Please Don’t Should On Me

There have been many pros to being a parent later in life. We are more financially secure, for one. We are more established in 629px-Know-if-You-Should-Ditch-Your-Friend-Step-1our careers, which give us (well, me) greater flexibility in terms of work, hours, and being able to work from home and take time off as needed. We are also more patient (mostly…), more grounded, and more stable in our marriage than we were, say, 10 years ago.

We also have been able to watch and learn from our friends and family members who had children before us what we want to emulate and what we’d do differently. But therein lies the rub…

It’s difficult enough to be a parent—especially a new parent—particularly when it comes to advice. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should and should not do. And everyone seems to be extremely comfortably in sharing that.

And it is even worse when you are 10 years late to the party. Since so many have walked the path before you, there is almost a blanket belief that, naturally, you will do what they have done. Or, worse, you have parents or aunts and uncles who make blanket statements that, of course, you will do what this person or that person has done.

Which then leaves you in the uncomfortable position of saying, no…we choose a different path. And if they start to argue with you or question why, you suddenly are put in the position of disagreeing with one person’s choice (by default) in an effort to explain your own.

A couple of examples:

We chose to allow Kennedy to sleep with us. I cannot tell you how many times I was “shoulded” on about this topic. “Don’t pick her up…Let her cry it out…Never let her sleep in your bed…”

When I explain that we disagree with that, and while I can see the need for that if you have more than one child, with an only, we prefer this way. When pressed, I explain that I believe a child is comforted and ultimately more secure fundamentally when her basic needs are met (i.e. comfort and security). By default, I am then telling the other person that they don’t hold these same values then if they let their child cry or not sleep in their bed, etc.

Screwed either way.

Another…we believe in three meals and two snacks. We aren’t tyrants about it…it’s just our choice. Others choose the grazing method, as it works for them. I personally disagree, but I am allowed to. I am sure others disagree with the three meals approach. No harm, no foul either way.

But when pressed to explain why, I inherently have to give my reasons against grazing, which is then construed as putting it down. It can then appear as if I am being judgmental versus simply having a different opinion.

Again, screwed either way and such an uncomfortable position to be placed in.

Here’s the deal. All parents makes choices about child-rearing based on experience, personal needs/wants in their insular lives, and gut instinct.

I don’t care what the books say.

I don’t care what he or she or her cousin’s boyfriend’s mother did…If I want to know, trust me I’ll ask.

Unless I appear to be in crisis, you can assume I have it under control (or at least think I do!).

This (whatever THIS is) is working for us. We have actively chosen this course. We likely discussed it and feel this is best for us, our lives, our child, our family.

We kindly request that you keep your should to yourself.

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10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

I love this! Exercise should be about feeling beautiful first…the looking beautiful simply follows.

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Mid-way through a recent group exercise class, the teacher lost me.  She didn’t lose me because of some complicated step sequence or insanely long set of burpees; I mentally checked out because of a few words she kept saying over and over.  “Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

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I AM Kennedy’s Mother

Over the past 22 months, I’ve been the blessed mother to 22-month-old Kennedy. She was discharged from the hospital to me. I was the one who was up with November 2013 kissing Kennedyher for every midnight and 3 am feeding. I am the one who has taken her to every doctor appointment, introduced her to healthy food, taught her to walk and talk, reprimanded bad behavior and instilled in her a love of music and dancing.

So why do people still ask me if I’ve heard from “her mother”?

Seriously?

Now clearly I know what they mean. They want to know if Kennedy’s birth mother has reached out lately. I get that and it’s a legit question and one I am totally open to talking about.

We had an open adoption and we maintain a limited contact with Kelly, based on her comfort level, which is basically just on Kennedy’s birthday and around the holidays. This is important to us because Kelly has an 8-year-old daughter that I believe Kennedy will want to know about when she gets older.

But Kelly is NOT her mother. Just like her boyfriend is NOT her father. I am her mother. Trip is her father. It’s that simple.

To indicate otherwise is completely disrespectful. And I realize that the faux pas is not intentional, but it hurts and is offensive just the same.

