In honor of my first Mothers Day, I’ve decided to take a few moments to reflect on this past year. My son Jack will be a year old on June 18th so it seems natural to take a few moments to take a look back.
I just left Jack for the very first time, for two nights, with my in-laws this past weekend. We flew to Scottsdale, where they live, for a week and for 2.5 days my husband and I snuck away to a resort and spa. It was amazing! I thought about Jack often but my heart didn’t ache for him and I wasn’t counting down the hours until I saw him. It wasn’t until we checked out after lunch and were on our way to see him that I started getting giddy about seeing his cute little face again. I don’t think that makes me a bad mother but it made me stop to think about the mother I am and the mother I thought I was going to be. For some these might be one in the same but for me they are very different.
My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and for my entire pregnancy with Jack I prayed that I would bring a little miracle into the world. My pregnancy was filled with extreme nausea, placenta previa, and due to a displaced hip, I was on crutches for the last four weeks.
After 36 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing, and a small scare because of the umbilical cord wrapped around his little neck, I had my healthy happy little boy laying on my chest. He looked up at me with these big beautiful blue eyes and for the next 48 hours I just stared at him through sleep deprived bleary eyes. I was afraid I was living in this amazing dream and if I shut my eyes it would all go away. Obviously it didn’t and for the first two months of motherhood I was exactly the mom I expected. I’m the eldest child in my family and my bossy and controlling nature certainly shined through. I was the only one that could hold Jack. I told everyone else just how to take care of him and got upset if they didn’t do it exactly my way. I washed every little thing that touched something other than Jack’s hands, I was only going to breastfeed, I would have him on a schedule, I would read him flashcards, do sign language and help him reach each milestone on time. In these first two months we had 11 visitors from afar, 8 of which stayed with us at different times in our little two bedroom apartment.
I think this was a major contributor to why I held on so tight. I didn’t know how to be a mom and was learning in the midst of an overwhelming number of people with an overwhelming number of opinions. I struggled with breastfeeding. Jack didn’t nap and was diagnosed with a severe case of acid reflux. My amazing mother stayed with us for two months to help me and my husband out with our first child. She ended up taking care of us so we could take care of Jack and I’m forever grateful. If it wasn’t for her we would not have eaten, slept or showered. In the days leading up to her departure I was very sad and didn’t know how we were going to survive. But when she left something amazing happened, we did survive and it was at that moment that I started to become the mom I am today.
I went to bed that first night after my mother left and thought to myself, if I, we, are going to make it, I need to stop worrying about the things I can’t control and focus on the things I can.
It was a slow and gradual process but by 4.5 months I had hit my stride. I stopped comparing Jack to other babies his age and stressing if they weren’t at the same place. I stopped researching every little developmental milestone tip and trick and focused instead on playing with and enjoying my son, researching something when it came up and was appropriate.
I decided I would only do sign language if I could remember and I couldn’t so I didn’t. I relaxed about the “schedule” and let Jack dictate what he needed and when he needed it. He now sleeps longer, is less fussy, and eats like a champ.
I shower at night and pack his diaper bag for the next day which helps with our sporadic schedule. I don’t sign up for classes with set times and days and instead focus on drop in classes. I’ve let go of there only being my way to raise him and when I leave him with our part-time nanny or my husband I let them do it their way. I dont worry if he eats 2 solid meals and takes 20 ounces of formula one day and no solid meals and 36 ounces of formula the next. Some days we do nothing but play and some days we have a play date and a music class. I don’t smother him every second and I let him have some independent time. I let him go to bed at 4:30 if he seems tired and at 7 if he doesn’t. This relaxed, spontaneous, carefree mothering style is not what I expected, but it’s the mother that looks good on me and I wouldn’t change it one bit.
I’m sure my mothering style will continue and evolve as Jack grows up and there will be times and phases where I’ll pull on the reins and times where I’ll be just as carefree as I am now. But it’s in this moment, on my very first Mother’s Day as a mother, that I know there is no place I’d rather be.
As my avid readers know, I try to avoid as many chemicals as possible. Unfortunately it takes the “ease” out of doing many things. But I recently went searching for a way to dye eggs, for Easter, naturally vs. with an artificial dye kit and I was AMAZED to find numerous articles on the subject with fantastic results and not that complicated. The process is a tad more involved but I believe it’s worth it. My son is young so I will have all the fun myself this year but in future years I suspect it can be turned into a really fun science experiment and provide hours of entertainment. I might be kidding myself as to how many hours my child will be willing to participate but I’m sure it will be fun all the same.
