Language Development

A Stolen Opportunity

This week, I was a swashbuckling pirate with a peg leg, brandishing a foam sword while my scallywag preschooler danced around me with his own foam weapon in a fit of pretend fury. I deflected him numerous times before I gallantly admitted defeat, laid down my sword, and started changing my other child’s diaper.

My preschooler, with no mercy in his eye, charged at me shouting, “OPPORTUNITY!!!”

He is 3.5 years old.

After laughing hysterically and trying to hold him at bay with one hand, I wondered, how did his amazing vocabulary evolve so quickly?

Grizzly Bear

At 11 months, my Grizzly Bear (preschooler now) uttered his first words. He was a late bloomer (in comparison to some babies) and said bye-bye to his grandpa as I carried him up to bed one night.  He didn’t talk for months afterwards and said very few words when coaxed all the way until he was 2.5 years old. By 2.5 years, he could string together a few words but still seemed to lag behind his peers. As any parent would, I tracked as he met other milestones using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire provided by KARA (see Blog 14), and discussed speech milestones with his doctor. I was reassured that even though his speech milestones weren’t on par with others, he was within the normal range.

Polar Bear

At 10 months, my Polar Bear (toddler now) motioned up at me as he said “mama.” Of course, I was over the moon with joy at his choice in first-time speech, but his vocabulary didn’t evolve much from that beautiful moment. At 18 months of age, Polar Bear is still stuck on a handful of words, which he uses sparingly and with tremendous hesitation. I know he can talk, but he is quite stubborn and will whisper words to me and motion towards something rather than try. Of course, I am not concerned as the age range in which children learn to speak is particularly variable.

See below.

Vocabulary Milestones

Age 1

By their first birthday, experts agree that a child should be able to say a handful of words, respond when you talk, and follow very simple directions (when in a good mood, I would imagine). My doctor indicated that if my kids could say one word by their first birthday, that counted and was within the normal range. I also understand that doctors are more interested in if a child responds to sounds and their parents’ voices rather than saying or repeating words. This form of communication (eye contact and body language) is a better indicator of being on track (click here for more info).

Age 2

By their second birthday, a child should use 50 words regularly; I recall trying to count all of my Grizzly Bear’s words at this stage and totalling in at 12 words. They should also be able to string together words; another area we weren’t excelling in. Lastly, they should be able to identify frequently used objects. Here was where both of my boys lived and thrived. They were quite capable of telling me exactly what they wanted – a book, a banana, a diaper change; they seemed to be communication experts when it got them what they needed. They also seemed to know what I was telling them – pick up the toy, put on the boot, lay down, etc. Conversationalists, they were not, but determined and clever, oh yes (click here).

Age 3

By their third birthday, a child should be able to speak clearly, speak in sentences, choose the correct words, and follow two-part requests. Check, check, check, check, and then some! Patience, practice, and motivation led my Grizzly Bear to becoming a conversational wizard! He derives new stories on his own, builds his vocabulary repertoire by himself, tries out new phrases, and even makes up his own jokes!

Mom “Did you have a good day?”

Grizzly “I had a beautiful day!”

Mom “Do you need help opening the play-doh?”

Grizzly “Yes, this is so embarrassing.”

Mom “Can you help me with this?”

Grizzly “I can’t today, I’m a kitty.”

Mom “I don’t think Polar Bear wants to clean up your toys.”

Grizzly “Yes he does, he is my minion.”

Mom “Are you excited to go see Mrs. Joyce?”

Grizzly “Can you turn on some music?”

Perhaps my son has moved on to being a teenager… I pondered as I turned up the radio.

So what helped? Completing Ages and Stages Questionnaires certainly did because afterwards, I was able to talk to staff experts about activities I could do at home to help my children practice.

Practice (and Patience!) Makes Perfect

Self Talk, Parallel Talk, and Expansions

I was given plenty of advice and tips after my Ages and Stages Questionnaires. One comment I even took away when my son was just an infant: apparently even a baby is interested in what I am doing or reading. A newborn baby can hear that I am making noise and can interact with me (through eye contact and listening), so why not tell them what I am doing or read what I am reading out loud? My sons didn’t have any inkling that I was spouting off what I was reading in the newspaper, but they were certainly happy to hear Mom’s voice!

Next came self talk, where I would use short sentences to talk about what I was doing. My boys could pick up words, particularly nouns and verbs this way. Many children also learn action words like “bye-bye,” “want,” and “come,” which accompany actions like waving, pointing, or motioning.

Parallel talk is very similar to self talk but instead of going on about which boring dish I’m washing, I would be talking about what my child is doing. This seemed to really spark their interest when we were doing something together and I would talk about it. It seemed to encourage positives towards talking and the activity. Mom is putting away the puzzle… Yes, follow my lead…

Experts suggest that while actively doing self talk and parallel talk with your children, it’s best to use short, simple sentences that are only slightly longer and more difficult than the sentences they are using themselves. This leads into expansions.

Expansions – in this stage, after they use the word frequently, add a word to it so that it becomes a short sentence. Only expand on words and sentences that your child knows well and uses.

Polar “Thirsty”

Mom “Thirsty for Juice?”

Polar “Ball”

Mom “You want ball?”

It’s always a treat to hear your child learn something from you so try these and other methods to help your kids develop new language skills (click here).

More Resources

I also highly recommend taking an Ages and Stages Questionnaire or one or more of KARA’s literacy programs: Literacy and Parenting Skills, Aboriginal Literacy and Parenting Skills, Books for Babies, and Rhymes that Bind. The questionnaires and programs that KARA offers are wonderful ways to learn beneficial methods of promoting language development within a family. Give them a try!

