Excited for writing opps

I was looking at my blog yesterday and decided to click on the next blog in the “blogging mommies” sequence I have at the bottom of this page. Up popped Ann Douglas’s blog – The Mother of All Blogs. For those not familiar with her, she’s the author of “The mother of all baby books,” “The mother of all pregnancy books” and many others.
Well, she’s currently working on two new books – one on sleep solutions and one on food solutions – and is in need of parents to interview for both books. I e-mailed her that I was interested in participating in the sleep solutions book and she wrote me back and said it would be great to have me participate and that she thinks I will have a lot of insight to share, etc. ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s sending out the first set of questions in mid-May.
I’m really excited to be a part of the study. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and I’ll also get a free copy of the book for my participation. Nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

Another writing opportunity I had was to write a paragraph on my birth experience – specifically feelings involved on becoming a new mother – for a book that’s being published to help reassure first-time moms, reduce her fears and help her look forward to a wonderful birth experience.
Here’s what I wrote:

It may sound clichรƒยฉ to say thereรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs no greater joy than
having a baby, but for me that is absolutely true.As my husband Jody placed our first-born child รขโ‚ฌโ€œ a
daughter named Ava (meaning รขโ‚ฌล“lifeรขโ‚ฌย) – onto my chest, I
was overcome with emotion. At long last, here was our
baby! Having had a difficult time getting pregnant, I
dreamt about the day of my childรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs birth for a long
time. Though nothing could have prepared me for the
events of that day, the first moment I held her and
gazed onto her beautiful face, everything was right in
the world. Ava was perfection. When she began rooting
around and nursed me for the first time, I felt like
the circle of life had been completed. She looked up
at me with her big dark brown eyes and I felt so
blessed to have her in my life. Yes, Ava had arrived
here on earth and I รขโ‚ฌโ€œ finally a mother รขโ‚ฌโ€œ was in

I’m also considering writing an essay for the “This I Believe” essay project that NPR is doing. I still need to read more about it, but a friend sent me the link and encouraged me to write something, so we’ll see. I think it would be very cool to do, especially if they used my essay on the radio.

So that’s a little of what I’ve been up to lately. I’m excited to find some ways to share my thoughts and experiences with others.

And here’s my quote for today, which I rather like quite a bit.
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
— Ray Bradbury

Are we raising wimpy kids?

Sitting in the urgent care waiting room this weekend, I had some time to read part of an article in a back issue of “Psychology Today” about whether over-parenting is resulting in “wimpy” kids. I didn’t get to read the whole article (it was rather lengthy), but the jist of it was that by over-protecting our kids, we may make them rely on us too much and result in “wimps.”

The summary of the article, called “A Nation of Wimps,” is as follows: “Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they’re breaking down in record numbers.”

It talked about how many parents today start their kids wearing helmets as soon as they are old enough to ride a tricycle; how many kids don’t know how to play by themselves because their parents are always right there showing them what to do, what not to do, etc.; how sports are so organized and kids are so used to having someone tell them what to do that many kids don’t even know how to start a pick-up game of softball or basketball on their own. We could be raising kids that don’t really know how to play?

Another point was that there are many cases of grade inflation going on in schools across the country – from elementary to university. Parents don’t like to see their kids do poorly so they call and complain when Jr. gets a “C” in math. When enough parents complain, the teacher or school may feel pressured into padding the grades so that it looks like everyone is doing well. The article said that of a recent graduating class from Harvard, 94% graduated with honors. I know it’s Harvard, but still that number seems awfully high. Kind of scary to think that even a school as prestigious as Harvard may be guilty of grade inflation.

It also focused heavily on the use of cell phones in children and adolescents and hypothesized that the use of cell phones means that kids don’t need to learn to plan ahead. If they get out of class and feel like hooking up with a friend, they call them on their cell phone. If they forget their homework at home, they can call mom on their cell phone. The point was that these kids are then used to instant gratification and expect results right away. When they don’t get results right away, it can lead to depression.

Another topic of the article was that when these children – who are so used to being coddled and told what to do – go off to college, they don’t know what to do with their new-found freedom. “The perpetual access to parents [via the cell phone or, as the author says, ‘eternal umbilicus’] infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, ‘they’re constantly referring to their parents for guidance,’ reports Kramer. They’re not learning how to manage for themselves.”

