10 December 2010

Aspie quote of the day

12 year old Aspie to 3 year old younger brother:

"Hey buddy, want to see me defy friction?"

Then he slides across the floor in his socks.

Is TV Bad for your baby's brain

According to a just released study, exposing your baby to just 60 minutes of TV per day can cause cognitive delays.   This latest study adds more fuel to a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies under age 2 watch no TV at all.

In my opinion, based on my experience, though, as a parent of four, this is not the whole story. Yes, if you put your baby in front of the TV for much of the day, or even just a short time, and then don't spend any time engaging him in interactive play or talking to him, you are likely to see significant delays.  

However, if you let your baby watch a little TV when you need a few minutes to shower, tidy up, or just have a cup of coffee, but you spend the majority of the day playing with him and talking to him and reading books to him, I think it is unlikely that you will see any problems.

As I've said before, I'm not a doctor, so my opinion has little merit, but I have a lot of experience with this topic, so I do feel I can speak to it with some authority.  As a Navy wife and mom of four sons, including one with high functioning autism, I have used TV as a babysitter more than I'd care to admit.  But, I do engage my kids- constantly.  Like I said, I'm a Navy wife, my husband is away a lot, I've got to talk to someone!   I am kidding, of course, but the point is, that while I permit my children to watch television regularly, I really do spend a lot of time in positive interactions with them.

Though they all have watched quite a bit of TV, they've all read before their fifth birthdays.  One read at age 3 and one at age 4.  They have excellent math skills and have been able to make simple computations from very early ages.  Yes, my eldest son, who has autism, had speech delays, but cognitively, he has tested as gifted from the age of three.

The point of this post is not to say how great my kids are (though they are, of course) but to put your minds at ease.  In my opinion it is OK for little ones to have TV exposure, but you must couple the TV watching with positive interactions with your child.

Run a constant dialog with him.  If you are making dinner, tell him, "I'm taking the pasta off the shelf and now I'm going to put into this water.  The water is very hot, so we have to be careful."  etc...  For older kids, have them do their homework in kitchen while you cook so that you can have some back and forth conversation throughout the process.

It isn't hard to enrich your child's brain and you do not have to deny yourself a shower because your baby will cry.  In the "old days" we all lived close to our families.  We could depend on our parents or siblings or other extended family members to lend us a hand with our kids.  Now most of us live far from family and are basically on our own.  If we spend every waking moment personally entertaining our kids, they will never learn to be independent and find ways to entertain themselves.

I should make a point of saying that you should only let your kids watch age appropriate shows.  You can most definitely cause harm by letting them watch programs that are too mature for their psyches.  But letting your one year old watch  Ni Hao Kai Lan or your preschooler watch Super Why is not going to hurt.

Beware of visually stimulating shows with your younger kids.  Shows that have rapidly changing images and loud noises, including loud music, have been shown to lead to attention issues later.

So, when you need to get something accomplished, don't feel too bad about letting baby watch a little TV.  Put him in a safe place with the TV not too close.  Give him a toy to hold, so he is engaged in more than one way.  Then do what you need to do.  Give yourself a break. It's OK.

03 December 2010

Two Ways

Also seen  at http://deploymentdiatribes.wordpress.com/

2 Ways

I have a lot of patience. I’m not bragging, it’s just a fact. I wasn’t always this way but, long ago, I decided that it was easier to have patience with our children than to get upset again and again.

Lately, though, I find myself with less patience. I am sure it has a lot (everything) to do with the stress in our house right now. Horatio is leaving in 5 days.

Every time one of the children challenges me, lately, I find myself wanting to just put a stop to the whining or complaining or misbehaving. I don’t have the patience to wait it out.

I’ve been a bit more stern and am putting a stop to the negative behaviors quickly, but a thought occurred to me. Being tough is tiring.

The past week, and the 5 days to come, have been and will be, very stressful. It is draining to deal with everything that is going on. I realized that it would be much easier to let the kids just have what they want and get on with it.

I have up to two years of these days ahead of me. Which kids will I have at the end of the deployment? Spoiled brats who get everything they want? Or timid, well behaved kids who cower when I walk into the room?

Hopefully neither. I will make a conscious effort to be a good single mother. Keep them in line but with a soft touch.

One thing I am pretty sure of is that I'll end up with at least one of the boys sharing my bed much of the time.  The littlest one sleeps much longer when he is in bed with me.  More sleep is something I find hard to pass up.

Time will tell.

17 November 2010

Line Up

When people learn that I have four boys, they usually give me a look that says something along the lines of, 'I feel sorry for you,' or 'oh boy, I wouldn't want to be in your house, I bet it's noisy all the time.'  (Don't even get me started on the comments like, "oh, never got the girl, huh?"  I can write about that one later.

I get it, I've been in plenty of situations with all boys and the chaos can be intolerable.  However, my boys are usually calm, relatively quiet and sweet.  Of course we have moments (or days) when I look at them or listen to them and think that this is what people think my house is like every day and thank G-d it isn't!

They are still boys, though, and like all children, they like to play and run around, so sometimes I have to resort to extreme measures to get them to focus on what I want to tell them.  When I am trying to get them to listen to something and can tell that it is highly likely that they are not focused on what I am saying, I'll say, in a serious voice, "line up." 

All four boys will line up in front of me, arms at their sides.  When all eight eyes are on my face, I proceed to to convey my message.  Peace is restored.  Everyone is happy... REALLY!

Lately, though, these instances are more frequent than ever.  Perhaps it is because they are getting older and have their own agendas.

Whatever the reason, I realize it is time to bring them back into line.  I'm not sure how we got to this point, but the straw that broke the camel's back came a few nights ago.

The three older boys share a room and sleep in bunk beds.  When I went into their room to kiss them good night, I was bombarded with requests for me to switch their beds.  First, Dwight and Bob said they wanted to switch beds, (Bob to the top, Dwight to the bottom.)  Then Zack said he wanted to sleep in the other top bunk, across from his, where Dwight is now.

They've asked this before.  I used to let them switch frequently, when we lived in China.  But here, their beds have shelves and the boys have stashed books, legos, piggy banks, and much, much, more, in the shelves.  So, the job is significantly more involved. 

I've told them that if they want to switch beds, they have to move all of their stuff.  I'll change the sheets, but they are responsible for the transfer of their "stuff".  They said they'll do this but wanted me to change the sheets in the morning.  They are impatient to get started with the new arrangement. 

When I explained to them that I was not going to do it the next day but that I'd do it when I could fit it into my schedule, they began to whine and complain and ask when I last changed the sheets, when I would do it again and why couldn't it be sooner.

It had been a particularly long day and I had had enough.  So, I said I would do it when they moved all their stuff and showed me they were willing to work for it like I work for them.  They agreed.

Here we are, though, several days later, and everything is still in place.  Not a word about the move since the night of the incident.

Sure, I'll let them trade beds.  I'm happy to do it.  But kids need to know that a family is a team and everyone has to do their share of the work (sort of).

It has been better since that night.  They are back in line but still having fun, enjoying being kids.  It's a fine line, making sure our kids do their share, but also making sure to let them have fun and be kids.

I'm walking the tightrope, for sure.

09 November 2010

Crazy busy nights

Tuesdays are always busy.  The boys come home from school at about 3:40.  Bob (6 1/2) has volleyball club at the school from 6-6:40 and Dwight (9 1/2) has volleyball club from 6:45 until 7:30.  The kids usually get in bed at about 7:30, so it gets a bit complicated.

