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Are We There Yet?

Archive for April 2009

Crying it out or co-sleeping: Getting kids to sleep through the night

When parents talk about getting their babies to sleep through the night, crying it out or co-sleeping are the two options that are often mentioned.

A column on Times Online, which is the website for The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers in the United Kingdom, recently delved into this age-old debate. In “How do you get a baby to sleep through the night?” psychologist Tanya Byron acknowledged that “sleep training” can be a controversial topic among parents.

In her article, Byron compared the “cry it out” approach to co-sleeping, which entails comforting the child or sharing the same bed until the he or she can sleep alone.

“Those who subscribe to attachment parenting believe that the primary caregiver should be completely responsive to the child — in tune to every whimper, holding them close and co-sleeping. They argue that co-sleeping is the norm in many cultures and we are unusual in wanting our young to sleep away from us. The ‘cry it out’ lobby varies in the strictness of its approach. There are some who espouse very severe regimes from birth while others offer watered-down versions of this theory.”

Byron also mentioned two other strategies – “controlled checking,” when parents leave the baby in the crib for a few minutes and then return to reassure her or him that mom and dad are nearby; and “gradual withdrawal,” when a parent sits by the crib but doesn’t look or talk to the child until he or she is asleep. Mom or dad is then supposed to move farther away from the crib each night until they are eventually outside the child’s room.

My husband and I tried the “crying it out” method but we fell apart after a few attempts. It just hurt too much to see our baby crying all alone in the crib. As a result, both our kids slept in our bed for a long time. Now that they’re 2 and 5, they still end up in our bed some time before dawn on most nights.

Would I recommend co-sleeping? I think it works for some families. It was the best we could do, even if we sometimes didn’t get a good night’s sleep. (It probably would’ve helped if we had invested in a king size bed.)

Do you have any other strategies to get kids to sleep through the night?  How about strategies to finally get the kids out of our bed?

Hooked on Comics

Some kids “read” the newspaper long before they can actually read. While my husband and I take turns reading the Local and Business sections of the Sunday newspaper, the little ones at my house fight over the full-color Comics section. They love Dennis the Menace and Family Circus. Although they can’t sound out every word, they are able to sometimes figure out the story or joke simply by looking at the images.


Comic strips can actually help children become better readers, experts say. By looking at pictures, they improve their visual literacy skills. They also motivate kids to start reading. According to the Comic Book Project, an arts-based literacy and learning initiative, comic books can “help children forge an alternative pathway to literacy by writing, designing, and publishing original comic books.”


Comics aren’t just for beginning readers, either. In recent years, more classrooms have been using a type of comic book called “graphic novels” to boost literacy and to help improve students’ storytelling abilities.


Last fall, for instance, the Spokane Public Library hosted a six-month program called “Modern Marvels: Jewish Adventures in the Graphic Novel.” The series included several novels including “The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” which led author/artist Art Spiegelman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.


So if your kids want comic books, take them to Merlyns in downtown Spokane, Lightning Comics in Coeur d’Alene or one of the three area Comic Book Shops. Saturday is Free Comic Book Day and several stores as well as libraries are giving comics away. Spokesman-Review writer Jim Kershner’s book notes column has all the details.

 

Are you a fan of comic books? Do you think they help your children become better readers?

Lactivism

Great news for children and breastfeeding moms: Nursing your child in public in now a civil right – one that’s protected by Washington’s anti-discrimination law.

 

In his article today, “Law protects mothers’ right to nurse in public,” Spokesman-Review reporter Rich Roesler covered the signing into law of a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to discriminate against a mom breastfeeding her child in restaurants, stores, malls, theaters, parks, schools, and other public places.


I remember how horrified I was several years ago when we were at a café one afternoon and one of my relatives told me I could breastfeed my son in the restroom. I asked her, “Would you ever eat your lunch in the bathroom?” When she said “no,” I told her that my son wouldn’t either.

But I wasn’t always so outspoken. I also remember being at the mall one day and feeling so insecure about nursing, that I walked all the way back to the parking garage so I could nurse my crying infant. (That was before a friend of mine told me about the comfortable couches in the ladies’ lounge at Nordstrom.)

I quickly got over my breastfeeding insecurities – especially after nursing both my kids until they were both about 2 ½. But I think some moms are still a little hesitant about nursing in public places. Some say their fears about potential discrimination might contribute to the fact that many women stop breastfeeding before their children turn 1.

