Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Holding up the universe

Earlier this year, my mom gave me a great little book by Elder Holland, titled "Created for Greater Things." It is filled with beautiful photos and short inspiring thoughts. I love to thumb through it in the mornings while I sit down and eat breakfast (which doesn't happen too often!) I find it brings a lot of peace to my day. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

"What is the best that lies within us? Of how much are we capable? None of us yet knows.

An old Arabic legend tells of a rider finding a spindly sparrow lying on its back in the middle of the road. He dismounted and asked the sparrow why his feet were in the air.

 Replied the sparrow, “I heard the heavens were going to fall today.”

 “And I suppose you think your puny bird legs can hold up the whole universe?” laughed the horseman. “Perhaps not,” said the sparrow with conviction, “but one does whatever one can.""

I'm sure many of us have felt, at one time or another, that we are trying to hold up the universe with our puny legs, so to speak. Our lives can get so busy, hectic, and stressful, and it can be pretty easy to feel powerless in the turmoil. But "one does whatever one can." The good part is, when we really don't have the strength to keep our universe from crashing around us, there are people who can help. Spouses, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, even random strangers can help us when we are weak. And, if nothing else, we can have the Lord's help--"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)

Wishing you a very joyous New Year! Thanks for reading!

Sarah

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas--The Summer of the Soul

As part of our many Yuletide celebrations, Tyler and I watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol a few nights ago. I love that movie so much! Watching it as an adult is even better than as a kid, though, because you notice so many hilarious little comments and occurences that would otherwise go over your head.

I really enjoy the song with The Ghost of Christmas Present, when everyone is dancing in the square and rejoicing in full Christmas spirit. The lyrics are so perfect, I just have to quote a few of them here:

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the sprit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year.


It's in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It's all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas
A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas.

You can obviously tell what my favorite lines are. I had this song stuck in my head last night before bed, and I started to think about how nice it is that we have Christmas every year. Yes, "it is the summer of the soul in December." Summer, the physical summer, is about the blooming of life. In my mind I see vegetables ripening in gardens; children, carefree and barefoot, playing with their friends; tables laden with plenty to eat. I see long, slow sunsets. I feel warm, noonday sun. Summer is when you can stop worrying about catching headcolds, or wearing coats and gloves, or finishing your homework.  It's a time to take a break from the stresses of work and school--you take vacations, you celebrate the Fourth of July, you go swimming at the lake. That is the summer of the body. The summer of the soul, then, must be a break from our inward worries and walls. During Christmas, we shed some of our inward walls the way we shed layers of clothing in July. We are more willing to donate to charity, to participate in service projects, to think about what others need instead of what we want. We let our hearts soften and grow a little larger, to make room for loving people a little more.  At least, I hope we do. If we do not, then the wonderful blessings of the Christmas season are lost upon us, just as if we insisted on wearing sweaters and staying indoors on a beautiful summer afternoon.

I think Heavenly Father understands the renewing quality of rituals and traditions. We are told to pray every day, to attend church once a week, and to fast once a month. All these regularly occurring events have one purpose: to recenter us on the things that are truly important in life. These things are so important to keep us strong in our faith. They also help us find peace and happiness. It seems fitting that once a year we have a special time to participate in rituals that bring the Spirit of Christ into our hearts a little deeper. We sing carols, we laugh and play games with our loved ones, we make (and eat!) special, yummy, fattening food, we read the story of the Christ child born in a manger. It gives us a little extra time to pause and let a little wonder back into our lives. Sometimes life feels so humdrum, and it is so refreshing to just be still for a few moments in the midst of our celebrations and wonder at the greatness and glory of our God. I think Christmas gives us an opportunity, many opportunities, to do just that.

To return to the song I mentioned above, the importance of Christmas is to make this message--the message that God sent His Son to suffer, die, and live again for us--leave its imprint on our hearts all year. By the time we feel it fading away, Christmas will come again to renew and re-strengthen our sense of wonder. I think this, above all, should be our what we take away from our celebrations of Christmas. Strength, joy, love, peace in knowing there is a God in heaven--enough to last through a new year, with all its new challenges and possibilities.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making music

 I like to play the piano and sing. I am far from proficient in either area, but I am trying to improve. Having said that, I realized this week that there has been a subconscious, ongoing debate in my mind about my music for quite some time. The question is, whether my talents, limited as they are, are worth pursuing? I know that unless I dedicate significant time, effort, and possibly money, I will never have the true skill and creativity necessary to merit much attention or praise for them. Given my particular situation and current pursuits in life, these necessary dedications are not likely to happen. Why keep stumbling along with my imperfect, underdeveloped musical talents if I can never rise above mediocrity? Why keep going when I know so many other people who are much more advanced, much more able to express themselves through music than I am? When I think of my many friends, neighbors, and family members who can play piano so much better than I can, sometimes I hesitate to even touch the keys. When I hear people singing with voices they have striven to train and hone and perfect, sometimes I hesitate to open my mouth.

That is the one side of this argument--the devil's-advocate-side, if you will. Yes, the devil's advocate, because we all know what the correct answer to this question is. Of course I should not give up my talents. It would be wasteful, ungrateful, and--well--silly if I did.

I think this little debate has been left under my brain's radar for so long because that's where I usually put an end to this conversation. One side of my mind would ask the question, just as I have written it for you above. And then the other side of my mind would answer so smoothly and quickly, just as I have answered it here, that the matter was closed and pushed aside before I even noticed. But this time, it was different. This time I noticed, and I began thinking more about it. In my considerations, I discovered some new avenues of thought.

If we left all the singing, dancing, painting, sculpting, piano playing, acting, writing, and creating to the professionals, our lives would lose so much meaning. I believe we need this joy of creation because we, in an eternal sense, are meant to be creators. It is our nature--to stop creating would mean an end to much of our happiness. When I speak of creating and beauty, I do not only mean it in the traditional artistic sense. Creativity goes far beyond painting and dancing. It extends to every aspect of our lives: the homes we make, the children we birth, the friendships we forge, the careers we build. There is something about participating in the creation of beauty that gives an irreplaceable joy. The closer and more involved one is in the creation, the more joy and fulfillment we experience. Although my ability to play the piano is far below Jon Schmidt's, I gain far more joy in my imperfect attempts to make beautiful music than I ever would in listening to his albums every day.

It feels nice to conclude this ongoing debate. No, I will not become the next Jon Schmidt or Julie Andrews. But I will continue to make music because I now have a better understanding of why I need it in my life. Though my music is imperfect and full of limitations and mistakes, I will keep trying to improve it, one baby step at a time, gaining more and more joy with each song I play and each note I sing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Feeling Important


I've had a few different thoughts floating around in my head this week. I didn't really think they had much to do with each other until I sat down to write this post. I was pleasantly surprised when they fell together rather coherently.