The first few weeks of this schedule had us juggling homework, dinners, bedtimes and more.  It was not fun.  This week, I threw in a focus group that I have to attend from 8:00-10:00, so I decided it was time to get serious about making Tuesday nights run more smoothly.

I started making dinner at 4:30.  I cooked a pot of pasta and put olive oil and garlic on it for the boys and pesto for Horatio and me.  I sauteed some fish for a scampi of sorts and baked some garlic bread.  I put out some carrots and there's dinner- done.  We sat down to eat at about 5:15 and were finished by 5:45, Tom took Dwight and Bob to the school while I am home with Zack, helping with homework, and Harold, playing with boats.

Horatio will bring Bob home when Dwight starts volleyball and then go back to watch Dwight.  I will get Harold ready for bed but Horatio will put him to bed while I am at the meeting.

I'm going to go clean up from dinner and think about how all this will go down next month when I'm on my own in all of this...

18 October 2010

Deployment Diatribes Installment #1

After today, you can find the Deployment Diatribes at: www.DeploymentDiatribes.wordpress.com

Horatio is leaving home for an unknown period of time, at least 18 months.  We've told the boys this would happen.  They've known ever since we departed Beijing 15 months ago. 

Now, though, we have a departure date and reality has begun to set in.  My way of handling this with the boys is to make sure they are kept "in the know" but also that we don't dwell on it.  We tell them things as we learn them but then drop the subject unless they have questions.

About two weeks ago we learned that Horatio would be departing soon, so we shared this information in a matter of fact way.  I dropped it into our afternoon banter after the boys returned from school.

"Do you want a snack?"

"How about popcorn?"

"OK.  Oh, by the way, today we found out that Daddy will be leaving on deployment on (x date).  I just wanted to let you know."

"Oh.  OK.  Why does he have to go?  I don't want him to go."

"Well, it is a part of his job.  He does not want to leave us, but the Navy has asked him to do this very important job, so he has to.  But as soon as he can, he's going to come home."


And, life went on...  Snack, Homework, Dinner, Bike riding, Basketball, Bedtime.

All was quiet on the subject for a week or so and then Horatio brought up an idea to the boys.  We were going through the bedtime routine, the three older boys were tucked into their bunk beds.  I was reading Harry Potter to the 6 year old and the Horatio walked in to say good night.

He told the boys he had come up with an idea of a way to make the deployment a more exciting time for the boys.  He said he would let each of them choose a new Lego figure (HUGE Lego fans in our house.)  He will take the four Lego figures with him and every time he goes somewhere new and exciting, he will take a picture of the Lego guys on location.  Then he will email the photos home and the boys can share the experience with him.

Great idea!


The next morning, the 9 year old was crying when he woke up and came downstairs.  He said, "Why does Dad have to leave?  I don't want him to go."

Not a great start to a day.  It took me a while to realize what had prompted the sadness.  I'd forgotten that the last thing he heard before he went to bed was a foretelling of his Dad's long absence.  I tend to block out the sadness and focus on the logistics of being a single parent.  It  might not be the healthiest way to deal with it but it works for me.  It may be cliche, but I have to be strong for the kids, and in reality, strong for Horatio, too.  It would not be good if everyone in the house dissolved into tears whenever the subject of Horatio's departure came up.

So, I arm myself with all the minute details.  I deal with the boys' tears, grumpiness and confusion as it comes and try to be a supportive wife in the weeks leading up to the departure.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no martyr.  I have my moments of feeling sorry for myself but I try to keep them to a minimum.  We have a good support network set up here and I know it helps Horatio to know he's leaving us in good hands.  We will both deal with the home-front fallout of the deployment as it comes and look forward to the happy reunion down the road.

02 October 2010

it's not fair

One of my children thinks a lot of things are not fair.  I often have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "life's not fair!"

He does not like to have limitations put on him.  He wants a lot of freedom.  Lately the complaining centers on the afternoon and evening routines.  We have always had pretty early "in bed" times.  The three older boys share a room, so we like them to all get in bed at the same time.  With ages 12, 9 1/2 and 6, the lights out times vary quite a bit, they end up with a lot of reading time, which they enjoy, but the 9 year old frets over the fact that he has to get in bed earlier than his friends.  When the weather is nice, time permitting, the boys can go outside after dinner and get into bed a bit later, but there are lots of times when we start the bedtime routine not long after dinner.

We endure a lot of whining over these nights especially.  We've tried predictable consequences, but the debate continues.  So, I decided to ask him what he envisions as the ideal afternoon and evening routine.

Our standard routine goes like this:

Boys get home from school between 3:15 and 3:30.  They have a snack and play and begin homework at about 4:00.  Homework is done with little input from me.  I highly encourage the boys to do their work independently.  I help when asked but each boy has his personal working space and Harold is encouraged to play quietly or watch a dvd at this time.  I usually fold laundry or work on dinner during homework time.

They finish their homework, tidy up a little, and then play until dinner is ready.  We usually eat dinner around 5:30 or 6:00.  After dinner, if everything has gone smoothly during the day, the boys can go outside to play or have dessert outside.  We have them come inside to get ready for bed at 7ish on school nights, later on the weekends.  Lights out is 8:00 for the 6 year old, 9:00 for the 9 year old and around 9:30 for the 12 year old.

We are flexible, though.  If someone is having trouble falling asleep, they are free to keep reading until they feel sleepy.

Mr. It's Not Fair proposed this routine:
Come home from school, play until dinner.  Do homework after dinner, then go outside until 8:00.  Shower, get ready for bed, lights out at 9:00.

I am pretty confident that he will see that this is not a feasible routine.  If he waits to do homework until after dinner, I might be too busy cleaning up and getting my youngest son into bed to give help if he needs it.  Also, it is not likely he will have time to go outside after his homework is finished, especially since the sun is setting earlier these days.

I think the freedom to try his own routine will give my son some piece of mind.  I see compromise in our future.

28 September 2010

Aspie quote of the day

quote of the day from our beloved eldest, the boy with no filter: (thank you, Asperger Syndrome)

"Mom, are we having these hamburgers for dinner tonight because you are too lazy to cook something else for us?"


In his defense, he amended his comment a moment or two later, "what I mean is, that since you are sick, this is what you decided to make."

Ok, so he's learning.

24 September 2010

Mealtime ordeals averted, sort of

In our house, after many years of setting mealtime rules and adjusting and readjusting them, I think we've settled on something that works.

Our philosophy comes from experience and books.  What we do is this:

I prepare dinner.  I make sure there is at least one item on the table that each person will eat, whether it is rice or pasta or even just bread and butter, I know that the kids will not go hungry. 

If one of the boys does not want to eat the meal I have provided, he can pour himself a bowl of cereal (nothing sweetened) and have as much of that for dinner as he wants, but no dessert.  We always have a dessert option and if they at least try each item on the table, they get dessert.

There is no clean plate club here.  We want to encourage the boys to try new things and old things again and again, reminding them that their tastes will change as they grow.  But, we don't want to make meal time a battleground.

The rules are set, there is no debate.  If they argue, they get one chance to stop and after that, they suffer some kind of consequence.  The main thing we stress at this point is respect.  We remind them that when they are rude and complain about dinner, it hurts my feelings since I worked hard (sometimes not so hard) to prepare the meal.

We also don't want sweets to seem like a forbidden item.  So, they can have dessert each night, assuming all the rules have been followed.

Of course the rules are tested from time to time.  One of the boys argues over dinner any night the offering is not one of his favorites but he usually backs down when I remind him of the rules.