“What’s more, cell phones–along with the instant availability of cash and almost any consumer good your heart desires–promote fragility by weakening self-regulation. ‘You get used to things happening right away,’ says Carducci. You not only want the pizza now, you generalize that expectation to other domains, like friendship and intimate relationships. You become frustrated and impatient easily. You become unwilling to work out problems. And so relationships fail–perhaps the single most powerful experience leading to depression.”

What happens to kids who are suddenly set free after having been controlled for so long? Along with depression, other problems affecting college students are binge drinking; substance abuse; an increased number in cases of obsessive pursuit, otherwise known as stalking, leading to violence, even death; and an increase in cases of eating disorders in women.

The connections between all of these things makes a lot of sense to me. Of course we want to keep our kids as safe as possible, hence the helmets, supervised play, etc., but what happened to harmless bumps and bruises, letting kids use their imaginations and come up with their own games, an occasional bad grade and letting kids learn from their mistakes? The psychologists in the article argue that letting kids make mistakes and fail builds character and helps children learn independence. Whereas if they constantly have things handed to them or are told how to do everything, they aren’t going to learn how to fend for themselves, and they won’t know how to deal with disappointment.

It’s something I definitely want to keep in mind as my child gets older. Sure I want to keep her safe, but I also realize that she can’t live and thrive in a bubble. I don’t know if this means I will pass on the bicycle helmet or not, but I do hope to be aware that as much as it will be hard for me to see her in pain over a scraped knee or disappointed because she didn’t get an “A” in biology, it will make her a stronger person. And the jury is still out for me regarding whether or not she will have a cell phone (and at what age). I definitely like that I’d have access to her whenever I want, and she access to me, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. Like most everything in life, I believe moderation is the key.

The article ends with the following: “Parental anxiety has its place. But the way things now stand, it’s not being applied wisely. We’re paying too much attention to too few kids–and in the end, the wrong kids.”
“There are kids who are worth worrying about–kids in poverty, stresses Anderegg. ‘We focus so much on our own children,’ says Elkind, ‘It’s time to begin caring about all children.'”

I think that’s an excellent point. We as parents spend so much time worrying about our own children, yet there are so many out there slipping through the cracks who need our attention much more desperately.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Side note: For those of you wondering why I was in urgent care this weekend, it was because Ava was running a really high fever (over 104 at one point), crying inconsolibly and then her knee started popping out. (When it rains, it pours, eh?!) Anyway, it seems to be just a cold and she’s doing a bit better today. And as for the knee, the doctor thought it was a fluke thing since it was fine when he examined her, but it’s popped out a few times since we left there so I’ll be making an appointment with her ped to have it checked out.

New Yearโ€™s Resolutions

I can’t believe it’s already the end of 2005. Holy crap!! Where did the year go?? Seriously, it seems like it completely flew by and I expect time will fly by faster and faster the older I get. How does it work that way?!

Anyway, I hadn’t given much thought to New Year’s resolutions until stumbling upon the Milk Sucks site earlier today. It was then that I felt motivated to come up with a small list of resolutions.

Without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2006:
* Become more aware about the food and drinks I ingest and feed to my family. – to include researching vegetarianism and veganism (good site here) and learning about the impact of current farming and food production in this country on the animals and environment so that I can make informed dietary decisions
* Research voluntary simplicity
* Take a photography course and LEARN, LEARN, LEARN
* Continue portfolio building and practicing for my photography business
* Be mindful that all of my words and actions have consequences
* Focus on healing and acceptance (with regard to being an adult child of an alcoholic) – to include reading some of Claudia Black‘s books on the subject

Now that I’ve typed them out, I don’t know if they are resolutions so much as they are goals. That’s cool with me though. I needed to set some goals for myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

As for our plans for New Year’s Eve, we’re going to some friends’ house for a potluck and games with them and another couple. Since we all have little ones, we won’t be out ’til midnight, but it should be a good time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy New Year everybody! Hope you all have a safe and fun day and night! ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, what a night x 2!

What a couple of crazy nights (and days) we’ve had around here! Long, long story to follow.

Ava (my 13-month-old daughter) came down with a nasty cough on Wednesday. By Thursday, it sounded much worse so I called her doctor’s office to see if I could get her in for an appointment. They were short-staffed and didn’t have any openings, so I talked to the nurse and explained Ava’s symptoms (fever for a couple days, then she sounded hoarse which turned into a barky sounding cough and finally she started sneezing a lot and the coughing continued). She said it sounded like croup, which is a virus and just needs to run it’s course. She said use a humidifier, take her into a steamy bathroom if she gets coughing bad, and watch her breathing. If she has difficulty breathing, take her to Urgent Care or an ER.

