B is for Books

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild,
to pick up a book and read to a child.

-Dr. Seuss

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I’ve read two articles this week talking about a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics which encourages parents to read to their babies (even from birth) to help develop their brain and early language learning.*

It’s exciting isn’t it? Being a new mom! Meeting this tiny little creature for the first time, one that needs to learn everything from eating, walking, talking, …and even breathing while sleeping –Wow! It’s easy to measure our little ones by what they’ve accomplished or learned in just a few short months. It’s also easy to limit them when we think they aren’t ready.** One thing I limited my son from in his “younger” days were books and reading. I consider myself a pretty average bookworm, but I just did not feel reading to him would be very beneficial when he could not even focus or pay attention …also, whenever I tried, he would just try to put the book in his mouth! Through all this though, I was still worried about how he would take (or not) to reading.

Luckily, my worry was unnecessary, because around 9-months old, he started being interested in books and reading. He started off just turning the pages, but now he actually sits and looks at the book as if he were reading it before turning the page. He’s also, somehow and someway, acquired quite a library of books, but his favourite ones are Star Wars 1-2-3, a Disney Pixar storybook collection, and a group of Dr. Seuss board books.

We recently took a family trip to Orlando, Florida and part of our trip included a day at Universal Studios’ theme park, Islands of Adventure. Within that park is Seuss Landing. They have a bookstore called “All The Books You Can Read”. When James saw that, he was so excited! He wanted to go and touch, and read, and turn the page of every single book. I must confess, I was a bit excited as well. I love reading Seuss-books to him, they’re fun and sometimes a good read-out-loud challenge. 🙂

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Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
-Socrates

Was it because of me that he likes reading so much? Absolutely not. Am I glad that he is? Absolutely yes! Do I hope that this interest continues, hopefully well into and past his academic years? YES! And I want to help him on his way to being his own brand of bookworm, that’s really all I can do. Books are really his first introduction to academic learning. It’s his first foray into discovering a world of …well, any world of his choosing!

**the two articles: New study: Major benefits of reading aloud to infants and Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth

**That being said, there are something’s that babies are only ready for at a certain time in their life (especially when it concerns food). As with most things regarding babies: when in doubt, consult your doctor.

A is for Attachment

“A baby is born with a need to be loved – and never outgrows it.”
— Frank A. Clark

One of the things I learned (and am still learning) about in parenthood is attachment theory. I know this applies to all types of relationships but none more clearly than in infants and their caregivers. I used to think that attachment parenting was all about co-sleeping, baby wearing, and controlled diets… and well, to some extent, it is. But I’m an emotional person, and those are all based on actions …I need something more emotional behind those actions to explain why this so important.

A couple of months before my due date, we took a prenatal course at our local hospital and in our information package was a brochure on “Attachment”**. At first, I was not sure if this would be useful to us at all, but once I started reading it and its promises of guiding me on making an emotional attachment with my son, it immediately peaked my interest!

Attachment theory’s “most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.” The notion is that babies will naturally attach to their parents, and the attachment that forms will help them grow in other skill sets, characteristics, and personality.

I believe my husband and I have done our best to make that initial attachment, and I like to think that it’s helped our son to “move along”, so to speak: He is so into puzzles and figuring out how things work or building things, he loves to read books (as much as a 2-year old can ‘read’ anyway), he is always imitating or mirroring things we say (repetition is a great teaching tool by the way), and he’s been able to eat with either a spoon or a fork since he was 18 months old.

Those (biased?) observations aside, when we’re talking attachments/relationships, how can we really rationalize why a child would make a connection with another human being? Why they would choose to follow or be around certain people? Why would anyone, really?

My sister who lives in Alberta recently visited us with her family. They would only be able to see us for two days, but her two boys have never met James in person, so they took the opportunity to have some short-and-sweet family time with us. They arrived Monday night and left on Wednesday afternoon …and my son had a blast with them! He was so sad when they left that he literally sat by the door and cried! And as much as that pains me, I’m kinda happy, because I know that now the word “cousin” means something to him. Even now, he’ll say their names when he sees something that reminds him of those two days he spent with them.

I don’t think of myself as a strict parent, but we have been teaching James about discipline and right or wrong since he was about a year old. I was raised this way, so was my husband, and our son will definitely be no stranger to it. Most of the time, it works. Sometimes, he tries to see how far he can push the limit before he really gets in trouble. Other times, he knows he’s in trouble and he does what he thinks will be his get-out-of-jail-free card: he calls out for grandma, my mother-in-law. The first time I heard this, I didn’t know whether to laugh (as in, “haha, like that’s ever gonna work”) or cry (as in, “why would he call out for her and not me?”). Again, he’s made that connection, and to him grandma is a refuge. (she’s awesome!)