We had a big battle a few nights ago.  One of the boys began whining when he learned we were having Chinese dumplings, rice and stir fried veggies.  I want to remind you that he could have had a small taste of the veggies and dumplings, filled up on rice and still had dessert, but he whined and whined.  I reminded him he could have cereal, and he asked for a sweetened cereal.  I reminded him that that is not an option.  He then announced he was just going to go to bed hungry.

This all was probably caused by the fact that he was already in a bad mood due to a large amount of math homework, but reasoning with him got me nowhere.  I put an end to the discussion quickly and continued with the meal preparations and then the meal.  About mid way through dinner, he caved in and ate a bowl of cereal, then another and another.  Then he showered and had time to play before bed.

I find that if we just don't make a big deal about the issue and we don't fall into the trap of the debate, things eventually go our way- the right way!

Tonight's dinner is a fish with spicy sauce over rice, salad and Challah bread.  One of the boys will eat the fish, salad and rice without the spicy sauce, one of the boys will eat the spicy sauce over the rice, with no fish or salad, one of the boys will eat it all and one of the boys will just eat rice and salad.  Everyone will enjoy the bread and, barring any unforeseen hiccups when the boys are reminded about the small taste of everything, we will have a lovely family dinner.

We also set the tone of the meal by asking each child, first, the best part of their day, and then the worst.  This keeps communication open and gives us a peek at their day.  I highly recommend it.

Bon appetite!

20 September 2010

Terrible horrible no good very bad day

Did anyone else read that book when they were kids?

Well, yesterday was one such day for me.  It didn't start out that way.  It started nicely enough, despite some of the boys complaining about going to religious school.  They went off to school and I watched the children of the teacher.  It was fun to get my baby fix.

The boys came home and we all had lunch together and then set off for Cox Farms, which has a fall festival every year.  They have huge slides set up on hay, hay "mountains" to climb, rope swings, hay rides, baby animals and more.  The kids love it, and we won tickets via  the great site:  http://www.dullesmoms.com.

When we got out of our car, though, we realized we had a nearly flat tire.  So, we took the boys around the festival together for a while and then Horatio headed out to the car to change the tire.  Unfortunately, the dealer put the lug nuts on so tight, he could not get them off.  Roadside assistance took 45 minutes to arrive and they couldn't remove the lug nuts either!  So, they called a tow truck.  I called a dear friend, who came to the rescue of the 4 tired, sweaty, cranky boys and me, while Tom waited for what ended up being about 4 hours for the truck to arrive.

I took the boys home, got them showered and fed and off to bed.  Then, just before going to bed, I remembered I'd put my ID in my pocket, so I went down to the laundry room to get it, only to find it wasn't there.  I looked everywhere and could not find it.  SO, I can add that to my list.

I have to take the car in to the shop to get the tire fixed or replaced and get myself to a military base to replace my ID.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but it could have been worse if I'd been there alone with the boys and Horatio had already left on his pending deployment.

SO, I can be thankful for life's little favors, no matter how hard they are to spot.

16 September 2010

The trouble with potty training

Potty training is trouble, no matter when you start or how eager the child is.

My first son had many developmental delays, so it did not even occur to me to train him until he was over 3 years old.  Then, over winter break, we took away the diapers, let him run around with no pants on, and in a couple of days he was completely trained.  Done and Done.

Many of my friends had begun training their same aged kids a year before and were still battling messes and puddles.  Their job was complete at around the same time as mine was, but it took them many months, rather than a few days.

I took this lesson with me as I planned to train number 2.  He threw me for a loop, though, when at just over 2 years, he said he wanted to wear underwear and pee on the potty.  I knew it would be a mistake to tell him no, so I went with it.  He was in underwear from that point on, but refused to go number 2 in the potty.  He'd ask for a diaper to do that.  I had always said I would NEVER do that, but it is next to impossible to force a child to do that in the potty before they are ready, so I figured I was lucky he was in underwear and just went with it, until he was a little over 3 years old and we were expecting the arrival of number 3.  I began to push the issue a bit and finally had success with him, at right about the same age as number 1 was when he was fully trained.

Number 3 was a completely different story.  He was 2 1/2, realized his brothers were sharing a room and he was alone.  I told him he could move in with them when he had no more diapers...  done!  We had a few set backs, but he was the exception.

I've already addressed the issue of number 4 in this blog.  I felt the need to train him because his "friends" are trained.  I felt he wasn't completely ready, but went ahead with it.  The method we used for training him was pretty successful, but at 2 years, 9 months, he is still working things out.  He has anxiety about number 2, so I have to watch him very closely or put him in a pull up so that I don't end up cleaning up a mess on the carpet.  YUCK!  I think I put too much pressure on him and he has had some regression, so I am backing off.  I reward the successes, talk about the accidents, but don't get upset by them, and, I am pretty sure that by the time he's 3 1/2, diapers will be a memory.

At least I hope so!

Bottom line- don't push it if it's not working.  Let your kids guide you.  Each one is different, but most kids will train by 3 1/2 and if you wait, it probably will be easier, but you have to do what works for you and your child.

13 September 2010

Shaping our kids

Who is socializing kids these days?  If parents don't take care of their own kids, who will?  Do some parents think that the world will take care of their kids?  Do they think that their kids will somehow, magically develop into good citizens without an ounce of guidance?  Is it the responsibility of our schools to shape our kids?


When did this happen?  When did parents forget that they are responsible for their kids?  Who turned over the shaping of our future to strangers?

The reason I am on this rant stems from an event I attended with my children this weekend.  It was a family event for a class my kids are taking.  The organizers had put together a great program of crafts and snacks and about 25 children moved from table to table, enjoying the activities.

At one of the tables, the kids could make candied apples using honey, frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips and more.  As you can imagine, this was a popular table.

I watched with horror as a 10 year old girl took a spoon to stab a hole in the plastic seal on a container of sprinkles.  She did not have the patience to pause to ask an adult for help.  She jabbed at the seal 4 times before the plastic gave way and sprinkles burst out all over the table.  She then took the spoon, poured sprinkles over her apple and into her mouth, spilling more over the table and onto the floor.  She then looked up and laughed, "I'd hate to be the one to have to clean that up!"

Her mother watched as it all transpired.  In response to her daughter's comment, she giggled back, "maybe YOU should."  But, it was clear she did not mean it.  She just turned and continued her conversation.


How can a mother let this happen and even condone the behavior?

In what universe is this behavior ok?  Am I the only one disturbed by this kind of conduct?

I really had to restrain myself.  I wanted to walk over to the 10 year old.  Look her in the eye and tell her to put the apple down, clean up the mess and leave the room.

Why did her mother not do this?  When did parents stop parenting?  Do they want to be their kids' friends?  Are they afraid that their kids won't like them if they set rules and insist their kids think of people other than themselves?

Yes, it's hard to be the bad guy sometimes and it's hard to listen to our kids cry because they want things, but we are parents.  We have to teach our kids right from wrong.  We have to teach our kids to be patient and to work for things they want.  It is our responsibility to shape our kids and when they turn out to be whiny, rude, messy and without motivation, the mirror is the only place to look for whom to blame.

06 September 2010

Clean up

The boys have to make a group effort at cleaning up the basement every couple of weeks.  They just have so many things that end up all over the floor. 

Play is a big part of their lives, and with that comes a mess, so, clean up has to be a part of it too.

No matter what, though, clean up time brings conflict. 

It starts with the claim that the youngest brother is the cause of the mess.  With the blame comes begging for help.  Once we get past that, the boys want to know how much they have to clean before they can quit.  My answer never changes, "all of it."