If you are searching for words to describe Kelly (or any other birth mother), try “birth mother” or “biological mother”. Ditto for father.

If you are looking for words to describe me, Mom, Mommy, Mama, or Mother are the only appropriate ones…and they reserved especially for me. I’ve earned them.

Run for Your Life!!!

One of the most difficult things for me to fit into my ever-changing new world as downloada mother has been exercise. While this can be challenging enough for most women, for me I have the added complication of my husband’s pain-in-the-ass work schedule, which takes away evenings five days a week and mornings on Sundays and Mondays.

While I could workout in the morning most days of the week, I’d have to wait until our nanny arrives at 8am, and that then is contingent on if Kennedy has slept well the night before, because as other mothers know all too well, if baby doesn’t sleep, mama doesn’t sleep.

On the plus side, I do have several factors working in my favor. First, as a freelancer, I have a somewhat flexible schedule. But, that doesn’t mean I can go back to sleep once the nanny takes over AND exercise after that. That means I can do one or the other.

Second, my preferred form of exercise is to run…or walk. That means I can just throw on my shoes and head out the door. It also means I can take Kennedy with me in my new, fancy jog stroller.

On the minus side, I am not a big fan of exercise. I have to be in the mood, be with other people, or be training for something.

In the past, to address these issues, I’ve joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training program. They are located all over the country and in exchange for raising money for cancer research, they train you for an endurance event, enter you the race, and if need be, pay your way to and from and lodging at the event. Not bad!

I’ve done two triathlons and two half marathons with Team in Training in the past and immediately thought of them. In fact, when Kennedy was 7-months-old, I did the Nike Half-Marathon with Team in Training (as well as two of my cousins). However, they have a strict rule about no stroller on group training runs. But, thanks to the support of my husband who took over every Saturday so I could train, I was able to complete the run, but it was a definite trade off with sleep and work.

So this time when I was looking to restart my exercise routine, I went back to Team in Training. And the biggest reason was their new Moms in Training program.

How perfect is this! It was started by two moms in NYC. They wanted to raise money for cancer, get back into shape after having a baby, but they wanted to be able to make their child a part of the training. So they started Moms in Training.

You train for a 10K (6.2 miles) and you CAN bring the stroller!

It was such a joy for me to have the option to leave Kennedy at home some Saturdays or to bring her with me. Most of all, I loved the message I was sending her…that exercise is fun!

So we just packed her water bottle, a few snacks, and hit the trail on Saturdays with other like-minded moms, most of whom also brought their children.

But the best part as a runner was that running 5 miles with a jog stroller feels more like 8 miles. The result? One of the best times of my running career! I finished the 10K (sans stroller) in 1:03…and with just six hours of sleep the night before! I was thrilled.

So if you are looking for a great way to get back into shape, to teach your child about the positive aspects of exercise, to meet amazing women, and to set a good example for your child, I highly recommend Moms in Training. If there is not a group in your area, contact your local LLS and ask them to help you get one started!

Just Say No to Soy

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No Soy!

As I work to up Kennedy’s protein intake—particularly in light of her “no meat” and “no milk” tastes—I have had many people suggest that I give her soy milk or soy yogurt or those fake meat products that are made from soy.

I fear my adamant “NO F-ING WAY” response sets them back a bit. So let me explain why I am so against soy…not just for Kennedy but for myself as well.

First (and most important), there is the estrogen issue. See, one of the health “benefits” that people point to with soy (apart from the plant-based protein source) is its rich store of phytoestrogens—plant-based compounds that have estrogen-like qualities. These phytoestrogens (thanks to soy isoflavones) are the reason soy is such a great option for menopausal women. In fact, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that 90 mg of soy isoflavones worked as well as conventional hormone therapy at relieving menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, muscle pain, and vaginal dryness (Carmignani, LO et al. Maturitas. 2010 Sept 10).

But like everything in nature (and medicine) there can also be a dark side. While this much estrogen may be good for women suffering from an estrogen deficiency, for younger women, excess estrogen can be downright dangerous. And for a growing body like Kennedy’s? Forget about it!

