Once I was up and running with the weaning, I wanted to have a few recipes up my sleeve for some more interesting food for the little one that my older one could also eat but also for stocking my freezer. This is a collection of recipes that I am going to keep adding to, that I can keep coming back to:
The last couple of days we have visited the beach at Puerto Soller in the morning and spent the afternoon in the pool back at the villa.
When I asked her, Molly said her favourite part of the first day was visiting the beach and building up the sand ramparts with Bobby while the Daddies tried to wash it away. It is really calm, so perfect for the little ones.
Today, Molly and Bobby got the tram to the beach.
My favourite part was swimming with Molly. Her enthusiasm is wonderful. But is was her jumps (dives?) into the pool that took me by surprise. I was almost flattened the first time!
The babies like chilling by the pool too.
Tea time at the villa is usually a bit hectic with these two:
Lucy and I have managed to slip away to buy some groceries to get a break on Tuesday teatime:
And the boys were so keen to get away from it that they cycled over the hill/mountain!
Well, we have arrived!
It was quite a trip being so late and a 30 minute delay to our flight just tipped Eve over the edge, who was tired and hungry by 8pm. Once we had taken off and she’d had a feed (the feed has to coincide with take off to help equalise her ears) all was well again. Molly was a super star; she looked it with her gold being headphones too. Neither slept til Eve finally lost the battle and nodded off 15 mins before we landed.
We finally started to relax once the taxi dropped us at the hotel, until Molly got left in the lift and screamed the hotel down!
The next day we took our time getting up. We were the personification of mañana, until we had to pick up the hire car that is.
We got to the villa without any issues in time for a late tea at the local pizzeria. Once the children were in bed we tested the gorgeous heated pool.
She was the one that decided to change. Eventually. However, it was by putting our own baggage aside and supporting her properly that we helped her.
In the middle of winter my almost 4 year old had a growth spurt and decided her knickers were ‘uncomfortable’. And socks. And trousers. And a lot of her leggings. She didn’t like mornings, we were about to move house and her baby sister was about to arrive. Mornings were frantic and pressured, stressed out by her difficult behaviour, my husband and I were usually exhausted even before we set off for work.
It was a catch 22, a self fulfilling prophecy – she didn’t like getting dressed and her delays made my husband and I all the more stressed, making her hate mornings all the more.
Even after we moved and the baby had arrived, to which our darling 4 year old was devoted, and things calmed down, it was still tricky. Getting dressed resulted in an all out battle of wills with bribery being the only way to have any chance of a smooth morning. The slightest thing could trigger fierce tears and a response that was more appropriate for the end of the world rather than an uncomfortable pair of knickers.
I had a lovely conversation with a friend who said that their daughter had been the same at her age. It was nice to know we weren’t alone but it didn’t give us a solution. Then I received a recommendation, a book by Dr Laura Markham called Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. This was by no means a silver bullet. It just gave me and my husband a different angle. I thought I’d share it, if there is anyone out there with similar problems.
The bit I found most useful was the section on emotional intelligence. This example of ‘problem behaviour’ was a hiccup in us being able to raise an emotionally intelligent child. Our own baggage had got in the way and we couldn’t seem to shed it. Before seeing the book, I suspected that we had created the problem, or contributed to it, but it now was clear what was happening, and understanding is sometimes the first part of the solution. She had never been a fast mover, naturally she would prefer to be at home with us rather than go to nursery and us hurrying her and bringing our own stress to the situation had resulted in an ‘issue’.
Fostering emotional intelligence
Peaceful Parenting covers how to regulate yourself and foster connection (both section titles) but the really helpful bit about ’emotion coaching’ talks about teaching them how acknowledge and understand their own emotions so they aren’t ‘hijacked’ by these emotions. It has seven steps to nurture emotional intelligence (p.128) and I have a book mark on that page:
Acknowledge your child’s perspective and empathise.
Allow expression of emotion, even while limiting actions.
Respond to the needs and feelings behind problem behaviour.
When a desire can’t be granted, acknowledge it and grant it through “wish fulfillment” i.e. via imagination
Tell the story so your child understands his emotional experience.
Teach problem solving i.e. show them that they can have ideas of ways to dissipate emotional feelings.
Play it out.
Neat. So to apply the above points to our issue, I can show you how it worked for us.
