, in theory, I would be blogging but I’m not.
11:00 pm One of the twins wakes-up. Usually Lucas. I nurse him back to sleep for the night and go to bed.
3:00-4:00 am The other twin wakes-up. I nurse her back to sleep. Return to bed. Find the 4 year-old curled-up in my place. Return her back to her bed (located right at the foot of mine, it’s a short push and a shove).
5:15 am The next day….
During my maternity leave, I plugged into several parenting groups on Facebook. I joined groups I eventually left and others I quickly forgot. Over the year, I reached-out of my close-friends-and-family circle and connected with acquaintances and like-minded parents. Some Facebook friends became acquaintances, others became friends. I even have a Facebook friend who was accidentally friended by my toddler.
I use Facebook as a platform for connecting with people I know. I generally hope that Facebook doesn’t replace real-life interactions although I am lucid enough to know that it has. I was never great with birthdays and now I am positively dreadful. On the other hand, Facebook has allowed me to stay in contact with people I would not otherwise know anymore. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it’s not: there is a natural wisdom in the ebb and flow of adult friendships and acquaintances. There are many people on my Facebook page with whom I would never discuss faith, politics or philosophy; and yet I am treated to a steady diet of their best and brightest online — which rarely is either.
I don’t really write about my faith. I was raised in a Catholic family but I came to adulthood with very little formal knowledge of the Catholic Faith. I came to the practice of the faith through the heart rather than the mind and this is where I stayed. I don’t write about faith because others do it better. My most inspirational line would probably be “It sucked before. Now it’s better.” A supernatural outlook on life and a good sense of humour are staples of loving life in a big family. Today is Palm Sunday and Palm Sunday deserves a blog post.
Palm Sunday is my favorite Feast Day in the Catholic Liturgy. Not favorite as in “we get chocolate”, but favorite as in “every year, it chews me up and spits me out.” I’m a lousy Catholic, really. I don’t get the warm-and-fuzzies about Mary or the Pope. There are elements of Catholic doctrine I don’t understand, others I struggle with. There are elements of Catholic doctrine I live-out like a champ, like not using artificial birth control. But I chose to stop artificial birth control and embrace natural family planning before I returned to the Church. So even in that regard I’m not punching above my weight. I found affinity with conservative Catholics because I was not using birth control, not the other way around. So there. But when I had deep questions about the meaning of life, suffering and happiness, Christianity and the Catholic Church had the most thorough answers. And when I thought that my 3 young children were going to drive me insane, Christian moms had a peace and a fortitude I longed for. That’s how I returned to the Church: I wanted a piece of what they had. I didn’t join because I had something for God but because God had something for me. And they used to let me sing at Church.
Palm Sunday is the Feast of the Lousy Christian. It used to drive me nuts. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. The procession starts outside of the Church with the blessing of palms and continues into the church with the reading of the Passion. The procession reminds us that the same people who welcomed Christ as their King would later ask for his crucifixion. I always found the procession painful. It should be solemn. We are celebrating our hypocrisy after all. But instead, we sing and dance and smile and wave our silly little branches. Don’t we realize after 2000 years that it’s a parody of ourselves and our shallowness? It took me a long time to accept than the ridicule of welcoming the celebrant 5 minutes before a dramatic reading of the Passion of Christ was part of the penance. The Feast of the Lousy Christian starts with a reminder of how weak and fickle we are.
The Gospel on Palm Sunday is always a reading of the Passion, the story of Christ’s long, painful, death. But the most graphic depiction is not of what the crown of thorns and cross did to Christ, but of the betrayal of those who once professed their faith in him. And every year, a verse of the Passion stands-up, steps out of the book, walks over to my pew and punches me in the face.
Judas’ 3 pieces of silver represent my choice for comfort over the demands of self-sacrifice. Peter’s denials, they are mine. The two thieves, one challenging God, the other humble, are my struggle to understand suffering. Palm Sunday is the Feast of falling short, of saying things we didn’t mean and meaning things we never say. It’s the Feast of the weak and the proud, of thinking we know better, of wanting to go it alone.
Palm Sunday is the Feast of discomfort, of knowing we are capable of so much more. Judas broke down. Peter wept. The thief repented. It’s the Feast of coming face-to-face with our fears and our limitations and choosing the easy way out instead of pushing through. It’s the Feast of embracing our lousiness before embracing weakness and knowing we need help. Next week, we will celebrate the hand outstretch. This week, we are not ready to accept it.