Usually, they ask for a reward for when they finish cleaning.  I usually say that the reward is a clean play area.  But, I always compliment the effort they've made and the job well done and make sure something fun follows the job. 

Kids will only do as much as we expect of them.  It is very important to have high expectations.  Sometimes we have to help them reach the goal, but if we don't expect them to achieve, they probably won't.

Praise is an important part of the process, but too much praise can backfire.  If the kids get too much praise, they stop doing things for the reward of the personal accomplishment and do it only to receive the praise.  We want our children to strive for success for the sake of personal achievement, not for the compliments we give them. 

Praise and reward the effort more than the achievement and you will foster desire and drive in your children.

The clean basement is the reward.  The joy of having an open space is the prize.  They fight it, but they do it and they make the effort together.  Every aspect of the job part of the learning process.  It all helps them grow and develop into productive, happy young men.

29 August 2010

legos legos legos- what to do about the "I wants"

Kids are dreamers, right?  So, it makes sense for them to think about the things they want- a lot.  Where is the line, though?

Three of my boys love legos.  It's pretty much all they think about right now.  They build the sets they have, they dissect the sets and build new inventions.  They build huge lego "bases" and have battles and adventures.  They involve their friends, it goes on and on and it's great.

BUT, they also want more legos.  No matter how many we have, and we have PLENTY, (we have thousands) they want more.  They browse the catalogs, surf amazon.com and have recently discovered ebay.  These practices are fine with me.  I know it is natural for them to want things.  They are kids, after-all. 

But, where do we draw the line?  How much do I listen to "I want this set," and "I want this mini figure," and "maybe I'll get this set," before I put a stop to it?

They earn allowance for being "good family citizens" and can earn extra money by doing extra chores, so they can spend their own money as they choose.  I think it is OK for them to think of what they want, spend their money, and see what it is like to have no money left to buy more or other things.  But after listening to the "I wants" for a few days in a row now, I am growing tired of it. 

Sure, I tell them to keep a list so they can ask for the sets they want at holiday and birthday time, but the talk continues.

We have 9  more days before school starts and I'd prefer to not have to listen to the retail talk for that long.  So, I came up with a solution I hope will work.

Today I will tell them they can tell one another about the things they want.  If they want me to know about specific items, they can write them down and show me the list at the end of the day.

I hope this strategy works.

22 August 2010


Harold has not had wet pants or made a puddle since Wednesday morning- the first morning.  Hurray!  He asks to go and stayed dry in the car for 2 4 hour road trips and is dry at nap time and at night. 

However, while we've had some success with pooping on the potty, he's also had two accidents in his undies.  I am a firm believer that having no undies or pants on at home while training is the key.  When he has something confining his bottom half, he poops in them.  If he's bottomless, there's a much better chance he'll make it to to the potty.

To everyone else in the midst of the training- good luck!

18 August 2010


The book says a child has successfully potty trained when he or she asks to use the potty on his or her own.  Just as I finished my last posting, Harold said, "Ok, I'm ready to go potty now."

We went to the bathroom and, miracle of miracles, he peed, more than a little.  There's no way I'd say he is potty trained, but I am optimistic and will start tomorrow with hope.

Now he is eating an ice cream cone.

Potty Training boot camp is in session

I know I say "I Read Every Baby Book- So You Don't Have To," but I haven't read them all.  It's an ongoing process.  Today I read one that was new to me.  It was about potty training your child in less than a day.  I took some tips away from it but basically it is common sense, just like most parenting books, the problem is, most of the time we don't do what we know we should do.

It's a common thread, I've noticed, among my mom friends.  Most of us know how we should parent, it's just too tiring to follow through sometimes.

That's how I've been approaching the potty training up to this point.  I want to get Harold potty trained, but I've been giving it only about half the effort necessary.  I know this.

So, with my three older boys at Grandma and Grandpa camp for three and a half days, I am putting on my drill sergeant's hat, I mean my determined mom hat, and getting serious about the potty.   I want the diapers out of my house.

So, the process goes like this...

Harold wakes up- 4:19 a.m.  I make him go back to bed and fight the good fight until 5:00, when I get him out of bed.  Then, I rub my eyes, take off his pjs and tell him it's time to go potty.

He fights a little, but does the deed.  He spend the rest of the day in "undies" and we make lots of tracks on the carpet and, luckily mostly wooden floors, back and forth to the bathroom.  Every 15 minutes or so.  Unfortunately, he only pees a little each time and usually pees more on the floor a few minutes after a trip to the potty. 

We had no fewer than 5 puddles of various sizes before nap time, but lots of small successes as well.

After nap and a VERY grouchy waking, Harold makes a good trip to the potty and seems quite proud of himself.  With every success, there is a LOT of praising.  I'm so proud, he should be proud, Grandma will be so proud, Aunt Annie will be so proud, his brothers will be so proud, etc...

I had to fold the two loads of laundry I'd done, so I put disposable training pants on him, over his undies.  Luckily, he did not pee in them.

I'm waiting for the number two to drop.  We'll see what happens.  Every time I ask him if he needs to go potty he says, "NO."  When I say, "It's time to go potty," sometimes he goes willingly and sometimes he does not.  It's hard to know whether to force it or not.  I'm not giving up, yet.  It's less than an hour to bedtime.  We'll start again in the morning.

07 August 2010

words of wisdom for the day

If you don't want your kids to do something, tell them, "no." and then don't change your mind.  Kids will pester you and beg you to change your mind and will outlast you if you let them. 

Try something different next time.

When you get tired of saying, "no" and hearing them whine at you, rather than giving in, say, "I am not going to change my mind.  Stop asking or you will (fill in the blank)." 

THEN- follow through.

If they stop, reward them with a bit of praise a little while later.

If they continue to pester you, in any way, follow through with the consequence. 

It WILL make a difference, and quickly.

06 August 2010

read this

Mothering is a great magazine with some great information.  Here's a link to their blog...

04 July 2010

Autism Speaks July 4th 5K

A great day.

We took part in the Autism Speaks 5K in Potomac, Maryland today.
It was a great day for many reasons.

For one, Zack could see that our whole family supports him and the cause of making his life less difficult.

Second, we could see about 1500 people supporting Autism Speaks, in one way or another.  Whether it was a team rallying around a family member or friend, or individuals just out to run a 5K, everyone contributed the entry fee, helping the group raise money for autism research.

Finally, it was helpful to see other families dealing with similar issues to ours.  Some families clearly deal with much larger challenges than we do, but we saw several kids who looked quite familiar to us, as well. 

Sometimes it's nice to just get out there and be reminded of what is and is not a big deal.

Thanks go out to the 2010 July 4th Autism Speaks 5K organizers!

29 June 2010

Cry Baby

I don't cry.  It takes an awful lot to bring me tears or even close.  Over the years, I've been through a lot of ups and downs...  Being a Navy Wife, goodbyes, hellos, long deployments...  It's all part of the deal I signed up for, so I've had to make myself more immune to the emotional ups and downs.  The side effect is that I am less apt to get emotional at other events in our life.

On June 21st, my eldest son "graduated" from sixth grade.  I was proud of him, for sure, but I admit to being cynical about the day's event.  I mean, graduation?  Really?

Don't get me wrong.  My husband took the morning off from work, we took the camera and video camera, we were ready to document this mildly momentous event in our first son's life.

We lined up outside the cafeteria and filed in when the doors opened.  I positioned myself on an aisle seat so I could easily move out to shoot my photos and video.

The cooling system in the room was not working well,  everyone fanned themselves with the event programs. 

