Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peekaru: Marie Claire Does Not Know Babywearing!

Marie Claire rated the Peekaru babywearing vest as one of their "41 Gifts We Don't Want" but I'd guess that writer hasn't ever worn a baby. I concede that I, despite being a babywearing fanatic, also thought the Peekaru was probably not that useful... until my sister got it for me last month and I was in its cozy heaven of cuteness!!!

If you've babyworn, you know how much easier it is to navigate a crowded place without a stroller. Packed tourist destinations, escalators, stairs, no problem. It's also safer to have them higher up. Last month I had the kid in the stroller in the city- and someone ASHED ON HIS HEAD!!! I promptly put him right into our ERGObaby carrier (which I never leave home without) and wore him for the rest of the night, navigating Times Square and Toys R Us without fear of some idiot dropping a cigarette on him or knocking him in the face with shopping bags.

My city-dwelling sister ordered me the Peekaru the next day, and I wore it the next time I went to see her in the city. We got stared at admiringly all day. I'm serious. No one could resist our adorableness.

Even without a Peekaru, babywearing in winter is awesome. With the kid against you, you don't have to worry about if he/she is warm or not. You just know, because they're the same temp you are, so you adjust your layers around the kid accordingly. This is me babywearing last year, before the Peekaru. I look like a hobo with a large sweatshirt closed over the kid, my winter maternity coat over that, and a scarf around my neck. (No offense, hobos.)

Now, instead of mismatched clothes, I'm the epitome of chic.

Just before this photo was taken, a man said, "That's a beautiful baby!" Do you think he would have even noticed my kid if he was in a stroller? No! See how the Peekaru brings out the beauty in life?

Here's another pre-Peekaru photo, from the day he got ashed on. That was pre-Peekaru. (I cropped out my husband since he's a little antisocial.) You can see how the bulky winter coat gets all up in the kid's face.

The one downside of the Peekaru is that if the kid wants to get down, you have to unzip the Peekaru, but that's no biggie.

When it's really, really cold, you have to protect your baby. The Peekaru is one good option. The other option is to put them in a stroller bundle thingy, a winter jacket, then cover them in plastic (see photo to left), but then you really don't know if they are too hot or still cold. On this day, probably almost a year ago, my hips were bothering me, so I shrink wrapped him in the stroller. You can see how silly the kid looks, and that's why I wear him if I can. Instead of closing them up like a package, why not snuggle them close? They're only wearable for so long, so I get my cuddles whenever I can.

Don't even get me started on how handy it is to babywear in an airport, and while hauling all of your crap onto an airplane.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cliche: Parenting Changes You

I found it so annoying when people would say, when I was pregnant, "Having a kid changes your whole life." I smiled politely while thinking, DUH!!!! Of course having a kid changes your whole life. I know that. I'm ready for that. You telling me that is insulting to my intelligence.

As I've been a parent over the past 20 months, this little statement has come true in ways I could have easily predicted- you have stronger emotions, less time for yourself, completely different priorities for spending money and time, and new skills relating to patience and empathy. (Hiking in the woods in the photo to the right? Something I did only because I feel like my kid needs to see more nature.)

It's the empathy thing that's interesting to me, because I didn't think people meant that- I didn't think they meant that being a parent changes how you view every other person you come into contact with.

That 20-something lady I stop my car for at the crosswalk at the busiest shopping center in town? Someone's baby.
That 50 something guy driving like an absolute idiot in the same parking lot? Someone's baby!
My student who is being absolutely stubborn about filling out the graphic organizer, who I'm getting really frustrated with because I don't have time to repeat it for the third time? Someone's baby.

That's a lot of pressure! To have to treat other people like they are a former baby? To give them the same respect you hope a stranger or teacher will give YOUR baby, whether they're 11 or 25 or 50? That's a lot of responsibility, but I'm happy to have a refreshed awareness of others. It's easy to be self-centered when you're busy and stressed out about your own life, but awareness of others can give badly needed perspective. That perspective can help you be kind to others when you'd otherwise be impatient.

Of course you can have that patience and perspective if you're NOT a parent- you can try to treat others like you wish your siblings or parents would be treated- but I find the extreme attachment and protectiveness I feel for my own kid is a more powerful motivator. It's so obvious to me how helpless he is, and that makes it easy for me to see how helpless even teenagers and adults are.

It can be a bit depressing to see how some people's babies turn out. I don't mean that in a mean way. I just mean, some of these former babies have difficult lives, and I know their parents probably hoped for something different for them.

Anyway, the cliche came true. Parenting has changed my whole life. Although I'm the same person, I spend my time really differently and I see things in my daily life differently. I do not say, though, to people who are about to have children, "Being a parent changes your whole life!" I get that out of my system by blogging. More people should blog. That way, I won't have to listen to them tell me things I already know, or will discover on my own soon enough even if they DIDN'T tell me about it.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I'm Reading

Peter Pan- I'm only on the third or fourth chapter, but that book is deliciously messed up. It is absolutely not a children's book. It is a young adult book. It's one of the books my students are reading for their classics units and I am having a blast talking about it with them. The highlight of my week was when one of my0 students read aloud to me the scene where Tink encourages the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy. I'll include that excerpt at the end of this post. I also love the part where Peter thinks a kiss is a thimble. "Peter thimbled her..." I fell over laughing, literally, when another of my students read it to me!

I'm also reading an awesome teaching book. Only read this if you are a reading/writing teacher (of any grade). It is a fabulous framework for the teaching of reading and writing in a nurturing way. It's called The Complete 4 for Literacy because author Pam Allyn advocates a balance of focus on genre, conventions, process, and strategy. I have the privilege of being on a team that's writing units for my district, as we are switching from the model where the whole class reads one book together to a model where the kids are reading books (or any text) at their just right level. We are using this book, which gives great advice for how to write units of study with very focused objectives but lots of time for kids to read and write at their independent level. I love that it builds in time for conferencing with students as well as small group instruction. It's just a good, healthy model.

I am also reading Mary Poppins, which, like Peter Pan, is also not really a young kid's book! Mary Poppins is actually super mean- the opposite of the sweet character Julie Andrews plays in the movie. "I hate her!" one of my students said yesterday as we looked at a part where she threatens the kids, or tells them to be quiet, or mocks them.... which she does constantly! I absolutely love how mean she is, but my students don't see how it's funny. Oh well. She's like, viciously mean and shows the kids no kindness. It's insane.

A couple of New York Times articles that I've read over the last couple of weeks have stuck with me.

One I won't link to because it's about the Cheshire CT triple murder case of a woman and her two daughters, and it is very, very disturbing. Don't read about it. It's awful. The dad survived the attack and recently one of the killers was sentenced to die. The article I found interesting was about how the jury, after they delivered the verdict, asked the judge if they could speak privately to the father. They all cried and hugged him. Many other lines in the article stuck with me. One jury member told the reporter that although he did not believe in the death penalty, he felt that if any case necessitated one, this was it, and so he applied the law. Another one said she wished she could take away the pain and fear that the daughters had to go through in their last hours. They were very human comments, not clinical legal ones. These jurors felt how I would feel, and we don't always get that inside window on a trial.
The article really showed how the people seemed to connect and care for each other both during and after the trial. After the verdict, the judge thanked the jury for their service and said they'd seen things that no person should ever have to see. He didn't have to say that, and that to me shows a degree of care. The reporter ended the article with the comment that clearly amazed him the most. When the jurors met with the dad and family, the grandma told the jury she was sorry they'd had to put them through that. This reporter was clearly struck by the people in this case, and his article got that across to me.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed the article about the Chilean miner who ran the New York City marathon after being stuck underground for 10 weeks. I'll link to that.

Here's the part from Chapter 5 of Peter Pan where Tink encourages the boys to shoot Wendy. The dialogue is ridiculous. I have always loved the absurd.

Now Nibs rose from the ground, and the others thought that his staring eyes still saw the wolves. But it was not wolves he saw.