Thought #1: For some inexplicable reason, I've been thinking quite often about the experience I had on Pioneer Trek when I was fourteen.* It helped me understand, in a small way, how much hard, physical work it took to cross the plains. It taught me to be grateful for the luxuries that we enjoy in modern life, and at the same time taught me that it is possible to be satisfied with less of them. The greatest lesson I learned, though, was about people. We did not get to choose our "families." If we did, I certainly would not have chosen the people that I spent those few days with. They all had personalities, interests, and goals that were completely different from mine. But by the end of the first day, I had grown comfortable with them. By the end of the trek, I had even grown to love them. Part of it came from the camaraderie of a common goal. But another part came from the experiences that allowed me to discover their strengths and their weaknesses. In those few days, I got to see more sides of these people than I probably could see in a year of casual friendship. To put it briefly, Pioneer Trek taught me that there really is something to love about everyone.


Thought #2: A friend and I have been conversing via email about ways to improve certain parts of our lives. As part of that conversation, I started to wonder when it was that people stopped offering refreshments--tea, water, cookies, whatever—when visitors came. It's easy to understand why people don't do it so much anymore. Since most of us work during the day, the era of formal "social calling" is long gone. And while it is still common to offer a glass of water to a visitor, it doesn't involve nearly as much work as being prepared with something a little more special to drink and maybe a nice crumpet or other treat. It's such a charming tradition, and we've lost it somehow. We still do it sometimes, but only for very defined occasions, like a party. Anyhow, something like that might seem very superficial and too formal for everyday occurrence, but after a great deal of thought on the matter, I really think it's just a nice way to tell someone that they are important.
(I'm not saying that offering a glass of water isn't good enough--I think it's a very thoughtful and polite thing to do. And there are many other thoughtful things to make a visitor feel at home!)


Thought #3: This led me to think about how crucial it is, in our day-to-day human relationships, to make others feel important. Just like my unlikely friends from Trek, everyone has immeasurable worth, even if it's not outwardly apparent. And I believe, in order to be happy, we must have some sense of this worth. We learn from Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (see my post on that book here) that one of the most basic, driving desires of humanity is to feel important. In Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Aibileen felt that the most vital thing she could teach little Mae Mobley was, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." And she said it every day, just to make sure Mae Mobley knew it. Last, and most significant of all, Christ made everyone feel important by performing miracles and other acts of service for others. Our Lord, the very Son of God, sought the uneducated, the poor, the lame, the lepers, the sinners, and healed them of all their infirmities.


Knowing this, I ask myself: What can I do differently to make others feel important? How can I let them know that they matter to me and to God? How can I say that I'm truly grateful to know them? I've thought of a few things, and I'm excited to make a greater effort to do them. What are your thoughts? What are ways you like to make others feel important?


I hope these thoughts of mine have brightened your week, even a little. You, reader, are important to me. :) Thanks for reading!


*For those that don't know what a Pioneer Trek is, it is a recreation of the Mormon Pioneer's struggles to cross the plains over the period of several days. We were sorted into families, wore Pioneer-type clothing, pulled our possessions in handcarts, slept and cooked our food outdoors, and participated in the same kind of recreation that the Pioneers enjoyed. Thankfully, we did have a truck towing Port-A-Potties for us.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: The Peace Carol

I was invited to sing The Peace Carol with a group of wonderful women in church on Sunday. I was not very familiar with the song; I only recognized it from the Christmas album by John Denver and The Muppets, which I listened to growing up. The last verse has been stuck in my head since then, and I've been thinking a lot about it.

Add all the grief that people may bear;
Total the strife and the trouble and care;
Put them in columns and leave them right there;
The peace of Christmas Day.

There's something in that image--putting all my burdens in piles on the ground and simply walking away from them--that is so captivating, almost in a surreal sense. I don't need to hold on to my griefs, my strifes, my cares. I don't even need to hold on to my sins. I can put them down, realizing that Christ is there to carry them for me--for unto this end was He born.





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Project: Gift from the Sea

I recently finished Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have not read such a transformational book in a long time! Today I'm just going to give you a few of my favorite exerpts that will hopefully spark your curiosity.

Gift from the Sea, only about 130 pages long, is a collection of thoughts and epiphanies that Lindbergh wrote during a two-week vacation to an island in 1955. Most of the subject matter is about the nature of woman, the problems that our modern, busy lives present, and the natural cycles a marriage goes through. I apologize in advance because I am going to quote a lot from the book, just because I found so much of it so inspiring. I hope you stick with it to the end! And believe me when I say that the following is just a small sampling of the treasures I found in her book!

"What is the shape of my life? The shape of my life today starts with a family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my  mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my heart and its desires. I want to givve and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

"But I want first of all--in fact, as an end to these other desires--to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can...an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God...

"...certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them.

"I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily--like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity..." Lindbergh then gives a terrific list of all the things demanding a woman's attention--laundry, dinners, parties, charitable organizations, carpools, vacations, shopping, media--I'm sure you can continue the list in your mind well enough. And then she says something that I really hit home with me: "This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul."

I loved this. I think she's exactly right. Women are pulled in so many directions by a million distractions each day that it becomes exceedingly difficult to stay centered. She says that it applies to men as well, but the problem is "particularly and essentially woman's...For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows...

"The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life...

"I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rythm between these two extremes; a swinging pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life."

"To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with? To say--is it necessary?--when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity."

Ah! I love love LOVE these thoughts and ideas! This was such a great reminder to me that I need time to reconnect with my core every day. It taught me that there is nothing wrong with leading a complicated life as long as I remember to keep reconnecting to my inner core, the hub of my wheel. I think in that way I can avoid the "multiplicity" and "fragmentation" that might otherwise happen to me if I let myself be pulled off balance. I think this will allow me to live a busy, complicated life in a simple, peaceful way.

I'm not joking when I say that I could quote way more passages from this book--in fact, this only covered one chapter of this wonderful little book. But I'll leave them for you to discover on your own, if you choose.

If you made it through this whole thing, thanks for sticking around! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the quotes I wrote down! Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Moments that Matter Most

So for my second Thoughtful Thursday, I wanted to share one of my favorite Mormon Messages. I know I've posted it on Facebook before, but it's nice to revisit it. Here you go. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l70e1TfN34w

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Project: Cheaper by the Dozen

You might be rolling your eyes and saying "Another book project post, really?" Yes, really. I do have a lot of books to get through, and I just happen to have finished several of the small ones in the last week. So bear with me, you'll be hearing a lot about books for awhile. At least this one is short and sweet. :)

So today it's Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It's a true story about an exceptionally large family and their exceptionally eccentric father. Mr. Gilbreth was a motion-study expert who travels all over the country helping factories speed production by eliminating needless motions and refining the practability of their machines. He believed that the way factories and families should run by the same methods, and brought up his children accordingly. This book is both heartwarming and hilarious.

