Mommy 4-1-1

Mommies 4 Mommies: What We Wish We’d Known

The Art of Juggling Thursday, September 4, 2008

Filed under: New Mommas — B @ 12:30 pm

“Looks like you should have been more careful what you asked for.”

I looked at the woman with an obviously confused look on my face because she felt the need to clarify that I got exactly what I asked for in my two kids under the age of 9 months.  What I wanted to say to her was mind your own business, but said something more along the lines of, “After what I went through to finally get these two, I’d have taken twice this.” And it’s true.  I did get what I asked for.  Kids.  But what it took was a long time, some tears, a whole lot of pain, and finally the reward.

Being a mother takes skills of all kinds but I never realized that juggling would be one of them.  Toss a baby or two in the air.  Give them company in the form of naps, baths and feedings.  Don’t forget your other duties of cooking, cleaning and that never-ending pile of laundry.  Didn’t you once have hobbies?  Working out, reading, or whatever your gig was?  When it all comes raining down, what will you be able to catch?

I have learned that mothers dread having their kids too close together.  Not because it was my dread but because women seem to openly share their thoughts on my situation.  Either they fear the insanity of it or they fear the inability to catch the right things when they are coming down.  It is a balancing act with one or twelve, old or young, and I’m not sure they understand that.

Recently, I was chatting it up with a couple of women.  The first was a couple of months ago and the lady I was visiting with was due just behind me and our bellies were showing and we were doing our best to be radiant and look brilliant.  I’m sure we leaned more to the side of tired than radiant, but we tried.  We stood watching her little guy while my daughter was with daddy when suddenly she spouted, with tears in her eyes, “I just don’t know how I’ll do it when I have a newborn and an 18 month old who wants so much attention.”  And from there she heaped her fears out in front of us and tossed in a couple insecurities just to be safe.

A couple months later, with less of a belly and two babes, I visited with a woman who had a 20 month old and a one month old.  Our babies had only entered the world a few days apart and I asked her how she was doing.  In about 30 seconds, I learned she had yet to be alone with her two children.  For a month she had the constant companionship of her husband, mother, mother-in-law, or some sibling.  She’d been living in a fantasy world for a month where she didn’t have to do anything for two kids and was quickly going to have to face life with two kids alone in an apartment because she was going home.  You could smell the fear.  Me, I never came up.  I didn’t mind.  I wouldn’t have known what to say to her anyways.

Both times I went home to dump on my husband the annoyance I felt at being used as a dumping ground.  Yes, I said the right things at the time and reassured these mothers, but I didn’t get why they were looking for comfort from a woman who has (or was going to have) a newborn and a seven month old.  What could I say to them?  I didn’t fear the same way they did but I also didn’t feel that it was my place to comfort them with soft words when I wasn’t going to have the gift of having my kids 18-20 months apart and I wasn’t complaining about it.

Accompany those talks with women who see and comment on what I have for company each and every day of my life and they balk at my ability to stay sane.  Mostly I get asked, “How are you doing?” with an inflection that hints that I should be breaking down into tears and confessing that I just can’t handle it.  They are shocked to hear that not only does my husband come home to a wife and two kids every day (yes, he does a head count) but that we are having fun.  My husband was back at work shortly after the birth of our son and I never had someone other than him enter the house to help out.  I pack up two kids and go to the park, walk a half hour to and from the local library, go to the mall or the zoo, and even go out to visit a friend.

There are days I hold two babies who both want and need the loves.  It is true that things don’t always go smoothly.  But when I toss two babies into the air, baths, reading stories, cooking and cleaning, and the other good things that come with my life, I’ve been able to catch the important things.  Two babies.  At times, other things get dropped only to be picked up, dusted off, and thrown back up in the air. But I’ve learned I am capable, if for no other reason than because I believe I am.

