Thursday, October 29, 2015

Doing a Weekly Check-In

This post first appeared as a guest post on Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.

My husband and I started doing a weekly check-in each Sunday shortly after we got married. I'm all about intentionality and this seemed like a great way to ensure he and I were having purposeful conversations on the regular. After a while of doing the weekly check-ins they became less like an interview and more just a framework for a conversation we have about how our week went and what our upcoming week looks like.

Doing a weekly check-in with your spouse is a great way to get past the "How was your day? Good" conversation. We've also found a weekly check-in is especially helpful if you have tiny humans in your house dominating the topic your conversations. Having this chat every Sunday encourages my husband and I to push pause and just spend some time face to face before we start a new week.

Here are the questions we ask and answer to each other each Sunday evening:
  • What is your high and low from past week?
    • I really try to listen to his answer on this question, as often things going on at his job are either his high or his low. I find it worth noting if he's stressed at work so that I can be mindful of that when he's at home.
  • How did you feel loved this past week?
    • I love this question. I am easily susceptible to putting standards on myself as a wife that mean nothing to my husband. I've learned over the years that my husband does not feel loved by a fancy Pinterest dinner or the fact that I make the bed every morning (which apparently I just do for me as he could care less). He almost always answers this question by saying he feels loved by how well I take care of our kids. As taking care of the kids often takes up my entire day, it's such a relief to know that really the only thing I can offer him right is the very thing that makes him feel loved during this season in our lives.
  • Anything I need to be called to repent of?
    • I also love this question, as it prevents me from being a nit-picky wife (most of the time!). If Kyle does something during the week that rubs me the wrong way I make note of it to talk about at the weekly check-in. If it's still bothering me on Sunday night, I tell him about it. If I forget come Sunday, clearly it wasn't worth mentioning in the first place. Obviously if it's something huge we address it in the moment, but most of the time it can wait. I also like this question because Kyle knows it's coming and his heart is in a good place to receive whatever I have to say. And vice versa; when Kyle has things he wants to bring to my attention I'm expecting it and am willing to listen to him more so during this time than I would be in the heat of the moment.
  • How would you best feel pursued this week?
    • Some might find this question weird because it's aimed at the bedroom (wink, wink!), but in this season of our lives (having little kids) we find it's imperative to talk openly and often about the most sacred part of our marriage.
  • What does your upcoming week look like?
    • Walking through the upcoming week on the calendar together helps prevent scheduling oopsies. It also helps set expectations so we both know what's going on and there's no "you never told me about that" or "I didn't realize you'd be home so late", etc.
  • How can I support you logistically this week?
    • This question is probably unnecessary to most but we find it's useful to be extra clear about what would be helpful to each of us so that we aren't making assumptions.
  • How can I pray for you this week?
    • Another question I really try to listen to his answer on - and then actually pray for what he asks for. As his friend, I really like to know what's weighing on his heart or what he is rejoicing over and coming alongside him for either.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Toddler Table Time: How to Get Started

Today is Pinterest Day for the Babywise Friendly Blog Network and we're all sharing on the topic of learning. Follow us on Pinterest for more great tips, or check out the posts from the other ladies directly on their blogs.


I've posted before about some of our favorite Table Time activities, but today I'm talking about how to get going with Table Time. Table Time is a specific time of day you sit down with your toddler and help them learn to focus on a series of activities at the table. This is a fantastic way to teach your child how to concentrate and explore without loosing interest. It's also a great way for you to give your toddler some always-needed undivided attention (especially if you have other little babies at home - we do Table Time during my newborn's morning nap). And lastly, this is a perfect intro to homeschooling if that's something your foresee on the horizon in your home or just want to test out. 

{ start short }
Keep Table Time short at first. Start with ten minutes, and add on time as your toddler shows ability to stay at the table. Using a timer to signify the end of Table Time is a good idea if your toddler is a whiner; it helps him to understand that Table Time is over when the timer says so, not when the toddler says so. As a guide, my 13 month old started with ten minutes a few times a week. He's now 27 months old and does 45 minutes twice a week.

{ start fun }
At the beginning, your only goal is to get them to stay at the table for the duration of time you've decided on. If you need to swap in a new activity every ten minutes to keep his attention, do it! If he needs you to show him how to do all the different activities, do it! Your goal is to have fun and keep him engaged at the table.

{ keep it special }
Have a set of activities and supplies you only use for this time. Set them aside in a space that your toddler can't get in to. Most of our Table Time activities are things that our toddler news my help for anyway (paints, markers, stickers, play-doh, harder puzzles, etc), so it makes extra sense for us to store these up out of his reach.

