Drop the Ball: Embracing Imperfection as a Mom

I recently read a book by Tiffany Dudu called ‘Drop the Ball’. When I was done, I gently put it down, let out a long, slow sigh and thought “Wow, so there is a cure for my overwhelming life”

And I’m certainly not a minority for feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As moms we are constantly juggling a million things on an ever-growing ‘To-Do” list. Waking up at the crack of dawn, packing lunch boxes, managing the kids routines and extra murals, keeping the house tidy, ensuring everyone is fed, bills are paid, groceries are bought, dogs are walked, trash is emptied etc etc etc… And that’s on top of working a full-time job for many women.

But this book is here to show us exactly how much value we as women attach to being “good” at all our roles. We cant just be a mother. We have to be good mothers. We cant just be wives, or friends, or daughters. We have to be good ones. And according to the author, its just not humanly possible to be good at every, single thing. It’s far too much work. Far too much stress.

Women feel that they will be judged as less than if their house is not sparkling or their children haven’t brushed their hair. We assign a value to ourselves based on our management of things we control. What is this obsession with perfection?!

It is this stress of getting everything just right, all the time,  that leads us to burn out and run through life without stopping to smell the roses. Why is it that a man can take the time to relax and zone-out after work, but as women, and particularly as mothers, we go non-stop until the last child is asleep, the last plate washed and the last towel folded? Why do we underestimate the importance of ‘me time’ for our well-being?

As a mom, the best thing we can do for our kids, is to be the best versions of ourselves. That is; a mom who is happy and (mostly) relaxed, who has the time to get down on he floor with them and build puzzles. The mom who laughs out loud at silly jokes because she’s not busy plotting a mental grocery list in her head. The mom who initiates tickle fights and reads the bedtime story for a second time.  The mom who pours a glass of wine and puts her feet up for a few minutes when she gets home from work. The mom whose soul is fed from being able to spend time with her friends over a cup of coffee once a week.

We need to let go of our ideas of perfection. The chores can wait a little. The to-do list isn’t going anywhere. Take a moment. Take a moment to be in the now. To be imperfect. To be happy.

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Sleep Training 101: Finding a qualified sleep consultant

Lets take it back to September 2015…

I was a new mom, with 6 month old twin girls. Having twins in itself will normally present some newborn sleep challenges … one waking the other being the most common. But I found myself exhausted and frustrated with TWO newborns that just. wouldn’t. sleep.

We had seen a specialist pediatrician to rule out the common causes: silent re-flux, prolonged colic (yes, that’s a thing), throat and ear infections, or any other medical condition that could be hampering their sleep.

We had established a solid bed time routine, we ensured they were not overstimulated, overtired, overfed or hungry at the time of going to bed.

We ensured the room  temperature was optimal and we made sure the crib was comfortable and safe. So why were our girls not sleeping?!

After one particularly harrowing night of being up literally every 30 minutes between the two of them, I got on the phone to a sleep consultant who had been recommended by a friend.

I have no idea what I was expecting from that call…but I’m SO GLAD I called!

Our sleep consultant made an Skype appointment with myself and my husband (we were both in this together!). Be wary of those that work with one parent individually, as sleep training really needs a collaborative effort from all those involved with the child’s sleeping schedule to ensure consistency.

Before that appointment, I needed to fill out a detailed questionnaire with information regarding each of the girls. A separate one for each twin as the approach would be tailored for them specifically.  The questionnaire covered everything from day and night routines, eating habits, family dynamics,  medical background, growth and development milestones,  environmental factors, and sensory environment. The questionnaire also covered the child’s specific personality traits and temperament. There was some miscellaneous information I had to provide regarding favorite toys and foods, and our methods of play etc…

I also had to include some information on what sleep training methods (if any) I had tried before, and what I expected from our forthcoming consultation. (“To sleep, duh” – was apparently not an appropriate answer)

The questionnaire was very, very detailed to the point of exhaustive! But I truly do believe that a great sleep consultant will ensure she gathers the utmost information she can about your particular child to ensure that the approach she uses is tailored to your child. Sleep training is definitely not a one-size-fits-all technique.

One particularly important piece of information I also had to provide prior to our actual consultation was the level of Cry It Out (CIO) I would be comfortable with. On a sliding scale, I chose ‘minimum crying without intervention” (the lowest level of CIO acceptance).

