Thursday, 29 November 2012

Knott's Berry Farm

We wanted to give Lennon an experience instead of a physical gift for her birthday since it falls just three days after Christmas, when she is bound to receive a lot of gifts. After going to Disney Land in September and seeing how much she loved it, we wanted to try something new. Many locals suggested we try Knotts Berry Farm because it was more accessible for Lennon, typically less busy, and a heck of a lot more affordable. The day was wet, with typical LA mist rain which people whine about but really isn't enough to keep you inside. Unless you have been totally spoiled by LA weather which meant most people stayed home and since it is off season, we almost had the entire park to ourselves and didn't wait in a single line. James had this week off from work so we figured we would take advantage and celebrate an early birthday with our silly little monkey. Lennon had the time of her life and kept laughing and putting her hands over her mouth like a little anime character. It was one of the best days we have had since moving down here.

Enjoy some of the photos from our day of fun!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy, Part 1

I knew when I started obsessively thinking about having another baby that I had no intention of weaning Lennon in order to do so. My body was receptive and we became pregnant at 19 1/2 months post partum regardless of my toddler who still nursed all night long and many times a day. Of course breastfeeding has always been a tumultuous relationship for me. I have moments of such ecstasy and joy at nurturing my child so directly. I also have moments of pure agony as I wonder when I will ever have my body back. But when I became pregnant for the second time, I still enjoyed my nursing relationship with Lennon about 80% of the time. I had no idea how much things were going to change for me as my pregnancy progressed.

Around 6 weeks I started to feel very nauseous all the time. I had this with Lennon as well. Except with Lennon I was able to sleep off a lot of the discomfort and casually nibble all day, preserving my energy. This time, I had a toddler with a veracious appetite and total love for my milk constantly sucking at me. Moving from one country to another didn't help with her sense of discomfort and she knew that I was changing as well, therefore she was demanding and needing loads more time at the breast than we had been doing for months. Timing couldn't have seemed more against me. The most difficult part during the nausea was making it through the night. I had possibly eaten and kept down enough food throughout the day to feel at least settled before bed, but then all night long she wanted to nurse. I would wake at 4am starving and gagging on pure hunger. The two of them had drained me through the night.

Eventually, we moved into our new home and were able to move Lennon into her own bed, which she still thinks is silly. My nausea slowed down and things seemed to be getting a little easier. The nursing, of course, was still going on full force day and night. But I felt better that we were working towards getting her to sleep through the night without nursing. Like everything child related, we managed to get her sleeping well just in time to travel back to Canada and completely disrupt any sense of routine we had worked towards for the last 6 weeks. She was reborn as an all night  nurser in just 4 nights in bed with me.

While I was no longer consistently feeling nauseous, I had to really focus on eating lots of protein and good food constantly or else I would fall prey to an under fed body. As if breastfeeding didn't have me watching my calorie intake enough already just to keep up! As soon as she shifted back into her old routine, my body began to feel slow, drained and nauseous more frequently. Most of my patience was shot and try as I might to entertain her, Lennon was bored with me and usually would turn to nursing to entertain herself. I couldn't handle it anymore. I felt totally controlled by this 2 year old who of course could not understand the way it was making me feel because all she experienced was a warm, loving cuddle along with a tasty snack. Whenever she wanted it. Many times I thought about weaning her. About cutting the relationship entirely because she is powerfully stubborn and unwavering in her need for mass amounts of nursing. If she couldn't even give me 30 minutes in the morning to eat my breakfast, how was I going to get 8 hours in the evening for sleep?

For the last week we have been trying a new sleep plan of changing her nursing association. Lennon pretty much thinks that she needs to nurse to be able to sleep. A big part of this comes from her long running love of nursing lying in bed with me. Who wouldn't fall asleep like this? The problem is that I know another little person who will want to do this constantly too. And then what? I fear I will lay in bed awake, flipping from side to side trying to get these two little boobie monsters to sleep for any decent amount of time. So we are trying to teach Lennon that we nurse in chairs, or on the couch, or standing up, or on the floor, but that we are no longer nursing lying down in bed. She still falls asleep in my arms, but I make the decision either catch her before she is asleep and place her down to sleep, or by allowing her to subtly awaken as I place her in her bed, aware that she is not sleeping firmly pressed into mama's body. This has been slow and agonizing as I expected it to be but I have hope that in a couple of months we will see some positive change, and that is better than nothing.

