Friday, December 31, 2010

My baby the tease

Cole slept an entire six hours Wednesday night. But I didn't. Mothers always tell me, he'll start to sleep through the night but you won't. You'll freak out and double check his chest to make sure he's breathing.

I already check his breathing, so you can imagine my trepidation when he slept longer than he has since birth. But you can also imagine my delight.

Oh my sweet baby boy, I thought, how kind of you to learn to sleep just before your mother returns to work. What a precious child. I am so lucky.

With all my rest, I cleaned the kitchen, washed the laundry, cooked dinner and even spent quality time with the husband after Cole fell asleep.

All is smooth sailing from here, I thought.

So last night, after I tucked Cole in and kissed his little cheek, he woke up three times before morning. Thanksalot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest post: I see you see me

Sometimes I get frustrated with my child. Not all the time, not even most of the time. Just when he won't sleep... at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m.... you understand.

When I get frustrated, I tense up. I don't handle him as gently. I don't smile. I don't purse my lips and tell him how cutie wootie his itty bitty tootsie wootsies are.

According to this guest post from Annie Kirschenmann, M.S., BC-DMT, NCC, Certified Corporate Business Coach, Cole sees, learns from and reacts to my behavior. Even at his age, how I react to him forms his impressions of the world.

I guess he and I better get back to that tootsie-wootsie conversation... :)

From Annie:
The camera moves slowly around the large room.  The windows are tall and light spills in, filling the space.  A woman gazes at a toddler.  The little girl has her back to the adult and is facing the wall, closely watching her fingers move in rapid, repetitive patterns.  The woman mirrors the girl’s finger movements exactly.  It is the beginning of a relationship.

This is from the film “Looking for Me”, produced in the 1960s by Janet Alder, the dance/movement therapist in the scene.  The child, as you may have guessed, has been diagnosed with autism -- a condition characterized by difficulties in establishing the ways of relating and communicating most of us take for granted.

What’s not so well known is that such a state is also a stage of infant development, referred to as “normal autism” (The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant, M. Mahler).  During this phase of development, the infant is basically unaware of anyone outside of herself.  Slowly she becomes cognizant that she in not alone; and the parent / child relationship begins with a smile. (See my last blog, “Smile for Me Baby”.)

Now junior is pretty much glued to you – watching your every move. 

Something really interesting kicks in at this point; little critters in the brain called mirror neurons.  As the name implies, it means that we “mirror” other people's movements in our brains; and by watching someone else’s actions, neurons fire in the same way as if we were doing that exact movement ourselves.

Mirror neurons are a relatively recent scientific discovery and have inspired a lot of research in the areas of neurology, development, empathy, how we learn. . .and even athletic excellence!  But what does it mean for you and your baby?

At this point, your infant has no verbal language, so everything he is learning and communicating is happening in movement, touch, expression, taste and sound.  He is taking in a world of information and forming impressions – about language, his self-esteem and sense of self, relationships, whether or not his world is a safe place – and much, much more.  These extremely impressionable pre-language months set the stage for much of what his life will be like.  You and the others around him are imparting the non-verbal messages that will help him determine this -- and when it comes to learning, his mirror neurons are very busy and play a critical role.

The impact also goes both ways.  Your infant is having an affect on you – and activating your mirror neurons.  It’s nature’s little way of helping you to develop strong empathy with her; to be able to read her needs and desires before she has the language to express them.  On a very primal, basic level, you are both “saying” to each other:

“I see you see me.”

What happens with the pair in “Looking For Me”? In a heart warming scene, after many sessions of movement mirroring on the part of the adult, the child turns and runs in the woman’s arms; they hug and dance around the room together -- a powerful testimony to the power of non-verbal communication.

Seems like a pretty awesome thing, doesn’t it?  It is indeed.  And you can use the level of communication intentionally with your pre-verbal child.  Begin by becoming aware of your own non-verbal messages.
    •    What are you expressing with your face?
    •    How and when do you move towards or away from your child?
    •    When you interact with your child, notice your own body.  What are exactly are you doing in movement? Are you relaxed or tense?
    •    How are you using the tone of your voice?

Over the next few weeks, practice noticing your own non-verbal behavior and really watch how your child responds to it, in movement, sound and facial expressions.  Then we will explore more tips for enhancing non-language communication with your child in my next blog, “Non-verbally Speaking”.

Annie Kirschenmann is a board certified Dance/Movement Therapist and a non-verbal communication expert; a Nationally Certified Counselor; and a Certified Corporate Business Coach. She holds her M.S. from Hunter College (NY) and her BA from Macalester College (St. Paul).  Annie’s award winning master’s thesis is on the therapeutic benefits of smiling, laughter and humor.  She is the owner and lead coach/consultant for A.K. Coach and Company (  She can be reached by e-mail at:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Children are the best birth control

Children respond well to routine. Completing daily tasks in consistent order give cues to the little ones: after we read, it's bath time, after bath time, we sleep. Routines help them find order and security in the chaotic world around them.

So after a 9-hour car ride, (not routine), I lay Cole to rest in his Pack N' Play (he usually sleeps in his swing) and without a swadle. (He's grown too big and strong.)

When he woke up at 11:30 and 1 and 3 and 5 and 6 and 8, I wondered why.


But in the midst of my waking, feeding, changing and rocking, I could think of only one thing: vasectomy prices.

Exhausted and changing a diaper in the dark, I bent to carry Cole to his sleeping station.

One Hershey squirt later and he soiled the diaper I'd just changed.

Still exhausted and in the dark, I waited patiently, wondering if Hershey squirt traveled alone or with friends.

After a few minutes, I opened his diaper again.

And he peed on me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Correspondence with Cole: three months

Dear Cole,

You laughed! Oh how you laughed. Your sweet giggles and their laugh-ifty laughness. If a mother can fall in love with her child more than once, Cupid forgot what holiday it is and again stuck me with his arrow the day those sweet chuckles befell your mouth.

If you smile only for your dad from here forth, I shalt not complain.

Let us pause and revisit the laugh. No one will mind. I've watched it a thousand times and have yet to tire of it.

Cole, if you grow up not fitting through doors because your head is so big, others may not understand, but your mother will. Indeed, you are the most adorable baby in the history of reproduction. If you obtain an ego, it's deservedly so.

I can't believe I'm writing this already, but happy three-month birthday, Baby Cole.

No way are you this old. Someone must have thieved a few ounces of sand in the hourglass of life because surely, the minute-hand ticked too quickly.

After 90 days, you laughed. And while it's video brings me so much joy, now and then, sadness overshadows.

Sometimes I miss my parents, your grandparents, so much. I wish they could see you every day or every weekend or at least every holiday. But the distance between North Dakota and Colorado is great, and work schedules and winter weather aren’t always forgiving. They love you so much.  They miss you too. Thank you for laughing while the camera was rolling. Thank you for letting us capture your first (and so far, only) laugh and share it so they could see.

Sometimes I want to bottle you up and keep you three months forever. Since I know our full-time days and nights together are limited, I’ve taken to holding you whenever your eyes are open. So as soon as you awake in your favorite of chairs, I break from writing to cradle your little behind.

And at three months, your little behind isn’t so little anymore. I retired your newborn-sized clothes a few weeks ago. At your eight-week check up, you’d gained 4 lbs and 3 inches. You put away 8 ounces like sexy underwear you don’t want your grandmother to find. Sometimes your grizzly-like guzzling hurts you. Like at Thanksgiving in Colorado, for example.

