Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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Come see our new Baby and Clean!

You gotta come see our NEW Baby and Clean!

It would appear there is a bit of a baby boom going on this year. I know so many pregnant ladies, it’s unbelievable. We see our friends (and friends of friends) sharing their pregnancy excitement and swollen ankles, ultrasound pictures, and bump photos on Facebook, even baby rooms on Pinterest and it’s enough to make us go, “Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Once mama and baby are home, we are SO excited to come on over, cuddle that sweet new baby and visit. While we look forward to these visits, they can be a source of stress for new parents. It can be overwhelming to be breastfeeding seemingly around the clock, dealing with the sudden onslaught of total sleep deprivation, hormonal cocktails bubbling over, and STILL new mamas and papas feel like they have to entertain when people come to <cue the gratuitous Seinfeld reference> “SEE THE BABY!!”

New parents do want to share their beautiful bundles with you. Really. But there are few things you should do to make your visit one where the parents are refreshed after you leave versus more exhausted. Here are 5 tips to show some mad baby love to the new parents in your life, be helpful and not a royal PITA.
  1. CALL FIRST. Please ask permission to see if you can come over. Don’t ever “pop by” a home with a new baby in it. You never know how that household slept the day or hour before and if they’ve finally just crashed after a marathon breastfeeding session. Normally I love and am very pro-pop-in but not where it pertains to new mamas and papas. Just don’t.
  2. BRING FOOD. Or Starbucks. Or something those parents can use. When a rash of babes were born a few years ago, I brought a coffee and care package to all my mama friends. A new trashy magazine, a Maybelline mascara (hey, mamas like to feel sexy too even when we might not look it), and a bubblebath bomb. Finger Foods are super helpful, like bagels, muffins, or something they don't have to cook and can eat one-handed, because new parents are busy!  Casseroles are also a great alternative. Be sure to include the cooking instructions and don’t put it in a container you “just have to get back”.
  3. WASH YOUR HANDS. I know you want to grab that baby and just “Mmmmmmmmmm” inhale that sweet, baby smell. But please don’t make the new parents look like paranoid freaks. Any and all baby handlers should wash their hands before holding the baby. It’s just good manners and helps keep newborns with new immune systems safe from your cooties.
  4. CELEBRATE SIBLINGS. If you’re bringing a gigantic diaper cake or other enormous gift for baby, please bring something small for siblings too. Little ones are dealing with enough feelings of jealousy, anxiety, and stress (even if they appear happy, their world has been changed forever). When I had my middle child so many thoughtful people brought a small toy or token for my oldest to make sure he felt special and loved too. It’s a gesture I’ve never forgotten.
  5. DO SOMETHING. I know it’s so tempting to just sit there and snuggle that baby. But it would be so super cool if you would, you know, run a vacuum or something. Put away a full dishwasher, run a load of laundry, fold something, and take a to-do off that new mama/papa’s list. I guarantee they will love you for it. Once you finished your chore, then you can volunteer to smell/snuggle that new baby while mama and papa go for a much needed nap. ;)
And here’s one more that is really, really important: According to the US Mental Health Association, it’s estimated that between 50% and 80% of mothers experience the “Baby Blues”. Post-partum depression is still under-diagnosed and grossly under-treated. Therefore, any help, support, and resource you can provide to a family with a new addition is a BIG help. Tell those parents you’d happy to come and sit with baby on Saturday so they can nap. You’d love to take the other kid(s) to the park to build snowmen while she enjoys the quiet. Every little bit counts. It does take a village. And although we have technology and all the comforts we can possibly ask for–a helping, caring hand still goes a long way.

First posted by Pregcitymama 2014

Nursing or Pumping during or after your baby's NICU stay

Breastfeeding is important for the health of children and babies. My twins were preemies (born at 32 weeks) and I was lucky to be in a hospital that was very supportive of breastfeeding. While we had been planning that I would breastfeed, it was my nurses that let me know how important breastmilk is for babies, especially for preemies. Through them I learned that a mother’s milk is particularly well formulated for her own children and the NICU nurses really prefer to feed the babies breastmilk whenever possible.
Many women want women want to breastfeed their babies in the NICU and run into obstacles that prevent them from breastfeeding. I will explain how you can work through the obstacles of breastfeeding and pumping during and after your babies NICU stay so that other mothers will have the knowledge and courage to push through these obstacles.
I had been planning to breastfeed, but my twins came suddenly. Born at just 32 weeks, they were about 4 lbs each. I got to hold each of them briefly, but they were quickly rushed off to the NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit). Once things settled down,  I realized that I couldn’t try breastfeeding without babies! I asked the nurse about a pump, and she told me to rest and recover and that a lactation consultant would come see me later.
We had a lot of complications, but I succeed in breastfeeding my twins exclusively for 11 months.
Here are some obstacles to breastfeeding and pumping for baby, and how we overcame them:

1. Breastfeeding and pumping seems too hard.

It can be hard. Lots of things are hard. Raising kids will be hard at times, but they are worth it. You have to decide what is important to you and put your effort there. What’s hard for one person may not be hard for another.