Case in point. In February 1999, two FDA researchers looked into soy and wrote a detailed letter asking the FDA to NOT approve soy. In the letter, they took issue with soy’s estrogenic effects. Specifically, they pointed to the fact that soy isoflavones “demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the found 31 dose-response curves for hormone-mimicking chemicals that also fail to show a threshold.” They go on to say, “Our conclusions are that no dose is without risk; the extent of the risk is simply a function of dose.”

In layman’s terms, this means that soy could be read by estrogen-sensitive tissues like the breast, ovaries, cervix, uterus etc. as toxic. And one of their top concerns in this area? The consumption of soy by infants. And here are some of the reasons why:

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, performed a random, double-blind study to see how much phytoestrogen 21 four-month-old infants received from soy-based formula. They divided the infants into three groups. One received soy-based formula, one received cow milk formula, and the third had human breast milk. For the soy formulas, researchers tested five different brands, all of which showed similar soy isoflavones content and proportion of soy isolate.

They found that those infants receiving the soy formula had 214 times more genistein (a key isoflavone found in soy) and 140 times more daidzen (another key isoflavone in soy) in their bloodstream.

Researchers concluded that the “daily exposure of infants to isoflavones in soy infant formulas is six to 11 fold greater on a bodyweight basis than the dose that has hormonal effects in adults consuming soy foods.” Worse yet, they go on to say that “circulating concentrations of isoflavones in the seven infants fed soy-based formula were 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than plasma oestradiol concentrations in early life, and my be sufficient to exert biological effects.” (Setchell, KD et al. Lancet. 1997 Jul 5;350(9070):23-7.)

That’s a lot of unnatural estrogen floating around in those little bodies. And we wonder why girls are developing so much earlier than they did 20 years ago and why boys seem to be behind the curve. Could it be all that excess estrogen?

And lest you think I’m overly cautious, consider this: According to a recent guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the use of soy formula should be limited to infants with galactosemia or congenital lactase deficiency (http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0401/p565.html). Which is to say, only in dire circumstances where breast-feeding is not an option and the baby cannot handle cow-based formula, ONLY then should soy be used.

The second reason? Other than corn, soy is the most genetically modified crop in the United States. This means that soy is genetically infused with chemicals whose long-term ramifications are still unknown. And with soy being used in virtually EVERYTHING we eat (from processed foods to the grains used to feed chickens, beef, and even fish!), we simply don’t need to add to our soy consumption.

And while you can avoid much of the GMO issue by buying organic soy, you are still left with the estrogen issue, which for me is the bigger issue.

So there it is. NO…SOY….period.

Vegetarian Toddler

I cannot believe it has been so long since I’ve posted! Now that Kennedy is a bit older, we seem to finally have a routine I can count on most days of the week.

The biggest issue we are facing now is that Kennedy has self-selected off of meat. No chicken, no turkey, no lamb, and no beef. There was a time when she’d eat ham and the occasional meatball, but now both of those are hit or miss.

Oddly she will eat fish…and craves and request sushi. And she loves eggs.

I don’t mind that she doesn’t like meat. In fact, my personal preference is also fish/seafood and eggs with little to no meat. That’s not my dilemma.

My dilemma is the protein issue. See, Kennedy also doesn’t drink milk or eat dairy, as it was giving her a diaper rash. So, what to do?

First, I looked up the actual protein requirements for a toddler (she is 20-months-old).  According to a variety of websites I consulted, she needs about 12-16 grams of protein a day.