There are still these moments, at 20 weeks pregnant, that I feel I have to wean her. I just can't take the grabbing, and screaming, and stuffing of hands down my top and general assumption that they are all hers for the taking all the time. Once my frustration wears down and typically I get a bit of food in my belly and think more clearly, I realize just what breastfeeding means to Lennon. It is her safety, her food, her quiet space, and her recharge. It is in essence everything she needs to survive. The rest of what she has could come or go and she would be fine but she will fight for her need to breastfeed because still, at 23 months, it is a survival tactic. It could be years before this fades away and she becomes an independent version of herself. Forcing her to stop could be harmful to her sense of security and independence. She should want it for herself as much as I want it for her.

I always said that I would nurse Lennon as long as the relationship worked for both of us. I am beginning to realize that isn't quite true. If it were, I would have probably stopped nursing her in the first four months, easily the most difficult time in our breastfeeding journey. I said many times to James that I hated breastfeeding. I hadn't yet learnt the joy in it. Yet I found myself persevering because I knew that even if I didn't think I could do it, I could, and most importantly, my child needed it. She needed me to accept the things I could not change and work had to change the things I could. I am her mother and she is not a challenge for me to overcome but a person I must accept. At 23 months, we are working hard to establish boundaries so that we can both happily continue to breastfeed. For now though, we are still breastfeeding and knowing that this may be the most difficult chunk of our relationship yet, but I wasn't raised to be a quitter and I won't raise my daughter to be one either. We strive hard for balance in all aspects and sometimes the balance comes from releasing your ego and non-serving emotions and surrendering to the present and how amazing it is.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Gaining Patience When You Have No Patience

I'm not going to act like some patient person who strolls through life unaffected. I write this post mainly for myself because the truth is, I'm incredibly impatient. As in, ask me the same question twice in a small period of time and I will probably snap at you. This has pretty much been my entire life. Things need to happen instantly or else I become edgy and irritable. Naturally, my first born child is much the same. We both want a response quickly. We want to be heard fully. We do not want to hear no or deviate from our well thought out plans. In short, we both need to work on our patience and I strongly believe that we were brought into one another's lives to help practice this difficult skill together.

Here is what I have been doing recently, as my patience grows shorter with my expanding belly and shrinking support network:

1) Breathe.

Literally stop everything you are doing and take deep, low inhale and exhale breaths through your nose. I am trying hard to teach Lennon the importance of breathing through our emotions. This has been a huge asset for me taught through the always inspiring practice of yoga. 5-10 breaths will help, at least temporarily until it starts to happen more naturally, avoiding an impatient outbreak beforehand.

2) Shake and Shimmy.

It may sound funny and it does look silly but sometimes when the impatient monster clings to your back, you literally need to shake it off. This is especially helpful for teaching young children how to get rid of difficult and overwhelming emotions. Physical manifestations of an otherwise intangible emotion make it kid friendly for understanding how to deal with it. Plus, while you may feel silly at first, laughter is an amazing cure for anything. My husband has taught me this often as he chuckles and cracks jokes at my impatience and often it makes me realize just how silly I am being.

3) Mantras.

One of my labor techniques, again inspired by my practice of yoga, was to chant mantras over and over until eventually, they became true manifestations. Choose something that helps keep you where you want to be. I lose my patience the most frequently around Lennon's sleep issues. If it has been the fourth time I have unlatched her to put her to sleep and she keeps rooting back for more boob, instead of freaking out (which I still do) I say in my head, You are strong, She needs help, Breathe, Remember that this too will pass, Smile. Sometimes I have to pump myself up before I even go into her room. Or in the car. Or at the store. You get the idea. Say it aloud or in your head. But say it often and believe every word.

4) Remove Yourself.

Of course there are times that you can't such as at the store or in the car, and that is when mantras or shaking and shimmying come in handy. But when you can, this can be a great tool. Even if your little ball of energy is chasing you around, taking the time to have a two minute break from whatever is pushing your patience button can keep you from flying over the edge.

5) Make Time for You.

If it is work, or children, or just a lack of desire to get out of your usual routine and do something for you, this can be an incredible tool. 2-4 hours of alone time where you focus exclusively on your own needs is crucial in recharging your grounded self to start fresh.

I hope these help you as much as they have helped me!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

365 Days Outside

In past years, living in the north has meant almost eight months of grey skies, snowy parks, and cold, cold noses. But I made it my priority last year to not let this reality of Northern living keep me inside. And so every day, as inspired by a friend on Instagram, I would take Lennon for a daily nature walk. Sometimes we would go all out in our winter clothes and play at the park until we had no choice but to go inside. We visited the mountains and had an amazing time of fresh air and powder snow with family and friends. Other times, when it was really cold out, or had been a rough night, we would just walk around the block, at least breathing in some fresh air and changing our scenery.