You prepare your hard boiled eggs as usual and prep them with rubber bands and stickers to leave patters and white spots behind on the dyed eggs. To make the dyes you boil individual pots of 1-quart water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar with various colorful ingredients. (Colorful ingredients include red cabbage, turmeric, chili powder, red onion peels, cranberry etc.) Once the ingredients have been boiled and simmered for 30 minutes run each of the dyes through a strainer and into individual dying bowls. Put your various eggs in each of the bowls and voila! The longer you leave the eggs in the dye the deeper the saturation.
Decide how many colors you want to make and take out the appropriate number of pots. To each pot, add: 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar Add the following ingredients to each pot:
Red: 2 cups Cranberry juice and 8 cups red onion peels (Your grocer will gladly give you their discarded peels.)
Red-Orange: 3-4 tablespoons chili powder
Mahogany: 10-12 cups brown onion skins (Your grocer will gladly give you their discarded peels.)
Yellow: 3-4 tablespoons tumeric
Blue: ½—¾ head chopped red cabbage
Bring each of the pots to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow them to simmer for 30 minutes.
I found Michelle’s post through Healthy Child Healthy World which lays out the recipe in a more organized format. Another article I found which has a beautiful tutorial which picks of all the eggs and ingredients is Natural Easter Egg Dying - A Comprehensive Visual Guide by Emily Weaver Brown. It’s really worth checking out as she expands to make many different colors using blueberry powder, grass, green tea and more.
I’ve gotten a few requests recently to send out an email when I post something new. On the right side of my blog you will now see a link titled ‘Subscribe’. This will take you to a form where you can provide your name and email address if you’d like to receive these announcements. Your information will be kept private and will only be used to communicate new postings from TOUT. It’s nice to know I have some loyal readers that want to be the first to know about new posts.
I have to admit, we are a family that loves technology. We always want to have the latest gadget and take full advantage of what the Internet has to offer. We take a ton of pictures of our son and family and post them to the Internet through various different channels. It wasn’t until a friend of mine passed along a post from her mother-in-law’s blog, Fresh Perspectives, that I decided to re-think some things.
Everywhere you go these days you see families using their smart-phones to take pictures. Whether you are at the park, at a performance, out to dinner or within your home and most of these pictures eventually get posted to the Internet. I never gave it much thought until today.
I learned that most, not all, but most pictures taken with smart-phones are geo-tagged. What this means is there is a GPS like fingerprint attached to the photo when it is taken. When you post that picture, in some instances, anyone that has access to that photo can see exactly where it was taken. Most of us have routines and favorite places we frequent. This makes it very easy for someone to stalk you, your kids and your family.
Watch this video for more information and an easy fix on how to protect yourself.
Here is a link to the I Can Stalk U website that was mentioned. This website is trying to raise awareness about inadvertent information sharing. They even have a section dedicated to different phones and how to disable geo-tagging for photos.
I made the choice to disable this feature on my smart-phone. Please pass along this information so others can make an informed decision about doing the same.
My son Jack is about 44 weeks old and over the past week he’s been fairly fussy, his naps and overnight sleeping has gotten unpredictable again, and he’s become very clingy to me. He doesn’t have a fever, he isn’t teething and nothing else out of the ordinary seems to be wrong. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what is going on.
I was at dinner with a few moms in my playgroup and I was discussing this with them. One of them, Emily, suggested it might be a wonder week, and then BING the light bulb went off! Starting when Jack was 8 weeks old I started seeing a pattern of behavior, fussy, cranky, clingy for 4-6 days and then happy as a clam for the next few weeks. I started doing some research and realized Jack was most likely going through what have been described as “wonder weeks.” These wonder weeks completely slipped my mind until Emily mentioned them again. (Being a new mommy it’s hard to remember it all!) For those that are unfamiliar with wonder weeks I’ve included a great description from Child, Youth and Health.
Recent research has shown that there are predictable times during the first few years of a child’s life when the child may be more demanding (fussier) than usual. These fussy times have been called the ‘Wonder weeks’ by some writers, because it is during these more difficult weeks that babies are making big steps forward in their development.
