Suggested New Episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Good news for moderate parental negligence—a study soon to be published in the Journal of Children and Media found that watching the PBS Kids cartoon Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood may help preschoolers develop social and emotional skills. For those of you who have not yet been inducted into the Daniel Tiger cult, each episode deals with a common issue for toddlers and preschool-age kids—fear of starting school, separation anxiety, a new baby, sharing, resolving conflict with peers, etc. There is always a catchy “strategy song” that reinforces the message after the show ends. One of my son’s favorite episodes is “Daniel Visits School,” and I sing the strategy song fairly often to remind myself that he’s the kind of kid that needs extra reassurance during transitions: When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do. C is also obsessed with all of the episodes that feature Daniel’s baby sister Margaret, which is just about enough to make my heart completely explode with love and forgive him for all of his general ass-hattery.

Given Daniel Tiger’s proven success at imparting macro-level life lessons about kindness, empathy, and managing negative feelings, I figure the show’s writers might be equally effective at helping us parents handle some of the more micro challenges of daily life with toddlers. To that end, I have created a list and summaries of suggested episodes I would like to see produced in the near-future:

Episode 501: Daniel Leaves His Shoes on in the Car

Daniel is riding in the car to the grocery store! He is going to leave his shoes on for the entire ride to the store and the entire ride home because he understands that even though it’s only June, it’s already 98 degrees outside, and the last thing Mommy Tiger needs is to be crawling around the back seat of her black station wagon trying to find his forty-dollar Sperrys. Daniel is also going to stop unbuckling his chest clip repeatedly and dumping the entire bag of Goldfish crackers he insisted on holding into his lap.

Strategy Song: No matter how itchy the infinitesimally microscopic piece of sand on your toe is, you still have to leave your shoes on.

Episode 502: Daniel Diversifies His Musical Tastes Beyond Uptown Funk and The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Everyone loves Bruno Mars! Golden Oldies are great for dancing! But seriously Daniel, there is an entire universe of musical genres yet to be explored, and if Daddy Tiger tries to hit the high note in “Whimoweh” one more time, Mommy Tiger is going to file for divorce.

Strategy Song: What About Beyoncé? Everyone Loves Beyoncé. Even Taylor Swift is fine, whatever, anything but the Bieber.

Episode 503: Daniel Displays a Little Bit of Flexibility When We’re Out of Cream Cheese

The Tiger family is enjoying Saturday breakfast together! Daniel is having his customary morning meal of half of a whole wheat bagel, cut into quarters and prepared to “medium” heat, meaning Mommy Tiger toasts it to a golden brown and then puts it in the freezer for 45 seconds, no more, no less, to achieve ideal temperature. Oh no, looks like someone forgot to put cream cheese on the grocery list! No worries, Daniel is not going to start shrieking like he’s fallen into a quicksand pit made of yellow jackets, instead he listens calmly as his parents explain that they will go to the store later, and for now he can have peanut butter on his bagel instead. Or he can have a waffle. Or cereal. Or pickles and olives. The world is your fucking oyster, Daniel, just please stop screaming before the neighbors call the police.

Strategy Song: Life is full if disappointment, but that’s not an excuse to act like a turd.

Episode 504: Daniel Wears His Pull-Up Diaper All Night Long

My how Daniel has grown! He is so independent, and he loves to help Mommy Tiger out with Baby Margaret. Daniel has been fully potty trained for awhile, but he still has to wear his pull-up at night, because accidents can happen when you are sleeping. Accidents that result in lots of extra laundry for Mommy Tiger, who already spends about 95% of her waking hours doing laundry. Mommy Tiger didn’t graduate from law school just so she could dedicate her life to folding underwear! Daniel helps minimize the amount of laundry Mommy Tiger has to do by keeping his pull-up on all night long, even if he wakes up at 3:30am and decides that it’s scratchy.

Strategy Song: Keep your pee in your pull-up and not soaking through your $80 organic sheet set from Pottery Barn.