Miscarriage

A few months ago I had a miscarriage. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy and I wasn’t far along so my husband and I weren’t too upset by it. I still wanted to write about it though because I thought it would be helpful to others. If you are going through a miscarriage, perhaps having an idea of what to expect may make you feel a bit better. If you have already gone through a miscarriage, perhaps you may feel comforted by knowing others have gone through the same unfortunate event.

I found out I was pregnant very early on. I kept the secret to myself for quite some time. Like I said, we weren’t trying and didn’t exactly have the funds for another baby at that moment. But I was happy and excited. A few weeks with the secret (six weeks pregnant now) my husband told me he would be getting a better paying job within a month according to his employer. It was this moment that I told him the news. He was a little anxious at first but within a week he had warmed to the idea and kept calling this new baby his sweetie.

Within a couple of days, he and I both told our immediate families. That evening, I started to bleed. It was very light spotting that I wasn’t too concerned about. I had been taken into the care of a midwife only days beforehand, so I texted and told her. She indicated that since I was very early in my pregnancy, nothing could be done but waiting or going for blood tests. It was unlikely that an ultrasound would show us anything. I decided to wait. I knew that blood tests would only tell me what my body was doing, not prevent what was happening. I felt my body knew what it was doing, even if it was a sad outcome.

The bleeding continued and did become heavy over the next few days. I told my midwife and she agreed it was likely a miscarriage. She wanted me to go to a hospital to confirm the pregnancy had passed out of concern for my health. Pregnancies that don’t completely pass naturally require a small surgical procedure or, in rare cases, can be life threatening due to infection from remaining tissue or an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy. I went to the hospital and told them about my bleeding. I was admitted fairly quickly, as most pregnant women are. As many hospital patients would probably agree, you never want to be the one admitted quickly for fear it means that you are likely in peril. Even though this was a natural miscarriage that had no complications, the hospital staff did their due diligence to ensure that I was safe.

I went through the usual family history questions and vital sign checks with a nurse before I was greeted by two doctors, a physician and a resident. I bled all over their nice hospital bed and sheets, apologizing profusely before being assured it was normal. They were all extremely kind and even joked with me a bit. They increasingly asked me more relatable questions pertaining mostly to
previous pregnancies and this one. They asked about labours, births, and procedures. As I’d had two healthy births at home before this, my answers didn’t seem to give them any clues on what to expect. They drew blood and did an ultrasound on what looked like a laptop (no joke). No heartbeat or gestational sac could be seen but they told me that their equipment wasn’t high tech enough to see a baby this early on anyway. They asked if I had passed anything the size of a fingertip or bigger. I hadn’t. The results of the blood test came back and my HCG levels were 66,000 mIU/ml.

The pregnancy hormone HCG can tell you if you are/were pregnant with two or more blood tests taken over the span of a few days. If your HCG levels rise, the baby is likely to be healthy, if they fall, the baby is likely not viable (cannot live without being within Mom). One HCG level could not tell them anything other than I was pregnant, healthy or not was unknown.

By the way, the nurse with me was kind enough to explain that the phrase “she lost the baby” wasn’t used by most hospital staff anymore because of the negative connotation. It is more appropriate to say the baby wasn’t viable rather than imply it was a fault of the parent. I couldn’t have agreed more with her as I sat in my hospital gown, feeling particularly vulnerable. I agreed I should feel no shame and know that the loss, as unfortunate as it was, was not my own.

Afterwards, I was told that I should come back to the hospital the following day to complete a “real” ultrasound with an ultrasonographer. I did return and I’m glad I did. Unfortunately, she did not see a baby either but she did make me feel better. She was a lovely lady in her 50’s. She had a soft, delicate voice and an even softer bedside manner. She told me all about the women she had seen coming and going from her room where she usually gave them bad news. She told me that I was not alone, that miscarriages were something she had been witnessing throughout her life. She also emphasized that miscarriages were through no fault of the parents, that they were how our body cared for us in a way.

Of course it is much less sad to say goodbye to a seventh week pregnancy than a new baby, so I agreed with her. From the gentle conversation we shared, I knew that I did not have to feel shame and it was okay to be sad. There were other parents like me and my body was taking care of me. It was comforting.
Her ultrasound confirmed that the gestational sac was now located above my cervix and would pass soon. I was not in any danger and my body was healthy. It was a sad day and it was okay to feel sad but I did appreciate my family as I returned home that day.

Two days later, I was requested to come in for the second blood test. This was the last piece to confirm the miscarriage. I knew I had miscarried but doctors are doctors and they have to do their due diligence. Once again, I returned to the hospital. A very high strung doctor talked with me this time. She was adamant on performing another blood test and ultrasound. I assured her I didn’t need another ultrasound but would do the blood test to confirm the miscarriage.

Since I had already missed two half days of work now, I asked if there was any way I could get the results over the phone rather than coming in to see her. She said no but after speaking with her secretary, I learned that I could get the results sent to my family doctor and he could give me the results over the phone. As he was currently on vacation, I would get the results when he got back in two days. This suited me so I was poked one more time and left.

Two days later, my phone rang. It was my family doctor’s secretary. She asked for me and then said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” I knew I wasn’t pregnant so, regrettably and with sympathy for her, I said she had made a mistake and that I had miscarried. I asked what my HCG levels had been during the second blood test. I could tell she was reading them off the doctor’s notes, “HCG 24,000 mIU/ml, call her to congratulate her on her pregnancy.”

I told her about the first blood test’s results. She apologized and said there must have been a mistake and that she would call me back. A couple of hours later, I received another phone call. This time, a lady with more bite than remorse in her voice (I assumed she was the one who made the mistake) told me I had indeed miscarried and hung up. I actually laughed this time. Knowing I’ve made some terrible work-related errors in my career, none of them could compare to mistaking someone for being pregnant. It was a little like being in a comedy movie.

