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Dear 28 year old Mommy (aka the me I used to be),

Dear 28 year old New Mother (otherwise known as ME),

There are some important things you need to know. Things that I need to tell you not only to make your days a little easier, but more importantly so that you can stop being so hard on yourself.

First of all, you have 2 girls (drama for the mama assumed in this case) that are 21 months apart. Forget the clean house and burn those to-do lists. They will only leaving you with the dread of disappointment when in fact, you are accomplishing HUGE things – you are raising two future women, mothers, friends, daughters, healers, helpers, listeners…two future warriors. Here’s your new to-do list: If everyone is safe, fed, relatively clean, and happy for at least part of the day – you are WINNING!

Feel the stress of “keeping up” creeping up next to you? Give it the face palm, sista. Your babies don’t need more toys, classes, or lessons. They need more you. On the floor..hugging, singing, and sometimes even just napping next to them! Tune out most of that exterior noise and listen to the coos and giggles next to you, for they will soon turn into nonsensical whining and bickering about trivial topics like…WHY.DON’T. I.HAVE .ANY .SHOES. TO. WEAR? (while looking at a closet full of shoes). Coos and giggles are magic friend.   P.S. The one thing you should buy and play more with.. is BLOCKS. Here’s why (remember your struggle with Physics?)

Some things you are going to be good at. Others you are not. This mothering thing is not unlike your experiences in gym class years ago (sports that involve just you – you fare decently. Throw a ball in the mix…well, at least you tried). Just like you did with softball, try harder every day, but find peace accepting both your strengths and weaknesses. Do you expect your daughters to be wonderful and simply amazing at everything they ever try? I thought so. Give yourself the same consideration.  You deserve it.

On that note, I’ll give you a sneak preview – you are totally gonna rock breast feeding, potty training, and ignoring things in favor of play and naps (see above). Sleep on the other hand – like I said, we all have our gifts. Stop comparing yourself. Yes, your dearest friend is like a sleep fairy that magically kisses her awake (no joke) baby and places her in that gorgeous basinette to fall into hours of glorious slumber. Yes, you will nurse, rock, rock while walking, rock while placing down, rock the crib, and keep rocking yourself while you walk out of the nursery door every night, only to have those babies scream out for you when you hit the door. Yes, you will read (or will ask your sweet husband to read) many books on sleep, you’ll make feable attempts to Ferberize your sweet girls, you’ll talk to the pediatrician about your noble efforts with no success, and you will lie for 20 minutes that feel like an 20 hours with a pillow over your head trying to not cry and lactate at the same time. In the end, you will cuddle that precious gift next to you – exhausted, guilt ridden but relieved at the same time, and you will only sleep with one eye open anyway for fear you will suffocate her. You are weak, but it’s ok (potty training will come soon and it will be REDEMPTION time). Keep trying, but accept who you are!

Going to a friends house for a playdate? Bring a blindfold – just in case! If you see site words labeling the toy room – put it on! Take a deep breath and remind yourself what you know – what you studied & believe. Small children should not be forced into learning to read too early. The brain is not actually ready until 6 YEARS OLD – you have time, dear girl. Read books every day, label vegetables in the grocery store and sing about them while people look at you like a lunatic, dig in the dirt, jump in the rain puddles, don’t forget the blocks, but don’t worry about that baby reading yet.  Your friends know this too – they just see other play rooms, with other site words, and they worry too. ** Spoiler alert – one day not too long from now, your soon to be 5 year old will teach your soon to be 3 year old how to read while playing (gasp) school, all the while –  you will be doing work in the next room (feeling guilty for not being the female version of Mr. Rogers while your children suffer alone). When people become shocked that the 3 year old can read, you’ll swear up and down you had absolutely nothing to do with it and they wont believe you – until, the 3 year old tells the nice people that Mommy was busy and that her sister taught her everything she knows (breathe – embrace the weakness and the strength (siblings are the best gift to each other, and you always wanted a sister yourself).

