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!!!

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.