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!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


As I read the controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua (see link), I gleaned some important messages.

In contrast with the hype and criticism the book (and author) received, I found the book uniquely empowering and enlightening.

The story takes the reader on a journey into the sensibilities, challenges, and considerations of a world-class mommy. It begins with her first daughter, who seems, for the most part, to follow her mother's directions and directives. Her second daughter provides most of the drama in the tale, as her headstrong, defiant nature challenges her mother's dreams, goals, and hopes for her future.

She begins the book with some introductions on Chinese parenting, including:

"...I came to see that Chinese parents have two things over their Western counterparts: (1) higher dreams for their children, and (2) higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take." (p. 8)


"Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away." (p. 63)

There are some clearly positive-value results from such parenting, including a solid work ethic and sense of respect, as Chua writes, "in Chinese culture, it just wouldn't occur to children to question, disobey, or talk back to their parents. In American culture, kids... score points with their snappy backtalk and independent streaks." (p. 24)

As the book progresses, Chua shares some doubts about her Asian-style of parenting, struggling with her commitment to many of its principles. And here, friends, is where I found the book refreshing and inspirational - the Chinese values are clearly worth consideration, and her struggle to maintain them while entrenched in a thoroughly Western environment brings beautiful drama to the picture.

Where the book begins with her embracing rigid determination ("Asian-ness") as a parent, by the end she shares newfound ("Western"?) wisdom with her daughter, claiming, "See how undefensive and flexible I am? To succeed in this world, you always have to be willing to adapt." (p. 221) Indeed, she admits that, "I'm still in the fight, albeit with some significant modifications to my strategy. I've become newly accepting and open-minded." (p. 221)

The clincher and the greatest message of this book is: dedication. Chua is clearly supremely dedicated to her children. Whether her methods are quirky, extreme, or questionable, her motives are pure and admirable: to challenge her children to tap into their own greatness and potential - to work hard and reap the benefits of their labor.

On the reverse cover of the book, the quote reads as follows:

"Chinese parenting is one of the most difficult things I can think of... there's just no letting up, no point at which it suddenly becomes easy. Just the opposite, Chinese parenting... is a never-ending uphill battle, requiring a 24-7 time commitment, resilience, and guile."

Whether Asian or Western in style, Chua challenges her readers to dedicate their time and energies to their children. On reading her book, one cannot help but consider "Am I too weak? Should I be more dedicated to my child's greatness-potential? Am I doing enough to encourage/challenge them to do more, be more?"

These questions, along with the message of dedication, are the real gifts of Chua's work. Set the controversies aside and consider what the book can offer you in your life - you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Blessed Cry

Unfortunately, it only hit me after 4 kids just how important my baby's cry really is. What a blessing, in disguise.

See, with my first, second, and even third child, the cry, whine, or even pout were something of a nuisance, and I'd do my best to quickly calm, appease, or otherwise tend to their needs and put a stop to the crying. I couldn't wait until they were old enough to "use their words" and teach them not to cry, but rather to express their needs in calmer, more polite terms (ha!)

Because, let's face it - crying gets under our skin. Yes, I know that biologically it has been fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution for just this purpose - to get us to move - and move quickly - because an infant just can't wait. But once the baby isn't so small, isn't so frail, and starts to be able to put words together... well, the crying just gets annoying. Especially when all 3 children start up in unison (or cacophony, as it were)!

With my 4th child, crying started to take on new meaning. I realized that I was often so distracted by my other children, that if he didn't wail - and wail with some might! - that he really wouldn't get his needs met! Then, I started to view my other children's whining differently as well. How quickly will I listen to my 7 year old, if she says "excuse me mother, but I'm having difficulty with my homework" versus "MOOOOMMMMYYYY - I can't do this homework and need your help NOW!" Clearly, when I'm distracted with making dinner and balancing the needs of her 3 siblings, she'll opt for the whiny version to get my attention. Let's face it - I'll hear her better if she whines. I could beat myself up about it, or I can just recognize the truth: children will do what they must to get their needs met. And that's a blessing.

Until now, I saw crying/whining as a sad truth, a tragic part of childhood that we mothers must endure. Now, I'm realizing my own humanity, and that in my overwhelm I may not hear their sweet, quiet "please can you pass the potato" and instead react more quickly to "MOMMY! Come NOW you have to FEEED ME!" And since I want my kids to feel confident to stand up for themselves in this world, that means I need to recognize their cries are a blessing.

Now, that's not to say that I actively encourage the crying. I'm just newly able to appreciate it and smile at my little screaming-angel, and complain a little less about life as a mommy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Peace always the Path?

We moms often run the emotional spectrum - one minute blissfully peeking at our napping angel, next screaming at our daughter who has thrown juice all over the floor.

Many psychologists encourage us to remain calm at all times, do our best to project a peaceful and comforting energy to our children.

I'm not so sure about that.

Now, I definitely believe that in the early years, say from newborn to age 2 or 3, it's important to be patient and loving, since these little tots are extremely sensitive to our support, and they don't understand our anger or upset. They also rarely (in normal home environments) deliberately harm or hurt themselves or others.

But something changes by elementary school, and I, for one, think they no longer need to see me as an Angel of Peace at all times. On the contrary, they need to see me "break down". Why? Don't they need a role model for maintaining a calm demeanor, even when facing challenges? Well, yes and no.

While truly we parents are our children's primary role models, we are also their primary teachers. When we yell and punish them, not only are we showing them that what they say or do have consequences, but we also teach them that they can and will be hurt in life... and that LIFE GOES ON. What I'm considering is that it's not about the yelling &discipline, but rather the what-happens-next.