Once they have taken one of these big steps in their development, they may have times when they are less demanding. These times have been called ‘sunny’ times. These cycles of changes in how much distress a baby experiences have been found to happen in many different cultures.
Alert: Before deciding that the reason a baby is fussy due to a ‘wonder week’, it is important to consider whether the child may be unwell. If a child has a fever, nappy rash or an ear infection for example, the baby will be more distressed than usual.
Since most babies follow a similar pattern, it is possible to predict approximately when a child may have a fussy (‘stormy’) time. Some babies may become more distressed a week or so before or after the times listed here. Some babies may become quite distressed some times, but pass easily through the predicted ‘stormy’ time at other stages (they may also become very distressed for quite different reasons).
In the first year of life, the stormy times seem to happen around
26 weeks (6 months)
53 weeks (around 12 months).
There is more information about each ‘wonder week’ - about what development stage may be happening during a ‘wonder week’ in the book by Vanderrijt, H. & Plooij, F. (2003) The Wonder Weeks.
Just as physical developmental stages do not stop when a child reaches 12 months of age, mental developmental stages will also continue, and there will continue to be ‘good’ weeks and more difficult weeks. Any parent of a teenager will be able to confirm that they still are having good and bad weeks.
For Jack he has hit almost everyone of these wonder weeks and in hindsight I can always see the new thing he learned. It’s quite amazing once you figure out what is going on and the best part is the weeks that follow. Jack is always really, happy, independent and sleeps like a champ. Researchers refer to the after weeks as “sunny weeks.” You can find out more about wonder weeks at Child, Youth and Health and The Wonder Weeks. There is also a book if you want more information. You can purchase it here.
If you generally have an otherwise happy child except for some unexplainable fussy times you might want to do a little research around these wonder weeks. We just give Jack a lot of reassurance and some additional quality time to help him get through it. If you are having a really tough time I’d suggest reading the book as from what I understand it offers some tips and tricks to help ease the transition.
Good luck and thank you Emily for reminding me of this!
I’m finally back to blogging after a much needed 2 week vacation to Aruba and an extended vacation from blogging. I’m back and hope to pick up my regular schedule!
I’m currently having a struggle with my identity.
I read a blog post a while back written by a friend of mine and it started a little fire in my belly. I’ve since had a few encounters that have fueled that fire and prompted me to write this post. The post she wrote was entitled The Hardest Job In The World, and in short, discussed the “stay-at-home-mom” vs. the “working mom.” What irked me was the statement - So by all accounts the “stay-at-home mom” is very much working. Well of course we are working. What do people think? We sit around watching TV and getting our nails done? Now, my friend was actually trying to outline here that even though it’s the moms who work outside the home and get paid that hold the title “working mom,” the “stay-at-home-mom” is obviously working as well. Please read the full post for the context, but that particular line just didn’t sit well with me because I get that a lot when I meet new people. When they find out I am a new mom I often get the question, are you at home or are you working? I’m not sure what I would prefer them to ask, but I HATE the insinuation that I’m somehow not working by being a stay at home mom. I am working, I just don’t get paid.
For some quick background, I left my job in finance in NYC and moved to Palo Alto when I was 6 months pregnant. I loved and continue to love the breath of fresh air that Palo Alto offers and don’t regret my decision to leave NYC or my 11 year career in finance. I love being a mother and I LOVE having the luxury of being able to spend every day watching my son grow and thrive, something I know some of those on the other side of the fence want desparately. I’ve been trying to figure out what is really bothering me and why that statement has stuck with me. Like a lot of mothers, and a few dads I’ve met that are home with their children during the week, I struggle with whether I should/want to go back to working and being paid outside of the home. The financial burden is what weighs on me the most. What will I be able to provide for my children beyond the necessities? Will we be able to travel? Will I be able to help them with college? Ultimately I think that is a separate issue than what is bothering me here. When I boil it down I think when I get the question “are you at home or are you working?”, the unintentional insinuation stings a bit, but I really think it’s the fact that when I tell them I take care of Jack full time, it’s almost a conversation stopper. When I was in finance and could identify with a company and a career, there was always continued conversation. Now it’s as if the record stops and someone has to ask about the weather to keep the conversation going. When encounters like this happen I spend the next day questioning the value of what I’m doing and whether I’m making the right decision for myself and my family.
