Archives for January 2012

Monday links I like

We had a lovely weekend of various activities including getting together with all our kids.  Our daughter Amanda is 5 months pregnant and feeling her baby move lots, and our daughter Erika is only 4 weeks from her due date now. I had the utter fun of sitting with both of the Saturday night feeling their babies kick. Wow, it is just an amazing thing to see these little babies grow and to imagine the little people we will be meeting soon.  (The picture is of Erika, me and both of Erika’s grandmothers at her baby shower a couple weekends ago.)

Saturday night we watched an old Gene Autry movie where to my hubby’s dismay they broke into song every 5 minutes or so.  He’s not such a fan of musicals, and even I have to admit it was not the best musical I’ve ever seen.  But we also got in a few rounds of Dutch Blitz and lots of chatting and hanging out.

When we only had little kids, I imagined getting more sleep once they were teens.  But John and I find that the older our kids get, the more often it is that late evening on weekends is the best time to visit with them.  We’re glad for the time, but often it means we’re yawning hard on Monday mornings.

Then comes Monday.  This day is always crazy-busy for me.  We’re jumping reluctantly back into school for the week, while also plowing through to-do’s that got neglected over the weekend.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough coffee in the world to cope with Monday.

Here are a few links I enjoyed over the past few days.   What have you read recently that has inspired you?

Making mozzarella– I really want to try this sometime soon

Helping widows and orphans in Ethiopia —  the project run by my friend Levi Benkert

How to have a happier marriage— timeless wisdom that ruffles feathers these days

Recycled grain sourdough bread— here’s a bread recipe I want to try

Why urban educated parents are turning to homeschooling– a trend in homeschooling

Hating how we look— thoughts about kids and self esteem by my friend Journey Mama


And finally, this touching song by Katherine Heigl’s husband Josh Kelley about their daughter:

“I couldn’t see past me til I saw you…”


God has been faithful, he will be again

His loving compassion knows no end

Review and giveaway: Curly Q hair products

In the 8 years since our first Ethiopian daughter came home, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more money on hair products AND more time doing hair than the rest of my life combined.  (And yes, that includes my own hair-obsessed teen years!) Keeping up with four girls’ hair is no small thing.  We’ve found a few products that we like really well— TRESemme conditioner used as a leave-in is a perennial favorite — but we’re always willing to try new things.  So when we were asked to try out the Fairy Tales Curly-Q Shampoo  and the Fairy Tales Curly-Q Natural Curl Maker Gel  we accepted gladly.

We have three girls with 3C curls, and one with type 4A.  The ‘3c’ girls use shampoo pretty routinely, followed by leave-in conditioner. The Curly-Q Shampoo worked well for them.  They liked the smell, and it did a good job cleansing their hair gently.   My 14 year old said her hair feels very soft after shampooing with this

Our daughter with 4A hair, age 16,  generally avoids shampoo.  It is too harsh and drying for her delicate hair.  (Instead she typically uses conditioner twice — once as shampoo, and then a bit more that she leaves in after washing to keep her hair manageable.)  She did give this shampoo a try and said that this was more gentle than others.  However, she was the only one of the four girls who didn’t like the smell, so I think she will pass on this anyway.

All of the girls tried the Curl Maker, which is a curl-defining gel.  I liked using it to smooth hair as I was braiding.  I think it kept fly-aways down and helped the braids look smooth longer.  It is also useful for smoothing back fly-aways at the front edge of the hair– it holds the hair down and adds a bit of shine.  It was less stiff than normal hair gel, but still did have a bit of heaviness about it.  We don’t tend to leave any of the girls’ hair loose for very long, since it gets tangled quickly.  But the one time I used this product for my 7 year old, it did seem to slow the tangling a bit.  Overall we were pleased with it.

This weekend I’m giving away one bottle of Curly-Q shampoo.  To enter the giveaway, comment below and tell me one curly-hair product that you’ve tried and liked.  I’ll announce a winner Tuesday morning!