"I have seen a wonderfuller thing," he cried, as they gathered round him eagerly. "A great white bird. It is flying this way."

"What kind of a bird, do you think?"

"I don't know," Nibs said, awestruck, "but it looks so weary, and as it flies it moans, `Poor Wendy,'"

"Poor Wendy?"

"I remember," said Slightly instantly, "there are birds called Wendies."

"See, it comes!" cried Curly, pointing to Wendy in the heavens.

Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each time she touched.

"Hullo, Tink," cried the wondering boys.

Tink's reply rang out: "Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy."

It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. "Let us do what Peter wishes!" cried the simple boys. "Quick, bows and arrows!"

All but Tootles popped down their trees. He had a bow and arrow with him, and Tink noted it, and rubbed her little hands.

"Quick, Tootles, quick," she screamed. "Peter will be so pleased."

Tootles excitedly fitted the arrow to his bow. "Out of the way, Tink," he shouted, and then he fired, and Wendy fluttered to the ground with an arrow in her breast.

And the chapter ends right there. Hilarious! Insane! How on earth is this a children's book???

Here's a link to Chapter 6, and you can read the whole book online if you want.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Age

Me to kid who has bossed a classmate around: "Do not boss him around. When you're 35 like me, then you can tell an 11 year old what to do."

Murmurs of shock and horror flow throughout the room. "Thirty-five? Oh my gosh."

A few of them murmur kindly, "You don't look thirty-five," and then, because I'm totally ignoring their comments and moving on, one of my most helpful students shouts, "You don't look your age!" just so he can make sure I'm not offended.

I brush my hair back from my face and say, "I know."

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Candy Life

My sister showed me that by early August, stores already carry those candy pumpkins!
I'm somewhat horrified and offended that sugar is rushing the end of summer, but I do appreciate the cuteness of candy that relates to the seasons. It feels, y'know, very cyclical and holidayish and traditionish. I suppose we could mark the passing of seasons with something a little healthier like apple or pumpkin pie, but I guess this is the easier option.
Now, when do my pumpkin spice lattes come out?

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Parents, Sports Crushes

I just got this cryptic email from my Dad:

tonite on abc at 9pm shaq and dale jr

I dunno, sounds pretty interesting. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that Dale Earnhardt Jr is one of my celebrity crushes.

It's my parents 42nd wedding anniversary today! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Here's info on the Shaq/Dale show.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

World's Fanciest Playground?

I guess this new-fangled playground opened at South Street Seaport (NYC) today.

Listen to this:
The playground has been five years in the making, a result of tons of research in progressive learning theory and child-development research, as well as $7.4 million in financing. In smaller, portable versions, it has been tested and tweaked after trial tours all over the city.
Instead of monkey bars and jungle gyms, there are fountains with canals of cascading water that can be dammed in infinite ways, or transformed into a network of rivers. There is an engaging set of lifts and pulleys. Play is proctored and interaction fostered by a staff of city workers trained as “play associates.”

I'm hoping to go check the playground out as soon as possible- rather, as soon as Q's Aunt Katie, who lives and works in the city, has some time to see us!
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My Blue and Yellow Nursery!

Well, it's not MINE, exactly, but I'd love a nursery like this if I were having a girl. I have posted before about yellow nurseries, so to find a bright one like I was imagining sort of took my breath away.

This is a nursery for a boy since they didn't know what they were having. I love that I could easily (well, sorta easily) just change Q's nursery to look like this since we already have an aqua blue wall in the room. If I don't have any more kids, or a baby girl, I'll just have to make an office for myself that looks like this!

Thanks to Ohdeedoh for the awesome nursery pics.

See my decor tab to see other nurseries I've written about. Really, is anything cuter than a nursery? Gosh, I should probably start thinking about Q's "big boy room" or whatever. I'm dying to get him out of the crib and into a regular bed, but we shall see.

Hmmm that white crib looks so nice. I sort of wish we'd gotten one, but I do think Q's natural crib looks good with our orange and blue theme. I'll try to get a decent pic of it soon.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Saying Things Once

A couple months ago, I realized I was repeating my requests to my baby at least two times and often three. I know repetition is important for learning, but I was repeating things I knew he understood just because he wasn't doing them right away. (Like, "Go get your sippy cup." I figured he was going to start expecting everything repeated, so I started trying to only say things TWICE. This allowed me to be more patient and wait longer after my first request to see if he was going to complete it, then if not, I'd repeat it again. I tell you, it makes me feel more sane.

("Sit down in the chair!" is a popular request around here. Or at the beach, which is where the photo above was taken, hence the wicker, wood paneling, and cooler.)

I think that if I weren't a teacher, I might not be aware of this. Any teacher will tell you how maddening it is to give a couple directions, then say, "OK, any questions? Great, go ahead and begin!" and then have three kids say, "Wait, what do we do?" Of course, you have to check that you yourself have made directions clear, but if you know you have, then what you have is a case of "I've learned I don't have to listen carefully, because I know you'll do the work for me by repeating it for me personally later."

I noticed this a lot when I came back from my maternity leave. I very quickly taught them I was not going to repeat myself. I often had to explicitly say, "I am not going to repeat myself. I am only saying this once, so listen up." I would see them perk up and focus, which told me that indeed, they hadn't been focused before. (Hey, I understand- sometimes I'd a really bad listener.) After I had their attention, I'd give the directions, keeping it as simple and clear as possible, then ask if there were any questions, then answer the questions, and tell the kids to begin... and there would often be a kid who'd then come up to me and ask what to do. I used my judgment on whether or not the kid needed it repeated. If it was a student who I knew was confused, I'd re-explain. If it was a kid who I knew was just insecure that he or she was doing things right, I'd say, "No, you know what to do." Or I'd say, "Go ask someone at your table," because that way they'd know it was OK to ask for help, but that I wasn't going to re-explain, because I'd just said I wasn't going to re-explain. (You might think I was sending conflicting messages by only repeating it for certain kids, but the students understand that learners are different, and I explain from the very beginning of the year that we all have strengths and weaknesses as learners.)

Anyway, what I'm saying is, it's important to keep track of how you talk to kids. You want to be clear, but you also don't want to be a sucker and do all the work for them.

I also think it's kind of a life lesson: "Oh, you are confused? Well, you better figure it out yourself, whether that means trying to do it to the best of what you remember of the directions, or to ask for help wherever you can." But not from the person who just said, "Do not ask me."

If it looks like the students it stressed or upset, I'll help them- I'm not mean.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, if my kid doesn't do what I want him to do after the second request, I'll say it a different way, then just do it myself, or do it with him- whatever makes the most sense for the situation.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Montessori Blog

I just discovered a great blog:

I have been interested in Montessori ever since my friend Laura sent me the Michael Olaf Montessori materials catalogue, which you can easily view online (I'll post link later-Q sleeping on me right now- see photo).

So much of the Montessori ideas make sense: a floor bed, a low shelf for toys, teaching life skills, letting kids choose what to learn, etc. The blog I just found via Mighty Marce is a quick way to learn about some Montessori ideas.

Try as I might to incorporate Montessori ideas into my public school classroom, it's really hard without spending a ton of time thinking about how. Actually, it's pretty Montessori of me to let my students choose their writing topics, and choose their own books, but... much of what I do is NOT Montessori. It's going to take time to research, and I just do not have tons of time for that while working and having a toddler.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


In a few hours I get to meet my new nephews and I have some funny images of what I could do. My mom made a foam board welcome poster, so one image has me holding the poster and throwing handfuls of confetti in the air when my sister comes out of the international arrivals area. The other image has me crashing through the poster, breaking it in half, and running to her. I will, of course, do neither of those things, because they would scare six month old twins, but I like to imagine stuff.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reminder to Husband

This is what I want for my birthday!!!

I suppose I should check more carefully what it's made of... since I prefer the rubbery grips as opposed to smooth... but c'mon, this is adorable! Click here to read full entry.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Miss Mississippi!

