Cookin’ With The Kiddlywinks

The other night, I made an herbed braised chicken for dinner for Kullervo and me.  I stuffed the chicken with apples, covered it with garlic, fresh thyme, green onions, and leeks, and braised it in white wine with cabbage.  Kullervo said that it might have been the best roasted chicken I’d ever made.  (I didn’t try it—I generally find poultry to be kind of gross.)  However, even with the best of intentions, he wasn’t able to eat an entire chicken for dinner, so we had plenty of leftovers.

So the next day, the kids and I decided we wanted to spend a bunch of time cooking.  I really enjoy cooking with my kids.  I have the patience for the messes and the spills and the fact that it takes at least three times as long.  (It’s a point of pride for me, too, because Kullervo doesn’t like cooking with the kids, and I feel like in general, he is much better at doing stuff with them than I am.)  There are also the generically educational aspects to it—measurements, fractions, and whatnot.  I also spend a decent amount of time talking to the kids about where we get our produce, and living sustainably, etc.

Anyway, I told the kids that we were going to take the chicken from last night, and they were going to choose all the other ingredients, within reason, and we were going to cook their creation.  So, I had them choose if they wanted rice or pasta.  Then I had them choose what kind of a sauce we wanted to make—a tomato based sauce, a cheese based sauce, or a brown butter sauce.  And they chose which vegetables they wanted.

So we measured out the rice and got that cooking in the rice cooker.  Then Hazel and I set about making brown butter sauce—which I had never made before, and I think we actually did incorrectly.  While Hazel stirred, I chopped up the vegetables they asked for—green onions, garlic scapes, red and green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, corn, and Swiss chard.  We cooked them with the butter and the chicken, and Hazel delighted in getting to add the salt and pepper.

Hazel stirring her dinner in the cast iron pan

One of the things that I love about cooking with my kids is that they like to try all the individual ingredients.  They ate some of the cold chicken.  They tried raw garlic scapes and green onions.  I didn’t let them try the bell peppers ahead of time because we only had a couple of small ones from our CSA and I wanted them in the dish.  They tasted the corn from our garden that we froze last weekend.  They also tasted each of the herbs in our herb garden to see which one they wanted to flavor it with—rosemary, thyme, or sage.  They tried to convince me that the Stevia plant would be a good idea, but I wouldn’t let them use it, although I did let them munch on some leaves.

While we were working on that, Oliver was busy with our snack recipe.  We got a recipe from my sister for no-bake protein balls that is filled with healthy stuff like ground flaxseed and oats and peanut butter (and chocolate chips and coconut too!).  He mixed the ingredients together and rolled all of the individual balls.

Oliver, rolling the dough to make our protein snack!

Oliver with the finished product!

Altogether, it was a successful meal and they both ate a healthy meal that they prepared themselves, with a fun snack for dessert!

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Don’t Be A Crybaby

So, the general response that I get when I tell people (and let’s face it—I’m a big complainer, so I tell everyone I see, even strangers on the street) about Hank’s propensity for insomnia falls into one of two camps.  Either I should let him cry it out, and it’ll suck for a few days and then be done… or clearly there is something wrong, like he is sick or teething or dying or I’m a bad mother, so I should go to him and we should hug it out.

I’ve read The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and I love it.  I love the idea of gently putting my baby to sleep and having him know how to just go to sleep.  And, when I put him down at night, that works.  I follow our routine, and I put him in his crib, rub his back a few times, tell him I love him, and I leave.  He generally rolls over and goes straight to sleep.  It’s absolutely lovely.

But that doesn’t help me two hours later when he wakes up crying.  If I go in to him, he wants to nurse.  Which I might be happy to do, except then two hours later he wakes again and wants to nurse.  And he is nine months old, 23 pounds, and I’m not old enough to have the kind of saggy boobs that will surely result from overfeeding a tired baby.  If I don’t nurse him when he wakes up, he just cries and gets more and more worked up.  Kullervo is able to go to him and calm him down… sometimes… and it takes a really long time, and still doesn’t last for more than a couple of hours.

The poor thing just doesn’t know how to fall asleep.

I started to suspect that I would have to let him cry it out.  To validate this idea, I called the one person I was certain would tell me to just let him cry—my mother.  When Hank was a month old and she came to visit, she told me to put him on a schedule, that he didn’t need to eat on demand, he should eat every four hours, and if it hadn’t been four hours, he should cry until it was.  (I didn’t follow this advice.)  So I was certain she would tell me Hank should cry it out.

So, of course, she didn’t.  She said that if he’s crying a lot at night, he must be sick or teething.

