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 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!