Potty Training, Round Two

Potty Training, Round Two

More experienced and better prepared, potty training our second child should have been a breeze, right?

It certainly wasn’t though…

We started just as we did with our first; we bought a small, toddler-sized potty. We got one from IKEA. In my experience, they are the best. They are very well priced and look kind of comfortable (I’ve never tested it, I swear). They also wash easily and come in a very pleasing green colour.

After choosing the right potty for our trainee, it was all uphill.

I recall trying something different this time: ‘acquainting’ our young Polar Bear with the potty before diving right into the affair. We would put Polar Bear on the potty every once in a while, abandoning it for weeks at a time. We also kept it in the rooms we were currently playing in. We think these two differences helped him familiarize himself with his new potty‑shaped friend but, and probably more importantly, it also prevented my husband and I from losing our minds. Keeping a toddler on a potty is tough enough, even with all the mental gadgets we can entertain them with. But our strong-willed and boisterous Polar Bear was too much of a match for us anyway, and sadly, he knew it.

In this beginning stage, we would also ‘announce’ whenever one of us had to use the washroom. I’m not sure if this helped him but I thought it would clue him in to the fact that potty-training wasn’t so different from what everyone else was doing – and that going in a potty was a ‘normal event’.

He was a curious and insightful youngster and he picked up most things quickly. For instance, he knew to hold his pee and run like the dickens when the time called for it. He also loved to flush the potty (what kid doesn’t?) and would spend lengthy amounts of time “washing his hands” if I let him.

The next step, though, was focusing on his number twos. While Polar Bear was a natural at determining his bodily functions and needs, he greatly disliked going number two on the potty. He, like many of us I’m sure, preferred the piece and quiet of a nice smelling library or the comfort of antique furniture. He would disappear for a short length of time and when called, would not respond. It wasn’t long before my husband and I determined his usual haunts; under the walnut table, behind the mahogany piano, inside the oak cabinet, under Grandpa’s cedar desk. He also had to do his business whenever we entered a lumber store. He had a type and it wasn’t hard for me to picture him reading a newspaper at his leisure while knowingly disobeying us.

Well, we had our hands full. And it only became more entertaining.

On an outing one day at the mall, just the two of us, Polar Bear told me very quietly that it was time. Normally, my young and stubborn lad would hold in his number two until we got home, refusing to go in a public washroom, as piece and quiet were his element. Exhilarated and shocked, I practically flew with him on my back to the nearest washroom. We catapulted inside and I placed him on the potty, breathless with anticipation. He stared at me with big, doe-shaped eyes, shaking his head, essentially embarrassed at my antics. But he complied and sat obediently.

And we waited.

And waited. We were alone in the public washroom, something I was remarkably thankful for. This could be it! I recall verbally encouraging him, “Yes, you can do it,” “Push, push, push,” “You’ve got this, you’re such a big boy.” But alas, he eventually declared he didn’t have to go and referenced how he peed, and that that should be good enough.

Crestfallen, I pulled up his trousers and made him wait while I used the washroom. As I sat down to go, a couple of girls entered the washroom and occupied some stalls next to ours. They were chatting away through the cubicles, comparing their purchases and prices.

Polar Bear was playing with a toy car he held in his hand for a moment. Then, noticing that I was on the potty, came right over to me. He looked at me with such concern in his eyes, placing his hand on one of my shoulders.

“Push, Mommy, Push!” he started screeching out loud. “Go, poop! You can do it!”

The girls in the cubicles next to us erupted into hysterical laughter as my face became the colour of a ripe strawberry. My jaw dropped and admittedly I began to shake with laughter too as I tried to shush my son, who persistently continued to encourage me to poop in the potty.

So shocked and embarrassed was I, that I kept my son in our cubicle until the girls had left the washroom, leaving it only when I was certain they would be long gone, likely telling anyone who would listen along the way.

Well, children are nonetheless the most entertaining portion of my life, leaving me shaking my head and smiling with disbelief. Polar Bear did eventually potty train successfully. It only took observant parents who watched his every move to halt his ‘disappearing acts.’

Shockingly, Polar Bear also started moving his potty to his favourite places to obtain the piece and quiet he sought.  A clever boy to boot.

With reflection, every child is indeed different. And we’ve all learned a thing or two!

Resume Writing

As parents, we need income to sustain our growing families. We always dream of a better income in order to afford a better quality of life for our kids, and so we are driven to apply for better jobs. To get one, it all starts with our resume.

It’s a difficult task to write a successful resume and land that interview. I’ve had my fair share of sending one in and never hearing back. Luckily, I’ve also had my fair share of landing an interview, and they say that getting the interview is halfway to getting the job! So for the resume part, that’s half the work, it’s something to be taken seriously!

And it isn’t just the resume, as you’ll see, but it’s all the communication that takes place before an interview that you need to be prepared for. Let’s get started!

Job Search

I think there are two kinds of job searches. Searching for jobs that you have the education and/or experience for, and jobs that you wish you did – in other words, you are passionate about!

These two categories sometimes interlace and that’s the job that’s golden. The job that you are likely to be a good candidate for but also the job that you are excited about and driven to learn more to obtain it. Essentially, you have some of the qualifications but not all of them, so your skills and passion for learning come into play. You can always apply to any one of these three potential jobs, but you will need to alter your resume accordingly. Let’s move on!

Email Subject Line

I never write the email first, I always tackle the resume first. However, to understand how the employer first sees you and your potential skills, let’s look at it from their perspective.

The first thing they see will be the email subject line. I kind of equate this to how you dress for an interview. The first thing the potential employer will see is you. Before you even say hello to one another, they see your wardrobe and how you present yourself, if you are on time and if you come prepared.

Likewise, the email subject line is how professional you appear before you show off your skills and knowledge. The email subject line should be professional and to the point. You certainly don’t want to waste his or her time by making them guess what the email is about. If the job description gives details about how to reference the job, like a job number, use that. If not, still try to convey exactly what the point of your email is. Good examples are below.

Application for Job No. 12345 – Marnie Christensen

Application for Sales Associate – Marnie Christensen

Potential employers are busy folks, and if your email subject line is confusing or has a spelling error, they may not even open the email. The perfect subject line will entice them to open your email.

Email Content

The next piece the potential employer will see is the email itself. With this, it’s best to still stay direct and to the point, but you should elaborate a little as to why you are the ideal candidate. Essentially, as with the email subject line, you want to encourage the employer to take the next step and open your cover letter/resume. I equate the email content to your interview introduction. They now see you are prepared and ready for an interview, and with the proper introduction, you show them you are approachable, courteous, experienced and professional.

I start my email off by directing it to who it was intended for, such as “Dear Mr. Norman.”

If there was no contact listed in the job description, I address it as such, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

I specify as to which position I am interested in and why I believe I would be the ideal candidate. I refer to specific experience or knowledge that I posses or years in which I have worked in similar roles. The detail I use correlates to a very brief summary of what I’ve incorporated into my cover letter. I don’t go beyond two or three sentences as you don’t want them to search for information that should be readily available.

Lastly, I express that I would like to be invited for an interview to discuss my qualifications further. This gives them the opening and call to action to contact you. Be as precise as possible with your contact information, giving them at least an email address and phone number. You can list a couple of numbers to reach you but it’s best to only provide your cellphone to circumvent the risk of a family member answering a home phone.

