2016 New Year’s Resolutions

OMG, I haven’t updated in a month!!!  It has been quite a hectic last few weeks with the holiday season.  Hope everyone enjoyed it with family.  And now it’s 2016!!!  How the heck did that happen?!  Anyhoo, here are my resolutions for this year.

  1. Try to be off the grid more!
    Is that possible in 2016?  Yes and no.  For me it means to check Facebook less.  I am really aiming to not be the parent that has their head buried in their phone while their child is happily playing independently.  While I still want my children to learn to play independently, I still want to observe the little quirks that make them unique.  If that at all makes sense to any of you.  The goal is just to stay present in the moments and take it all in.  However, you’ll still find me taking a few videos or photos for Instagram.
  2. Mom’s Night Out!!!
    The one thing I miss about SF are the mom’s I met while there. While I have mom friends here, we rarely were ever away from the kids.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s also difficult to have a very meaningful conversation especially now that our children are walking.  It’s usually a quick chat about a topic for 2 minutes before our children wander away from each other.  So I am trying to organize a monthly mom’s night out; away from the kids, away from the husbands so that we can reconnect as women over cocktails and food.  The first one went really well.  I just need to plan that second one.
  3. Be more active!
    Since moving back to the DC suburbs, it is really really easy to fall into that sedentary lifestyle–just sit on the couch or park bench and watch the kids play.  There’s just something culturally different between the East and West Coasts and our views on activity.  While I still play soccer, that’s not nearly enough to what I was doing in SF.  Granted the weather is a lot warmer and nicer there, that’s still not an excuse to not be outdoors and enjoying life.  So I’ve been taking advantage of the wetland preserve a mile away, which my son loves.  I have a zoo membership this year, which both kids absolutely love doing.  And we’ve gone to museums, which thankfully are mostly free here in DC.  We still walk to our local playgrounds.  But it’s nice to go out on a hike or walk, especially now Sammy just wants to walk all over the place (forget about baby wearing or stroller walking).
  4. Take pictures!
    I still primarily  use my iPhone to take pictures, but this year I really want to start using my DSLR more.  I used it a lot during my son’s first years of life, but I just haven’t done so with my daughter.  I always end up forgetting to bring it, but more often than not I’m just lazy about taking pictures.  This year it will change, even though I haven’t used it yet this year!!!  But we have some amazing trips (both with and without  kids!) planned this year, so it will definitely encourage me to pull it out and use it more.

So those are my resolutions that I hope to keep up this year.  I feel like it won’t be difficult, and I don’t want to say kids are the excuse.  What are your resolutions this year?

Christmas Pajamas

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So one of the Christmas traditions that we started last year is the Christmas pajamas.  Last year I had Oliver open up a present on Christmas Eve, which was his pajamas that he could wear that night.  I figured it would be good to get that itch of opening a present early scratched by opening his Christmas pajamas.  This year I added a few other goodies to the pajama box.

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Oliver really loves reading, so I thought why not get a Christmas related book.  There are tons on Amazon, surprisingly, all relatively inexpensive too.  I know that he will want to read this before he goes to bed.

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I also included a treat for him to share with the family.  So I put the ingredients to make s’mores, which he won’t know what that is.  He’ll probably just be excited for the graham crackers.  It’ll be fun to teach him how to make this treat.

I also made a similar box for my daughter.  She has pajamas, a board book, and just graham crackers in her box.  She won’t get it, but having things consistent for the two of them won’t draw any questions from Oliver.

Hopefully this inspires you and your own family traditions!

Why We Don’t Do Elf on the Shelf

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We are in the thick of the holiday season, and my fellow parents are beginning to post and pin funny, creative, and/or crazy Elf on the Shelf poses.  And then I happened upon this article on my Twitter feed, which made me laugh.

I was asked by a fellow parent at my son’s school about starting Elf on the Shelf this Christmas season since 3 year olds seem to understand more.  I told the parent that we don’t plan to do Elf on the Shelf, which brought a surprised reaction.  Aside from having to remember to move that darn thing every night, I personally believe that the holidays are about giving and being grateful.  What do you mean you ask?

