.... In with the new

One of my favorite 'eves' is upon us. It's almost the New Year! Yes, it is a night for merry-making and debauchery, but also an opportunity for reflection. I used to get giddy making resolutions, however the disappointment when I failed to make good on promises to myself was acute. Now I skip the resolutions and set a few gentle intentions instead. "To resolve" implies failure should you not achieve whatever it is you have set out to accomplish. Setting an intention, however, leaves room to adjust to whatever variables may be thrown your way.

This year, I had a tough time narrowing down what intentions to set for the coming months. I found inspiration in four amazing women in my life who have been my greatest friends and teachers.

My mother was and is the consummate homemaker. It always makes me laugh to hear people negate the importance of a stay-at-home mom. My mom worked tirelessly as a teacher to support our family while my dad finished school and built his dental practice. She then 'retired' to an even more challenging job: raising three spirited children! She volunteered for all of our after-school activities, kept a pristine house, checked our homework every day (woe to the child who didn't do their best job; he or she had to redo that assignment!),  and supported with gusto our individual passions and hobbies. She was a theatre mom, a soccer mom, a swimming mom, a rugby mom, a ballet mom, and whatever mom we needed her to be in the moment. Of all the wonderful qualities my Marmee has, the one I most want to emulate is her pride. She takes pride in her home, her family and herself. If cleanliness is next to godliness, my mother's a damn saint! This is no small thing: a clean and peaceful environment makes for happier, healthier children. She crafted a beautiful, cozy home for us, and I seek to do the same for my own little family this year.

Lauren and I met freshman year of college. We were friends, then roommates, then soulmates as we pounded the pavement, sometimes successfully, often not so, as actors in New York. While jobs and life decisions took us to opposite sides of the country, we held on to our friendship that began over 12 years ago. Lauren quit 'the biz' to move back to Colorado and become a teacher. She worked very hard to attain her degree and get credentialed, and landed an amazing job teaching drama at a high school. It was stable, steady work, with benefits. This summer, after much reflection, Lauren made the brave decision to return to acting. She quit her practical job, and has staged quite a comeback as an actress in Denver. I'm so proud of her, and inspired by her willingness to embrace the unknown. This year, I will take more risks and respect my intuition.

Two years ago, I began a 300-hour training program to bolster my yoga studies. It was in this program that I met Lindsay, a beautiful and sweet Canadian (aren't they all?!). We bonded over our mutual love of yoga, theatre and family, which we cemented taking walks on the beach in Santa Monica and long drives to our evening study sessions. Lindsay broke my heart when she and her partner Noah moved back to Canada last year. She was one of the first calls I made when I found out I was pregnant, as I knew how happy she would be for me. She cried tears of joy and I felt her love and excitement through the phone. Lindsay lives a heart-centered life, and approaches everything from this perspective. She makes deliberate decisions based on the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-violence), and treats everyone with respect and love. I miss her terribly, so in honor of her, I am going to set an intention this year to let my heart, and not my head, be my guide.

My Grama and I have always been close, and it was she who taught me how to smile (open mouth, with teeth!). As her "little butterfly", she encouraged me to fly east for college, even though I was scared and unsure. We took a long trip to Ireland together with my grandfather, where we were both challenged by the passing of my Grampa. I saw her strength first-hand as she dealt with the loss of her husband, with whom she had loved for over fifty years. My Grama has always been a dedicated church-goer, and not just on Sundays. Faith is incredibly important to her, but she has never used those convictions to exclude or demonize others. She parlays her faith in her God to her faith in people, and she has always lifted me up and made me believe in myself. This year, I am going to let go of my skepticism and embrace faith.

Yes, these are lofty aspirations I have, but not impossible, as I am bolstered every day by the presence of my little angel Juna. She makes me want to emulate all the beautiful, talented, hard-working, brilliant women I know. Beyond their individual achievements, these gals have shown me unconditional love when I needed it most, and that is the root of it all.

Pema Chodron says it best...

"Breathing in, breathing out, feeling resentful, feeling happy, being able to drop it, not being able to drop it, eating our food, brushing our teeth, walking, sitting - whatever we're doing could be done with one intention. That intention is that we want to wake up, we want to ripen our compassion, and we want to ripen our ability to let go, we want to realize our connection with all beings. Everything in our lives has the potential to wake us up or to put us to sleep. Allowing it to awaken us is up to us."

I wish you a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

My Juna, 5 months old.


On Dasher, On Dancer, On Southwest, On Highway....

.... If only Santa did round trips.

At the tender age of five months, Juna is already a seasoned traveler. We have made three trips by plane and one long drive so far, and through trial and error, I have learned a thing or two! I thought I might share what worked (and didn't...) for us in hopes of saving other mamas out there from the stress of the unknown.

Traveling by plane? Here's what to expect.... lap infants under 2 need proof of age in the form of a birth certificate or shot record (yep, even my little peanut needed this). Antibacterial wipes are essential for sanitizing the yucky plane so I don't worry when Juna inevitably decides she needs to touch everything within arms' reach. I love this Latch On Nursing Cover Strap that transforms any blanket into a nursing cover, so baby can be cozy while she eats. Our family likes to travel light, so we leave the heavy car seat and stroller at home. I put Juna in the Moby, which allows me to be hands free. The wrap also came in handy when I accidentally left my blanket in the car and needed a nursing cover. When going through security, baby can stay in the wrap/carrier but TSA will pull you aside to swipe your hands. They will also test your breastmilk or formula (over 3 ounces) so be prepared. We either rent a car with a car seat or use a car service and request a (rear-facing) infant car seat to get us to our hotel. We purchased a convertible car seat for my parents so we are covered any time we go to visit Marmee, JarJar and Nana. This seat is safe, inexpensive and will last through toddler-hood: Evenflow Car Seat. Dress baby in an all-in-one footie to avoid losing those teeny, tiny socks, and scope out the family restrooms so you can change baby (do so about ten minutes before boarding).

Timing is everything with infants, so if you can, book a flight that coincides with a nap time. Reserve seats in the back of the plane (louder, and closer to the bathrooms). If you're traveling with another adult, book an aisle and window seat in hopes that no one will take the middle (if they do, you can always ask to switch). I like to sit near the window so I can nurse more discreetly. If you're on Southwest or similar airline, take a whole row and put the baby on the aisle as people are choosing seats. Trust me, no one will want to sit next to what they assume will be a crying baby... When the plane takes off, either encourage baby to nurse, take a paci or bottle to help their little ears adjust. Juna usually will fall asleep in my arms at this point under her cozy blankie and will sleep for at least a couple hours. Yes, your back and arms will be sore the rest of the day from holding the little one, but trust me, you will not regret letting baby sleep for at least part of your flight. When baby is up, be sure to have her favorite toys or books handy. Save the big guns (for us, it's her Sophie) for when your baby gets really fussy. Offer a paci, bottle or nursing session when you start your descent to your destination. Our first flight, Juna cried pretty hard on the way down, so I learned to latch her on before her ears start to bother her. Since that first plane ride, we have had zero crying or fussing on the plane, and Juna loves to fly!

Traveling by car? TRAVEL AT NIGHT WHEN BABY USUALLY SLEEPS. My mom and I learned this the hard way when we left in the afternoon. Juna was only five weeks old and cried for four of our six hour drive to Sacramento (seriously). Now, we leave around bedtime so Juna slumbers for the full six hours. We have a white noise machine to attach to the car seat to assist Juna in falling asleep . Bring the car to the mechanic's before your drive so you know your vehicle is in good condition and not sans headlights (true story). Leave with a full tank of gas to avoid unnecessary stops. Be prepared: Baby may freak out. Don't take him or her out of the car seat while driving, as was recommended to me by an ill-informed driver. It isn't the end of the world if Baby cries; trust me, we survived 3.5 months of colic! Also, stock up on caffeinated beverages for your driver, or if you are behind the wheel and are a nursing mom, bring gum to help stay alert on your drive. A word to the wise.... don't drink too much to avoid unnecessary bathroom breaks.

Once you have reached your destination, do your best to stick with your baby's routine/schedule. If we miss a nap, Juna goes into full meltdown-mode, leading to some up-till-four-a.m debacles (yes, this happened. Twice.). I have an excellent app on my iPod to keep track of Juna's naps and feedings. We keep Pacific time when going back east as best we can. For a couple weeks before we left, I also put a soft blanket underneath Juna while she napped (tucking it into the crib of course) and brought that to Chicago with us. I put it under her for all her naps so it smelled like home and also swaddled Juna so she would feel safe in this new place. I only left the hotel once in order to protect Juna's naps. It was worth it. We were able to go easily back to her naptime schedule upon our return to LA. We co-sleep on the road, but also request a porta-crib for our room so she can play or relax in a safe place. If you can afford it, consider getting a two-room suite so baby can nap without both parents needing to sit silently in the dark for an hour or two. Remember to bring your baby monitor if you use one!