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Motherly Advice

Filed under: New Mommas,Single Mommas — B @ 12:21 pm

It seems that advice, good and bad, are impossible to miss when you are about to have a child, or if you have little ones.  I’ve been offered a plethora of opinions on what I must or must not do with my children and I have to say that I leave way more than I take.  Should we put the baby to bed awake or rock the baby to sleep?  And does it really matter?

Interestingly enough, I got two pieces of great advice along the road that I value greatly and think are worth passing on in case anyone else can use them along the way.  They didn’t come in the words of, “I think you should _____” or anything like that.  Both were simply comments made in passing by women I respected and whose opinion I valued.  Neither of them know I stole these great gems that I will share with you.  Remember, this is a take or leave it program.  If you think it will work for you try it out, if not, leave it behind.

The first piece of advice came from the voice of a friend.  Being a single mom of four young children, she found herself needing to stay calm in situations she typically could explode in.  She found such an aid in the push of a button. 

When her kids got into something they shouldn’t, she’d stop, grab her camera, and snap a few pictures.  Not only did it give her time to cool down and look at the situation differently, but she caught some grand candid moments she otherwise would have left behind.

Take the time that her youngest got into the flour and sugar bins.  He dumped them both out into the corner bottom cupboard and crawled in himself wearing nothing but a diaper.  Being that he had just finished playing in the bathroom he was covered in a nice white paste. 

Or the time she went to the back yard and found her daughter hauling buckets of dirt from their front yard and adding it to the fishpond so she could make sand castles.  She was knee deep in mud and working away. 

She caught another son in the middle of the kitchen table with a nearly full four-liter jug of milk around him and cascading off the sides of the table.  Floating on top was the contents of a box of Cheerios. 

Those pictures and moments were priceless and my friend was able to catch them and laugh instead of react to her children.  Keeping her calm in those situations has made her a better mother in my eyes.

The second lady I stole advice from is someone I’ve known through a friend for some time, but have always thought her to be an amazing lady.  She made a comment in passing one girls night about how she didn’t do any housework after the kids were in bed.  This obviously shocked every mother present since she had three kids and they all knew and understood the fundamental fact that the work never ceases with even one.  All ears, the ladies asked her to explain herself.

Her thinking is that she works all day every day and when the final kid is down for the night it is her time to do something she wants.  Watch a movie, take a bath, walk on the treadmill, or any number of hobbies she had.  She stated simply that if she did nothing but work from the moment she woke until she hit the sack exhausted, she’d be a less happy mother and enjoy her kids less.  During naps and quiet times she goes to town and gets what she needs done around the house so she can enjoy her kids, and dive into her own time when they were down for the night.

These brilliant women and mothers gave me two of the greatest pieces of advice without even knowing they were doing it.  I am a better mother because I follow my kids around with the camera, even though they aren’t old enough to really get into anything yet, and because I take time out for myself. 

After all, who cares if I swaddle left over right or right over left.  It also doesn’t matter if I throw pinks in with the darks now and then.

 

For Stay-at-Home Dads Friday, August 8, 2008

Stay-at-home dads are becoming more and more common. Hy-zah! I’m married to one myself. Just as stay-at-home moms have to fight tooth-and-nail for respect, so, too, do daddies. No one explains this better than Mike in his post POSITION AVAILABLE: STAY AT HOME PARENT! Great analogy!

 

I Might Just Like This Parenting Thing Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Filed under: Considering Motherhood,New Mommas,Pre-Conception — Dana @ 11:57 am

It’s not too often, it seems, that one hears all the good things about having a baby. I was seriously impressed with Heather‘s post today on The Spohrs Are Multiplying called I Might Just Like This Parenting Thing. Check it out!

