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3 Tips for Surviving the Sleep Deprivation of Parenthood

I’m going to admit something. Before having my third child, I never truly understood what it meant to be exhausted. Of course, I’ve been tired. I’ve had sleepless nights, but nothing that couldn’t be restored with a couple of good nights rest.

I am blessed with 2 boys that are amazing sleepers. Mira, on the other hand is not going to follow the pattern of her brothers. We’ve had Ezra on a 7pm-7am schedule with a 2-3 hour nap for ages. Mira is 6 1/2 months old now and still waking 2-4 times per night, and her naps are essentially catnaps. We’ve moved her out of our room, she’s in her own crib. We’ve coslept, we’ve let her fuss it out. The fact is, she isn’t biologically wired to sleep all night.

That being said, Ezra now wakes at 5:15 am like a wonderful little alarm clock. No matter what his bedtime, no matter what our bedtime, he bounds out of bed ready to go. We are coming to the point of acceptance that we are in our season of sleep deprivation.

Some days, I don’t realize how tired I am until the kids are in bed and Gus and I take time to connect and watch something on our Britbox subscription. Sometimes it takes us 3 days to finish one episode because one of us is nodding off. Oh, the saga of parenthood.

I have had to find some solutions and relief (because a nap doesn’t happen) to get me through the day so I can still function without binging on coffee. I do enjoy a morning cup of coffee, but I like to leave it as a morning ritual, not a vice for mental clarity.

Lifting the Fog

  1. Vitamin D3– this is a powerhouse hormone in our body. There are many studies showing how a large portion of the population are vitamin d deficient. This is one of the first things I take in the morning along with my probiotic and multivitamin. I need to take it anyway since I’m breastfeeding. What it does physiologically is help the mitochondria which are “the power houses” of our cells to work efficiently.
  2. Hydration– something as simple as water is an amazing tool. Dehydration slows us down, causes us to feel stronger brain fog, and actually causes us to retain fluids. I try to consume 3-4 quarts per day, and it truly does help reduce fatigue.
  3. Opt outside– There’s an old Scandinavian saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”– so by implementing this phrase, getting outdoors every day can be a priority. Luckily, we live in Florida where there truly is rarely bad weather so opting outdoors is always possible. Fresh air and sunshine do wonders for the mood (and vitamin D levels). I pack up the kids in their stroller and walk around the neighborhood– it’s a quick 15 min walk but typically causes them to chill out or fall asleep and energizes me. A win-win.

These are my simplest tricks. The first tools in my toolbox that I gravitate toward when I’m feeling rundown. I have many other tools for boosting energy and clearing the brain-fog that often hits my husband and I these days. What do you do to get through the sleep deprived days?

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Simplified Childhood Play

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The holidays are fast approaching and this time of year always makes me evaluate our clutter situation. I am one of those people who react to clutter with anxiety. I’ve been this way since I was a child and always valued order in my space.

No matter how much I try to keep up on it, stuff always accumulates and my kids are tremendous culprits of accumulation. I have always been drawn to Waldorf or Montessori type education and play environments. I really like the idea of a simplistic play area, with a few, good quality, open-ended toys.

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I truly believe children are here to play, they develop key life skills through play. They establish emotional health, intellectual health, problem-solving and social connections. I think about myself and my “clutter-anxiety” and realize that when a kid is overwhelmed in their play area they are unable to decide what to do and essentially can’t tap their natural creativity and exploration.

In today’s society, we are bombarded with advertisements and toys that are “educational” and claim to “develop” your child.  In our home, the majority (not all– we do have some noisy plastic ones) of our toys are open-ended, classic, simple toys.

I also rotate them every few months to keep the variety engaging. My kids tend are less likely to stay focused and calm when overwhelmed with things, noises, or overstimulation. I find the classic toys are the ones that are used the most and never seem to end up lost in the house, and are wonderful for teaching.

I’ve mentioned in other posts, we have a pretty nice rhythm in our home for how the days go, we also fit in time for outdoor play and take our time during the day for exploration. We try to limit the “rush-rush” feeling when going from point A to point B and we also limit screens, although they do have their place from time to time.

I know I thrive in a simplified space, if my desk is cluttered, I can’t produce optimally so I just think about how my ideal environment looks and try to bring that in for my kid’s play area.

Before I pull out the holiday decor, so I will do my winter inventory and rotation to see what is best serving the kids in their current phases. I’ll share a few of our favorite toys in the links below. Everything I am sharing is non-toxic and eco-friendly.

