108 posts categorized "Family Dynamics"

Happy Father's Day! Celebrate with kids, or without?

June 21, 2009

Dads_fathers_day On Mother's Day, I scored a few hours alone to go to the farmer's market, and as I wandered around shopping on my own, I watched other pregnant women and women who looked vaguely mama-ish, wondering: would we rather be with our kids, or alone, on this day that celebrates us? I already missed my kids, especially on this day, when having them along would prove that I was one of the laud-ees. (Why I need to prove that, I can't explain.) I decided I'd rather be around them, and hurried home to hang out with my sweet boys and eat market goodies.

Today is Father's Day, and someone on my Twitter stream was musing about whether she or her husband deserved the day off; June 21 is her birthday. I immediately thought, neither, isn't celebrating with family what these days are all about? but held my tongue (or fingers); maybe she just meant "day off of cleaning the dishes."

Another dad I follow, though, said he thought Father's Day was a day for dads to spend with their kids. I began to reflect that it's far more common to give mom a day alone on her day, whereas it's more common to have dad+kid activities on dad's day. Given the long experience in our culture of domestic/career divisions with its conventionally-assumed distribution:mom's making breakfast and folding laundry, dad's putting on his tie and readying for a commute; these days have traditionally sought to change that dynamic for 24 hours.

But in our progressive 21st century culture, the facts have changed... right? Dad's doing laundry, mom's often commuting, but most of us still spend Mother's and Father's Days the same as when we called our parents "mother" and "father" (at least on TV). How is it in your house? Does dad celebrate by going on kid-tastic adventures, or does he go out and hang with his daddy friends? Or is it a big family barbecue -- and does dad man the grill or sit back and drink rootbeer floats (my own dad's fave)?

For the record: today, we're making one of my husband's favorite breakfasts, huevos rancheros burritos, and later we'll all be going on what I think is the best Pedalpalooza ride of all: the Unimproved Ride Road. How about you?

Two incomes, can't afford child care: Let's potluck this to a better way

April 19, 2009

I did not have the intended response to the front-page article in the 'O' section of today's Oregonian. The writer meant for me to be sympathetic with the plight of the family depicted; two parents in what seemed a loving, functional marriage with two children under four. I think it was the way the writer approached the story, obvious scrabbling to paint a sad picture of a family left exhausted and strung out, juggling two jobs and only one car.

While I can relate to the stress of the enormous, far-too-dear cost of child care for young children, I came away from the article wishing to share my perspective as a mama of three boys, having drastically changed my work schedule in the past year; though I fear the chasm between the ways we look at life is great. The two parents are working alternate schedules; mom at Costco, dad in sales at a construction and industrial supply company. They pay for only about nine hours of day care a week, or $480 a month, and together make $64,000. They live in a two-bedroom, 800 square foot apartment somewhere in Tigard. No, their schedule doesn't allow for matinees, pedicures, or post-work beer with the guys. Yes, they're "trapped" with one parent, and the car, at work when it rains. The fun for the kids, according to the article: a walk to a toy store, cartoons on 'On Demand,' the shopping mall play area. [The article's writer explained the day she followed the family, it was raining, so they decided not to go to the park; there are parks close by, though the original article wasn't clear on that fact.]

Potluck_urbanmamas
I wish I could fix it for them. What's obvious at first is that we all need a better link to community; to friends who can share childcare providers or swap care for free; to people who can provide that post-work beer experience with the kids; to occasional potluck dinners so each night doesn't seem so harried and lonely. My life today is not perfect (far, far, far!) but thanks to my perspective I can see a number of choices that are worth re-thinking. The sidewalk-less suburb is just one; I know that prices don't vary much from the middle of my neighborhood in inner SE Portland to Tigard, giving the parents far more places to connect and allowing mom & dad to get rid of the car altogether, choosing Tri-Met or the bike for commuting. Then maybe one parent can quit or reduce hours, relieving the pressure and the exhaustion considerably. Harriet calls this concept "householding," and I'm a big fan. (After hearing from the writer who wrote the story, I deleted my comment about food.)

Instead of sitting here frustrated at how isolating, stressful and perhaps more expensive than necessary are the lives we're asked to sympathize with in the Sunday paper, I'll make a challenge. [And judging from the age of the photo illustrating this post, it's a challenge I need badly.] I'll make it easy, because frankly, sharing child care is enormous thing to think about on such a beautiful day. Invite someone over for a potluck dinner -- or invite yourself to their place, if they have more room to set plates and cups. Connect in a simple, relaxed and nonmaterial way. Spend as little money as possible; yes, a carrot and lentil chili and a big salad, with water or homemade iced tea to drink, is perfect. Skip the cartoons and toy stores. Talk about the best place in your neighborhood for nature walks. Make it a regular thing. Start the change small, and see what happens.

Divorce while parenting: You're not alone, but it sure feels like it

April 09, 2009

My husband and I were watching a Discovery Channel show on the science of reproduction a few days ago; the show posited that humans are more likely to look for a new mate after their first child grows old enough for one parent to raise him alone. "Well then!" I said. "I guess we're fine." We have three children, after all. We laughed, but given our often-tense relationship, it was through a lens of concern. Not only are we occasionally very un-fine, but many of our close friends have been through separations and divorce in the past few years, and the prospect of raising a child alone -- or as part of an awkward parental tag-team -- is too familiar.

Mama_and_babe
Another urbanMama emailed me yesterday to say she, too, was in the painful process of separation and divorce. It's easy to see everyone else through your lens, and think, oh, they're fine! They don't have my problems. The marriage wasn't fine, and now she's just looking for advice and wisdom. While I sympathize, I haven't been in her shoes, so I'm hoping some of you, who have, can lend your stories to her.

When grandparents come: Is it all candy & TV?

March 24, 2009

Sometimes I have a hard time believing that I came from my parents.  Could it be possible that our approaches could be so different?

We limit sugar in our family.  It just makes sense.  The sugar makes little people go bonkers until wee hours of the night.  We aren't a no-sugar household, just a moderated-sugar household.  When it comes to screen time, we use it on occassion, but not all the time.

When the grandparents whisk into town, it seems that the kids are always clutching a bag of gummis or a sucker.  It seems that there's always the background noise of "kung fu panda" or "nikelodeon".  We have had words with grandparents, asking them not to give the kids candy or plop them in front of a screen all day, but it lands on deaf ears.  It must be their age.

Do we just pretend we don't see our kids discolored tongues from the daily lollipops?  Do we pretend we can't see the unending glare of the TV screen?  How do you handle how grandparents handle your kids if it differs from your approach?

Are you a 'sustainable' family?

March 20, 2009

NPR's Marketplace is looking to talk to Portland families:

I am looking for a young family to profile for an upcoming series we’re producing about whether the traditional American Dream is sustainable.  It’s a series of vignettes profiling people at different milestones in their pursuit of the dream and the obstacles in their way… retirement, midcareer, a young professional family with children, and college students. 