I really don’t think he is though.  He’s not crying in pain… he’s fussing.  And when I go to him, it doesn’t help.  What helps is going back to sleep.  He won’t take a pacifier.  He won’t suck his thumb or fingers.  And he really enjoys sitting himself up, so if I lie him down, he just pushes his little body back up so he can holler at me some more, with accusing eyes about the fact that I won’t just help him fall asleep.

I have spent a lot of hours considering crying it out.  So many people recommend it.  So many.  And it doesn’t fundamentally bother me to consider other people’s babies crying it out.  But the idea of my baby crying it out does.  So I have spent some time navel-gazing, trying to figure out what exactly it is that bothers me about it.  Is the issue to do with him… or is it an issue with me that I shouldn’t project onto him?

I haven’t come up with any definite answers yet.  I think that part of it is just the natural maternal instinct to not like the idea of my child hurting or being sad and not going.  I think part of it relates to some really powerful memories from my own childhood of feeling abandoned and feeling alone.  I think that one of my goals as a parent is for my kids to know that I love them unconditionally… and ignoring crying doesn’t seem to convey that.  But if this is an issue where I am concerned with my own reaction, or a short term solution, as opposed to how it affects the baby long term, then I don’t think that’s fair to the baby.  It’s always easier to do something as a short term fix than to implement a long term solution—hence all the problems with government policies.  Long term, I want my children to know how to sleep and sleep well, and I want them to be independent and not need me to coddle them, if that makes sense.

I’ve also had to consider the fact that if Oliver or Hazel decided they didn’t want to go to bed, and threw a fit about it and cried… I would totally tell them to suck it up, tell them I loved them, and leave them to it.  If they cried in the middle of the night, I would go to them… but I wouldn’t do whatever they wanted just because they had a nightmare—I would reassure them and leave, and if they got really upset about it, tell them I loved them and that they needed to go back to sleep anyway.

So what makes my nine month old different than my four year old?  There is certainly a matter of being able to communicate ‘suck it up and I love you’ to Hazel, but can’t be sure that Hank gets the nuance.

Ultimately, we have decided that at night, we are going to try to let him cry, situation depending.  We’ve done it for three nights now… and it’s hard.  The first night we did it, he first woke up at 11:30.  I figured I would nurse him and put him back to bed, and he could then go for a longer stretch.  No big deal.  Except that he woke up again at 1:00.  Kullervo went in to him, rubbed his back for awhile, and he fell back to sleep.  Success!  Except that he woke up again shortly afterwards.  So we let him cry.  And he cried on and off (and, I guess, slept on and off) for the rest of the night.  I’m honestly not sure how much he cried because when I would drift off to sleep, I would dream he was crying.  I also had a dream that Oliver and Hazel were sitting on a beach, staring vacantly at me like they were zombies, chanting, “My mommy lets me cry.  My mommy doesn’t care.”  Seriously.  We brought him into our room at 6:00, and I nursed him and we both fell back to sleep.

The next night, I think he woke up less.  I didn’t have any zombie child dreams, which I consider a mild victory over my subconscious.  I’ve been giving him extra love throughout the day, and he honestly doesn’t seem any worse for wear.  He is still happy to see me in the morning, and all day long, and seems more well rested.

And then, last night, he slept.  He slept from 7:15 until 5:00.  When he woke up then, we let him fuss for a few minutes, but then brought him into bed with us, where he nursed and then slept until we woke him up at 7:00.  And we have all had such a wonderful day as a result.

So, I’m still not wild about the idea of letting Hank cry it out at night.  But I am wild about the idea of all of us being better rested.  Should we backslide, we might consider other options.  In the meantime, I was able to have an amazing, fun filled day with all of my kids today.

Creative Parenting

Or, How To Shame My Daughter into Behaving Properly Without Leaving Her Feeling Shamed

Last week was a tough week.  Coinciding with (or perhaps because of) the no-sleep solution I had been working on with the baby, Hazel decided to test her boundaries.  Over and over and over, and then some more for good measure.

We’ve been having a lot of conversations about respecting other people’s property.  The street that we live on has tons of kids, and most evenings everyone goes outside to play.  This is great—the parents are all so much fun and we all tend to get along really well.  The downside to that is that sometimes we let the kids wander off a bit and they find some mischief.

One of the current mischievous activities is for the kids to tear flowers out of people’s gardens/pull leaves off their plants/pull out their grass.  Inevitably, they are pulled from the people who have either spent lots of time and energy taking care of their gardens, or from people who have paid landscapers.

So, I spent a lot of time explaining to Hazel, over and over again, why I don’t think that’s appropriate.  We’ve talked about respecting other people.  We’ve talked about how it would feel if someone destroyed something that we cared about.  We’ve talked and talked and talked… and she still did it.