  1. Balance Board– This is a great one for our toddler. He can use it in many ways– to get his energy out, to make ramps for his cars or even a slide from his bed.
  2. Grimm’s Rainbow– This is a beautiful toy and handmade in Germany. It stimulates creatively, and visually and really triggers the imagination.
  3. Uncle Goose Classic Blocks– These are played with daily. They are a great size, we’ve used them to teach letters, colors, numbers, animals, or open-ended building and playing. As the baby starts to explore her world more, I’m seeing her gravitate toward these blocks.
  4. Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic– This is another that is played with daily by both the toddler and the baby. It is a teether, a rattle, teaches colors, is a ball. It covers many bases and is very sturdy.
  5. Waldorf Doll– These are wonderful first cuddle toys. They are soft, open-ended because the face is basic and not “telling” the child what the face looks like. My oldest son had a doll similar to this that was his friend for many years, and I’m glad to buy one for the youngest this holiday season.

I work to keep our toys organized in 3 baskets in a shelving unit and my rotations are at least seasonally (sometimes more often) and we have a basket of books in both the bedroom and play area that I change every month or so. These things keep our overwhelm at a minimum, and the kids active and engaged.

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Cloth Diapering: Making it Simple

IMG_3191I have cloth diapered all 3 of my kids in various capacities. I am going to share a bit of my experience and the knowledge I have compiled over the years. It is a big world, and there are many, many diaper options. I have found it to be a bit overwhelming, so I opt for ease of washing and ease of wearing. Simplicity. Each mama finds her favorite brand, style, and method of operation.

Why Cloth Diapers?

Well, for us– we have opted to cloth diaper full time with our 3rd baby because we have 2 in diapers and the sheer amount of trash we accumulate with having 2 kids in diapers is insane. To me, the cloth is doing our part to reduce waste in the landfill.

Here are some mind-blowing statistics: disposable diapers create 60 times more waste than cloth diapers do. They take 250-500 years to decompose and require 20 times more raw materials to produce than cloth diapers. When cloth diapers are made of natural fibers, they take about 5 months to break down and are compostable if made of wool or cotton. Plus, they are actually easy to resell and have quite the market on social media and in consignment stores.

Yes, they cost more upfront, however, you can save a lot in the long run (unless you have a cute print addiction, lol).

Another huge benefit of cloth diapering is that they are safe for baby. There are many chemicals used in the process of making a disposable. There are safer, cleaner and greener options these days for disposable diapers, and their manufacturing quality is reflected in the price of the diaper. I calculated spending something like $150 per month with two kids in the best quality disposable.

To get started with cloth, you need about 12-20 diapers. Just think, a newborn dirties 10-12 per day, an infant around 8-10, and a toddler 6-8. I like to have about 24 just so I’m only doing laundry about every 4-5 days.

 Different Types of Cloth Diapers

  • Flat Diaper:  A single layer of cloth that you fold and use as a diaper. This is probably what your grandma used. Requires a diaper cover to make it waterproof.
  • Prefold Diaper:  Someone took that piece of cloth and folded it into layers and sewed it, which is how they got the name “prefold”.  You still have to do a minimal amount of (easy) folding here and diaper cover is required to make it waterproof.
  • Fitted Diaper:  Basically added elastic and sewed the fabric into a diaper shape.  It also still needs a diaper cover to make it waterproof.
  • Diaper Cover:  Yup, this is what you will need to make all of the cloth diapers I mentioned above waterproof.  Diaper covers do not have any absorbency but go over the top of what absorbs making the cloth diaper not leak.
  • All-In-One Diaper:  Take the fitted diaper and diaper cover and sew them together into an “all-in-one” diaper.  They are basically like a disposable except you can wash and reuse.
  • Pocket Diaper:  Take a diaper cover and sew fleece to the inside (fleece is stay-dry and will wick the liquid away from the body) these have a  “pocket” opening to put an insert (the absorbency part of the diaper) into and only the fleece is touching the baby.
  • All-In-Two Diaper:  A diaper cover that has snaps on the inside for an insert to snap into.  You can reuse the cover and snap-in clean inserts.

There are many types of fabric used to make diapers. There are fleece, bamboo, microfiber, cotton of many types, and hemp to name what is on the top of my head. My favorite combo these days are cotton fitted diapers (from Green Mountain Diapers), with a waterproof cover or wool cover. I also really like prefolds and covers. I am not really into synthetic fabrics at all and have found opting for natural fabrics easier to keep clean and dry with minimal odor than some of the other AIO and pockets I have tried. Again, this is all a personal preference.

Now, for the fun part… Washing…

This isn’t as bad and you would imagine. After you get the hang of it, it becomes just another piece of the weekly routine.

  1. Dump solids into the toilet and put used diaper into dry diaper pail (if baby is solely breastfed you can skip this step or even use a biodegradable liner and just throw it away). I also use a diaper sprayer and just spray the poop directly into the toilet (and my baby is still solely breastfed).
  2. On washing day dump soiled diapers into washing machine.
  3. Cold water light wash cycle with no detergent.
  4. Hot water wash (highest water level, longer cycle) with 3/4 the amount of detergent you would normally use. I use just a tiny bit of Young Living Thieves laundry detergent. It is non-toxic, gentle on the skin and I completely trust the company/product.
  5. Extra rinse cycle.
  6. Tumble or line dry.
  7. If you notice stains on your diapers, you can put them out in the sun and the sun bleaches them nicely. Such a wonderful trick!