We had been planning to go out of town for the weekend to a lake in Nebraska, leaving Friday morning, but after Ava’s cough wasn’t getting any better during the day on Thursday we resigned ourselves to staying home.

Thursday night Ava got worse and worse. She couldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes before waking up coughing badly. We almost took her to the ER around 12:30 a.m. Friday morning (July 29), but once we got outside she started doing better. So instead we walked up and down the street in the dark several times.

I decided to try laying with her on my chest on the couch to see if sleeping at an incline would help her. But by about 2:30 a.m., her breathing got steadily worse and she started really struggling. In fact, her sternum began caving in with each breath as she tried so hard to get oxygen. ๐Ÿ™ It was at that point that I yelled to Jody (who’d just gone to bed about 15 minutes beforehand) that we need to go to the ER NOW. We already had the car packed from earlier. I decided just to hold Ava in my lap for the short (1 mile) drive to the hospital since trying to buckle her in the carseat would take time and probably upset her and make it even harder for her to breathe (crying aggravates the condition a lot). By the time we pulled up to the ER, the skin around her mouth was turning blue. ๐Ÿ™ Jody dropped me and Ava off and I started filling out a registration form. A nurse heard Ava’s labored breathing and immediately took us into the assessment room and got Ava hooked up to a machine that monitored her oxygen levels. They were still in a good range. After putting a little info about Ava into the computer, she took us back to a gurney and the doctor was in to see us shortly thereafter.

Ava ended up having three breathing treatments that night, as well as a shot of steroids. She cried with every breathing treatment and I had to hold her arms down so the nurse could blow the medicine into her nose/mouth. It was hard to see her so upset but I was happy to do it knowing it was helping her get well.

While in the ER, Ava had to have two chest x-rays. Jody had gone home to sleep a little bit before then, so I had to help hold her during the x-rays which she was none too happy about either. They came back all clear though. That was a good sign.

Later on the ER doctor suggested we start an IV to help keep her hydrated. I explained that she is breastfed and was nursing a lot and I didn’t think dehydration was an issue. He said as long as she continued to nurse regularly, we wouldn’t have to start one. But then later, a nurse came in saying she had an order to start an IV. I told her what the doctor had said, but she said the reason for it was to administer medicine (like if she needed more steriods) and so I reluctantly agreed to it. Having to hold Ava while they tried to get it going was horrible. With the little tourniquet on her, her arm was all red and she just kept screaming. The first try getting the IV in didn’t work and the doctor came in at that point, probably to see why she was screaming so much. He told the nurse that she didn’t have to have an IV because she was breastfeeding and the nurse said she thought it was for medicine. Ugh. So the doctor said no, no IV. At least they didn’t have to try it again, but I was mad at myself for not having the nurse check with the doctor before we even started since he’d just told me we didn’t need one. ๐Ÿ™

Since Ava had to have more than 1 breathing treatment and was still stridorous (Stridor is a harsh, raspy, whooping, gasping sound made when breathing in. This is especially worrisome when it happens while they are at rest.), the ER doctor admitted her to Pediatrics around 7 a.m.

The Ped ward was nice and all of the nurses were really good and friendly with Ava. (She got a stuffed animal doggy of her very own to take home too. She kept signing “bear” at it though because she thought it looked like a bear, so we named it Berry.) She continued to make slow but steady progress with her breathing during the day on Friday. She also acted like she was feeling a lot better. We got a visit from a little dog named Hepsie (with the animal therapy program through the hospital) Friday morning and Ava loved it. She also took to walking the halls of the Ped ward and saying hi to nurses, visitors, other patients, etc., and wowing them with her sign language. (I was surprised how many of the nurses had never heard of signing with babies.) She’s such a friendly girl. ๐Ÿ™‚

Since croup usually is worst on the third night (which was Friday night), the pediatrician on call required that we stay another night. Better safe than sorry. Thankfully Friday night went really well. We all managed to get some sleep, though Jody and I are still exhausted. It didn’t help that the lil miss, who’s routine had been so messed up lately, decided at 3:30 a.m. that it was time to play for an hour and a half. So we hung out with the nurses for a bit and also played in the play room, where Ava enjoyed being pushed around in a little car.

This morning, after being examined by the doctor on call again, we got the all clear to go home. While waiting to be discharged, Ava got a visit from another doggy, Suzie. Hooray for doggies! ๐Ÿ™‚ We headed home around 11 a.m.

