Welcome to Kira's Blog

Welcome to My Blog

Life with young children can be challenging, but with the support and advice of friends, we can feel empowered and thankful for the blessing of being a Mom.

My musings are those of a self-proclaimed attachment-parenting Tiger mom, who juggles full-time mommying with a small (but growing!) baby-related business. I hope some of my thoughts help you
Enjoy your day, Enjoy your night, and Enjoy your kids!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Taking a Break

Ok folks.

As you can see, I haven't been blogging.
This is part of the gift of sanity that I am giving to myself, as my baby and I get used to life together.
I have lots LOTS of ideas, which will have to wait until baby is about 3 months old (or so) to get published.

In the meantime, you can reflect on what you are doing in YOUR life as a mom to maintain YOUR sanity. What are you either giving yourself (for example: exercise, therapy, massage, babysitters?) or keeping yourself from (for example: tv, internet, junk foods, other distractions?) to help keep you calm and balanced? For me, less computer time is one.

Give yourself your well-deserved break. And if you're desperate for advice on other aspects of mommying, check in with a friend, a colleague, a spiritual leader or therapist for some suggestions :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bottle Blessings

I'm really into breastfeeding. In fact, I'm probably one of those moms who inadvertently makes non-breastfeeders feel inferior. It's not intentional, and at least I'm somewhat aware of it - that I'm just really into breastfeeding.

And yet, as I embark on my journey with child #4, I must admit that breastfeeding-only moms are at a clear disadvantage in one very important way: bottle is a quicker, more efficient feed and leads to a sleepier baby! See, in my experience, it takes much less time to pump 4 oz. of milk than to feed the same amount, and then baby works significantly less hard to get those same 4 oz. from a bottle than directly from the breast. My baby is clearly more satiated after a bottle-feeding than any breastfeeding and dozes off like an angel and stays asleep!

I had heard that formula-fed babies sleep better than breastfed babies, but I believe it's not about the formula, it's about the bottle!

So, for those who are experiencing babies who seem to waken every hour or so for a feeding during the night, you may want to experiment with pumping your milk and giving via bottle - to give yourself a well-deserved break. I know that it's a risky business meddling with the supply-demand cycle of mom and baby, but for those who are just that tired, I'm pretty sure one (or even more!) feeding won't make that much of a difference... but that extra hour of sleep will!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nursing Pads

I didn't think I'd get back to blogging, and I'm still not sure it will be a regularly-scheduled event until the baby starts moving in the direction of a schedule (for those experienced moms: yes I know that may be after high-school graduation, but a simple sense of night-and-day would be a start), but I have a bit of practical advice I felt couldn't wait:

Avoid disposable nursing pads - the kind with a plastic shield. An example, is in the link to the left.

That's it. Simple.

Here's the deal: disposable nursing pads, in addition to being a waste and bad for the environment, breed bacteria more easily than cloth pads. For those of us who are big-leakers (congrats, this means plenty of milk for your fledgling baby!) the milk in the plastic-backed-pad remains warm, next to the breast, and sours quickly. When I used these pads, the sour smell was so strong that my infant daughter wouldn't latch on after a few uses, because my nipples smelled sour!!! Gross! (and kudos to my infant for her strong survival instincts & refusal to drink sour milk, eh?!) Let's face it - unless you have a magical baby who nods off to sleep and lets you rinse off your nipples after each feeding, you'll be harboring this sour smell until your next shower... which, in some cases, could be next week or next month :)

Meanwhile, quality cotton nursing pads are quite absorbent but don't lock in the moisture. The Bravado brand ones that I use (link to the left) are fantastic, since they also have a shield that protects the (sore?) nipples from the wet milk pad. They are comfortable and have the added benefit of a nice terry exterior that you can also use to wipe up any spills down the baby's cheek, as you unlatch him or if he had a particularly full mouth.

My lactation consultant in the hospital also was recommending to stay away from disposable pads, and I wouldn't be surprised if they increase risk of mastitis?

Another product on the market, which I own but rarely use, is the Lily Pad. It DOES work and is definitely the best in total prevention of leaks, but I seriously worry about risk of mastitis whenever I use it... basically, use with caution, only when you really can't afford the mark on your best silk gown or in front of the firm's partners at your next presentation :)

In brief - investing in quality reusable cloth nursing pads is definitely worthwhile. If you're concerned about the expense, contact your local La Leche League - maybe somebody is finished nursing and getting rid of hers, so you can barter.

Happy nursing!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

new kid on the block

Most of my blogs are not meant to be a forum for sharing my personal stories, but rather a platform to share ideas... this one is different: I just had a baby!

My baby was born on Friday night at 1:39am, by c-section. So now, I've officially been through the following types of births and birthing "aids": natural/no meds (not in a hospital), induction, pitocin, epidural, cervadil, and now c-section. Barbara the lactation consultant, mother of 13, trumps me by far with her birthing experience, but I feel that for 4 babies, I've experienced quite a range.

I plan to get back to my blogging next week. For now, I'm going to try to get some rest and nurse the baby :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Necessary Evil?

There are studies aplenty about the ills of television-watching. It numbs our children's minds, promotes ADD-type behavior and lack of ability to focus, and it exposes them to violence and other behaviors that they may not understand (at best) or will internalize. Television watching turns off creativity and our brain patterns match those of a sleeping person.

Some of us have found, however, that television serves different and magical purpose: keeping the child safe from harm.

See, some of us cannot always be with, near, or attending our curious, mischievous, or otherwise too-smart-for-his-own-good child. Sometimes we need to cook dinner (for example) or take an important phone call. Maybe we just need some time to ourselves with a good book, or maybe there is something urgent and we need a quick and cheap babysitter. We certainly don't want to be downstairs speaking to the plumber while our 3 year old is banging an upstairs window with a stapler he "found" in the office (read: climbed on a stool and 2 chairs to reach where he is explicitly not allowed). So what options are there?

AHA! There is TELEVISION! If we turn on "Bob the Builder" or "Amazing Barbie Adventures in Princessland" we can be pretty darn sure that our 4 year old budding-electrician will keep his hands to himself and our 3 year old butterfly who REALLY CAN FLY will stay put.

The magazines and papers who run studies on television clearly have not studied the effects of television on the overworked, underpaid, exhausted and REAL desperate housewife/mommy. If they did, they'd find that exposing children to television efficiently and effectively lowers mommy's anxiety level, helps her find time to do the things she must take care of, and generally helps her maintain a level of peace and tranquility that is otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to create.

So, pick your poison - mind-melting television or 3-ring-circus with terrorized-mommy in the middle. I'm at peace with my choice (in moderation, of course ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toy Tales

When I had my first baby, my house was *relatively* safe for children, but a visiting 3 year old alerted me to a problem: I had no toys. She came to see the baby, but after a few minutes of smiles & interested stares at the baby, she walked confidently over to the basement door, ready for alternative entertainment. I informed her that there is only laundry downstairs, so she'd better stay upstairs with me & baby. Concerned, she looked me in the eye and announced that I need to buy toys for when she visits.

In the subsequent years, I have received toys as hand-me-downs, birthday gifts, and I've sometimes purchased a choice trinket myself. Of late, my husband and I have noticed a problem: too many toys.

In efforts to downsize, we purged bags of toys that we seldom use. What a great feeling! The house still seems over-run with toys, but it felt good to let go of some excess and let someone else enjoy what we no longer need or want.

My kids ask constantly for new toys: for birthdays, special events, or as rewards for good behavior. While I want to encourage their enjoyment, I also need to remind myself that less-is-more and they need to learn, sooner or later, to appreciate what they have in life. It's a fine balance, since children are more attuned to physical play than we adults and cannot grasp the "need versus want" philosophical discussion. It's much more difficult for them to pass by a toy and say "well, maybe next time" without deep remorse and bitterness. So, sometimes I give-in and buy the things they desire. And sometimes I do my best to explain how or why we won't be purchasing right now.

I want my children to grow up with a sense of abundance in their life - that later, they should look back at their childhood and not feel they were lacking. But showering them with whatever toys they desire may lead to superficial materialism and they may not really appreciate what they have, as they grow up.

For now, my solution is to involve as much build-up as possible to their receiving new (or even used) toys. They don't just receive spontaneously and for no reason. Some toys involve a prerequisite of multiple acts of responsibility and maturity. Others are reserved for special events and are eagerly anticipated but must be waited for, patiently. While I love my children unconditionally, I don't give them toys or other rewards unconditionally. I pray that over time they will learn and understand the difference.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dosage Dilemmas

One of parenthood's more interesting ironies is that of dosage levels of medicine for your sick child.

Picture the following: You are woken at 2am by your 7month old's wailing and coughing in the next room. You go in and find him drenched in sweat, shivering and clearly with a fever and cold. You quickly change him, check his temperature and read 101.1, and head to the medicine cabinet to give him some infants' tylenol. You carefully examine the bottle, looking for the right dose to give your crying, shaking child. To your surprise, for children under 24 lbs, under 2 years of age, it simply says "consult physician"... for real!!! This is INFANTS' tylenol, but in order to give it to your infant, you have to call your physician! (After all, children over 2 would probably be getting CHILDREN'S tylenol, instead, since they don't need to use the dropper by that point).

