Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Co-sleeping, sleep training and night-weaning with a toddler.

There's Coco, asleep in our bed. Over the past year or so, when sleep really became an issue, we have been through many phases. We did the sleep training. We tried to transition her into a crib and out of our bed. We threw it all out the window and let her stay up late. We night-weaned. We traveled and everything fell apart. We started over. It's a continual work-in-progress. 

This week, we are back to sleep training following The Sleepeasy Method. It's tough, maybe even harder than the first time. But, we need to get her on a good sleep routine before it's time to convert her crib into a toddler bed in six months! And, she is tired and needs more sleep. And, J and I need time together or to ourselves in the evenings in order to be happy, present and responsive parents. So sleep needs to happen and that means we have to make it happen. What a drag. 

I've gotten a lot of questions from friends and readers alike lately about sleep training, co-sleeping and night weaning, so I thought I'd write a little run-down of our experiences, what worked and what didn't.  I am by no means an expert on this! We are struggling right now with our lack of sleep routine and I'm doing plenty of asking myself. But, I truly believe that it helps when we all share with each other, so here's what we've learned.

Sleep Training
I swore I'd never sleep train. And then I did. We waited until Coco was 14 months because I couldn't stomach it before then. But something shifted after her first birthday and I could tell she was more aware of what was going on around her and understood. Recent research is showing that before one year of age, it's detrimental to children's well-being to sleep train them. Follow your gut! ;) 

Once we went ahead with sleep training, we did The Sleepeasy Solution, which is regarded as "the least cry" approach. It really worked for us! Two weeks of prep and three nights of training and it was so easy. The problem is, when you travel, or the seasons change and it's light out until 9pm, these things affect your child and mess up the routine. So then you have figure out how to re-establish it. That's what we're doing now following a summer of virtually no routine and tons of travel.

In my experience, there aren't a lot of good co-sleeping resources out there. Thankfully, The Sleepeasy Solution had a short section on co-sleepers, but for the most part you have to figure it out as you go. I really love having Coco in the bed with us and I couldn't possible sleep with her in another room at this point. But sometimes co-sleeping can be really uncomfortable and not result in much sleeping. ;) When we hit that wall, we got her a crib and set it up in the corner of our room. For months, she started the night in her crib and then came into our bed when she woke up during the night. Sometimes she'd sleep all the way until 5 or 6 in the morning. Other nights she was in with us at 11. That has been working fine for me, except when she wants to nurse more than once in a night. Then we had to night wean.

Night Weaning
Night weaning is the number one most important thing for mothers of nursing toddlers to do. You absolutely can continue to co-sleep, it just requires a little more dedication. Here are the steps. You'll need your partner on board, or have a close friend or family member (whom your baby is close with) come stay the night for a few nights if you're a single mom. 
  • Sleep in the guest room or on the couch for three nights while your partner stays in the family bed with the baby. (Enjoy the sleep!;)
  • Your partner will have to try all sorts of different things. My cousin's husband ended up lying on the floor with his arm reaching up to the baby on the bed in the end one night, but it worked! Tell him what I did: "Keep trying different things! And whatever you do, don't come get me." Creativity is key.
  • After three nights, or once your baby has stopped throwing a fit each time she wakes up, go back to the family bed.
  • Wear pajamas and a sleeping bra or sports bra to limit access.
  • When your baby wakes up and asks to nurse, say gently, "Not now, we'll nurse in the morning" and soothe her back to sleep. Or, have your partner soothe her back to sleep while you pretend to still be sleeping if she's really tenacious.
  • In the morning, smile and tell your baby it's time to nurse. Then nurse her on the couch or in a chair somewhere outside of the bedroom
  • Sometimes, if your baby won't go back to sleep at 4 or 5 and it's too early to get up, nurse her outside of the bedroom and go back to bed afterward. It will work sometimes and not work others, but it's worth a shot.
Like sleep training, this will fly out the window when you travel, so be prepared to do it again if you have a trip coming up. (This is next on the docket after we get the bedtime sorted out again. Phew!)

What tips and tricks do you have? It seems that sleep and nighttime routines are some of the most stressful aspects of parenting. I would love to hear what has worked or not worked for you! xo 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to make authentic Swiss Fondue

We're having an unusual August cold snap, which has me in the mood for fondue. It's kind of like fall TV shows; you're sad to see summer coming to an end, but the bright side is, Homeland is starting again. ;) I know some people who can eat fondue or raclette regardless of the weather, but for me, it is strictly a cold weather indulgence! Click on "Read more" below to get step-by-step instructions on making authentic Swiss fondue.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Paris Vacation Photos

We had the most amazing trip to Paris at the end of July. It was sizzling hot, but we had the best time. I've actually been having magical Paris dreams ever since we got back. :) A big thank you to Paula and Baby, who sent Coco a lovely summer wardrobe in advance. She looked adorable the whole time. Click on "Read more" below to see all our photos and hear more about traveling in the city of light with a toddler. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Welcome weekend!