Over the next few days, we slowly told our families the news about the miscarriage. It was kind of pleasant to let everything escape slowly and let the memories pass and rest. Of course, it’s always sad knowing what “could have been” and that we don’t have our “sweetie” but it’s also comforting to know that a third child would make us happy. We cherish our first and second children all the more now as well.

From this experience, I’d like to share with you these messages that I now know: this type of loss is not your own, you are not alone, and your body can protect you from worse pain.
And it’s okay to be sad.

Kids and Colours

A friend of mine recently had his first baby and, in his new excitement of being a father, he introduced me to a phenomenon between children and colours. Until now, I hadn’t heard of the different effects colours had on people and was intrigued when he told me that colours could affect children’s moods, even enough to make them go to sleep on time or eat their broccoli. The book he introduced me to is called Start Smart: Building Brain Power in the Early Years by Pam Schiller.

To sum up, Schiller describes how colours can enhance learning and influence mood; she gives her insight as to which colours can do what to children and how colours can be used in a classroom or at home to build brain power (not to mention help parents out too).

A chart from the book indicates the following colours can have these effects:

Red The colour red can create alertness and excitement. It usually encourages creativity and appetite. This colour can also be disturbing to anxious individuals.

Blue Blue can create a sense of well-being and lower a person’s temperature.

Sky blue is especially tranquilizing. Blue also has the effect of decreasing appetite.

Yellow This colour is the optimal colour for maintaining attention and encouraging creativity. It also creates a positive feeling.

Orange Orange can increase alertness.

Green Green creates a feeling of calmness.

Purple Purple also creates a feeling of calmness.

Brown The colour brown can increase the sense of security and relaxation. It also has the effect of reducing fatigue.

Off-white This colour can create positive feelings and help maintain attention.
Over the last couple of weeks, I decided to implement this new knowledge in the lives of my kids, but before busting out the paint to colour the walls of my boys’ room, I thought it would be best to perform some harmless experiments to see if Schiller’s findings applied to our lives as well.

Red – I started putting red napkins (in lieu of red placemats) under my children’s’ plates during meals. My kids did eat slightly more food without the continual prompting but my youngest son, Polar Bear, did proceed to tear the napkin into shreds and attempt to eat it. I also introduced a red ball into the playroom. Both children love this new ball and it’s the first one they go for when playing catch. It may be that it is the “new toy” and the other balls just don’t cut it anymore.

Blue – This experiment was exercised by taking my boys for walks outside. It is true that we take walks outdoors all the time but this time I monitored the children on clear, sky blue days. They did seem to be calmer during this activity. It could also have been the fresh air, but my children seemed to argue a lot less when they were outside, often sharing toys and throwing less tantrums.

Yellow and off-white – Schiller’s book portrays these colours as being the best for a school classroom as they have properties to increase and maintain attention. I used yellow during book time to help my children keep their little hands and bodies still while I read to them. I chose only books with yellow jackets which seemed to do the trick (although they may have just been used to the routine). I also broke out an off-white colouring book and provided only yellow crayons to my older son, Grizzly Bear. He did spend a little longer working on his colouring than normal which was a breakthrough since he doesn’t enjoy art and crafts that much.

Orange – Like red, this colour did bring a new level of alertness to my children’s lives when I brought home pumpkins this Halloween. They both became enthralled by the activity and had no issues zeroing in on the activity, diving into the fun and destroying the kitchen. Admittedly this could have something to do with children loving messy play, but it may have been the colour orange too.

Green and purple – Admittedly I did not use the colour purple for any experiments, but I did use green. I set up a green coloured canopy in their room and laid them under it for nap and bedtimes. They seemed to enjoy the canopy and stare at it. My Grizzly Bear continually asked what it was and why it was there, but he did fall asleep faster each night the week that it was up. I also put on nature documentaries for my children (this wasn’t an experiment, just something I do regularly). I did take note that my kids (and I) became calmer and happier when rainforests and oceans dominated the scenery.

Brown – I did not introduce this colour to my children as an experiment but I did take a look at my own life and the influence brown has on it. I noticed that many houses on my street are brown and wondered if the colour choice by the developer was intentional. I also noticed that my parents’ vehicle is brown, and I do feel quite safe when in it, although that may be because my Dad is often the driver.

These little activities and experiments were fun to complete and entertaining for my children. While I still don’t know if I’m a believer, I did notice a few times that colours really did have different effects on my children (although hunger and exhaustion did trump most effects). All in all, perhaps I will take the plunge to paint the walls green with a tranquilizing blue ceiling!

Baby Massage

Baby Massage

Giving your infant or older child regular massages has been proven to benefit the emotional wellbeing of everyone involved. Massages stimulate and increase the release of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in relaxation, happiness, and social bonding. When you massage your child, not only does your child produce oxytocin, but you, as the massager, and anyone watching (other caregivers) produce it too. In this way, massages can be a very effective way to promote social bonding with your family.

Side note: oxytocin also decreases the effects and length of postnatal depression!

Another benefit of baby massage, as a form of skin-to-skin contact, is the health effects to the baby. Skin‑to-skin contact (also known as kangaroo care) is a widely practiced care technique where the caregiver places their naked baby on their bare chest, increasing the surface area of bare skin contact. This form of contact has been shown to have remarkable benefits to new babies, particularly premature babies, as the effects help the newborn to gain weight while reducing infections and breathing problems.

Side note: baby massage is a fantastic way for dads to get skin-to-skin contact, particularly if the baby is breastfed!

If that wasn’t enough, baby massage has also been shown to reduce fussiness in babies and increase the length of time they sleep for. Massage improves the parts of the nervous system that regulates organs, such as the heart. A steadier heartrate improves calmer responses to stress and a healthier sleep.

