Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby's Mouth: Interview with Dr. Aarika Anderson Elter


My final year of college, I had the privilege of living with two roommates who were studying to go on to dental school.  I remember once quizzing them for some big science exam -- going through flashcards that they had made and barely being able to pronounce all the big words, let alone understanding (or caring) what it all meant.   Science was never my thing (I majored in Mass Communications... surprised?) but I am so glad it was theirs!  Aarika in particular was very passionate about teeth, even before dental school, and always got on me about flossing.  My own dentist would have been proud.

Both roommates went on to dental school and are now practicing in their home states of Washington and Nevada.  I confess that I still don't floss every day... but when I do, I think of them!

Baby's Got a Mouth Too

It just recently occurred to me that Dan and I are fully responsible for Penny's oral hygiene... and we are going to have to brush her teeth... like soon.   What else will this entail?  Should we be doing something already?  Does she need to go to the dentist yet?  Naturally, I reached out to an old friend (whose baby son, is just five months older than Penny!) for January's My Friends the Experts post to gather some info about dental care for the little ones.

But if you only have a minute, here are some key takeaways:
  • Babies should go to the dentist when their first tooth comes in or no later than their first birthday.
  • Even before teeth come in, it is good practice to wipe out a baby's mouth with a damp wash cloth after feedings.  This rids the mouth of some excess sugars and prepares baby for future mouth cleaning practices.
  • When you do start brushing baby's teeth, the knee-to-knee technique works well, but you can still expect a normal amount of chewing, wiggling and crying. 
  • Tooth decay (cavities) is influenced by both diet and hygiene, and can be inherited. 
  • Never give baby or toddlers a bottle throughout the night and avoid giving them foods or drinks with added sugar (especially juice!).  A whole food diet (no processed foods) is great for baby teeth.
  • Pacifiers and thumb/finger sucking should be discontinued around age 2 to prevent a detrimental effect on developing teeth.
  • Kids need a grownup's help to brush their teeth effectively until about age 6 or 7. 
Dental Anxiety

I don't love shots and drills and things, but I love having my teeth cleaned and I know that whatever my dentist tells me about flossing and coming in more often, etc... I probably need to hear it .  I think I'm in the minority when I say that I actually like going to the dentist. Most people dread it, so it seems.  Poor dentists!   Dr. Anderson Elter wanted to "drill home" that taking your kid to the dentist should be positive experience for parent and child.  Everyone wins if mom and dad have a positive attitude about dental visits -- so let's all try not to pass along "dental anxiety" to our kids!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Five Things I Couldn't Live Without: Sick Baby Edition

Little Penny, bless her heart, is still not over the chest bug that got her last Wednesday.  Baby getting sick for the first time is definitely a rite of passage for parents.  It's true what they say: there's not much worse than knowing your baby doesn't feel good when there's no magic pill to make them feel better.  The rumble in her chest breaks my heart... I wish I could teach her how to cough it out!

Gearing up for the day that your baby will get sick for the first time...

These are some items that have been clutch for us during our Week of the Sick Baby... most of which I had to borrow or go purchase after she got sick, and wish we had had in the house beforehand.

1. A cool mist humidifier
Apparently this is a must-have for babies' rooms in the winter when the heater is running in your house.  We never had one, but we do now.  I bought the Vick's brand because the pharmacist that was there told me it's her favorite.  Not sure it's the best, but it's done fine for us.  You can do your own research on how much you want to spend, just make sure it's "cool mist".

2. A good rectal thermometer
It's not as bad as it seems.  In fact, it's quite simple and apparently, the most accurate way to take baby's temp.  Trust me, if you are doing the "well I think she feels like she might have a fever but I don't really know for sure" dance, it sure is nice to just be able to take her temperature.  After the thermometer we got as a baby shower gift didn't work (gah!), we got the generic CVS brand 3-in-1 option that has a rectal, oral and arm option for getting a read.  It works great.