Cloth diapering presents an interesting conundrum while traveling. When in Sacramento, I bring our gDiapers with the compostable, flushable inserts. My mom doesn't mind if we use her washer/dryer for our dipes. When in Chicago, we went the disposable route. Juna got a diaper rash and I was seriously disturbed at the amount of garbage we left, so next time we're at a hotel, I'm going to try hand-washing and see how that goes. Pumping is also a challenge (who wants to travel with those heavy electric pumps??) so I got a manual pump for our trip as we had to leave Juna with a sitter for a few hours to attend a wedding. Practice with your manual pump before you leave; it took awhile for me to get the hang of it!

Traveling with a baby can be tricky, but being prepared can prevent many an issue. Juna can definitely sense when I am nervous, so I try to stay calm and remember that most of our fellow passengers are sympathetic to the travails of infant travel. My first flight with Juna was a solo trip, and I had two lovely people offer to help with the baby on the plane. One was a mommy of a two-year-old, who very generously reminded the people around me how challenging it is to travel alone with a baby during Juna's huge landing meltdown. Babies are so cute, even the fussiest ones are easily forgiven!

I wish you safe travels this holiday season. If you have any travel trips, feel free to comment and share! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Joyous New Year to all!

Goodnight Moon, Virgin America Style.


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color and there's a nip in the air. You know what that means... Fall shipments are arriving from our wine clubs!!!

Every year at this time, Bradford and I eagerly await the sound of the UPS truck pulling up to our curb, and gleefully answer the door with open arms ready to receive our treats. Like kids on Christmas morning, we rip open the cardboard boxes and shout with wonder and joy at the new and exciting presents within. "An '08 Cabernet! A 2007 Zin! Is Petit Verdot the new Pinot???", we exclaim to one another while our dog and daughter look on, bemused.

On these colder days (ok, it's high 60's, but still) Bradford and I love to dip into our stash of bolder wines. Break out the cabernets, the syrahs and the blends! With Juna's new early bedtime, I am now free to enjoy a whole glass of wine before Juna wakes up to nurse six hours later. Just in time for our fall shipments!

Looking for a spectacular and unique holiday present? Why not gift a wine club membership? If you live in a wine-producing area, consider a membership to a local winery, where oftentimes members are treated to special events throughout the year. Our favorite wineries are in the Paso Robles/Santa Barbara area, which is just a quick trip up the 101 for us. It's been awhile since we've been able to take a vino vacation (wineries, pregnancy and new babies simply don't mix...) but we plan on revisiting some of our old haunts in the new year. If you are a fan of rich, bold, complex reds, try Tolo Cellars. Bradford and I sampled a wine from this exquisite producer during (yes, during...) our wedding ceremony. We love Tolo for blending Bradford's and my favorite characteristics into one show-stopping wine. Tolo Cellars is located off the beaten path in beautiful Paso Robles, where we spent Valentine's Day a few years back. If you are in the area, stop in and visit the farmhouse tasting room. The tasting rooms in Paso are filled with down to earth, wine-loving folk with no pretense. Don't worry if you're a newbie to viticulture, you will be lovingly and passionately guided into the world of wine by the winemakers, who often man the tasting rooms, and their staff.

For your more spontaneous, adventurous friends, look into Wandering Dog, a homey wine bar in scenic Solvang. I've spent several summers performing for PCPA in Solvang, and Bradford has spent those same summers camped out in wine bars and tasting rooms across the county! We love Wandering Dog in particular because you can sample wines from so many different producers, both local and not-so-local. Bradford and I love our California wineries so much, we sometimes need to be encouraged to try wines from other regions. CT, the purveyor of Wandering Dog, travels the globe in search of the best wines. At the bar, you can taste an array of wines by the glass, carafe or bottle, or dip into a wine flight created by the owner himself. This is without a doubt our most interesting shipment, as you never know what you're going to get or where it's going to come from! We've received wines from Spain, South America and Napa all in the same shipment. Oh, what fun!

I would be remiss if I didn't plug Carvalho Wines in Clarksburg, CA, the site of our nuptials and producers of delicious, universally pleasing wines. We enjoyed a Barbera just last night that was served at our wedding. The tasting room is located at The Old Sugar Mill which is also host to many other area wineries. It's a fun outing for Sacramento-area natives.

Bradford's new favorite store is K&L Wine Merchants here in Los Angeles. They also offer several wine club options. Bradford recently picked up several bottles of my new fall favorite, an '09 Bench Cabernet. He loves to peruse the store for new bottles and stock up on our old standbys.

Baby's up from her nap, so I'm back on mom-duty! Till next time, happy drinking!

A very pregnant me, keeping the wine safe! 


The End of an Era

So long, Colic. You will not be missed. For months, you have wreaked havoc on our daughter's well-being, despite the fact that we denied your very existence. Ten hours a day, seven days a week, we endured your cries and protestations channeled through the innocence of our baby girl. How rude.

You did not let Juna relax throughout the day. You decided she could only be comfortable swaddled, held on her side and bounced, and I have the sore back to prove it. You made sure she would like only to be in my arms and no one else's. You prevented her from sleeping soundly, and ensured her only respite be nursing, which she did for hours on end. Oh, you tried to make her cry and scream all day, but we found ways to circumvent your desire using all the tricks we could find (thank you, Happiest Baby on the Block!). Still, she fussed and squirmed, searching always for comfort and peace. She smiled through it all, so there.

You made us doubt our abilities as parents, and left us wide open to well-meaning, though misguided comments, regarding our natural instincts. We fielded many a remark insisting our daughter needed more food, less attention, medical intervention. We were told we simply didn't understand this baby, though no one spends more time learning and listening to their child than the parents of an infant with colic. You made us feel powerless, impotent. Our anxiety level was at an all-time high; you tested the bond of our marriage, as we struggled to find solutions and answers. Too bad for you, we're happier than ever.

You did, however, inspire empathy and understanding from those who had walked this path before us. We received an outpouring of support reassuring us that it would get better, that we weren't doing anything wrong, and that soon we would begin to enjoy, rather than fear, this process. We learned to lean on friends and family, who fielded many tearful phone calls, so saddened we were with Juna's struggle. Thank you to all the people who told us we were doing a good job.

It's been over a week, Colic, since you've reared your ugly head. You have lost your hold over Juna. She is too strong for you! Her natural personality is shining through, revealing a happy, alert, curious and easy baby. Yes, she's an easy baby. I knew we had seen the last of you when I took Juna to Sacramento on a plane, by myself, and she was a delight the whole time. She patiently relaxed against me in her wrap as we stood in the security line, and smiled at our fellow passengers while babbling to me about our day. Once on the plane, she stared out the window, fascinated by the view of the sky.

Colic, I wish I could wax philosophical about what we learned from you, but I can't. You are a miserable, dark force and we are happy to see you go. So, goodbye, Colic. May we never cross paths again.

Angel Baby


Sleep Training: The Saga Continues....

Just when you think you have it all figured out....

Juna's got our number. At three months old, she is already putting it together and making associations. She knows now that swaddling + shush/pat = the dreaded nap. After our week of sleep-educating her, she decided she would no longer respond to our program. It began taking longer and longer to get her down for naps. She'd cry and cry being held over the shoulder until finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she would quickly fall asleep. As soon as she felt a shift in gravity towards the crib, she'd cry, and as soon as you picked her back up again, she'd fall asleep, exhausted, on your shoulder. It took about four cycles of this before she'd stay asleep in the crib, but would wake thirty to forty minutes later, upset and miserable.

It only took a couple of days of this before I declared a cease-fire on the nap battle. Bradford and I decided we would do more rocking, walking and bouncing to see if we could get her into a peaceful drowsy state while putting her down. I would nurse her to drowsiness, then transition her. This worked beautifully. We got some wonderful, long naps and life seemed happy again. For three days. Until, of course, Juna figured out our ploy. She began to fight her naps even with the much gentler (more time consuming) ways of getting her to sleep. This has resulted in lots of crying (from the both of us!), and an overtired baby.

Even our nighttime routine, which I thought we had down-pat, has been disrupted. I used to be able to nurse her and put her in her crib awake or asleep and count on her sleeping four to six hours. It now takes about forty-five minutes to get her to sleep at night, and I have to go in usually thirty minutes later to resettle her. She is waking three to five times during the night to eat, play or get her diaper changed. What gives?? Growth spurt? Teething? Sheer determination to stay awake and take on the world? We are in the midst of an economic crisis after all...

Bradford and I have had many discussions about the best way to proceed. Juna needs sleep, and so do we. If she slept great in our bed, our arms, her vibrating chair, her swing, the car or the stroller, I would have no problems using those as tools to help our precious girl get some rest, but she fights sleep no matter where or when. Despite appearances, she sleeps best and deepest on her own and in her own space, so we persevere.