Cover Letter

The cover letter is probably the most time consuming part of the process, but I think it’s the most telling part, so it’s well worth the time. It needs to be tailored to the specific position you are applying for and have relevant examples of your qualifications. I normally include five short paragraphs within.

Within the first paragraph I detail how many years of experience or education I have that is relevant, and three responsibilities directly from the job description that I have experience with or think that I have the skills to complete exceptionally well.

Within the three body paragraphs, I reference the three responsibilities I took directly from the job description and provide relevant details on my experience or education pertaining to them. I detail not only how I completed the responsibilities but how I excelled and adapted to the positions I had previously. If I have examples of how I managed projects, aided senior staff, or developed new and innovative ways of completing tasks, I certainly elaborate on those as they are great ways to impress your potential employer. A word to the wise, these three examples (or more or less, depending on your cover letter) detailed within your cover letter are likely to be the main topics of conversation during the real interview, so ensure you are prepared to discuss them at length in a sit-down atmosphere.

Lastly, the final paragraph should incorporate a very short summary of your cover letter, along with why the position speaks to you and what experience you want to build on, if applicable. End it with your appreciation of the potential employer’s time and consideration, and contact details. Your sincere thanks speaks volumes and shows the employer you are respectful and considerate.

Resume

The main event is your resume. It may well be that your potential employer skipped right over your cover letter to get the pertinent details fast if they are in a rush or received a surplus of applications. This means that you need to have a great summary of all your skills, experience, education, work experience, accomplishments, certificates, or any volunteer work right in one easy-to-read package.

I like to do this with tables within Word. My name is in a large font, centered at the top of the page. I organize my key experience within a couple of bullets or a very brief paragraph at the top, under my name, under the header “Professional Profile Highlights.” On the left side of this key experience, I’ve placed my contact details.

I also detail my most recent or relevant education and key words along the left side of my resume, under my contact details. These pop-out action words allow my reader to get a very fast impression of what I have to offer. The headers I use for these sections are called “Education” and “Professional Skills.”

To the right of my education and professional skills, I detail my “Relevant Work Experience.” I don’t list all of my work experience as not all of it pertains to the job I’m applying for. I use the experience that is most relevant as the employer may not have time to go through my entire history.

Lastly, I add a section for “Professional Projects and Accomplishments” and detail within any relevant projects I’ve completed on my own, any team projects I’ve been part of, any volunteer work, or any certificates that may be of interest.

I’ve moved away from listing my references within my resume as it’s not the norm now. Also, it gives the potential employer a reason to contact you prior to contacting anyone on your list (and gives you time to prepare your references!).

And that should do it!

Sending the Application

Before you send your application, ensure you are honest with your qualifications. There is no harm in embellishing your talents a bit but never be untruthful. It will be obvious in the interview setting and potentially hurt your chances of future employment. Also, ensure you proofread all of the details, from the subject line to the last line in your resume! If your application is one of hundreds, a spelling or grammatical error could be the one thing that moves your resume from the interview pile to the discard pile.

Measurable Success

All in all, those are the tips and tricks I use to apply for a job! As I mentioned, not all of my applications have been successful but I’ve been particularly lucky with the call backs I do get! I do hope these tips help you land that dream job and excel your family! Leave a note if you’d like to share some of your tips or stories – I’d love to hear them!

Little Haircuts

I’ve always been a whiz at cutting hair. I’ve cut my own hair and both of my sisters’ since before I can remember. But it was always long hair which I’d practiced with! As I became the mom of two kids with short hair preferences, I had to learn some new tricks! I do consider myself pretty proficient at both types of styles now, so I’d like to share some tips with you!

The Gadgets

You really don’t need much in the way of supplies when cutting kids hair. Sure, if you have a very sophisticated child or chic little one, you might spring for fancy hair products or high-quality trimmers, but I find I can get away with very little, which helps with my family budget! When I cut long hair, I usually only need a spray bottle with water, a brush, a comb, clips, and a pair of hair-cutting scissors. For short hair, I really only need the same gadgets but also a trimmer thrown in.

A little on the trimmer – my husband has a massive trimmer that plugs into the wall. It’s heavy and, when turned on, I can barely hold on to it. For the littler men in the house, I purchased (and prefer) a pint sized beard and mustache trimmer. It’s much smaller, and less powerful, making hair cutting a lot easier and safer! Walmart sells these small trimmers for less than $20!

Setup For Success

As with anything to do with munchkins, it’s best to be prepared beforehand. I do this by leading my child up to the process. For older ones used to the practice, this isn’t really necessary, but for those little ones with big curiosities, this really helps make everything run smooth (well, smoother!).

Do this by letting your child help with setup and explain what you’re going to do before you do it. Let them get the towel that will be wrapped around their neck, and the spray bottle that will be used to dampen the hair. Don’t let them handle the scissors or trimmer though!

For little-little ones, a big plate of food in front of them also helps alleviate stress and keep them sitting still (well, stiller!).

When all is prepped and ready, invite your child to sit on a stool (or sideways on a chair) and wrap a towel around their neck to protect their clothing. I use a hairclip to secure the towel so it can be easily removed if needed. If you are completing any haircutting on a carpeted surface, I suggest also laying a towel on the floor. Haircutting is my forte, vacuuming is my nemesis.

Long Hair

I’ve been cutting long hair for well over a decade. I cut my own, plus any family member that feels brave enough to let me have a go. I’ve made mistakes but have learned from them. I also have some unconventional habits that could make any professional hairdresser cringe with shock! But each hairdo I’ve mastered in the last decade is now a work of art and I’m proud of each one! I’m also particularly proud of choosing the right style for the right hair type. For instance, if your child has fine hair, I would suggest the straight across look. The blunt cut contrast with fine hair is a real showstopper. If the hair is thicker, I like the layered look to pull the weight off and give it more bounce. So here we go!

Long Hair – Straight Across

Many parents prefer this elegant and timeless cut for their children, and I do too! It’s very classy and innocent, not to mention – easy to do!

What you will need for this haircut is a lot of water. It actually helps to have the hair wet to completely soaked. You will then part the hair in the middle and brush it until it’s tangle-free. Bring all the hair to the back and ask your child to sit-up straight so that the hair is hanging as freely as possible and not curved over the shoulders. You can then assess the shortest hair and use that as a guide to cut the hair straight across, or, you may want to pick a shorter length than what’s already there. Throughout the cutting process, the hair will move and the duller your scissors are, the more it will move. Fix this by constantly brushing the hair straight and reassessing.

Once the hair looks to be all one length from the back, part the hair in the middle down your child’s head to the neck, and bring equal portions to the front. As hair growing in the front, near your child’s face was cut to the length of the hair growing in the back, it will now appear longer when brought to the front. Fix this by brushing your child’s front hair over the eyes (not the nose!) and make it as free-falling as possible. Cut straight across using the hair from the back (which is the shortest now) as a guide. This guide helps you attain as straight a haircut as possible!

Long Hair – Layered

This cut is simply chic and carefree looking! I have always completed this haircut on myself, and, as a result of no proper training or guide, have come up with my own tricks for attaining natural-looking layered hair. I do hope there are no hairdressers reading this as I’m sure it’s not the recommended way!

What I do, and I’m sure it’s to be hummed and hawed about, is I cut this style while dry. I do not use any water to hold the hair in place. I find it’s harder to see what the style will look like when wet, so I get a carefree look with a carefree method! Good grief?

