Monday, February 27, 2012

Parenting Advice

I was recently at a playdate at our area Science Place (a hands-on place with super cool science gadgets for kids) and we were in the toddler area looking at this hot air balloon exhibit.  My child ran over to it and was mesmerized by 1) how large it was and 2) how it could magically go up high into the air and then come back down with a push of a button.

As we were standing there, this mother came up to us with her son and asked us if my daughter was as much into balloons as her son. Is the sky blue?  My child LOVES balloons and I told her every time we go into our local grocery store (where they hand out free balloons to kids) she goes nuts and wants one asap- the minute we walk in the door!

I then proceeded to tell her that I had recently, unfortunately read that if a child ingests a piece of balloon (the latex rubber kind) and starts to choke, the Heimlich won't work as the balloon gets stuck to their throat (trachea) and blocks the airway.  So I told her now when I bring home a balloon, I make sure I throw it away when we get home so my daughter doesn't get her hands on it. Now, as I am telling her this, I am smiling and joking, almost as if to say, 'geesh, the one thing my child loves is one of the biggest choking hazards out there, go figures!' (it's actually second to the top 3 food hazards of hot dogs, peanuts and grapes).  Not that I am judging anyone, just being a typical paranoid mom.

And what did the mom say?

"Oh, well I NEVER let my child out of my sight! (aka, the balloon issue is not a problem in our house)"

Righhhttt.  So, you never ever let your toddler out of your sight? Ahem. Really?  Really?  I mean, not for a split second is your back turned as you pick up a toy? Or you grab a Kleenex a foot away?  Or get up to let the dog out? Hmm..

So she's a perfect parent.  And I'm the neglectful one.  I am the one that lets my child out of sight, why else would I need to throw away my balloons when I get home?

Well, I am here to tell ya, that even if you are sitting right in front of your child, they are so quick that they can grab something and put it in their mouths in a new york minute.

I then realized that this is one of the first of MANY encounters I will have with mommas in the future who make snide little comments like this one.  Moms who so badly want to come off as perfect or are just critical of every other parent out there.  And then there are the complete strangers that will also come up to you and give you their 2 cents worth.

It's learning to have tough skin and realize that these people have their own issues, and making these comments have nothing to do with you.  They just want to make themselves feel better and by putting you down, or making an "I'm better than you" comment, just gives them a 5 second satisfaction.

But in the end, we know who really feels worse inside.  We know we are good parents and don't need to put others down or say things that make us feel superior to others.  We know we aren't perfect and that's the best thing about being a mom- we can make mistakes and learn from them and that is one of the best lessons to teach our kids too!

This also reminds me of moms who compare their kids developmentally to everyone else.  Those critical ones who have the perfect kids because they are, remember, perfect parents. There was this hilarious book I read once called Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay where the author once was asked by a mom in public why her 6 month old was not crawling yet.  And so the author came up with a great response, "oh, well no she's not crawling yet but she's already at a third grade reading level."

Humor sometimes is the high road when it comes to parenting :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mommy Blues

One of my fellow mommy bloggers (and neighbors) Mommy Manders, wrote an amazing post about a very common mental health issue affecting many women and moms out there today: depression.  I asked her to re-post this on my blog because I know that many moms have suffered from this, whether it is situational depression (death of a loved one), chronic depression or post-partum depression.  Moms have so much stress in their lives, I know I have more responsibilities now than ever, and reading someone else's story about depression can be very helpful in knowing that you are not alone and that there help out there.  Here is her post My Dragon, and if you click here, it will take you directly to the post:

My Dragon

What I know for sure…asking for help helps
One of the ways I am taking care of “Mommy” in this new year is by attending a restorative/ meditative yoga session once a week. At the end of each session, the teacher shares a meditation or spiritual teaching. Recently she told the story of Milarepa, a Tibetan saint, and his dragon. The story goes that this mythic character found himself in the woods one day, being chased by a dragon. He ran away from it to escape into his cave, where the sense of dread and fear lingered like a heavy blanket. This continued to happen to Milarepa, and he continued to run, to be chased, and to escape. But the dragon was always waiting for him in the woods the next day. Finally, Milarepa stopped running. He turned towards the dragon and invited the dragon back to his cave for tea, at which point the dragon receded into the woods, never to bother Milarepa again. Once he turned toward it, it began to lose its power over him. Once he mustered the courage and wisdom to face his dragon, he did not have to slay it. He simply confronted it, made peace with it.

