Baby Massage

Before leaving France, a friend of mine, who is in the process of becoming certified to teach baby massage, taught me some moves! The “squeeze and twist”, “swedish milking”, the “water wheel”, and it all sounded pretty nice. Apparently, infant massage is great for encouraging bonding, and has a lot of other benefits as well such as improving sleep patterns, relieving colic, gas, and constipation, and promoting the release of calming hormones. I have also heard that it is best to start baby massage early on in baby’s life. So I’m curious:

Have any of you tried baby massage? When did you start? Did you notice any benefits? Any drawbacks? Would you do it again?

Weekend Picks: holiday fun!

An unreliable internet connection eliminated an entire week of blog-writing and so here we are at another weekend, which also happens to be the first Advent, or the first of four Sundays before Christmas. I’m new to Germany and so new to the whole advent thing, and discovered very quickly the best part of being 4 weekends from Christmas: Weihnachtsmarkts!

1. Christmas Markets: 40 weeks pregnant and waiting for baby in a small German town surrounded by rolling pastures and livestock has been uber relaxing, but this city-girl needs a bit more excitement and if a Christmas market is the new thing in town, then I am there. We spent the weekend wandering through our local Bavarian market, tasting some delicious Christmas treats and smelling the gluhwein with envy.

2. Movies: Our second new discovery in town has been our local video store and I’m sad to say that it was the highlight of our week. I’m sure there are other mamas out there who might relate to the excruciating boredom and crazy uncertainty that comes with waiting for potentially the most painful and fulfilling experience ever to occur in my life, and in my opinion a little distraction is in order. Add to this that watching a Christmas movie is second only to a hockey game in my husband’s eyes and you have two happy campers. We have also discovered that for a Christmas cartoon quick-fix, youtube has some of our favourites.

3. Music: I say this with tongue in cheek as my husband, who some might say is Christmas-obsessed, has a favourite Christmas album that drives me absolutely crazy: Boney M. It happens to be the only album that he has downloaded on his computer and has therefore been on repeat all weekend. Here is a glimpse at the nightmare that is my Christmas music reality at the moment.

4. Cookies: I brought my cookie cutters and rolling pin to Germany with us and planned to make Christmas cookies as a labour project. I read that it’s a good idea to plan an activity to keep yourself busy with when labour begins to keep your mind off of contractions and to let labour progress while it is still easy to deal with. Always the optimist (and cookie enthusiast), I thought that perhaps starting on the labour project would help to kick-start actual labour and have baked (and consumed) at least 6 dozen cookies since arriving 2 weeks ago. No labour yet, and the baby feels humongous. Yep, that back-fired.

5. Snow: Okay, there’s no snow here yet, but it’s been hovering around 0 degrees every day and I’ve been promised snow very soon by a very reliable source. According to said source, 0 is very warm for this time of year, and I am inclined to believe it as it seems as if the locals think it’s summertime. As I was tromping through the town in my Ugg boots this weekend and shivering in a scarf and toque and jacket that doesn’t close in the front anymore, the locals seemed happy as clams eating in outdoor cafes in sweaters and jeans! And just last night as we were walking back from the Weihnachtsmarkt in the crisp and clear -4 degree night, we saw a couple laughing together, coats unbuttoned, eating ICE CREAM! Let me tell you, Germans are sturdy folk.

I came from a very “Christmas” family, and my husband’s family is equally festive and so the holidays are typically the highlight of the year for us. This year promises to be extra special as we are returning home to Canada the day before Christmas after being overseas for a full year, and with a new baby to boot. So even though it is still November, I’m happy to start the countdown to the holidays on this first advent!

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? Do you have any songs/movies/activities that you just can’t live without during the holidays?

Anticipating Birth

At 38 weeks and 3 days (5 hours and 23 minutes… no, not really) pregnant, I can’t help but think about what lies ahead. I have always had a bit of a fear around birth and so I have been reading about birth for months, or more accurately, 34 weeks and 3 days. As someone who has always worked with parents and children, I have heard my share of birth horror stories, and so when my good friend gave birth earlier this year and described it as “awesome”, I definitely wanted to hear more. On her advice, I’ve been reading only positive birth stories, as well as some informative (but not at all scary) books written by some well-known midwives and birth educators.