Part the dry hair in the middle or on the side, and brush it all to the back. I find where the hair is naturally parted works best. Now, you will section the hair and cut the longest layer first, and the shortest layer last. Put the would-be shorter hair up in a clip on top of your child’s head. The bottommost layer should be ready for cutting. I like to start in the middle but it’s just a preference. I do this to get more of a waterfall look, starting with the longest cut first. Take a small section of the hair and cut it in a slightly slanted (angular-to-triangular) shape – I’m certain real hairdressers’ eyes are popping out of their heads as they read this! Continue with each section, making the hair appear naturally layered with uneven cuts throughout. Be sure not to go too deep with any of the cuts as the natural look will be lost. Once a section is complete, take another down and cut in the same fashion until all of the sections are done. Each section of the hair should be cut just slightly shorter than the one underneath. Again, any major differences in length will take away from the natural look. The haircut should be as blended looking as possible.

Lastly, bring the hair to the front and angular-to-triangular cut the front pieces to the desired length. I like to cut them to just past the jawline to give the face a sweetheart shape. Voila!

Short Hair

Now, cutting short hair has been new to me, and I’ve since had to learn two different cuts. As every face shape looks different in the same cut, I had two different cuts to master, because I have two differently shaped kids! I’ve always found the short sides with the long top (crew cut) looked good on long-faced men, while a blended one looked great on round-faced men. I have had 4 years of practice with the crew cut and 2 years with the blended. I am by no means a master, and the barber has always done a better job. However, the more I practice, the better my kids look! Not to mention, I also save money and have these memories to share and cherish with my kids!

Short Hair – Crew Cut

The easier cut of the two, the crew cut is striking and manly. It gives your child the appearance of being older and hip. I’ve found kids particularly like the crew cuts with a deep side part, like my Grizzly Bear, or a razor cut down the side to give them an edge on the precarious playground. Watch out for these cool youngsters!

Contrary to cutting long hair, short hair is best started with the shortest layer. This is where the trimmer comes into play. I like to start off with the most medium length attachment and work my way from one sideburn around the back to the other sideburn, staying as close to the nape of the neck as possible. I do this to avoid diving in, cutting off too much too soon, as once the hair is cut, you can’t turn back time. Not to mention, with short hair, nothing can be hidden. So, if I’m happy with the length and my child is comfortable, I continue to use the trimmer up the sides, switching to the longest attachment nearer to the top. Do not use the trimmer past the portion of the head where sides turn to top. If you imagine a square, the sides of the square should be trimmed, while the surface of the square should be left for the scissors (longest hair). It also helps to wet the hair on the top of the head and brush it to the front, over your child’s face, out of the way.

Once this initial step is complete, I use the shortest attachment of the trimmer to clean up the areas where the hair should be shortest. A barber would likely razor these portions away, like the neck and around the ears. As my kids are small and unpredictable, I stick to the trimmer.

The trimmer can be stored away now. Use the spray bottle to rewet the hair and brush it down onto the forehead. Use the scissors to cut a straight line through the bangs in the middle of the forehead. It does not have to be perfect as this is not where the hair will sit when styled. Then, starting at the back, take sections of the hair with your fingers and, using two or three finger widths from the child’s head to the scissors, cut the hair in rough motions (rough as in carefree, not rough for your child to sit through!). Continue until you reach the front (which should be minimal to cut as it’s already been cut from the forehead guide).

Lastly, I like to style my child’s hair with my personal mommy products, like mouse or styling balm. My Grizzly Bear feels very special when I do this and always takes a running leap to check himself out in the mirror!

Short Hair – Blended Cut

The blended cut is your more traditional cut with a fuller, more voluminous look. It sparks a more natural look, yet it’s eye-catching. The blended cut was the trickier of the two short styles to master, and here’s why: I needed to perfect my use with a comb. My youngest son, Polar Bear, has a round head, and this style looks simply marvelous on him, but it took quite a bit of practice as I barely use a comb on my long hair.

Start out with the trimmer as you would with the crew cut. Make your way around the head and the nape of the neck with the most medium sized attachment. Now, rather than going straight up with the trimmer (as you would with the sides of a square), instead, switch to the comb. If your child’s hair is particularly grown out, use the longest attachment to get rid of some of the weight but try to leave it long enough to pull a comb through it. Take all attachments off of the trimmer and use the comb as the guide. The comb is now a manual attachment for the trimmer, and you are selecting the length based on the area of the head you are trimming. I like to make the hair shorter near my child’s face and longest on top of his head. You are using the comb now as a means to keep the hair long enough to make it appear blended from the top to the base (much more like a circle now than a square). I still use the scissors to do the top of the head where the hair is longest. However, if you are feeling particularly skilled, you can use the comb to do this too, just pull it out to the length you want!

I also clean up some areas with the shortest attachment and style using mommy products! It makes him giggle and feel like a big boy!

Cleanup!

The final act is the cleanup. If completed with towels in place, it’s fairly easy to through them into the wash. Otherwise, ask your little ones, with their cool hairdos and big smiles to give you a hand! Although, this may prove more of a mess than it was a minute beforehand. It’s the parenthood way though!

If you have tips and tricks for hairstyles (or feel the need to scold my unprofessional haircutting habits), please feel free to leave a note! I’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t, or trade secrets of the haircutting business!

Beauty Tips for Rushed Moms

As I write this blog on rushed parenthood, I am even now multitasking. Halfway between sentences and thoughts, I am busily trying to eat a meal before it gets cold and helping my child remember the words to his favourite Christmas jingle.

As I’m sure you would agree, the early years of parenthood have sparse moments for a hot shower. Where does one find time to make themselves presentable for company or for work each day? After a few years of the practiced art of making myself smell more like a flower and less like a diaper, I am ready to share a few hot tips, most of which, conveniently enough, fit easily into my bathroom cupboard!

Tip One – Showering Timeline

Shower the night before. For those of us with longer, thicker hair, blow drying is not an option anymore. That super amazing windswept, voluminous hair is still achievable, but not in the time department. Instead, after doing your do to your slept-on hair, use hair spray and run your finger through your hair to give it that tousled look. This works best if you lift your hair in sections, spray each section in a fluid motion, then flip your lid upside down to let it dry. You may want to brush the ends with a soft brush after though, but let your roots remain bouncy with just adjustments from your fingers.

Tip Two – Three Day Hair

If you do find yourself with enough time to shower and blow-dry the day of, use dry shampoo right after the hair is set. I noticed this when my sister used dry shampoo as a hair thickener when practicing for her wedding. Once she had curled the hair, she used the dry shampoo to give it bounce. I did the same and was amazed that my style lasted for days longer than when I use dry shampoo on dirty hair. It basically kept my hair in perfect condition for three days without needing to reapply.

Tip Three – Multi-use Products

I’m not sure how many moms are as resourceful as I am (or as plucky), but I did end up trying to use baby wipes as make-up remover – and it worked! I was cringing, waiting for my eyes to hurt or for my face to break out days later, but it didn’t! If you find yourself budgeting, use baby wipes in lieu of expensive makeup remover pads. They’ll save you time and money!

Another multi-use item I actually found before my mommy experiences is baby powder as a hair product. Because dry shampoo can run in the pricier range at the local store, and since we are all in the baby section at one point or another anyway, you can use baby powder as dry shampoo! Baby powder will work the same way as dry shampoo – it gives you volume and wicks away moisture. It’s also vastly cheaper. The only downside is that you and your child will now smell like you bathed together!

