Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year of the Blog

I started this blog a bit over a year ago, to have an outlet for my thoughts. I posted 20 posts in 2009 and this is my 152nd and final post of 2010.  I really enjoy writing and hope that my readers enjoy reading it too, even if very few of you chose to comment (hm, hm..you know who you are)
At times, it can be challenging to try and post something interesting, entertaining and/or thought-provoking several times a week. My interests also vary widely so it can sometimes be a bit of a random hodgepodge- birth, Judaism, mothering, special needs, knitting, and anything else that strikes my fancy.
As Orthodox Jews, we really celebrate the new year in September, on Rosh Hashana.  But because I live in America, it does somehow feel significant to go from 2010 to 2011. These are the dates I use in my day-to-day lives, making appointments and marking birthdays and anniversaries.
Wishing everyone (including myself) a healthy and successful 2011- and hopefully many more insightful posts that we can share.
Have a great shabbos!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Control and Calm

Tonight, after many canceled flights and false starts, my husband finally made it home, only about 60 hours later then he was originally scheduled to arrive. It was a very long two and a half days and reinforced to me yet again the idea that we are not in control.
On an intellectual level I know this, but emotionally it can be so easy to trick yourself into thinking, you can control everything- your schedule, your children, your travels.
But we all know this is not the case. We are not in control-  we cannot affect the snow, canceled flights or other crazy occurences. All we have is the choice of how to react to given specific circumstances.
I have seen this many times, whether it was the birth of my oldest with special needs, my children getting a nasty case of lice this past summer and other things, both big and small. In these moments all you have is your reaction.
It's kind of like birth- you cannot control the intensity of the contractions or how slow or long your labor will be, but you can try to work with them, work through them and try to take it one contraction at a time. Panic and stress will not get you very far in labor- or in life.
 I cannot say that I am particularly impressed with the way I handled this bump in the road. I definitely could have been more calm and less angry and stressed. But it is a learning experience and I hope to do better next time. Because there definitely will be a next time...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Alone in the Snow

Unless you are living under a rock, you already know all about the crazy snow in the New York area. Thanks to the blizzard, my husband has been stranded in California since Sunday night. And I am trying to hold down the for and entertain three children.
To backtrack a bit- Shabbos by my friend was really nice but also a bit nuts. As I mentioned, there were six children in the house aged 51/2 and younger. Mot of the time everyone got along well. But there was still a lot of mess, chaos and noise. And my friend, the hostess with the most-est, graciously put up with vomiting kids and several linen changes,  A having a crazy 30 minute tantrum Saturday night and all the other fun things my children did. But we also got to catch up and talk, about things both important (life choices) and trivial (wigs and haircuts).
I decided to go home Saturday night so the kids could sleep in their own beds and be settled. It was probably a good decision  because of the snow. The snow that caused his Sunday night flight to be canceled. And his Monday morning flight too. He is trying again tomorrow but I am not holding my breath.
The last two days we have been home most of the time. Even though the snow is being cleared, it's still not easy to get out with the kids. And school has been canceled. Thank goodness, I was able to get a break both days. My in-laws came Sunday morning so I escaped to buy groceries and sip coffee in peace and quiet. Today, my babysitter was supposed to come in the morning, but due to the snow she couldn't make it till the afternoon. I took the opportunity to go for more coffee (do we see a pattern here) and also attended a yoga class that was super relaxing and enabled me to come home and do dinner, bath and bedtime in a positive frame of mind.
Everyone is doing fine. I am used to taking care of the kids solo so that is not such a big deal. But when all is said and done, I just really don't like being alone. It probably goes back to having lived away from home in high school and having logged too many hours on my own already. You would think I would be used to it by now but I am not. My husband thinks it's funny that often I don't even need him to be interacting with me (although that is nice too), I just feel better knowing that he is somewhere in the apartment, even if he is busy with his own things. Having other people around makes me feel less isolated.
My husband is scheduled to leave tomorrow morning so hopefully he'll be back by the evening. Until then, I will just try to keep myself busy taking care of the kids, knitting and reading random facebook updates and blogs.
What do you do when you are home alone?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Away for the weekend

My husband is off on a rabbi-related trip again and so my kids and I are on our own for shabbos.  I decided to take the opportunity to spend shabbos with my closest friend who I speak to daily but don't actually see in person more than a few times a year even though she only lives an hour car ride away (busy life and lack of car are to blame).
So we are going to spend 36 hrs together- yay! My husband asked if I was aware that this wasn't a high school sleepover. I told him I was aware and if we forget, we have 6 kids between us to remind us.
But first we have to get there. Which means packing. I used to be a minimalist when it comes to packing up for a weekend, but since a  disastrous shabbos in Jerusalem, I have learned that it is better to be prepared. So I loaded up on diapers, wipes, changes of clothing and lots of other necessary accoutrements for three young kids.
Now we are almost ready to go. Still have to figure out how to get 3 children, 1 stroller, 3 carseats, and one large suitcase downstairs to the car but I'm sure we can figure it out. Thank goodness for doormen.
Have a great shabbos.

Monday, December 20, 2010

L is for Laboring Down

I was fortunate to have attended another birth last night. As happy as I was to be there, I am also happy to be taking at least a month off from doula-ing now. Being on call all the time is stressful and I am in serious need of sleep (I should be sleeping now instead of blogging but that's another story!)
Anyway, I won't bore you with all the details of the birth story. It is not my story to tell and I know not everyone loves birth stories as much as I do.
What I do want to write about is the concept of "Laboring Down". Most people think that once you get to 10 centimeters dilated, it's time to push and voila, the baby is here.
But not only does a woman's cervix need to dilate, the baby also needs to move down into the pelvis in order to be born. When a woman starts to feel pressure and an urge to push, we know the baby is moving down into the birth canal. Unfortunately, an epidural can numb the sensations of pressure and also impede the mother's ability to push efficiently.
Which is why I loved what my client's doctor did. Once she determined that my client's cervix was fully dilated, she turned down the epidural and told us to wait until her feeling returns to her legs. She also wanted to wait for the baby to move down into the pelvis on its own, thereby reducing the time she would need to push. This is what is referred to as laboring down. It took almost an hour and a half, and as the epidural wore off and my client started feeling the contractions again, she started to feel a bit anxious to get this over with and begin pushing. We encouraged her to wait till the pressure in her pelvis felt stronger. At 3 40 am, all of a sudden, she felt an overwhelming need to push. The baby was born at 3 57 am. It's amazing for a first time mom to have pushed for such a short time. Part of the reason was that we let her body do the work in its own and have the baby move down without having to exert herself unnecessarily.
Unfortunately not all doctors will give a woman time to let the baby labor down and that is a shame. You can spare a mom the exhaustion of a long pushing phase by being patient and following the body's cues.
Just another example of how a woman's body is designed to give birth and doesn't need our interventions 99 percent of the time!

For more information about Laboring Down and other good tips about the second stage (pushing phase) of labor check out this article.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Breakfast Solution- Chocolate Chip Muffins

I don't usually share recipes on my blog, but this one is really easy and super useful for families with kids. In general I cook and bake a lot but I try to stick to simple recipes that preferably only require one bowl or pan for prep- this is one of them. And you dont even need a mixer or anything.
Recently I have been struggling to find a breakfast food that A will eat. The boys eat yogurt and are very happy with their choice. Most mornings, M wakes up and makes a beeline for the fridge clamoring for: "Chocolate yogurt". Sometimes we will add some cherrios or bread but thats all it takes to keep my boys happy. A on the other hand is very picky when it comes to breakfast. She will not eat yogurt or any other milk product. She does not want cereal. Some mornings she will agree to have oatmeal, others she just has an apple which leaves her hungry.
Enter- the chocolate chip muffin. Quick, easy and something most kids will eat. True, it may not be the healthiest breakfast option, but it is filling and you could try to substitute with blueberries, whole wheat flour or other healthy alternatives.
I found this recipe on the Food Network's website and you can find it here.
My adapted version substitutes orange juice for milk (to keep them pareve) and leaves out the cocoa powder, so that the muffins are chocolate chip and not chocolate-chocolate chip. Feel free to experiment with them and let me know how it works out.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions
Special equipment: Muffin tin with paper muffin cases
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips into a large bowl. Pour all the liquid ingredients into a measuring jug. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, remembering that a lumpy batter makes the best muffins. Spoon into the prepared muffin cases. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top and then bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.