Things happen because you and your lovely little family need them to. Stop feeling cheated out of a natural childbirth. Listen to that doctor when she says that if you had a baby with your large headed husband in the olden days, both you and your baby wouldn’t be here. Some things are meant to be – your C-section was one of those things. You are allowed to always be mad that they made you wait so long to hold pink bundle #1, but you redeemed yourself and got assertive 21 months later with even pinker bundle #2. Look for the silver lining. Always. One day, you will be one of few thirty some year old mothers, who can jump rope and sneeze safely.

Another thing, those ladies all around you. Your Mommy Posse. They are a GIFT from above. You are already realizing this one. Cherish them and their babies. They are your lifelong family. Others come and go, but those that brought you magical ice packs for mastitis, walked miles with you and your ridiculously heavy stroller,  rescued #1 when #2 screamed 22 out of 24 hours a day with undiagnosed acid reflux, and listened while you heard yourself think out loud about how you were going to make all these important child rearing decisions…those chicks – they are FOREVER YOURS.

You might lose some of that baby weight. You might not. But one day you will think back and belly laugh about the time you set up the Pack-n-Play next to the treadmill, carefully placing the puffs container in the cup holder so you could haphazerdly spill the puffs into/on top of the children to keep them happy for…just…twenty…minutes of heavenly exercise. You will give up the dream of a two piece bathing suit and embrace the reality of health, strength, and a positive example of self image  for your daughters. And that will be way sexier to your husband anyway.

Speaking of him. He’s a gem. Remember that. You are going to go to dinner one day soon when your generous mothers insist you have a date night. You will stare at each other – exhausted – and not know what to say to each other. This will FREAK YOU OUT and you will wonder what happened to “you.” Keep trying. “You” are still there. “You” always will be. Give it 18 months, a good shower, and a few nights in a row of decent sleep. It does wonders. Don’t worry. “You” still got it babe.

Some things will change. Like most things in life, while you will still have some insecurities, but you will get confident with practice. Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to not sweep your floor. Don’t be afraid that you always seem to have baby puke on you. You do. But it’s ok. No one cares.

A few years down the road, your 9 year old (excuse me, HOW did this happen?) will stumble in to your room at 1:00 am sleep walking with a zombie look in her eyes and mumbling about her state mandated standardized testing (another blog – another day) and you will feel guilty because you failed the whole sleep thing – and well, now there’s this. You will look at her face, and her sister’s —  once they are soundly and peaceful (even if briefly) asleep and you will still wonder why YOU were trusted with these incredible human beings.

And you will take a deep, confident breath, and go to sleep, waking to be a more confident and more rested version of the self you are today. And you will be satisfied with trying your best and spending less time worrying and more time saying “Thank you.”

Love,

Your soon to be 36 year old self

P.S. Remember that friend with the angelic sleeper? One day you guys will put your crazy heads together and dream about the resource you wish you had when you became Moms…the thing that tells you that YOU are all your baby needs (with some mud, blocks, and pots & pans). And you will work. And sweat, And cry. And pray. And talk – alot. And one day – you will make THIS. And she will write all the parts about SLEEPING. And you will write all the parts about POTTY TRAING. And your 36 year old self will find peace with her parenting skills with sleep – because, there is always a silver lining.  ALWAYS. And that child who would NEVER nap on a schedule, can now sleep ANYWHERE at ANY TIME. YOU ARE WINNING MY FRIEND! KEEP IT UP!

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INCLUDING THE TRUNK OF YOUR SUV AT AN OUTDOOR TAILGATE WHEN YOUR ALMA MATER IS IN THE THICK OF A SUPER CLOSE FOOTBALL GAME!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Every Toddler’s a Genius!

 

It’s like magic…all of a sudden something clicks inside their little minds and they are the smartest baby you know!  Almost overnight these adorable, chubby cheeked, gap-toothed angels are able to demonstrate they understand what you are saying by following a simple direction, answering a yes/no question or imitating your gestures.  They show you they understand associations and daily happenings by going to the bathroom when you say they need a bath or going to the back door when you say it’s time for daddy (or mommy) to get home from work.  And every (proud) parent begins to wonder if they are raising a toddler genius!