If children never (or very rarely) see or experience an angry, upset, or otherwise-riled parent, then s/he is ill-equipt to deal with his/her own anger and upset which WILL appear at some point in life. And since they have never seen an adult be angry and then get over it, then they will likewise not know how to deal with their own anger. Ditto on the receiving end: if they've never been the target of someone's anger, then when they experience it later in life, they will be thrown and uncertain of how to respond and how to move past the situation.

On the other hand, children who have seen their parents angry, yelling, even spanking, will have a deep and strong sense that sometimes life is tough, but they will know from experience how to shake it off and move past.

In other words, we should (responsibly choose to) be angry, show upset, and allow our children to react and respond... and then guide them as to how to manage their feelings and how to move past the hurt.

Rather than hiding and sheltering them from rough times, help them get through them, past them, and rise above them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


One of the biggest problems facing America today is the state of our economy.

How did we get this way? America used to be the most industrious of nations, saving metal for the war and volunteering above and beyond the call of duty!

One reason for our downward spiral is our coddling style of parenting. Possibly due to the many advances in developmental psychology, most parents are overly nervous of emotionally hurting their children and fear pushing them too much, asking too much of them, or generally upsetting their feelings. And besides, it's usually easier to just give in - clean up for them, buy them the extra toy, or offer an extra sweet to maintain the peace.

Being a firm parent isn't easy - it requires emotional strength and commitment, and a solid sense of long-term gain over short-term appeasement. But the long-term benefits are tremendous: children who learn to pick up after their play-dates, to diligently do their homework and to dutifully do their chores, end up happier and more productive members of their community and society at large.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great Blend

There are lots of baby products on the market, touting the easiest or fastest way to make your own baby food at home.

I find them all to be fine, but mostly gimmick.

The real deal? An immersion blender (aka immersion wand) is all you need. You can steam what you'd like in your own pot, or just blend raw veggies or fruits using any bowl. The only 2 catches:
1. be careful using while foods are hot - allow to cool first, since holding at a slight angle can send food flying across your kitchen.
2. it only works with "wet" (or moist) materials, so if you're blending raws, you'll need to add water, formula, or milk to successfully blend.

Try it out - voila, you'll have great baby food AND you can use leftovers to make your own soups or dips. Here are a few ideas that work great for me:

-homemade hummus (SO easy - just whizz a can of chickpeas for baby, and for adults add whatever spices you enjoy)
-steamed squash (use leftovers to make creamy squash soups - just add onion or garlic & salt)
-steamed broccoli & cauliflower
-yogurt/berry smoothies (need I say more?)

Healthy food for baby AND mom. What a treat!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting in the Fight

There are many opinions about and approaches to children fighting with each other. There are some parents who completely let the children work it out, offering neither advice nor guidance, and believe that they must learn how to deal with obstacles on their own. Then, there are others who get 100% involved themselves: negotiating, pleading, bribing, and often taking sides and punishing when they deem fit.

Parents on all sides of the spectrum will get defensive that their approach is best. On the one hand, getting overly involved can become a crutch and children may never learn to work out their differences on their own. On the other hand, by completely ignoring the tiff, parents are giving a message that they don't care, and also they allow for injustice and bullying where it could otherwise be prevented.

I believe that neither approach is ideal. Instead, I advocate "teaching your child to fish"... referring to the old adage that if you give a man a fish he will eat today, but if you teach a man to fish, he will have food for his lifetime. Having been trained in mediation, I see how little we ADULTS are aware of our conflict communication & behaviors, all the more so children. We will do the next generation a great service by teaching them how to deal with conflicts, empowering them with specific guidelines regarding justice (aka "fairness"). We should listen attentively to their petitions for help, and while we may not take action FOR them, we can ask pointed questions that guide them to mature tactics, along with self-confidence to handle the dispute.

The likelihood that children, working out their own conflicts, will end in a peaceful and just resolution is slim. At best, someone's feelings will be hurt, and at worst, children will end up hating siblings or peers, or worse: themselves. The investment in teaching children how to deal with conflicts, how to speak their minds clearly, and how to approach injustice pays off in infinite reward - empowering children so they not only deal with the immediate issue but also learn how to face future conflicts on their own. While it may take more time and effort to listen to your child, process with him/her the dispute, and guide to some possible resolutions, this is by far the superior approach.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where There's a Will

One of the most important things to do when you have a child, and yet somehow majorly overlooked, is establishing a legally-binding Last Will & Testament. In just about every parenting and baby magazine, filled with ads for all sorts of toys, tshirts, or other must-haves, there is little or no mention of how to put together a will. It baffles me.

While we are basking in this miracle of new life, we forget how fragile this life is and... well, is there no "what if..."? Listen fellow moms (and dads, and guardians...): Believe it or not, we ARE actually all going to die someday, sooner or later. And what happens to your little cherub when you go? Are you SURE s/he will be taken care of the way you anticipate?

This is true of all parents, young and old alike: we have to make sure we take care of our kids, even after our inevitable demise. I encourage you to check out: WillMaker, an easy and quick way to take care of the basics (see link & image). It includes Health Care Directives & Financial Power of Attorney - both very important for any parent.

If this program isn't to your liking, or you have extra conditions you want to take care of, find an estate lawyer and get talking.

Of course, your will is useless unless it's kept safe. Make a copy and give it to someone close to you, whom you trust. Keep your own copy in a safe or safe deposit box.

Once you have the will in place, it isn't too hard to add or change later. But you have to have the groundwork set in order to stipulate for other additional children or changes in your finances, health, etc.

