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!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yom Kippur

I was just posting about Rosh Hashana and here we are, Yom Kippur starts tomorrow night and I feel unprepared. In an attempt to keep my commitment to become more growth-oriented I have been listening to some Torah classes online and have come up with some sort of plan:
1) Commit to one small change and then really follow through (based on a class by Rabbi Leib Kelemen), although I have yet to decide what that change will be
2) Accept where I am in life as my tafkid, my role. Rebbetzen Yemima Mizrachi spoke about Yom Kippur as being a day of Teshuva. And part of Tshuva, is to stop running away from our tafkid, like Yona did. We always think we know better than G'd, as if He made a mistake when he gave us that job/child/illness, or any other challenge we may not like. Only once we accept ourselves and our roles as women, wives and mothers can we start working on ourselves in a meaningful way.
Lots to think about and pray for in the coming days. Looking forward to being inspired by my husband's speeches as well.
Wishing everyone a gmar chatima tova and an easy and meaningful fast.
PS: I realize that I haven't really posted anything doula or birth-related recently. Having been in Israel for a month and then getting ready for school and the chagim hasn't really left much time for this part of my life.But I have been doing some interesting reading and hope to share some thoughts with you in a week or two. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 13, 2010

May I brag?

This is a little nachas post about my little A, who turned 4 last week. She doesn't get mentioned much on this blog but not for lack of love.
I know I am biased but she is really quite smart and says the funniest things. I apologize in advance for all those who don't understand all the Jewish terminology. Iwill try to translate but this might be a little confusing.
Today, when I picked her up from school, I told her that I had taken M. to the park. She asked, "Was it much easier, just taking one child to the park?" I laughed and told her that yes, taking just once child to the park is easier than taking all three.
While we were walking home, she started telling me what she had learned in school. She said that children need to listen to many people- to Hashem (G'd), to their parents and to one more person. I asked if she meant her teachers, but she said "No, it is someone very special. It's the yatza tob" I was stumped for minute and then asked her if she meant the Yetzer Tov (good inclination) and she nodded and said he was very nice but the other guy (the yetzer ra) is bad. I agreed with her and was surprised that she remembered all that.
Later in the afternoon, Y. and A. were having the usual fight about who gets to sit in the stroller and who stands on the buggy board. All of a sudden, A. got up and said "I am going to listen to my yetzer tov and let Y. sit." I was really touched and also impressed that she could apply what she had learned in school to a real-life scenario. I hugged A. and told her I was proud of her.
And I truly am proud of her- for being a good sister to her brothers, and a wonderful caring soul. On my to-do list this year is spending more one-on-one time with her to make sure she gets enough attention, even though she is the sandwiched between two attention-grabbing brothers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A child is born

This afternoon, a family member told me that a few weeks ago, a friend of hers had had a new granddaughter, who was born with Down Syndrome. My initial gut reaction was "Oh, no!" which was then followed by-"what a terrible thing to think about the birth of a beautiful child." If I, a mother of a child with Down Syndrome think this way, how would others respond?
As I thought about it some more, I realized that my initial gut reaction was not really about the baby;  it was about all the drama and emotions surrounding the birth of a child with special needs.
I still remember when Y was born, how people did not really know what to say to us. Even though we were trying to process things, we still felt strongly that a "Mazel Tov" is in order, rather than any pitying comments. What sticks out in my mind all these years later, is a phonecall from a friend of my husband's who I had never met in person. She called from Australia to wish us well and said "I am so sorry that you are going through a difficult time right now." She was acknowledging the confusion and conflicting emotions we were feeling, without in any way making Y's birth into a negative event.
I think that really lies at the root of my conflicting reactions. I know this baby girl is a blessing. But having been there myself I also know of all the turmoil the birth of a child with special needs causes- the disappointment, anger, mourning, frustration, fear of unknown. My initial dismay was about these feelings, feelings the new parents will have to work through. Along with these feelings also comes love and a connection they feel to their baby, which will only grow.
Unfortunately there is no shortcut. Only through truly acknowledging one's feelings and processing, can one get to a place of love and acceptance. If I could speak to these new parents, I would say, "Right now, things are painful and confusing. You love your little girl so much but you can't help feeling scared and disappointed. Know that this child will bring you unbelievable joy and nachas in ways you cannot even imagine. And most importantly- Mazel tov!"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Post Rosh Hashana

It has been an intense three days but, thank G'd, everything went smoothly. I got to go to shul both days and daven (pray) a bit. The kids came in to hear the shofar and thankfully were quiet and well-behaved. The meals were nice. The food was good (if I may say so myself) and our company was enjoyable. Most importantly, I was able to foucs on the spirittual significance of the day as well and tentatively make plans for growth.
Now the dishes are washed, the floor is swept and the apartment looks semi-respectable. Up next tomorrow is laundry and trying to figure out what clothing the kids still need for the fall. FYI, Children's Place is having a sale- 15 percent off your entire purchase with a code you can get on their website. It ends Sunday so I am hoping to take care of that. Not tonight though- I am off to bed soon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First day of school

A had her first day of school today. She is starting at a new school and I was a bit apprehensive about the transition. But she was very excited when I picked her up and told me all about the fun things she did.
This is my big girl in her new princess backpack, carefully chosen dress (courtesy of Mama) and new shoes.