A couple weeks ago I updated my LinkedIn profile with my current position, “domestic engineer”. The way I see it, ultimately I’m CEO of the household in charge of everything from our finances, to keeping food in the house and meals on the table, organizing any domestic help, doing the laundry and of course my day job, taking care of little Jack. It did slightly empower me to put a label on my role and I have tried it out in some recent conversations and gotten some very positive feedback. However, there is another aspect to this whole conumdrum that I haven’t mentioned that I think plays into this whole identity crisis. The judgement. Except for the few dads that are at home with their kids, most of the men I meet almost expect me to be at home with Jack. There are an abundance of stay at home parents, mostly mothers, in the area where I live. I find I can split the men into two distint categories; those that are proud of their wives for taking the plunge to leave their careers to care for their children, and those that just expected at some point, children or not, their wives would stop working because they made enough money and then some. Either way, you’re at home, as expected, moving on.
And then there are the women. It’s with the women where I actually feel judged. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any means, but I have tried hard to mentor and support the efforts of women in the workplace. Hoping to assist in the longterm goal of gaining equal footing and getting the same opportunities as men, especially in heavily male dominated industries. The simple fact is that there are not a lot of women at the top and most of the ones that are have made sacrifices to get there. For those women that have forged the way for other women, I can feel the judgement (by some) for those of us that have chosen to leave the mainstream workforce. It’s almost as if we are not doing our part to support the cause.
If I lived in a bubble I probably wouldn’t think twice about any of this, but I don’t and so I do.
At the end of the day I know I’m putting too much pressure on myself (surprise, surprise). Quite simply, I’m a daughter, a friend, a wife and a mother. I’m defined by these collectively, not individually. I’ve chosen to take motherhood by the horns, completely embrace it and give it my all. I’m enjoying life more than I ever have and every day I get showered in kisses, hugs and mamama mamama mamamas from my son. If I can learn to let go of the path I was on and walk tall on the path I’m on now I think my identity crisis will ultimately resolve itself.
Until then, maybe we can think of creative new titles for the mother who works inside the home and the mother who works outside. Maybe that will be enough.
The bottom line is that being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world, but also the most rewarding. If I, we, you can keep that in perspective maybe we’ll just learn to come back with some witty remarks instead of letting the judgement get to us.
My mommy friends often often ask me what my favorite baby products are. I have a long list, which I will publish in a later post. Recently though I’ve been thinking about the one product that I would not be able to live without, and hands down it’s the yoga ball, also known as the stability or birthing ball. I’m guessing that is not what you might of expected, except of course by the title of this post:) In all seriousness, I LOVE the yoga ball because it comforted me during pregnancy, stood by me during labor, solved my babies sleep problems and is currently helping me get back into shape. We took four cross-country trips with my son in his first six months of life and I didn’t leave home without it, it’s that good.
One of the most important things to get right when purchasing a yoga ball is making sure you get the correct size for your height. The packaging will generally have a guide but I’ve listed some general guidelines:
- Height 4’8” to 5’5”, ball should be 55cm
- Height 5’6” to 6’0”, ball should be 66cm
- Height over 6’0”, ball should be 75 cm
I’ve listed some of the uses below for pregnancy, labor, pospartum and beyond. It’s never too late to insert the yoga ball into your life.
Pregnancy - There are many physical issues that a woman faces as her body changes during pregnancy that can be aided by staying fit and certain pre-pregnancy exercise routines may not be appropriate while carrying a child. In addition, most women gain the majority of their weight in the front, caused by their growing bellies which leads to uneven weight distribution leaving women feeling slightly unbalanced. In addition to being a safe way for women to get exercise while pregnant, yoga balls help improve balance and stability and strengthen the core and abdominal muscles which also helps prepare you for the pushing process of labor. Getting started on the ball early is a plus! As pregnancy progresses and back pain settles in, the ball can offer physical relief by kneeling over the ball and letting gravity work in your favor. This can also help the baby move into an optimal position for delivery. In the final weeks it can often very difficult to find a comfortable seating position and the flexibility and give of the birthing ball can be quite comforting during this time, plus it’s easier to get on and off of.