 

Becoming a new mommy and bilingual babies! Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Filed under: Communication,New Mommas,Pregnancy — Paula G, Professor Pocket and My Pregnancy @ 8:29 pm

Hi Mommy 4-1-1,

 

I am 23 weeks pregnant with my first little one. I have to say it was a bit of a surprise to find out we were pregnant. My husband and I were in the stage of starting to talk about it when VOILA on a vacation to South Beach I realized it had already happened. We felt lucky to have been able to get pregnant so easily and I have had a wonderful pregnancy thus far. I love watching my belly grow, and the baby is getting big enough where now I can actually see my stomach bounce up when he/she (we aren’t finding out!) kicks!

 

As the months pass and the time approaches when this little baby will enter our world, my husband and I are trying to get everything prepared. By that I am not referring to what color I want to paint the baby’s room, it’s more about what kind of parents do we want to be? How will we make sure to raise a bright, curious, cultured, socially responsible child? Top on our list is to make sure the baby is bilingual.

 

I was born in the Dominican Republic and spent my childhood between Los Angeles and my hometown of Santiago. During the school year I was the Americanized version of myself, and then summer would come and my entire family would pack up and get ready for Dominican. Those summers are the greatest memories I have of my childhood and I remember almost feeling like I had two lives. I rejoined my Dominican friends and Spanish once again came naturally, so much so that by the end of the summer I was thinking and dreaming in Spanish. I loved having that special experience that none of my US friends had. I loved being able to meld completely into two entirely different worlds. I want my baby to have the same multi-cultural experience, especially in this increasingly global world in which we live. The benefits of being able to speak Spanish and English are still paying off. I have been able to travel and live in multiple countries. It has made me so curious and open to the rest of the world.

 

I am so passionate and so determined to raise my baby bilingually that my sister-in-law Nathalie and I started a company to help other parents do the same. Nathalie and my brother Carlos are already raising their two children bilingually. We launched Professor Pocket, www.professorpocket.com , in 2005 and it’s been a wonderful journey. We produce Spanish/English CDs that use a combination of very funny storytelling and catchy songs to get both parents and their children excited about learning a second language. The key is to introduce the language early on. Children are little sponges, it is amazing how quickly they absorb what they hear. As a Spanish speaker my goal is to speak to the baby only in Spanish while my husband will speak in English. It may be intimidating for parents who don’t speak another language to introduce a second language to their child, but it is possible and I wanted to share my top tips for raising bilingual children….

 

1. Don’t be afraid!

 

Even if you don’t speak the second language, look for products, like Professor Pocket, that make language learning a fun and interactive process for both parents and children. As a parent you can learn along with the child.

 

2. Be consistent!

 

Make sure your child hears the new language every day, it’s the only way they will learn. Books and audio CDs are a must as well as everyday conversation.

 

3. Make it fun!

 

If it isn’t fun for you and the child, you are less likely to be consistent in your introduction. Music and stories are a great way to keep the child engaged while they learn.

 

4. Have no fear, your child will still learn English!

 

There are so many incorrect fears that introducing multiple languages will only confuse the child and delay their development of their English language skills. This is not true! Beyond becoming bilingual your child will show superior problem solving and math skills, increased overall school performance, and better cross-cultural understanding.

 

If you are interested in this topic here are some other sites to check out…

 

Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network

www.biculturalfamily.org

 

Teaching and Learning Spanish

www.teachinglearningspanish.blogspot.com

 

www.scrambledbacon.blogspot.com

 

www.professorpocket.com

 

Enjoy!

 

Signing With Infants and Toddlers: Navigating the Options Sunday, July 13, 2008

Filed under: Communication,New Mommas — TeachingMom @ 9:31 pm

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and use sign language with your infant or toddler, trying to figure out how to start can be overwhelming. There is more than one program out there, plus books, videos, and DVDs, and finding the one that fits with your family can be daunting.

Before you start looking into the programs, first answer some questions:

1. Why do I want to do this?
This may seem like a silly question, but it really isn’t. There is actually more than one answer to this question.

a. I want my child to be able to communicate his/her needs before talking begins.
b. My child was born with a developmental delay, and I want him/her to have access to more than one form of communication.
c. My child was diagnosed at birth (or later) with a hearing loss.
d. A family member or friend uses sign language to communicate.
e. It sounds like a fun activity to do with my child.