Tip Four – Bathroom Breakfast

This one was scary the first time I tried it but I haven’t turned back! Set up a breakfast table in your bathroom. Your kids can dine while you beautify! I grabbed one of those little plastic table and chair combos off Kijiji and set up a little nook for the kids. They usually watch me while I get pretty and I can keep an eye on who is trying to feed the dog avocado.

This even helps me in the food department because I can usually whip around and finish their leftovers before running out the door, saving food and money as I don’t have to grab take-out on my way to work anymore!

Tip Five – Waterproof Ways

Get waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I used to hate waterproof makeup because it didn’t come off easily. Now, I find the longer it lasts, the more time I have for other things. Plus, my purse is just too full of toys and extra pull-ups to be karting around my makeup bag anymore. Makeup that doesn’t run also helps us moms look like we got the sleep we so badly need, hiding any bags and puffy lids.

Tip Six – Moisturizing Regiment

Use coconut oil before bed. I use this on my kids and myself. It helps keep skin moisturized and hair soft. I usually do a deep cleanse on a weekend night as I have to wash it out of my hair the next day but it keeps the body looking young and smelling great!

Tip Seven – The Timeless Updos

Master an elegant or professional updo. Some days, no matter how nice you are to it, your hair just won’t cooperate. I’ve mastered two different styles to help with this unfortunate, but common scenario. I usually try the low, elegant bun first to give myself a young-beauty appearance. For this, try giving yourself a deep side part, swooping your hair into a ball at the base of your neck, and then pulling slightly on pieces to give it more volume.

If I’ve slept in a funny position and my hair just won’t heed my warnings of threatened scissor action, I then try a professional topknot. This is always easiest when using a hair donut, which can even be found at the dollar store. Put your hair in a high ponytail, then pull the tail through the donut, then swoop and pin the tail into place around it. This style nearly always works, especially if you’ve got a stylish headband to hold back any strays.

Tip Eight – Dental Dedication

Never forgo the dentist. I always have trouble finding the will to make a dental appointment. Luckily, I’ve found a dentist that will do it for me! She took my phone number (rather too willingly), and has proceeded to remind me every couple of months or so of when I’ll need to rebook. I know she has my family’s best interest at heart too because she always accommodates a full family appointment. My sons get their checkups and fluoride applications and I get a regular cleaning. I know it should be more about dental health than a beauty regiment, but I just can’t help grinning when I look in the mirror after a dental trip.

Tip Nine – Posture Makes Perfect

Practice good posture. I work in an office, sitting in one position all day. I have put myself through extensive ergonomic training, which has helped me stay healthy but it’s also helped my appearance as well. Nothing looks better or more professional than someone confident, and with confidence comes posture.

Tip Ten – Embrace Yourself

Probably my biggest money-saving and time-reducing tip is embracing your natural look. It took me years to accomplish this (and I’m still getting the hang of it). I used to always dye my hair and buy makeup that would make me look like I was a natural… well anything but red. Lately, since becoming a Mom, I’ve grown out my red hair. To my surprise (although I’m still not a fan of the colour), I’ve grown to really like the soft texture that accompanies natural hair. Embracing a part of myself that usually takes a thousand bucks a year to cover up really made a difference in my routine and personal nature. Not to mention I enjoy the cost savings!

The Skinny on Beauty Tips

Now that I’ve tried many beautifying tips for Moms on the go, even unconventional ones, I’m glad I was able to share the ones that worked! Beauty tips can be little things that you found saved the day at least once or monumental epiphanies about your own lifestyle; they all help give us the confidence boost while simultaneously being there for our families. So, you do you, and let me know your tips – because I can always use more too!

Kindergarten Hunting

As another school year starts, I’ve come to the exciting realization that my eldest is due to start kindergarten next year! I was able to determine his age appropriateness by referring to the Edmonton Public Schools’ website and check out their Kindergarten Registration page here.

So, this week I thought I’d talk about my experiences so far in finding the right school for my children! First off, there are three (and maybe more) choices: private schools, charter schools, and public schools. Then there are the different kinds of each of those! You can register your children in immersion schools, where they learn different languages; you can look at different extracurricular activities or advanced programs; there are separate schools, where classes are all girls or all boys; and you have the choice of different religions or no religion schools. On top of that, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can decide on how much time they spend away from home from boarding schools to homeschooled – the choice is yours – and it’s a big one!

Here is a little breakdown of the three main kinds and those that are most easily available:

Private Schools – There are around 180 private schools in Alberta. Most private schools are not funded by the Ministry of Education and parents are required to pay for their child’s education. The reviews of private schools and education foundations are outstanding. The price per year for a child in a private school can run between $7,000 and $18,000 (during my searches). Find more information here and look up schools here.

Charter Schools – Alberta has 13 charter schools, most of which reside in Edmonton and Calgary. Charter schools sit in the middle of private and public. They are non-profit schools, meaning that they are like public schools, and are tuition-free, and they provide high-quality education. The catch with charter schools is that they are hard to enrol in. They rely mostly on a lottery system where you register and hope they pick your name. Additionally, if one of your children is chosen, it isn’t a guarantee that the other will be. To find more information, click here and look up schools here.

Public Schools – All public schools are funded by the Ministry of Education (taxes). They usually only require an administration fee, transportation fee, and school supplies. When I looked at the difference between daycare costs and these types of schools, my piggy bank did a happy dance! However, depending on where you live, class sizes of public schools can be very large and the facilities may be run-down from overuse and lack of adequate financing. Another downside is that you can’t simply “choose” your school if living in a large community. Chances are, there will be districts (based on addresses) and, depending on your district, your child may have no choices in the public school they attend. You will need proof of where you live (driver’s licence will suffice) to enrol your child. Find your designated school here.

In addition to these resources, I’ve also been relying a lot on school rankings by grades from the Fraser Institute. This is a nice way to check that the school you’ve fallen in love with consistently achieves high rankings in comparison to others. Check it out here.

Decisions about where your child goes to school are sometimes very personal and can be difficult. It’s common and normal for parents to feel anxious about getting this decision right. These decisions depend on where you live, your personal values, your child’s needs, school-specific factors, religion, and more. When you’re choosing an elementary school (like me), it’s also important to consider things like before-school and after-school care, and proximity to the day-home for any younger children still requiring care.

For some parents, the decision isn’t simple. Mine certainly wasn’t!

My husband and I have determined that the public school system will be a feasible, and still wonderful, option. As we have two children, charter schools were not for us, as we wanted them to stick together. Private schools are not feasible for us (unless I’m holding the winning lottery ticket).

But which public school? Going through our current interests and requirements helped us further determine which one was for us. Our youngest will still be attending the dayhome full-time, so proximity and commute are important factors. There’s nothing like the whirlwind that is our current morning schedule, and minimizing any further stress is very important. Both my husband and I attended immersion schools, me in French and he in Aboriginal, so that was a key interest of ours. We also have two very active youngsters that enjoy the outdoors and sports, so after-school extracurriculars were important too. We also needed to fixate on drop-off and pick-up times as we are both working. To accommodate this, you might consider sharing the load with your spouse. For example, many parents take the morning shift while the other spouse goes to work. The other spouse can then leave work early to pick up the kids and handle the afternoon shift. Many companies are becoming more flexible to accommodate two working parents and this option is very economical and stress-relieving.