Adoptive breastfeeding: our little girls

Go here to read part 1 of this story

In early 2003, we began our third adoption hoping to adopt an African American newborn born in the U.S.   Our social worker told us to most folks weren’t waiting longer than 3 months for a baby, and was confident we’d be chosen by a birth-mom soon.  Once we had our homestudy pulled together, I began using a breast pump several times a day.  I knew from before that it’d take awhile for pumping to produce anything.  I hoped if all went well I’d have a baby and the start of a milk supply by summer.  Summer came and no baby.  By the end of the summer I was stashing 4-6 ounces of milk in the freezer each day, but I was starting to wonder if I’d been foolish to begin pumping with no guarantee of a baby.

In August, I spoke to a friend who mentioned that her agency’s Ethiopia adoption program had lots of babies waiting for families.  John and I wondered if maybe Ethiopia, not the U.S., was where we were supposed to be.  But we weren’t sure. We talked to the Ethiopia agency and found out they’d be willing to put us in the Ethiopia program while also letting us remain on the waiting list for an infant in the US.  John and I had already decided that we eventually wanted at least two African-American kids in our family, just so they wouldn’t feel too different or alone.  So when both of the agencies were willing to let us proceed with two adoptions at once, we decided we were game for it too.

In September 2003, we doubled up on adoption paperwork. I decided to keep pumping and stashing milk in the freezer, now 12 ounces or so each day.  In October, three weeks after submitting all our Ethiopia paperwork, we got pictures of a sober-faced toddler in the mail. We had a daughter!  She’d been born in June 2002, which meant she was already over a year old.  I realized that probably she’d be too old to nurse.  But John and I both knew she was our girl.  We pressed forward with her paperwork excitedly.

Two weeks later we got the call from our other agency.  A birth mom had chosen us.  She was due in December with a  baby girl.  Wow.  In August we’d been wondering if we’d have any baby, and now it seemed we’d have two babies.  I might need that freezer stash of milk after all.

Just before Christmas we got the call that the birth mom was in labor and wanted me there in Chicago with her.  We arrived just before the baby was born, only to have the mom change her mind once the baby arrived.  She decided to parent the baby herself, and we flew home on Christmas day without a baby.

We were hugely disappointed.  But we had one big consolation: we were literally three weeks from leaving for Ethiopia to go pick up our one year old daughter.   It was thrilling.

But what to do about pumping?

In hindsight, I’d never again start pumping without being more certain about a baby arriving.  It had taken so much time, and now here we were in a situation where I’d probably not even have a baby willing to nurse.  But something in me just would not quit.  I’d hung in there so long, and three weeks before our baby arrived felt like a ridiculous time to quit.  I decided to keep pumping just a little. I’d enjoyed nursing three of our other kids into toddlerhood.  Maybe, just maybe, this might work.

The first three days in Ethiopia our little girl was quiet and withdrawn [read here about our first moments together].  She showed no emotion and refusing to respond to our attempts to interact. (I traveled there with our then-13-year old daughter).  I wondered if attachment issues were in our future.

But on the third day we found a tiny crack in her reserve with a silly bath time game, and then while dressing her, we played peekaboo and again saw a tiny smile, and a bright expectancy in her little face.  My older daughter repeated the goofiness, and the smile spread and turned suddenly into the most delicious belly laugh we have ever been privileged to hear.  At that moment I was certain all would be well.

And it really was that simple with her.  After three days of observing us, she decided that we were OK, and from that moment embraced us wholeheartedly.  Due to being in an orphanage, she acted like a much-younger baby, and was content to take her bottle snuggled close in my arms.  Within a few days, I gradually moved her skin-to-skin while bottle-feeding. (Thanks to my months of pumping, she was able to have breast milk in every bottle.)  Over the next couple weeks I offered to nurse her a couple times a day, which she refused.  However, she gradually got cozier and cozier with me, doing all the other baby things like patting my cheek and sticking her fingers in my mouth while she took her bottle.

I began to try to nurse her in her sleep, after she’d gone to sleep with the bottle, and several times she sucked for several minutes.  Then finally, when she’d been home a whole month, she accepted nursing while she was awake.  And from that point it was like a switch turned.  Once she decided to nurse, she loved it.

