The Benefits of Traveling With Young Children

Every summer, we visit Mr. Bee’s family in the Philippines in the remote beach town where they live.

I used to think that very young children probably wouldn’t remember such a trip. But having visited Mr. Bee’s parents three years in a row, I now see the many benefits of traveling for kids. Olive in particular, who has experienced some developmental delays, always has a huge cognitive and language explosion after each trip.

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Sleep Training: The Second Go-Round

The nine month sleep regression hit us hard in the Oatmeal house. We went from an easy bedtime with one wake up around 4am, to a full-on bedtime war and multiple wake ups nightly. Naps were nearly impossible; I would either have to walk Little Oats around the neighbourhood in the stroller, or drive around in the car to get her to fall asleep. On the rare occasion she would fall asleep in her crib, she would wake up 40 minutes later, screaming and ready to get up. I was exhausted, she was exhausted, and we needed to break the cycle.

Mentally, I went through the checklist of things that could be bothering her. Was she learning a new skill? Was she teething? Did she have gas? A cold? A fever? Was her room too warm? Too cold? When the answers to all of these questions were no, Mr O and I knew it was time to sleep train again. We knew she was capable of putting herself to sleep, and that she was able to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. So we picked a date, circled it on the calendar, and tackled sleep training once again.

The first thing we decided to do was get rid of Little Oats’ habit of nursing to sleep. I enjoyed the pre-bedtime snuggles, but she always woke up the second I put her down in the crib and screamed. To drop this habit, we switched up her bedtime routine a bit; I would nurse her downstairs, then Mr. O would take her upstairs and do pyjamas-books-prayers-bed. Since we wanted her to put herself to sleep, it seemed like a great idea.

Second, we knew that cry-it-out with checks had worked really well for us the last time. So, combined with the new bedtime routine, our night would look something like this:

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Making the switch to working full-time

Five years ago, I left my full-time job as an editor at a publishing company to go to Korea to pick up our daughter HJ. She was 15 months old. I had waited over a year for her to come home, and I was more than ready to be a full-time stay-at-home. At the time, I thought there was nothing else that I wanted than to be home with my daughter every possible moment.

We had a lot of help from family and friends during that transition home, but for that first year, I was still a very anxious, first-time mom trying to survive from moment to moment.

I still remember how challenging it was to even try to figure out when I could take a shower. I actually called my dad to come over and watch HJ, who was napping, so that I could take a shower without worrying about what would happen if she woke up and started crying. That’s how crazy I was during those first few days.

A few months later, when the dust had settled, I realized that I really wanted to start working again, even if it was just at a freelance level and from home, so that I could keep my skills up and keep my brain occupied with thoughts other than sleeping, pacifiers, attachment, feeding, and whatever various baby/toddler concerns were going on at the time.

I don’t know if it was the combination of post-adoption blues, the shock of becoming an instant parent to a toddler, or simply lack of sleep, but I can honestly say I was not a great stay-at-home mom. Even though I had never thought of myself as an extrovert, suddenly being at home with just HJ made me feel more isolated than ever before. Many other experienced moms had warned me about how difficult it was being home full-time, and yet, maybe I thought I was different? Turns out they were right of course!

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My Breastfeeding Experience: Exclusively Pumping

How you feed your baby is one of the most talked about, most challenging and most guilt-laden topics of new parenthood. Framed often as a choice, “breast vs bottle,” “mother’s milk vs formula,” it seems many of us find it to be far more complicated.

My baby feeding status: full time pumper. When your baby won’t nurse but “breast is best” haunts your every waking moment, this is what I ended up doing. Exclusive pumping doesn’t seem to be a common topic; I struggled to find stories and information from others in similar circumstances, so I think it’s an important part of my motherhood experience to share.

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D’s journey, part 4 – Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Just a note that this post talks a lot about intestines, if that grosses you out you should skip! Also not a post with a happy ending, but we’re getting there!