This weekend was particularly trying as Bradford was out of town for three days, leaving me to tackle all naps and nighttime sleeps by myself. I vowed to stay relaxed and calm, and go with the flow. Upon advice from a friend, I decided that whatever it took to get Juna and I some rest, I would do. My first full day, I nursed her down for every nap, and it worked brilliantly. She even slept for two hours in the afternoon. I was thrilled! I found something that worked! Bedtime was not as successful, and she woke four times in the night to eat. Sunday was less victorious; she took three twenty-minute naps, and was miserable for much of the day. We had the worst night we've had since she was born, with five wake-ups that took at least 45-minutes for her to eat and get back to sleep. Finally, at 5:30a.m. Juna decided it was time to get up for the day. So, I've been up since then, going on maybe four hours sleep, as I have been every day for the past few weeks. Thankfully, Bradford has returned to share the burden of naptime, and the joys of Juna's happy awake time.

I wish I had some philosophical insight to share on what we're learning from this experience, or why this is making me a better person and mother. Instead, I will just say that this sucks. It's hard and it's exhausting, and it's heart-breaking to watch a little person that you love so much in pain from lack of sleep. We feel like we are back at the beginning, and have no idea where to go from here, so we are going to work the original plan, adjusting as we see fit for special circumstances. It feels like something we are all going to have to just outgrow, and to stave off the extreme anxiety I feel over Juna's sleep habits, I tell myself that this will pass. In the meantime, we are enjoying Juna's new developments: her sweet little voice babbling all day (and night) long, her fascination with her hands and feet, laughing at the cute baby in the mirror, singing along to Mommy's silly songs...  As eager as I am for this sleep phase to be over with, I wouldn't mind if this little baby phase lasted awhile longer...

who could resist this sweet face???


Sleep Training: Summary

It has been a long and interesting week here at the Anderson home. Bradford and I have learned so much about sleep, patience, commitment and awareness. Even though we are still hard at work to help Juna with naps, our lives feel more peaceful and less chaotic. Now, when challenges arise, we have an arsenal of tools at our disposal. We are not experts, that's for sure, but I wanted to share with you some things we found helpful this week:

1. PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE! Don't go in too early, or leave too soon.... In our rush to get Juna to sleep, we weren't always allowing her the time and space to try to fall asleep on her own. With the first sound, or even when we'd see her squirm, we'd rush in to 'save' the nap. Now, we give her a good 10 minutes to figure it out by herself, unless of course she's crying hard. By the same token, we used to give up too early. If she cried a little, we'd change tactics right away, rather than waiting her out. As long as you know Baby is fed, clean, dry and burped, you can be sure s/he is fighting you because this is a new and different way to fall asleep. It takes time to learn any new skill! Once she's down, don't rush away just yet. Give it a few minutes with your hand on his or her chest and some gentle shush'ing until you are sure Baby is relaxed (we do this for naps, but for bedtime, we just take off and that works for us!).

2. Confidence! Choose a plan that works for your family. Just because one technique worked for your friend, doesn't mean it will work for you. In fact, one technique may have worked for your older child, but is not working for this one! Decide how much crying you can take, how much time you can devote and what your goals are by the end of the training. If you're happy co-sleeping and the whole family is getting the appropriate rest, wonderful! If you want baby in his or her crib and in their own room now, fantastic! Once you've decided how you want to approach your sleep training, be confident in your decision. The only true goal is a happy, rested family, so do what works for all of you, and forget the naysayers.

3. Support. My husband and I did this together, with the additional support of Sasha, our pediatrician and readers like you! Support works in two ways: it gives you a boost when you feel discouraged, and also makes you accountable. It is so easy to give up when the going gets tough, but just when you want to quit is usually when things get better. Sasha reminded us of that this entire week, and I'm so glad we stuck it out. Find support wherever you can, and make sure that person or people are truly behind your efforts. Having someone in your home who can take the duty of a nap or two is immensely helpful, especially if you're a single parent. Don't feel like you have to go it alone!

4. See the Big Picture. It's easy to say "this nap isn't working, this child needs sleep, I'll do whatever it takes to get her to rest", and then you're stuck with a baby in your arms, on your boob or in your bed. When we have a failed nap, I try and remind myself that this one nap isn't that important. The process is. Know that the week or two you devote to sleep training is going to be challenging, exhausting and frustrating. You will want to quit, you will feel it doesn't work. Instead of seeing that moment as a failure, look at it as practice for the next time. Assess what wasn't working: was your shush too aggressive, your pat too fast? Did you wait too long before put down, did you put down too early? Did you miss the 'sleep window'? Resolve to try again at the next sleep period. You are devoting this time now so your baby learns to fall asleep on her own. What a wonderful gift to give your child!

5. Be practical. Make sure Baby is fed, dry, burped, well-swaddled and comfortable before trying to put him or her down during your sleep training. Keep the room your child sleeps in cool, quiet and dark, with fresh sheets and fresh air. Don't try and do too much this week. Stay home, rest when baby rests, order take-out, leave the laundry. These little things are practical ways to save yourself a lot of stress.

I wish you all the best in your sleep journey. I wish you and your family peaceful days and restful nights.  Thank you for the support you've given me as we work towards getting Juna some sleep. This is just the beginning, but I feel hopeful and encouraged by our progress this week. If anyone is interested in learning more details about our plan, or would like information about our consultant, please feel free to contact me.

Back in the day when Juna would sleep anywhere..... 


Sleep Training: Day VI and Night VII

Last night was the first time in weeks that Juna had only one wake-up. After discussing her three wake-up habit with Sasha, we determined that should she wake up before two or after four (assuming she ate for the dreamfeed and once between two and four), we would not feed her, and do the shush pat instead. I loathed the possibility of a huge crying fit in the middle of the night, so I was determined to make sure she had some really good meals to tide her over in hopes she wouldn't wake up. Voila! It worked! I realized what I had been doing wrong: instead of giving Juna a real 'meal' I was just nursing her back to sleep. This time at the dreamfeed I was a little more aggressive in getting her to eat from both sides for at least 7 minutes. She didn't wake again until 2:45 (a vast improvement from 12:45!). I again made sure she ate well, and included a diaper change in between sides so I could nurse her down. She went back to sleep at 3:15a.m. and didn't wake up until 6:30!! Success!

This was Juna's demeanor this morning:

And then it was time for our first morning nap. Bradford did the honors, and what we got was an hour, yes, an hour, of frantic screaming. He'd get her calm, and go to set her down in the crib, she'd jerk herself awake and start howling again. After an hour, a very frustrated Bradford came downstairs, and I nursed her to sleep in my arms for 20 minutes. We had her 3-month pediatrician appointment today, and since she normally has a meltdown there, I wanted her to get at least a little rest. 

The good news: Juna's a healthy girl! We talked to our pediatrician about our sleep training efforts, which she commended, and mentioned the difficulty we'd had getting her down for naps the past two days. She asked about my caffeine intake..... ooops. I have a small but strong addiction to Diet Coke (I know, no lectures please! We all need a vice, and now that ice cream is out...). I had been drinking caffeine-free for a couple weeks, and decided to get the good stuff to help with my exhaustion from all the night wakings the past few days. Big mistake. According to our ped, some babies are extremely sensitive to caffeine. What a shock: our baby is! It's an easy fix, no more caffeine or delicious ice cream for Mommy. New vice suggestions welcome.... 

Juna fell asleep in her carseat (miracle!) and we transferred her right to her swaddle and crib when we got home. It took her awhile to settle, but we just left her alone in her crib to work it out and once she did, she slept for an hour and a half! She was a happy girl upon waking, and since the day was going so well, I decided to get a half-hour massage down the street. Bradford stayed home with the baby, and put her down for a little catnap around 3:00 as she was a bit fussy. She again fought the nap, though not quite with the gusto she had before, and slept again for another hour. She and I had a lovely afternoon together while Daddy went to watch 'the game' (there's always a game...), and after a walk around the neighborhood, we started our bedtime routine. 

Bedtime was uneventful. Bath, massage, jammies and dinner, then into her crib awake but drowsy. She passed out cold after about four minutes. No crying. No fussing. What a dream! I hope tonight goes as well as last night. Tomorrow, we are going to try and get back on track with our naps. We talked to Sasha about her napping trials today, and she assured us that naps are the hardest to nail down. She also said we should feel great that bedtime is going so well, and eventually that will carry over into her daytime sleep. Overall, it's been a long, but satisfying, week, and we have seen so much improvement, both in sleep and temperament. It could be that Juna hit that magic 12-week mark on Monday, but I know much of her happiness stems from better rest, both in quantity and quality. 

Juna's afternoon demeanor. Happy baby now! 


Sleep Training: Day V and Night VI

We had a rough start to the day, and Juna fought all three of her naps, finally giving in and sleeping for 90 minutes during her catnap time. I allowed her to sleep, since she seemed extra fussy today, and I want to reinforce her moving through that 40-minute transition on her own. I watched her roll around, open her eyes a bit and then resettle herself. It was a proud moment for me!

We're not sure what caused her fussiness today. It may have been the late wake-up (7:50a.m.) or the poor sleep we got last night. She had three wake-ups at 12:40a.m., 4:30a.m. and 5:30a.m. and we had a very difficult time getting her back to sleep.

We have our three-month appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow, so it should be interesting to see how her naps are affected by this disruption in the routine.

Not much time to blog tonight... one of the advantages of having a schedule is knowing that Juna will be asleep around seven. We are having a friend over for dinner!

