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Actually it’s a recipe for baby granola bars. With one caution.

Baby Granola Bars
Makes 12-15 small bars

Perfect to pack some more calories into your active skinny baby/toddler. Don’t give until the baby has a number of teeth and is good at chewing.

Start with

– 1 cup dates, PITTED. *CAUTION* – This is the important bit. Dates have pits. You may know this already, but I didn’t. The first batch I made had bits of pit all through them, which is a major choking hazard. Oops!

Put in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add

– 1/4 c maple syrup or agave nectar
– 1/4 c peanut or almond butter
– 2 tbsp canola oil

and process until relatively smooth. Add

– 1/2 c coconut
– 1/2 c oats

and process. The mixture should be crumbly but hold together when shaped. Add more oil if it doesn’t. Add

– 1/2 c puffed rice or wheat cereal. Pulse until chopped and combined, about 15 times. You don’t want to completely pulverise them.

Shape into miniature granola bars. Store between layers of wax paper in the fridge. Should last a week if your mother-in-law doesn’t feed them all to the baby in a single afternoon.

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Hi, I don’t have anything in particular to say. Just that I am awesome and have done practically everything on my to-do list and it’s only 2:30!

My recipe for success:
– Get up at 6 with your baby
– Do the stuff you can do while he’s awake while he’s awake
– Take a nap
– Take him to the drop-in centre (if you don’t have a baby, these are government-funded centres where you can take your baby to play and interact with other babies; sort of like the off-leash dog park, but for babies) and tire him out
– During the long nap which follows, do everything else

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT.

For various reasons this is what Cecil sleeps in now

For various reasons this is what Cecil sleeps in now

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So, uh, everyone who stopped by the other day to read my impassioned defence of the right of parents and small children to take up public space, hi! I hope you like it here. I don’t want you to get your hopes up or anything, because this blog is primarily made up of complaining, dog pictures, and awfully repetitive sentence structures, but hey, stick around if you like.

Of the handful of posts I managed to publish in 2012, almost all were about Cecil. Understandably, as having and raising an infant are all-consuming tasks, when I did find time to write he was at the top of my mind.

Going into parenthood I had few set ideas. I knew that:

– I was going to try my best to be the most open, responsive, and loving parent I could be;
– but I was not going to beat myself up if I needed to cut myself some slack here and there.

Cecil, as it turns out, is an awesome and good-natured baby. He has not tested me in any dramatic ways, at least not more than you would expect from a tiny dependent creature. His biggest problems – or the things that are most challenging to me, anyway – are feeding him enough to match his activity level, stopping him from swallowing something fatal or otherwise endangering his life, and his sleep.

Up to four months he was a great sleeper. He regularly slept 6 or 7 hours in a row, and since he went to bed late, at 11 or 12, so did I. There were still very difficult nights, but overall it was manageable. At four months he suddenly stopped doing that and was up every 90 minutes-2 hours for a few days. That was fun! After a few weeks he settled into a pattern where he’d wake up twice, usually just before I went to sleep, and once around 3 AM. That was liveable. He would get up really early, but it was liveable. At eight months he had about a week of great sleep where he woke only once (the 3 AM waking), then suddenly his sleep went to hell again. He fell back into the two wakings a night pattern, but almost every night one of his wakings would last two or three hours. It was horrible.

We tried some stuff from “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”, and he made some progress, but every time he would start to improve something would happen and his sleep would get worse again. He would catch a cold or have a new tooth break through and we’d be back where we started.

Finally last week, after two nights in one week where Cecil was up from 10 PM to 2 AM, Ben talked me into trying a cry-it-out method. We had successfully gotten Cecil to the point where you could put him down in his crib when he was sufficiently drowsy and he’d fall asleep (this is one of the major No-Cry Sleep Solution things: you gradually reduce the amount of intervention you do to get the baby to sleep until they fall asleep on their own), but if you put him down too early in the process he would howl in rage.

