Tuesday, February 28, 2017

6 Things not to forget in preparation for baby

We all know to have clothing and other essentials ready early for the arrival of our babies, but here is a highlight of a few that most parents (I'm guilty as well) forget to do as part of the preparation process.

  1. Remind your out-of-town family to pack a "hospital bag" too.  Okay, although it's not quite a hospital bag, it's still a bag they should pack if they plan to stay and enjoy new baby and parents for a few days. It's good to have this bag readily accessible so that they can just pick up and go if the baby decides to comes out of the schedule.  Chances are, they just may. The BBC reported that there is only a 4% chance for the baby coming on the due date.  They are more likely not to come on the due date if it's the first baby for the mom.  I and my family got caught off guard a many times before - finding out a loved one is going into labor and we have nothing packed.  It can slow your travel plans down by hours or even a whole day, and greatly increases the chances of you forgetting something. Avoid all that and tell your family to get their bag(s) ready.
  2.  Arrange for an emergency pet sitter. You never know when the baby is coming, so knowing that you already have arrangements for the other member(s) of your house gives an added peace of mind.
  3. Sleep.  This seems automatic, but you'd be surprised how many people don't try to get adequate sleep before the baby arrives.  The excitement and planning of it all can be overwhelming, but you cannot forget to take care of yourself first. You'll get very little sleep once your LO arrives and it's easier to deal with post-baby sleep deprivation if you've made great efforts to get the appropriate amount of sleep in the time leading up to the birth
  4. Install your car seat and set up your crib.  If you're not good at doing this, purchase your crib from a company that offers free set up on site, or have someone you know either help you or do it for you. I had a bassinet for my son during the phase I worried about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), but moved him to the crib in his own room because I was not interested in being a co-sleeper for years to come. I was happy that the crib was up and ready, because my husband had encountered missing parts during their set-up process that they needed to go and find. Had they waited until after the baby was there, it could've prolonged the wait for weeks. The car seat was much easier to install, as we used the Keyfit30; but my husband had this already setup so that all we needed to do was walk out of the hospital and go.  It decreased the number of things for us to worry about and should be something you should think about doing as well.
  5. Discuss with your spouse/partner the important decisions you'll have to make. At the hospital, the doctors will give you options on whether to administer certain medicines or preventative shots. Research and/or ask your medical providers beforehand the purpose for, and side effects of each of them so that you can make the best decision for your family without hastily making a last-minute decision.
  6. Make primary and secondary plans for feeding. By the third trimester, most of us have settled upon a primary decision, and then we just make plans for that.  But we can forget that situations can arise that  don't allow for us to continue down that original path. While planning is very beneficial, and is recommended, we will not have total control over every aspect, as I wrote in my previous post. This is where the alternative plan comes in handy.  I'd previously made the plan to breastfeed and I drank teas and made other preparations to ensure my milk came in, but when I had to have an emergency C-section, my milk just didn't come in enough to satisfy my son, so we were then presented with the question from hospital staff, "What type of formula is your preference?"  Because I remembered what formula my mother used for us when we were babies, I simply decided upon that brand, but if you aren't familiar with a brand, then the hospital will give your baby what they themselves decide- which may or may not be to your liking. Avoid that by having an alternative available, and maybe even having it in the hospital bad just in case they don't carry it.  I knew that since I had sensitive skin, and my husband had a sensitive stomach, I might have needed to have something formulated for sensitive tummies ready just in case my son couldn't take the original version the hospitals provide. It came in handy when we found that indeed he did.  
    The breast pump is another area where moms can prepare for.  Start learning how to setup your pump and learning how to properly use it before the birth.  Lactation specialists come around to the hospital rooms after your child's birth, but they can be sought before the birth to help with breast pump usage.  The last thing you want to do is to add pain to already painful breasts with improper pump usage.  You may have to wait weeks to secure an appointment with a professional, so it definitely helps to seek that appointment before you need it so that you don't have the urgency of the need to feed, or the pain of already improperly feeding/pumping, and then having to un-learn bad habits.
Having a plan doesn't mean things will go as planned, but having an alternative provides a better scenario for you and your partner should things present themselves as atypical.  Making sure you take care of yourself is one of the biggest lessons I've learned as a mom.  You cannot take care of your baby sufficiently if you are not well yourself.  Get your sleep, get your nutrition, and make prepare yourself where you can.

*Visit us for our next post on Walt Disney World with a Toddler****

Monday, February 20, 2017

Planning a last minute Walt Disney World Trip

I wanted to share with you the most glaring pros and cons of planning your vacation late.  Some people say it shouldn't be done, and here's what I've found.

Disney Springs (c) Ele Millenia


Anticipation. If you have told your child of your last minute plans, they won't have much time to let their anticipation drive your bonkers.  From experience I understand that telling a child under 8 means they will remind you of your promise every time they get,"I'm going to Disney World!"  "When are we going?" "Is it time yet to go?"  "We're going tomorrow!"  Believe me, I've experienced it.  Even when you tell them the exact date you are going, they may be too young to fully understand, and will think they are going "tomorrow" as each day passes. So if you only have to wait a week or so until your visit, it's better than having to hear your child go on and on for 6 -12 months about your visit. A lot of parents remedy that by keeping it a secret, but it's hard with observant children.  Even my toddler recognizes the signs of an upcoming trip, like buying new t-shirts and spending time online reading blogs about Disney or watching Disney vlogs.  Plus, if you're like me, your own excitement often inhibits your ability to keep it a secret.