Good morning! Mama and Juna in our PJs. 


Sleep Training: Day IV and Night V

We saw very similar patterns last night, with Juna still waking three times. I did a dreamfeed at 10:30p.m. followed by a very easy put down, but she still woke up at 1:10am and again at 4:30a.m. for snacks. She then woke at 5:30a.m. for no discernible reason, but put herself back to sleep until 7:30a.m. So, we had a late wake up this morning (Mama was happy about that!), which means our routine is pushed back by half an hour. Juna now lets me know she's awake by laughing out loud. What a beautiful way to start our day! I vowed today to be more relaxed with the 'schedule', and only watch the clock to make sure she was awake about 1.5 hours at a time. 

I have a confession to make: I cheated on our morning nap. Juna got a little fussy when I started swaddling her to go down, so I nursed her for five minutes. She calmed right down, and we still did the over the shoulder shush/pat. After minimal fussing, and no crying, she pretty much fell asleep on my shoulder. I put her down in the crib and she fell easily back to sleep. Of course, forty minutes later she started stirring, so I began working on the nap extension by doing shush/pat on her tummy until she fell back asleep. After about five minutes, I took my hand away and waited until she stirred again, and then repeated the process. The third time I took my hand away, she awoke and this time started crying. I picked her up, and started to soothe her by walking. Then over the shoulder. Then tried the pacifier. Then walking again. Then I remembered that I was doing exactly what I wasn't supposed to by being inconsistent! I bagged the nap, took her downstairs and vowed to keep it simpler next time. 

I am proud to announce that we have finally extended a nap to an hour-and-a-half! Her late morning nap, which was supposed to be about noon, started at 11:40a.m. today. Juna is just now starting to show drowsy signs, which makes it much easier to go with her routine rather than imposing a schedule. She got a little fussy, and again I gave her a five minute snack, shush/pat and down in about ten minutes total, no crying. I went in at thirty minutes to do a fake pick up/put down, but it didn't work, and she began to stir at forty minutes. I put my hand on her tummy and did the shush/pat like I did before, but I stayed for about fifteen minutes until she had fallen into a deep sleep. It worked! She slept for a little over an hour-and-a-half. 

We started our bedtime routine a little early tonight as she was fussy, and I experimented with putting her down awake and leaving the room. She chatted to herself for about twenty minutes and then started fussing and crying a little. I went back into the room and did the shush/pat on her tummy (without taking her out of the crib) for about five minutes, and she fell asleep. It's a miracle! If you had told me five days ago that we would have such an easy time getting this baby to sleep, I would've laughed at you. Bradford and I feel so relieved and relaxed. Our evenings alone together are so much more enjoyable now that we're not worried about getting Juna to stay asleep. I don't panic about our days anymore because I know exactly what our routine should be and how to give Juna the rest she needs. 

I am looking forward to a restful night and a great day tomorrow, with hopefully two nap extensions and more smiling, happy times with Juna! 


Sleep Training: Day III and Night IV

We took steps forward last night with a successful dreamfeed at 11:00p.m., and no wake up until 2:10a.m. I think Juna would've settled back to sleep, but our dog was pacing around and then scampered across the hardwood, which startled the baby. We briefly considered throwing the dog out the window.... It did remind me of our experience "sleep training" Huck when he was a puppy. We brought Huck home at the tender age of twelve weeks, and for the first six months, we were completely erratic in his training, especially at night. We tried crate training, but he cried so much I couldn't stand it and would take him out after a few minutes. We tried teaching him to sleep in his own little bed, but he wouldn't fall asleep, instead he'd run around the room and pee in the middle of the night. Every day we'd try something different, and the result was a very confused puppy. Sound familiar?

We eventually taught him to sleep in his own bed next to ours, but it was a long, drawn out process that took almost a year. Hopefully we will have more success with Juna, whose sleep is a priority for me for her health and well-being! She had an early wake up this morning (6:10a.m.). Baby Ninja managed to get a hand out of her swaddle (how?!). Because of the early wakeup, things have been rough today. I gave her a snack when she woke, then put her back in her crib for another half an hour while she babbled. We got her up at 7:00a.m. like usual and she ate again. She seemed pretty tired around 8:15a.m. so instead of waiting until 8:30, we put her down early. Getting her to sleep for that first nap was a struggle, taking about 15 minutes with lots of crying. Once again, she awoke at exactly 40 minutes (we forgot to do the fake pickup/putdown), and it took about fifteen minutes to get her back to sleep. I then let her sleep until 10:15 instead of 10:00. We kept her 11:30a.m. naptime on schedule, and that again was a big struggle, and again she awoke after a mere forty minutes and refused to go back to sleep.

I called Sasha for support and to inquire about the early wake up. I knew that we probably should've handled it differently, which is why today didn't go as well. She told me that we should have let Juna get up at 6:10 a.m. and then adjusted the schedule accordingly, so everything happened a bit earlier. We fought so hard to stay with her scheduled waking/eating times that we forgot to watch Juna and see what she needed (I believe there's a life lesson there...). She also said it's completely normal to feel like we've taken a step back, and that it often happens at this stage in the training. The important thing is to continue to be consistent and know that it WILL work. It takes time to learn a new skill, especially for a little baby!

Because of that, I put her down early for her 3:00 catnap. I started at 2:40, but she didn't fall asleep until 3:00. She cried and screamed and fought me, but I kept telling myself not to get worked up, to send her a lot of loving energy, and stay calm. Eventually, she gave up and melted into me, and I was able to put her down still a little bit awake. This nap is meant to last forty-five minutes only (it's in bold-faced type on our detailed schedule), and of course, this is the one time she jumped the forty-minute nap intruder! I watched her stir, open her eyes slightly, and settle herself right back down. What's a mom to do? Even though it goes against the rules, I decided to let her sleep awhile longer, hoping to reinforce this new skill. I knew I might regret it later, but from my reading I know that sleep begets sleep, and as my father says "never wake a sleeping baby"!

Juna woke up exactly an hour-and-a-half later, much happier than her earlier wake ups. We had a lovely afternoon walk, and it was once again time for her nighttime routine. We've found it works best if I take the nighttime put down, since I'm already holding her drowsy from nursing. Transferring her to Bradford seems to stimulate and upset her. She had a good long feed, and once swaddled, settled easily on my shoulder (no crying!). I didn't feel like I needed to do the shush/pat very long, since she was already relaxed, so I put her right in the crib. I patted her little belly for about a minute until her eyes closed, then turned off the light and sat in the chair next to her crib. She chatted and babbled for a good ten minutes, and gradually got quieter and quieter. Still no crying, but I didn't think she was completely asleep. I felt good about putting her down this awake. During the day, she screams practically the minute you set her down, so we have to get her almost asleep before putting her in the crib, and then we have to shush/pat for another ten minutes until she falls asleep. Tonight, I felt like I really did the technique the way we're supposed to, and though it actually takes quite a bit longer for her to fall asleep than her naps, she is really putting herself to sleep on her own. I'm hopeful that eventually, she will transfer this knowledge to her daytime rests!

Even though today was much harder than the previous couple days in terms of getting her to sleep, she is still sleeping more hours a day than before we started this program. She is now getting between twelve and fourteen hours a day, a marked improvement from her previous ten or eleven hours. We also can count on at least three forty-minute naps and an earlier bedtime, and that predictability is wonderful for all of us. Juna's temperament during the day remains happier, more relaxed and alert. We are now able to play with her more now that we aren't spending half of her awake time soothing her with pacing and bouncing. Bradford and I still feel great about our progress, despite the setbacks we experienced today.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's journey as I attempt to do this on my own while Bradford goes to work. Should be interesting....
happy, relaxed Juna! 


Sleep Training: Day II and Night III

What a difference three nights makes....

Today started off well, with a happy, smiling Juna, and equally happy, smiling parents! Her late morning nap required only twelve minutes of held crying, and one ten-minute intervention at the forty-minute mark by Bradford to get her back to sleep, for a total of one-and-a-half hours. She hasn't napped that long in weeks!

We determined I should again put her down for her afternoon catnap, and in the spirit of consistency, I ventured to use the new technique. I'll admit I was nervous, seeing as how my usual reaction to Juna's crying is utter and absolute panic and sadness, but I surprised myself. I held her as she writhed in her swaddle, lightly patted her back and whispered "shhhhh" over and over. She eventually relaxed into me after only ten minutes, and five minutes later I laid her down in her crib. I continued to pat her belly and whisper "shhhh", and watched as her little eyes fluttered and closed. It took a grand total of fifteen minutes! I stayed for an extra ten to make sure she was really asleep, and then tiptoed downstairs, victorious!  She again slept for only forty-five minutes, but that was the perfect length for a catnap.

We went to the park again today, and Juna was a doll the whole time. It felt so good to be out in the world and not be worried about her getting upset. One thing about this routine that works really well for us is the scheduled feeding. She eats with more intention at each feeding, because they're spaced out by an extra half hour (we used to feed approximately every two- to two-and-a-half hours, sometimes less, sometimes more). We are able to leave the house for a half an hour and know that she will not need to eat for that time. I am also able to pump more regularly, since I don't have to worry that pumping will interfere with her next feeding. This will enable me to get out every now and again.