2. I tried pumping, but nothing came out. 

It might not work for you at first. You need to try every few hours to get your body to realize that its supposed to make milk. At first, nothing may come out. This is normal. It isn’t actually necessary for a baby to eat for the first 24 hours after birth, this is why all babies are expected to lose weight in the first 24 hours. If you were suckling the baby directly, you would probably not realize that he isn’t actually getting milk, just being soothed by the act of nursing.

3. I tried pumping but so little came out I gave up. 

The first milk that comes out is colostrum. Colustrum is the most important milk you can give a newborn and is often called “liquid gold.” There is very little colostrum, the first time you actually get something out, it might be so little you think it’s not worth it. Give it to the NICU nurses anyhow. They’ll get it out and give it to your newborn. A newborn’s stomach is as small as a thimble, or smaller in our case. Don’t give up, try again in several hours.

 4. I’ve been pumping for a week and I still can’t get much milk to come out.

Some tricks that worked for me included:
Getting a good nights sleep: sometimes the rest is more important than constant pumping.
  • Drink  more fluids—lots of fluids.
  • Pump in the NICU where you can see and touch your babies.
  • Distract yourself completely while pumping. Sometimes I just watched TV, read a book, or looked at e-mail to distract myself completely from what I was doing. Often I would look down and be pleasantly surprised by how full the containers were. Just be careful not to get so distracted it all leaks out!

5. I couldn’t nurse the babies right after giving birth. 

You don’t have to nurse or pump immediately after giving birth. Your body is in major transition. You can even start breastfeeding (or pumping) days after the babies are born. I had complications on my complications. I tried pumping once the day after I gave birth, then I had more problems, so it was at least 48 hours before I tried pumping again.

6. Pumping every 3 hours around the clock was too exhausting, so I quit.

Pumping frequently increases your supply. Sleep and rest also increases your supply. During the day I tried to pump every 3 hours for the first week or two, but because I wasn’t feeding babies directly, I slept longer stretches at night. The real sleep helped me produce more milk, and at some points, my full breasts woke me up. At first I tried to pump every 3 hours at night too, but the nurses encouraged me to rest instead. I’m very glad they did!

7. My baby has a feeding tube or NG tube, so he can’t have breastmilk.

The nurses can put anything into those tubes (well, not anything), and breastmilk is an excellent choice. I pumped directly into the containers that they hooked up to the feeding machine to minimize contamination. They were not allowed to reuse the containers, but we took them home and used them for months for pumped breastmilk.

8. They say he needs more calories per feeding than he can get from breastmilk.

One of my twins had trouble feeding. It took more energy to feed than he was getting from breastmilk for months. The best solution? We added formula to the breastmilk to get him more calories. Because of this, I needed to keep pumping long after he was able to nurse. For several months he got two of his feedings a day via bottle with breastmilk fortified with formula, even when I could have to nursed him. This was a great bonding opportunity for his dad!

9. Pumping hurts! So I quit.

Pumping may hurt. See if you can turn the settings down so the pressure is not so strong. Hospital pumps are very strong (at least they were in 2004). If you’re getting a pump for use at home, see if you can get it right away, so the nurses can help with adjustments. Pump in the NICU and the nurses can give you advise.
Through all of this, remember that breastfeeding is the best thing you can do to keep your baby healthy and well-fed. Even if food is in short supply, your body will give the baby the nutrients it needs. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t pump right away, if you don’t produce much or if you’re just too tired. Be persistent and you will get it eventually.

Alicia Hunt writes Green Lifestyle Changes with her husband Jonathan.  Their twins are now healthy 8 year-olds and have a younger brother.  Alicia works for a municipality, focusing on energy and environmental issues.  The Hunts writing focus’ on how a green living impacts the world.  Their biggest concerns are climate change and raising healthy children.

Why some kids can’t spell and why spelling tests won’t help

A couple of years ago, early one morning, I received a text advising:

 “resadents to stay indoors because of a nearby insadent”.

