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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

“I’ve got plenty to be thankful for,” Bing Crosby sang in the movie “Holiday Inn”. He was actually rather down-in-the-dumps that Thanksgiving, but of course everything came out swell by Christmas – as they usually do in old movies. (Probably why I love them so much.)

This year, I’ve found myself humming that song for over a month – but sincerely. In a world full of SO much strife, negativity, hatefulness, and sadness (the list goes on), it’s easy to get down. But thanks to the birth of our third child, the sudden explosion of our middle daughter’s personality (why is it that two brings their true selves forth? It’s a burst of joy wrapped with a cantankerous bow), and the success that our oldest son has had transitioning to – and blossoming in – kindergarten has given both my husband and I new energy and reason to be truly grateful.

 

Add to that a near-constant reminder of just how lucky we are – when we hear a horrible news report or when a dear friend’s newborn daughter undergoes emergency surgery or when we see all the need hanging from a charity Giving Tree – and we’re REALLY feeling the gratitude this year.

 

But, how does that translate to the kids? Our older son understands things pretty deeply but is still in “the world revolves around me” mode (which, at 5, I guess he should be…for the most part), but a 2-year-old and 1-month-old…well, it falls on deaf ears, obviously. Again, as it should.

Ever since I wrote this post about teaching toddlers about gratitude, I’ve realized that, yes, those ideas are great – and I’ll try one or two with our son (and, in a superficial way, our 2-year-old) this year – but there’s an even better way to teach them about being thankful and, in turn, the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Ready to hear it?

As with a lot of things, the best way to teach something is to DO and SHOW it. So, by actively showing – and talking about – the things you feel grateful for, it’s more likely to stick in a child’s mind.

This actually requires us to be more present and mindful in each moment. When it comes to our gratitude for our children and loved ones, there are many ways to show them. Instead of finding ourselves growing frustrated about a messy, toy-strewn living room, taking a moment to sit with our children and play along with whatever they’re doing. When we hear one of our kids say something absolutely priceless, stopping to tell them why you found it hilarious or insightful or special. The list goes on, but by SHOWING and occasionally TELLING them that you care about their imaginations, their individuality, their activities, you’re showing them that it’s okay to be openly thankful.

The “present and mindful” technique can actually be pretty challenging at times, especially if we’re naturally temperamental. I’m the type who sees the mistake and not the immense effort behind the completed work; needless to say, with three kids and a super sweet, overly apologetic husband, I’m working on this! Taking the time to look at the “why” behind our son’s behavior (he’s a helper and sometimes makes poor choices trying to help TOO much, for example) or seeing that my husband was trying to help out by cooking (and not analyzing what he cooked and how he did it differently from the way I do it) are skills that need to be honed and worked on regularly.
I also think that it’s okay to show thanks for the things that we have. Without being altogether materialistic (we’re actually trying to live more minimally), I don’t think that it’s too much for our kids to be aware that some people are living with less – or nothing at all – and that we should truly be grateful and care for the things that we do have. I feel that discussing this in an honest, open-minded way rather than as a “there are starving people in the world, eat your broccoli!” lecture gets a lot further with kids and stays in their minds much longer.

This is where seeing your actions come in. Being sure that when you’re going through old or unwanted things that you make an effort to donate them (rather than throwing them away), putting a dollar bill in a red kettle, or sponsoring a person in need for Christmas and getting your child involved in selecting their items are all ways to engage them in being grateful for what you have – by helping others.

And in a very real way, those things that we feel all too guilty about – like screen time or finding down time for ourselves – shouldn’t be nixed altogether. Find a balance, be grateful, then give yourself the OK to enjoy it! By coming to terms with your own rules (whatever you’re comfortable with) about, for example, using your smartphone, just be sure that you include a chat with your kids about it. By saying something like, “we’re lucky to have this technology, but we shouldn’t let it run our lives; I’m going to limit my phone time during mealtimes and when we’re playing together, but there will be other times that I may want to share a funny story or picture with my friends or read an article. It’s one way that I have fun, just like you enjoy playing, and I’m grateful to have it, although it’s never more important than you are”, you’re starting a more connected, trusting technological dialogue that will hopefully continue for years. This also applies to areas of self care, but you’re also modeling that you know that you can’t properly care for the kiddos without also taking care of your own needs, which is a HUGE lesson for the whole family to learn and support.