It’s my Feast, it’s your Feast. It’s the Feast of all of us.
I posted a reply about potty training on a local parenting group. As I was writing it, it occurred to me that I had already given the same advice on the same group page. And elsewhere. Many, many, times. In fact, if I had a dime every time someone asked me for potty training advice and I answered, I would be a millionaire. In fact, I would be a “Parenting Expert”. Heck, by now I may even be on Oprah… Or whatever show people are on these days.
Maybe you came to that post through Google. Maybe you did a Google search about “potty training advice” and the robots lead you here. And maybe right now, you are expecting me to tell you how I trained my kids in 3 days with no accident. Maybe you are expecting to read on how to train your kid in 3 days with no accident. Presumably, and unfortunately, you’ve been trying for 3 months with no success and you are desperately looking for the magic word, the key to unlock your child’s underwear potential. This post may disappoint you.
Because I am not going to tell you how to train your child, even though several of my 6 potty-trained children trained in (almost) 3 days without (barely any) accident. Nope. In this post, I will tell you how to train yourself so your child can train herself.
(I feel like I should add that this post applies to children and parents who do not have any physical or mental illnesses that could undermine the potty training process. But we knew that, right? Goes without saying.)
Whenever parents write to me for potty training advice, their story comes in variations of:
– We started potty training. It worked at first, and then we had a setback (new baby, travel, illness etc.).
– We started potty training and it never worked.
Now potty training is a scene right out of a horror movie. There is screaming, crying and threatening and that’s saying nothing about the child. There is hiding in a closet to poop or pee, and when not hiding there is laughing while soiling pants in front of the parents. Poop and pee is either coming out in inappropriate places, undies being the least of it, or has completely stopped coming out. There is suffering the complications of retained fluids and feces: bladder infections, anal injuries, severe constipation. The relationship with the child is going down the drain (pun intended). Every week brings a new gimmick, a new approach, a new potty training miracle method. Parents and child go through positive reinforcement, threats, punishments, rewards, stickers, Smarties, in short cycles of emotionally charged back-and-forth.
STOP. IT’S NOT WORKING. STOP, PLEASE.
There are a few important principles of potty training that need to be well-understood before success can be achieved. Accepting them may not lead your child to toilet reliability overnight but it will save your sanity and prevent any long term physical and emotional damage in your child’s toilet parts.
Principle 1 : You cannot use the toilet for your child and you cannot make your child poop or pee. This may sound so obvious, but this is where most parents bite the dust and stay down. Potty training may be the first time parents have no control over what their child does or decides not to do. Your children’s sphincters are completely out of your reach. The interaction between your child’s brain and her sphincter is ever farther out of your reach.
When parents ask me for potty training advice, I often feel like they are asking me “How can I control my child’s sphincters?” You can’t, you never will. None of us who have achieved early potty training success have done so because we could control our child’s bowel/bladder function. We did because our children were willing, able and receptive to potty training.
If you feel like potty training is a loss of control and you are grasping for a way to retain control; if you feel like you are caught in a battle of wills with your child over potty training, stop. Put your child back in diapers and start again when you accept that this matter is out of your hands.
Principle 2: There is a difference between normal potty behaviour and abnormal potty behaviour. Don’t ignore abnormal potty behaviour. When emotions run high, it is too easy to lose perspective. Toddler is stubborn: normal. Toddler is defiant: normal. Toddler screams in pain when using the toilet or holds back urine for days: not normal!! Too often, I get potty training stories that include all of the above in one sentence. Whoahhhh… If your child sounds like she’s delivering triplets, maybe it’s time to back off and let her body heal. Put your child back in diapers until her bodily functions run normally and you learn the difference between stubborn and severely constipated.
Principle 3: Using sphincters won’t happen if pain is the outcome. Toddler soils his pants; he gets a clean-up in the cold shower. That’ll teach him, right? Wrong! A cold shower was the outcome of using his sphincters. You are holding baby on the potty until she pees. She screams, you get mad, eventually you win. Right? Nope. She now associates using the potty with intense frustration and anger. Toddler poops in the closet so he gets a spanking. He was willfully defiant and you had to act. Fine. But now he associates pooping with a spanking. Don’t make pain the outcome of using the sphincters. There is two kinds of response to bowel/bladder movement: the positive response and the no response. Don’t allow pain or shame to become part of the pottying equation: remember Principle 1.