So, to what we decided! We are very much looking at a French immersion daycare that is accredited as a public school kindergarten. I am uneasy splitting my youngsters up and when I found this co-preschool-kindergarten option, I was very relieved! As both kids will be in the same building, in different classes, the pick-up/drop-off will be easier, plus both will be with youngsters of their own ages and be learning the approved Alberta curriculum. The costs of daycares exceeded our reach in the past, but because this is a publicly funded school, the costs for my kinder-aged child are low. As it is a daycare, and not a public school, districts are not an issue at the moment (although this daycare is right around the corner too!). We believe that, after the months of research, our efforts have paid off with finding this gem!

We hope you and your family have success in finding the right educational fit for your family too! Whether it’s homeschool, public, charter, private or other (boarding schools sound the best during rough mornings!). Please feel free to share your inputs or other resources with the KARA online family!

Happy School Hunting!

The Organized Parent

Apart from my time spent blogging, I also have two full-time jobs. I am a consultant with a firm and I’m a parent (both equally hard!). I recently went from one firm to another and in my interview, I was asked how I kept myself organized. My interview panel was significantly impressed with how I managed my time between my daily work activities and deliverables. I had wonderful answers for them in regard to keeping up with tasks, clients, and ever-changing regulatory frameworks. What shocked me most, and what I didn’t know how to answer when it was asked, was how I managed my work-life balance with respect to keeping myself organized. It wasn’t until I’d given it a few moments of thought that I realized how organized I’d made myself as a parent too!

If you’re interested in a life with less chaos or just keeping your family on schedule, check out these tips I’ve compiled! They are handy for any super-organized parents out there or those looking to manage their time a bit better too!

The Daily Activities

This list of tips includes the activities I do daily – I really notice a difference when it comes to saving time here!

Get Yourself Ready First

As a mom waking up at obscene hours of the early morning on weekdays, I always cherished my child‑free moments. I take lengthy showers and try on two or three outfits while I procrastinated waking my children. I always did this to enable myself a bit of free time to be myself! What I never realized was that this greatly expedited the process of getting out the door. The few times my children have woken up before me on a weekday always ended with tardy attendance. They would halt my progress by asking for toys or food or getting into my make-up bag (they also try on my shoes!). When I am the first to be freshened, I can devote my time to helping them, which speeds everything up! Try it out and see if it’s a speedy morning for your family!

Do One Load a Day

When it comes to household chores, I keep up by doing one load a day! Of course, I’m talking about dishes and laundry. For dishes, I wait until after breakfast and turn the dishwasher on right before leaving for work. When we arrive back at home, all the dishes are ready for dinner! I load the dishes throughout the day to keep the area tidy and turn it on the next day after breakfast.

For laundry, it really helps that my washer and dryer are on the main floor, right beside the kids’ and our bedrooms. Our kids are also too young to change themselves, so clothes never actually touch the floor (or the hamper). They go right from my hands to the washer and once a full load is in, it gets turned on. I don’t worry too much about sorting colours, I only keep my fancy clothes separate to do on the weekends. An extra tip – I also keep a garbage next to the washer too for those disposable diapers!

Clockwork Meals

I make very simple meals to keep our schedule on track. Breakfasts are raw foods like grated cheese, cut up fruit, yogurt, peanuts and mushrooms. The low prep time allows me to get a healthy meal put together in no time at all and my children learn to appreciate healthy choices. Lunches are similar with smoked salmon or deli meats, crackers, and raw vegetables. Dinners are pre-made from the weekend or are made with similar raw foods and a smoothie. This low prep time really helps my children stay healthy and have a consistent schedule. Their little tummy alarms go off at the same time everyday too, so I can also anticipate their needs!

Bathroom Cleaning

Before I was a parent, I used to pick one household cleaning chore to accomplish a day (along with sweeping up dog and kitty hair, which was truly out of hand!). My apartment was always spic-and-span! Now that I’m a parent, and have more than just a one bedroom apartment to clean, the days of having a perfect household are gone (for now). I’ve changed my tactic to always cleaning the dirtiest part of the house daily and leaving other chores until the weekend. I don’t doubt if you’ll agree; the bathroom is always the messiest place in our home. Giving it a once over every morning has really helped make me less anxious when leaving my home, knowing that it is glowing. How I manage to do it quick is by using the most available thing in my home – wet wipes! After hair and make-up, I wipe everything down in a jiffy.

An extra tip – I also learned a neat trick from my sister. Keep a pack of wet wipes in the bathroom and when surprise visitors come to call, tell them you would love a chat after your own potty break. Wipe your bathroom clean under the pretense of using the loo. They need never know your bathroom wasn’t clean! My sister has been doing this for years, keeping a supply of baby wet wipes in her lavatory, even though all of her children are teens (the messiest of all but at least they’re potty trained!).

Schedule Procrastination

Every parent needs downtime. I myself need two breaks a day. On top of my morning beautification process, I also relax for an hour in the evening, every evening. The best way is to schedule it in daily. Make it known to the entire family by being consistent with it too. After I pick my boys up from their dayhome, I usually spend an hour with them outside or exercising (5 pm to 6 pm), have dinner with them (6 pm to 6:30 pm), then put snacks and a show on (6:30 pm to 7:30 pm). During snacks and show‑time, you will find me taking up an entire couch and enjoying my favourite kid-friendly documentary. I don’t feel badly about this feet-up time either because my children have full bellies and are usually learning a great deal from Bill Nye or David Attenborough. They also wander off to play with toys or colour too, allowing them downtime too!

Weekender Tips

These activities are reserved solely for weekends so that things run smoothly during weekdays! Check them out!

All Other Chores

Weekends are the days to get any other chores done around the house. It really doesn’t take too long either since the laundry, dishes, and bathroom have all been taken care of. I do a general, low‑maintenance pickup of out-of-place items, Swiffer wet-jet the floor, and mow the lawn or shovel the walk. These activities really help me stay efficient the rest of the week. My neighbours also appreciate that I keep my outdoor activity noises on the weekend schedule.

Groceries and Meal Prep

I do any big grocery orders on the weekend. I take my kids along too, which they consider a nice family outing, saving me time and money elsewhere. We get the raw foods for the week and items to make a big meal to keep in the fridge, which is usually a hearty pasta. We make the meal together too so I usually do this before I Swiffer the floor as I’m usually mopping up garlic flakes!

Fancy Outings or Occasions

Have you ever gone into work and run into tired coworkers? My coworkers and I chat about our weekends and sometimes I learn that they’ve completed several big events all in two days! They always sound like a lot of fun, going on multiple hikes or attending several birthday parties. I limit our weekends to just one grand event, whether we’re hosting a garage sale or going to the zoo, it’s only ever one big occasion. This prevents my family becoming drained and requiring more time off than was scheduled. It helps my children stay on top of sleep and me on top of everything else!

Anytime Organization

Lastly, one thing I do to keep myself organized is email myself. I do this anytime. This really helps me remember plans, outings, birthdays, grocery store items, checked-off tasks, upcoming events – you name it! If I’ve emailed it to myself, I’ll be ready and on top of it!