While overall this is an exercise in gratitude, it’s also a way to make Thanksgiving last for more than just one day (much as many of us wish that the goodwill and joy behind the Christmas spirit would carry through the rest of the year). It’s about being more aware and taking little moments everyday to spread positivity and enjoy your loved ones and how lucky you are – because you really never know what could happen from one day to the next.

What’s your favorite way to teach your child(ren) about gratitude and being thankful? We’d love to hear some additional tips in the comments below.

Sometimes it’s difficult to walk the line between welcoming friends and family to meet a newborn and shutting yourself away to incubate her from all the germs and dangers of the world. And, no matter what you do, someone will get upset by your diligence (or lack thereof). It’s often the first experience we have with parenting criticism.

So, no matter how you oversee things, it’s ultimately your choice and your choice alone; just do what’s right for you and your family.

In our house, we try to allow for some immediate family visits with hand washing (and strict “please don’t visit if you’re sick” rules). But, then things get complicated with family birthdays and holidays.

So, what do you do when you’d rather not have your baby passed from second cousin to friend-of-your-aunt at the bigger get-togethers when her immune system is still very much developing?

I’ll let you in on our little secret. We swear by a baby carrier.

No matter the brand, no matter whether it’s a solid structure, wrap, or otherwise, as long as your baby is being worn in the age- and size-appropriate way, keeping baby close to Mommy or Daddy is ideal for avoiding those germs (and unwanted touching) – in addition to the myriad of other awesome reasons to babywear!

We have a big post-Christmas get-together with extended family every year and I’ve seen people come sick (with no warning to other partygoers). While I can appreciate their excitement and dedication to the shindig, it can be annoying to encounter this even without a small baby in tow. So far, wearing out babies has been a savior because a) they usually fall asleep to your heartbeat and cuddly warmth (a great excuse not to take baby out), b) people can see the baby’s face, and c) obviously it keeps unwanted holding to a minimum.

Some may say that I’m a party pooper not to pass the baby around, but at smaller events with trusted loved ones I’m happy to get a bit of a bit of a breather and have others hold our little munchkin. And I work to create some one-on-one time at other, less crazy times to meet with beloved friends and family – especially the older folks who, I find, often crave baby time (to see the way their eyes light up is enough to bring me to tears, so to share this squishy newborn stage with them is a joy).

So, I really don’t use this strategy as a means to upset relatives; my goal is to keep the baby safe during those crazy hectic (often virus-laden) times of the year. And I have found that it has kept things happy and calm for everyone – it’s just the right amount of baby to quench that newborn fever that people get. No pun intended.

What about you guys? Do you allow folks to pass the baby around or do you essentially shut yourselves away for the first month or so? Or do you have a strategy to kind of walk the line between both? We’d love to hear in the comments!


We are happy to announce the arrival of our new little girl, Hannah Clare, on October 24th! She is another good-natured, observant (this time a “listener” whereas her sister was a “watcher”) little sweetheart who surprised us with plenty of adorable reddish-blond hair. Along with her arrival, we also welcomed a new norm – being officially outnumbered with three kiddos. Since I shared some of the surprises (and non-surprises) after our second-born Harper came, I thought I’d check in with the same in the World of Three.

SURPRISES!

It’s a Girl…Again! We didn’t find out the gender in advance for any of our children, so needless to say this is ALWAYS a big surprise. And no matter how many people may insist which gender they think you’ll have or how the needle/wedding ring tests BOTH tell you you’re having a girl, or how much you prep yourself for either result…it’s still always an exuberant shock. My first thoughts were that our son was going to be SO disappointed (he was, then he gathered himself together and made a picture of his new family – sisters and all – that made my heart burst when he gave it to me) and my concern about how our daughter would react to another little girl in the house.