I know that the above synopsis is a very poor one. But in order to convey how interesting and funny this book is, I would have to type up actual passages from the story...which I really don't have the energy for right now. So I'm just going to say that this book is lighthearted, laugh-out-loud funny, and well worth reading. I fully plan on reading this to my children, when they are old enough, and I'm sure that we will laugh ourselves to pieces over it! Five stars for Cheaper by the Dozen!

Book Project: How to Win Friends and Influence People

The third book I've finished as part of my book project is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. I found this book very interesting, especially since I just read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Though Covey and Carnegie use very different language, some of the practices they preach are very similar. However, Covey focuses much more on the private victory, and viewed his habits in light of helping you lead a more fulfilling, effective life. Carnegie focuses completely on the Public victory; and while the steps outlined in his book are geared to help you achieve results in your life that lead to greater prosperity and happiness, it is completely outward. There is no inward examination in his program. Nevertheless, I think his book can help one do exactly what it says--win friends and influence people.

He divides his book into four different parts: how to handle people, how to get people to like you, how to win people to your way of thinking, and how to be a leader. Each part outlines specific steps to help you achieve each ability. For example, the steps in part two consist of being genuinely interested in other people, smiling, learning to remember and use a person's name (I need help with that one!), being a good listener, talking about the other person's interests, and making the other person feel important. He supports each step with a great deal of empirical data and examples from history and from people who have taken his courses and implemented his suggestions.

Today, I'm just going to share a few brief quotes, representing some of the lessons that really struck me.

In chapter two of part one, he shares a quote from John Dewey which I really identified with: "The deepest urge in human nature is "the desire to be important."" Yes, the desire for importance plays a key role in the decisions we make every day. But is it really the "deepest urge"? Is there anything that goes deeper? One might say the desire to be loved is deeper, but it seems to be the same thing; we feel loved when we know that we matter, that we are important to that person, that it makes a difference when we aren't there. One might also submit that the desire to be happy is the deepest desire, but it is very hard, I think, to be happy without at least some feeling of importance.

Carnegie then goes a step further and says that without this desire to be important, civilization could not exist, and there would be nothing setting us apart from the animals. I don't know if I agree with this, either. Don't the animals have some sense of importance? Two males compete for a female in order to show which deserves to be her mate--isn't this a form of trying to be important? On the human side, I don't know if I can picture a civilization forming because people want to appear important; however, I can picture it forming out of a need for common necessities like food, clothing, order, justice, and protection. None of those seem to have very much to do with importance.

This is something that I'm still thinking through...if anyone has another view on this subject, I welcome your comments!

I'd like to share one more quote. Though Carnegie does not cite the source, I looked it up online and found it was from Stephen Grellet. It reads: "I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

I loved this beautiful quote. It is a reminder that time is short. We cannot very often make up lost opportunities to make a positive difference. We must do it now. Like Jose Alonso, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, counseled in the October 2011 General Conference, "Let us do the right thing, at the right time, without delay.

I really enjoyed this book! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Have you ever noticed how bloggers like to have a day of the week dedicated to a specific subject? Like Top Tip Tuesday, or Friday Favorites, or Molly Maid Monday. Well, I decided that I would make every Thursday a Thoughtful Thursday, where I will briefly share something inspiring.

Yesterday, my good friend told me about a website called whoisamy.com. She is a writer of very interesting books and doer of very interesting deeds. She also makes inspiring videos. This is my favorite, so far. It is called The Kindness Thought Bubble. I felt really moved and inspired when I watched it. I hope you will, too!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Project: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This was the first book I finished for my Book Project. I actually finished it a while ago, but it's taken me until now to write about it. This was the perfect book to get me motivated! I read and loved the teens version when I was, well, a teen, so reading the "grown up" version was very interesting and fun.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, here they are:
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win/Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the Saw

It's not my purpose to give a full-on summary of the principles taught in this book, so I'm just going to highlight a few that really changed my thoughts and attitude about life in general.
I learned a lot about thinking Win/Win. Covey spends a lot of time talking about how two people's ideas and needs can be combined to create solutions that are better than either of them could invent alone. I plan on applying this in more ways than one. For example, my husband and I have this silly conversation every Friday and Saturday night. It goes something like this:

Me: "What would you like to do tonight, honey?"
Tyler: "I want to do what you want to do."
Me: "Well, I don't know what I want to do. I'm good with whatever. So what do you want to do?"
Tyler: "I just want to spend time with you. I'm good with whatever, too. So really, what do you want to do?"

This usually continues until one or the other gives in and suggests something to do, for the sake of ending such a meangingless conversation. We sound like the vultures in Jungle Book, and it bugs the heck out of me. This might seem like a very trivial way to apply the win/win principle, but I think we can use it to start communicating better and come up with activities that both of us really want to do. :)
I think one of the wisest principles of this book is Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood. I've never forgotten the cover page of this chapter in the teens version. It says, "You have two ears and one mouth-HELLO!" It is so tempting to do the opposite. I worry so much about people understanding me that I often walk away from a new acquaintance and realize that I had told them plenty about my life without troubling to remember the details of theirs. I really need to work on this!

My favorite and most life-changing epiphany I had was on being proactive. Lately, I've been rather reactive, and this always results in frequent spurts of frustration and grouchiness when things don't go my way (which they often don't). In the last chapter of The Seven Habits, Covey relates an experience he had with a paragraph from a book. Strangely, he didn't include the actual quote, but he explains what it said in a way that I love. He says:

"I read the paragraph over and over again. It basically contained the simple idea that there is a gap or space between stimulus and response, and that the key to growth and happiness is how we use that space. I can hardly describe the effect that idea had on my mind...I reflected on it again and again, and it began to have a powerful effect on my paradigm of life. It was as if I had become an observer of my own participation. I began to stand in that gap and to look outside at the stimuli. I reveled in the inward sense of freedom to choose my response--even to become the stimulus, or at least to influence it--even to reverse it." (pg. 310)

This is a powerful idea. The best thing is, it's a very easy one to remember. Just keeping that phrase in my head--"the space between stimulus and response"--helps me to choose my actions much more carefully. I love the thought of standing in that space and considering my options before acting.