She was 21 months by then, but she nursed with the frequency and interest of a much younger baby.  It really felt to me like she was suddenly trying to make up for lost time.  We don’t know much of anything about her first year of life before she came to the orphanage, but by the way she took to nursing, my guess is that she probably was nursed by her first mom for some months.  And so once she got comfy enough with me, she resumed nursing with great joy.

Because I had a good milk supply when she arrived, we were able to nurse normally, without any tubes for supplementation.  We ended up nursing for about 2 years, which made her my very oldest nursing toddler.  (I limited nursing to home most of the time because of the looks people tend to give you when you’re nursing an older toddler.  And yeah, I know some folks are making faces just reading this post!) But we enjoyed our experience thoroughly, and she continues to be one of the warmest, most sweet-hearted people I know.  Though she had a time of being a motherless child in an orphanage, she also got plenty of nurturing and cuddle time with me once that orphanage time was in her past.  After all my pumping and wondering if nursing would even work, it was just as great a gift to me to have the blessing of that precious nursing time with her.

Our last baby

In 2005, one short year after our first Ethiopian daughter arrived, we moved forward with our 4th adoption, requesting an infant girl from the very same orphanage.  We quickly got the referral for a tiny baby girl who was just 2 months old on referral.  Since I was still nursing that first daughter, I didn’t bother with pumping.  And since she was only 6 months old on homecoming, I was really optimistic about my chances of getting her to nurse.

However I soon discovered that every baby is different.  She was a sweet and responsive baby from the start, and bonded well to me in every other way.  But she never really felt comfy with skin contact.  For example, when bottle-feeding, she’d put her hand on my shirt, but not on my face or neck.  And when I tried to nurse her while she was awake, without fail she got upset and refused.

However she was willing to nurse in her sleep. So for months, I’d bottle-feed her to sleep and then nurse her once she’d dozed off.  We continued this rather untraditional way of nursing several times a day until she was a year old.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted– I kept hoping the switch would flip and nursing while awake would eventually feel comfy to her.  It never did.  But I was glad that she was getting the immune-boosting power or nursing, and some cuddling, even though I had to sneak it in.

So there you have it.  One exceedingly pro-breastfeding mama.  Four different babies.  Four different nursing experiences.  It was an interesting adventure indeed, and one I that I will always treasure as a precious part of my adoptive motherhood.


One final note:  while nursing each of my adopted babies, I took fenugreek supplements to boost milk supply, as well as a drug called domperidone.  I think that the domperidone played a huge part in building my supply, and did not have adverse affects on me.  However, its use in adoptive breastfeeding is somewhat controversial  (it is actually a medication for digestion issues, I think.)  And these days it is really hard to get your hands on the medicine, or to find a doctor who will prescribe it for that purpose.  Another drug called Reglan is also sometimes recommended to assist moms in building milk supply.  But it is associated with extreme depression and I would not recommend it for that reason.

FAQ’s about nursing adopted babies

Building attachment through breastfeeding

Adoptive breastfeeding: our little boys

(Warning:  exceedingly long, exceedingly detailed)

In the fall of 1997, when we decided to adopt a baby from Korea, our four birth children ranged in age from three to nine years old. As we filled out mountains of paperwork and I prepared our home for another baby, I realized that I’d really love to nurse this baby, if I could.  In May of 1998, we were assigned a little boy who was only two months old.  With him being so young, I was really hopeful he’d be willing to nurse.  I began using an electric breast pump in hopes of producing milk before he arrived.  I’d weaned our previous child less than a year ago, and expected it would be easy to get milk production going again.  I figured that even if the baby was unwilling to nurse, he could have breast milk in his bottles.  And I’d also heard a gadget called a Lact-aid that made it possible to feed a baby formula while he was nursing.

Two weeks went by with me pumping four times a day for 10 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t even see so much as a mist in the bottles. I wondered if this was going to work. A lactation consultant told me that 100 minutes a day of pumping was the standard rule for moms who are separated from their babies. One hundred minutes?!? How was I, with four kids under age 10, supposed to find that much time?  I reminded myself that I would be spending that time nursing in a few weeks — and I found the time.   But still I saw no signs of milk.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet– it was in its early days back then!!– I found an adoptive breastfeeding forum where I could ask questions of moms who’d nursed adopted babies.  One mom who’d nursed 5 babies successfully reassured me that there’s nothing like a real baby to build milk supply.  By the time we went to get our baby in July of 1998, I was propducing just a few drops of milk at a time, which was encouraging.  But I reminded myself that nursing was only part of being a mommy, and not an essential part at that.