What is your dragon? What reality or challenge or dream are you running away from, trying to ignore, and struggling to escape? Is it catching up with you? Does it keep showing up in startling and frightening ways, interrupting your peaceful walk in the woods? What is the dragon that you need to have the courage to turn to face, to address, to acknowledge, perhaps to conquer through pro-action? What is the difficult reality, broken relationship, addiction, or regret that you need to try to stop out-running so that you can take back your power, your sense of security in the woods? For me, the dragon is depression. I have recently confronted the dragon, acknowledging his presence in my life, taking action to take back my control, and the dragon has receded into the woods. I feel as though I have been liberated from the darkness of my cave, from the heaviness of that ever-present blanket of dread and insecurity, into the light of joy and peace. And I know my dragon is still out there, but I feel much more prepared to face him now with a sense of acceptance, because I have some tools to deal with him. (But I don’t plan on inviting him back for tea anytime soon…)

I want to share my journey with you moms in case your dragon is also depression. Maybe you haven’t realized it yet. It took me a long time to figure it out, but now that I’m on the other side of the realization (thanks to some therapy and medication), it seems clear that my dragon was keeping me from being myself. I think because “myself’” is an outgoing, optimistic, loving, effusive, highly-productive person, and because I was still that person some of the time, it was hard for me or others to consider the word “depression” for what I was going through. When I first went to the psychiatrist in January, he asked me some questions about symptoms – did I ever feel sleepy, sluggish, irritable, isolated, anxious, worried, overwhelmed, guilty, inadequate?   I laughed at him. “Isn’t this how all mothers feel?“, I asked. I thought these feelings were just “normal” for this stage in my life, for my circumstances – raising 2 young children, working, having a frequently-absent husband. And the truth is that these feelings are normal some of the time, but for me, they had become too much, too often, too debilitating. They had begun to interfere with my relationships (mainly with my husband and children) in negative ways that only added to my sadness. They had begun to to make it hard for me to muster the energy, motivation, and cheery personality for my teaching, though I always managed to. Because I continued to reflect, to write,  to think, to read,  to  learn,  to create,  and to serve, my struggle with this demon was not intolerable. Sometimes there were good days, and wonderful experiences. Perhaps that is why I thought the struggle was normal. But, the good news is that, with medication, I no longer feel that I am struggling, and I have a new and much better “normal.” I am no longer as “on edge” with my children. I am much better able to handle their upset in appropriate, teachable, loving ways. I am much better able to handle the “chaos” of motherhood, of a household with 2 creative, messy, bossy, strong-willed children. The medicine has helped me to be the kind of mother and wife that I want to be, that I have always been in my best moments. I feel like I am myself again.

I asked Dustin if it I was “cheating” by taking the drugs, and he asked me if I think that people with diabetes are cheating by taking insulin. Here is Dr. Dustin’s helpful spiel on the subject: “Many people wrongly believe depression is a sign of “weakness” or “inability to handle stress” or some other personal failing, and that with just a little more strength or effort, it can be overcome.  But that isn’t true.  It’s a real medical condition with a biochemical basis, and just like diabetes, high cholesterol or thyroid disease, it can’t be overcome with willpower alone.  As with those medical conditions, the treatment is to replace the hormone or chemical that is lacking.  We don’t know why this happened, but at least we now know what it is.”  And to me, this is a relief.