This recipe makes 12 muffins. My advice would be to double it as it is a quick recipe and I promise the muffins will disappear pretty fast. You can store them in the fridge and then pop them in the microwave for a few seconds so they taste fresh and right out of the oven. Shavua Tov!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clean Up

I try to be pretty relaxed with the kids during the day. Cushions fly, crumbs are spread around the house and toys abound. That is why, around 6 pm every night, my apartment usually looks something like this:
And this:

However, when bedtime looms I cannot stand leaving the apartment in that state. And so the clean up begins. I try to get my kids to help a bit but it is mostly futile.Usually they undo what I am organizing mere minutes after I am done. So I will straighten up a bit while they get ready for bed and pick out their books and then finish the rest after they are sleeping. I pick up the toys, clothing and books, sweep and throw away all sorts of trash (and even some art projects, but dont tell my kids). I am usually not satisfied until it looks something like this:


Sometimes I am very unmotivated and it takes me a while to get going, but for some reason I cannot go to sleep when the apartment is in disarray. It's kind of funny, considering my efforts are going to last exactly for the 11 hours that my children are sleeping and as soons as they wake up, it starts all over again.
Part of it is the feeling that if you don't stay on top of the mess, it will just grown into an unmanageable chaos. Part of it is the desire to have an apartment that is put together and clean, even just for a few hours of the day.
I believe that kids should be allowed to be kids- toys, food and messes are generally allowed around here with some notable exceptions: no coloring on the walls or furniture, no gratuitous dumping of toys, no breaking things, etc. (These rules are usually ignored by my children as well but that is another story altogether)
But at the end of the day, kids need structure as well. They need order and they need cleanliness, to learn that every toy and object has a place and that we all need to pitch in. I think it is helpful for kids the same way schedules and routines are important for them.  .
So after another night of picking up random things off the floor and wondering how in the world it got here, I can now go knit and read in bed satisfied that there is a little bit of order in our chaotic house- for the time being at least.
How do you keep things clean? Do you do a nightly clean up or do you let it build up for a few days? Do your kids help?



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

False Alarm

Last night, we had a little excitement. My client who is due in a few days called to say she was having contractions. After a few hours they were still consistent so I decided to make my way over there. By the time I got there, the contractions had slowed down so we just hung out and chatted for a bit. I encouraged her and her husband to try and get some sleep. Around 3 am we all decided that it was not happening tonight so I headed home to catch up on sleep.
The only thing that is predictable about childbirth is that it's unpredictable. Sometimes you think you're in labor and then it stops. Sometimes you think nothing is going and and then two hours later the baby arrives. And everything in between. It's a learning curve for me as a doula and especially for a couple who is having their first child and don't exactly know what to expect.
While we're on the topic of childbirth, I wanted to share some interesting links.
The Midwife Next Door has a good post about electronic monitoring and new research that shows that it is not reliable and can even be harmful as it may not portray the situation accurately....we doulas have known this for a while but it's good to have the medical journals confirm it.
Stand and Deliver shares an empowering birth story of a woman who refused interventions and did what felt right for her, having the birth she wanted. She encourages women to think about what they want and to stand up for those wishes, rather than submitting to medical requests that are not evidence based.
I am always looking for birth-related aricles and links. Please share anything interesting that comes your way. And stay indoors today and try to stay warm!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hanging out with Mr. M

The older two are out until 3 pm every day, so for most of the day it's just me and Baby M. Although now that he is nearing his second birthday, I am afraid I will have to drop the "Baby" as we are definitely into toddlerhood by now. This toddler-ness expresses itself in many ways including but not limited to stubbornness, insistence on doing everything "myself", running off at every opportunity and an ever exploding supply of words. Latest phrase:" Y bus coming soon."
At the beginning of the year I was a little worried what we would do all day. He was too young for a preschool program but old enough that he needed to be entertained. Or so I thought. I am not a fan of $40$ a session music or dance classes for kids that are this little, or any kids for that matter. But I was able to get a few free and/or discounted trial classes and we checked out a few different programs. M was not too impressed. It took him a while to warm up and he was usually ready to leave by the 30 minute mark, a fact he conveyed to me by finding his shoes and walking to the stroller.
So we have come up with a new plan. After we drop A off at school at 9, we do some quick errands and then go home. He watches videos for 45 minutes while I check my email, do chores or make phone calls. Then we play a bit until 11 when he takes a nap. He usually wakes up at 1and has lunch. That usually does not leave us much time until A's pick-up at 3. But I try to make it interesting for him- sometimes we will go to the Children's Museum or the Libray. Sometimes I just take him to CVS or Michael's but still try to make it interesting for him.
Yesterday I let him sit on a toy car outside a store on Broadway for 10 minutes and then we walked the 4 blocks to A's school at a toddler pace, which took 15 minutes. But I had the time to do it and let him have fun and I felt good that I had the flexibility to do so, to not always be running, running- although some days of course I am running and trying to do a million things at once.
Of course, every day is a bit different- Monday I take the morning off and M hangs out with a sitter, Thursday I cook for shabbos, etc. But all in all it is good to see that kids don't always need bells and whistles and non-stop entertainment. Often it is good enough to just spend some time with Mommy- banging around blocks or trucks, watching me cook and of course lots and lots of tickles, hugs and kisses.
Have a great shabbos!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Y's Channukah Party

One thing that has been hard to navigate with Y is all the holidays coming up on the calendar. His teacher has been very supportive and for Halloween, she did most of the teaching about Halloween when he was out in therapy or in the afternoons when he goes to the Chabad preschool. He stayed home the day of the Halloween parade. Thanksgiving wasn't much of an issue but now we were getting to the Christmas/Channukah season.
His teacher again agreed to teach about Christmas when he is not in class. For the holiday party we will be making gingerbread houses which are not really religiously significant. And she asked me to come into class to teach about Channukah. So this past Tuesday, M and I went to visit Y's class.
We read "Sammy Spider's First Channukah" and I told the kids the Channuka story. We then decorated little dreidel picture frames and played a quick round of dreidel. Lastly we tried some of the latkes and dounts that I had brought along. The kids weren''t so impressed with the latkes but definitely enjoyed the donuts. Typical- the sugar does it.
It was a cute little party and all the other  non-Jewish kids were really into it as well. In an ideal world, Y would be in a Jewish school but I guess for now we will make do with what we have. I am greatful that his teacher is so accomodating and interested in working with us.
Another thing about the holiday season  is holiday gifts for all the teachers and therapists. So I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and rang up quite a bill buying giftcards for all the people who play important roles in my kids' lives. While it does add up, it's only once a year and I figure it is a good investment to show appreciation and create good will.
Do you do holiday gifts? What do you usually give to teachers, therapists, doormen, etc?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Doulas- The Essential Ingedient

DONA International, the organization that educates and ceritifes doulas has just created a new video about Doulas. They encouraged us to share it and being that I thought it was informative and interesting, here you go:
Note: This video contains videos and photos of childbirth and and women breastfeeding.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The video that went viral

I am sure by now, most of you have heard about the Maccabeats' new Channukah video Candlelight. Like Bangitout claimed, if you haven't seen this yet, you must be in a coma. But just for fun, I figured I would give the video that already got over 1.5 million views some more publicity. Although they don't need me- they've already made headlines on CBS, The Huffington Post and the Washington Post. Happy Channukah to all!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Random Things People Say to Me