Massaging Your Baby

The Best Time to Start

When choosing when to give your baby a massage, it’s best to think about their usual feeding and sleeping routines. Try to choose a time that is between feeds and naps so they won’t be too tired, too hungry, or too full. Babies don’t have a lot of variety going on in their lives but their schedules always seem to be jam-packed. I always found that the massage fit in just perfectly before the time when they normally sleep the longest (usually around 9 pm for my newborns and 8 pm for my babies).

Also, if you haven’t already developed a bedtime routine for your young one (or older one), try introducing baby massage into the mix. In this way, you are providing a relaxing environment for them to start drifting off without allowing them to fall asleep in your arms, increasing their ability to self-soothe.

What You’ll Need

Be sure to have a soft, open surface ready, like your bed or sofa. Remember not to walk away from your baby on these high surfaces. If you think you will need to walk away for any moment, choose a carpet on the floor or bring your baby with you.

Use an oil or lotion that is developed for babies. Lotions with perfumes or sodium lauryl sulphate (a harsh detergent) can be irritating to the skin. I choose coconut oil every time because it has additional health benefits such as natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lauric acid, a fatty chain acid which makes up 85% of what’s in coconut oil, has antibacterial properties. The only other natural substance high in lauric acid is breastmilk.

Additionally, have all of your diapering needs and clothing/pajamas ready. As a massage is very relaxing, your baby may want to jump right into bed afterwards.

Side note: I also like to have the lights low and play gentle baby or yoga music to increase the calmness in the space. My favourite song to play for baby massage time is Mother Divine by Craig Pruess and Ananda.

Where to Start

If your child is new to massages, it is recommended that you start with their legs as they are used to having them touched during diaper changes. Warm up the lotion or oil between your hands and work your way up his or her legs in gentle movements with your fingertips or with light squeezes on the calves or thighs.

Once massaging the chest or tummy, gently place both hands flat on his or her stomach and make large clockwise movements. Be careful not to go counter-clockwise as this is moving against his or her normal digestion movements. Our large intestines start on the bottom right of our bodies, move up, left, and down. By going clockwise during a massage, you will be promoting healthy digestion.

When massaging their chest or back, place your hands flat again but in the centre of the body and move outwards, as if you are flattening the pages of a book.

Move onwards to their arms and gently squeeze their shoulders down to their hands. If doing massages other than gentle squeezes on the arms or legs (such as strokes), be certain to move upwards (from their hands to their shoulders or from their feet to their thighs). This promotes circulation as blood returning to the heart isn’t impeded by your massage.

Continue with the massage as long as your child appears to be enjoying it. Remember, crying is the only way young babies can communicate with others so if they appear to be fussy or start to cry, it may not mean they don’t enjoy massages, it may just be time to go to bed or eat.

Massages for Older Children

As your child ages, as mine have, you may choose to keep baby massage in your lives. We incorporate them in our bath time routine. Our baths are not every day (to prevent drying out the skin), so our massages aren’t every day, but they do still enjoy them. And now that they are older, they can tell me where they prefer to be massaged too!

Side note: one other very special benefit of baby massage in our lives is that massages have somehow made it into our moments of apologies. When one of my children acts out, they apologize and either ask for or try to give a massage. I believe this to be a wonderful part of their personalities that has been instilled in them since sharing these social moments with me at a very young age.

More Information

Please browse the following pages to learn more about baby massages and the health benefits of coconut oil:

https://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/the-benefits-of-baby-massage/

https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1042915/massaging-your-baby

Please also feel free to visit KARA’s Grow With Me Program to discuss baby massage!

Halloween and Safety

“Halloween! Mommy, I love candy and candy is coming soon! Oh, I do love candy.”

A few weeks ago, I took my munchkins out shopping for their costumes and they had a ball checking out different characters, pressing buttons, and generally making a mess of the store. I felt right at home as I followed them around, picking up after them and discouraging my toddler from chewing on tags. We finally settled on matching Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody getups and they looked fantastic!

As I was standing in line to purchase these wonderful (albeit expensive) costumes when I noticed glow stick bracelets. It was then that I recalled the safety prep portion that ties in with this holiday and I started to take note of a few other things I was forgetting that were Halloween related.
Safety was number one. My family and I must take precautions before and during obtaining free candy. It would be a good reminder for my older Grizzly Bear about roads and holding hands and a good introduction for my younger Polar Bear. Number two was getting to know our community. It’s always nice to meet our neighbours, even if it’s in the dead of night and we’re dressed in costumes asking for sweets.

In regard to safety, Health Canada recommends following these tips for this spooky season!

Costumes
 Choose brightly coloured, flame-resistant costumes. Have you ever been driving at night and seen someone dressed in black walking their black Labrador? Now imagine that person is 3 ft tall and on a sugar high; it’s probably a good idea to go with the flamboyant pink wig than a member from KISS (although hilarious)!

 Use makeup rather than a mask. Masks can interfere with vision and even breathing. Our children are likely to be out of breath running from house to house in a mad dash to get the full-size candy bars, so it’s best not to add to the risks associated with the intake of oxygen or falling over the neighbours’ garden ornaments.

 For youngsters such as my Polar Bear who have taken on the personality of a beaver, remove tags right away and choose costumes that don’t have buttons. For children of any age, do not choose costumes with strings. These can tangle easily and pose a big risk to circulation.

Decorating
 Put any jack-o’-lanterns up out of reach if you’ve decided to put real candles in them. Little ones can easily knock them over in their excitement to get to your door and even littler ones can find the flickering flame more irresistible to touch than waiting in line for candy.

 Make sure lawn decorations are clearly visible and not sharp or pointy. Kids have a knack for not watching where they are going, often tripping over their own feet. It’s a shame when they trip over and break your decor but an even bigger shame if they end up hurting themselves.

