Thursday, February 28, 2013

This Job is Stressing Me Out!

Being a parent is stressful. Whether you are a stay at home parent, work at home or have a part or full time job. It's all hard. Each situation has its own stresses and complications, ups and downs, wins and losses. We all handle stress differently, even different kinds of stress we deal with in varying ways. So why do some parents (usually moms in my experience) like to tell other moms that what they have to do is more stressful?

A full-time working parent has to deal with the stresses at work: deadlines, interpersonal issues, politics, numbers that won't add up, customers, etc. It's tiring and frustrating and makes me want to pull out my hair sometimes! I get home just in time to make dinner, feed Buddy and start his bedtime routine, which thankfully for us includes a little time to read and wrestle. But that's usually 2 hours of awake time to be with my son and then it's on to laundry, dishes, packing lunches and picking up the messes.

A stay at home parent has to deal with all of the stresses of being with a small person all day long: the potty learning, runny noses, activities to keep the kids busy and help them learn, whining, tantrums, wet diapers/underwear, toys everywhere, sticky fingers and faces that don't want to be cleaned, etc. A SAHM is with her kids all day, and although incredibly rewarding, is downright exhausting.

No matter how you look at it, being a parent is a ton of work, so why can't we support each other in the ways we have chosen to raise our kids? Each way is different, but is hopefully bringing in enough money to put food on the table, enough love to make our kids feel wanted and enough smiles and laughter to know everyone is happy and doing well. Parents do what they think is best for their children so let's all support each other's decisions and know what we are doing is right for us and what our fellow parents are doing is right for them.

Buddy loves music and exploring, so why not play with daddy's CDs?

My Little Purim Sock Monkey

Sunday was Purim, the day we celebrate the Jews' successful escape from Haman and the people of Persia. You can read the entire story here. We celebrate by reading Megillat Esther, the story of Esther, giving money to charity, sending food gift baskets to friends and family and have a festive meal. There is a custom to dress up because the story of Purim is based on Queen Esther not showing her true self so we don't show our true self. I enjoy matching my food gifts to our costumes. This year's theme was based on a costume that Buddy was given for his 1st birthday: a sock monkey.

Our little sock monkey with his grogger (noise maker) in his hand.

My coordinating gift baskets had sock monkey cake pops, monkey bread and a banana.If only I had time to make costumes for me and The Hubs, Raggedy Ann and Andy would have made great additions!

For our meal, a friend came in from Virginia with her adorable 8 month old son and her husband. We have a mutual friend in town who has a nearly 2.5 year old daughter and new son. This holiday is filled with so much spirit and fun and excitement. I am looking forward to Buddy getting older and really being a part of the festivities.

 Do you know how hard it is to get 2 kids to look at the camera at the same time and smile and wear their whole costume? It's basically impossible. Here is Buddy with Mr. M as R2D2. 

Now I have a year to think about the theme for next year...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Continued Success on the Potty!

I am happy to be able to say that Buddy has used the potty on 4 out of the last 5 days! I'm home with Buddy for a few hours Saturday morning before we go anywhere. I tried getting him to sit on the potty every 45 minutes. I started to ask if he needed to go ("No!") and keep the potty close. He was playing, put down the toy, walked over to me and the potty and started to pee! Not quite close enough to make it into the potty, but I moved it over so the urine went into the potty seat. We cheered, Buddy seemed pretty excited, this time. Maybe 30 minutes later Buddy stopped and gave that look. Every parent knows that look. So I grabbed him and tried to get him to sit. He wouldn't, but I was able to cradle him leaning backwards over the potty. He used to hate this and struggle and wriggle until I let go and I either held the pot under him or he pooped on the floor. But this time he leaned backward and used the potty. He didn't seem to care when I cheered. I guess he was too busy the rest of the day to stop and use the potty, despite all our efforts to get him to sit.

Sunday morning I started out the same way. Getting the idea of using the potty in his head, just repeating, "Do you need to use the potty? It looks like you do. Please sit on the potty." I guess he couldn't hold it any more so when I put the potty in front of him, he peed in it! Again, my cheering didn't phase him. He just looked at it, did a quick finger point said, "pssss!!!" then pointed to the big potty where we dump the urine and went on playing. Again, the rest of the day he wanted nothing to do with the potty.