Be responsible, even about the uncertain and uncontrollable. It's one of the first lessons in parenthood.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Shopping with an infant

When going out for the first time(s) after having a baby, there are a few things to consider before stepping beyond your front door.

And no, it's not just about remembering to bring the infant WITH you. (Or hiring the babysitter).

Going out with your baby poses new and rare challenges. Especially to new, inexperienced mothers.

The first issue is food. If you are bottle-feeding your baby, you MUST BRING formula with you! It's best to have enough for many HOURS, just in case of emergency. Don't forget that this baby has a tiny tummy, and he can't "just hold off" like you can. It's wise to bring a diaper bag with ice packs, if it's sunny and warm out. If you are adding water on-the-go, there may not be a convenient spot to warm up the formula, so you may be better off bringing ready-made bottles.

If you are breastfeeding, then you MUST BRING food/drink with you! It's very easy to get dehydrated, especially with spring/summer babies. If you don't have food or drink in the house (hey, it happens!) then bring cash. You also will need to consider where you will breastfeed. In the car? In the bathroom? On a park bench? All are options that moms have chosen, and each has her own level of comfort. I, for one, never breastfeed in a bathroom. I make a point not to feed my child where I wouldn't want to eat myself. On the other hand, I am quite comfortable nursing in public areas, and I own 2 nursing shawls in case I feel particularly exposed.

On the other hand/side, pun-intended: be prepared for poop. Your baby may suddenly produce an explosion and you would be wise to bring an entire extra wardrobe with you - from top to bottom. Plan for more than one extra diaper and plenty of wipes.

I have found that there are certain stores that are more welcoming than others. Grocery stores are MOST difficult with a newborn, as there is nothing else but aisles and checkout - no place to sit and feed, change, etc. Ironic, since that's the place you need to visit most frequently. Most shopping malls have public bathrooms that aren't so friendly, but some have family bathrooms that can accommodate nicely. Almost all anchor stores (Macy's, Nordstrom's, etc.) have nice lounges that can be quite comfortable to tend to your baby's needs. But the best place to go is to a BABY store. They have cozy chairs you can rock on, some have nursing rooms, and most have extra supplies for free if you're in a pinch while you're shopping. Best of all, there are plenty of moms in similar shape (or pregnant and fascinated by your charming little gal) with whom you can share stories and possibly make new friends and your first play-dates.

From my experience, the best place to go on your first outing is to BabiesRUs or, better yet, to Buy Buy Baby. Fantastic places with all the bells & whistles, so that you can come back home with a can-do attitude ("Wow, look! We made it back in one piece!") so that you can feel ready to tackle grocery stores by month #2.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Food Colorings = Bad

The FDA is (finally?) paying attention:


Monday, March 14, 2011

Goal Setting

Fantastic Wall Street Journal article on children and goal-setting. Highly recommend. Here's a link:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Forums?

As I mentioned in a recent blog, our private school hosted a discussion recently, which took place largely in response to Amy Chua’s controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, where Chua’s parenting style both fascinates and disturbs many readers. In attendance were mothers of a variety of styles and backgrounds, representing large and small families, more and less religious families, and families from across the county.

The discussion flowed smoothly and openly, in a supportive and non-judgmental fashion, and it touched on a variety of key topics. While different labels were mentioned, few associated openly with a particular label, and most of the discussion focused on how to best support and challenge one’s children. Of particular note: the idea of choosing a path for children, what to do when life/children stray from that path, and how firm or flexible to be as a parent. The moderators were supportive and informed, establishing a light and caring atmosphere. As our world becomes increasingly private, many of us feel alone and/or overwhelmed at home, sometimes questioning our role, our tactics, and our paths as caregivers. This workshop helped lead the way to greater support and sharing of ideas, so that we can be stronger and more fulfilled as parents.

If you are at all involved in your schools (which you should be!), I encourage you to request that they hold similar discussions. These forums are incredibly empowering and essential to feeling less alone and more connected with other parents. Sharing wisdom is essential to successful parenting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Parenting Forum

Today, our local private school hosted a parenting discussion. Here are the 2 key concepts that resonated for me, in an interesting catch-22:

-Choosing a Path: similar to Steven Covey's "Begin with the End in Mind" - you must chose a path, a vision, a goal for your child. Where would you like to see him in a year, in five years, or as an adult? What kinds of accomplishments do you dream for her? If you don't have any hopes and plans for your child, then you are doing her a disservice. You are not believing in her abilities, strengths, and unique qualities to go far. So choose a path. And stick to it. Believe in it. Because your child deserves a flowery and beautiful future.

-Follow the Flow: each child is different, and while you may think your little Einstein is born to be a mathematician, he may prefer to become a musician. While your commentary about who and what he should be are valuable, his own sense of self is what ultimately really matters. You can only guide him as far as he will follow - beyond that, he'll decide for himself, and then YOU will be the one following... in order to support him on his journey.

The best parents will strike a balance between these two concepts. We need to have a solid, stable path for our kid, but also be immediately willing to change course. To be comfortable with both ideas simultaneously takes immense courage and strength, which is why parenting is the toughest job on the market. But the bonus will make the investment worth it. Satisfaction Guaranteed! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Magic of Music

You've had a long night. A long week. Fights with the husband. Fights with the kids... laundry and carpools and dishes - oh my! Sound familiar? Rather than wallow in self-pity, it's time to take your mind off the challenges you've been facing. Turn off those negative thoughts.

Hmmm... how does one turn off one's mind? Unless you're a master at yoga, this sounds like an impossible task.