We've still got a lot of work to do on our itty-bitty office, but I cannot tell you how happy I am to have a computer again. And a real computer at that. Having a laptop as the main machine just does not work for me; our new iMac is completely rad! :) I'm also really, really happy to be blogging again. I've got so many great posts lined up for next week. What are your plans for the weekend? It's supposed to rain in Zurich. Boo. So everyone's going around today saying it's the last day of summer. They better be wrong! I'm just not ready. Keep your fingers crossed for us that this rainy spell is just a spell. Thank you!

Here's a little bit of this and that that caught my eye this week.

Free printable note-cards for the dog lover. Adorable.

Kiss your dry-cleaning bill goodbye.

Really fantastic slideshow to accompany Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild.

I'm so excited for this online Photoshop class I'm taking in September!

Not-so-surprising findings about Facebook. :(

Sweetest children's alphabet book!

The Age of Denial.

Get rid of that musty towel smell for good!

A much-needed rant.

We just got this darling stroller blanket for our friends' beautiful new baby girl ZoƩ.

Have a lovely weekend and see you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kate Spade Keds

Did you wear Keds growing up? Now Kate Spade is making super cutesy Keds. What a flashback! I'm somewhat sad to say that I have never actually owned a pair of Keds. They were all the rage, and all the cool kids had them, but I was so tiny that I couldn't wear them. They didn't even come in my size! I think in 6th grade, I was finally out of the toddler footwear, but decidedly still in the Children's Shoes department at Nordstrom. What a drag. :( Anyway, Keds are really bad for your feet. (But they are cute, aren't they?;)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dealing with the Terrible Twos

So Coco turns two in five weeks and I have to say, things have been pretty terrible lately. :( 

In French, the word terrible has a more nuanced meaning than it does in English. It's not simply bad, or horrid; it's fascinating, formidable, hard-to-take-your-eyes-off-of, extraordinary bad. Like the unsettling siblings in Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles, who play dark mind games and isolate themselves from the outside world. Thankfully, toddlers aren't menacing in the psychological mind game sort of way, but they can be absurdly grotesque, violent, primitive little people all the same. Terrible is a rather fitting adjective for the age two, it turns out. 


But not all hope is lost. I am learning (the hard way) that I actually can navigate the Terrible Twos without feeling broken and needing a glass of wine at the end of each day. It all comes back to our dear friend and best ally: The Routine.

Last night, on our way home, I popped into the grocery store to pick up two things we needed for the baked potatoes J had already made at home: bacon and chives. It was already past Coco's preferred dinner time of 5:30. In fact, it was already 6:30, but I thought it would just take a minute. I dashed through the store in about one minute flat, and then there were long lines. Once we got in the line, Coco was beginning to lose it and she started climbing out of her buggy. (That was when I should have left store). I had tightened the straps down on her buggy the day before, but she'd broken one, so it popped loose and then she wiggled her way out of the rest! I was tired. I was really, really tired. So I just looked at her and asked her to please sit down. She didn't. Then I leaned over to look up at the front of the line and see if it was moving at all, and in the space of about half a second, Coco stood up and managed to topple over the side of her buggy and land on the top of her head on the grocery store floor! "OH MY GOD!" I screamed, tossing the bacon and chives into the air as I scooped her up. And I didn't even see where they landed. I just left the store, head down, making sure not to make eye contact with one single person on my way out as she wailed like a banshee in my arms. Thank goodness those Bugaboos steer with one hand. 

It's terrible, but that is how an almost-two-year-old child acts when she's hungry and not happy about being strapped into her buggy in a line. It's terrible, but she doesn't listen to reason. It's terrible, but she can't control herself. It's terrible, but it can all be avoided if I give her what she needs when she needs it. And it's terrible that it took her skull hitting the floor to do it, but when it did, that simple fact finally got through mine: Give her what she needs when she needs it. 

So simple. Yet, so powerful. That single idea would probably circumvent 95% of her terrible tantrums. 