My third child is 15 months old and the other day I caught myself bragging to Nicole about how smart she is.  Lately she goes to the closet to get her shoes when she hears me say we are leaving and she answers yes/no questions pretty accurately.  But as I heard my proud parent boasting, I remembered I thought her brother and sister were “sooooo smart” at this age too!!!  So why was that?  I mean, I do believe my kids are smart, but no smarter than any one else’s children, especially at the tender age of 15 months.  And I can’t count how many times I have heard a parent bragging on the early emerging genius they call their toddler.  So why is it that we ALL think we are raising little Einsteins at this age???  What’s the explanation behind it?

The foundation or building block of communication is receptive language, or a child’s ability to understand spoken language.  Their whole (little) lives they have been absorbing every thing you say, every word on each page you read and observing your actions as you navigate their daily routines.  These multi-sensory experiences (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and sometimes tasting) coupled with the repetition of your words and actions help them to understand what words mean.  Also when you speak to them and accompany your words with gestures (like pointing to what you want them to get or nodding your head yes and no), you increase their comprehension.  After many months of your tireless effort to keep their routines consistent and provide them with stimulation, all while keeping them happy and entertained, you are rewarded!  You finally realize the fruits of your labor!!!  They are now mobile enough to act upon what you have been teaching them for the past 12-18 months!  So relish in this stage, be PROUD of the tiny genius you have created!  And go ahead and brag…you deserve the accolades for raising baby Einstein!

If you would like to understand more about child development and get tips on how to help your child grow and develop during the toddler years check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  It is jam packed with purposeful play ideas to engage your child and help you appreciate the magic of development during the first 3 years of your baby’s life.  Embrace the tiny miracle of your child!  Hug and kiss your baby(s) today 🙂

Observations of a (super cute) French Baby.

Everything in my extended family is a big deal. Seriously. We celebrate birthdays at least 3 times in one week.  We celebrate small & big victories in school or careers. We celebrate a first lost tooth, a first cartwheel, every time someone plans a vacation. So when my cousin Tania surprised us with the news they were expecting their first baby, we were ecstatic (to say the least). Tania lives in France and even though I gushed to her about the countless joys of parenthood, we were not 100% she would ever be ready for a kid. She’s independent, loves to travel, and revels in taking part in extreme adventure (she checked sky diving and elephant riding off her list in the same year). Needless to say when she said, “We are having a baby,” the family went WILD. We love babies. We love Tania and her husband and we had to have enough excitement when we saw her pregnant in person for the first time last September to last all three trimesters.

We all looked something like this. Life is so worth celebrating.

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Shortly after receiving the news, I looked at my husband and said, “We are going. I’m not sure how, but this is her first baby and she has no family there, and I know I will want to hold that baby and hug her and you have to help me get us there.” Luckily, he knows me well enough to distinguish this plea from my daily pleas that I MUST get to Hawaii and he came through.

After almost daily Skype sessions through the last few months of her pregnancy, an “I think my water just broke” Facebook message, and lots of calling and texting between the family, I sat on my bathroom floor at 5 am with iPad in hand and tears in eyes (and face, and chin)  and met our gorgeous French baby – Lilie Rose. A few weeks later, my husband and daughters and I traveled to France to meet our Lilie in person. Along the way, from pregnancy to present (she is 3 months old), I have found the differences between her French journey to motherhood and my American one, very interesting. I thought you might too, so I decided to share some of the main differences here.

The French seem to put high priority on supporting pregnancy and delivery/initial baby care

Tania had 4 total Ultrasounds during her pregnancy. At every visit she had a doppler, but the doppler gave an image of the baby.  This made for interesting conversations/arguing between us as to what was actually happening at these appointments (“Dopplers don’t show pictures?? That’s an ultrasound.”) and the translation makes this a bigger challenge. Lilie-Rose was a breech baby. Although we (myself and Tania’s sister who is a nurse) initially freaked out, Tania’s doctor ordered a CT scan to see the size of Tania’s pelvis related to the baby’s size).  And now that we know this harmed her in NO way, I can say, it might just be the coolest pregnancy picture EVER!

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We also observed that her doctor was willing to attempt a breech delivery (with some consideration to the baby’s size and the mother’s pelvic bones), and that VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean) are more accepted and common in France.