Tonight, after Juna's last feeding, I made a last minute decision to put her down myself. She was already relaxed in my arms, so I swaddled her up and sat down ready for the fight. It only took about five minutes of her fussing, no crying, before she settled herself against my shoulder. I put her down in her crib, eyes wide open, continued to pat her tummy and shush her, and within two minutes she had closed her eyes. I sat down in the chair next to her crib and listened to her little sighs and rustling around, and then, miraculously, heard her breath become more even and shallow. I crept downstairs and she has been asleep ever since. That was almost three-and-a-half hours ago! I am going to try the dreamfeed again and see if we can lengthen her nighttime sleep.

Now, we are not out of the woods yet, but considering we have been executing our plan only two days and three nights, this is excellent progress! Juna seems much happier and more relaxed, though that could be because she is expending an incredible amount of energy to learn her new sleeping technique. The predictability of her day seems to agree with her; she doesn't seem panicked about when she'll be eating or resting next, and enjoys our little activities with clear, bright eyes and a calm demeanor. I'm actually looking forward to seeing how tonight goes!
Ready to go to the park! 

Sleep Training: Day I & Night II

Last night went really well. We are instructed to do a 'dreamfeed' (where you feed the baby without waking her) around 10:30pm. Juna was in such a deep sleep, she didn't take her dreamfeed. I didn't want to push it, so I put her back down in her crib without her stirring. Her first wake up was at 2:00am (a five-hour sleep period) for an easy 10-minute feeding, then back to bed until 5:30am for another 10-minute feeding, with a wake up time of 6:45am (dirty diaper). We had a lovely, playful morning, and then it was time for the morning nap.

My husband is taking over all sleep-related duties for the next four days, and has requested that I leave the house during his time getting her to sleep. It's easier to do his job without feeling like I'm looking over his shoulder, which I completely understand. I haven't been the best at sharing the baby care since Juna was born, so he's been taking care of me instead by making our meals and cleaning the house (what a guy!). I am realizing slowly that this isn't the healthiest choice for our family. While sleep training isn't the ideal bonding situation, at least Juna and her Daddy are getting some alone time.

I am shocked at how relaxed I feel heading to Starbucks for some much-needed quiet time. Reading Yoga Journal and sipping my soy chai latte, I am, for the first time, not panicked about being away from Juna. Bradford has this situation under control, and while following our new plan, she won't feed for another hour and a half. Juna refuses, absolutely refuses, to take a bottle or pacifier, so I always feel like I have to be home just in case. For awhile, I believed she could only be soothed by me, either through nursing or simply being in my arms. Due to Juna's sensitive temperament, I became pretty much completely housebound, which was not good for either of us. I am learning to trust Bradford, and relinquish a little control.

Upon my return, Juna has been sleeping for twenty minutes after a twenty minute crying/soothing period. But then, like usual, she wakes at the forty-minute mark. We've tried the "wake to sleep" technique by going in at the thirty-minute mark and rousing her slightly then helping her go back down. It hasn't worked yet, but we'll keep trying.

We continue on our three-hour schedule to the minute (we want to be extremely consistent to see how she responds), and while naps are a battle with 10-20 minutes of crying (again, she is held the entire time), the day is peaceful otherwise. I'm not sure if she's just tired from letting off so much steam before her naps, but she is completely happy during her awake time. No fussing, no crying, and no soothing needed! We have a great time playing on her activity mat, sitting in the backyard, practicing sitting up in her bumbo seat and singing (Juna's new favorite thing!). Smiles are plentiful, and I've never heard her laugh so much before.

For her afternoon catnap, we are instructed to let her sleep anywhere we like. Bradford and I decide that I will relieve him of his duties for this nap, and after pacing with her swaddled upstairs for about 5 minutes she is so drowsy she can barely keep her eyes open. I lay down with her on our bed, and she passes out. We nap together for forty-minutes before, of course, she wakes. Since this is a catnap, that's the perfect amount of time, so we get up, eat and head to the park.

In my fantasy, before I had Juna, I daydreamed about the long walks we would take in the park as a family. Walking has always been one of my favorite things to do, and I haven't had the opportunity to do much of that since Juna was born. She usually fusses so much in her stroller or the wrap, it's not even worth it to upset her. We decide to chance it, since it's been such a good day, and we have a full two hours before her bedtime wind down routine.

We drive to the park, Bradford, Huck the dog, Juna the Baby and I. I put her in the stroller, and we make it a full two laps around the park with Juna happy and quiet the entire time. This feels like a huge victory, and Bradford and I are both very encouraged. She relaxes in her carseat on the way home, no screaming, no fussing, and we have a delightful bathtime and evening wind down, and she's so tired I have a hard time keeping her awake while she nurses.

It's bedtime again, and I head to the grocery store while Bradford does the hard work. He later reports that it took twenty-five minutes for her to settle, but then he put her in the crib with her eyes open, and it took only five minutes for her to close her eyes and go to sleep ON HER OWN! He goes in at the forty-minute mark to do a fake pick up/put down (per Sasha's suggestion) and she doesn't stir. Bradford and I enjoy watching The Mentalist and eating dinner together. One benefit of this plan is I can now have a glass of wine with my meal, since we are no longer nursing her to sleep! (FYI: it takes about 90 minutes for alcohol to peak in your blood, so a good 2-3 hours is plenty of time for it to leave your system before breastfeeding). After a delicious merlot and a piece of dark chocolate (I'm on a no-dairy diet for Juna), I am ready to tackle the dreamfeed.

I head up at 10:30, and pick her up from her crib. Like last night, she doesn't latch on to feed, so after trying for two-to-three minutes, I put her back down. I hear her stirring and starting to awaken, so I quickly pick her up and give her a ten-minute snack, during which she falls right back to sleep. I plop her down in her crib asleep, and turn in myself. We don't hear from Juna until 1:40am. Our 'rules' state we should wait to feed her until between two and four a.m., so we try for just a minute or two to resettle her, but she is clearly mad. A dirty diaper has foiled our carefully constructed night! I feed her right after her diaper change, and she goes easily back to sleep. Awake again at 4:40am for a snack, and back to sleep until 6:45am. All in all, a good night, though I didn't see a discernible difference in doing a dreamfeed.

This morning, Juna has been extremely happy and easy to please. We played music for her and she 'danced' and that was the big morning activity. She is sleeping now, after a full fifteen minutes of held crying. I am still not comfortable with the amount of crying she is doing and a little confused about how this is teaching her to fall asleep on her own. Right now, it still feels a little bit like we are letting her cry herself to sleep, even though Bradford is holding and reassuring her. The dreamfeed doesn't seem to be doing its' job in helping Juna to sleep longer into the night. Both evenings, she has awoken earlier than the recommended 3:00a.m. feeding time, and it feels so weird to wake her up when we are working so hard to keep her asleep. Dr. Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child) recommends never waking a sleeping baby and refutes the claim that she needs to be 'tanked up' before sleeping. I am going to stick it out for a couple days though, and see what happens. Part of my issue before was inconsistency, so I am committed this time to give Juna at least a week of the same routine. We have had success in putting her down drowsy but awake and watching her fall asleep by herself, which is encouraging. I am also pleased that our awake time with her has been so pleasant and relaxed.

Bradford has just returned from his fake-out pickup/putdown, which is supposed to help trick her into thinking she's woken up and gone back to sleep. We'll see if she makes it past the forty-minute mark! Fingers crossed!


Sleep Training: Night I

Note to the Reader: Different parenting styles work for different families, and I ask that you reserve judgment about what we have chosen, remembering that our choices are not a reflection on yours. I want to be honest about this experience in hopes that it may help other families who have similar issues, or who may be considering sleep training and want to know what it's really like (you won't read these nitty gritty details in the books, folks!).

It's been a couple weeks since we decided to 'go with the flow'. Didn't work. Juna has become more and more overtired, as have my husband and I. Feedings are confusing, since they happen irregularly, and before and sometimes during a sleep period. Our usual tricks to get Juna to sleep aren't working, and it takes a good forty minutes to soothe her down, during which she cries, oftentimes awakening ten minutes later. When she does miraculously fall, and stay, asleep, Bradford and I hover over the video monitor, anxiously examining her little form, waiting for what we call those 'demon eyes' to show up on the screen. She doesn't sleep well in my arms or in our bed, she doesn't sleep in the stroller or in the car. We have tried literally everything. My stomach is in knots most of the day, and I am constantly nervous anticipating each sleep-time battle. I try very hard to enjoy the good moments between the marathon bouts of crying. Her little smiles delight me to the point of tears. When your precious little baby spends a lot of her day in pain or upset, you appreciate each gurgle and coo.