I think my depression and anxiety have probably always been there to some degree, since my teenage years. I have always felt and fought passionately, loved and lost exquisitely, grieved and given gratitude vigorously. And there is nothing wrong with this, but the intensity has sometimes caused me unnecessary pain, and the anxiety has always caused me unnecessary stress.  I have told many of you that I believe I suffered from post-partum depression during the difficult first year with Ellie. And though I experienced a re-birth and renewal of myself and my life when the difficulties of that year had passed, when I began getting more sleep, when Dustin was around more to help, when we were no longer crammed in a little apartment, when I began pursuing some of my own interests and passions, I now believe the depression lingered. Though it subsided for a while, it really reared its head in the final months of 2011 which were extremely challenging for me, following the death of my grandmother, facing the stress of the fellowship “match”, the financial uncertainty of my new business and blog, the increased defiance of my children (which I now know was related to my own overreactions and desire for control), challenges in my marriage, increasing sciatica pain, all in combination with the normal daily grind.  Now that I have faced my dragon head-on, treating my depression with not only daily medication, but also with daily walks in nature, daily naps, daily connections with adults, and a healthy diet; all of these challenges have been made easier, and there is much more joy in my daily grind!

You might be surprised that I am willing to share this personal story. That is what my blog is about – honesty, sharing of feelings, ideas, reflections, knowledge, so that no parent has to feel alone on this journey. If reading this chapter of my life helps any of you, I am happy to be an “open book”. I want you to feel free to talk to me about my dragon. To ask me how I’m doing. To ask me questions about my journey to wholeness. Some of you are going through incredible life changes and struggles – divorce, miscarriages, chemotherapy, colicky babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, loss of a parent, loss of a career…some of you are struggling with just the normal stresses of daily life  - balancing work and family, balancing internal and external expectations. Don’t try to go through these challenges alone or without help. We women tend not to ask for help, wanting to handle everything on our own.  We think it shows strength of character. This woman, this Mommy disagrees. Your struggle will be made easier by reaching out, your character will be made stronger by getting help and support. I’m so thankful I finally did, and so is my family. I wish you peace with your dragon.

{I would love for you to join me for more conversation on this topic and more at my next Intentional Parenting 2012 Seminar, “Who’s Mothering Mommy?“. Next Monday, Feb. 27th. We will discuss what the research says about the importance of Mommy-care in relation to the emotional health of our children. We will discuss what brings you peace, joy, and sanity as a parent, and brainstorm ways to nurture yourself along the journey. Click for more Info on My Meetup Page }
Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dallas Birth Center

Have I mentioned that I'm pregnant again? No? Oh.  Well surprise!! I'm 25 weeks pregnant!  It's my second baby and we are super excited about having our second girl!!  We are due June 3rd and I think it really hit me today after I walked into our guest room and saw all the furniture that is going to have to be moved out of the room. Eek.  Nothing has really been done yet for the new addition, but one thing I am glad we have decided on, is that we are going to be delivering our baby girl at the same place our first child was born at, the Dallas Birth and Women's Center.

Whenever anyone asks me who my doctor is or which hospital I will be delivering at, it's kind of funny to see the expression on their faces when I tell them we are going to deliver at a birth center, or that I don't have a doctor, I have a midwife. I'm sure images of some 15th century witch doctor midwife comes to their heads, but imagine delivering your baby in a room like this:

See that huge armoire there? Hidden behind those doors is all the high tech fancy baby medical equipment to resuscitate, do the Apgar tests, etc. So even though it is all homey and cozy, they do have a lot of medical things tucked away.

This is the second room where we went for aftercare..nice right?

And check out the examination room where I have my monthly appointments- much different than the sterile white walled rooms of regular doctor offices:

Why did we chose the birth center route ?