Overall, I really feel that my experience with The Seven Habits has changed me for the better. Before I read this book, I was feeling sorry for myself and a little stuck. I felt like my identity was becoming lost among the endless piles of dirty diapers and dirty dishes (I'm sure you moms have never felt like that before ;) ). I still feel that way, sometimes. But mostly I feel empowered, purposeful, and important in my own little sphere of living, and this book, combining with other inspiring influences, helped me feel it. Thanks, Mr. Covey!

p.s. Reviews on Emily Dickinson's poetry and Napoleon Hill's How to Win Friends and Influence People coming soon!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Project: Laddie

My book project is alive and well! I am happy to report that I have finished my second book: Laddie, by Gene Stratton-Porter. It took me awhile because I read it in spurts
and bursts while reading other things at the same time, but nevertheless, I loved it! I highly recommend it to anyone
wanting to fill their souls with wholesome, georgic goodness.
It's got the warm-fuzzy feeling of Little Women with the
fascinating descriptive power of My Antonia. I learned so much
from the beautiful, captivating characters! Allow me to share
a few epiphanies I had. But first, a synopsis:

"Laddie is the story of Little Sister, the twelfth and youngest Stanton child, and her special relationship with her older brother Laddie, a paragon of virtue and intellectual and physical attainments. The story is about Little Sister, the "unwanted child" who becomes the joy of the Stanton family, and about the triumph of true love. Little Sister plays a key role in brining together the Princess--their mysterious neighbor, Pamela Pryor--and her beloved brother, Laddie. Love conquers all as the Pryors are revealed to be troubled but good people, and the Princess and her family are accepted by Laddie's proud but charitable family. Little Sister is finally recognized as a truly blessed child, a special gift to the Stantons."

(This synopsis was taken from the back of my book, which is the edition you see pictured above.)
I was surprised at how effortlessly this book captivated me. Not in a Hunger Games/Harry Potter way, but in a gentle way--the way one might be captivated watching a brook or a fire. I felt that I was bypassing thousands of deep, thought-provoking ideas and lessons, but I was so interested in what was going to happen on the next page, I didn't take much time to stop and think. Despite my eagerness to devour the plot, a few life-changing ideas leaped out at me from the page and would not let me pass until I had at least marked them.

At one point in the book, Little Sister becomes very sick with lung fever, setting the whole family at work to heal her. Her brother sent her a book of poetry, and in it she read a poem that stuck with her. It was something about the buttercups and daisies in the springtime. On page 239, she says:
"That piece helped me out of bed...It was funny about it too. I don't know why it worked on me that way; it just kept singing in my heart all day, and I could shut my eyes and go to sleep seeing buttercups in a gold sheet all over our Big Hill, although there never was a single one there; and the meadows full of daisies, which were things father said were a pest he couldn't tolerate, because they spread so, and he grubbed up every one he found...Between the buttercups and the daisies I lef the bed with a light head and wobbly legs...The person who wrote the piece was an idiot. It sang and sounded pretty, and it pulled you up and pushed you out, but really it was a fool thing, as I very well knew." She goes on to say on page 241: "There was nothing in the silly, untrue lines: the pull and tug was in what they made you think of."

That made me realize that we all need some sort of literature in our lives that makes us feel that way. We all need something--a favorite poem, book, painting or piece of music--that gets inside our souls so that we can hardly sit still until we do something that makes us feel alive!

At another part in the book, the family is traveling home from church. Mother has Father stop the carriage so she can look out and see where they first looked at their land and decided where to build their home. This is a family who has spent years laboring with all their might to beautify their land and make it a true Eden. Surveying the fruits of their labor, Mother exclaims, "The Home Feeling!...It is in my heart so big this morning I am filled with worship. Just filled with the spirit of worship." (pg. 278)

When I read this, I stopped to think for a minute. What does it take to create that "Home Feeling"? What does it take to create a home so beautiful, you sometimes have to step back, look at it with wonder, and say to yourself, "I created this?" What does it take to produce fruits so pure and good, you can't help but be "filled with the spirit of worship"? I'm not going to venture an answer just yet; I think it deserves pondering for awhile. I only know that, whatever it is, I want that "Home Feeling" for my family.

There are several things I could devote another couple thousand words to, but this post is already long enough. Suffice it to say, I love this book, I will be revisiting it many times in years to come, and I highly, glowingly recommend it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

One step closer to finding the middle ground

I've written a few posts about helping my baby to sleep, mostly when I was using the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth. I read several other books after that, searching for solutions and advice to suit my baby's needs. Reading all these different approaches caused a bit of an information overload in my brain, and I was frustrated that I couldn't find one book that really fit our family's personality. There are so many styles, and so many different arguments to support each one.  I decided the best, most sensible book I read was Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears.

The basic tenets of Attachment Parenting are as follows: that our ultimate goal as parents should be to shape our children to be happy, trusting, compassionate, gentle, obedient, and independent individuals; that the foundation of this shaping comes from giving our children a secure base of trust and good communication in early infancy; that we begin to create this security by babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and always responding to their cries.

Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? I mean, that is my ultimate goal as a parent. I want my son to be kind, obedient, and communicative. I want him to be socially secure and confident. I want him to feel safe, especially when he's with those who love him. And most of all, I want him to be happy. So we tried it.

We began co-sleeping, bringing him in bed with us after his first night waking. He began waking up more often at night (which I knew would happen as a result of co-sleeping), but instead of having to sit up and rock him to sleep so I could put him back in his bassinet, I simply nursed him until he fell asleep. I loved cuddling with him, and I felt like our nights were much more peaceful. I held him and rocked him until he was fully asleep for naps and bedtimes, and learned to be ready to do it again if he awoke and cried 20 minutes later--which he very often did. I also started wearing Noah in the Moby wrap more, and you already know some of my positive experiences with wearing it. I was already breastfeeding on demand, so that was no problem. And I never let him cry if I could help it. 

However, my first blissful week of Attachment Parenting did not really carry over to the next. The main problem was with--you guessed it--naps and nighttime. I tired of spending hours at a time glued to the couch while I rocked my baby to sleep over and over again in attempts to give him a good nap. Noah got so used to me holding him as he falls asleep that Tyler had a very hard time soothing him if I happened to be gone for naps or bedtime. And the whole waking up every two hours to nurse him back to sleep at night was a problem. Co-sleeping was the greatest disappointment. Attachment Parenting does a good job of painting a beautiful, peaceful picture of co-sleeping, without addressing any of the potential problems or technical issues. Co-sleeping is no fun, for instance, when your baby eats too much from nursing all night and spits up all over you and your side of the bed. Then you have to get up, find towels, put a new pair of pajamas on (if you even have a clean pair of pajamas available), and mop up your baby's face--all of which do a great job of thoroughly waking the little stinker up. And sleeping only 90 minutes out of every two hours quickly becomes a form of slow, monotonous torture, even if all those groups of 90 minutes combine for a total of 7 hours.

***I have to interject here for a moment and say that reading and applying Attachment Parenting did one really good thing for me. It helped me to stop stressing when things don't work out my way (which I was doing a lot of before). It helped me realize that the relationship Noah and I build while he's awake is more important than the amount of sleep he gets. It helped me to relax and be happy, no matter what happens--or doesn't happen--during the day. It was worth reading Dr. Sears' book just for that purpose. I still love the philosophy behind Attachment Parenting, and I plan to use as many of their methods as I can to raise my children. ***

When I looked up solutions to these problems, most of what I found suggested that mom moves out of the bed while Dad does all the nighttime parenting (so that the baby can learn to fall asleep without snacking). Sorry, baby. This might sound selfish, but it was my bed first. Giving up sleeping in my own bed was not happening. The most discouraging suggestion was from Dr. Sears himself. The only advice he had for parents that have trouble co-sleeping is that Baby might not like to sleep so close to his parents, and that we should invest another $150 in a special co-sleeping bed that might or might not solve our problem. Really, Dr. Sears? That's all you've got for me? Gah.