My husband does not believe me, but for some reason I seem to be a magnet for comments and questions on the street. These usually range from innocuous asking for directions to rude comments about the size of my family.
I was telling a friend, that on some level I take it as a compliment that people find me so approachable. And so I patiently tell them where Amsterdam is, or the nearest subway stop, or Duane Reade or kosher eateries (What me, Jewish? How could you tell?).
On the other hand, there are all the other comments that I do not enjoy as much. It still surprises me that grown men would actually hit on a woman walking on the street with 3 young children. Don't I look a bit busy?  I have been told several times that I have beautiful eyes, and another time a man told me "Miss, you dropped something."  When I actually looked down (because with all the stuff I lug around, it's not inconceivable that I may have dropped something) he said "You dropped my heart." Oh please. What's funny is that I still see this guy on the street sometimes and he is always using the same line on other women.
Then there are the people who tell you what to do with your kids. His nose is running, his head is drooping, etc...I find these comments patronizing.  I know his nose is running but if I stop every 30 seconds to wipe it, I will never make it past this block! His head is drooping because he is sleeping for a change- don't wake him!
One time, on the street, a homeless man told me I shouldn't stand too far from my stroller when shopping for produce. Then he asked me for change for coffee.
My absolute biggest peeve (and I know I have posted about this before) is when people comment on the size of my family. "Wow, you're busy" or "Are these all yours" or any variation of the theme. One time someone actually said "You have too many kids" and another crude comment that is best left unquoted.
But the nicest thing is when people actually say nice, encouraging things about me or my family. A few weeks ago, I made a mad dash into a supermarket before dinner, which is never a good idea. I hustled the kids through the store, trying to pick up the things I needed and make sure we didn't grab or lose anything/one else on the way. As I was leaving the store, mission accomplished and all children still accounted for, a woman said to me "You are great with your kids and have a beautiful family." This morning, while waiting for the elevator, my neighbor told me "Your kids are always so happy." These comments actually brighten my day and make me feel that maybe, just maybe, I am doing something right. And even if not, I can still tell you the quickest way to get to Broadway!
What are some of the weirdes/funniest/rudest comments you have gotten?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lots of pictures

Over the long weekend, I managed to knit/complete quite a few projects and want to proudly display them. I just want to add as a disclaimer that taking good pictures of inatimate objects is harder than you think.
First off, Baby M's hat. I finished it a few weeks ago but finally got him to pose for a picture today.
Isn't he cute?

The hat

And my cutie again. Love how he crinkles his nose!
Next up is a hat I knit for my newest niece, born Sunday morning 5: 32 am in Jerusalem.

Purple bec. it's a girl!
I also knit myself yet another hat, but I am not sure if I will wear it because A informed me this morning that "you don't look like Ima when you are wearing a hat."


The old hat- A. doesn't like it
 

The new hat- maybe this one will be better?


And last but not least, here is the sweater for Melissa's baby. Melissa, I only recently read on your blog that you have bigger babies, so I hope this fits him or her. Tada!

 I think I may have overdosed on knitting for a while.  Might be time for a break, what do you think?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Children at Play

Today was one of these cold shabbos days where we spent a lot of time indoors. And I was surprised at how well the kids were playing together. Of course I needed to be there to mediate squabbles about whose turn it was and to discourage silly games such as jumping off the radiator, but for the most part the kids were playing with each other. Even M got in on the act. They played with toy cars and little people and blocks and many other toys they pulled down from the shelf. Hey, I never said they were orderly and neat, just that they can entertain themselves.
Of course, they still wanted my participation and at some point Y insisted I get off the couch and come sit on the floor with them, which is fine. I do try to be more engaged with them sometimes, rather than just supervising from afar. But it was just nice to see how big my kids are getting and that they don't need me there all the time facilitating and encouraging play. It is especially cute to see M trying to keep up with the "big kids". I think being a younger child can be very beneficial in many ways as I see him learning to do more advanced things and  attempting to do things like his siblings.
I cannot believe that my children are really turning into little people. It's so sweet to watch them interact with each other in this way. Real caring with a few well-placed jabs and blows interspersed for some variety :)
Shavua Tov!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

I have to be honest. I have become American in many ways but one thing I just don't get is Thanksgiving. Growing up in Vienna, we never celebrated Thanksgiving, even though my mother is American. When I was living in NJ with my grandmother when I was in high school, we never did Thanksgiving either. Ditto for when I lived in Israel.
Then we moved to New York and everyone is busy making Thanksgiving dinners and plans. I never knew religious orthodox Jews actually celebrate this secular holiday. And all the hysteria in the media about the traveling, the cooking, the family...there is a lot of drama.
My husband sees it as not really celebrating a holiday, rather just an opportunity to get together with some family and have a nice meal. The only issue with that is that other than my in-laws we don't quite have any family living in the US. But we work with what we have, so every Thanksgiving for the last 4 years, we take the train out to my in-laws and have a quiet and cute meal with them. Our kids run around the house and watch too much football. Then we take the train home and try to get out exhausted crew to bed at a decent hour.
Whatever your opinion on Thanksgiving, I was thinking that being grateful and thankful is always a good thing to do, so here is a short, by no means exhaustive list of things I am thankful for:
1) My husband- I don't really post about him a lot. Not because there is nothing to say, rather because there is so much. He deserves a lot of credit. For being a good husband and father, for supporting our family and enabling me to stay home with our children and mostly, for putting up with me and all my craziness :)
2) My children- I admit to being a bit of a kvetch and so I whine and vent. About the crazy things my children do, their shenanigans, their boundless energy, the mess and all the care they necessitate. But the truth is, and I am sure you all know this even when I am complaining, I love them to pieces and I can't imagine my life without them.
3) Our apartment- This might seem like a shallow thing to be thankful for but having enough space for our children and all their stuff is not something to take for granted when living in NYC. On November 30, it will be a year since we moved into our new place and we are really happy here. Especially because the doorman said our kids are the cutest kids in the whole building :)
There is obviously much more to mention- health, friends, etc. but I think I will leave it at that for now. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Learning from every Birth

Sorry for the silence these last few days. I was at a birth yesterday, and it lasted through the night till the morning. I was with them from 4 30 pm till 9 am the next morning. Then I spent a good chunk of the day catching up on sleep. Now I can't believe it's Tuesday night already. I feel like I lost a day somewhere :)
The birth was interesting. It was at a hospital I had not worked at before, and I always like to see how different hospitals do things and what their policies are. The nurses at this particular hospital were really phenomenal- friendly and very helpful.
 I can definitely say that I learn something new at every birth I attend. Every experience is so different and the circumstances vary, so there are bound to be issues I may not have encountered before. This time I saw how walking and movement can really make a big difference in terms of moving things along and getting the cervix to dilate. I also saw how my client was able to tolerate the contractions much better when she was moving or standing, as opposed to being confined to the bed. These are all things facts I knew already but to see them in action made it more real. Most importantly I saw that just because a woman's cervix is dilated to 10 cm, does not mean she is ready to push right away. It is always helpful to wait for the woman to actually feel pressure and an urge to push.
I don't want to give away too many details because it is not my birth story to tell. But I was honored to be at their birth and am so happy that I am gaining new insights into birth and being an effective doula.  Anyone searching for a doula? I am currently seeking births with due dates from January through March. Please be in touch or tell your friends!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the knitting front

So, I have finally completed the three baby blankets I have been working on, crochet edgings and all. I knit a cute hat for Meir with earflaps, which he refuses to wear. I have been trying to snap a picture of him wearing the hat, but he won't keep it on at all. So much for that. I knit myself a hat too and am now finally working on Melissa's gift- a sweater for her baby, due in February. Gender-neutral of course, because she doesn't know what she is having.
I am always on the look out for a new project, preferably something I can knit with the yarn I already have. I remember, when I was first learning how to knit, going over to a friend's house for lessons. When she brought out her knitting basket overflowing with yarn in all different colors, I was surprised at how much yarn she had accumulated. I remember asking her what she was going to do with all of it. Now, I am embaressed to say, I have so much yarn, it does not fit into a basket anymore. It is in bags, on top of my bed, next to my bed, hiding in Baby M's closet. In my defense, some of the yarn is not mine, it is for the Charity Knitting Club and I am just storing it. But still, I admit to having a yarn problem.
I think when you walk into a yarn store and you see so many different colors and textures you can just get carried away. You hold the skeins and think of all the cool things you could make. I think it's the promise of perfection, the possiblity of creating are endless. Then you start knitting, you make mistakes and all of a sudden that color that seemed perfect in the yarn store is just not doing it for you anymore. And it doesn't look like the picture or anything you had pictured in your mind. So you add it to the stash and go pick a new project.
I think, in our imagination, things are always better- our relationships, children, spouses, careers are all perfect in our minds. Then we come face to face with reality and we may be tempted to just put whatever it is aside and start over. But if we stick with it, we would see that what we have created may not be perfect, but it is valuable and real because we have put in genuine effort. So my new project is to take all the orphaned skeins of yarn in my stash and to put them to good use. Instead of always looking for new things, I will try and appreciate what I already have. Shavua tov.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week's happenings:

1) My parents left yesterday after a week-long visit. While they were here, we had fun, ate out in lots of restaurants and I got some great new sweaters (thanks mom). My mom brought the kids muffins for breakfast every day and A was very distressed this morning when we were back to oatmeal and Corn Flakes.
2) Day 2 of my Rebbetzen's conference was just as interesting. Some topics covered were helping women who have experienced miscarriage, counseling congregants and how to strengthen one's own marriage. We learned that Rabbinic couples do not need to work on their marriages because they are perfect and never fight...just kidding!
3) A. had her parent-teacher conference on Wednesday. For some reason, her school only allots 5 minutes to every parent but her teacher managed to include lots of praise in those five minutes. The teacher said she is a sweetheart, she has adjusted well to her new school and is making friends. She loves participating when they learn the Parsha- weekly Torah portion. She is also the Shabbos Ima this week and is very excited for her big day tomorrow.
4) M said "No more monkeys jumping bed" today and I was very proud. That is a quite mouthful for a 22 month old.
5) After hounding the Office of Pupil Transportation for 10 days, Y's  is being picked up 15 minutes later. While I would have liked his pick up time to be even later than that, 15 extra minutes in the morning are significant. The only problem was that they did not notify me that they were changing the time, so Tuesday morning we went down early and ended up waiting for the bus for, you guessed it, 15 minutes. Hopefully we will be able to settle into our new schedule now.
As you can see, it has been a busy week and I am very much looking forward to the weekend and to the one morning a week I get to sleep in- Shabbos. Yay!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rebbetzen's Convention Day 1

Today was Day 1 of a 2-day retreat for Rabbi's wives. It is held locally in NJ so I spend the day there and come home in the evening.
This is my third year attending and I always find it very refreshing and informative. Not to mention a small break from my regularly scheduled programming i.e  my day to day routine. I don't usually post much about my life as a Rebbetzen. Mostly because I don't want to get myself or my husband in trouble :)
In reality, though, the rabbinate is a big part of our family's life and just having the opportunity to shmooze with others in similar situations is really wonderful.
At these conventions, I always marvel how different we all are as Rebbetzens: we look different, we dress differently, some of us are stay-at home moms, some of us work part time, some of us work full time. But we all manage to support our husbands and do our jobs, however we have defined them. I like to remind myself of that, that there is no one model of what the "Ideal Rebbetzen" does, says or represents. We all need to find our own niche and what we are comfortable with.
One speaker mentioned an interesting thought about dealing with other people's anger at you. Apparently Rabbi Nachman once told his followers, who were distressed about his vociferous opponents: "These people are not upset at me. They are angry at who they think I am, and that person is truly awful." It is a pretty deep thought. When a person is angry with us, they often see us in a way that is not really accurate. They do not hate you. They hate the person they think you are, but you know that you are not the spiteful, selfish monster they have conjured in their mind. And that makes their misdirected emotions easier to bear. Not that Rabbis or Rebbetzens ever have to deal with angry people or anything like that. Enough said :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Birth Links

I have added some links to birth related websites- they are on the left hand side, under the Doula Info. I may have mentioned some of these in previous posts, some are new recommendations. There are obviously many good sites out there on the web, but I wanted to provide this as a good starting point for those of you at the beginning of your journey, who want to do some research. Check it out and lt me know what you think.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

School Report

Last night was Y's Parent Teacher conference. His teacher is really sweet and had wonderful things to say. He is adjusting well, gets along with other kids and his speech is really developing. They are working on ABCs and numbers and he is very interested in learning. The main challenge is really the toilet training, but we are making progress with that as well.
It was nice to hear all about his day and what he does in the many hours he is not home. The friends he has, the games he likes to play, the books he likes to read, etc. It was also nice to get such a positive report about all the wonderful things Y is doing, as opposed to listing the things he cannot do or has delays in.
The teacher shared some cute pictures with us. We loved the one of Y running in the playground, playing soccer. He loves sports, particularly soccer, and my next goal is to sign him up for a soccer class in January. Although we are still not thrilled that he is in a secular school, we do feel he is gaining valuable things there. They have been very accomodating about kashrus and any other issues that have come up.
A's meeting is next week and I am hoping to hear wonderful things again.
Wishing everyone positive and and helpful feedback from their Parent-Teacher Conferences as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keeping our Children Safe

This past weekend, a friend told us how they had recently discovered that their nanny was mistreating their child. After a neighbor had mentioned that she had heard screaming coming from their apartment, they installed a recorder to check. What they heard was their caregiver yelling at their child to stop crying, to clean up, etc and also threatening to leave him  alone in the apartment if he did not stop crying. Needless to say, they are now looking for a new nanny.
On a related note, Chana Weisberg at JewishMom has been posting quite a lot about sexual abuse recently. Unfortunately, in her neighbourhood of Nachlaot, a man had recently been apprehended for abusing several children. This was a man everyone knew and trusted, and no one suspected of anything, again underscoring the fact that we need to be vigilant to keep our children safe. Weisberg had devoted a few posts to this subject, particularly how to prevent abuse and how to talk to your children about it. It's definitely worth a read. You can find it here and here.
All this has made me think about safety for our children. While I do have the privilege of being home with my children most of the time, there are times when I leave them with babysitters. Sometimes it is to attend births, sometimes to go to meetings and doctors appointments and sometimes just to breathe and get coffee. They are also at school many hours a day. Nobody can be with their children all the time.
I don't think it makes sense to be overly paranoid and anxious about this topic, but one definitely should be cautious when choosing their caregivers. We are lucky to have found some really wonderful college students who are great with our kids and truly love them. I can only hope that they act  in that same warm way towards my children when I am not around. Thankfully, the feedback I have gotten from friends who have seen my kids out and about with these babysitters has always been positive.
Children are vulnerable, particularly children with special needs who may not be able to communicate to us as clearly when something or someone is bothering them.  As Y. is getting older, he is getting better at telling us what is wrong. Just this morning he told me his ear hurt and, indeed, he has an ear infection and is currently passed out on the couch. Still, I do worry that he is too trusting and open to anyone and would not be able to alert us to mistreatment.
It is hard to strike the right balance between suspecting everyone to being overly trusting. Unfortunately, child abuse is a reality that we need to be aware of. There are some pretty disturbed people out there and we can only hope that by educating our children and ourselves about these issues, we will prevent anymore tragedies from happening.
Feel free to share your thoughts and/or links to other articles dealing with child safety.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things that are just mine

Recently things have gotten a bit rowdy in our home. The kids all have staked their claim on certain toys and things and don't want others to touch them.
Y. dillgently works on these elaborate set-ups of trucks and toycars and does not want anyone to move them out of their position. A. likes building castles and chuppahs and other forts out of blankets and pillows, and will get very upset when her brothers try to join her or remove any blankets. And M., he just likes to swoop in and grab whatever his siblings are playing with, because he wants to be part of the fun. This often causes the older kids to start screaming and attacking their little brother. Chaos and jostling ensues until I somehow restore the peace- until the next time.
Although I try to let everyone have their space, it is often hard to do so, especially when M. is not even two and does not really understand the concept of leaving stuff untouched. I also try to convince the older ones that sharing is a good thing and maybe they could all just play together. Most of the time, this does not work.
This past shabbos we read Parshas Toldos, a Torah portion dealing with sibling rivalry between Yaakov and Eisav, a topic my husband discussed in this sermon in shul. In the afternoon, the following scenario unfolded. A. had set up a "puppet show" on our trampoline. This meant draping several blankets over it, that were not allowed to be touched. Of course, M. wanted to jump on the trampoline and A. was adamantly against it. There were tears and attempted compromises until they both got bored and went off to play with something else.
A little while later, M. tried to crawl on A.'s bed. She freaked out and started screaming for him to get off. At this point, I confess that I lost my temper. I had been refereeing turf wars all day. I was upset and told A that she needed to learn to share and that nothing would happen if M. was sitting on her bed. She was quiet for a bit and then tearfully told me " I need to have a few things that are just mine."
This struck me as a very insightful thing for a little girl to be saying. It reminded me of the reality that it can be hard for children to have share everything- toys, books, their parent's attention. While I think the advantages of having siblings definintely outweigh the advantages of being an only child, everyone deserves something that belongs only to them every once in a while.
 It reminded me of the story of my youngest sister. As the fourth girl in the family, she got quite a lot of hand-me downs over the years. These were not shabby cast offs rather very nice clothing with the caveat of not being new. When asked what she wanted for Channukah one year when she was about eight or so, she replied that she wanted a sweater that noone had worn before. My mother always speaks about how that request broke her heart and made her more aware of my sister's needs.
A. and I brokered a compromise. She could pick three things that she does not have to share and I would do my best to keep her brothers away from them. She chose her bed, her clothing and her headbands. What a girl :)
I already try to have time alone with each of my kids every once in a while. For example, last Sunday, A. and I went on a little date to buy boots for herself. This little episode on shabbos, however, reminded me again of how important it is to view our  children as individuals with their own unique needs, as opposed to lumping them together into "the kids" and making them do everything together. Hopefully, giving each child individual attention and space on a regular basis, will make it easier for them to share the limelight and the toys with their siblings the rest of the time.
How do you ensure that each of your children gets the time, attention and private space that they need?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain and routine