At Grandma and Grandpa Ryan’s house, your dad and I learned what colic sounds like. I gained a new appreciation for single moms, dads, grandparents, etc. For three hours, you scrunched your face, punched your fists and if allowed slightly more hand-eye coordination, you’d have surely given your middle finger to the world.

Your belly hurt. And you insisted every one of the Rocky Mountain goats heard first hand.

And while I still have my hearing, I consulted with a financial planner to open a college-savings plan for you. Turns out, your dad and I aren’t saving enough for retirement. So until our finances are in enough shape to keep us eating through our 80s, we’ll open a little savings account for you instead. Never will your dad and I have enough to pay for your entire post-high school education, but we’ll save what we can. You won’t have everything, little boy, but you’ll have everything you need, and even some of what you want. I hear that’s the secret to happiness. Your welcome.

And speaking of happy, could you wait a couple years before you flirt with the ladies, please? Every time I go anywhere, women stop me in my tracks, asking your name, age, weight, star sign, etc. They practically throw their wedding rings over their left shoulders as you approach. I’m sure this is fun for you, but it makes buying milk an afternoon-long affair for me.

But at least that afternoon affair is one spent with you. Someday you’ll repay me in cash money. Until then, I'll accept ha-has and tee-hees :)

Love you,

I'm dreaming of an un-white Christmas

I missed last Christmas with my family because of weather. Perhaps you remember the holiday storm? Lucky for us, my husband and I are both on leave from work, so we can leave early or stay late if we need to.

And while I missed the family last year, Cole's due date was Sept. 25. You do the math. (Hi dad *hand trembling*)

The best Christmas gifts come nine months later. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Raise him up religious

I avoided this topic to avoid hurt feelings, but I feel rascally today, so if you're easily offended, please avoid this post.

Cole has no religion. At least not yet. This is mostly because his father and I don't attend church.

Levi and I stem from different religions, but that isn't the trouble. The trouble is Levi was raised mostly without religion and I was raised in a religion I later abandoned. I hesitate to rejoin mine, and Levi is mostly apathetic toward his.

We want to raise Cole religious though, because we want him to have choice. We want him to learn the difference between Santa and St. Nicholas and Easter and the Easter bunny because it's easier to learn and then ignore rather than not know and learn later. The choice is entirely his, but raising him sans-religion takes some of his options away.

If I were qualified, I'd teach him about all religions and not limit him to the Christian ones. I don't anticipate Cole facing Mecca when he prays, but if he did, I'd be happy he found faith. Mostly, I just want him to understand and respect other religions. My biggest fear is he'll interchange words like "Muslim" and "terrorist." I want religion to teach him about the world, not teach him to fear it.

So, in choosing a church, this is what I seek:
* proximity: driving 45 minutes to- and from services isn't likely on Sunday mornings. Attendance is more likely if the church is nearby.
* camaraderie: with any hope, our friends will attend the same church or we'll find people there with whom we can make acquaintance
* openness: a church that uses Jesus to judge others is not appropriate for my family. The church we join will stand firm in its beliefs, but also respects the beliefs of others.
* interactive: if I join a church, I want involvement. I want to take my son to pancake fundraisers and Vacation Bible School. I want him to feel he belongs there.
* knowledge: Cole should feel comfortable asking ministers, pastors, priests, etc., tough questions and when he does, I want him to receive age-appropriate, reasonable answers.

So, anyone have suggestions? Anyone have this dilemma in their own families?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Corn causes cancer?

Interesting read suggesting contaminated corn causes cancer and birth defects. Creighton University, my alma mater, is part of the study.

"The mission is to find out if fungus on a corn-based products increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, like spina bifida.

...a link has already been established in animals."
Read the whole story here.

Do you know how much corn Americans eat? Teens consume 15 to 20 teaspoons of sugar from the sweetener in high fructose corn syrup alone, according to this 2007 U.S. News and World Report article.

"An unusually high incidence of the birth defects has been observed in Guatemala, where corn is a dietary staple and contamination is frequent."

As if we parents didn't have enough reason to worry...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Video: Cole speaks

Cole's chatter is incessant these days, which is OK because it's kind of cute. I like to think he's proclaiming his love for his mother, but given he smiles only for his father, I suppose that's not quite true.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bye-bye to the babiest of my baby

Cole is growing too fast, like time, it seems endless but expires faster than 2 percent milk.

He's gained 4 lbs in eight weeks, a clothes size in a semester and now he carries on conversations about girls? tatoos? hunting? I don't know, but his chatter ceases only when he slumbers.

His little hands grow chubbier by the day. At birth, he would cast spells with his arms, waving them like a manic Harry Potter. Now he's more of a praying man with hands clasped and fingers intertwined. It's like he's pleading for religious education. And as the poor parents we are, we haven't baptized him yet... but that's an entirely different blog post.

Cole has grown accustomed to a bedtime routine which includes, in this order: a bath, half a feeding, a diaper change and swaddle wrapping, and finally the feeding's other half where upon my lap, he snuggles into soft, sweet slumber. Length of sleep depends on location. The automatic swing is his favorite, but its pendulum back-and-forth is a constant reminder: the clock is ticking and he won't stay small forever.

Christmas shopping in a department store, the newborn clothes struck me. My child was once that small. And not that long ago.

While I celebrate his newness and growth and changes and challenges, I also mourn his lasts... the last time he wore an outfit, the last pimple of baby acne or the last time his wizarding hands waved their magic wand.

A National Geographic program on developing babies said: as infants grow, they lose abilities while gaining others. Take sight, for example. A young baby can look at a scrambled picture of a mother's eyes, ears and nose, but still recognize her face. An older baby cannot, but an older baby can see shapes and objects more clearly. The benefit of the new ability outweighs the loss of the old one. That's what I tell myself too.

I already miss "newborn Cole" but as we bid him farewell, I have the benefit of making "new Cole's" acquaintance.

Thanks to Mariah from Thirty Mile Photography for this image.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swing me to sweet slumber

I spoil my child. Medics say it can’t be done, not this early, but I spoil. I know it.

I spoil him because it spoils me too.

Cole doesn’t sleep well anywhere but his swing. The swing is borrowed from friends. it glides front to back or left to right. It’s automatic, it’s electronic, it’s a life-saver.

In it, he’ll sleep 4 hours easy, if not 5 and sometimes, once in a while, even 6. Oh sweet 6...

Anywhere else, the floor, his Pack N’ Play, his crib, he sleeps for two hours... maybe.

I don’t expect him to sleep much more than 4 hours a night, but the 1- and 2-hour alarm clock ails me, and I’m not even back to work yet.

My biggest concern is returning to the office. About that time, Cole will start to reach, grab and roll over, meaning he’s outgrown Miracle Swing.

Then what?

I don’t know if I can handle too many nights unsleeping when my employer relies on me during the day.

Advice? Anyone else have swing situations?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear mommy bloggers: parenting hasn't made me want to jump off a cliff

I read too many the-sky-is-falling mommy blogs.

I’ve read them since before I even met my husband, something about sharing the most intimate details of a woman’s menstrual cycles, mucous plugs and Myrena experiences just fascinates me. 

I’d read so many horror stories, I jaded myself to the experience. Mommy bloggers (or at least the ones I read) made it seem like parenting destined a person for the loony bin.