Although 41.5 percent of mothers were still breastfeeding their babies at six months of age in 2004, only 11.3 were exclusively breastfeeding and not supplementing with infant formula, according to the CDC’s latest Breastfeeding Report Card.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months of an infant’s life, according to the organization’s 2005 revised policy statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” The AAP – which is made up of about 60,000 primary care pediatricians and other specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of children – also suggests breastfeeding support for the first year and beyond “as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” Breastfeeding also has become a national health goal for the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What do you think about this new breastfeeding law?

A rash of diaper theft

Spokane Police are looking for a couple who punched a security guard at Safeway after trying to shoplift about $18 worth of diapers, according to today’s story in The Spokesma-Review, “Huggies theft may be linked to the recession.”

The incident, which happened last week, is a sign of how desperate some parents have become in light of the economic downturn. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated case. In the past month alone, several newspapers and media outlets throughout the country have reported similar stories. Here’s just a sampling:

In Millville, N.J., a Rite Aid employee reported that two men stole $68 worth of store-brand diapers, according to NJ.com.

In the Sacramento area, a woman was caught by police after she walked out of a grocery store with a shopping cart full of baby diapers and two cases of beer worth more than $170, according to CW31, the CBS affiliate in the area.

What happened in Spokane also took place earlier this month in Iowa. According to the Des Moines Register, a woman kicked a grocery store security worker after she picked up two boxes of diapers worth $40. She even had her car parked right outside the store’s front doors. She’s now in jail.

And finally, a letter to the editor of The Nashville News reported how a shoplifting has become so bad that one store clerk said, “We’ve even taken to locking up some of the diapers.”

Disposable diapers are definitely expensive. I remember spending at least $50 to $75 a month – even when buying in bulk at Costco. The news stories prompted me to look in our daughter’s closet, where I found half a package of unused Pull-Ups that our family will no longer need. Is there a place in Spokane where you can donate opened packages such as these? I’m also wondering where these desperate families can go for help.

Tag-team parenting

This excellent piece in The Oregonian – “Two parents, two kids, two jobs … and only 24 hours in a day” – shows in detail the day-to-day struggles of working middle-class families.

 

The Garretts have to scramble just to survive. Dad works during the day. Mom works a swing shift. They save money by sharing childcare duties and chores but they rarely have any time as a couple. 

Megan takes out the garbage; Tim picks up the mail. Megan dishes up breakfast; Tim doles out dinner.

The upside: The kids are almost always with Mom or Dad.

The downside: The kids are almost always with Mom or Dad, who get precious little time together, and virtually none alone.

The story also includes the following statistic about working families:

In nearly 60 percent of two-working-parent couples with children younger than 5, at least one spouse worked some combination of weekends, evenings and nights, University of Maryland professor Harriet B. Presser found through studying Department of Labor and Census data.

Almost 40 percent of married women said child care drove the decision to work odd hours, Presser reported in her 2003 book, “Working in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for American Families.”

 Is the economy forcing you and others you know to become tag-team parents?

Used toys and clothes for kids

I’m a fan of hand-me-downs.


Most of the stuff that my kids own – from winter coats and hats to toys — have been used by others. In the last few years, my son and daughter have been the recipients of stylish, gently worn clothing passed down from other families.What we don’t get from friends, we usually purchase at consignment stores and Value Village or find at garage sales during the summer months.

 

When they outgrow them and if they’re not too worn, we pass the clothes and toys down to other families. We not only save money; we also don’t have to spend so much time shopping at department stores – which can be hassle with little ones in tow. Plus, we get the pleasure of seeing our children’s outfits being worn by other kids we know.

 

This weekend, families in the region can find some great deals on toys and clothes at the annual Just Between Friends Consignment Sale. The event, which takes place at the Spokane Fair & Expo Center (AG Buildings C and D), happens Friday through Sunday and gives families an opportunity to sell their used children’s and maternity clothing on consignment to other families. There’s a $3 admission charge on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday, you can get it free and everything left is half price. The next sale after that will be in June.

 

In the past, we bought a lot of used items from Other Mothers on the South Hill but that franchise is now closed. The one in North Spokane, which was my favorite, is temporarily closed because of a roof collapse this past winter. The Valley Other Mothers remains open. Another store that my friends rave about is Once Upon a Child in Spokane Valley.


Are there any other consignment stores in the area that you would recommend? What percentage of your kids’ clothes are hand-me-downs or were bought used? Do you ever bring clothes to these stores for consignment?