Your Organization Tips

I really hope these do-it-yourself organization tips for the busy parent help you build your dream of staying on top of everything that’s going on in your life! They may have also inspired you to feel good about the tricks you use in your daily, weekly, or anytime schedules! Feel free to share your pro‑organization parenting tips with us – I can always use more tips in my personal schedule!

Pets and Families

When I was little (littler), I had many pets and adored them all. I grew up on a farm, one of the luckiest kids in the world I thought, and cherished each of my companions. I had herding dogs named Emma and Kirby, a brawny mousing cat named Socks, a cow named Mable, pigs named Beans and Bacon, and about a hundred chickens, all named Sue. Despite constant wonderful interactions with all of the animals, my most meaningful companionship was with a kitten I rescued from a nearby highway culvert. I named her Ginger to match her (and my) hair.

My early memories of rescuing animals and caring for them, I believe, has given me the compassion and patience I exhibit now as an adult. It led to my course choices during my post-secondary education and to the organizations I choose to volunteer with. It probably also helped me in the choice to become a parent.

“Nothing less than alchemy is involved when animals and children get together, and the resulting magic has healing properties that work well.” – Elizabeth Anderson, The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets

Are Pets Beneficial?

After pondering my upbringing, I wondered if pets have been proven to show benefits to a family. Turns out having a pet in the home may have remarkable positive effects on people. Studies have shown that by having a pet you: are less likely to have depression, are more likely to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, are more likely to be calm and relaxed as a result of good hormones, and are more likely to live longer. I believe these attributes would help create more positive family relationships.

If you’re excited about the idea of the benefits of a companion but would rather a creepy-crawlie over a snuggly one, it’s no problem! The science even shows that the pet doesn’t have to be a cat or dog. Even watching a fish swim has shown the positive benefits indicated above.

There are a few other benefits that are more lifestyle benefits than health (although they are intertwined). Pets can help you get exercise (by demanding it themselves). They can help you meet new people (by running up to strangers and licking their faces). They can even help regulate sleep by forcing you to build a daily routine (what’s Saturday?).

Health benefits for kids; they have them too! Unlike some family members or friends, pets are never critical or bossy, so they are a great source of support for rough days. They can also provide a sense of security and ease separation anxiety. Pets can help teach a child responsibility and how to build relationships. It’s also been shown that pets can help children with attention deficit disorder, autism, or with overly aggressive attitudes, but that is dependent on proper pet and child training.

 

To learn more about the benefits of pets, click here.

Should We Get a Pet?

While everything sounds wonderful and easy, it can certainly be challenging to raise a pet while raising a family. Pets don’t “grow up” like children do. They do learn but not in the same astonishing and exponential way kids do. A pet will never be able to clean up after itself or get its own food. In this way, pets can be thought of as perpetual toddlers that will need care for their entire lives, which could be a while.

If considering a pet, it is recommended you scrutinize your lifestyle and living situation before taking the plunge. It’s best to assess your living situation. Do you have the room and finances to support a pet, particularly a large or energetic one? Assess your family; are you unanimously decided on adopting a furry or scaly companion and are your children ready to make room in their lives and hearts? Does anyone in your family have allergies to pets? Assess your lifestyle and unconditional devotion for the lifespan of your pet; are you willing and do you have the time to give a pet the attention it needs? Do you have a vet close by? Dogs in particular need daily exercise provided by humans. Cats need daily litterbox cleanings. All animals need food, baths, regular vet checkups, and love.

If you’d like to discuss or read more on how to determine your family’s pet-readiness, contact the Edmonton Humane Society or another local SPCA. They can provide plenty of information to prepare and help you. Also visit this site with advice from Canadian pediatricians (here).

We’re Ready, Let’s Do It!

When a pet first comes home, it can be stressful on both the animal and your children – and YOU! The change in the environment leaves everyone feeling distinctly out of place. In order to minimize risk, it’s usually best to keep children and new pets separated until the new pet has settled into its new environment. It’s important to give your new family member time to adjust by allowing them to explore undisturbed and in a quiet environment.

After your companion has had a chance to explore, you’re ready to introduce them to their new friends – your children. Children tend to make erratic movements, and this startles many animals. For this reason, it’s commonly recommended to introduce children to new pets whilst outdoors or in large, open rooms. Just remember to keep dogs on a leash!

It’s important to encourage any curiosity on behalf of either party but take care to notice the signs that anyone may be feeling uncomfortable. Common signs for dogs include a stiff posture, stiff tail, and raised hair on his or her back. The most common sign of alertness for cats is typically a stiff and bristling tail. Animals make themselves look larger when uncomfortable or afraid. This is an evolutionary tactic to scare off unwanted visitors. If your pet is trying to make itself look larger, it’s a sign he or she is uncomfortable.

Once the introductions are complete, it’s important to teach children that animals aren’t the same as their stuffed toys. Children should know to respect the boundaries of their animals – they’re your children’s responsibility too! It’s very important not to leave children and pets alone together until both are comfortable and your children are of a responsible age. The Edmonton Humane Society has Pet Sitter Courses for kids to help them learn the best ways to interact and care for pets (click here).

Last note: another important point that many adults don’t realize is that dogs and cats alike have extremely sensitive whiskers. While they may look cute to a baby or toddler (or you!), disturbing them can be extremely uncomfortable for your new friend.

Already a Pet Family and Bringing Home a Child?

Pet introductions to new babies or adopted children can also be challenging. A pet can see the new baby as competition, just as they would another pet. They are animals after all.

It’s very important to keep careful watch over your child at all times and never to leave him or her alone with your pet. Your pet can get jealous, which can quickly escalate into a disaster.

To help your pet adjust, there are some steps to complete before you bring home your new addition (3 weeks beforehand is recommended):

If you have a dog, ensure they are trained to follow basic commands such as sit, stay, no, and are willing to complete a solid recall. If this is not your dog’s forte, obedience training classes may be well worth the price.

Make gradual changes to your pet’s routine before the new arrival. Change where they will be sleeping or when they will be playing/walking beforehand so they don’t associate the changes with the new child. This also includes decreasing the amount of attention they get to the amount they will have when the new child arrives. It’s not nice to think about, but you won’t have much time for your pet with a newborn, so prepare them! Don’t make the mistake of lavishing them with last minute attention just to take it away when the new child arrives.

If you have a nervous or grumpy-type animal, it’s advisable to play recordings of a baby crying. Just jump on Youtube and play new baby crying sounds – it could help you and your partner to adjust too!

Help your pet acclimatize to new baby things and odours (the good ones) by letting them explore new furniture, check out new clothes and toys, and smell baby lotions.

If you have a dog, teach them where his “bed” is. This will help a dog with any type of personality, from excitable and jumpy to older and uncomfortable. This “bed” or “place” is a safe place for your dog or cat, acting as a buffer for commotion and a place for them to reset. I’m sure we all remember being “grounded” or having “time-outs” as children and having to stare endlessly at the ceiling above our beds. This is the same type of zone for your dog. Praise them when they are let out of their bed. If training, praise them when they get into their bed too to encourage the behavior.

Now for the arrival of your child! When you bring the baby or child home:

Greet your pet alone, if possible, to avoid them jumping on the baby or child.

Allow your pet to adjust to the sight, sound, and smell of the child before making a closer introduction. What this looks like is allowing your pet to take his time to come and go freely into the room you and the child are in without calling him over.