My preference for a natural birth had me a little bit scared in France, where our local hospital has an 89% epidural rate. But we decided instead to birth in Germany near my husband’s family and so we drove the 8 hours to a small city in Bavaria to wait it out. To be completely honest, I was surprised by just how natural natural birth is here! We took a tour of the hospital delivery rooms and they looked like gymnastics studios, with giant exercise balls, birthing stools, and ropes hanging from the ceiling! We also learned that all of the hospital midwives are certified in homeopathy, aromatherapy and acupuncture.

I have read all about what to do ahead of time: pack a hospital bag, buy supplies, wash the baby’s clothes, write a birth plan, but haven’t quite started on any of that yet. Instead, we had a lesson on birth from our midwife (how exactly does one use a birthing stool??), and sat through an entire 3-hour class on newborn care in German, nervously laughing with 5 other expectant couples fumbling to put cloth diapers around plastic baby dolls. Now we are just waiting and walking, walking and waiting. And drinking litres of raspberry leaf tea. Apparently it tones the uterus, and I have no idea what that means, but according to Wikipedia it can cause labour to start or be easier or something, so I’m all over it.

I would love to hear about what you did to prepare for the birth of your child, or the interesting ways you spent your time waiting! I am also curious if anyone has a story about crazy birthing equipment?!

Practically Perfect Pancakes

I love pancakes. More than most, probably. So today I want to share my recipe, so that you can enjoy them at home! I also find that pancakes are a perfect meal for kids who need some extra nutrients, with the right secret ingredients!

1 cup flour

4 tblsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg (whisked)

1 cup milk

3 tblsp melted butter

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Then pour the wet into the dry and mix them together gently with a wooden spoon (do not over-mix!). The pour the batter into a pan that is on medium heat. When the batter is dry on the outside and has bubbles in the centre, flip! This recipe makes about 8 pancakes.

This is the basic recipe, but can also be amped up in wholesome goodness by using whole wheat flour, a few teaspoons of ground flax seeds, an extra egg, and fruit or berries (blueberries, bananas, strawberries and apples work well!). They can be served with almond butter, nuts, jam, honey, or just plain butter. mmmm.

As a special holiday treat when I was young, my mom would add a bit of food colouring and make some great shapes! Orange ovals with chocolate chip faces for Halloween, pink hearts at Valentines, green trees or snowmen at Christmas, our initials just for fun.

Enjoy!

Weekend picks: favourite websites

Ever since I discovered I was pregnant, I have been trying to prepare for birth and parenting in some way or another, and in this day and age that means scouring the internet for help. Here are some of my favourite websites and blogs:

Baby Center – This by far has been my most well-used resource. Weekly updates tell me what the baby’s up to, what I should be feeling, and compares the babies size to a fruit or vegetable, which is endlessly entertaining. Especially when I catch myself freaking out in the produce aisle of Carrefour, or at the market. “reeaallly, a PAPAYA???!”. I’m immune to it now. I know this because this week baby reached watermelon and I barely flinched.

Swistle Baby Names – I am constantly checking this blog, because at 38 weeks pregnant, I still have no idea what we are going to name this child. Actually, this is a small lie, because we have about 3 solid names picked out for a girl. The problem is that we have a 50% chance of having a boy, and in that case we will be screwed. Or our son might get a really feminine name. This blog lets people write in with their naming dilemmas and it has been super informative. It’s given us lots and lots of maybes but I am still checking daily just in case “the one” turns up just in the nick of time.

Cup of Jo – This blog is by a writer/mother in New York who has great taste in just about everything. She posts about everything from fashion and restaurants to breast-feeding in public, and I love hearing what she has to say.

Lay Baby Lay – Nursery inspiration at its finest! I’m not even very in to home decorating (and have very little skill in this department) but I find myself checking this website often for inspiration and just to check out the new and beautiful things! My favourite is “Zoe Ellen’s nursery” which is filed under “turquoise”. I think that if I were to design a nursery for Baby (which I suppose I will eventually) I think I would go for something like that one; gender neutral and eclectic.

You Can’t Call it “It” – Another great baby name site with lots of cool articles and ideas on baby names. I am getting desperate so I spend a lot of time on baby name websites. This one is particularly good!

