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!

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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.

New Parent Life

It dawned on my the other day that I haven’t written this post even though this is the advice I give every one who is about to embark on parenthood!  So here it goes…

I’ll 100% honest–being a new parent, especially a stay at home parent, is lonely and hard.  Some are fortunate enough to have other parent friends close by or family to help fill that void, and others are embarking on this journey alone.  For those doing the journey alone or almost alone it doesn’t have to be so.  It’s going to take some time, some longer than others.  It will also feel like dating.  But in the end it works out and you’ll adjust.  Give it time!!!  But here are my tips that helped me overcome the loneliness of being a stay at home parent in a brand new city with an infant!

1.  Pay to do something outside of the house once a week!!!
If you are like me, once you make a financial commitment you feel bad not using it and wasting all that money.  That’s why I suggest you do something that forces you to pay up front to do it because you feel obligated to get out of the house and not list the many excuses to stay at home.  At first, Oliver and I did Baby Boot Camp together.  I bought a 12 class pass up front that would expire in like 2 months.  It forced me to leave the house and get exercise.  If I didn’t use a class pass cause of whatever excuse I felt so bad cause it was throwing away $15!!!  This program was also great because once a month they did a Mom’s Night Out.  So I was able to meet some cool moms this way, both in workout clothes and without.

If exercising, or boot camps, aren’t your thing there a ton of other things you can do with your new baby.  If you want to try low impact exercising, try looking into post-natal yoga classes.  Many gyms offer babysitting services if that is more your thing.  My only problem with that is it’s harder to meet parent friends this way.

You can also look into classes for your baby.  Yes, your little 6 weeker (sometimes younger) can participate in so many things!!!  We’ve done music class, Gymboree, swimming, art class, etc.  There are many Gymboree type places out there, probably closer to home too.  Try looking up Little Gym or My Gym.  They usually do a free trial class to see if it’s a good fit for you and your child.  If those places are a bit pricey, your local parks and rec should offer baby classes, including infant swim classes!  The point is, pay for something and go so you can meet people.

2.  Join a parenting list serv or group.
You might have to do some sleuthing on Google or you can ask the few parents you know in your neighborhood/city/town.  But if one exists, join it (while baby is in utero preferably).  Not only can you score cheap or free gently used baby gear, you can connect with other parents with similar age babies.  Once a month I get an e-mail to the neighborhood list serv from a new mom trying to connect with other mom’s in the neighborhood with newborns.  And depending on how organized your list serv or group is, there may be monthly Mom’s Night Out to a local restaurant.  It’s such a great way to feel more connected to your neighbors and find parent friends.

3.  Go to Meetup.com.
As I have mentioned before, finding new parent friends is like dating.  It’s awkward and strange as you investigate whether or not this parent will be cool and match your parenting style.  Well, think of Meetup as your dating website (kind of like eHarmony, but for a lot of different interests, not exclusive to parents).  You can easily see if there are baby/parent groups based on a certain mile radius of your zip code.  You can even go so far as to find baby/parent groups around certain themes, like exercise or home schooling or attachment parenting or Spanish speaking (I’ve seen Mandarin).  It’s a great way to meet other parents, usually in public places.  If you can’t find one that is a good fit for you or there isn’t one close to you, you can always start a Meetup group yourself (for a small fee).

4.  Join a new parent support group.
More and more of these are popping up, either offered through the hospital you delivered or through an organization in your neighborhood.  Some are free and some aren’t.  But the point is, it is a great way to meet new parents with similar aged babies.  They are usually facilitated by hospital staff or a therapist.  You discuss topics regarding being a new parent and connect, share, and most importantly vent about this crazy journey.  Most support groups are set for a certain number of weeks (between 6-8 weeks, meeting once a week), but many of these groups soon become your closest parent friends who continue to meet weekly for play dates.  You may think it’s dumb, especially if you aren’t into therapy-type things for whatever reason, but trust me you will enjoy the support group.

Just keep putting yourself, and your baby, out there.  It really is exactly like dating, but I think so much harder.  It will depress you, but you’ll also have times where you get excited about meeting a parent you like (trust me, my husband has looked at me weirdly when I tell him about a cool mom I’ve met).  It took me about a year to finally find a circle of parent friends I truly like.  It just takes time, so just be patient.  After all, you were patient about finding your partner right?  It’s hard, but it will work out.  It may not seem like it, especially in the throws of a crying infant.  But it will, and you’ll find some cool parents you can start calling your friends.