Your Stay. You may be able to snag a good deal on resort stays and airfares.  I say "may" because it depends upon other factors, like how flexible your days to visit are.  If you decide that you can go anytime within the next 30 days, you have more flexibility in finding a deal than someone who is planning to go the next weekend. But there are just those last-minute specials that some airline companies and resorts run that make your last-minute trip worth the while.  If they find they still have empty inventory: seats or rooms, they may deeply discount those seats and rooms to entice families.  We have been able to book last minute trips for quite low when this happens: paying $150 for a deluxe hotel room per night (on property), and $200 roundtrip airfares from the north-central region of the US.  And this was during peak season!

Dining. I talk more on dining later on, but I want to mention that you very well can reserve your favorite restaurant last minute, but it depends upon the popularity of the restaurant and the number of visitors there at Disney.  Checking a day or two before you go may prove beneficial as other families have canceled their reservations right before the penalty period as described in the reservation terms. This has been a good excuse for our family to get out of the box and try a new restaurant as well- and adding that restaurants to our list of favorites.

House of Blues (c) Ele Millenia


Price. Although you could very well snag a deal, you'd most likely pay more for your resort when planning late, especially when your dates are firm.  If there are special offers available for your dates, chances are that they have been taken by those families that planned earlier.

Dining, cont. You may not be able to eat at your favorite restaurants.  Most of the restaurants (table service and signature) take reservations up to 180 days in advance.  This means the restaurant you've either been to or have read good reviews about is fully booked on the days you are visiting- especially if you're going on popular dates. You can still find a table service restaurant, however, if you are flexible in the times you can eat, the type of food, and the location.  Restaurants in and around Magic Kingdom park typically book early, so if you don't mind eating at another theme park or resort,  paying more for a signature restaurant, and/or not dining with characters, you may still find something good.  You can always opt for a quick service restaurant as well; finding one that serves more than just hamburgers and fries, like the Express at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe in Disney Springs.

FastPass+ availability. Ahhh, the best thing since sliced bread, right?  Well only if there are passes available.  This is a hit or miss, but I listed it as a con because the odds are that you'll not be able to get a fastpass for a highly sought-after ride, like Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios.  We purchased our tickets last minute (at the resort itself), and found that although we got fast passes for many of our desired attractions, we were unable to obtain one for the popular ones.  When we arrived at the Toy Story Mania attraction, we found that the wait was 4 hours!  And we were never able to pick one up the whole time we were at the park, so we didn't get to ride it that visit.  If you come often, it may not be as big of a deal as would be for a family that visits Disney World much less, so it would be your preference.

In my opinion, planning last minute trips to Disney World can be very beneficial, but can also be disappointing.  There may be more advantages and disadvantages, and you'll encounter them with experience. It all depends upon your expectations and your chances of meeting those expectations. When we go last minute, we anticipate availability to be limited and stay open-minded to alternatives, so we typically have a very enjoyable visit.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Motherhood: Controlling a Control Freak

Motherhood has a way of taming the type-A woman

I could never trust a carrier would hold my baby safely

I have always been the type of girl that wanted to live in a controlled environment. A self-controlled environment.  If I bought furniture, I prided myself in making it last forever, looking almost brand new. So I'd cringe when people would fall down on the couches and chairs instead of sitting down gently. Eventually I'd say something out of my annoyance.  In college, when I had my first apartment with roommates, I would argue with them about how their unsavory food odors permeated the house, or how they'd use the shower without cleaning it afterwards.  I guess I could blame it on my family and say I got it from them. I come from a family that either refuses to take pictures, or demand any pics they are included in to be submitted for their approval. The phrase "back-seat driver" was probably coined after meeting my family, because it's not getting to your destination that counts, it's whether you followed their directions on how to get there. And now it's rubbed off onto me.  But ultimately, I have to account for my own behaviors.  While others saw it as being controlling, I simply saw it as being prepared. For the most part I saw that being prepared benefited me a lot, so it reinforced my behaviors and I had no thought to change.

...And then along came a spider.

A baby guy actually.  Here's how things changed my attitude:

 I had read so many books on how best to get through pregnancy and birth loving it, I just knew that my planning was foolproof. "Girl, your baby will come how they want to come. Don't worry about it,"  women kept telling me.  Then they would tell their stories about how things didn't go the way they planned. I would think to myself that their situations wouldn't apply to me because I had planned the proper approach.  I'm laughing just remembering my thought processes back then. I had it all figured out: I'd have a natural birth- no medications, and I'd breastfeed.  I started a group of other moms-to-be to get out and be active.  I'd read that staying fit helped with childbirth, so we did water aerobics, walks, and other preggar-friendly activities (of course we ate too!).  I drank fennel
and fenugreek teas to increase my milk production because I was determined to avoid formula.  I told my husband that we wouldn't need to add it to the baby budget, I created a birth plan to get my placenta to my doula so she could dry it into pill form for me to take for my recovery period.  Yes, I had it all worked out. Too bad for all my planning they induced my labor before my due date- citing a little bit of fetal distress.I was in my "natural" labor for 13 hours before they told me I had only dilated 1 cm.  A little while later I got the spinal block-which paralyzed me from the waist down. Then they gave me an epidural by accident on top of all that. I was in such a loopy state by the time my son's fetal distress became an emergency, I couldn't properly react. My son came via an emergency C-section, my Obstetrician was out with another mom during my emergency so the other doctor didn't even ask me about a birth plan- who knows what happened to my placenta.  And on top of that, my milk didn't come in!  My son started losing weight before the hospital started giving him formula. I was so hurt and disappointment. Ugh. It was tragic.