So I instituted what Kullervo called a draconian punishment—if she tore up someone’s garden, essentially destroying their property, I would destroy one of her toys so that she’d know how it felt.  I really hoped that just the thought of this would be enough to keep her from doing it… but of course it wasn’t.  So, the first time she did it, I chose out one of her toys, got a hammer, and brought her to the backyard so she could watch me hammer it into pieces.  Then she cried and I cried.

It didn’t feel good to do it.  To me, it was like spanking.  I have spanked Hazel (her consequence for hurting the baby is that she gets spanked because she has a tendency to be carelessly cavalier about how she plays with him), and I hate it every time.  I was certain that she wouldn’t destroy someone’s property again, and I reminded her a few times what the consequence would be.

Well, last week she did it again.  So I destroyed a toy.  Again.  Again, she cried and said she wished she hadn’t done it.  I was certain then that she had learned her lesson.  The next day, we went outside again, and before we went out, I reminded her not to do that, and that we should play nicely and not break any rules.  Immediately, she went into our next door neighbor’s yard and tore up some of their plants.  I made her sit on our steps for the rest of the time that we were outside, because, I told her, I can’t watch her all the time, and since I can’t trust her to behave, she has to stay where I can see her.

But destroying toy after toy didn’t feel right.  I wanted to do something different.  I reached out to some wise women that I know and asked their advice.  Almost immediately I got feedback—she should do something more restorative.  The punishment should be more of a positive consequence instead of a negative one.

I mulled it over.  Nothing seemed just right for our current situation.  But the next morning, we went outside where each of the kids has been tending to their own tomato plants.  Hazel is growing cherry tomatoes, and every few days she is able to pick a handful of ripe tomatoes.  She looks forward to it, and loves to bring them inside and eat them with her breakfast or her lunch.

And then it hit me.  As Hazel was picking her tomatoes, it came to me.  We brought them inside, and I sat her down.  I reminded her about picking Mrs. O.’s beautiful flowers, and asked her what she thought about it.  I told her I didn’t want to destroy a toy, because clearly that consequence wasn’t working to change her behavior.  I then asked her how it would feel to her if someone came at night and picked all of her tomatoes.  And then I told her that I thought I knew a way that we could make it right.  I had her write an apology card to Mrs. O., and we put all of Hazel’s ripe tomatoes into a bag.  We knocked on Mrs. O.’s door, and when she answered, Hazel apologized for picking her flowers, and gave her the apology card.  And we told her that we wanted to make it right by giving her the tomatoes that Hazel has been growing.  Mrs. O. thanked Hazel, and we all went on our merry way.

And on our walk home, I said, “Hazel, how do you think it would feel if you had to go to Mrs. O.’s house again to apologize because you couldn’t resist picking her flowers?”

And, lo and behold, Hazel has not picked anyone’s garden since.  I’m not saying it won’t happen in the future, but in the meantime, I feel like we’ve done a decent job of righting our wrongs, and doing it in a more positive way for everyone.

Naplessness

Ahhh, naps.  Seriously, I sometimes resent the fact that my kids all hate naps.  I tell them that one day, they will be my age, and they will wish they had napped when they had the chance (and then I roll my eyes at myself, which Kullervo says makes the whole world shake).  To Oliver and Hazel’s credit, they don’t mind if I take a nap after a hard night; they are happy to play together or watch a TV show so I can.  In fact, can I just take a minute to say that although I’m crabby and mean all the time, my kids love me anyway, and when I apologize, they just forgive me.  And I never feel like I deserve it, and because I don’t sleep it makes me cry.  But I feel so grateful to have such sweet kids who are willing to be so patient with me and with Hank.

So, at Hank’s age, he should be taking two naps, which should add up to a total of two and a half to four hours of daytime sleep.  When I started this whole maybe-my-kid-should-sleep-every-now-and-then thing, he would catnap when we were out and about, while I was driving the kids to camp, etc., and not get a good solid nap.  When camp ended, I put him down for regular naps and he just wouldn’t sleep.  He has gone a couple of days where he napped for a grand total of 30 minutes all day.

Sometimes I can lie down with him, hold him tightly, and he will fall asleep.  Sometimes that just means he’s screaming in my ears.  I feel like I’ve tried everything.  I nurse him until he falls asleep, but when I transfer him to the crib, he wakes up.  I nurse him until he’s drowsy, but not asleep, and when I transfer him to the crib, he wakes up.  I have held him so that he will just get some darned sleep, but he won’t sleep for that long on me, and then I can’t get anything done.  I have begun putting him down to nap and letting him cry for an hour, and then just giving on up on that nap and trying again with the next one.  But honestly, it’s exhausting.

So, while I’ve been doing that, I’ve been reading a bunch of books about sleeping.  My days and nights are literally filled with thinking about nothing but sleeping.  Either I’m reading about sleeping, listening to Henry not sleep, trying to sleep myself, or planning how to deal with the next time everyone is supposed to sleep.