I knew there had to be some middle ground--some way to teach my baby to soothe himself and get him to sleep for longer than two hours at a time (or 20 minutes for naps) while still enjoying a wonderful, perfectly attached relationship. So I brought my concern to my pediatrician, who suggested a controlled cry-it-out method. I was getting quite desperate, so we decided to try it, despite Attachment Parenting's insistence that leaving your baby alone to cry is an awful thing to do.

I spent the first night crying as much as he did. More, probably--he only cried for 45 minutes. I cried for most of the evening, convinced that I had broken his heart, that he had only stopped crying because he had abandoned hope of us ever coming back, that I was damaging our relationship forever.

I knew I couldn't do this unless I found reason to believe that I wasn't ruining my child's emotional well-being for the rest of his life. So the next day I hit the internet, in search for that middle ground. I searched for a good while before coming across two articles that put my mind at ease:

http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/cry-it-out-personality/

http://goodenoughmummy.typepad.com/good_enough_mum/2006/07/cio_sleep_train.html

I realize that articles on the internet are on an entirely different level from well-researched, expert-written books. But these two women express something that's sat in the back of my mind from the first time I picked up a book on infant sleep: that there is no "perfect" solution or parenting style for every family. 90% of these authors have no problem assuring you that their book is the Bible of sleep. Well, they're wrong. Attachment Parenting will not work for every family. Ferberizing will not work for every family. Neither will Babywise, or The Baby Whisperer, or Dr. Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits. It's a feel-your-own-way kind of game. Books can do a great deal to help you find solutions, but really the perfect solution for your family is whatever works.

If there are any parents reading this, you're probably going, "Duh, Sarah. Lesson number one." But this really is a huge discovery--and a huge relief--for me. So with my new discovery, I decided to keep following my doctor's advice to let Noah soothe himself to sleep--even if that meant a bit of crying.

It's night five. I went through our usual bedtime routine with Noah, kissed his forehead, and laid him in his crib, drowsy but still awake. I left his bedroom as he fell peacefully, quietly, soundly asleep all by himself. I'm not anticipating an end to all of our nighttime challenges, but I have found resolution for now, and I found it--hallelujah!--with the Ferber method. I still love the philosophy behind Attachment Parenting, and I plan to use as many of their methods as I can to raise my children. But I have also come to the conclusion that Dr. Sears is hardly the end-all when it comes to sleep.

My best friend told me not long ago, "YOU write the book on YOUR baby." I have to thank her, because that is the most powerful and truest advice I've received so far. So thank you, friend. I think I will.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's crazy, but it might just be possible

Hello all! Lately I've been needing a new project to work on so I don't go stir crazy being at home all the time (don't get me wrong, I love it, but it is very easy to go stir crazy sometimes). After tossing around a few ideas for awhile, I think I've finally found The One. It's called...

Read All The Books We Own That I Haven't Read Yet By October 2012.

Sounds crazy? Why yes, yes it is. We own quite a few books. And quite a few of them were Tyler's before we got married, not mine. And we've accumulated some since then. What's really crazy is I made this decision before actually counting how many books we own that I haven't read. I got a bit nervous while rearranging the bookshelf, but fortunately they all fit on two shelves.

Here they are!


FYI: I'm not counting these books.


Or these.




And especially not these. (Not yet, at least :)




I'm excited! I'm planning to write a little review-type post whenever I finish one. I'm starting with Laddie and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, so hopefully I'll post about those soon!

Cheers! ~Sarah

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

I love this time of year. I love the leaves turning yellow and crunchy, I love having a good reason to sip hot chocolate, and I love switching out my summer clothes for cozy sweaters, socks, and scarves. This is the time of year that I eagerly check the forecast every day, waiting for news of those 60 and 50 degree days. Although I will always prefer summer over winter, I do enjoy this brief season of light jackets and crisp, clean air.

I think I've listened to the weather about three times today, with only one thing in mind: how cool is it going to get, and how soon? I completely tuned out other details, such as "scattered thunderstorms" and "gusty winds." So I took no thought to these possibilities when I bundled Noah up in the Moby wrap and set off on a walk early this afternoon.

As you  might have guessed, it began to rain while we were walking. At first, it was just enough to make me want to get Noah out of it. I was at the park when it began, not too far from my mom's house. I turned around, thinking perhaps I might have enough time to get there without too much trouble. Then the winds picked up, and it became quite unpleasant. I decided to go instead to a little concrete overhang in the middle of the park, intending to wait it out. There were two other women there with their children. We stood under the roof while the storm peaked and began to subside. It was quite windy and chilly, and I had Noah completely covered under the Moby wrap. Before too long, the storm had calmed enough for us to walk quickly home.

Here comes the philosophizing. I believe that Heavenly Father takes care of us, even in little matters. Now, it could have been plain chance or luck that the storm hit when we were so close to a shelter--but maybe it wasn't. I had walked all over the neighborhood before the storm came, and 95% of that was rather far away from any place to stay dry. If the storm had come when I was two streets over, I don't know where I would have gone. Would I have run home? Would we have been soaked before we could get there? I don't know. But I was grateful that I happened to be at the park when the storm came.

On a similar note, I was glad that I was carrying Noah in the Moby wrap. I honestly don't carry him in it very much; since I'm mostly at home, there's not a very great need to carry him in it all the time. But I'm glad I chose to this time. Perhaps it did not provide much more shelter than a stroller and blankets would have, but it felt so good to hold Noah close during this small trouble, and know that my body heat was keeping him warm, that hearing my heartbeat would keep him calm, and that being so close to me made him feel relaxed enough to drift off to sleep.

There's a quote by John H. Groberg that comes to mind, "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm and sometimes He calms his child." I would like to add, "And sometimes He just gives us shelter, so we can wait it out."

:) Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Attachment Parenting

So I already wrote a blog post about this, but somehow it didn't save...so I am not going to write it all down again. The moment is already gone, so you're going to get the way watered-down version. This whole "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" approach was not making me a happy mamma. In fact, it was really stressing me out. I felt like the entirety of my child's well-being depended upon the number of hours he slept each day. And it just wasn't happening the way the books said it should  happen. I finally broke down when Noah started waking up twice the amount of times at night. That was the last straw. Noah and my husband were unhappy because I was stressed about something that, no matter how many hours I spent rocking and singing and soothing, I ultimately couldn't control.