I think what scares many moms away from sleep training is the fear of CIO. And rightly so. It is gut-wrenching to imagine leaving your child to scream in distress for extended periods of time without intervening. I truly believe that a qualified sleep consultant will recognize a parent’s aversion to extended CIO and will be willing and able to work within your comfort levels to achieve a successful result in your quest to get your child to sleep better.

With all the information we provided in the questionnaires, our sleep consultant came up with a detailed and specific plan for each twin which we then discussed in our Skype call consultation. We used a holistic approach, taking into account all factors contributing to poor sleep and looking to alleviate them without too much disruption of her current routine.

She established a sensory profile for each of our children as well as an in-depth sleep prognosis. She gave us a plan which we were to implement that same night, and the take home message of the entire meetings was: CONSISTENCY.

She stressed how important consistency was in getting a child to sleep well, and how any lack of consistently on our part would cause setbacks for our goal of getting the twins to sleep well.

One of the very best advantages to having a sleep consultant working with us directly, was the benefit of having someone available on the phone when things got tough. She may not have been available 24/7, but there wasn’t a single text or Whatsapp message that went more than a few hours without being answered. And perhaps most crucially, on those first few nights, when I felt like giving up…she was on the phone with me, talking me through the plan and helping me brave it out.

I’m happy to say that we learnt SO much about healthy infant and toddler sleep from our consultant. We know now just how important a sound night’s sleep is for their development and growth, and I know the basic concepts of ensuring a good night’s sleep. I understand the do’s and dont’s of getting a feisty toddler to bed each night and that consistency is key.

I know that many families are struggling with sleepless nights, but are totally against the idea of sleep training due to the misconception that sleep training automatically means extended CIO.

However, a good sleep consultant will and should be able to work within the framework of what you find comfortable in regards to CIO. After all, there isn’t anyone who knows your child better than you, so you’d be in the best position to determine this.

A good sleep consultant will ensure she has all the relevant background information prior to formulating a sleep plan for your child.

A good sleep consultant will develop a sleep plan that is tailor made specifically to your little one, taking into account the child’s routine, personality and family dynamics, among other things.

A good sleep consultant will ensure that anyone and everyone who is involved with the child’s sleep routine, participates in the sleep training consult…to ensure consistency for the child.

A good sleep consultant will provide step by step support through the implementation of the sleep training plan.

Going the sleep training route was the best decision we made for our family. Giving our children the gift of sleep, has done wonders for the entire family’s well being.

The basic principles we learnt during the training process will stay with us for life and help us through all the little sleep regressions we encounter along the way.

Fun Day at Flag Animal Farm

Flag animal farm is located in the Dolphin Coast less than an hour from central Durban.  I cannot fully convey just how much the Twincesses love the farm!

But let me start by saying this: This is NOT A ZOO. I find zoos reprehensible, so I absolutely LOVE the fact that more than 80% of the animals at Flag Animal Farm have been rescued from cruel fates and are provided with a safe, loving home. In fact the farm has saved close to 11000 lives since they opened 13 years ago.

Flag Animal Farm offers a fun day out for the whole family. There are playgrounds and jumping castles, indoor soft play for the littles, tractor and pony rides, educational shows and exhibits and braai and picnic facilities. Families can pack a lunch and can easily spend an entire day at the farm without the kids getting bored.

The Twincesses insist I buy the animal feed so they get to hand-feed the naughty goats, whilst I never get over the exhilaration of having the horses grab a carrot from my outstretched palm!

The girls flutter between the jungle gym and the pony rides, whilst I stay cool close to the ice cream stand.

They insist on having their faces painted, and aren’t afraid to touch the snakes or the wolves (much to my horror)!

Parents are welcome to host their kids’ birthday parties at the farm, which takes the guesswork out of entertainment planning.Whilst Flag Animal Farm provides the perfect day out for the whole family, the kids especially love it, and you have been warned: there WILL BE tears when its time to leave.

Jeronimo Kinetic Space Sand Kit

Rainy days are here again… and whilst our drought-stricken country welcomes the showers, moms all over are looking for ways to keep their little ones entertained indoors. (Especially as the school’s are closed).

One of the Twincesses favorite pastimes is playing in their sandpit outside. However the rain prevents them from enjoying this activity.

That’s where the Jeronimo Kinetic Space Sand kit comes in!

