Category Archives: Natural Parenting

Viral Hives and a Healing Oatmeal Bath

Little Katie has had an awful virus.  It started with not sleeping.  Then came croup.  Then fever.  Then a runny nose.  And finally, hives.

Until now, I had no idea that hives could be associated with a virus, but according to the book the pediatrician gave us, it’s not uncommon.  Hives aren’t just an allergy thing.

Poor kiddo looked like she’d been in a fight with a poison ivy plant.  Her face was swollen, and they always seemed to flare up the worst at nap and bedtime.  Benadryl didn’t help and neither did the cortisone cream that the doctor suggested.

Katie does not like feeling itchy all the time.
Katie does not like feeling itchy all the time.

So I did what any good mom in 2013 does.  I posted on Facebook.  Right away, several of my allergy-suffering friends suggested oatmeal baths.  Of course!  I had completely forgotten about those!  But when I had an itchy skin reaction to a sunburn as a kid, those little packets were the only thing that provided relief.

But do you do when you don’t have the little packets?  Easy! If you’ve got oatmeal in the pantry, you’re in business.

Katie’s hives were bad enough, and we’d been suffering from no sleep and no naps long enough that I decided to kick things up with a little coconut oil and some essential oil.  Remember, when you’re working with essential oils, not all oils are created equally.  You can’t get good oils from a health food store because even though those are labelled as pure essential oils, they may be blended with other oils or even come from a totally different plant!  I get mine from a variety of places.  Do your research on your essential oils.  That’s all I’m saying.

The ultra portion of the ultra healing bath
The ultra portion of the ultra healing bath (that blue thing on the coconut oil lid is a silicone bracelet that I use to help get the lid off)

I tied it all up into an old stocking and soaked it in the tub.  The result was a soothing, milky, nourishing bath and one happy toddler.  The stocking made a great washcloth to sponge the oatmeal and coconut oil over her body, although when it was floating around in the tub, it really creeped Katie out for some reason.  Unless I was actively sponging, she wanted that thing out of the water and safely perched on the edge of the tub where she could keep an eye on it.

The super creepy oatmeal stocking
The super creepy oatmeal stocking

In the end, the oatmeal bath did wonders for her itchiness.  It gave her relief until the hives could disappear on her own later that evening, and in the end, that is just what I hoped for.

Ultra Healing Oatmeal Bath

  • 1 Cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut oil (extra virgin is preferred, but I’m having trouble finding that here in the Midwest, so I used refined this day)
  • 2 drops melaluca essential oil (tea tree oil) – soothing for itchy skin
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil – calming and soothing for a sad baby
  • 1 drop peppermint – cooling for inflamed skin
  • 1 stocking or sock or other container to hold the ingredients

Grind the oats into a very fine powder, and pour it into your stocking.  I used a canning funnel to make it easier to get everything in without spilling everywhere.  Add in the dollop of coconut oil on top of the ground oats and push a little indentation into your blob to be a bowl for the essential oils.  The canning funnel is really handy here because it lets you see what you are doing inside the stocking.  Drop in your essential oils, and immediately toss into the tub.  Let it soak for a few minutes until the water is milky.  Then add the cranky toddler and watch the magic happen.

Swishing and squeezing the stocking helps mix more of the oaty/oily goodness into the water.  As an added bonus, lots of sponging and handling the stocking gave me very smooth hands, a relief from the dry winter skin that I’ve started having.

 

The only drawback to this bath is the gnarly oat residue and the ring it leaves around the tub.  It was fairly easy to clean, though, since I keep one of those soap dispensing scrubbers in my bathroom with a soap/vinegar mix anyway.  I just grabbed that, swished around the ring and the bottom of the tub, gave it a quick rinse, and I was done.

I hope this recipe brings relief to you all like it did for us!

 

Hippy Hygiene Experiment # 2: Homemade Deodorant!