 Keep your pets behind closed doors. Many disastrous events happen when pets are involved in Halloween. They can harm a child or harm themselves if they get out of the house when the door opens. Pets don’t understand what Halloween is and little strangers dressed in scary costumes could agitate and worry them, causing injuries.

Candy

 Little hands and big eyes can lead to disaster. It’s important to repeat the same motto your parents told you – don’t touch until you get home. Make sure to check your child’s haul thoroughly. Not everyone has your child’s best interest at heart. It’s hard not to get into the spirit of Halloween, especially when it gives you a chance to make memories with your child. My kids love the candy and I love the goofy pictures. I also like the benefit of getting to know my neighbours a bit more. This holiday is a great way to socialize and build strength in your community.

Last year, my family toured the neighbourhood and met most of the lovely folks that lived around us. For the last year, we’ve been able to strengthen those bonds further and it all stemmed from that first awkward conversation where my child asked for free sweets, shaking a brightly coloured bucket on their front doorstep.

Holidays such as Halloween really do have benefits for parents, even the ones that don’t steal their child’s candy after they fall asleep. So get out there and have a fun, safe holiday with your family. And watch out for tummy aches!

Unassisted Home Birth

“Why are we not in a hospital, why are we not in a hospital, oh why are we not in a hospital.”

My husband told me that these same words went through his mind a second time during the birth of our second son. Again, we decided to have a home birth. We planned the birth to take place at the same house, in the same bathtub, as our first born, having it been so successful the first time.

I followed the same birth plan, attended prenatal yoga, and practiced meditation techniques. I relaxed and rested the days leading up to it and prepared the essentials we would need. The one difference was packing a second diaper bag for our oldest son, who would be camping with his grandparents while I had the baby at their home.

I was seven days past my due date. I recall having very mild contractions throughout the day. My husband kept pestering me, asking if these meant the baby was coming. He kept reiterating that he needed an answer so that he could alert his parents. Of course I wasn’t sure but eventually said yes, the baby was coming. We packed the family up and made our way into the city. It was an identical journey to the one we made almost two years previously. I had two contractions on the road. He asked if we could stop at McDonald’s, which we did. And we waited in line forever, while my husband cursed and anxiously wiped at his face.

We arrived at the house at the same time as my husband’s Mom. She took our son with a wish of good luck to us. The day had lingered on but by this time, it was getting late. And the baby was coming. We called our midwife and she informed us that, the same as last time, the barometric pressure had dropped (it was raining) and that many women were going into labour. In fact, both she and the backup midwife were attending other births, and that she would have to send another midwife who was sick with a cold but would make it there in time.

My husband slept on the couch while I watched my favourite funny show and ate all the McDonalds by myself. My water broke around 2 o’clock in the morning. I woke my husband, asking him to pour the bath. He helped me up the stairs as I was under quite a bit of pressure now. He helped me to get into the tub and left to call the midwife again. She was on her way. In the tub, I had one painful contraction and was shocked when I felt the urge to push.

I shouted for my husband to come back, saying the baby was coming. He passed the phone to me so that I could talk to the midwife. She was wonderful, sick as a dog, but still on her way to see me. She told me that if I had the baby in the tub, he would be blue in colour and it would be harder to tell if he was okay. She said it would be best to move to the bed, especially if she didn’t make it in time. She also told me that if we were worried, we could call an ambulance. She estimated that they would arrive the same time as she would. She also told me that if I laid on my side, it would slow the progress of the birth a little, allowing her to make it there on time.

We hung up and my husband transported me to the bed. I recall him asking me if we should call an ambulance. I was tired but still in good spirits, especially since this birth already seemed to be much faster and less painful than last time. I laid on my side as I was told, and let my body keep pushing the baby, without assisting the progress. Five contractions occurred in this position, and  I kept from birthing our son. It was difficult but not impossible. I knew I couldn’t keep it up forever though; it wasn’t painful and I wasn’t too tired, but I was worried it wouldn’t be healthy for my son. My husband watched as I struggled. I could see the torment and shock on his face as he kept straining to hear the sound of a vehicle outside.

Finally, we heard a car pull up. Car doors opened and closed. And opened and closed. We heard the front door open and my husband started to yell that we were on the second floor and that the baby was coming. He was in the doorway, halfway between the stairs to where the midwife was and the room to where I was. Not wanting (or able) to delay my baby’s healthy birth anymore, I flipped onto all fours and let my baby be born. Seeing this progression, in slow motion I imagine, my husband lunged into the room and stretched his arms out to catch the baby as if he were a football in the air.

A successful catch, he laid the baby on the bed, allowing me to pick him up and gingerly uncoil the cord from his body. He gave a mighty cry and I hugged him. Our midwife stood there in the doorway giving instructions. I was grateful to her for not coming in to do things herself for fear my new baby would catch her cold. It was also very nice to complete the tasks ourselves, being able to really welcome and bond with our baby. He was chubby and splotchy. Not as pimply and wrinkly as his brother, but he had a squashed nose and humongous cheeks. He was quite happy to nurse and loved to be held.

Before long, a second midwife arrived. I was patched up while my son nursed, not needing as much work as the previous occasion. My husband called our families to greet our newest addition. When they arrived, my husband took him downstairs, greeting everyone by telling them he had a new profession as a doctor.

The Baby Proceedings took place in front of everyone. Our son was carefully weighed and measured, and his body and joints checked over. He was 7 lbs 14 oz and 20 ½ inches in length. He was very sturdy and still is to this day.
Finally, our first born son entered the room. He wanted to sit on my lap and watch the baby. He didn’t smile or ask what it was that was resting on my chest. My husband said he had a look that plainly said “I don’t like him” written on his face.

After all the congratulations and moments documented into memories, we realized that both our boys were born on Sundays and on the seventh day of the month, almost to within the hour, to a Mom with a belly full of McDonalds hamburgers. It was another lovely day.