In the end, Tania had a cesarean delivery and she and the Lilie did fine.  She was in the hospital for a full week, but Tania shared with me that ALL first time mothers stay for 4-5 days.  Here is a picture of Lilie’s bath at the hospital. Half of their room was like a US hospital room and the other half was a counter and small tub area for bathing/changing.

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The hospital does not have lactation consultants, but the nurses and midwives take this role. Following discharge from the hospital, she saw a midwife twice (the first visit she actually CAME TO THEIR HOUSE) to weigh her, answer their questions, and support breastfeeding.

The Take-Your-Baby-Home phase is very Zen

Lilie received 1 vaccine in the hospital (HEP B) and none at her first appointment.  She did have weight checks, vision & hearing screened,  and a family history reviewed. A midwife  gave a natural liquid medicine (plant extract) to help with gas and digestion and educated them on natural infant reflexes.

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Much to my dismay, there was not much talk on development or the importance of tummy time, but it is common in France to have Osteopath’s come to the house to check for alignment and massage the new baby. The osteopath worked gently on alignment of the pelvis, skull, & pallet and talked about sleeping and digestion as well. She’s cute doing both.

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When Tania questioned about sleeping patterns or why she cried every time she put her down (international Mom question), the answer from the doctor was that she needed her parents and that they should do whatever she needed for the 1st three months. And, when in doubt, they should put her in the sling.

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Lilie likes the sling. Alot. She was even sleeping in it until her American “Auntie” came and insisted we get a plan together to make her sleep. I couldn’t get my own daughters to sleep, but redemption is a sweet thing and she now sleeps through the night (WIN!).

Maternity Leave is Good, but not as Good as I expected it to be

Tania is home with her now. The government pays employers to provide full pay for 6 weeks prior to birth and 10 weeks after for maternity leave for their employees. Some of the “before” can be pushed to the “after,” but no one is allowed to work the 2 weeks prior to their due date.  Following standard maternity leave, those qualifying for a small “parental aid” stipend can receive it for 6 months following the first child (this is a flat rate and not a percentage based on income), but mothers can take up to 3 years of unpaid maternity leave.

Tania will return to work.  When she was pregnant, she registered with a childcare center. Based on availability and preference the baby will be cared for while they work either at a center (that requires on site nurses and highly trained staff) or by a home base sitter affiliated with the center. If there is no room at either, she will have to hire a Nanny. All child care fees are tax deductible (like in the US), but fees are based on a formula (income and days per week and hours per day of needed childcare are factors.

Parent hovering is less commonly observed in France

I expect (and pray) that Lilie will grow to be a strong, healthy, and happy girl before we all can blink.  I am already missing her and looking forward to reading her books in English via Skype. It will be interesting for our family to continue to note cultural similarities  and differences along the way. I had a few “WOW I must be super protective” moments while in France that become most evident in my own children’s surprised reactions to French children and parents. “Mom, that mom left her kids alone. BY THE WATER. ALL.BY THEMSELVES. Can you believe it? Someone could fall in?!” They were amazed that a boy was allowed to pay for his own ice cream and walk home BY.HIM.SELF. “Mom.For real. He was only about 8 years old.”  Things that make you go HMMM.

I quickly pushed my guilty thoughts of over-hovering aside, by laughing with my husband while we observed toddler tantrums in various languages. You know that moment when you have had it, and you give the warning, “Fine.Goodbye. Mommy is leaving” (while you look behind you to see the shocked child FINALLY comply? Well, I had a moment watching an adorable curly haired, Italian darling, double fisting some binkies and throwing herself on the ground, while her super stylish and well (high) heeled mother yelled “CIAO” sternly and repetitively with that same look over her shoulder.

There might be differences from country to country and even home to home, but parenting is parenting and babies are babies around the globe. We all watch the tantrum. We all pray for just a little sleep. We are all amazed by the miracle of a new baby. I’m thankful we got a front row seat a few of Lilie’s first weeks and thoroughly enjoyed seeing how pregnancy, birthing, and mothering works in another country.

I will say… One thing they do not have in France, is our “hospital binkie.” As yes, Lilie loves her imported American binkie.  Frenchies frequently stop to ask Tania what that big thing in her mouth is! I guess she’s just proving she IS actually French-American!

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I think I can! I think I can!