Connect with Friends

We moved back to SF almost 2 years ago.  The friends we made here the first time around were a bit younger and at a different stage in their life when we returned.  Though most were in committed relationships, we were the only couple married and now with our first child.  Despite this, many of our friends here in SF are amazed that we are able to hang out with them and/or are generally social.  I guess once you have a child many assume you go off into the child friendly abyss that childless friends are not welcomed to.  But this is not true.  Well, you can make that true, but you don’t have to.  And you don’t need a babysitter!  I repeat:  YOU DON’T NEED A BABYSITTER!  Here are a three things my husband and I do to stay connected with our friends, even though they may not have children (yet).  And it doesn’t have to involve going to a bar!

1.  Do something with your friends that you used to do before you had a kid.
I know this is pretty obvious, but some people need to be told this.  Whether it is poker night for your husband or book club for yourself.  Okay, maybe a book club for mom sounds a bit ambitious when you are tired and barely can fit in a shower let alone the newest novel for the month.  Maybe going over to someone’s house and watching The Bachelor is better?  The point is, do something that you used to do with your friends.  It will make you feel normal again, especially if you are stuck cleaning dirty diapers and clothes all day.  But most importantly, you can still connect with your childless friends the way you used to before you yourself had a kid.  You might not be able to do it once a week, but once a month is more than enough to reconnect.  Just make sure you and your partner are organized enough so that your friend nights don’t clash with each other.  After all, someone needs to watch the babe!

2.  Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner?
You can still go out for a meal with your friends and bring the babe along.  Clearly you aren’t going to go to fancy places anymore, mostly because you don’t have the time to really look appropriate for such an outing.  And I know it sounds overwhelming, especially if your babe is a toddler prone to tantrums.  But there are decent, if not really great restaurants out there that *gasp* are child friendly as well!  You also know your child best.  If your babe is still in that sleepy infant stage, lucky you!  You can do any meal with little to no problem because chances are they will be sleeping in their car seat.  If they do happen to wake up and cry, they probably need to be fed and you/mom are right there with their snack.  Once your child gets older, it does get a little tricky.  But it is still manageable.  For my now toddler, I make sure I bring his etch-a-sketch, crayons (if the restaurant doesn’t provide any), and if he is having a super fussy day he may get to play with his Leap Frog game.  You also know your child’s moods, and when he’s at his best.  For us, lunch and brunch are the best meal times.  Dinner isn’t necessarily impossible, but you also don’t want to make a dinner reservation for an hour before your kid’s normal bed time.  The point is, you can still go out for meals with your friends.

3.  Dinner Party!
Or any party at your house for that matter.  Budgets are a bit tighter when you have a kid, and perhaps eating out with your friends isn’t economically viable for you.  Do not fret–just invite your friend(s) over for dinner!  It’s hard to say no to a home cooked meal.  You can even ask your guests to bring their favorite wine to share.  The best bit is you don’t have to go too far off your babe’s normal evening routine.  You can even treat your whiney child by excusing them early from dinner if they are done and let them go off and play on their own while you continue to enjoy dinner conversation with your friends.  You may have to temporarily excuse yourself while you get your babe ready for bed, but your partner and your guests can still chat away and imbibe more.  And if dinner or cooking isn’t your thing, you can always just order in food or have a pot luck.  The point is, invite people over to your house.  Whether it’s just a dinner party, Super Bowl Party, or celebrating Pi Day, get people to come over and reconnect.

Ultimately, friendship is a two way street.  If your friend(s) continue to decline your invitations, don’t fret.  Maybe try group invites.  The one friend who is a bit hesitant may be terrified of small children.  And that’s ok.  But by extending the invite to a larger group, you slightly diffuse the anxiety.  In the end if they still decline, don’t lose sleep over it.  Just concentrate on the people who still appreciate you trying to stay connected.

Earthquake!

So I should mention that we did feel the earthquake here in San Francisco a few days ago.  It was considerable enough to wake up my husband and I at 3:30am, although I feel like the earthquake I felt back in Virginia in 2011 was worse (maybe cause it was longer?).  We had no damage to our home, our little monster slept through it, and my husband easily went back to sleep (I, however, had to go pee and any pregnant woman knows how that goes).  Many of our friends here, including long time San Franciscans, said that it was a big earthquake.

The next morning had me thinking about the true safety of our home.  We have our earthquake supplies to last us three days.  But we don’t have any of our furniture tethered to the wall or anything.  If this earthquake happened in the daytime and was just half a magnitude bigger, who knows what would have happened to my son with the furniture.  I mean we have our normal baby proofing in place like plug covers and gates, and I did make sure that there’s nothing hanging over  his bed.  So I quickly went on Amazon and bought this, this, and this (because you can never have too many first aid kits).  Hopefully we won’t have any more significant earthquakes any time soon, but if we do we’ll be more prepared.