Then we moved here. Life seemed to be slowly unravelling as we adapted to life with a work out of the house daddy, a serious lack of friends and family, and a newly pregnant and very sick mama. Some days I just wanted to lay in bed and sleep away all of my bad feelings. We did spend more time inside than we were used to. Instead of making me feel better, it made me feel worse. Slow and lazy as we sat on the couch watching more TV than we were used to watching. Then Lennon realized that where we are living is fantastic. The houses are gorgeous and unique, cactus growing all over the place, huge and energy fuelled trees that were breaking free of their concrete shackles all along the roadways. Parks full of people, playing and running and biking and enjoying the fact that here, the sun shines almost 330 days a year and winter is a mild fall compared to what we are used to. I couldn't deny her going outside anymore.

And then it dawned on me, after what felt like the longest weekend of stress, that what I actually need most of all, is to get outside. Everyday. Not just every other day. So many of our tasks and goals get put ahead of our innate need to enjoy the plants, the animals, the ocean and the mountains. Everything else could wait while me and my girl got outside and enjoyed the beauty of this world instead of hiding behind a virtual reality.

Today, on our first bike ride since moving here, I realized that we need to do this everyday. Even if only for half an hour, we need to step outside of our responsibilities and remember how amazing the world outdoors truly is. I challenge you to join me, regardless of where you live, to get outside everyday for half an hour or more and turn off your technology and just look around. Enjoy the world. Enjoy 365 days outside with me!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Homemade Broth and All It's Possibilities

Many recipes call for broth. Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater, broth is an essential to keep on hand in the kitchen for quick recipes. The thing that has always shocked me is the price of broth at the store. Why do I find it so shocking? Because broth is literally a combination of water and leftovers, the bits that you would otherwise throw away and never think of again. Instead, here is what I do regularly to keep broth in my home and money in my wallet.

If you are a veggie, save all of your veggie ends when you cook meals. The skin off of onions, the stalk of broccoli, the tops of carrots, keep them all! Throw them into a resealable plastic bag and store them in your freezer. If you are a meat eater, save the bones from a chicken, turkey, lamb, whatever. You can use veggie leftovers in your broth as well to enhance the flavour and nutritional value. But bone broth is very nutrient dense so you don't need to. With American Thanksgiving coming up, there is no better time to save those bones and stock your freezer full of delicious broth for winter soups.

When you have free time, or if you need the broth for a recipe quickly, you can take out your frozen bag of goodies and simply add them to 8 cups of water. The more scraps you have, the stronger the broth will be depending on your water to solid ratio. Throw it all in a big pot, add salt and onion if you don't have onion in your scrap mix, and bring to boil. Lower to a simmer and keep it there for anywhere from 30 minutes for veggie all the way to 4-6 hours for bone broth. Adding a touch of apple cider vinegar helps pull the nutrients out of the veggies or bone.

When you are done simmering, you drain the solids, but remember to place another pot below your strainer, after all it is the liquid you are preserving not the solids! You can either use it immediately, as I did today, or you can put it in a tupperware (old yogurt containers work wonders), date it and pop it in your freezer. The next recipe that calls for broth will have delicious, low sodium, cheap broth made from home!

Today I made a batch of veggie broth for a yummy veggie noodle soup. After I finished the broth, I simply added sauteed onion and garlic, carrots, celery and rotini pasta. Simmered on low for about 7 minutes, added marjoram, salt free Mrs. Dash and salt and voila, a delicious, nutritious and easy lunch for me and the toddler.

Besides soup, I use broth to cook noodles for chow mein, or rice, or simply to add a bit of flavour to steamed or boiled veggies.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Learning to Teach Your Child

Of course, we are all constantly teaching our children, even as small babies that seem like blobs. They are still learning and watching and growing from adults just being in our presence and living life. But I'm more referring to the moment that you suddenly realize you don't have one of those little blobs that live for wild play and running carelessly. Suddenly you have this little person who still cherishes the free play and park adventures, but is starting to ask the question "why?" all day long and wants to be involved in every single task that you need to accomplish in your day.