So what do you do? Call and wake up your pediatrician? And what do you do when he asks how much your child weighs and you have no recollection? After all, it's been a few months since his last fever, and he's gotten pretty big since then... Well, will your pediatrician be running to his office to check your child's charts at 2am, just for dosage advice to treat a 101 degree fever??!

Luckily, for those of us on the internet, there are some helpful resources. The one I find particularly user-friendly is on the askdrsears.com website, at the "medicine cabinet" link. Here, Dr. Sears lists most common medicines and includes dosage information for babies. Also, he includes comprehensive information about each medication, which is especially helpful for new parents.

Why this information is not more widely available is somewhat beyond my comprehension, since I'm pretty sure most pediatricians don't want to be woken in the middle of the night for basic medicine questions. I'm sure it relates to liability on the part of the manufacturer, but I think pediatricians would be wise to make sure their patients have access to dosage information, so that they don't have to deal with the 2am not-even-close-to-emergency calls.

So, the next time your baby has a mid-level fever and you don't want to "bother" your pediatrician with basic dosage questions, check out the Dr. Sears site and save yourself a call.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Great Hats!

As the cold weather approaches, here's a plug for a great product:

Visit either skihats.com or dinohaven.com and check out their hats and accessories for winter. I purchased customized, personalized hats for my kids and CONSTANTLY get complements. First of all, you can customize according to what your child likes (colors, styles). Then, you add his NAME so that the hat, scarf, or gloves are easy to identify when left at a playdate, preschool, store, restaurant, or library (among other places).

Sure, it's more expensive than purchasing at Old Navy or Walmart, but the quality can't be beat, shipping is fast (and one price, regardless of quantity - so you can get as gifts for the holidays, for example!), and the customer service is great.

Note that the skihats.com site includes their outlet items, which REALLY can't be beat! Enjoy & keep warm!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CDC update on growth

Dear Readers,

Just saw this article and for those of us who breastfeed, I think it's encouraging to consider, regarding how our pediatricians are evaluating growth:


Get Moving, Kid!

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in America. The average American lifestyle allows for overweight people to feel "normal" and our children are especially at risk. A key factor leading to obesity is our sedentary lifestyle. Between computers, television, video games, and long days at school, your child may be spending up to 95% of his day sitting down. Immobile. Barely using up the calories he has taken in through the day. Parents should realize that this is a problem. Limiting weekday television, computer-play, and video game time is helpful. Eliminating these as weekday events is better. Children can be taught that spending most of the day with minimal movement is not ideal and they should instead enjoy activities requiring movement.

There are a number of ways to encourage movement. One possibility is after-school activities like gymnastics, swimming, basketball, or dance. Encourage your child to join a team. Set up movement-focused possibilities around the house: a basketball hoop in the yard, roller-blades in your basement, a chin-up bar across the bedroom door, even games like knock-hockey encourage healthy play with movement. When your child is done with homework (or still younger than that age), put on some music, throw around some scarves and let her dance around the house.

Of course, the best way to engage your child in physical activity is by example. Be a role-model. Let her know that you go work out in the mornings. Or dance, throw balls, chase, or hide-and-seek with her, together. Do a personal inventory of your OWN sedentary time - how many hours do YOU spend on the computer, watching television, or otherwise relatively immobile? Be honest with yourself. And make sure you are being the role model you know your child needs.

For your sake and that of your child, get everybody moving!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Choosing a Pediatrician

Your Pediatrician: Friend or Foe?

Now that I'm on my 6th pediatrician in the same number of years, I feel I have some clarity on what will help make a pediatrician into an ally. Of course, it goes without saying that if your friend IS your pediatrician, then you're just lucky and can ignore most of this blog :) Most of us, however, need to shop around to find a pediatrician who jives with our personalities, styles, etc. There is little more important than our children's health, so finding a pediatrician that you feel comfortable working with should be top priority as a parent.

There are a few pitfalls that, in my opinion, disrupt the flow of healthy trust and communication with your pediatrician. Here are some insights:

-Administrative staff: the office staff will have a BIG impact on your rapport and relationship. Some offices have friendly, helpful staff. Some staff is abrupt and even rude. Some listen well in person and on the phone, where others are quick to give you a cursory response, leaving you feeling alone and lost. Your rapport with the administrative staff is important, since in emergency situations, they are the first contact before speaking directly with your doctor. Make sure you are comfortable with the personalities in the office.

-Listening skills: Your pediatrician should listen carefully to your concerns and needs. If you feel you are not being heard, but you passively go along with what the doctor says, you are effectively allowing your pediatrician to become more of a dictator in your life than a source of support and guidance. You should feel that your pediatrician is patient and listens to your needs and those of your children.

-Timing: Most of us with small children visit the doctor multiple times a year. A long time in the waiting room can make both children and adults cranky, and personally I think it's rude to leave patients (aka "clients") waiting for longer than 1/2 hour without explanation. After all, once the waiting room time is over, there is still time you'll be waiting in the check-up room! Some offices are better than others in monitoring and managing the flow of patients. Find one that respects your time the same way you would respect theirs.

-Personal attention: I am a firm believer in sole-practices. I feel that there is a qualitative difference working with a doctor who intimately knows my children, my history, and my style, without needing to decipher his colleague's handwriting in the charts. Indeed, in my experience with sole-practice doctors, they are generally kinder and more patient than large practices, which are more anonymous. In larger practices, it's just easier to get lost in the shuffle. And when facing middle-of-the-night calls, it's helpful to have a pediatrician who doesn't even need to check the chart, but remembers your visit from a few hours earlier and can advise you quickly and effectively.

It's very important to do your homework in choosing a doctor. Don't feel guilty about switching, if you find that it is not a fit - your child's health and well-being is infinitely more important than any other consideration, so you just need to do what is right for you, without thinking twice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

CoSleeping Debates?

I'm a big believer in co-sleeping with your baby. There is a lot of controversy over the habit, but I think when done safely, there are more benefits than risks.

This article and video (http://www.blogher.com/fox-news-says-infant-cosleeping-deaths-linked-formula-feeding) shed amazing light on the issue, and for those of us who breastfeed through the night and do not drink alcohol (or take intoxicating medications), it's quite affirming. Also, the book by Dr. McKenna (image & link to the left) is quite comprehensive and informative.

There is no question that co-sleeping requires some responsibility and consideration of your child's surroundings during the night. Guess what? So does PARENTING. Wake up folks - time to develop those responsibility muscles! It's also true that there are risks that cannot be 100% avoided. So does HAVING CHILDREN. There are no guarantees in life, which doesn't mean we just randomly choose, but rather we need to carefully and responsibly (there's that word again!) weigh the risks and rewards, and pray/trust that our children will grow and thrive.

In my case, co-sleeping didn't even work with my first 2 children. Our personalities and sleep-styles just didn't mesh. Sadly, by the time these babies were 4-5 months old, I had to have them in a different room, and often I cried myself to sleep, missing my baby :(  My third baby was different, and I was able to enjoy co-sleeping until it was impractical (read: she started to crawl off the bed in her sleep, even over barriers, heading straight to the foot of the bed if that's what it took to escape! crazy kid!) Now that I'm heading to my 4th, we'll see what works best.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keeping Calm

One key element to being a good parent aka good role model is practicing calm. A major pitfall for parents is getting wrapped into the dramas of daily life and becoming tense, anxious, or depressed and pessimistic about their kids. The truth is that the calmer we keep ourselves, the more life will work itself out in our favor. It's just a fact.

There are some practical tips on how to keep calm. Below are some that can work, and I welcome other ideas:

-Chamomile and other herbal teas, warm in the winter, iced in the summer: taking a break to keep refreshed and well-watered is essential to maintaining your sense of balance, both physical and emotional. When you feel overwhelmed, put your child(ren) in a safe place and make some tea. If tea isn't your thing, at least drink some water or juice.

-Focusing on your breath: most of us cannot completely clear our minds from worry and angst, but we can at least replace negative thoughts with neutral ones. One of the most neutral, helpful thoughts are those that focus our minds on our bodies - our heartbeats, our breath, relaxing our limbs, etc. A further step is to take a moment to be thankful that our bodies are working the way they should - this can also bring calm and perspective.

-Counting: this one has never really worked for me, but it is highly recommended especially in magazines and books. Replacing negative thoughts with numbers or letters clears the mind.

-Stretching: a great way to shift our focus is to completely immerse ourselves in some healthy physical stretches. Sometimes this can even distract a tantrum-prone kid - when he sees you suddenly get down on the floor for stretches, he may be so surprised, he'll calm down along with you, maybe even stretch himself!

-Call a friend: if nothing else helps, sometimes just some support and perspective from a good friend is all we need.