Monday morning we're trying to get ready to go to school and he sits down on the potty to read several books. Some of them more than once. And he pees! Yay! My cheers lead to a quick cheer for himself and off to play again. At school he sat on the potty for 15 minutes in the morning singing with his teacher. Nothing. 5 minutes after they got back to the classroom he peed in his pants. Oh well. At least he sat on the potty.

Tuesday Buddy again sat on the potty for long stretches at a time, again he decided to wait 10 or so minutes once back in the classroom to pee. This time, he made puddles on the floor. Oops.

Today Buddy sat on the potty for 15 minutes at a time. I guess he loves hearing his teachers sing! Then this afternoon he peed on the potty for the new teacher!

I'm so proud of my little man. He's trying so hard and all of his teachers are being so patient. I'm glad we're continuing on this track. Hopefully some day soon he'll get it that he should go on the potty all the time and will have more successes. But for now, I'm still reminding myself I'd rather deal with the extra laundry than the diaper rash.

Marissa Mayer - A Bad Name for Working Moms?

You may have heard, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has decided to take away work at home privileges starting in June. I understand that to some, this is the most fair way of creating a good work atmosphere. Everyone has to be at work, 5 days a week, 8-5. You have to take an off day to let in the guy to install your dishwasher or when your kid is sick. You can't take an extra long lunch to visit your kid's school and then work a little later. While I don't agree with this idea, I can see why some people do. However, Marissa doesn't have to worry about sick kids or a child who needs to nurse a little longer because she built (with her own money) a nursery for her baby near her office. So while everyone else has to take an off day to be with their child, she can take time while working to be with hers. This is not fair and will not boost morale or office comradery, the goals Marissa seems to have.

Why do I like the idea of working from home? Sometimes I am just more productive when I'm at home, alone. We set up a space that is devoted as an office space. Sometimes at work people come in to talk about something completely non-work related. It interrupts my stream of thought so I have to get myself back into the spirit of my thoughts and start again. Sometimes it's just more comfortable to work in my pajamas. If Buddy has a doctor appointment I can work for most of the day without having to worry about my commute, taking more time off so I can pick him up from daycare and get to the appointment on time. If he has to get shots, I can take care of him and then work at night when he goes to bed. Sometimes I just need a break from working in the middle of the day. I can take a half hour and just hang out, then get back to work with a clear mind and work into the evening. It takes me about 45 minutes to get from my house, to the bus stop, onto the bus and into work. That's 1.5 hours of commuting time every day when I could be working at home. I understand I can't do this all the time and am at work more often than not, but I think taking some days to work at home make me more productive in the long run. Of course, this depends on the kind of job one has, but in this age, most salaried jobs are computer-based and could definitely be done from anywhere.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Optimism and then Something Else...

We were all so optimistic about Buddy's 1 time success during the day on Tuesday. But yesterday, Wednesday, well, I wouldn't call it a set back or failure because this is a journey, but it certainly was something else.

Buddy's teachers are so excited that he is sitting on the potty while they sing and talk to him. That he peed on the potty and are getting closer to getting him there more frequently just after he pees. But yesterday was quite a day. He soiled 6 pairs of underwear and pants. 6! And then another as The Hubs was bringing him home. So really, 7. That means he was wetting himself in less than an hour and a half all day long. Poor teachers! Poor Buddy! I guess it is a good sign that he was upset every time he did. Whether out of discomfort or out of the knowledge that he's not supposed to pee in his pants, it's a good thing he is starting to care.

Too much potty talk? I need to upload more photos to share more stories of this amazing kid!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Letting Your Child Truly Succeed

I love my Buddy so much. I only want the best for him. I want him to succeed in life. He is only 19 months old but there are already so many ways I could either succeed for him or let him succeed on his own.