“Red Hair? Is that right??” One of the doctors or nurses present for the C-section uttered this and I found it HILARIOUS. My husband and I both have dark brown hair and, funny enough, our 5-year-old and almost 2-year-old are both blond. “Well, I had that color hair when I was born…and I’m Irish, so…” But, needless to say, the fact that she wasn’t a cue ball like the other two AND the strawberry blondness of it make me wonder what she’ll look like in a few more months.

The Pain…Again?! Okay, I mentioned the pain (most likely from overdoing it) last time following my C-section and while I didn’t forget about it this time around (I was actually expecting a possibility of more since I also had my tubes tied), I had an additional wrench thrown into the works. Due to an oversight by my doctor, a script for my “heavier” pain medication wasn’t left the first night, so I had to make do with Motrin and ice packs. I dealt okay but was in tears by the morning. I’m by nature not one to make waves or complain so when I did complain and was overlooked, it threw my hormonal self into a tailspin until I had a tear-filled meltdown that put an entire shift of workers on eggshells. (Y’know those moments when a ton of people are coming on shift and coming in to get info on completely irrelevant things – like, say, baby pictures in the nursery or filling out paperwork that can totally wait – but you’re in so much pain you can’t see straight?) So, the additional fact that I was hormonal, lacking sleep (particularly from the pain), and behind on meds (I’ve since read that C-section pain management is one of those things you can’t just take one med for and expect it to fix everything; once you’re “behind” it’s hard to “catch up” and, legit, it did take several days to get on top of) made for a not fun situation all around. Harumph. Luckily, although I’m probably overdoing it still more than I did the second time, I’m finally feeling closer to normal and trying to get past the guilt and negativity of the not-great hospital stay.

Some Easier Transitions. This could be a surprise, or not. I went into this pregnancy overall expecting tough transitions for both of our older children but *hoping* for the best. Like I mentioned, our son was disappointed by the fact that she was, well, a she, but overall he has handled this transition phenomenally. When our second was born, he had a VERY difficult time with it, but this time around he’s matured a lot and has a daily routine of school to focus on, so he’s done great. And, surprisingly, our daughter has handled things well, although she’s not super verbal or able to tell us that she may not be cool with it. The only noticeable issue she’s having (aside from normal “terrible twos” stuff) is that she’s suddenly having a difficult time going to bed, calling out and crying more than she EVER has. Otherwise, she refers to Hannah as “mine” and will randomly interrupt her playtime to come give her a kiss or pat her hand. So stinkin’ sweet!

A Tougher Maternity/Paternity Leave. I’m at a new district and position and my husband’s job has changed dramatically over the last couple of years, so while I won’t get into this aspect of things too much, there are ways that we’ve felt less supported by our jobs this time around. We’re, of course, super lucky to have certain work friends checking in on us and sending their love, but otherwise he’s received emails hoping he’s “well rested” (paternity leave is NOT a vacation, folks) and I’ve had a web of financial/insurance inaccuracies that I still don’t know whether are fixed. There’s a bit of a cloud hanging, but in general I still count myself super lucky to be able to take any time at all. And, man, are we looking forward to this holiday season together as a family of five!

NON-SURPRISES

It’s Equal Parts Surreal/Like Riding a Bike. How is it that there are moments that my husband and I will say, “doesn’t it feel strange to be holding such a tiny baby again?!” or “can you BELIEVE we have another girl??” and we’re clearly living in a surreal alternate reality. Then there are times that it feels like this is the way it’s always been and things fall into place just as they did before. Sleep deprivation doesn’t really help with those surreal moments, but the repetitive routine of nursing and changing diapers helps…as does, for some reason, late-night QVC viewing. (I literally buy nothing; it just calms me. Weird, I know!)

Advice Keeps Dwindling. It’s AWESOME to be at the hospital and have people say, “Oh, this is your THIRD? This is old hat for you, then.” Pretty much, thanks. Not that every child doesn’t pose their own unique set of rewards and challenges, but we’ve at least learned that everything’s a phase and we can handle things or find a way to. I think our respective parents may finally understand that we parent the best that we can and they leave us the breathing room now to do just that. Plus, this is our third to be nursed and I’m the only one in my family to successfully do this with one let alone (knock on wood) three, so my mother’s to the point where she seems simply fascinated by it.

