Archive for Parenting

The #1 Thing You Can Do to Keep Your Kids Safe

car seat safety

We all want to keep our kids safe.

I spend an irrational amount of time researching safe sunscreens, choosing stainless steel or glass containers for their food, and selecting organic foods whenever possible.

The most important and completely rational safety measure I take for my kids by far, however, is buying, installing, and correctly using the right child safety car seat.

Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children age 1 to 13 in the USA? And that consistent use of the correct child safety seat in the car could cut fatalities by about half?

Are you sure that your child is in the correct seat? Sure enough to be his life on it?

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Welcome, Cyrus Xavier!

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Cyrus Xavier joined us on 11/14 at 2:20 pm, weighing 9 lbs, 11 oz.

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By the time we got to the hospital, we were already very close. I’m not one to go into too much detail…but did you know an epidural can stop working just as the baby is ready to be born? Yup.

Other than that, it was a fairly routine birth. We were out of the hospital about 24 hours later. He did have a tongue tie, which made latching tough. However, we had it snipped and the nursing is going more smoothly now.

He regained his birth weight and then some within a week and everyone is healing well.

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His siblings are so happy to meet him and proudly show off their baby to everyone we meet.

Fathers: If you are worried about breastfeeding… keep it to yourselves.

I have an app from a popular maternity service on my phone…primarily because the kids want to know what fruit is of a comparable size to their unborn brother and because people always ask me how far along I am and being on my fourth, I just can’t remember. I save my brain cells for remember things like when to pick the three kids up from activities, their birthdays, names…okay, so I have been known to call the boys by each others’ names. But I digress…

The app also issues a newsletter. Half the time I don’t open it but the subject line, “Breastfeeding Versus Bottle Feeding,” caught my attention. The “article” contained this little gem: Read more

Do You Tip Camp Counselors?

Tipping Counselors

A question about tipping counselors created quite a stir on my personal Facebook page.

Tips and teacher gifts always seem to be a subject of great confusion for parents. I know some parents who tip everyone (counselors, private after-school teachers/coaches, bus drivers) and give a big teacher gift and others who do none and others who fall somewhere in between.

I lean towards tipping, especially teenagers who are working with my kids, because I was a young counselor once. I never expected a tip, nor would I ever treat a child differently based on this, but it sure was a nice way for a parent to say thank you.

The reason I was even asking was because my kids had only attended 6 days at that camp. If they had been there for 4 weeks, it would not have even been a question for me.

And then several of my friends, a few with experience as counselors themselves, and the former camp director for whom I worked as a teen chimed in and the conversation got quite heated! Read more

Compliments instead of Insults (Parenting Tip)

I stumbled upon a new technique to use when my older two kids fight. I was somewhat inspired by this hilarious photo:

Our Get Along Shirt

My first thought was, “at least I will be laughing so hard that I won’t yell.” My second thought was, “that will never work with my kids…they’ll just keep fighting like a giant shirt cage match until they tear the thing apart.”

Musing on the idea of enforcing physical closeness on fighting kids, I realized that the issue is more emotional than physical. Usually there is a barrage of misunderstandings and insults, then the yelling, before anything escalates to a physical conflict.

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Done Trying to be a Perfect Mom

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My husband is in the military, currently the National Guard. He’s gone one weekend a month, two weeks a year (at least in theory… because sometimes he’s gone a lot more and he occasionally travels for his full time job). He was recently two weeks and I swear he took half my brain with him.

It has been busy, crazy busy. In addition to finishing up one of the biggest projects I have ever worked on, an art history textbook for a program in California, we have had all of the end-of-the-year carnivals, field days, parties, preschool graduations, piano recitals, and gymnastics expos.

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Oh, and we also had our Daisy troop bridging to Brownies at my house. This was supposed to happen on my deck but it was the one rainy day all month. So, we set-up in the basement.

Did I mention I am also over 5 months pregnant with baby #4?

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Maybe it was because I was feeling like such a super mom after shuttling all the kids to all their various events, generally staying on top of the housework without my husband there, and throwing a magical Brownie Bridging that I overreached.

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I’m NOT the Weirdo

Today I went shopping for maternity clothing…a painful experience, at best, and one I thankfully mostly avoid by reusing from the previous pregnancies and buying online. This time, though, I needed a new pair of jeans.

Of course, the affordable clothes are ugly and made of cheap material, that goes without saying. And, for some reason, you either have to be an XS or an XL to buy maternity clothing. And the medium size jeans are so long…I guess if you are a size 8 you are supposed to be 5’8″.

Now, a warning, this is a breastfeeding-related rant. That’s pretty much what I use this spot for at this point–talking about breastfeeding and blogging–since I have other sites for talking about volunteering, parenting products, education, and military family issues.

I want to make clear that isn’t about the existence of formula or about moms who formula feed. It is only about the marketing of formula.

Back to the story. I’m checking out and they ask my address. I was immediately wary but they reminded me it was for something out of stock I asked to have shipped. I explained that I didn’t want any additional mailings or coupons.

Then, they asked me my due date. I tell them that I’d rather not share that information. They pressed the issue, just a month, an approximate. I asked why they needed that. “For coupons!” they responded.

But I just said I don’t want any coupons.

“Why not?”

I told them that I don’t think it is the business of any company when my baby is due and that I don’t need formula coupons or samples–I always end up trying to figure out where to donate things and then when I don’t figure it out before the samples expire, I feel guilty.

“But they’ll send you diapers! Why wouldn’t you want it? There are $400 worth of coupons in there! You can save $400!”