“To get him past this stage we’ll have to let him cry anyway,” Ben said. “We might as well just let him cry and get it over with.”

If you are not a parent, or not a reader of mommy blogs, you do not know what a minefield this is. Cry-it-out vs parent-to-sleep are HUGE controversies. If you don’t let the baby cry itself to sleep you are stunting their development; if you do you are a horrible child abuser. (These are stereotypes, of course. Very few people ACTUALLY think this way.)

There are good arguments for it and against it. I held out for as long as I did because it felt really, really wrong and unnatural to leave my child alone when he cried. And it is unnatural. Babies who cry when separated from their parents are much less likely to be left behind than ones who don’t, so it’s inevitable that evolution would select for babies who want to be close to their parents, especially at night.

But I am human. I need to sleep too. And while “just sleep when the baby sleeps” is great advice when you have nothing else to do, or your baby is a tiny newborn who can hang out in a sling while you do other stuff, it is not such a hot tip when you have projects you’d like to work on in the brief time you do get to yourself, but you can’t when your baby is sleeping because you’re either sleeping or so tired you should be sleeping and you can’t when he’s awake because he never stops moving.

So we did it. We did the Ferber method, which is heart-breaking. You have to go into your child’s room, see them crying and reaching out for you, and have to leave them again, but…it worked. The first night he took about an hour to get to sleep, which was awful, but since then it’s only taken him between 5 and 15 minutes. Apparently after a week or two they don’t cry at all when you put them down. Naps are more iffy – it depends on how tired he is, really. If he’s super-tired he goes to sleep almost immediately; if not it might take half an hour.

Anyway. I am really sad that I had to do this…but I don’t regret it. Cecil is still his sweet, energetic, bubbly self; if this has traumatized him he is hiding it really well. Everyone is sleeping better; everyone is happy.

I’m not necessarily recommending this method, because there are real reasons why it might not work for you or your baby, but I can tell you that at least in our case it was a good idea.

Now flame away!

Note: I’m not linking to anything because I really, really don’t want to get a bunch of either judgemental or cheerleading comments, but if you want to read about why cry-it-out is wrong check out a site called PHD in Parenting; if you want to read arguments for it check out BabyCenter, which has good info on a bunch of different sleep issues.

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So this morning my Twitter feed exploded with the latest iteration of the eternal, asinine debate: should we allow strollers on public transit? In this case: should we charge extra for strollers?

Because there is NO OTHER POSSIBLE REASON for our system to be overtaxed than the selfish choice of your Roncesvalles and Leslieville yummy mummies overloading it with their little Peytons and Vanessas in their Bugaboo Frogs, right?

SO LET’S STOP FOR A MINUTE. I haven’t got a lot of time to write this because I have to take Gus to the vet for a follow-up ultrasound – DOGS ON THE TTC! – but I have pretty much exactly three things to say about this.

1) Let’s check our class assumptions for a moment, shall we? The so-called “rich bitches” pushing those $800 strollers are a minority of mothers. (They are also not necessarily rich – there is a thriving second-hand stroller market and grandparents will frequently buy a nice stroller. They are also not necessarily bitches. I know a fair number of these ladies and they are the same mix of awesome, normal, and awful as everyone else.) Also those $800 strollers are usually much more compact than the $150 Safety 1st stroller you get on sale at Walmart. The woman you fume at for taking up so much space on transit with her infant probably has no choice when it comes to transportation. [Note: this paragraph has been edited to correct some unfortunate implications. “Rich bitches” is a common characterization of certain mothers, not my opinion of them. -kmh]
2) AND EVEN IF SHE DID – even if she has a nice safe car at home to whisk her child around town without exposing you to the indignity of having to share space with a tiny human being, she still has the right to use public services. As does her child. And be honest, when you see a woman driving a car with an infant in the back, do you say something like “Look at that selfish bitch, polluting the environment”? I bet you do.
3) AND HEY SPEAKING OF BABIES BEING HUMAN. Babies are human. They are not miniature robots designed with the express purpose of annoying you. They are human beings and members of our society, they have legitimate needs and desires, and have the right to use the same services as anyone else.

