When the (Sleep) Books Just Don’t Work

By the time Audrey was 4 weeks old, I had a pile of infant sleep books that stretched probably twice as long as her little body.

And none of them (really) helped.

Looking back, I can see what tips would (and would not) have been helpful, but what I primarily remember from those early days is frustration. And lots of tears.

I read all about wonderful, predictable infant sleep schedules in routines, about putting your baby down for a nap in the crib 1 hour after waking, about not making baby dependent on nursing or rocking or swinging to fall asleep. About following a baby’s sleep cues (Audrey didn’t have them) and having predictable time to yourself while baby slept.

But what I had was a baby who wanted to nurse to fall asleep.  A baby that woke up like clockwork 20 minutes after I laid her down (asleep!  A big no no!) for her nap.  A baby that woke every 45-60 minutes at night.  A baby who would scream for an hour as I rocked her, swaddled, feeling like a failure because I could not comfort my child and because I could not get her to stick to the schedule.

I cried because my baby would not sleep and I cried because she wouldn’t follow the books.

I cry now because I wish I had thrown the books out the window (retaining a few helpful tips, first) and just nursed and held and treasured the sweet newborn days with my little one.

But I wonder if there are other mamas out there who are in the exact same place I was.  Trying so desperately to do this mothering thing well, to follow The Books. But they are failing.

You know what, it is—and will be–okay. Read a few helpful tips and then follow your instinct about what works best for you and your baby and your family.  Buy a swing or a bouncer or a carrier and let your little one sleep where he or she sleeps best. If you can, reach out to some experienced fellow moms and ask for their advice.

But don’t blame your little one for not following The Books.  You know what?  Children weren’t made to be controlled by books, but to be known and cared for and loved.

You’re doing a great job, mama.  Keep it up.

On Not Tying Up Heavy Burdens

The cheerful mother and chipper daughter who had started out the morning on a Costco run were no where to be found.  We were both tired.  I think Audrey was teething, and I had a horrible sore throat.  We were in that awful hungry-but-not-quite-lunchtime zone.

To make things worse, Whole Foods did not have the two items I had stopped, specifically, to buy.  Audrey was confused about why I had told her she was going to walk, when instead I ended up carrying her and pushing her in the cart.

As I strapped her in her car seat for the third time that morning she began to fuss, ever so slightly.  I don’t remember what exactly went down, but I was far from patient.  I’m pretty sure I snapped at her to stop crying.  I just didn’t want to deal with her tears.

In the midst of the frustration this verse came to mind:

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4)

As you will remember, these words were Jesus’ description of the Pharisees, but in that moment in the Whole Foods parking lot, I think they were for me too.

Why did I require obedience in a little thing (“stop fussing!”) when instead compassion was needed?  Had I already forgotten how just a few minutes before my little two-year-old had told me she wanted to go home to Boston?  Why did I have no understanding for her fatigue, her sore teeth, and her emotional confusion?  Why did I tie up a heavy burden of obedience on her little back, without lifting a finger to help?

I know why: because I’m a sinful mother desperately in need of the grace of the Spirit to lovingly parent my little girl.  Because I need (and have!) a Savior who doesn’t tie up needless burdens on my back.  When He calls me to obey, He gives me the strength to do it.  May I give the same grace to my little girl.

It’s not (all) about the to do list

I am a pretty task oriented person. I love a good to do list and checking things off of it.  I can view my parenting in the same way: feed Audrey breakfast, check.  Do Bible time, check.  Put Audrey down for a nap, check.

But what if a big part of the important part of parenting isn’t just the tasks I can check off a list (essential as they are) but also the moments that fill the days between each task?

I’m realizing that the little moments are just as important as the big tasks.  That the environment I create with my words and actions matters very much to the little person I am cultivating.  That the tone and mood of my home matter.

It matters to Audrey that she has a (semi) predictable routine to her little days.  It matters to Audrey that I take the time to look her in the eye when she wants to tell me about her train.  It matters to Audrey that I am slow and patient as we go out the door rather than rushed and irritable.