My sister was plenty ready to leave Mississippi, but seeing my Mississippi mug this morning reminded me that I'm a bit nostalgic for it. It was a relaxing place and I had many great visits there. I loved flying New York--> Memphis--> Tupelo, going from hustle and bustle to a Southern drawl. It was also a way faster trip than California. Plus I got some good posts out of MS... See the Mississippi category to the right!
This is our new K-cup coffee maker, purchased, three years later, with a wedding gift certificate from my coworkers.
Also, I'm doing this post so I can try out my new app: Blogpress for iPhone. So far I really like it and am kicking myself for not getting it earlier.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jim's Fancy Pancakes

Oh man. I just cannot compare myself to this guy Jim, who makes truly fancy pancakes. And blogs about it!

You just can't compare yourself to other people in this world, because you will always come up short.

I mean, he makes a 3-D biplane model out of pancake batter. And note Tetris pancakes to right. Sigh. Click here to read full entry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Loft Nursery: Pretty But Unsafe. DUH.

It really is funny when the baby design/decor blog Ohdeedoh by Apartment Therapy features TOTALLY UNSAFE NURSERIES. Previously I posted about a nursery with a step ladder up to a window and too widely-spaced crib bars. Today Ohdeedoh has a nursery in a LOFT... with OPEN railings.

And the crib and changing table are right against the railings! Reader comments are appropriately along the lines of, "Are you FREAKING SERIOUS?"

See the whole post to view reader comments and see the "before" photo of the loft when it was an office.

Note: Comments have since been disabled on the site, and while I wish it was because Ohdeedoh was embarrassed by the criticism, I think it was because Apartment Therapy renamed the site "Apartment Therapy- Family." Click here to read full entry.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pop Goes the Weasel Gets Philosophical

I just noticed these lyrics to "Pop Goes the Weasel:"

You may try to sew and sew
And never make anything regal
So roll it up and let it go
Pop -- goes the weasel!

I love it. It's another way of saying, "Take it easy on yourself!" which is one of my life philosophies.

Lest ye think I am a total slacker, there are areas in which I'm highly driven: mainly my writing, which is why, after I took a summer writing course, my husband (then-boyfriend) said, "Do you promise never to take another class again?" because I was so obsessive about my researching, writing, and revising. I'd stay up til 1am, completely immersed in it, then get up at 6am to ger ready to drive to Fairfield. I loved every second of that physically and emotionally tiring class.

Teaching, I work hard at, but it's an art in which going for perfection is a BAD idea since it involves the precious little souls of kids. For that, I say, Set extremely high standards, give them tons of attention and feedback, then roll it up and let it go. Same for parenting: Give it your all, then roll it up and let it go. You cannot control another person. You can just give them your best.

Caption: my friends sewing and knitting while I organize my iPhoto on our Woodstock Crafting Weekend, Winter 2007. Did I care that I can't craft? Nope, I rolled it up and let it go and did not compare myself to other (craftier) people. Note: my hair is NOT this long any more.

I absolutely adore music- always have. I used to sing in a 100+ person chorus until voice problems forced me to stop (and to take a year off of teaching, but that's another story). The people in this chorus were so good that I was pretty much the worst person even though I'm decent. Anyway, I'm happy the kid is at an age where I can tell he enjoys music, so I've created a "Q mix" for him on the iPod with all of the good songs from the CDs I downloaded from my sister a couple of years ago- the sister with three kids- so I have loads of great music to play for him- and me-, including several version of "Pop Goes the Weasel."

You can try to sew and sew...

Take it easy on yourself. That's the advice I gave today to a colleague who's returning from her maternity leave and is going to pump at work... set the standard you want for youself, and then take it easy on yourself. Hard-working people often don't enjoy themselves like they should, because while it's great to set high standards, you also have to enjoy life, and sometimes that means doing a little less amazing job than you'd like. Now that I have limited time for my writing, I've had to force myself to set lower standards. It's hard, but I'd never publish a darn thing unless I gave myself permission to just do a good enough job.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Baby Gear: White Noise Machine

I'm kicking myself for not getting this handy device earlier. I live in a house with very squeaky, cracky wooden floors. After I put baby in his crib and try to walk quietly away, I cannot even tell you how loud the floor is, even under the carpet we put down. I finally shelled out fifty bucks for a simple but effective white noise machine and boy, do I love it. I really think it helps the baby sleep better. (Well, he's now a toddler since he can RUN.) This is one thing that falls into the "must have for new parents" category.

I first encountered this white noise machine on a trip to Virginia with my whole family when baby Q was 3 months old. My sister brought the white noise machine with her from Mississippi so her kids could sleep through the noise out in the kitchen/living room of our rented cottage. I know there are many types of white noise machines, but I like that this one is mechanical rather than electronic. It sucks the air in rather than being a recording of white noise, and you can adjust the tone to be sharper or more dull.

The other good thing about this simple machine is that it has so few buttons that it does not really attract the baby's attention, so I can leave it on the floor of his room without him messing with it too much. And even if he does mess with it, there is not that much he can do to it, except make it a little louder or give it a little higher or lower tone.
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teaching as a Mom: Five Thoughts

Teaching, now that I'm a mom, feels a little different.

1. I see them all as babies, more so than I did even after my nephews and niece caused me to see them as children rather than just adolescents. Something about their hair, and their heads, reminds me of my baby, and it's all I can do not to nuzzle them. Here they are, writing essays, and all I can see is what babies they still are in many ways. I've always been kind to my students, but now I am ABSURDLY kind to them. (I've only been back three weeks- maybe my maternal attitude toward them will decrease as time passes?)

2. Yesterday morning I was so tired. I was leaning in a doorway in the school, just being an adult presence in the halls since it was the Friday before a vacation. I was watching dozens and dozens of 11-14s pass by, and I suddenly got teary at the fact that my little boy will one day be as old as these kids, and as tall as me.

3. This is my first year teaching as a mom. I don't think about my baby TOO much during the day, except when I'm pumping, because the pace of teaching is so fast. I've got 20-25 kids in the room, and I am responsible for their development as writers and readers. That does NOT leave a lot of time to think about my life. Being so busy means I go through parts of my day feeling like the "pre-baby" me... the me who does not have a little part of her out in the world. And that's a very different feeling than the feeling I have when I am with my baby, which is the feeling that there is MORE of me. It's weird to feel both of those feelings in the same day. I think that is life as a working parent maybe- the two halves of your day are two extremes. No baby, all baby. (And as a stay-at-home parent, it's all baby, all the time, and that is intense. In some ways, working makes life easier. Not having a daily nap time, though? That's not easy.)
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Latest Obsession:Babyhawk Mei Tai

Me n the kids at an indoor winter farmer's market
I finally, after several weeks of poring over the Babyhawk site and its hundreds of choices of strap/body panel color and pattern combos, chose my combo. I thought I was going to get espresso straps, because i love my brown ERGO. However, a Twitter friend showed me her grey-strapped Babyhawk and swayed me. I showed the hubs a couple of options for the body panel fabric, and he liked a grey/white/yellow combo, so I took the plunge and ordered.

This mei tai is going to help me have a more comfortable back carry option, because the baby is too heavy now for more than 30 minutes of front carry. I tried on the mei tai at Mini Metros natural parenting store in NYC and they showed me how to get him nice and high up so he can see over my shoulder.

Update 7/1/14: 

The Babyhawk mei tai didn't work out for back carrying the boy. He was too heavy- the straps totally dug into me.  I put the mei tai away... and got it out to try after the second baby was born... I LOVED it from the very first week. I wore her froggy style until 6 weeks or so, when she was big enough to let her legs dangle.  

I could be totally hands free- wearing the baby and still able to fully attend to the 3 year old on the playground.  Nice high back, easy to put on... I liked it so much better than the Moby wrap I had when Q was little!  

For backwearing toddlers, I've learned I prefer the Boba carrier to the ERGO.   Click here to read full entry.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tired, MAKE IT WORK, Current Class Project

I want to blog about something, but I am so tired.

