Monday, April 30, 2012

Special Needs Week

This week somehow has become a week all about Special Needs.
Yesterday my husband and I attended the Sprout Film Festival. It is a weekend devoted to special needs with all kinds of movies and documentaries on the topic. We went to see a group of films on the topic "Who we are". The movies dealt with individuals with developmental disabilities trying to find themselves as they get older, whether it is through relationships, their affinity for sports or otherwise.
It was striking to see how adults who are high functioning sense and understand that they are being treated differently because of their disability, and  that it truly hurts them. Definitely a lot of food for thought there.
My husband and I both loved a documentary about two boys, one with autism, one with Down Syndrome who love basketball and both scored for their teams in unbelievable moments that were caught on camera. Seems very apropos for Y who is obsessed with sports.
We have also arranged for a tutor to start working with Y on Jewish subjects. He started two weeks ago and it has been going very well. They learn aleph-beis and the weekly parsha. Y loves it and feels very proud that he is learning with a Rebbe.
Lastly, we are going to the yearly Yachad Shabbaton for Families of children with special needs. I love going because I always learn something new in the sessions and get to connect with others. I am hoping A. will gain something too, maybe by meeting some other siblings. I was actually asked if I want to be on a panel, answering questions but I said no. Public speaking is not really my thing...
On the same note, here is a link to an interesting article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about disability. It's called "Mental Disability is Not a Blessing". I agree with the basic premise, but still need to think about it some more. Thoughts welcome.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy 5 month Birthday AY!

Today, AY turned 5 months old. At the risk of sounding very cliche, I cannot believe how the time has flown.
At 5 months, AY is rolling over from his back to tummy and also tummy to back. He can pivot and also push himself backward a bit. Basically, this is the beginning of mobility.
He can grasp rattles and toys and likes spending time on his playmat reaching for things.

I am not sure if he is teething or not but he is constantly sticking things in his mouth, whether toys or his fingers. 

When he is in a good mood and not tired, he is a very smiley, happy baby. He smiles a lot and also laughs and coos.

As is to be expected, when he is tired, he gets very cranky and just wants to be held or rocked till he falls asleep. In general he likes to be held a lot and I often have him in the Ergo or my Moby wrap. He seems to enjoy both of them.
 He is exclusively nursing and at 17 lbs, a big boy but has become increasingly fussy about breastfeeding. He only likes to nurse lying down or when it is quiet and sometimes even screams when I try to feed him that way, which is very frustrating. My mommy intuition fails me when it comes to this problem and I wish I had an answer to his fussiness as it is making nursing increasingly unpleasant.
He is not yet sleeping through the night but I am okay with it, as long as I do not get woken up too often. What confounds my sleep deprivation is AYs siblings who seem to always find a reason to wake me at  the lovely hours of 2 30, 4 or 5 30.
The older kids love AY and love speaking to him, playing with him, making him laugh and watching him take a bath. He has definitely become part of our family and I almost do not remember life without him.
Happy Birthday AY- and many many more :)
PS: More importantly, today is Israel Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut. More on that a different time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