Did I learn my lesson then? Yes. But did I stop?  Nope.  I then began trying to control my son's development, trying to match it with what I'd researched on infant development. The first day he was home, we began tummy time with him.  While I'm guessing I could've waited for at least a week, I thought I'd start him immediately.  And he did just fine, so it encouraged me. Solid foods, I wanted him to start not when he wanted it start but when I thought he should. So imagine my disappointment when he refused it.  His teeth came in less than a year, so I was fine with that. But I was biting my nails as we got close to his 1st birthday when he wasn't walking.  And the people around me didn't help. Friends and family would say, "Oh, he's not walking yet?  My baby was walking at XX months."  All these thoughts were going through my head as I assumed the reasoning behind him not walking.  Finally, on his birthday, he began to walk! Still, the lesson hadn't sunken in... I was the same with him getting off of the bottle, do what I could to control the situation, and then when I'd give up, he'd do it.  On his 2nd birthday, he refused his bottle- just like that.  But it didn't quite click for me until I got fed up with him trying to learn to potty.  I'd read that you shouldn't rush your child into pottying so I didn't start working with him until he exhibited "the signs".  You can read more about how pottying finally clicked here.  I had decided that I was going to forget about what others around me were saying and how it made "ME" feel, and focus upon what my son may have needed to feel more comfortable.  I let go, and he wound up pottying very shortly afterwards.  We still have night-time issues, but I've now learned to wait until HE's ready, not me.

I've learned so much in these 3 short years, and am still learning.  Needless to say, I don't cringe when someone falls onto the couch anymore, because I have a little one now that actually jumps on it.  Me trying to keep my car clean is a thing of the past. I just clean it up when it needs it, and learn do deal with crumbs... It's been a hard road, but I think motherhood may have cured me of most of my control-freak tendencies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Great Places to visit in the USA for President's Day

Take advantage of the long weekend and learn more about our great nation's history and culture

If your looking for something totally different to do on President's day, and for chance to take a road trip or quick flight with your little ones, here are some fun places to go!

  • The Presidential Libraries - Most local public libraries might be closed in observance of the holiday, but most of the Presidential Libraries/Museums are open, providing your family with valuable insight into how each president helped shape our nation.  Unfortunately, there is not a library for each president, but there are 15 available showcasing 14 presidents. Click here for more information.

  • Disney's Magic Kingdom - Although it is closed until summer this year (2017), the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square is a great way for your children to "meet" the presidents.  There is a life-like animatronic structure for each of the 44 (soon to be 45) presidents. You can get a glimpse from this YouTube channel of what to expect if you decide to go once it re-opens. You can also enjoy the rest of the park while you're there 😊😊😊😊

  • Washington D.C. - We all know that the US capitol is a treasure trove of museums, monuments and other landmarks to visit.  From the Smithsonian collection of museums, to a Capitol Hill tour, to the Lincoln Memorial, there's a lot to see and learn. Because we have little ones in our extended family, we often break up our trips to just do a few tours. Then we return in 6-12 months to visit a new set of places. Here is a good resource on Washington.org for some low priced or free things to do while there.

  • Philadelphia - often forgotten, this city is not just about the Liberty Bell. This weekend, you can attend special events going on all around the city, like a presidential costume contest at the National Constitution Center, where you can also "meet" Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  Valley Forge Museum is having a George Washington birthday party. There your family and can enjoy crafts, games, and cupcakes! There's much more going on, and you can visit VisitPhilly.com's website for more information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My loved one hates me. Should I worry?

My life became healthier after I stopped stressing over certain people

You've tried everything to make aunt Nancy like you, but it just seems she likes your sister (and everyone else) better.  Here's some reasons why.

  1. You remind them of someone.  If you remind "aunt Nancy" of your mother, her elder sister that she simply just can't stand, she'll likely save some of that hate for you. 

  1. You are more successful than they are. How dare you run your own business successfully.

  1. You are more successful than their offspring.  You were not supposed to turn out better than 'ole cousin Jessie.

  1. They cannot control you.  They are used to controlling everything and everyone they come in contact with, but somehow with you, they are unable to do this. You're too savvy for all that.

  1. They are intimidated by your education.  You have a graduate degree and they barely finished high school, so of course they hate to hear you talk about your college experiences or  share any knowledge gained.

  1. They are intimidated by your beauty or confidence.  They could definitely be in a place where their self-esteem is waning. You walking in looking strong, successful, and confident can be quite unnerving. 

  1. They want your attention. Them being mean to you is the only way you pay them some attention, so like a child they "act out" to get you to notice them. Negative attention is better to them than none at all.

  1. They are jealous of your relationship with someone they love/revere.  If Aunt Nancy feels her relationship with someone like her mother is being jeopardized by your meer presence, you could definitely see some push-back.  If you live out of town, and most of the family's attention shifts to you and your children when you visit, this might be a problem for an aunt that craves attention.  If you are willing to make a compromise, you can always include your aunt in conversations so that she won't feel left out.