Moms and Internet addiction

Since I started working part-time from home almost two years ago, I noticed a disturbing trend: I’m constantly on the computer.

I turn it on first thing in the morning after snuggling with my kids, then sneak a peek at Facebook, my three e-mail accounts and breaking news stories several times throughout the day. It’s become part of my “multitasking” way of life – as I care for my kids, cook, clean and earn a living all at the same time.

It makes me insane because there are days when there are no distinctions between my work life and my home life. Although I don’t watch television, I certainly zone out enough in front of my computer screen.

That’s probably why I couldn’t help reading this CNN story, “Why moms are at risk for Internet addiction.” Here’s an excerpt from the writer, Rachel Mosteller:

I’d heard about Internet addiction before, but always assumed it was something limited to socially challenged guys who played too much World of Warcraft. Now it seemed my Internet “habit” was slowly but surely crossing the line. Sometimes I found myself up into the wee hours of the morning, surfing the Web while my family slept. I read the news, kept up with friends, and looked up answers to endless questions. I wrote my personal blog and read dozens of others, just for something to do.

It turns out I’m not the only mama who plugs in and zones out. Coleen Moore, coordinator of resource development at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery in Peoria, says that she’s seeing more and more women coming in for Internet addiction. They’re young, they’re often new mothers, and they’re addicted to blogs, message boards, and Second Life, she says.

… Online, you can pay bills, order diapers, upload photos, and look up possible causes of your kid’s constipation. In fact, you can almost accomplish too much online.

“Ticking items off a to-do list is intoxicating when you feel like you don’t have much control over other parts of your life,” says Parker (and what’s more uncontrollable than life with a newborn?).

Diane Anderson, mom of a 7-month-old in Memphis, knows the feeling. “I started following coupon sites and became so engrossed in finding deals that I neglected the important things, like time with my son, for a while.”

After the Internet, real life can seem, well, unproductive. “When I play with my boys, I feel like I should be getting something done,” says one mom of 18-month-old twins in New York City. “I almost get antsy just hanging out with them, and I take regular breaks to check my e-mail, respond to a Facebook friend request, or order photos from Snapfish. I’m addicted to online errands.”

As I write this, my kids are coloring on the floor next to my desk so I should probably get off the computer right now so we can spend some quality time together…  What’s it like for you? How much time do you spend on the computer/Internet?

Taming the Travel Tantrums

When my son was almost 4 and my daughter was 13 months old, our family traveled to Nicaragua for a two-week vacation. Although we had flown before as a family — to Alaska and Mexico and other places with our children, that flight to Nicaragua was the longest trip ever.

 

We started out before dawn in Spokane and had layovers in Seattle and Houston before finally landing in Managua, where we still had to catch a taxi for the 45-minute ride to our hotel in Granada. It was close to midnight when we finally went to bed.

 

I share this story because when we embarked on that trip almost two years ago, we didn’t have a portable DVD player or anything electronic at the time to entertain our kids. We brought a few toys, lots of books and a bag of snacks. We also ran around the airport during layover so that our son would get tuckered out and take a nap on the plane.

 

Now that my kids are a little older, I’m wondering if I’m being too inflexible about the DVD player and other electronics. It’s really hard to travel with kids – on planes, in cars, while towing them in the bike trailer. My kids move a lot more, talk a lot more and nap a lot less. When I shared my disdain of portable DVD players, a good friend of mine just laughed. “What do you want? A mommy medal?” she asked. “Do you really think your kids are better than everyone else’s for not watching a DVD on the plane?”

 

Another friend sent me a press release about this very topic of traveling with kids and how one company has come up with special activity books. Here’s an excerpt:

Pam Herbert dreaded their annual trip to Florida. She loved sitting by the pool and swimming in the ocean and seeing the relatives. But getting there was something else again with a feisty 3-year-old and restless 5-year-old. Keeping them buckled during the flight was a major ordeal and nobody within ten rows could get a minute’s rest. Lucky for Pam, her sister mailed two i*M Smart fun activity books that made the flight a snap and the rest of the vacation a breeze.

 “They arrived just as I was leaving,” says Pam, a stay-at-home mom. “They saved my life. I highly recommend them to anyone traveling with kids.”

The unique i*M Smart fun books are filled with age-appropriate activities that make them think outside the box. Every child needs one and each i*M Smart book comes with a page of stickers for even more enjoyment! These are not throwaway coloring books. They record a child’s birth and special things they say. Once they are completed, tuck them away for a trip down memory lane later on. They are especially important for twins and triplets to see how alike (or differently) they think.