One of our friends has two kids who are both older than James. Their 5-year old is always giving our son his old toys. And while he is probably learning a lesson in generosity and kindness, James is building a connection. Whenever he sees those particular toys, he’ll call out “Nathan”, because he knows who gave it to him, he knows who was kind to him and made him feel special.

Now, I’m not a doctor, I don’t have any certifications or qualifications other than that I’m human. I can’t give you a theoretical argument on Attachment, and I can’t give medically sound reasoning on how this all works, I can just say what I see and what I feel. And I know that no matter how we try to explain it away, it’s simple: we all need family, whether it’s by blood, by law, or by heart.

**If your interest is peaked as well, Attachment Parenting Canada and York Region: Child and Family Health is a great place to start

Joy is life!

What better reason to come out of hiatus than a day like today? It has been quite a few months since my last post, and I have been meaning to come back with a whole slew of interesting and cleverly written (lengthy?) articles. But then, I know that if I don’t do it now, it will never happen.

Isn’t that always the case nowadays? We always seem to have so much to do and not enough time to do it in, then so many things have to eventually get dropped to the back-burner, and I’m sure that it wasn’t for lack of trying either. But something I’m learning from my ever-so-calm-and-collected husband and my always-discovering toddler is that you need to live in the moment and take time to enjoy life. Take the time to run around in a field chasing a ball with your family. Take the time to sit and eat morning cereal together, every morning. Take the time to pick up a hobby or two that you used to love to do in college. Take the time to do physical activities and expect yourself to meet personal goals. Take the time to know yourself and be self-aware.

The last one is a biggie for me. Most people think only teenagers need to “find themselves”. But I think we are always changing, evolving, and adapting – which requires continually discovering our new selves as we change with the times, as it were. Otherwise, the world around us can change and we can change, yet we would be none the wiser!

My latest self-discovery? Life is a joy! No matter what is happening, no matter what has happened or will happen, life is a joy. There are so many blessings around us, especially in the things we always take for granted. As a mom, even now I am still amazed (and I hope I forever will be) of my son and his development from newborn to the boy he is now, and eventually to the man he will become …ooh, I just got goosebumps!

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This is what my son made for me at daycare for Mother’s Day. I know the teacher wrote the words and made most of it, but the message still rings true, and I’m proud of it! I take pride that I can be part of who he becomes. That what makes him comes from part of what makes me. It kinda gives me that nudge that says “hey, watch what you’re doing?!”

To share or not to share

This mom-blogger’s thoughts on the phenomenon of Oversharenting

I recently watched an episode of CTV’s new social-media inspired daytime talkshow called The Social*, and they had a discussion on whether parents posting, tweeting, blogging, instagramming, or social-networking their kids is a good idea or not. Of course, it had me thinking and evaluating my own social media presence, not only as a new mom-blogger, but as a new mom.

On the show, they made a good point, saying that moms get embarrassed by their children all the time, it’s only appropriate for us to have some payback. And they pointed out that we are in a different time, what was considered to be private when we were younger is not the same now.

Like most new moms, if you talk to me in the space of any time longer than two minutes, I will more than likely tell you about my son. Or, at around the two and a half minute mark, I’ll have this certain look in my eyes because I’m wondering if you’ll find a simple tidbit about him just as interesting as I do. (At that point, please just put me out of my misery and ask me how he’s doing? Thanks!) That being said, it’s no surprise that most (new?) parents are all over social media talking about their kids because it is essentially another outlet in which to share this amazing experience with the world.

I’d like to think that this idea of oversharenting must really just be referring to the extreme few at one end of the spectrum, which are the parents who post about outrageously diabolical diaper incidents (guilty), or instagram the proof that the baby actually peed on the wall (also guilty), or tweet about words they think their three month old baby kinda-sorta-maybe-but-not-really said by accident (…um, guilty), or blogged about how to tell if your baby really loves you (oh, c’mon, of course guilty). But I also think that parents are not unlike every other person on Facebook: some people share too much, some people share too little, some people think announcing to “Friends of friends” what they’re eating for lunch is perfectly normal (…guilty? o_O).