For young families with kids the traditional narrative would be moving from the city to the suburbs for the good schools and space.  The question I’m posing is whether there’s a growing shift away from that as the suburban life proves too isolating, uneconomic (energy prices) and environmentally unsustainable? 

And do cities like Portland offer an alternative middle ground?  Not only drawing single urban hipsters but young families as well.  Ideally I would be looking for a family with children in the 3-6 year old range who have recently moved or are in the process of moving to Portland to pursue this dream.  I’d also be interested in hearing the story of a family who did move to the suburbs but is now moving back to the city after becoming disillusioned.

Details on Activistas.

New Sibling Preparation

March 18, 2009

Many of us are part of families with more than one child.  What have we done to prepare our older child(ren) to make way and love for our younger ones?  An urbanMama writes:

We have a 2.5 yo son, and we are expecting another baby in a few weeks.  Our son is gentle and sweet and sensitive. I can see his concern with my expanding belly, and what that means for him.  I would appreciate some advice on how to help our son prepare for his new little sister.  Especially, we are looking for resources that will help provide reassurance.

Co-sleeping siblings: did it work for you?

March 10, 2009

We are a two-child household and both of our kids have shared a room since the little one moved out of our bed at around 8 or 9 months of age.  It wasn't an easy transition, necessarily, with one child sleeping before the other, then with frequent middle-of-the-night awakenings.  Still, we love that they share a room, even if we do have a third room we could've used for another kid's room.  The sweetness of hearing the two (now aged 5 and 8) chat before going to bed or after just waking up is precious, as is the lessons of learning to get along in a pretty small living space.  An urbanMama wants to hear about your experiences in transitioning two siblings to sleep together:

I was wondering if I could ask for advice from the urbanMamas community about moving my 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son in to the same room, possibly into the same queen sized bed that my daughter has slept in since she was born.  I was thinking about adding a twin bed to the room, so they could sleep together (since they are big snugglers) or apart depending on their mood.  Plus a parent could sleep comfortably with them during the transition.  Right now my 4 year old daughter is in her room, and I’m with her (trying to night-wean my son) and my husband is in our king sized bed with our 2 year old son.  So we’ve started a transition of some sort, but are at a stand still about the next step.
 
Neither are great sleepers, but I think we could all adjust to it....maybe.  I’d at least like to try it.  Getting them to fall asleep would be the tricky part, esp. if they are so tired they are trying to hit/kick each other or don’t want to share the parent or bed.  Right now, we stay with them individually until they fall asleep (too traumatic for all involved to do otherwise).  We do have 3 bedrooms, but I hate to give up the computer room that also lets them watch the occasional dvd, an area for them to color, I can call about bills late at night or grocery shop on-line, plus it is the only room in the house with decent daylight where we can hang out.  My husband wants to move them each into their own room, but I feel like my sanity is at stake, since the computer room is crucial to my connections outside of the house, late at night when everyone else is asleep.  Has anyone else been in a similar situation?  Did you decide to have siblings share a room?  Did you decide to give them each their own?  Any advice would be most welcome! 

Do the kids hear you fight?

March 02, 2009

Last night, a domestic squabble ensued in our household, involving raised voices, angry tones, and some swear words for emphasis.  One of us was hanging laundry, the other was handling kitchen duties.  The kids were nearby, and quickly came to our assistance at the thought that it may help diffuse the situation.

When I was a child, I heard some pretty terrible verbal jousts between my parents.  Many times, it brought me to tears myself.  Sometimes, even, it brought me to my knees in prayer, hoping that they would soon work it out and return to their playful, loving selves.

Arguments are a reality.  How and whether we expose the kids to these tense moments could be a different story.  I'm curious: do you fight in front of the kids?  Are you careful and certain to only discourse in private?  If the kids have caught you in the crossfire, how have they reacted?  Have you discussed and explained the arguments with them?

Have you made the choice to adopt?

February 26, 2009

For some of us mamas and papas, there are reasons why adopting a child was the only option to expand our families.  For others of us, we have had the opportunity to make the choice: to try to bear a child naturally or to adopt.  An urbanMama recently emailed with her dilemma:

I'm hoping to find some other mamas out there who may have had a similar decision to make.  My husband and I have a child of toddler age and are in the discussion phase of more children.  We both have a calling to adopt a child - not sure why...neither of us were adopted - but have different ideas about it.  As a woman who had a great pregnancy and very much enjoyed the birth/baby process (even though it was difficult) I always thought I'd have another child naturally so was thinking we could adopt a third child.  My husband is pretty adamant that he only wants 2 children and is happy with either adopting the 2nd child or having another on our own.  Basically this decision falls to me and I'm really struggling with it.  (We would adopt from India as my husband is of Indian heritage and we obviously have a strong family connection there.)  I would love to hear from anyone who may have this same situation - if there is anyone else out there.

Have you had to decide between adopting or natural childbirth?

The Novelty of the other parent

January 20, 2009

For those of us whose kids have two parents, there is Parent #1 and Parent #2.  If we are Parent #1, we do not even need to be in a relationship with Parent #2, beyond the relationship of co-parenting.  Still, there is #1, and there is #2.

In my world, Parent #1 is the one charged with the duties and responsibilities - keeping kids on schedule, dressed, fed and seeminly clean; leading kids in mind-stimulating activities; engaging in thought-provoking conversation to make them into those compassionate human beings we are all destined to rear.  But, the crux of the Parent #1 realm is the boring stuff like chores.  Yuck.

In my world, Parent #2 is the one charged with brightening the room upon entering.  Parent #2 is the novelty parent, the one who is showered with hugs and kisses once home, leaving Parent #1 toiling in the kitchen or tidying up after the brood who has just gone to shower Parent #2 with affection.

Y'all know what I'm talking about, right?  Or, is my world just this super-traditional and conservative one, where the stereotypical gender dynamics of the '50s still play strong undertones.  If your child(ren) has two parents, is there one boring, task-oriented parent while there is one fun, less task-oriented parent?

The functional family revolution in D.C.

November 23, 2008

I loved reading about Senator-Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden's impending move to Washington, D.C. in today's New York Times. What struck me first was that, though he's been working in the Senate for 36 years, he's never become a "fixture" in the Washington social scene: mostly because he's been rushing home to his wife and kids in Delaware. This has seriously impacted his political career, probably leading to failure in his own presidential campaigns.

What's more, he's certainly going to bring his 91-year-old mother to Washington, meaning that both the presidential and vice-presidential families will have three generations living together (President-elect Obama's mother-in-law is planning to move to the White House, too).

Many things about these family dynamics thrill me; one, that Biden's choices (to let career come after family) are more attractive examples for American managers and workers than those of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.  Two, in light of our recent conversation about multi-generational living, it demonstrates uncommonly functional family relationships on the part of both Biden and Obama. I admit that, at first, my opinions of Biden were mostly those of the guy who made a bunch of awkward, minorly offensive statements; and now I'm starting to believe that he was chosen for his unusual values -- values best illuminated by the many quiet choices he's made as a father/husband/son. Having these ethics in the executive branch gives me hope (even if "hope" is becoming a cliche) and makes me feel more secure about our future. What do you think?

