What I have learned so far … PART THREE

January 27, 2013

The best nappy rash cream

Megan often gets nappy rash.  I feel as if I have tried every remedy under the sun and guess which of the creams below is by far the best?


The winner is … Oxyplastine!

Oxyplastine is a thick white odourless cream that should be spread over the red areas, but not rubbed in.  It is a protective, soothing cover for the skin.  My paediatrician said I should layer it on like aluminium foil over food.  Within a few hours, there is a notable improvement.  Oxyplastine is, without a doubt, THE BEST nappy rash treatment – forget anything else.

Breastfeeding is great for weight loss

I met some friends I haven’t seen in a while and they said, ‘Julie we’ve never seen you looking so thin.’  That’s what breastfeeding does to you.  My midwife said that breastmilk is made out of body fat.  I may have never looked so thin but I have also never eaten so much in all my life.  I have no self-control and chow down like every meal is my last.  I can’t understand why women voluntarily choose not to breastfeed for as long as possible – it’s the best diet ever.

Sophie the Giraffe

DownloadedFile-6My French friend told me that every French child has or has had ‘Sophie La Girafe’.  Sophie is a soft rubber giraffe that squeaks.  Babies love it because there are lots of protruding appendages that they can grip easily and chew.  Megan adores Sophie and as she munches the squeaking giraffe, she works herself up into a frenzy.  She gasps, grunts and slobbers and reminds me of a hungry dog devouring a bone.   If she could shove the entire thing in her mouth, she would.  I love the way Sophie makes Megan so happy.

Get your *@&£ finger out of my daughter’s mouth

images-5One of my friends stuck his unwashed finger in Megan’s mouth and let her suck it.  Inside my head it was pure nuclear war.  I felt like that person in the painting ‘The Scream’.  In hindsight, I am furious with myself for not standing firm and speaking out but I was speechless that someone could be so unhygienic and inappropriate.  I mean really, WTF?!?!

I’ve randomly surveyed my friends to check that I am not the only one who thinks it is gross and the general reaction is ‘yuck’, ‘sis’ and ‘eeeww.’  I have noticed that many parents stick their finger in their child’s mouth in lieu of a dummy.  Do what you want with your own child, but I passionately believe sticking germ-infested fingers in someone else’s baby’s mouth is overfamiliar and inappropriate.  I never put my fingers in Megan’s mouth and I can’t believe I allowed someone else to do it.

Start where you want to end up

Two parenting books gave me a new lease on life, no exaggeration.  When Megan was three months old, I had a laissez-faire approach to sleep.  I bounced and rocked her when her eyes looked heavy and put her in her cot once she had withered off in my arms.  Most days, she had little catnaps but nothing substantial or predictable.

I got tired of looking and feeling as if I had stuck my wet fingers in a live plug socket so I sought out advice on how I could get Megan to sleep better during the day.  I wholeheartedly endorse the sleeping advice in these books.  It works.  It has changed Megan, Alastair and me.  We all feel calmer and more centered.  Megan is happier because she is well-rested, Al is happier as I don’t bark at him like a cross chihuahua if he is 2 minutes late in the evenings and I am happier because I get some guaranteed Me Time during the day.

images-51Pamela Druckerman, who wrote French Children Don’t Throw Food explains that babies sleep in 30 to 45 minute cycles.  Sometimes babies cry after a sleep cycle but they are not actually awake.  They don’t know how to connect their cycles so parents must train their kids to link them so they sleep longer.

Druckerman says that when we hear a cry, we should hold back, listen to the tone of it and wait for a few minutes to give the baby the opportunity to self-soothe and then slip into a new sleep cycle.  She calls it ‘La Pause’.  I never gave Megan this chance because I popped up next to her cot like a jack-in-the-box at the slightest murmur or semblance of a cry.  Now, when Megan wakes up after 30 minutes, I do ‘La Pause’ at her door and wait and watch as she slips into the next sleep cycle.

images-54Babywise says that you must begin as you mean to go and you will pay the price later for bad habits you slip into early on.  Start where you want to end up.  The authors suggest it is a bad habit to always rock a baby to sleep or allow it to fall sleep while feeding.  They recommend you put the child in its cot and let it fall asleep on its own.

This means that the baby will often cry as it falls to sleep.  This bothered me because I never want Megan to feel abandoned or unloved. The thing is, not all crying is bad.  It doesn’t always mean a baby is distressed.  The Babywise authors assured me that a little crying is ok, provided the baby is not in pain, hungry etc.  It will not destroy brain cells, limit self-esteem or cause Megan to drop out of school.  It turns out that Megan only cried for 5 minutes or so as she fell to sleep and now that she is getting used to putting herself to sleep, she doesn’t cry at all.

Babywise says optimal wakefulness (which leads to optimal development) comes from optimal sleep and often we need to teach a baby how to sleep properly.  You can’t alter a child’s IQ but you can maximize it and one way to do this positively or negatively is through sleep.  This book advises that mom, not baby, should decide when a nap starts and ends.  I have started to gently enforce this with Megan and she responds well to my control.  Now she often wakes up cooing and gurgling, instead of crying, and I know it is because she has had substantial sleep.

A friend is pregnant with twins and she asked, ‘If you can give me one piece of advice, what would it be?’  Without a doubt, establish some control and structure over the baby’s sleep early on.  It has saved my life.  I am no longer permanently zonked.  We are all much happier.