  1. You actually did something to offend them.  In this case, talking with them would be most beneficial.  I happened to ask my family member and their reason was that I cut them off a couple years ago when we were talking.  We worked through the issue- but sometimes this is not really the reason why they find issue with you. They find a way to gripe at just about anything you do.  This may be due to there being an underlying reason behind their anger, which brings me to the last point.   People like this…
  2.  … Just can't be any better.  You've tried everything you could to smooth things over with them to no avail. They have personal issues and this is who they are going to be. 

So what can you do?
Well, first reach out to them to find out what exactly may be bothering them.  If they come right out with something specific, you know #9 applies.  Work to solve the issue, unless it requires you to do something or be someone totally out of your character.  You should never have to be completely silence yourself when you are around her or the family simply so that she can feel at ease.   But if they tell you something that you admittedly should apologize for, do so.  It may just be that simple.  Be cognizant of the fact she will be watching for any further infractions, so try not to make another mistake in that arena. 
If you remind them of someone, there is nothing you can do about that but to show that you are in fact a different person. I tried not to make aunt Nancy feel as if both I and my mom were ganging up on her.  If she had a disagreement with my mom, I made sure I refrained from offering my opinion, and only informed them that I supported both of them reconciling soon.  This may take a while to overcome, but is worth it if peace is something you're striving for.  If they are intimidated by your education, confidence or success, you should simply remind them that you are indeed the same person you were as a child. 
Offer to do something with them that you two enjoyed when relations were better; a card game, a movie, or open conversation about the latest reality show.  You can't change their insecurity- as this is an issue they have to tackle personally, but you can ease some of the symptoms.  This also gives them the attention they might be craving from you, just in case they are feeling a bit neglected by you lately.

It's imperative that you not allow your thoughts of this negativity to consume you. Making sure you’ve taken the steps to improve relations are integral to being able to move forward and distance yourself.  You've listened and implemented methods to acknowledge their complaints; you've tried your best, but it takes both parties compromising for a relationship to work. If the other party isn't willing to do their part, your next step is to allow them the space they need to re-evaluate the importance of your relationship.  At this point, know that you did your best and strive to retain your joy without the acknowledgement of this person.  Their opinion of you should not hold much weight anymore.  Be courteous but remove yourself from toxic people and environments.  This means keeping your distance from them, and not putting yourself in situations where they have the power to upset you. Don't go up to them repeatedly with desperate attempts to reconcile,; which may actually have a negative effect. Keeping your distance may remind your and Nancy how valuable your love and interactions are to her.  They could come around in time because they love you.  If not, then start focusing on those things that bring you joy instead.  Relationships help us improve our lives; healthy ones, that is.  Prioritizing unhealthy relationships can often hamper health and well-being.  The emotional pain it causes can manifest itself physcially - via conditions like high blood pressure and depression - and lay claim to your life as a result.  As a parent of a little one, you are needed to live a life of health and vitality to help suport your child's growth.  Use those beautiful smiling faces as your motivation to hierarchize your health.   

Until Later….be well.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A few of my favorite things: Valentine's Day

With the day fast approaching, I wanted to share a few things that bring a smile to my face

Hallmark Cards. Of with them being one of the largest card companies, you'd expect for them to have a large variety of cards.  But for a while, I'd stopped going because I could rarely find a card that "spoke for me".  But that has changed since they started including other collections.  If you have a multi-cultural family as I do, you'll appreciate the diversity of Hallmark's cards.  These card collections cover a vast amount of events and special days important to the culture/religion.  From Dia de Los Muertes, to Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, I've found cards that say what I want to say - only better.  Sympathy, Get Well, Thank You, Inspirational, and holidays such as Valentine's Day!

  • Vida: The collection of cards for those of Hispanic background.
  • Mahogany: Great categories to choose from for those of African/African American descent. 
  • Tree of Life: Those of Jewish faith can choose from a wide variety of cards
  • Studio Ink: My friend's dad is an artist, and I love that Hallmark has a collection for you to support artists like him.

Clothes.  Whether Valentine's Day falls on Sunday or not, I like to wear love-inspired clothing.  I'm not into showcasing hearts and gimmicks too much, but I still want to feel festive. Here's what my son and other's I know are wearing this Valentine's Day:

  • Janie and Jack.  I love the detail that goes into the threading, and the quality of the clothing.  Here, a simple vest and shirt gives your Generation Alpha child the Valentine's Day look while retaining the dapper feeling. 

  • Ellen Tracy.  For moms, I love this brand period. She makes comfortable and yet classic pieces you can still look great in while keeping track of your little ones. 

Food.  I am one of those people that believes there is some truth to the argument that Valentine's Day is a holiday manufactured by the retailers looking to make some money.  Does it mean I won't celebrate it?  No, I'm not someone looking for an excuse to not celebrate it.  But I don’t have to go all out when we celebrate love 365 days a year, and I try to express that sentiment to my son.  It's okay to add a few extra highlights to acknowledge the day, but I don't need a huge fancy high-end meal to celebrate.  Wherever my husband or family decides to go, I'm okay. 