No matter what they do, mothers can’t win. I tweeted about this extensively this morning, so you may want to skip this if you follow me on Twitter, but I feel the need to go into it again. You are excoriated for being environmentally irresponsible by procreating, but also for being environmentally responsible by taking your child on public transit. You are told over and over again that you have to breastfeed or you’re a horrible selfish parent, yet people give you everything from the side-eye to the horrified stare to outright discrimination if you do it in public. You are expected to bring up a perfectly socialized child…without ever bringing them into society, because you can’t expect people in stores or restaurants or, hell, streetcars to put up with your child crying or whining or running around or otherwise acting like a child. Mothering is expected to be perfect, joyous, and invisible.

And I am really, really done with trying to live up to that impossible standard. Let me tell you a story.

Last May I was home alone with the baby for several days. Ben was away on tour for almost a month, but I did have either my mother or my mother-in-law here for a lot of that time. Anyway, during the time I was alone, Cecil knocked over my phone and broke the screen. The only place I could take it to be repaired was near the goddamn Skydome. I also had to get a birthday present for my dad (Bobby Flay’s Grill It!), and the only place I could find it for sale downtown was the Eaton Centre. So on a Tuesday towards the end of May I put Cecil (then about 3 months and 12 pounds) in the ring sling and went out to do these errands.

Have you ever slung a 12-pound weight around your neck and carried it around in 27 degree weather for four hours? It gets really, really heavy, and really, really hot, and really, really squirmy and uncomfortable when it’s a living creature who would rather not be confined in yards of fabric on a hot day. (To top it all off I was wearing giant rubber rain boots because the forecast called for a thunderstorm AND IT DIDN’T EVEN RAIN. Bastards.) But I did it, because the only stroller I could use with him at the time*, a giant plastic monstrosity, was much too large to take on the subway and streetcar.

And you know what? I still got funny looks and judgement and assholes questioning my right to exist in public space with my infant. No matter WHAT you do, whether you drag your huge-ass stroller up and down the subway steps or bite the bullet and carry your infant in a decidedly un-ergonomic sling for hours and hours on a hot day, SOMEONE will feel they have the right to tell you to GTFO.**

I still take (11-month old, almost 20 pound) Cecil around in a carrier – an Ergo, because he’s long outgrown the ring-sling – but if I need to, I do not hesitate to take my stroller. For one thing, he will only put up with being in the carrier for so long, being a very active near-toddler, and for the other, I do not want to carry 20 pounds of unhappy human if I don’t have to. And I shouldn’t have to in order to access a public service that is as much mine and Cecil’s as it is yours.

And if people are going to be assholes to me no matter what I do, I might as well do what’s most comfortable for me and my child.

For all the gains women have made towards equality, for all the strides men have taken towards being more active and involved parents, things are still not equal. Women are still much more likely to be primary caregivers of their children. If you limit the access of children to a public service, especially infants, you are limiting the access of women to that service. And if that isn’t a feminist issue I don’t know what is.

*The little umbrella strollers people talk about when they say “why don’t they use those little strollers you get for $30 at Walmart?” are not suitable for babies under the age of 6 months as they don’t provide head support and can’t recline enough. We started using one with Cecil about a month earlier than you’re supposed to because it was SO HOT that it was unsafe to take him anywhere in the sling, and his head control was pretty good.

**This story, of me going really above and beyond to avoid inconveniencing my fellow transit riders, I liken to my sex ed story. Due to the woefully inadequate sex ed I received at Catholic school, when I needed to know more I went to the public library, found the Sex for Dummies book, hid in a corner, and read it cover to cover. Good for me for taking responsibility for my sexual health, I guess, but you can hardly base a system around the assumption that everyone is resourceful and a good problem-solver. You cannot expect parents to do what I did any more than you can expect teens to do what I did.