Episode 505: Daniel and Baby Margaret Choose Not to Coordinate Their Epic Evening Meltdowns

It’s been a long week for Mommy Tiger! While Daddy Tiger is away on business, sleeping in dark hotel rooms and conversing in full sentences with other adults, Mommy Tiger has been trying to sleep-train Baby Margaret while also dealing with Daniel’s latest nap regression. Uh-oh, Daniel has something in his eye…or is that pink eye? Time for a trip to urgent care during rush hour! In order to prevent Mommy Tiger from becoming a full-blown alcoholic, Daniel and Baby Margaret decide that rather than express their feelings about this stressful event through tandem sobbing, they are both going to go to bed without protest and sleep 11 hours through the night.

Strategy Song: When the baby is crying, instead of crying too, why don’t you do something useful like open Mommy a bottle of wine.

How about you? What episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood would you like to have custom-tailored to your particular parenting dilemmas? I hear PBS is struggling with the recent decreases in federal funding, so perhaps they could turn made-to-order TV shows into a new revenue stream. You’re welcome, Big Bird!

Written by: Kathleen

41 ½ Weeks

It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Second babies are never overdue, I thought, and I was pretty sure I read somewhere that most women have all of their kids around the same point of gestation. My son’s labor began at 38 weeks and 3 days, and so while my daughter’s due date was December 25, I informed anyone who asked that she would most likely be home in time for Christmas. But the holidays came and went, and as I stared down the final days of the year, my Google history filled with increasingly desperate searches:

how to induce labor

do late babies sleep better?

has anyone ever been pregnant forever???

The weekly emails and updates from my pregnancy apps stopped comparing my fetus to a fruit and started questioning my sanity. “Are you sure you’re really pregnant?” They asked gently. “Maybe you should see someone.” Strangers no longer smiled warmly when they saw me waddling down the sidewalk and instead crossed the street like I might have some infectious disease. My phone lit up with calls from the bravest among my family members, gleefully posing the dreaded question:

Have you had that baby yet?

Medical induction wasn’t an option for me, so I turned to the Old Wives for their recommendations. Black cohash sounded sinister, like something an ancient Greek philosopher would use to poison his rival. Evening primrose oil required more flexibility than I possessed at 10 months pregnant. Castor oil had the most promising data behind it, but I was not quite prepared to poop myself into labor. I drank red raspberry leaf tea and walked for an hour every morning, which did succeed in getting the baby into the entryway, but did nothing about opening the door.

“Anything you recommend?” I asked my doctor at my 57-week appointment, after she informed me that if it was possible to be negative-dilated, I was.

“There is one thing,” she said.

I reconsidered the castor oil.

New Year’s Eve came and went. One evening, while hauling my substantial bulk off of the yoga ball and lowering myself into a forward-leaning inversion, I turned to my husband and said, “I think we’re going to have to try.” He looked like a third-string quarterback that had just been called in for the final play against Alabama. A squirrel that fell into the lion cage. The young squire thrown into battle. For God and country, we were going to get this baby out.

“I think I have a headache,” he said.

The Saturday night before the Monday of my scheduled repeat C-section, I gave up. My husband and I stayed up late talking, mourning the lost chance of a spontaneous labor and a VBAC, pointing out all of the benefits of a scheduled birth. At least we would be well rested. We went to sleep at midnight, at peace with the way things were going to be.

Labor began at 3am.

My baby girl was born 26 hours later, at 41 weeks and 4 days—just a few days shy of forever.

41 weeks pregnant, feeling as sexy as a beluga whale.

41 weeks pregnant, feeling as sexy as a beluga whale.

Tiny Travel Companions

First I’d like to thank Alice and Kathleen for letting me crash their blog for a post. I've known them both since I became a mom 8 (gasp! This is going by fast!) years ago. They were busy working with my husband and keeping him sane while I was busy at home figuring out how a human so small could change your life so much. Alice was one of Aila’s first babysitters when she was 3 months old and her choice of activity to keep the infant entertained was to take her to a puppet show. You gotta start them early. Or I think Alice just really wanted to see Winnie the Pooh. 

I’ve been brought in to discuss my “jet-setting lifestyle,” which sounds much more glamorous than it really is and is even less glamorous with children. But I guess when I think about it, we really do travel all the time and everywhere with our kids (now 8 and 6) and never think twice about it. In addition to vacations, we now live in Toronto, and our family is spread out all over the US. Two hours on a plane, nine hours in a car, who cares? Let’s go! People tell me we are crazy or are amazed that we do it, but I just figured it was normal because that’s what we’ve always done. I think that is my first tip in kid travel: do it early and often and you will grow numb to how bonkers it can be. 