So, naps are failing.  Hank wakes up so often at night that it would be funny if it wasn’t so terribly not funny.  It’s seriously ridiculous.  And I really feel like I need to figure out the best solution for us.  I don’t think that one size fits all.  I don’t think that an idea that works for some kids will work for all kids.  Over the last few days, Hank has shown me that if he decides that he won’t nap… there is nothing I can do that will make him nap.  I can ignore him for an hour while he cries… but then he will keep himself awake crying.  I think that he will do well with a routine… but it’s hard to establish a routine for a baby when there are two older kids.

And then, today, it hit me.  I was attempting to catch up on emails (ha!), drink a gallon of coffee (to keep me from sleeping), and listen to Hank not nap.  And I saw a calendar that showed that school starts for Oliver and Hazel in three weeks.  They have three weeks of summer left.

I had intended to spend a few days getting Hank on a schedule, and had anticipated that within three or four days, he would be sleeping regularly and our lives could go on.  This hasn’t happened.  Instead, Oliver and Hazel have been cooped up inside. Thankfully, we’ve had some rainy days, which mean that we would have been inside for a decent part of that time anyway.  But with no end in sight to the current dilemma, I made a decision today.

I am done trying to put Hank on a schedule until school starts.  I am going to spend the last few weeks of summer with these kids, and have a blast.  We are going to go to the zoo if it strikes our fancy.  We are going to go to the beach if we feel like it.  We are going to spend time with friends, and read books, and play outside with the neighbors.  And if Henry naps while we’re out, hooray.  If we are home and he naps, hooray.  And if he is a zombie because he has chosen to not sleep, so be it.  I am going to do my best not to take my sleeplessness out on my kiddlywinks, and make sure that the end of summer is great.

And when I made that decision, I breathed a big sigh of relief and really feel like I’m making the right choice.  Beyond that, all I want is for Henry to start sleeping well before he learns to call out for Mommy, because then all efforts to cry it out will go out the window.

Detaching My Parenting

Or, Maybe One Day I’ll Get Some Sleep

Or, My Baby Likes to Party All the Time

 

Maybe you don’t recognize me… I’m that girl who, a few months ago, was able to make a light hearted joke, play and have fun with her kids, cook a meal and maybe tidy up a room.  I used to be that girl.  Now I’m the girl who snarls at everyone I see, yells at my kids too often for being kids, feels guilty all the time about my apparent personality transplant, and only thinks that dark humor is funny.  In other words, I’m not myself.

Hank is nine months old.  He is generally delightful—he likes to scoot around looking for sticks to chew on outside, he eats like a superstar, preferring savory flavors to sweet ones.  He claps, he thinks his big sister is pretty much the funniest thing in the world (and she is), he chews up Uno cards (so we always know who has the yellow skip card), he loves taking a bath and wrestling with the kitten.  He’s pretty much awesome in all ways but one.  The child never sleeps.

For a long time, he slept in our room in the bassinet.  Then I looked at it, and saw that the weight limit was 15 pounds and he was 21 pounds… so we assembled his crib in Hazel’s room, and he started going to bed in there.  When he woke up at night to nurse, I would bring him into our bed and we would cosleep for the rest of the night.  It worked alright.  He would also nap in our bed, but only if I laid down with him until he fell asleep.

Then he started fighting going to bed.  Putting him down at night would take two hours.  In the meantime, I would not have tucked in Oliver or Hazel, or I would have while he screamed and I would rush through it.  It wasn’t working.  It also meant that we were eating out a lot because I was exhausted, or we would eat dinner super late at night because I couldn’t start cooking until 9:30 or later.

I wanted to go the no-crying-to-sleep route.  I haven’t found the magical solution that works though.  A few weeks ago, I decided that there were three problems:  1.  He didn’t nap.  2.  He fought going to bed at night.  3.  He didn’t sleep through the night, waking up 2-6 times a night.

I figured that the easiest thing would be to tackle the issues one at a time.  The thing that has been the most difficult on me has been the falling asleep at night.  Kullervo and I worked out what we decided would be a good bedtime routine for Hank, and started implementing it.  The first night, putting him to bed took two hours (and thankfully a dear friend had taken Oliver and Hazel to see a show at a nearby park, so they weren’t sitting at home being bored).  The next night, an hour and twenty minutes.  The third night, forty minutes.  The fourth night he went straight to sleep.  These were all done without him needing to cry.  I would do the routine, put him to bed, and then rub his back until he fell asleep.  Now I am able to do the routine, put him in his crib, and even though he often sits himself up right away, he winds up going to sleep without crying.  Success!  We even have been able to eat dinner before ten at night!

Next up:  naps.  Sleep begets sleep, so, I decided to tackle naps as the next step in my plan.  More on that soon!