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My computer is preventing me from watching Murder, She Wrote. It starts loading it, pauses, then I get a Netflix error message. It is doing me a favour, I KNOW. It is a terrible show. I found it kind of dumb when it originally aired (when I was a small child). But this is the speed I am at now. I can do the things I need to do. Very occasionally I can do something more. The rest of the time, I can watch bad 80s television.

*

It’s a weird thing to say, but I feel like I’ve forgotten how to live. Like, if there isn’t something I need to be doing or that I’ve planned ahead of time to do, I don’t know what to do with myself. I think, “I have this whole day – I should practice. I should write. I should blog. I should make something.” But most of the time I don’t. And it’s not that I can’t, exactly. When I’m with Cecil he doesn’t need 100% of my attention 100% of the time. I could practice or write or make something while he crawls on his belly on the floor and it would totally be fine, as long as there were no swallowable objects on the floor. But I don’t. If I’m not playing with him or tending to his needs or doing housework I am probably reading a public domain mystery novel or wasting time on Twitter. I don’t mind being interrupted doing either of those things, you see. I do mind being interrupted when I’m actually doing something. When he’s napping I will sometimes plan to do something productive, and occasionally I succeed. But more often I sit down and I stay there, because I am tired and I need some space where no one is making any demands of me, even myself.

In a way I feel much like I did the year after I finished school. 2004 was the first September in 20 years which didn’t mark the beginning of a new school year for me. I felt so lost, the rest of my life yawning open before me. What was I supposed to do? How would I ever accomplish anything without someone structuring my time and giving me milestones to achieve? How could I go on knowing that I could fall off the face of the earth and die and no one beyond my immediate circle would care?

Eventually I figured out how to structure my time for myself. I even made myself little schedules – yoga at 10, practice at 11, write at 1, leave for work at 3:30, etc. I mostly didn’t really follow them, but at least they gave me a broad outline of what a day meant. I still am not really happy about the fact that maybe 50 people in the world give a shit about my existence, but I am getting over that. Sure, work would go up and down, and I’d have periods where I felt blah and unmotivated…but at least I knew HOW to do stuff when I had the will to do it.

Well, I can’t apply that now, because looking after babies does not lend itself well to that kind of scheduling. I do not know if it will take me 10 minutes or an hour to get Cecil down for a nap. Mostly it’s 10 minutes, but randomly – generally when he’s teething badly like he is now – it will take a really long time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When I go to bed I do not know if I’ll get to sleep 7 or so hours with only one interruption or if I’ll be awakened 3 or 4 times. (Side note: if you feel the need to comment to tell me that your baby slept 14 hours in a row every night of its life because you did cry-it-out/you co-sleep/your midwife was also a witch and gave you a magic wand, just don’t, because I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT.) Also, since my time is generally not under my control, I don’t want it to be under my super-ego’s control either, if that makes any sense. I can say “OK, if Cecil has a good night and you don’t need to nap at the same time as he does to remain functional, then you will practice for half an hour”, but when it comes time to do it, my brain will say “Time to practice!” and I will say “Brain, DIAF” and start Instagramming pictures of plush gnomes.

It’s a long story.

Anyway. I assume I will figure this out eventually, just like I did when no longer having a course calendar tell me what to do was a daunting new reality. And Cecil will get all of his teeth (he’s working on number 8! Yes, he is 8 months old! I KNOW) and start sleeping through the night, and I’ll look back on all those sweet snuggles we had in the middle of the night and totally forget the time he woke up at 12:30 and didn’t go back to sleep until after 4 (that was last Sunday). And then suddenly he’ll be 12 years old and riding a skateboard and being embarrassed of me, then 19 and insufferable and correcting every other thing I say, then an adult finding his own path in life, starting a career and a family, and I’ll think “aw, why did he have to grow up?”

And I’ll accomplish many more awesome things in my life, even if none of them happen this year.