Buddy is short for his age, in the 10th percentile. I think this makes it more difficult for him to climb on furniture that other kids his age probably can. Sometimes he wants to get on the couch by himself so badly! Or to climb on our bed all by himself. At first he struggled and cried when he was trying to get The Hubs and I to give him a push. It is so hard to watch Buddy try a little bit and then just scream for us to put him on the couch or bed for him. But that would not help him learn how to do anything on his own, except demand help. So we let him cry and work harder to get up on his own. Now, he can scamper up the bed, turn over the laundry basket and climb on top or pull himself onto the closed toilet seat as fast as any 31" tall kid can. I'm proud of him and I tell him I am proud of how hard he works to accomplish his goals.

It's hard to watch Buddy try and fail over and over, and sometimes we give in, but in the long run, we know this is best for him. What happens when he struggles with his homework? Should I just do it for him so he can succeed in school? No. That would make him fail later in life, when school or work gets hard and mommy and daddy aren't there to save him.

Buddy has gotten into the "mine" phase, where everything he sees has to belong to him. So what happens when he is with a friend and wants what they have? Should I force either child to share, even if they don't want to? No. I let them figure it out. Even at 19 months Buddy can do a little problem solving and he'll get better as he gets older. Of course if there is ensuing violence, I step in. We all do need help sometimes. But this will help when he is on a sports team and there is a dispute over whether the ball was in or out, they can figure it out on their own.

I won't be that parent who accuses his teacher instead of him for a bad grade or missed assignment. I won't be that parent calling his professor complaining about the bad test score. I won't be that parent who runs over the second Buddy falls, gushing over a scraped knee. He will live and learn and be a stronger, more independent, mature person for it.

Check out this great post that talks about mistakes we make leading kids.

Let Your Kids Make Messes!

Learning is hard no matter how old you are. It takes time, patience and practice. Babies and kids learn best by doing (don't we all, or at least most of us?). You know how kids do things? They explore. They dump out their food and squish and throw it. They jump on everything and try to squeeze through the smallest places. I'm just glad my railing bars are too close together to fit a head! They try to take everything apart and put everything in their mouths. This is how a child grows into an intelligent, free-thinking adult. So let them explore and don't worry so much about the mess. That's why they make vinegar and water, right? (more on natural cleaners and why you need them in another post.)

Buddy loves food, of all kinds, but he has been going through an oatmeal phase. We ask him what he wants for breakfast and he often shouts, "oh-mea!"

 Testing gravity.

 Practicing eating with a spoon.

 Buddy's sign for "more." Of what, you ask. Who knows!

 Sometimes fingers are faster than the spoon, they both get the job done.

 What happens when you add your water to your oatmeal? More fun!

 Splish splash!

 Oatmeal everywhere! That's why we prefer naked mealtimes.

 I don't get it, but sometimes Buddy needs his hands wiped off mind-meal. I guess he doesn't like to be messy...

 Exploring the oatmeal, water, cup soup.

 More splashing! We take for granted that we know what happens when you repeatedly smash your hands into water quickly. How fun to find out the water goes everywhere!

Add a little applesauce to the mix.

Letting kids explore their food is messy but they learn so much and develop their brains while spilling and splashing. Relax. It's just a little oatmeal (or mud or crayon). Let your child live and join in the fun!

A Little Success Goes a Long Way

I have been so conflicted with Buddy's potty learning. I really don't mind the extra laundry but feel badly for his teachers at daycare. It's hard to take him out because he has been peeing more frequently and I don't want to get other people's stuff wet. I love not having to worry about creams and changing a screaming boy's diaper every 2 hours (or more). At home Buddy goes without pants, making more messes but clean up is easier and he understands how his body works because you can't ignore a stream of urine!

But yesterday, Buddy peed in the potty at daycare! Although that is only the second time there, he seems to be getting more and more comfortable sitting on the potty. I think we'll continue to stick it out and deal with the extra loads of laundry. It does force me to keep up with it a little more in order to be certain we have enough elastic waist pants and underwear!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Folic Acid May Decrease Autism Risk

A new paper has come out in The Journal of the American Medical Association that shows an association with taking a prenatal folic acid supplement with a decreased risk of autism in the newborn child. The study looked at 85,176 women who had babies between 2002-2008 who took folic acid from 4 weeks before conception through 8 weeks after conception.

This does not mean that a lack of folic acid causes autism, just that they are associated.

