Friday, 29 November 2013

Final Blog Post… For Now.

To those of you who have been following Milk and Wild Roses for the last year, the ending of this blog will come as no surprise, as posts have gotten fewer and further between each month. When Dara and I started this blog in January 2013, life was quite different; our babies napped more and we had far fewer commitments outside of the home. I had in my mind an idea of what I wanted this blog to be: part trials and tribulations of a natural, green, simplicity family and part educated and well researched posts about parenting and living in harmony with nature. Unfortunately, I could not make my vision of the blog into my reality. As the months passed, the time that I could commit to writing got shorter and more fractured and frankly seemed better spent elsewhere (including sleeping or watching some mindless show on tv). For example, I started writing a follow-up to the potty training post almost 2 weeks ago, but have not found/made the time to finish it.

G and I in July 2013
I am sad to say goodbye, but need to make it official so that I can remove post-writing, researching, photo taking/ editing, etc... from my ever growing mental list of things to do. I still have so many ideas, opinions and stories that I would love to share, just not here… now.

Although this blog will no longer be updated. Milk and Wild Roses will continue it's presence on Facebook and Pinterest. On Facebook I will continue to write short updates about our family and share relevant posts about natural parenting, green-living and local parenting events/information. On Pinterest, will continue to collect resources relevant to natural, simple living and parenting. I choose the pins that I add very carefully, in the hope that you will find them interesting and meaningful to your parenting journey.

If you have not done so already, please like M&WR on Facebook and Pinterest, and keep in touch!


Danielle (Mom of Gabriella, now 18 months)

P.S. Potty training continues. She is doing great, seemed to have regressed a bit but I think things are starting to get back on track. We have been diaper-free (except at night) for over 3 weeks!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Going Diaper-Free!

Diaper free
A cute little boy using the potty!
On Wednesday, Gabriella and I said good-bye to diapers, hopefully forever! She has been diaper-free at home ever since except at night-time, and it is going pretty well so far! Way back in May when she was one, I wrote a post about our on-going EC (Elimination Communication) journey, which started at around 7 months and was very, very part-time. About 2 months ago, however, all pottying stopped cold-turkey when Gabriella decided that she wasn't into it anymore. Putting her on the potty was like trying to dunk a cat in a tub of water, she would dig her heels on the rim of the potty (toilet or any other vessel), and would not let her bum get near it! When I tried to hold her over the sink she would cringe and cry and wildly kick her legs until I put her down again. So that was the end of that. I moved her potty to the top shelf in her closet.

Even though I stopped trying to get her to eliminate outside of a diaper, we continued "toilet learning" by talking about it and making trips to the washroom together. When I gave her a piece of toilet paper off the roll, she would crinkle it up an wipe herself too. Adorable! When I noticed her squatting and grunting, I made sure to ask her if she was going "poo-poo", and she would always nod her head, yes.

While Gabriella is considered young for potty training at 17 months (the average time to start potty training in North America is around 24 months),  in the last few weeks she has displayed many signs that she is ready including:

  • retreating to a private place to poo
  • the ability to hold her pee (in the bath for example)
  • touching herself before she pees
  • the ability to communicate her needs (i.e. indicating that she is thirsty, wants to go outside etc…)
  • interest in wiping herself with toilet paper (mimicking mom)
  • acknowledgement that she is pooing while doing so

Based on these signs that I have observed, we decided to give it a shot right now even though we face a few clear challenges including: 
  • her blatant dislike of the potty
  • her inability to manipulate her own clothing
  • lack of verbal communication
What really convinced me to try despite these challenges was reading Jamie Glowacki's book "Oh Crap Potty Training" a no-nonsense guide to going diaper free from 18 to 30 months. Her method is extreme (completely diaper-free from day one) yet gentle, and patient and though I have cleaned-up a lot of pee on the floor over the past week, I can see the gears turning and connections being made in Gabriella's head. She is more and more willing to sit on the potty, and is so proud and happy when she gets there in-time. A few days ago we caught our first poo in the potty, and when she stood up and saw it in the pot, she raised her hand in the air and shouted "YEAH!" No joke, she was ecstatic, as was I. 

So far, her ability to communicate her potty needs verbally hasn't been an issue. With a child of any age, it is the parent's job in the first few days of training to discern the child's signs. They will likely not be able to tell you BEFORE they have to pee for a few days or a few weeks anyway. I plan to teach her the American Sign Language sign for potty this week so that she can signal me when she needs to go.