Well, Elf on the Shelf is basically a spy for Santa to report good and bad behavior.  I expect my children to be on their best behavior always.  And while it is great to have that extra reinforcement at home watching my children trying to be good, what happens after the holidays?  Is the expectation that now the spy is gone so does good behavior?

Every day, when I pick up my son from school, I always ask him if he’s been a good or bad boy.  Right now this conversation is my son saying he was good because he either took a nap during nap time, was quiet during nap time, or was a bad boy because he was loud during nap time.  Every morning we talk about what behavior we expect from him to be a good boy, which means listening to mommy, daddy, and other adults; being nice to his peers and sister; learning to share (something he has difficulty with because of his baby sister); and napping/quiet time (we all need our toddlers to nap!).  Every day we emphasize that he should be a good boy.  I think an Elf watching him might be overkill.

You are probably thinking, “But isn’t Santa the same thing as the Elf and you make your kids see Santa!”  Well, yes and no.  Yes, we read stories about Santa and how he gives toys to good children and sends bad children coal–but I don’t emphasize that.  When my son visited Santa this year and we were waiting in line, there was a lot of talking and prepping.  We talked about if my son believed he was a good boy this year and what he wanted.  But we also talked about how it would be nice to give Santa a present too.  My son and I talked and laughed about what we could make for Santa for Christmas.  When it was my son’s turn to visit Santa, he quietly said that he would like [magnetic] letters and then he asked what Santa wanted for Christmas.  Santa naturally said that he would like some cookies and milk of course.

This year I also took my son out shopping with me.  I told him that he needed to give presents to people in the family to show he appreciated them and cared.  And being the toddler that he is, we spent ages (OMG, an hour at the toy store!) trying to find the perfect presents for family.  He made sure the colors were right since that was most important to him.

And though I know he doesn’t quite understand this concept, I talked about the less fortunate people in the world.  We all know of the Salvation Army bell ringers, and he noticed and asked about it this year.  I explained that the bell ringer was collecting money for the poor and that if we have any spare money we should give.  And so I gave him a few coins to throw in the pot, which he enjoyed doing.  He also enjoys doing this during Labor Day when the firemen are out on the street with their boots collecting money for Jerry’s Kids.  When he gets older we are going to start doing formal volunteering (I guess this is the social worker in me).

So we don’t do Elf on the Shelf.  I think it’s a great idea.  But I want my children to focus on giving and eventually giving back.

Pediatric Dentist Visit

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So the other day my son had his regular check up at the dentist, making this his third visit in his life.  His first two visits were disasters.  He was not interested in any strangers examining his mouth despite having the little dragon demonstrate how it is done.  There was screaming and crying–pretty typical behavior from a young child who just doesn’t understand what is going on.

This visit was met with great success because I really prepared my son for this visit, coupled with just a better understanding about things in general.  Ordinarily people say you should take your child with you when you, the parent, get your teeth cleaned so that they can see it’s safe and not scary.  And I would have done that, except our dental appointments were at times that would mean he would miss the entire day at school.  So I showed him a YouTube video of what happens at a dental visit for kids.  I knew he would be receptive to this because after I showed him a video of his sister at her swim lesson he suddenly was super pumped to go swimming instead of fighting us.  Anyhoo, he cooperated 100% with no tears or screaming, including getting x-rays done!  So if you can’t bring your kid to your dental appointment prior to their appointment, head on over to YouTube.  There are a lot of child friendly videos explaining what happens and the tools the dentist will use.  Good luck!

P.S. I was advised I should be flossing my son’s teeth?!?!

P.P.S. He’s still cavity-free!