Crunchy Parenting

I think because I started cloth diapering my son people assume I am a “crunchy mom”.  In actuality I am just a cheap mom, and my husband and I probably lean more on the side of main stream parenting than not.

Cloth Diapering

So yes, we cloth diaper in the beginning.  Why?  Because a newborn goes through A LOT of diapers in the beginning–something like 12 times a day.  But when you are washing the diapers yourself to reuse them, it actually will work out cheaper when you reuse them with your second child (which is what we are doing).  The initial cost is a lot, but ultimately in the end you may even make out a profit when compared to disposables (I plan on selling my used cloth diapers when we are done with children).  It also really isn’t difficult, especially when you are dealing with breast milk.  You are already doing a lot of laundry anyways, what’s one more load of diapers every other day?

Why I don’t think I am crunchy?  We stop cloth diapering when the kid grows out of the diapers or starts solids, whatever comes first.  It’s harder to deal with solid poop (like putting the poop in the toilet, spraying, treating, etc.).  We start using disposables, and at this point they aren’t going through as many diapers as they were in the beginning.  Now we probably go through 3-5 diapers a day.  And it’s just easier to roll the poopy diaper up and toss it in the trash while my kid tries to break free from the diaper changing–there’s just no time to deal with cloth diapers then.  We have always used disposables at night and whenever we are going out of the house for the entire day.

Co-Sleeping

I guess we did a form of co-sleeping in the beginning.  We had something similar to a co-sleeper that we used next to our bed.  It made sense cause the newborn will be fed every 2-3 hours in the beginning.  It was also nice to know that he was still breathing cause I could easily just look over and stick my hand on his chest (yes, I did that a few times that first couple of weeks).

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  Cause we immediately stopped this sleeping arrangement when we sleep trained him when we knew he could sleep through the night.  My husband and I wanted an independent child who has the ability to put himself to sleep on his own.  Admittedly it was selfish at first; it was completing exhausting for both my husband and I to physically put him to sleep EVERY SINGLE TIME.  We were no longer sleeping well again, which meant that we were not pleasant to him or each other during the day.  We also realized we couldn’t have him sleep in our bed with us.  As easy as it was for him to fall asleep next to me in our bed, I would never sleep well between him kicking me out of bed or just the sheer worry that either my husband or I would crush him.  Though it was tough at first, we now have a son who is able to sleep on his own after we tell him goodnight for both naps and night time sleep.  He doesn’t need a pacifier to soothe himself; just his own voice singing himself to sleep.  He very rarely wakes up in the middle of the night and our naps have more often than not been good, long naps.

I do admit that we occasionally have him sleep with us.  These special occasions are when he is sick (basically he’s miserable with a fever) or we are in a hotel cause he just won’t go to sleep in a hotel.  Otherwise, he’s a good sleeper and we in turn as parents sleep well.

Baby-led Weaning

Yes, this is quite a progressive parenting choice.  Babies usually get their first taste of solids at 3 or 4 months, something like rice cereal.  But here’s a progressive method of introducing solids that requires you to delay the introduction of solids till at least 6 months and the parent should be ok with the baby not really consuming foods in the beginning.  This was totally us, after a trial and failure at purees (but at 6 months instead of 3 months like it was suggested to us).

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  I did this because I was tired of struggling to get my son to eat solids food.  It was honestly just easier to give him the food we were eating and letting him explore vs. trying to force food down his throat while one parent ate food.  This ended up being my son and husband having dinner together and me eating later.  From that point forward, it was just pleasant to (kind of) eat dinner as a whole family, which we still do now.  It wasn’t because we believe that baby-led weaning is the best way to introduce solids.  I mean if my son took to purees easily, we would have done that.  But again, we did what was easiest and less stressful for us as a family.

Baby Wearing

Yes, we wore my son in the beginning.  It was nice to have him close to us and bond in that way.  He enjoyed it, and we figured out which carriers worked best for us.

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  We didn’t nearly wear him a lot when compared to other parents.  The only times we wore him were times we could not use the car seat and/or stroller.  Again, it was out of convenience.  This new baby will probably be worn more than her brother just because he will be in the stroller (and I don’t want to buy a new double stroller for the both of them to use).

So while others may think (judge) that I am a crunchy mom and that my husband is a crunchy dad, in actuality we just parent how we think fits our family’s needs.  This is usually whatever is easiest and convenient.  As I told my friend earlier today, there’s no right or wrong way to parent.  If you find the balance, you and your partner are on the same page, and you are happy (albeit, tired) at the end of the day, then you are doing it right.