Lastly, turning to your spouse to cover for you when you are particularly stressed is very helpful and also educational for your children. They learn that sometimes we need to solicit help in order to get back in control of our emotions. Clearly, help is not always around, but when it is, use it. Give yourself a break, put yourself in time-out, and let someone else deal with the mess the kids have made :) Don't feel guilty - you are teaching your children the importance of calm - a skill that will help them throughout their lives.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Strider Bike - the no-tears alternative!

Tried and true - I can officially announce that the strider bike REALLY WORKS. It really does teach young children how to balance on a bike without falling, without a lot of running behind-the-bike by the parents, without a lot of nervous parents and kids alike! My daughter transferred from the strider to a real pedal-pumping 2-wheeler in just 2 visits to the parking lot, and she didn't fall once!

Here's a link to the product - note that I can't vouch for them, but there are similar and a bit less-pricey models on the market.


For those who want information on childproofing your home, I found this link which is very helpful and informative. Chock full of good-to-reads and good-to-knows:


Monday, September 20, 2010


One thing that really frustrates me is children's vitamins. I don't mind giving my kids the extra boost - hey, they really are modern miracles to ward off all kinds of diseases. The extra Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B's, Vitamin C's... not to mention minerals like Iron & Calcium. Children in many countries still suffer terrible malnourishment due to lack of certain vitamins and minerals in their diet, so I'm grateful to have these little super-pills available.

What upsets and confounds me about giving my kids vitamins is the added colors, preservatives, flavors, etc. I feel particularly sensitive to these carcinogens when it comes to vitamins. I mean, what a conflict: do I give my kids these vitamins when such awful colors & artificial flavors come along for the ride? Are these still super-pills to keep them healthy or yet more junk to fill their sensitive little bodies with pollutants?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a mom who is die-hard organic. I *prefer* natural, organic living, but I'm not up to fighting that fight to the bitter end. We have junky foods around, including food colors, and our hummus has preservatives so that it won't go bad within the week.

But there's something particularly sinister about giving vitamins with added colors, flavors, and preservatives. And I just can't get myself to feel comfortable doing so.

Luckily, I recently found some more natural alternatives at the health food store. Attached is a link to get it through Amazon (I LOVE this feature!) My kids love them, and I feel much better giving them these than the ones at CVS or Costco. Are they much more expensive? YOUBETCHA! But I can't help but feel that at least THIS should be a truly healthy boost for them in their days/diets.

Hope this is helpful and gets you thinking a little more about what we feed our kids...

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Year Scrambles

I had/have every intention of posting a new blog each day of the week.

Of late, I have fallen terribly behind, in part due to holiday shuffles, and in part due to a lot of new developments in my life: the Jewish new year, the scholastic new year, sadly some family tragedies, joyfully some family celebrations... and I'm definitely feeling the early pangs of my next baby's entry into this world, God willing within the next month.

I have a lot to share and a lot of ideas friends have requested, so I hope you will keep checking, even if I don't have the rate-of-blogs that I had intended.

Thanks for your understanding and wishing you a wonderful new year, new fall, new school year, and new challenges for tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I hope this will be one of many posts regarding children & spirituality.

I am a firm believer in teaching children about faith. Faith in good things ahead, faith in growth and change, and faith in their parents, their siblings, and their peers.

Faith is a key player in establishing a solid emotional base, so that children can grow up with an "I can" attitude - they should grow up having faith in themselves and faith in their world.

One way to ensure your child has a deep sense of faith is to work on your own. As a parent, you need to tell yourself that YOU are strong, YOU are capable, and YOU believe in great things to come. Don't let yourself get burdened with doubts and worries - work on maintaining a positive attitude, in the face of challenges and setbacks.

Another wonderful thing about faith is that it has a snowball effect: the more faith you have, the more faith you will build, and the more your child will join you in this path. You will find the signs that amazing and bright days are ahead, and you will be excited about building a better tomorrow.

Faith is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Pick up a book on faith today - read, pray, and develop this muscle. It can have a powerful effect on your entire life and that of your child(ren). Attached is one example of a great faith-building book. Enjoy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

holidays & structure

We've just come from a major holiday in our calendar. Hence the pause in posting.

Holidays can be a beautiful break from the norm. A chance for parents and children to spend "quality time" together and catch up. Most of us lead busy lives, running from one task to the next. Holidays are an opportunity to slow down and share stories, ideas, food and fun together.

Holidays can also be stressful and overwhelming. The preparations, anticipation, and various activities can themselves keep us so busy we don't really get to relax and enjoy each other as much as we hope/plan. Having friends and family around us all day and evening can create stresses that don't always show up in our daily interactions.

By the end of the holiday, I'm often looking forward to getting back to my routine. The stability and predictability can be calming.

We mothers need to remember this principle. Some of us are keen on spontaneity and take our children out of their routines and assume they should be flexible, so we don't understand when they resist. Who wouldn't like to go to the beach instead of school? Why is the parade not a good idea, when the alternative was to go to our regularly-scheduled mommy-and-me? Some children act up when they are taken out of their routines. They may enjoy the activity for a short while, but then a tantrum or other breakdown may ensue.

The answer is the same as how we feel about holidays. It can be fun to take a break, but actually the routine is what keeps us going. Small breaks & holidays can help us appreciate the mundane, but too many "breaks" would be overwhelming and stressful. The same holds true for children with their systems and schedules. Sure, from time to time it's nice to do something different, but too much spontaneity can make children feel like their world and lives are chaotic and confusing.

You need to know your child and his/her threshold for sudden changes in activity. Be sensitive. Pause your sense of adventure and re-think if it will be wise to take him out of his predictable structure. Consider your audience and you both will benefit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Veggie Ideas

I firmly believe that a key to raising healthy eaters is by choosing to fight the veggie battle. Some people feel it's not worth the constant argument, but in my opinion - it is. Children need to be comfortable eating vegetables. Period. Maybe a specific vegetable in a particular style isn't worth the fight, but the general idea of vegetables in his diet is. I'll blog a bit more on how I think it relates to obesity, but for now, here are some ideas on how to encourage your child(ren) to eat vegetables:

-have bite-sized cut veggies available at EVERY meal (i.e. even breakfast!) Some examples: cucumbers, grape-tomatoes, peppers (green, red, etc.), carrots, celery, radishes, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower. NOTE: PREPARATION TAKES TIME. Vegetables are actually quite a bit of work to clean and cut, but it's worth it! Plan ahead - if you know you won't have time right before the meal, prepare the night or morning before and store in a container. If you only offer vegetables once or twice a week, children can easily pass, but if it's in constant view, then at some point in the meal (if not this one, then the next) his curiosity or hunger will take over and he'll try out some vegetables.

-Just like adults, some children prefer if the veggies have some added flavor. Try dips and sauces, like ranch dressing, italian drizzle, sesame-ginger or a yogurt-dill dip. Be creative!

-If your child is already averse to vegetables, put out the dish of veggies FIRST, before the meal and give him a few minutes to sit and wait patiently for the rest of his meal. Do this every day for a few days, with different vegetable options, and one day he'll likely go for one or more of the vegetables, if he's truly hungry.

-just like adults, many children enjoy stir-fry. Make it flavorful with teriyaki or soy sauce, and know that it's always yummier with a base of fried onion & garlic.

-some children enjoy souffles and quiches or different veggie-breads & crackers. Again, be creative and plan ahead. It's worth the effort.

I'm not a big proponent of hidden vegetables, since I believe it's important for the child to be aware of eating healthy, but for those particularly challenging eaters:

-it's easy to "sneak" healthy veggies into popular dishes: macaroni & cheese with a bit of pureed carrot & cauliflower in the cheese sauce, scrambled eggs with spinach or zucchini puree,
hamburgers made with mushrooms and some greens inside (i.e. make-your-own burgers by mixing veggies in the chopped meat), and of course pasta with sauce can have all kinds of pureed vegetables hidden inside.

-for those particularly finicky kids, I highly recommend a puree wand to make it easier to sneak in the veggies. They are very easy to use and will be a big help. If the child cannot see to pick out the greens from the rest of the mix, s/he will be more likely to just dig in and eat.

Lastly, the most important principle in encouraging good veggie-eating: set a good example. Eat a lot of vegetables yourself. Do an inventory: how many vegetables do YOU eat each day? Does your child see YOU eating fresh greens and salads? If you have a very veggie-averse child, keep a log of your own eating habits and take a look in the mirror. It's quite possible you have not set as good an example as you should. Be objective. Be truthful. Children will follow your lead more than anyone else in the world, so do yourself a favor and make sure you are guiding him down the right path in terms of eating healthfully. It is possibly the greatest gift you can give him & a major factor in ensuring he lives a long and healthy life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Higher Authority

Some readers may not be religious. Fair enough. It seems to me most people are on a "spectrum of faith" with very few at either extreme: completely faithful according to a religion or completely atheist. So I'll address the part in each of us which believes.

You may believe in God or Karma or the Energy of the Universe - it doesn't matter, really. It's all the same, as it relates to parenting. It all points to deferring to a "higher" (or "other") authority. Whatever you believe in, beyond the physical and chemical scientific world we know, refers to power(s) beyond our control. And that, my friends, is the key: control.