A wise friend once told me that babies are like living luggage and you can take then anywhere. I believed him and did just that. The biggest issue with infant travel is only the amount of crap that you need to bring with you. The smaller the person, the more shit they require to survive away from home base. But other than the 4 extra bags you’ll have to pack (and carry somehow—but that’s what husbands are for), babies mostly sleep and eat while you enjoy a nice glass of wine on vacation.  My daughter had taken 14 round-trip flights all over the US and gone to Europe before she turned 2...all while still flying free as an “infant in arms” (thankfully, since diapers are stupid expensive). 

But eventually they grow up and become mini-people with opinions and ideas and legs that run and mouths that need way more than breastmilk and Cheerios. And while their travel bags get lighter, the drama can weigh you down 10 times more if you allow it. Just remember two things: 1) You're the boss, and 2) “We’re gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles!” (Use the film “Vacation” to measure your family traveling success and you will always come out on top). 

So here are some Dos and Don’ts I’ve learned from traveling with bigger kids: 

DO feed them until they’re happy. Lovingly prepared, organic, well-balanced meals on a firm schedule are crap when on the road.  Every time they say “Mom, I’m hungry!” it’s way easier to hand over a bag of Goldfish than to explain it isn’t snack time for another hour...and then listen to them whine for that hour. They can go right back to sprouted bread and kale when you arrive at your destination. But make sure not to jack them up on sugary crap either. Remember, you are about to spend a significant amount of time in a confined space with these small people. And always pack three times as much food as you think they could possibly eat. I swear, moving vehicles make their stomachs expand exponentially. 

DON’T stress too much about your fellow passengers on a plane. While I believe it’s important to explain to a child that kicking the seat in front of them is an asshole thing to do, you are also never going to see these people again. Their ice cold glares have got nothing on your mama bear growl, and if they can’t see how cute your little monsters really are then screw 'em. 

DO be “that parent” who hands over the electronics as soon as you are settled and orders a glass of wine. You have years to be the mom who plays games at home and sings cute songs to keep your precious angels occupied and their minds educationally stimulated. When traveling, iPads, DVD players, phones, etc. are worth their silent weight in gold. Period. 

DON’T expect to arrive when the GPS says you will. There will be potty breaks and food stops whether your “we are gonna drive straight through” husband likes it or not. 

DO make everyone use the bathroom on these stops, including your aforementioned husband. 

DON’T throw away those empty water bottles because inevitably one child will still have to go to the bathroom again 10 minutes after you just stopped. 

DON’T accidentally drink from that water bottle. 

DO stretch before the trip. This will aid in nimbly climbing into the back of the car at 75mph to retrieve whatever can’t wait until the next stop. 

DON’T let them see you sweat. If Mom loses it then they all will.  

DO have a sense of humour. While you know “you'll look back at this someday and laugh,” why not just laugh now. I find it truly the only way to survive. And when things seem like they can’t get any worse—one kid is puking while the other peed his pants again and there is a 3 hour delay or a 10 mile backup—just remember, your neighbors are sitting home this weekend doing nothing while you are out exploring the world and making memories. Crazy memories, but memories none the less.

The Lazy Mom's Guide to VBAC

As Parent Proof’s tens of loyal readers may recall from my riveting birth story, my first child was born via emergency C-section due to extreme decelerations of his heart rate during a slow-to-progress labor. After I was stitched up and stapled shut and drugged out and returned to my postpartum room to groggily process the both prolonged and sudden arrival of my son, I had two successive thoughts: 1) What the F just happened? And, 2) I’m pretty sure I never want to do that again.

So began my journey to the birth of my second child via VBAC, which stands for “vaginal birth after Cesarian.” VBAC is one of the many topics that has swung on the pendulum of pregnancy advice from one extreme to the other and back again over the past three decades, and thus the mere mention of a VBAC gives total strangers the right to maintain very strong opinions about your uterus.

