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, 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.

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

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?