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!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nursing Reverie

Breastfeeding can mean a lot of different things to different women. Some women do it for their children's health. Others do it as a form of bonding. Some find it cozy and loving, while others find it a painfully-taxing duty as a mother. Whatever your reason, there are some hidden benefits that moms should consider.

First stage benefit: TV or reading time. At the first stage when baby is a newborn, s/he will breastfeed a LOT. You will be nursing often and for long periods of time each feeding. You will be tired and weak, not really up for much of anything to do. Luckily, this is the perfect stage and time to ... catch up on your favorite episodes! Dive into a trashy novel! If you plan out a nice cozy spot to snuggle with your baby (and perhaps with your spouse's help getting all the electronics or props arranged at your fingertips), you can enjoy your tablet, book, or online shows while also being productive and taking care of your new baby - a nice win-win!

Second stage benefit: Me time, all to yourself! At some point your baby will start to be distracted if you do any other activity (watch tv, read a book, talk on the phone) while breastfeeding. This often coincides with the stage when people are no longer concerned with helping you out as a new-baby momma, and you are feeling particularly drained and exhausted. Nursing at this stage can be your opportunity to relax, let go of your "to do"s, and shut out the world.

Third stage benefit: Meditation! Once nursing has become second-nature and baby is more active, especially after having introduced other foods, breastfeeding becomes a time to let your mind flow with ideas and daydreams. No matter what your style: whether you are a "get stuff done" mom or a hippie-philosopher, this stage is great for taking time out to clear your mind and/or observe your thoughts. Now that you are running around after your child more, here is a great opportunity to slow down and refresh yourself. You may use this time to envision tomorrow's meeting, an upcoming birthday party or compose (in your mind) your next mommying blog :) No matter what your thoughts may be, many psychologists and religious leaders alike encourage meditation, and like-it-or-not, this is a time when you probably do just that: meditate.

I never thought of myself as a meditator, and yet after almost 9 years of breastfeeding, I suddenly realized that I do indeed mediate on a regular basis - while breastfeeding. Nursing can be your time-out from all the other mommy to-dos and messy-life demands. It can be your opportunity to check back into your deepest thoughts, dreams, and wishes. It can carve out time to shut off your mind while you watch tv, or just the opposite: allow you to really tap into your creative juices and most passionate self-discoveries.

So no matter your reason for breastfeeding, consider these benefits in addition to the ones you may already espouse - they make your nursing time more meaningful for you and your baby.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Clarifying Grief

After hearing a few responses from my post "Permission to Grieve," I'm adding more definition and clarity to the idea in this post... and perhaps I'll even add more, as needed...

First, note the term "grief." According to psychological accounts and studies, the parent of a child with a life-threatening illness is mourning a loss. To many, this may sound odd - we commonly mourn a loss only after a person's death. But consider: when we are mourning a person's passing, we are actually mourning the loss of life as we had expected it. When an elderly parent dies, his child will mourn the loss of future opportunities together. In other words, we are not actually mourning the death. We are mourning that our future will not be as we had hoped/planned. Likewise, a child whose life is threatened is no longer going to enjoy the future we had planned for him/her. Our lifestyle is dramatically changed, and we are mourning those dreams and hopes that will possibly/probably never come. We mourn our loss of innocence, and we face the daily/hourly painful and persistent thought of "how long will s/he be able to do this with me?" along with a sense of loss that we cannot protect our little one from the severe pain and suffering s/he must endure. We are grieved. We are in mourning.

In considering how to best illustrate what Permission to Grieve means, I find it helpful to quote our friend Alan Gong who eloquently expressed in his own recent post on his daughter Janie's CaringBridge site. Reading below should help clarify:

"Don't bring me flowers to my funeral, bring me soup when I'm sick."
- Jalen Rose

This journey has been a lesson in honesty for me. The painful process of learning to be honest with myself and honest with others, something I've been conditioned not to do at great cost to myself and those around me. But suffering has a way of bringing the humility needed for that kind of honesty. 

It's been challenging to be honest about what we've needed and how to ask for that help.  What we need is real community[...] We don't need inspirational Bible verses, attempts to reason why this is happening, or suggestions on how to treat[...] We need people willing to help carry the weight of this burden. People who will welcome us into their lives as opposed to just stepping out of it to check in on us once in awhile. We need people willing to hurt with us, not feel bad for us. We need compassion, not pity.

There is nothing anyone can do or say that will make anything about this situation better. Nothing will make the load any lighter. But when others get underneath with us and help bear some of it, the load starts to become easier to bear. Just showing up is enough sometimes. I believe this is what God intended for community and relationships. 

I don't know how universal these feelings are, but in conversations with others dealing with suffering like ours, it appears to be common. Suffering is a lonely feeling. I feel no one understands nor would they want to get close enough to the pain to be affected. That because this is such a long and uncertain journey, nobody could endure it with us for want to go back to their own lives. Our culture tells us to seek pleasantness and security and comfort. It's counter culture to accept suffering. So why would someone willingly suffer our pain with us?