Since Katie was born, I’ve struggled with not wanting to use deodorant.  When she was a newborn, I was concerned about the strong fragrances.  I mean, with her nursing all da and having her nose a few inches away from my pits, it seemed to me that the fragrance in the commercial deodorant would potentially be too strong for her.  Newborns have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell.  In fact, it’s their primary sense.  They use it to find Mama and find the breast to nurse.  I wanted her to bond with me.  Not my deodorant.

I tried a number of unscented options, and the first thing I discovered is that unscented things definitely do have a smell.  And often a really gross one.  They also didn’t work that well.  They left me feeling sticking and stinky by the end of the day.  It wasn’t working out.

I tried the crystal thing.  The spray version, the roll on version, and the actual hunk of rock.  No luck there either, although that really didn’t smell like anything which was nice.

I tried a mix of coconut oil and baking soda.  This worked for a while (and was pretty much scent free), but eventually I started reacting to the baking soda.  Let me tell you, itchy, burning armpit rashes are not awesome.  Adjusting the coconut oil to baking soda ratio did not help.

Finally, I settled on plain coconut oil.  This worked really well actually!  Shockingly well.  So much so that I started recommending it to friends who shared my concerns about using commercial deodorants.

Fast forward a few months.  Katie is now well out of the newborn stage, I’ve started using things that smell like things again (NO CHEMICAL FRAGRANCES!) and I’ve gotten tired of the plain coconut oil.

Also, I moved to a hotter climate and the plain coconut oil wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore.

I started doing research again, found a few recipes, experimented, and I would like to reveal to you all how I get by being a non-deoderant/anti-perspirant wearing hippy who doesn’t smell at all!

You will find loads of similar recipes around the web (and I have linked to some below).  I have no idea who to credit for the original base recipe that I have modified to suit my purposes and my baking soda-sensitive skin.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Use high quality essential oils here.  Don’t get your oils from the health food store because they are basically garbage.  Trust me here.  Don’t do it. They will not work the same way.
  • This is not an antiperspirant.  Yes, you will still sweat.  This is a good thing.  Your body needs to sweat.  This is a deodorant to keep you from being stinky and it definitely works for that.
  • I’ve picked essential oils for specific reasons (and noted those), but if you don’t like the way it smells, feel free to play and make your own scent.

Refreshing Homemade Deodorant

You will need:

  • 1/3 C arrowroot powder (you can find this in the baking section of any natural food store)
  • 1 T baking soda
  • Coconut Oil warmed slightly so it is liquid (you can stick it in a sunny window for a few hours) – naturally anti-bacterial
  • 3 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca) essential oil – anti-fungal, soothing for razor burn and other rashes
  • 3 drops Peppermint essential oil – cooling and refreshing, be aware that adding too much can be REALLY cooling
  • 7 drops Lavender essential oil – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, soothing to the skin

Combine the arrowroot and baking soda thoroughly.  Drop in the essential oils and mix.  Begin mixing in the coconut oil until it makes a paste that is slightly thinner than toothpaste.  Start with 4 Tablespoons and add as you need to get the consistency.  I find that  a fork works best for this.  At this point, you can tweak the scent by adding more essential oils one drop at a time if you wish.  Go slow with the essential oils.  They are strong, and less is often more.  The dry ingredients will want to sink to the bottom so as soon as you get all the lumps out and it’s well mixed, pour it into a lidded container and place it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  This will harden the coconut oil and help keep everything in suspension.

To use, scoop out a small amount (the size of a large pea) and rub between your hands to warm it up to liquid.  Then, rub it onto your pits like a lotion, and you are good for the day!

I keep mine on my bathroom counter, and my house is cool enough that is stays solid.  I also think the arrowroot is helping to keep it solid.  If it liquefies, that’s okay, too.  It won’t spoil.

Have any of you ever tried a homemade deodorant?  How did you make it?  How did it work for you?

Is it time to take my own advice?