And, I believe, if it matters to Audrey, if it makes a difference in her life, it matters to God, too.

I can’t check any of those things off of a to do list.  I won’t sit down at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment for having spent 5 minutes rehearsing with Audrey what she did in her new Sunday School.  I won’t rack up productivity points for having tossed the ball to her in the hallway or played “doctor” with her baby.

But, I am realizing, it doesn’t have to be on a to-do list to matter.

 

 

One of our favorite Bible teaching tools for kiddos

Last fall we discovered the Toddler Curriculum by Children Desiring God  and we’ve found it to be a FANTASTIC resource for introducing Audrey to key Bible stories in an age-appropriate way.

We are also big fans of the “Big Picture Story Bible,” but at 18 months it was still beyond her comprehension level.

The Children Desiring God curriculum is designed for Sunday Schools but oh-so-easy to use at home, too.  Each story (creation, resurrection, etc.) features 3-5 picture cards (in nice cardstock) and a corresponding “script” to use to tell the story.  Each lesson also includes a song and other materials to supplement the main story.  There were even coloring pages to correspond to each story (which we didn’t do as often as I wish we had).

I felt a little silly going through the cards the first couple of times, but Audrey really seemed to love it, and to catch on, too!  I was impressed with how age appropriate the scripts were; they explained the stories in language she could easily understand.  We did the same story for 1-2 weeks to give her a chance to really soak it up before moving on.

We ended up ordering the Older Toddler Teacher Booklet and the Older Toddler Story Pictures since both packages include the stories for the younger toddlers.

What are your favorite resources for teaching the Bible to your kids?

 

Our favorite 1-2 year old items (including toys!)

Here are some of the items that were our favorite for Audrey last year!

GEAR

Straw cup: when it was time to transition from a bottle to a cup, Audrey had trouble with the sippy cup concept so we went straight to this small straw cup. When she outgrew that, I found that the larger Playtex straw cups were great as they are easy to wash and the straw can be covered to keep it clean for outings.

Cart Cover: I loved how (relatively) compact this cover was and how easily it fit over most shopping carts. The Target carts were always a bit of a stretch, but it was doable.  It also fit over high chairs.

Costco Wipes and Huggies overnight diapersfor diapering needs.  Need I say much more? We were very happy with both, and still use them since we diaper for nap and nights.  We often went up one size for the overnight diapers compared to the daytime diaper.

TOYS

Hape Toys Walker: This was an absolutely wonderful gift Audrey got for Christmas right after she turned one. I was absolutely delighted with how sturdy it was– no tipping over for this walker!

Music cube: Audrey adored this simple music toy and often pushed it around in her walker.  It was easy to push and played a variety of not-too-annoying tunes.

Scooter: Audrey was actually able to figure this out before she turned one and it provided hours of amusement– and still does!  We’ve kept it primarily for inside play and it doesn’t take up too much space. (Note: the current Amazon price is WAY higher than when we got it, so it might be worth shopping around if you are looking to purchase this one).

Stroller: We got this inexpensive Target stroller and it is still one of Audrey’s favorites for pushing her stuffed animals around the house.  It folds up compactly, which I love, and is sturdy enough for her to sit in it (ha!).

Picnic Basket: this is a toy that has really grown so well with Audrey. Initially she loved just taking things out, and later she learned how to match the shapes on the plates to the appropriate foods.

What have been YOUR favorite gear and toys for the 1-2 year old set?

My concern with being a “Hands Free Mama”

Have you read the book Hands Free Mama?

Full confession: I didn’t make it all the way through.  If you have and you think I’m misrepresenting what it says, I hope you’ll let me know.

My concern is that by encouraging readers not to overvalue to-do lists and tasks, the book ends up undervaluing them.

Let me explain.  In the “Hands Free Pledge” readers commit that they want “to make memories, not to do lists,” “to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by overloaded agendas that still my joy,” and to have “the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude not the intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages.”

Now, I’ll confess that I started twitching at the criticism of to-do lists (which I happen to love), so maybe my problem with the book has something to do with my task-oriented personality.