I was shocked by the spelling, as much as the message. Surely, I thought, if it was a real message then the spelling would be correct.
Spelling matters. In a text message from a friend teeing up a night out “c u at 8” is fine - but in an emergency warning text from a government agency, I expect the spelling to be standard. But why is it that some people struggle with standard spelling?
Spelling remains the most relentlessly tested of all the literacy skills, but it is the least taught.
Sending a list of words home on Monday to be tested on Friday is not teaching. Nor is getting children to write their spelling words out 10 times, even if they have to do it in rainbow colours.
Looking, covering, writing and checking does not teach spelling. Looking for little words inside other words, and doing word searches are just time fillers. And writing your “spelling” words in spirals or backwards is just plain stupid.
And yet, this is a good summary of most of the current spelling programs in schools today.
So, what should spelling teaching look like?

Finding meaning

Children should know the meanings of the words they spell, and as logical as that sounds - ask a child in your life what this week’s spelling words mean, and you might be surprised by their answers.
If spelling words are simply strings of letters to be learnt by heart with no meaning attached and no investigation of how those words are constructed, then we are simply assigning our children a task equivalent to learning ten random seven-digit PINs each week.
That is not only very very hard, it’s pointless.

More than sounds

English is an alphabetic language; we use letters to write words. But it is not a phonetic language: there is no simple match between sounds and letters.
We have 26 letters, but we have around 44 sounds (it’s not easy to be precise as different accents produce different sounds) and several hundred ways to write those sounds.
So, while sounds - or phonics - are important in learning to spell, they are insufficient. When the only tool we give young children for spelling is to “sound it out”, we are making a phonological promise to them that English simply cannot keep.

How words make their meanings

Sounds are important in learning to spell, but just as important are the morphemes in words. Morphemes are the meaningful parts of words. For example, “jumped” has two morphemes - “jump” and “ed”. “Jump” is easily recognised as meaningful, but “ed” is also meaningful because it tells us that the jump happened in the past.
Young spellers who are relying on the phonological promise given to them in their early years of schooling typically spell “jumped” as “jumt”.
When attempting to spell a word, the first question we should teach children to ask is not “what sounds can I hear?” but “what does this word mean?”. This gives important information, which helps enormously with the spelling of the word.
In the example of “jumt” it brings us back to the base word “jump”; where the sound of “p” can now be heard, and the past marker “ed” , rather than the sound “t” which we hear when we say the word.
Consider the author of the emergency text message at the beginning of this article as they pondered which of the many plausible letters they could use for the sound they could hear in “res - uh - dent”.
If they had asked themselves first, “What does this word mean?” the answer would have been people who “reside”, and then they would have heard the answer to their phonological dilemma.

Where words come from

English has a fascinating and constantly evolving history. Our words, and their spellings, come from many languages. Often we have kept the spellings from the original languages, while applying our own pronunciation.
As a result, only about 12% of words in English are spelt the way they sound. But that doesn’t mean that spelling is inexplicable, and therefore only learned by rote - it means that teaching spelling becomes a fascinating exploration of the remarkable history of the language - etymology.
Some may think that etymology is the sole province of older and experienced learners, but it’s not.
Young children are incredibly responsive to stories about words, and these understandings about words are key to building their spelling skills, but also building their vocabulary.
Yet poor spellers and young spellers are rarely given these additional tools to understand how words work and too often poor spellers are relegated to simply doing more phonics work.

Teaching - not testing

The only people who benefit from spelling tests are those who do well on them - and the benefit is to their self-esteem rather than their spelling ability. They were already good spellers.
The people who don’t benefit from spelling tests are those who are poor at spelling. They struggled with spelling before the test, and they still struggle after the test. Testing is not teaching.
Parents and teachers should consider these questions as they reflect on the ways in which spelling is approached in their school.
Are all children learning to love words from their very first years at school? Are they being fascinated by stories about where words come from and what those stories tell us about the spelling of those words?
Are they being excited by breaking the code, figuring how words are making their meanings and thrilled to find that what they’ve learned about one word helps them solve another word?
Put simply - is spelling your child’s favourite subject?
If the answer is no, then something needs to be done about the teaching.

Misty Adoniou is a Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and Teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Canberra. She occasionally presents workshops in schools on the teaching of spelling.