After careful consideration, Bradford and I decided we needed to get some help. My theory that Juna's 'colic' was really just overtiredness in disguise needed to be put to the test. We consulted with Sasha Hawkes, a family therapist and sleep expert, who is putting us on a plan to help teach Juna how to fall asleep on her own, without any crutches (like exercise balls and pacing). We are going to try a three-hour routine, to give Juna more structure and see how she responds. Since she's only 11 weeks, this will be a more gentle approach. No 'crying it out', though let me tell you, it's Night One and there is certainly crying involved. This little girl has an iron-will. Sasha has explained (and I agree) that children with this kind of perseverance need and crave boundaries. Juna, at all of eleven-and-a-half weeks, is looking for us, her parents, to structure her day.

Sasha has called upon Bradford to execute the first few days of our new plan. Juna won't get nursed to sleep anymore (thank goodness - nursing to sleep without burping often produces a very unhappy little girl later on), plus Mommy's hormones get in the way when Baby cries, making it hard to stay consistent, which is key. So here I sit, listening to Juna cry and cry in Bradford's arms, while he patiently shush's and gently talks to her.

We are well into our second hour, though the first hour produced some excellent results. Fifteen minutes of crying (she is held and reassured the entire time, by the way), followed by an easy put down (drowsy but awake) and eyes closed one minute later. Bradford and I congratulate each other on staying calm and consistent. I leave to get us a celebratory dinner from our favorite Italian restaurant, and forty-minutes later return to a very upset, crying baby.

Usually when Juna cries, so do I. Which is why, for the last two-and-a-half months, I haven't let my daughter make so much as a peep before rushing to her (much to the amusement of her wiser grandparents). No one likes to hear their baby cry, least of all me. My inner monologue screams during Juna's daily crying jags... "I'm a bad mother, I have no instincts, I'm not providing enough milk, her diaper's too tight, her clothes aren't comfortable, she's teething, she's gassy, she's hot, she's cold, why don't I know what's wrong with my own daughter?" and on and on. I try everything within my power to 'fix' the problem, going through ten or so 'solutions' until something works.

Today was a particularly challenging day. She seems to be teething (excessive drool, gnawing her fist, crying, smacking her tongue), which is early but possible according to her grandfather the dentist. There were many times she cried and I couldn't soothe her. No amount of bouncing, walking, shush'ing or singing worked. I slipped her into the wrap and went out for an early evening walk with my husband and dog, and Juna relaxed. She gazed around, wide-eyed and content, taking in the light that filtered through the trees, the cars on the street, the people we passed. And then she would turn her little head to look up at me, with a peaceful little smile.

Juna lives in the moment. She wasn't thinking about how hard her day was, or how much she cried, or how little she napped. She wasn't anticipating her next feeding, her bath, or her new nighttime sleep plan. And while part of me now wants to sob right along with her, and part of my heart feels like it's being ripped out of my body, I am comforted knowing that this will pass. My warrior baby is sad in this moment, and that's ok. The next moment, she might be peaceful. And the moment after that, happy. And the moment after that, mad. If I insist on Juna being happy and content all of the time, I am depriving her of experiencing the great spectrum of human emotions. And as Sasha reminded us, it's ok to hold her while she cries and tell her that we hear her without trying to 'fix it'. I look at this as practice for the later years, when a friend hurts her feelings, or she doesn't make the team, or gets her heart broken for the first time. I would never tell her not to cry in those situations. Life is sad sometimes. Life might be a little sad right now for Juna. It might be scary to have a tummy ache and not know why, or to have pain in her mouth and not be able to tell me. It might be frustrating to want to fall asleep and not know how. She's a brand new being, and it is my job to honor where she is and meet her there.

I'm not sure how the rest of the night will go, and I'm at peace not knowing. Right now, she is sleeping peacefully and has been for over an hour. She fell asleep in her crib, on her own. Not bad for our first attempt!


New Mommy Yoga

Do you hear that? ..... Neither do I, it's the sound of sleeping baby! Normally, Juna sleeps in 10-20 minute increments during the day. I use those short respites to quickly throw in a load of laundry, shove some food down my throat or do the dishes. Rarely is there time to do a yoga practice (and by rarely, I mean never). My achey body, still recovering from the marathon labor, doesn't get the attention it once did. I have developed new physical tension from tending to Juna, which manifest most acutely in my neck, shoulders and back. Sound familiar anyone? It's difficult to focus on good posture and exercise with a new little one in the house. Whenever possible, I am adding mini practice sessions into my day. You can do these poses anywhere, at any time, and without any gear. No mat? No time? No problem!

1. Sun Breaths: Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Sweep your arms out to the side and up towards the sky as you inhale. On the exhale, bring your palms together and down in front of your heart. Repeat as many times as necessary (excellent to re-center after a crying episode).

2. Modified Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): Stand at a countertop, table or crib side, once again with feet hip distance apart and parallel. Place your hands on the surface in front of you shoulder distance apart. Walk your feet back until you make an "L" shape with your body. If possible, have your back straight (if you cannot straighten your back, bend your knees until you can... if you are uber-flexible, draw your ribs into your body so you aren't dipping into your lower back). Take five deep breaths, spread your feet firmly into the floor, and draw your quadriceps muscles (the ones on the front of your thighs) up.

3. Prasarita Padotanasana A (Fan Pose): Stand with your feet wide apart and parallel. Interlace your hands behind your back and bend your elbows until your palms touch. Gently stretch your interlaced hands down and then away from your body to open the chest. Optional: fold forward from the waist with knees straight or bent, and a straight spine. Engage those pesky quadriceps again. Breathe! Slowly come up to standing, and repeat with the hands interlaced the other way (so the other thumb is on top).

4. Easy Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Stretch your arms up and overhead as you inhale, stretching long through both sides of the waist. As you exhale, twist to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee. Inhale and grow three inches taller, exhale and twist to the right a little deeper, taking care to keep your left sitting bone planted into the floor. Take four more breaths, and return to the center. Repeat to the left. This pose wrings out all the toxins that collect in the organs of the abdomen, and also prepares the back for this next pose...

5. Setu Bandha (bridge pose): Lay down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat and parallel, hip distance apart. Lift your hips away from the floor, and point your tailbone towards your knees so the lower back is long. Interlace your hands underneath you (like the fan pose), and then stretch your interlaced hands towards your feet. Breathe. This pose opens the chest and reverses the posture you probably take while feeding or changing Baby.

6. Pranayama: While soothing the wee babe, take a deep breath in and imagine all four sides of your ribcage expanding, front and back, side to side. Exhale slowly making a "shhhhhhh" sound. Excellent for calming a fussy baby, and a good reminder for Mommy (or Daddy...) to take some deep breaths!

Taking time for yourself every day is vital for new parents, but it's hard to schedule in a class or even a free hour at home. Doing a few simple exercises scattered throughout the day will help to recharge, and reconnect with, your physical self. Stay sane, new parents!

Sidenote: I intended to include pictures of all these poses, but really, who has time for photo shoots? If you need a visual of these poses, go to http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_index. This is a great resource for anyone looking to start, or refine, a yoga practice.

Cobra pose, behind bars 


The Sleep Project

So, it's been awhile.... As many of you know, I have a 9-week old infant in my life now, which makes blogging, showering, exercising, cooking, and pretty much everything else a little more challenging, and frankly less interesting! My darling daughter is what some would call a "fussy" baby, or what Dr. Sears refers to as a "high needs baby", but she is still the most dazzling part of our day. Our whole family is completely enamored by this little doll, and baffled, left wondering how the most adorable baby on the planet could possibly be this unhappy most of the time!

To summarize the past few weeks, we now have breastfeeding under control, thanks to my persistence, my husband's patience, my lactation consultant's support and Juna's voracious appetite. She is gaining weight, becoming a more efficient nurser, and now our challenge is getting her to pay attention to the task at hand. She would rather stare at our orange curtains than eat. And who could blame her? Orange curtains are sooooo fascinating! The world is revealing itself to Juna, and she is reveling in all its' splendor. Hands and feet, water, light and colors, sounds.... everything is new, exciting and all-consuming. Mostly, we just like to stare at each other and smile in wonder.

Juna's emotions are ever-changing and completely unpredictable (my husband thinks she gets this from me...). One moment she's smiling and happy, and the next she disintegrates into tears and protestations. She demands our utmost attention and lets us know when we are failing to fulfill her needs. We have logged countless hours on the teal exercise ball in the living room and I think I've worn a path in the backyard from circling the patio with Juna over my shoulder. This girl likes to move! She likes to be held, and no, that sling, wrap or carrier simply won't do right now. It's arms or nothing for this little lady. She's a woman who knows what she wants!

Well, at least she sleeps much of the day.... oh wait. Currently, this is our biggest challenge yet. Juna simply won't nap. It's been five weeks of trying everything to get this girl to sleep during the day. I've rocked, bounced, jiggled and danced, sung, shhhh'd, begged and pleaded..... sometimes she will fall asleep. Victory! But if you set her down, expect her beautiful blue eyes to pop open one to fifteen minutes later. After several days of this, I did what I always do, tackle the problem head on by doing my research. My pediatrician recommended putting her on an "eat, play, sleep" schedule. Sounds EASY right? OK, who are these magic babies who eat, play and sleep when you decide they should? My baby sometimes wants to eat, eat, play and then eat some more. And when she wakes from her "nap", all I need to do is pat and shush her right back to sleep? Seriously?! Does this actually work for anyone?