Most pitfalls in parenting have to do with control: over-controlling, under-controlling, feeling out-of-control, or being controlled by your kids. There is a constant push-and-pull of control involved with parenting. And there is no perfect balance of control. Control works in moments: sometimes we are in control-harmony with our children, and sometimes we are not: they have the upper hand or we do.

But we are more likely to be in harmony with our children when we remind ourselves that it's not all up to us OR them. There is a more powerful energy/authority in the universe than either or both of us. And ultimately, faith in that energy/authority will help us and our children weather the storms. If we firmly believe, then we send a message of humility, honesty, and spiritual fortitude to our children. They, in turn, learn that life need not be perfect, but that the energy/authority in the universe can be a source of support and guidance to a place of emotional/spiritual harmony.

Deferring to a Higher Authority can be challenging, especially since we are programmed to be stuck in our own realities and sense of control over our environment. But the more we release that control and do our best to consider alternative realities and opportunities, the closer we get to inner peace, emotional harmony, and a calmer, healthier relationship to the idea of parenting.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

This too shall pass

A sweet, simple blog of truth:

This too shall pass.

The good days will pass. The bad days will pass. So enjoy the good while it lasts. And when you face a challenge, remember that it WILL pass, so it's of little use worrying about "tomorrow," just get through this moment. Right now. Today.

Embrace the moment - because the next one will be different. Of this you can be sure.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Moms Make Mistakes

We are not perfect. We do our best to raise our children in the best possible fashion, but let's face it: we make mistakes. The long days, long nights, hours of tantrums and whining and nudging and fussing can get on our nerves. We have moments we can proudly declare that we conquered our weaknesses and kept calm through it all. And then we have other moments where we hit all-time-lows. We do what we *swore* we wouldn't do, say what we *promised* we'd never say, and sometimes surprise ourselves with thoughts that any "normal" mom is NEVER supposed to think about herself, her spouse, her extended family, and of course her children.

Some of us dwell on these low moments. We lay awake at night and wonder if our children will ever heal from the damage we've incurred. We ask ourselves why we couldn't have been stronger, why we couldn't see past the frustration. We pray that it won't happen again, but have a terrible foreboding feeling that it may, and next time could even be worse. So we despair.

Recently, a friend helped encourage me with a new spin on how to manage my sense of guilt. She pointed out that I'm human. And that my children can and should know that. They can and should grow up in a house where people make mistakes. Moms, dads, children, everyone is human. We all have fantastic moments of parenting and terrible moments of weakness. And that needs to be okay. As a role model for my children, it MUST be okay for them to see and know that I am not an angel and not perfect.

So rather than beat myself up every time my humanity shines, I am choosing to forgive myself. And ask my children to forgive me. Because just as much as they need to apologize for hurting my feelings, I need to apologize for hurting theirs. And we kiss and hug and make-up and go out for ice cream. We are learning to accept each others shortcomings.

Embracing your own humanity is a life-long process. Parenthood is a good place to start.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On Humility

One of the greatest challenges to us humans is humility. The idea that we don't know everything, can't control everything, and have limited capabilities is quite upsetting and difficult to comprehend. After all, we are each stuck in our own minds, our own realities.

Humility as a parent is even more challenging... and necessary. When the days are rough, we need to remind ourselves that it's not ALL about ourselves and our frustrations and instead have compassion and mercy for these little creatures who may drive us crazy but have their own sensitive spirits. And when the days are joyful, we need to be thankful for the blessings and miracles in our midst, and not let it go to our heads that WE are the ones who created such cuteness.

It's a fine line we walk: we need to feel and act both totally and utterly responsible for our children, while still being mindful of the fact that much of what is going on around us is beyond our control.

The better we are at letting go of our sense of pride, the calmer we will be as parents. Most of the time when I am angry, it's because reality is not what I expected and I lack the humility to recognize and appreciate what I am facing and have faith that things will change (because they always do). If I have a rough night with my children, the next night WILL be different. And if I have a fantastic set of nights of peace and calm, one of these nights WILL be different. These are difficult ideas to believe, deeply and truly.

Humility is a constant spiritual, emotional, intellectual struggle. Please join me in facing our pride, so that we can build a better, healthier, and more compassionate tomorrow for our children.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spirituality Week

The end of the summer marks a particularly spiritual time in the Jewish calendar: the month of "Elul".

This month we finish up the past year and head to the new year, marked by the "Rosh HaShannah" or "head of the year" holiday. As I reflect on the past year, I feel I need to share with my readers some more philosophical/spiritual thoughts.

So, this week will be dedicated to some more spiritually-focused blogs. For those who are more interested in the practical blogs, take a break and enjoy some outdoor fun this week :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


After having her baby, a good friend of mine said to me "I now understand why sleep deprivation is an Asian form of torture."

I think until you have experienced real sleep deprivation, it's difficult to understand why this is such a challenge for new moms. Many dads "just don't get it" and the entire topic of sleep can be a tricky one when couples experience their first child. Sleep becomes a scarcity, and it can be just as traumatic as farmers experiencing a drought, with many of the emotional and physical ramifications as well: concern over the future ("how long will this last?!") the present ("how am I going to make it through the day - I feel so weak!") as well as yearning for better times in the past ("I shoulda appreciated the good times when I could sleep/eat as much as my body needed!")

Recently, I read an article linking lack of sleep among medical school residents with depression (check out the final paragraph - fascinating!!!): http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2010_07/findingsinterns033.html
Interestingly enough, there is ALSO a link between mothers who get little sleep and postpartum depression (go figure). Seems to me, it's not just a correlative connection, but a causal one: taking away sleep hours leads to depression. Clear and simple.

My advice? If you have a sense that you aren't getting the amount of sleep you need, don't let it get out of hand. Get help to get sleep. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE - if not for yourself, then for your child. You will not, CANNOT be an effective mother if you are teetering on the lines of depression. Your thoughts will be muddy, and you won't be able to take care of your child (and certainly not appreciate him) as you should. OR the alternative is to push yourself too far, then end up going to a psychiatrist who will prescribe medicines to alter your body chemistry to deal with the depression you're now in... why? Just get the rest you need and you have a MUCH better chance of thinking and acting with greater clarity.

Why an Au Pair?

I grew up with au pairs, so I'm biased. I think opting for an au pair is by far the best way to get quality childcare for your kids. But many of you may not know what an au pair IS and WHY it's so different and much better than live-in help/nanny or any other high-school babysitting help.

According to the "Au Pair in America" website (one of the leading Au Pair agencies):
“Au pair” means “on par” or equal. Au pairs are international visitors who travel to the United States on a J-1 Visitor Exchange Visa to acquire a better understanding and appreciation of American life while living with an American family and caring for their young children.
Au pairs and companions become full-fledged family members, sharing a cultural exchange experience that often leads to a lasting relationship with the host family.

The benefit of having an au pair is that she is typically:
-experienced with childcare
-comes with solid references
-eager to learn English
-eager to learn about America, your family, and generally to experience cultural exchange

It's a relatively economical way of managing childcare, but be aware that the agencies vary a LOT in both their costs/fees and their services.

Au Pairs are paid according to US Dept. of State regulations, and they work up to 45 hours per week for the flat weekly rate. The hours are flexible, depending on the family's needs. The au pair lives with the family, so she often interacts and enjoys being with the family on weekends, vacations, etc. She can become another adult member of the family, getting to know both the kids and their personalities and the house and its organization.

There are a few challenges in working with an au pair:
-you cannot meet the au pair in person, in advance. While there is a lot of information available on each candidate, personalities don't always match, and sometimes the agency will have to replace your first choice with someone else, if it doesn't work out.
-the arrangement is for a year, maximum to be extended to 2-years.
-the agencies are pricey and require a lot of the money up-front.
-they cannot really work with infants - I'd recommend from age 2+.
-they only take care of things related to the children: laundry, cleanup, meals, etc... they are NOT responsible for deep cleaning or cleaning up after you & your husband enjoy a late dinner (for example).

Generally speaking, I think the cultural exchange can be fantastic and the quality of the au-pair is much higher than other nanny options. If anyone has more questions or comments, please share.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Today's blog is just a quick note.

Usually, I find magazines and online articles full of "fluff" and not particularly informative and helpful (practical) for moms.

This month's issue of Babytalk magazine (September 2010) happens to have some articles worth mentioning: "The 'A' Word - Solving the Mystery of Autism May Lie Within Babies" by Shawn Bean (viewable online: http://www.parenting.com/article/Baby/Health/Solving-the-Autism-Mystery) and "Food Allergies: Fact and Fiction" by Sarah Hale Meitner (online: http://www.parenting.com/article/Baby/Health/Whats-With-All-The-Food-Allergies)

There is also a fun link to other mommy blogs: parenting.com/mustreadmoms


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Identities

After baby/babies many moms, especially stay-at-home-moms, experience an identity-crisis. The concept of sharing your body isn't totally new for many. As nausea, dizziness, discomfort, and finally huge bellies and all kinds of side-effects (sciatica, hemorrhoids, even pre-eclempsia & other complications) take over your body, you come to realize there IS, in fact, an alien inside.