Do you have friends or family raising children in other countries? Have you lived abroad with kids? What are the biggest differences you have observed?

Babies & parents around the globe love learning about development & play using 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! Lilie Rose has one on her shelf – do you know a new baby with parents who would love it too? 

Shake, Rattle, & PLAY! Choosing that first special toy – tips from the EI therapists!

You’ve waited for what seems like forever for that sweet bundle of joy and now that baby is here, you want to hug, adore, love, and….shop! Parents, grandparents, & friends love to buy that first toy. It’s often seen as a special a right of passage and such an important decision, but how long do we spend considering that first toy?

A baby’s first toy is one of their very first ways to learn through play. By touching it, moving it, and placing it in his/her mouth, that tiny infant is learning about spacial concepts, exploring and wakening the sensory system, and getting that sweet mouth stronger to produce lovely first sounds. Important roles indeed for a simple rattle, right? That’s why when choosing a first toy, like any toy that comes after it, we suggest first examining the child’s developmental stage and finding a toy that matches those abilities.

For example, a newborn infant has tiny hands that have the ability to grasp with a whole palm, so smaller diameter rattles will be easier to maintain a toy in the hand. Did you know that a newborn only  sees 8-15 inches in front of them at first and initially only recognizes black, white, orange and red? Typically, babies don’t see pastels well until close to 5 months of age. This fact makes seeking out toys with bold, contrasting colors a smart choice. Ever notice babies seem to put EVERYTHING in their mouths? As therapists, we actually encourage this because it strengthens those muscles in the mouth and brings self oral awareness that later helps babies to make noises and speak and eat safely. Choosing first toys that are safe to place in the mouth from a size standpoint as well as ensuring the toy is made with safe materials.

Over the years, we have found a few favorites that we are excited to share with you here.

Sophie the world’s most famous giraffe (found at: http://sophiegiraffeusa.com/index.html) is loved by all babies. But do you know she’s been a fan favorite since 1961 when she got her start in France? Still made today by a top secret process utilizing specialized rubber made by Hevea Tree sap, Sophie is a classic.
Simple links like those shown here (found at: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3502433) are wonderful first objects to hold (a single red one is my personal favorite).  These are fun to link to make longer chains and hook to a car seat as baby grows.
Wooden toys are some of my favorite and infants seem to love them too.  This one (found at: http://www.etsy.com/listing/110805067/baby-rattle-montessori-wood-teether-eco?ref=sr_gallery_16&ga_search_query=baby+rattle&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all) is a nice option for a rattle and a great teether.
Manhattan Toys does a wonderful job at creating developmentally appropriate first toys. Here’s two of our favorites. We love them for the easy of grasp and unique designs.
Found at: http://www.manhattantoy.com/product/206914/200930/_/Winkel
Found at: http://www.manhattantoy.com/product/206914/200970/_/Skwish_Classic
Some of the greatest toys come out of Germany.  Wish I had known about this awesome option when my girls were tiny.
Found at: http://www.amazon.com/Grimms-Grasper-Wooden-Rattle-Germany/dp/B003VLBNTW
While these are great commercial options, don’t hesitate to make your own rattle or toy.  Small water bottles, plastic Easter eggs, or small baby food containers with beans or popcorn inside (be sure to glue lids and openings shut tightly for safely) make simple options.  Before you know it, that baby will be shaking and learning, and you’ll be able to continue to hug, adore, love, and…play!
Are you intrigued by the idea of being mindful of your child’s development when choosing toys and play activities? Head over to our HOME PAGE to learn more about 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  We’ve uniquely paired 3 years worth of milestones with play in each domain of child development. PLUS, this generous information is presented in accessible card format, because we know, as parents you want to save your valuable time for PLAYING!