I have not written something coherent for a whole week, and my brain knows it's time to write... it's just that all of my brain power is focused on- well, surviving the day: remembering to bring all my breast pump parts to work, devoting loads of energy to my darling students. dragging myself in my precious free time at work to my pumping room, sitting down with a sigh- and taking what amounts to my only alone time of the day. I actually like my pumping time for that reason. For ten minutes I can just relax and look at my iPhone while producing some antibody-filled milk for the babe, who is now a toddler, I think, since he is walking and saying a few words: dog, more, and duck. (Sounds like "Doh, muh, deh.")

I had my parents here the past few days for the baby's second first birthday party. They gave me a nap or two, but I also wanted to hang out with them and get a few things done around the house, so I remain pretty much as exhausted as I've been for the past 1.5 weeks. I just can't seem to catch up on my sleep. I used to say, "It's much harder to be a stay at home mom! At least you get a break at work!" But I'm finding that to do an excellent job at work, you really can't get that much of a break, and the break you DO get- and the relished adult contact- is probably not going to be sleep. Working mom hood and stay at home mom hood both have their very hard parts, and both have their rewarding parts... in either situation, you gotta MAKE IT WORK! Love ya, Tim Gunn. Sometimes when I am teaching I like to pretend I am Tim Gunn. Not really, but I love his interactions with the Project Runway contestants. He comes in, frowns at their work, gives a hedged compliment or warning, and then shouts, "MAKE IT WORK!" That's kind of my attitude with my students, too.

My students totally rock this year. I've got some characters. I wish I could write more about them. I need to write the stories down for a future book, I guess.

Well, that's about all I can come up with today. I'm going to be writing some pieces for my students, on the topic of babies, so I'll try to share those on this site. We're making mini-magazines (each student makes their own about whatever they want), and in the years I feel inspired, I make my own magazine, too. I made one my first year of teaching, I made one the year I got married (3 years ago!), and I made a mini-mini one 2 years ago. For some reason, I always decide to make a mini-mag when I am busiest. I think it's because when I'm busiest, I'm learning the most and have the most to say. This year I'm going to have a baby-themed mag. I'm going to teach my students about baby-wearing, the Nosefrida nasal aspirator, and flying on planes with a baby. I'm also going to include a quiz on caring for babies, and if you get a high score on it, you qualify to be a baby-sitter for me.

Oooh I'm really excited for this project. My students have already written their editorial and are starting their games (2 of the 10 required pieces for the project), so I myself am a tad behind. Maybe I'll bring my laptop to work and try to get some writing done. I like to model for them that I'm actually a writer, so....
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm That Crazy, Anal Teacher

So, today on a field trip, I made the students stop doing that thing where they make a signal to make truck drivers honk. They were pumping their fists and shouting, "Honk! Honk! Honk!"

I whipped my head around and said, "No! I'm not in the mood to hear all that shouting!" I turned back again to the book I was reading about readers workshop, and a few minutes later they started doing it again. I whipped my head around. "Absolutely not!" I snarled. "If we get into an accident, it is NOT going to be because I let you guys be loud."
I realize that sounds a little crazy, but we were on a busy highway that is full of tractor trailers. I don't trust other drivers. I've lived in this area far too long and know of too many deadly accidents in the area. Forget it.

Plus, I was picturing all those kids as a bus full of someone else's babies. If it were my baby on that field trip, I'd want the teachers to have the bus be an orderly environment where the driver can concentrate, not a bus full of screaming banshees who are standing up in their seats and distracting the driver and possibly obstructing his view...
I also did not want the horns of a truck to scare the crap out of a) our driver or b) another car on the road. I just cannot tolerate unsafe environments that involve children.

I went back to reading my book, and- I was shocked- a few kids starting doing it again. (They aren't my usual students, so they don't know that if I say to do something, I truly mean it and I will ride their butt until they do it, whether it is cleaning out their binder, stopping talking, or adding more to their paper.) I whipped my head around: "What did I just say? It is a SAFETY issue. If my baby were on this bus, I would not want it to be full of screaming kids. You are TOO LOUD. Sit back and relax."
I realized my baby comment might have sounded weird to them, so when we got back to the school, I tried to explain that I see them as former babies that I need to watch over and that horns are for warning, not entertainment... yeah, they looked at me like I was an idiot, but you know what, I got to read about 43 pages in my book because the whole bus was well-behaved, safe, and as quiet as a bus full of 46 pre-teens can be.

It was a decent day. The play we saw was really good, and the students were awesome during it.

Oh- and I know I said in my title that I was anal, but I was less anal than usual. I let them draw in the steam on the windows, and I even let them put their legs in the aisle. (Usually I say that's a safety issue and make them keep their bodies fully in their seat so they don't fly down the aisle in case of a sudden stop.) I also let them- well, that's all I pretty much let them do.
I didn't let them sing, play those hand clapping song games, or let them kneel on the seats and turn around and talk to the people behind them. That last thing is a safety issue in case of a sudden stop. It's just too chaotic if you let them act like a bus is a playground. No thank you. Field trips are draining enough without getting your ears blasted for 25 minutes with songs, games, shouting and screaming to and from the destination.

I know I sound anal and mean from this story, but I do it because I care- I'm this anal because I want them to be safe. I feel a tremendous responsibility to be the kids' caretakers when they are away from their parents. It's my job to keep them safe both physically and emotionally, and ya know, if I have to act a little kooky to reassure myself that I'm doing that, well, I'm alright with that.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Married a Child Model

You'd never guess it, but my husband was a child model.

(This is a photo of me trying to make him take a photo with me with the background in my computer camera. I'm holding his hands and waving them. That's a roller coaster in the fake background.)

I'm not saying he's not a good-looking guy.
I'm saying, the man hates having his picture taken. And, I'm saying, he sometimes looks awful in photos because he's making a pained grimace that he thinks passes as a smile.

He was in catalog and print ads from ages, oh, 4-8 in the NYC area. Underoos. He modeled Underoos. And now, he's the grumpiest person you can imagine in front of the camera. I look at that smiling 6 year old and wonder who the heck that is, because the person who will jump through hoops- with a smile- is gone. I can usually make him jump, using my teacher tactics of direct orders and stare down, and talking loud, and not backing down (like when I wanted him to get me two cookies last night), but this is why I end up with grimaces in lots of photos. He'll do what I ask, since a family photo is a reasonable request, but he'll do it with a look on his face that only an introverted husband can make.

(That's him in the bottom right of this catalog ad. Look at that bowl cut! So late 70's!)

I think that's why I'm so surprised he was a child model- he is ultimately an introvert. I guess he only did the ads because his mom dragged him to auditions. In many ways, I often find us replaying that same scenario... a woman trying to make a very cute guy smile for photos in which he has no interest.

Me: Do I have your permission to post the photo of you as a child model?
Husband: (pause) I am not a subject for entertainment, information, or any other data.

Do you see what I mean about him being an introvert? Click here to read full entry.

Monday, March 8, 2010

WSJ Talking Crap About Breastfeeding

I just read a really irritating post in the Wall Street Journal blog about parenting. The post is called "The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding." I had to reread the post a couple of times to figure out why it bugged me.

It starts, "Returning to the office after maternity leave isn’t easy, adding to the adjustment: To pump or not to pump. I’m not doing it. Before I came back to work this week, I decided that I would continue to nurse my daughter in the mornings only.

I’m well aware that breast milk is considered the optimal food for babies. That’s why I happily nursed for the past six months. But working moms may face stiff penalties for breastfeeding, a price that I’m not sure my family can afford. My job’s irregular schedule makes it impractical to pump milk at work. And given that my husband and I have financial goals, such as saving for retirement and a healthy portion of our daughter’s education costs, I don’t want to quit or downshift my career to accommodate a regular pumping or breastfeeding schedule.