To get started make sure you are holding onto something when sitting on the ball for the first time. If you aren’t used to it the ball can shoot right out from under you. Once you are seated make sure your feet are flat on the floor with your legs slightly spread and your arms at your side or on your knees. Start by slowing bouncing on the ball and rolling your hips until you feel comfortable on it. Once comfortable you can practice lifting one leg and then one arm at a time while staying balanced. Alternate arms and legs over multiple reps. This will work the muscles in your limbs and will really help to improve your balance. Eventually you can move into a lying position from seated by walking your feet forward slowly until your back is on the ball. You should have help doing this the first few times. Breathing deeply while doing any of these exercises will help you relax and stay comfortable. Yoga ball squats are also a great exercise to start doing regularly with the ball. When performed over the course of the pregnancy before labor the squats can help encourage the baby into the optimal position for birth, head down.
Labor - If you are going for a natural birth, the yoga ball might be your best friend. It’s also great for the early stages of labor before you are bed ridden with an epidural. Unless you’ve had previous experience with the ball prior to pregnancy, your first time using the ball should not be in labor. It can take a little while to get the balance right and there isn’t much time or want to learn when actual labor sets in.
There are many benefits to using the yoga ball once labor has begun. By using the ball to sit or perform squats, as mentioned above, it can help the baby descend faster into the birthing canal. The squatting position helps widen the pelvic opening and the ball gives you comfort and stability while doing so. Holding the squat at the bottom of the exercise can be a quite comforting labor position as well. Sometimes sitting on top of a warm compress placed on the ball can ease a little of the pelvic aching and assists in relaxing the pelvic floor. Don’t underestimate the power of just sitting on top of the yoga ball and using it’s natural rhythm to sway and rock and breathe yourself to comfort. You can also get on your hands and knees and lean over the ball rocking back and forth while your partner massages your lower back through the contractions. Since the hands and knees position is a popular one for labor the ball allows you to stay in this position longer as it reduces the stress on the hands and wrists. The ball has proved to lessen the pain, provide comfort during labor, speed up effacement and dilation and sometimes hasten the delivery.
Postpartum - Women should not exercise after delivery before getting the OK from their doctors. Once given the OK theyoga ball is a great way to ease back into exercise gently, as it provides much needed support. I’ve provided a couple links with various exercises you can do postpartum that will help shed that unwanted baby weight. In addition, like before sometimes just sitting on the ball and rocking can provide much needed support and relaxation as you adjust to your new life with child.
Beyond - This is BY far my favorite use of the ball. It changed my baby’s life. I had a fussy baby early on and could not get him to sleep or just be calm. I read somewhere that the yoga ball can help soothe a fussy baby as it mimics the natural rhythms of being in the womb. It worked like a charm:) It’s best to start by get situated on the ball and then having someone hand you your baby, just until you get the hang of it. Once you are seated on the ball with child gently bounce up and down with patting or rubbing their back. Sometimes using the shhhhshing sound helps as well. I found it best to hold my son upright against my chest. Once I got on the ball I could feel my son’s body relax and then his eyes would start to shut and he would drift into sweet slumber. Another good use is to place your baby stomach side down on the ball. This can also ease fussiness or an upset stomach. I found it best to be standing or seated on an ottoman/couch with the ball in front of me. This way I had control while I placed my baby on the ball. Once you are holding them securely ever so gently you can start bouncing them. They generally really like this as well. It’s also good practice to get them comfortable on their bellies.
So their you have it, my favorite product. Not such a conventional baby product but it’s proven the most loyal. Good luck I hope you find some uses for this amazing ball as well.
There has been a lot of press recently surrounding BPA. What exactly is BPA? BPA (Bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic resins, epoxy and other products. There is currently a global public health debate gaining more momentum everyday surrounding about the safety of BPA. Packaging companies and chemical manufacturers claim BPA is safe while health advocates, scientists and health professionals think otherwise.
Urge your Senator to support national legislation to ban BPA in food and drink containers.
What to eat? We encourage individuals to purchase fresh foods (especially locally grown!) whenever possible followed by frozen or dried foods. If packaged foods are needed, choose glass, aseptic packages, or less toxic plastic containers when possible.
Talk to your local grocery store manager, and ask them to phase out BPA in their canned food!
The last point, number 6, I feel is very important. Companies that are taking action, instead of fighting the issue, should be applauded. One of my favorite companies, Eden Foods already sells beans, amongst, other foods in cans without BPA. They’ve recently taken it a step further to try to eliminate the can altogether. See recent article Eden Foods Finds a Better Solution to BPA-lined Cans for Tomatoes and Sauces for more information. I love seeing companies take action like this.
By eliminating BPA in the packaging of our food, we are one step closer to ridding our food of harmful chemicals.