Multigenerational Living: Has it worked for you?

November 22, 2008

It may seem that we all live in nuclear families (parent(s) and the(ir) child(ren)), but much of my extended family still lives a couple of generations deep.  We also know of friends here who have transitioned to having a parent live with them and their children.  An urbanMama wants to hear from your experiences with multigenerational living:

My mom has recently found herself in a predicament. The man she has been with for the last 7 years has decided to up and move to the philippines. This leaves her in a home she can't afford, not to mention a very sad heart.  Because we do not own our own home, my mom has asked me, my husband, my 4 year old, and 2 year old to move into her 1800 sq ft. home.  I love my mom, and lived with her on and off after college.  I am just worried my boys are going to drive her crazy.  She works evenings, and my husband works days, so we actually will still have private family time.  But I am a stay at home mom, so the boys and I will be there all the time. I am just wondering if any other families out there are living with, or have lived with (not so old) parents?  How has it worked out, and if they have any advice for a slightly hesitant mama....

Do you circulate a "Wish List"?

November 18, 2008

A few weeks ago, when we finally switched out summer clothes for fall clothes, I realized that there were piles of new clothes that have gone unworn.  For why?

Although the giftor, friends & family from all over, may think the fitted rugby shirt or the striped sweater is cute, the giftee, my picky little girl(s), may not agree.  So, the items go unworn.  I feel like it's such a waste.  Not all gifts come with gift receipts, and I just chuck these remains into boxes that will end up at Goodwill, consigment stores, or clothing drives.

I know I am among the privileged to have these "problems", to have gifts oozing at my children at the stroke of the holiday season.  Still: With the holiday season upon us and with family who believes in showering our children with gifts (boy we are lucky!), how are we to tactfully suggest things they may like?  Have you ever put together a "wish list" that you circulate to your family?  Can we send out holiday cards with a note "no gifts, please!"?  Should we somehow suggest contributions to their 529 plans?

Tit for Tat: your night out, my night out

September 30, 2008

Life in the partnered relationship can pose challenges when we each want time away from the family to pursue non-kid activities: sports, nights out with friends, theater, art, photography, or other hobbies.

The other day, I was chatting with another mama about getting our families together.  When I suggested Wednesday, she admitted it'd be a tough evening because it was her spouse's night out: "Wednesday is his night, and Friday is my night."  It hadn't been the first time I'd heard of "his night" and "her night".  Other friends of mine have Tuesday nights, while the spouse gets Mondays.

My partnership doesn't have a "my night" and a "your night."  I guess we just work it all out as it comes.  If I want to have drinks with another mama tonight, then it'll be my night.  If you happen to have some freebie tickets to the pre-season game next Wednesday night, then it'll be your night. 

So, do you have a "night" to your own?  A weekly night, a monthly night, a bi-weekly night?  I'd love to hear how other mamas and papas juggle the need to have nights out on their own.

All I want is mama!

July 01, 2008

In many households, there is a primary caretaker for the little ones in our lives, and that person is a mama.  In many other households, the primary caretaker is a papa, an auntie, a family friend.  There is a strong special bond that offen develops between mama and babe because of this role.  In many households, there are other caretakers beyond the primary one.  In many households, the secondary caretaker is a papa.  In many other households, the secondary caretakers is a mama, an cousin, a family friend. 

If there are two adults who are caretakers in your household, how have those dynamics played out with your littlest family members?  How have you strengthened the relationship among all, not just the mama?  An urbanMama emails:

I have a 3 month old daughter and have recently gone back to work part time. I work in the evenings, just 4 hours at a time. I've been taking my daughter to work with me, and after a couple hours when my husband gets off work he picks her up to take her home.  She is fine during the trip home, but as soon as they step into the front door she starts crying/screaming and continues to do so until she passes out or I come home (as soon as I hold her she starts to calm, nursing eases her completely).

Her Papa tries everything he can think of to cheer her; playing, distracting, rocking, patting, feeding her breastmilk from a bottle; but she is inconsolable. He has a theory - that her understanding of our home environment is that Home is Where Mama Is. (I work part-time from home as well, and am able to be with her all day.)

As a result, their alone time is stressful for both of them and discouraging to Papa. We worry that she's not able to be happy while alone with him and that we're introducing a Mama-Only attitude unintentionally.  We need to find some solace and a solution.  Has anybody had a similar experience?  What helped your family through it?

Biting: when big sis bites little bro

June 27, 2008

Many of children go through a biting phase at some point.  An urbanMama emails her situation and asks whether anyone else has experiences to share:

My 3yo daughter just started biting her 15mo brother. (They are almost the same size so she used to just push him away but now there's only 4" and 4lbs separating the 2 of them.) It usually happens because she gets frustrated because he's in her face and instead of using her words, she chomps down hard. In the last 3 days, shes bitten him at least 4 times hard enough to leave teeth marks that I can still see 3 days later. How do I get her to stop?  She's never bitten anyone before and nothing has changed recently in our daily lives.

Who Will Care For Those We Care For Most?

June 16, 2008

As we get older, we being to face the difficult challenge of caring for our elderly loved ones.  Making the decision to place them in an assisted living facility can be filled with all kinds of emotions and can be an enormous responsibility.   Once the decision has been made to make the move, the process of finding a care facility that will provide a safe and loving environment can be daunting at best.  This UrbanMama hopes to find advice and referrals from our loving community.  She writes:

I need to find an assisted living situation for my grandparents fast. I prefer close-in NE. Does anyone have any experience with Calaroga Terrace or Holladay Park? Any other suggestions? This is so stressful for my family, I would love any and all advice.

How old was your child the first time you traveled away?

May 23, 2008

Dare I share publicly that when my son was a little about 18 months, we left him with his grandparents, aunts and uncles 3000 miles away for a couple of weeks?  Looking back I realize now that some responded in absolute shock at our decision (oh the judgement does sting).  But the reality? The separation was harder for us than for him, and in the end it was a good experience.  When our kids are older, we do talk about repeating the extended stints with the grandparents during the summer. Hadey is interested in hearing your first time traveling away from your kids.  She writes:

I have an amazing opportunity to have an all expense paid trip to India with my dad this September. This will be his fourth trip there and will be staying a month or longer, but would like me to join him for the first week of his trip. He has said time and time again that I am the only one of his kids that he thinks would be interested, and that he feels the trip would enrich my life. I agree. My only hesitation is leaving my daughter for a week. She will be 14 months old at the time, and her dad is more than capable of taking care of her while I'm gone, but I already can't seem to get over the feeling of guilt of leaving her for a week, and the trip is still 4 months away. I also have this irrational fear that something terrible will happen to me while I'm there and I won't get to see my baby girl again.

So, my questions are: How old was your child the first time you traveled away from him/her for an extended period of time (5 days or longer)? How did you prepare yourself, your partner, your child for your absence? Were you able to enjoy your trip, or were your thoughts of your child too distracting?