The student council president started the event with the Pledge of Allegiance.  As a Navy wife, I get goose bumps every time I hear it.

The principal opened the ceremony with some thoughtful remarks, telling the kids to be the best they can be for themselves and the middle school next year.  She said there could only be one best at any given thing but everyone can be his or her own best.  A nice thought, but hard to hear since the sound system was on the fritz.  

Between the heat and the poor sound system,  I have to admit that I kept checking the program to see how many things were left before we could vacate the premises.  

Finally, the kids came to the part in the morning when the they thanked the parents for all the support and love we've given them over the past seven years of school.  One of the students read a thank you and then all the kids came out to the parents and handed us a rose and a personal letter.  

Next, the kids took the stage to sing.  Seeing Zack up on stage, singing, "You'll Be In My Heart" did it to me.  I got choked up.  Seeing my nearly 12 year old, first son, moving from elementary school, on to middle school, suddenly became an emotionally charged event for me.  

I admit, I teared up a little bit, but for the most part, I beamed with pride.  It has not been an easy road for Zack.  He does wonderfully academically, but any given day is a struggle, socially, and to see him up there, with his classmates, knowing the possibilities that lie ahead, was a great feeling.  

I am glad they made a big deal about the commencement from 6th grade to middle school.  

Every event can be a big deal or less so, depending on how the adults in a child's life handle it.  It was a big deal to Zack and to all of his classmates.  It really is a moment of moving from "little kid" to tween.  

Next year, these kids are going to be held to different standards and will be exposed to many more adult experiences.  

The teachers and parents celebrated our kids' milestone.  I'm glad we did and look forward to all that is to come.

Next year, my youngest will start preschool.  Will I cry when he gets out of the car in the carpool line?  Now I'm not so sure that I won't...

17 June 2010

Have you seen these diapers?

The commercial for the Huggies Jean Diapers is stirring up a bit of controversy. 

It turns out that certain networks won't include the ending tag line which includes a reference to pooping.  Give me a break!  It's a commercial for diapers.

I bought these diapers. I think they are cute, so if my littlest one is running around the yard in a diaper that isn't cloth, better he should be in these.

However, I do think the commercial is a little creepy.  I think that if the voice over was done in the voice of a 2 year old it would be funnier and more appropriate, but the humor does out weigh the creepy factor, in my opinion.

What's up with our culture when sexualizing a 2 year old is ok, but a poop reference isn't?
Give me a break.

Style Choices

What is a parent to do when a child makes a questionable style choice?

She lets him do it.  Usually.

A child has to be permitted to make these choices, which, in the long run, don't harm them.  They help the child figure out who he is. 

Of course, as with everything, there are exceptions...  If I know that a style choice will lead to teasing at school, the least I will do is warn my child that it could happen and then let them make the decision.

I also make them wait a few days if the change is dramatic.  I would not want them to make a rash decision and regret it soon after the change was made.

As far as fashion choices go, I usually stay out of it, other than saying, maybe, "just so you know, black shirt and blue shorts do not really go well together, you might want to think about changing."  If we are going out and I want the kids to look nice, I have been known to put my foot down.  Usually, on those days, I pull the kids' clothes out the night before and lay them out so the boys just put them on without thinking.  Usually, this method works, but not always.

I am writing this because I have recently been there and done that, again.  My 6 year old, who has had long hair for most of his life, has been saying he wants to get a shorter spiky hair style.  I put him off for a few weeks, but a few days ago, he became very sure of his desire for the new look.  So, I made the appointment, we printed out a style picture from the internet (love google images) and yesterday he got his hair cut. 

It was not easy for me.  I love his hair long, and it is kind of his signature look.  But I knew I had to let him do it.  In the end, it looks great.  Totally different, but fabulous nonetheless.

He feels proud that he made the change and hopefully he'll take this experience with him as he grows and matures.

07 June 2010

Make your own frozen treats!

We love Trader Joe's for all their great products, but my new favorite is their Fruit and Cream Yogurt cups.  The kids LOVE them and I created a great, healthy dessert with them.  Stick a popsicle stick in the top, stick them in the freezer and you have a delicious, frozen treat.

The milk used for the yogurt is rBST free and the cups have 4 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat per serving- GREAT for our growing kids!

Thanks Trader Joe's!

The Difference

What's the difference between preparing for the birth of your fist baby and preparing for the birth of your second (third or fourth?)  EVERYTHING.

Here are two...

How many weeks are you? 
First time Mom- "22 1/2"
Third time Mom- "twenty um, wait, January, February  (counts on fingers) um, about 5 months."

Do you have your layette together?
First time Mom- "Yes, I have 12 onesies, 6 creepers, 10 pairs of cute little socks..."
Third time Mom- "Yeah, pretty much.  I think the clothes in the newborn bin are clean, I mean, they were clean when I put them in there and the lid has been on..."

01 June 2010

In the throws of the TERRIBLES!

When a toddler enters the terribles, stand back, make a battle-plan and then move in.

Do not, I repeat- DO NOT go in without a plan.

My plan with the in-house 2 1/2 year old- time out in a naughty chair.  Lately, I've spent a lot of time walking back and forth to the naughty chair.  Harold often fights the time out, so I just walk him back to the chair and repeat, "time out, 2 minutes."

When he completes the time out, I bend down to his level and say, "you were in time out because..." and explain simply what happened.  Most often, lately, it is because he has thrown something or done a great big arm sweep across a table to make a giant mess on the floor.

I am sure there are many parents who can relate.  A toddler can be a terror, but I am soothed by the knowledge that they come out on the other end and return to our sweet children, whom we knew before they entered the stage of terribles.

Whether it's the twos or the threes is irrelevant.  I've learned from experience that kids enter and leave the terribles at different times.  What is predictable is that the terribles are a phase, like any other stage of development.  They are asserting their independence and new skills.  We have to help them through it all and guide them in their development as happy, healthy kids- oh, and protect the other siblings who often bear the brunt of the outbursts!

31 May 2010

Do doctors know best?

So, whose kids get colds when they cut teeth?

Me! Me! Me!

Why is it that doctors say there is no correlation between teething and runny noses?  Well, I guess I know why.  It's probably because there is no scientific reason for the two to go together.  But, does that mean it isn't something that happens? 

I say, "no."

I have four children and nine times out of ten, they have gotten colds just as they cut a new tooth.  My 2 1/2 year old is currently cutting his upper second molars.  A couple of days ago, he started sneezing, then got stuffy and started coughing and running a low grade fever.  The teeth have cut through and the symptoms of the cold are getting better.

The connection is probably that the baby's immune system is compromised as they cut a tooth, so the cause is not a direct one, but there is clearly a link.

If your child runs a fever of over 101 for more then 72 hours, take him to the doctor, even if he is teething, the cold may have turned into something more, like an ear infection.  Otherwise, though, wait it out.  Treat the symptoms and give the baby Hyland's teething tablets to get him through the tough times.

21 May 2010


has free online games for 3 age groups. Great for summer. Maybe kids can early club penguin time by first playing a reading game!

18 May 2010

Vaccines- help or harm? what to do...

Now that I've got your attention, I want to be clear from the start.  I am pro vaccine, for sure, but also am extremely cautious with how I allow them to be used with my kids.

My eldest child is on the autism spectrum.  I have struggled with wondering what caused it for many years now and, like nearly everyone with a child on the spectrum, I cannot say for sure what the cause is.  In my opinion, it is a brain injury caused by environmental contaminants of some sort.  When I look back over the years, I can point to several possibilities, although, none is definitive.