Sleep Training

So I know this isn’t the most popular of subjects with parents, but we sleep trained our eldest doing the cry it out method.  It is heart wrenching, but its long term benefits totally outweigh those moments of horribleness.  Our pediatrician said it was fine to do so since he was gaining weight and meeting all his developmental milestones.  He didn’t need to eat at night since it was quite apparent he wasn’t eating, just nursing for comfort.  So we sleep trained, and I couldn’t have done it without my husband telling me to be strong and let him cry a little.

For those that think I am torturing my child, you don’t leave your child in a dark room to cry for hours upon hours until they fall asleep.  We lie our baby down half awake, give a kiss, and say goodnight.  If they cry, we go in at a minute to console them and say it is ok, another kiss, and then another goodnight.  If they cry again, we’ll let them cry for 2 minutes before we go in.  We do keep doing this, adding an additional minute to the last crying fit until the baby falls asleep.  We never let it go past an hour because at that point it is abundantly clear the baby is not quite ready for sleep training.

Anyhoo, we are doing it with my daughter right now.  Though it isn’t hard to get her to fall asleep (no rocking or holding, just needing to be next to her), it was making my son upset.  Here I am next to my daughter half asleep, holding her hand, and next to me is my son yelling, “C’mon Mommy.  Come play on the floor.”  So I decided it was time to sleep train.

I know my daughter was ready for it because she is gaining weight and is meeting her developmental milestones.  And it just seemed like she needed that extra nudge to get her to sleep on her own just because all she really needed was someone to hold her hand.  I felt like this extra push would be a good thing for her, and it has.  She no longer cries when we put her in her crib at night after 2 days of training.  Naps aren’t quite there yet, but we just started yesterday.  And when she is crying, the crying fits are no longer than half an hour and she is asleep.

It feels good to have her be able to fall asleep on her own, but also sad at the same time.  It just means I can use that time I usually spend on putting her to sleep with things that are more productive, like playing with my son, cleaning, etc.  But it’s just sad cause she is growing up.

Sleep training is definitely not for everyone.  Please don’t interpret this as something I recommend for everyone.  This is merely a post to say it works for our family and if you want to read someone who’s done it successfully and is happy about it, then yes, that’s us.

Potty Training

potty_trainingSo we started potty training my son earlier this week.  Day 5 in and I am pretty confident that we have a fairly well trained toddler.  It makes me wonder why I ever feared potty training.  I know the biggest drawback of potty training back in SF is that our house has wall to wall carpet (weird, I know).  So I waited to potty train him here in VA at my parents’ house since we are here for 3 weeks and have their hardwood floors.  There are accidents, and the first two days there were a lot.  But now the accidents are mostly because my son forgets to point his penis down.  Poop was also a big barrier, and it almost made me want to can the training on Day 2.  But we got over it, and now he’s back to pooping twice a day in the pot.  We’ve also adventured outside and he’s used the public restroom a few times (which is HUGE since I hate hate hate public restrooms).  He’s also good about nap time and night time, so no diapers there.

I guess the biggest take away from this is that you should never under estimate the intelligence of your young tot.  I honestly didn’t think he would get it, that he wouldn’t be able to pull down his pants and all that jazz.  But on Day 3 we hit a turning point, and he just gets it.  He will stop whatever he is doing and announce he has to pee and races to his potty.  When I gave him underwear for the first time yesterday he looked at it and said, “No mommy.  No diaper.”  He’s a smarty!

I should have potty trained him earlier, before the baby cause it would have been a lot easier.  But at least I have the support of my family here to keep an eye out for him to make sure he’s successful at using the potty.  But honestly a lot of it has to do with the fact that my son is a lot smarter than I thought, and that is why this experience hasn’t been as terrible as I thought it would be.  Thank goodness!

Also, if you are wondering if there were any books or pieces of advice to share… just download the e-book Oh Crap. Potty Training.  There’s a lot of fluff, but when you get to the heart of the training it was really helpful and worked well for us.  And I see how proud my son is now that he is a big boy!