House of Sick

It has been quite an eventful ten days on the illness front. We were lucky enough to have had a pretty easy winter with the kids, but now that it is spring, the germs are flying full force.
It all started on Shabbos, the last day of Pessach. After a sleepless night of A. crying and screaming that her ear hurts, the doctor diagnosed her with strep. The antibiotics worked their magic and within 24 hours she was feeling better.
 A few days later, on Tuesday, we had another sleepless night, this time with Baby AY. A visit to the pediatrician the next morning yielded a diagnosis of an ear infection and yet more antibiotics. The poor baby was so miserable and had a high fever that Tylenol would not bring down. I spent almost a full day wearing him in the ergo, as he whimpered and slept. The antibiotics did the trick for him too after about 24 hours.
I thought we had finally made it through, when Y. fell asleep at the dinner table on Sunday night at 5 pm, which was unusual. Even though he felt warm like he had a fever, he was nice enough not to cause us another sleepless night.
Y asleep at the dinner table
The next morning he told us he was sick and could not go to school. I was a bit skeptical that he had anything serious beyond a cough and runny nose, but off we went again to the pediatrician. I jokingly asked them if they have a "pay for 2 doctor's visits, get the third one free"-offer. Alas, I had to pay the $25 co-pay again. I left the doctor with yet another prescription for amoxicillin to treat strep throat. It was kind of funny to see how dramatic A was about her sore throat, whereas Y was pretty chilled out and barely complained. In general they have very different temperaments.
I am pretty amazed that M has not caught anything yet and I am kind of holding my breath to see if he develops anything over the next few days. I myself had a nice cough and lost my voice for a few days, but I am feeling better. I guess this kind of thing is inevitable in a large family. We do wash our hands and use hand sanitizer but there is only so much you can do.
Now I am trying to keep all the pink bottles in our fridge straight and  am seriously hoping that I do not need to go back to the pediatrician anymore this week. Wish me luck!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Upgrading our Chairs

Judaism is a religion of many festive meals and when you are the Rabbi/Rebbetzen, you have the privilege of hosting many people in your home for said meals. We bought a nice dining room set when we moved to NY five years ago but it has slowly taken a beating. Between the kids abusing them and the heavy rotation of guests we were having, it was looking bad.
I did the math and a conservative estimate would be about 8 people 40 weeks a year times 5 years, equals about 1600 people having sat in our chairs. So it would come as no surprise that they started looking something like this
Not sure if you can see but on the bottom, the fabric is ripped and the stuffing is showing
We realized something needed to be done. I started pricing reupholstering and found out it was actually not so cheap. We wavered back and forth but in the end decided it was necessary. Hosting people on ripped and dirty chairs was a bit embarrassing.
The chairs were picked up about a month ago and were delivered as good as new yesterday, just in time to host our first post-Pessach shabbos meal.
I decided to be bold and choose a different color. I am very happy with the result.
our new blue chairs- covered in plastic to last longer

I am actually looking forward to our meal tomorrow because we are hosting good friends rather than random people we do not know strangers.  Wishing you all a Good Shabbos!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I am finding my Developmental Psychology course very interesting and it is often a springboard for me to have interesting conversations with friends and family, or even just to contemplate things on my own.
Today we discussed infant attachment. Attachment is defined as the emotional connection/bond that exists between a baby and its caregivers. It gives the baby a sense of security and trust to know she will be taken care of and to be connected to a specific person. Attachment is created through taking care of the baby's physical needs but almost more importantly, his emotional needs. Babies with secure attachments are shown to be more successful and have better relationships later in life.
What exactly creates a secure attachment? According to my professor it is being responsive to your baby and his or her needs. This sounded very much connected to the concept of Attachment Parenting. So I checked Wikipedia and lo and behold:
Attachment parenting, a phrase coined by pediatrician William Sears,[1] is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child's socio-emotional development and well being..... Principles of attachment parenting aim to increase development of child's secure attachment and decrease insecure attachment.