What are some of the websites that you visit for pregnancy/baby/parenting advice? And how the heck did you find and decide on a name for your child? (I would love some tips! …and suggestions too!)

Fatherhood Friday

For this Fatherhood Friday, I want to highlight a fabulous dad that I first saw when this video hit facebook a year or so ago:

 

And then I saw him on Ellen:

 

And now I love to check his youtube channel every once in a while. I love his message about teaching his children about music, art and community, and his girls are just adorable! Check out some of their covers!

Do you sing with your children? What values are most important to you as a parent?

 

 

Children’s art

Today over Skype, my mom told me a terrible story about my three year-old niece at her art class. Terrible, because three year-old art should be exciting and free and spontaneous and fun.

My niece was at our favourite neighbourhood children’s drop-in art class that will remain nameless because at the moment I am very disappointed in it. The premise of the class is that the teacher reads a story, and then the children all create art around that story. So far so good, stories are fabulous provocation for art! But then the teacher laid out a sample of what the children’s art should look like on an easel, which today was a cat’s face. All of the children were to make eyes and noses and mouths and whiskers and put it together like the teacher’s model. Now, even this is sometimes okay. Teaching children how to create something step-by-step is sometimes a very good lesson, especially if you are constructing something unique or intricate, BUT I would hesitate to do this and call it art. So back to the story, my niece drew and cut out her eyes and nose and then to her dismay, she realised they were too big to fit onto her cat face! My sister noticed that she became a bit teary-eyed and asked her what was wrong, and she said “my cat doesn’t look like the teacher’s”.

To me, and any self-respecting preschool teacher, this whole scene is devastating! Not only is my niece not experiencing exciting and free and spontaneous art, but she is learning that art has to look a certain way, and that not conforming to a model means that her art is “wrong”.

Structured art (as opposed to unstructured art) is easy to spot, and if your child is in a preschool classroom, it is easy to tell if your child gets to experience art, or just to make it. If your child is taught structured art, you will see bulletin boards filled with the same artwork such as ladybugs with pre-cut spots or daffodils with pre-cut petals and leaves. I can find a million examples just by searching “ladybug preschool art” at Google images.

Unstructured art is art that encourages children to explore textures, colours, and materials, communicate an idea or story, socialize non-verbally with others, and sort through feelings. For a fabulous article on the many different languages of children’s art, try to get your hands on this:

Kind, S. (2005).  Windows to a child’s world: Perspectives on children’s art making. In K. Grauer & R. L. Irwin (Eds). StARTing with: Readings in Canadian elementary art education, 2nd ed. London, Ontario: Canadian Society of Education through Art

And for some great examples of amazing preschool art education, look at the art encouraged by these fabulous Vancouver preschools, Capilano University Children’s Centre, and Little Ark Preschool:

http://www.littlearkpreschool.com/gallery.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

Baby-wearing

Another thing that I saw a lot of in Germany is baby-wearing. Two of the world’s most popular woven baby wraps (Didymos and Storchenwiege) are made in Germany and it seemed like everywhere I went I saw people wearing them! They are made from beautiful fabrics and come with instructions on a variety of wrap styles. I ended up buying the Storchenwiege Inka (pictured above) and I can’t help but practice wrapping almost every day! I’m very excited to try it out for real, but I do have some apprehensions about its’ practicality.

Did any of you carry your babies in a wrap or sling? Did it meet your expectations? Would you use it again? What are some pros or cons that you experienced?

Mother Goose

I’ve taught songs and rhymes to parents and children for the last four years in Canada with the wonderful Parent-Child Mother Goose Program, and since living in France, have started up a class here as well! Today was our very last class for the season and I know I will miss our tuesday mornings together! In honor of our classes, I wanted to share a couple of my favourite songs and rhymes for you to use at home with your own little ones so I added a new page to this blog with the lyrics of some of my favourite songs and rhymes for children that I will try to keep adding to!

Many of them come from talented folk singer Kathy Reid-Naimen and her 12 award-winning childrens music CDs. You can listen to some of them here.

But my absolute favourite lullaby is by my favourite childhood singer, Raffi! May there always be sunshine.