Postpartum Exercise

10_weeks_post_partumSo I have started exercising (when I can) again.  I managed to get to my prepregnancy weight before I got pregnant again (it took a year to shed the weight!).  But I also managed to gain ~35 lbs. this last pregnancy!  Now it’s the daunting task of losing that weight again.  I am finding it is not quite as easy to shed as the first time around, even though I am exclusively breastfeeding.  I guess it’s just something about the second kid?

I know a lot of mom’s out there find it difficult to get exercise in when you are wrangling a child, let alone two.  I’m beginning to find it more difficult with two.  Last week I didn’t work out at all cause my son was sick all week!  How can a busy mom get a work out in with kids?

1.  Gyms with childcare

Many gyms offer child care for a small fee.  You can get your spin class in while your kid is looked after by professional child care staff.

2.  Mommy and Baby Exercise Classes

A quick Yelp search in your area may yield a lot of surprising exercise with baby options for you and your little one.  From bootcamp to yoga, you’ll be able to get a work out in while your little one is by your side.  This is especially beneficial for parents who want to save money on the child care aspect.  My personal favorite is Baby Bootcamp.

3.  Meetup!

Look or create a meetup to do some exercise you enjoy!  Whether it’s to find parents out there to go on a run with your baby in a jogging stroller or doing tai chi with baby, you’ll be able to find it or create it.  You’d be surprised what you can find on meetup.

4.  YouTube & Netflix

Many of us are just too busy juggling work and family that exercising during normal hours is just impossible.  You probably don’t want to wake up to do a 6AM work out if your baby isn’t quite sleeping through the night, sometimes the Kid’s Club hours at the gym aren’t very convenient, or your family is simply on a very tight budget.  When your kids are sleeping, you can always scour YouTube and Netflix for some exercise videos.  YouTube has Jillian Michaels workouts availabe for free.

The long and short of it is that exercising with a new baby may be difficult, but it is doable.  It takes a bit of creativity and time to get back to your prepregnancy self, but you can do it!  Don’t be discouraged!

Greetings From the White House

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My daughter received her letter from the White House the other day.  It’s something to add to her baby book so that she can look at it later in life, and hopefully think it’s super cool.  We did the same for my son two year’s ago when he was born.

So how do you get a nice note from the President and the First Lady?  You send a birth announcement to the White House Greetings Office.  Here’s their address:

The White House
Greetings Office Rm 39
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

There are a few catches though.  Your child needs to be a US Citizen.  And the request needs to be made within 12 months of their birth.

Hopefully you can get your little ones a little keepsake from the White House for their baby books too!

Measles Outbreak

With more and more measles cases being reported, I am incredibly anxious about leaving the house with my two month old infant.  She is too young to be vaccinated against measles, leaving her vulnerable to this preventable disease that we are surrounded by.  We had a near miss with measles exposure, making this outbreak far too real and terrifying for me.

I know all parents have the best interest of their children in mind, and one of the biggest decisions we are first faced with as a parent is whether or not we are going to vaccinate.  It is clear that science says vaccines are safe with no link to causing autism.  Even allergic reactions to vaccines are incredibly rare.  And yet many still choose not to for whatever reason.

My husband and I vaccinate.  It is hard for us to ignore the numbers when weighed with the risks.  But most importantly we want to protect our children, and others who are vulnerable, from these deadly diseases.  I in good conscious cannot allow my children (walking incubators) to contract preventable diseases and spread them to others, especially infants like my daughter, the elderly, pregnant women, people who are allergic to components of vaccines, immunocompromised individuals, etc.  Even if my child is strong enough to survive the measles, the child next to her may not be as lucky–and that I cannot allow.  It is really a crap shoot who the disease will take.

And with that I leave you with a letter written by Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda) who wants all parents to vaccinate.

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

“I feel all sleepy,” she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.

It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.

LET THAT SINK IN.

Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.

The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.

New Year’s Resolutions 2015: A Parent’s Perspective

I know for many parents out there your top priority for the New Year is to maximize as much quality time with your child(ren).  As parents we have an intricate juggling act that consists of work, household chores, parenting, and, when time permits, ME time.  While ME time is the most neglected, parents are always torn about parenting and quality time with their children–no matter how much we give, we never feel like it is enough.  We do what we can and hope it doesn’t set up our kids for a lifetime of adult therapy.

