Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sleepless nights return a little ahead of schedule

Ask any parent of small children what they miss most from their pre-children days?

Sleep. Glorious, beautiful sleep.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I knew the sleep-sacrifice tradeoff when we started our family.

But I have been spoiled beyond belief in the sleep department. My 3-year-old started sleeping through the night when he was just 8 weeks old, and I can count how many times he’s woken me up in the night since he turned 1 on one hand.

Try not to hate me.

Anyway, I also know that, with another baby coming this summer, my little sleep bubble was going to burst — big-time.

So, color me surprised when my nocturnal interruptions arrived five months early.

On the first night of this fantastic new phase, my toddler came out of his room at 5 a.m., saying he had “bonked his head.” I assumed he meant he fell out of his bed and calmly walked him back to bed, tucked him in and lay with him for a few minutes until he drifted off.

On the next night at about the same time, I awoke to my boy standing over me in the dark. And just as a side note, it’s not creepy at all that every child younger than 6 breathes with the ferocity of a mythical dragon — seriously, why do they all pant like serial killers?

This time his story was that he fell and hurt his leg. I had my suspicions, but did my motherly duty and repeated the routine from the previous night.

By the third night — this time at 3 a.m. — he said it was too dark in his room. My first thought, after cursing the sleep gods, was that his nightlight burned out. No such luck: That baby was still burning as bright as a Christmas tree when we got into his room.

“It was too dark, huh?” I asked him.

“It was,” he nodded sagely.

We climbed back into his bed and I snuggled up to him, planning on a max of 10 minutes before I slinked back to my room.

It wasn’t more than six minutes into us being snuggled in when my son, eyes closed, pulled the blanket out of his mouth and said, “You can go now.”

I was shocked, because I knew in that moment that for the past three nights I totally got played. Touché, toddler, touché.

But a word of advice, little man: When your baby brother or sister comes along, those screams will wake up the whole household at night. Sweet dreams, Stinker.

— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or find her on Twitter at @SentinelLeach.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

‘Second kid’ ride is at a much slower speed

There’s a great ad campaign by Luvs, the diaper line, where they show moms’ experiences with “first kids” and “second kids.”
One commercial shows a little girl approaching a first-time mom asking to hold the baby. The mom asks the girl to put anti-germ lotion on her hands, and then her arms and then on her neck and … well you get the idea. Then the ad reverts to the “second kid” experience, where she hands her baby to a greasy-handed mechanic while she roots around in her purse for her checkbook.
Yeah, I can definitely see how this parallel is going to play out in my household.
This pregnancy is completely different than the first rodeo. I’m healthy and blessedly not plagued by morning sickness, so there’s a lot to be thankful for — but there are differences.
For one, my energy level is nowhere near where it was four years ago for “first kid.” Back then, I was working nights and could work 12 hours, stay up until 2 a.m., get six hours of sleep and go back at it.
This time around, I get winded if I walk from one end of the house to the other. I’m not sure if it’s because we have a child already or if it’s a reflection of my age (I am days away from turning 37), but half the time I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck.
For “first kid,” I dragged my husband to every baby store within a 60-mile radius, creating registries and lists and researching every product from soaps to car seats.
This go-round, I’m hoping that a throwing everything from “first kid” into the dishwasher or washing machine will be adequate prepping.
For “first kid,” we did that cutesy thing where we photographed my tummy from the side to document the growing bump, as my flat(ish) tummy expanded slowly but surely. Of course we posted the whole album on Facebook toward the end to share all our obnoxious happiness with the world.
This time, I was nearly ecstatic that my condition would explain away my fat. I’m four months along now, and I like to think that my pregnancy is finally catching up to my girth. (I’ve looked four months pregnant for about a year now.)
But let’s not dwell too much on the negative — there are awesome things about “second kid” already. For one, I’m not nearly as nervous as the first time. Everything is much more laid-back, which allows for a much lower stress level. I also know what I can and can’t do, meaning no fretting with 500 questions at each doctor visit. And this time a planned C-section takes away a lot of anxiety about the birth.
Yes, “second kid” is being very kind to me, as if he or she can already sense that Momma needs to catch a break. Love that kid.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or on Twitter @SentinelLeach.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Big boy breaks in a big bed