{ time it right }
Table Time probably wouldn't work well right before lunch or nap time, or right before bedtime. You want your toddler to be fed, well-rested, and not over-stimulated. We do Table Time in the mornings after my toddler is done with independent play time in his room, which comes right after breakfast. So he's fed, well-rested, and ready for some face time with mom. My newborn is napping during this time so I'm (usually) able to give my toddler my uninterrupted attention during this time.

{ add in teaching }
Once your toddler is getting the hang of staying at the table, decide on some things you want to teach your toddler and start working those in. For example, start with colors. Pick a color, and point out that color in each of the activities your doing. The blue crayon, the blue stickers, the blue Play-Doh, etc. The next time, pick another color. Other ideas: letters, numbers/counting, sounds, textures, same/different, sizes.

{ vary who picks the activity }
This helps your toddler get used to not always being able to do the exact thing he wants to do. Start slow by introducing the idea that "mommy picks the first activity and then you can pick the rest". I made up a laminated sheet with pictures of all the activity options so my toddler can just point and pick (instead of me getting all the bins down and him digging through each bin because oh-my-lanta we would be sitting there doing that all morning!). This is the current sheet I'm using:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why We Chose Babywise for Our Family

This post first appeared as a guest post on Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.

I first encountered Babywise when I was at my sister-in-law's house. We were having dinner, and after dinner she excused herself to put her 14-month-old to bed. I thought surely she'd be gone for 30 minutes, so I settled in to watch some TV until she was done. She returned a few minutes later, ready to resume our conversation. I was shocked: what just happened? She briefly explained to me that they use the Babywise method in their house. I did not have children at the time, but I made a mental note to follow-up on the "Babywise" idea when the time came for my husband and I have to have kids. ​

​Fast-forward a few years, we became pregnant and I immediately picked up a copy of Babywise to read for myself. My husband and I both read it cover-to-cover, completely agreeing with the principles and methodologies outlined in the book. On paper, Babywise matched our intuitions about parenting and the goals we had for our soon-to-be family of three. In practice, I had seen Babywise work for many families in our church (​since first hearing about it from my sister-in-law​)​ and I knew that was what we wanted for our son.

​From the start, using Babywise methods allowed us to work toward a predictable and stable home environment as we welcomed baby into our home. Within a few weeks from birth, we had a baby taking full feedings (I exclusively breastfed until he was 6 months old), having alert awake time, and enjoying restful naps and nighttime sleep. Over many months of following Babywise principles and reading more of the -Wise series as our son grew, we now have a thriving toddler who is well-behaved, obedient, loving, joyful - and still sleeping wonderfully on his own for his afternoon nap and overnight.

Despite having some firm principles, Babywise is not a formula that can be applied to a child to make them sleep. In fact, it's about much more than sleep; sleep (for everyone involved) is just one of the main benefits of the practice of the Babywise principles. Babywise encompasses a belief system about the role parents play in baby's life, and relies heavily on mom and dad's ability to exercise discernment in applying the -Wise principles within their home. To that end, we definitely experienced a learning curve at the beginning and I was so thankful for Val's blog, the community of BW moms I found on Facebook, and my own family and girlfriends who had success with Babywise.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mary: 3 months

Mary's personality is really starting to come out and she is just the sweetest little squishy baby! Just today she gave us her first giggle. She is so smiley when she's awake! She loves interacting with any person who will give her attention. I could just sit and smile back and forth with her all day.

She's holding her head up like a pro and loves standing, so we pulled the Jumperoo back out and she really likes hanging out in there. She also likes being in the Bumbo seat up on the kitchen counter (that's dangerous, I know, I know, I know...).

She goes down for naps and bedtime with no issues. We worked really hard to establish a consistent sleep routine and it has worked; I'm hoping that carries us through the 4 month sleep regression. About half of her naps she sleeps straight through the whole thing and the other half of the time she wakes and cries intermittently throughout her nap. It seems like whenever Kyle is home she naps really poorly. Still trying to figure out why that is...

Nursing is going well, which I find to be amazing because I haven't had hardly any time to really think twice about keeping my supply up or pumping. I keep feeling like maybe my supply is dropping but she always seems full and happy so I guess not.

We're still keeping an eye on that flat side of her head. She seems to have stopped favoring turning her head to the right so I do think her neck is equally strong on both sides now and it's just a matter of time for that flat spot to round itself out.