3. Infant Tylenol
If you have an infant, you should have some of this in your house.  Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.  If baby gets a fever in the latest part of the night, running to the store to get Tylenol is going to be the last thing you want to do -- trust me.  Make sure you get the kind with the syringe-like measure, not the little cup.

4. Some way for baby to sleep with his/her head elevated
It really does make a congested kiddo sleep better, and it keeps some of the fluids/mucus from draining to his/her ear canal, helping prevent an ear infection.   Bucket car seats work, or something like this "sleeper" from Fisher Price (my mom got it at a second-hand store!).

5. A pediatrician that takes phone calls
I can't tell you how wonderful it was to be able to call Penny's doctor's office, talk to a receptionist (a person, not an answering system), tell her everything that was going on, and then have the nurse (who had talked to our doc) call me back within five minutes to chat with me.  This saved me a trip to the doctor and gave me all kinds of peace of mind that I couldn't get from Web MD.  Plus if Penny's condition had worsened and we had needed to take her in later, they would have already known the back story.   If you don't love your pediatrician or the office staff, fire them!  There are good ones out there!

Also, if you've got a coughing baby, my post about our Steam Room Ritual might be helpful to you as well!


There's more where this came from... Five Things I Couldn't Live Without:

Nobody paid me or gave me anything for free... I wrote about this stuff on my own volition because I couldn't live without it!

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Steam Room Ritual for Sick Baby

As you may know, my baby girl has been sick for the past handful of days.  Some congestion, mostly coughing.  She had a fever the first couple days but it's gone. Now I'm just trying to keep her comfortable and rested and hydrated while her little tiny immune system does its thing.

Per a recommendation from the nurse from our pediatrician's office, I have been taking PJ into a steamy bathroom at least once a day to help break up some of the gunk in her respiratory system.   Here's how I pull this off when it was just me by myself at home with her...

Steam Ritual for Mom and Baby
Total time: about 20 minutes

  • Set up the bathroom with a baby towel draped in a sleeper like this or a portable cradle, ready to lay the baby in it right out of the bath. (You might be able to use a swing, depending on the swing).  Maybe drop in one or two teething/chew toys just in case.  Put it right next to the bath tub, facing the shower.
  • Turn on the shower as hot as it goes and plug the drain.
  • Close the bathroom door for about five minutes to let it get really steamy in there.  (you can also hang some clothes in there to get wrinkles out!  That's what I always do at hotels...)
  • Take off all mom's and baby's clothes except for the diaper.  Yes, mom and baby naked time... you've all done it...
  • Hold baby and slip through the bathroom door so as not to let too much steam out.
  • Stand (dance, sway, bounce, etc.) in the bathroom for 5-10 minutes with her.  The water still running, always monitoring to make sure the tub doesn't get too full.  Sing verses of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" over and over.  Play peek-a-boo with the mirror by wiping off the steam in the place where the baby is.  OK, you don't have to do these last two things but I found they really added to the experience.  
  • After a thorough steaming, Turn the water off, ditch the diaper and get into the tub with baby.  Even though the shower had been running at full-heat, in our bathroom the water in the tub wasn't too hot because it had been sitting there so long (I guess).  A couple times I had to let out a little bit of the water and fill it with cooler water, but it was mostly just right.
  • Take a bath with baby.  (I figured, it she's anything like me, when she's sick all she'll want is to hang out in the bath tub!)
  • After the bath, lay baby in the sleeper in the towel, wrap her in it, and then take a really hot shower yourself.  This accomplishes two things: mom gets to take a shower, and baby gets a little extra steam before concluding the ritual.  During my shower, I would keep the shower curtain partly open so Penny got extra steam and so I could play peek-a-boo with her and continue to sing silly songs to keep her occupied.
  • When done, dry yourself off, pick baby up in her towel and proceed to wherever you both get dressed.
I found that doing this regularly did indeed help her to cough up some of the icky rumbles in her chest.  She also took very good naps immediately following this ritual.