And while this isn’t entirely untrue, I guess I’d like to say: it’s not so bad.

True, I don’t have the same freedoms and disposable income as my pre-baby past. And true, waking to a screaming infant three times a night doesn’t exactly make me Hark the Herald Angels.

But I do get a little syrup-y when he grins at me. The boy doesn’t smile at just anything, I have to work at it. So when he does, I complete a mental fist-pump before reaching for a clean diaper wipe.

And although playing Patty-Cake isn’t the most intellectually stimulating two minutes of my day, during that time, I think of playing the game as a child with my parents and also, of all the games we’ll play as he grows. Peek-a-boo? Hide-and-seek? Varsity football? I don’t know, but I anticipate the days.

I’m looking forward to the days of Friday night football and Saturday soccer. Some parents never attend their children’s middle- and high-school athletic appearances. My parents attended, I don’t know, 99 percent? They wanted to. And I want to too.

I won’t emulate every action of Ma and Pa Ryan, but I do plan to silently cheer from the sidelines as my kid scores or goal... be that for his team or the other. And I sooo want to be the mom with the photo-button pin wedged between the zipper of her jacket and the embroidered name of her child’s high school. And I’ll buy hand-sewn gloves in his school colors too. And then I’ll probably accompany him on his first date and job interview. Probably, I hope, maybe, please, insert smiley face with big nose here.

Anyways, after all the reading, I feared parenting would make bottles feel like handcuffs and diaper bags feel like a chain with bowling ball attachment.

It doesn’t. Or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yes, some moms feel that way and some moms are even diagnosed with serious problems like postpartum depression or other forms of illness. I’m not denying their troubles.

I just want to say that the sky-is-falling mommy mentality doesn’t apply to everyone. Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy it.

But the woman who enjoy 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. feedings, they’re just nut-jobs... :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tummy time is bummy time

Cole HATES Tummy Time. The kid typically calms with a bounce or a bink, but not after an instant on his belly. Oh how he cries. He cries like I asked his first girlfriend to the prom.

Tummy Time is a daily activity for babies so they can develop muscles in their neck, arms and shoulders. Like its name, parents lay children face down on a blanket or with their heads and arms propped up on a pillow. Tummy Time reduces the risk of SIDS, and also helps reduce the chance of babies developing flat spots on their heads which can deform the child's skull.

We're supposed to do Tummy Time for 15 minutes a day, but Cole howls after two.

You = worst mom in the world, he seems to say between sobs and sniffles.

So we do it again. Because we MUST.

Experts recommend it. And I won't take chances.

Especially after I read this from Lisa Belkin of The New York Times' Motherlode blog.

Belkin writes of a study saying Tummy Time helps babies develop motor skills and teaches them to walk sooner. The study links age-when-infant-walks to IQ points and physical fitness.

The study also says children who "passed prewalking motor development marks" earlier had higher IQ scores by age 8 and by their 30s, those children had attained a higher level of education.

Now, it's obvious. Thirty-year-olds were raised before the "Back to Sleep" and "Tummy Time" campaigns. Babies of that generation slept on their stomach. To suggest Tummy Time impacted their development seems flawed. I wonder if the correlation between walking age and academic achievement is simply related to the child's natural aptitude rather than time spent on the back, front, upside down or even inside out.

Because even I hate Tummy Time.

I hate that we have to do it at Cole's best times of day, the times when he smiles and coos and practically wraps his arms around my neck, declaring me the Most Motherly Matriarch of all things Maternal. Which of course, followed by his you're-the-worst-mommy sentiments, makes Tummy Time even more hurtful. For me.

Since babies typically despise time on the tummy, professionals tell parents to try it when babies are their happiest in hopes the wee child won't upset so quickly. Thanks a lot, funhaters.

I don't think time of day matters with Cole, though. Happy or sad before, he is always the latter after Tummy Time.

But like I said, I won't take chances. So despite Cole's ill-will toward bouts on the belly, we'll continue to try. Although he cries and I cry and it ruins our entire morning, Tummy Time can't hurt... right?

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to calm a fussy baby

Cole must have listened to one too many B.B. King songs.

For two hours, he sang the woebegone melody of lost jobs and lovers and minds... or something like that.

Perhaps it was the newness of Colorado, the altitude or the broccoli I'd eaten for dinner, but nothing calmed him one evening while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. All the familiar tricks, not the binkie, nor the bouncing or even an extra helping from the breast buffet would calm him.

For two hours, I rocked, my mom rocked, she bounced, I fed, she cuddled, I carried. Nothing. Nothing but salty tears and the face of a baby perklempt.

Using outside voices and reaching for the Tylenol, we theorized: buy formula. Maybe something was in the milk...?

He'd squawk and scream and when I held his face to my shoulder so to rub his back, he'd holler in my ear, and burst it's tender drum.

Perhaps he's possessed?

We removed his clothes, we sang lullabies, we even entered "fussy babies" into the Google genie and wished three times for relief.

Here's what we learned.

* Take the youngster outside, according to, although I'm guessing moms don't live in North Dakota
* Sing or play soft music, according to
* Swaddling, shushing, sucking, swinging and side/stomach, according to "The Happiest Baby on the Block"

Here's what I learned from Twitter and Facebook friends AFTER the night-o'-fussy occured:

* @LozaFina says a car ride, bubble bath or Gerald Levert music calmed her little one
* Sit in the bathroom with the lights off and fan on
* One friend's grandmother used to convince her to rub whiskey on the child's gums

For two hours we tried these tips and subsequently questioned our ability as mothers and counted the grays in our hair. We wondered how to calm this ailing child when all the expert advice failed us.

Enter: daddy.

Daddy, who for two hours, video gamed his early evening away. Daddy, who for two hours, didn't hear the wailing babe, because he was in the basement. Daddy, who for two hours, hadn't consulted the Google genie.   

Let me try, he said.

Instant calm. Or at least, calmer.

Dear Cole, daddy has no mammary glands. Ergo, heretofore, I am the superior parent. Calm for ME.

The moment their epidermises met, the young man's volume quieted to that of an ambulance siren, rather than the incessant racket of teenagers crying for Justin Bieber. In the library. In the morning. Before coffee.

Rub his belly, my mom said, reading from her computer screen, counter-clockwise.

So I fastened the binkie in Cole's mouth while Levi rubbed baby lotion on the child's abdomen. He didn't take to it immediately, but after a few minutes, Cole laid in a shoulders-shrugged position, snoozing.

I need ibuprofen, Levi said.  

And I need a cocktail...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My days as a Playboy Bunny

If there is anything I’m not, it’s a centerfold model. But for a couple days postpartum, I could have been.

** Dad: maybe now is a good time for you to not read... **

Since bleeding and tearing and a sore booty aren’t torture enough, Mother Nature keeps mothers rotund well after baby escapes the uterus. As a mother herself, you’d think she’d have a little compassion. Perhaps it’s biological birth control.

Reproducing is an ugly, swollen sticky note, reminding you to think twice before doing it again. ...And I haven’t even mentioned the flatulence yet.

My experience was unsightly:

* My fingers and toes felt like jelly rolls.
* My shoes didn’t fit.
* My thighs resembled Redwood trees.
* I wore my wedding ring on my pinkie.
* I put pictures of my ankles on milk cartons in hopes someone would recognize them and send them home.
* Five days postpartum, the lady in the nursing bra section of JCPenny’s asked me when I was due. Ouch.