I have a few months to make a decision about whether or not to go, but right now I'm torn. Any insight from other mamas would be wonderfully appreciated.

Kids v. Grown-Up Event: How Do You Decide?

May 21, 2008

Every time a fun or interesting grown-up event pops up, I am torn: should I go, or should I spend that time with my kids?  I think this question is different for each and everyone of us, depending on how much time we generally have with our kids, and how much time we have that very week with them.  For me, I am away from my kids (who are 2 and 5) four full days a week in an office.  When an after-work event crops up that I'd really like to attend, what to do? 

Case in point: tomorrow Sandra Steingraber, an author I have admired for years, is speaking in Portland.  And I really wanna go.  And I'd be sad to miss her.  And might not have the chance again anytime soon.  And it's only two hours long (6-8 PM).  But.  I've been away from my kids for four days straight.  That said, I get to be with them the next four days straight (Memorial Day!), so that's a factor.  So. many. factors.  How do YOU decide?  How many kidless events is too many, too few?  I know, of course, that there is no actual number of events per year that is the perfect amount.  Though the general goal might be: Mom is happy and stimulated but not always gone, you know?  Help!  Do I go?  Would you?

Political leanings: Do your kids follow you?

May 09, 2008

I've been buzzing about this week doing things with the Hillary Clinton campaign, and as Jonathan's out of town, I've been toting the boys with me. On Monday, we sat outside the campaign headquarters on our bike as they took a picture of us, holding Hillary signs. "I'm for Obama!" shouted Everett. I fought the urge to "shush" him -- he's for Obama because his daddy has given him several inspiring little campaign speeches.

Tomorrow, I'll be taking them to the big Mama Stroller-toting Rally for Hillary (more details on Activistas), and hopefully talking some sense into them beforehand. I'm not going to try to convince them that Hillary's their candidate, I'm just going to try to keep them from yelling "Barack... Obama!" in front of one of the politerati gathered for the event (I'm excited to see that Betty Roberts will be there).
When I was writing a bio for a piece on MOMocrats, I remembered how I was the only one in my class to "vote" for Reagan, and how much my parents' views influenced me.

Do you teach your kids to love the politician you favor? If you, too, have a divided household, do the kids agree with mama or papa? Or do you agree with the old adage, that neither politics nor religion should be discussed at dinner (or playtime)?

What are challenges as a single parent?

May 03, 2008

In recognizing the diversity of urbanMamas, we know that we are not all partnered parents.  There are distinct challenges - emotionally, financially, logistically - to solo parenting.  We recently received an email from a mama wanting to discuss more and connect with other single parents:

I am looking to meet other progressive mamas who are parenting without partners at least part time. I'm going through a separation and feel like a sudden outsider in my mostly nuclear, hetero, married world. I would love to meet other mamas, gay, straight, or otherwise, who want to connect around the challenges of parenting solo.  What are the challenges you face? I find, for example, that it's hard to overcome the collective inertia to get out and do things when it's just myself and my child. Families don't seem to invite us out as much. I'm also feeling guilty about the pleasures of having some actual--gasp--time to myself each week. I'd love to hear what you have done to honor your needs and feel good as a mom who is not with-child-every-minute.

Are you interested in getting together sometime to discuss these issues of single parenting?

Does having one save our planet?

April 22, 2008

Today's Oregonian featured "Enivornmental Moms Stop at One Child", highlighting the decision of a family to have one child as an environmental decision.  For sure we all have made our own decisions for our families.  We've talked about thoughts on number two and even more specific thoughts on number three.  Did the environmental impact of another child come into play in your decision in having one, two, three or more children?

What's in a Name?

April 17, 2008

Seven and a half years ago when I got married I didn't think twice about my impending name change. It seemed that is just what happens when a gal gets hitched. Of course it is not uncommon for a wife to keep her maiden name, but the more wives I met the more variations and combinations of names I heard including a man taking his wife's surname. Now add an offspring and the possibilities multiply. Suzanne is in one such conundrum:

My spouse and I have different last names. Child #1, who happens to be a boy, got a first name, my last name as his middle name, and dad's last name as his surname.
Now child # 2 is on the way (girl), and I'm thinking that I'd like her name situation to be first name, then dad's last name as her middle, and my last name as surname.
I don't think anyone would care one way or another except us and of course, dealing with flack from grandparents. however, I was curious as to other people's experiences with alternating last names of the kids.

On In-Laws: How do you fare?

April 15, 2008

In general, I think we have it very good.  My family and my husband's family have vacationed together.  More than once.  And, we'll do it again in December.

Still, his family has a different groove from my nuclear family, and my family has a different groove from his.  Sometimes I'm stuck feeling like my in-laws are so different from me; I occassionally fear that they judge me negatively for parenting the way that I do.  With my own parents, I know they respect and support me and my child-rearing decisions.  Most recently, we have tried to be more explicit about expectations when it comes to our parents' involvement, trying to be clear about who is visiting when, when we go to NY or SF, being fair about trying to split the time so no one's family has the shorter end of the stick.  But, these things are hard!

If you're partnered, how do you fare with dealing with your in-laws?  How does your partner fare with dealing with his/her in-laws (i.e., your family)?  Are there things about your in-laws that drive you mad?  Are there things about your family that drives your partner mad?  Are you able to discuss these feelings?  Have any tricks to share on how to approach the topic?

Pets and Kids

March 10, 2008

My daughter asked the other day: "Can we get a dog?"  My husband, who grew up with a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky, said "Yeah!  Let's get a dog!"  He was excited.  Our other daughter said, "I don't like dogs."  I was silent on the issue.  Then she said, "Well, what about a hamster?"

Um, not sure.

Do you have a pet at home?  Dog(s), cat(s), guinea pig(s), fish(es), chickens, lizard (I had a chameleon growing up), rabbit (I also had a bunny for a few years), birds (also had parakeets for about a year), other pet family members?  Did you have a pet pre-child?  What is the household like with kids and pets?  Did you consider having family pet(s) but ultimately decide not to adopt a pet?  What are factors to keep in mind when considering growing the family to include pets?

And what about the dads?

March 09, 2008

Thank you, Tracy, for beating us to the punch, for we were going start a conversation along the same vein.

In amongst all the angst of the "Do you stay at home?  Why or why not?" question, there was not a lot of talk about dads.  Sorry for the fact that this question assumes a dad is present as I know it won't relate to everyone, but what is the role of dad in your home?  How do you divide work?  How do you think dad and mom relationships differ with the children?  How do the dads feel about their role and would they want it to be different?  Do moms want dad's role to be different?  Very curious about this....

We know that the vast majority of people who read this site are, in fact, mamas.  We also know, however, that there are quite a few papas out there that read regularly and comment oh-so very infrequently.  We appreciate you papas treading lightly and allowing the conversation to ensue.  But, we are also interested in bringing papas deeper into the fold.  We would love to hear from you, too.  We realize that not every family has a papa.  Still, we want to ask mamas and papas alike: What is papa's role in your household?  What would you like to see different?  What would you never change?