Then came Attachment Parenting, and it has saved my life! I feel so much more relaxed and happy! Basically, AP is more about watching your child, not the clock; believing that when your child cries, it's for a good reason that should never be ignored; and keeping your child close to you 90% of the time, through babywearing and co-sleeping. You can learn more about it at http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php. Suffice it to say, I am a much happier parent. Instead of looking for problems to fix so that Noah can fit better into my lifestyle, I am much more focused on enjoying him and giving him all the love I can to foster a wonderful, trusting relationship. I am still glad for the knowledge I've gained about sleep, but it's nice to know that his happiness and fulfillment aren't solely dependent on sleep. It's a factor, yes, but not the only one.

I also wanted to share this cute video of Noah. He just started laughing today!

video

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looked like a goof...but felt like a queen

So one of the "steps," if you will, in the book Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears is babywearing. Babywearing promotes a greater understanding of and closeness to your child. It can also make a caring mom a bit less stressed--if baby Noah is crying and wanting to be held, but that pile of laundry really needs to be folded, or I would like a few minutes to put on some makeup, I can slip Noah into my Moby wrap and we can both be happy. A lot of moms will swear that it is also an easy way to breastfeed in public--though I'm not quite that brave yet.

One thing I think is rather funny about babywearing fans: they'll go on and on about the endless benefits that scientific studies show when babies are worn by their parents all day, but I have yet to hear someone mention the price of wearing a baby--wearing their messes along with it. I honestly can't count the number of times Noah spits up on me per day, but I'm getting pretty good at strategically placing burpcloths between him and me.

This afternoon, Noah did not want to be put down. He was tired and cranky. I didn't feel much like sitting around and holding him, though (I've had my fair share of sitting and holding for today), so I popped him in the wrap. Within minutes, he was asleep. I still felt like being up and about, but dinner was too high-tech to prepare with a baby obstructing my onion-chopping vision, so I decided to take a walk.

I'd taken walks with Tyler when Noah was in the Moby, but not by myself. It felt a little odd. I kept wondering what my neighbors thought I was carrying in that blue bundle, especially since his head was covered to keep the light out of his eyes. But I kept walking, all the way to the park.

It so happens that I have a passion for green grass. Not green sprinkled with yellow, but the cool, jewel-green type. When I walked past this park when I was younger, I would take my shoes off to walk the whole length of the it barefoot. Now that I'm older and more "grown-up," I have resisted the urge many times this summer. But today I indulged and walked around the park, carrying my shoes (they were Crocs, to boot--albeit cute ones). I realized that I must  have looked like the earthiest granola girl in our subdivision, carrying a baby in a complicated twist of blue jersey fabric and my Crocs dangling from my fingertips, but I felt like the happiest mother in the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lesson learned...the hard way.

We all have TV shows we like to watch. Comedies, dramas, reality shows.We get to know and love the characters so well, we would know exactly what to do if they stepped into our front door and asked us to help them out with a difficult crime scene, or give them advice about their secret love. It's...well, addicting, to say the least.

I found just such a TV show not long ago. It's called Bramwell. It's a show about a female doctor in Victorian London. She opens an infirmary in the slums, and along with her father (also a doctor) and her colleague, Dr. Marsham, (who she obviously needs to marry), she treats all sorts of medical ailments. The characters are endearing and the various medical cases riveting and intriguing.

As I neared the end of the third season, things got more and more intense, setting the show up for a big bang ending in season four. I found I just had to keep on watching...and watching...and watching. I was completely sucked in. The hero and heroine both suffer their own heartbreaks, but in the last episode of season three, thanks to a perfectly enchanting proposal from the hero to the heroine, a happy ending seemed in order. I emerged from the depths of the episode beaming--no doubt my husband thought me silly for grinning like an idiot over this fictional engagement.

This afternoon I settled myself down on the couch, ready to savor every bit of the last season (only two episodes), certain all would end well. But before I was halfway through the first one, I couldn't help but burst into tears. My imagined happy ending wasn't happening at all! Instead, dear Miss Bramwell was ruining her life and proving herself unworthy of every happiness she should have had with Dr. Marsham. After enduring fifteen or so minutes of agony, I decided I had had enough. I looked up a synopsis to see if the happy ending might still be salvaged. Nope. Everything they'd been building up to for three full seasons was completely ruined. She ends up making stupid mistakes that lead to horrible consequences which make her marry a despicable man.

I had put so much time and emotion in this show that when things didn't end up right, I felt wounded. I realized how silly it all was. It was only a show, after all. But even after a few hours had passed, I still felt really bothered. I told my husband how I was feeling, and he said something that helped me understand everything: "It was a broken ending. You didn't like it because it was broken." Of course! I loved the show because it wasn't broken. Yes, bad things happened, and the characters made human mistakes. But the characters were still good, and their relationships remained whole and full of love. And the stupid producers thought it was a good idea to break it all into a million pieces!

The moral of this story is: Don't stake your happiness on the whims of TV producers who are just trying to create the most possible drama and make an extra buck. Read a book instead.

"Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changing channels, I don't see them on the TV shows..."
~Jack Johnson, Good People

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer fun!

Hello friends! I've been thinking about a few things, jiggling them around in my brain, and trying to turn them into a coherent blog post. These are all pretty random things, so we'll see how that goes!

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary and my 21st birthday on August 18th and 21st, respectively. Noah was eight weeks old, and we decided that it would be all right to leave him with my mom while we did some fun things together. On the 18th we went to Rodizio Grill for our anniversary dinner (we used their birthday club's free meal certificate!) and walked around the Gateway Mall. As we drove out to Salt Lake for this special date, we were almost giddy with delight. It felt so strange to leave our baby behind, and so exhilarating to feel like a couple again, instead of just parents.

My favorite part of our date was when Tyler pulled out a roll of pennies so we could make wishes and throw them into the Gateway fountain (there's a long story behind that; maybe some day I'll write about it). It was just lovely!


A few days later, on the 21st, we went to see Harry Potter and to go shopping. It was the best, most satisfying movie I've seen in a long time! We were very glad to come home to our baby Noah, though. This second date was fun, but we were ready to just spend some time with Noah at home again!
. . .

Noah has started to smile and coo! Each grin is like a little ray of sunshine! I love having long, nonsensical conversations full of squeals and smiles from my baby boy! Life as a mom is getting a lot more fun!

. . .

Since becoming a SAHM I started thinking about taking an Institute class. I've been feeling a need to have that weekly spiritual boost. And, I won't lie, I've also wanted some sort of outside circle where I could still enjoy an individual identity. The words "full-time mom" can easily become synonymous with "full-time slave," if one is not careful, and so I have been on the lookout for some good, uplifting outlets that will relieve some stress (and that won't cost any money!). However, the Institute in Tooele always seemed specifically geared toward single adults, so I didn't let this desire have very much time on center stage in my brain.