The Love Just Grows. I knew there’d be “enough love” to pass on to all three and as hard as it may be to give out the attention they may each crave at any given moment, my husband and I juggle and try to prioritize on a minute-to-minute basis. While there’s an awful lot of juggling going on, I find myself softening in some things I used to be ridiculously (and unnecessarily) strict about, finding time to tell each child how much we love them and why,  and just generally doling out the support and care more frequently. I’m also trying to do the same for my husband since our “team” status has only strengthened now that we have three littles (and three cats, BTW…a whole other nighttime issue) and I do truly find myself appreciating him a hundred times a day.
Our readers and I would LOVE to hear your perspective! Were there any huge surprises (or “non-surprises” that you just KNEW would happen) for your second, third, fourth…? Anything that you found yourself not prepared for (or better prepared than you thought you were)? Let us know in the comments!


When a new baby arrives, it’s darn near impossible to maintain a sense of normalcy in your household (and kind of naive if you think you can – been there, done that!). This is an even bigger challenge when you’ve got other children in the mix. So, I thought I’d share a two-part series of posts as we grow (very) close to adding a third to our brood. My first post included ways to stay connected with your older child(ren) when welcoming a newborn.


This week, I’m chatting about ways for to help your older child engage with your newborn. Sometimes this comes naturally; other times you can tell subconsciously it’s a tough transition; still other times, they downright hate the baby and all the change it stands for. (Eek!) So, depending on your situation, feel free to adjust any of these tips for your needs!

Try getting them involved and assess/adjust accordingly. The biggest way to have your child engage with the new baby is, well, to get them involved. It sounds like a common sense thing, but this can backfire if you don’t keep an eye on how it makes him or her feel.
If you get into the habit of relying on your kiddo to get and do things for you and the baby, you may not realize that it makes them feel used, separate from you, and like a servant (even if, in your opinion, you don’t feel like you’re asking them much). So, ask them to do a simple task once in awhile and heap on the praise. Be sure to include them in with the snuggling time (say, watch one of their shows with them or read together while baby naps in your arms) and even ask their opinion (like picking out the baby’s next outfit).

Get them their own baby doll. Depending on your child’s age, they may enjoy the opportunity to role play like Mommy and Daddy. They may feel more invested and included if they’re going through the same motions that you are – feeding, putting down for a nap, diapering.  

Talk to them about how they were as a baby. Noticing similarities and differences between the new baby and how your older child was when they were a baby will hopefully create a bond (and play to a child’s natural tendency to enjoy hearing stories about themselves). Of course, keep it positive and try not to come off sounding comparative – “You never slept through the night, either.” Eek. It may be true, but won’t help the situation.


Allow quiet time without the baby. Giving your older child the space to have their own alone time allows them the ability to be less overwhelmed and possibly even allow them to miss the little one when they’re not together. The time to breathe will essentially give them a break from each other…and don’t we all need that “me time” every now and then?

Have them purchase a small, special gift just for baby. Whether it’s a gift for when the baby comes home from the hospital or for Christmas, giving your older child a small amount of money to pick out a lovey or stuffed animal will help them mentally and emotionally connect to the entire experience better. And I LOVED the blankie my siblings bought for me when I was a newborn (and took it everywhere with me like Linus until elementary school).

Use Daniel Tiger to work through any issues. There are several episodes dedicated to the welcoming of a new baby and while you don’t necessarily have to watch them with your child (it helps if you do, but it’s not necessary), the songs that accompany them really help transition both you and your child into conversation mode.

For example, one in particular sings, “when a baby makes things different, find a way to make things fun.” Using the word “different” doesn’t try to put a super rosy complexion to things and try to lessen your older child’s feelings but doesn’t make it sound like things are awful, then the solution they provide opens up the lines of communication to consider BOTH children’s needs. There are others, but you can Google and view them on YouTube or listen to them on Spotify.  