That doesn't mean I don't have my favorites!  Here are a few places I enjoy on Valentine's:

  • Budget friendly - O'Charleys Restaurant.  Good salmon and prime rib steaks.  Great for families large and small.
  • Semi-upscale - Maggianos Italian Restaurant.  The ambiance is romantic and the food is delicious
  • Upscale - The Chop House (Chicago), The Oceanaire (Atlanta and Dallas). From picking out own my steak cut before it's cooked to the jumbo scallops, These restaurants are equally wonderful in my opinion. You'll find families and couples at these restaurants. I love when the day falls on a weekend and we can get away out of town. It makes it even more special. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

How to Combat lingering pregnancy brain fog

If it persists, you may have to take action

So my sister Is going through some postpartum forgetfulness, and it reminds me all too well of my own 2 year bout with it.  It's hard to prepare for your new baby when you can't remember the tips you've been read or been told.  The worst part of having what's dubbed as "pregnancy brain" is that you are mostly cognizant of the fact you've forgotten…What was the name again of that movie we saw two weeks ago?  Ugh.  I loathed it.  
What is this brain fog?  If you're pregnant, you already know.  A general dreadful feeling of trouble concentrating and/or remembering.  A sense of having a "twisted tongue" at times during speech.  You can even experience light-headedness, headache and irritability.   Not good if you're trying to get back to work or school.  The medical world has attributed it to your ever-changing hormones during pregnancy. 

After speaking with my doctor and my family, they all recommended that I wait it out.  "Oh, after you have the baby, your memory will return.  Don't worry about that."  Then 6 months later, my doctor said that it could last up to 18 months.  By 18 months I was sick of dealing with it.  Although I saw some improvement, It was not enough to feel good about.  I had recently started taking omega 3 supplements for my skin and cardiovascular health, but noticed that after taking them for a while, I slept better and also could concentrate and remember more.  I then started challenges to find out what else could help me. After a few months I felt so much better, I started reminding my husband of things he'd forgotten to do (much to his chagrin πŸ˜‰). Here are some things you can do to diminish the brain fog symptoms and avoid dealing with it for as long as I did.

  • Lower your refined sugar intake.  That means you're going to have to fight your daily donut cravings.  Replace the refined sugar with healthier carbs like fruits and sweet potatoes.  I never even tried to lower my refined sugar, so of course I had issues. The refined sugar helps increase inflammation in your body, which exacerbates your brain fog and increases your chances of developing other diseases. 

  • Increase your healthy proteins.  I ate a lot of chicken already, but it was fried, battered and fried again.  The unhealthy oils used to fry the meat negated the good benefits the protein in the chicken had.  Instead, try to bake, or use olive oil with your meats

  • The Olive oil is a source of omega 3s.  This, along with certain fish like salmon and tuna, is considered to be "brain food" 

  • Increase your antioxidants.  Foods like pecans, cranberries and even green tea contain the antioxidants needed to help reduce inflammation in your body.  Dark chocolate also has the antioxidants, but you should look for unsweetened dark chocolate so the affect won't be countered with that unrefined sugar.

  • Herbal remedies. If you are no longer breastfeeding and you are partial to taking herbs, ginkgo biloba and gotu kola  

  • Exercise.  Also something I wasn't doing too much of. I know it can be quite difficult to keep up with as a new mom, but at least 15-30 minutes a day could bring about results for you.  Put your baby in their swing or play pen and start sweating. I like Jane Austin's 10 minute workout for quick and easy morning and afternoon stimulation.

 It is critical to consult your doctor first before starting exercise or taking supplements to ensure it fits with your medical plan after giving birth.  The goal is to be in good health for both you and your baby.  They're going to need you for years to come.

This is not an exhaustive list of reducing brain fog, but simply what has worked for me.  If you have had good experiences with other healthy options in reducing brain fog, feel free to share below.

Until Later…

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Packing the Hospital Bag: The Good, The Bad, and The Unnecessary

A minimalist mom's guide on what to UN-pack from your bag

There are a plethora of resources out there for what new moms might need to have in your hospital bag.  But here is a list of things you may not need. Not a minimalist? The list may then serve to remind you of something else to ADD to your bag. Enjoy!

  1. Health Insurance Card.  If your chosen U.S. hospital is part of the same medical network your doctor participates in, all of your information will already be there.  I never had to pull out anything but my Government-issued ID. This also applies to:

  1. Birth Plan.  Again, if your OB will be the same person delivering your baby, simply provide them with the birth plan ahead of time so they can discuss any concerns or suggestions they may have.  The tricky part comes when your doctor is called out on an emergency or for some reason cannot deliver your baby at the last minute. A stand-in doctor may not have been apprised on your wishes.  This is also true if you have an emergency C-section.  Sometimes that birth plan goes out the window to ensure you and your baby are both alive and well.

  1. Sanitary Pads and Panties.  While you may prefer to have your own panties after birth, the hospital can and will provide you with mesh underwear (mine were comfy high-waisted briefs) and pads.  For those who've had C-sections, they will offer gauze dressings instead of pads.  Having your own nightgown and slipper socks make you feel more comfortable during your stay, so I'd recommend definitely having those. 

  1. Breast Pump.  You will have a lactation specialist, who will encourage you to have your child latch onto you; securing that bond. If at some point you need a pump, they definitely will provide you with access.

  1. Diapers. The hospital has these.  I packed 1 diaper just in case we didn't go home directly, but the hospital actually sent me home with some diapers anyway.