During her wake times we do a variety of activities: tummy time, jumperoo time, sibling play, reading books, and some independent playtime on the play mat.

The days are flyinggggg by, which in some ways is nice and in other ways makes me weepy. I secretly love when Mary has a really bad nap and I "have to" go in an let her nap on my chest so she can finish sleeping. I just sit there and sniff the top of her head with every inhale and hold her tiny little hand with my fingers. It's not creepy when it's your own daughter, right??

I'm remembering that somewhere between 3 and 4 months old babies start seeming less newborn-y and more baby-y, so I'm excited to see what the following weeks bring. Every day we get to know Mary a little bit better and every day we love her more than we thought possible!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Guest Post: A Breast and Bottle Experience


It's BFBN Guest Post Day and today Shea from The Moses Home is sharing about both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. It's a lengthy post, so grab a cup of something warm and cozy up for a good read. I've read her story below several times now and each time a different emotion resonates with me. Full confession: I am not a fan of breastfeeding. I do it because I can and therefor think that I should. I don't get all the warm fuzzies from it and I used to feel guilty about that. This time around I'm learning to be more upfront with that because I think there are more women in my shoes than I ever realized. I feel badly for the women who can't breastfeed but wanted to; I then also feel badly that I do it but don't love it like all the women I see on my Instagram feed (#normalizeit). Enough feeling badly already, amiright?!

And PS: today I'm sharing over at Shea's blog about connecting weekly with your husband.


image source
How you choose to feed your baby can be/is one of the most “talked about” topics among moms. There is so much emotion tied to lots of decisions that moms make for their children, but the way in which we feed them almost ends up putting us on a team. You know the teams. Team Breast or Team Bottle. I am almost convinced that no other choice we make in early parenthood can cause the shame or the pride that this one will bring. I have played for both teams, so I would like to share my perspective today.

I unexpectedly became pregnant 6 months into marriage. I was not prepared for anything that had to do with parenting, but it was time to do my research. After doing some digging online, it was easy for me to decide that breastfeeding my baby would be the best fit for my soon-to-be family of 3. I decided that, among many other things throughout my pregnancy, and believed that things would magically fall into place as I had planned for them too. Fast forward to walking out of my 36 week pre-natal check up and heading straight to the hospital to have my first baby. Due to some minor complications (intrauterine growth restriction), it was better safe than sorry to go ahead and deliver. This was not part of my plan. At 9 am the next morning, a c-section ensued. That also was not in my plan. We didn’t even have a changing table yet. She was beautiful, and tiny. 4 lbs 11 oz, born at 36 weeks 3 days. She was healthy, Praise be to the Lord.

Oh but was she sleepy. She was still supposed to be inside of me, she wanted a few more weeks to grow. I was saddened that my body could not provide her with the environment to do be able to do so. She did not have the energy to feed for very long. Thankfully, my milk flowed like honey - and the only reason I worried that she might not get enough to eat was because her tiny body could not muster up the energy to eat for more than 5-6 minutes. Her little frame needed to gain weight, and she had not the energy to get the nutrients to do that. At the tender age of 8 weeks, I decided that again, my body had failed her and that I was destined for a motherhood experience that would never go according to my plan. After a long recovery of mastitis, I hung my head in shame and stuffed my sports bra with cabbage leaves. We spent roughly half a million dollars in baby formula for the next 10 months. It was a happy 10 months though. Our family functioned well, and everyone was incredibly happy. My baby was as healthy as the next, and we proudly moved along - and didn’t struggle much with having to defend our decision.

When that baby was 3 days shy of celebrating her 2nd birthday, we surprised her with a baby sister. Little sister came to us at 38 weeks 2 days and I was elated that we pulled through for that long! At my 38 week appointment, there was essentially no amniotic fluid left, and so baby needed to come (so glad my body held out 2 weeks longer before doing this a second time!). I had asked for a VBAC (I live in a small community, so this was not an option due to resources) and was told of course that would not happen. When they brought my SCREAMING 6lb 8oz baby, I thought I had just birthed a baby cow. She was plump, swollen, and pink. She came to me latched herself, and nursed to her heart’s content. An answer to prayers! I didn’t even have to put in one lick of effort. She ate any time I offered, and screamed at all other moments of the day. We learned what colic was with this sweet girl, and breastfeeding her was the only thing I had to connect me to her. Nursing her saved me during that time. It kept me necessary for her, when all her screaming told me I could do nothing to comfort her. So I did, and it felt great. It felt so good knowing that I was enough for her, and that I could give her exactly what she needed. I was even a little thrilled when she was offended by having to take a bottle at 7 months old when I had to have a medical procedure done that required some prep ahead of time that would not be optimal to pass along to her through my milk. My mom and husband had to syringe feed that child. Syringe feed her 7 oz of pumped milk. My heart swelled with pride, and I felt so sorry for what my husband and my mom went through that day with her. We continued on and weaned shortly after my first cycle from having had her creeped back into my world (11 months). The next month I learned we would have another baby!