Maintain normalcy. I mentioned this in last week’s post, but it’s important to reiterate here. By maintaining a normal routine and structure with your older child, you’re letting them know that, yes, their life is changing in big ways, but not EVERY way. They still have school or daycare, they still have Taco Tuesdays (or whatever you feel you need to maintain in order for their lives not to implode too much). In last week’s post, I also mentioned that having more flexibility – so throwing in the occasional happy surprise, like a trip to a favorite play place or restaurant with a family member, while still keeping up with a routine can continue that sense that they’re still special and remembered and loved. And a happy child who remembers these things is more likely to accept the new baby more openly (generally speaking).

 



Have you experienced the challenge of bringing a newborn home to an older sibling who went through some growing pains in the process? We’d love to hear how you handled everything – and any tips and tricks – in the comments!

When a new baby arrives, it’s darn near impossible to maintain a sense of normalcy in your household (and kind of naive if you think you can – been there, done that!). This is an even bigger challenge when you’ve got other children in the mix. So, I thought I’d share a two-part series of posts as we grow (very) close to adding a third to our brood.

This week, I’m chatting about ways for you, as a parent, to stay connected to your older kids (while still giving your little one the attention he or she needs).

Involve your older child if they’re a helper, but don’t push it if they’re not. Who knows your child better than you? Our almost-2-year-old daughter is extremely independent, recently running to grab a couple of diapers from her room before we left the house (I would have totally forgotten them). She puts away her laundry for us and begs to put everyone else’s away, as well. So, needless to say, asking her to get something that I need for the baby may continue the “I’m helping, I’m involved” feelings.

Our son is a helper, but to an extent. He has a couple of chores that he’s super proud to do for us, but I remember that after awhile the “get sister’s onesie” requests wore thin. So, this time around he may actually be relieved that he has a little sister to help with these requests! Either way, we’ll try not to overdo it and keep an eye out for the inevitable sighs when we do.

Try to keep a routine schedule but with some looseness. My mom has mentioned several times that, “Well, you’ll have Harper home with you a lot…” while I’m on leave, and I’m kind of thinking, “Well, not really.” We want to maintain some normalcy – and that includes sending her to my mother-in-law on most weekdays and, of course, sending our son to kindergarten. Keeping this structure is not only good for the baby and I, but for our older two, as well.

However, some of this scheduled structure is going to loosen, again, for the good of the whole family. Maybe Mommy (or Daddy) won’t be making lunches everyday and our son gets to have the cafeteria experience (he’s excited about the prospect of this). Maybe Daddy will take the kids to Barnes and Noble or out to eat (huge treats) while I stay home with the baby. Maybe we’ll take some family members up on their offers to have sleepovers more.

There are some things that are hugely important to our family, though, particularly our son. We still enjoy our PBS Kids Family Nights every Friday and will continue to do so. As the holidays (and our daughter’s birthday) get closer, we’ll find ways to celebrate our traditions simply but specially. So, a routine but with some flexibility thrown in is our goal; let’s hope we can achieve it!

Keep communication open. This can be a tough one to maintain since you may feel fried or be going through your own hormonal emotions, yourself, but I don’t mean that you have to discuss the transition CONSTANTLY and over every single behavior issue. Actually, that can make things worse, I’ve found.

Rather, before the baby arrives, have mini conversations here and there about how your child is feeling. This time around, our son says he’s SUPER excited (even if it’s not a boy, ha ha) and has formed more of a connection by talking to my belly or feeling for kicks. I’ve made sure to remind him of the changes in a matter-of-fact, neither-good-nor-bad kind of way. He’s been through them before, so it’s more of a refresher of what’s to come.

For our younger, less aware daughter, though, this communication has been more vague and we’re much looser in our conversations. Simple books and dollies help (even though she’s not really a nurturing doll mama type), but saying that she has a new baby friend coming (and not trying to dethrone her “baby” title – we interchange big girl and baby girl equally) that she can be a big helper with seems to be sinking in.

