Joanna Anastasia

Parenting

Are you ready for having kids?

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It’s funny how life changes, right? I mean, when I look at what my life is now, and what it was before I had kids, it’s like two different stories. Sure, I’ve moved far away from where I grew up, so obviously my life is different. But all of you who are having kids, you know, that it is “life-changing” in so many ways.

And it’s funny how my old friends, that I’ve met back in high school or at the university, are always surprised to see me now, as a SAHM, married with two kids. You see, back in the days I was a bit of a party animal… I used to love the nightlife, parties, travelling and meeting new people. Oh, the joys of youth! 😉

Funny how we change. And how our values do too. What we believe in, and the importance we give to our beliefs shapes pretty much our vision of happiness. If we live a life that reflects our values then we can pretty much call ourself happy and fulfilled.

So I was asking myself this question, what changed in my life, that I became ready for kids, and happy as a SAHM ? Which of my values and beliefs changed? What beliefs are opposites to a life with kids?

So here is what I’ve came up with. I believe that the way you feel about these 5 values, shows pretty much if you are ready for kids or not.
Feel free to disagree :).

1. Independence.
In our society it is seen as one of the most valuable assets. But if you think that your independence is the most important thing in your life, then maybe you should wait a bit before having kids. Because having kids means loosing your independence. All of the sudden there is this little creature totally dependent on you. If you nurse, you can’t leave it for more than 2 hours. No more spontaneous get togethers with friends. If you want to travel with an infant better start planning now. And pregnant and postpartum, you’ll need as much help and support as your grandma. Are you ready for that?

2. Romantic vision of relationship.
Pop culture is all about romantic love, the one where nobody and nothing exists except for the couple in love. The one that moves the mountains, the one that is stronger then death, the one forever and for always! This romantic image of the relationship in which you are the most important creature for your partner and vice versa. Well guess what, having kids means that it’s not only the two of you on this romantic island called love and passion. There is someone else, tiny and dependent, who steals all the attention, sometimes even all the cuddles. Are you ready for that change? If not, maybe having kids it not for you.

3. Planning.
This one is tricky. If you are a planning freak then maybe you shouldn’t have kids. You might get frustrated. Because, you may very well prepare your birth plan, baby activities that you’ll attend, and your family dream vacations, but it may all turn out totally different than you planned. Kids have there own temperament and character, and they don’t stick to your schedule.
But if you are a free spirit who never ever plans, then maybe think twice before having kids. It’s not advisable to run out of diapers/ milk in the middle of the night… Are you ready to start planning your groceries, laundry and nap time?

4. Body image.
We are bombarded with perfect bodies by the media. As a society we tend to believe that as a women we need to be sexy. I’m sorry to break your bubble here, but heavy pregnant, with swollen ankles, crazy back pain and gases is not sexy. Postpartum with leaking breasts, swollen lady parts and mummy tummy it’s neither. If you are very attached to your body image and you feel like you need to stay sexy, then maybe wait before having kids.

5. Responsibility.
Before kids you are responsible for yourself. Maybe a cat or a dog. You can leave your pet to the neighbour and go spent all your money for a last minute trekking trip in Peruvian Andes. If you decide to have kids you need to be responsible. Ready?

Having kids is a life-changing, value-changing, lifestyle-changing decision. And the one that I never regret. What do you think? I’d love to know your opinion! 🙂

How to prepare a toddler for a new baby

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I’ve heard some horror stories about toddlers and new siblings. I’ve heard a story about this girl that even though she was potty trained she started to poop her pants. Every day. For weeks. I heard a story about this toddler that asked her mom if the baby can be taken back to the hospital. And another one about a little girl asking if the baby could go back to mummy’s belly. So many people have been telling me about the jealousy and tantrums that are a part of becoming a sister/brother.

So I was scared. I didn’t want to break my little girl’s heart, I wished for her to love her sister and to feel equally loved by me. And now that our baby Rose is four months old, I really don’t see any jealousy in the soul of my two and a half Lili. She really loves her sister, she tells her friends with proudness that it’s her baby. She tells anyone who is willing (or not) to listen what’s her sister’s name, and what she likes (milk). Honestly that poor baby is literally licked by her sister! I really need to stop her from cuddling the baby all the time.

And Lili never told me she wanted the baby to go back to the hospital, in my belly or anywhere. I’m pretty sure she understands that the baby’s place is home with us. And of course, she does have tantrums, she’s a toddler right? But she’s not jealous and she loves her new sibling :). So here are the things I’ve been doing to prepare her for a new baby :

1. Explain the pregnancy.
No, no need to go into details of how it started ;). But explaining that babies come from love of adults, that they slowly grow in mommies belly, that they can hear you, and smile at you even when they are still inside of mommy is ok. Don’t forget to explain that once the baby leaves the belly, there is no way back!

