Saturday, May 27, 2017

Getting babies to sleep

I see lots of discussions on the interwebs about sleep-training babies and, like all things parenting, the discussion can get pretty heated. As the mother of three children, the youngest of whom is three, I have to say, the sleep thing is hard. Mainly because, if your kids aren't sleeping, you're not sleeping. And being sleep-deprived is a horrible form of torture.

I know, because I spent years in the sleep deprivation tank of parenthood, and I'm only now starting to feel like I'm getting me back.

But, one thing I've learned is that no kid or situation is the same. What will work like a charm for one parent and child, won't for another. For all sorts of reasons. So you shouldn't beat yourself up if someone gives you parenting gold - the sleep technique that got their baby sleeping through the night - and it just doesn't work for your baby.

Case in point - I have three children, and they all needed different things to get them to settle.

Baby one
The witching hour was a real thing for my eldest daughter, L. She'd nap fine all day and then, come 5pm, she'd start screaming and nothing we could do would get her to settle for her evening nap. I tried to feed her to sleep in my bed. No go. I hushed her and patted her and shushed her and rocked her and danced with her for hours at a time until she'd finally settle. It was stressful.

When she was about 7-weeks' old, we went on holiday with my sister-in-law and she suggested we just put L in her bed and let her cry it out. We did, and my sister-in-law sat with me and talked quietly in the room with me as we waited for L to cry herself to sleep. It took half an hour and from that point on, she was able to cry herself to sleep every evening, usually in just a few minutes, and then she'd sleep the whole night through. We've cracked it, we thought.

Baby two 
20 months later, our second daughter, S, was born and something was different. From the very first night in hospital, something was different. S cried and cried. After a feed, she couldn't get comfortable. She'd squirm in her bed, so we propped her mattress up on an angle and used rolled up towels to support her on her side. That was definitely better than leaving her to lie flat on her back, but the best thing for S was to be held upright. We cottoned onto the fact she had reflux pretty quickly. Leaving her to cry herself to sleep in her bed wasn't possible, because she was crying from pain, not tiredness.

I was part breast-feeding, part bottle-feeding S because I don't make enough breast milk on my own, but neither kind of milk seemed to be better for her reflux. She'd squirm just as much after a breast-feed as a bottle-feed.

We learned we had to hold her upright until her milk had digested far enough that it didn't hurt anymore, so she'd often fall asleep on one of our shoulders and then we'd gently transfer her to her bed. Paul and I became experts at bringing up wind, but it still didn't seem to help. We dosed her bottles with winding medicine, and it slightly helped. We fed her goat's milk formula instead of cow's milk formula and it was definitely better, but still not great.

I bought an Ergo and carried S around in it a lot, just to keep her upright. That whole first year with her was hard. Finally, around the age of one, her reflux started to come right. She was eating solids and I had started feeding her coconut oil and chicken stock to help with her digestion. Things came right and S finally started sleeping better. I could put her down and she would actually fall asleep.

Baby three 
When I found out I was pregnant with baby three, I cried. I didn't think I could go through it all over again. But J arrived and he was different again.

He liked being close to me, and I was desperately trying to keep my milk production going, despite the fact we were relying on donor milk to give him the bulk of his nourishment, so I started feeding him to sleep every nap and overnight. He slept next to me in my bed till he was about 10 months' old and I loved it. When he woke in the night, I fed him back to sleep without needing to get up. It was relaxing and snuggly and it kept my milk flowing far longer than it had with the girls. But I was able to do that because it worked for him. He didn't have reflux, he fed better off me when he was sleepy, my milk came out slowly enough that it was soothing rather than gushing, and J fell asleep better if I was lying next to him.

At about ten months, he started falling asleep without me needing to feed him to sleep, so I moved him into his own cot and he started sleeping in there more often than not, settling with a bottle instead of me. The transition was smooth and when he was one, we moved him into his own room. When he moved into his big-boy bed, we started reading to him in bed and he liked it if we stayed lying next to him until he fell asleep. So we did. It took about 15 to 30 minutes every night and honestly, it was the nicest parts of my day.

This year J has stopped wanting us to lie next to him as he falls asleep. We still read him his stories while he drinks his bottle. Then we talk about his day, say his night-time prayers and kiss him goodnight, but he falls asleep on his own.