Principle 4: You potty trained a long time ago; you are conditioned to pee and poop in the toilet. Your frustration comes in part from not understanding why something so simple can be so complicated. Sit, pee, done. Right? Wrong! Deconstructing peeing and pooping really helped me understand why my child was struggling. Since birth, your child has never held a pee. He doesn’t associate the sensation of holding pee with the need to go. He doesn’t associate the need to go with the need to hold it. He doesn’t associate the need to hold it with the need to hold it long enough to find a toilet. Once he’s learned to hold it, he needs to learn to let it go, which is not the same as just going in a diaper. Then he needs to learn to let it all go and recognize the sensation of an empty bladder. It’s not that simple, it is difficult, and you getting mad only add an emotional component where one shouldn’t be.
Until you understand these principles, put your child in diapers and don’t meddle with her healthy body. Don’t allow potty training to become a battle of will: this is your responsibility. Once you have accepted those 4 principles, write to me, I’ll tell you how I potty trained my children. It may not have taken 3 days; it may not have been accident-free. But we never cried, never screamed, and only got mildly constipated.
1 One long woven piece of cloth is all I need to get around with the twins. It takes up a lot less space than a double stroller and the babies are happier in there. They are getting heavy now at 20 lbs a piece and I can only wear them comfortably for 30-45 minutes. Read more about the weird and wonderful world of woven wraps by following this link to The Weird and Wonderful World of Woven Wraps
2 Two baby carriers (one woven wrap and a Boba structured carrier) replaced one double stroller and two high chairs on a recent overnight trip. That’s what I call efficient use of space. Who said that traveling with baby required a semi-trailer?
3 Three slow cheers for me: After a great month of August and beginning of September, I had achieved my goal of running 4 times a week, twice 10 km, one fast 6 km and a long 15 km. I was also going to the pool twice a week. Heck, I was even running 4km to the pool and back! I had energy despite the lack of sleep, I felt great. Then the twins went through a hell of a teething and cold episode and I stopped sleeping completely for a few weeks. It’s been almost two months of no exercise and my energy is in the tank, my sleep patterns are shot and my spirits are low. I have started gaining weight again. It’s time for the proverbial kick in the you-know-where!
4 Four Crying Out Loud David Petraeus! What is to be concluded when a charismatic and uniquely talented individual throws away a brilliant career based on his strategic judgement and acumen, a career rooted in reliability and trustworthiness, loyalty and commitment to his country, for an extra-marital affair? That fame and power pale on the scale of human needs compared to love and affection? That the smartest people are not always that smart? If the director of the CIA conducts an affair over a Gmail account, what hope is there for the rest of us?
5 Five (sarcastic) fingers way up for Canadians who are indebted to record levels, and even higher for the analysts I overheard on the radio saying that it wasn’t such a big deal since default rates remained relatively low. Basically saying that Canadians may own less than they owe but hey, no biggy. There is no need to worry until the collection agencies are calling. In Kelly McPharland’s words:
“Joe Average Canadian now owes $26,768 (on top of the mortgage, remember). Worse, Joe’s carrying $3,573 on his credit card, which is just flat-out nuts unless you consider being gouged at usurious interest rates a boon to society
But Canadians? Hey, we’re not worried. Income growth is stagnant, the housing market is cooling (meaning we’re not as rich as we think we are) and Flaherty says he can’t balance the budget after all because commodity prices are suffering. But people are still managing to cover the monthly payments, so why worry? We’re already borrowing four times faster than the rate of inflation, and Christmas is coming, so let’s all just stick that concern in a sock and put it in a drawer until later.”
So as Christmas approaches, I would like to remind you that your children don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think they do.
1 Une motion qui promettait de faire couler beaucoup d’encre. Chose promise, chose due. La motion 312 présentée à la Chambre des Communes par le député Stephen Woodworth demandait la création d’un comité parlementaire afin d’étudier si la définition d’« être humain » du Code criminel devrait être élargie afin d’inclure le fetus. Si vous lisez les journeaux et partuculièrement les média sociaux, vous pensez probablement que le vote de la semaine dernière était sur la criminalisation de l’avortement. En fait, la plupart de mes connections Facebook pensent que le vote de la semaine dernière était directement sur la criminalisation de l’avortement. Vous ne lirez pas cette mise-au-clair souvent mais en tant que juriste formée en bioéthique il m’importe que les débats et discussions publiques sur les enjeux de cette envergure soient définis de manière claire, précise et non-partisane. La motion 312, qui soit dit-en-passant n’a pas été acceptée, demandait une réflection sur la définition d’être humain dans le contexte du Code criminel canadien. La ministre du Statut de la femme qui a voté en faveur de la motion 312 n’a pas voté “contre l’avortement” tel que plusieurs le pensent mais en faveur d’une discussion publique sur la valeur éthique et légale du fetus. On peut avoir des opinions bien ancrées sur le sujet, mais ça ne devrait pas excuser les pires accès de démagogie et d’aveuglement volontaire. Vous êtes tous des adultes intelligents. Évidemment. Puisque vous lisez mon blogue, he, he.