The kit consists of:

– 2kg Kinetic sand (color of choice)

– 12 sand mounds

– 1 Spade

– Inflatable tray

– Handy storage container

Kinetic sand is cleverly marketed as “98% sand and 2% magic”

The magic is provided by the addition of 2 percent polydimethylsiloxan that causes kinetic sand to mimic the properties of wet sand without the accompanying mess.

In fact, while it sticks so well to itself it doesn’t stick to most surfaces, which means a super easy clean up process and no messy hands!

Its safe, stain-free and never dries out. It’s perfect for sensory development play.

The Jeronimo Kinetic Space Sand Kit provides the Twincesses with hours of safe, stimulating indoor play.

The kit can be purchased from Takealot or other major online retailers.

Decorating our Playhouse

We recently installed an outdoor wooden playhouse, designed and manufactured by the amazing Charlie’s Playhouses.

We have been having a ball decorating the playhouse, adding little touches and generally making the interior a pretty space for the Twincesses.

I must say I probably enjoy the decorating part a bit more than the girls, and as I add a new decor piece, I always think back to how awesome my own childhood would have been with a dreamlike playhouse like theirs. Living vicariously, I guess 🙂

So I wanted to share some of the cute and functional details we added, but bear in mind, this is still a work in progress. I doubt it will ever be complete, really, as I’m sure the furniture and decor will ‘grow’ with the kids, and we will add and remove as we go along.

For now, this is what the interior looks like:

  1. DECOR PIECES:

We went with cute little sleepy eyes in pink and gold and a beautiful dream catcher in pink satin sourced from Shongweni market. A grey bunny door hook and a ‘love’ plaque from MRP Home.

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Adorable self-adehsive Ballerina sticker collection, ‘LOVE’ wooden letters and Princess canvas from MRP Home.

Pink and grey bunting custom made locally by Heather’s Buntings.img_6098-2

Pretty heart stickers in silver (made these myself) and happy cloud cushions, also from MRP Home.

The kiddies ottomans were bought second hand.

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2. STORAGE:

We always knew storage was going to be a major concern, as the Twincesses have TOO MANY TOYS. I didn’t want the playhouse to look cluttered and chaotic, so we have not one but TWO toy storage organizers.

The first one from MRP Home is a pretty pink design with convenient plastic storage boxes that can be used to not only store, but also sort toys. The girls are then able to just take their favorite box to their desk to easily access their chosen toys.

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Their other toy organizer was gifted by their aunt, and they love it because its FROZEN!

The boxes are fabric, but durable and the side panels are in rich, glossy color and is scratch-resistant.

3. FURNITURE

One of the first items we purchased for the playhouse was a large wooden kitchen from Kings Toys. We had looked at the options in stores and Takealot, but they were just so small! I wanted the girls to have something they could enjoy for years to come, and Kings Toys provided just that! Their kitchen is made in pink and white with an oven, stove top, microwave, fridge/freezer, clock, chalkboard, hang rail and plenty of storage.

We kitted it out with an array of toys: toasters, coffee machine, pots and pans, fruit basket and lots and lots of dishes, all found within the aisles of Toys R Us.

We invested in some beautiful wooden items like the Melissa and Doug 3 layer birthday cake. The cake comes with decorative items, , candle, cake board and server. The girls love singing Happy Birthday to everyone and offering them a slice of cake. This particular cake can be ‘cut’ and velcro-ed back together.

Theo from Mr Tickles also went out of her way to source the Viga wooden eggs for me, and I am so grateful. I highly recommend the store for beautiful and quality toys. img_6124-2

The playhouse wouldn’t be complete without a spot for the Twincesses to draw, colour, do puzzles and ‘eat’ whatever they ‘cook’.

I found this table and chair set on Takealot and was so pleased when I saw that it matches their FROZEN toy organizer exactly, right down to the same high-gloss, scratch-resistant finish. We do have some squabbles over who gets to sit on the ‘Elsa’ chair, but they generally don’t last long as there is so much to keep the girls busy.

There are still two items I am yet to source, which I think will make perfect additions to our playhouse: One is a few floating book ledge shelves. Because the Twincesses love their books!

The second are these gorgeous house shelves for storing pretty keepsakes and adding another decorative element. I’d welcome recommendations for a local company that makes these items.

If you are looking for a way to keep your kids entertained for hours on end, I’d definitely recommend giving Charlie’s Playhouses a call on 076 106 0612.