Three kids, three completely different sleep-settling routines. But we figured it out by watching their cues and doing what worked for them. Just like parents have been doing for millennia. It's hard, and it's tiring, but it's necessary. No one has all the answers, because no one has all the kids. We get the kids we get, and we learn to read them. Or we (don't) fall asleep trying.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Laser eye surgery

Bundled up for a blurry-eyed walk - no contacts. 

Hey friends,

I'm booked in to get laser eye surgery in a couple of weeks and I'm super excited. (Also slightly nervous as eye things make me squeamish. But mostly pumped.)

Since I started wearing glasses/contacts 15 years ago, I've thought about laser eye surgery a lot. My sister had it done years ago and loves how free it's made her. Yet I never felt justified spending the dosh on it when there were houses to save for and kids' everything to pay for. Besides, my contacts worked fine during the day and being short-sighted meant I could still read in bed after I'd taken them out at night, so I was managing fine.

But then my contacts started irritating my eyes. I bought glasses as a back-up to give my eyes a rest, but the glasses made the world tilt at weird angles, which made me sea-sick, so I returned them and have been going blurry eyed a lot lately to try and give my eyes a break from the contacts.

I had a check up with my optometrist recently and she said I can't wear monthly contacts anymore. My eyes are rebelling. I need to change to dailies, which are thinner and softer. Also a heck of a lot more expensive. We tried some daily samples, and they didn't irritate my eyes - win! But the price was so much more than I'd been paying for monthlies that it suddenly made financial sense to get the laser eye surgery and be done with the whole thing once and for all.

I got all measured up this week and it seems I'm good to go. I'm so excited about the surgery that I'm nervous there's going to be some last minute hitch and I won't be able to get it done after all. But I'll keep you posted.

Have you or anyone you know had laser eye surgery? How did it go?

Friday, May 19, 2017

A week of school lunch boxes

Hi friends!

This week I took photos of the girls' school lunch boxes each morning so I could show you what a week's worth of school lunches look like around here. These are nothing fancy, not always very healthy, but actually what my girls eat. They both like different things, as you will see. L massively loves fruit, whereas S... not so much.

Here are those lunches for you:

L's lunch: Apple, feijoas, pizza, crackers, boiled egg, chocolate cake.

S's lunch: Strawberry yoghurt, pizza, chocolate cake, crackers, pistachios.
The pizza was leftover from dinner on Sunday night. Paul "cooked," since it was Mothers' Day, and bought a couple of extra pizzas so we'd have leftovers for lunches.

L's lunch: Apple, feijoa, gold kiwifruit, pizza, boiled egg, popcorn.

S's lunch: Strawberry yoghurt, pizza, apple slices, popcorn.
L's our early riser around here, so I woke up Wednesday morning and she had already packed her lunchbox. I was so impressed.
L's lunch: Apple, feijoa, gold kiwifruit, chocolate smoothie,
chocolate oat cookies, crackers (hiding underneath), gold kiwifruit. 

S's lunch: Berry yoghurt, vanilla smoothie, chocolate oat cookies,
homemade bun.

I woke up Thursday morning and L had already packed lunchboxes for her and S. I could get used to this.
L's lunch: Gold kiwifruit, mandarin, feijoas, gingernut,
crackers (hiding underneath), pistachios, apple slices, ham. 

S's lunch: Apple slices, ham, pistachios, gingernut, crackers,
strawberry yoghurt, mandarin. 

Friday (today!)
S woke up with a cough this morning, so I kept her home from school. What do you know? Within half an hour the cough had disappeared. It means I've only got one lunch to show you today.
L's lunch: Mandarin, feijoa, chocolate smoothie, kiwifruit,
soaked apple cinnamon muffin, chocolate oat cookie, crackers.

And there you have it. A week's worth of school lunches What do you feed your kids? I'm always looking for inspiration.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A day in the life of a stay-at-home mother

Today I thought I'd do one of those fly-on-the wall posts for you, to let you know what a day in my life looks like. Here's a blow-by-blow of my yesterday.

8.30am - Woke up super late because none of the kids had woken up yet, Paul's alarm hadn't gone off and I'd been woken several times in the night by one of my kids who was feeling unsettled. (I didn't realise Paul had switched his alarm off because he was sick and staying home for the day - usually it wakes me up at 7am.) Leapt out of bed, woke the girls, jumped in the shower. No time to wash my hair. This was going to be a greasy hair day. Sigh. Dressed super fast.