It's raining, it's pouring. On days like these I just want to crawl into bed with a good book and read. Surprisingly, I have other responsibilities today such as cooking food for shabbos, cleaning up the toys in the kid's room so I can actually see the floor, and maybe even some laundry. I know, I know...you can hardly contain yourself with excitement.
Even thought it can sometimes be annoying to constantly be repeating the same activities- cook, wash dishes, sweep, pick up toys, repeat...there is also a certain comfort in the familiarity of the routine. And the satisfaction of the accomplished task- the clean counter or clothes, even if it does not last that long. Plus I have little M keeping me company which makes it more fun. He is always coming up with new words and phrases. Yesterday he said "museum" as in the Children's Museum that he wanted to go to. I think that museum is a pretty sophisticated word for a kid who is not even two. I am a little biased though.
Even within all that routine, I have a few exciting activities coming up to mix things up a bit. I am going to a new all women's yoga class tonight. I am attending a conference for Rebbetzens in two weeks. And most exciting of all- I have two clients, due to give birth in the next 6 weeks or so. It has been a quiet summer on the birth front with all the traveling and holidays so I am happy to be getting back into things.  And if anyone knows friends searching for a doula- feel free to send them my way!
I will leave you with a song I just recently rediscovered. It is the inimitable Avraham Fried singing "Ale Katan", a beautiful song of a wise old tree giving advice to a young budding leaf. If I find the lyrics translated in English, I will post them too. Enjoy and stay dry!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Death

This is not a particularly light-hearted topic but it has been on my mind a lot. Over the past two weeks, my husband and I have heard of altogether of five cancer-related deaths, all of people who were relatively young. Some I knew well, others I knew more by association.
The one that hit closest to home was that of my dear friend Jenny. She passed away last week at the age of 27, a young mother of three who suffered a brain hemorrage and cardiac arrest in response to an untreated brain tumor. Jenny was my room mate my second year at Michlala in Israel. I will remember her as someone with a constant smile on her face and a nice word for everyone. She was always happy to see you and would give you the shirt of her back if you needed it.
This post is not really about why bad things happen to good people. It is more about what we, the ones who are left behind and deeply affected by these losses, can learn from this. I have been discussing this with my husband a lot, how all the petty annoyances and grievances of life, become less important in the face of these tragedies. It helps you focus on what is really important and what is not.
I wonder, though, how long that lasts. A day, a few days, a week or two tops? And then it is back to regular life, grumbling about spilled grape juice or red markers on the couch cushions or toddlers who love to empty bookshelves.
I realized it has to be deeper than that. It made me reconsider my life goals. We always think we have endless time, but what would you do, if you realized your time was limited? Would you want to change things? I have thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that I would want to be doing what I am doing now, only better. I would want to be a better, more patient and loving mother and wife. I would want to continue working on myself to become a happier version of myself.
I considered my long term plans of maybe going back to school at some point when the kids are older or having a more consistent, 9-5 job. Would I want to do that now rather than putting it off to an unknown future? Surprisingly, the answer was "no". I truly believe that it is best for my kids to have me home and available to them as much as possible. That is where I am meant to be now, no matter what the future hold. At the end of 120 yrs iyh, noone will say- "she was the best graduate student".
This may strike you all as extremely morbid. And maybe it is. But I think that it is also inspiring and energizing. Coming face to face with your own mortality and making the decision to therefor live your best life right now (I think I stole that line from Oprah).
We need to find meaning in all our life experiences, rather than just getting through them and moving on unchanged. May the memory of Jenny and all the other neshamos that were lost be for a blessing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random things going on, in no particular order

1) Y's bus route is changing on Monday and I have major anxiety about this. I dont like change. I really liked his busdriver and we had a good routine going. Did I mention that I don't like change? Also, the pick up is ten minutes earlier than before which is ridiculous. We live 20 blocks from the school. There is no reason for him to leave the house more than an hour before school begins. Which means I need to call the Board of Education, not my favorite thing to do. Sigh..
2) A. had her first play date this week with a friend from her new school. It went well I think and I loved how proud she was to introduce her brothers to her friend. This was how she introduced Y: "This is Y. He has Down Syndrome and goes to public school and he is 5. He is older than us." She said it so matter of factly, which was great to see.
3) M. is so cute and really not a baby anymore. He loves music and walks around the house singing "Bim, Bam...Hey" and "Ayay Shabbos Kodesh" and of course Uncle Moishy. There is an Uncle Moishy concert coming up in a few weeks and I am excited to take the kids there.
4) My parents are coming to visit in 10 days. Very much looking forward to seeing them and for them to see how great the kids are doing.
5) Y's school keeps calling me every time Y sneezes- well, not really sneezes but definitely not for urgent medical matters. And when I don't pick up the phone right away- which can happen on occasion, they call my father-in-law, who is our emergency contact. Except it's not an emergency. This happened twice in the last 10 days. Sorry Dad! They even made me pick him up from school on Monday, my official morning off, because he threw up. Not that I don't take my kid's health seriously, but he was totally fine. I, on the other hand, was grumpy because my morning of quiet had been cut short. Such is the life of a Mommy- never really off duty!
That's about all. What's new in your life- any exciting updates you want to share?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finishing Touches

As much as I love knitting, I really don't like finishing my projects. Finishing refers to all the work required on a knitted item once the actual knitting has been completed. This could mean sewing different pieces together and always involves weaving in bits of yarn. I find this process tedious and boring and, in the case of assembling, stress inducing, because if I don't sew my sweater together nicely, no matter how well it was knitted, it will look awful.
 Don't ask me how this happened but I am currently in the process of finishing three different baby blankets, two of which are for the "Knitting for Charity" club that I am part of. When I was faced with lots of different squares that need to be organized, sewn together and their ends tucked in, I did what most people would do- I stalled and procrastinated. I knit a quick hat. I read a few books. Every night, I would eye the growing pile next to my bed and choose to ignore it. But this week I decided to bite the bullet. I am anxious to start some new knitting projects and cannot do so in good conscience until I have finally finished with all these blankets. So I started: Monday night I assembled one blanket, Tuesday night I worked on the second and last night I wove in over 50 bits of yarn on the third blanket, as I was waiting for my children to fall asleep.
It's funny that I was dreading all that weaving,when really it only took about 40 minutes and was actually pretty painless.
I started thinking how life is funny that way. I often start projects with a lot of motivation and enthusiasm. I am sure I will complete it successfully in no time. But then I get to the nitty-gritty or the parts that I don't enjoy as much. All of a sudden it doesn't seem like so much fun anymore and I am not sure I want to continue. This could be dieting, writing an article, networking and building up my doula practice, exercising or even just my evening dishes.  But if I give up mid-way, all the work I put in until that point will be meaningless and will have been a big waste of time. Sticking it out and pushing yourself to finish will be much more gratifying and often the work that we are fearing is not as bad as we are imagining it to be.
When the adrenaline of newness has worn off you need to find something else to keep you going. Maybe a vision of the completed project or anything else that does the trick. I am sure I am not alone in this attitude. Please share what works for you.
Speaking of knitting, I registered for a class at the Vogue Knitting Conference and am sooo excited. I am planning a fun day off with my knitting buddy S. First brunch, then browsing the yarn at the conference and then a class on how to knit a beaded handbag. Too bad it's not till January...
So here is to new beginnings and their successful completions!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More On Marriage