Considering adoption?

February 28, 2008

Growing one's family can come in so many different forms, which includes considering adoption.  Have other parents strongly considered and gone through with adoption?  What about some of the "issues" that may go along with adoption?

About a year ago I posted a comment about whether or not to have a second baby. A year later we are still dealing with this issue. Our little girl is two-and-a-half, and lovely and funny and almost perfect (though sometimes tantrums get in the way of a "perfect score" :-) So here we are...watching our friends have their second kids.  Do we want more--yes, I'm almost sure we've decided that--but do we need to make them ourselves?  While I long to have another baby growing in my tummy, am I being selfish when there are kids needing homes?  Am I selfish for only wanting an infant and not an older child who really needs a loving home.  Do I want to adopt internationally, or go domestically?  Can I bring home a multi-racial baby and guarantee him or her a happy home free of the injustices in the world.  Will having a white family be a detriment to their well-being?  My husband would rather have our own baby, but I'm torn about making the correct "social" choice.  Have any of the other urbanMamas felt this way?

The challenges for Mom & Stepmom

February 16, 2008

We have seen it go both ways.  Some remarried parents have beautiful relationships with their ex's and their ex's new partners.  We have known some families of ex-husbands and ex-wives who even vacation together with their new families.   We have seen the other side as well: ex's unable to speak civilly to the other or, when they speak, it's all out warfare.

Crystal is looking for your thoughts and advice on how to best deal with her stepson's mother:

Being part of a blended family can be challenging, but the relationships it brings with ex's can be down right miserable. I have been both the stepmother and the mom of a child with a stepmother ... In other words I've been on both sides.

I've been married to my wonderful husband for almost a year. I brought two children into the marriage and he brought one.  I have been respectful to my stepson's mother from the beginning.  She is remarried and has another child with her current husband, yet she continues to be a royal pain in the *** everytime we are in close proximity.  She won't talk to me or even look at me and goes out of her way to be rude, disrespectful, controlling, difficult, etc.

What can I do? I know the boundaries being a stepmom entails and am careful not to overstep my place. I also know what a relationship CAN be with a mom/stepmom.  It doesn't have to be hell.  How do I change it though?  The hostility from her is affecting all of us  - primarily my stepson and I am tired of it.

Have you experience or suggestions to share?

When Mama ain't happy...

February 06, 2008

I don't think anyone here will disagree with me when I say that parenting is an incredible joy.  We love these little people so much and they do so many things that make us proud.  But there is another side to that coin.  A neighbor of mine once shared this wisdom about parenting:  "They will make you feel all of your emotions stronger than you ever knew you could."  Among those emotions?  Anger.

It's a very visceral emotion, and it arises without much warning or forethought.  And it's really, really difficult for me to process these emotions, especially in confrontation with my child.  Things can go many ways but the end is never very pretty.  And neither one of us feels good about it.  I know this is difficult to talk about, but I also know I am not alone.  Another mother wrote to us:

I feel like I am in kind of a dark place in terms of parenting. I have caught myself in behaviors where I am yelling, really yelling, at my child. This might include throwing things (coats/cereal bowls etc) this might be spurned on by me asking my child to clear the cereal bowl or to brush his teeth. And when it doesn't happen my hot point is right there. Although I have not hit my child I can imagine how parents do it. I don't think I would hit my child. But I am not ok with where I am finding myself in terms of my temper and lack of patience.

I have several stress points in my life that are not negotiable; I am raising my son alone and don't have lots of support. My son has recently been on/off medication that amps him up- and in turn really stresses me out with his behavior. So I need to find some solutions within those constraints. To me this is not a conversation about being single. I am looking to other moms who also find themselves short-fused, short-tempered, and parenting in a way that that they are not happy with.

What do you do- how do you manage the anger & stress and get to a better place with your kids?

I think that, for me, it was very important for me to step back and realize that I had these feelings and frustrations, not only with the situation but with myself.  I wasn't happy with my own behavior... so I had to ask how I could change it.

Now, I'm not a single mother, but I am currently the single caregiver to my two kids (with much support from two grannies until daddy comes home).  I can't imagine how much more difficult it would be without their support.  Add to that some behavioral issues my 4.5 year old is having at school, and life is not getting any easier day to day.  After some looking around and reading up, I have turned to the Love and Logic approach.  Today is day 5 and I'm trying not to let myself relax back into my old ways (and this morning - it was really, really tough!).  But reading the philosophies helped me realize that there was a power struggle going on, and that my son needed to have control over SOME things in his life, or he'd be constantly trying to control everything.  That cycle had to stop.  That's where Love and Logic came in for us.

Have any of you Mamas or Papas had some wild success breaking the power struggle?  I, for one, felt very freed, and much happier with my child when we weren't angry at each other all the time.  How is a mama to get past the anger and become a happy Mama again.  What other techniques have worked besides just a parenting philosophy?  Sleep, diet, exercise?  I'd love to hear what other parents are doing to manage stress and anger.

It's Fat Tuesday! Are you (and your family) giving something up for Lent?

February 05, 2008

Sugar_cookies I suddenly realized yesterday that Wednesday -- that's tomorrow!! -- is the beginning of Lent. I'm an Episcopalian by marriage, and my favorite part of the faith that's different from my Baptist roots is Lent. The concept of sacrificing something in concert with millions of others is a ritual that feels right in my bones.

Since I've recently joined the 'eat local' movement, I've been eliminating processed, industrial foods from my family's diet. One exception (of several) I've made up until now has been sugar -- though I've sworn off packaged cookies and candies and the like, I've been buying pound after pound of organic sugar and baking it into all kinds of high-glycemic goodies. I think that I'm giving up sugar (but not honey, as it's local and thoroughly part of nature) for Lent.

The problem with me giving up sugar is that, as chief baker for a houseful I've dragged along on mission: eat local, I'm forcing the rest of my family to give it up, too. Forced religion or good mojo? I can't decide. Are you giving up anything for Lent? Is your family, too, an unwilling participant in your sacrifice?

Grieving the Loss of a Pet

November 29, 2007

Our condolences go out to Debby as she navigates helping explain the loss of her dear cat to her daughter.  Can you help her with explaining this serious topic to her daughter? She writes:

CatThis Thanksgiving morning, unfortunately, was spent in my friends' back yard, with a ceremony to say goodbye to my beloved friend and companion of 11 years, my dear 18 year old cat Heidi. She was 7 when I adopted her and was a pure joy in my life, in the life of my other 3 cats, and most recently, my 2.3 year old daughter grew to adore her. Every morning, she would wake up and say, "where is Heidi? I want to see her!" So when she became blind last month, I had to take a step back and examine the quality of her life. She did not seem able to hear, and her runny nose, which was a constant over the past few years, seemed to hinder her sense of smell. She bumped into things, and I had to place small litter boxes all over the downstairs so she could find them and not have accidents, which she still did. Through all this, my daughter loved on her, kissed her, and generally harassed her, but cared for her deeply.