Meeting our baby for the first time was amazing.  He was gorgeous, and I drank in the sight and feel of him. Later his foster mom took him back and fed him a bottle. When she turned his body in towards her and cradled him tummy to tummy in the perfect nursing position, I was thrilled. That part, at least, would not be new to him.

We didn’t get to keep him with us until we were ready to fly back home the next day. On the plane, not wanting to rush him, I gave him a bottle. It was obvious he was a very sucky baby. He nuzzled at the back of my hand. I planned to wait a couple days after getting home to try to nurse him, but I was so eager that within an hour or so of walking in the door, I was in the bedroom trying. No dice. He wailed and stiffened in frustration — and who could blame him — he didn’t know I was his mommy!

All the next day I bottle-fed him in the nursing position. He was content, but I found it so awkward! I’d never realized that bottle-feeding takes both hands! The next day I began to gradually get him used to the coziness of nursing. My first step was to thread the tiny tube of the nursing supplementer through a bottle nipple. Then I placed the bottle nipple (without the collar) over my breast. This way Joshua got used to being against my skin, while still sucking on his familiar bottle nipple. His formula now flowed from the supplementer rather than the bottle, and to all outward appearances, he was breastfeeding.

He accepted this step quite easily. The next day I tried a nipple shield over my breast, with the Lactaid threaded through the shield. He hated it — it was a softer, different kind of rubber and it felt too unfamiliar. So we went back to the bottle nipple threaded with the supplementer, which calmed him right down.

In the wee hours of the next morning, while fighting jet lag and getting acclimated to his strange new world, he got really fussy. I walked him, fed him, jiggled him and gave him the pacifier. But he still cried. Finally around 4am, I tried what had always calmed the other kids. I put him to my breast the normal way.  No tubes, no nothing. And he sucked! A minute or two at the first attempt, longer at the next try. I was so thrilled that I forgot how jet-lagged I was.

And so it began. I didn’t have much milk at first, and so I used the supplementer each time he nursed.  At the beginning he resisted changing sides in the middle of feedings — he’d cry and the feeding would be abruptly cut short. But once he settled in and got used to taking both sides at a feeding (after about two or three weeks), my milk supply really increased. I also took some herbs that seemed to help with supply.

By September, by doing a calculation involving my baby’s weight and the amount of formula he was taking, I figured that I was producing about half of his total daily requirement.  Many adoptive moms who are thinking of breastfeeding expect to be able to supply their baby with all the nourishment the baby needs via the breast. But about 90 percent of adoptive moms will need to supplement; some a little, some a lot — especially with an older baby who arrives already needing a large quantity of milk.

I used the Lact-aid with most nursing sessions until he was about a year old.  By then he was eating lots of food and mostly nursing for coziness.  We continued to nurse without tubes until he was just over 2.  In fact, I was still nursing him when our second Korean son arrived in January of 2000.

Our second little guy was 20 months on homecoming– so much older than our first adopted son that I honestly didn’t think it was possible to nurse him.  I remember once when I was nursing our other little guy,  he did ask to nurse, and I let him.  He tried just for a second, then pulled away laughing, like it was the silliest thing ever.  And that is as far as nursing ever got for him.  I was fine with him not nursing at the time.  Now looking back– and given the experience I had later with his little sister– I do wonder if he’d have truly nursed if I’d tried a little harder, and I feel a little sad that I didn’t.

But I was thrilled with the success I had nursing our other baby.  He loved it and so did I.  It was just amazing to be rocking him and have him reach up to pat my face, or to see him smile up at me right in the midst of nursing.  Those are the types of moments mommas always treasure, and I feel incredibly blessed to have shared them with him.