At this point I was tempted to tell them I cloth diaper but I don’t lie, even if it could be fun sometimes. So, I just responded that I use the chlorine-free types and they aren’t sending $400 worth of diaper discounts and freebies anyway.

“No it is for stuff like…” at this point she indicates a poster that has Enfamil or Similac on there, can’t remember which one.

But that’s exactly what I don’t want! Every time I am pregnant, I get a bunch of coupons and it is all landfill and waste. I swear you get a mailing the day after you find out you’re pregnant. How do they know? It is freaky.

“Your doctor probably signs you up anyway.”

I told them I don’t go to a doctor.

By this point, they clearly think I’m a freak.

And this is what bothers me about the marketing in this country. Lives may not be at risk they way they are in other countries but it is so pervasive and invasive and persistent that anyone who wants to opt out of the formula marketing is pestered until they feel like they are weird…weird for feeding their babies the way mothers have fed their babies since the dawn of humanity.

I’m a third time mom so I just merely feel annoyed–but I suspect the effect is more insidious for all the first time moms.

I run a small business and people have to double-opt-in before I contact them yet giant formula companies are able to grab my name and address without my permission and send me junkmail just because I went shopping for some clothes.

Of course, if you opted-in, that means you are already considering or have decided on formula feeding. They’re not interested in you, especially once you’ve decided on your brand. They’ll reach you through your pediatrician or wherever else you go for “unbiased” advice about feeding your baby.

The formula companies are interested in the moms who want to breastfeed because that’s where there is the biggest potential for the growth of their market share.

You Never Know Just How You Look Through Someone Else’s Eyes

A friend’s husband urged her to stop following me on facebook because my daily activities with my kids made her feel bad. Another mom messaged me asking how I do so much.

I’m not interested in telling you what a bad mother I am. I’m not. But neither are you. And I’m torn up inside thinking that my decisions and choices might make any mom I know feel bad about hers.

I once told my friend that I thought about renaming my personal blog Mama Good Enough and she laughed at the idea.

But really, there are many, many areas I just let go. I don’t keep a good house and I can’t stand laundry or ironing. I don’t grow an organic vegetable patch or make my own baby food (back when my kids ate baby food). I don’t always make optimal green choices.

And I don’t update you every time I lose my temper at my spirited four year old because I forgot for a moment that I am the adult and she is just a child. I may tell you about my impish son and how he just won’t stay in his seat during meals, preferring to leap from lap to lap…but I don’t give the running daily commentary about my failure to find a discipline technique to consistently solve this challenge.

Before I had kids, I was heading to a volunteer event with a friend and told her I needed to run into the supermarket to grab some orange juice I had left at home. “Good to know you aren’t perfect!” she exclaimed. “You are always too organized!”

Me? Organized? A well-crafted illusion, I assure you. And by “well-crafted” I mean shoving everything in a box and hiding it right before guests come over. Don’t stop by my house unannounced or look in my closets if you want to maintain that notion.

The truth is that every day is a marathon of ups and downs and everything in between. Because that is real life. And the zeniths and nadirs make for good reading. But the in between? That’s just life.

What Simple Things Make You a Better Parent?

I’m sipping tea right now and thinking about how better I parent when I take just five minutes for myself in the morning. I haven’t always done even that–“me time” falls by the wayside if you have newborns or you do not have family support (either temporarily or long-term). Still, it really does make a difference in how patient and present I am throughout the rest of the day.

Currently I am drinking a mix called “Spring Thunder” from a local tea cottage: Assam and China Green Teas, coconut, and lime and sunflower petals.

In a few minutes I will start slicing fruit to take the kids to a play date. But for just a moment, I am recharging my own batteries.

What’s your cup of tea?

Bad Attitudes About Breastfeeding Hurt Babies

Even when breastfeeding is not tough, it is difficult in the United States. That’s why I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for my lactivist friends.

Today, I had the opportunity to chat with two other nursing mothers. One was also on her second child and the other was on her third. I was saddened to hear both say that they planned on stopping much earlier with their current baby than they did with their previous child.

Both said that it was not due to mastitis or supply problems. Both mothers believed the choice they were making to breastfeed was the right one for their families.

However both felt that breastfeeding in public makes other people uncomfortable. For this reason, they felt they had to breastfeed before leaving the house and had to be back home within two hours. They were, understandably, tired of “planning their lives around breastfeeding”.

With the first baby, they were willing to put up with this personal inconvenience so they could both fulfill the needs of the baby while not offending others around them. However, now that they each had older children, it was increasingly difficult to schedule their day around a baby’s feedings and still meet the needs of their other children.

How sad. A mother who wants to breastfeed her child and is successful in doing so will stop before she or the baby is ready to stop because other people give dirty looks or say nasty things. Because as women we have been socialized to feel the greater fault is to make another uncomfortable, especially if that other is an older male, even one we do not know.

When I engage with people online about this issue, I often hear from opponents of breastfeeding in public that they are not opposed to breastfeeding–they just want mothers to go somewhere else to do it, to respect the feelings of others. This sounds rational (perhaps to others, not to me) until you realize they are asking mothers to place a stranger’s discomfort over a normal, everyday, social activity (to feed your baby when and where he is hungry) over a baby’s right to eat. And it may sound reasonable (again, to others) until you realize the chilling effect it has on breastfeeding rates.

I am all for a society where we are respectful of others. I’ll turn down my music, teach my kids to say “excuse me” if they burp, and hold doors open for people carrying packages–but don’t ask a mother to go somewhere else to feed a hungry child.