9 months later I was faced with newborn love and snuggles again and I was confident that breastfeeding was something I was fully capable of doing successfully! I looked forward to it so much during my pregnancy, and prayed that Lord would bless me with a healthy nursing relationship like he had done with my precious daughter. She was a little thing, 5 lbs 12 oz, and did not latch well during the first feed after delivery. She fussed, seemed confused and ultimately uninterested. I stayed relaxed and calm, and knew that in the first few days feedings can be a challenge, but knew that it would work out in the end and I was prepared to continue working with her. We took her home, and had some good feeds, some really rough feeds and it was an up and down rollercoaster. After working with a lactation consultant we were able to conculde that I had a hyper-ejection milk reflex and a forceful letdown. It caused her to swallow a lot of gas during let down. I tried all sorts of tricks, only short of nursing while doing a headstand, and it became such a stress for me that by the 4th month, her and I had both had enough. I was a ball of stress, she hated feeding time, and all of a sudden I remembered that I also had the responsibility of feeding the two other sisters that lived under my care! After a lot of talking with my husband and countless visits with an LC, we decided that formula would keep her healthy and thriving, and allow for some peace among the rest of the household. I was sad, but knew from experience that feeding both ways resulted in the same thing: healthy, happy kids.

On October 1, 2014 - I really got the shock of a lifetime when I learned I was expecting a 4th blessing. You may laugh, but my first thought - pregnancy test freshly positive and still in hand- was I was going to get to nurse a baby again! I was going to redeem myself from my most recent experience. I mean, there HAS to be a connection between my odd numbered babies (formula fed) and so surely my even numbered babies would be my little breast girls. Turns out that logic does not work.

Her birth was a little traumatic for us both. Her birth story includes 2 extra days in the hospital, being hooked up to an IV and unavailable to hold for almost 48 hours after birth, her not being able to regulate her blood sugar, and me having to have 4 units of blood to survive her arrival. The pediatrician told me that because her blood sugar levels were so low, and my milk had not come in yet to help in regulating it, she had to have formula in the hospital. None of my other babies had formula that soon, and I was so sad. I was sad, but I wanted her to have what she needed to get those levels under control. With each feed, I would nurse/(pump during the time I was unable to hold her to feed her) and then give .5 ounce of formula. This leveled her out nicely, and once my milk came in the formula was not necessary anymore.

However, she loved the bottle. So I had to work extra hard to get her to nurse without fussing. That really hardly ever happened. I again, was on the phone with a Lactation Consultant who told me that I had hyper ejection milk reflex and oversupply. Let down was painful for her, and it eventually lead to her having a nursing aversion. When I was just as much cradle her in my arms to place her in position to feed, her back would arch and she was scream. It was nearly impossible just to calm her down enough to feed.

There is something so hard about this happening 8 -12 times a day. Maddening, really. I would finally get her to latch, and the whole time I would just pray, please take a full feed. Sometimes she would! Sometimes she wouldn’t. We had a few good days and a LOT of bad days where I was in tears 8-12 times a day. I knew this was my lost shot. My last chance. If I was done, I was done for good. Choosing formula this time was FAR FROM the easy way out. It was the hardest choice I felt like I have had to make this far into parenting.

See, I was the mom who mostly formula fed her babies, but wanted to be breastfeeding them. That is a lonely camp to be in. Mostly because it is a silent camp. I feel like I don’t hear from those mom’s very often, but I know they are out there. You know the ones who are struggling to make it work because of what society says. What science says. What their friends, even, say. I feel like a lot of these moms are suffering quietly. When I would see nursing moms, just nursing like it was as easy as getting dressed in the morning I would cringe with what I call “happy jealousy”. I would be so glad that nursing was working out so well for them, and I would be mournful at the same time that it was not at all an easy thing for me overall. I am thankful for formula, and how it saved my family and grew my babies 3 times over. I am more than grateful to God that I had an opportunity to nurse a baby with success one time over. I am thankful that I know that bond and that I have that experience. I am also glad that breastfeeding won’t bring my babies to salvation, and that formula isn’t going to send them to hell. I am confident that those who know me, know that I love each of my babies down to the very fiber of who I am - and only want what is the very best for them. You can’t argue that there is anything nutritionally better for a baby than its mother’s milk. You also can’t argue that bottle feeding is nutritionally damaging to a child, either. It is a healthy alternative and it is ok. It is ok.