Fear not, my friend - there is an easy solution: music.

Music is an easy way to change your attitude. If you're stuck in a funk, crank up your favorite song. Sing along. Pour out your woes! And when you're feeling a bit better, make a list of your favorite upbeat songs, to keep playing tomorrow and beyond. Create a playlist and set it to "repeat" mode on your stereo, in your car, or on your computer :)

You'll be amazed at how much rosier your day looks with good music playing in the background.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Having Fun Yet?

I recently met a life coach who reminded me of a simple principle: enjoy life.

As moms, we can easily get bogged down - between the fatigue, the kids' whining, the babies crying, the never-ending lists of what we *should* have gotten done today, this week, or this year... we can feel the weight of the world on our shoulders.

But of course, this is hardly how we want our children to think about us as parents. We're still role models and need to show our children how to be happy, upbeat, and optimistic adults.

But how do you just choose to "enjoy yourself"? Or just "be happy"? Believe it or not, there IS a simple answer: tap into your own youth.

Find an activity that you enjoyed when you were young. Maybe you liked to draw cartoons? Or ride your bike? Maybe you love to sing or dance or ice skate? For me, I love musical theater, so I turn on Les Miz and sing around the house at the top of my lungs. Sometimes, my kids laugh at me. Sometimes, they join in. But always, we're sharing smiles for awhile.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adult Bullies

As parents, we must be strong. SO strong.

A friend T. tells me that she is being bullied by her 3-year-old son's teacher. He has a dietary health issue, but the teacher continues to ignore my friend's requests to control harmful foods in the classroom. When T. has confronted the teacher, she belittles the issue and says that she's had experience with these dietary needs and not to second-guess her. T. has turned to the principal, who simply says that she'll talk to the teacher (again).

T. turned to me nearly in tears and said, "Am I over-reacting? Should I just let the teacher do whatever she wants and trust that she knows what she's talking about?"

I told T. that as far as I'm concerned, she is absolutely in the right to stand her ground and not be bullied by the teacher. Turn to the principal again, and if that doesn't work, turn to the school's board of directors. Threaten to pull out your child from the school. Threaten to sue. Threaten to publicize that the school won't take care of children's health. Do whatever it takes.

Because if you are not advocating for your kid, who is?

If you don't advocate for him, what message are you sending? Your child needs to see that you are strong. Rock-solid. Firmly supporting him. So that he gets the message that it's okay to be strong. It's right to hold your ground. And it's wrong to let others pressure us into decisions we're not comfortable with as parents.

Spread the word - to your friends, your family, your peers, and whoever else needs to hear it. Be strong. Be firm. Be a grown-up. Because you are and you should.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Bullying is a common problem among elementary-school children, and bullying between girls is only recently gaining attention.

Rachel Simmons, a classmate of mine (who, incidentally, had bullied me when we were young, and  years later made amends ... well, I guess that's material for a future blog) wrote a fascinating book on the subject, entitled "Odd Girl Out" (see link & image attached). Definitely an important read for any mothers of young girls (or grandmothers, aunts, uncles...).

It starts young, for some in preschool and others by 2nd grade. And a key to overcoming it is teaching our girls about it. Awareness.

My daughter was recently involved in a bullying scheme, which someone suggested I detail in my blog, in order to empower other moms to recognize its sinister subtleties:

I received a phone call from A. She asked if my daughter Moriyah had mentioned anything about her daughter X to me... were they still friends? I said that I hadn't noticed or heard anything to indicate otherwise. She informed me that lately Moriyah had been telling X that she hated her. (!!!) I was dumbfounded and told A. that I'd call her back after asking Moriyah what was going on. I confronted Moriyah, beginning gently and vaguely with, "Are you friends with X? Do you play at recess?" I got all nods that yes, they were friends and yes, they play. Then, I got more direct. "Did you tell her you hate her?" Silence. Tears start. "Moriyah, you can tell me... what's going on? Why did you tell your friend you hate her?" And then she broke out "Because Y said that if I'm friends with X then she won't be friends with me. And I don't know whom to choose." In classic bullying fashion, she inadvertently chose Y over X, by telling X that she hated her.

BAM - it's done. One girl is bullied. Another girl gets the friend (and control) she wanted.

This is how the cycle starts. Or some similar means of pulling friends apart in a tug-of-war over popularity and social dominance.

I took my daughter's face into my hands and told her powerfully and concisely, "Nobody can tell you you can't be friends with somebody. That's mean and we don't allow that." I told her I'd be calling Y's mother both to make sure she knows what's going on and also to show Moriyah by example that when something is amiss, you take action.

I called A. to tell her the story, especially to assure her that Moriyah is still friends with X and the language of "hate" would be gone. Politely, I asked her in the future to please call me sooner if there is a problem, since she mentioned this had been going on for "a while" before she called me.

Then I called Y's mother, who was surprised to hear the story and promised to speak to her daughter.

The end is "happily ever after" (for now): When I asked Moriyah about it, she said that Y told her, "she's going to try to be friends with X." No more tug-of-war.

And then the obvious question: what would I have done, had Y's mother been defensive or passive? I'd simply hype up to my daughter that what Y was doing was WRONG and not nice, so that hopefully she'd feel empowered to stand her ground. Not perfect, but social interactions rarely are. Luckily, I live in a supportive community and send my kid to a private school where I know the parents care and want to be involved in these matters.