I tried not to let it bother me. After all, I had a kid in the NICU and a house without running water. I had bigger fish to fry and no intention of not eating them. Diets would come later.

And then later happened.

About a week after our sojourn home, my body thinned out everywhere except my engorged and now plastic-looking looking chesticles. The width of my waist was thinner than that of my forearm, but I needed a 34-D braziere.

My nurse friend, Kyle, (who is a girl, not a boy and likes to tell people she had a sex change) said bodies swell once inflated with IV fluids like I had when I received the labor-inducing drug, pitocin. Note: the cankles.

After a few days, the body expels all those fluids and defies its natural state, she said, rendering Playboy bunnies where new moms are supposed to be.

How sinister is that? I finally look like Malibu Barbie, but I’m handcuffed with a husband (although awesome, but think how many free drinks I’d get if I could play the field??), a small child and a doctor’s note forbidding hibbity dibbity.

Like all good things, my post-baby bod didn’t last. I’m back to normal Katie-weight, just different shapes and sizes, i.e., the bowl full of jelly where my abdominals used to be.

I’m satisfied in this. The treadmill and I were never Facebook friends anyway.

Some women get really down on themselves, mourning their old bodies and contorting their new ones with control-top undergarments, butter-less diets and self-esteem below sea level.

I feel bad for them. I can understand the frustration. It helps to have a husband/partner obtuse to such benign beauty, someone like mine, someone more focused on changing our baby’s diaper than me trying to show off in a tight-fitting tank. He only noticed the obscenities I called “ankles” because I asked him to rub them so much. And he did. From the floor. Because sitting in chairs hurt his back to much.

Oh, memories.

Anyways, I’m more willing to show off my bod post-baby than before. Not because I’m particularly proud of it, but because no less than 74 medical professionals looked at my goods and reached their hands where even tampons don’t go. (TMI? Good. Remember that next time you leave the Prophylactics at home.)

But what about you and what about the other women? Are you proud of your new body? Ashamed? What did you do to reclaim it? Or are you too busy with housework/real work/breastfeeding/holiday gift wrapping to notice? Any good, mushy husband/partner stories to share? Or even better, got any really bad ones? I promise to throw cyber stones at the real assholes...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Video: Cole smiles

Cole's favorite time of day is after he eats and before he naps again, which to us, is the best time to change diapers. We take pleasure in his frown-free face during an otherwise unpleasant task. Check out my video. The cuteness is obscene.

PS: Thanks Grandpa Ed for the early Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ronald's cheeseburgers worth more than calories

Given that winter is the season of giving, this blog is the best I can offer this year.

So I ask for your help.

When Cole was born, Levi was unhealthy and not working. With maternity leave, neither was I. Given the complications of his birth, Cole required an ambulance ride to the airport, an airplane ride to Bismarck and five days in the city’s neonatal intensive care unit. He needed all these things and we’d have paid 10 times what we owe if we had to, but despite the humbling nature of accepting charity, we did it anyway.

From where we live, Bismarck is more than 100 miles away. We couldn’t predict Cole’s length of stay, but we could predict that with little income and huge medical bills, spending 70+ dollars per night on a hotel room would over-exert our fingernail-thin budget.

We didn’t have many sighs of relief that first morning/hours of Cole’s birth and in fact, a lot of that time is hazy to me. But I do remember the MedCenterOne woman with the embroidered teddy bear and stork on her vest, and I remember her offering Levi an opportunity to stay at Bismarck’s Ronald McDonald House.

It asks for $10 a night, she said. And if you can’t afford that, that’s OK too.

The Ronald McDonald House offers a place to stay as well as meals for families with children needing medical care. It’s nothing like a hostel, which is what I originally expected.

Each room has it’s own bathroom. Each facility is within walking distance of the hospital. Each family is bestowed meals, food vouchers, blankets, toiletries and stuffed animals. The houses have washers and dryers, internet access and refrigerators with shelves designated for the occupants of each room. With the exception of the laundry basket of clothes I used for a suitcase (I didn’t pack given the immediacy of the situation), staying at Ronald McDonald felt just like home.

I volunteered at Ronald McDonald House in my hometown a few times whilst in high school. I cooked dinners and remember slicing tomatoes while parents shared seats at an oblong dining room table and children with tubes in their noses washed hands before eating.

Like those families, our stay with the red-wigged clown cost us the equivalent of Nintendo game, meaning mounting hotel bills was one less worry for new parents already anxious and overwhelmed.

Some people make an effort to support local charities because the money then stays within the immediate community. Obviously, Ronald McDonald House isn’t located where I live. That’s why I needed it. Bismarck-area people don’t require a place to stay while loved ones receive medical care in Bismarck. But Jamestown area-people do. Although the charity itself isn’t located here, it very much serves people in this area.

Please consider giving/volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House nearest you. Ten years ago, I sliced those tomatoes, never thinking some high-school kid would later do the same for me. My charitable giving won’t amount to much this year, but I hope I can at least share our story in hopes of raising awareness and with any hope, maybe a few dollars too.

For more information about Ronald McDonald House, click here.

Cole at one week, posing with the two blankets and soccer Beanie Baby he received from the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't pass on the pacifier

Remember how my child likes bouncing? Well he prefers his pacifier more. Or me less. Both are fine.

Yesterday, I forgot his blue binkie, leaving it home while running errands 40 miles away. The drive was fine, the little tyke made hardly a peep. But when I took him to my office, he got antsy.

Just pick up a pacifier at the store,
my coworkers said. You’ll thank us later.

But I didn’t listen.

My child is an an angel. His second love to bouncing? His car seat. He won’t need one, I thought.

Note: if you find yourself in a similar situation, be ye not so stupid.

Bouncing at the office did the trick, but that didn’t last through lunch, a feeding and a trip to the Ol' Wal-Marts.

It started in the canned vegetable aisle, he squawking as I analyzed the spice severity in chili seasonings. Cole cried in the cart, so I held him.

He also cried when I held him, so we bounced.

I got a few stares and several smiles. One Chatty Woman even struck up a conversation about her own children, but amidst the screams, those conversations are complicated to carry. I smiled when her lips stopped moving, but truly, I missed every word.

And of course, in typical small-town fashion, I ran in to people I knew. Sigh. People who were so excited to meet little Cole, but then fast-pitched him back to me when his cries turned to a sweet symphony of jackhammers and car alarms. 

Still, I thought I could handle it. He cries. I bounce. This usually solves the problem. So I bounced my bawling baby in the cereal aisle, debating between regular flavor or honey nut.

Chatty Woman returned. In my attempts to hear her, I stuck the knuckle in his mouth. Perhaps it was from the ringing in my ears, but she sounded like she needed a Sucret and some salt water. Good thinking, Chatty Woman. Again, I heard not what she said other than “finger” and “germs” but I didn’t care. Frankly, I preferred my rioting infant.

Chatty Woman sauntered towards produce as I ducked into dairy, but Cole’s one-man fire alarm remained sounding.

Fine, I sighed, resigning myself to the looks, stares and although infrequent, a few glares. Let’s book-it to baby.

As if she were a mosquito attracted to my knock-off perfume, Chatty Woman reappeared, lips moving AGAIN, and me with my mouth open and free hand upturned. We’re headed to the pacifier section, I hollered over my shoulder, ignoring the niceties I should teach my son to observe.