Y starts tomorrow, Erev Rosh Hashana, which I find kind of appropriate. I will drop him off at school on Wednesday, and then spend the next two days crying and praying  that he can be in a Jewish school the following year. I would be lying if I said I was not apprehensive- I am one big bundle of anxiety. The teacher called today to introduce herself and she sounded nice. When I told her that Y loves music, she told me she hopes to use a lot of music in the classroom. She also told me that tomorrow there will only be two (!) kids in the class, although more will be joining over the course of next week.
I prepared a little note for her with some information about Y. This is what it says- most  of it anyway:

Our names/phone numbers/email addresses
Likes: Music and musical instruments, Elmo (and all sesame street ), Toy cars and trucks, His shadow, Uncle Moishy (a Jewish entertainer who has songs and DVDs)
Fearful of: loud noises (including loud coughs, laughing or sneezing), the glare of the sun coming through the window
Communication: Y’s receptive language is at a higher level than his expressive language. However, he definitely can communicate his needs in 2-3 word utterances and should be encouraged to do so (“I want more water please” vs. “Water”)
Food: Our family keeps a strictly kosher diet. We will be providing food for snacks and lunch from home. Under no circumstances should he be given food that has not been sent from home unless it was checked/okayed by his parents. This includes baking activities at school. Y does not fully understand the concept of kosher yet and may want to eat food provided by the school. Please do not allow him to do so.
Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us if you have any questions or concerns. We would like to be active participants in Y’s education and look forward to working with you.

Do you think it's overkill? I am just worried he will freak out about something and won't be able to tell them what is upsetting him. I am sure they will  get to know him over the course of the year but giving your child over to strangers for a large part of the day is scary. It all comes back to wanting to be in control.
Which is my perfect tie-in to Rosh Hashana. It's a day of accepting G'ds malchus and finally admitting you are not in control. We have hopes and aspirations for the coming year but ultimately G'd decides what will be. It is both scary and comforting at once. Wishing everyone a Ksiva Vechasima Tova and a Shana Tova.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rosh Hashana Thoughts- A little bit More

Holidays have the tendency to creep up on me. It seems like just yesterday I was months away from September, yet here I am again, writing and rewriting menus and shopping lists, trying to cook ahead and cram yet more food into my modest freezer. And with all the emphasis on feeding my family plus numerous guests for six (count them-six!) large meals combined with the hustle of going back to school, I have given the spiritual nature of Rosh Hashana very little thought. That is not completely true- I have given some thought to the fact that I have not really had time to give it any serious thought. Got that?
Upon further reflection, it is not really accurate to say I don't have the time. I somehow find the time to blog, knit, or read a magazine when I want to. Sure, I am busy during the day, but come 7 pm when the kiddos (usually) go to sleep, I have time to focus on other things. Sometimes these things are laundry and dishes, sometimes they are blogger and facebook, but very rarely do I sit down with a religious text, or even just my journal to think about where I am in life and where I want to be. And the truth is I should do it more often. At night, I am often drawn to things that are in the "relaxing" category. I just want to veg (spelling?), not challenge myself further.
I find that learning and spiritual growth are like exercise. We are not motivated to get started and try to procrastinate and do "anything but." Once we do make the move, though, we feel so much better and the success we find will often motivate us to keep it going. All it takes is that first step.
And G'd has a way of reminding us of that at least once a year. On Rosh Hashana, He (metaphorically) knocks on our door and says "Hey, remember me? What have you been up to this past year? Anything worthwhile?"
Hopefully we have more to say for ourselves than shopping and Starbucks. The truth is that we all do much more than that. We care for our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends. We try to be respectful and courteous to others and many of us give charity, to just name a few quick ones. The goal is, however, to always be striving for more. And my personal goal over the next few days is to try to define what that "more" is going to look like for myself this coming year. No foolish New Year's Resolutions, but a real commitment to challenge myself beyond my comfort zone and try to create real change and growth in certain realms. Ideally, the satisfaction of those achievements will motivate me to keep going, the meta-physical equivalent of the endorphins of exercise. But it all comes down to my initial premise- I still need to be the one to start...wishing us all the ability to truly evaluate ourselves this Rosh Hashana and find ways to keep moving forward and do just a little bit more.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Disability Awareness

A friend, whose brother has Down Syndrome, sent me this video. The truth is I don't like the premise of it- Actors being rude and abusive to a worker with Down Syndrome (also an actor) in a grocery store, in order to see if other people would stand up for him or just stand by and not say anything. I am not a fan of setting people up like that and submitting this young man with Down Syndrome to all that abuse, even if it was technically just an act.
Not surprisingly, many people looked uncomfortable but very few actually took initiative and confronted the abuser. The video definitely brings home the message that there is still a lot of work to be done to educate people about individuals with disabilities. And that this hostility and/or indifference is something my son may have to face one day. I only know one thing- it made me cry. What do you think?