Ages and Stages

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a tool used to look at children’s developmental skills and track important milestones. The tool is essentially a short test that describes actions and scenarios. Parents walk through the activities with their child and answer the questions based on how their child performs. It’s a great way to watch your child reach milestones and teach them new skills. The developmental areas included in the questionnaire are fine motor skills, gross motor skills, problem solving skills, communication skills, and personal-social skills. The questionnaire takes roughly 20 minutes to complete and is available from 2 to 60 months (from birth to kindergarten)!

I have been completing these developmental check-ups with my children at KARA since they were two months old. I love doing the ASQs with them, mostly because it’s a free, entertaining activity that boosts their self-esteem, but also because it’s important for me to know where practice is required. And I’m not the only one; my doctor completes a short one with them during their biannual check-ups. It’s incredibly important to catch developmental delays early, so both parents and healthcare professionals get involved! My boys are only three and one, but it’s not too early to think about elementary school. I want them to do well and keep up with their classmates. One way to accomplish that is to practice and to know what each ASQ area encompasses in order to complete activities that benefit my children.

Fine Motor Skills: This skill incorporates the use of small muscles, particularly in the hands and fingers, to accomplish tasks that require patience and concentration. Examples include a newborn grasping objects, a one year old holding a toy and changing it from one hand to the other, and a five year old using a crayon to draw a picture.

At Home: My three year old, Grizzly Bear, is currently working on learning how to hold a marker properly. He use to bunch his fingers like a fist around any stationary but after a few weeks of practice, he is now able to trace the numbers 1 through 10 while holding his marker between his index finger and thumb (Scholastic Write and Wipe Math Book – an absolutely fantastic book and
a great idea for Christmas)!

Gross Motor Skills: This skill encompasses the use of large muscles to complete tasks (and get into trouble)! Examples of these skills include a six month old learning to sit with support, a one year old pulling himself up to stand, and a three year old learning to hop or skip.

At Home: My younger son, Polar Bear, is learning (without much encouragement from me) to throw balls and climb into/onto furniture. My last blog on childproofing is being used to great effect here but I still wish there was a way to prevent myself from getting hit in the face unexpectedly with Mega Bloks Lego.

Problem Solving Skills: This skill encompasses a child’s ability to solve problems. Problem solving to a baby can be elusive to parents. Children have no problems, right? I quickly learned that a two month old that uses his hands and eyes to explore his new world is as much of an example of problem solving as a simple math equation is to a five year old!

At Home: Both of my boys were born problem solvers, from learning how to open cupboards from the bottom to help themselves to snacks, to uncovering the heat registers to shove the snacks into spaces where even Daddy can’t get to them. Only little encouragement is required at home to develop problem solving skills but one item that does help is a shape sorter! These toys are marvellous but do require encouragement as they aren’t easy to master at first and children can get discouraged. I found it’s best to use one that is also colour coded for easier mastery.

Communication: This skill includes the ability to use and understand language, another extremely important skill to have and not to be delayed. Examples of this skill include a 6 month old turning towards you when you call his name and a three year old telling you he has to use the potty.

At Home: Books, books, books. We read a variety of books everyday. My Grizzly Bear had a natural interest in books and took to them easily. When our second was born, we would include him in book time but we kept reading Grizzly Bear’s favourites. It’s no wonder that it took our Polar Bear a little while to warm up to them and through a little pause and think parenting, we realized we needed to separate book time between the two boys when Polar Bear became mobile. When we understood that our boys were going through different communication stages, we had to adapt our parenting strategies to match, even if it took a little longer to complete the bedtime routine. Polar Bear is now very content to sit and read flip-the-flap books while Grizzly Bear works on his Write-and-Wipe books. A win-win!
Personal-social Skills: This skill incorporates the ability to interact with others and self-control.

Examples of this developmental skill includes a two week old making eye-contact with Mom, a ten month old waving his chubby hand bye-bye, and a four year old taking turns in games. At Home: The most successful type of activity we do at home to build this skill in both kids is pretend play, and they love it! My Grizzly Bear is at the prime age for pretending to be a superhero, pouring Mommy an invisible cup of tea, finding superb spots for hide and seek, and building race cars out of thin air. His younger brother also gets so involved with the play that I’ve sat and waited for a make-believe smoothie for 25 minutes before all the right ingredients were blended and I got to make fake yummy noises. The key to helping children develop this skill is interaction and encouragement. A big cardboard box also works wonders too!

The ASQ is a wonderful tool and makes parent-led check-ups fun! Both of my boys passed most ASQ developmental areas each time, and the times they didn’t, we worked a little harder to bring them up to speed, having fun along the way. If you’d like to complete an ASQ with your child or simply want more information on the tool, KARA is readily available for questions and to help you complete the questionnaire. The wonderful staff have thousands of ideas on activities you and your child can do together to improve development, believe me! They incorporate their ideas into their programs everyday to help ready your children for their first days of school too!

Child Proofing

Like many Mom’s, I’m overconfident in my children’s understanding of what is okay to touch and what isn’t. In fact, when my second child arrived, my Polar Bear, I did very little to childproof my new home. I felt that children were inherently smart and that they could take most of what the world could dish out, especially in this modern-day age.

The truth is that childproofing will minimize your child’s chances of getting hurt, or worse. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 10.4 million children under three were admitted to emergency rooms in the United States as a result of household accidents in the last decade. The number one cause of injuries was attributed to falls and the number one cause of serious injuries resulting in death was attributed to furniture falling on the child. It’s no doubt that children need our protection. And the best way to protect is to prevent.

The Huffington Post Canada recommends using anchors rather than latches as effective solutions to preventing furniture from falling on loved ones. They recommend childproofing before children are mobile and state that getting on your hands and knees to explore your home from the child’s point of view really helps parents identify areas of concern.