This is not meant to cast blame or guilt. We're very thankful for everyone who has reached out to us over the past year. I believe your hearts intent was and is to truly help us and just by letting us know we're not forgotten, you have. We also just weren't capable of asking for the help we needed. But we're working on vulnerability and this is part of that. 

As expressed above - Permission to Grieve is about honesty and pain. It's about willingness to acknowledge life as a struggle and not shying away from the tears. 

It occurred to me that Cult-of-Optimism embraces the classic "glass is half full" paradigm. What is overlooked is that to every half-full, there is by definition a half-empty! For some reason, our society refuses to talk about the half-empty - refuses to acknowledge that half-empty as a reality. 

Think about it.

As always, welcoming your comments and replies.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Permission to Grieve

Ok folks, I’m getting personal.

Most of the posts on this blog are general mommying messages. Some are funny and light. Most are universal. This one gets more personal – and yet through the personal, I think it will resonate more generally.

We live in a Cult of Optimism – in our culture, people are peppy and youthful and vibrant. We whiten our teeth and color our hair. We put on flashy clothes and walk into interviews with a “can-do” attitude. All of this is fine… to a point.

At some point as a parent, we feel weak and frail. At some point, we face tough decisions and times of failure. At some point, we cannot maintain our “happy and fine” attitude. At these times, the Cult of Optimism works against us. Because at these times, we are not optimistic. We are not able to maintain our membership in the Cult.

Our family has now spent the past year and a half facing an aggressive tumor. Our path is uncertain and our troubles are many. Throughout the ordeal, some people have been incredibly supportive of our need to be melancholy, nervous, or frustrated. Others have drifted away, presumably not comfortable with how to interact with a parent feeling ongoing grief and sadness.

Having left the Cult of Optimism – temporarily or permanently - we sometimes feel alone.  Because those in the Cult of Optimism will ask us “how are you?” but frown if our answer is anything but “fine.” They will not allow us to be sad. They feel uncomfortable with our grief.

This post is an act. A statement. An invitation to a new twist in parenting: Permission to Grieve. We allow ourselves to be sad and overwhelmed. We relinquish our control and desire to “fix” each other’s dilemmas and instead hold each other’s hands and support each other during our times of weakness. We share, and we cry together. We acknowledge that we have little control in our world, little control over our children. We sympathize that parenting is not always joyful, not always fun, and sometimes downright unfulfilling. And that’s okay. We can be disappointed and grieve together.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Perfect Vacation

The perfect vacation, like so many phrases in the parenting how-to manual, is an oxymoron. Vacations seem to be imperfect by design. We plan a vacation to "relax" or "have fun" - but usually the fun and relaxation ends well-before the vacation even begins. We left our wallet in the cab. We forgot the baby's antibiotics in the fridge. We didn't take out enough cash. We got stuck in traffic. We lost a sandal at the rest-stop. We can't find binkie when we finally arrived...

In order to detox ourselves from the idea that the vacation should be fun or relaxing, we need to properly re-align ourselves with what the vacation is really about. Before children, vacation was about me/us and an activity. After children, we redefine vacation as: a special time to grow with your child.

As with all growth, vacations, by design, can be painful processes. Many of us feel they are necessary-evils as a parent. We want our child to grow - to experience new and exciting activities. And tossing them into these activities can be painful for us, for our children, or both. Yet, we learn from them. We learn about our kids and their thresholds for exhaustion, tumult, or hunger. We learn how they interact with new and exciting events - how they process the stimuli and make sense of their new surroundings.  Suddenly we realize that they hate slimy water. Or that they love building in the sand. Or that our cousin's obsession with baseball can be a healthy inspiration. And we learn about ourselves in the process: how much stress can we take? How many activities can we handle? What correct and incorrect assumptions have we made about ourselves and our kids?

Growth is also exciting and undefined - it will happen when least-expected. We may think that experiencing the beach and waves is what we came for, when, in fact, staying up late and playing games with Granny turns into the favorite memory. We may want to rush to get to the museums, when our child is fascinated by the ticket-machine at the train station. We may think it's time to head to the restaurant, when baby gets a fever and Auntie treats her to ice cream.

By the time we go on our first vacations, most of us have already begun to learn that we cannot control our children as much as we'd have liked. Perfect vacations are the perfect opportunities for us to witness our child's growth by providing a new platform for them to jump off (sometimes literally?!) They won't be relaxing. And probably mostly not-fun. But the memories will be cherished nonetheless.

Monday, July 8, 2013

5 Signs You're a New Mom

There are 5 signs that you are a new mother. Test yourself with the checklist below:

1. You are tireddrained. Whether you labored for 48 hours or you spent 5 weeks in Bucharest picking up your adopted child, you are exhausted. You haven't slept from excitement, fear, and physical strain involved in knowing your baby is about to be held in your arms for the first time. You have circles under your eyes and kind of regret that your first photos with your baby will be kept for posterity with you looking less-than-refreshed. Some of you do your best to hide it with makeup. Others claim to "embrace our natural essence as a new mother". But all of you wish somehow this could be done with a lot more sleep and a lot less strain. (Many will question "how am I supposed to be the key role model for my child by starting out at my worst?!" This is one of the first indications that you are a new parent!)