  1. Baby Toys.  The baby is only a few days old when they go home.  The first 3 days should be spent interacting with family

  1. Snacks.  With hospitals now improving their cafeterias, they have many more offerings than what our mom's had access to.  I had fruit-on the-bottom Jello cups and yogurt, chips, crackers, salads, cheese, fruit and ice cream.  This was in addition to the entrees and other desserts available.  It was such a large selection and great-tasting that my husband and family actually waited to come back to the hospital to eat, instead of eating out and bringing me food.

  1. Make-up.  This is definitely debatable, but if you don't really wear much make-up normally, you shouldn't need it.  You may want it for photos though 

  1. Bluetooth Speakers.  Chances are you won't use them.  You're too busy either enduring contractions or actually pushing/delivering the baby to think about playing DJ.  After the baby comes, you will be quite tired.  If you feel they are a must, ask your partner to set them up and have your playlist ready on your phone.  Keep in mind the volume as other mothers may be sleeping nearby.

Hospital provided hat & blanket
  1. Baby toiletries.  While I agree it's a good idea to have your own toiletries, A good hospital takes the burden of having toiletries for your little one from your shoulders.  They will bath your babe (unless you request hands-off in your birthing plan) and provide a beanie cap for their heads.  a lot of hospitals use the same store brands you'd bring yourself. They will also swaddle your babe in blankets, so there's no real need unless you have a preference otherwise.

*Notables:  There are a few things that I feel you definitely should not forget, even if you wind up not using them: 

  1. Towel for your car ride to hospital should your water break
  2. Phone and car charger - if you don't feel you need a camera, your cell phone can serve as your camera.  Also family can reach you if need be.
  3. 2-3 outfits for your babe's last day - A lot of hospitals have professional photographers that come by for a quick photo shoot.  You may want your babe in different outfits for the shoot.  Or, your babe may spit up on one (or two).  You will want to remember yours too!  Whether the baby is alone in the pictures, or the whole family has matching outfits in the pics, spend less time overpacking and more time enjoying your new one!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Preschool Tours

You've narrowed down your list of preschool choices with great academic records and now it's time to tour. Beyond the usual questions, there are other questions you should be asking, and behaviors you should be noticing.  Here are a few major things to look for during your tour

Displays of the student's art work is a great sign 
  1. Does the school official actually interact with the children? Does he or she greet the child by name or just gives general, "Hi"?  Schools often have set tour dates so they can put their best foot forward.  I like to schedule my tour on another day so I can get a better feel of the culture and if the administrators don't know the children's names, you'll know that they haven't been there long, the children are all new, or they haven't cared to learn the children's names. 
  2. Do the children like their officials? Do you catch them approaching teachers or admins on their own? Hug or side chat?
  3. What is the willingness of the admin tour guide to take you to additional parts of the school...or when you ask, do they make excuses?
  4. Do you see bullying on the playground? Take time to observe the children in their free-play setting. I do it without the kids noticing too much but with school permission. This is when you can see the kids' interactions and how issues are handled by staff/faculty. You can also ask what they're policy is. Saying they have no bullying means they're oblivious and don't care to even know...which could be dangerous for your child.
  5.  Ask teachers and other staff if they'd bring their own kids to the school. Some parents will volunteer this information and that's good but then ask if they still are enrolled and why not
  6. How do they interact with your child? If your toddler seems apprehensive during the tour, does the tour official reach out to help put your babe at ease, do they seem annoyed by your child's reservations, or do they simply just ignore them? This can be indicative of their future (or worse) behavior when you are not around.
  7. Does the teacher for the class your child would be enrolled in come to greet you during the tour? If not, is there a valid explanation why not? If they don't come greet you or even wave hello, and no one seems to show that it's important, it could be a sign that the school is not into establishing a parent-teacher partnership
  8. Ask what the average tenure of the teachers and administrators there is.  Are they there long enough to really be invested in the children to be able to notice their strengths and weaknesses? Is it long enough to get engaged in the school culture and the mission?
Dialogue: What do you look for in your tour? If you've never toured, what questions would you have for other parents?…email me or leave your comments below  
…Until Next Time

Monday, February 6, 2017

Child Care: When to remove your child

Everyone has had the question of whether or not the daycare your child attends is right.  Here are some signs of when to end your provider's services