Coaching not coaxing
The empathy is important to build a connection and engage her in the morning. We used to let her watch tv and try and stealth dress her but actually that isn’t helpful because she isn’t engaged and happy, she’s just distracted. Also talking to her in terms that show our empathy for her situation really helped e.g. “I realise that your xxx is uncomfortable, it’s OK, let’s take it off and we’ll pick something else.” My husband is really good at this. There had been a couple of times where I’d just said things like, “No, don’t you dare take it off. I can’t believe you’re doing this” etc etc. The empathy really helped undo this belief in our heads that she was doing it on purpose, and helped build her trust in us again. This was really the most important starting point for us, but the other points above also help because that certainly wasn’t the end of the story, she still has difficult days now.
If she starts getting upset, we name it and help her see there’s a better way to express that feeling. “I can see you’re upset, why don’t you come and sit with me for a while and have a hug and we can talk about it instead.”
Instead of scolding her, we try to address her feelings around getting dressed. e.g. “You’re having a hard time this morning and I know you want to be with Mummy/Daddy but nursery is fun and when we pick you up we’ll play together then. What would you like to play when you get home?”
Getting her imagination going is also useful and can help lighten the mood, a smile or giggle can get her back on side. To be honest this one is harder with getting dressed, it is easier for other things or to focus on something in the periphery e.g. You wish you had more comfortable xxx, well next time we go shopping why don’t we buy some more, won’t that be nice.”
Telling stories is one we used a lot both during the morning and afterwards. An example of a morning story would be something like, “Yesterday you wore xxx and when we got to nursery, your nursery carer said you looked so smart.” or (and this shows how far we have stooped) “Do you remember when you had to get dressed in the (open) boot of the car (in December!), it was cold wasn’t it, your clothes will help to keep you warm.
This one is a good one for bonding together. e.g. “OK, I know you’re upset that your clothes are uncomfortable, let’s think about what we should do, do you have any ideas?”
Play it out. I’ve tried races and competitions but nothing has worked more than once or twice, but I’ll take that! The other thing is to offer a certain amount of play time and then a goal of getting dressed, or even just one item of clothing. We would put on the timer for a time agreed with her and then she can play and then get dressed. She came up with the ‘play-dress-play-dress’ idea herself.
We found that we really have to leave plenty of time. Not just for her to get around to getting dressed but for us to feel more relaxed so we weren’t up against the clock. We leave 1 1/2 hrs – 2 hrs for her (and us) to get ready in the morning now. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we have completely done away with dressing being a problem but it’s one that we all can manage better now.
With my second baby coming up to six months old, I had a look around published info to remind myself how to do it and see if anything had changed.
The first time, I found some interesting information that led me to avoid giving baby rice. At 6 months a baby’s iron requirements increase as well as having a bigger appetite.
Baby rice and other cereals don’t naturally contain iron in high enough levels. The accepted response has been to give baby rice fortified with Iron. However, there is an article by Renegade Mom that makes baby rice seem really bad, a central argument is that the starch in it can’t be digested by the gut (this isn’t completely correct because the amylase in the babies saliva helps), also rice contains arsenic, which in little quantities is OK but watch for build up (rice cakes, cereal, hungry milk etc). Perhaps a more balanced view is in this nutrition blog. In short, I think baby rice is OK in moderation but for me there is a better way by considering foods that naturally contain iron. These articles raise an important point about not following the herd and understanding what is best. Time for some more research!
Well, I don’t know if I just missed it last time but this time the articles I found that talked through the misinformation around baby rice also had some interesting alternative first foods – bone broth (aka home made stock), liver (good quality, grass fed) and egg yolk. Holistic squid has a great article on these first foods.
In fact, I made some bone broth just the other day after we had roast chicken for Sunday lunch. I had read about it in Hemsley Hemsley a great book about eating better (as adults). Bone broth is very healing for adults’ digestive tract. For babies it helps ‘seal’ the digestive tract, which is permeable in the first months and needs to ‘seal’ this route to protect from some nasties in our diet crossing into the blood stream. It also is an easy way for the body to absorb some useful nutrients – zinc, magnesium, and many amino acids.
Bone broth is very easy to make, no skills required, just time, ingredients and a pot to store it in. The difference between stock and bone broth is really that you leave broth on the heat for longer. Once finished, if you put it in the fridge, the fat rises to the top and forms a seal so it stores well. You can freeze it too.
For me, spooning bone broth into a babies mouth is a bit like one of those challenges on the crystal maze, there is going to be a lot of spillage and if I get any in it will be a miracle. What I’m going to try is mixing bone broth with vegetable puree. Egg yolks will be easy, I love a boiled egg in the morning and the yolk will easily stick to my finer perfect for sucking (edit: My sister pointed out it would have to be a hard boiled egg as the yolk needs to be cooked). Liver though… Yuk! Am I brave enough to grate some liver?