When this alien emerges, there can be a great sigh of relief to have your body back. Yes, you can again jump for joy (literally) that you can now touch your toes and sleep comfortably on your stomach or back. But quickly, a different challenge emerges: the who-am-I question.

For those who have children while still young, say in their early 20's, the question of identity is not as pressing. You may have just graduated high school or college, and your adult persona may be easily transitioned to "mommy" and "wife" as replacement for someone's-daughter. But others of us who give up careers to stay at home with baby, ignoring our advanced degrees and otherwise well-defined professional and/or social identities can experience a crisis of sorts with regards to who we "really" are, as adults. Saying goodbye to our robust social lives and our coworkers or employees who respect and even admire us is incredibly challenging. And those of us who maintain our careers have the further constant tug-of-war between work-identity and needs versus home-identity and needs. Which comes first: the quarterly meeting with a major presentation and promotion potential or your daughter's first nursery-school graduation? How understanding will your boss be that your child was awake all night with an ear infection and you are too exhausted to stay at the office until 10pm the following day to finish the project? And how understanding will your CHILD be that you decide to stay at work that late?

These dilemmas fill our space and we spend a lot of time and energy struggling with our identities. Near as I can tell from more experienced moms, life gets easier when the kids are in school full-time, and you can "safely" carve out a chunk of your day to be your adult-self. But then, they say you miss the baby-stages and advise to "enjoy it while it lasts". Hmmm... more of a dilemma - now I feel GUILTY that I am waiting (im)patiently for my kids to grow up?! I guess a mommy just can't win this one. Good luck in the game, ladies!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sleep Aids

This is one of multiple blogs on the issue of sleep.

Sleep can change dramatically after having children. Some people are blessed and the concept of interrupted sleep is a quick, short-term problem. Others have sleep issues that continue for months, years, and beyond. It invades our psychology, our well-being, and in fact our entire lifestyle.

I'll write more about some sleep issues later, but for now I have some simple, practical advice on how to help a sleepless baby get some rest (and you too).

1. Blackout curtains - Investing in curtains can be a major help in getting baby to sleep. If she can't see anything, there is less distraction. You can buy blackout curtains at places like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond... these days they are quite popular and easy to find. *See link of an example, attached* An added benefit to having these curtains is they can save a lot of energy by keeping heat in during the winter and blocking out sunlight in the summer. For those who want to try a plan B first, you can drape a dark towel or bedsheet over your curtain rod, even over your curtain or shades. On vacation, this can also work - if you bring dark sheets with you, you can drape them over curtains or tuck them in between the top of the window and its frame.

2. Sound machine - The sound machine will block out distracting noises the same way dark curtains will block out light & sight. Cheap sound machines are widely available, at many of the same stores as blackout curtains. Be careful of combination sound machines / radios, since some of them may have interference from PDAs - I recommend just straight sound machines, without combination clocks/radios, etc. *See link of my model, attached* Fans can also create a similar sound buffer, as will noisier humidifiers or dehumidifiers. The key is a constant shushing sound of some sort that will muffle other sounds.

3. Comfortable temperature - I'm not sure if there have been studies on this (comments, anyone?), but it seems to me people sleep better when it's moderately chilly in the room and with a nice cozy blanket. Indeed, it's possible to even find weighted blankets to help encourage many children to sleep or sit still. In the summer, keep a fan on in baby's room to make it feel 1-2 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. Or splurge on the A/C, especially as baby is falling asleep, and make sure he isn't too warm to be comfortable.

4. Water - I believe that some children may get thirsty during the night. Until babies are big enough to be in their own bed, taking care of their own thirst by going to the bathroom for a cup of water (around age 5-6), it's smart to leave a sippy-cup with water (NOT juice or milk) in bed with them. They can learn quickly that if they need to suck on something or if they are parched, then they just reach for their cups instead of waking up their parents. Some children end up using the cup as a security, reaching for it in a hug as they go to sleep - that's even better! Another source of self-comfort!

So that's it - these methods will help block out senses of sight, sound, touch and taste, so it's MORE likely baby will fall asleep and quickly. (Note: I hear lavender will work to help with smell too, but I haven't tried it myself) Of course, there are no guarantees, but I find that the combination of these methods WILL make a difference. And for those of us who are sleep-deprived enough, even an extra hour in the morning or 15 minutes less of crying in the evening is a HUGE relief! Good night & sweet dreams!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Birthing a baby and recuperating afterwards is serious business. It requires a great deal of energy and endurance. Even with modern medicines to ease the process, the mother is often exhausted and overwhelmed both physically and emotionally.

I do my best not to go it alone. For me, support is the key to getting through the hours (in my case MANY hours) of labor, delivery, and beyond. A wonderful way of making sure you have the right support is by hiring a doula. Most can be found by inquiring through DONA - the Doula Organization of North America, and on their website they have an explanation of services: http://www.dona.org/mothers/index.php

I have been blessed in the past with 3 fantastic doulas who helped me in different ways with each of my 3 birthings. The first was mainly an advocate - the doctor on-call was terrible and needed TLC himself. My husband was busy with his own emotions, this being his first baby too, so it was up to the doula to be my spokesperson and make sure the doctor knew my wishes. She was the mediator, the middle-man, and was calm and collected when my husband and I needed that most. The second doula was physically hands-on, as I had my most natural birthing with my #2 and needed a great deal of physical support (for HOURS on-end). The third doula is a massage therapist and yoga instructor (website: www.kashmirhands.com), and she helped me physically and emotionally through a complicated birthing when I wanted to avoid a C-section.

Doulas can be terrific help during and after all kinds of birthing. Even if you know you'll be having a lot of medical intervention (induction, epidural, C-section, etc.) you may need an advocate for the "little things". For example, a friend who had a C-section found herself alone after the surgery, with nobody to help her go to the bathroom! If the father is going to be with the baby in the nursery, someone needs to take care of YOU after the birth - making sure you have something to eat or drink, that you can sit or lay down comfortably, etc. Doulas can and should remain with you for a bit after the birth, to make sure you and your baby are in good care when she leaves.

I haven't yet employed a postpartum doula, but now that I'm pregnant with #4, my next doula has told me she is willing and interested in helping me with postpartum services. I guess I'll blog about it afterwards.

In my opinion, there is no really perfect way of choosing a doula - it's nearly impossible to know what you will want and need when birthing, and even the most prepared parents may be surprised with the end-result. The key is to just find someone you feel comfortable with, someone who is easy to communicate with and seems to understand you. The woman should be a good listener and not have  her own agenda (some "prefer" natural labors and may pressure you to do things you are not comfortable doing). She will need to be a source of comfort in many ways, so you need someone who can instinctively "get" what you are trying to say.

Doulas can be key to making sure you have a very Happy BirthDay!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taming the Tantrums

Here are a few things I’ve learned about dealing with tantrums:

-A friend told me that she managed to get through the “terrible two’s” without much fanfare by nursing when she saw a tantrum coming. For those who are interested in nursing past age 1-2, this could be a great way to calm the storms.

-I wasn’t able to nurse past 1.5 years or so (more on that in another blog), so I couldn’t use nursing as a pacifier for the tantrums that came later. Instead, I decided to use the same “energy” and apply it – to very strong results. When I see my child starting to melt-down, I do the opposite of what most people advise. Most say to ignore the tantrum, walk away, and let the kid know that his/her behavior is not acceptable. For me, I decided to majorly COMFORT my kids. When they start to melt down, I offer a hug, a kiss and I whisper to them in their ear comforting thoughts. I teach them that they are loved and supported and that we can get through this together. It takes time & patience, so I cannot honestly say I do this EVERY time (and it’s also not always successful), but those times when I do it and it works end up being wonderfully bonding experiences for me and my child. I do my best to transfer the tantrum into an opportunity to show that when you’re frustrated, at least mommy is here for you. It’s OK to be frustrated. It’s OK to need support and attention. And usually after a hug & kiss & whispers, the child is calm enough to explain what is upsetting in a more “mature” fashion. It’s a win-win!

-Time out is key. Sometimes kids are overwhelmed. Or just need time to process their emotions. If your child simply cannot express himself and is too upset to hug or talk or otherwise function, put him in a time out. It’s not meant as a punishment (however angry you may be!), but rather an opportunity to calm down and figure out what he wants. Once he’s calmer, you can process with him what he’s feeling or just help him move past his upset.

-It’s ok to get angry. I know this is not what ANY psychologist will tell you, but I’ve come to believe that it can be important for your child to see that you are human too. You have feelings too. You cannot ALWAYS be calm and collected. Of course, as a general rule, you need to be the adult, the one who can pause before reacting, and a solid role model for not letting your anger get a hold on you. But if you’re not a perfect person (yet), then don’t put yourself on too much of a pedestal. Sometimes, if your child is just beyond what your nerves can handle, be human. Yell at the wall or throw a pillow on the bed. He’ll get the message that the way he behaves upsets you. And he should – he shouldn’t grow up into a world where he thinks he can behave however he wants and everyone else must be patient. And if you regret how you behaved, forgive yourself quickly. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or when you’ve lost your temper. Because that is ALSO what you need to role-model for your child: how to get past the anger and continue with your life in a healthy fashion. Hug, kiss, make up and move on.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Installing a Car Seat

There are some safety tips that are too important to ignore in a blog to help fellow moms. Here is one: how to install a car seat.