There is a negative effect of breastfeeding on women’s employment status, says Phyllis Rippeyoung, assistant professor of sociology at Acadia University and co-author of a working paper about the economic consequences of breastfeeding. “In terms of long-term earnings, women who breastfeed less than six months have similar income trajectories to those who never breastfeed, but those who breastfeed for six months or longer have far steeper declines in income, mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting,” Ms. Rippeyoung says.

It just seems to me that the premise of this article is wrong- many moms CAN work pumping into their schedule, and many of them left comments stating so. I had another problem with the article- I felt it was giving false information about the nature of breastfeeding. Here is what I wrote- I was comment #139.

Two quotes in this article really bother me, because they are FALSE.

1. “
For moms who have pain when the baby latches on, there are helpful professionals, but they demand a professional rate. A recent article in The New York Times described a certified lactation consultant who charges $200.
The lactation consultants at my local hospital in Stamford CT provide FREE services in phone or in person to ANYONE who calls them. They also offer a mother’s group every week to anyone who wants to come. It bothers me to see something FALSE written in WSJ. The Stamford Hospital LCs, at no cost, have helped me breastfeed successfully for almost a year, and helped me figure out the best way to pump at work.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chime In: Baby Registries, the Right Stuff

Friends of ours are due with a baby in five weeks. Last night I was pondering what to get them off their registry.

This morning I was sitting in my baby's room with him after he woke up, remembering the time in which I was planning for him. That room smelled different, felt different, meant something different.

I remember the feeling of trying to make sure I had all the right stuff. Turns out you don't need that much stuff- actually, I have loved my stuff, it's just hard to know what the best stuff is going to be for your baby or your lifestyle. I'll clarify: I love stuff. Lately, I love our Phil and Ted's metoo chair because we go out to eat a lot. I'm also on the hunt for a mei tai, because although the ERGO baby carrier has been one of our very best purchases, I don't like the ERGO for back carry, and he's getting too heavy to wear on my front.

Anyway. That was such a fun time in life, getting ready for the baby. It's weird that I'll never feel that feeling again. Even if I have another baby, that preparation time will never quite feel the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If second babies felt that momentous, adding a second one might feel overwhelming! Fortunately after the first one gets to be oh, 7 months or so, ya feel like a pro.

It is so fun to look at other people's registries. It's a window onto their life, or planned life. You can see if it looks they are planning to breastfeed. You can see if they chose a superfancy stroller or a practical one. You can see what some of their ideas and plans are by what books they ask for. You can see that they know about swaddling, and you're happy about that. When looking at someone else's registry, you can't help but think, "I remember I thought I needed that!" or "Dear God, why haven't they registered for an ERGO?" Seeing some of the items brings you back to a time when you also had no idea what to expect.

I'm glad I enjoyed that time in my life. I really immersed myself in that time- researching online, talking to friends, going to baby stores, reading baby blogs... it was awesome. I had such a blast getting ready for my baby. My BFF and I picked out paint colors and painted the nursery walls with the help of another friend and my husband (I supervised). I found a cool print on eBay and got it professionally framed.

What's awesome is that our baby far exceeded my expectations of what my baby was going to be like! He was easier, more fun, and cuter. Some of the stuff really came in handy- the towels, the butt cream, the thermometers, the blankets, the clothes, the toys, the swaddles- but the focus very quickly goes off the stuff and onto the baby, who mostly just needs to be fed, clothed, and kept warm those first few weeks- oh- and safely carried around to all those doctor appointments.

I guess the stuff is how we make ourselves feel ready for the baby. I don't mean that in a judgy way. It's fun to spend the last few weeks getting ready. But sometimes baby gear feels like an arsenal against THE BABY- a disruptive creature who you have to use tools to contain. I think I'm going to view my stuff a little differently next time- more as a way to have fun with my baby rather than as methods to deal with a mysterious, difficult creature.

Although maybe it went so well with him because I had all the right stuff because I researched so much? Who knows. Maybe I was, am, and always will be clueless, playing it all by ear. Maybe I know nothing. It's possible! What I do know is that every baby is different, every parent different, every life different, so people will always need or want different things for their babies. Before you are a parent yourself, and the parent of your particular baby, you can never know what you'll need. Once you are a parent, you realize how much is out of your control. It's so much easier once you accept that and just go with the flow. At least that's my philosophy. I'm not sure how else a working parent could survive.

Note: I'm not bashing my friends' registry- theirs is quite sensible and actually makes them look like they know what they are doing. And my girlfriend who just had a baby a month ago- well, her registry had all the cool gear that it took me months to realize I wanted. She was smart enough to put the metoo chair and the ERGO on her registry, whereas I bought mine myself!
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Build-a-Bear Manhattan: Actually, Not Lame!

Before you have kids, you can't believe you'd ever want to do anything as lame as go to the "Build-a-Bear" or American Girl doll store. (I only know about that second thing because my friend Kevin, Dad of two, has blogged about it.)

When my sister was here last week with her 3 kids, 6, 4, and 2, she suggested an impromptu trip into the city (New York City, that is) to see our sister's apartment. To give the kids something kiddish to do, we'd first swing by Build-a-Bear. This sounded horrible to me. I pictured a crowded place full of screaming kids... but I admit, I felt the pull of the bear. My baby's first birthday is coming up, and I envisioned myself buying him a really painstakingly built bear, crafted with fine accessories which I imagined were part of a complex part of assembling a bear. I grew more enthusiastic about Build-a-Bear.

The nine of us- me, my baby, my parents, my sisters, my middle sister's 3 kids- drove in two cars to the commuter train station. We managed to get ourselves onto a train and an hour later were in Manhattan, hiking a few cold blocks to the BAB store in midtown.

Although I had fun at Build-a-Bear (the baby slept through most of it), I was let down by the "building" process. The assemblage, which I pictured more like Santa's toy shop with tools and crafting of the bear's attributes, only involves you pressing the pedal on the machine that puts the stuffing in the bear (so you can decide the bear's firmness or floppiness) and picking out its outfit. The store should really be named "Stuff and Dress a Bear." See photo above of me and the sleeping baby stuffing his bear.

Still, I had fun watching my niece and nephews get their bears- rather, the two olders chose dinosaurs- and I did get a pretty cute Jedi Knight bear. The store wasn't that crowded, surprisingly, for a Sunday. No kids were acting obnoxious, although their parents were sort of loud.

The only really bad thing about the store is the deafening cowbell they ring, right at the front door by the checkout area, to announce yet another kid's birthday. I did not appreciate an ear-shattering COWBELL right next to my baby's head. That's actually pretty idiotic of the Build-a-Bear people.

I admit, I'd go to the Build-a-Bear place again. I'm not even sure why. Maybe because although it's about buying stuff, the options are limited. That's good for kids. It's a better (albeit pricier) option than having to choose from an entire toy store. I think that's why the kids in the store were so well-behaved: it was a controlled purchasing experience. The other good thing was that I felt the toys were fairly priced- not cheap- but not exorbitant. 16 bucks for the bear, same for the clothes. No, not cheap, but I expected double the price.

And being able to do Manhattan with kids is pretty priceless! We walked a bunch of blocks to my sister's apartment and the kids did great. There was some complaining near the end, but truth be told, pounding the pavement was tiring, and it was very cold!

Here's my sis, her kids, and my Dad at 30 Rock.

I am really looking forward to my next trip into the city with the baby. It is so easy just to put him in the ERGO and wear him around. However, I wore the baby for about 4 hours straight on BuildaBear day, and my hips were really tired the next day. For a long day in the city, it's best to bring the stroller. That's what I did last month when the baby and I took the train in along to see my sister's new apartment. I put him in the stroller, cozied up in the BundleMe, and put the plastic over that because it was very cold. He fell asleep and I was able to walk briskly to my sister's. Walking that much with 20 pounds on my hips is just not doable any more. This is why I need to buy a mai tei, so I can stick the baby on my back, rather than trying to wear him on my front in the ERGO. I hate the ERGO for back carry.
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baby Swing: Mother's Helper or Separation Tool?

I'm not against using baby swings and seats, but I just saw a full-page Fisher-Price ad in Parenting Mag that made me think, "Wow, there are really a lot of tools to separate us from our babies."