Seasonal Allergy Tips with Nettle

My 10-year-old son has increasing problems with seasonal allergies — we brace ourselves as spring comes with its pollen because this kid really reacts. Last year we kept him comfortable with over-the-counter medications, local honey, regular elderflower tea, lavender oil in a nebulizer/diffuser concoction as he sleeps, and a chest rub of lavender and eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil. The remedies helped keep him comfortable but he still needed a small dose of allergy medication, nearly daily.
With each year we have added some new tools to the arsenal but it has felt impossible to stay in front of the problem, until now.
As of April 8, he has had allergy medicine twice. When he would normally be taking a small dose each evening he has only had medicine on severe pollen days (and he played outside to boot on those days, tempting fate apparently and unaware of the pollen count).
This season’s addition has been near-miraculous for him: nettle leaf.
(Updated a year later to report that he used medication three times last season and this year, in a challenging year for allergies, he has remained medication-free.)
By “nettle leaf,” I do mean the stuff with the stinging hairs that leaves an itchy rash on your skin for a few days.

You can definitely buy nettle dried online but we have been consuming so much this season that we have harvested it in great quantities locally. We have had it in soups and infusions several times a week for the past two months. We gathered enough to save three gallons packed of dried leaves and 28 quart-sized baggies of blanched and frozen nettle for soup.
We have hauled nettle infusions on trips for allergy relief and packed soup in my son’s lunch, all for a kid who will eat nothing else green. He consumes nettle because his relief is near-immediate. Last week an attack came on and his eye began to look like he had a shiner. I tried to capture his agony in a photo and the relief one hour later, after 1/2 cup (~ 4 oz) of nettle soup. The pictures aren’t the greatest and his eye was not as bad as it can get, but we caught the allergy attack in time, threw some nettle at it, and Frederick went on with the rest of his day like a normal 10-year-old.
Our two key tools are nettle soup and nettle infusions, both cooked to neutralize the stinging property of the nettle leaf. We have a standard nettle soup recipe (here) but it can be seasoned in many ways for variety. We do use fresh or frozen nettle but my mom promises to develop a soup recipe using dried nettle that you can purchase online. In the meantime, experiment with dried nettle in soups — just rehydrate it in your cooking process.
We also make strong infusions with nettle stems and leaves that are left over from our nettle foraging and processing but you can use fresh or dry nettle. Place it in a pot with boiling water, turn off the heat, cover and let it sit overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the liquid — that liquid is your infusion. We make a very strong infusion because of the quantity of nettle we have, so strong that we add citrus juice and a sweetener to cover the grassy taste. Experiment with what works for you in terms of flavor and concentration. A cup of soup or infusion brings near-immediate relief to my son but each cup we make may be stronger than what you end up cooking up in your own kitchen. You may need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
The rest of the household gets a nice energy boost from nettle as well. It’s really a no-lose situation and is now a key part of our spring time regimen.

Buy nettle online: For the quantity of nettle you will want to experiment with, we recommend buying it in bulk.

First Published on Fresh Bites

Making Nettle Tea

How could anything this healthy be so totally delicious? Nettle soup has a growing fan base across the country and for good reason. Nettle leaf is delicately flavored and cooks to a smooth silky texture. The prickly little needles are completely gone. No other vegetable in our experience provides the texture that nettle does. And around here the flavor is just a great bonus: my grandson Frederick who boycotts all “green” food will eat nettle soup because he sees a direct connection between eating the soup and fighting his seasonal allergies. 
Use a flavorful rich chicken bone broth to complement the nettle and you have a luscious soup. With just a bit of seasoning, you could stop there or you could go for a richer soup experience by adding heavy cream. Cream and green make a perfect marriage. The cream mellows the green and brings out a bit of sweetness.
If you are going to enjoy this soup, you will probably have to collect your own nettle. It’s rare to ever find nettle for sale, even in the farmers’ markets.
Here are a few tips for foraging:
  • Look in damp places. Nettle is a big drinker.
  • Wear leather gloves and bring clippers. Have little, if any, direct contact with the nettles.
  • If you get stung, look for some lamb’s quarters to crush into a poultice. Apply the poultice to your stinging places.
  • When possible, collect nettle that has not yet bloomed. It is milder than the blooming nettle.
  • Clip the tops of the plant. Do not pull it. The plant will continue to grow and provide a number of harvests, depending on your climate.
  • If you happen on the mother lode of a nettle stand, plan to freeze nettle leaves for soups through the year.
The recipe that follows is a starting point — change it to suit your own tastes. You may like more or less greens. We have made soup so dense with greens that the greens were the thickening as well as the flavor. That’s a lot of green!
It is also a lot of nutrition. Eat a green soup like this for a few days in a row and you will experience a fine boost in energy and sense of well-being.
Are you persuaded? Here’s how to do it.