Similar studies looked at other benefits of taking folic acid, including lower risk of severe language delay at age 3, lower risk of autism spectral disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. When considering having a baby, start taking a folic acid supplement at least 1 month before conception. Even if you get folic acid from other sources, it is better to take the supplement, just in case.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Working Mother vs. Stay at Home Mom

I am a full-time mother and PhD student. I wake up, get myself and Buddy ready in the morning, then head for the bus for a full day in the lab and on the computer while The Hubs takes Buddy to daycare. I get home to have dinner with Buddy and The Hubs, a little bit of playtime and then it's time to get Buddy ready for bed. That's less than 2 hours of awake time with my little man every week day. It makes me really sad and question whether or not working like this is for me. As I get closer to (hopefully) finishing my degree, I enjoy it less and become more frustrated with equipment and equations that don't work.

I dream of opening my own kosher bakery or decorating cakes from home (you can see my sad array of desserts I find time to make here), starting a non-profit to help pregnant teenage girls in the inner-city, writing children's books and cookbooks. Those I could do part-time. I could be a stay at home mom and be with my son all day every day, exploring the world together. But doing any of those things I think I would crave my life of learning more about the inner workings of the world and environment. I would miss running experiments, sorting through the data and coming up with conclusions about how to fix our CO2 problem, how to clean up our water and environment.

I want to finish my degree so I don't give the impression to Buddy and any more children we have that it's ok to quit when life gets hard. Getting a PhD is hard. Sometimes I want to scream and throw my equipment out the window. But then I have moments of clarity when I can fit a neat curve to my data and the meaning becomes clear. I just wish that happened a little more often.

Plus, it's nice to be able to go to the bathroom a few times a day without an audience.

Potty Learning Continues... for now.

The Hubs and I had a conversation about potty learning with Buddy's teachers at the end of last week. He had only peed in the potty at daycare once and would only sit on the potty with 1 or 2 of his teachers. Buddy isn't telling us as often when he has to go or even after he wets himself. Do we keep going or take a break for now?

Buddy doesn't seem quite ready. We knew this going in but were hoping he'd catch on with some encouragement. He has showed interest in sitting on the potty, even doing so through 3 or 4 books at times. He thinks it's funny to walk up to the potty, stick out his pelvis, point his penis at the potty and say, "PSSSSSSS!!!" Our noise we make when he is peeing, his cue-word. He never actually pees while doing this, but is proud of himself for trying. When he starts doing this and signing "potty" he usually goes within 15 minutes. A sign to me that he feels he needs to go, he just can't quite figure out how to relax his muscles to make the urine come out.

Why do I hesitate to put him back in diapers when he obviously needs more time? When he won't be one of those kids, at this moment, who decides he's ready to  be potty learned and almost never has an accident again? Because he is so much happier in underwear. He doesn't writhe in pain and discomfort when we wipe him. He doesn't push away our hands, kicking and screaming, doing everything he can to keep everything away from his bottom. His rash has completely cleared. His penis doesn't rub on the underwear like it did on every kind of diaper we tried, rubbing off skin to the point of bleeding, scabbing up and making urination difficult and painful. (Yes, we have talked to his doctor several times about this, have tried everything he suggested, but to no avail). Creams, gauze with petroleum jelly, cloth diapers and going naked whenever we were in our house didn't help. Underwear, that breathes and is lightweight, has helped him heal.

We aren't pressuring Buddy to potty learn. There is no discipline if he has an accident, we just say, "Uh-oh! You peed in your underwear, next time let's try to pee in the potty." Then Buddy helps us clean up any urine from the floor and we change his underwear and pants and move on. It's not that much different from changing a diaper, except we also have to change his pants. Buddy's teachers are willing to keep moving forward, he will sit on the potty now and they hate to slow down this tiny bit of progress. So why not? I don't mind the extra laundry if it means we can avoid the rashes and painful urination.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When Potty Learning and Teething Work Together...

Buddy doesn't like to tell us he needs to use the potty until after he already does. Buddy's molars are also coming in. A common symptom of teething are loose poops. Loose poops and underwear are not a pretty sight. Twice at daycare Buddy's poor teachers had to clean up his poop-splosions. Then I got to clean the underwear and pants after sitting in a sealed bag for a day. But with a face like this, how can anyone get upset about a little squished poop?