Coming soon:  Adoptive breastfeeding:  our little girls


Additional links

FAQ’s about nursing adopted babies

Building attachment through breastfeeding


Babies and crying

I wrote recently about the way that we’ve responded to our kids night needs, and wanted to explain our reasoning behind not letting our babies cry it out as a method of sleep training. I want to start by saying I am NOT sharing our thoughts to guilt-trip anyone who made a different choice in the past that worked for their children.  We parents are doing the best we can, right?  And different things work for different families.  But I wanted to share the reasoning behind our choice for moms who are still struggling to find what might work for their family.

The biggest reason is that we choose to respond to our babies at night is because we believe babies’ needs don’t end at bedtime.  They are small, helpless people who get hungry and uncomfortable and lonely and sad very frequently.  They cry, not to manipulate us, but rather to communicate honest distress.  Ignoring that distress is going to make everyone in earshot miserable. Some folks respond to crying with nurturing, others with anger.  But the reason for both of those responses is that we are primed by nature to react quickly to crying, to

Yes, it is sometimes possible to train babies to sleep by letting them cry it out. Many babies can eventually learn that no one will come when they cry. And, yes, that ‘defeat’ response (it’s why orphanage babies don’t cry much) does sometimes translate to more sleep for parents.  But at what cost?

First of all, to allow a baby cry for a long time requires parents to harden their hearts against their children, at least to a certain degree.  Second, it causes great emotional distress to the babies.  Allowing babies to cry for hours isn’t good for them, plain and simple. An otherwise well-nurtured and emotionally resilient infant may very well be able to get past such nighttime treatment with an intact attachment. But human beings vary tremendously in what they are able to withstand emotionally, and tiny infants haven’t been with us long enough for us to fully understand their strengths and weaknesses.

And — this is just a momma observation based on my 10 kids– the kiddos who are most likely to fray their parents around the edges at night are often the ones who are least able to tolerate the stress of being alone at night.  In needing a lot of care at night they are communicating with us about their temperament, and the legitimate needs they are feeling because of the type of people they are.  God didn’t make us all the same, after all.

Crying it out is an especially dicey choice for an adopted child who might not yet have an attachment to his new parents in the first place.  Attachment is the glue that binds humans together, makes interaction fun and enjoyable, and is the basis for all future interaction in life.  As a mom I want my kids to have as secure an attachment as I can possibly nurture within them.  If that means less sleep for me for a few months, so be it.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying this from a position of naive inexperience.  We had several kids who slept extremely poorly at night.  One of our adopted kids woke every hour and a half for five.months.straight after he came home, which means I went almost half a year sleeping in increments of 90 minutes or less.  I remember waking many mornings so tired that I could not imagine carrying on until bedtime.  And yet somehow by the grace of God and through His wonderful gifts of chocolate and coffee, I survived til the end of the day.

Now I’ve got to confess:  the baby who brought me closest to the edge was one for whom I actually DID try the cry-it-out method for a few nights eternally long hours several nights in a row.  And he screamed, red-faced and utterly hysterical.  For hours. And hours.  Maybe if I’d held out just a little longer, he’d have given up.  But looking at him now as a 13 year old, I’d guess not.  He is THE most determined kid I’ve ever known.  Once he’s made up his mind he does not give up for anything. Thankfully our bond remained strong and he does not seem to be wounded by the crying I let him do.

The bottom line for me really was how I felt when I responded to my baby’s needs versus how I felt standing outside the door listening to them scream.  Even when bone-tired, when I responded to my children’s cries I felt a sense of rightness, of being where I was supposed to be.  I felt like I was a good mom.  Leaving babies to cry jangles my psyche so completely that no calm can exist in my heart.

I know that different parents come to different conclusions.  Even John and I, though mostly in agreement about babies at night, had nights where one of us would want to respond quickly and the other would say, “wait, let him cry a minute and let’s just see if he’ll go back to sleep.”  (Tired parents in the wee hours can have volatile moments of disagreement!)  But because we had made a general rule to respond at night, our arguments were infrequent.  Responding to their cries brought us all the most sleep at night.  And guess what?  Now they ALL sleep just fine at night.