Nursery rhymes and fairy tales

January 6, 2013

I have realized that, now that I have a baby, I need to take a stand and have a well-thought-out position on certain topics such as discipline, manners and eating habits.  I must ground myself and establish my parenting identity so that I don’t feel windswept by all the polarizing, passionate schools of thought out there.

images-55At a New Year’s Eve party, I asked a French lady to recommend some classic French fairy tales.  She replied, ‘Julie!  You must not read fairy tales to Megan!  They are evil, pure evil.  You shouldn’t teach her about witches, magic, sorcery and dark things like that.’

This lady expressed herself articulately and she made a lot of sense.  I couldn’t argue with her because her opinion surprised me and turned my head into fluff.  I wasn’t sure what I thought about fairy tales.  Alastair and I discussed it in the car on the way home and that night, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling while I analysed the pros and cons.

I’ve come to the conclusion that fairy tales didn’t do me any harm.  I want to stimulate Megan’s imagination, I want her to dream without bounds, I want her to lose herself in fantasy and I want to her have fun in the Land of Pretend.  I did (and sometimes I still do).

I will not celebrate Halloween in any form and Megan can’t watch movies such as Harry Potter until she has reached an appropriate age but I think fairy tales are ok for little kids.  While these stories may not be true, some of their themes are.  They educate children about certain realities in life – life is a battle between good and evil, we must resist and fight baddies and good ultimately triumphs in the end.  I want Megan to be aware of this truth.

Having said that, I must be sensitive to the overactive imaginations of kids. I mustn’t forget how intensely children experience these stories.  My discussion with the French lady reminded me of a Disney Sleeping Beauty book I owned when I was about five.  It had vivid, colourful images and I was so haunted by the picture of the witch, that I couldn’t sleep in the same room as the book lest she jump from the pages during the night.  So, I hid the book in the bathroom, behind the curtain in a shower that we never used.  I needed that distance between the witch and me.

My fear was intense and exhausting.  I recall needing the toilet one night so I hopped to the bathroom, clutching my crotch.  I stopped suddenly in the doorway.  It dawned on me that I couldn’t go any further because the witch was in the book in the shower.  I scuttled back to bed and held it in until morning.

images-28Talking about scary stories, I recently bought a CD of English nursery rhymes and I’m shocked.  I don’t remember many of them being so mean and sometimes depressing.

For example:

[The farmer’s wife] cut off their tails with a carving knife.  

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.  Down with come baby, cradle and all.

Jack fell down and broke his crown.  And Jill came tumbling after.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe … She whipped [her children] all soundly and put them to bed.

Goosey goosey gander, whither shall I wander … There I met an old man who would not say his prayers.  I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs

I bet that French lady would tell me not to sing nursery rhymes to Megan.  I don’t think these songs will scare Megan for life or turn her into a manic-depressive saboteur that cuts off mice tails and chucks old men down stairs.  I used to throw my head back and belt out these tunes with great gusto and flamboyancy, all the way from the gut.  The words never resonated with me. There was no connection between my head and my voicebox and I never once analysed what I was singing.

For example, it never occurred to me that ‘Frere Jacques’ was another language, let alone French.  Now that I am learning French, I know what I was supposed to be singing and what the words mean.  Up until recently, I used to sing it like this:

Frere Jacques.  Frere Jacques.

Door may voo.  Door may voo.

Sonny lay Martina.  Sonny lay Martina.

Ding ding dong.  Ding ding dong

Now I can pronounce the words ‘dormez-vous’ and ‘sonnez les matines’ with more refinement.  I never cared when I was a kid.  It was fun to sing and that’s all that mattered.

I can relate to the Madam&Eve cartoon where little Thandi belted out Christmas carols.  She sang:

We three king’s accordion door.

Bears and gifts we travelled so far

Feeling fountains, moving mountains

Following Jan the Star.

images-11Alastair and I are educating ourselves on French nursery rhymes and the catchiest tune is ‘Alouette, gentille Alouette.’  It is an ear worm for, once it is in your head, it won’t go away and it pops up at the most bizarre moments.  One morning, Al woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep for Alouette was rocking around in his head.  As a French beginner, he initially had no clue what the song was about.

Alouette is a bird and the song describes how you would like to pluck off the feathers of various parts of this lark – first the head, then the neck, then the beak, then the wings, then the feet.  It is downright barbaric and yet it happens to be one of the most famous French rhymes.

I don’t want Megan to sing it and then assume it is appropriate to defeather birds.  My French teacher says the song dates back to the revolution.  The Alouette was a symbol of the aristocracy and the song was sung by the poor and described how they wanted to take things off the rich.  I investigated it and the keeper of all knowledge, Google, said it has French-Canadian roots so the revolution theory sounds odd.  I know it has a deeper meaning but I’m still not sure what it is.  Oh who cares!  Kids don’t!

Picture 1

2013 – The glass is always full

January 3, 2013

I have learned that the quality of my life experience depends on my attitude.  Our minds are very powerful filters.  Our heads – the way we think about things – can make us or break us.  I love being around people who are warm and open, have a positive, hopeful attitude, make the best of all circumstances and try to find the good in everything.  When I had Megan, the hospital gave me a plastic card that I must carry around with me at all times.  It contains some basic medical information including my blood type, which is B+.  B Positive.  BE POSITIVE!

2012 was a great year and I hope 2013 will be even better.  Well, it will be a good one because my attitude will make it so.  If my blood is always positive, then I should be too.  As you can see from the diagram below, the glass is always full – it just depends on how you choose to see things.