When bullying happens, we need to get involved and help set an example for our children. They don't "naturally" know what to do - we need to teach them. When A. called me, she opened the conversation with an apology to bother me about this... but... I corrected her that this was not a bother and that on the contrary, in order to be an effective mom, I NEED to hear what's going on from others. How will I know if nobody calls me? How would Y's mother help her daughter if I don't call her?! Sure, it's possible for a parent to demur, but unless we inform them, we don't allow them the opportunity to do good. And as we all know "all that it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."

Today's bully is tomorrow's victim, and vice versa. Which is why it's important to be involved and teach our children - whether they are the bully or the victim, they need to be shown the way to healthy social dynamics. Rachel Simmons herself was surprised to hear how she'd bullied me as a kid - she was so enmeshed in her own social struggles, she hadn't seen how her behavior was equally hurtful. Hopefully, we're raising the next generation to be more aware and sensitive to others than we were.


Optimism works. It really does. If you CHOOSE to be optimistic, you will see that the world will reward you!

Yesterday, I had a great optimism day.

I forced myself to get dressed early and decided "today is my day!" I looked in the mirror and announced that I weigh 135 lbs (in fact, I am still far-off that mark, but I firmly believe that if I declare it, I will become it...) I later had a miraculous phone call with my sister, received a miraculous email from my mother, and finally found out that an old business arrangement had been changed in my husband's favor and we received extra money into our 401(k).

And by the end of the day, I had lost 2 lbs... coincidence? I think NOT! (I'm not technically on a diet)

Well, suffice it to say, I woke up and declared that today will be another optimistic day. The universe is abundant. I'm tapping in!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


It's 2:30pm and I'm still in my pajamas.

It's a slow-motion day in the world of parenting.

Send me comments about what you think - are slo-mo days a good or bad parenting example?


Monday, February 7, 2011

Must Do

I've chilled out as a mother. Sort of.

What I mean is that my mothering has changed. And I feel more at-ease with myself and my choices.

A big part of that is due to an epiphany of sorts. A breakthrough... from something my husband said (as I mentioned in a prior blog, he really is pretty brilliant :)

Here's what happened:

I was heading into the weekend - I usually ended my Fridays wanting the house to look perfect, have my kids bathed, dressed, and well fed, the laundry done and put away, the kitchen clean and cleared, etc. This particular Friday wasn't going my way. The house was in disarray, the kitchen overflowing with dirty dishes, and my kids were running around the house wreaking havoc. The laundry was half-done, unfolded. The food wasn't nearly cooked, but I was. I was totally fried.

My husband came home from work and saw that I was in quite a state. He turned to me and said sternly, "Let's just focus on what NEEDS to happen. Now." Quickly, I scanned the house - I needed to have food; that was a given. I needed to take a shower, for sure. And the mess? The dishes, laundry, toys, etc...? I decided, in that moment, to just let that all go. Released.

And since then, my parenting altered. Sure, I want to have an organized, clean house. But I forgive myself much quicker than I used to, as I trudge off to bed with the dishes still in the sink, or the laundry in the washer, or the blocks and dolls in a pile on the floor.

Instead, my energies are increasingly focused on my kids - making sure they get the attention they need (well, there's never enough time in the day for that, really, but I'm swayed more in that direction, anyway). And on myself, taking time out for a quick workout or to indulge in a real sit-down lunch (rather than a yogurt-on-the-go). And let's not forget some quality time with my spouse, who, after all, inspired this blog to begin with :)

So the message is this: When you feel like there are more to-do's than will ever get done in your hour, day, or week - let go. Release. Just focus on what you MUST do, and let the rest go. Your world will be much calmer and probably happier.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Music Therapy for Moms

A friend of mine was having a lousy day. I gave her some advice on how to get herself out of her funk. "Throw on some 80's music & dance around the house, while you clean up the mess your kids made."

Music has a funny way of changing our moods.

Many pundits recommend that when you feel you're losing patience, take a break and count to 10, before reacting. I add to that: listen to upbeat music that will put you in a better mood. Clearly, I recommend tunes with a warm-and-friendly message (e.g. "I'm Walkin' on Sunshine"), not angry music (e.g. Violent Femmes) or melancholic dirges (e.g. Mozart's Requiem).

Music Therapy for Moms 101. Keep it Allegro!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

good eating

Childhood obesity is a real problem. Unless you live in a third world country, your child is at risk. Period. Sadly, most parents in America (especially) don't heed warnings and feed small children plenty of foods with extra sugar, preservatives, food colorings, and other toxins for their bodies. Once your child sees that her friend has a lunch consisting of: m&m yogurt, nacho chips, chocolate pudding, and a juice-drink which is mostly sugar, she will quickly be eager to join the ranks of the junkies. So even the parents with the best intentions are facing an uphill battle. Unless you live in a commune with strict healthy-diet requirements, you will likely need to be very dedicated to this cause if you want to keep your child healthy & fit.

Now, I'm not a hard-core organic fanatic (or so I think), but I *am* devoted to teaching my children healthy eating habits. That includes lots of fresh vegetables and fruit in their diet. Lean proteins. Whole grains. Soups & salads. I've already posted a blog about how to introduce more vegetables into their diets, so if you're looking for some practical ideas, visit my blog "Veggie Ideas" from 9/6/10.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

40 Days of Solitude

When I had my first child, my mother-in-law informed me of a tradition in her family: when a baby is born, both mother and child remain home-bound (indeed, they are supposed to stay in their bedroom) for 40 days. According to tradition, the birthing mother has a special spiritual haze around her, and she must be guarded and protected.

I decided to give the tradition a shot. I didn't leave the house (except for doctors visits) for 40 days.

It was transformational.