The primary controversy surrounding a VBAC is that it carries a small risk (about 1% according to the NIH) (and here is the actual NIH publication in case you are super thorough like that) that the uterus will tear along the previous C-section scar during labor or delivery, putting the mother at risk for serious blood loss and the baby at risk for heading out the wrong exit and suffering from oxygen deprivation and even death (risk of death is <0.5%). It all sounds pretty cataclysmic, thus raising the question as to why any woman would bother just for the sake of a vaginal birth that will probably result in a lifetime of peeing herself a little bit every time she sneezes. It turns out that a pregnant woman has at least a 1% chance of encountering any serious complication associated with childbirth. Having a baby is a dangerous business, but a catastrophic uterine tear that results in harm to the baby is one of the least likely selections in the grab-bag of scary shit that can go wrong. Major complications during a planned repeat C-section are also rare, and in my opinion, a woman should have a VBAC if she wants one, and she should have a repeat C-section if she wants one, and the Shrill Harpies of the Internet should keep the focus on their own vaginas and worry less about everyone else’s.

The NIH data on VBACs cited above is relatively new, and the medical profession is second only to the Republican party in the speed with which it adapts to updated scientific information, thus for those of us who want a VBAC, it can still be a bit of an uphill battle. I did my research and studied all of the advice Google had to offer, yet in the end I basically did everything wrong and managed to have a successful VBAC anyway. Just in case someone else out there is interested in having a VBAC but is also too lazy to be truly proactive about it, I thought I would share all of the ways you can screw things up and still end up pushing a baby out of your vagina like you’ve always dreamed.

 Tips for Having a VBAC that I Totally Ignored And Still Had a VBAC

  • Find a Supportive Healthcare Provider: I was at my 6-week postpartum appointment after my C-section when I first mentioned to my OB that I might want to try for a VBAC if I ever got pregnant again. Her initial response was: “There’s no easy way to get a baby out. You either ruin your vagina or you ruin your belly, and you’ve already ruined your belly.” I’m surprised they don’t have that embroidered on a pillow in the waiting room. Given the internet’s absolute insistence that I find a pro-VBAC provider regardless of whether that person is a physician or a large animal vet, I should probably have spent the early weeks of my second pregnancy interviewing new doctors. However, I felt like my obsession with having a VBAC needed some counter-balance from someone whose primary interest was not so much in fulfilling my notions of maternal empowerment but rather in getting me and my child through humankind’s most arduous natural transition as safely as possible, so I stuck with my OB despite her penchant for describing childbirth like a scene from a George RR Martin series.
  • Choose a VBAC-Friendly Hospital or Birth Center: The hospital where I delivered both babies (and where my brothers and I were born) has about a 33% C-section rate, so it probably wouldn’t fit ICAN’s criteria for “VBAC-friendly.” However, given my love for in-room food delivery and hydrocodone, there was no way I was having this baby at home, and the most popular midwife group in my area only has privileges at a local medical center known primarily for its willingness to overlook mandatory reporting for gun-shot wounds, so once again I decided to go with the devil I knew.
  • Hire a Doula: Extreme pain makes me act like a rabid wolverine caught in a bear trap—there is no amount of money I could pay a stranger to put up with that.

  • Have an Unmedicated Birth: I’m pretty sure I would be divorced and in prison if I had attempted an unmedicated birth. My doctor told me that she strongly preferred that I get the epidural in case I did have a uterine tear and needed to get to surgery immediately, and I was all, "don’t throw me in that briar patch, how soon can I get the needle?" My labors are long and my uterus has a flare for the dramatic—it likes to act like it’s going to expel the baby on the bathroom floor from the first contraction, while my cervix forgets to set its alarm and oversleeps the whole affair by 10 to 12 hours. By the time I get to 4 centimeters, I’m ready for a cocktail, as is everyone else on the L&D floor.

  • Deliver by Your Due Date: This seemed like a no-brainer. My son was born 9 days early, surely all future babies would follow suit. But my daughter, due on December 25th, did not want to compete with Santa and Jesus for her entire childhood, nor did she feel that she should be in any big hurry just for a single extra tax deduction given the years of being a financial suck she has ahead of her, and so she took her time, arriving on January 4th, a mere 10 days past the VBAC deadline. But it turns out my super medical-model doctor wasn’t a complete head-case about a late-term baby, or maybe she was just moved by my strength and resolve and also by the fact that she was on vacation from Christmas to New Year’s. Whatever the reason, baby girl made her way into the world in her own time, in just the way she was always meant to.