As a stay at home mom, I have to decide whether or not to go to the park or run errands.  There are just some days you aren’t going to leave the house.  And now that I have to corral two, I try not to run errands when the eldest is home so as to maximize my time with him.  I know they say it’s good to take your kid out to the grocery store so they can learn about food, colors, reading, counting, etc.  But when your oldest is in preschool part of the week, you don’t want to spend the time he is with you running errands.  How much fun is that?  Fortunately, living in the Bay Area has given me an opportunity to keep up the juggling act with the help of a few startups and beta services.  Here is a list of apps and services that have made my life a little less stressful so that I can spend time playing.

Instacart

Most major grocery store chains offer delivery, like Safeway.  But often times this takes far in advance planning since most same-day delivery slots are almost always booked–sometimes you realize you need milk now instead of tomorrow between 2pm and 5pm.  Step in Instacart.

Instacart offers grocery delivery in an hour!  That’s right, in an hour for just $5.99 (when your purchase is >$35).  You have a personal shopper out there who goes to popular grocery stores, like Safeway, Whole Foods, and even Costco, to buy the products you need.  You can order using their app (on both iOS and Android) or online using your computer.  You just shop online for what you need, put in your credit card information, and then in an hour your groceries arrive (it usually arrives a lot sooner than what they tell you too).

What’s really great about the service is there’s still humans involved.  What do you mean?  If you ever dealt with Safeway, they will replace any item they don’t have in stock.  Yes, both Safeway and Instacart have a way for the customer to dictate if they want items replaced or not or with what specific item.  But it’s nice getting a phone call from your personal shopper alerting you about an item not in stock and wanting to double check with you if said replacement is sufficient.  It really is like having your own personal shopper.  I personally like that touch.

You are probably thinking, “This sounds great, but you live in San Francisco and it’s probably not in my city.”  Guess wrong!  The service is available in many US cities, including Seattle, Denver, Austin, and DC!!!  Go try it out; your first delivery is free!

Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh is another grocery shopping service that offers same-day or next day delivery.  What’s great about the service is that you’re able to buy goods from niche shops, say a butcher in a certain neighborhood instead of going to the grocery store chain and their lesser quality cuts.  So if you are into that kind of grocery shopping, then Amazon Fresh is your thing.  However, the $299/year membership is a bit steep for many.  It’s also not widely available like Instacart is.

Google Shopping Express

IMG_3876.JPGIf there’s one service I probably can’t live without, it’s Google Shopping Express.  They offer you same-day delivery from actual stores (e.g., not grocery stores).  Hello Target!  I mean I do love shopping at Target, but again life gets in the way of going to this destination.  Your loofa just broke?  Google Shopping Express to the rescue.  Not only do they deliver products from Target, you can get toys from Toys R Us or even sporting goods from REI (at least in the Bay Area).  They do some food delivery from grocery stores like Whole Foods, but it’s the non-perishable kind.  It’s also available in a few major cities, like LA and DC.  You can easily go shopping on your computer or their iOS and Android app (which I tend to do in the middle of night, whilst breastfeeding after I’ve browsed Etsy).

Amazon Mom

Amazon Mom is similar to Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service for Prime members.  It’s $99 per year to be an Amazon Mom, although you don’t need to be a mom (I’ve read people make up baby birthdays).  Items you buy often, like diapers and baby food or pasta, are set on a schedule to be delivered every month or every other month.  If you have 5 or more items being delivered that month you save 20% on all the items.  It’s great to not think about these things you buy often.  Amazon will also e-mail you to remind you that you’ll be getting a shipment soon in case you want to make changes to your order (say, ordering the next size up diapers).  If you order from Amazon often, you should totally do Amazon Mom.  Diapers are definitely a lot cheaper through Amazon versus regular priced diapers at Target.