Hope this helps!  And God be with you when you are caring for your sick babies!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mom in the Quiet, 2:00am

1:30am. Like a childrens' book, everyone in the house is sleeping.

The dogs, after a day of unsupervised play in the rain and mud followed by a treacherous midnight shower, crashed near the bed about an hour ago. The beach towels from their cleaning, damp and covered in fur, wait for a morning load of laundry.

I've always had a night-owl spirit, but this is different.  This is silly.  I should be sleeping too.  After the debate in my head, I meticulously change a wet diaper, cursing every snap on the pajamas as I go.  She stirs. Why didn't I get the ones with the zipper down the leg? She relaxes back into sleep.  I am getting really good at this baby thing.  

To the kitchen.  I putz.  I pump.  4.5 ounces.  Go me.   Enough to replenish the milk taken from the frozen stash as 'emergency milk' for yesterday's volleyball tournament.  Last tournament daddy needed the e-milk while mommy was coaching. Yesterday it went to waste, since I nursed baby twice between matches; one of many small victories of the day.  I was so proud of my team.  I drink a big glass of water.

To the bedroom. I cut baby's fingernails. She sleeps most deeply at night and doesn't even notice.

 She smells so good.  I took three showers today. No, four. Three.  She had two showers today. One for steam breathing, one for cleaning.  I wonder if she will get dry skin.

I used to sleep with my mother when my dad was out of town. Two in a bed feels better than one.  My baby's dad isn't out of town yet, but he rests alone in the basement tonight so he can get a good sleep and hopefully keep the sick germs away from his nursing wife; the spouse who can't take much medicine these days. I feel like he's out of town already. I miss him. I don't miss his sick snores. I miss his squirmy cuddles though, admittedly.

To the kitchen.  I gargle some vinegar for the tickle that tempts my throat to succumb to the bug going around. Being sick really stinks when your husband is out of town, can't be too careful.  I write "salt" on the grocery list on the fridge. 1:48am.

The humidifier goes, a new addition to our bedroom. It compliments the white noise of the HEPA filter quite nicely.

On the bed I sit.  I write in the night. Tap tap tap.  I'll sleep next, but only for a little while.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Again

Five Minute Friday

Click the icon above for more information about Lisa Jo Baker's amazing exercise in writing and invitation to community!

Here goes...


Her tiny right hand held tightly to his, and her left to mine.  He and I would look at each other to verify the timing...

"One... two....... THREEEEEEE!!! Wooohoooohooooo!!"

Swung she went, barely a foot off the ground, but miles high to her.  Blond pigtails feathered in the air with the rush.  Sugar high turned a parking lot into a reckless playground.

As she came down her feet would thump clumsily, like an parasailor landing on the beach.

"Again?!?!" she belted.  So wild and uncontrollable, the word was a shriek, barely discernible. 

We walked and swung her, "one, two, threeee" each time, "Again?!?" each time.  It was the only word she could get out as she caught her breath.

Our arms got tired. So very tired.  "One more time" became eight, nine, ten.  We knew this was a bad habit, but mom wasn't there.

The funnest way for dad and me to get little sister from one end of the mall to the other.  

That little sister, in college now, soon will do this with her little niece.  How many times will she grant her one more "Again"?


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The time has come. Penny is sick.

Just 'cuz I don't feel good
doesn't mean I can't look good
in my new rockin' jammies!
Home Diagnostics
We had a very fussy kid on Tuesday night, allowing me just about four hours of sleep all night.  In my brain, the all-night whimper party was obviously our punishment for accidentally disturbing her and waking her up after she had originally fallen asleep. Of course she wouldn't go back to sleep peacefully all night long, that would be too easy on mommy and daddy.

Wednesday morning, my mom (Penny's Grammie) called me at my desk at work.

"Hey mom, what's up, is everything ok?"

You know that careful voice that mothers use when they don't want to seem like they are telling their daughters (or daughers-in-law) how to raise their babies... but they know they are right about something?