So, balance in communication is the goal. We found that over-discussing things with our son when his first sister came made things worse, but obviously ignoring issues or not being willing to take a moment to snuggle and chat about an issue might make your child feel a bit abandoned.


Do SIMPLE activities together. Don’t let Mom Guilt (or Parenting Guilt – my husband’s just as guilt-driven as I am) seep in while you’re in the midst of a huge transition, yourself! Paring back on the kid activities (in our case, we purposefully avoided getting our son involved with anything since kindergarten itself has been such a huge change and didn’t put our daughter into Kindermusik even though we’ve been considering it) is TOTALLY understandable.

Instead, I’m planning to take into consideration some priorities first but say “yes” more often. This means I’ll consider a) how I’m feeling, b) how baby’s doing (along with his/her schedule), and c) how much it’ll throw off the routine. If it’s a school night and we still have baths to give and it’s getting later by the minute and the baby’s having a rough time, nope. If it’s a Friday night or baths aren’t needed (we do them every other night unless they’ve gotten super dirty or sweaty) and the baby’s chill, regardless of how tired I may be or how messy the activity, I need to remember to say “yes” and remember that messes aren’t forever.

Simple activities can range from a dinner out or a trip to a library for story time, or, heck, just doing a super simple craft project together, coloring, playing Candyland, or watching an educational show together. These things recharge our children’s “Mom still has time for me!” batteries and reminds me to connect more.

Be genuinely involved when you can. Going hand-in-hand with the last tip is to be mindful about the time spent together. When the kids are home and the baby’s napping or being worn, the phone will be put aside and we’ll make a concerted effort to chat about things that are important to our littles. After all, every stage that we’re observing and experiencing in our kiddos – the early school age, the learning-new-words-and-talents-everyday phase, and, of course, the newborn stage – are fleeting. They’re all important and sweet and challenging and wonderful phases in their own ways, and before we know it they won’t WANT us as involved.

As fried as we sometimes get (especially thanks to sleep deprivation!), the kids crave that connection, and it’s our job to provide it, even by simply sitting with them and being there.

Don’t beat yourself up. Christmas is going to be simpler this year, as is my daughter’s birthday. We won’t be able to attend every awesome school function. We’ll welcome less visitors (unless they’re actually offering help of some kind) to visit with the new baby. Sometimes I WILL say “not today, buddy” when our son requests yet again to paint that darn bird feeder we’ve been avoiding painting for 5 months. The list goes on, and it’s all enough to really get down on myself about.

But, like I mentioned, this stage isn’t forever. One day, we’ll make Pinterest-perfect Christmas cookies together. (Maybe.) One day, we WILL sign up our daughter for Kindermusik and our son up for whatever sport or activity he has his mind set to try. One day, we’ll get to every single school function. And, yes, one day we WILL paint that bird feeder (heck, maybe the day the baby’s born some kind soul will break it open for our son to splatter paint all over – and I’ll be grateful because I know how much it meant to him). It just might not be today…and that’s okay.

To say nothing of the housecleaning…
Allow them transition time/leniency. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are lifelong connections. Just think about when you and your significant other first started dating. If you were forced to spend 24/7 together from the very beginning, you might have felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and not as “into” them as you did by simply dating and maintaining “me time.” Well, we bring a new forever friend home for our littles and expect them to be 100% okay with it.

Sometimes they are, but sometimes it comes out in poor behavior and choices or downright grumpiness. It may hurt to think that our littles don’t immediately take to their sibling, but remember that their relationship (like most family relationships) will be a marathon and a bumpy start doesn’t necessarily bode badly for the future. Allow these feelings to happen. Give it time.

Just remember to love on your first (and second, and third…) babies while you’re doing your best job loving on your newborn. Your love is the interconnecting thread that has created this silly, adorable lot in the first place, and is what holds it all together. That love is all it takes to heal any hurts or welcome a new little squish.   

 


So, are any of you expecting a second, third, fourth (etc) child? Have you gone through it before? If so, we’d all love to hear your ideas and tips on making the transition easier and staying connected with your older child(ren) in the comments!