I am always amazed at how well Heavenly Father knows our thoughts and desires! On Sunday, the Relief Society President read a letter from the Tooele Institute encouraging young mothers to take a daytime Institute class! Before she was done reading the letter, I knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity. I looked online to find a class at a good time and arranged babysitting with my mom. I am lucky enough to have my best friend in town for a month before she moves to Chicago, where her husband has taken a new job, and so I invited her to come with me. We went to the first class this week, and already I know it will be a wonderful experience. It will be so nice to have a couple hours every week to enjoy discussing the gospel at the Institute! I'm so excited!
. . .

Tyler has begun his senior year at George Wythe University. I am very excited for him. This year, he is studying his favorite subject--history! We are so blessed that Tyler can go to school online. It makes it possible for him to spend a lot of time at home while still working full-time. He is amazing and smart and I love him!
. . .

I am on a mission to lose the baby weight! After losing over half of what I gained in the first three weeks after giving birth, I am left with about 25 pounds I'd like to lose. In thinking about this task, I have come to a conclusion: We are probably going to want another baby in about a year or so. I don't feel like I handled my health during this last pregnancy very well, so if I'm going to be happy with being pregnant again soon, I need to get my act together and prepare my body for another 9-month ordeal. I want to enjoy this body that God has given me, whether I'm pregnant, postpartum, or just normal. Once I realized this, I convinced my husband to get me a gym membership, and I started watching what I eat much more carefully.

I've been working on this for almost a month now, and I'm happy to report I've lost about five pounds. It's been interesting, this whole losing weight thing. I've never really tried to lose weight before. I've never been concerned with how many calories I eat in a day. I was really prone to emotional eating, and eating when I was bored, and eating just because there was something yummy sitting on my Mom's counter (after all, who knows when I'll get to eat another chocolate chip cookie?) But now I feel much more in control, and it's working! :)

Well, that's all I have on my mind today! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Superwoman!

I stumbled across this blog today. I decided I want to be like her when I grow up. She's everything I want to be--a wonderful mom who homeschools her kids with excitement and joy, a loving wife who makes a sweet post about her husband every anniversary, a homemaker who fills her house with the beautiful creations of her hands....ah! Everything on her blog just gladdens my heart! Check out her blog and be inspired!

http://www.seedpodcraft.com/blog

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shhh, the baby's sleeping! (Part 1)

I've been implementing the methods described in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for 9 days now, keeping a detailed sleep journal and graph along the way. I'm happy to report that we have had many successes!

The biggest change has occurred in the way I parent. I feel much more like an intentional parent now, if that makes any sense. I do more things on purpose, because I know that is what my baby needs. Before, I felt I had little or nothing to do with these needs, apart from simply fulfilling them. Then, I would go back to paying attention to my own needs and wants. That was about it. I felt a little bit separated from him. If I needed or wanted to go somewhere, I would go, taking him along without a second thought. We went to the store, to the doctor's, to Grandma's, to the zoo; as long as I had a way to feed him, change him, and keep him safe, I was willing to take him anywhere. To my knowledge, it wouldn't affect him in a negative way. If he was grumpy or unusually sleepy after our outing, I did not connect it with any influence other than his own temperament.

I don't mean to say that I felt no love for my child, or that a bond was lacking. I only mean to show that this book has changed the way I think about my child's needs a great deal. After reading Dr. Weissbluth's book, I felt much more bound to him. I realized that my actions and activities do affect his needs more than I thought. Not that I feel curtailed by his needs in any way now; it only makes me consider an activity in the light of how it will affect him. Now that I have learned just how important sleep is, and how grumpy and unhappy my child will get if he becomes overtired from a missed nap, I am much more dedicated to helping him get the sleep he needs--even if that means missing a trip to Grandma's once in a while! This has helped me feel even more connected to my son.

This last week, I've focused on simply helping him go to sleep after one to two hours of wakefulness. This involves watching for his signs of drowsiness, spending a period of time soothing him, and then putting him down by himself for a nap. When I began this, I thought that there was no way he would be ready for naps after only being awake for one hour. To my surprise, he responded wonderfully. Usually there were one or two naps when he protested being put down, but a little extra soothing usually sent him off with no problems. I also discovered that swaddling him tightly and giving him his binkie soothed him the best.

I fell into a bit of a trap, though, as far as soothing was concerned. I decided that our little routine would include swaddling, having him suck on his binkie, and rocking him while singing lullabies for a few minutes. Then, when he became very drowsy, I would gently put him in his crib. Dr. Weissbluth didn't give specific instructions when it came to protest crying at his age, however. He says that the parent can decide to let them fuss for five, ten, or even twenty minutes, or that they can decide not to let them fuss at all--that they can go to soothe their child and try again later. He only hints at a suggestion when he says: "...Remember, if your baby cries hard for three minutes, quietly for three minutes, and sleeps for an hour, he would have lost that good hour-long nap if you had not left him alone for six minutes." Keeping this in mind, I at first decided that if Noah decided to fuss, I would let him go on for five to ten minutes before going in to soothe him. I stuck to this for about two days. On the third day, when I went in to soothe him, I inadvertently stuck his binkie back in his mouth, and he immediately quieted. Within a minute, he was soundly asleep.

From then on, I associated most of his protest crying with the fact that his binkie had fallen out of his mouth. As long as that binkie was in his mouth, he would soon go to sleep, I thought. As it worked for the next couple of days, I continued to do it without any worries. As soon as I heard him fussing, I would rush in to his room to put the binkie back in his mouth. If it didn't work, I would then pick him up for more soothing instead of leaving him alone. I'd completely forgotten about how I wanted him to learn self-soothing skills in my eagerness to get him to fall asleep quickly.

Here's what my sleep log journal looked like by days 7 and 8:

By 9:20 am he was crying, wanting to be swaddled up with his binkie and go to sleep. I obliged, and held him and hummed until he got really sleepy, then put him in his crib (first time I’ve put him there for a nap!). I rushed off to blow dry my hair, hoping that he wouldn’t wake up. But when my five minutes of styling was over, he was crying; the binkie had popped out of his mouth. I put it back in, rested my hand on his tummy and hummed some more, which sent him right back to the land of Nod.

10:10 Cork fell out again. He cried again. I put it back in and tried to soothe him…again.

10:15 And again. He seems to have trouble with this midmorning nap.

10:25 And again! This time I thought I would try nursing him. He nursed and then I put him back to sleep at 10:40. I hope he gets the message this time!

11:00 *sigh* Someday we’ll get this down!

As you can see, I was getting a little tired of this pacifier game. The next day, I reread the section pertaining to infants Noah's age, and remembered what Dr. Weissbluth said about letting them fuss for a little bit. I remembered how much I want Noah to learn self-soothing skills, and I realized that if Noah's binkie happens to fall out of his mouth, I don't have to rush in to replace it, just so he'll go to sleep. This has given me immense relief!