It’s good to be home and good to have Ava acting mostly like her old self again. She will probably still have the cough for another week and a half or so, but it shouldn’t affect her breathing anymore. Now if only Ava would go down for a nap, I could catch some more (very much-needed) Zzzzzs myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Updated 7/31/05: Here are a few pictures from our hospital adventure.

AP-friendly comic strip

I came across this comic strip Greystone Inn the other day. There are several storylines, but one involves a couple that practices Attachment Parenting with their newborn son. The author explores such topics as natural childbirth using a midwife, breastfeeding and co-sleeping.

I wrote to the author – Brad Guigar – to let him know how excited I was to learn of his comic strip and to find out if he’s published in any newspapers (as I’d never heard of it before I saw a link on a message board). He said he’s only in a couple newspapers – one being the Philadelphia Daily News and then a few college newspapers, but recommended I write to the editor of my local one if I wanted to see it published here. I told him about my connections with the paper (that I used to work there) and said I’d drop them an email to see if they’d be interested in picking it up. I wrote to two of the guys there – one of whom I know is pro-AP – so we’ll see if anything comes from that. I also wrote to some people at the Boulder newspaper, since this comic strip seems right up their alley.

This one in particular really hit home for me because there were many nights that Jody would come to bed after Ava and I and he’d stand there watching over both of us to make sure we were still breathing. Thankfully he never rattled the bed, like the character did (and the author admits to doing to his son ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), but I thought it was cute. I’m sure many dads can identify with that.

I’d love to see AP get more recognition as an acceptable way to raise children. Maybe this comic strip can help do that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Things that make ya go hmmmโ€ฆ

I recently received a comment on my blog from Isil of Veggie Way. So I started checking out her blog and archive and found some links to vegetarian and vegan sites.

One in particular that caught my attention was Milk Sucks. The whole site is pretty disturbing and explains why “milk sucks” for the animals, the environment and your health.

I’m not ready to swear milk off completely (everything in moderation, right?), but I do plan to read this site in-depth and decide how much milk is ok for my family.

We’ve been buying organic milk for Ava the past couple months (even though she’s still breast-fed) because I figured it’d be something other than water for her to drink, but we get regular ol’ milk for ourselves (just because organic is so pricey). However, we might change that habit or switch to soy or rice milk on a more regular basis.

Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about milk and why it’s not nearly as healthy as it’s touted to be (as with nearly everything, it’s all about the Benjamins), check out Milk Sucks. It’s a huge eye-opener.

By the way, I sent away for the “free vegetarian starter kit” in the left sidebar on the site. I used to be veggie, but went back to eating some poultry and fish after not having the best eating habits. I’m reexamining my choices now, but I will save that for another blog entry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bert, Ernie, food and money

My sister maintains that in nearly every relationship there is a Bert and there is an Ernie. The Bert character is the serious, responsible one, while the Ernie persona is fun-loving and playful. I’ll give you two seconds to decide who’s Bert and who’s Ernie in me and Jody’s relationship. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, at the risk of sounding very anal retentive (a trait I’ve never really been able to hide, but that has lessened a bit since having dogs and a child), I did something very Bert-esque yesterday. I took inventory of my pantry and kitchen cabinets and made a spreadsheet of all of the food items we have and how many of each. See, I told you it was anal retentive. ;oP

In my quest to buy and prepare healthier meals lately, I’ve been spending way too much money on groceries. So I’ve been looking around the kitchen and realizing that, while I like going out to the store each week and getting the ingredients to make healthy meals, we still have a lot of food in the house that’s going uneaten. And it’s not necessarily unhealthy food, but just things that can sit on the shelf a lot longer than fresh ingredients.

It frustrates me that it is often much cheaper to eat the less healthy foods than it is to eat the healthy ones, but I’m hoping that by knowing what I have on-hand I can still make up some pretty decent meals with a combination of boxed/canned goods and fresh foods.

I don’t know how good I’ll be about keeping the spreadsheet up-to-date. In a perfect world I’d have my list on a PDA or something that I could take with me to the store and update as I buy more items or subtract quantities as I use them in the kitchen, but that’s not going to happen so we’ll just see how it goes. I’m not all that concerned about keeping it up to be honest. Now that I have a list of our staples, maybe I will just try to do a quick inventory once a month so I always have a general idea of what’s in the house.

I am pretty confident that I can cut down on our grocery bill now that I’m aware that I’m spending too much and know that we won’t starve if I don’t go to the store with a mega-list every week. And it’s not like I really have much of an option since that money is earmarked for other bills.