After a few days, allow the pet to get close enough to smell the baby. If you have an adopted child, this length of time is more dependent on the comfort of the child. Most pets adapt easily but some pets require more precautions, such as a leash or muzzle. Never approach the animal with the child, always allow the pet to approach you. This will keep the pet calm and you in the stable seat, able to jump into action if needed.

Give your pet attention when the baby or child is around to prevent them from thinking they are in competition. Also, never scold the dog from touching things that belong to the baby, like toys or food. If you have an adopted child, this also has the additional benefit of teaching the child to share with the pet.

When the new baby starts becoming more mobile, this will be the time for the dog or cat to learn his bed is his refuge. Teach your baby or your adopted child that when the pet is in his bed, he’s tired and does not want to play. This will help your pet relax and prevent potential bites or scratches.

Never leave a pet alone with a baby or small child! Even the most trusted animals that you’ve had for years can be a danger. They are animals!

To learn more, click here.

A Pawsitive Ending

If you find yourself adopting a pet, please be mindful of the feasibility of your family to care for them and consider the wellbeing of your children. Remember that pets do not make good gifts, as they are not toys. They are animals that need the same care and devotion as another child. Also remember that not all families are suited to having pets. If anyone in your family has allergies to pets, it won’t be feasible or fair to either party.

Pets can make wonderful additions for the right families though and can have positive effects! So after careful consideration, take the plunge and enjoy the benefits of a furry or scaly creature! My family and I have a wonderful pet, a dog named Wylie Coyote. She’s been in my children’s entire lives and mine for eight years. She is well loved in this household and properly looked after. We could never imagine such a full, well-rounded family without her – I wish the same applies to you and your family!

We Are Experts

Now that you’ve entered into the parenting realm, it’s a guarantee that you’ve mastered a skill that you never imagined would occupy your time. You’re likely so good at it that it’s a shame to keep it off of your resume. I too came to this realization as I wielded a Q-tip through the slots of a computer modem, removing the remaining remnants of the smoothie that was poured over it. The art of cleaning up after toddlers, now that’s a fine skill to be proud of!

I asked my husband, “Now that you are a parent, you are an expert at (what)?”

My husband claims to be an expert in all things poop. His nose can pick up a whiff of waste from a different household floor. He even claims that each baby facial expression during the act indicates what type of poop he will find in the diaper. A hard one, a soft one, a green one – it’s a practiced art. With having been peed on in the first 24 hours of being a Dad, this parenting scouts badge should not have come as a surprise to me.

My family had some interesting answers too!

My Mom indicated she is “an expert at taking care of my grown children’s pets after they move into a dorm or a boyfriend’s place.” I could hear her grumbling as my sister choked on a nervous laugh! I do remember my Mom also being very practiced at having a split personality (which I have thankfully adopted and hope to perfect soon). She could be furious with one of us one moment, a venomous tone that could freeze and petrify, and then next minute, cool as a cucumber, answer the phone with a calm, collected voice, “Hi Susan, so glad you called!”

My Dad was always skilled at fixing broken toys and electronics. He must have been an expert with patience as well while he removed a grilled cheese sandwich from the VCR. Now that his kids are grown and gone, he claims to be an expert at relaxing but the jury may still be out on that one!

My sister-in-law is an expert in all things baby food! She was always a great chef but now the meals are of a frozen green bean variety. What accompanies this skill is my brother’s ability to Tetris his way through the freezer to get to his meaty portions.

The hilariousness of the answers I came across were so great that I pursued more!

Friends of mine indicated their amusing expertise avenues:

“I’m an expert at finding the bathroom in shopping malls, immediately”

“I’m an expert at sewing a stuffed animal’s ear back on over and over and over”

“I’m an expert at eating cold supper”

“I’m an expert at sharing slobbery sippy cups”

“I’m an expert at memorizing children’s books and spouting them off by heart”

“I’m an expert at contradicting myself.”

“I’m an expert at getting full from imaginary food”

“I’m an expert at wondering why my kids are always talking”

“I’m an expert at turning away from my kids when they are in trouble because I’m silently laughing”

“I’m an expert at having my own temper tantrums”

“I’m an expert at admitting I was clueless before I had kids – a TV is not a babysitter, KD is not food, kids should never backtalk”

“I’m an expert at holding down my child with an arm and leg to give them medicine”

“I’m an expert at ignoring siren imitations while driving”

“I’m an expert at finding terrible hiding places during hide-and-go-seek”

“I’m an expert at deluding myself into thinking I’ll clean the house tomorrow”

I asked my husband, “what am I an expert in?”

He responded, “ you’re an expert in everything other than negotiations. When the kids ask for a cookie and you say you can only have half of a cookie, they are winning, Marn.”

I also pondered what my kids will say when they are older. This evening they likened me to a “Sharptooth,” the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Land Before Time collection, while running away cackling. Perhaps I’m an expert at non-threatening dinosaur imitations – a truly lost art!

 

If you’re a practised raspberry-belly-blower or invisible-tea-party-host, please share your gifts with us! Who knows, you may be the best favourite-toy-locator in the world and you never knew it!

Bed Sharing

Bed Sharing with Toddlers

Recently, my younger son, Polar Bear, has been finding it difficult to sleep through the night without finding his way to my bed. In the very wee hours of the morning, I can often hear his stumbling footsteps down the corridor between our two rooms. I doze in and out as I listen to his “Mama, mama, dou,” semantics. Roughly translated to English, I think this is “Mommy, where are you?”

Then I’m jolted awake as he throws open my bedroom door and, like a heat seeking missile, launches himself into the folds of covers that are around me.

Usually, I am able to fall back to sleep and endure the unprovoked and startling knee jerks to the back and elbow jabs to the face. Some nights, I just needed my mommy sleep and I gently corral him back to his bed or play musical beds and find another place to lay my head. Other nights, I enjoy the nighttime snuggles and wonder if there are negatives to bed sharing.

The Truths about Bed Sharing

The Canadian Pediatric Society does not recommend bed sharing with children under the age of one as it isn’t safe. Bed sharing with infants can be dangerous due to the increased risk of SIDS and suffocation. Please click here to learn more about these dangers and how to prevent them.

For children over the age of one, there doesn’t appear to be a general consensus on bed sharing among experts. Many see it as benefiting children through bonding. Others saw it as disrupting a child’s social skills and independence. A great deal more seem not to take a stance.

However, a study conducted in 2011 helped debunk the 21st century thoughts that bed sharing may decrease a child’s developmental progress. When factoring in the socio-economic factors of the 944 families observed with children aged 1 to 5, there were no obvious developmental or behavioural issues noted between the children who shared a bed with their parents and didn’t. An anthropologist who looked at the study also mentioned that children may have instinctive sleep needs that don’t match our modern-day parenting sleep expectations (click here).

As a parent of young children, I can understand their little person instinct to want to be close to someone who provides comfort and security when woken in the middle of the night. My children use me as a shield for most unpleasant experiences they face; meeting strange dogs at the park, making new friends at their dayhome, trying new sporting activities, and even tasting new green, leafy vegetables. So why shouldn’t they want my comfort and experience when faced with darkness? Surely, it’s only natural, no question, but I, like many, have a modern day life with a modern day career, so I do need my children to be modern day sleepers, at least on weekdays.