If we look around us now, it is plain to see that we are always so connected: smartphones, tablets …even baby monitors are connected to the internet! And we are in the age of information, people highly rely on the internet as a resource, social media sites being one of them. While I am a big supporter of useful information being at our fingertips, the risk here is that parents are not always aware of security precautions required when connected to the internet. As for the information, at the end of the day, it’s up to the user to determine validity, which is not always ap-parent (pun intended).*

It’s important to know why we actually want to put our children on social media. “Why do I post/tweet?” is a mixture of a few reasons…

To keep family updated. Namely, my mom who lives on the other side of the city, and one of my sisters who lives on the other side of the country.
To prove to myself that what just happened really actually happened! Usually when my son does something completely unexpected or new, which, as you can imagine, happens quite often.
…And the best reason, which is mainly the purpose of this blog, and probably the same reason why we are surrounded by oversharenters: To show the world this amazing experience of parenthood. Sometimes it may get difficult, sometimes even weird, a lot of the times I even feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but parenting really does bring such joy.

But it’s not always apparent (hah!) …that’s why, so we don’t miss anything, parents post everything!

*Check out http://www.ctv.ca/TheSocial. Notes made on this post are from my personal recollection and inferrence only, and should NOT be taken as word-for-word quotes

*Since what’s at risk is the safety and privacy of our children, I think it’s important to mention that we as parents should be prudent about what we post on the Internet. No matter what the “privacy settings” are for the website or app you are on, it’s up to you to draw the line on what is acceptable Internet presence for your children. The simplest thing that people forget is putting a strong password on their wifi/home network, never use the factory default!

That keeps on giving

A few months ago, I saw this book in Chapters and I got it with plans of going through it for my birthday. It’s basically a little book with insightful questions that help you think on the year that has passed and look to the days of the year ahead.

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And of course, the very first question had to be “What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given?”

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Hard to believe that, only a few months ago, my answer would’ve consisted of something physical, tangible, even fleeting. Designer sunglasses. A long coveted book. The latest technogical gadget. A very expensive meal at a very expensive restaurant. A personalized diamond necklace. Don’t get me wrong – these things are all very good, and should you come at my door, bearing any or all of them, you would not be turned away!

But, as the best? …this gift would have to be pretty awesome, pretty exciting that it makes my heart beat faster, something that could turn a frown into uncontrollable laughter in under thirty seconds, something that fuels my soul when I’m at the brink of exhaustion, something that warms my heart at the coldest of moments …something …or someone?

To date, the best gift I’ve ever been given are the two people in the world I call my family. This is different from my parents and my sisters …love ya! but this is MY family: my husband and my son. I know that there’s a lot of things I want. There’s a lot of things I wish I could wish for. But at the end of the day, they are what’s most important to me, what I cherish most and hold dear. I’m so blessed to have this wonderful gift of family that keeps on giving. Because every day is a whole store of new memories to make, every intimate moment is yet another heartstring tied to bond us together, and every new chapter in life is a new opportunity for our family to grow closer together.

…forever and a day

Balancing act

“Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
-Dr. Seuss

This post has taken nearly three weeks in coming because I have actually been doing some research on another post. When I say “research”, really I mean I’m googling for articles online, and I’m looking for a pamphlet I got last year and have hidden somewhere in my son’s room. It’s mostly anecdotal, so don’t get too excited …or impressed.

So, in the midst of doing said research, I had to delay writing a post because I really didn’t have another topic on hand, neither could I find the time to actually sit down and write along with the busy-ness that has been going on in my life. (I’ll give you a hint, two words: Over. Time.) And then, I couldn’t help but think, I might be onto something here, this post might actually write itself (wouldn’t that be fabulous?).

There is so much going on in our world on a daily basis. we’re always going from one thing to another. And we get so used to getting and doing things instantly. When scheduling my days, I have always strived to leave space in the margins, not live in it. I never liked having to rush from one task to another, some people do and they thrive in it, but I have always found it exhausting and (luckily) avoidable.

…until our son came around.

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it’s a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”
-Neal L. Anderson

Married and Married-with-children are really two different lifestyles. As much as we try to avoid it, and as much as it’s cliche, it still happens. It doesn’t mean it’s a negative thing, it just means there are different stages in life. Since James was born, I’ve had to learn to live in the margins, to take as much as a 24-hour day is willing to give me. Lemme tell ya, it’s exhausting! …but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Sure, it’s hard to find energy to play with him after a long day at work, my daily downtown commute for work means I only get to see my son for one to two hours on weeknights, it’s difficult to convince myself to discipline him when he’s doing something wrong, it takes more effort even to just go to the mall or go out to eat with him, real quality time with my husband doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and some of the things I’ve wanted to do for myself (like going shopping or get a haircut) have been getting pushed on the backburner.

Is it perfect? Nope. Is it the right way of doing things? Probably not. But that’s another awesome part of the family life: discovering what makes our family work, what it takes to keep that balancing act.
If you think of life as like a roller coaster, just think of this as the part of the ride where you get thrown in all directions and you have no idea what’s going on half the time or even what the ride will take you through next …but you just know you’re loving it!