My Not-So-Glamorous Adult Crush

There he is, my first celebrity crush.  I remember this poster hung on my closet door and each night I would climb my stool to kiss him goodnight!  Still to this day, “Thriller” is one of my favorite albums.  Since then I have had several other crushes:  Joey from New Kids on the Block, Elvis, James Dean, Leonardo DeCaprio.  Now as an adult I don’t have many crushes…except for one.  My celeb crush looks a little different today.  He is not in the company of my past music and television star crushes.  He’s an author, a counselor and therapist of sorts.  Who might it be?  Wait for it……wait for it…..My adult celebrity crush is….Dr. Marc Weissbluth!  Who is Dr. Weissbluth?  WHO is Dr. Weissbluth?  He just so happens to be the man that brought sanity back into my life after 7 long months of sleepless nights.  He is the man that taught me how to appreciate something I once took for granted.  He is the man that helped me to accomplish what felt to be impossible.  Dr. Weissbluth authored the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  The book that saved me!  And there is no appreciation like that of a mother who finally catches some zzzZZZs!

I have since recommended that book to several friends.  His methods haven’t worked for all of them.  In fact through their trial and error I have been introduced to different sleep techniques that have also benefited my children and I.  And if I have learned nothing else in the past 7 years, I learned that there is no “one size fits all” sleep method.  In fact, there isn’t even a “one size fits most” sleep method.  So I am sorry to disappoint if you came to this blog hoping to find the “secret”.  I don’t have it…but neither does anyone else.

Every baby and child is different.  And the way they sleep just might be more of a reflection of their personality than your parenting.  Like many parenting issues (discipline, potty training) sleep is one that has to be researched, tried and tried again, much like a puzzle that may take several attempts to complete.  There are many options out there to offer you help:  books, blogs, websites, sleep consult services.  If you so desire help, it’s easy to find.  The tricky part is finding what works for you and your child.  Now the mother of 3, experience has taught me a few things about infants and sleep.  Some lessons were learned harder than others, but all are valuable and I hope they can help you too.

 

1.  It is important to understand babies’ sleep cycles and how they differ from adult sleep cycles.  This knowledge will help you recognize when your baby is in a light sleep vs. a deeper sleep (i.e. when it is safe to lay them down without waking them up!).  You should also familiarize yourself with how much sleep your child requires for their age to keep your expectations reasonable and real!

Age Nighttime Sleep Daytime Sleep * Total Sleep
1 month 8 8 (inconsistent) 16
3 months 10 5 (3) 15
6 months 11 3 1/4 (2) 14 1/4
9 months 11 3 (2) 14
12 months 11 1/4 2 1/2 (2) 13 3/4
18 months 11 1/4 2 1/4 (1) 13 1/2
2 years 11 2 (1) 13
3 years 10 1/2 1 1/2 (1) 12
*Note: number of naps in parentheses
www.babycenter.com

 

2.  Do what you are comfortable with.  If a sleep method suggests letting your baby “cry it out” and you just can’t imagine doing that, than don’t do it.   I wanted to try co-sleeping with my infant, I longed for the extra bonding at the end of the day, but my husband said no.  He is a heavy sleeper and feared rolling over on her and suffocating her.  Bottom line is you have to do what helps you sleep better at night too.  After all, what good is a baby who sleeps 8 hours if you lie awake feeling guilty about how you got there!

3.  It’s normal for babies (and toddlers, preschoolers and even older children) to wake up in the night. Eventually your infant will sleep through, I promise!  Typically this occurs between 6 and 12 months of age.  But even after you have achieved this milestone, other milestones, like teething pain and illness, may cause them to wake.  It is even thought that when babies learn to crawl and walk, they awaken in order to “practice” their new skills.  Then as toddlers and preschoolers night awakenings may occur because of separation anxiety and night terrors, all of which are developmentally appropriate.  My 6 year old has even been known to invade my bed in the wee hours of the morning because of a bad dream.  So, just know that tackling the sleep problem with your infant doesn’t mean it’s over.  My best advice to you is to squeeze in a nap when you can because you never know what the night may hold!

4.  Remember, it’s not your fault your baby wakes up!  In fact there are developmental benefits to night awakenings especially in the first few months of life when infants wake to feed.  Your baby’s sleep habits are more a reflection of his/her temperament than your parenting.  And when comparing sleep stories with other parents, keep in mind that most parents will exaggerate to make themselves look and feel good.  A baby that sleeps through the night is not indicative of “good parenting”.  So, go easy on yourself!

So, although I may have not magic fairy sleeping dust to pass along, I hope my practical tips help you and your lil one rest a easier at night!  Happy snoozing!