Way back in November 2011, I wrote a post called In Defense of Nail Biters.  At the end of the article, I gave the following advice to parents whose kids bite their nails:

If you have a kid who bites his or her nails, please just leave them alone and let them grow out of it on their own.  The more you push, the more they’ll bite.  Please don’t feed the cycle.

I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking my own advice.  Oh sure, I leave Gabi alone about biting her nails, but there’s this other habit that she’s developed that I bug her about constantly.  Gabi has the habit of twisting and twisting her hair until it is tied in knots.  We call this “making dreadlocks , and we constantly pester her to stop.  When I brush her hair and I can tell it’s really tangled, I always ask, “Have you been making dreadlocks?”  And she always hangs her head and says yes.

Thinking about it, though, how is “making dreadlocks” fundamentally different from nail biting?

Hard truth?  It isn’t, and I’ve been shaming my kid about it, and that is not okay.

Man, that is so hard to write.  Acknowledging that I have a problem, though, is an important step in making positive changes.

I need to get honest with myself.   Why does the dreadlock making bother me so much?

  • It makes tangles that are hard to comb.  She combs her own hair for the most part, and isn’t what what conditioner and detangler is for?  It is her hair.  If she is not bothered by it, I need to not be either.
  • It breaks her hair.  I originally wrote that sentence as, “It breaks the hair.”  I had to go back and rewrite it.  It’s not the hair, it’s her hair.  Like fingernails, hair grows.  I need to let this go.
  • It leaves her hair looking perpetually messy.  She’s a little girl full of energy, bounciness, and excitement.  Her hair will never be perfectly coiffed.  Mine sure never was.  I need to let her get on with more important things like swinging on swings and following ants.

And for some reason, and I have no idea why, it’s almost like I take the dredlock making as a personal attack.  Like she’s doing it just to bug me especially.  And that is completely irrational.  There is some baggage deep inside that I can’t pinpoint that I am asking my five-year-old to carry.  And that is not fair to her.

As an adult, it is up to me to set the tone of the relationship.  I can make our relationship about pestering and nagging, or one of peace and attachment.

Right here, right now, I am choosing peace and attachment.

This is me, sitting down, taking stock of where we are in our family, and making the decision to take my own advice.  I’m not going to bother Gabi about her hair anymore.  We’ve got better things to do.

More Cloth Diapering Saga: Wool

When we left off oh-so-many months ago, I was in the process of switching Katie from disposable diapers to cloth diapers for night time, and I was just about to try wool for the very first time.  My wool finally arrived in the mail, I lanolized it (more on that later), and tried it out.  We haven’t looked back!  When she wears the PUL covers (the ones with the plastic, waterproof lining) we get leaks.  When she’s in wool? NO LEAKS.

So, let me share with you my love of wool.  I love wool so much now that Katie goes to bed dressed in wool from head to toe.  You might find yourself wondering, “Why wool? Won’t it be hot? Itchy?”

Why Wool?

Surprisingly, I have found that Katie sweats far less when she is in wool.  This is because, unlike cotton, the wool wicks moisture away from her skin and allows it to breathe.  Even on the hottest nights here–and believe me, with no AC and the Santa Ana winds blowing, we get some hot nights–her skin feels cool, fresh, and dry under her PJs.  When you’re hot, wool helps you cool down.  When you’re cold, it warms you up.  Additionally, because she doesn’t have her butt wrapped up in what is, if you think about it, a plastic bag, her little bootie can breathe, too.

What about the itch factor?  This is a biggie for me.  I am one of those people who thinks of themselves as being “allergic” to wool.  I hate wearing wool sweaters.  The itching just makes me insane.  That said, I have not found the baby wool, which is generally 100% merino, to be itchy at all.  It’s very soft against the skin.  She seems to sleep comfortably in it, and there are no signs of irritation on her skin in the morning.  Something about the way this wool is processed helps to ensure that it stays soft.