First, I had pitocin for 24 hours during my labor and delivery of him.  I've heard a theory that extended use of pitocin could be a cause of autism.  My friend's son, who was born on the same day, in the same hospital, also with pitocin, is also on the spectrum...  Coincidence?

Second, could it be something in the water or environment?  Our neighbor, where we lived when Zack was 3 months - 3 years old, also is on the autism spectrum.  Another coincidence?

Finally, vaccines...  Zack got all the vaccines on the CDC schedule, on the CDC timing.  Sometimes he got 4 injections in one day.  I know that the medical establishment has studied the issue and has decided that vaccines are not the cause of autism, but I wonder if the toxins included in the injections could be another contaminant that contributes to the cause.  More studies must be done.

Scientists have ruled that the MMR vaccine is not the cause, but that does not rule out a theory that the chemicals contained in the vaccines contribute to a build up of toxins and lead to brain injury. 

My theory is that it is a combination of things.  I wonder if some kids can metabolize all the chemicals better than others.  The levels of the toxins build up in the bodies of the kids whose bodies have a tough time eliminating them and they eventually suffer the consequences.  Sometimes, kids get such a high level of toxins in one visit, the brain injury is immediate.  The shock to the child's system is too great.

So, what to do?  How can we, as cautious, worried parents, protect our kids from both the effects of the toxins as well as the terrible illnesses that the vaccines protect them from?  Clearly, we want to stay away from both, but at what cost?

I continue to vaccinate my kids.  I think it is a dangerous risk to leave our kids open to these illnesses.

I watched Frontline's recent episode, The Vaccine War, (watch it here:  Frontline- The Vaccine War ) about this very topic and was infuriated by the misinformed statements by the anti vaccine woman in the show.  She said that since the illnesses are no longer a threat in America, it is not necessary to subject our kids to the vaccines.  Has she not heard of the recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough?  These illnesses are still common around the world and it only takes one child in a community traveling outside the country, becoming infected and returning to infect all the un-vaccinated kids at home.

Herd protection (the effect of most of the population being vaccinated and therefor protecting the remaining population) is only good in isolation.  One infected child can wreak havoc on a community.   If an infected child brings an illness into a community a baby who is not old enough to be vaccinated can contract the illness and even die. A child with a compromised immune system could quickly become infected and die.  These illnesses are real threats.

It is an isolationist, misinformed (perhaps ignorant) view to say that  the vaccines are unnecessary now. My third son suffered not one, but two bouts of rotavirus.  His 2 year old body was ravaged by the illness, vomiting 10 or more times in a day.  He had to be hospitalized and hydrated for 3 days each time.

Some people would say that a vaccine for this is unnecessary because we were able to control the illness but what about the millions around the world who do not have access to the medical care we had?  My fourth son had the rotavirus vaccine.

Here's how I resolve the issue.  I vaccinate my kids, but on an alternative schedule. I've read books on the issue and consulted with pediatricians and nurses and came up with a schedule I am reasonably comfortable with.  It limits the number of vaccines and combines only vaccines with different chemical make ups at any given visit.

You have to be dedicated to the effort.  It requires extra visits to the doctor's office, but in my mind, in helps keeps my kids safe- both from the illness the vaccines target, and the chemicals the injections contain.

If you'd like to see my schedule, leave a comment on the blog with your contact information and I will send it to you.

07 May 2010

When Playdates go wrong

What do you do when your child and his friend aren't having a good time at a playdate? 

Yesterday, my six year old had a friend over and they could not agree on activities.  They like each other but have different interests.  My six year old is a third child and likes to do things his older brothers do.  His friend is the oldest of three and still likes to play with Thomas.  One of the best parts of having play dates is that the kids keep each other happy and occupied.  Yesterday was NOT successful.

Usually, they find common ground and have a great time but yesterday they could not connect.  One wanted to go outside, one wanted to watch tv.  One wanted to play with legos, one wanted to do a craft. 

After struggling to keep them happy together, I finally gave up.  I decided that they could go back to the ways of toddlers in playgroups and have parallel play.  I made sure they stayed in the same location- either both down in the play room- one playing legos, the other a video game- or both outside- one swinging, one climbing or playing with balls. 

Finally, the afternoon ended with them both in the kitchen watching the older brothers work on the computer and helping me bake cookies.  (The great equalizer!)

It was a long play date but they got through it and so did I.  I doubt they will want to play again soon but eventually will have a meeting of the minds, I am sure.

19 April 2010

Follow Been There Done That Mom on twitter


Life with an Aspie

I recently learned that people with Aspergers Syndrome often refer to themselves as Aspies.  While having Aspergers can often make life more challenging, it is, at least, one of the lesser of the disorders on the Autism spectrum.  Some even say it is not a disability, but rather something that makes people special in a great way.

I have to agree with this classification.  Yes, it can be very hard to be the parent of an Aspie.  Knowing your child doesn't really have any close friends, knowing that each day at school can be lonely and a constant battle to keep his emotions in check might be as stressful for the mom as it is for the child.  We want our kids to be happy all the time.

But, the good thing about Aspies, many times, is that they are not unhappy in their less-than-social circumstances.  For instance, my Aspie son thinks of himself as quite popular at school.  He knows that kids think he is a nice guy, so he assumes this makes him popular.

My Aspie is really bright.  This works for him in more than one way.  First of all, he does very well in school.  This is great because it is one less thing for him to worry about.  He often gets overwhelmed by the amount of homework he has, but the work itself is usually not a problem for him.

He is also absentminded, though.  Every since he was 3 and started to read, I've called him my absentminded professor.  I didn't know then that he had Aspergers, but I knew he was crazy smart and more than a little spacey! Zack can get 100% on a history test, but cannot remember to put the ice cream back in the freezer after he scoops some into his bowl.

The other thing that being bright helps my Aspie with is his social skills.  While being appropriately social does not come naturally to him, he can learn social skills.  When I notice a situation that he doesn't handle quite right, like when he used to walk up to another child and start right into a fact about reptiles, I take the opportunity to model the correct behavior for him.  He can then internalize the behavior and act appropriately next time.  This process has helped my Aspie son fit in at school and helped make him a happier kid.

My Aspie has learned so much from the modelling that when tested, he can answer the questions in a way that makes it difficult to accurately diagnose him.

I highly recommend that parents of Aspie kids work gently, but hard with their kids to help them be more comfortable in the "real world."  I think our son will be more equipped for his future because of all the work he's done to learn the social skills.

22 March 2010

Will they melt?

I am sitting in my warm, dry house, two of my four children are happily eating lunch at the table 15 feet away, and, I admit, watching Dora.

In about 15 minutes, my two older children will be released from school and into the rain; probably pausing to look out from the school entrance at the downpour over the 1/3 mile walk ahead of them.

Throughout the morning, as the rain has gotten heavier and lighter, I've considered whether or not I should drive to the school to pick up the boys.  I picture them walking home, umbrellas in hand, one pulling his backpack, soaking it as it rolls along...  So, I debate, in my head...  pack up the little ones into the car, find a parking spot, walk to the entrance, find the boys and shuffle everyone back to the car, everyone getting a bit wet in the process.  Or, let the boys trudge home, getting wet, to varying degrees. 

I was feeling guilty as I leaned toward just meeting them at the door, greeting their drippy backpacks and clothes, muddy shoes and glum faces at our door.  Then, I thought back to my own elementary school days.  What would my mother do?