8.40am - Raced downstairs and chucked ingredients in the blender for breakfast smoothies for the girls. Got popcorn going on the stove at the same time. Packed lunchboxes (with some of the popcorn). Urged the girls to get ready.

8.50am - Walked the girls to school, brushing and plaiting my oldest daughter's hair as we walked. J got to stay home since Paul was home too.

9am - Came home and made breakfast for J. Did the dishes. Put a load of washing on. Got boneless chicken thighs out of the freezer to defrost for dinner. Tidied and vacuumed downstairs. Dressed J in his togs and packed a change of clothes, a towel and goggles in a bag for him, plus his kindy bag and lunchbox.

10am 11.15am - Drove J to his weekly swimming lesson, watched the lesson and dressed J again afterwards.

11.30am - Drove to the mall for an optometrist appointment for me. While we waited, J ate most of the food in his kindy lunchbox.

12.15pm - Bought sushi and a muffin for me and J, to replace J's already-eaten kindy lunch. We ate the sushi in the car on our way to kindy, which was good since I was feeling about ready to pass out. (Realised I hadn't eaten breakfast.)

12.30pm - Dropped J at kindy, passing a big pile of free garden mulch on the way and thought, I really must collect more of that when I remember to put my plastic tubs in the boot.

1pm - Drove home and caught up with my next-door neighbour for a few minutes as I got out of my car. Hung out washing under cover on our deck, since it looked like rain was on its way.

1.15pm - Found a World Organics parcel waiting for me at home, so I unpacked it and packaged up sample products for my friend, Angela. Drove to the post office and posted the package to her. Drove to the library and picked up some reserved books that were waiting for me. Drove home.

2pm - Paid bills online and worked on a writing project on my laptop.

2.55pm - Packed a water bottle and snack bag for L and walked to school.

3pm - Picked S up from school and dropped the water bottle and snack bag to L to eat before her netball practise. Walked S home, where we found Paul cooking poached eggs. He made me some and I ate them while S spoiled me for early Mothers' Day with a lovely card she'd made at school, a footrest, a cushion for my back and a cold drink of water from the fridge. I was feeling the love.

3.20pm - Walked down to kindy and picked up J. Walked him home and dropped him off with S and Paul.

3.45pm - Walked to school to watch the rest of L's netball practice and bring her home.

4.10pm - Washed the dishes. Put frozen chicken stock and rice in the rice cooker on the warm setting. Checked the washing - still not dry.

4.15pm - Caught up with my friend, Charlotte, and her daughter, who popped in for a visit. We hung out for about an hour, chatting and watching the kids jump on the trampoline. I picked Charlotte a bunch of spinach from my garden. (Everyone who visits, leaves with spinach). The catch up was lovely.

5.15pm - Cooked butter chicken with added spinach and rice, which I cooked in homemade chicken stock, for dinner. Listened to L's violin practise as I cooked. J set the table, all of his own volition, and did a fabulous job.

6pm - Served dinner, which amazingly, all the kids ate, despite the slightly green colour. Paul was feeling too sick to eat, but he sat with us anyway.

6.15pm - Put the youngest two kids in the bath. Laid out J's jammies and then left the kids to Paul's care.

6.45pm - Jumped in the car and drove to my friends' Anna and Andy's house to babysit their kids while they went to a parents' group. Brought my laptop so I could do more work on my writing project. My friend, Becky, came to visit while I babysat (with Anna and Andy's permission) and we caught up for a couple of hours. It was so nice.

9.45pm - Becky left to make the long drive home, so I opened up my laptop again and did more work on my writing project, although Anna and Andy's kitten did the classic kitty-cat thing and sat right on my lap, so I set my laptop aside and patted him for a while.

10.10pm - Anna and Andy came home. We chatted for a few minutes while I packed up and then I drove home.

10.30pm - Arrived home and caught up with Paul for a few minutes in his office. Went upstairs to discover L had fallen asleep in my bed. I got ready for bed and climbed in on Paul's side. He came upstairs and squeezed in next to me, but our talking woke up L and she kindly offered to move back to her bed. I shuffled over to my side of the bed and fell asleep.

Honestly. I don't know how mums hold down jobs and look after kids too. If you're a working mother, how do you do it? How?

Also, did you notice how many people I hung out with yesterday, all while feeling acutely aware of my greasy, greasy hair? Real friends don't care. xx

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The weird things we do and don't still do

I've been writing Craving Fresh for a long time now. Almost a decade in fact. Right from when I planted my first vegetable garden and gave birth to my first child to now. I've experimented with lots of things over the years. Some of those experiments have taken, and some haven't.