Some other advantages of wool?  Wool is naturally fire retardant so you don’t need to worry about the harsh flame-retardant chemicals in pajamas.  Because of the lanolin, wool is self-cleaning and doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as another kind of cover or clothing.  Longies and shorties (long pants and short pants) make great articles of clothing on their own so you don’t need to worry about finding clothes to fit a cushy cloth-diapered baby butt, which, as my friend Katie explained her her cloth diapering guest post last year, can be a legitimate problem. Actually, it’s best to not put anything over the wool.  Cotton pajama bottoms run the risk of wicking the urine out of the wool and into the cotton, so the wool stands alone as diaper and PJs all in one.

Katie in all her wooly glory.

Wool Care

Wool care is easier than you might think, so please don’t be intimidated.  If I can do it while working 40+ hours per week outside the home and chasing two busy kids, it’s got to be easy, right?

The main thing to remember about wool is that you don’t actually need to wash it that often.  I wash mine every 2-3 weeks, and it does just fine!  The lanolin in the wool and the naturally antibacterial properties of the wool itself make it self-cleaning.

Lanolizing is basically infusing the wool with more lanolin.  Lanolin is just the natural oils that sheep have on their skin and wool.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) since the sheep is no longer attached to the wool, you do have to replenish the lanolin periodically.  I do this at the same time as I clean it.  It all gets cleaned and lanolized in one go.  Easy!

So here’s how I clean and lanolize my wool (I usually clean and lanolize two covers at a time):

  1. Run your water until it’s very, very hot.
  2. Put a dime sized blob of lanolin onto the bottom onto the bottom of your sink or a basin.  I use a basin dedicated to the purpose because the lanolin leaves a sticky residue that I am too lazy to clean out of my sink every time.  If I get extra lanolin on my fingers, I don’t bother to scrub it off.  I just wipe it off on the crotch of the waiting wool.  A little extra in the wet zone never hurt anyone.
  3. Run a bit of very hot water over the blob of lanolin (just enough to cover it) and swish it around until the lanolin melts.  Remember, it’s oil so it won’t mix with the water.  Squishing the blob with the non-fuzzy end of my toothbrush helps me think it melts faster.
  4. Add the wool wash as directed by the manufacturer, and yes, you do need a special wool wash for this.  More on this later.
  5. Swirl the wool wash around the basin gently and you will notice that the lanolin clumps disappear and the water turns milky and white.  This is exactly what you want to happen!
  6. Add cool water to fill your basin.  The resulting water should be a little warmer than room temp, but not hot enough to take a bath in.
  7. Add your woolies, squashing them around to make sure they get really saturated.
  8. Walk away and forget about it for a while.  I usually leave mine overnight or all day while I am at work.
  9. When they’ve soaked long enough, squeeze the excess water (no need to rinse if you’re using a proper wool wash), but don’t wring them out.  Just squeeze.
  10. Roll them up in a towel and squish the towel to get even more water out.
  11. Allow them to dry completely (24-48 hours).

Honestly, I know this sounds involved, but realistically, steps 1-8 take five minutes.  I have been known to lanolize woolies while I am at work, even.  It’s so quick to get the soak ready that I can do it as I brush my teeth.

When the wool is dry, it will feel a little sticky.  This is fine.  It’s just excess lanolin.  It will wear off on your baby and you as you snuggle together.  No need to worry about lanolin residue on the skin either. It is actually good for your skin.  Think of the lanolin nipple creams!

What about the Wool Wash and the Lanolin?

Wool wash is easy.  I use Eucalan.  It smells amazing and you don’t have to rinse it.  I have friends who use wool wash bars.  Do not use Woolite.  It is definitely not the same thing.

Lanolin is slightly trickier.  I have tried Lansinoh lanolin, but I found that the new version doesn’t melt well and the water doesn’t get cloudy when you mix in the wool wash.  I have a tube of old, expired Lansinoh from when Gabi was a baby and that works pretty well.  They must have changed the way they process it at some point.  I have been told that Medela lanolin nipple cream absolutely will not work, and this is probably because it is not 100% pure lanolin.  My current favorite, though, is Sheepish Grins solid lanolin that I get from my local baby store.