When a new child enters the family, many changes are involved. Changes of schedule, foods, sharing-spaces, and of course attitudes and perspectives. It's quite easy to get overwhelmed.

By shutting out a big chunk of the world, indeed all of the world beyond your home, you are able to focus on the changes at play and make sure you and baby emerge healthy and the whole family remains strong. If you know there is nowhere you must go and nobody you have to see, then you can just pay attention to the new baby, hold her and feed her and dedicate all of your time and energies to yourself, your family and your baby.

I recommend this hibernation to all mothers - whether you are facing baby #1 or baby #15. It's the healthiest way to facilitate baby's entry into your family and your life.


As I read the controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua (see link), I gleaned some important messages.

In contrast with the hype and criticism the book (and author) received, I found the book uniquely empowering and enlightening.

The story takes the reader on a journey into the sensibilities, challenges, and considerations of a world-class mommy. It begins with her first daughter, who seems, for the most part, to follow her mother's directions and directives. Her second daughter provides most of the drama in the tale, as her headstrong, defiant nature challenges her mother's dreams, goals, and hopes for her future.

As the book progresses, Chua shares some doubts about her Asian-style of parenting, struggling with her commitment to many of its principles. And here, friends, is where I found the book refreshing and inspirational - the Chinese values are clearly worth consideration, and her struggle to maintain them while entrenched in a thoroughly Western environment brings beautiful drama to the picture:

"...I came to see that Chinese parents have two things over their Western counterparts: (1) higher dreams for their children, and (2) higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take." (p. 8)


"In Chinese culture, it just wouldn't occur to children to question, disobey, or talk back to their parents. In American culture, kids... score points with their snappy backtalk and independent streaks." (p. 24)

Where the book begins with her embracing rigid determination ("Asian-ness") as a parent, by the end she shares newfound ("Western"?) wisdom with her daughter, claiming, "See how undefensive and flexible I am? To succeed in this world, you always have to be willing to adapt." (p. 221)

The clincher and the greatest message of this book is: dedication. Chua is clearly supremely dedicated to her children. Whether her methods are quirky, extreme, or questionable, her motives are pure and admirable: to challenge her children to tap into their own greatness and potential - to work hard and reap the benefits of their labor.

Whether Asian or Western in style, Chua challenges her readers to dedicate their time and energies to their children. On reading her book, one cannot help but consider "Am I too weak? Should I be more dedicated to my child's greatness-potential? Am I doing enough to encourage/challenge them to do more, be more?"

These questions, along with the message of dedication, are the real gifts of Chua's work. Set the controversies aside and consider what the book can offer you in your life - you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Common Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding is a challenge. I've heard from many sources that if it's done "correctly" it shouldn't hurt. Well, that's both a true and false.

The truth is this: when the mom and baby are in a healthy groove, it won't hurt. In fact, it will feel good for both, and joyously nurturing. But it can take a few weeks for this "healthy groove" to fall into place. Especially with the first baby, it feels like a long time for mom and baby to learn each other and establish nursing "habits".

And another truth is this: while waiting for your "healthy groove" with your baby, you can be plagued with all sorts of painful setbacks. Some are common and some are unique/rare. Even some lactation consultants may be stumped with certain anatomical challenges - you'd be wise to confer with more than one, if problems persist (like getting a second opinion from a doctor). But as for the common problems, many of us have experienced them, and they can be both physically and emotionally painful. And yet, those who breastfeed for longer than 6 months will tell you that it was worth persisting.

The first challenge in breastfeeding is getting a good latch. For this, lactation consultants are an amazing gift to mothers, old and new alike. I've heard over and over from friends, "if I could just get the latch as good as the consultant did in the hospital, this would be easy..." Alas, most of us exhausted and overwhelmed mothers are lucky if we get a good latch within the first 5 tries. Multiply that by 8-12 nursing sessions per day, and you get a lot of wear-and-tear on our nipples. The best advice is to try different positions, because while you may think one is most comfortable for you, the baby may need a different setup to properly latch and stay on. Experiment and practice. Just like everything else in life, the more you practice, the better you'll get, until it "becomes natural." Like tying your shoe, or riding a bike, you'll find that one day you'll realize that you no longer struggle to figure it out, and you can just enjoy the experience.

And then there are ailments...

Thrush is one common setback: it is a yeast and presents as painful, bright pink spots/blotches on and around the nipple. Sometimes, the nipple turns white/translucent after nursing, as a sign of distress. It is painful especially when baby is latching on, and I've often literally cringed when the baby is crying and ready to nurse. It can also be painful for the baby if it spreads to his mouth, so both mom and baby are at risk of nursing less often than is necessary for baby's healthy growth. There are some over-the-counter herbal remedies, but the doctors often prescribe diflucan for the mother and an oral anti-fungal for the baby. As with most nursing complications, it is important to involve both mother's and baby's doctors, since it affects both. Important note about thrush: if you have antibiotics, which many moms do during/after labor, then it greatly increases risk of yeast-overgrowth (just like a vaginal yeast infection). In order to help prevent this, it's a good idea to eat a lot of yogurt and possibly take additional healthy digestive bacteria in pill form, during/after labor and in the first few weeks of nursing.

Another upsetting possibility is mastitis. This is when a milk-duct gets clogged and infected. It comes on VERY strong and fast, and knocks out the mother with a high fever. It demands immediate and drastic attention. First sign is probably an itchy, red hot-spot on the mother's breast. Massaging that area can help open the clogged duct, but once the fever is on, you'll need/want antibiotics right away. Mastitis can hit at any time, but it is most likely to happen in the first few days or weeks, when the ducts are still figuring out how much milk to produce and often over-produce in the process. Which leads us to...