2 Deux nouvelles qui m’incitent à vous donner un petit cour de procédure parlementaire et un coup d’oeuil dans le fonctionnemetn d’un bureau de député. La semaine dernière, le ministre de l’Immigration et de la citoyenneté Jason Kenney a fait la manchette lorsque son bureau a envoyé un courriel vantant le travail du gouvernement canadien dans l’avancement des droits des gais et lesbiennes sur la scène internationale. Le email en question, qui ciblait les gais et lesbiennes canadiens, a été mal reçu, les récipiendaires se demandant entre autre comment le gouvernement savait qu’ils étaient homosexuels. Ceci me ramène à la deuxième nouvelle qui était en fait la première, la motion 312 et les “pétitions” demandant à un député ou ministre de voter pour ou contre quelque chose, de faire ou de ne pas faire quelque chose, d’avancer ou d’ignorer une cause ou une autre. Lorsque vous signez une pétition en-ligne, ce que vous faites en réalité c’est envoyer une lettre formulaïque contenant votre nom et votre adresse email à un député, parfois le votre (si la “pétition” vous demande votre code postal), parfois les 308. Une véritable pétition doit être soumise à la Chambre par un député après avoir été aprouvée par le clerc des pétitions pour sa véracité et sa conformité. Lorsque vous signez une pétition en-ligne, vous envoyez votre nom et votre adresse ainsi qu’un polaroid de la cause qui vous tient à coeur à des politiciens qui sont toujours à la recherche d’un moyen de se faire connaître et d’établir un contact avec l’électorat. En d’autre mots, Jason Kenney sait que vous êtes gais et que les droits des gais vous tiennent à coeur car vous lui avez dit. Et il peut vous rejoindre car vous lui avez envoyé votre adresse courriel. La pétition que vous avez signé disait sans doute quelque chose comme “Cher Ministre Kenney, je suis gai et les droits des gais me tiennent à coeur. Voilà pourquoi… bla, bla, bla…” Vous ne vous en rapellez sans doute pas car comme 200% des gens qui envoient ce genre de lettre, vous ne l’avez pas lue.Voilà. C’est simple, non?
3 Trois jours par semaine, 5 heures par jour, c’est mon horaire de travail. C’est tout juste faisable avec une grande famille mais évidemment, on ne peut soudainement perdre 15 heures à sa semaine sans en subir les conséquences. Le pliage des vêtements propres semble être passé par la fenêtre. Ouch…
4 Quatre pattes, non les jumeaux ne marchent pas encore. Et c’est parfait comme ça! (Mais ce ne sera pas long).
5 Cinq doigts bien hauts (“high five”) si vous vous êtes rendus à la fin de cet article malgré la mention d’un débat sur l’avortement et du Ministre de l’Immigration. Vous démontrez une maturité et une ouverture d’esprit notable. Vous vous méritez une petite visite de relaxation sur You Tube pour aller rire des frasques de mon fils aîné:
This post is a babywearing picture album with captions for those wondering about the different kinds of baby carriers.
I am not an expert, just a mom with opinions. I do not sell or advertise carriers but I use them a lot. When the twins were born, I started using the double stroller everywhere. It served it’s purpose. But as they grew the bulk of the stroller became unnecessary. I decided to ditch the double stroller in favour of a single lightweight stroller and more babywearing (the verb used to refer to parents who prefer “wearing” their babies on their bodies for transport and comfort rather than use devices such as swings and strollers).
In one of my Facebook groups, a mom was asking about the difference between different kinds of soft-structured carriers. This is a picture album with captions resuming the main differences.
You will notice that I only use ergonomic soft carriers and woven wraps.Ergonomic carriers hold baby in a seated position as opposed to the popular Baby Bjorn or Snugli where baby is held dangling by the crotch. People often ask “What is the best carrier?” and the answer is unfailingly “It depends.” The best carrier is the one that fits the best . The best fit is influenced by mom and baby’s body type, age, weight and life experience (yes, life experience. Such as a back injury or abdominal surgery.)