It is kind of ironic that we had a guest speaker discussing marriage and relationships at the same time as I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed. In the book, Gilbert details her hesitancy about marriage and all the research she does into the social and cultural history of marriage.
 Of the many studies she quoted, one really struck me. Gilbert speaks of the Marriage Benefit Imbalance, which basically says that marriage is great for men, but not nearly as good for women. Married men live longer, accumulate more wealth, excel at their careers and report themselves to be happier than single men. In contrast married women do not live longer or accumulate as much wealth as single women. They are significantly less healthy and more likely to suffer from depression than single women. Hm...not a very rosy picture at all.
When I first read this part of Gilbert's book, I was a bit taken aback. Is marriage really a losing proposition for women? But then I realized that Gilbert was approaching the whole topic of marriage from a perspective of "what is in it for me?" In fact, most people today just think about themselves and their own self-actualization when making plans about their life.
As a religious Jew, though, I believe that there is a higher authority involved, and that life is not all about us; it is also about the service of G'd. And while G'd wants us to be happy and self-actualized, He also wants us to move beyond ourselves and give to others- our spouses, our children, our community. And while this may take time and energy away that I could have used to further my own individual goals, I believe that this is a worthwhile and necessary endeavor, that will make me a happier and more complete person in the long run.
Gilbert alludes to the difference in perspective in a later chapter, when she speaks of the Greek versus the Hebrew worldview. The Greek perspective is about humanism- personal liberty, intellectual freedom, doubt and debate. The Hebrew view is one of faith, respect, morals and rituals. There is a right and wrong, without gray areas.
According to Gilbert, our society today is a mixture of both Greek and Hebrew beliefs, especially in our beliefs about marriage. She confesses to being mostly of the "Greek" persuasion. I, on the other hand, am definitely in the camp of the "Hebrews", although she notes that being Hebrew does not necessarily coincide with being Jewish. It follows then we are approaching marriage from very different perspectives and with very different goals in mind. Yes, I want to be happy in my marriage and in my life as a whole, but I recognized that living involves giving of myself, and while it may be difficult at times, it is this which will ultimarely make me a happier person.
Have any of you read her book? Care to share your thoughts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Working on Marriage

This weekend, we were fortunate to have a great guest speaker at our synagogue. M Gary Neuman is a marital therapist and the author of several books on relationships, who has appeared on the Oprah Show several times.
Gary ate both shabbos meals at our home (along with 10 guests and 12 children under the age of five for lunch, but that is for a different post...) and I went to two of his lectures, so I had quite the opportunity to hear his thoughts about marriage. He claims that the number one thing men want from a partner is appreciation. The number one issue for women is time- quality time. Most of what he said really resonated with me. That is because many of his suggestions are common sense and not so surprising. Still, it is important to have someone formulate these concepts so clearly for you, and remind you of what is important.
Another thing he said was that it is vital to make your marriage a priority. Life is busy and hectic,we are all aware of that. Sometimes we may think that we invest in creating a relationship when we are dating but once we get married, we can then devote our energy to other projects- our careers, kids or anything else. But in truth, a marriage needs constant work and fine tuning. It is a matter of investing time, energy and thought into your relationship. It is the only way to thrive and stay close amidst all the pressures and things tugging at us nowadays.
What do you think? Do you have any specific rituals/habits/beliefs to strengthen your relationships?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Appreciating the little things

In life, it is so easy to get caught up in the little grievances- the hard morning with the kids, obnoxious co-workers, traffic, weather...we all like to vent and kvetch a little bit sometimes. Then something will happen to remind you that we are really lucky that these little inconveniences are our biggest issues.
This afternoon I checked my facebook page, only to discover that an old friend of mine from my year of study in Israel is deathly ill. This young woman, a mother of three, had been suffering from severe headaches and was finally diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She is the ICU and it is not looking good.
News like this will quickly snap you back to reality...That life is really a gift and if we (myself included) would just stop complaining we would realize how many amazing things we have in our lives.
That is not to discount difficulties we face on a daily basis. There are real challenges we may have even if they are not life-threatening. But it certainly helps to put things into perspective, to try and not sweat the small stuff so much.
If you have a minute, please say a prayer for Ruchama Shaindel bat Henya Gittel Miriam. May we only hear good news.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Obstetric Standards of Care

I  wanted to share a birth-related article that someone sent my way today- 10 Ways Modern Obstetrics Ignores Evidence. It debunks the myth that all obstetric standards of care are evidence based. In fact, many of them are not. These include: scheduling cesareans for suspected macrosomia (otherwise known as big babies), continuous electronical fetal monitoring, the routine use of pitocin, routine amniotomy, etc.
What is obvious from this article is that there are practices that have become routine standards of care in obstetrics and that is not a good thing. No two women are alike and therefor it would make sense that their births may be different and require different forms of intervention, or better yet no intervention at all!
It is important that women are aware of their choices and of their ability to ask questions and refuse certain procedures they are not comfortable with.
When I speak to my clients about this issue, I always say that it's not about distrusting your doctor or creating an "us vs. them" mentality. Your doctor shares your goal of healthy mom, healthy baby. Nevertheless, it is very important to understand what your doctor is doing, why he feels this is the best course of treatment and what your other options are. In order to do that you need to ask questions, more importantly even know what questions to ask. A doula can help tremendously in this process.
Being an educated and informed consumer will help you make the decisions that are right for you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Toddlers and Technology

Today's New York Times had an article about children and iPhones. Apparently, toddlers as young as 18 months are hooked on videos, games and apps that can be found on iPhones and many even know how to manipulate the phones themselves.
The article discusses if this technological involvement is positive or negative for the children. Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two do not watch any television. The article explores if cell phones are part of that recommendation as well. I would posit that all phones, TVs, computers and gadgets fall into the same category of "technological entertainment," one that is neutral at best, and possibly harmful.
I have to admit- when I was pregnant with my first child, I was adamant that we would not have a TV and that my child would not ever watch ANY videos or shows. I just could not understand why someone would put their child in front of a box and let them sit there for hours. When Y was first born, we stuck to that plan. We kept him busy with toys, books and outings, not to mention his rigorous therapy schedule. I only had one child and he was my entire focus
I do not remember how it started exactly, but one day, probably after A was born, it just was not enough. I needed a break. He was bored. And so we bought our first Uncle Moishy DVD. For those of you not familiar with Uncle Moishy- he is kind of a Jewish Mr. Rogers who sings songs about Judaism and, most importantly, listening to one's parents.
Fast forward a few years. We still do not have a TV but we do have a portable DVD player for the kids, so they do not mess up our computers. On average they watch about 30 minutes a day. Some days it is much more. We do try to be aware of the things they are watching to make sure the messages are age appropriate and in tune with our religious beliefs.Our repertoire now includes Sesame Street, Dora, Caillou and Charlie and Lola. And of course, the always beloved Uncle Moishy.
I never thought I would be one of those moms who says: "I need a half hour to make dinner/make a phone call or just plain old breathe- here is a video" but I think sooner or later it happens to most of us. The key is, and I think the article mentions this too, to set limits. To not fall into the trap of using videos as a constant babysitter for our children. It is hard because our children would often be happy to sit there for hours and often protest when we turn the box off. But turn it off we must!
I do think they are stimulated and can learn some things from videos and games. Y, whose speech is very delayed, can sing along to every Uncle Moishy song and can copy every move Uncle Moishy makes on screen. I am not sure where that will get him in life, but it does show that he has learned something.
But children learn  best by doing and feeling, by interacting with the real world. And our job is to make sure they have plenty of opportunity to do just that. So time to get off the computer and take your little one on an adventure...
How do you feel about toddlers and technology?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stubborn Shoes