Wool diaper covers are great.  They’re amazing for overnight and heavy wetters and they are a wonderful, natural alternative to PUL.  You wouldn’t think that a butt sweater would make a great diaper cover, but they do.  Since switching to wool, we haven’t had a single leak!

If you’re interested in trying wool, but you’re not to hip on shelling out the big bucks for an expensive wool cover, I recommend the Disana merino wool cover.  It’s a great price and allows you to try it out before committing to multiple expensive covers. This was the cover that got me hooked on wool!

Have you used wool or did you find it too intimidating?  Do you use it all the time or only at night?  What is your wool washing routine like?

Stay tuned! I’m experimenting with making my own wool covers.  I will update you once I get my technique figured out. I’m also playing with flat diapers. More on that later, too!

Edited to add: By the way, if you are interested in getting the diapering items I mentioned here, you can help support this blog by clicking through to Amazon using this link: http://astore.amazon.com/knoupknoove-20

I’ve put together my favorite diapering items and other parenting and related items. Ordering through this link does give a small percentage that will go to covering the cost of the domain and other associated small costs. Thank you!

No, really. I’m sleep deprived.

It is amazing how completely different my two girls are.  Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their habits.

Right now those differences are most apparent in the realm of sleep.  Gabi was such an easy sleeper.  She had her moments.  Like with all babies, sleep comes and goes.  In retrospect, it was predictably cyclical, though.

We (and if you’re a new parent take notes) expect to see sleep regressions around the time of growth spurts and milestones.  Four months and eight months are a very big deal.  Milestones and growth spurts all converge during those times and sleep takes a hit.  A big hit.

But it passes.  I remember with Gabi wondering if I was doing something wrong.  I remember thinking, “Gosh, do I have to sleep train her?”  I wondered if she just wasn’t able to sleep because I never taught her to do those things that my coworkers were talking about.  I remember words like “self soothe,” “bad habits,” and others whirling around my brain.

Thank heavens for the Kellymom.com forums.  They stay absolutely on message and make it very clear that you can no more “train” a baby to sleep than you can “train” a baby to walk and talk.  Sleep, Kelly says, is a milestone that many kids don’t reach for several years.

From Kelly’s article Sleeping Through the Night:

Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.

I’m so glad that the Kellymom forum moderators take such a strong stand on this issue.  It’s coming out more and more that leaving a child alone to “cry it out” (cry what out exactly?) can actually cause brain damage.

So I just plugged along through those mercifully short sleep regressions with Gabi, and, just like Kelly promised, the constant waking passed.

Thank goodness I know that now.  Katie is really giving me a run for my money.  Her 4 month sleep regression merged into a 6 month sleep regression and when we hit 8 months last week, all bets were off.  We are deep into the 8 month sleep regression with no end in sight.

Nursing to sleep. No longer the magic trick it used to be.

She’ll take an hour to nurse herself to sleep at night.  She wakes hourly to nurse.  This week we’ve added a new element to the mix.  She’ll nurse to sleep starting around 8:30 PM, but then when she’s finally asleep and letting go and I’m thinking I can drop off to sleep too, those little eyes pop open, and now YAY!  It’s happy baby fun time!  She crawls all around, practices pulling up on the side of the crib we have Macgyvered to our bed, climbs over me to try to get to the exciting looking alarm clock, chews on my shoulders, sticks her fingers up my nose and in my ears, and just generally has a cheerful and noisy time. 

Happy Baby Fun Time! Standing rules!

This went on from 9:45 last night to 11.  Finally, she went to sleep.  And then woke up every hour afterwards to sit up and crawl in a circle and then nurse again.  At 5:30 AM, she decided it was time to greet the morning.  So up she got.