We last left off with D readmitted to the NICU with plans for exploratory surgery in the morning since he had some kind of abdominal issue.

Mr. Tiger and I arrived at the hospital just in time to see D off before the surgery (although he was already intubated and drugged up on morphine). The surgeons got our consent and explained they were going to go in through his belly button with a small camera, and see if they could tell what was wrong. They warned us that the worst case scenario would be that they would have to remove a section of the intestines, and that if the remaining intestines were too inflamed, they’d have to stay disconnected (outside of his body) for several weeks until they could be reconnected. I consented without really understanding what this meant, since what other choice did we have?

When the surgery was over and the surgeons brought us back into the mini conference room, which is always the longest 30 second walk I’ve ever had – what if they are bearing bad news? They explained that although the surgery went well, they did have to deal with the worst case scenario. D had developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or NEC, which meant that part of his intestines had actually died – hence the abdominal distress and bloody poops. They had removed 15cm of intestine, so now he had an ostomy bag (for the part of the intestines that came from the stomach, to empty out) and a fistula (the part of the intestines going to his butt which would be unused until reconnected).

I later was researching NEC and discovered that 1 in 4 babies who get it, die from it. Although the specific cause isn’t known, preemies are the most susceptible, although the vast majority get it while pre-term and still in the NICU. Preemie parents may remember a lot of belly measuring — identifying stomach bloating caused by NEC is one of the reasons why.

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Favorite Potty Training Books

Charlie was very easy to potty train at 2 1/2, and we probably could have trained him much earlier. I always assumed that girls would be much easier to train, but Olive is now almost 3 and though she likes sitting on the potty, she doesn’t like using it. We were waiting for the magical day when she would really start showing interest, but it hasn’t arrived yet. If we’ve learned one thing about her, it’s that she does things in her own time (and she’s a stubborn honey badger!). We’re probably going to have to buckle down and try the 3-day approach.

We’ve read a lot of potty training books over the years (the library is a really great place to check out a bunch), and Olive really enjoys them. These are our favorites:

Princess of the Potty/Prince of the Potty – This is the book we used for Charlie, and I like that the story and illustrations are clear, and it is very thorough covering how to use the potty, accidents, washing hands, and more. As far as a comprehensive how to, I think this is one of the best potty books.

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homemade spaghetti sauce

There’s a recipe that’s been passed down my family for generations. My dad’s grandparents were both born in Italy and came to the States in the early 1920s. My nana is a first generation Italian-American, and she said her entire family grew up in the same area of the city. Literally, across the street from each other. My nana lives in her parents’ house, where my dad grew up, and she’s told me so many stories about the markets and how they’d buy fresh vegetables to make their own sauce. This is a family recipe that’s been tweaked through the years, but the base is still the same. She never taught me how to make this with fresh tomatoes and we all used canned sauce now. The sauce makes your entire house smell delicious, and it reminds me of my childhood.  I used to help my nana cook her sauce and she’d always give me a ladle of sauce in a small bowl with some mancini’s bread.  There are other ways to tell, but you know the sauce is done when it sticks to the bread.

Each person in my family makes this a  bit differently.  My nana starts by browning an onion in oil at the bottom of the stock pot for extra flavor but omits garlic. My mom cooks hers with a whole green bell pepper, quartered, and raw pork chops (they cook with the sauce). I omit the onions, bell peppers and pork chops, so my base is like my moms and nana’s, but sometimes we use real basil and fresh garlic. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to make this, but the extra ingredients really make this taste differently. You can tell who has cooked the sauce for our Sunday dinners based on the flavor!

This makes a huge portion of sauce.  I have never bothered to do the math to half this. At Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter we actually double this and use very last drop for our meal. When I make this, I’ll use some for dinner then freeze the remaining portions for a quick meal. It thaws easily and tastes just as great!

Already teaching Chloe how to make our sauce!

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