I have a rather strong personality trait that most of my family will attest to- I am incrediblt stubborn. Stories about my refusal to wear clothing I did not like at age three are legendary, and it hasn't gotten any better over the years. To the great amusement of my parents, I am now being paid back three-fold, as all three of my children seemed to have inherited this wonderful trait. I am sure their tenaciousness will serve them well at some point in their lives, but at the moment it is merely frustrating!
The latest incarnation of this is my daily battle to keep a coat and shoes on Baby M (who by the way is not such a baby anymore because he will be 2 in January- yikes!). M likes to be comfortable and all summer long he got away with wearing sandals sometimes and mostly being barefoot. I did not make a big deal out of it at the time because it was 100 degrees outside and he was sitting in the stroller anyway.
As the temperature started to drop, I tried to introduce the concept of socks. M would not wear the new shoes I had bought him. He only wanted to wear his "sannals" (aka sandals) so I tried to compromise on socks and sandals. But every time we went out, sooner or later the shoes would come off and go flying, along with the socks and I would be scrambling, trying to make sure I don't lose anything on the way.
This continued on like this for a few weeks, Meanwhile it was getting colder and colder, dropping from 70 to 65 and then 60 degrees.
Wednesday morning, it was probably only 50 degrees when I was taking M to a gym class. As usual, we left our apartment wearing socks and shoes. A few blocks in, the first shoe came off. Then a sock. Then the other shoe. I was exasperated and frustrated. I had tried everything to keep these shoes on. I kept putting them back on his feet and he kept throwing them. It was a game now and M thought it was hysterical. I was also semi-hysterical, but not in the laughing kind of way.  I was really at my wit's end. Then I remembered a friend recommending I get him a boot or another type of shoe he could not remove.
On the way home from the class, I stopped off at a kid's shoe store I usually avoid because I gasp when I see their pricetags and begged the salesperson to help me. I insisted that they find a shoe that M couldn't just take off. The salesperson kept cracking jokes about having to move to Hawaii so M could be a barefoot surfer dude. He stopped laughing when M wouldn't let him put his socks on. In true stubborn form, M was yelling "stopit" and ripping socks and shoes off his foot faster than we could replace them.
At first the sales person did not really understand what I wanted and kept bringing me sneakers and shoes that all had the regular velcro straps M had mastered long ago. Finally, I asked him if he had any shoes with laces. He asked me if I was sure that's what I wanted, checked his stockroom and managed to find 2 ugly pairs of shoes that fit the bill. They were so ancient that they were not even that expensive.  But they stayed on and that was all I needed.
This morning, when we left the house I calmly put M's socks on and then his new lace-up shoes, which I tied with a double knot. Walking down the street, M tried to get to work on his new shoes but they would not budge. "Mommy-stuck," he complained to me. I smiled and told him that that was exactly the point!
I know I may have won this battle but I am not holding my breath. Sooner or later, M will figure out how to untie the laces, or he will move on to a different, more exciting way to assert his stubborn independence which will have me tearing my hair out. Until that time, though, I will enjoy walking down the streets of NY, without having to turn around every 2 minutes to double-check that I haven't lost a shoe, sock or other accessory.
Are your children stubborn? How do you negotiate with them?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Check me out

The new Mishpacha Family Weekly is out today and yours truly is quoted in the Family First, the women's magazine. I have to thank my sister for setting this one up.
The article is about how families, who live far apart, stay in touch. I am quoted as an example of someone who uses the internet as a way of keeping up. While this blog was not started in order to share news with my family all over the world, it has definitely helped others be more aware of the things going in our lives. As I mention in the magazine, the issue with this form of communication is that it is one-sided and I don't get to hear about my siblings' comings and goings in the same way. So if you are reading this, dear siblings- speak up!
All in all, it's not that big of a deal, as it is a long article that quotes many different women, but I am still curious to see it in print.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mothers Judging Mothers

As you all know, I am a mother of three very active and young children, one of whom has special needs. Going to public spaces with all three of them can be challenging and it's not something I take lightly or even assign to others very often. Only babysitters who know my children well and are competent, have the "privilege" of taking my children to the park.
There is a playground, close to our apartment building that we go to several times a week. Although it is pretty big so that I cannot always see all the kids simultaneously, it is enclosed so I know they cannot escape.
Going to the playground with my children goes something like this. Open the gate. Wheel the stroller into the enclosed park. Open buckles for those children are strapped in and then turn around to find that all three children have taken off in three different direction. My kids are very familiar with the park so I mainly supervise them, checking to see what area they are playing in. I try to stay close to M, who is the youngest and most prone to injury or trouble. This system usually works pretty well and really, short of handcuffing them, there is no way for me to have all three children play in the same area all the time, and that would really inhibit their ability to play.
This afternoon, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed off to the park. All was proceeding well, and after about 45 minutes, it was time to round up the troops. M was near the stroller as was Y, so I went to find A. As I was looking for her, I saw Y and M head off to the monkey bars together, further away from the exit. I figured I would go get them in another minute. Having found A, we went to get the boys from the monkey bars. On the way, I ran into a woman I didn't know, who breathlessly told me that my baby was hysterically crying and lying on the ground. I rushed over to see Y and M coming towards me. M was indeed crying, although he did not seem quite hysterical to me. He was happy to see me and calmed down pretty quickly. A friend of mine informed me that M was crying because Y had pushed him. Not unheard of in our household.
On our way out of the park I saw the woman, who had told me about M crying, again. She looked at me critically and said, "You know he was crying. He was all alone and scared." I thanked her again for her help and told her that he was really fine now. She looked at M again and at me scathingly, and tried to impress upon me the tremendous trauma I had just inflicted on my child by leaving him unattended. At which point I politely told her to mind her own business and headed home, quite upset. M, meanwhile, far from being traumatized, was laughing at his sibling's shenanigans as we were walking.
In an ideal world, I would  be able to always be with my children all the time in the park. But I can't and I don't think the answer is to therefor hire full time help I cannot afford or, alternately, to never leave the house. These outings to the park teach my children independence and that I trust them to play safely. I think this mother read the situation wrong. M was not all alone and scared. He was playing with his older brother who was being a bit rough with him. Do I wish I could have been there to stop Y right away? Yes. Do I think it is a big tragedy that I wasn't? No.
I guess what was so upsetting was that I felt this woman was judging me without knowing anything about me, my children or the situation at hand. Unfortunately, judging other people's parenting has become very common. Everyone is a self-proclaimed expert and knows what everyone else is doing wrong. Ellen's post today at Love That Max shows just how far these judgements can go.
Maybe instead of being so critical, we can all give each other a break and not assume the worst when we see each other's children crying or misbehaving or even (gasp) unattended for a minute at the park. After all, us mothers are all in this together. Let's not make mothering any harder than it is already.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Newborn Babies

Tonight I visited a close friend who had just given birth, to see her and her little baby girl, who was just over a day old. It was amazing to hold that little swaddled bundle in my hands and see her peaceful face.
Even though I've had my own children and have been at several other births, I am still always struck by how little and  vulnerable babies are as newborns. When I look at Baby M, who at 20 months insists on being Mister Independent and doing everything his older siblings do, I cannot believe that he was once that little. Even more so, for my older kids. Not to sound like an old lady, but time really does fly.
It's a good reminder, especially on days like today, when my patience level was zero and my kids were their usual loud, messy and strong willed selves. To remember to savor all those moments and to give your kids lots of hugs and kisses, while they still let you do so!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Things I do for my children

1) Bake cookies for Y- They are starting to bake in Y's class and because the oven and ingredients there aren't kosher I had to send in a substitute he could eat. I was going to buy store bought cookiesbut wanted him to have something fresh, like the other kids. So I spent an hour on Wednesday night making sugar cookies and even put in little bits of apple, because the class was making apple waffle cookies, whatever that is. And guess what? They didn't even end up baking today. So much for that!
2) When A came into our bedroom at the unearthly hour of 6 am this morning clutching her water bottle, I used my calmest and softest voice to inform her that it was still dark outside and there was no possibility of me getting up anytime soon, even if just to refill her waterbottle. When she requested to lie down next to me, I graciously moved over and made some space.
3) After an hour in the park, I let Baby M walk home the whole way (except for crossing the street, when I carried him while simultaneously pushing a double stroller) even though his version of walking consists of walking a few steps, then stopping to go backwards, check out the garbage,trees, etc, walking a few steps, stopping yet again, walking for a minute or two, stopping again...you get the picture. Longest walk home EVER!