The University of Alabama conducted a study where they arranged for first-time-moms of children aged 12 to 36 months to walk through scenarios and identify potential hazards. The study concluded that fewer than half the hazards were recognized. Parents Magazine put together their own project for readers to use to educate themselves; they incorporated drawings of typical households and circled potential hazards. I have included a few for reference and more can be found here: https://www.parents.com/toddlers preschoolers/safety/toddlerproofing/home-safe-home-childproofyour-
home-room-by-room/

It’s smart to be prepared for the worst, so I’ve compiled a short list of childproofing must-haves that are nearly universal. I’ve used these products before and can say with certainty that they helped protect my
children:

• Toilet lock – As you can plainly see, I didn’t invest in this must-have soon enough (Mommy was
• present through this adventure but it could have happened when I wasn’t there). Childproofing
• the toilet is extremely important and the toilet lock, any brand, is a must-have
• Bath spout covers – These nifty covers are to be placed over your tub spout to protect your baby’s
• head from the faucet
• Finger pinch guards – These guards are placed high up on doors (out of reach) and prevent doors
• from closing all the way, protecting fingers
• Tamper-proof plugs – Have a professional install these for you. I know it’s expensive but I can’t
• stress the importance of this must-have enough. Electricity and children don’t mix.
• Drawer and cupboard latches – These are what come to mind when most people think of
• childproofing. Common as they are, they should not be overlooked when making your home childfriendly.
• Baby gates – A pain to install and use but nothing compared to the pain a child feels when falling
• down stairs. This type of accident always results in a trip to the hospital so it’s crucial to have this
• must-have. Additionally, only hardware mounted gates are approved for stairs. Do not use
• pressure mounted gates as these can come loose and fall with your baby, adding extra danger to
• the situation.

If you need help determining the right childproofing gadgets for your unique home, please contact KARA. Additional tips and resources on childproofing can be obtained during programs or just having a chat with a wonderful staff member. They have years of experience and know quite a few talented handymen to
help make your home safe for your loved ones. All the best and stay safe!

Home Water Birth

“Why are we not in a hospital, why are we not in a hospital, oh why are we not in a hospital.” My husband told me he kept thinking these words over and over as I was in the depths of labour. It all started about nine months beforehand when we found out we were going to have our first child. I am an avid researcher, so even then, I was planning on how I was going to deliver our baby. It took a lot of dedication, including continual mental and physical exercise, and even more research. I would spent about two hours a day completing a meditation routine combined with walking, attended weekly prenatal classes, and read every positive home birth story I could get my hands on.

Nine months later, I was ready, or as ready as I could have been. My Midwife gave me one piece of critical information that I couldn’t have found in any book. When early contractions start, do not push it along, try to have a nap instead. She told me many women get up and walk around to help it progress, eager to meet their baby. Your body just isn’t ready at that moment, it’s prepping itself, and you will need the precious little energy your expending as you walk up and down stairs, trying to hurry things up, later. Most dearly, you will need it later.

I was ten days past my due date when it started. In those ten days, I went on two outings, a wedding and a trip to the farmers market. The rest of the time, I rested. Feelings of tightening had started happening
on the eighth day past due. For two days, I warded off labour with regular naps and gravol.

On the tenth day, I told my husband we needed to go into the city, to his Mom’s house, as I was now in labour. In the car on the way there, I had two contractions. They weren’t bad at all, totally manageable, so when my husband wanted to stop for McDonalds, I had no issues. He, on the other hand, regretted it entirely as we sat in a lengthy lineup. I recall him saying one thing to me that was just audible through the constant motion of wiping his face in anxiety, “God, I hope our baby isn’t ugly.” I burst out laughing.

At his Mom’s, which was vacant at the time, labour pressures increased. I recall crawling on my hands and knees and leaning on things during contractions. To those women I’d seen walking through contractions, I’ll never live up to you. These were hard. My husband kept bringing me ice creams and water. Ice cream, meditation, and breathing exercises were what I used, and they worked wonderfully. We called our Midwife twice. She talked on the phone with me and from my jokes and laughter, said it was still too early.

Apparently all love of the world is lost when you’re really in labour, and as far as she could tell, I wasn’t in enough pain to stop making jokes. So we waited. I asked my husband to pour the bath. It was pleasant being in there. I had a small tablet and watched my favourite funny show in the dark from the safety of the warm water. As contractions came, I would wake from my reverie, but otherwise, I was able to meditate myself into a shallow sleep between them. This went on for a few more hours. My husband came to check on me a few times and, when I was in enough pain to start crying, he called the midwife (with a little too much ferocity in his voice). She came rather quickly and once there, moved with lightning speed. She had never been to the house before but seemed to know her way around. I could hear her stripping the bed, laying down towels, preparing her equipment, and even moving small furniture.

She came to see me a few times between her prepping. She checked the baby’s heartbeat and happily told me that my baby didn’t even seem to know it was time to be born, that he was as comfortable to go through labour as I was uncomfortable with it. She told me I had to lay on my right side for a few contractions, so that I would be effaced on both sides (I had been labouring on my left side only). She told me I had to try to use the toilet. I tried twice with no success. The second time, I had the strongest, most painful contraction I’d ever experienced (both labours combined). It caused my water to break.

My husband quickly helped me back into the tub. He has a very good poker face as he looked at me with the utmost calming expression before telling me he would be right back. On the other side of the door, I heard him tell the Midwife that he could feel the baby’s head. She came back into the room hurriedly to check. Indeed, our baby was right there, and I felt like pushing. Every time I did though, I would instinctively slam my legs together to prevent the pain, pushing my baby back up. My Midwife would encourage me to try again, and each time, I forced my legs to slam shut, repeating the whole process that my baby and I were enduring together. After these failed attempts at willfully birthing my baby on my own, she eventually told my husband to hold my legs open. Out popped our baby’s head, under the water. I couldn’t see him, but my Midwife told me he was there. I recall greeting him, “Hello Baby.”