The rest of the wikipedia entry is interesting as well, because it discusses the different studies that I learned about in class and how the are connected to Attachment Parenting (AP). Attachment Parenting has a few principles, which are sometimes knows as The 7 B's of Attachment Parenting, among them breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding (ie sleeping) close to your baby and balance. Dr. Sears is also a big proponent of positive discipline, a post for another time.
There is no one rigid set of rules, rather what is important is to be close to your baby and to be responsive to him or her. Dr. Sears claims that the more responsive you are to your baby's cried and cues, the better you will become at understanding her needs and decoding her cries.  Being responsive will also help your baby feel secure and loved and create a secure attachment.
This theory has always appealed to me and I try to use some of these principles in my parenting. I breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and feed on demand, I sleep with my babies next to me and generally do not like to let my babies cry. But I also know myself so I make sure to take breaks, make date nights with my husband and try to find outlets for myself that do not involve my kids whether it is knitting or yoga (which I have not been to in ages). Being an attached parent does not mean you have to be physically attached to your child 24/7.
People often criticize AP for being too focused on the child and that the parent loses himself in the quest to satisfy baby. What people may not realize though is that part of AP is also the concept of balance, meaning a parent needs to take their own needs into account too, not just the baby's needs. The baby's needs are often more immediate but being responsive to your children should not come at the expense of your sanity or your spouse. Everyone needs to find what works for them but should not lose sight of the goal- a happy, secure baby but also a happy, thriving mother, marriage and family unit.
Interestingly enough, MamaBirth discusses this very topic in her blog today and offers the same conclusion- we all need to balance our own needs with the needs of our family and need to make sure that we as individuals do not suffer. That does not mean that we can expect a 2 month old to sleep 10 hours straight, but it does mean that we can try to inject a little bit of routine into our days.
Ultimately, no matter what we call it, we are all trying to do what is good for our children. For more info on Attachment Parenting you can check Dr. Sears's website.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Now that Pessach is behind us, it is time to move forward.
On the one hand, it feels like a huge burden has been lifted and I do not have a deadline looming anymore, on the other hand, I sat down to make a list of all the things that need to be taken care of, and it was quite long. Among them:
-several doctor and dentist appointments for both the children and myself. I am embarrassed to say how long it has been since I have seen a doctor who was not an OB/GYN, so it is definitely time for an annual exam.
- find a way to get to Israel this summer without going broke
-catch up on my developmental psychology course- do my journal assignments, write a paper, etc.

But really, you do not really want to see my to-do list. My point is just, there is always something going on.
I was talking to a friend recently and telling her that my life just feels really full these days. Not overwhelming (although some days it does feel that way) but just busy. There is always work to be done. I am not saying that I do not have a free minute. I do and I am thankful for the breather, but still. Having a fourth child and returning to school has definitely tipped the balance towards taking up most of my days (and nights, with night feedings, other children waking me up, etc)
But I guess that is a good thing. The Torah says that our matriarchs and patriarchs lived "full" days, where every minute was accounted for. Now, I am obviously not comparing myself to the Avos, but it does feel good to be productive, busy and doing good things.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Closed for the holiday

With yomtov approaching yet again, I am taking the next few days off yet again. It is so crazy that I was working towards pessach for so long and now it is almost over. Which seems to be a metaphor for life events in general. Before you blink, what you were looking forward to for so long has come and gone.
Like this cutie who is already 4.5 months old!
I hope once we have recovered from pessach, I will be able to get back into a more regular blogging routine. Good yomtov to all!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creating memories

I wrote a bit about this in my last post before Pessach, but I just keep coming back to this idea.
Obviously, you can create loving associations and work on your relationship with your children on any given day.
But somehow, there are certain times of the year that just seem to be more conducive to it. A holiday with lots of family meals and time off from work and school just seems like the perfect time to kick it up a notch. So these past few days, we have been really trying to focus on the kids. We had two very kid-centric seders. Even though we had other guests at one seder, the kids really were the focus of the evening.
We have also been eating dinner together as a family, which does not usually happen so much during our regular schedule. The kids seem to really be enjoying this, which makes me think we should try to make family dinner happen more often.
And then there are the trips. This year there are many days of Chol Hamoed which means there is lots of time for outings. And while I do not think that bigger is always better and that we have to go all out financially, I do think it is nice for the kids to do some activities that are a little different. So Monday we went to the Central Park Zoo. The kids really enjoyed checking out all the different animals and other than M having a little melt-down on the bus home because he was exhausted, it went very smoothly.
Today we decided to be really ambitious and took the subway to Brooklyn to a special Pessach concert featuring Uncle Moishy and Miami Boys Choir. It was a little bit of a trek and I was worried how Y was going to handle the noise and crowds, but again, it really went well. The subway ride was uncomplicated and not too long and all the kids loved the music. Y stayed seated for almost the entire show and only got scared at one point during a magic show. Baby AY slept through almost the whole thing! Seeing their faces light up with joy when their favorite songs were played and their general excitement about the concert made it all worth it.
Y and M with their hero Uncle Moishy