I don't ever remember being picked up from school unless I had an appointment of some kind.  I am sure I got soaked on more than one occasion and I don't even remember it. Did I melt?  No.  Did I catch a cold?  Probably not.  Did I have to change my socks?  Maybe.  Did I dwell on it?  I doubt it.

Do we, as parents, bring more guilt onto ourselves than necessary?  Probably.  I think it is good to have a little guilt wavering around us, to keep us in check, but I also think it is good to know when to push it aside and let the kids walk home in the rain. 

As it turns out, it stopped raining just before dismissal, so all the worry was for naught.

Sinking in...

Failure to thrive?  I understand the name but I really think they (whoever "they" are) should come up with a better name for the ailment that is keeping my 2 year old from growing.  I find it hard to look at my running, happy, chatterbox of a two year old as failing to thrive, but that is the diagnosis he has and has been undergoing testing for since February.

The doctor became concerned at Harold's 2 year well check, which did not happen until he was 26 months old.  Our family definitely does not have great height genes, but our oldest son, Zack, has growth hormone deficiency, so I just assumed that might also be the cause of Harold's issues.  As it turns out, though, his weight is the bigger issue.

This fact really surprised and puzzled me.  In my eyes, Harold was perfectly proportioned.  I love his little limbs and tiny belly but now that the doctors have impressed their concern upon me, I can see that he lacks the normal toddler squeezable chubbiness.  He is still squeezable, but the pudge isn't there.

Now that I see it, it feels horrible, as a mother, to have not noticed it before.  But I realize that this is like many other problems our kids have.  As parents, we don't want to see the problems of our perfect offspring.  We don't want to hear that something is wrong and can't even see it until we are ready.  Often, outsiders can see the problems before we, as parents, can.

My oldest son had speech delay as a two year old.  He had started saying a few words around age 1 but stopped talking and I had him evaluated at 19 months.  The first speech therapist who evaluated him at age 2 suggested he might have pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).

I immediately went to the internet and researched and came to the conclusion that my baby did not have PDD.  He was fine, he just had speech issues, but I went ahead and met with a counselor and went through the process of filling out all the surveys for the evaluation.  This process is severely flawed, though.  A parent can see things much differently than the counselor and interpret them differently.  What I saw as a great attention span for playing with a toy car, actually was an early sign of autism but I couldn't see it.   I filled out the parent questionnaires accordingly and Zack went without a diagnosis for 8 more years.  After all, Zack started reading at age 3, could tell time and multiply and divide at age 5, and memorize pages of text in one reading.  How could he have learning disabilities?

But, Zack continued to struggle.  While he is a charismatic and charming kid with adults, he has trouble identifying with and interacting with his peers.  He would sit with his nose in a book and then spew facts about snakes or dinosaurs and though he had the aptitude for the work, homework would often overwhelm him to the point of near panic.

Over time, I came to the realization that it was very likely he had PDD or ASD but didn't want to take him for an evaluation because I did not want him labeled.  I finally took Zack for an educational psychology evaluation when he was 10 years old so that I could have a name for what was causing his daily struggles.  I knew in my heart that he had some form of autism but having a name from a professional would help us get help for him.  After three sessions of several hours of testing, Zack was diagnosed with mild autism/PDD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and anxiety disorder.

When I told certain people about Zack's diagnosis, such as his speech therapist from ages 3 to 5, and a former neighbor who is a special education teacher, they said they suspected it years ago.  I realize that an outsider can't make a parent see more clearly by pointing out their suspicions outright, but I think that friends and educators can gently help guide the parent toward seeing what is there.  If nothing else, it can ease the transition once the diagnosis is made.

In second grade, a speech therapist at Zack's school suggested that Zack had characteristics of aspergers syndrome.  Again, I went straight to the internet and did not see that Zack had aspergers.  Yes, I could see similarities in Zack and the symptoms but did not think he really had it.  Yet, as time went on, I could see signs pointing toward aspergers or some other type of autism and eventually took the step of getting Zack tested.

Once we got names for things causing him problems, we could get him better help, both at home and at school.  I had to get over MY problem of not wanting to see, then not wanting a label, for him to be able to get help.

Now I find myself in the midst of a challenge again.  I did not want to put Harold through invasive medical tests when, in my mind, his issue was similar to Zack's growth hormone deficiency, which could be detected by less invasive blood tests.  It took an email from the chief of pediatric endocrinology at a major children's hospital, saying Harold's problem was less in his height and that he is "quite underweight" for me to see how very skinny Harold is.  What I saw, before, as adorably tiny limbs, I can now see as sadly skinny toddler limbs and am eager to do whatever tests are necessary to find the cause of his "failure to thrive" and make him better.  Harold is scheduled for endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy tests and a biopsy on May 14.  I hate the thought of him being under anesthesia but I am now eager to find what is causing his problem and get him well.

Overlooking our children's flaws is good but overlooking struggles that we can help them overcome is not.  It is a challenge, but as parents we have to see our kids more clearly to help them grow, no matter how we get there or how long it takes.

04 March 2010

what to expect?

Do we expect too little of our kids? 

I was just reading a parenting magazine article about manners.  The thing that most got my attention was that the article said that it is too much to expect a 5 year old to smile and say thank you for a gift he does not like.
Specifically, the article told of a child who got an elmo toy and said, "I wanted a transformer."  The writer of the article said it is appropriate for the child to do that at age 5.  She said it is a teachable moment, which, of course it is, but we need to take responsibility for raising our kids right.  Sure, making sure they are well mannered adults is the ultimate goal, but not expecting it sooner is a cop out. 

You can start teaching a child manners as soon as they are upright and engaging with you.  You give the child a toy to play with, you say, "here you go."  The child gives it back and you say, "Thank you!"  You can even ask for the child to give you the toy, "please may I have it?"   It is as simple as that.  It really should come naturally to you and will come naturally to your child if you are consistent. 

When it is the child's birthday and family and friends are bringing gifts, prepare your child with the proper way to behave.  Model the behavior before the party.

"When Aunt Agnes gives you a gift, you say, 'thank you so much for the gift.  I am so glad you came to my party."

Remind the child, several times, that even if it is socks, he should say something nice like what you told him to say. 

For a young child, tell him or her that her behavior will be appreciated and that if they don't like the gift, most likely you can exchange it but that if she acts happy to have the gift, the giver will be very happy and if she shows the gift giver that she does not like it, the gift giver will be very sad.

It may take some practice and takes good prep work on your part, but will be successful.

The bottom line is it is irresponsible for a parenting magazine to excuse inexcusable, preventable behavior.

If you have high expectations for the behavior of your children, they will meet your expectations, but the opposite is also true. 

25 January 2010

To wean or not to wean

There is a lesson here, if you have time to read though this...

I have breastfed all four of my boys.  I feel passionate that it is the best thing to do for my children, but I also know that it is not always possible for everyone and do not judge others for their choices.  That said, I do think a mother owes it to her kids to at least give it a try before making a decision not to do it.

My four experiences have all been different from start to finish.  When I was expecting my first son, I was sure I would breastfeed him and did not expect any problems.  After he was born, via c-section, he latched on and nursed well during his first day.

Being a new mom, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had been told two things... that babies basically set their own schedules and that I should never wake a sleeping baby.  These two issues set me up for failure.  Zack slept 6 hours and when he awoke, he would not nurse.  He screamed and arched his back and refused to latch on.  In hind-sight, I assume he was starving and was impatient for the immediate satisfaction that came from a bottle that the nurses quickly gave him, after chastising me for letting him sleep too long.  He also turned out to be colicky and extremely sensitive to sensory stimulation, so it could have been anything and that is another issue entirely.