In truth, while neither my OB practice nor hospital are public cheerleaders for VBACs, both ended up being supportive of my birth plan, which made a huge difference once labor had actually started, particularly at the point when I was attempting to book an OR by myself because I was tired of this “contraction” crap.

The only thing I did on my own that I believe made a difference this time around was read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I read it twice, once in the first trimester and once in the third, and I even took a few notes. Despite having zero interest in having an orgasmic natural birth on a farm, the book still helped me prepare for the pain of labor and develop a few techniques that allowed me to physically and emotionally relax more than I was able to during my first birth experience. Overall I felt more prepared and less anxious, and I believe that made a huge difference in my body’s ability to do what it needed to do.

In the end, having enjoyed both types of delivery, I can honestly say that my doctor was right: there’s no easy way to have a baby. The C-section was harder in some ways, the VBAC was harder in others, and each gave me a beautiful, healthy child to embarrass with his and her own unique birth story for many years to come. Now excuse me while I go grab a Poise pad before I sneeze.

Written by: Kathleen

Popping the Baby Cork

Sometime around 30 weeks pregnant, you begin to look past your varicose veins and foot bloat and realize that sooner or later, somehow and in some way, that angry badger you’re housing in your abdomen is going to have to come out of your body. After you’ve done enough Googling to form a basic understanding of the mechanics of labor and delivery, you will still be left with the most pressing pregnancy question of all—is this random twinge or cramp or feeling labor, or is it gas?

Labor, like everything else that has to do with pregnancy, child-rearing, or being a human, is unique to the person experiencing it. Some women progress through the Signs of Labor check-list with OCD-like precision, while others feel no symptoms until they are doubled-over in the Costco parking lot with a head poking out between their legs. Plus, as I learned the hard way, labor can start and then stop, over and over, for a period of days or even weeks, like you’re under the spell of some comic book villain who plans to take over the world by driving women insane.

Many people will tell you that once you are truly in labor, “you’ll just know.” Those people are assholes. You may not just know, or you may know and be wrong, at least by the strictest definition of active labor. I had a very textbook start to my first labor, which began mid-38 weeks. My son dropped early, and his head was engaged by my 35-week appointment. I had Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout the third trimester, and they dutifully increased in strength, length, and frequency as the final weeks wore on. Back pain and cramps followed suit, and within 12 hours of my (first) trip to the hospital, I peered into the toilet and heard a voice in the back of my head announce in Michael Cain’s accent, “it’s the bloody show!” Then, of course, I proceeded to have the world’s longest labor, with contractions starting and stopping, growing longer and then shorter, for the next 60 hours, until my doctor mercifully faked a cervical check, announced I was sufficiently dilated, and ordered a nurse with a wheelchair to whisk me across the parking deck to the epidural palace.

Despite the individual variations, however, there are still a few signs you can obsess over in your final weeks that may or may not indicate that labor will begin sometime between this afternoon and three weeks from Thursday. As always, if you think you may be in labor, consult your doctor or midwife, and don’t be afraid to be wrong.