In parenting, there are big victories, and then there are little ones.
And any self-respecting mother will not quibble over the mini-ones. A win is a win. Period.
In the midst of Pregnancy Prep 2.0, one of the instructions I got from the doctor was to avoid lifting objects of 40 pounds or more. (At the time my pregnancy was confirmed, an ovarian cyst also was discovered, hence the extra precaution.)
The only problem? My 3-year-old weighs 35 pounds and is growing like a weed. Compound that with the fact that he’s still sleeping in the crib in the nursery, which in exactly 6 months, will be occupied by a new resident.
So we had to act fast to get our toddler moved to his new “big boy” room.
I know changing spaces at this age can be a delicate process, so I constructed an elaborate plan that spanned several weekends.
First, I needed to clear out all the clutter and junk that was residing in that room. Next, we moved in the bed and dresser, bought a new mattress and got fresh bedding.
Next, I moved all his clothes into that room, so he would start to realize it was his space, at least on some level and that we needed to go in there for part of his daily routine.
He seemed indifferent to the whole process, and I remained skeptical that this transition would happen prior to Number 2’s arrival.
So I sweetened the pot and moved all his toys over. That seemed to get his attention. Suddenly he was splitting his time between the “big boy” room and the “regular” room.
Within the next week, I dared to test out if he was willing to sleep in the new space.
When I turned out the lights for the first time, he freaked and said it was too dark. I had a stroke of genius and grabbed the small string of Christmas lights from the nursery and plugged it in.
And that was it. Seriously. All that build up; I was totally prepared for psychological warfare stretched out over months.
Like I said, a win is a win. I won’t be looking this gift horse in the mouth.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or find her on Twitter @SentinelLeach.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Big brother can’t quite grasp big news

Now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag and we have outed ourselves as expecting parents once again, there is much to be done.
But before totes of newborn clothes and burp cloths get hauled out of the basement, first things first: Explaining the new baby to our 3-year-old.
It’s not that I thought my toddler would really understand. But I figured that the earlier we planted the idea, the easier time he would have adjusting to a little brother or sister arriving this summer.
The first attempt was pretty anticlimactic. When I said I had a baby in my belly, he blinked, turned around and started playing with his dinosaurs.
A few days later, I tried again.
“Do you want a brother or a sister?” I asked.
“… I want … a big brother.”
“Well, you’re going to be the big brother,” I said.
“No, I’m gonna have a big brother,” he replied.
“Sorry, kiddo. Short of building a time machine, that’s not happening.”
I occasionally tried again. The answers would range from “a brother and a sister” to “I don’t want a brother or sister.” Once he said the baby was going to hatch from an egg (he’s in a bit of a dinosaur obsession).
I decided to regroup.
Over the next few weeks, I went for a more subtle approach. I figured focusing on the novelty wasn’t as important as the fact that the new baby is a part of our lives now. The more I made it a certainty, the less jarring it might be when we bring him or her home.
“Would you like to give the baby a kiss?” I asked him one morning as I was getting him ready for daycare.
“Yeah!” he squealed and leaned in and kissed my belly. He even laid his head on my abdomen and tried to point to where he thought our new nugget was.
I thought it was considerable progress until he informed me that he, also, had a baby in his belly. He lifted up his shirt and asked me to kiss it.
Oh well, maybe when I start to look like I swallowed a beach ball, it might be a little easier for him to comprehend.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keeping hope through infertility not so easy

The road of infertility is often paved in disappointment and doubt.

You have to keep hoping that for all the effort you put into the process, that by some miracle, things will work out the way you want. And each time you realize another month has passed, it’s more and more difficult to rally that hope again.

Now, I’ve been going through this process for two years, after I figured out that things were not going to just happen as easily as they did the first time around. I’ve been to nearly a dozen doctor offices around West Michigan, been on several different types of medication, underwent abdominal surgery and given enough blood to operate a blood bank.

And each month, nothing changed.

My husband and I started quietly discussing the increasing likelihood that we might only have the one child, so we began to focus more on our toddler. He turned 3 last weekend and it’s been an amazing ride as a first-time mom.

He has taught me so much about patience, love and understanding. I know that having him in my life has made me a better person — a stronger, more compassionate person. Watching him discover the world through those big, blue eyes, I see wonders that my jaded, cynical side long ago had crushed.

I find myself marvelling at the joy of snow. We get so caught up in the dregs of winter and the ever omnipresent polar vortex from hell, but when you have a 3-year-old, he just wants to stomp his boots and feel the powder in his hands. He wants to feel the flakes dissolve on his tongue and figure out how to make a snowball.