I may take my time choosing brands of breakfast, but I made haste in the baby aisle. In fact, I didn’t even waste time paying for the pacifier before I opened it. Like I'd already made the purchase, I tore the packaging, swiped the nuk with a diaper wipe and quashed what sounded like the high-pitch of a screeching microphone.

I’m not sure if it was one second later or two, but instantly, his eyes closed.

I fastened Cole’s car seat belt immediately, a trick I’d learned earlier that day. Strap him in when he’s kinda asleep to avoid waking him when he’s really asleep.

Dear Crystal: I owe ya one.

Although the awkward glances subsided, I hadn’t erased them completely. I chose check-out No. 12 because the associate there looked like she mothered children and maybe even grandchildren of her own.

According to the look on her face, she had neither.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for turkey and traveling this Thanksgiving

If walking in another woman’s shoes gives perspective, then someone should have thrown a strappy sandal at my head months ago. 
One of the benefits of nursing is the inability to do anything else. Honey, could you fix dinner? I’m feeding the baby. Telemarketer? Gotta go, feeding the baby. Oh sorry, religious-people-who-knock-on-the-doors-of-strangers, I can’t answer. Baby’s hungry.
And while that’s awesome, I give thanks for more than just a good excuse this Thanksgiving.
Although nursing limits the flipping of pancakes, it does not limit the flipping of channels. That’s how I came across such enlightening entertainment as “I’m Pregnant and Homeless,” a show about 29-year-old Misty. Misty and her husband couldn’t find work and couldn’t afford the rent. At nine months pregnant, the couple lived out of a tent and a van, washing in the river and peeing behind a tree. 

I guess all is well that ends well and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes I wish our burdens weren’t so heavy, but I always had shoes in which to walk. Some mothers, like Misty, have no shoes at all. 
Shame on me for ever feeling sorry for myself.

The year 2010 was the most life-changing ever, but with change comes challenge. 
My husband and I lived separately my entire pregnancy. After losing his home in the flood of 2009, Levi moved in with his grandmother in the country. I stayed in my one-bedroom, in-town apartment. It made little sense to move all my stuff to his grandmother’s and then move it again to our house, which was/is still under construction. Plus, imposing on an already over-generous woman seemed like sticking jeweled fingers into a charity basket. 
Because pregnancy is so demanding, the dads traditionally spoil the moms-to-be. Boys carry the groceries, tie the lady’s shoes and make midnight Taco Bell runs followed by a 2 a.m. stop for pickled ice cream.
Living alone, those luxuries were foreign to me. And even if we’d lived together, I’d have still carried my own groceries, fastened my own laces and driven myself to the drive-through. Suffering from a herniated disc, my husband was in more pain than me. 
The pain was so bad, he couldn’t work. And with no work comes no paycheck.
Concerned about finances, I fretted about every scenario. As I saw it, to pay our bills on time ever these were our options:
* Levi work and hurt himself further = husband in chronic pain and more hospital bills
* Levi take off work, watch the baby and I’ll skip maternity leave
* Levi take off work, I’ll take maternity leave but work part-time anyway
* Levi take off work, I’ll take maternity leave and then when I go back to work, also find a part-time job to make up for lost wages ---> as the days progressed, that seemed one of the best, yet most heart-breaking options. If I worked 12 hours a day plus a 1.5 hour commute, when would I ever see my new baby?
Despite all the help from family, friends and coworkers (and we had a lot) our under-construction house had no heat, no running water, no appliances and only a few unpacked boxes as my due date approached. We were close to move-in ready though, I can’t complain about that. Nine months pregnant, I slept on the floor of my apartment after my coworkers helped me and my mangled husband moved every piece of furniture. 
Baby’s time in the NICU was almost a blessing. Cole could stay in a hospital with good care and running water while our family and friends moved the rest of my stuff out of my apartment, unpacked boxes and made our house a home. They did all that while Levi and I stayed in Bismarck, waiting as our son recovered. 
Levi and I returned to our unfinished house and I did, indeed, share a home with my overly-generous grandmother-in-law who never seemed to tire of our company. So long as she could hold the baby, she seemed even happy about it. 
The first nights with the baby, I spent them alone although the house was full. Determined to figure it out myself, I wouldn’t let my mom, in town from Colorado, rock the screaming infant to sleep. That was my job. And the job of my husband... but given his state, sitting felt like steak knives from his rear to his ankle. He couldn’t even sleep in a bed and instead, slept on the floor with his knees propped on the couch. So I paved the primary nights of parenthood alone, sobbing along with the baby into the monitor for Levi’s help when I resigned myself to the conclusion that I needed it. 
A week after our return, our house had water and most of the major appliances. We were in. We slept in the living room, so Levi could rest on the floor, and Cole slept in a swing borrowed from good friends. 
It wasn’t ideal, but we were home. Under a roof. With walls and heat and water that ran through a faucet.
Life got better for Misty too. 
Her husband traded work for temporary housing. She’d lost 15 pounds during her pregnancy because of poor nutrition, but her baby weighed more than Cole at birth. She and her family struggle to make ends meet, but they too are together. 
If every closed door opens a window, than the window unlatched for me belongs to a little house in Colorado. Given my maternity leave and Levi's disability, neither of us is working, so neither of us need worry about scheduling holidays with our employers. Cole's uncle and maternal grandparents can spend six days and a national holiday with their only nephew/grandson. And I can enjoy the extra time with my family.

Perhaps our situation isn't ideal, but this Thanksgiving will be. For that, I am thankful. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Car-buying advice: Don't let the dealers drive all over you

I don't know anything about cars, but I do know a lot about research and a little about bargains.

I bought my car whilst with child, and wanted a safe, dependable vehicle that would allow me to still afford diapers once baby arrived. 

Before my purchase earlier this year, I researched the beejesus out of autos, deciding what kind was best for me. I also solicited the advice of experts I trusted: former used car salespeople, mechanics and the mother father of all barterers: my dad.

Note: a friend called today, seeking my car-buying advice. That made me feel important. The truth is, I've done this only once. I'm no expert. I did save myself about $2,500 off sticker though, so with any hope, one or two of the tips I learned can help you too.

Before you buy:

* Determine what type of vehicle is best for you using sites like Since I live in the great white wilderness and drive daily on gravel, I wanted something with good tires and 4-wheel drive. Despite the Consumer Report ratings, I chose a Jeep Grand Cherokee after numerous owners I knew reported rave reviews. Consumer Reports says Grand Cherokees are unreliable, not as fuel efficient and not as valuable as other vehicles in it's class. My point? Despite what the experts say, pick what's best for you in your area. Mechanics here aren't familiar with foreign vehicles like Subarus and Volvos. Consumer Reports doesn't factor in the additional costs associated with driving a vehicle 100 miles to service it OR chancing an imperfect repair job.

* Determine the vehicle's worth: Kelly Blue Book ( and will ask what year the vehicle is and how many miles are on it. Based on that info, it will spit out an estimated value for the car. Even if you forget your last name, KNOW THIS. It's like mana in the deal-making desert.

* Research fees, closing costs, taxes and other expenses not listed on the sticker price. Some states/dealers charge $500 just for paperwork. If you're state is like this, consider crossing the border.

* Shop at the end of the month: both dealers and sales associates are more desperate the few days before payroll. More desperate = more likely to deal.