One more contraction and he was out and on my chest. He was quiet at first, so my Midwife kind of poked him with her finger, making sure his mouth was clear and he let out a wail. We all rejoiced!

The entire (and new) family moved to one of the bedrooms, the one that had been stripped and prepped. We called our families to announce the baby had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. My Midwife did a quick check of our son’s vitals, after which, she gave me no warning before she plopped the baby on to my chest to nurse. What an odd sensation. Our families arrived and my husband brought the baby to see them so I could have a bit of privacy to get fixed up. Yes indeed, labour takes a toll on the body and I felt a little like Frankenstein as I was patched up. I was a new woman, my Midwife told me. I didn’t feel very new, but was happy all the same. Our families then came to join me as we watched what I call the Baby Proceedings. The Midwife weighed and measured our baby, checked his muscles, joints, mouth, eyes, and tested his blood. He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz. and was 21 ¾” in length. I recall looking over to my Mom and seeing her eyes bulge at the news. She later told me that as far as she new, no woman in our family had ever birthed a baby that big.

The baby was laid to sleep in a crib beside my bed. My Midwife congratulated me and told me I was one of the fastest first timers she’d ever had. She also told me that in these next few hours, I would need to sleep. That many women feel the desire to watch their sleeping baby rather than sleep themselves. She left, promising to return in a few days to check us all again. As my husband laid down next to me, both of us trying to get some sleep, we both found ourselves turning towards our son, watching him snooze peacefully beside us. It was wonderful to fall in love so quickly. At the time, he was the most beautiful child we had ever seen. He was bald and wrinkled, with splotches of pink on his skin. Indeed, he was a little ugly.

Sibling Rivalry

As a parent of two, I sometimes worry that my children will encounter/experience sibling rivalry. My
children have fairly opposite personalities; while one is fairly shy and contemplative, the other is
boisterous and affectionate. But they both experience jealousy and have a temper to match that of a wild animals.

I do sometimes see one physically or emotionally hurt the other. And I know there is no stopping these
experiences; as a child, I endured it myself, and have relayed stories to those who have shared their sibling rivalry anecdotes with me. They tend to be the most hilarious stories to share. My children are young and have constant supervision in which intervention is continual, so fighting is fleeting, and effects are not permanent, but rather educational. I find it’s easy to teach them to be gentle and have empathy when they are so young, so I use these moments as a tool to prevent future fighting that could have bigger impacts. After all, it’s going to happen either way, so I use them to my Mommy advantage.

Why Children Fight:
· To get attention from their parents (“surely making my brother cry will get my mom to stop
cooking that horrible supper and pick me up”)
· To feel powerful (“I rarely have any say in what I eat or when I sleep but I can impose my
superiority over something that barely moves more than a potted plant”)
· Boredom (“annoying my brother while he is trying to watch his favourite show is so much more
fun than playing with the same old toys again”)
· To release energy (“why run when I can jump on someone who isn’t expecting it, from a great
height of course”)

What Children Learn from Fighting:
· They learn to manage, cope, and survive power struggles (“he won this round… but I’ll be back”)
· They learn to resolve conflicts by being open, communicative, sharing, and taking responsibility
for one’s actions (“I’m responsible for breaking the toy and he is responsible for my black eye”)
· They learn to be assertive and to stand up for themselves (“excuse me, I believe that’s my Barbie
Playdoh play set you are stealing”)
· They learn to negotiate and compromise (“okay, you take the heat for smearing diaper cream all
over the room and I’ll give you half of my dessert”)

Through general parenting (or lack of parenting skills I should say), I’ve learning fighting can be influenced by physical factors such as hunger, illness, and fatigue. Addressing these needs often has a happy outcome, especially for the child experiencing the wrath of their grouchy sibling. My younger child, my Polar Bear, is a feisty little guy and will assert dominance over toys, often tackling his older brother while he isn’t looking to obtain them. However, my more docile child, my Grizzly Bear, can become very troublesome when tired. He often becomes giddy and flat out ignores rules, particularly the rule about jumping off of furniture.

This usually ends with Polar Bear getting squashed as his brother finds new ways
to entertain himself. Children grow through phases where fighting has different effects on them as they view the world differently through each stage.

Preschoolers
· These little tykes live in a dog-eat-dog world in which there is lots of fighting and parents must
intervene frequently

Young School-aged Children
· These impressionable minds adhere to a new rule, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, and
parents intervene less and less

Older School-aged Children
· This law and order stage is a society where the children themselves use rules to guide actions and
determine fairness and parents, well, relax

High School and Beyond
· Yes, they have a human conscience now and resolve conflicts with techniques learned in earlier
phases (they still make poor decisions regarding safety and finances)

As my children are still both preschoolers, living in their dog-eat-dog world, it’s in my and my husband’s
nature to be in constant supervision mode. However, it’s important for us to remember that these first
five years are the foundation in which they will build the rest of their lives. I can’t stop, only teach.

Some Helpful Tips
· Encourage communication and understanding of feelings; help your children develop a sense of
empathy and respect for their siblings’ feelings
· Teach them how to resolve problems and let them know you believe they can be creative about
finding solutions
· Treat your children as the unique individuals that they are; if they are energetic and boisterous,
teach them to ask for high-fives rather than become physical; if they are sensitive and
communicative, teach them to strike conversations and make deals rather than scream
· Stay out of arguments that are harmless bickering, but don’t walk away; supervise the solutions
that they develop so that you can praise and encourage them And try to enjoy the young years full of bickering children, after all, these are the foundational years.

Remember how they learned these skills because they will be using them for the rest of their lives!