Lately I have been feeling as though Lennon wants and needs more from me than just cuddling, playing and hanging out. She seems restless around the house even after hours of running at the park. She has become inquisitive and curious about process. Around the age of two, some toddlers make the move from home to preschool to begin on their journey of higher education. I asked Len the other day if she wanted to go to school. She said yes. Then I told her that mama wouldn't be there and she said no tanks. A big part of who Lennon is is directly related to her relationship with me. And I anticipate this relationship dynamic to remain constant for years to come. We still breastfeed and therefore spend as little time apart as can be managed. I started asking myself what I could do to help keep her engaged during the day for both of our sakes without having to pay 1700 dollars a month for preschool (thank you Santa Monica) and spend hours separated when I know she is not developmentally ready for that.

Then one night, as every night goes, I was beginning to make dinner and she wanted to help. Not in the  here is your own little pan and spatula way but in the I want to mix things together and saute way. Which can be a lot to manage at first with a Toddler who isn't all too sure of what cooking is all about. She wanted desperately to cut the veggies just like I was but I don't have a knife she can use and don't think she is quite there yet. Instead I decided to talk to her, tell her about how I was cutting the sweet potato, and then gave her specific directions of what she could do to help. I told her that I would slice all of the fries, place them on the corner of the cutting board closest to her, and then she would pick them up, and put them on the baking sheet in front of her. She loved the idea! When the moment came for me to place the potato in its decided location I wondered if she would remember, listening and followed steps to accomplish a task. She thought about it for a second, then grabbed as many fries as those little hands could and threw them excitedly onto the baking sheet. She laughed hard when they landed and we high fived. This was fun!

We continued on easily and enjoyably, getting dinner made and doing what felt like our first for the clear objective of learning task completed. Lennon's love for cooking and desire to learn more made me realize that she doesn't need to go to an expensive preschool to learn exactly what she needs right now. She could get it all at home and I could learn how to teach my child. The idea really excites me. Also, more hands to help the better!

My plan is simple and open. Everyday we will spend time doing an art project, working with our hands and being creative; read books and sing songs, this already happens, but spending more consistent and dedicated periods of time doing these activities; cook dinner, during lunch she likes to roam around the house but dinner is a time when she loves to climb on her bench and get involved in dinner all the way until its on her plate; outdoor play, our park dates are necessary and wonderful in the warm sun; field trip, once or twice a week we will go somewhere educational and exciting including museums, the library, art galleries, the ocean, the mountains, and more; social time, as both a family on the weekends and as just mama and babe during the week, every week we will have dedicated social time with friends in an intimate setting; baking, we will weekly bake a loaf of bread and sometimes something sweet to enjoy. The cleaning and grocery shopping we already do is a consistent part of Lennon's learning process too but it is intrinsic and necessary so I find I never put them off. Other aspects I can get lazy, turn on the tube, and hope it satisfies my exceptional child while pretending I didn't have plans.

Today was the first day of our open schedule. Lennon woke at 4:30 and sort of set the tone of the day slowly. I tend to feel fatigued and slow in my body on Mondays and so we took it easy inside. We started by doing crafts and had actually painted, cut and glued shapes, and made number cards by 8 am. We had a snack and moved on to books. Then the day ran away from us during intense moments of teething and need to nurse constantly and refusal to sleep or eat. Sometimes even the best of intentions can't stand up against teeth. We did make dinner together and had a great time. Cooking is definitely her favourite thing.

Tomorrow we will see how things flow but we are hoping to meet up with some friends and play at the park, as well as baking yummy cookies to satisfy mama's craving. How wonderful this school year shall be!

What ways have you learnt to teach your child and how do you go about it?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

California Dreamin'

One of the best ways to explore and discover a new city is to go out and just wander aimlessly. Eventually you find some really sweet spots and begin to learn the area you live in, helping it to feel more like home. Len and I have been spending quite a bit of time just wandering around and let me say it is so easy to do down here. Every day its sunny. And I'm not exaggerating. The weather is a perfect long sleeve and pants but flip flops are still good temperature. One of the things I have been most enamoured with, even more than the cool city full of shops and music and art, is the adorable, almost dream like neighbourhood we live in.

Today Len and I walked through the park behind our place and a couple of blocks to the library before dinner. I snapped some quick iphone photos along the way to share with everyone just a little glimpse of Santa Monica. I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Blooming flowers on November 1st!

Palm trees and unique architecture everywhere


White and shale houses with bright green trees and blue sky. Heavenly!

Modern architecture at its finest.

Amazing vine like tree roots and sandals in November

The streets are lined with these gorgeous, huge white and green trees. Must discover what they are called!

Cactus gardens instead of lawn because people know you can't battle nature! Thank you!

One of those amazing trees with planters and Halloween decorations hanging off of it. Adorable house behind but the tree sort of overtook.

California Cool