* Shop at the end of winter: this is tricky if you need a car now, but if you can stand to wait, wait until January or February. Consumers don't want to shop outside in the cold, plus, their pocketbooks still cha-cluck with emptiness from the holidays. With fewer buyers, dealers compete to make sales. Dealer competition = buyer victory.

* Shop during a PR crisis: Toyota sold several cars at bargain-basement prices after its recall this year. Use that to your advantage.

* Prepare a list of service work, parts, upgrades you want in addition to the vehicle itself. In your offer, say you are willing to pay $x with a, b, and c work done. I wanted floor mats, mud flaps and and an autostart. My dad bartered for all he wanted PLUS a year's worth of oil changes. He's good.

* If you're uncomfortable negotiating, bring someone who isn't. I'm a little weird in that bartering for me is fun. I like finding good deals, it's like overcoming a challenge. Some people save stamps? I save money. These car-buying meetings will be long, exhausting and awkward. The dealers will do all they can to confuse you into spending more money. If you are unsure of yourself, bring a back-up.

At the dealer:

* Prepare to walk: nothing expresses disinterest like leaving. A customer on the fence is a customer dealers know they'll need to entice with a better offer. Besides, cars are cars. Whatever model you chose, a million more are for sale just like them. This is your bartering power.

* Don't be afraid to hurt the salesperson's feelings because you won't. They don't have any. Not when thousands of dollars are on the line. No matter what deal you make, they and their company are making money. Your salesperson will give you a well-rehearsed song and dance, maybe even a couple back-handed insults, but car-buying is business. They wouldn't sell the car if the company wasn't making a sufficient profit. Don't let them make you feel bad.

* Insist on a third-party inspection: In some places this is common, in North Dakota, it isn't. Pay an unaffiliated mechanic you trust to inspect the vehicle and see if it needs any work or will need expensive repairs soon. Pick their brains. Ask them questions like: would you drive this car? What would you pay for it? What are some of the common costs of ownership? Do you see anything which needs fixing soon? Hint: if even all you do is require the inspection, the dealer may get nervous and do it for you. My third-party inspector was just a friend who gave it a quick look, in the dark. But the dealer didn't know that and made sure the vehicle was in tip-top shape, afraid I'd walk if it wasn't in pristine condition. In my case, the original dealer gave it another inspection and found a crack in one of the valves. They fixed it, free of charge. If you're inspector finds something wrong and you still want the vehicle, see if the original dealer will fix it for you or at least fix it for a reduced price.

* Play hard to get. And don't accept their initial offer. Whatever deal you make the day you walk into the showroom will get sweeter if you leave. Tell the dealer you need time to think about it, especially if they're meeting you in the middle. Even better: tell them you have an appointment to see similar vehicles at another dealer and high-tail it for a Heiniken. Let's say you offered $18,000 for a car with a $20,000 sticker. Maybe the dealer countered with $19,000. If you request time to think about it and leave, the dealer may call you, reducing the price. Mine did.

* Don't sign anything until you are sure. My salesperson hand-wrote my offer in pencil and wanted me to sign it. He wrote something like:

taxes, license and fees
I intend to buy.
Sign here:

That one caught me off guard. I wouldn't sign it because I didn't know what the taxes and fees would cost me and I had a price point *luckily* I would not cross. I guess I don't know what the purpose of such an informal contract is, but it isn't necessary. Just say no.

* Know your price point and stick to it. It's easy to say "no" when you know saying "yes" means spending the next five years eating beans out of cans. A good way to do this is to play with numbers on the dealer's websites. Most of them can calculate monthly payments based on the car's price, your down payment and trade-in, interest rate and other factors.

* Shop for auto loans: your dealer may offer the best rate, but double check your own bank and a few others. This is also a good way to know your price point. If your budget is $10,000, depending on interest rates, you may only have $8,000 to spend on the vehicle + tax, title and fees.

* Know the value of your trade and accept nothing less. You can do this using the and sites listed above. If the dealer won't give you what the trade is worth, consider selling it privately. 

* Get a Carfax auto report. These reports indicate if the vehicle has had any accidents and/or some of it's service history. If the dealer won't get one for you, hit the road. The car is a lemon.

And this video is from my grade-school buddy (and first boyfriend ever, teehee!) Dan Jones. Not only is it helpful, the dude is kinda funny.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Correspondence with Cole: two months

Dear Cole,

Today you are two months old. You no longer fit into newborn-sized clothes and my return-to-work date too quickly approaches. Pretty soon you’ll be breaking fragile objects, bones and someday, maybe even hearts. I look forward to the day you walk, but fear your walk across the graduation stage. Though that event is years away, these first two months took less than a second on the stopwatch called life. Surely the next few years will fly by like the hundred meter hurdle. 

Already this month, you’ve met milestones like smiling when someone smiles at you. That someone is usually not me. Despite my over-exaggerated expression of pearly whites and the muscle strain side effect of arching my eyebrows, you avoid my eye contact and save your smiles for daddy. Although your neck coordination is limited, I believe you are doing this on purpose. Remind me to ground you for it later.

When I do get a beam from you baby boy, it’s usually after the third time you roused me from my slumber, threatening to break windows with your screams. This is when I need your smiles most. And since daddy sleeps through your squawking, those smiles are mine alone. Someday I’ll teach you to share, but for now, I'll keep them to myself.

To verify you meet your other milestones, an official from Right Track visited this month to ensure development is on schedule.

It is.

Given your stint in the NICU, this is a relief.

The Right Track woman asked if you had trouble eating. Yes, I thought to myself, you have trouble eating too much, too fast. Instead of dessert, you prefer bouncing after ever meal likely because of gas bubbles in your belly. I don’t know much about inside your belly, but I do know what comes out of it. Those bubbles expel with more frequency and ferocity than a grown man on a baked bean and broccoli diet. Godzilla on a whoopee cushion sounds as quiet as a whisper compared to you.

As your father and I discuss our religious backgrounds and how to raise you as a man of faith, my biggest concern isn’t the church affiliation we choose, but how quiet the services are. Surely, you’d save your sacred symphony for the most holy and hushed of moments, embarrassing us to the point of preferring limbo if it means not blushing at your baptism.

Your gassiness upsets your tummy, and because of all the bouncing to counteract it, my appendages will soon match diamonds in terms of strength and beauty, from hoisting you up-and-down, up-and-down. In fact, given your affinity for spring-loaded stepping, I’m sure you’re destined for a career in either basketball... or pogo sticking.

Your daddy had surgery this month, a surgery he’s needed for more than a year but delayed until you were born so he could help me with you. He was in a lot of pain and the first chance he got to feed you, he declined. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, it was the feeling of Freddy Krueger radiating from his rear to his ankle. The pain rendered sitting to give you a bottle almost impossible. Since the hospital performing the procedure was 100 miles away, we left you with your grandmother overnight. Your father and I missed you, couldn’t wait to come home, whereas you probably didn’t want to leave. I don’t doubt your grandmother added chocolate candy to your bottle and let you stay up past your bedtime. She spoils you, but don’t forget, I produce the breast milk, OK? Don't forget to love me too... :)

Now that the surgery is over and your father is on the mend, he takes advantage of his new found health, taking pleasure in bath time, tummy time and even changing diapers. Sometimes I catch you two cuddling on the couch and I know you’re likely plotting against your outnumbered mother, or at the very least, practicing for the next tournament of tooters.