"Um... well... I think Penny is coming down with something."

Background: Before she was a stay-at-home-mom, my mother worked as a pediatric nurse, so she is super knowledgeable and perceptive about all things baby and kid health -- she is pretty much always right, even when I am too stubborn to believe her.

I admitted that I had noticed a little cough in her throat that morning, but I had thought she seemed fine or I wouldn't have gone on with a normal day like I did.

"Well, I think she has a fever too" (again speaking cautiously, but knowing she was right)

I immediately felt guilty that I hadn't stayed home from work.  I should have caught it, or recognized it coming.  Or known she would get it; even though we've tried to keep her away from sick germs, pretty much everyone in our neighborhood has been sick and we can't control every germ that comes in contact with our child.  But I had to forgive myself quickly and just move forward.

Doctor's Notes
I called the doctor and got some great over-the-phone instructions:
(Have I mentioned that I love our pediatrician and his office?)

  • No over-the-counter cough meds or decongestants until age 5.  No Motrin or Ibuprofen at this age.  
  • Infant Tylenol won't help a cough, but give to her if we want to break a fever. 
  • To ease her symptoms: elevate her head when she sleeps, run a humidifier, maybe take her into a steamy bathroom for a few minutes before naps, lots of TLC.
  • Watch for: new or worsening symptoms such as signs of an ear infection or trouble breathing.
  • Bring her in if: high fever develops, she starts wheezing or any change in breath sounds, or if she won't eat.

(By the way, my mom already knew all these things...)

Sure enough, Penny's temperature was 101.3 degrees.
There went baby's first Tylenol, down the hatch.

Last night went really well.   We borrowed the second-hand Fisher Price Sleeper from Grammie's house (what a life saver! Such a comfortable way for her to sleep with her head up) and stopped and bought a humidifier on the way home.  She slept like a log.

She still had a fever of 101 this morning so we gave her another dose of Tylenol.  And today, I stayed home from work to snuzzle and nurse my sweet baby girl.

Silver Lining
Of course there's a bright side.
1) When kids get sick, their immune systems get to go to work, it's like training for later times when they have to battle worse illnesses.
2) I have a boss who is super understanding and supportive of me putting my family first, so staying home today was no big deal.
3) Daniel learned how to use a rectal thermometer.

Please cross your fingers for Dan and I not to get sick too!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thankful: About My Husband

Contributing to the Monday craziness, I have volleyball practice at night, which means Daniel is with Penelope while I'm gone for about three hours.

Special "dad and me" time is a wonderful thing, something she will grow to look forward to, and look back on very fondly -- I know I always did and always have.

But for now, Penny's enjoyment of pretty much anything is dependent on her tummy being full.   Usually we try not to have Penny take bottles except when I'm at work (mostly so I don't find myself hooked up to a breasts pump more than I already have to be!) so it is always a race for me to get home before Penny needs to eat on volleyball nights.

Last night when I called Dan after practice ended, knowing I had a half hour drive ahead of me, I could hear the baby crying in the background.

I drove home as quickly and safely as I could. Pulled into the driveway expecting to storm the doors and rip off my sports bra.  Instead I walked into the house to this:

Daniel had not only soothed a fussy, hungry Penelope and put her to sleep, but he was also cooking dinner.

How did I find such an amazing man?!


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Lactation Cookies Recipe Link

My friend made "Lactation Cookies" and brought them to our Mommy Group (Breast-feeding Support Group offered at the hospital) for a food workshop this morning.  I wanted to point you all to the recipe because they have oatmeal and flaxseed meal and brewer's yeast and other good things for nursing mamas' milk production... And they were DELICIOUS!   Enjoy!  Here is the recipe listed on

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Stand Tall Baby Girl, Stand Tall

The Gene Pool
Dan is almost six foot six. I'm not that tall now at five foot nine and a half, but when I was young I ended up in the middle back row of every single one of my elementary school class photos.  There were only three boys in my eighth grade class who were taller than me.