2. Talk about the differences between a big girl/boy and a baby.
Babies can’t eat chocolate, ice cream, bananas or whatever your toddler loves. Babies can have only milk. Can babies watch cartoons? No, but a big girl/boy can. Can a baby play with toys, go to the park or have friends over? No. As you see it’s all about making them understand that it’s cool being a big girl/boy and really boring being a baby ;).

3. Talk about changes.
If you plan to sleep in the same room with your newborn, explain it to your child, and repeat it often. Explain that when the baby comes mommy will do certain things, but won’t be doing others. Sometimes while feeding the baby she won’t be able to play. Maybe it will be daddy who will be picking you up from daycare or making breakfast. Your toddler might be small, but if you repeat often what changes are going to happen it will be less surprised and shocked by the change.

4.Help them visualize what’s happening.
It’s great for a toddler to imagine a baby growing in mommy’s belly. There are many books that illustrate pregnancy to children. My daughter had one and she loved it.

5. Involve them in baby preparation.
Let them help you choose whatever you need to buy. They can choose the colours.
They can help you set the nursery, or just the crib by choosing a stuffy that will be waiting for the baby.

6 Let them feel important and excited.
By involving toddlers in the baby preparation, by explaining the difference between the big girl / boy and a baby, they will start to feel important and excited.

7 Make them feel involved.
Before the baby comes plan with your toddler what you’ll be doing together with the baby. Can they help with bath time ( pass the towel ) or diaper change ( pass the diaper) ? Can they sing to the baby and hand the pacifier ? We planned all that she would be doing with the baby, and she was really exited to take part in all of the above!

8. Don’t lie that the newborn sister/brother will play with them !
Not at the beginning, that’s for sure. It’s better to tell them there will be a lot of crying. And explain that by crying, babies communicate because they can’t talk .

9. Show them other pregnant woman and other tiny babies.
If there aren’t any around you, stalk people at the grocery or at the shopping mall ;).

10. Show your toddler pictures of you being pregnant with them.
Tell them stories about them when they where babies. Tell them that they cried, they drank only milk, and they liked gentle signing.

I wander what are your tips for preparing toddlers for new siblings ?

And here are some books that I recommend, to help you prepare your child for a new sibling
(just click on the image to see more):

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Why you should go camping with kids

Here are ten important reasons why it's so important to go camping with kids, even if you don't really feel like it !

Believe it or not, I’m no camping lover. I’m a city girl, who loves her comfort and hates bugs and public washrooms. Between you and me, my definition of perfect family vacation is in the hotel by the sea! Why then I state that you should go camping with kids ? Because I believe that sometimes comfort is less important, especially when it comes to raising smart and sensitive children! And going camping will help you achieving that goal, here is how :

1. Reconnecting with each other.
When there is no distraction like house to clean, emails to be checked or a tv show to watch, we can actually concentrate on each other. I think it’s especially important for our children, that are born in the internet era to learn how to slow down and appreciate the presence of the close ones.

2. Respecting the resources.
When you have to get the water for cooking and washing the dishes in a pot that you carry all the way to your camp site, it makes you more careful when you use it. You don’t waste water when you know you need to go get it yourself. It’s also a great opportunity to talk to older kids about how many people in the world live with out fresh water at home, and how many children are responsible for fetching the water every day.

3. Learning to play with anything that’s not a toy.
Honestly I was tempted to buy a bunch of dollar store toys to keep my two and a half year old busy. But I decided to take only 3 of her stuffed animals and see if I can encourage her to play with natural elements found on the camp site. And guess what. On the first day she was turning around not really sure what to do. On the second she was playing alone with sticks pretending that they are her dolls, and that rocks where the food. Success!

4. Understanding the nature.
It’s great to show to kids the real habitat of animals, to watch birds and bugs going on with there lives, to teach your child to respect them all. In national parks you are asked not to pick any branches or flowers, and that’s a great opportunity to explain the delicate balance in nature that we tend too often to break.

5. Fighting your fears.
The fear of the dark woods, the fear of spiders or the fear of bugs. By being exposed to all of the above your children are less likely to develop these fears, as they will consider them as a normal part if everyday life.