At our next appointment, when I mention that I am still having a difficult time getting her to nap, the pediatrician recommends an even stricter schedule and harsher methodology. I return home with a newfound resolve: this child WILL sleep, and it will be on my terms. Having read three different books (ah, the reading one can accomplish with a slow nurser...), I know that it is preferable to put the baby to bed when she is drowsy but not completely asleep. You also must swaddle, put her upright and 'shh/pat' her until she melts into your loving arms. You then kiss the top of her head and say "you're going to sleep now" and watch as she descends into a deep, peaceful sleep. If she wakes, she may cry for five minutes and return quickly to her previous state, dreaming of puppies and lollipops....

Naptime in our house goes like this: Mommy sees the first signs of drowsiness (yawning, glazed eyes) and jumps into immediate action. She calmly swaddles Little One, and begins the soothing to sleep process as dictated by the Book. Little One decides she doesn't like the swaddle and fusses and protests until Mommy has freed the little hand that Little One has recently discovered. Little One is now irritated that the fist has a difficult time getting to her little mouth, so the fussing increases. Mommy goes to the exercise ball to calm Little One down, but now Little One is in a real tizzy. Mommy checks the diaper, re-swaddles, then rocks, un-swaddles again, and Little One just gets more and more pissed off that Mommy is trying so hard to get her to sleep. Finally, in a last ditch effort, Mommy does what always works: Little One nurses until she falls asleep (a big no-no in the Book), and Mommy is pleased. After waiting a reasonable amount of time, Mommy attempts to transfer Little One to her vibrating chair (LO's favorite place to rest). Success! Proud Mommy walks away, monitor in hand, and heads towards the laundry room to wash the cloth diapers. Bliss! Until five minutes later, when a tell-tale squawk is heard from Little One's room.

We have learned not to celebrate too early in our house.

The breaking point comes one lovely day when Juna decides to stay awake for thirteen, yes, thirteen hours. After all my reading and research, I have learned that babies should have only one to two hours of wakefulness before they are guided easily back to sleep. One book cautions that babies who don't sleep when they are infants are at greater risk for learning disabilities and disrupted sleep later in life. I am now sleep deprived, hormonal and panicked that my daughter's development is being hindered by my inability to help her sleep during the day. Many breakdowns later, I insist on going back to the pediatrician to rule out anything physical (reflux, early teething, extreme gas) and am told that Juna is perfectly healthy, and I am reassured is developing normally. She is just a colicky baby. This (new) pediatrician recommends that I do whatever it takes to get Juna to sleep (more for my sanity than anything else). Car rides? Fine. Ball bouncing? Wonderful. Nursing? Even better. She scoffs when I mention the whole "putting her down drowsy but not asleep" notion, and tells me to follow my own instincts.

And so we do. We free-fall into a no-routine lifestyle. Which has meant two days with Juna on our person when sleeping at all times. We don't even try to set her down now. Bradford uses the ball as his preferred method, and I use side-lying nursing as mine. Yes, it means that I don't "accomplish" anything during the day. I'm not cooking any meals, writing many blogs or burning any fat, but I am lovingly attending to my daughter's needs, and that feels pretty huge right now. Today, Juna slept every two hours in some form or another. It wasn't easy, but she was a much happier baby during her awake time, and that makes it all worthwhile.

We are going to continue this no-method method until our little girl has her bearings in this great big world. It may be several days or several weeks. As a one-child household with two parents who are always or often home, we have the luxury to do this. Sometime soon, I have hope that we will be able to establish a routine that suits us all, but until that time, Juna rules the roost. I realize that before we know it, Juna will have no interest in being with Mommy and Daddy constantly, so we may as well enjoy this phase while it lasts. This will require patience, flexibility and attentiveness on my part, but these are qualities I have been working on developing anyway. Funny how that works.... I'm also dropping the "fussy baby" diagnosis. She's just Juna. Happy, mad, curious and complex, never boring and full of life.

sleeping beauty


Ode to Summer Wine

Summertime for most people means barbecues, swimming pools and sunshine. For me, it means white wine season! I usually enjoy the complexity and richness of red wine, but for a blisteringly hot Los Angeles summer, nothing's better than a cool glass of white wine. My white wine of choice? Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

My love affair with Marlborough SVB's began in 2007 in Florida. I was working at a fantastic theatre down there (Florida Stage - lovely place) and living half a mile from the beach. It was an idyllic three months spent walking through the surf in the morning, performing in the evening, and capping off my days with some homemade ice cream at the parlor next to the theatre. Occasionally, I'd walk over to the Ritz Carlton across the street, sit in the lobby bar and enjoy a glass of wine. On the menu was a Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, to this day my favorite of all the Marlboroughs. Crisp, clean, dry and tart, sipping on this wine in the beautiful Ritz Carlton felt so luxurious.

There are many wonderful options for Marlborough SVB you can find in your regular grocery store wine aisle. One of the most popular is Nobilo, which earns between 88-92 points (out of 100) from Wine Spectator Magazine. The Nobilo Icon is particularly delicious and easy to find, though I haven't had the latest vintage (being pregnant put a cramp in my drinking style, obviously).

Many wineries are jumping on the Marlborough train, producing sauvignon blanc in a very similar style. The Chilean sauvignon blancs are absolutely delicious and share many of the same characteristics as the Marlboroughs. My favorite is Santa Maria (easy to locate at the grocery store). California wine producers are also making Marlborough-style  wines (we love the sauvignon blanc from Rosenthal, though it is more difficult to find). California sauvignon blancs are also sometimes referred to as fume blanc, which has a more rounded taste to it but still quite good. The first bottle of wine my husband and I shared was a fantastic bottle of Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc. 

Unfortunately, the quality of Marlborough sauvignon blancs has declined slightly in the last couple years, much like what happened with California pinot noirs. When the popularity of a particularly grape is on the rise, it tends to be overproduced, and therefore loses some of the original quality and intention. The taste also varies depending on the environmental conditions in which the grapes were grown. Some years fare better than others. Experiment with different vintages and see what year has characteristics that appeal to you.

White wine should be chilled, and while some people have a separate wine refrigerator to keep their white wine at the recommended 48-52 degrees (slightly warmer than the typical refrigerator temperature) most of us don't have that option. Some critics believe Americans serve their white wine too cold and red wine too warm. I say drink your wine at the temperature that appeals to you! If you want to be "correct", take the bottle of white out of your refrigerator half an hour before you intend to drink it. And please, please do not put ice in your white wine. Watering down the wine will affect the smell and taste. However, if you really love to have ice cubes in your chardonnay, don't let prissy wine snobs stop you! Drinking wine should be a pleasurable, sumptuous experience. Enjoy it your way!

For information on how to safely indulge in the occasional glass of wine while breastfeeding, go to this website: http://www.kellymom.com/health/lifestyle/alcohol.html. Be smart and sensible. I prefer to have just a quarter of a glass with a full meal a few times a week right after nursing, giving the alcohol time to be processed and eliminated from my body before the next feeding. As our pediatrician said "you deserve a little drink at the end of the day"... as long as you're smart about it! And of course, if you feel uncomfortable drinking even small amounts while pregnant or nursing, by all means don't!

Well, there is a bottle of Rosenthal Sauvignon Blanc with my name on it chilling in our fridge. Happy drinking!



"Sukhanusayi Ragah" .... "Excessive attachment is based on the assumption that it will contribute to everlasting happiness." - Sutra 2.7

I spent the nine months of my pregnancy reading books about natural childbirth, practicing breathing techniques and mastering different positions to ease labor pains. And while I told myself I had no "plan" and would just "go with the flow," deep down I had decided that I would have the perfect unmedicated labor and delivery. Those complications that other people experience? Not going to be an issue for me! Well, as usual, I was taught a very valuable lesson about attachment. 

My labor started on a Tuesday, exactly 6 days before I actually gave birth to my daughter. Every evening, like clockwork, I would start having excruciating contractions that lasted between 2 and 5 minutes, about one or two every hour. And while the intensity of the contractions was severe, the labor never progressed. During the day, I would have very light contractions or none at all. The first two days I assumed I was in early labor, and started practicing all the techniques I had learned... warm baths, pranayama, stretching,  foot massages from my husband. We called our parents, assuming things were going to progress soon. Wrong! Thursday evening, we did everything we could think of to get labor started. Long walks, eating pineapple and spicy food, walking up stairs, the salad from the local pizzeria rumored to induce labor. Nothing changed, and our frustration grew. I was now into my third sleepless night of intense pain, with nothing to show for it. This continued through Sunday, when after two trips to the hospital to get checked and consult with my midwives, my husband and I decided we had had enough. This baby needed to come out soon, as 6 sleepless days and nights were taking its' toll on us. We knew if we didn't induce, there was no way I would have the energy to push and we'd end up in the OR for a c-section. We consulted with our amazing midwife, and I asked her to induce me. We agreed that because I had been unable to sleep for almost a week, I should receive pitocin and an epidural (the epidural more so I could rest than for the pain). Honestly, that was the best decision we made. Even with the pitocin, it took over 12 hours for me to dilate from 4cm to 10cm. Along the way, I had the most compassionate care in my nurse Karen and midwife Shadman. They were so encouraging, so sweet and so understanding. I felt no judgment, and completely supported in my decision. After a restful evening (no sleep, but at least relaxation), at 7:00 a.m. I was still only 8cm dilated. The shift changed, and my sweet nurse and midwife were replaced with a much tougher team. 