Because your father can’t work as he heals and I’m still on maternity leave, our little family is celebrating Thanksgiving with your maternal grandparents and Uncle Mike in Colorado. It’s your first trip out of state, which we know you appreciate because given your birthday airplane ride, you’d clearly do anything to travel.

Notre Dame could win a National Championship, but I’m still not sure that compares with your grandparents’ excitement to see you. In fact, I’m not sure they care to see your dad and I, but ooohh the baby. We want to see the baby. Family and friends encourage us to go on dates, get house work done, go hunting for deer/bargains... all so they can babysit. It’s not out of consideration for us; they have alternative motives. They just want to spend time with you. And who can blame them? You’re quite famous. If you could write, I’d sell autographed copies of your Jamestown Hospital ad in the newspaper, but as such, I’ll just christen them with your spit up instead. I’m sure I’ll make a fortune, but I’m not sure I’ll share it with you. We’ll just call it even for all those diapers you soil... see above.

Love you baby,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby's first road trip

Today begins day one of two, heading to Colorado for Thanksgiving. I have a baby on the breast and a husband with a bad back, who can't sit for long intervals and must avoid lifting more than 20 lbs... I are smart.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Christmas/holiday gifts for the wee ones

As the holidays approach, my mom enlists me to create my annual, "What do you want for Christmas?"-list.

Since I'm a little on the broke side this holiday, instead if starting my shopping early, I've started my list-making early instead.

So far, I've come up with these ideas for my son. Perhaps these are good ideas for gift-giving and receiving in your family.

Note: there are the ideas of me and some awesome Twitter/Facebook friends. No one paid me to post them.

* Recordable storybooks: like this "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" version for about $20 from It's perfect for families like mine... I live with my husband and son in North Dakota but my parents and brother live in Colorado. If they record their voices in books like these, little Cole can hear his grandma, grandpa and Uncle Mike all year long. (Hallmark sells them too but purchases aren't available online.)

 * Books of any kind, really. Especially board books. They stand the tests of chubby fingers and regurgitated applesauce. 

* Savings bonds, savings-account investments, contributions to baby's 529: little babies don't know what presents are and even toddlers appreciate the gift wrapping more than the gift itself. A relative bought me a $20 savings bond when I was young, it's worth more than $600 now. Cha-ching. Read more about 529s here.

* Personalized winter wear: Ok, these hats won't always fit, but they are darling, handmade and can be purchased at any size. PLUS if your child has a small head, big ears, or affinity for rainbow colors, etc., crocheter Heidi Bear can custom-make them. This is Cole, sporting her pumpkin design. Check out Heidi's Etsy website here.

* Scrapbooks, photo albums or any sort of collected mementos: This gift gives twice. The child's parents will also thank you. If you like photo books of the online variety, try, or Don't forget to first register with for 25 percent to 30 percent off your purchase.

* Quality time: give the gift of memories... bake cookies, go hunting/bargain hunting, spend the day at the zoo. Your little ones may not remember, but they'll appreciate the occasions anyway. BONUS: Take lots of pictures and use them for gifts next year. :)

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cole shakes it

Cole doesn't like to just sit. He likes to bounce. 

His dad, however, prefers another method.


PS: I don't endorse shaken babies. Just dancing ones :) 

An even blacker Black Friday

Looking to save some dough this holiday season? Look into Seriously.
I’ve written about this before... but I'm going to tell you again because I heart it so much. My friend works for ShopAtHome and it is AWESOME. (She doesn't make any money when I write this though, I just wanted to share how I learned of it's existence...)

I live in the middle of nowhere, so when it comes to gifts, I’ll make most of my purchases online. If you too, live where only corn grows or you like to avoid the crowds, shop in your pajamas, fear daylight, etc., perhaps you’ll shop online too. 
More than 352 merchants offer discounts and deals through oh wait... 352 merchants whose name begins with “A”... 375 with “B”... 444 with “C”... etc. for a total of more than 2,000 different stores. You’ll find what you want.  

Don't forget to buy locally if you can though....

But for stores 50+ miles away... here are some of the discounts offers:
Buying gifts?
Kohls: 4 percent cash back
Barnes and Noble: 8 percent cash back
Cabelas: 4 percent cash back
Target: 5 percent cash back
Verizon: $35 dollars cash back
Pictures/Holiday cards? 25 percent cash back 25 percent CASH BACK 3 percent cash back (you pick them up at your friendly, neighborhood branch)
Shoes? 12 percent cash back
Famous Footwear: 13 percent cash back
DSW: 8 percent cash back
Crocs, Inc.: 7.5 percent cash back
Traveling? 3 percent cash back  <---- this one RoCkS the hiz-ouse! "Name Your Own Price" is already a bargain! 3 percent cash back
Holiday Inn: 6 percent cash back
Choice Hotels: 7 percent cash back
Home improvement?
Home Depot: 5 percent cash back
Even Ebay offers 3 percent cash back... :)
All you have to do is visit and register. Search for the store you want using the toolbar, or type in search words like: “computers,” “video games,” “Barbie” or “Silver jeans” and chose the merchant with the best deal. 
Click on the store of your choice and shop as usual. You’ll receive the cash back once you’ve earned at least $20 in total cash back. You can use that extra money to pay off the credit card bill OR better yet, the after-Christmas sales :)

If you find any good/better deals, let me know. I'm always looking to save some cash myself :)

Happy bargain hunting! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Raise the bar on raising children

* The "What to Expect the First Year" mommy book tells readers to comfort a crying infant as soon as possible. To not may result in a frustrated and angry child with a diminished ability to communicate.

* Grandmothers advise bottling water for a hiccuping baby. Grandfathers say its not the water, but the temperature, that's the problem: Hiccuping babies are just cold. NICU nurses say do nothing, in fact, don't even worry. Hiccups happen, they said.

* Keep a child awake so he'll sleep at night, parents of adult children say. Overtire your child and he WON'T sleep at night, "What to Expect" says.

One need not look far for advice on parenting. The problem is, however, advice is sometimes conflicting.

The New York Times parenting blog writes today about various parenting styles and philosophies. Some parents make child-rearing into a competitive sport while others take a more laissez-faire, do-what-feels-right, approach, it says.   

Are you a member of the "directed play category or do you belong on the "what's-directed-play" shelf?

My child is seven weeks old. His play is limited to making funny faces and staring at ceiling fans.

I wasn't raised in a "must-be-the-best"-type household, but I was raised with every opportunity to excel. My mother, a teacher, had me reciting the ABCs and reading books before I graduated from training pants. I attended private schools and I took math and reading classes designed for students a year ahead of me in school.

My brother and I were banned from watching Bart Simpson, let alone movies of the Rated R variety. My parents never let us have TVs in our rooms and Nintendo wasn't something we owned until my brother and I aged in the double digits.

I don't say that to brag. I say that because I'm not sure any of it mattered. Don't tell my mom.

Despite my parents' best efforts, I'm not sure the censorship and the pre-kindergarten learning sessions made a significant difference in my outcome as an adult. The unruly kids in school, the ones who watched MTV and whose parents didn't seem to mind if they consumed alcohol as high schoolers, Facebook makes it seem that they are as happy and successful as me.

So what's the best way to raise a child, how do you know and who do you listen to?

I'm not sure how parents determine if they successfully raised a child, but if that success is measured in "ability to pay bills," "number of times not in jail" and "perception of overall happiness," it seems that all my childhood friends are faring just fine.