Most car seats are actually more complicated to install than they seem. And most car seats are improperly installed, as a result. While the chance of a serious car crash is slim, it can be a situation of life or death, so I view proper car seat installation as an important part of being a responsible parent.

The first thing to do is: go have it professionally installed. Don’t do it yourself. I probably had 4 car seats installed before I felt I’d observed enough times to feel confident doing it alone. To find professional installers, you can visit one of two websites:
-the non-for-profit group helping advocate for safe installations: www.seatcheck.org
-the government agency working on safe installations: www.nhtsa.gov
Most areas offer professional installation for free, so the sacrifice is the time & energy: sometimes there are long lines or few openings at the convenient time/day you’d like. But it's worth it. Make the time and do it right.

As you’re learning about proper car seat installation, there are a few pointers to keep in mind (aside from visiting the websites, above):
1. Infant car seats (rear-facing) are often installed at the wrong angles. I don’t know why the car seats aren’t made to accommodate deep seats (yet?), but in my experience, almost every brand needs some extra padding (usually a swim-noodle, cut in half) to push up the car seat at its base, ensuring the proper angle for an infant. Some car seats have a mechanism for checking that it’s the proper angle. Those that don’t: ask a professional.
2. LATCH is best. If you have a LATCH option on your car seat AND your car, use it. It’s much tighter and easier to install properly. Besides, that’s what it’s made for.
3. When installing without LATCH, always slowly pull the seatbelt completely out before fastening it. If you do not properly pull the seatbelt, it does not properly lock. If the seatbelt is not locked, you may as well have a free-floating kid in your car, because the car seat won’t help much if it’s not firmly attached on the seat. Again, if you don’t know how to properly pull the belt, consult a professional.
4. Sit or kneel on the car seat yourself, during installation (or have a friend help with this). This is the best way to ensure a tight fit – if an adult pushes his/her weight onto the car seat during installation, it squashes the spongy seat underneath, ensuring a tight fit.
5. Always check the fit – the part of the car seat that is belted to the car should not move more than 1 inch in any direction: side to side or forward-back. If it’s moving more than 1 inch, your child is free-floating too much in the car and will incur more physical damage in an accident.
6. Probably most important: always consult the car seat manual. Is your child too big or too small for this seat? Is the seat supposed to be installed in a certain step-by-step fashion? Don't second-guess - read and heed what the manufacturer recommends.

My sister-in-law commented that installing like I was showing her looked like a hassle. Yes, it is. One good point to consider is that if you’re new at installing and it’s NOT a hassle, you may not have installed properly. Double-check & be safe.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Miracle/Curse of Hired Help

Many of us opt for some sort of hired help when we have babies and young children. Maybe it's a cleaning lady once a week, or maybe you have full-time, live-in help. Either way, it makes life much MUCH easier to handle.

A friend once emailed me that it's ironic how she FEELS better after her once-a-week cleaning lady is done and the house is in order. Even though she, herself, did nothing, it gives her a sense of order and calm. And if the cleaning lady doesn't show, it's as if the whole day is wrecked (even if really the house didn't need much)!

Hired help can be a major blessing. It gives us moms a chance to feel somehow taken-care-of, somehow in charge of our space, and somehow less lonely. Even if we really don't share much conversation together, the hired help often becomes a friend, someone we rely on and can share moments with - a tough day, a day of baby's firsts, or the celebratory moment when the plumber came on time. She often will get to know the children, even if her primary function is to take care of the house. AND she'll get to know the house, even if her primary function is to take care of the children.

Having help is an absolute miracle and sigh of RELIEF.

On the other hand, hired help is a headache. Nobody cleans exactly the way you want, exactly in the right order so that the house stays clean. Nobody reads your kids and their needs as well as you do, and it can be frustrating when she is JUST DOING IT WRONG!

In some ways, hired help can require more patience than your children do. You have to learn to choose your battles and decide what's most important in the day (wash the dishes or the floor? go for a walk with the kid or feed him first?) Often, I find myself feeling that it would just be easier to do it myself - maybe it's not worth the frustration.

Let's face it - most hired help just doesn't have her "heart" in the job, so she really doesn't care as much as you do what (or who) gets clean, how well, and why. It's a very lucky woman who can find help who really adores the children AND has the "right fit" of disciplining style AND cleans the house AND ... you get the idea.

It's a balancing act, and very few of us find the "perfect balance". Good luck practicing! :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Irony of the Easy-Pleasy Kid

Most children are difficult. They cry, whine, hit, throw (bite, kick...) & generally act defiant. They push our buttons. They have their own agenda, and usually it does not correspond with ours.

But then I've got one child who just isn't. She's an easy-pleasy kid. She generally goes to sleep when she should, eats what I give her, adapts well to new situations, and to top it off says "please" and "thank you" at just about every opportunity. When I sing in the morning "who wants to come brush teeth?!" she quickly answers "me!" and toddles off to the bathroom. Meanwhile, my other children chant, "not me, not me, not me!" in proud unison. She thanks me for feeding her lunch. She smiles and waves to me when I say goodbye. She's sweet and mature and fabulously encouraging to mother.

But this easy-pleasy child presents a problem of a different kind. See, with most kids, discipline is a response to misbehavior. It's pretty straightforward saying "no!" or "stop that!" to a child who is fighting, punching, or screaming at you. Behavior that is upsetting and challenging for us as parents is easy to want to prevent and alter. But it's absolutely heart-wrenching to say "no" to a child who pleasantly, respectfully asks, "Mommy, may I please have another lollypop?" or lightly strokes your leg and says "can you please wake up and make me juice?" at 5AM. Saying "no" when your child behaves so well, asks so nicely, and genuinely wants to please you is incredibly hard.

To make matters worse, there is a discipline dilemma involved. If I say "no" to her beautifully-articulated question, then she may begin to cry and get upset. THAT is not what I need in my space (or hers). Besides, I want to *encourage* her to ask nicely. But she's too young to understand "oh, you asked so nicely, but no you cannot stay awake with Mommy & Daddy." Sure, I can distract her with an alternative toy, food, or loving gesture, but that doesn't always work. And her disappointment, after asking so nicely, is excruciating to witness.

The moral? Some children present physical challenges: sleep, food, growth, etc. Others challenge us to revisit our values: manners and lifestyle decisions. And finally there are those who test us with philosophical dilemmas. So, I guess it's not true that most children are difficult. ALL children are difficult to raise, each in his own way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

3 Stages of Parenting

An extremely helpful video, summarizing the 3 stages of parenting - it speaks for itself. View and enjoy - I look forward to your comments!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Food Games

Some babies and kids are born eaters. Some aren't.

For new parents: if your child is a good eater, you'll know. You put food in front of your baby and presto! it's gone pretty quickly. And if your child is a poor eater, you'll know. You put food in front of your baby and... wait, where did baby go? HEY come back here - you haven't eaten in HOURS!

Food can be one of the most stressful aspects of being a new mommy, especially the stay-at-home kind, where there's (usually, minimum) 3 opportunities a day to either earn your stripes as the provider-of-your-child's-nourishment or lose more battles-of-baby's-belly.

To make matters more "exciting", baby's weight is monitored very closely for the first year (and beyond). If baby weighs less than average (aka average-of-overweight-middle-american-progeny), then many pediatricians look at the parents with demoralizing glares and ask you to PLEASE add butter to your child's milk and give her ice cream at every meal (since you're CLEARLY not taking her to McDonalds often enough!)

Those of us who want to teach our children healthy eating habits, including focusing on vegetables and fruit, are at a clear disadvantage if our baby is "underweight". Oddly enough, given the childhood obesity problem in America today, there is very little support for those who just have skinny kids who eat healthy. Sadly, many new moms end up adding weight to their children almost obsessively, and entire weeks revolve around mealtimes. I have yet to read about what happens to these kids later in life, but I wouldn't be surprised if many end up with poor eating habits or even eating disorders.

I've heard a lot of advice about how to make mealtime an enjoyable experience while also having my child eat the right amount. Most of this advice is NOT from people who've been through a skinny kid themselves. Advice is usually about making mealtime "calm, enticing, and enjoyable". Yeah, right. Those who have been in the same shoes know that this is nearly impossible. We just do what we can to get the child to eat - Some of us let our children graze on healthy-ish snacks, throughout the day. Others follow their children around the house with oatmeal & applesauce. Some read, sing, or *gasp* show their children videos in order to lure them to the table. As far as the pediatrician is concerned, the methods don't really matter - the weight does. But as far as we parents are concerned, method DOES matter, because we are teaching our children valuable lessons in what food means in our lives.