Sleep Retraining

Now Polar Bear used to be a model sleeper, just like his brother, sleeping soundly all night and going back to sleep easily if woken. One night, something woke him and, foolishly, I brought him to my bed to comfort him. Since then, he came looking for me about once or twice a month in the middle of the night. It normally did not affect me too much because it wasn’t too often and I was able to get the sleep I required to function the following day. More recently, however, it became once or twice a week, which greatly affected my daily performance at everyday tasks.

I had to get Polar Bear to be comfortable sleeping in his own bedroom for my sanity. And since he was already a model sleeper, retraining him wouldn’t be too hard (or so I thought)!

Sleep retraining Polar Bear wasn’t easy. True, I was starting with a ready-made pro that I had just made a small lapse in nighttime guidance, but he was a stubborn little man and had already gotten to a place of expected nightly snuggles; it had already sunk in that Mommy would comfort him until he fell asleep (if she was too tired to put up a fight). Funny how fast their learned behaviour develops, isn’t it? But, I knew how to retrain him, just like the first time, when he was a small baby. And just like the first time, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Sleep Training a Toddler

It turns out sleep training a toddler isn’t quite as easy as sleep training a baby. It turns out they can stay awake for much longer periods of time than a baby. They also make a heck of a lot more noise. Polar Bear easily woke his brother on multiple occasions and I would have to endure both boys pining for me in the middle of the night. But I persisted, taking these crucial pieces of advice (click here) along the way: pick a good time to start, be persistent, and give plenty of praise!

Pick a good night to start – First, I made sure it was a good night to begin this process. For my situation, this meant a weekend so that we could both sleep in if Mommy-Toddler arguments went well into the night. I also waited until he no longer had a cold and could sleep soundly once asleep. Was he in the midst of changing routines or potty training? Nope, another green light that it was the right time to start.

Stick to the routine – My children and I follow a simple bedtime routine before lights out. This routine consists of brushing our teeth and reading 5 board books (the last one is a goodnight themed one). If your family has a nightly routine, stick to it. When children are able to predict what will happen next, they feel secure and safe (click here). This is especially important to a child learning to comfort themselves during the night.

Lights out and listen – Now this is the tough part, especially if you didn’t handle the baby “cry-it-out” stage well. If your child is like mine, they can dish out explosive fury. I would sit outside his door and wait for him to open it, each time walking him back to his bed and giving him a stern look after explaining that he needed to stay in his bed. In his day, my older son handled this tactic moderately well, only pining for another book or glass of water. Polar Bear just pierces me with dirty looks (we call it the Polar Bear Glare) and clenched fists before letting out angry growls as I closed the bedroom door. Every child is different and they will probably try multiple tactics to make you give in, but it’s important to stay strong!

Nightly gambles – Polar Bear would try his luck at climbing into my bed in the early morning hours. This was the toughest part of our relationship. Mostly because this was the time when I was least motivated to win and because he had already won so many times in the past. But I was resilient and marched him back, hand in hand, to his bed every time he tried.

The victorious morning after – This was the best part of our battles, the morning party held just for him! I would deliver plenty of praise (and gratitude) that he spent the whole night in his bed. His favourite part, other than having the pleasure of picking his own morning juice box, was being called a “big boy just like his brother.”

This did make my older son mimic those Polar Bear Glares!

From One Parent to Another

If you struggle with nightly visits from your child, fear not! You can try some of the tactics here knowing that whatever you try, consistency and persistence always wins! On the other hand, bed sharing does not have negative impacts to your child (just to your sanity), so if you cherish the moments that seem to fly by so quickly, keep snuggling them!

Pick Me Up Mommy

Pick Me Up, Mommy

This evening, as I was preparing supper, leaning against the kitchen counter, a little person with a little set of hands pushed and poked until he was between me and the counter, entirely determined on obtaining my undivided attention. He reached up towards me and, without saying a word, indicated with his big blue eyes exactly what his motive was – pick me up, mommy.

My heart melted as it normally does when one of my children are being affectionate. Without skipping a beat, I scooped him up in my arms and planted a big kiss on his cheek. And here’s why:

Affection – The Importance of It

When you respond to a baby who requires your attention or needs your care, you are strengthening their ability to trust. This decreases stress levels, which increases the ability to learn new concepts.

You cannot spoil babies by responding to their needs. Babies cry because something is wrong. At birth, crying is the only form of communication available to them, their first learned form of communication. As they age, they learn more forms of communication, but crying was the first form, so they use it throughout childhood (and sometimes as adults!).

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan looked at the parenting knowledge of 3,000 adults in 1997. The results indicated that 62% of adults incorrectly believed a six-month-old could be spoiled. It also indicated that 44% of parents and 60% of grandparents thought that by picking up a three-month‑old every time he cried, it would spoil him (click here).

This survey, although older, indicates that not all adults know why babies cry or what babies need, which in short, is affection and reassurance. Use this knowledge when you’re in a situation when someone criticizes your parenting techniques (we’ve all been there). The studies speak for themselves and know that when you respond with affection, you are doing the right thing for your child.

Ability – It’s Not Always Possible

But sometimes it’s not always possible to pick up your child, is it? When you’re carrying a large pile of groceries or already carrying one child, you must make exceptions or have some back-up forms of attention, correct?

Quite recently, I underwent minor surgery which came with doctor’s orders; I was unable to pick up my children for one month (or vacuum or drive, but I was okay with those). With a son who was only seventeen months old at the time, and fully into the carry-me-everywhere stage, twined with an occasionally jealous three-and-a-half-year-old, I had to come up with some crafty alternatives to avoid using my stomach muscles. Here’s how I got by:

Alternatives – Try These on for Size

I would encourage them to walk with me by making it into a game. We incorporated running, jumping (not me), singing, skipping and dancing into the mix. My children had fun keeping the beat going while we would make our way to various destinations. And because they are competitive little boys, we seemed to always arrive with time to spare. I’d say turning adventures to the grocery store or friend’s house into a friendly competition that involved bonding worked the majority of the time. Hooray!

However, my children aren’t always so easily inspired to be independent, as I’m sure no one’s are. Sometimes they just needed to be with a parent to feel safe and reassured. During these moments, I found that kneeling down beside them and cuddling with them on the floor for a minute or two gave them exactly and what the doctor ordered (literally)! I found that these cuddle moments were most often required during times of change or stress, such as changing routines or being worn out. A little bit of affection and talking with them gave me more insight into their needs and gave them the opportunity for some on-on-one mommy-cuddles!

Lastly, if you’re really in a jam and don’t have the ability to play a game or cuddle, I also had two backup methods. My younger son did really well with distraction methods, such as food and toys. We would still bond and he would develop trust by interacting with me and getting what he needed. I found my older child did really well with explanations and tasks. I did explain to him that mommy had a big scratch on her tummy and couldn’t carry him, then I would give him a big boy task to inspire his independence and encourage him. Although this worked extraordinarily well in the moment, he would also lovingly, and with what I can only assume was concern, tell everyone we came across that I had a big scratch on my stomach.

Whatever the crafty alternative, it’s important that children receive the same level of bonding they would if they were being held. You will be able to tell that by the level of fun and trust they are exhibiting during the alternative strategy.

More Information

As all new parent’s know, it’s essential to get all the good information right from the start, including how babies develop trust! If you’re looking for more information on the benefits of picking up and holding your little person, KARA’s free Nobody’s Perfect program has all the tools! This program focuses on the basics of parenting a young child, including helping children learn and develop new skills, among other topics. So feel free to pick up the phone (and your baby!) today!