My friend also referred to a recent interview with the actress, Julia Roberts. Although Roberts’ kids are banned from watching TV or eating junk food at home, they’re allowed to during long airplane rides to help keep them quiet.


Am I being too weird about the portable DVD player? Do I just need to lighten up? What other advice do you have to tame the travel tantrums?

Child Dies While Mother Works

In today’s paper, a few paragraphs sum up the lonely death of a year-old baby.

No matter how many times I read stories like this it still takes my breath away. I think about this little boy. Did he cry for his mother? Of course he must have.

How can this continue to happen?

 

 

LYNNWOOD, Wash.

Child left in car seven hours dies

Police are investigating the death of a 1-year-old boy left alone in his mother’s car for seven hours while she worked at an assisted living facility.

Lynnwood police spokeswoman Shannon Sessions said the baby was left in a car seat from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday, when the 21-year-old Everett woman returned to the car and found him unresponsive.

The mother brought the baby inside to the Sunrise Assisted Living facility and someone called 911. Lynnwood firemen determined the child was dead.

The mother was not immediately identified.

Sessions said the baby’s death is under investigation, and the Snohomish County medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

The spokeswoman said she did not know the temperature inside the car. The National Weather Service reported Monday’s high temperature in nearby Everett was 69.

And how about the rest of the people without kids?

I once had a colleague who thought there were too many perks for moms. Single and in her early 50s, “H” just didn’t think it was fair that mothers got benefits that included maternity leave and other “advantages” that weren’t available to other employees.

So I posed this question to Mindy Stewart, a local businesswoman and co-founder of KidCentric, Inc., which provides consulting and management services for businesses, government entities and nonprofits looking to address the child care needs of their employees or clients. I wrote about Stewart in today’s story, “Work & Kids: Helping Helping new mothers manage work.”

“I talk a lot about the equitability versus equity,” said Stewart, whose goal is to show businesses how they can increase productivity and nurture company loyalty by becoming more family-friendly. “Most companies provide vision care, but not everyone wears glasses. They also offer health care, but some people don’t get sick as much … Businesses need to look at their employees as part of a life cycle. People are at different stages of that cycle at different times.”

“H” and I are still friends despite the fact that we will never agree on this issue. What do you think? Do you think companies bend over backwards for employees with children or are they not doing enough to promote work/life balance in order to increase the likelihood that these employees will stay?

Do we discriminate against women who don’t breastfeed?

In an article in this month’s Atlantic, contributing editor Hannah Rosin discussed a dilemma she faced when hanging out with other moms: “In my playground set, the urban moms in their tight jeans and oversize sunglasses size each other up using a whole range of signifiers: organic content of snacks, sleekness of stroller, ratio of tasteful wooden toys to plastic,” she wrote. “But breastfeeding is the real ticket into the club.”

 Her essay, “The Case Against Breast-Feeding,” is actually quite funny. She discusses how our culture makes women feel guilty if they can’t or choose not to breastfeed. Or if perhaps, they choose not to keep doing it for the full year as recommended by the American Academy of Pediaticians.

In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework, the endless dusting and shopping and pushing the Hoover around—a vacuum cleaner being the obligatory prop for the “happy housewife heroine,” as Friedan sardonically called her.When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound.

Still, despite my stint as the postpartum playground crank, I could not bring myself to stop breast-feeding—too many years of Sears’s conditioning, too many playground spies. So I was left feeling trapped, like many women before me, in the middle-class mother’s prison of vague discontent: surly but too privileged for pity, breast-feeding with one hand while answering the cell phone with the other, and barking at my older kids to get their own organic, 100 percent juice—the modern, multitasking mother’s version of Friedan’s “problem that has no name.”

I was probably a militant breastfeeder for a while. Every infant has a right to breastmilk, I used to think. Although I didn’t say it out loud, I believed that it was the obligation of all mothers to make the effort to nurse. But a few months ago, when my daughter was well over 2 and still nursing, I was beginning to grow weary. After all, my body had been “in use” – two pregnancies, births and non-stop breastfeeding  – for nearly six years. So a part of me really related to this article despite its title.

What do you think about Rosin’s essay? (It’s kind of long, I know, but worth the read.) Do you think we tend to discriminate against mothers who can’t or choose not to breastfeed?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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