There's a pretty good chance that Penelope is going to be tall.

I wish I could tell her that being a tall girl is simply wonderful throughout all stages of life, but I actually hated it for a majority of my childhood. When I was little I could never share clothes with my friends because I was always a size or two bigger than them, and I wasn't that chubby of a kid, just bigger.  Into middle school, my shopping experiences would begin and end with "do those come in Longs?" (Usually they didn't back then). And it was emotionally tough being taller than most of the boys. No girl likes being bigger than the boys her same age. No one likes being called names either.

To my dearest baby girl... I know I won't be able to protect you from all the self-esteem threats that culture and other kids will throw at you during adolescence.  But my hope for you is that if you grow heights beyond your peers, you will stand tall gracefully and with pride. That you will never resent your height like I did. That you will wear high heels to dances. That you will never slouch.  That you will know that you are beautiful, always.

Charting Growth: Our Ruler Project
I'm not a DIY blogger because I don't do enough DIY to make a blog of it...  But when I do do DIY I am pretty serious about it.  (Ask Daniel about the time the baby ribbons took over our kitchen...)

So anyway, Dan and I made this growth chart ruler for Penny for Christmas "to watch our family grow" over the years.  This project was really important to me because the only growth chart rulers I could find (aside from them being expensive and not looking exactly how I wanted ours to look) were only six feet tall. Ummm hello... Daddy had to be on the growth chart too! And what if our kids grow taller than six foot?  So ours goes to seven feet.

Anyway, if you wanna make one yourself, you'll need:

  • About three days
  • A place for smelly stuff to air out / dry
  • The wood, cut to the size and length you want it
  • Sander / sandpaper
  • Stain of your choice
  • A vision of what you want your lines to look like
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil (to lightly sketch everything out)
  • Paper printouts of the numbers in the font and size that you want
  • A steady hand
  • Ballpoint pen (for tracing/etching the numbers)
  • Black paint pen (for the actual lines and numbers)
  • Wood finish / sealant

In that order.

If you want step by step instructions or tips, I suggest you do a web search and you'll find some real DIY bloggers who spend a lot of time writing these things up.  I wouldn't say it was difficult, just meticulous and time consuming.

Julie's Taking Pictures? Weird.
We will take photos of Penny and all our potential future children in front of this ruler at the start of every year.  Hopefully we will get some good ones over the years!  Here are our "Growing Family" photos for 2013:

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Extending My Morning Alone Time... Every Little Bit Counts

Penny's morning naps have been pretty weak lately, like only 20 to 40 minutes. This is not enough time for me to get very much done.  Mondays I particularly need some alone time because it is my "get stuff done around the house" day and my "work some from home" day.

Today after she fell asleep at 10:50am, I had a genius idea to put a toy (one that is safe for unsupervised play, of course) in her otherwise empty crib, next to her.

the bait.
I wanted to test if she would play with it when she woke up... And she did!

This bought me ten more minutes of scramble time. TEN whole minutes. Watching her wake up on the video monitor at 11:15am, roll to the side to grab the toy, then play contently my by herself for ten minutes before uttering a peep for me to come get her was...awesome. I got to brush my teeth with two hands AND blow dry my hair.  Winning!

Mommy 1, Monday 0.
Later today we had a very productive trip to the grocery store.  She was awake in the Moby Wrap the whole time, mesmerized by everything to see in the aisles and flirting with other shoppers.  This is the first shopping trip where she didn't sleep at all.  She's really alert to the world these days!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Youth Sports, Parenting and Coaching

Sign 'Em Up

There are countless reasons why athletics are good for kids.  Beyond the obvious physical/health benefits of being active, youth sports teach life skills, such as:
  • responsibility, work ethic, time management
  • how to contribute to a team and be a good teammate
  • respect for and appropriate interaction with superiors (coaches, referees, judges, etc.)
  • winning gracefully and coping with disappointment
and... for the most part they keep kids busy and out of trouble.