This first week has no doubt been challenging, but we can see a light at the end of the tunnel now. We definitely saw the most resistance on days 4 and 5, but each day we saw at least one moment that encouraged us to continue. On day 1, for example, I was in the kitchen at the sink and saw Gabriella run by me and sit on the potty. When she got up, we both looked in the potty but there was nothing there. Then, she walked back into the kitchen and started motioning with her outstretched finger towards the floor. On the floor I saw a huge puddle of pee. She had obviously started peeing on the floor and recognized that and tried to make it to the potty before the pee was done. Smart girl! 
On the third morning we were in the bedroom while my husband was dressing for work, and all of a sudden Gabriella shouted "Oh, oh!" while pointing to the floor. We both looked over at her wondering what was going on, when all of a sudden she started peeing on the floor! The encouraging part about that, of course, was the fact that she clearly recognized what was about to happen before commencing to pee. 

My husband had spent the day at home with G on the 4th day of training and was very, very frustrated. He had only caught one pee in the potty all day, even though he had prompted her many times to sit on the potty. Most of the time she was peeing on the floor less than a minute after she refused to sit on the potty for him. After I came home from work, we sat down for supper and G peed all over her highchair. My husband just looked at me and said "maybe she isn't ready, maybe we should try again in a few months". I reminded him of all the little successes we had seen in the first few days and told him I thought we should go on. After-all Jamie Glowacki predicted this was going to happen; most parents give up potty training in these first few difficult days. The very next day much of her resistance to the potty was gone! Only 3 pees ended-up on the floor all day - we even got out of the house for a bit. 

This week will bring more/longer excursions out of the house. I have no clue how to move potty training on the road, I'm sure to experience many new frustrations and challenging situations, but I'm excited to be embarking on this new journey with G. I will be writing much more about it in the weeks to come.

Photo credit: juhansonin / / CC BY

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Monday Review: Cloud Dough vs. Play Dough

Playing with flour

The weather is getting colder, so I am looking for fun ways to play with Gabriella inside the house. A few months ago on Pinterest I saw some recipes for Cloud Dough and thought I would give one a shot. Well, let me tell you, it was a bust. Despite all of the "Awesome" reviews that other mom's gave it. Perhaps Gabriella is a bit too young for it (17 months), perhaps it's more fun with a group of kids... OUTSIDE.

Flour everywhere
I just didn't get it. It was like playing with flour (it actually was playing with flour). Sure you could squeeze it together to make a ball that would easily crumble, but that was about it. And if that is the fun, then save yourself the trouble and get a sand-box and a pail of water! I was expecting something more like, I don't know, a Cloud? Something fluffy and soft but also squeezable. There might be something like that out there, but Cloud Dough is not it. Gabriella played with it for awhile, but had more fun throwing it on the floor (messy!!) and eating it (yuck!!) than she did actually playing.

Thankfully, I had bought a small bag of cheap (non-organic) flour for this experiment and only made a half-recipe which was 4 cups of flour mixed with a 1/2 cup of canola oil. After mixing I put the whole mess into a cookie sheet and G played with it while sitting in her high chair. The recipe made a good sized bowl full of "dough", and I felt very guilty about ruining so much potential food, so I stole a 3/4 cup of it while G was playing and transformed it into some absolutely lovely pink play-dough!

I chose a recipe for "cooked" dough, it was easy and quick to make and clean-up was a breeze. You can find the original recipe here.

Since I had to adapt it slightly in order to re-use my cloud experiment, I'll include that version:

Cloud-turned-Play Dough
3/4 cup cloud dough
1/4 cup white flour

1/2 cup salt

2 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
 with a drop of two of food colouring (colouring optional)

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan, add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes until the dough becomes difficult to stir and forms a “clump”. Remove from the stove and knead for 5 minutes. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container.
The greatest part about the cooked dough is how warm it is when you're kneading it. Gabriella had fun squishing and smashing it, but unfortunately ate this one too (ewww!! so salty!). Next time I'm going to give her more tools to use with the play dough, like cookie cutters and plastic toys that she can squish into the dough. 

Ohhhhh.... play dough!
So, in case my reviews about weren't clear enough, I'll pit the two doughs head-to-head:
Cloud Dough                                   Play Dough
Making Time: 1 minute                   Making Time: 5-8 minutes
Clean-up Time: 30 minutes             Clean-up Time: 2 minutes
Messiness: Extreme                         Messiness: Low
Play Time: 15 minutes                    Play Time: 15 minutes
Overall: Meh.                                  Overall: Ya-hoo!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

What I Am Really Afraid Of

Sleep continues to occupy my mind, although not in the obsessive way that it can completely overwhelm your every waking thought when you are seriously sleep deprived. These days, I think a lot about my fears around sleep. About my challenges and my issues, rather than Gabriella's. I have come to realize that a lot of my complaints and problems are just that... MY complaints, MY problems. Gabriella is perfectly happy with her sleeping arrangements.