My new nurse Donna came in and saw my progress and decided to up my pitocin by 2 every half hour instead of 1 every hour. While this made me much more uncomfortable (even with the epidural I could feel each contraction), I was happy to finally be progressing. She and my midwife Susan were much more aggressive, and by 9:00am I was ready to push. Because of the epidural, however, I couldn't feel what my body needed to do. After consulting with Susan, it was decided my epidural would be turned off. Within minutes, sensation returned to my legs. After another hour, Susan came back and we started the real work of getting this baby out. I won't detail what followed, as there is nothing pretty about the birthing process, but suffice it to say, it was the most intense experience of my life (quick sidenote to apologize to my amazing husband, who I'm afraid I wasn't always kind to... nurse Donna passed him a note during the pushing stage that said "women are usually fussy at this point - don't take it personally". Bless her!). An hour and forty-five minutes later, the NICU team was summoned as Juna approached the outside world (when my water broke, there was meconium present). Again, thank goodness things worked out that way, because when Juna came out, the cord was wrapped twice tightly around her neck. A quick cut and she was whisked away by the NICU team to be suctioned, stimulated, poked and prodded. Two weak cries were all I heard, and I saw nothing. Dashed again were our intentions of having her placed directly on my chest for skin to skin bonding, breastfeeding and my husband cutting the cord. At this point, all our original ideas had to be shelved as we prayed and hoped for a healthy baby. 

Ten minutes later, Juna was given to me for all of 60 seconds. My savior, Nurse Donna, thought to take a picture, which I will treasure forever, as Juna was then whisked away again for a stay in the NICU. Two hours later, I insisted on walking to the NICU to finally spend some time getting to know my little girl. She had oxygen tubes in her nose, and monitors on her chest, with pinpricks on each tiny hand where they tried to find a vein to give her fluids. We were only able to look at her before I was taken back to recovery. My husband stayed to watch over her, and called awhile later to say we were going to get to hold her. I asked if we could try breastfeeding and was told that I could, but if I gave her a bottle instead they would discharge her and let her room in with us. Not exactly the start I was hoping for in our nursing relationship, but we agreed as we so badly wanted her off the monitors and in our arms. At seven o'clock that evening, Juna arrived in our room, pink and healthy. 

It was a long process that required compromise, understanding and detachment on all sides, and though this was not the birth experience I envisioned, at the end, we walked away with a healthy baby and a healthy mama. There were moments that I felt extremely sad that I had not been able to provide her with a completely smooth transition into the world, and that is when it became imperative to call upon my yogic reserves and remember that attachment to what has transpired in the past is not productive. As the sutra says, excessive attachment to one idea presumes that there is only one way to achieve happiness, but when you enter into a situation with an open mind and heart, and follow the course of action that is necessary in the present moment, naturally the situation will resolve itself and you may learn a thing or two on the way! 

As Pema Chodron says "To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again." To me, this means becoming unattached to outcomes, and be fully invested in the process. My illusions of having the perfect transition into parenthood are gone, and as I relinquish more control this lesson is reaffirmed. We learned it again bringing baby home to meet dog... after watching "The Dog Whisperer" and reading up on the subject, we had a plan on how to introduce the two. Unfortunately, as soon as we walked in the house, Juna had a complete meltdown and we forgot the dog even existed. So much for our peaceful first meeting! I had also assumed that we would have a calm, relaxed, mellow baby... we spent nine hours yesterday trying to calm our colicky infant. Letting go of attachment is easier said than done, but as soon as I accept what is really happening, I see with clarity and can better care for my daughter. 

The name Juna was inspired by the character of Arjuna, the spiritual warrior in the Bhagavad Gita. I come back to this text often to remind myself not to cling too tightly to material things, to desires, or to ideas. These are lessons I hope to pass on to my daughter. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that "the person whose mind is always free from attachment, who has subdued the mind and senses, and who is free from desires, attains the supreme perfection of freedom from Karma through renunciation." I am now going through the process of freeing myself from needing to be the "perfect" parent, instead focusing on the child in front of me. I am trying to see her clearly for what she is (fussy, unpredictable, adorable, fascinating...) and not what I assumed she would be. Doing this now will ensure that later on in her life, when she inevitably makes a decision I don't agree with, I will be able to accept and love her for who she is and not who I wanted her to be. Loving unconditionally leaves no room for attachment, and it seems to me that the "perfect" parent sometimes makes mistakes or disappoints, but always chooses to love completely and without judgment. 

We are so blessed to have Juna Meredith Anderson as our child. On the day of her birth, July 18, she weighed seven pounds, three ounces and was nineteen and a half inches long. She is a joy in every moment and we couldn't be happier!


The Waiting Game...

Patience has never been a virtue of mine. I knew when I got pregnant that this would be my greatest challenge, as forty weeks is a long time to wait for such a gift! Despite my best efforts, I have had many moments of impatience, wishing the time away not just to get to the end result, but also to move beyond the uncertain or scary parts of pregnancy.  First, we were waiting with anticipation for the nausea to finally dissipate in the first trimester, and with trepidation to move beyond the early stages when miscarriages happen. Then, it was waiting with excitement for the 20-week ultrasound to discover the gender, and with anxiety as Baby's development was scrutinized. Now, we are waiting to deliver a real, live baby! It has been nine months of eagerly awaiting the joy of meeting our child, as well as hoping for an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy and baby.

Through it all, I focused on my practice to help me stay tethered to the Now, because what is patience if not being present and available in this moment? My asana practice reminded me of, and helped me accept with grace, the miracle occurring in my physical body, while my restorative and meditation practice helped me remain focused on my breath. The breath for me is the simplest, most expedient way to reign in my wild and turbulent mind. However, I must admit the last few weeks have seen a decline in these practices as downward facing dog becomes less comfortable, and my dedication to sitting still for meditation has waned. Naturally, because I am not practicing, I have become irritable, fearful and, of course, very impatient.

Jon Kabat-Zinn says "scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It's the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it." These words ring true for me, as I think of the many times in the last two weeks I have irrationally reacted with anger and irritation when challenges were presented - at the person who sat next to me and lit a cigarette, at the person driving erratically, at the long line in the grocery store..... things that might have annoyed me slightly before are causing extremely angry reactions now, all because my fascination with being pregnant has been replaced with just wanting to have this baby already! I am suffering from a "I want what I want when and how I want it" phase, and the results are less than positive. A few days ago, I decided something needed to be done, and when I took stock of what was happening both mentally and physically, I saw that in allowing myself to feel impatient, I was missing out on a very special time. These are the last few days that my husband and I will be together as a couple. While we are obviously thrilled to be growing our family, never again will things be as simple as they are now. Why not enjoy these moments?

Luckily, Bradford has time off right now, and we are using this time to be with, and appreciate, each other. This might not be a traditional 'practice', but we are practicing the skills of one-pointed focus and gratitude by cooking together, lounging on the couch, talking, working on the house, going out for dinner, seeing friends.... all things that will become infinitely more complicated when our baby arrives. Each moment now seems precious, irreplaceable, and sacred, not to be rushed through or wished away. I am learning (thank you, Jon Kabat-Zinn) that "through it all, we attempt to bring balance to the present moment, understanding that in patience lies wisdom, knowing that what will come next will be determined in large measure by how we are now." In other words, why would I want time to move more quickly, knowing that when our baby is born, all I will want is for time to stand still? In appreciating each moment now, I am practicing how to be a present and awake parent.

At 38-weeks, Baby is full-term and could come any time. Bradford and I are finding the balance between being prepared and going with the flow... though he shows his impatience in his eagerness to time every practice contraction I have! We are learning to be content, santosa as it is called in yoga. For me, I cultivate this by taking deep breaths whenever I feel the turbulence threatening to take over my peaceful mind, taking my cue from B.K.S. Iyengar. "Contentment in the yogic sense of lasting and stable harmony, is encountered through the practice of pranayama, which conquers in its turn the active (rajasic) nature of the mind and makes possible a practice that is both zealous and sustained," Iyengar tells us. He describes the inhalation as making room for what is good, and the exhalation as the expansion of the soul, which leaves us with quiet, grounded insight. Let this practice take root in me, that I may not be "blown off course" despite complications, challenges and the unexpected problems that come with being a mother. Let me appreciate the wonder and joy in every moment that I have with my daughter.

I have always loved Walt Whitman, and this passage in Leaves of Grass perfectly describes my intention for the next two weeks of this pregnancy:

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness,

I can wait.