If you couldn't have guessed, I'm all for youth sports in general.*

Coaching and Me

This season marks my eighth year as a club volleyball coach here in the Arizona Region of USAV.  In my time as a player and a coach, I've learned a lot about the wonderful sport of volleyball.  But far beyond that, being a part of youth sports in this capacity has been such a rewarding and valuable part of my life.  I love coaching.

When I stepped out of my comfort zone as an assistant coach and started head-coaching a few years ago, I felt it was important to set the tone at the beginning of each season by communicating to the team parents my coaching philosophy, and make a promise to them in my role as their daughters' coach.  I have gotten feedback that they appreciate this.  I should mention that I coach nine and ten year olds, which is very very young for club volleyball.  For most of my players, this is their first year in club sports.

I'm not an authority on the matter, nor would I call myself an expert or coaching guru.  But these are the three broad concepts that comprise my coaching "philosophy" that I share with my team parents every year.  I think these are universally applicable to all sports and all age groups of kids that play them.  There are books upon books about how coaches can do the below things, and there's more than one way to coach a team; but Parents, if your kids are involved in sports and you AREN'T getting these three things from the coaches, you may consider exploring other options.

Fair Expectations of Your Kid's Coach:
  1. Teach.  Coaches should TEACH the kids fundamental skills that will lay the foundation for their future as players in that sport.  This is especially true for the little kids, but even at older ages, (heck, even at a professional level) there is always something that players can learn from their coaches.  It irks me to see coaches who don't teach, instead expecting their players to already know everything they want them to know so all the coach has to do is direct traffic.  Not cool.  Youth Coaches are teachers, not just strategists, and they should take that job seriously.
  2. Confidence.  Coaches must ENGRAIN confidence and poise in their players when they are young so they are comfortable walking onto the court/field/rink and can perform under pressure without melting down.  This goes beyond the physical skills and includes incorporating the expectation that the kids work well with referees, understand the flow of a game/match, act with maturity during conflict, and are good teammates.  Coaches should be examples of professionalism and sportsmanlike conduct.  Confidence and poise go a long way with kids and if they start a sport really young, being confident on the court or field will give them an edge as they advance to more competitive levels.
  3. Fun.  Coaches must instill a love of the game and motivate the kids using positive reinforcement,  and FAIR reward/consequence. The kids should WANT to play.  No exceptions, especially the little ones.  Even in the most competitive older levels of youth sports, if your son or daughter doesn't look forward to games, matches, meets, tournaments, practices, hanging out with their team... there is something wrong.  Even TOUGH coaches can foster a motivating, positive environment.
Notice I didn't say anything about the scoreboard?  Winning does not makes it into my top three priorities for coaches.  I personally believe that when kids are first learning a sport, they should be playing to employ what they've learned in practice, not necessarily playing to win.  Make no mistake, everyone loves a win (coaches included), but winning doesn't necessarily mean the kids are learning.  I also believe that if all of the above is happening, a favorable scoreboard will follow in due time.

You would think those three things would be no-brainers, but with youth sports being so vast and huge, there are quite a few adults out there carrying clipboards who I certainly wouldn't want coaching my kid.  The good thing about youth sports being so vast and huge is that if a coach or team is not a good fit for your family, you have options to take your little slugger somewhere else!

Parenting an Athlete

People have asked me if how I coach my volleyball players will change now that I'm a mom.  "Has motherhood affected my coaching style?" I answer, "Maybe a little, but not really, at least not immediately."  (After all, my daughter can't even crawl yet!)

I recognize that I still have a lot to learn as a leader, teacher and coach, but I don't think being a mom will all-of-a-sudden change much about what I do on the court or how I interact with my team.

However, being a coach all these years probably WILL affect how I parent my kid(s) when and if she chooses to play sports.  

I think all seasoned youth-sports coaches roll their eyes a little when you mention the word "Parents."  Even if your players collectively have the best parents in the world (I have had some rockstar parents over the years), interacting with moms and dads adds a whole 'nother dimension to coaching.