Speaking of money, I’m happy to say that we are getting a pretty decent tax refund this year. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yay! I’d love to just go off and spend it on things for the house, clothes for all of us, a vacation and other fun stuff, but the plan is to pay down our credit card with a lot of it. We do hope to use some of it for a vacation, possibly to California, this summer. Jody has a convention in LA in August, so we thought it would be fun to make it into a little family trip if we can.

Anyway, all this writing of food and money has made me work up quite an appetite. I think I’ll check my list and see if anything sounds good. ๐Ÿ˜‰ J/K. I’ll just go do what I always do – open all the cabinets and stare blankly until something jumps out at me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So strong-willed (just like her mama?)

Oh boy, is my little girl strong-willed. When I have to take something away from her that she shouldn’t have or something doesn’t go her way, she shakes with frustration (all the while screaming). That’s when redirection sure comes in handy. ๐Ÿ™‚

(Don’t get me wrong, she’s a very happy girl 99% of the time, but when things aren’t going her way, ya better look out.)

Anyway, Ava gets very excited to see daddy when he gets home from work and today was no exception. But since a friend was stopping by to drop some things off and he needed to go out and help her, he couldn’t hold her upon walking in the door. Well Ava freeeeeeaked out! She wanted her daddy and she wanted him N-O-W. She started yelling and shaking in her booster seat (where she’d been pleasantly snacking on cheese and vegi puffs until this brief meltdown). Eep! She was fine as soon as I took her out of the seat and held her, but my oh my, what fiestiness!

So I said to Jody later, “why does she get so frustrated that she shakes with rage?” To which he replied, “she gets that from her mother.” Hmmmm. I guess he’s right there, and I should have known as much. I carried her in my womb for 9 months and she’s been pretty much attached at the hip (or boob) for the past 10. It was bound to rub off on her a bit. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Business as usual

Jody headed back to work today, so we’re back to business as usual in our house.

I just want to say again how nice it was to have him home for six days. He helped out around the house a ton without being asked, and spent most of his time playing with Ava.

I mentioned to him last night before we all drifted off to sleep how thankful I was for all of his helping out this past week. And he said that he figures I NEVER get a vacation, so he wanted to do what he could while he was home to make things easier for me. Awww. ๐Ÿ™‚ He’s a good guy (most of the time).

On a somewhat related note, we went out to dinner last night with an old friend of Jody’s (who was in town) and his fiance. It’s funny how Jody and I have become one of *those couples* where all we want to talk about is our child – how many new teeth she has, what new things she’s been saying or doing – as if everyone wants to hear just how wonderful we think our little girl is. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There’s no hiding it though – she is the light of our lives.

I applaud Massachusetts – whoโ€™s next?

State bans gift bags to promote breast-feeding– “Mass. hospitals to stop giving diaper bags filled with formula, other freebies”

I know this news is almost a week old now, but I have to applaud Massachusetts’ new ban on distributing gift bags full of formula* to moms in the hospital.

Some view the ban as too extreme, but I think that it helps encourage breastfeeding and I see that as a positive thing. I, for one, would be happy to see hospitals or even other states follow suit.

The article (above) notes that: “According to 2004 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74 percent of Massachusetts mothers breast-feed, but only 39 percent are still breast-feeding when the baby is 6 months old, below the federal goal of 50 percent. Nationally, about 36 percent of mothers breast-feed at 6 months.” I’ll be curious to see how much (if at all) the percentages change a year after this new ban is in place.

From another article on the subject, “Giving out these bags reduces the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding and is considered unethical by many national and international groups, including the World Health Organization. Multiple studies, even from prestigious medical journals such as the Lancet, have shown that the bags interfere with breastfeeding, causing moms to switch to formula sooner, or quit nursing altogether– even when the bags do not contain formula samples.” “Most parents see these as a “free gift,” but the bags are a marketing technique that implies that the hospital endorses the product, successfully boosting sales of formula at the expense of breastfeeding.”

On one of the Yahoo! Groups I belong to, a few of the moms have been working on letters that we can all send to hospitals in our area to encourage them to adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative as instituted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. “A maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.”

While I don’t believe that it necessarily needs to be legislated by the government, I would like to see more hospitals simply adopt the BFHI policy and not give out formula unless it is specifically requested. I think those steps could go a long way at increasing the number and longevity of breastfed babies.

By the way, here’s a great site about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the USA.

*It’s worth noting that the ban does not prevent the hospitals from giving formula to moms who request it.