And since it's easy to read someone's blog and think that everything they do is supernaturally better than anything you're doing in the privacy of your own home, I thought I'd update you on almost ten year's worth of experiments so you'd know that I'm really, pretty average. (If a little weird.)

1. Garden

This one is obvious from all my recent posts, but yes, I still garden. Avidly. It was one of the reasons we bought our own house a year ago. I wanted to plant a garden and an orchard that I knew I'd be able to harvest from for many years down the track.

2. Keep chickens

Nope, we gave up chickens a long time ago. We've never lived somewhere where we felt we could give them enough room to move around without smell becoming an issue. I still think about it from time to time. If I can sort out some sort of chicken tractor situation that would fit over the top of my vegetable gardens, I might try it again.

3. Sourdough
No. I faithfully tended my sourdough starter and baked breads, pizza and cake from it for more than a year, but nobody ate the goods (except for the chocolate cake). And since I never got used to the taste of sourdough bread, I gave it up.

4. Soak grains and beans

I don't soak grains anymore (confession, I mostly bake with plain white flour), but I do still soak beans for a day before cooking them. I'm thinking I'd like to try my soaked apple muffin recipe again though, as it was always a winner.

5. Cook spinach and silverbeet to reduce oxalic acid
Yeppers. Kind of. We have crazy amounts of spinach growing in our garden at the moment, so I blanch it before freezing it to reduce the oxalic acid. But because of this article, if I'm using the spinach fresh, I just chuck it in. I figure it's kind of balanced that way, some fresh spinach, some cooked.

6. Drink kefir
Yes, I still add milk kefir to all our smoothies. The kids got used to the taste a long time ago and don't even notice it, and I just love knowing that all those beautiful probiotics are going into our system. I did give up water kefir though, because it felt like a lot of effort to maintain when I don't even like fizzy drinks. I mostly drink water or smoothies, which is why the milk kefir works so much better for us.

7. Zero-waste
Nope. Sadly, I haven't really made much progress on the zero-waste front in the past year. We still put out a bag of rubbish every week, mostly filled with nappies. Probably the only thing that has changed is that I recycle all our soft plastic now by taking a bag of it each week to the supermarket to drop off in the recycling bin there. Of course I still do all the things I did before I tried to go zero-waste - take my own reusable bags to the supermarket for fruit and packing at the end, pack lunches that don't require clingfilm, etc, but still, a lot of the foods we eat come packaged. We recycle what we can.

8. Cloth nappies
Nope. You probably gathered this from my zero-waste line above, but we use disposables now. I faithfully used cloth nappies with my first two children until the elastic gave out on them all and they stopped doing a good job of holding in the urine. They also smelled a lot, so by the time number three came along, I was ready for leak-free, non-smelling nappies. In hindsight, I probably should have just bought a set of new cloth nappies, but... I didn't.

9. Moon cup
Yes. I still use the same Lunette moon cup I bought nine years ago, and it's the only menstrual device I need. No pads. No tampons. No stress. I LOVE my moon cup. I actually forgot to take it on holiday with me last year and got my period while we were away so had to buy tampons. I couldn't believe how useless they were. I couldn't go swimming and I had to rush back to the bach every hour or two to change them because they just didn't do a good job at all. Needless to say, I always make sure I take my moon cup away with me on holiday now.

10. Make chicken stock
Yes. I always save my chicken bones and carcasses, plus vege scraps like carrot peel, the ends of my onions and my celery leaves. Once I have a decent stock of these in the freezer, I throw them all in my stockpot with water and a dash of apple cider vinegar and simmer away for the day. I use the strained chicken stock in soups and to cook my rice.

11. Line dry my clothes
Yes. I hardly ever use our dryer, as it takes so much power to run and always causes our power bill to skyrocket. On sunny days, I dry our clothes on our outdoor washing line, and on rainy days I dry them on the washing line we strung up under cover on our deck. I still use my hot water cupboard to finish things off, and occasionally I'll finish things off in the dryer if it's too damp outside to get them completely dry.

12. Use baking soda for deodorant
Yes. I've been using baking soda deodorant quite happily for many years. I still think it works better than anything else at eliminating odour. However, just last month I bought a natural Bellatoa deodorant as I do find that straight baking soda can irritate my armpits and I wanted to give my skin a break.