And if you do, please do share your decor ideas with me! 😉

5 Tips to keep kids Rear Facing as long as possible #CarSeatFullStop

You’re probably already aware that having your kids in a rear-facing car seat is much safer than forward facing, right?

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age two are 75% less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing, while other studies have confirmed that riding rear-facing is much safer than forward-facing.

American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep their children in rear-facing car seats until at least age two, but preferable longer (until age 4) if your car seat weight and height limits allow for it.

But one of the biggest reasons that parents (even those in the know) prematurely forward-face their car seats is that their toddlers just dont like it.

I’ve heard friends tell me about the epic tantrums their kids throw when their seats are rear faced.. One even had to stop her car en-route to the grocery store, just to turn the seat around because her child would scream so hysterically she’d throw up.

So I’d like to share 5 tips on how to keep your kids Rear Facing for as long as safely possible:

1. DON’T Forward Face. It may seem like a no-brainer, but if your child doesn’t know of an alternative, they can’t as well protest!
It’s import that family members, babysitters and anyone else who may drive your kids, are aware of this strict policy… as having your child ride forward face – even once – lets them know there is another option available.

2. Sing along songs/ audio books. Distraction is key. Whether it be their favorite nursery rhymes CD, or their most loved story in an audio book format, I find that distracting my kids on their trips usually means I face less protest about being in their car seats.

3. Rear view mirror. Available at most baby stores, the mirror allows you to keep an eye on your child whilst rear facing, but also importantly, allows your baby to glimpse your face when positioned well. We used ours to calm fussy babies, by making brief eye contact, and as they’re older, letting them play peek-a-boo!

4. Big Girl/ Boy discussions. I find that my girls just love when I sit them down for a “Big Girl Talk”. They get all serious, like they’re being allowed into the inner circle of grown-ups, and they seem to take the lessons handed out in our “Big Girl Talks” very earnestly. Big Girl/Boy topics can include all the serious matters you want to discuss with your child, from Stranger Danger to the importance of sharing, and how to treat animals. But why not also include a session for Car Seat Safety? During our talk I stressed how much we loved them, how people can get hurt very badly in car accidents, that we didn’t want them to get hurt, and the best way to stay safe was to sit in their car seat facing the back as it was the safest way to travel.
I found they appreciated being trusted with that knowledge, and I rarely have any qualms about them getting into their car seats now.

5. Make it a habit. Consistency is vital! Again, kids should not be given another choice but to ride rear facing in their car seats for ALL car trips. I find that toddlers lean towards receptive behaviors and by enforcing the rule, they more often give up the fight when they realize this is not something that is up for negotiation.

#CarSeatFullStop Every Child. Every Time. No matter what.

Mind your own uterus

When news broke yesterday that a third royal baby was on the way for William and Kate, social media was awash with messages of congratulations and well wishes for the royal couple. But among the tweets of cheers and felicitations, there were also ones that went like this:

“Don’t they have TVs in the Palace?”

“Do they even know how birth control works?”

“She’s been pregnant for like….4 years straight”

“#RoyalRabbits”

Can someone please tell me how it is acceptable to comment on anyone else’s reproductive choices? Have William and Kate asked for public opinion on whether they should have more children? I guess being “celebrities”, their personal choices/decisions for always up for public scrutiny, but what about the average woman?

How many regular women like you and me, are judged daily for our reproductive choices?

When are you going to settle down?

Are you gonna have a baby soon?

The clock is ticking…

You’re not getting any younger…

And then the flip side of the coin when you’ve had ‘too many’ kids by someone’s random standard:

Are you secretly Mormon?

Trying for a soccer team?

You guys don’t waste any time, do you?

Apart from being incredibly rude and downright hurtful, these types of comments can do a lot of damage because we may not have any idea about what someone is going through in their personal lives, behind the closed doors.

That woman married for 5 years without any children…?; she may be struggling with infertility treatments, trying and failing month after month to have a baby of her own despite mountains of medications.

That couple with their fourth child? Maybe they always wanted a big family after growing up incredibly lonely. Maybe they planned and longed for every child they were blessed with.

You just never know. Which is why, the best thing to do is to always – ALWAYS – mind your own uterus and just keep any comment about someone else’s reproductive choices to yourself.

If in doubt, just keep your mouth closed!

* Photo credit: Mind your own uterus pro-choice by Boogiemonst