Swing and exersaucer-using parents, I'm not criticizing the use of those tools- I used them too. But the ad in the magazine shows a montage in which a baby is never held by his parents. In the first shot, the baby is in a bassinet by his mom (God forbid the baby actually touch you while he sleeps). In the second shot, the parents are feeding the baby while he sits in a high chair (sometimes my baby likes to eat while sitting on my lap). In the next shot, the Dad is showing the baby toys hanging on the exersaucer the baby's sitting in (maybe the baby would like a little break from fabric pressing on her crotch). In the final shot, the mom and her friend are smiling and leaning over the baby, who's sitting in a gigantic swing (I thought people LIKED to hold babies).

I understand that this is an ad for those products, not a "how to parent" montage, but I think these images influence people's view of what's normal. I guess that's why FP puts these ads in... so first time parents think, "Oh cool, this is what I need to handle my baby. The baby is sure going to love sitting in this." Maybe some babies do. Mine never really did, although the exersaucer often got me 10 minutes of blogging time. Believe me, I am NOT saying parents should not take time for themselves. When the kid can't sit up to play on his or her own, these tools can be pretty damn handy.

Also, some people NEED these tools to contain their babies in a safe place while they care for other children or accomplish a task around the house. I'm not judging people who use swings and exersaucers and bassinets- we used them too.

But I also see in these ads a fear- a fear about a baby growing too used to your touch. And a feeling that is inconvenient to hold your baby with your own arms. Sure, sometimes it is. But they are only little for such a short time.

Also, that's why babywearing can be so nice- your hands are free, but your baby (or toddler) is snuggled right next to you. Rather than put Q in the exersaucer, I'd often wear him while I did laundry or put dishes away. It's not always the easiest on your back, so I'm not going to tell other parents to babywear if they don't want to. I do think parents should do what works for them, and if it's to put the kid in the swing, go for it.

However, this ad made me think about how a baby can be viewed as a threat- but if he can be contained, you can go about your orderly, adult-oriented life. I think that as a parent who wants to feel connected to their baby, you have to be aware of the subtle messages these ads send. It's one of the many reasons I do not love parenting magazines, and would rather read parenting blogs and websites, such as Phd in Parenting, Hobo Mama, and Amber Strocel's blog.

Taking care of a baby by yourself all day can be exhausting. Often these tools give a mother a much-needed break. Many of the new mothers I know, including me, do NOT have family in the area, so don't have a mother or mother-in-law nearby who could come and give her an hour break- much less a 20 minute break! A swing had to do that, and I think that is fine. I was just struck by the Fisher-Price ad, where people who clearly had free time, and free hands, were standing beside a baby in a piece of plastic.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Making Breastfeeding and Daycare Work

It can be tough to make breastfeeding work with daycare.

In my case, my baby wants more milk than I can make. Guess what I say to that? Too bad. He can make it up when I pick him up. His doctor and my lactation consultant say the 8 oz I provide should be enough, so if that means I have to rush right from work to get him to feed him, I'm fine doing that until one year when he can take cow's milk.

I blogged previously about my having to persuade daycare that 8 oz was enough milk for him. (That was titled "Approaching 1 Year Breastfeeding: Stubbornness- and Support- Needed.") I can only pump 6, max 7 at work, so I even have to squeeze in extra pumping sessions to make that 8 oz. It's a pain in the butt, but my sights are set on my one year of breastmilk goal and I am forging ahead. My husband wonders if I'm thinking of myself or the baby, but you know what, I don't really expect anyone else to get how I feel about my goal. The baby's fine. 8 oz should be enough for him. He loves solid food, so all the medical professionals tell me that is enough milk.
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The Fullness of Parenting with Friends and Coworkers

I'm a lingerer at daycare, partly because I often breastfeed in the room right before I leave Q and right when I pick him up. This gives me the chance to see other parents drop off and pick up their kids. It's so adorable to watch people effusively love up their kids as they say goodbye.

My coworker’s baby shares a room with mine. She or her husband do dropoff around 7 like I do. Last week I watched her hug her baby tight and say just like I do, "I love you so, so much," when she said goodbye. Then at work we were too busy to even talk. This week, I saw her husband drop off the baby. He picked up the baby, hugged him, kissed him, and told him he loved him, then said a regular friendly "Bye Kristine," to me.

This was actually the first time I’ve watched other parents say goodbye to their kids at daycare and I was really struck by it. It’s the type of affection that we that don't always see other parents giving babies because we don't often witness their partings and reunions. I think it was even more striking to see it in my coworker and her husband, who I've known for 8-9 years, and who I consider good friends.

Our babies together six months ago at a backyard BBQ:

My coworker and her husband are hard-working, relatively serious people. I mean, they are fun, and funny, but they’re not silly, goofy people who run around kissing and hugging people at work or at parties.
It’s not that they aren’t affectionate people. I hug them hello and goodbye at social gatherings. When we gather socially with our kids, of course we all hold our kids, and maybe even hug and kiss them, but at parties, we’re all talking to each other while keeping an eye on our kids- we’re not lavishing attention on our babies because it’s one of our few times to socialize with adults.

That’s why the overt affection from my coworker and husband was so striking- although I have known them for years, I’ve never seen it. Such gentle and loving behavior is reserved by most people for private moments. But daycare breaks that boundary because you have to say hello and goodbye to your most precious thing in front of other people.

Now I can’t help but see my coworker and husband a little more completely. I know them now not just as friends and coworkers, but as loving parents. Even if you know someone IS a parent, it’s different when you see them interact with their child, and it’s even more informative to see them show their most sincere affection. We often don’t get this full view of people because we don’t often work, socialize AND parent around the same people.

I am lucky to work with amazing people, many of whom are parents, many of whom have awesome partners that I count among my friends. It teaches me a lot about how to parent, and how to be a working parent.
Working and parenting and having a marriage and friendships- it’s a lot. It’s a lot to handle. It’s pretty much impossible to find the time to do it all well.
I had no idea that being a working parent was so… busy. And full. And exhausting. And draining. But in many ways, great. I had no idea it would be manageable, but it is.

I like that I have company in this challenging time. I like knowing that other people whom I respect are trying to work the same balancing act. You can’t try to parent alone… it’s just so much easier to do it with your friends! You can learn so much from others.
Even if you’re not a working parent, you need company. Several good friends are staying home with their kids, and they struggle with parenting and balancing too.

I really love this time in life. I’m learning a lot about myself, and about others, and about life in general. My life is so rich and wonderful and rewarding right now. I just wish I had more time to blog about it!
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fathers as an Essential Breastfeeding Support

I just spoke to a friend who has made it to 3 weeks breastfeeding her baby boy despite cracked nipples, pain, and c-section recovery, in addition to the raging hormones and sleep deprivation that make the first few weeks so difficult.
I am so proud of her for making it this far. She said she never would have made it without the support of her husband. This reinforced the already high opinion I have of him. I have always thought he's fabulous, but to hear what a support he's been to her- well, that means a lot. My own husband was also a huge help with encouragement, caring for the baby while I napped, and bringing me water and whatever else I needed and wanted while breastfeeding. Oh- and he made ALL of of our dinners the first few weeks!

I wanted to give a shout out to my husband, my friend's husband, and all the other dads (and partners and families) who make the often difficult first few weeks of breastfeeding more manageable.

Another friend of mine has a friend who badly wanted to breastfeed, but her husband didn't think she could do it all herself. She ended up giving it up. Fathers and partners, and their opinions, mean more than they realize. I wish more moms knew they CAN do it. I never was sure I could, but I persevered through some pretty bad pain at 5 days with my husband's support and the help of my lovely lactation consulant. Most of us can't do it alone, and we have to ask for help from the right people if we want to succeed. Most of us CAN do it- but most of us need help. I've asked for so much help along the way- from my LC, from my friend Deirdre (a doctor and breastfeeding/pumping/working mom), from twitter friends, and my friend Olga when I needed a pep talk after a hard first week of pumping at work.