Next, I looked at the protein she was already getting to see if I needed to make any adjustments. Here’s what I found:

  • Almond milk—most average about 1 gram per 8 ounces. One brand called So Delicious makes a 5X version with 5 grams of protein (they add pea protein and rice protein). But I make sure to get the unsweetened version, otherwise it contains a whopping 8 grams of sugar. Yes, more sugar than protein. Sigh…
  • Eggs—6 grams
  • Quinoa—1 cup=5 grams
  • Baby oatmeal—4 tablespoons=2 grams
  • Broccoli and Kale cheese puffs—14 pieces=1 gram
  • Broccoli—1 cup=4 grams
  • Avocado—4 grams
  • Cauliflower—1 cup=2 grams
  • Butternut squash—1 cup=2 grams
  • Coconut yogurt—0 grams

So, if I figure she gets 12-16 ounces of almond milk a day, 1 egg, 1 serving of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of cauliflower, 1/2 an avocado and 1/2 cup cauliflower or squash (not to mention pasta, fruit, or rice), then we are likely looking at 16-21 grams a day. Not bad! But that’s also a bit optimistic.

Sometimes she gets just one nap, which means just one 4-ounce bottle. Or more like a total of 2/3 of veggies daily.

So, just to be sure, I waded in with organic dairy yogurt, which has 4 grams of protein in just 4 ounces. The probiotics in yogurt often counteract lactose issues in many people. Sure enough, it did with Kennedy.

So we are at an all-but-given 7.5-10 grams with almond milk, 4 grams with yogurt, 6 grams thanks to an egg a day and easily 1/2 an avocado at 2 grams, we are more than there!!!

So you can have a predominantly vegetarian diet with limited meat and dairy and, yes, get enough protein—even at 20 months!

Quit Bad-Mouthing Your Child’s Parent Online

Several months ago, I defriended a former family member from Facebook. She is the mother to one of my cousins and was making wildly no-talking1inappropriate and really horrible statements about my uncle. When I read them, my heart sank. While she didn’t give my uncle’s name, the comments made it clear that he was the one she was talking about.

While I was hurt that she was saying these things about my uncle whom I love, I was more concerned about the impact on my niece, who has access to her mother’s page (obviously). Clearly she would be able to read the comment and would know who they were about.

No child should every have to hear or read something negative about one of their parents.

Ever. EVER.

Coming from a split family, this is particularly near to my heart. Here’s a few things people don’t realize happens to the CHILD when one parent bashes another…or they bash each other.

  1. That parent is a PART of that child. When you put down your child’s mother or father, you are (to them), putting down a part of who they are. Is the parent selfish and an asshole? The child my think they must be too. Is the parent evil, stupid, etc? The child may think they are too.
  2. Age is irrelevant. Whether your child is a toddler, teenager, or in their 20s, it’s irrelevant. A toddler picks up on the aggression, etc. A teenager can read the posts, hear the conversations, or worse if you say the things in front of them. And 20s and beyond? Ditto, but they are NOT old enough to know…that is still mommy or daddy in their hearts.
  3. Parental alienation. Never heard of it? You better look it up. It’s a new legal term that can be used to claim child abuse. It’s when one parent creates a hostile environment for the child in regards to the other parent. And, yes, what you post online can be used to prove this.

Here’s the thing. The main reason someone bashes the other parent is for sympathy…he or she is hurt and wants everyone to know why and support them. That’s natural. But it is also not appropriate. Someone needs to be the adult…don’t make it be the child.

Talk to a friend, a family member, or better yet, a therapist. I can tell you first hand, anger and resentment hurt YOU (and your child) way more than they hurt the other person. Rather than spending your time cutting them down, why not focus instead on building yourself and your child up?

Because here’s the other thing. Regardless of what you think of your ex as a person, they ARE your child’s parent. And your child needs both parents in their life. If you can, try to focus on just one thing you liked (or even loved) about that person at one point and just think about that over and over until the anger passes.  You don’t have to forgive or forget, but you do have to let go…for your sake as much as your child’s.

So, unless they are abusing the child, suck it up, grow up, and take the higher road. Be an ACTUAL parent by being the adult and letting your child have the freedom to love both parents equally, without shame or guilt.

And while this seems impossible, I have seen from a dear high school friend that it can be done. Even faced with a situation that is definitely slam-worthy, this person chose the higher road. Not for themselves, but for the kids. All of the focus and attention went into the kids and preserving their image of the other parent…so they would know they were loved, nothing was their fault, and they are perfect through and through.

Parents split or get divorced and develop strong sides and stories…kids shouldn’t have to pick one.