In a perfect world when you trust that your kids' coaches will do their job well, here is what the coaches should be able to expect from you parents:

Fair Expectations of Parents
  1. Logistics.  Manage all the stuff the kids can't do themselves.  When I say "youth sports" I am pretty much talking about middle school and younger... kids who can't drive and probably don't do their own grocery shopping.  Please get them to practice on time.  Feed them healthy foods and keep them hydrated.  Check your email for correspondence with the coaches.  Don't schedule a family vacation on a big tournament weekend.  You get the point.  
  2. Encourage Responsibility.  Let your son or daughter take on as much responsibility as is reasonable for their age -- gradually stop holding their hand and taking care of every little thing, in whatever ways work for your family.  This could mean packing their own gym back, filling their own water bottles, calling the coach themselves if they are sick and unable to make it to practice. Make it possible for them to practice or workout at home if they show interest in doing so.  Responsible players are coaches' favorite kind.
  3. Support.  Support the kids, support the team and support the coach.  This means encouraging not only your kid, but ALL the players, from the sidelines.  This means making practice and competitions a schedule priority for your family [don't sign up for club sports if the time commitment is not reasonable for you].  This means NOT saying negative things about another player, parent, or the coaches in front of your kid.  This means getting involved in a positive way.  Trust me, if you do these things, you'll have a lot more fun too.
Notice I didn't say anything about knowing the ins and outs of playing the game?  Remember from above, you are expecting the coaches to teach your kids how to play -- that means you don't get a say in how they do things.  It is nice to learn some of the basics if you don't know them already, so you could potentially help your kid practice at home, and understand what's going on when the ref blows a whistle... but make sure this doesn't get in the way of supporting the coach, whom you selected to teach your kid how to play.

It's for the kids.

When coaches and parents are on the same page, everybody wins.  Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world where all youth sports coaches are wonderfully qualified and all parents are peaceful supporters of those coaches.  But... let's all do our best to co-exist and remember why we are doing this in the first place.  It's all about the kids.

I speak here generally about kids in athletics.  Of course I believe there are personal parameters that parents must gauge before signing their kid up for sports; the right age, how "ready" they are, how competitive it is, finances, etc. but this post is about the 'what and why', not the 'where, when and how'. Also, in this post when I say "youth sports" I am talking about little kids developing as athletes, ages eighth grade and younger.  High school sports are another deal entirely, although some of the principals herein do apply!


If you like what you see, consider giving my blog some click love on these two links?
Make sure to check out the other blogs while you're at it, there are some real gems!
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Moving My Cheese

Working Woman.

My personal philosophies have always been pretty far from today's feminist movement, but I surely took the "man's world" bull by the horns right out of college, and I was making things happen for myself.  On my own accord, I loved my professional career; making decisions, being creative, managing a budget, traveling the country. It was empowering and exciting and fulfilling. And [in my own eyes at least] I was pretty good at it.

Being pregnant changed things a bit. Distractions, fatigue and pregnancy brain made it more difficult for me to execute my job responsibilities well AND take care of myself.

I cut back my hours when I was five months along. This helped with the personal stuff but made it even harder for me to feel like I was adequately contributing in a full-time paced work world.

After Penny came, maternity leave was, in a word -- sublime. I didn't turn my blackberry on once. Once I got past the whole recovering-from-a-C-Section thing, I spent my days hangin out with Penny, grocery shopping (what a concept), even started a scrapbook -- yeah, ask me how that's going now...

Motherhood Changes You.

Perhaps this is an age old question, but it's all new to me:  Does being a dedicated professional have to mean slacking in your motherhood?  And conversely, does being a solid, present, available, proactive mother have to mean slacking in your career?

I immediately struggled with this as soon as I went back to work this past October.  Rejoining the work force, I was a different person.  Living in parallel universes.