Continue reading "Grieving the Loss of a Pet" »

Time-Saving Tips: Got Any?

November 27, 2007

Jess recently posted this comment over at our Exchange forum.  We liked it so much that we thought that we would share it with the rest of you.  She shares her 7 top time-saving tips to make life more sane.  How about you?:

I have only been in the dual working parent trap--I mean situation--for the past two months. Previously, my wonderhubby worked nights, took a nap in the morning, and spent his afternoon cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. For a decade I came home every night to a home-cooked meal and freshly laundered clothing (neatly put away, of course).

Now that we are both working outside the home during the day my life looks a lot--worse. I mean different. Here are a few time saving tips I learned over the past two months:

1) Make a double batch of "crockpot" food on the weekends. One meal for Saturday night. Another for a weekday night: Wednesday, say.

2) Don't make the beds. I have completely let go of the idea of making the bed everyday. That definitely saves time, even though my grandmother would be appalled.

3) Go grocery shopping on-line.  Saves a good 30 minutes right there.

4) Pay bills on-line.  The first time is the scariest.

Continue reading "Time-Saving Tips: Got Any?" »

Family Politics: When Partners Don't Agree

November 02, 2007

Couplearguingmanpointingfingeratw_3 Sometimes, every once in a great while, urban Mamas & their partners don't see eye to eye (say it isn't so!).  As we shared recently, we have some seriously different approaches to discipline.  So what about political differences?  You're a bleeding heart liberal and s/he's a libertarian.  What's the political landscape in your house?  How do you handle key differences?  Heated discussions?  Avoid hot-button topics like the plague?  Read more about it & share your tips from the trenches on Activistas.

Discipline and the co-parent: When do you discuss?

October 08, 2007

Discussion_monroe I just came upstairs from our family living room, seething at the way my husband had just asked Everett to do something. The something was fine, it was the communication. I have a better way! I wanted to shout. But our house is small, and we've been working on keeping our arguments away from the children. Now I'm fidgety and anxious, waiting to tell him how I wish he'd handled the situation.

But when is a good time to hammer out this discipline stuff? I know there won't be time tonight between finishing work, dinner, bedtime, nursing, me falling exhausted into bed. We famously once spent a couple of hours of our "date night" heatedly discussing how whose method was wronger at a hotspot, only stopping when another patron asked us to. We were creating a negative vibe in the whole restaurant, he said! (We apologized and ended up becoming friends.) Besides, date nights or even couples counselling appointments are far too few and far between to save up all the little things.

When sleep deprivation is setting in (what with a little baby and a full-time job), how do you carve out time to get to some common ground with the little issues of co-parenting? How do you negotiate these disagreements without causing a rift in your family fabric?

Is it back to normal?

September 12, 2007

The summer can feel a bit uncontrolled, and that can be a challenge for some of us who can really thrive on consistency.  With new camps each week or piece-meal daycare to cover days when I could not work from home, the schedule was harried and days were looooooong.

The last stretch of the summer and first weeks of September are a real blur for us.  From HTC to a week-long trip to see family back in New York, we launched ourselves right into the new school year, with just a few moments to spare.  No rest for the weary! 

Our two girls are now basically situated in their schools ans school routines, and I feel like I can come up for a bit of air. I have been able to take a sigh and deep breath in the past few days at 8:45am, or sometimes earlier, depending on how early we make it to each of their schools. 

Now that school has started and the jitters may be a little bit behind us, has your household settled into a new rhythm?  Does it feel more balanced or more "back to normal"?  Inquiring mamas want to know!

Blood - is it thicker than water?

August 23, 2007

Our family is bi-coastal.  My husband's family in New York, my own family in San Francisco.  When we lived back east, my inlaws were 3 hours away and my parents were across the country.  When they would visit, we were torn between exploiting the free babysitting and spending quality time.

When I grew up, it definitely took a village.  I was surrounded by cousins, aunties, uncles, and three grandparents.  My mother would drop me off, my aunt would pick me up and leave me at my grandmother's until my father picked me up later.  I would hang out and play with cousins.  Aunts and uncles would float in and out of my grandmother's house, picking up my cousins and often staying for dinner.  The place always smelled of vats of my lola's home-cooked Filipino food.

Fast foward to my girls and their growing-up experience.  Daily interaction with extended family is nil.  We have created our own "family" here in Portland, but there is still something to be said of family, of whom you could ask almost anything.  At 4 o'clock one afternoon, when you are held up somewhere, could you ask a relative to please, please see if s/he can drop everything to pick up your child from school?  Could you ask your brother to babysit the kids while you run Hood-to-Coast, perhaps?  Or could you ask your sister to watch the kids so you could steal away for some much needed adult time?  Or leave the kids with your parents for an even longer weekend for an adult mini-getaway?

We've been parents for almost seven years, and - for the most part - we haven't had family close enough for those last-minute regular requests for assistances with the crazy juggle of parenthood.  Two years ago, though, my two brothers moved to Portland.  Single, in their 20s, and very bachelor-minded, it's been hard to pin them down and make these special familial requests.  They're in the SE and we rarely see them.  But, they're all we have here in Portland when it comes to family, in the strictest sense.

Now that my parents and my parents-in-law are approaching retirement, we get to thinking about other families we know here in Portland whose parents have moved to Portland to be closer to their grandchildren.  So, I'm curious: do you have extended family nearby or here in Portland?  Is it helpful for you and your kids?  Do they share in childcare?  Is it more of a nuisance?  Do you see them often or hardly at all?

Kid's Sick - Who Stays Home?

August 15, 2007

Just as the Activistas were discussing: Papas & The FMLS - Is anyone using it?  A University of Cincinnati study recently released and looked at dual-working parent families: Who puts family first when a child is sick?  Their data "finds a large gender disparity in providing urgent child care, with 77.7 percent of women taking time off from work and 26.5 percent of men reporting that they attend to child-care needs".

If you and your partner both work, how do you decide who stays home with a sick child?  How does your workplace treat you're child's sickness & your need to stay home?  As a single parent, have you found emergency back-up care that works?  What do you do as a working parent when your child is sick?

The New "Normal" - a post-separation family

July 27, 2007

Jason and I have been separated since January. We have had our ups and downs; but, have been able to keep Jackson largely unaware of our challenging moments. Things have been on a fairly even keel for the past few months and we seem to be getting a handle on the idea of co-parenting. In fact, we are comfortable with being around each other at the same gatherings and will even make a point of going to a gathering on our "off" night in order to have some additional time with Jackson.

Jackson let us know that this wasn't working all that well for him. The last time I attended a gathering when it wasn't a mama-night, Jackson told his dad that it was too sad for him to see me when it was a papa night because he did not like having to say goodbye to me and would have preferred to just play with his friends. I talked to Jackson about it a couple of days later and he said it was just too hard to not be able to stay with someone that he loved. We are so fortunate that he is so articulate and able to convey his feelings so well. I was heart broken; but, it isn't about me. Most of all, it hurts me to see that his dad and I have done something that has rocked his world to its core and are unable to "fix it" for him. I just want to take the hurt away from his little 4 1/2 year old heart.