And that, my friends, is why I am Supermom. (in case you dont realize it- this is me being sarcastic!)
What about you? What good deeds have you done for your kids this week?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

I know this may be a bit overdramatic but the weather just changed basically overnight and now I am freezing! Our building has not turned on the heat yet and now I am huddled under my blanket in sweatshirt and socks trying to formulate my post for today. But on to more important things.
Have you seen this article yet? Its about the book Origins that has been in Time magazine and reviewed in the New York Times Book Review this past week. A journalist and researcher named Annie Murphy Paul used her pregnancy as a time to research the long-term effects of the environment: stress, caffeine, etc. on the unborn fetus. A relatively new scientific field called fetal origins. She doesn't have any conclusive evidence but lots of food for thought...and guilt? The author denies that her book is intended to make pregnant women even more neurotic and guilt-stricken about their pregnancies.
I wonder how that can be true. Women today are already hyper-vigilant about their pregnancies: They do pre-natal yoga, try to eat organic or at least healthy foods, they to avoid alcohol,...we really do try our best to be mindful of what our babies are exposed to. Why then should we be even more worried how stress is affecting our unborn child or how living through a natural disaster may change the fetus in some way. Why should a woman have anxiety that something she does during her pregnancy may cause her child to have diabetes or asthma later on in life?
 I have not read the book but in my humble opinion it is overkill. At some point in pregnancy, a woman needs to realize that she can only do so much for her baby. Things are out of her control and reading more books or swearing off corn syrup will not change that. In order to give birth, she really needs to let go of that need to control everything and make it perfect. Therein lies the beauty of pregnancy and birth- its unpredictability. Just my thoughts- what do you think?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My knitting adventures

Today it was cold enough to wear sweaters, so I decided to take my recently completed sweater out for a spin. It was my husband's birthday ( Happy Birthday!!!) so we went on a date this afternoon. Then he humored me and took a picture of me in my new digs:
What do you think? I  am actually really proud of this sweater because it required a lot of different steps. There were all the different parts of the sweater as well as the belts, straps, sewing it all together and adding the buttons.
If someone would have told me two years ago that I could knit and assemble a whole sweater that actually looks nice enough to wear, I would have laughed. It sounds cliche but it actually took a lot of practice and determination, basic trial and error. I just kept knitting and becoming more comfortable with techniques. I challenged myself with harder and harder projects and here I am. By no means an expert knitter, but not quite a newbie anymore either. Just for fun, a few more shots of my cardigan.
the back


The front

I recently discovered that they actually have knitting conferences, the next one- Vogue Knitting Live is being held in New York in January. A friend and I are considering taking a workshop there. Haven't decided yet if that is cool or nerdy.
Wishing everyone an easy transition back into "normal" life after all the holidays. After 2 loads of dishes and 6 loads of laundry, things are looking up over here. Hooray for the first full week of school!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Dad's thoughts about Birth

I really must get ready for yomtov but just wanted to share a great quote about birth I came across this week. A fellow doula had a baby boy a few weeks ago, at home of course. She sent out her birth story from her husband's perspective and at the end, he said something that really resonated:
"I cannot say enough about the experience. It's surreal, it's challenging, it's hard, and it's beautiful. It's the hardest thing Wendy has ever done and the hardest thing I've ever experienced with someone. "
And with that as food for thought, I will wish you all a very good yomtov.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Insanity of Life with Kids

The thing with children is that they are so unpredictable and you often don't know what will set them off, cause a meltdown or if today will be the day they will be bouncing off the walls. Especially when you are out and about with them,
Yesterday, in honor of Sukkos, we took them to the Central Park Zoo. While we all had a good time, it was also stressful to make sure not to lose anyone. Y and M are both runners and losing them in a large public place is my worst nightmare. We managed not to lose Y till the very end, about three hours in, at which point we decided we had done enough chasing and it was time to go.
Sometimes when we get home from outings like this, my husband and I decide to stay local for  a while. We prefer the boredom of going to the same playground week after week to the stress of taking our kids on an adventure. But it doesn't last. Sooner or later we need to get out. And remember, we were the crazies who took our kids halfway across the world for a month this summer.
On some level, it comes down to a cost benefit analysis. What will an outing, airplane ride, trip, etc "cost" you in terms of stress and both physical and emotional energy vs. what are the benefits you will get from going. If you want it badly enough you will do it, even if it means a lot of work. For example, a few years ago, I flew to Europe by myself with Y and A (almost 3 and 1.5 at the time) because I really wanted to see my family. While flying alone was scary, it was totally worth it because I got to spend a week with my parents and siblings.
The truth is that even at home, things can be a little exciting.This year, both Y and A are in school till 3, so really my days should be less hectic with more time to breathe. And usually they are. Until 3 oclock hits that is. Once they come home, it seems like they are trying to fit an entire day's worth of energy, jumping and mischief into the 4 hours before bedtime.
 Case in point- today we went to a sukkah party at the kid's old preschool. It was really sweet and they were so excited to see their old teachers and friends again. But both Y and M wandered off numerous times. It's a good thing one of the teachers was standing at the door to the building or my kids would have been meandering down Amsterdam Avenue. When M wasn't trying to escape, he was insisting on playing on the sopping wet playground and riding the sopping wet riding toys. Guess who was sopping wet?
When we left, A claimed she was needed a drink right then and there, so we stopped off at a deli to buy some water. In the 5 minutes I was in the store, I had to prevent Y from grabbing fruit and beer (?) off the shelf. Meanwhile Baby M took his shoes off and proceeded to throw them onto the floor and then tried to wriggle out of the stroller so he could grab the drinks I had just bought.
We finally made it home and I told the kids to play for a few minutes while I make supper. All of a sudden I hear the sound of water being spilled. Y took the water bottle I had paid a ridiculous 1.50 for, and had spilled it all over the floor. The kids were now all pretending to "swim" in it. I promise, I could not make this up if I tried. Thankfully my husband was home, because at this point I had had it. We spent 15 minutes cleaning up the mess and wrestling wet children into pyjamas and then it was finally time for books and then bed. By then I was ready for bed too!
 I am sure you all have your stories too of the crazy things your children do and have done- feel free to post some in the comment section. Even though it is infuriating at times and exhausting, it is certainly never dull. Whether homebound or out and about, every day is guaranteed to be a bit different. And that my friends is both the pleasure and insanity of life with kids!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Formula Recall

By now, most of you must have heard about the Similac Infant Formula Recall. Aside from the gross-factor of beatles in formula, it also makes me think about some of the advantages of breastfeeding. There are no outside factors involved, you know exactly what your baby is getting- it comes straight from you. Also, from a practical standpoint, there are no bottles to wash and sterilize!
I recognize that not everyone wants to or is able to exclusively breastfeed but I do think it requires serious consideration. Man-made processed food will never be as healthy and nutritious as naturally grown food. With all the movement towards organic and green food, what could be more "green" than breastfeeding your child! Just a thought...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The year in pictures

Yesterday I finally had the chance to put our family pictures of the last six months or so in photo albums. Even though everything is digital these days,I still like having the pictures printed out and organized chronologically in albums. I love turning the pages and my kids love looking at older albums, seeing how little they once were and naming the people in the pictures.
As I was putting the pictures in, I was marveling at how much my children have each grown and matured over these past months. I loved seeing all the fun activities we did, the great places we had been and their beautiful smiles. I picked out a few good ones for my husband's office, so he can look at our cuties during the day.
I just felt very greatful for my family. With all their craziness and all the crying, whining and spilling and early early wake-ups, I still know I am a lucky mom. It's a great feeling to take into succos- we will definitely have lots of family time over the next 72 hours! Chag Sameach!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Birth information on the Internet

The Internet is great- type anything into google and you'll get thousands of results. If you search for"birth" you will actually get 182 million (!) results. The question is if all this information is reliable- how do you know whom to trust? Whether you are pregnant or not, here are some reliable and informative websites on the web:
1) Lamaze- has lots of great information about natural childbirth and the research to back it up too.
They also have a directory of Lamaze-certified educators in your neighborhood and have started a blog called Giving Birth with Confidence, that has women chronicling their pregnancies, birth related articles, as well as forums for women to get answers and support.
2) DONA International- The most widely known  doula certification organization has information on what a doula is, reasons for hiring a doula and how to find one in your area.
3)For those interested in VBACs, you might want to check out The Unnecesarean, a blog devoted to raising awareness about the rising c-section rates, information on how to avoid a c-section and important information about having a successful VBAC. Warning: the rhetoric of this site is very pro-natural and againstthe medicalized model of birth and may not speak to everyone.
There are also many blogs devoted to childbirth, doulas and midwives and sometimes it's fun to read some of them to get a sense of other's experiences. There are also birth videos on youtube but watch those at your own discretion!
Let me know if you would like some more links and feel free to post some recommendations of your own. I am off to bed so I can be up at 6 45 to get Y ready for his schoolbus at 7 30!
That's