What I keep coming back to, though, is the idea that biblical productivity does matter.  We are called to be fruitful. Yes, we are to to be fruitful by teaching and loving our children, but also fruitful by making dinner, providing our families with a clean place to live, or making a meal for a new mom.

When I look at the Proverbs 31 woman or the Titus 2 woman, I see women who are busy with good things.  If I am busy with facebook, that is a problem (and, yes, it is a problem for me).  And if I am so busy with serving other people that I don’t take time to sit at the feet of Jesus or teach my own child, that is probably an instance of misplaced priorities, too.  But sometimes stewarding my time well means making a to do list and getting busy!

We’re called to be fruitful. And sometimes being fruitful means saying “no” when your child asks  you to read a book because you need to serve her and her dad by finishing dinner.  Sometimes it means saying no to dancing in the rain to write an email to a family member who needs encouragement.  Sometimes it means training your child to play alone quietly so you can call the doctor’s office without (too many) interruptions (can you guess what we are working on in the Harris home right now?).

I know I need to work on putting away my computer to give more undivided attention to my child.  But as we put down our phones, iPads, and notebooks, I hope we don’t put down the good tasks we are called to do.  Because we are called to be joyful and fruitful.

A Day in Our Life

I think I will forever be on a quest for the “perfect” routine or schedule.  I have finally come to the conclusion that I’ll probably never arrive.  That being said, here is a glimpse into our days.  This may not be interesting to any of you, but I wanted to have it for me for the days to come!

6:50am: I wake up and start coffee

7:00am: On a good morning, Audrey wakes up about now.

7:30am: Alex or I get Audrey up for the day.  The girl looooves her bed and is usually in no hurry to get out.  She loves it when we just sit in the chair and talk with her for a bit before getting her dressed.

7:45-8:30am: I try to work on a few projects while Audrey is usually content to play by herself.

8:30am: Breakfast.  Toast and yogurt for both of us. (And prunes for Audrey. And more coffee for me.)  Audrey takes a looong time to eat, so I unload and load the dishwasher while she eats.

9:15am: Bible and Book Time. We sit down on the couch to read a Bible story, do our memory verse, and pray together before reading a big stack of books.  When we’re done, I have Audrey “practice sitting still” on the couch for 2-5 minutes.

9:30am: I get ready for the day while Audrey watches two episodes of “Curious George.”

10:15am: We’re ready to head out, or, stay at home and get projects done.  Going out can include errands, a play date, or a trip to the library and park.

12pm: Home for lunch.  Audrey always has a cheese quesadilla and a cup of milk to finish it off.

12:50pm: I take Audrey back for her nap.  We put on her jammy pants, do lotion, and get her zipped into her sleep sack. Then we sit in the chair while I tell her a pretend story (often about Curious George going to the grocery store!) and we pray. I turn on her white noise, sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and lay her down in her crib with a few pats on the back before telling her “good night, I love you!”  She usually falls asleep by 1:20pm.

1pm: Mommy’s downtime. I have some computer time then work on writing or reading for my Yalta class.

3:15pm: Get Audrey (reluctantly) up from her nap.  She is usually content to hang out and sings or talks to herself for a while before waking up.  She naps about 1.5-2 hours these days.

3:30pm: Small projects around the house while Audrey plays.

4pm: This really varies.  Sometimes we Skype with Mom (yay!). Other days we go to the park.  If it is rainy and I’m feeling energetic, we might break out “crafts” and make flowers or butterflies out of construction paper.

5:15pm: I start dinner. Audrey sometimes does “blanket time” (playing on her blanket with toys and/or books) for 15 minutes so I can focus on meal prep.

6pm: Alex gets home!  We sit down to eat right away.

6:30pm: One of us starts the dishes.

6:45pm: Daddy and Audrey’s play time. Mommy’s rest or work time.

7:30pm: Alex starts Audrey’s bedtime routine.  She drinks her milk on the couch, then is in the tub, then gets jammies and a story and song with daddy.  She comes and knocks on the bedroom door to tell me good night.