We came home, tired but satisfied. The next two days will be spent with more local, low-key acitivites but it was just so nice to be able to give the children these great experiences. I do hope it is something they remember and that they will associate Pessach with fun and family time.
I know that all the fun during these weeks does not substitute for mindful, conscious parenting all year round, but I do see it as an important supplement, a small infusion of quality and quantity time. Do you agree? What have you been doing? Any exciting trips?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chag Sameach

With 20 minutes to candlelighting, I have a few minutes to reflect and what I am feeling is grateful. Grateful to be done cleaning :) grateful to be hosting a seder, blessed to have our amazing, lively children at our seder table to celebrate pessach.
I have such wonderful memories of pessach in my parents home and I hope this week we will create lasying memories for our children
Chag Sameach to all!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Links of the week

I hope to have another post out before Pessach but for now I will leave you with my links of the week
- Ellen at Love That Max is blogging all about toilet training her son Max this week and boy, can I relate. Read her account of her first weekend without diapers here and about her having to be ready to start the process of potty-training here.
-On the birth front Mama Birth talks about the importance of resting after birth- I am a big proponent of that!! If you do not give yourself time in the beginning, you will regret it in the long run.
-Henci Goer has a great piece about why VBAC is safer than a repeat c-section, despite a recent study that came out that seems to claim otherwise.
-Lastly, here is a recipe for Passover granola. It sounds really yummy and like a great breakfast option. If you google "Passover granola recipes" you will find many more variations but they are all pretty similar- matzah, nuts, dried fruit, honey and oil.
How is that for an eclectic mix of interests?? Let me know what you think

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This too shall pass

As a parent, one of the first things you learn is that your child will go through many different phases. Nursing every two hours, teething, throwing food, whatever you're dealing with, it is most likely a stage.
The problem is, when you are living it, you can get very discouraged and feel like it will never end.
Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking to a new mom whose 7 week old baby was colicky and not sleeping much. When I told her that things pass and get better, I could see that she did not believe me. She wanted to, but she was so caught up in the here and now that she could not imagine another reality.
I am trying to keep this in mind as I am going through a new stage with Baby AY. He is usually a pretty good sleeper but this past week he has been wanting to be nursed and snuggled with for 45 minutes to an hour in order to fall asleep. And he has been having trouble staying asleep, waking more often at night. I am not sure what is behind this stage- teething, growth spurt, no reason at all. It does not matter why, it is just really bad timing with Passover less than a week away (!!) and nights being my prime time to get things done. But truthfully it is never a good time to be sleep deprived.
So while intellectually, I am thinking "It's a phase, he will get over it," emotionally I have kind of had it. I mean I love to snuggle with him, he is very yummy but every night from 8 30 to 9 30 is a bit much. People often say, "enjoy every minute, they grow so fast'. It is true, they are growing super fast, but that does not mean that every second is enjoyable. Honestly, some parts of parenting are just not fun. Toilet-training, tantrums and vomit are just a few things that come to mind. While we cherish some moments, there are other times where we cannot wait for a day/month/stage to be OVER.
 So I just keep repeating to myself- this too shall pass. One day he will sleep six or more hours straight. One day Y and M will be fully trained and there will be no more daily loads of wet pants and underwear. Until then, I will just try to be patient and focus on the good stuff.
Update- I started this post three days ago. It took me awhile to finish it and I am happy to report that I have found a solution to AY's nightly nursing marathons. After lying down with him and feeding him for about fifteen minutes, I transfer him into his crib with a pacifier (which he is finally agreeing to take) and his Aden and Anais swaddle cloth (I found another good use for them). Not sure if he likes holding it because it smells like me, like breastmilk or because it is soft, but this seems to do the trick. This only works if he has nursed enough and he is really ready to sleep but problem solved for now. On to the next stage:)