So, a multifamily camping trip is coming up and it is not on a mama weekend. Jason and I have discussed it and decided that we are comfortable with both of us going. Obviously, we are going to talk to Jackson about it and make sure that he gives the idea the thumbs up. I am hoping that the idea of a whole weekend together, and not just a 2 hour drop-by, will make the difference to Jackson; but, I certainly don't claim to be able to read his mind. And, I don't want it to make it confusing (ie. Does this mean that mama and papa are going to live in one house again?).

I am wondering if anyone has experience with the post-separation family and how things worked for her/his family. Is anyone else going through these kinds of transitions? I'd love to hear about other separation/co-parenting experiences.

We're going to grandma's!

July 19, 2007

I remember when I was a kid, I'd beg my parents to let me stay at my cousin's house for the weekend.  The first night was so fun - we'd stay up all night, set up sleeping bags in the living room, watch movies.  By the second night, though, I'd miss my bed, my own pajamas, my room, and my parents.  I'd get homesick, even on just the second night.

When I was ten, my parents decided it would be a wonderful life experience for me and my brothers to spend the summer - three months - in the Philippines.  We rotated houses, staying with my grandmother and a myriad of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I definitely thought it was novel, since I convinced my aunt that I was allowed to have ice cream sundaes every day.  But, after the first week, I was homesick.  And, I had several, several weeks to go.  My two brothers were 6 years old and 4 years old that summer.

When we came home, finally, my mother gave us each the hug of all hugs.  She clung to us like she'd never let us go.  She told us, "We will never, ever, ever leave you for that long again.  Ever."

Our girls are lucky enough for have four grandparents - my parents and my husband's parents.  For a long while now, they have been trying to finagle a way to get the girls to spend a week in San Francisco (with my parents) or in New York (with my husband's parents).  The girls and I have spent only a few instances apart.  Just a handful, really.  I didn't spend a night away from either of them until they were each three years old, at least.

Maybe it I am the one who is having a hard time being OK with the time apart.  But, I do think that the time apart may be more challenging than they may think.  Have you had your child(ren) go away and spend time at the grandparents' or with other family?  How has it been?  Have you loved the time apart or hated it?

A time in need

July 09, 2007

Loss, especially unexpected loss, can be a very difficult time for families.  Jesse has previously recounted an experience of Mama Grief and we have also had a discussion on helping children deal with death.  An urbanMama just emailed us and is seeking some tips or recommendations as soon as possible:

A few days ago my father, who was a central figure in both my and my 2-year-old daughter's life, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. I am devastated. I am trying to hold it together for my daughter, but I need help. I am looking for some sort of grief support group or therapist who might specialize in this sort of thing, preferably in NE Portland. I'm also looking for ways to talk to my daughter about this. My father was the central family member in her life and she adores him.

Continue reading "A time in need" »

Unconditional Parenting Workshop

June 30, 2007

There have been a few discussions and requests on parenting classes as well as some discussion on "discipline" styles, choices, and other issues. Alfie Kohn, the author of eleven books on education, parenting, and human behavior, is having a workshop in Portland on July 24th on "Unconditional Parenting." Here is a description of the event as well as information on how to register:

UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING: Beyond Bribes and Threats

Tuesday, July 24th 6:30 - 8:30pm

Holiday Inn Portland, NE 2nd Ave. Portland, OR 97232

Advice for raising children typically comes in two flavors: threats (known euphemistically as “consequences”) and bribes (”positive reinforcement”).  Rewards and punishments are two sides of the same coin, and unfortunately, neither can buy anything more than temporary obedience.

This presentation, by the author of UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING, will show why carrots and sticks are not only ineffective but actually counterproductive over the long haul. To raise children who are good learners and good people requires us to abandon strategies that do things to kids, in favor of an approach in which we work with them. And underlying those “working with” strategies is the message that children do not have to earn our approval, that we love them not for what they do but just for who they are.

Cost is $5 per person. Space is limited, go to pdxparentingsupport.com for reservations.

Our children and their heritage

June 28, 2007

My husband and I recently enjoyed a date night, compliments of a friend who graciously offered to stay with the girls.  It'd been a LONG, LONG time since we'd seen a movie (I think we've seen 2 movies at the theater in the past 6.5 years), so we opted to see Namesake at the Hollywood Theater.  A story about a family young scholar who moves from Calcutta to New York and his almost-stranger wife who journeys to join him, my husband and I are each reminded of our own parents, their immigration stories, and our experiences growing up in America but often being asked "so where are you from?", as if we couldn't be from San Francisco or New York (respectively).  My father immigrated to the states, a single man.  On a 2-week vacation in his home, the Philippines, he met my mother, fell in love, proposed, and married her.  The newlyweds spent their first 3 months of marriage across the world from each other; they conceived me immediately after my mom joined my dad in San Francisco.

My husband's parents story is that both parents came to the states single and separately.  They lived in different cities where they could work (as physician and nurse) in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ohio.  They settled in New York, where they raised their Filipino family of four children.

Growing up, he and I had different experiences, but we were both growing up as children of immigrants.  We faced challenges like parents being confused on what a "prom" was and why teenagers should be allowed to go to a dance party without parent supervision.  Our lunches were thick savory Filipino stews over rice, maybe some adobo or relleno.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were pretty foreign, but siopao (steamed adobo pork buns) were a common merienda.

Like with many cultures, Asian, European, African, Latin -- the two "f"s are what keep the heritage alive: Food and Family.  Do you feel you are able to inject your children's awareness and love of their own ethnic heritage?  How?  Do you feel you are able to raise their awareness of others' ethnic heritage?

Way back when, we had previous conversations about our children of mixed heritage or about how we were clinging to culture.  In the past, many mama groups have formed via urbanMamas, including a group of Jewish Mamas who have found cultural commonality among their families.  We recently received email from Kinnari: 

I've recently moved to Portland with our two-year-old son.  I am of Indian descent (my parents moved from India in the '60s, though I was born and raised here), and as my little one is getting older, it's important to me that he grow up with a connection to his heritage. Are there other Indian/South Asian moms in Portland who'd be interested in meeting up from time to time?  If so, please email me at kshah[at]alum [dot]berkeley[dot]edu.  Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you!

Juggling a Preschooler and a Nursing Babe

June 21, 2007

I remember when our second daughter was born, our older one was just over 3 years old. Just when I'd settle in to nurse baby Tati, I'd hear: "Mammmmaaa!" from the other room. "CAN YOU DRAW WITH ME?!?!?" I came to look forward to evening nurse sessions, after I had tucked in older Philly to bed. But, even then, it'd be: "Maammmmmaaaa!" she'd holler, waking baby Tati from her nam-nam slumber. "I GOTTA GO POTTY/NEED WATER/WANT A KISS!!!!" It's tough, juggling the two. How did you do? Sarah is feeling challenged:

I'm due to have my second child any day now, and I already have a 3 1/2 year old daughter. Does anyone have recommendations for a special activity or ways to occupy a preschooler while nursing a baby? When my daughter was nursing, it regularly lasted 30-45 minutes, and I want to be prepared in case this baby is a slow eater too. Any tips?