Except maybe for our 8-months-pregnant daughter who is sleeping restlessly as she and her husband get ready to embark on their first parenting adventure with their own child.  🙂  Children:  what a blessing.  Even at 3AM.  I wish you all every blessing as you work through what will work best for your own precious ones.

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Babies and sleep

Not long ago a reader wrote asking me how I’ve handled issues with babies and sleep.  For starters, I was blessed to have the example of a great mom, who nursed her babies long-term, slept with them at night, and generally modeled relaxed loving mothering to me.  Her example made it second nature for me to respond to our babies in a relaxed way even at night.  Here are some of the things we did that made night-time parenting easier.


We let our babies sleep with us for the first year or so. I know cosleeping is not for everyone, but we loved it.  We had a king sized bed so that there was enough space for mom, dad, and baby.  I also installed bed rail on my side of the bed so that the baby could sleep close to the edge on my side without falling out.  I tended to keep new babies close to me at first, but once John got used to a baby in the bed, he was just as aware of where the baby was as I was.

Nursing on demand

The best thing about the baby sleeping with us was being able to nurse without getting out of bed.  It can be tricky at first, especially with a tiny baby who is just learning to nurse.  But it is SUCH a sanity saver in the long run– instead of sitting up rocking to nurse, you can actually sleep.  Ah, heaven.  And forget the schedule.  If our babies cried at night, I fed them, plain and simple.  I nursed all four of our biological kids and three of our adopted ones, so I’ve spent about a decade nursing babies.  And I’m telling ya:  nursing in bed and feeding on demand made it much more doable and relaxing for me.

Keep it simple

Whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, co-sleeping or sitting up in the rocking chair, it is important to keep things as easy at night as possible.  That means having diapers and extra binkies and bottles and anything else you’ll need very close by.  Nightgowns or sleep sacks make night diaper changing much quicker and easier.

Rest during the day

Another huge sanity-saver when coping with a baby who isn’t sleeping well yet is to remember to rest a little each day, especially in the first 6 months when the baby is likely to be most restless.  Lying down even for 20 minutes in the afternoon with your feet up and your eyes closed is restorative to your body.  Yes, even if you don’t sleep, and even if you’re lying on the couch with Sesame Street playing for your 3 year old.

I personally think high door-locks on the front and back door are a great investment for moms of little ones.  That way you don’t have to worry about your 3 year old opening the front door and letting the UPS man in.  It’s no way to wake up from a nap, let me tell ya.

Get outside

When babies are waking you often at night, you sometimes go through a day in a fog of exhaustion.  A brisk walk outside every day, even for 15 minutes or so, can get your blood flowing and help you regain a more positive outlook on life.  Stick the baby in the carrier and the toddler in the wagon, and everyone will benefit from the outing.

Stash chocolate in strategic locations

I think I’ve mentioned my love of chocolate. Sometimes my chocolate habit even gets me busted.  But more than once it has given me just the lift I needed in the middle of a tiring day.  Try it.  You might just like it.  Even if you need to walk again afterward.

Set loving limits

When our kids got old enough to start sleeping a little more independently, or when I wasn’t home to put kids to sleep via nursing was when dad needed to step in.  For the first 10 years of our parenting journey I worked part time as an OB nurse, so there were always times when John had to put the kids to bed.  Some of the kids went to sleep easily for him:  feed them a bottle, lay them down, the end.  But a couple of the kids did resist going to sleep without me.

Rather than letting kids truly cry it out, John would sit in their room next to their bed and pat their backs as they fussed before going to sleep.  Sometimes it would take a little crying before they went to sleep.

There were times as they got older that they’d also try to sit up or stand up.  He’d just say ‘no, go to sleep’, lay them back down and go back to patting their backs.  Occasionally they’d get so wound up he’d have to pick them up and rock them for awhile to settle them down again.

But there seemed to be something about dad being the one in there, just gently insisting it was bedtime that encouraged a baby to go to sleep eventually.  And we felt like crying when mom or dad was right there was likely to be a much less scary proposition for the child than being alone in a dark room with no one there.