So now that my computer has finished loading this episode, I am going to go watch it. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

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YES I WILL EVENTUALLY WRITE SOMETHING NON-DEPRESSING/NAVEL-GAZING/MOM-ESQUE. This is not that day. For some reason Cecil has decided that he wants to wake up at 6 or 6:30 and I CAN’T DEAL, GUYS. My brain, it is dead. I just cannot get to sleep before 11 and I don’t have time to nap anymore. I really hope this is just a phase.

Anyway, now that I have six months of parenting under my belt, I thought I would weigh in on the eternal controversy…well, eternal for the past 20 years or so when disposable diapers became common…should you use cloth or disposables?

I use cloth diapers myself, and I’m happy I made that choice, but there are reasons it is not for everyone. (more…)

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So like all new parents I have no idea what I’m doing. I was fortunate enough to get a relatively easy-going baby (as these things go) and a naturally easy-going attitude towards parenting, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t want to Look Things Up, if only to know whether or not I’m doing them right. (Because there’s one right way to parent, right? Right?)

So I got a wide selection of baby care manuals from the library, and skimmed them all. I did not read any in their entirety, so if you’re an adherent to any one of these and you are incensed by something I overlooked, sorry. I have a three-month old baby. I can’t read 2000 pages or so just for the sake of being thorough in a blog post.

Anyway…

The Mother of All Baby Books (Ann Douglas)  – The only Canadian entrant on the list, MoaBB has mostly common-sense baby rearing advice, including a helpful section on what developmental milestones to look for, when to be worried your child has fallen behind, and when to call the doctor/go to the ER in case of illness. However, the directions on changing your baby are needlessly complicated, taking up almost 2 pages of a trade paperback. This honestly made me question the rest of the advice. Written in a somewhat jokey but brisk style.

The Baby Book (Sears and Sears) – Given the flap about attachment parenting that exploded in the feminist blogosphere a couple of weeks ago, I approached this one with a large helping of salt. There are some pretty hateable things about the Baby Book – the gender essentialism, the tin-eared hand-waving approach to wage-earning mothers (he seriously suggests that, if you are unable to stay home with your baby for financial reasons, you should borrow money from your parents. Um…), but a lot of his recommendations make sense. For example, Cecil spends a good part of his day either being carried around or in a sling, because what else are you going to do when he’s awake but not eating, being changed, or playing? Put him in the sling and get on with your day. And Sears has one really valuable core insight that can’t be overstated: that babies are people who have legitimate needs, and it’s your responsibility as a parent to meet those needs.

That being said, Sears has something of a one-size-fits-all approach to problems. Whatever the problem the answer is almost always “Breastfeed and cosleep”. If you’re already doing/have already decided against doing those things, that advice is not much help. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the section on vaccination to be science-based and reasonable, as many adherents to attachment parenting are also anti-vaccine.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Traci Hogg plus a ghostwriter) – I admit, I have read the least of this one, because it’s written in a nauseating style, kind of like a weight-loss infomercial. A cursory glance shows that she recommends scheduling feedings and limiting time on the breast for babies as young as four days old, which goes against current medical advice. I didn’t read enough of the sleep section to get a strong sense of her sleep recommendations, but she appears to advocate a milder form of Cry It Out, which is also against current medical advice (though this is more controversial than demand feeding). The phrase “begin as you wish to continue” seems to crop up several times, and makes little sense to me. There are many, many things I do now – breastfeeding, babywearing, sticking a finger in his diaper to see if Cecil’s peed – that I don’t plan on continuing indefinitely, because children and their needs change as they grow.

However, I do know people who’ve gotten good results with this book, so YMMV.

Your Baby and Child (Penelope Leach) – I think this was my favourite of the four books. Written in a somewhat serious style, it contains a lot of good advice without hewing to one parenting style in particular. The Sears and Hogg books were both advocating for particular method; Leach presents information about different options and ideas for solving problems. If I do buy one I think I’ll get this, with possibly the Sears book as an alternative.

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