Ah! I’ve suddenly realised how close it is to our summer holiday in June. An early summer holiday is good for cooler weather for the kids and for getting some sun (hopefully!) to kick start what will be a splendid English summer (ahem!) but it is not great for having your body back in shape for summer clothes and swimming cozzies!
To be honest I’m pretty lucky at being able to let the weight drop off, it doesn’t take too much effort to get so far. However, toning up is another thing altogether. It requires a bit of time and effort. I used to do yoga and running but even these I struggle with now I have a four month old baby and a four year old. By the end of the day I’m exhausted and often a glass of wine and hearty dinner and pudding is what I crave most. Since I’m so exhausted I feel I damn well deserve it too!
So back to getting that toned up body. Hmmm.
If I can’t summon up the energy in the evening when the kids are in bed, I have two options. Have a word and force myself out (tried that, not happening, I seem to be a bit too disobedient); or break it into manageable ‘bite-sized’ chunks. This I think I can do. And a positive attitude and belief in yourself at the beginning is an important part of making a start on a new habit and keeping it going.
My new habit
I can fit in yoga in 10, 20 or sometimes even 30 minute slots in the day. I grab my mat and start with sun salutations to warm up. If I then have time, I add on some further mat work. I also find times to weave exercise into my day.
Before my shower, I stretch my arms up, then link the hands together and bend to one side, sticking out the opposing hip, and then the other side. Putting my socks on means a count of four (or more if I can manage it) of holding my newly socked foot out with a straight leg in front of me to tone my gluts/thighs.
I’ve only been doing it for a week, so let me know if you have a routine you fit into your busy day, and I’ll report on how this goes. Fingers crossed!
I wasn’t totally sure if I was completely mad or very valiant climbing on a plane to go to a friend’s wedding with 4 month old Eve. What I didn’t expect is the boost to my self esteem. I think it is really easy to lose some of your self esteem and belief in yourself when you are on maternity leave.
I don’t know about you but when I see my mega mothering achievements – She slept! She fed! She pooed! – through others’ eyes, I don’t rank them as significant as my work achievements. Everyone has children, not everyone excels in their work place. Now it is important to pause here, and state for the record that this is all in my head. When I look objectively, I can see that bringing up a child is an amazing role and huge achievement. Emotionally though it doesn’t always feel like that – it is relentless, a long haul and as full of highs and lows as a roller coaster. My world becomes smaller. Getting into town or making it to a toddler group become major achievements and your sense of self and of courage can slip away stealth-like.
I wasn’t alone completely. And I was only going for a long weekend. (Did you see that mother who went travelling round the world on her maternity leave?!!) But I did it. All. By. Myself. (Wow, I sound like my four year old!) I flew to the south of France with a baby and took her to my friend’s wedding, and even a lunch party the next day.
I’m usually pretty protective of naps and feeding i.e. making sure there is time for these things when my little one needs them. Doing this trip meant I was always trying to work around others’ schedules – flight times, invitation times etc. Babies also are a law unto themselves, they might wake early or sleep late, or really often I found it would take an age to feed because she was distracted by everything going on around her. I started feeling bit like a maths genius in the end, constantly calculating times to work out the best way of doing everything.
The trip itself showed me what a patient, resilient, happy baby I had. It also showed me that she will let me know with a loud wail if things have gone too far and she is too tired, hungry etc. It showed me what a rapport I had already built up with her in just 4 months. It reminded me what great friends I have and how supportive they are. It also tested my problem solving skills, not just working out baby stuff but how to get the rear seats down in a Renault Scenic, driving in France, working out how to fit all our kit into the car and how to find a good restaurant to eat at.
It’s not that I’m recommending this specific thing, but I do recommend getting out of your comfort zone, whatever that may be. Because going to this wedding in France showed me what had been there all the time. You don’t notice how ‘good’ you are until you push yourself a bit. It’s hard when you’re feeling small or inadequete and it may feel quite selfish or guilty putting your baby out of her comfort zone. But challenging yourself and your baby is extremely rewarding. I think both my little one and I have both grown as a result.
At the end of the day modelling confidence and self esteem to your children is a good thing but it can only be done if you genuinely feel these things. Seeing my four year old at the arrivals gate and telling her all about our trip was great because I really felt the confidence shine out of me. My hope for both my daughters is that they will also challenge themselves and surprise themselves with the things they are capable of.
If you are flying with a baby and want some tips there are some great pieces of advice online e.g. Hither and thither
My top three tips are:
Book the flight at a good time for your baby. We travelled out and back over her lunchtime nap. It wasn’t seemless though, she fell asleep with 20 mins left on the flight because she was so interested. However, it gave me a little break and the lack of nap on the plane meant she napped in the hire car later too.