Does parenting style matter? Does the nature in nurture vs. nature over-rule any parenting influence? What about the extreme cases, where small children are abnormally violent and angry? Does that come from parenting style? Or is it inherent in the character of the child?

How do you raise/plan to raise your children?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tease me you devil

Forgive my absence on this blog... awesome relatives of mine are hanging mirrors, lifting plywood and completing other end-of-the-house-building-project projects. Did I mention I moved into my new house just after the baby was born? And since I was half-moved-in, half-moved-out of my Jamestown apartment, I spent my ninth month of pregnancy sleeping on the floor? Well, I'm writing about it, with no complaints.

Expect an update this week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cole is practically the next Justin Bieber...

Jamestown Hospital is using Cole's birth story in a print ad set to run in The Jamestown Sun.

Cole was born with a potentially life-threatening condition of his lungs, called a pneumothorax. Learn more about it in this post and this video staring the young Mr. Anderson. Physicians at Jamestown Hospital diagnosed him immediately, saving his life. Today, Cole is just fine. Doctors say they can't even tell he had a lung problem and when he grows, he'll be playing sports just like all the other kids.

We are forever grateful to Jamestown Hospital. Check out this ad in the Nov. 11 and Nov. 23 Jamestown Sun.

Click on the ad to see a larger size.

PS: Best get baby Cole's autograph now before he's too busy walking red carpets.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest post: Smile for me baby

At six weeks of age, my son has many expressions including: angry teenager, fish face and IHaven'tEatenInTwoHoursI'mFlippin'Starving. He's gifted us with brief grins all too infrequently, according to the mommy books, true smiles, not just brain synapses, occur sometime between four and 10 weeks. One smile occurred the day after my birthday. Baby tooted soon after, but I'm sure it was still a smile specifically for me. Surely, baby's true smiles aren't too far away. Until then, I'll take whatever I can get, even if followed with a full diaper.

Certified business coach, Annie Kirschenmann, writes about the power of smiles. A baby's smile is like a reward for a job well done. Smiles mean a baby is comfortable and cared for, she said. 

According to Annie:

Every proud parent knows the exhilarating instant I am about to describe:

You have been wondering. . ."Is she really looking at me?  Is he curling his lips because of gas?”  Then - the magic moment when there is no doubt – you know your precious infant recognizes YOU.

Exactly how do you know?  While gazing with focus right into your eyes. . .she smiles.

In The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant, psychologist Margret Mahler describes it this way, “. . .(the infant’s) smile gradually becomes the specific, preferential smiling response to the mother, which is the crucial sign that a specific bond between the infant and his mother has been established.” (Italics are Mahler’s). 

Thus the first relationship is born.  I love that we, as human beings, announce our arrival in the interpersonal world with a smile.  It is one of our first – and most primal – communications.  It says we are safe, cared for and accepted.  In a smile, the baby is expressing and receiving a “pre-verbal” communication – before he has the words to name what is happening.  And so pleasurable is the activity she will actively seek to smile and be smiled at – often.

This means smiling is rooted deeply within each of us.  Because of its social origins, the smile is so basic to our communication structure that we can become anxious when this signal is absent in those around us.  Smiling can reduce stress – in both the smiler and the receiver.  Research also indicates that you can improve your attitude by the simple act of putting your face muscles into a smiling position.  It can also have a positive impact on our vital signs. 

Of course, all this makes smiling powerful stuff!  (And these data points are only the tip of the iceberg – there is much, much more going on in that simple facial movement.)  But back to you and your kids.  Armed with this little bit of information, you can make some choices about enhancing your relationship with a smile.  

A friend I hadn’t seen in several years had become a father in the intervening time.  I asked how he liked being a Dad.  He said, “Oh, my stomach hurts.”  (!)  My look of curiosity must have been compelling, because after a pause he continued, “I am laughing all the time!”  This did not surprise me.  You see, kids smile / laugh naturally and frequently.  Adults?  Not so much.  In fact, children laugh over four hundred times in a day -- compared with the adult average of 15 per day.  Ouch.

So parents and caretakers, you might be a bit out of practice!  Fortunately, kids are experts.  Start by making a choice to really observe her.  When she smiles, look directly into her eyes and smile back.  Often.  Make a point of initiating a smile toward your little loved one.  Often.  Not only will you strengthen your relationship with him; as a side benefit, you are going to feel better and be healthier yourself.

The first language for all of us is non-verbal.  For a while it is the only communication your baby has and she is speaking volumes all the time.  So are you.  Further, this powerful non-language exchange is shaping her experience and sense of self.  More on this in my next blog -- I See You See Me.

Annie Kirschenmann is a board certified Dance/Movement Therapist and a non-verbal communication expert; a Nationally Certified Counselor; and a Certified Corporate Business Coach. She holds her M.S. from Hunter College (NY) and her BA from Macalester College (St. Paul).  Annie’s award winning master’s thesis is on the therapeutic benefits of smiling, laughter and humor.  She is the owner and lead coach/consultant for A.K. Coach and Company (  She can be reached by email at:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fitness secrets I learned from my son, sorry Jenny Craig

Sometimes, all that will console my child is a good jockey on the knee. It's like he's Christopher Robin's Tigger and bouncing is what he does best. 

Although it keeps me from completing various activities requiring two hands... like folding laundry, cleaning toilets and washing dishes in the sink, I don't yet mind... Probably because it means I don't have to do things like fold laundry, clean toilets and wash dishes in the sink.

In fact, my son is sitting in my cross-legged lap right now, snoozing as a flap my legs like butterfly wings.

I can't stay in this spot forever though. In fact, as I held him yesterday, I stood, flexing my calf muscles a million times a minute. Don't worry though, I can multitask. I watched Sex and the City 2 at the same time.

And while getting out of chores and enjoying girl movies is benefit enough, all this muscle flexing and toning is nice too. Come swimsuit season, this new mother will bounce right into another full-time job: hot mama.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frugal Feast Friday: deer sausage and sauerkraut

Deer gun season opens in North Dakota today and to mourn celebrate, I cooked with the meat of gunned-down Bambi. Nothing is more frugal than free, right?

Note: I don't have bones with hunting as long as the meat goes to a good cause... like my belly. I just don't like scary people with weapons... and the ugly apparel associated with them. Sorry Cabelas. I actually think harvesting and then eating deer, pheasant, etc., is more civil than farm-raised meat... at least those critters lived cage-free. Hey, if hunters can shoot things, I can fire a few jokes, right?

To cook with North Dakota's favorite entree, it seems only appropriate to combine it with the state's favorite side dish: sauerkraut. Like any dish, this one tastes better with the homemade stuff, but the canned goods work OK too.

May I introduce, Katie's deer sausage and sauerkraut creation:

1). Heat sausage link in skillet of water. Slice 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces once cooked fully.

2). In another pan, simmer half a can of kraut and frozen vegetables of your favorite variety. I chose a stir-fry mix and then added additional frozen carrots and corn. PS: If you're nursing, avoid broccoli and cauliflower as they'll make for a gassy/fussy baby.  

3). Combine meat and veggies and let simmer together on low heat until flavors blend about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Normally I'd serve this on a bed of seasoned noodles or rice, but my grandmother-in-law gifted us with fresh baked buns, so that was our carb for the evening. I like the pasta version best, as it takes some of the sauerkraut sting away and allows for just the right amount of tangy flavor. When boiling the noodles, season them with salt or even better, garlic salt.

 Bon Appetit!