And what exactly are those arrangements? Well, she continues to nap in her crib, and we are transitioning from 2 naps to one. She is able to stay awake much longer during the day than she used to, and can definitely handle more deviation from the routine. She usually goes to sleep around 7pm. 

After that, each night is different. I sat down to write a sleep update about two months ago, when she was going down at 7:30 and not waking up until 3:30am. I was about to shout my success from the rooftops, calculating that she would continue to sleep later and later in her crib until one magical day I wouldn't get woken up until morning. That blissful period of long sleeps was short lived however, and now we are back to many more wakings most nights. Although she sometimes fusses in bed with us for an hour or more, these days at least I no longer have to get up with her in the middle of the night like I was back in June. In any case, when she wakes up around the time I am going to bed or after I am asleep for the night, I get her from her crib and bring her right back to sleep in our bed. After that, she usually sleeps about 3 hours and then wakes again. And again. And again until morning. A quick nurse usually puts her right back to sleep, so these wakings aren't usually as disruptive as they sound.

Nap on mommy's lap!
Things are going pretty well and everyone seems to be getting as much sleep as they need. So here is my problem... I don't want her to be sleeping in my bed and waking at night forever and I have no idea how to get her out. (See all the I's in my problem? This is what I am talking about). We would like to have another baby someday, and I cannot imagine sleeping with both of them at the same time, let alone squeezing my husband, G (toddlers take up a lot of space, trust me!) and a pregnant me into a Queen sized-bed. I know a lot of dedicated co-sleeping families make it work, get a bigger bed or have daddy sleep elsewhere, but those are not options for us. So what shall we do?

For all my whining, I have grown to like sleeping with Gabriella. Snuggling with her, hearing her gentle breath beside me, smiling and laughing with her when we both wake-up. I have come to believe that co-sleeping is better for mom's and babies in the first year or two, and that the challenges of making a baby sleep independently aren't worth it. My problem really boils down to "now what?", and I still don't like the options. In my future I see two paths, one where we continue to co-sleep indefinitely (whether we like it or not... as soon as the crib wall comes down she'll be able to get there on her own) and the other is filled with nights (weeks, months) of disturbed sleep and pacing the halls with a screaming, thrashing 30+ pound child. Am I being melodramatic? I sure hope so.

I think that fears surrounding sleep, or more accurately lack thereof, is what drives most parents to "sleep train". The experts will have you believe that our babies need to be taught how to sleep, but in reality I think (just like everything else), they already know how to do it. They just want us to be there the whole time like we would have been in primitive society. It is our (the parents') fears that we will spoil them somehow by nursing or rocking or cuddling to sleep that make us resort to less gentle alternatives. We are afraid that if we show the baby too much affection at nap time she'll never learn to sleep on her own. We want babies who aren't too much of an inconvenience. We want to be able to lie them down in the crib and close the door and expect them to nap for 2 hours. We want them to sleep 12 hours straight, every night with not a peep. Well, we're going to have to get over it because babies aren't robots that can be programmed to bend to our will. Parents who have achieved that level of "success" (obedience) are either very lucky or worked hard at sleep training (through many bouts of crying, screaming and thrashing) to get there. But at what cost? That question scares me too.

Anyway, no answers on the blog today. This is where our sleep journey has taken us, and I'll continue to update you every so often on where it goes.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Fruit and Veggie Toddler Muffins!

So, I did it! I spent my first full day away from Gabriella since the day she was born. It was absolutely wonderful. Her Grandparents spent half of the day watching her at our house and then her dad took over in the afternoon. She happily waved good-bye to me when I left the house, but cried when her grandparents left. Ha! Ha! I'm sure that made Babcia (Grandma)'s day. My first day at work was also a huge success, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. 

So, all of this thinking about work and childcare, got me into the mood to experiment with some healthy muffin recipes that Gabriella will like but that I can also put into my lunch for work. After trying a few different things, I developed a great-tasting recipe that combines equal parts pureed fruits and vegetables with oat bran, whole wheat flour and coconut oil. All three of us have been gobbling these up!

The first time I made this recipe, I made it exactly as described below. Yesterday, however, I made it again but only had one ripe banana so I added 1/2C. applesauce to the recipe. They turned out great again! This recipe is so versatile, I think that any squash you have on hand (or any jar of baby food puree) could be substituted for the zucchini, with any combination of sweet fruit like banana, pear or apple. The craisins and hemp hearts could easily be switched out for raisins, nuts and/or seeds - whatever your toddler is able to handle. Hemp hearts are great because they are super-small, but packed full of protein, omegas, vitamins and minerals.