No point in going back to bed.  I had work to get ready for.  So up I got, too.

I fantasize about a 4 hour stretch of sleep.  I can’t remember what that’s like.

Thank goodness for Gabi.  Thank goodness she taught me that this will pass and things will get easier.  Thank goodness for cosleeping!  Right now I can nurse her and then just roll over and fall back asleep.  Imagine if I had to get my tired self up, haul my carcass down the hall, try unsuccessfully multiple times to put her down in the crib without waking her, haul my carcass back down the hall to my bedroom, and then try to fall asleep?  Good lord!  That sounds like a nightmare!

I didn’t talk much about it when Gabi went through her wakeful cycles.  I didn’t have the same kind of supportive community, and I wanted to avoid the inevitable, “Well, maybe it’s just time to let her cry. I let my kids cry and they turned out just fine.” 

I’m more confident now, and I know from experience that this isn’t a forever thing.  So now, when people ask, I’m open about it.  I say, “We’re smack in the middle of the 8 month wakeful period.  It’s really hard, but I know it will pass, and I know that she needs me right now.”  Sometimes I follow with an, “I’m so glad we’re cosleeping.  It makes things so much easier for all of us.”

At any rate, I am seriously sleep deprived now.  I think I’m handling things pretty gracefully, but wow.  I’m tired.

Which is probably why this post is so disjointed.  Maybe tonight will be the night that she sleeps.

Sweet dreams are bound to come soon, right?

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs – The Answers

Last week, in celebration of Easter, Gabi and I dyed eggs using food-based ingredients.   Here’s a quick link in case you missed that post.  It was so much fun and a few of the colors were so surprising that I decided to make a game of it and let you guess which ingredients produced which colors.

Here’s that list of dye ingredients again:

  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Turmeric
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Yellow Onion Skins
  • Blueberries
  • Paprika & Chili Powder

And here’s that picture with the numbered eggs:

Which egg is which?

 

I had a few people guess in the comments and several guess in real-life and via email.  So here are the answers!

# 1 - Onion skins. I love how the membranes of the onions left that pretty pattern on the shell.
#2 was blueberries. Look at the polka-dots left behind where the berries rested against the eggs!
#3 was spinach. I think if I had processed the spinach in a blender I might have gotten a greener color. But it's still so soft and pretty.
#4 was a blend of paprika and chili powder. Juan said that this one looked like marble.
#6 was beets. This one actually changed pretty significantly as it dried. It turned into a beautiful green and purple marbled effect which you can almost see in this picture.
#6 was turmeric. I loved how speckled this turned out!
#7 was purple cabbage. This one was such a pretty surprise! Who knew that the purple cabbage would turn blue!

I hope you all had a wonderful week this week!  Happy Easter, happy spring!

Wordless Wednesday – Sitting Up

 The ability to sit up unassisted coincides with the closing of the gut in infants, which is why it’s an important milestone to wait for before introducing solids.

More info 

SAMSUNG

Easter Eggs, Naturally! – and a game

I loved dying Easter eggs when I was a kid.  I loved the colors.  I loved the weird smell of the dye.  I loved eating them afterwards and feeling so lucky when I got one where the shell had cracked and the white was tinted a nifty color.  Easter eggs are so much fun.

I haven’t dyed Easter eggs in years!

This year, I decided it was time to start passing that tradition along to Miss Gabi.  But, like many of the things I’ve done over the last year and a half, I decided to see if there was a natural way to dye the eggs.  As it turns out?  There absolutely is!

This year, we dyed eggs with things in our pantry!

It was surprisingly easy.  Sure, it took a bit more work than the PAAS kits, but only a bit.  I just hard-boiled my eggs, researched my ingredients, dumped them into jars, and made my dye.