Well, I have always been one of those who is not a fan of the germ infested hospitals.  I've always thought hospitals are for sick people, not healthy pregnant women and new babies.  Having a baby is not a medical emergency (as long as it's healthy), so there is no need to deliver one at a hospital.  Plus, I have always been one of those healthy fanatics who tries to eat organic and no preservatives, or food additives.  I try to avoid synthetic medications for me and my future baby as much as possible, so I really wanted to have a drug-free birth.

So when it came down to deciding on where to deliver a baby, finding an all natural route seemed the best option for us.  Plus, I was sold on having a drug-free delivery hearing that epidurals can slow down labor (and so can laboring laying down).  I'll do whatever it takes to have a baby fast!  And it worked for my first baby, delivered her 1.5 hours once I arrived there.  I also loved laboring in their large bath tub- it definitely made my contractions less painful.

And as for the midwives, they are Certified Nurse Midwives, that means they hold master's degrees in nursing and are Registered Nurses- this also means they have prescriptive authority, like an Advanced Nurse Practitioner.  These midwives are no longer the witch doctors most people think of, they actually went to school :)

We also love their philosophy of delivering a newborn.  They want the father as involved as possible, so that means the dad gets to 'catch' the baby.  My husband actually pulled my baby out of me (from a side angle) with the midwife supervising of course.  He placed her right on my chest as they are also big advocates of skin to skin.

They also believe in delayed cord clamping, as letting the extra cord blood continue to pulse to the newborn can reduce risks for developing conditions such as respiratory distress, chronic lung disease, brain hemorrhages, anemia, etc.

I was also able to take a bath with my newborn an hour after birth to bond with her, and my husband was also there to help bathe our new baby girl!  You are only able to give a newborn a bath under water the first few hours, so it was extra special we were able to do that.

They also allow you to bring whatever food you want, during labor and after. I was in no mood for food during my labor, but hey, if you want to eat a Snickers bar during labor, by all means :)

We were also able to go back home 6 hours after I delivered, so it was nice to be in my own bed.  Of course I was on bed rest for 3 days as is routine policy and I loved how my birthing assistant made a house call 3 days later to check on me and the new baby! At our 6 day check up, my little Luna also made her permanent foot stamp on their wall of baby feet:

They also had a newborn tea a few weeks later with all the new moms there and it was so nice to chat with other new moms and meet their newborns. Check out my baby girl below from the Materna Tea below (she's the one in the red diaper):

I can't wait to deliver my next child at the birth center and hoping we have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. If not, then there is a great hospital across the street (Baylor Dallas) if needed, but here's to hoping!
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meal Planning

I remember babysitting for a family once a few years ago, and the mom had a nice little meal planning calendar set up on her refrigerator.  I thought that was such a great idea and was looking forward to one day being a mom and getting all organized and planning my family's meals like that.

Fast forward 10 years later and here is what my meal planning looks like: frantically rushing around the kitchen 10 minutes before I leave the house for the grocery store, writing down a list, flipping through my cooking magazines for ideas and hoping something will just instantly pull together when I get to the grocery store.

I get there, walk in, see all the vegetables and then go blank.  My mind kind of goes into survival mode at that point, as I try to come up with ideas as I am going down the aisles of the grocery store.  I pull out my iPhone to look up a recipe as I am handing my toddler a sample of bread to keep her happy for, oh 10 seconds maybe.  Then when I get to the check- out line, I am hoping my grand total stays in the budget we have and wondering why I picked out some 10$ jar of soup as she scans it across the register.

I get home, unload the groceries and then think, "now, what the heck are we going to do for dinner?"

If your scenario is anything like mine, then you might be as excited as I am to try out this new menu planning guide I found in one of my cooking magazines, Healthy Living.  Click here for the download (weekday menu planner). They incorporate the new food pyramid in this one, where they use a dinner plate to show the portions for each food group:

Here are a few other ones I found online:

1) The Project Girl has one where you can add your grocery list to it:

2) Home Life Weekly has one in a chart form.  Click here to download.

So do you have any secrets to meal planning?