Read another related post Here

  1. Your child is being bullied.
    1. Note that even toddlers are capable of bullying if they live in an environment that fosters it.  If you make a unscheduled visit to the provider while your child is there and you notice some disturbing behaviors: multiple children yelling and spitting into your child's face, while repeatedly stomping on his/her feet, then that is something you want to bring up to the administration.  Pushing and shoving that isn't enjoyed by both parties should also be shared with an administrator.  I've seen where a child is being violently pushed until he falls, and then straddled while the attacker starts punching him….. 2yr olds!!!!
    2. When you’ve informed the provider/center administration of what's happening, and nothing is done, this is time to leave.  You don't want this affecting your child's growth or personality.  Some of the bullied kids become forever victims, and some take on the bullying behaviors and become a bully themselves.   Report the incidents and lack of the action to whatever governing body you have in your state (state child and family services, etc.) as per their guidelines. 
  2. Your child is being neglected 
  1. Provide the facility with different diapers than what you drop your child off wearing (I gave 4 Pull-Ups brand diapers to the daycare, and dropped him off wearing Huggies Little Movers). I repeatedly noticed that when I returned 10-11 hours later, he was wearing that same Huggies Little Movers diaper he was dropped off with.  The diaper was soaked each time.  If you see this, then you can bet that they have left your child neglected for the duration of his time there.  Inform the administration in this case and monitor their action.  Some of the unprofessional centers may deny wrongdoing and may insist that they changed your child.  If you have a special mark written on the outside of the morning drop-off diaper, then you'll know that indeed your child wasn't changed when you come back to see that same marked diaper on your child.  Changing a diaper is not difficult, so if the facility is failing to do this regularly, what else are they failing to do?
  1. Your child is being abused by certain teachers
  1. Learn to understand the difference between whether or not your child is just complaining about being dropped off or genuinely scared to death.  Once you see
    your child is truly scared, pinpoint the issue, report and get out of there.  
  1. Your child has scars and scrapes and/or bite marks on their body, but no incident reports have been filed
    1. When you pick up your child, make it a priority to check them out.  If you notice something unusual, ask the provider.  If they don't know and say they had a shift change, ask to see the incident report.  If there has not been one filed every time you see a new injury, that is a RED FLAG. Get your child out of there and report the provider. You don't want another child to experience a serious injury and nothing be done about it.
  2. The child care provider acts like they are your child's parents.
  1. While I understand there are parents that improperly think they are the child care provider's employer, a lot of providers think they have more authority in making decision for your child.  If you seem to have a never-ending battle with a provider/administrator on whether or not they should have dairy; that's a problem. Even more so if they decide to give your child pork when you specifically requested in writing for them not to do so for religious reasons.
  1. There is no academic curriculum and you want more than just a babysitter
    1. If your child is there for an extended period of time, you may want to know that your child is in an environment that conducive to learning.   If so, and your provider is unwilling or unable to provide this, it's time to roll out.  No hard feelings.  But you're looking for a different experience. Write a letter if you'd like gently letting them know, but also that you appreciate their services rendered. 

Ultimately, it's always your choice on when to leave or not, and you don't want to leave for just any silly reason.  But you don't want to ignore signs that your child should be somewhere better suited to your caregiving needs.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Situational Depression: Managing it with a Toddler

They say you should end your year with a bang.  My year ended with a bang so loud, my ears were still ringing months later.  December began with my toddler son and I being injured in a car accident, where my fight with the at-fault driver's insurance  commenced.  My thoughts were to focus upon getting the injuries my son and I had sustained healed so that I could promptly return to work.  The day I returned to work, my aunt died; with whom I was close to.  I was granted a few days of bereavement time from work so that I could travel down south and help handle her affairs and say goodbye.  I was now not only in physical pain from my accident, my heart bled with emotional pain as well.   

Then, in the least sensitive way possible, I was fired from my job.  Still at my aunts in another state, I happened to check my messages on the second day of my bereavement, and saw that the HR rep had called me 3x and emailed me as well since the day before, asking me to respond back to her ASAP.  I figured it wouldn't be good news, but I took the time from being with my family to call.  "You have taken 3 days off for your accident, and then now this.  It seems you are just looking for ways to be off work." I felt something snap inside me: who LOOKS to be injured in an auto accident and then LOOKS for a loved one to die???

 I realized that I wouldn't want to work for such an insensitive employer anyway, but the damage had been done and the heartless company that boasts during their hiring process about its work-life balance opportunities had seemingly won. When we returned home, I barely could get out of bed, let alone live up to my reputation as what my son calls 'supee mom'.  There was nothing super about me anymore, I thoughtThere I was; absent from my mom duties as I succumbed to the painIt reminds me of the cough syrup commercials where the parents are "calling in" sick to their little ones.  TV Commercial Spot - Cold & Flu Relief - Moms Don't Take Sick Days . How do you take days off from being mom?? 

Your little one doesn't understand why you can't play "tea party", or "dinosaurs eating racecars" with them.  But this illness is not so superficial that it can always be controlled or ignored.  Most times depression becomes your puppet master, effectively pulling your strings no matter how hard you fight against it. 
I knew I couldn't afford to be in this emotional predicament for too long.  I thought to myself that my son being too young to fully grasp the gravity of what I was dealing with could possibly work in my favor - maybe.   It was time to make a plan.  I was going to be steadfast in my resolve to not let this keep me down for too long.  It wasn't something that happened over night, but I saw steady progress working my plan until I felt more like myself again. I want to share with you a few of those steps I took to regain control:

  1. Faith Renewal
    1. Christians often talk of this, so it seems clichΓ©, but it really can be an important step in in your healing.  My faith in God had waivered, so establishing that foundation of sowing my seed of faith helped me understand that things may happen that are not to our liking- but that they may occur to build our character, or to help someone else seeing what you went through.  Re-committing my faith also restored my hope that joy would come "in the morning".   You don't have to be deeply religious to achieve this, just committed.
  2. Meditation
    1. Once my hope emerged, I meditated for clarity and serenity.  I wanted to interact with my son as I had done prior to the incidents, but the thought of possibly snapping at him out of pain scared me.  I took time daily to clear my mind from my frustrations and to just think about things that put me at peace: Being at a beach or shore; laying at the water's edge or floating peacefully out on the water itself, clearing my mind of worries and just focusing upon the peace I had in that moment. Since I couldn't head to a beach or lake, I decided to imagine my being there during my meditation.  To avoid interruptions, I found the best time to do this was when my son was sleep.
b. Not only can this restore peace, this was also when I realized that I was never really depressed about my job- for anyone can get another job.  Was I sad about it? Yeah, but hell, I was interviewing again within a couple weeks.  No, my primary source of pain was the loss of my aunt, for no one could replace her. The other incidents were merely supporting actors- highly effective in supporting the role of the antagonist, but not important enough for me to sob over its effects in the future. With now knowing the source of your depression, you don't have to waste time focusing on something that isn't really as important as initially thought.  If you don't have situational depression, forget discovering the source, and instead try to focus on simple things that give you joy:  snowflakes, sun rays, etc. Meditate on these things.  I felt motivated after meditating, so I practiced it often, making effort to achieve that feeling I'd had while out by the water each session. 
  1. Professional Help
    1. Don't do this alone!  Forget stigmas if you find you can't shake your symptoms. If you are struggling with the judgment you might receive from others, only tell those you trust!  A pro can help you pinpoint your feelings, find the closure you need, help you establish a direction, and/or provide you with medication (or herbal remedies) to help you with the symptoms. 

  1. Be patient and tailor your recovery plan to you!
    1. You won't be "cured" after a couple rounds of meditation if you are depressed. But I made it a point to focus on my son with whatever pockets of positive energy I acheived from meditation, counseling and/or my faith.  I did this so that he didn't feel that my love for him had changed.  Everyone is different and only you know what your children need from you.  While some need your conversation, my son needed my presence and my touch.  So I customized my plan to incorporate my son's needs. On those bad days for me, I pulled from our movie collection and spent time indoors with him watching them- he was happy because he could snuggle up with his mom and watch Disney.  I meanwhile was able to lie around when my body refused to move, but yet finding comfort in his happiness. 
    2. I wanted to take my son out to the park or football games again, so I began setting goals, despite my unreadiness to fully immerse myself in a large body of people just yet. Still, take a little time to do a few things you used to do regularly: shopping (even if you start out with just groceries), dining out, theatre arts, movie theatres, sporting events, races, etc.  Start slow: you may not be able to stay long or go often, but it's part of the process of establishing normalcy.  When you feel strong enough to get out there, do it!  Incorporate your toddler for those short outings.  The last thing you need is to be dealing with the big personality and strong will of a toddler out in public where you're stuck for hours. Taking him to my grocer to pick up a couple of things worked just fine. By the time he got comfortable enough to start changing his behavior, we were leaving the store. I soon found that it became gradually easier to spend more time doing what I used to do.  I soon took him to the park, and found that being there for about 80 minutes was great for both of us- until it was time to leave.   (TIP: don't forget to take snacks to help coax your child away from the slide/swings and into the car).

  1. Secure your mask first before securing your child's
    1. I always cringe when I hear the flight attendants saying that before flight take-off. It seems counter-intuitive for loving parents to put themselves in front of their child.  But focusing upon improving your health should come first if you hope to relieve yourself of the burden anytime soon.  Get yourself better first, then you can fully focus upon strengthening your relationship with your children.  Asking my parents and my cousins to watch my son worked for myself and my son - I had the time to deal with an episode, and my son got the attention he needed from a loving family environment. 

I'm not going to lie, you may find it difficult to begin and work your plan, but it gets better with time, and working with a professional and/or putting your faith in God helps lighten those burdens you carry.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Disney Movie Club

4 movies at $1 too good to be true?

As we're watching one of my son's favorite movies, Disney Pixar's Cars 2, I decided it would be good to share whether or not I found the Disney Movie Club (DMC) to be worth it. I admit I was drawn into becoming a member by the special offer I received; $5 for 5 movie titles.  I visited the site and saw that I was able to pick from so many popular titles, so I was sold.  I figured as a first time mom, I could build my movie collection now that my son was very much into Disney after his first trip to Disney World.

The DMC works by allowing you to choose those 4 or 5 titles for $1 each as long as you agree to purchase 5 more titles from them at regular price within a 24 month span. The movies, called featured titles, cost $19.99 for the DVD package or $29.99 for Blu ray package.  Since my 5 special offer titles were Blu-ray, I'd subscribed to the $29.99 package. 
Every 3-4 weeks, you are sent information on the featured title, and you have about 10 or so days to decide if you want to take it.  You can mail in a response or call in with your membership number to say yay or nay.  If you say yes, or simply don't reply at all, they will charge you for the movie along with shipping & handling, and send you out the featured movie.  Remember, you have to buy 5 in a 2 year span, so you don't have to accept every movie offered.  The company is betting you do, however.  I wound up purchasing an extra title because It was the movie I was needing at the time, AND it was offered at a special.  Let's take a quick analysis of my investment and whether it was worth it over buying retail.  I've rounded to the nearest dollar for convenience.

No. of Movies
5 initial
1 special
5 featured
11 Movies Total
Cost per Movie

The average Disney Blu-ray is around $22 each, as they can range from $18-$30.  So even with purchasing the extra movie, I still came out ahead.  We have enjoyed building our collection this way, and the only reason I'd not do it again is because we have decided to build our digital collection, and are looking for HD digital movies only.  If they offered HD digital movies (without a physical disc) then I'd be interested again, because I'm tired of those movies using space when we can use Disney Movies Anywhere instead. But if you are still utilizing discs then this is definitely a viable option for at least 2 yrs.