Wish I could write more, but need to run and get the house ready to feed TEN people, as my family is in town!
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Friday, February 12, 2010

February's Humorous Teaching Moments

Me to two students who were bickering during group work: “You sound like me and my husband. I say I agree with him to get him off my back, then I give him the silent treatment to show him that I really don't agree.”

My social studies class is causing me to regret letting them work in groups to write skits illustrating the steps that our Neolithic ancestors went through to move from hunter gatherers to more settled communities. It’s going OK, but yesterday, I thought one group of boys might start stabbing each other with pencils. And, when I took a look at the work of a group that is changing the words of a song to show the steps, I realized that the song is about sex. I realized that because I saw that they’d chosen to leave in a line about “let’s skip the foreplay and get right to it.”

Me: “You need to change this section here.”
Kids: “Huh? Why?”
Twelve years of teaching have taught me that 11 year olds do not know the word “foreplay,” among many others, so I just say, “This line has nothing to do with settling down. That’s the whole point of using the song. You CHANGE it, you don’t just sing it like it is.”
Kids: “But we like how it says…” and they start to sing the line for me.
Me: “Stopstopstop. I can see what it says. I’m telling you, you need to change it. What if you change it to…” I offer some brilliant suggestions.
Kids look at me blankly: “Can we just leave it in there?”
Me: “NO. That song is about a romantic interlude, and if you don’t change the words, it’s going to be inappropriate.”
Kids look at me like I’m speaking Martian.
Me: “Trust me. CHANGE THE WORDS.”
Kids look at each other, give each other a “God, she’s weird” look, shrug their shoulders, and go back to work on the song.

A few other funny teaching stories:
 “Discussing Pregnancy- And My Butt- With Students."
 “Debating Britney.”
It’s really the boys that you have the funny conversations with. They're usually a little sassier than the girls. Usually.

I also had a funny conversation yesterday with a boy who I was telling to stop playing with his bangs. It’s the trend for boys to have long hair these days, and every day in my class, this boy arranges his bangs in a perfect line with his eyebrows. Like, several times. I am easily distracted and cannot deal with that, so I’m going to see if he can stop. I mean, if it’s an OCD tic, I’ll gladly allow it, but if it’s a habit out of boredom, he can sort my pen drawer for me.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Debating Britney

This story is actually from May 2005; I just moved it over from a defunct blog. The post is still pretty timeless.

My students are sharing these magazines they’ve each made. We’ve worked on them for over 6 months and they look great. They’re sharing in small groups, giving compliments to each other’s magazines and helping proofread for errors.

I walk by a group that happens to be all boys and notice a couple of them reading David’s article that starts, “Has Britney Spears gone pregnant or is she just fat, disgusting and ugly?” It was written before she announced she was pregnant, and now I realize I find it a bit insulting and probably too negative for school.

Me: “Excuse me!” (in hushed but outraged voice so the other groups won’t perk up their ears at the controversy) “That is OFFENSIVE to women! She is NOT fat.”

Will, supportively: “Yeah, she’s not fat, she’s just slutty.”

Me: “OK, slutty, not appropriate for school. And she’s not slutty, although she does dance around with hardly any clothes on. But that doesn’t mean she-”

Will: “OK, OK.”

Me: “It’s offensive to women, you guys. If Britney Spears is fat, then I’M fat.”

Mike glances up: “You’re pregnant?”

Me: “What? No! I mean, she’s not fat, she’s NORMAL. If you’re calling HER fat, then you’re saying I’m fat too, because we’re basically the same size. So she’s put on a few pounds, so what? Just because women have to gain weight to have babies, is it OK to call them fat.?”

David and Alex: “Yes-” I stare at them. “-NO! I mean, no. No, no.”

Me: “You guys! There is too much pressure on women to be thin. Women are always judged on their looks. She’s not ugly! If she’s ugly, I must be ugly, cause she’s kind of pretty. ”

David: “OK, OK, you’re right. I’ll change it to, ‘Is she pregnant, or has she put on a few pounds...’”

I ponder that. “...No, forget it. The point is we shouldn’t be judging other people. You know what- I’m taking that. You can’t use it in your magazine.” I take it out of the page protector feeling pleased with my decision.

“What? Nooooo!”

Me: “Yup. It’s confiscated. I’m taking it.” I stomp off and leave them to puzzle over my reaction.

This story is one of the many many reasons I like teaching. Click here to read full entry.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Approaching 1 Year Breastfeeding: Stubbornness- and Support- Needed

It occurred to me this evening, as I was painstakingly pouring the 7.5 oz I painstakingly pumped at work today into 4 separate plastic baggies that I painstakingly labeled with date, ounces, and my baby's name... that trying to breastfeed for a full year takes stubbornness.

In the early days, I was stubborn when we almost tried some formula when the baby nursed and nursed and nursed from 10 pm to 1 am. We made the bottle, then I said, "Just one more nursing session."

I was stubborn at 5.5 months, when after the baby had a weeklong stomach bug and didn't nurse much, my supply really dropped (despite renting a hospital grade pump and pumping whenever I could get time), and I had to nurse the baby almost every hour or two for two weeks straight to get my supply back up. (Thank God I was not working, or I'm not sure I would have had the time and energy to get the supply back.)

I have always stubbornly stuck to the idea that breastmilk, and what I can make, should be good enough. (I must say I have been influenced by my fabulous and stubborn lactation consultants, who I simply adore. Holla, Stamford Hospital Lactation!)
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Gorgeous Friend Wendy in FARGO

I just had to share this photo of my friend Wendy and her daughters, taken by a photographer for their local FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA newpaper. Yes, I said FARGO. Shiver.

I met Wendy and her husband Christopher in Rye NY, 11 years ago. We became fast friends, then they moved to Minnesota, and now they are in ND because Christopher has a morning radio show there. His website has past shows, his weekly newspaper column, and essays from the past couple years, including two fabulous ones about parenting called "Demando and Commando and "The Simple Language of Parenting and Football Coaches." Wendy blogs at My Green Side with green living tips, so do check out both of their websites if you are interested!

The caption for the photo was: Wendy Gabriel walks home from the sledding hill with her daughters Sunday afternoon. The girls took advantage of the above zero weather. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Took advantage of the above zero weather. Good gracious. When I visited the Gabriels in Minnesota one February, it was the coldest weather I've ever experienced. With wind chill, it was below zero, and it was so very painful for this Virginia-bred girl.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Natural Parenting Blog Carnival: Parenting Resolutions 2010

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about how we want to parent differently — or the same — in the New Year. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

2010 is going to be a big year, because in one week, I go back to work after a blissful ten month maternity leave. Fortunately I like my job and having been doing it for ten years, so I feel good about going back. I would not have been ready at 3 months, and 6 months, but I’m ready now. I feel great about the bond my baby and I have achieved, and I think he’ll be OK being away from me and his Dad for 6 hours. (Dad doing late drop off at 9, me doing early pickup by 3:30.)

Speaking of that babydaddy… one big thing I know I should improve in my parenting is involving my husband more in decisions. We don’t always see eye to eye on how to do things- for example, I think co-sleeping is cool, he doesn’t. He’s been really good about letting me do what makes my life easier, but I feel ready now to take more of his suggestions without getting defensive and thinking that he’s criticizing me as a mom. Just recently we had a heated debate over how to get the baby to eat more solid food- after an hour of arguing about it and sundry related topics, turns out we were mostly on the same page. This is very typical of us, but it’s tiring, and I’d like to change that pattern.

Other resolutions:
2. Get the baby eating more solids so he will stop waking up 3 or 4 times a night. If he can wake less, I can have him in his crib more, where I think both he and I will ultimately sleep better. I’ve been sleeping with him in the guest bed because my husband’s and my bed is not safe for co-sleeping, and I’d like to return to my own bed.