Possible Signs of Labor OR Food Poisoning

  • Stable Weight or Weight Loss: If you are not me and have thus decided against the post-37-weeks All Cookie Diet, you may find that your weight gain slows, stops, or back-tracks in the final lap. Good for you—why don’t you go try to squeeze into your wedding gown in celebration while I make myself another sandwich.
  • Restlessness/Energy Burst/Nesting: Another symptom that my inherent laziness has successfully combated for both pregnancies. I do recall a sort of a brain buzz or rush of adrenaline that accompanied the start of early labor with my first, and subconsciously I knew that I had reached the point where mama cats start shredding paper towels in the kitchen and surreptitiously dragging them into the closet to create a birthing bed in the laundry hamper. Building a nest, or watching a lot of HGTV, is our primitive brain’s sign that the show is about to begin.
  • Increased Bathroom Visits: According to Science, all of the muscles in your body will begin to relax in preparation for the stretching and loosening and accommodating of human skulls that certain parts will soon have to do to deliver your baby. Relaxin is an equal-opportunity hormone, thus your stomach, intestines, and colon will join the party. I would compare this particular style of bodily house-cleaning to what happens when you eat too much Tex-Mex—not terribly aggressive in the way of tainted sushi, but thorough nonetheless.
  • Losing the Mucus Plug/Bloody Show: Because hemorrhoids and nipple leakage aren’t gross enough, mother nature has prepared this special pregnancy capstone event to usher you into the house of horrors that is labor, delivery, and the post-partum era. In truth, the name is worse than the experience. Your mucus plug may come out over a period of days and thus be easy to confuse with all the other weird ick that’s been emerging from your body since last Easter, or it may come out all at once, appearing like a giant loogey in your toilet. It may be white, pink, or brown, but if it’s bright red or accompanies as much bleeding as your period, call your OB to check in. Bleeding throughout all of the stages of labor is pretty common and usually normal, but it’s one of those “better to be safe” symptoms.
  • Water Breaking: According to Dr. Internet, only about 15% of women experience their water breaking before labor is well underway, but among my circle of friends, about 95% of them experience this one-way ticket to the L&D fast-lane. Your water may break in a huge splash like in the movies, or it may come in a slow, uncontrollable trickle, the way your pee will be doing for months after birth. Supposedly you can distinguish amniotic fluid from urine by the smell, but I’m not sure who really gets that up close and personal with her underwear this late in the pregnancy game. I was most surprised to learn that your water doesn’t just break once like a water balloon, it may continue gushing during each contraction for hours. If you are having a hospital birth, your water breaking starts the clock on your labor, so clean yourself up, slap on an adult diaper, and get yourself to your OB’s office or L&D within an hour or two.
  • Contractions: Duh, right? Contractions are the most obvious sign that labor is imminent, but the problem is, no one can tell you what real contractions feel like. Last time around my doctor gave me the whole “5-1-1” rule, meaning I should call when my contractions were five minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for at least one hour. I am such an overachiever I waited until 5-1-2 before triumphantly showing up to the hospital, secretly gloating about my above-average pain tolerance, only to be told I was 1cm dilated and should go back home and wait another week like the rest of the sissies. This time around I will be following the “F-5-5-5” rule, meaning I will go to the hospital when I have said the work “fuck” at least five times in five minutes to five different people. They say that productive contractions grow stronger, more frequent, and more intense over time—but if you’ve been stuck in the purgatory of early labor for days and you just want an IV of narcotics and an Ambien to take the edge off, I recommend bursting into tears at the hospital admissions desk and hoping a nurse takes pity on you.

At the dawn of my third day of strong but irregular contractions with my first child, as I sat in a sleep-deprived haze in the recliner in our living room trying to remember to breathe, I realized that I was never, ever going to have this baby. It simply was not going to happen for me, and I was absolutely certain I would be stuck in that chair, unable to move or speak or sleep or wake up, for all eternity. In that moment, no one could have convinced me that a baby would soon emerge from my body—I had lost all capacity for rational thought. And that was the surest sign of all that active labor had finally begun. As a first-time mom, you won’t know until you know, whether that knowledge sets in before, during, or after labor is underway. So go ahead and do whatever your doctor tells you to do, because maybe you do have an above-average tolerance for pain, and no one wants to give birth in the back seat of her brand new Subaru Outback because she listened to my advice and waited too long to get moving.

Written by: Kathleen

The Art of War: Tips on Toddler Discipline

Hahahahahahaha! The secret to disciplining a toddler is kept in the same place as the cure for the common cold and that sock you're missing. I hope you didn’t open today’s blog post hoping to find the oracle of knowledge on how to create the perfect toddler. If this post does anything for you, it will let you know that you are not alone in this crazy, toddler-run world. Trying to build a foundation of respect and obedience with a child between the ages of 2 and 22 is like trying to understand why people support Donald Trump running for president—it will drive you to drink and possibly move to Canada.

The toddler years are made especially hard by the crucial milestones that must be achieved, putting pressure on all parties involved. Potty training is one of the messiest and most arduous of these. How do you explain to a 2 year old that it makes more sense to go to the bathroom than it does to continue playing, uninterrupted, until someone else literally cleans up your sh*t? Not a convincing agenda. In short, this is the only advice I can attempt to dole out while I am in the midst of trying to stay afloat myself:

  • Pick Your Battles: This is easier said than done, but I have found that repeatedly screaming "no" or "stop it" just lands you talking to yourself all day and desensitizes your kid to those words. For example, I allow my toddler to eat a stolen apple in the grocery store in exchange for her sitting quietly in the buggy while we shop. In my defense, Whole Foods does allow your kid an apple while you shop . . . or at least mine has let us get away with it thus far. My guess about the long term effects of this behavior is that she will always get hungry upon entering the grocery store, so worst case is that I'm simply creating a very polite over-shopper.
  • Be Consistent: I feel like I am living in the movie “Ground Hog Day,” except my mistakes are not erased at the end of each day but the lessons I have tried to bestow on my offspring are completely forgotten. Your kid has an uncanny ability to completely delete any of the guiding principles that you so carefully laid out for them the day before. Explaining why we don’t throw food at the table or put peanut butter in the dog’s hair feels like a total waste of energy.  After the 500th time asking my daughter not to put toys in the toilet, I had to ask myself, "are we teaching them or are they teaching us"? Did she really learn not to put peanut butter in the dog’s hair or did I simply learn to put the peanut butter on a higher shelf? Probably a bit of both. After 10,000 hours of this, one of us will be an expert at something.
  • Don't Show Your Weakness: The moment your toddler sees you looking overwhelmed, they will rip your heart out with a spoon. Do your best to keep it together and save your break downs for your showers. The only thing worse than an irrational toddler meltdown is an adult joining them. Stock your wine cabinet and power through as best you can for the next 36-48 months. This too shall pass.
  • Don't Get Divorced: Just as hard as it is trying to figure out whether the kid's behavior calls for a time out, a suspension of all activities, or a deep sigh with a look of disappointment, is making sure that you and the person currently assigned to co-parent (husband, wife, aunt, uncle, Whole Foods check-out lady, etc) are on the same page about which disciplinary action should be taken at any given time. This dance can get downright dirty and turn into a scene out of The Clockwork Orange. Before you decide that you would rather be a single parent, remember that your teammate is just trying to figure out how to survive as well.

In closing, I leave you with this quote: “Remember, the race is long and your toddler has more energy and a greater ability to act irrationally in almost every situation that will challenge and degrade your sanity at every turn.” In other words, we’re screwed.

Written by: Alice


Busting out of Hollywood!

For those of you who have never given birth and are basing the whole experience on how Hollywood portrays childbirth, I thought I’d review a few scenes from famous movies and give you a run down from least to most realistic: 

#1 JUNIOR (1994)This one needs no explanation. I couldn’t find a clip of the actual birth, but who needs it? The movie studio heads that approved the making of this film also made "Problem Child"-- enough said. California, this was your Governor :)

#2 LOOK WHO'S TALKING (1989): Bruce Willis does a stellar job narrating the terror of a newborns experience, but Kirstie Alley’s birth canal is shown has the fastest slip and slide in the world AND she gives birth to a 3-month old baby. Pretty special. 

#3 MEN IN BLACK (1997): I can imagine this is EXACTLY what vehicular labor is like, but they make it look like Will Smith’s character is the one having the hard time. They don’t even focus on the poor woman/creature popping out the squid!

#4 KNOCKED UP (2007)While Katherine Hegiel’s intensity is pretty spot on, she loses points for the fact that she can still talk and her knees are no where near her ears. I do give mad props for the quick peek at the baby crowning.  Too many movies deny where babies actually come out of during these scenes

#5: ALIEN (1979): This one not only displays how out of control you feel, but the sheer panic that everyone around you is in. They even know there’s a human coming out of you and that this is the most natural thing on earth, but they still stare at you as if E.T. could burst out of you at any moment. 

Written by: Alice

Big Mother is Watching You

As my child crests the two year mark, much of the gear I considered essential to his early days of life is collecting dust in the basement. The Rock n Play, once one of the first non-human things I would rescue in a fire (after the wedding album, but before the cat), is now wrapped in a garbage bag and wedged between a stack of broken suitcases and a combo TV/VCR. The car-seat canopy and Bjorn are packed away in a plastic bin, the Ergo has been lying on the floor of my station wagon for months, and even the BOB Revolution spends more time in the car port experimenting with new types of mold growth than treating a neighborhood arts festival like a monster truck rally. Yet one device has remained in consistent use since C was about 10 weeks old, shepherding us through growth spurts and illnesses and nap regressions like our own personal Eckhart Tolle of childhood sleep—our Motorola Digital Baby Monitor 3.5 Video MBP36.