6. Learning a healthy lifestyle.
I assume that while at camping you don’t eat fast food, but you cook simple dishes and you walk or bike. There is no TV or video games. I dare you to leave your iPad at home. Hike and enjoy the nature. Let city kids learn to spend all day outside. It will pay back in the future.

7. Being grateful for what we have.
It’s great to realize how comfortable our life is.
At home we have hot water, we have heating, comfortable beds, toilets, toys and many objects that make our lives easier. But in the end we can do without all of the objects that surround us in our everyday lives. Camping is a great reminder of that.

How to raise a bilingual child

How to raise a bilingual child

My daughter is two and a half years old, and she talks a lot! She talks, sings, screams, laughs and cries. Constantly. She gets quiet only when she eats or sleeps. I guess she started to talk using three word sentences when she had 18 months, and everyone kept telling me how amazing it was that she can speak that well for her age. Back then she knew all the farm animals, she could name any food she eat, her actions, people in our family, her toys etc..

But I was just anxious that she would never speak well my language! Because when she was saying simple phrases in French, she would be just saying words in my language. You see, I live in French speaking place, with a lot of English surrounding us as well. But my first language is Polish, and that’s how I usually dream, think and talk to my children and cats. So I worried that she would never be able to express herself in Polish as she could in French. Because as it was only me that spoke to her in Polish on a daily basis, French was everywhere else!

Now she’s three and a half years old and she talks equally well in French and Polish. It’s been a struggle, and I know that my work is not done any time soon, but I am so happy to see as she switches from one to another translating to her grandma what I’ve just told her. Here is what I’ve been doing, and what I’ll keep on doing to raise my bilingual children :

1. There is an important association: one parent, one language.
What it means is that you should always use one language while talking to your child, and never, ever switch! Children are smart creatures, and most likely they choose the easiest and most efficient way to get what they need. So if it’s easier to speak one language than the other, they won’t try particularly hard to find the word they forgot. They’ll use whatever word that comes first to mind, and if you’ll start responding to them with the other language, they’ll see that they can get what they need (communication with you) without trying to speak your language. So while speaking to your child use only one language !

2. Talk constantly, describe what you do, what is happening around you, comment on there actions and name their feelings.
Children learn to speak by listening to conversations and being a part of an exchange. So if there isn’t much conversation around, you need to make up for it! You may get crazy, and in the end of the day you may loose your voice, but keep on talking while you cut these carrots!

3. Sing!
Singing helps to memorize grammar structure and vocabulary, so sing when you dress them up, sing when you go outside, sing when you clean and bath! If you are sick and tired of songs that you know try inventing songs and rimes, use simple melodies and sing!

4. Use creative grammar!
Switch from : I do, to mommy is doing, you are doing, he is doing, we are .. And so on.. If your children don’t hear a lot of real life conversations, they won’t learn how to use grammar. So not only you need to constantly talk, but you also need to do a lot of role playing!

5. Read a lot of books. Every day.
Start early, as soon as they get interested in objects and can sit still for 3 minutes. If you don’t have baby books in your language just take any, and translate them. Look online for children books and rimes, there are plenty!

6. As soon as they start talking, respond to their requests and questions only if expressed in your language.
It’s hard, and requires a lot of patience on your part, but it’s really the only way to teach them, that when communicating with mummy we use only this language. Of course if your child is crying in the middle of the night you won’t wait until they use the right words! But when my daughter would ask me for juice in French, I would ask her if she could repeat because I didn’t understand well. At first she would slowly repeat in French, then she would almost spell it for me also in French, sometimes two or three times! It’s hard to resist laughing when your child clearly thinks that you are stupid, but you should stay calm and not give in. I assure you that finally she would come up with a Polish word!

7. Make them repeat after you and give them ready to use phrases.
When I see that my daughter clearly has no clue how to put it in words in Polish, I give her a phrase to repeat after me. I tell her that when she wants juice she should say it like this. Or if she comes to me saying something in French I will repeat after her in Polish, and usually then she repeats after me.

8. Establish a clear rule on watching children’s show at home: only in the language that needs improvement.
There are plenty of all kinds of TV shows and cartoons on YouTube in all possible languages.

9. Let your child listen to real conversations :use Skype to connect with people that can speak your language, call your family on face time. Reconnect with old friends, and ask family members to call you and to baby sit through Skype while you are in the kitchen.

10. Engage in as many social situations possible. Try finding a grocery store, a weekend school or a shop where your child may engage in a conversation in your language. Find them playmates with whom they could communicate only using your language .

Most important, stay persistent, and it will pay of !

More information at multilingualchildren.

And if you’d like to find out more about living a bilingual life check out this great book:Bilingual: Life and Reality !