3. Keep in touch with the wonderful moms I’ve met this year by keeping up our Saturday bi-monthly playdates.

4. Keep up with my blog, FC Mom, and with my baby’s blog.

5. Monitor my stress level as I go back to full time work in 2 weeks. I want to be at my best for husband, baby and job- or, as close to my best as I can be while balancing those three.

6. Keep up habit of batch cooking healthy meals for my lunches. That way I can just throw a Tupperware and an apple in my lunch bag and have a good meal at work. Drink lots of water at home and work.

7. Focus while at work. I’m pretty good at this, but I love my coworkers, so sometimes it is tempting to talk to them rather than grading. However, I’ll now be pumping during those “free periods,” so… I am going to have to figure out how to be productive at work, both milk-wise and work-wise.

8. Despite being very busy, I want to take time to stop, look at and listen to people- at least occasionally.

9. FC Mom Video. I would like to work more video into my blog in the form of interviews, mini talk-shows, and skits.

10. Above all, I want to enjoy my baby, husband, job, family, friends and my interests (writing, exercising, Biggest Loser), and do whatever it takes to allow me to enjoy life.

What about you, readers? What are your resolutions?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(All the links should be active by noon on Jan. 12. Go to Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama for the most recently updated list.)

• To Yell or Not to YellThe Adventures of Lactating Girl
• It Is All About Empathy: Nurturing a Toddler's Compassion PotentialBaby Dust Diaries
• To my babies: this year…BluebirdMama
• Mindfully Loving My ChildrenBreastfeeding Moms Unite!
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: ResolutionsCode Name: Mama
• Imperfect MotherConsider Eden
• ResolutionsCraphead (aka Mommy)
• FC Mom's Parenting Resolutions 2010FC Mom
• What’s in a Resolution?Happy Mothering
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutionsHobo Mama
• Natural Parenting ResolutionsLittle Green Blog
• This year, I will mostly...Look Left of the Pleiades
• Parenting ResolutionsThe Mahogany Way
• I Resolve to Breastfeed In Public More Oftenmama2mama tips
• Moving to Two KidsMegna the Destroyer
• Use LoveMomopoly
• My parenting resolutionsMusings of a Milk Maker
• Talkin' 'bout My ResolutionsNavelgazing
• Parenting ResolutionsOne Starry Night
• Invitations, not resolutionsRaising My Boychick
• No more multitasking during kid timeThe Recovering Procrastinator
• I need to slow down, smell those roses AND the poopy diapersTales of a Kitchen Witch Momma
• Resolutely Parenting in 2010This Is Worthwhile

Click here to read full entry.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Structure in the Classroom... and at Home?

I liked this article at Mothering Magazine: "The Three Rs of Behavior Management: Rules, Rituals, and Routines."

I feel like I'm a master of these things in the classroom. I could not survive without them, and I feel like my students thrive because of my efforts to establish a predictable routine, with clear rules, and fun little rituals, at the start of the school year.

I do not, however, feel like I've applied these very well to my baby. We're just getting into the "Bath, book, boob, bedtime" routine. Maybe an infant is too young to go hardcore structure with; it never felt right to me, but now that we're going to be on a much tighter schedule with me back at work and the baby at daycare, the idea of routines is starting to feel MUCH more relevant. I'm kind of excited to see what I can establish for my little guy.

There are a couple books I've seen on Amazon that look interesting, but I hate ordering books that I'm not sure will be relevant.
1. Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day by Shea Darian
2. You Are Your Child's First Teacher: What Parents Can Do With and For Their Chlldren from Birth to Age Six. This book comes highly recommended by a blogger I like, Amber Strocel at, so I think I might just get it. Or at least put it in my shopping cart, so when I'm flush with cash from my teacher's salary, I can get it. My local libraries do NOT have either of these books.

Hm. Maybe I could ask Borders to order them for me. Then I could return them if I don't like them.

I ordered the book "Discipline Without Distress" (yes I know the quotes are wrong, I should italicize, but quotes are so much easier) for a parenting book club. I bet that suggests routines as a way of avoiding behavior issues.

Well, that's enough coherent thought for the day. Off to shower.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Judgment in the Mothering World: Good or Bad?

I think it's human nature to judge others, but I think it's beneficial to take a step back and not judge others harshly. I've noticed that as a new mom, it's easy to feel judged, and it is really, really tempting to judge others. I'm not sure that helps any of us, though.

One thing I've noticed is that moms tend to gravitate towards moms who parent similarly, because then you don't feel like your parenting choices (formula vs. breastfeeding, sleep training vs. cosleeping, etc.) will be judged. I'm a middle of the road mom. Although I lean heavily toward attachment parenting, the husband is soooooo not on board, and that's ok. We have found a good balance at this point (I think). I'm quite happy with my occasional cosleeping, constant babywearing, non-cloth diapering, breastfeeding lifestyle.

Anyway, my point is that I try not to judge other moms. Everyone's lives are so different. While I do not think sleep training would have worked for me, I have friends who do it, and for them, I think it was the right choice. They are working moms of several kids, and they simply could not have dealt with all of the night waking that I did (and still do). There's no one way to do things.

I also hope people don't judge my choices. I couldn't stand to hear my baby fuss for a second, and that's just the way I am. I don't think it means I'm a pansy whose kid walks all over her. I think we all have different personalities, different babies, different demands in our life, and we do our child-rearing accordingly. My next baby will probably fuss a little more as I teach her ('cause I know it's gonna be a girl, I already have her nursery colors picked out) to soothe herself. This first baby of mine sucks at that, and I pay the price every night as he wakes 4-5 times. Now, my sleep training friends look pretty smart. I don't regret how I did things though, because I followed my instincts and did what felt right. No sleep training book was going to persuade me otherwise. (Before you offer me sleep advice, I'm not asking for advice. We're good. I have it under control.)

Know where my judginess comes out? In my rss reader, which, for you computer neophytes, is a google service I have set up to send me headlines from all the blogs I like. I separate my blogs into categories: friends' blogs, mindless inanity, mom blogs, and crunchy moms. See? Even I feel the need to define mothers as just regular mothers or crunchy mothers. There are "molds" out there, and we look at those molds to see where a mom fits. Is she a cosleeping cloth-diaperer who quit her job to stay home with her baby? Is she a busy working mom whose baby is not the sole focus of her life? Those are the two molds I feel like I see in my area in CT. I think I am a little of both of those. And actually, so are my friends who sleep trained. They are very crunchy in some ways, and they are wonderful mothers. The problem with putting people in a mold is that they often don't fit. I think we miss out on friendships if we let our tendency to judge separate us.

Wait- I think there is one more mold in my area- the SAHM who can afford a nanny, private yoga instruction, tennis lessons, and salon visits. I don't see those moms much, because that's not the circle I run in, but I certainly don't begrudge those moms that lifestyle. Frankly, it sounds like my ideal life, although I'd do horsebackriding instead of yoga. And I'd probably take my kids along if they were good. We'd ride together. Also, they'd come with me to yoga, and the nanny would take care of them while I did yoga, or the kid could do yoga, too, if they were good. I think homeschooling is cool though, so maybe I'd do that as well. Or have my own school. Or send my kids to Montessori. Whatever. Anyway. Do you see how open-minded I am, that I could accept that lifestyle? Yup. No judgment here on that great backhand!

I guess my question to readers is, Do you judge other moms, and do you think it's a bad thing? Is judgment helpful or hurtful to you and the other moms in your life?

I'd bet that many people feel wrongly judged. I hear of moms who get criticized for cosleeping or breastfeeding past a year. What else do you get judged for?

One of my favorite bloggers, Annie at Phd in Parenting, has a post up that actually comes out in favor of judging others. While I agree with her premise- that parenting styles should be up for debate- I just don't see how I'd be able to keep my friends if I thought it was my business to judge their parenting. I feel like, as long as our different styles don't conflict with out ability to hang out, it's OK to be friends with people who do things differently. (I hope I have not wrongly summarized Annie's point- go read it, it's really nuanced and awesomely opinionated).
Click here to read full entry.