Have you lost that lovin' feelin'?

May 30, 2007

Parenthood, no doubt, has a powerful impact on our relationships with our partners.  How do you keep love alive?

My husband and I have one baby (15 mos) and pretty much since she's been born our sex life has ground to a halt.  We are still very affectionate and snuggly - I know we are both very much in love and delighted about our family - but the, uh, lust that used to be there seems to have just vanished.  I feel perplexed about this and wonder how other parents have dealt with it?  The first few months I chalked it up to lack of sleep and the general haze of new parenthood but that is not really an issue anymore.  We both work full time so I definitely feel more harried, but we could definitely make time any night after 7 or weekend naptime if we made it a priority ... it just seems we don't have the urge.  Or, at least, I don't.  We haven't really talked about it much, except to kind of joke about it, though on pretty much any other subject we're excellent communicators.  I'm beginning to think about it more and I'm starting to wonder if I should talk to my doctor (hormonal changes?) about this, or ... a marriage counselor?  Anyone else had a similar lack of libido after parenthood?

A Time for Us

May 09, 2007

Every relationship has its ups and downs.  For recurring issues that are never resolve and for learning new approaches to old conflicts, sometimes a third-party can make a world of difference:

I am thinking that the urbanMamas community is the place to come for a good referral for a couples counselor.  My husband and I are still figuring out life as a couple with a kiddo and it's been long enough that I think we're going in circles more than really figuring anything out. So who have you seen? What did you like about them? I'm sure we're not alone in this, but it's such a hard one to talk candidly about (and I'd rather go on recommendation than start in the yellow pages).

Crafting with Kiddos

May 03, 2007

As a mama, I love to encourage my children to be creative, both through crafts and in the kitchen.  Lisa is looking for some ideas of activities to do with her new two year old child:

My husband and I are adopting a two year old boy that we brought home about a month ago.  I am hoping to get advise from other moms about good activities for two year olds.  We read tons of books, paint/color, play in the sand box, go to the park etc.  I am looking for some more indoor craft activities that give us a chance for a lot of interaction.  Also, he loves to help out in the kitchen so any fun recipe ideas would be great.

Img_6073_1 My recommendation for cooking would be to try easy baking things.   I like to let my little guy help mix up biscuits or pancake batter.  Playing with dough is fun for them, as is cutting out the shapes (making biscuits  - or scones! a winner in my house).  We also do crafts that involve multi-media type art, combining coloring, painting, and stickers all at once.  For recipes, you might check your nearest library for books that have kid-friendly recipes in them.  I have one that has a great pretzel recipe where the pretzels are to be shaped like letters.  We made one for each person in the family with their first initial (of course with M for Mama!).  Anyone else have some great successes in the indoor activity department?

Mama of two; what to do?

April 24, 2007

When I had our second baby, I recall feeling stretched thin from both ends. It was like one child was pulling one arm (actually, she was nursing the heck outta me, so she was really pulling something else), and our other child (who was a 3-year old then) was pulling my other arm. Hard. It was a constant juggle, and it definitely took quite a bit of time to adjust to being a mama of two. Lydia asks for suggestions from the urbanMamas community:

I have a new baby, 5 weeks today. He has a big sister who just turned two. We're doing pretty well, thanks, all things considered, but I am dying to get out of the house more! Problem is, my daughter, being two, can be "uncooperative" when it's time to leave, or stay close by while I nurse, or whatever. Any ideas about what we could do? I need places where the big girl can be a little contained if I need to nurse or something. The one thing I can think of is the Portland Children's museum where there's an infant area with a gate, and nobody will mind if baby fusses a little while I shepherd everybody in there. Indoor play parks are also a possibility, I guess, except my daughter loves the trampoline most and I probably shouldn't spot with a baby on my chest. Advice from other experienced moms of two? Should I just stay home (please no!)?

Question for 2-house families

April 21, 2007

urbanMamas and Papas, Sadie Rose would love to hear how you have juggled scheduling for your child(ren) who have two or more places to call "home":

I have a 2.5 year old boy, and he goes to his dad's one night a week. But now, things are changing and he's going to be there nearly (but not quite) half the time!

I was just wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on the best way to do the split household with a little guy. I was nearly twelve when my parents divorced, and as I headed into my teens, I liked the longer stints at each house so that I didn't have to go back and forth so much. But clearly, with a toddler, I'm not going to do it as I would with a teenager. At this point, we have developed a schedule where he goes to his dad's house 2 nights in a row, comes back to me for 2 nights, back to dad's for 1 night, and then back to me for 2 nights.

It sounds complicated, and I suppose on many levels, it is. I am just wondering if any uMs have any other ideas or experiences or advice on this matter. We are barely even through our first week with the new schedule, so I'm not even sure how it's going to go. Time (and emotions) will tell.

Who was at the birth?

April 16, 2007

In a comment to the recent thread on Seeking Suggestions for natural hospital birth, Leslie says:

I'd love to hear what other uMamas think of who should be present at their births...

Who was at your child(ren)'s birth? In retrospect, did it work well for you? What would have you changed?

Thoughts on Number Three

March 19, 2007

At date night last Friday, my spouse brought up the topic of number three.  I have to say, I wasn't fully prepared for the discussion.  There is a huge part of my heart that would love to conceive another baby (the fun part!), and I would more-so love carrying another life inside of me and delivering another little bambina/o.  I look less fondly on the ensuing challenges of having baby: postpartum issues, sleep deprivation, nursing, feeding, diapering... 

I have two siblings and my husband has three.  Our family dymanics have been robust and generally happy.  Now that I'm all grown up, I'm happy to have two brothers to call on for occassional back-up childcare or to invite over for Sunday night dinner.  I'm happy to have my husband's siblings, the aunties and uncles who are all beloved and important parts of our girls' lives.  Family affairs when our families gather are rambunctious and overjoyous.  Shall we keep the cycle of our families growing by growing our own nuclear family?

By the time our first daughter was 3, her baby sister was soon to come.  Now that our second daughter is 3.5 (!!!!), I get to thinking, "Should we?  Could we?"  The past few days, I have looked at our younger daughter with a few ounces of wistfulness and nostalgia.  Her days of babyhood are now years behind us.  Our little Tati is 3.5 years old going on 35: she looks like a little woman, a dalagita as they say in my parents' language.

Granted, having a baby just to prolong the sweet smell of baby in the household isn't reason enough to go for three.  Tati's best friend, who almost 3 years old, is expecting a baby sister within weeks.  Tati has come home saying, "I want to be a big sister."  I'm having a hard time coming up with a way to respond to her.

Have you decided?  Do your Thoughts on Number Two also apply to your Thoughts on Number Three?