Gabriella has a real aversion to squash. We have been eating a lot of zucchini around here due to the abundance that my vegetable garden produced this year, yet in each and every recipe I try, she picks it out. If it happens to land in her mouth, she finds it and pulls it out before swallowing the rest of the food. The first muffin recipes I tried, I had been grating the zucchini for the muffins, and while they tasted great to me, she wasn't really into them. The pureed zucchini in these muffins don't seem to bother her at all, which is a huge score!

Also, I cut about half of these muffins in half before freezing the lot of them. This makes it really easy to take out only half at a time for Gabriella. What I have also discovered, is that she likes to eat these muffins while they are still frozen! Maybe it feels good on her new eye teeth and raw gums? The half-muffin is easier for her to hold and bit into while frozen.

So, without further ado, here is my recipe for Fruit and Veggie Toddler Muffins!

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 C. pureed, steamed zucchini (or other squash)
1 1/2 C. carrots, grated
1/3 C. coconut oil, melted
1/4 C. honey
2 eggs
1 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C. oat bran
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 C. craisins
1/4 C. hemp seeds (hearts)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Combine all of the wet ingredients together in a small bowl, and the dry ingredients (excluding craisins and seeds) in a larger bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together and then stir in the wet ingredients. Once well combined, stir in the craisins and hemp seeds. The batter will be very wet.

Grease the muffin tin with coconut oil (just put a little hard oil on a towel and spread lightly into each cup). The batter should just fill 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool before eating or freezing, and don't forget to cut a few in half for the little-one!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Growing Up and Getting Out

I have been offered a job, and I am really excited about it. It's in a new field at a different place then where I was working before Gabriella was born. I start next week and G will be 16 months old.

Living in Canada, I pretty much took for granted that I would be at home with my baby for at least one year. A year, by the way, that flew by. A year of sleepless nights and a lot of reading, decision-making, and question-asking. Who is this beautiful new person in my life? What kind of mom am I? What kind of family do I want to have? What do I feel in my heart is the best way to do... everything. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity and the time to savour it and give it my all. I feel confident in my mom-self now.

Not everyone is afforded the luxury to taking a whole year to develop as a mother alongside their growing child, however, and I tip my hat to all of you who had to go back earlier. In the United States, you may know, there was no federally mandated paid leave program at all until 1993. Since that time, employers are required to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a baby. UP TO 12 weeks of UNPAID leave. How generous. A few states have implemented a maternity benefits program as part of their disability insurance plan, but otherwise it is left up to the employer to provide the new mom with any pay during her time off.

Now don't get me wrong. The Canadian system isn't perfect. New parents taking leave only get 55% of their regular income (up to $485 per week) unless their employer is willing to contribute a top-up amount. Our system is part of the Employment Insurance program and is therefore paid-out by the federal government. If you work but don't contribute to EI, if you are self-employed for example or a lot of your income comes in the form of tips, you cannot collect EI or Maternity benefits on any of that money you made.

I digress, but the point is, when Gabriella turned one I, like most mom's I know found the thought of returning to work almost unbearable. Our babies were just learning to walk, or still in the crawling stage; still nursing a lot during the day or less because we had started to wean them in preparation for our return to work; they were in that stage between baby and toddler where you can see their confidence and independence starting to emerge, but they still really just want their mom's! Somehow, most mom's I know, managed to send their little tot into the world and go on. For those of you reading this who only were afforded 3 months, or even less at home, please forgive my sentimentalism, I have no idea how you managed it, but I respect the hell out of you for it.

At almost 16 months now, my husband and I both feel so much more confident about leaving G in the care of others. That three months, from turning one to 15 months made such a huge difference in Gabriella and in our relationship. She walks confidently, she can express her needs more clearly, she eats well and can go longer without mother's milk. She can play at the playground, she has friends and exudes joy and love when she sees them. She is playful and smart and likes to play dress-up. It will be hard to be away from her for up to 9 hours at a time, but I am confident now that she will be okay.

Gabriella and I have a very close, healthy attachment to one-another, and that will not change. However, I think that this is a good time (and opportunity) for her to get more comfortable around other people too, especially her dad. The few times that I have not been home to put her to sleep, she has often given him a really hard time which has made him hesitant to repeat the process, leaving the joys and challenges of bed time to me. I hope that my return to paid work (which will involve some evenings) will help them to overcome their fears around bed time, and will help them to bond over their own special routine.