8pm: Relax time for Alex and me before we call it a day and get ready to do it all over again!

What are the best parts of your routine or schedule? We always love ideas!!

Our favorite baby items (6-12 months)

View Full Size Soft Bib • Red/Blue, 2-pack

To continue this little series on baby items, here are some of our favorites we started using at 6-12 months:

High Chair: We’re still using this one at well over 2 years.  I love how relatively simple this high chair is and how easy it is to clean (the cover and straps come off easily for washing).  I really prefer having Audrey at a high chair because it is so easy to clean the tray when she’s done.  It’s also a great place for her to color or do play doh.  All in all, we’ve been very happy with this purchase!

Bjorn Bib: another item we still use every day!  After trying several other types of bibs when Audrey started solids, this one won hands down.  She can’t rip it off easily, it catches food, and I can throw it in the dishwasher.  We only have one and it has traveled all over the country with us.

Ergo: need I really say more? We particularly loved the Ergo when we were flying.  Audrey pretty much only napped in her crib by this stage, but with the handy Ergo hood we could usually get her to nap while flying.  Incidentally, we got ours from REI because of their outstanding return policy in case it didn’t work out for us.

Doorway Jumper: Audrey liked this better than the stand-alone version and spent many hours happily jumping away.  I was impressed with how securely it fitted over our door frames. (If any of our Boston friends would like to borrow it, let me know!)

BOB stroller: We love, love, love, LOVE our BOB!  We got it used on craigslist when we moved to Boston and continue to use it daily. It just navigates so beautifully and Audrey is so happy in it.  I love that I can jog with it if I want to. We have also loved the handlebar console and the rain shield. We use it primarily for walking outside but have find it surprisingly easy to navigate during quick runs to the grocery store. I keep an umbrella stroller in the car for shopping.

Little Acts of Love

Recently, I wrote about how being a mom is about more than being a caregiver.  Realizing that was an enormous encouragement to me in my parenting journey.

But I think I’d be missing something of God’s big-picture for parenting if I just emphasized the teaching and training part of the job.  While being a parent is about those things, I have to believe there is also great meaning in wiping noses and changing diapers and making the umpteenth pot of macaroni and cheese.

I believe that because I believe that caring for physical needs is an act of love.  My precious little daughter has a body, mind, and a soul and caring for any and all of them is part of loving her.

In Christianity there is a high regard for meeting the physical needs of those who are needy.  We support causes that feed or care for the destitute, and we should! But if we hold such acts of service in high regard when they happen outside our homes, shouldn’t we hold them in high regard when they happen within our homes?

Shouldn’t we remember that wiping noses, changing diapers, and making macaroni and cheese are also acts of love?

____________

How do you remember the deeper meaning in the mundane parts of your life?

More than a caregiver

As a mom of a two-year-old, I do a lot of caring for basic physical needs: I make Audrey three meals a day, get her dressed, put on her shoes and coat, and put her to bed.  I do all the things that are essential for physical life that she can’t do for herself.

So, in a lot of ways, it can feel like I am just a caregiver taking care of physical needs.

But, really, I am more than a caregiver. I am more than a nose-wiper and toast-maker.  I am a parent, and while that includes being a caregiver, it is also something so much more.

It means that while I wipe her nose and make her toast, I am teaching and training and loving her all day long.

I didn’t realize this when I was a brand new mom, trying desperately to get  my wailing infant to sleep and feeding her every few hours.  For those first twelve months or so, I felt like all I did was care for physical needs, and I was discouraged a lot of the time.

And then Audrey grew up a little and I realized that parenting is about more than changing diapers and pureeing carrots.  Someone else can change diapers and feed her (and I am so grateful for when others do!) but her dad and I are the ones who are called to train her into a person who (hopefully) loves God and those around her.  And as we change diapers and puree carrots, we are given the little moments to do just that training.

It’s both daunting and encouraging to realize that as a parent, I am far, far more than just a caregiver.

__________

How do you keep the “big picture” of what you are doing without getting lost in the nitty gritty of everyday life?