Back in the days of yore when little Gen X’ers ran in packs through their cul-de-sacs, playing on trampolines, accepting candy from strangers, preparing their own genetically modified, high-fructose-corn-syrup-based dinners in the microwave and putting themselves to bed after Arsenio, parents didn’t have wireless video monitors with infrared screens and two-way microphones to assess whether their babies were asleep. At best they had primitive one-way walkie-talkies, which made up for what they lacked in features with impressive range, allowing parents to maintain a watchful ear over their offspring while getting uproariously drunk on their neighbor’s back deck. Nowadays, however, a parent without a video monitor might as well be family-bedding in a yurt in Montana five hundred miles from the nearest Trader Joe’s. At its heart, the video monitor is truly the foundation for modern parenting. After all, if you do not begin keeping tabs on how many times your infant rolls from back to front between midnight and 6AM now, how will you ever have the energy and lack of boundaries to secretly rewrite his college admissions essays for him when he’s eighteen?

Despite my own inclination to want to raise my children in an airbrushed version of the 1980s (yes to playing outdoors ‘til the sun goes down, no to neon Jams and trickle-down economics), I found that using a video monitor has helped me foster my son’s good sleeping habits and thus overall independence. My husband and I were never pushed to the necessary point of sleep-deprived delirium to implement a true Cry-It-Out method of sleep training, however we did start letting our son “fuss it out” beginning around 12 weeks of age, once we had established a consistent bedtime routine. Having the video monitor helped me determine whether he was truly red-faced crying like he’d been laid down to rest beside an active volcano or whether he was just rolling around squawking and griping like my great-uncle watching the 2008 Democratic presidential debates. The former required immediate intervention, a figurative hitting of the re-set button, whereas the latter meant that he was on track to be asleep within five minutes and it was time to unscrew the wine. As a frazzled first-time parent with the ability to spiral into a black hole of guilt for putting my beloved firstborn in his bouncer seat on the bathroom floor so I could pee lest he feel the slightest twinge of abandonment, the visual confirmation that fussing and whining was simply a part of his self-soothing mechanism provided tremendous comfort until the wine could take effect.

Additional features also contribute to the video monitor’s overall utility. Most of them now have night vision, so you can see whether your baby’s eyes are open or not, which is helpful when they begin to exhibit that adorable habit of “sleep-crying” at 90-minute intervals throughout the night at around 4 months of age (this is part of the dreadful 4-month sleep regression, and it too shall pass). The two-way microphone has been an invaluable contribution to scaring the crap out of my toddler every time he starts to climb out of his crib during naptime, even if it does guarantee that one day he’ll be telling his therapist about the omniscient, disembodied voice that ruled over his childhood and always seemed to have old episodes of Friday Night Lights playing in the background.

As all parents will learn, infant and toddler sleep is not a one-and-done kind of deal. Brag all you want about your six week-old sleeping 12 hours a night, but unless you have sold your soul to the Devil (and I wouldn’t blame you, and send me his email address if you have it), you are likely to encounter a few hiccups over the next few years, and by hiccups I mean that government mandated form of parental torture known as daylight savings time. Sleep habits evolve, regressions occur, new problems arise. Our parents’ generation may have gotten by just fine not knowing if that weird gurgling noise they heard coming from the baby’s room was the peaceful coo of their sleeping cherub or the onset of another round of rotavirus, but they were also allowed to drink martinis while breastfeeding and paid their teenage baby-sitters $1.50 an hour, so you know, we deserve our breaks where we can get them.

*As for specific video monitor brands, I don’t have any glowing recommendations. The 2013 version of the Motorola has crappy battery life and the power cord has become really loose at the point of connection with the receiver and thus falls out all the time and is impossible to reconnect in the dark, but it has survived over two years of being tossed about by a small child (and occasionally a grown adult who is exasperated by her infant son’s gift of six straight nights of “reverse cycling” to thank her for going back to work), so I should probably give it some credit. Let me know if you have an amazing video monitor you recommend, and then send it to me along with a second camera for the upcoming new addition and I promise to write a glowing review.

Written by: Kathleen

Without a video monitor, we never would have known that our child sleeps sitting up like an old man on the subway.

Without a video monitor, we never would have known that our child sleeps sitting up like an old man on the subway.