Here’s how to dye the eggs:

  1. Put a handful of the ingredient into the bottom of a large mason jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over the ingredient to fill the jar.
  3. Allow the ingredient to steep in the hot water until the water cools (several hours).
  4. Place the eggs in the jars and poke them right down to the bottom.  The dye will overflow, so do this over the sink.
  5. Leave them overnight in the fridge.
  6. Pull them out in the morning and take pictures to show your friends on the internet.

Pretty!

These turned out so well.  The colors are so soft and the various ingredients I used to dye gave a pretty marbled appearance.

Here’s a shot of the jars of dye in action:

From left to right we have: onion skins, paprika & chili powder, blueberries, beets, turmeric, spinach, and purple cabbage.

I probably would’ve gotten darker colors if I had boiled the dye ingredients for some time instead of just steeping them and letting them cool right away.

The Game – Guess which Dye made Which Egg

Gabi and I had such fun finding out what colors the dyes made.  There were some real surprises in there!  See if you can match the eggs to their dyes!

Here are the dye ingredients again:

  • A. Spinach
  • B. Beets
  • C. Turmeric
  • D. Purple Cabbage
  • E. Yellow Onion Skins
  • F. Blueberries
  • G. Paprika & Chili Powder

Here’s a shot of the eggs, numbered to make it easier:

Leave your answer in the comments.  Next week, I’ll post the answers and you can see if you got them right!

Happy Easter everyone!

Advice for New Moms: Cultivate Gratitude

In honor of one of my friends who will be having her baby any day now, I thought it might be nice to pull together some of the thoughts I’ve been mulling over on different things that have made transitioning to motherhood easier for me.  I hope this is helpful, not only to her, but to my other mommy friends and readers.

Cultivate Gratitude. I don’t mean thanking your adult friends for helping you.  This goes without saying.  I mean cultivating gratitude toward your baby.  It can be so hard when you’ve been up all night, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you just can’t find a spare second to yourself.  I found myself, with Gabi, focusing on what I wasn’t able to do during the day.  I wasn’t able to eat breakfast.  I didn’t have time to go to the store. I didn’t get a nap. And on and on and on.

I found myself struggling emotionally with how I could manage everything.  I felt like my ability to have a life of my own was slipping away.  I became frustrated and occaisionally resentful.  I felt overwhelmed.

But Gabi was patient with me.  That’s the thing about babies.  They are so forgiving.  They won’t stop loving you if you mess up.  They won’t say, “I told you so.”  They won’t hold your mistakes over your head.

Gabi taught me that it wasn’t so important to be perfect.  She taught me to appreciate each moment.  Her patience and joy and love helped me to grow into the mother I am today.

With Katie, I was able to find something different within myself right away.  Instead of focusing on what I didn’t get to do during the day, I found myself feeling grateful for what I was able to do.  I thanked her every day for letting me take a shower, for letting me eat breakfast, for napping while I drove, for letting me suction her nose without a fuss, for putting her legs down while I changed her diaper, and on and on and on.  It’s amazing how powerful those two words can be.

Try it.  Say those words.  Say them out loud.  Say them when you’re frustrated.  When you’re in the shower and you’ve only just soaped your hair and your baby starts to cry and you know you won’t have time to do anything else except rinse the bubbles and dry off.  Say, “Thank you baby for giving me the time to wash my hair.”  Take a deep breath and let the rest go.  It makes a huge difference.

I am finding gratitude in all parts of my life.  I’m digging deep when my bouncy four year old knocks something off the table.

Thank you Gabi.  Thank you for your joy and energy.

I’m finding it when my husband is stressed and grouchy from work.  Thank you Juan for keeping a roof over our heads.

This gratitude helps me get through my day.

So my advice to new moms is this: Don’t focus on what you didn’t accomplish.  Thank your babies for the small things.  The small moments.  The time to eat a snack or use the restroom or shave your legs.  Find joy in the little things.

And to my daughters, Katie and Gabi?  Thank you.  Thank you both.  Thank you for your patience and your unwavering love.  Thank you for teaching me to be a better person.  You are my two blessings, and I give thanks for you every day.