On a very happy note, Buddy is sitting on the potty for them at daycare now!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Learning to Use the Potty

We are trying to "potty learn" our son. He is 18 months old. Yes, I know he is young. Yes, I know it will be a difficult path to take, especially at this age. Yes, I know most kids don't learn to use the potty until at least age 3 in the US. Yes, I know. We are trying it anyway.

Why, you ask? From day 1 my son has had sensitive skin. The hospital had us use the Pampers stay-dry and within a week, his diaper area was covered in red, open sores that made me feel like a horrible mother. We tried a different creams. Nothing worked for more than a day or two. I had thought about using cloth diapers before giving birth, but I didn't know where to start. As his rash got worse, we looked into what is in a disposable diaper. They have some pretty nasty stuff. Chemicals you would never put on your own skin, so why would I put it on my son's tender tush? So we started using cloth diapers.

Our first cloth diaper. 8/4/2011

The rash cleared, for the most part. For months we used a natural cream, CJ's BUTTer. It worked great. For a while. As the months passed, we just let him go naked as much as possible. We sort of practiced E.C. and the rash was pretty much gone. Then I had to go back to work full-time and we had to put him in daycare. It was a hassle trying to figure out cloth diapering laws and in the end it just wasn't cost-effective for us to use cloth. We tried Huggies, Pampers again, Target, 7th generation, and the Whole Foods brand. He peed right through Huggies and WF. We used 7th generation for a while, but then the rash was just as bad as the Target diapers and way more expensive. So in daycare he used Target diapers with lots of cream. I hate using chemicals on anything, let alone my son's skin.

Buddy has shown interest in the potty for months. He was saying, "pssssssss!" and waving his finger (his variation of the sign language sign for potty) every time before he needed to go and we could catch almost all of his pee and all of his poop in his potty chair. Then when we started thinking about potty learning Buddy decided he would tell us afterward. Then we actually took away the diapers, put him to bed and spent all day in underwear and he decided he wouldn't tell us at all. After 3 days of going diaper-free, his rash cleared up and it doesn't seem to hurt to pee any more. His poor daycare teachers change his clothes 3 times a day with a smile on their faces (at least when we pick up Buddy). They're awesome for working with us. Let's hope Buddy picks this up soon.

Picking out Buddy's first pair of underwear! (He chose Elmo.)

Carseat Safety!

The car seat requirements are changing again. Here's a brief overview. Basically, the LATCH system was implemented to make it easier for parents to install car seats because they are often installed incorrectly. Car manufacturers made the LATCH system so it can handle up to 65lbs; that's the kid and car seat combined. With car seat laws and recommendations for children increasing to age 8, the LATCH system cannot accommodate the bigger kids and their car seats.

Advocates think the minimum requirement for the LATCH system weight should be increased. Whether or not they make this happen, car seats are just as safe when strapped in correctly using the seat-belt. Just make sure to double check your work!

I've heard many parents say they will turn their kid facing front at age 1, despite the new recommendations to wait until age 2, because they want their baby to be able to see out the front. Babies don't care! It's hard enough seeing out the window from their vantage point anyway and many babies are content reading or playing. As the child gets older, a booster seat is recommended. Again, I've heard parents say they don't want their 5, 6, 7 or 8 year old in a booster seat because the parent doesn't want to embarrass the child. All parents embarrass their children. You might as well start now and have a safer passenger!

These recommendations are put in place for a reason. My son is small so he will probably never grow out of the weight limit before the age limit. I care about him enough to keep him rear facing until he grows out of the car seat weight recommendations. I care about him enough to leave him in a booster seat until age 8 when he grows out of that too. Then he will stay in the backseat until he is tall enough to fit safely in the front seat. My son's safety is more important than how I perceive him to feel about where he sits. And if his friends make fun of him, they are not real friends.

From the day our little man was brought home from the hospital until he's too big to fit in his booster seat and tall enough to sit in the front seat, he'll sit in the seat that is safest for him.