If anyone has developed a foolproof method of successfully getting your babies, toddlers, and young children to sit at the table and eat well, please share your comments. In the meantime, for those who struggle with this challenge - know that it's not a perfect world. We cannot force our children to always do as we expect and desire. Perhaps the food-games-challenge is in our space in order for us to learn early in their development that really we're not in charge. We just do the best we can to guide these little angels in our midst and pray that the rest will fall into place.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bathing an Infant

Ok this is one of my more "practical" blogs.

Seems to me, there are a lot of newborns that are screaming through their first baths. My mom gave me some pointers, to make sure new baby enjoys the first experience being wet (outside in the world, that is), and I added some modifications based on my own experience. Note that you won't find these in any baby-bathing guides (magazines or online), as far as I've seen...

The key is to make sure baby is always WARM. If you have a space-heater or other ways to warm the room (especially for winter babies), make sure you use them. You can pre-heat the room and have the heater off during the bath. Alternatively, you can get the room steamy warm before baby enters, or use a hair blower to make sure the room is warm - all methods work.

Another key to keeping baby happy is to have him SNUG - in other words, mostly wrapped-up. You can designate a receiving blanket or a towel and immerse the baby in the water FULLY WRAPPED. This way baby is warm AND feels protected. It also helps contain poopies or other things you don't want floating around in the otherwise-clean bath.

Finally, many babies get THIRSTY when they are in the tub. You can keep a bottle with a bit of clean warm water, a wet pacifier or bit of wet cotton cloth for him to suck on, or take a small cup and gently pour small (SMALL) amounts of clean water in baby's mouth during the bath (it won't matter if it spills, since he's already wet! He may enjoy licking/sucking whatever makes it to his lips or tongue). Then, baby is not frustrated that he is enjoying the water outside but really wants some in his tummy.

To clean the baby, you simply unwrap one section at a time, clean, and re-wrap. This may include baby's head, depending on your wrapping method. Make sure to use soft sponges or wipes and gentle baby soap. Rinse gently and quickly transfer baby from wet-wrap to dry-towel.

Voila! Baby is happy and mommy and daddy are relieved and reassured that they CAN take care of this little creature all by themselves!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Get Out!

Some of us are more social than others. It's a fact. Some thrive on friendships, chit-chatting, and cooperative learning/building. Others feel energized after a bath, reading a book, or spending time alone with a hobby or craft.

I'm a natural extrovert, but I became surprisingly home-focused when I started having children. My husband and I spent 6 months living in a city, and I can count on one hand how many times I left the house during the day to explore and enjoy. At first, I was struck with some identity-crisis and wondered if something was wrong with me. But pregnancy and child-rearing can bring new, different sides of us to light, and we can and should embrace that.

There is one caveat to enjoying time at home: we all need support. When my new baby arrived, it became extra-challenging to leave the house. I was exhausted and at a loss for where to go and what to do with her. This was especially true since she was a winter-baby, and I was nervous bringing her out in the cold. There was one place I brought her - a breastfeeding support group at the hospital where she was born. There, I met some other moms and nurses who helped guide me to more effective breastfeeding and general parenting of a newborn.

I have since reflected on the first year with my daughter and realize that I really should have pushed myself to get out more often and to more places. She was a very challenging infant, and I really needed more support and advice from seasoned and sensitive fellow-mommies.

There are lots of resources in every locale for moms new and old to meet up and share wisdom. It's wise to find these resources before you even have your baby, but it's never too late. There are groups of all sorts, to suit all kinds of mommies and babies. Do your homework and get out! :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Something's Gotta Give

When I first became a mother I felt encouraged by other moms that once I got used to motherhood I'd see that I could really "have it all". I've since decided that that's just not true and the reality is that "something's gotta give".

Moms are juggling a number of key challenges: keeping the house in order, taking care of the children's emotional needs, taking care of their own emotional needs (read: sleep, eat, pray, avoid nervous breakdown), and taking care of work or other self-focused activities (working out, meeting friends, maintaining hobbies, etc.) I've come to realize that there is no mother who single-handedly manages all of these smoothly and without second-thoughts. Those who attempt to do so end up sacrificing their own emotional or physical needs or those of their children. For example, some may keep a tidy home but their children get less attention than they deserve. Others work into the wee hours of the night and are mostly exhausted and weak. Still others do a fantastic job of attending to their own and their children's emotional needs, but their houses are messy and disorganized.

Some mothers are lucky to have husbands or relatives who attend to a lot of these issues, while others decide to hire help to fill in the gaps. But in actuality, there are few options for really filling "mommy" shoes - and in my experience, NOBODY I have met manages to take care of everything, alone and without help. Furthermore, almost all of us question our decisions: should we spend more time with this or that child, or should we wash the dishes for the Nth time today? Should we invite guests for the weekend for some distraction and fun, or should we enjoy the weekend spending quality time alone together? Should we take on another project outside the home, or should we be spending more time with the kids after school? Do we focus on doing the laundry ourselves, to save some money and show a good example to the children, or do we hire someone else, in order to give ourselves a break? The list goes on, with decisions large and small.

For some reason, many of us who have limited help-resources have what I call "martyr syndrome" - we are so devoted to taking care of everyone and everything else, that we weaken ourselves. In actuality, this weakens the entire family. My advice here is to avoid getting sucked into "martyr syndrome" - admit that you can't do everything for everyone all the time, and choose to limit what you take care of today, tomorrow, and beyond. And most importantly, realize that this is a NORMAL part of motherhood, and there is no real "right" or "wrong" decision on what to do. Something's gotta give, and it's your role to responsibly choose what, for the sake of everyone's health and overall happiness.

This blog was inspired by my choice yesterday to skip writing a blog - my extended family has experienced both a death and a birth in the past week, and it's been both emotionally and physically overwhelming. While I am committed to writing a blog once a day (weekdays), yesterday, the blog was what had to give. I'm at peace with my choice and appreciate your support.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Big Breaks

A lot of being a mother involves “to do’s”. From the very beginning when baby arrives in our life, we’ve got a list of things we need to take care of: feeding, changing diapers, bathing, monitoring sleep, comforting… and then there are the things we need to do for ourselves, our spouses, our other children (as the case may be)... the list goes on.

Our days quickly and easily transform into do-this-do-that. One task after another, the hours pass, days pass, and we’re lucky if we get a break during a child’s nap or after bedtime. We may or may not enjoy what we’re doing, but we push forward in robotic fashion, to get through the day.

Somewhere along the line, we may reflect and realize that motherhood is not all cuddly-touchy-feely, and a lot more monotonous than we’d anticipated. And that’s okay, to a degree. Sure, things have to get done in life, but what happened to the romantic-vision of motherhood? What happened to all the excitement? The anticipation of those little fingers and toes? The warm feeling we expected?

It's very important for us to make time to appreciate our kids. We need to take breaks and enjoy the miracles that are in our midst. There will always be more to-do's, but if we don't "stop to smell the roses" then our children will grow up without us having really appreciated who they are. When do you take the breaks? How frequently and for how long? That will depend on your lifestyle and possibilities. But we all should support and encourage each other to spend "quality time" engaged with our children, a break from the go-go-go and do-do-do of everyday life as mommy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not Too Shabby

Edmund Burke is attributed to say, "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

With this in mind, the first step to being a good mother is striving to not be a bad one. Don't do nothing. Avoid pitfalls that you know are indicative of bad parenting. Don't ignore your child. Or belittle her. Or treat her as if she's a nuisance in your life. And if you think there's a problem, don't deny it.

There are times you may not be sure if what you are doing is good or bad - but the sheer fact that you question yourself will keep you on the "good side". Reflecting on your behavior is half the battle (or more). The "bad" parents are those who just do, without thinking. They go with what is best (or easiest) for themselves, without considering how their actions affect their children.

A friend of mine recently asked for advice on how to deal with some boys bullying her young son. Her clear and absolute support for her son, her interest in helping in the best possible way, and her reaching out to friends and family for their input was inspirational. I don't know what solution she chose, but for certain she was doing her best to make sure that "evil didn't triumph." She didn't do nothing.

Many of us struggle with solutions to various challenges our children pose in our lives. The least we can do is SOMEthing. Not nothing.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Today's blog is dedicated to cousin Hinda a"h, teacher par excellence.

Jewish tradition holds that each child is unique and must be taught according to his needs. Some children are visual learners, others are tactile learners, and still others are auditory learners. Some children need dynamic teachers with boisterous personalities, while others are inspired by quiet, calmer styles of personal attention. No one way is right for everyone - and a wise teacher will be able to tap into the particular needs of the individual child, in order to appropriately guide him.

The way we mother must also accommodate each child's individual personality. Especially those of us with more than one child must be careful to be flexible with our methods and treatment, so that each child gets what he needs. The way we discipline, challenge, engage, and protect our children can and should be different. Some children need a firm voice to guide them, while others feel stifled by tight discipline. Some children are naturally attentive to their parents' wishes, while others test behavioral boundaries. No one path will guide all children, and we mothers must be creative, open-minded, and patient to listen.