13. Use World Organics skincare products

Yes. I love World Organics and have been happily using it and selling it for three years now. My favourite products are the Juniper Berry Facewash, the Bamboo and Shea Face Exfoliant, the Calming Calendula Cream as my face moisturiser, the Purely Primer in rose gold as a tinted moisturiser or a primer under the Luminous Foundation Caramel, the Rejuvenate Moisture Me Body Lotion and the Replenish Wonder Lift Serum for tightening my skin and smoothing fine lines. I always keep a stick of this sunblock in my handbag for emergencies and I love experimenting with the different eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks and lip glosses in the makeup range. I love World Organics because it's naturally good for my skin and the environment. No nasties whatsoever and it really works.

14. Trim Healthy Mama
I still make the occasional Trim Healthy Mama recipe, when I'm trying to watch what I eat, but overall I just eat the food I want to. I still haven't sorted my eating-to-weight ratio out, but that has more to do with emotional overeating than anything else. Give me ALL the chocolate! Hopefully one day I'll get to the bottom of those issues and get some healing there. In the meantime, I'm not planning to undergo any drastic weight loss measures because I know I'd just put all the weight back on again unless I addressed the underlying issues of why I eat too much. And I think yo-yo dieting is worse for me than just maintaining a stable (too big) weight. (In my non-professional opinion.)

15. Vaccinate
We remain a vaccine-free household and I'm glad for it. The kids are allergy-free and haven't inherited my hay fever or my mild asthma (which I suspect were caused by vaccine reaction). They're also happy, healthy and bright. The last time I had the actual flu was back when I used to get flu shots in my early twenties. I did have a bout of tonsillitis last year, but managed to get through it naturally. I know vaccination is a heated topic, on both sides of the debate, so all I can say is that I'm glad I've been able to make this choice for my kids. Hopefully they'll turn out a lot healthier than me.

And there you have it. A roundup of the weird and wonderful. Is there anything I've missed off this list, that you've been wondering about?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Building resilience by changing mindset

This chick ain't worried.

Stress and me are not a good fit.

As soon as I get stressed, I become an over-eating, under-breathing insomniac. Things play over and over (and over and over and over) in my brain, making it impossible for me to fall asleep. It's not super fun, but I've always thought that was just the way I roll.


Two weeks ago, I couldn't get to sleep. It was about 4am and I still hadn't dozed off. I was annoyed because I'd hired a building company to fix something, they'd come and done a lot of stuff around the problem, but not actually fixed it. When I'd followed up with them, they'd said they had misunderstood what I wanted, but the thing I did want was going to cost a lot more money.

I was frustrated, stressed and the victim of a bad situation. Or so I thought.

Since it was 4am in the morning and sleep was eluding me, I grabbed my phone and scrolled through my Facebook feed. This New Yorker article came up on one of my friend's feeds: How People Learn to Become Resilient.

Something about the article spoke to me on a really fundamental level. I was responding like a victim with the building company, when really, I was in a position of power. I could get quotes from other companies, I could ignore the problem until we do a full renovation later down the track, I could wait to fix the problem until I'd specifically saved the money to do so. I could pay for it now with our emergency savings and hope I don't need them for anything else. I had choices. Me. I was in the power position.

Since that revelation, I haven't stressed about the building situation at all. I keep testing my stress levels, but I feel fine. It's so weird, because nothing has changed, except my mindset.

I've realised that things happen in life. Things will always happen. But I can respond like a victim or like a person capable of rising to the challenge. And what I choose will make all the difference.

It's liberating.

So tell me, how do you respond to challenging situations in life? What are your tricks for getting through the tough times? Am I the last person to figure out that how I view a situation, changes the situation?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

5 frugal lunchbox ideas

You can bet that any time I get together with my Mummy friends, we'll end up talking about what to pack in our kids' lunchboxes. That's because it's such a relentless task, day after day, filling those lunchboxes. And if we get it wrong, either the kids come home tired and cranky because they didn't have enough to eat, or the lunchboxes come home in much the same state they left the house in, which is a waste of food.

Yesterday I caught up with my friend, Di, on Radio Rhema and gave her five frugal lunchbox ideas that work for our family. Listen to our chat here:

And join the conversation. Comment below to let me know what you pack in your kids' lunchboxes. I'm always keen for fresh ideas to keep those bellies full.