It helps to feed babies on take off and landing to equalise their ears. So I delayed her feed until take off, which made her a bit grisly; but we were 15 mins delayed and it takes an age for the plane to get to the runway and take it’s slot. By the time we took off and were making the changes in altitude that set your ears off, I had been feeding for half and hour and had nearly finished!
Work out the best way to transport your baby. I had my baby sling to hand all the time but kept the car seat was better at some points in the journey like going through security, and we needed that for the hire car. Her buggy would have been too bulky to take with us.
I should be, I do yoga, I birthed both my babies using only self-hypnosis (hypnobirthing), I am a relaxed person (most of the time) if a little rushed sometimes, I’m self aware and try to be kind to myself (doesn’t always work)… hang on this list is getting less and less zen! No wonder! If I try to be a zen person and fail regularly, then of course being a zen mother is going to be difficult. I’ve recently decided to go on a little journey of self discovery (I’ve got a 4 month old so no journey is going to be that big, I haven’t got the brain power) to try to find out why my eldest daughter (DD1) has a problem with getting dressed in the morning.
Just to scope the problem for you, everything is stressful and upsetting. The socks are uncomfortable, the knickers are uncomfortable, the sleeves are uncomfortable and if my husband or I don’t immediately help remove the clothes it can escalate to serious upset and on to tantrum-dom. Not ideal when you’re trying to get out of the house to work.
And that I believe is the root of the problem. When I was at work (I am now on maternity leave), I would find getting out of the house stressful and I believe that I have passed this on to my DD1. So how can I undo this pressure point now, make sure I don’t reintroduce it when I go back to work, and also prevent it happening to DD2? Getting dressed won’t be an issue for every parent but every parent will have a child that tantrums, and if you don’t, bully for you, you can go away to being perfect somewhere else! Whatever form it takes many parents may struggle with how to work happily with their child to achieve mutual satisfaction, and the tantrums are a signal that it is not going quite as well as an apprentice Zen Mother would like.
Becoming the donkey
We have tried the carrot and the stick. Neither really works. The stick is horrible and painful. The carrot route is more successful but it just becomes an expected reward, and tantrums ensue if the reward isn’t given, which is usually because she hasn’t got dressed quick / well enough. What then?
I have been reading a book by Dr Laura Markham that talks about emotional coaching your child, and that is what I aspire to do as a qualified Zen Mother. It’s simple, recognise and deal with your own hang ups (you can spot these by the anger that washes over you at the time), connect with your child and then coach your child rather than controlling them. Hmmm.
This is going to take some time and practice. It does however, give me a map for how to navigate this treacherous part of life. And it is treacherous because as an apprentice Zen Mother you want to give your child the best start and give him/her the tools to navigate the complex human world.
Growing into the Zen Mother shoes
Now, when I get cross, I use it as a red flag for me to either stop myself shouting, or if it’s too late to recognise that that isn’t the right thing to do and show my DD1 that I can with my own emotions not by not having any but by marshalling them when they get out of hand. If I shout and then regain composure and apologise, that is a much better example for her than if I was always perfect. It’s also more achievable!
Now, when she starts acting up, I try to empathise, label her emotions, show her a mirror so that she can see how to manage her emotions. And hold her when they get the better of her, because they always will. I think I’m always going to struggle with this, it’s going to be a long learning curve with me because I just don’t have the natural patience.
With my DD1 (see what I did there) it used to hugely frustrate me that these shortcuts were used so regularly with no explanation I could find. I work in marketing and we always start any written piece with the long form of something we are going to shorten so the reader knows what we are talking about, without that they could be lost. So, to help the uninitiated, here is a short post with the translations of the acronyms used around parenting and birth grouped by usage. Please feel free to make some suggestions and additions.
DD1 = Darling / Dear Daughter 1, or first born daughter
DS1 = Darling Son 1, or first born son
DD2 / DS2 etc = Darling Daughter / Son and the number detailing where in the brood they were born – first, second, third etc.
LO = Little one
YDD or YDS = Youngest Darling Daughter / Son
DH / DP / DW = Darling Husband / Partner / Wife
DSD / S = Darling Step Daughter / Son
MIL / BIL = Mother in Law / Brother in Law etc
BF = Breast Feeding
BM = Breast Milk / Bowel Movement (depending on context)
EBM = Expressed Breast Milk
FF = Formula Feeding
CIO = Cry it Out
BC = Before Children OR Birth Control (ha ha! hopefully the context will make this obvious)
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion
JJ / JK = Just Joking / Just Kidding
NMS = Not My Style
SAHP / SAHM / SAHD = Stay At Home Parent / Mum / Dad