Engorgement - it hits almost all of us. It can be very painful and often presents problems for the newborn to latch-on... which creates a vicious cycle: baby can't latch on, so mom gives up and offers a bottle, meanwhile producing even MORE milk, so that it's yet again difficult for baby to latch on, etc. The breasts and nipple can feel like boulders, literally hard-as-a-rock. I've heard 2 pieces of advice on this: one is to take a warm shower and massage out milk, and the other is to place raw cabbage on the breast and just leave it there - it magically softens and relaxes the breast (just be careful to cut out a hole for the nipple, so it won't smell/taste like cabbage to the newborn!) For myself, I usually just pump extra milk (deflating the breast) and freeze it for later. I find that after the engorgement has passed, the supply/demand cycle of mom and baby naturally develops more easily.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for both mom and baby, but don't believe anybody who tells you it's easy and painless. The reality is: it's difficult and can be quite painful, especially in the beginning. But with the right coaching from a lactation consultant (not to mention supportive friends), it will become both easy and painless... and incredibly rewarding.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The mandatory 30 minute buffers

One tidbit of practical advice for life with babies and young children: add a 30-minute buffer to your timing estimate for getting things done. For example, if you have a sink full of dishes that would normally take 15 minutes to wash, figure it will take 45. Or, if you need to be somewhere at 10AM, prepare as if you need to be there at 9:30AM. Getting dressed and ready in the morning? Add 1/2 hour of prep time. Going grocery shopping for milk & eggs? Plan to come home with the other 23  items that your 3 year old ABSOLUTELY MUST have, if you are to leave the store in one piece.

This 1/2 hour of buffer is important so that you will be neither constantly late nor constantly frustrated. After all, your child will likely either throw a tantrum, throw toys all over the room, or throw up on your white carpet, while you are diligently preparing for activity X.

If you have more than one child, you will likely need to add a 30 minute buffer for each, and some days that means that you NEVER get dressed or leave the house, because it would literally take all day to do either. It's ok. Just enjoy a pajama party with your kids and be glad life is full of surprises.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


My extraordinarily brilliant husband made a profound discovery.

He sums up the infant/young-child parenting experience, as such: a life of interruptions. From showers to telephone calls, from blogging to eating to watching a football game, there is no such thing as a complete activity without interruption.

As I blog right now, I have one daughter leaning on my right, reading over my shoulder and asking "what are you writing?!" and another daughter asking, "can I watch a (youtube) video now?" My son is about to finish on the toilet and scream for me to take care of his after-needs. And the baby - well, anytime is a good time for him to be held, nursed, or changed - right away!

SO - for those who are starting to think about babies, or about to embark on this most-interesting journey, my advice to you is this: be prepared for interruptions. Lots and lots. The more comfortable you are with constant and sudden interruption, the more sane and calm you will be as a parent.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Newborn Ramblings #1

A close friend and cousin is expecting her first baby and I sent her some thoughts to ponder as she nears her due date. I figured I'd share on my blog, as well :)

Here goes:
-breastfeeding is wonderful AND very challenging in the beginning. with help from a lactation consultant, you can get past most setbacks (there can be many). it also can be boring. keep your phone at your side so you can chat with friends while you nurse or keep your laptop near to watch some online tv. Don't be surprised if nursing is every 45 min. and lasts for 2-3 hours. the beginning is rough, but it'll get easier... trust me.
-Also on breastfeeding: nobody warned me that it brings on intense FATIGUE. Don't be surprised if you suddenly realize you dozed off while feeding, even sitting up!
-life with a baby is a different reality. keep to-do's at a minimum and let your doula take care of you.
-diapers aren't so stinky in the beginning - it can take awhile to get used to the smell of infant poop, so make sure you check often.
-do you know about baby-leg-crunches for gas? make sure your doula does!
-if your baby doesn't take a pacifier, or if one's not handy, you can use your pinky finger. keep it clean :)
-your baby will recognize your scent - don't be surprised if he cries until YOU hold him, and won't go to the doula as planned... it's the mixed blessing of mothering an infant. My baby sometimes screams the whole time I take a shower, because it's somebody else holding him (even in the first weeks!). it's ok. take your shower and just know that it's normal. you'll be amazed how quickly he'll calm down when you take him back into your arms!

Tiger Take-Away

Some of you may have heard - or will begin to hear - about the new book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". There is much debate over the Chinese parenting style of the author.

I haven't read the book (I plan to soon), but I've skimmed a few articles about it.

The best take-away lesson I've found is from the "Psychology Today" website, an article by Nancy Darling. Here's what she concludes:

"Decades of research in the US and elsewhere has shown:
  • Stict, authoritarian parents have kids who excel in school, don't get in trouble, and are depressed
  • Permissive parents have kids who feel good about their bad grades, will smoke a joint  but probably won't use heroin.  In other words, they have moderate self-esteem, lots of friends, poor performance, get in trouble, but not too much.
  • Authoritative parents who are strict, but communicate love, have kids who tend to do well, have good friends, stay out of trouble, and feel good about themselves
  • Abusive, coercive, and intrusive parenting is terrible for kids."
For definitions on the terms, you'd have to read the article - quite interesting and informative. Here's a link:


Thursday, January 20, 2011

If it Aint Broke...

One of the most frustrating pitfalls in parenting is over-fussing. Especially with our first child, we want to make sure everything is perfect - we fuss over their food, their clothes, their diaper creams... We aim to be the perfect parents and do our best to create the perfect systems for them.

But often, the fussing is too much.