He makes me want to slow down and appreciate all the beauty and wonder there is in the world, and even though I very much wanted to go through this entire experience again with a new baby, I began to accept — even embrace — that it was not to be.

And it made him that much more precious to me. It made me realize that I should savor every minute and appreciate every experience we will have with him. I remember seeing my tot perched on his dad’s shoulders as we watched Holland’s annual Parade of Lights and I said to myself, “This is enough. This is more than enough and I AM happy.”

It’s funny how life can be serendipitous that way — almost as if God was waiting for me to accept the plan he had all along.

I’m pregnant.

I found out the day after that parade, and it was the most beautiful moment I have ever had in my life, and I can’t wait to welcome this new life in early August. What more is there to say than that all of it — every single moment — was completely worth it.

— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Avalanche of ‘stuff’ has me anxious to purge

Ah, it’s the winter holiday season again, you know what that means.
It’s time to clean my house from top to bottom, prepare to host the family for the annual holiday gathering, face the most stressful weeks of the year at work and prepare for my son’s impending birthday party (because I had the awesome foresight and planning skills to have a baby 10 days after Christmas).
Be that as it may, this year was not nearly as daunting as Christmases past. I was kinder to myself and didn’t hold myself to impossible standards. Quick, simple recipes allowed me to socialize more with my guests and shoving piles of unsightly junk from my house in an unused room was a major win.
Of course, after the big get together, the junk around my house was still staring me in the face, taunting me with its giant piles of miscellaneous objects. Seriously, my living room looks like a tsunami of packaging, toys and clothes struck unannounced over the weekend.
I keep trying to find places for the things, only for more to appear (where do I put 10 pounds of chocolate and candy we received from well-meaning loved ones?)
This is the time of year where I start getting squirrely about how disorganized my house is and every New Year’s Eve I make the resolution to clean up the crap. And, sadly, each year I fail.
I suppose I can call myself somewhat successful in that I seem to be managing the chaos. No one in my friends or family group has called “Hoarding: Buried Alive” yet, so I have that going for me.
But when you have a toddler who is constantly growing and has a voracious appetite for books and other toys, you constantly have an influx of “stuff” into your home.
Despite the urge to want to break out in hives each time I survey the crap strewn across my house, it softens the blow somewhat to see my nearly 3-year-old delighted with life. His favorite toy he got this year? … A simple flashlight from his aunt and uncle.
As I watch him tread slowly down the darkened hallway with his newfound treasure in search of slaying monsters, I let myself relax a bit … at least for a week or so.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or on Twitter @SentinelLeach.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Toddler brain is tiny, but terrifying at times

“Honey, please don’t scream in my face,” I said.
My 2-year-old reared his head back and threw up his arms in his best Tyrannosaurus Rex pose and screamed — louder this time — an inch from my nose.
It’s not the first time he has displayed some sort of new, unwanted behavior. In fact, we’ve been through pushing, biting, hitting, roaring and fibbing phases — sometimes simultaneously.
When I try to curb unwanted behavior, such as pushing, the shutters come down over those cute baby blues and a scowl that could slay a dragon appears. Once, as I calmly tried to say, “We don’t push our friends,” I barely had the last word out before that dreaded toddler response was screamed at me.
 Ah, independence. Ya gotta love it.
“Honey,” I said gently, “You need to listen to Mama.”
I read somewhere that as brain growth in toddlers is exploding, so is emotional development. That means these little guys are not only learning colors, numbers, letters and the like, but they are experiencing new emotions, such as frustration, fear, anger and disappointment.
The only problem is that they don’t have the self-regulation to control these emotions yet, so their baser instincts usually get the best of them.
One child psychologist wrote that this is why “toddlers are the opposite of civilized human beings.”
That would explain the sudden temper tantrums over seemingly benign things. And why sometimes I’m convinced demon possession is at play.
But how do I make his toddler brain understand that these behaviors are wrong?
Here are some useful tips I found on
• Pick your battles: If you’re always saying no, the child will tune out your priorities
• Know your child’s triggers and remove temptations for unwanted behavior
• Be consistent in your reactions to avoid confusing the child
• Don’t get emotional: If you get angry, that’s all the child will see versus your message
• Keep it short and simple: Speak in short phrases so the child will understand (i.e., “No hitting.”)
• Give a time out: After repeated reprimands, put the child in a time out space for one minute per age
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at or @SentinelLeach #babyboom.