Nettle Soup Ingredients

  • 1 quart rich chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil of choice (chicken fat is tasty in this soup)
  • 4 cups nettle leaves, well washed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For Cream Soup (optional)

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons thickener of choice, like tapioca flour

Nettle Soup Steps

  1. Heat the broth to a simmer in a large soup pot.
  2. While the broth is heating, saute the onion and garlic in the oil using a medium skillet.
  3. When the broth comes to a simmer, add the sauteed vegetables and the nettle leaves.
  4. Gently stir the soup for about two minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to rest for 10 minutes before serving it.
  5. Taste for salt and pepper. Make necessary adjustments.
  6. If you want a cream soup, mix the thickener with the cream and beat it with a whisk to break down any lumps.
  7. Bring the soup back to a simmer and slowly stir in the thickening mixture. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or water.
This soup freezes well if not a cream version. The texture of cream can get weird when frozen.

First published on Fresh Bites 

Mothering Boys

I am the mother of two small boys, with a third due almost any day now. Logistically speaking this makes me a true "Boy Mom," although I would hardly claim that I am an expert on mothering boys. I just don't know anything else.
I did, however, earn my Boy Mom street cred early on by mastering the art of taming the teeny peenie. Things every Boy Mom must know, like which way to point it so they don't consistently pee themselves out of every diaper, and the truth that when it comes down to it, those things are bendy.
A few more truths about mothering boys that I've learned:
Truth #1: Mothering boys can be summed up in two words. The same two words that conveniently serve as the Boy Scouts of America motto: Be Prepared. "For what?" you might ask. And the answer is anything. Be prepared for anything. My boys have quickly forced me outside of my personal comfort zone. Each day they challenge me to be louder, to get dirtier, and to find adventure in the mundane.
Truth #2: Everything is an adventure. We do not walk anywhere, we run. My boys are in a constant state of motion. Even when they are sitting, feet are tapping, legs are swinging.
Truth #3: There are two volume settings: loud and louder. At our house, when it becomes suddenly quiet, panic sets in, and I fear for what I may stumble upon when I seek out the source of the silence.
Truth #4: Everything, even eating, becomes an extreme sport. The end result being every meal is a contest to see who can finish the fastest while simultaneously making the largest mess.
Truth #5: Mothering boys means that bottoms are not for sitting. They are for scratching, tooting, and drumming upon. Likewise, couches are for climbing, end tables and chairs are for fort-making, and blankets are meant to be used as capes. Sticks are swords or fishing poles long before they are just merely discarded pieces of trees.
Truth #6: Everything, and I mean everything, makes some sort of deep throaty growling noise. Cars, ninjas, bears, and sleeping boys alike.
Truth #7: Staying clean is overrated. Like moths to a flame boys will seek out dirt and roll in it, the wetter the better. The bigger the puddles, the higher they will jump, regardless of whether or not they are wearing appropriate footwear.
Truth #8: Fashion rules do not apply to boys. In fact, the "mixed prints trend" that seems to be all the rage this year? It could have easily been started by my toddler son.
Truth #9: Mothering boys means road trip bathroom breaks just got a whole lot easier. Well, for 75% of the family, that is.
Truth #10: Farts are funny. Like really, really funny. This I did not know, prior to having boys. Much like I did not know how much it hurts to step on Lego pieces, Matchbox cars, and those godforsaken wooden railroad pieces.
Truth #11: Mothering boys is equal parts humbling and puzzling. I've quickly learned to decipher which types of injuries require a trip to Urgent Care and which ones can easily be mended with a little liquid band-aid, a deep breath and a chocolate chip cookie.
Truth #12: I've also learned that nothing is sacred, and they will be the first to announce it.
And #13, the biggest truth of all: Mothering boys is not for the faint of heart, but it's also so much more than just "snails and puppy dog tails."
I know with each day that passes, my boys and I are growing more and more different. Soon we'll be separated by different languages entirely, different interests, and different emotions. A day will come when they'll ask me about transmissions, transistor radios, soccer penalties, and lacrosse teams, and sadly, I won't have any answers. I know there will come a day, all too soon, when they won't eagerly divulge the events of their days away from me.
That's the hardest truth about this mothering of boys: even though right now they are still barely 4 and 2 years old, a day will come when I am no longer the love of their lives, the one they run to with made up stories or the hand they reach for while outside for a walk.
Mothering boys means more than just mothering a mess of dirt, sticks, growling noises and farts. It means savoring the moments in which I am their first love, the mender of broken hearts and skinned knees, and the one who tucks them in at night, kissing their tiny foreheads and memorizing the rise and fall of their chests.
It means I am graced with the privilege of raising future gentlemen and husbands of society, one table fort, one funny fart noise and one super hero at the dinner table at a time.
It's the truth: Mothering boys is not for the faint of heart.

This story was first posted on What to Expect blog by Ashley Paige.