Cloth Wipes

When using cloth diapers, you can also use reusable cloth wipes or even just a washcloth. You can prewet them or carry a spray to use when cleansing. I opt for a simple muslin version and a spray.

My go-to butt wipe spray is:

4 oz distilled water

1 tsp. baby wash (I use California Baby)

1 tsp. fractionated coconut oil

2-3 drops of lavender essential oil.

I mix all of these ingredients into a spray bottle and then just spray directly on baby when changing.

There are many other options for premixed sprays and cleaners, again I’m just sharing my preferences. In a few future posts, I’ll share how to prep wool diaper covers and how to strip diapers if they need an extra deep sanitize.

I hope this was helpful, and if you have any tips or tricks, please let me know!

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Amber Teething Necklaces

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It seems we have two teething kids on our hands! Little Miss Mira is working on her first two bottom teeth and Ezra is dealing with those pesky 3-year molars. A thing I ran into when my oldest was a baby (eek… 14 years ago) was an amber teething necklace. They have definitely gained popularity over the years and are easily accessible on Amazon. Back then, I swore I noticed a difference in Keenan and am still finding relief for the other two kiddos.

Many moms swear by them, but why?

There is said to be an oil secreted from baltic amber called succinic acid. Raw, non-autoclaved amber releases this oil, around 8% when the amber is heated by the baby’s skin. Succinic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, it is immune-supporting, it is an antioxidant and it can be calming.

Succinic acid is found in many nutritional supplements and in medicines. It is commonly prescribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Baltic amber is a fossilized resin from conifer trees. It also has a huge history, and it has been found as far back as the paleolithic period.

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There have been concerns and issues about safety and choking. I haven’t had a problem and am not fearful– however, I generally use precautions when my babies wear them. I make sure the necklace has a pop clasp that will safely disengage if the necklace would get caught on something, I buy about a 12.6-inch length so it isn’t very long, and I put it on the baby and keep her distracted for a few moments so she forgets about it even being on.

We take it off before sleeping, and she’s supervised during the day when wearing it. A few things to look for when purchasing an amber necklace is that it is 100% raw amber, it hasn’t been treated with an autoclave, and it is double-knotted between beads. The color of amber ranges from brown to orange, and it is generally a milky hue when the beads are untreated. The lighter color beads tend to be higher in succinic acid.

Amber necklaces are one tool I advocate for, and I think they are super cute! I even have one in an adult length and have noticed that I feel calmer and headaches are less when I wear it. They run about $20 so, it may be worth a shot when dealing with the dreaded teething process.

 

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Teenage Trials and Transitions

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Raising a teenager is no joke. The past few weeks I have been up to my elbows trying to parenting a sane teen. I have finally realized the public school system is just too much for my empathic, emotional teen boy. Keenan has always been a little “different”, and I mean that in the best of ways. From his early childhood, I felt an alternative education– Montessori, Waldorf, or homeschool would be the way to go for him. We did Montessori for a brief time, however, circumstances had us join the public school system in West Virginia, and it was actually quite wonderful for him.

He met great friends, he had great teachers that really resonated with him, and he generally thrived with the routine and structure. We moved to Florida the last half of his fifth-grade year, and things have not been the same. Yes, I know he was going through his tween years, middle school and all of the difficult transitions that we all generally face. He adapted okay– until this year. The first year of high school.

The social pressures are too much for him. He’s hearing and seeing things that he can not process. Sex, drugs, gun threats, to name a few. Initially, my husband and I thought these were “normal” teenage behaviors and talk and he would get used to it. He has not. He says he’s shaky all of the time, he’s angry and has outbursts when he’s home because he can’t seem to release the pressure, along with a few other challenges that are concerning.

We’ve been working to help him adjust by giving tools to release his anxiety and it isn’t giving him long-term relief. Today, I applied for virtual school so now we are waiting to see what happens next. This was an extreme remedy from our end. My guess is he will be accepted and we will have to find a new family rhythm with him schooling at home. This piece worries me, however I know we will adjust (if this scenario is best) and find ways to meet all of his needs– academically, socially, and emotionally.

So, this is our latest update and one reason this blog has taken the back burner. I am going to share some of the tools we’ve been using to calm his anxiety and unwind his day.

The Emotion Code by Bradley Nelson

The Reconnect Kit which is an essential oil kit that helps him feel grounded and focused.

Probiotics. Some probiotics have wonderful mental health strains of bacteria that helps calm his nervous system (this is major for me too!)

Keenan does well when he is consistent with his Tae Kwon Do, we’ve increased his class load with them and when he practices his form daily his mind is more calm and balanced.

Raising teenagers is a whole different ballgame and I remember how difficult it was for me. I am hoping to instill in him some values and tools that can give him a heads up with these trials so that he can lessen his anxiety and allow him to focus on his future and the man he chooses to become.