Older babies and weaning

John also did the back-patting trick with the kids once they were 12+ months old and we were beginning to feel like it was time for them to be sleeping on their own (often when we were weaning or at least trying to get rid of night feedings.)  He’d put them to bed and stay with them til they got to sleep.  Then when they’d wake up in the night, he’d be the one to go back into their room, tuck them back in, and pat their backs til they went back to sleep.

At our house, the babies are pretty much all mine til they’re a year old due to nursing.  But it has become a habit for John to take over and respond to night wakening after kids are a year or so old.  And– funny thing– he STILL is the one most likely to get up when a child vomits or has a bad dream. I’m pretty sure I got the better end of that deal, come to think of it.

What we did with our adopted kids

One final note to this rather long post:  we treated our newly-adopted infants and toddlers as if they were newborns when they first came home.  We 100% responded at night to them for a good solid year after arrival — in some cases longer — before instituting any ‘alone’ sleep rules.  This gave them a chance to get well bonded to us.

Finally, I want to encourage all you tired mommas out there to to hang in there and just take one night at a time.  Some day your baby WILL sleep all night long. Maybe not tonight.  But the time will come.  And you’ll make it.  Really.

And for those of you who are mommas who’ve already survived some sleepless nights I’d love to hear– what helps you deal lovingly with your baby’s needs at night?  How do you keep your sanity when you are sleep deprived?

Related articles

How to sleep safely with your baby

Why I don’t let my babies cry it out

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Getting kids to turn off lights

Our power bill has been creeping up lately. Granted, rates increased not too long ago.  But in looking at the breakdown that compares this month this year to this month last year, I saw we’re also using more kilowatt hours/month.  Since we’re already doing lots of power-saving things, this information displeased me. Nearly every light bulb in our house is fluorescent. We’ve got a wood stove that we use for the vast majority of our winter heating.  And thanks to a clothes rod and a drying rack in the laundry room, we hang-dry at least half our clothes — yes, even in the winter.  Recently I even turned off a freezer in our garage to save a little more money.

What else could we do? I figured that if kids got more serious about turning off lights, and maybe took shorter showers, we might be able to save a bit.   But I wasn’t about to add that to the already-long list of things that I nag them about.

Instead I offered them an incentive.   I told them that for every power bill where this month’s power usage was less than the same month last year, they’d each get a buck. (Yes, our kids are cheap to motivate. Comes from not getting allowance.)

During the first month that the incentive was offered, I watched in delight as they ran around turning off lights, and even reminded each other to turn things off.  The November power bill came, and lo and behold, they’d done it– they’d decreased our usage to below last year’s.   I happily handed out $7 and the kids were delighted.  Then, curious, I did the math to figure out how much they’d saved us.  Um. $7.  Guess mom and dad didn’t come out ahead there after all.  Ah well.  I consoled myself that they’re making good habits, and I told them to see if they could do it again.

Yep.  The December bill was even lower.  Our savings was a cool $20, which meant this time we came out ahead even after the kids were paid.  I don’t know how long the kids will continue to be able to do this.  By the time a year has passed, after all, they’ll be trying to beat their diligent selves, not their old careless selves.  But I’m delighted to have found such an affordable way to help them towards a habit that will help them save money in adulthood, and might even save John and me a little money right now.  Some months anyway.  🙂

March 2012 update:  the kids have continued their perfect record,  saving us on average $20-$25 a month. Even with $7 of that savings going into their pockets each month, I call that a win.



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Writing with Gypsy Mama this Friday on the topic of ‘Vivid’.


It’s been a hurry scurry morning, one where we rushed from breakfast to car to a musical performance to the grocery store, with me all the time reaching a hand out to my little 7 year old. “Come with me. ”  “Hold my hand.” “Sit by me.” “Stay with me.”  And she does come and hold on and sit and stay close and we enjoy the stream of music and shopping and driving and talking.

But it is not til afternoon when she comes to me to show me she’s bleeding– the tiniest of papercuts that is barely eking out a tiny bit of red– that I hug her close and look her deep and true in the eyes.  And as I cuddle and reassure, her little self sinks into my embrace, and I soak her loveliness into my pores, and breath deep, and wonder why it took this long in the day to really see the vivid beauty of her presence in my life.