Ouch. Learning the hard way, indeed. Within a couple of blocks, she was walking along holding my hand chatting happily and pointing out all the trees, people, trams and cars. I kept checking throughout dinner and her bath to make sure her eyes were dilated evenly and she was fine. At about 11, while I was brushing my teeth, she got out of bed and pattered into the bathroom on her soft little toddler feet, sucking her pacifier and clutching her lovey blanket. She hugged my leg and held onto me until I was done and then snuggled up with me to fall asleep once we were in bed. With all her cornsilk curls falling around her angelic pink cheeks, it was impossible to see the flailing, screaming demon child from the grocery store. And so, while two can be a somewhat terrible age, it's also heart crushingly tender and immensely loving. I'm so grateful for every single day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A couple good books.

Somehow I learned to read again. ;) As a mom it seems like reading quickly slipped onto the list of "things I used to do" but it's back on the current list again! Hurrah. Over the summer, I read these two books. (Hey, I didn't say I have lots of time to do it, I just said I'm doing it;) They were both excellent. They both made me gasp, laugh and cry. They're also both real page-turners, the kind you stay up too late to read another chapter for, racing to the end to see how it all turns out. 

In "Wild," I loved the emotion and voice. It's a memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after everything in the author's life fell apart in her early twenties. Her words are like a dam breaking open. The accounts of the scenery and personal transformation being on the Pacific Crest Trail make you think you want to go and do it yourself, until you remember that that's insane and would be completely miserable and awful. But, still. It's an amazing story of personal strength and growth. Very inspiring!

I'm probably the last person in the world to read "The Help," but if you haven't read it yet, you'll love it. It's a female-narrative driven account of life in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s when everything was still segregated and the Civil Rights movement was just heating up. So good. So, so good.

Have you read either of these books? Do you think you would have the guts to bare your soul the way Strayed does in "Wild?" Have you seen "The Help" movie? Does it measure up to the book? J and I are going to watch "The Help" tonight and I need another book to read. Any recommendations? xo

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Mom's Backyard

My mom has a really beautiful backyard shaded by maple trees and a willow. It is lush and green and stays cool in the summer. Most mornings while we were home, I woke up and made my coffee watching Coco help her water the plants through the kitchen window. It's a peaceful place, quiet, comforting. 

Before there was Coco, J and I had Rudy. He's a dwarf rabbit and we had to lie to the animal sanctuary to take him home with us when we didn't have our landlord's approval. It was totally worth the lie. He's the cutest, softest little bunny there is. During the summer, we let him run around my mom's yard. He darts back and forth, jumps and spins, and spends a great deal of time lounging under the hostas. What a cutie.
Every chance she got, Coco was happy to be behind the hose. It was like a meditation for her watching the water fall to the ground. She didn't even notice how wet she was getting. Then she'd look up, completely surprised to see me taking her photo and flash me the happiest toddler grin you can imagine. Ah, summer days. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Great Computer Debate

Since discovering our MacBook Pro will no longer be with us, we have decided not once, not twice, but three times which would the best computer to replace it. It has been an exhaustive process. We considered our our current location (living abroad), lifestyle (parents to a destructive toddler prone to spilling and/or pouring coffee on laptops), future plans (moving to Spokane in two or three years?), budget (1500 max.), needs (blogging, Photoshop, MS Office), travel (let's be honest, I blog sparsely and poorly while traveling) and speed (we want a fast computer - especially after being relegated to our 2004 PowerBook G4s these past few weeks!)

Initially, we thought we would just get another MacBook Pro. But I always found it clunky and heavy and didn't like traveling with it. Plus, once we added on some memory and a bigger hard drive, it blew our budget pretty quickly. Then I found myself enamored with the MacBook Air. The 11" is the tiniest, cutest, light-as-a-feather laptop in the world! But we ran into the same problem there. Upgrade it to suit our needs and it's a very expensive computer.

Plus, there was one thought that had been nagging me from the beginning, I was worried that we would get a new laptop home and POOF! Another cup of coffee would render it useless. So that got us looking seriously at the iMac. The base model is super fast, has lots of memory and a massive 1 terabyte hard drive. And I really like the idea of compartmentalizing my life. When the laptop is sitting on the kitchen table, it's easy to wind up wasting lots and lots of time online doing nothing special at all. But having our office set up with the iMac, I feel I'll be more likely to have a specific reason I'm using the computer - like blogging or putting together a photo book, not just checking Facebook. ;) We rarely, if ever took our laptop out of the house to work on stuff somewhere else so portability isn't that important, really. I am really, really excited about having our 21.5" iMac. Nothing quite compares to a nice big screen, especially for blogging and photo editing. :)

So, please, be patient with me a little bit longer! Once the new computer has arrived, I have a schedule lined up of some really great posts with lots and lots of beautiful photos. :) Until then, follow along on Instagram! xo
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