But I know that in the moment of trying to make that decision you are not sure what in the world is “ok”. Unfortunately, this is one of the first things you are faced with when being ushered into motherhood, no experience required style. Emotions become gravely attached with decisions like these, but you must not be ashamed of not choosing formula if you need too. Breastfeeding moms need not to puff up in pride that they were able to make that work - even if was difficult for a time.

I have learned that there are things under the umbrella of motherhood that you can excel in, and things that you can struggle with. I can get D- in nursing, but I may get an A+ in potty training, and that is ok. We each have our unique talents and natural abilities and those can be noted in motherhood just as they could be in school or in the workplace. So I have decided to really cultivate my areas of talent and spend most of my time there, while still giving some time to pushing through the things in parentings that don’t come as easily to me.

And soon enough, aren’t we all eating 3 meals a day at a table together anyway? How you feed your infant will not be noticeable to others much after toddlerhood, so take heart! Just feed your baby how you see fit, and trust yourself.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hansen life: September

September has been a blur; it feels like it skipped by and I can't even remember what happened! I've been better about getting out of the house with the kids now that Mary is more stable. At this stage in my mothering I have to keep the outings to a minimum though because they completely exhaust me. I haven't yet built up the capabilities to keep an eye on Drew, tend to Mary, and carry on a conversation with anyone for more than a few minutes without my brain just kind of short circuiting. I'm assuming this is something I'll get better at? I was blessed to have quite a few friends bring their kids over to our house for play dates the past few weeks, making it so I could still have adult conversation without dragging my sleeping newborn away from her cozy crib. And every single friend that came to visit offered to bring me coffee. And I said yes to every offer! Cue my pumpkin spice latte happy dance!

September started off with a fun family gathering to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. The month was sprinkled with additional birthday celebrations and baby showers and the like. There always seems to be something joyful worth celebrating every few weeks, which just adds to the sweetness of life.

Drew had his 2 year check-up and Mary had her 2 month check-up. Both kids had to get shots so I had Kyle go with me to the appointment. Drew handled it really well, but I think he was just ready to be done in that small patient room. Mary handled it well at first but spent the rest of the day pretty unhappy (Drew responded to his 2 month shots exactly the same way...weird, right?). Mary is in the 60% for weight and the 86% for height. Drew dropped from the 60% to 30% for height, so we're expecting a big jump in height from him in the next few months (especially because his weight went from the 25% to the 50%!).

I was finally able to get going back to the gym again. I missed my hip-hop boot camp class so much! The gals were all so welcoming to have me back and there was lots of encouragement sent my way because I was a wee bit rusty. I'm only going to the gym once a week right now because I feel like that's reasonable given the season we are in. Once Mary is 6 months old and go into the Kids Gym with Drew I will likely bump it up to 2-3 times a week.

Here are some photo highlights from the past month:
Mary meeting great grandma Dee

4 generations :)

Maximum couch potato mode

Drew cruising with budding Rhodes

Dad and Drew watching old cartoons

This morning was rough for me. Mary was up nursing all night, and it was Saturday
morning and I just wanted to sleep! But Drew requested that I - not Kyle - take him to
the beach. What do you say when your sweet 2 year old asks for momma to take him to the beach?
You say "sure buddy!" and slam a coffee (or two).  And I'm glad I went because once we got
to the beach I briefly forget how tired I was and got down in the sand and helped Drew
explore seashells. And I wouldn't have remembered the nap, but I'll remember this little
moments with my boy. (And the next weekend he - thankfully - picked Kyle to take him to the
beach and I got my nap after all!)

Husky fans watching the UW game!

The kid loves books

Faces with Mare Bear

Kyle got to go to the Husky game so the kids and I
did our cheering from the couch at home!

Tummy time pals
My tiny helper
We discovered this machine on the side of the road on our walk. I probably shouldn't
have let Drew climb all over it but his giant eyes and wet smile just caused
me to look the other way and let him have at it!

Classic 2-year-old problems
My guys at the beach waiting for the trains to go by...