This was not the best start to motherhood.  I quickly insisted on leaving the hospital 48 hours after my c-section, hoping that once we were home, I could quietly nurse my baby without the pressure of the nurses.  Zack continued to refuse the breast, though.  Every time I tried to feed him, we both ended up frustrated and in tears.  I persisted, though.  I could not give up, so I continued to pump and bottle feed Zack.  Each feeding lasted twice as long as it should have because I would pump each time I bottle fed him, even through the night, to keep up with the need.  After 3 weeks, I was ready to call it quits.  I was exhausted and emotionally drained.

One day, though, we were sitting on the sofa, Zack drifting in and out of a nap in my arms.  I decided to see if I could get him to nurse while he was in that drowsy state, not so hungry.  Sure enough, he latched on and continued to happily do so for the next 14 months.

When he was 14 months, I decided he was old enough to do without the breastmilk and wanted to have some time before we started trying for number two.  The weaning process was a challenge, he was pretty attached to the experience, but I thought it was best for him to move on, so I persisted and after a few weeks, he was weaned.

When Dwight was born, he latched on and nursed very well, despite starting out with two days in the NICU and taking a bottle.  I was elated to have such an easy nursing experience and I learned that nipple confusion is a myth.  I was ready to nurse as long as he wanted.  When he was about 15 months, he weaned himself gradually.   I was not quite ready for it to happen, but he did it on his own and I followed his lead.

I always wanted four children, but I assumed that number three would be our last, so before Bob was even born, I was bound and determined to let him nurse until he was at least two.  We were moving overseas just after he turned two and I figured that the nursing would be great for transitioning him to the new surroundings (and 12 hour time difference.)  When he was born the first thing the nurse said to me when she brought him to me in recovery, after my third c-section, was "he is not going to be able to nurse.  He is very tongue tied."  I was shocked.  However, he did nurse pretty well.  I could tell he had to work hard at it, though, so we consulted an ENT and at six weeks of age, Bob had a frenulectomy.  (They clipped his frenulum, releasing the "tongue tie.")  He immediately nursed more easily and I thought my plan was full speed ahead...

Ah, but he had other plans.  When he turned one, he tossed the pacifier out of the crib, on his own, and two weeks later, he refused to nurse.  He weaned himself, cold turkey, and I was devastated.  I pumped and kept up my supply and continued to try to return him to the breast for 6 weeks, to no avail.  He had moved on.  I could not believe it.

Finally, while living overseas, we decided that our family needed a fourth child.  Harold was born while we were living in Beijing.  I could see, immediately, that he was tongue tied just like Bob had been.  I informed the OB and pediatrician that we would not leave the hospital until they had fixed the problem.  On day two of life, Harold had his frenulectomy and he nursed well.

We knew we would be moving again when he was 18 months so I was hoping to be able to breastfeed him through the move. By this time, though, I had wised up enough to know better than to count on it, but he worked with me and was still going strong when we moved.  Two separations did not even sway him.  I pumped during the absences and he took a bottle until I returned and he latched on without incident.

Harold turned two in December and showed no sign of weaning.  I began to wonder if this was the time to guide him through the weaning process but did not feel great about it.  He was so happy and I really hated to take that away from him.  I figured, though, that two was old enough and much past that might be too old.  So, we went from three feedings per day (wake-up, nap and bedtime) down to zero in about a month.  Last Tuesday was his last morning feeding.  He even gave it up on his own, much to my relief.  I wondered how I would ever give it up since it gave us an extra bit of time resting in the morning, but he woke up on Wednesday and said "Hi Mommy, we go downstairs now."  So, that was it!  Of course I had mixed feelings but I knew it was a good thing for both of us.

He asked to breastfeed once in a while over the next several days, but it was a quiet, half-hearted, request that he quickly moved on from each time.  Today, however, he awoke with a fever and stuffy nose and cough.  When he asked to nurse, I decided to let him.  The comfort and the nourishment it provides is like none other and withholding it seemed unnecessary.  So, here we are, back to the drawing board. 

The lesson I am hoping to provide in this very long, stream of consciousness, post is that it is great to have goals and a plan but try to keep them loose.  If you have a firm parenting plan, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.  Children come with their own plans and it is up to us to figure them out and work with them.  We can learn lessons from our children, but each child is different so we have to be flexible.  This lesson is true for most aspects of parenting- sleep schedules, feeding, discipline and more.

When it comes to breastfeeding, I am a big advocate, but I always reassure my clients, friends and anyone who asks... Give it a try.  If it is a struggle at first, try hard to get through the first six weeks and most likely it will get considerably easier.  If not, evaluate the situation, give it a lot of thought and then make a choice.  It is your choice.  You have to decide what is the best path for both you and your baby.

So, we will see what tomorrow brings us...
Good luck!

19 January 2010

What I am Reading Now

Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full.  By Cary S. Chugh, PhD.  It is a great book for parents of children who don't respond to traditional discipline methods.  Stay tuned for highlights...

07 January 2010


Miscarriage... It is not often discussed but it is so common that once the topic is breached, I find most women I meet have a personal story.

At least 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage but many losses are so early that women may just think their period is late and not even know they have lost a pregnancy. Today, though, with the easy availability of home pregnancy tests that can detect a pregnancy even before a missed period, more and more women are aware of the loss.

When I was pregnant with my first son, I was ultra conservative and careful about every aspect of my life. I ate carefully, did not take any medication whatsoever, exercised moderately- not too little and not too much, etc. My baby was born healthy. The next time I was pregnant, I decided that I should relax a little and not be so paranoid. I really did not do anything differently but at 7 weeks, I miscarried. So, I reverted back to my old thinking and was uber-cautious.

I knew that the miscarriage was not caused by anything I did but making sure I followed all the "rules" made me feel like I had more control over the situation. I knew that by eating well, avoiding medications and alcohol, avoiding any chemical known to be harmful- including caffeine, I was doing the best I could for my baby. I conceived the second month after my miscarriage and delivered a healthy baby 9 months later.

As it turns out, for some reason, I lost a baby before each of my four healthy pregnancies. In hindsight, I now know that I had a miscarriage before my first baby as well. Like many other women, I thought I was just late, but I'm never late. My OB told me that, while there is no way to know for sure, it is most likely that I had a miscarriage the month before I conceived my first son, making the total 4 losses. After a moderate level of testing, no cause was found for the miscarriages. My theory is that the babies I lost were girls and for some reason my body cannot carry girl babies. It is only a theory, though, my doctor did not dismiss the idea, nor did she confirm it.

I know there was nothing I could do to prevent the miscarriages. I did everything I could to make sure my body was healthy before I conceived and continued to do so until my babies were born. Each pregnancy was different. Each one brought different complications but in the end, all the boys are healthy.

Having been there and done that, I would advise every woman who wants to get pregnant to prepare her body by living like she is already pregnant when she starts trying to conceive and continue the clean living throughout the pregnancy. Doing this will help you know that, no matter what happens, you have done absolutely everything you can for your baby. If, G-d forbid, you have a miscarriage, you will know that nothing you did caused it.

If you have 2 consecutive losses, ask your doctor to do some simple blood tests. One simple and often overlooked test is: Factor V Leiden Mutation. Progesterone levels could be low. It could have been a random chromosomal abnormality. Your doctor can help you, so don't be shy. Be your own advocate. If you have more than one loss, and you have to have a D&C, ask the doctor to test the material for abnormalities. If you have a feeling about a problem, don't be shy, you know your body and should ask the doctor any and all questions you have.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact me at Erin@EveryBabyBook.com