In my own experience, my son is a true little-man. He has an ego that must be stroked, or he throws tantrums. While I am guiding him to be more patient and less tantrum-prone, I must also protect him from his own anger and do my best to attend to his male-personality. When I raise my voice to him, he shuts down. But if I whisper in his ear what I'd like to see, he quickly changes his tune and wants to impress me. My daughter, on the other hand, does not listen when I whisper in her ear and continues to whine and act defiantly. She needs to be told what to do, in a firm voice. Each personality has its merits and requires a different style of parenting.

My cousin Hinda was an amazing teacher and guide. She knew how to be a listener and always had advice that was dead-on. I wish she were able to read my blogs and add her life-experience as pre-school teacher, mother and grandmother. She will be dearly missed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How I wonder

As baby gets bigger and starts to talk, he confronts us with increasing amounts of questions. “Where are you going, when are you coming back, why do you need to go there and who will you see…?” or more philosophical “where does the moon go during the day?” and “how come bubbles pop more easily than balloons?”

Children are naturally curious to learn about their new, fascinating world. Part of our job is to match their sense of wonder and encourage it. After all, your child is filled with infinite possibilities, especially with regard to his mind. The way you entertain his questions will affect how he places himself in the world. If you relate to his questions as annoying, intrusive or worse: stupid, then he will learn to stifle his sense of curiosity. If, on the other hand, you consider his questions, offer interested and interesting answers, and/or engage with him in finding solutions to his queries, then he will learn that the world is full of wonderful discoveries.

Yesterday, I discussed how “no” helps direct a child in the world. Today’s discussion points to the “yes” ideas – the things he will realize he CAN do, CAN consider, and what DOES work.  It opens doors of possibility in his space, so that he can grow to consider and create new realities for himself.

More thoughts relating to this idea are discussed in a fantastic book by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, entitled The Art of Possibility (see link below this blog). A great, uplifting read, this book will help you explore new possibilities not only with your children, but with your marriage, your career, and with other relationships in your life. For those moms who could use a pick-me-up at the end of the day, with stimulating ideas to consider about building a better tomorrow, check out this book.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Say The Magic Word

There is a magic word for moms. It’s not the child’s magic word “please”. Mom’s magic word is “no”. Just as much as we need to teach our children to get comfortable with saying “please,” we have to get comfortable with saying “no”.  This is a pitfall for many moms, especially those of us who are naturally confrontation-averse.

“No” is the most important word in our small child’s life. It keeps him from danger, it teaches him limits, boundaries, and is the key to guiding him to appropriate behavior and relationships as he grows. Without “no” a child’s world is overwhelming and confusing. We all need limits to survive – just think how insignificant we adults feel when we contemplate the idea of an infinite universe. If we had no sense of boundaries of our home, country, and world, we’d feel emotionally and spiritually lost. We rely on the idea of the finite in order to live a normal life.

Teaching your child to be comfortable with “no” is the first step in helping him feel control over his environment. He can decide between options, he feels empowered to choose what he likes, and he can begin to decipher what is “right” and “wrong”.

For those moms who need some pointers on how to welcome “no” into their vocabulary, I recommend William Ury’s The Power of A Positive No (note the link on the side of this blog). This book is truly transformational and brings new perspective on the dynamic between “no” and “yes”.  In brief, he shares the idea that for every “no” that you say, there is an underlying “yes”. So, for example, when you tell your child “no, you may not have another lollypop before dinner” you are also saying “yes, you may have a healthy dinner very soon.” Or “no you may not play before doing homework” is also “yes, you may get your homework out of the way so that you can play until bedtime.” In more extreme examples, NO to running into the street means YES to playing safely, NO to interrupting mom on the phone means YES to the value of respect and patience. And NO to hitting means YES to learning other ways of handling aggression.

Of course, your children need to hear your “yes” choices as well. You must clearly communicate with your child what she CAN have, CAN do, and what behaviors you WILL reward. I don’t feel the amount of “yeses” necessarily need to balance the “no’s” (it’s really about quality not quantity) because yes is helpful in a different way… more on that in tomorrow’s blog :).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who's On First?

The biggest challenge to adding a new baby to your life is managing your needs: "your" in the plural sense: your personal needs and those of your baby.

Your new baby can take care of very few needs, so she relies on you, the exhausted-yet-exhilarated mother, to do the job. The problem is that you don't actually know what many of the baby's needs are, or when and how to take care of them. And the baby arrived with no way of communicating her needs, besides wailing and flailing her arms around that something must be done RIGHT NOW.

This communication breakdown is exacerbated by the fact that you have your OWN needs to take care of, as well. So, while baby is howling and turning bright red, you are perhaps wondering "will I EVER get to take a shower?!" as you pick her up for the Nth time to see what you can do. Time and again, you put your own needs aside, in order to take care of baby. This is noble, and right, and good, and also incredibly physically and emotionally taxing.

Parenting magazines, articles, internet postings, etc. will all advise mom to take some time for herself. After all, a weakened mom is not a great source of support to the helpless newborn. But this begs the question: how MUCH time is enough for mom to rejuvenate? And how long will the renewed energy last?

This dilemma is constant, day and night, for the first few months. Yes, months! Does mom get a babysitter every day for a few hours so she can shower, eat, and maybe-just-maybe brush her teeth without interruption? Or solicit a kindly relative or friend to volunteer and help out? And what if the baby is breastfeeding on-demand? Who will fill THAT role, while mom goes to her mandatory 6-week-postpartum doctor's appointment?

The repeated question : Whose needs should come first?

I've found that there is no right or wrong answer to finding the perfect balance. No matter which way I seem to have chosen, the other probably would have been just as right. And just as wrong. When the baby is inside and most of my needs are his, and his are mine, I may be uncomfortable (put lightly ;) , but at least I don't feel conflicted.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Myth of The Blinking Eye

Some of the most frustrating experiences I have had involve someone older than me saying "enjoy your children now - you'll see how quickly they grow up, in the blink of an eye!"

When my children are sick, crying, whining, or otherwise invading my peace-of-mind, I blink and blink and... nothing happens!!! They are NOT suddenly graduating high school, and I am NOT wondering where the years went. Instead, I'm wondering "how long, oh Lord?!!"

When we are in the midst of the stresses of early-child-rearing, the days can feel like years, not vice-versa. Yes, we can do our best to relax and appreciate these little miracles who share our space, our beds, our bodies, but the reality is that the tough times can seem to last forEVER.

If you have days that are endless, nights that go on for an eternity, and babies/children who just won't quit crying, know that you're not alone. If we hold hands (literally or figuratively) and give each other strength, then maybe it'll pass a little faster, and we WILL make it to that graduation everyone else is talking about :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Advice

Whenever I encounter someone who is about to become a first-time-mom, I have one piece of advice, and it is always well-received:

Only listen to advice that makes sense to you.
(including this very statement!)

That's my advice. You're the mom. You know best. Period. Nobody can or should second-guess your decisions (with one caveat that perhaps your spouse may have some ideas of his own... but nobody else, that's for sure!) Being a mom is often overwhelming and definitely an extremely emotionally-challenging role. It's incredibly difficult to keep your wits about you and feel confident. But we owe it to ourselves and our children to be as strong as possible, and that means neither questioning our decisions nor feeling inferior to others who just do it differently.

This principle is especially true in the first year of baby's life. Both mom and baby are getting to know each other, a great challenge when the means of communication are limited, and both baby and mom are struggling just to get their basic needs met. Parents, in-laws, and older friends may offer lots of feedback, usually to empower themselves as "in the know" but not realizing that their comments may weaken mom's emotional or physical state. I learned to trust my instinct when my oldest was around 2 months old and rarely slept (more on that in another blog)... I was told by someone close in my life that I should try this, try that, and why-don't-I-do-X. My exhausted, bleary-eyed response ended up being one of the most empowering statements I have made as a mom: "when you've spent the same amount of time I have learning this baby, then you get to decide. Until then, I've invested more time getting to know her and have a better idea of what she needs." As an added point, this is true for moms of adopted children as well, since of course they spent the most time learning the baby and therefore have the best sense of what the baby needs.

I don't believe moms know best because of biology. I think moms know best because we spend the most time learning the baby in the first few weeks. For those dads or other caregivers who may spend more time with the baby than mom, please share your ideas/thoughts/replies. In most scenarios, it's mom who spends the most time with baby and is the most sensitive to getting to know how to take care of this new delicate creature.

Welcome to Kira's Blog

I decided to start a blog with helpful thoughts, ideas, and insights that involve being a mom - especially a stay-at-home-mom.

Over time, I'm learning about how to be a strong, dedicated, and effective mom to my kids, and I find that good advice and support from friends is the key to making-it-through-the-day. Books that are suggested, articles that speak to my spirit, and ideas that are shared among fellow-moms are invaluable.

This blog aims to help other moms and expand my network, to get more advice and share that which has been most helpful to me. I welcome all thoughts and feedback.

Enjoy your day, Enjoy your night, and Enjoy your kids!!!