All of these are valid reasons for wanting to learn sign language and teach it to your baby.

The program you choose can vary depending on how you answered the above question.

Before I give you a brief overview of what’s available, let me throw this out to you:

**Signs from a book alone ain’t gonna cut it. Why? Because sign language is a visual, three dimensional language. The meaning of a sign can change in ways a person new to signing may not realize. Pictures in a signing book may not show those differences clearly. I’m not saying this to scare people off from learning signs, just making you aware that book learning alone won’t work in this situation. If you are trying to learn only from a 2 dimensional picture in a book, you’re running the risk of teaching yourself the wrong way. Take a class if they’re offered in your area, or use a DVD/video if no classes are nearby.**

So with that out of the way, what’s out there to choose from? Here are three well-known programs:

Baby Signs: This program was developed by Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn, who are professionals in the fields of child development and child language development. Their book, Baby Signs: How to Talk to Your Baby Before Your Baby can Talk, was published in 1996. While some of their signs are taken from American Sign Language, not all are ASL. Their decision to modify or “create” signs for babies to use came from their fear that “parents of hearing babies would find ASL too overwhelming to learn in the short time their baby would use signs as a bridge to speech. We also knew that young babies, with their limited motor coordination, are not able to master many of the complex “hand shapes” of ASL.” (https://www.babysigns.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/institute.faq/faq.cfm)

More information about this program and the research behind it can be found at http://www.babysigns.com.

Signing Smart: Michelle Anthony. M.A., PhD., and Reyna Lindert, PhD. developed this program while working on their doctorates in Developmental Psychology. They were looking for a program to use with their own children, and weren’t finding anything that fit their needs. Their program is ASL based, as both are certified ASL users. They’ve also both done research in the Sign Language Acquisition Lab and the Child Language Lab at the Institute for Human Development at UC Berkeley (http://www.signingsmart.com/ourpeople.html). Information on their programs can be found at http://www.signingsmart.com/index.html.

Sign2Me: This program first became available in 1999. Dr. Joseph Garcia developed the program after extensive research beginning in 1987. Dr. Garcia’s program utilizes American Sign Language, the language used by culturally Deaf people in the United States and English speaking parts of Canada. As for modifying ASL signs for young ones, Dr. Garcia noticed that infants or toddlers that could not make the signs exactly as they were presented would come up with their own modifications that fit with their abilities. Parents just need to continue to model the sign correctly until the child is developmentally able to produce it that way. Like parents already do when they talk to their child. You might say “dog,” but Junior might not be capable of using his muscles in the same way, so he says, “gog.” Do you rename the family pet? No, you just keep using the word “dog” until Junior says it too.

You can check out Dr. Garcia’s information and the Sign2Me program at www.sign2me.com.

These programs are the three that most people mention when asked about signing with little ones. I listed them here because they are the ones I am most familiar with as well. As I said before, there are also numerous books, flash cards, videos and DVDs that can get you started as well.

If you’re really interested in signing with your baby or toddler, knowing your goal is half the battle of choosing which programs or resources to use.

If you think that you’ll only use signs until your child begins to talk, and only with a specific group of people (family, friends and caregivers) then Baby Signs may be the fit for you.

If you want your child to:
1. Be exposed to a second language that he or she may be using beyond toddler-hood,and
2. Later be able to take as a second language, or
3. Use later to communicate with classmates who use ASL…

…Then an ASL based program might be the better fit for you.

It’s really a matter of personal preference. Know your goals for using sign, research the different programs, and you will make a decision that fits your family.

And happy signing!

 

The Superpowers of Motherhood Friday, July 11, 2008

Filed under: Considering Motherhood,New Mommas,Pre-Conception — Dana @ 2:51 pm

Check out Casey’s post on The Superpowers of Motherhood at her blog Moosh in Indy!