Picture this: your (perfect) cranky baby is finally falling asleep, and you notice his foot is stuck inside the crotch of his onesie. Do you: a) ignore the stuck foot and just let him sleep, or b) try to gently dislodge the stuck foot, inadvertently waking up the baby and creating an exhausted-screaming-frenzy?

OR: your (perfect) 4-year-old has dressed herself. She has chosen a beautiful pastel shirt with paisleys to go with an adorable burgundy skirt with white polka-dots. Do you: a) let her go to school as-is, admiring her unique style, or b) gently suggest switching skirt or shirt for something that matches and inadvertently setting her off on a tantrum because her favorite purple shirt is ALWAYS in the laundry and why can't she wear it just because it had some chocolate spilled on the sleeve!?

It's a tough but important lesson to just let the kid be.

I have often tried to "fix" a "problem" and actually made the problem much worse (or morph into a different and bigger problem). It's important to remind yourself that if it aint broke, don't fix it. Leave it alone and take a breather - you probably won't remember this problem/issue/day/year very well, when you look back, anyway.

Breastfeeding for Working Moms

For those of us who are breastfeeding & working moms, it's very important to find the right support systems. See the article below for some important progress to that end, and note the new laws (No more nursing/pumping in the bathroom! I mean, would YOU want to be fed food processed next to a urinal?!). As proven by AOL's example (in the article), the investment pays off in both mom's and baby's health.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Adult Perspective

Based on my previous blog, entitled "Losing It" I have come to the conclusion that from an adult's perspective, children are insane.

I used to resent friends who would make such negative statements. But after giving it a bit of thought, I had a fascinating realization that helped me get through today's tantrums.

See, I realized that when I lost control, as an adult I could recognize later that I simply wasn't thinking straight. Reality had shifted for me, and my mind actually came to bizarre conclusions, like for example "if I yell a bit louder, my kid will listen to me! and if I yell the same thing repeatedly, she'll finally smile and say 'great idea, mommy'!" Clearly, these are not the wisdom of an adult but the unfortunate result of temporary insanity.

Well, if *I* was acting insane when I threw *my* tantrum, then what does this say about my kids??? Let's review the tantrum process:
1. get upset
2. decide to yell, scream, kick, throw
3. continue until exhausted

Clearly, there is some sort of short-circuit happening in our wiring, when we move from step 1 to step 2. A sane person would never make such a silly decision and would clearly realize that behaving that way will achieve ZERO positive results. Here's how it works in our children's minds: children need love, support, and comfort. When they throw a tantrum, they actually believe that by yelling, screaming, etc. their parent will give them MORE love, support, and comfort. Is that crazy?! YES!!!

Which brings me to my original thesis: from an adult perspective, children are insane.

They don't know that throwing a tantrum will achieve the reverse of what they want - instead of offering more support and comfort, we parents respond to the tantrum by likewise sticking to our guns, countering their arguments, and getting swept into step #2 dramas ourselves. Ridiculous!

SO, how is this helpful? If we relate to the tantrum for what it is - temporary insanity - then we can more easily laugh it off. Just another silly aspect of humanity.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Losing It

Yesterday I lost it.

The baby was crying in my ear for 2 hours straight - poor thing had a fever and wanted to nurse. My 2 and 4 year olds were in the bath and my 6 year old was having a tantrum. And I lost it. Without going into detail, I acted like a child myself and behaved in a way that I'd never recommend or consider "good parenting".

So today, in efforts to move on, I called my friend for some support.

She gave me what I needed. She advised me to be more empathetic to my 6 year old's tantrums, to give myself more slack, and to recognize my triggers.

And she made me laugh. She said "Listen, nobody wants to lose it. No sane person says to himself 'Hey, I'm going to lose it now, I think that's an effective way to overcome my obstacles'." And yet, in the moment, we ARE insane - we actually think that losing-it will get our needs met! Is that crazy or what?

Most important, she reminded me that in a busy household, everybody loses-it sometimes. We all have our moments. And she went so far as to say that it would be a disservice to our kids if they never saw us make our shameful human errors. They need to know that's normal and learn to forgive and move past. It's an incredibly important skill and will help in their emotional development.

SO - let's take a moment to appreciate our friends. And another moment to give our kids an extra hug and forgive them and ourselves for behaving like 2 year olds (unless, of course, your kid really IS 2 years old, in which case just celebrate that you've both made it this far!)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


This blog is from a friend with fantastic advice for all of us, on the wonders of visiting a chiropractor:

"Our baby was colicky and had reflux, and after working on him for a couple of weeks, his reflux was gone and he became much more laid back, slept better, etc. She's helping me with my lower back and pelvis (trying to keep the baby making machine in tip top shape), and helping keep the kids and my husband healthy. My 2 year old has had a runny nose from the day he was born, and he has actually gone for 4 weeks straight with no constant nose wiping. I wish I had tried this earlier (especially with my older kids who were both colicky), and I'm just trying to spread the information to friends, especially moms."

Thanks for the tip!!! Anybody else with ideas/advice, please send me a comment and I'll be happy to post either as a comment/reply or as an upcoming blog!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thinking of Having Kids?

This was posted on Facebook and was too funny to pass up - although I don't have much time to blog, copy/pasting is a quick way to share the wealth!

Thinking of Having Kids? Do this 11 step program first!

by Brenna Gray Foster on Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 11:14am
Lesson 1

1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the paper.
5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2

Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.
Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3

A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)

Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.

Lesson 4

Can you stand the mess children make? T o find out...
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5

Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.

Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6

Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7

Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8

1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.

You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.

Lesson 9

Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10

Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!