2. You are exhilaratedrelieved. You probably felt heavy and uncomfortable at the end of your pregnancy, and perhaps you've waited for years to finally get to this point. The excitement seems unending and keeps you in a vicious cycle vis a vis sign #1 (above). Your are overjoyed - beyond words - that you are holding your baby. You inspect him. You stare as he sleeps. You feel obsessed with this little new angel. And you sigh as you hold her, in awe. You plan her future, you plan your own. You consider yourself blessed, lucky, almost too-good-to-be-true. In fact: doesn't it feel surreal? "Is this baby really mine?!"

3. You are sadconfused. Part of moving on to the next stage in your life - the "parenthood" stage - involves saying goodbye to a lot of what you know and love. You are never alone in the way that you were accustomed to being - for better and for worse. You have lost most of your personal space, time to yourself, and now every decision needs to be double-checked with "how will it affect the baby". You may feel a loss of identity as it relates to your public persona (e.g. "career woman"). Or you may sense a strain on the formerly one-on-one intimate relationship you had with your partner. Moving from one stage in life to another always involves a sense of grief and longing for the "days of yore". (Note: it's ok to feel some grief, but if you find yourself alarmingly compromised by these thoughts, you may need to read up on postpartum depression)

4. You are overwhelmedfrustrated. Life as a new mother is suddenly and infinitely more complicated - in a way that you could never fathom before, and that you never "got" about your parent-friends before. You may be chronically late or obsessive about cleanliness/germs. You have lost a sense of balance and newly question what is "truly" important today, tomorrow, or ever. You are frustrated that you cannot focus, cannot get things done, and are more easily distracted by the NOW NOW NOW of your baby and his needs. You have mommy-brain = welcome to the club!

5. You are full. Life never felt so busy. Or complete. Or wonderful. Or insane. You are maxed to capacity - your cup runneth over and beyond! There is no moment when you aren't juggling multiple things or thoughts at the same time. It's both fulfilling and exhausting.

...Well? Are you a new mother, or what?!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Get Creative!

One of the perks in being a parent is that we can tap into our own inner child - fascination with new and exciting things, being silly and creative, and enjoying the colorful, whimsical world we live in.

Another perk is that our kids keep us on our toes and challenge us to think one-step-ahead.

In response, we strive to find creative, interesting ways to inspire our children and promote good behavior.

Our family balances 5 young children, and every so often we have to renew our "rewards system" to keep them intrigued.

Our most recent was worth sharing: personalized award-tickets to each child for teamwork, chores well-done, kindness, and other good behavior... tickets are later redeemed for prizes - yes, they are perforated to tear - just like a "real" carnival ticket!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Because I Said So

Many parents of our generation (and younger) have a difficult time disciplining their children. This is mainly because we view discipline as something negative, a necessary-evil, if you will. Few parents (if any?) relish the idea of disciplining, and those who do... well, maybe we gotta wonder why.

At a recent parenting seminar led by a seasoned therapist, the audience was encouraged to consider discipline opportunities as gifts. They were invited to change their perceptions on discipline, and as such, their abilities to be leaders as parents. The therapist challenged the participants to pause when facing a moment ripe for discipline and treat that moment as a blessing.

See, according to the therapist, when we discipline firmly, we re-state and refresh our commitment to helping shape our children into productive, honest, resilient individuals.

By considering the best way to discipline, and embracing both the power of "no" (see previous post on the book Power of a Positive No) and our responsibility as the parent to use the term wisely, we can teach our children self-restraint and help them build inner-strength to move past obstacles. These traits are key to becoming thriving adults. With the right discipline under their belts, the well-disciplined child will become a resilient and accomplished adult who faces adversity with confidence.

The implication here is that we need to be clear with our intentions and actions: if our child should be disciplined, should hear the word "NO" and should be listening to and respecting adults, then why do we refrain from providing firm and committed discipline? Are we lazy as parents? Are we fearful of our children, when they should fear *us*? Are we too selfish to bother putting our children's needs before our own?

Being a parent is: Hard. Work. No. Doubt.

But we owe it to our children to be resilient leaders. Perhaps if we step up to the plate, they will learn by example.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Predictability out the Window

A new mother sits in her hospital bed and tries to nurse her baby.

Is the baby latching? Is she drinking? The mother isn't sure. The lactation consultant arrives and says "she looks good" and leaves. For the night.

In the middle of the night, the baby cries, nurses and falls asleep. And again cries, nurses and falls asleep. The cycle repeats itself sometimes every hour, sometimes more. The mother asks "how will I know if she's getting enough milk? How will I know when she is done nursing?"

The answer, as many seasoned mothers know, is that you don't. You won't.

And this line of questioning - this sense of not knowing - is the true sign of becoming a parent. As our children grow, we face myriad questions and concerns not knowing. From "when will he be potty trained?" to "why is she hanging out with the wrong crowd?" we lose our sense of life-predictability.

Some mothers are dubbed "worriers" for this reason - they cannot stop the barrage of what-ifs in their minds. Others somehow learn to release control and just go-with-the-flow. And most of us are somewhere in the middle.

But no matter what, we all struggle with this concern for when, how, and what will happen with/to our children. Welcome to parenthood!