The return to work will be bitter-sweet of course, less time with my husband, less time with G, but more 'me' time in many ways, which I admittedly have been missing. I'm looking forward to learning new skills, meeting new people, and bringing back a few parts of myself that I haven't seen in a while. The part that buys new clothes that aren't necessarily breast-feeding friendly, the part that can enjoy the train ride to work without feeding, cooing-to, or playing-with another human being, and the part that doesn't organize her day around nap time. 

Photo credit: blmiers2 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Friday, 30 August 2013

Toddler Gear: What to Take Camping

We had the best time camping in BC last month with Gabriella who was 14 months old at the time. One of our struggles when packing for the big trip was to figure out what would be the most space-efficient items we could bring, that would satisfy all of our new needs now that we have a toddler in tow including a place for her to eat, sleep and ride-in. We drive a station wagon, so the trunk space is decent, but not huge, and were lucky enough to borrow a Yakima box for our roof rack. Between the two areas, we had more than enough space for everything the three of us needed for a week and a half of camping.

Getting packed
About two months before we left, I started asking around for tips and tricks my friends and family have used when camping with a toddler. By and large the consensus was that we needed to bring a play-pen. However, we aren’t really play-pen people (ie. Gabriella has never played in one), and I didn’t think that G would appreciate being cooped-up, especially since she was already walking and is used to being able to roam! However, my take-away from this suggestion was that we needed a place where she would be safe when we weren’t available to chase her around (like setting-up and taking-down the camp). The case for the play-pen was made stronger when people told me that she could also sleep in it, since we had to take her a bed of some kind. Didn’t we?

In the end, we decided against the play-pen and choose instead to co-sleep while camping and to restrain her (when necessary) by carrying her in the Mei Tai (back carry) or fastening her into a high-chair. Both of these solutions worked brilliantly.

The high-chair question really threw me. There are a lot of options out there, but each one has a downside. Chairs that clip on to picnic tables (but what if we didn’t have a picnic table?), booster seats (not really a good option when you don’t have a regular dining chair), and special fabric fold-up high chairs (expensive and hard to keep clean). So, we went with a $20 Ikea high chair that disassembles in seconds. It has been probably the best purchase we’ve made all year! The seat and tray are plastic, so they wipe down in seconds. The steel legs snap-in to the bottom of the seat and snap-out just as easily. We did have to modify the tray slightly by trimming the plastic snaps on the back of the tray so that it would not permanently clip onto the seat.

Since the camping trip, we have taken this high chair to dinners with friends and family, a wedding, and have used it as seating for infants visiting our house. On the campsite, it was obviously great for eating, but comfortable enough that Gabriella didn’t mind sitting there for longer periods while we got things ready around the camp site.

Legs stored in an old bag from a camping chair
Gabriella spent quite a bit of time in the baby carrier on our holiday. However, we were quite happy to have brought our Chariot stroller with us. It fit perfectly in the Yakima box (with space left for the high chair and other goodies) and rolls easily on many different types of terrain, including sand. If for no other reason, it was awesome to take to the beach, loaded-up with our lunch, toys, towels and extra clothes. We also got into the habit of taking a walk after dinner, and G would often fall asleep in the Chariot on these walks. I usually had no trouble transferring her from there into the tent to sleep for the night.

The other day I was reading a blog post about camping with a toddler and the mom who wrote it chose to bring their toddler a separate tent with a travel crib inside because they wanted to imitate his sleep situation at home as closely as possible while away. This set-up worked for them. I, however, would never let my child sleep in a tent that wasn’t physically attached to mine. I want her close enough that if a wild animal attacks I can use my body as a shield to protect her. More realistically, I want her close enough that I can see her in case anything happens (animals, heavy rain, really cold night temp. etc…). Also, since she still wakes in the night, I want her as close as possible so that I can comfort her with minimal disruption to my own sleep.

Our solution was to sleep on three Thermarest mattresses that we already owned, strapped together to make one queen-sized sleep area. Thermarests are lightweight, self-inflating (mostly), roll-up really small and provide a firm sleeping surface that is only about an inch off the floor, meaning that when we put G to sleep for the night we didn’t have to worry about her rolling off the edge. For warmth, we all cuddled in a queen-sized sleeping bag, but two open sleeping bags or comforters would have worked too. I also packed a footed sleeper and a sleep sac in case there were any really cold nights. As I mentioned in a past post, we all slept extremely well.

Many parents, I’m sure, would worry about not sticking to the routine at bedtime, napping on-the-go, and holiday co-sleeping. I was once worried about these things too. However, in my experience, our break in routine didn’t have any impact on our return to it when we got back home. Bedtimes went back to normal, naps followed shortly thereafter and Gabriella had no problem sleeping alone in her crib. For half of the night at least, as was the norm before our holiday.

I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!