So, keeping that in mind, this week I am going to focus on one thing: helping Noah develop self-soothing skills by letting him cry between 10-20 minutes before going in to soothe him. We'll see how this works!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Something a little more practical

I am well aware that most--make that all--of my posts to date have been a little sentimental in nature. I quite enjoy sentiment and nostalgia. It gives life a little bit of a shine. But here is a new topic that does not involve much of that. Those with children will understand immediately. It's a little piece of life called Getting Baby to Sleep.

A sleeping babe has evoked many sweet poems, songs, paintings, and sighs from countless souls. Who can help envying the peace that rests upon a slumbering baby's brow? But getting them to that angelic state--ah, there's the rub. There's the source of many nighttime battles and tears from both babies and parents.

That said, Noah is a pretty good sleeper. He often sleeps for a stretch of four or five hours during the night, and then he only wakes up to eat. Getting him to sleep again is rarely a problem. He also takes a nice long nap in the middle of the day. When I hear about babies who decide to wake up and play (or maybe just cry) at 2 am, or newborns who keep their poor parents up all night before falling into an exhausted sleep at 6 in the morning, I can't really say I feel your pain. So when I finally picked up a book on sleep habits that a good friend recommended, I didn't think Noah and I had much to work on. As I read through this book, however, I learned that there is more to baby sleep habits than just letting them fall asleep naturally.

The book is called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. There are many points in his philosophy of sleep that would take a long time to discuss here, so I'll just talk about the points that pertain to Noah.

He takes care in explaining the nature and importance of sleep, and what happens when it is lacking. We all know that babies become fussy and cranky when they are tired. But what I didn't know is that babies, especially young infants like my son, start to get tired only within one or two hours after waking up. This was the first lightbulb that clicked on for me. Noah starts off his mornings in a fairly good mood and becomes progressively crankier and demanding. I usually respond with holding him and giving him attention, thinking that he just wants his mamma. This continues until I can obviously tell that he is tired. This is generally around 11:30 or 12:00. It is usually fairly hard to get him to sleep at this point--though once he does, he'll sleep until mid to late afternoon. When I read HSHHC, I realized that this cranky attitude stemmed from his need to sleep; not, as I thought at first, the need for attention.

I also learned that "motion sleep" does not equal "healthy sleep." Dr. Weissbluth uses the example of falling asleep on a plane or in the car. Would we, as adults, call that really restorative sleep? Of course not. It is not different for children. Putting a baby in the car seat and letting him sleep there while you cart it around running errands does not give him a healthy, restorative nap (notice how they always wake up cranky and bleary when you finally get them out). While he recommends motion as a soothing technique to help a baby get to sleep, he says the motion should stop as soon as they are sleeping.

If you're like me, then your first reaction to this information is, "How am I supposed to take him anywhere?" It takes a lot of commitment--and a lot of time staying at home--in order to ensure your baby is napping peacefully a mere two hours after awakening. Fathers and mothers who spend most of their days working out of the home might also object because they want to spend more time with their little ones--and very understandably so.

Dr. Weissbluth's answer to these concerns is this: "If your baby is hungry, feed him. If your baby is fussy, soothe him. If your baby is tired, put him to sleep. " We would not withhold food from our child, so why would we withhold sleep?

He also says, "Please don't think that it has no lasting effect when you routinely keep your child up too late--for your own pleasure after work or because you want to avoid bedtime confrontations--or when you cut corners on naps in order to run errands or visit friends. Once in a while, for a special occasion or reason, it's okay. But day-in, day-out sleep deprivation at night or for naps, as a matter of habit, could be very damaging to your child. Cumulative, chronic sleep losses, even of brief duration, may be harmful for learning."

Noah, at six weeks, has reached what many books and articles call the "peak" of his fussiness. I have noticed an increase in his fussiness, especially during the late mornings and evenings. I also knew that a great deal of it was due to being tired. But until I read this book, I didn't know that structuring sleep, even at this young age, was possible or even healthy. So, the following posts I make will give a few details about our implementation of Dr. Weissbluth's methods. I hope it works!

Here's to a happy, well-rested baby!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things I can't wait for

In two days I will be officially 40 weeks pregnant. The wait for our little baby to come seems so endless! I find myself thinking sentimental thoughts like these:

"The next time I blow dry my hair I might be getting ready to come home from the hospital."
"I wonder if I'll get to sleep through the night again."
"The next time I see this person, they'll probably be visiting us in the hospital."

Needless to say, it's been very hard to be patient.

Last week felt like it should have been divided over two or three--we have been so busy getting everything ready for our baby! On Monday the crib arrived. On Monday night and Tuesday morning we painted the dresser and set up the crib. I spent a good deal of Wednesday folding his clothes and putting them in his dresser, and on Wednesday night we went shopping for a lot of last minute items. On Thursday, I got into a bit of a crafting spree and began making several decorations for his room. I didn't finish until Friday, and they all turned out perfectly (though I'm not biased). Pictures will soon follow, I assure you.

With that side of baby business is over, it feels like he should be here already. Tyler and I have made a beautiful space in our home and hearts for Noah to come, and until he comes, it feels like something is missing. While we've been crossing our fingers and waiting, I've had a bit of time to think about what it will be like with him here. I can't wait for some of these imaginings to become reality:

Holding our baby and watching him see the world for the first time
Feeling his fingers wrapped around my hand
Putting him in the car to take him home
Spending the first night with him in our house--waking up every three hours and all
Seeing my husband hold him and love him
Knowing just how to soothe his cries
Putting baby lotion on him--I love the smell of baby lotion...

And yes, there are some more selfish things I can't wait for as well:
Being able to fit in more than just my five maternity shirts
Turning over in my sleep without the great fuss of adjusting pillows, heaving my watermelon-belly over, and wincing as my hips pop and rub against each other
No more Prilosec
Going for a shopping trip without becoming exhausted after the first store
Going out in public without the eternal stream of "You look like you're about to pop!" comments.

There's one more thing that I can't express in a simple sentence. I have a few friends who had babies in the last year, and every Sunday I had opportunities to sit with them in church and watch their babies play. For awhile I was entranced just by the infants--their movements, the way they looked at me, their smiles and their joy. Over time, though, I found the pure relationship between my friends and their babies even more fascinating. I began to notice the way they would glance back and forth between their mothers and their toys, as if wanting to know what Mother thought of their activities. I saw them set forth on their own to chase a ball or to explore a stranger's purse, only to return speedily to give their mom a wide grin and wait for her reaction. And every time my friends picked up their babies, they knew just how to hold them, how to tickle and tease them, how to coax expressions of the purest joy onto their faces. No matter how often I held their babies, I could never make such happiness come. I've learned that it is something that only comes with being a parent to your own child. And that made me want to be the Mommy more than anything else.

Pics of the nursery coming soon....hopefully along with pictures of the little prince himself!