10 things You didn’t know about breastfeeding

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I’m nursing my second baby right now, my first was breastfed for over a year, and it was her who decided that she was done with it. So no wonder I’m quite interested with the subject :). And since most information that we hear talks about the general health benefits for the baby, and extra cuddle time with mummy, well I wanted to go a bit beyond that, and look into the advantages for both woman and child. So here are some cool facts, some from research and some from my personal experience, that you might have not known about breastfeeding :

1. It is linked to prevent breast cancer , so basically the longer you nurse the lower are your chances to get breast cancer.
(more info : http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264796.php
And, http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/cancer-questions/how-is-breast-feeding-related-to-breast-cancer)

2. Poop of a baby exclusively breastfed does not really stink.

3. Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with less colic .
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22205210)

4. Breastfeeding is also associated with baby’s longer nocturnal sleep thanks to melatonin that is present in mothers milk .
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22205210)

5. Each time you nurse your body is giving you a gift; a feel good hormone (oxytocin) is being released. As an effect you feel content, satisfied and happy as if you would have had chocolate or been kissing a lot !:)
(http://www.livescience.com/35219-11-effects-of-oxytocin.html)

6. If you are nursing at night lying in bed on the side:
you almost don’t need to wake up, so you sleep better.

7. It can be more difficult than you thought it would be. You might need help of a lactation consultant, who actually will help you solve your breastfeeding problems.

8. Research shows the link between breastfeeding and lower risk of allergies.
(http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Allergy/Breastfeeding-reduces-risk-of-five-types-of-allergic-disease/)

9. There is no pattern, if you were struggling with your first child, second one can pleasantly surprise you. You might have more milk and your child might latch better.

10. Breastfeeding is associated with better cognitive development of children.
(More info : http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/106317.php)

And if you ever wondered  why do people get offended when you nurse in public, click here.

How to travel with a toddler

Best tried and tested tips and tricks for travelling with toddlers- how to get organized and have fun!

When we first travelled overseas with our daughter Lili, she was almost two years old – 21 months to be exact. We went to visit my family in Poland, we stopped by Paris to see our friends, and we went to Croatia for a week.

Honestly I imagined it would be extremely difficult, and I anticipated that we would be managing tantrums on the plane, struggling to put her to sleep in the hotel and generally dealing with her out of balance behaviour. But there where no tantrums on the planes – and we took 5- nor buses nor boat. She was easy. Surprisingly easy, and happy.

And here are the five strategies that helped us travel :

1. Sticking to routine :
Yes, even on vacation, going from one place to another, sightseeing and visiting family and friends we stuck to our normal routine.

Lunch at her usual time, whenever we where, and nap just after lunch: in the hotel room, on the bus, in the stroller, or on the plane. What was important , was to give her a clear sign that now she can relax, drink her milk, cuddle her favourite toy and sleep.

Then diner at her usual time. And bath ( or shower) followed by night time just like at home.
Sure we didn’t go much at night, and where a bit less spontaneous then usual on vacation, but in the end we had an easygoing, happy and relaxed toddler, so I think sticking to routine was really worth it.

2. Carrying toys around :
We where always carrying around her little backpack with crayons, puzzles, Elmo colouring pages and little dollar store toys and stickers, so she would be patient at the table in the restaurant.

We never let her play with these stuff outside the restaurants or plane so she always fund them interesting. If you would like to get some Sesame Street colouring pages for free, you can get them here : http://pbskids.org/sesame/art/

3. Dealing without changing tables and high chairs:
Although places we went where generally children friendly, a lot of times there where no high chairs or changing tables. So we carried only the slip-on dippers, to facilitate the changing process.

And to deal with a lack of high chairs I asked my aunt to make me a slip on carry-on chair slip cover (you can also find them in Etsy), that we would use all the time to keep her attached to normal chair. Coupled with these giant, genus IKEA bibs :http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/70179754/ that cover everything, meal time was easy, no fuss and no mess.

4. Finding time to run and play:
After time spend attached, or sitting on the plane/bus/stroller we always give her time to run and play, either on a playground, beach or just by simply finding safe pedestrian streets or squares and telling her to run. One of us would be then running with her till she had no more energy.

5. Medicaments :
Just in case, I had some stuff for temperature, diarrhea, and cough. It made me feel safe. But what really helped us was the medicament for sea sickness: Gravol for kids, so every time we would be taking a longer drive in the bus/car or on the boat she would get some, and then not only there was no stress of her vomiting all over the place, but she would also had a nice long nap.

 

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