About once a week I meltdown.  I'm tired and I miss my daughter when I'm at work.  I'm tired and I'm overwhelmed with all the domestic things when I'm at home.   I know women do it every day, but I don't know how they do both things well.  Kudos to all of you out there.

I Needed Work to Change Too.

After admitting to myself that I couldn't go on like that anymore, in December I made a life-changing decision to move my own cheese (reference Who Moved My Cheese?, a wonderful book by Spencer Johnson, M.D. about attitude and accepting change as it comes).

I stepped out of my comfort zone, applied for a different job, and took it when it was offered to me.

The new job will be a complete change of pace.  I'll be working for the same company, but in a brand new role.  It will be slightly less hours, more flexibility and hopefully a little less stress.  With that, I am letting go of some things that I really loved doing, and abandoning the career path that I was on, at least for now.  But I am completely stoked about the new team that I am joining.  I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.

This was my last week transitioning out of my old job: working with people I knew well and liked and growing in a role for the last seven and a half years.  You would think I would be sad, but the right-out-of-college woman has grown into someone new, and this is the right thing for her.   Come Monday, I start fresh.

Please wish me luck and keep me in your thoughts next week!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Incredible Doodle Dogs

We welcomed Luna and Apollo to our home almost a year ago when I was pregnant with Penelope. Some people said we were crazy, incorporating two puppies and a baby into our first year and a half of marriage. I believe that getting dogs before having kids is a great exercise for marriage. It's like mini parenting -- you've got mouths to feed, messes, discipline, budgeting, getting up early on weekends, destruction, the lot.

Anyway, since then, these beasts have brought us joy and angst, laughter and rage, but any given day, they are part of the family.   When we got home for the evening, Luna waggles her back and tail so uncontrollably that she sometimes knocks things over; and Apollo tours the house to bring us all the toys he can fit in his mouth before he settles in to be greeted.  They are the BEST.

I was thinking they deserve some ink on the blog this month.

I don't want to jinx it by giving it too much attention, but for the first time documented on Becoming Julie Griffin, I present to you the phenomenon known as Synchronized Dogs: Sometimes I snap photos when I discover these two goons mirroring each other.  It's pretty incredible I think.

Here's to you, Luna and Apollo.  I love you two crazy canines.

If you follow me, you know there's more Synchronized Dog action on Instagram, hash tag #synchdogs.  I look forward to the day that another instagrammer tags #synchdogs with a photo worthy of the title!

On another note...
I've never asked this before in writing, but I have a shameless request...
If you like what you read, would you consider giving my blog some click love on these two links?
We Are A Top Baby Blog   

The links are always posted at the top left, and you can vote once every day.
And if you find yourself stopping here often, considering joining my site? (bottom left)
Many thanks to those of you who already do this, I've been [very slowly] climbing up the ranks!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Disney Revival

I got so excited when my Pandora baby station picked up "Under the Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid. I couldn't believe how quickly my childhood self lit up inside just at the sound of those first notes on the steel drum.  I remembered almost all the lyrics too, even the lobster rap in the middle.

I am so excited to experience all my favorite childhood movies as a mother with my daughter.  I remember learning all the songs on the piano, dressing as Ariel and Snow White for Halloween, visiting Disneyland once a year with friends... oh we have so much to look forward to!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Juggling

On Mondays I work from home part time. This means I don't have child care AND I am responsible for getting work done. And Monday is the only day of the week that I'm home all day, so it's an opportunity to do laundry, grocery shop, recover from the weekend, and spend quality one-on-one time with my daughter, since I am not with her the rest of the week.  It's a lot.  Oh and I have to eat too.
Welcome to my home office, this is my capable assistant, Penelope.

Earlier today, feelings of inadequacy overcame me when I finished that one email and suddenly remembered that I had put water on to boil thirty minutes prior in attempt to cook my poor excuse for a lunch while Penny was napping.

How many hours does it take to make Kraft?

The water had mostly boiled itself to vapors.

The washing machine and my Blackberry beeped together in incessant harmony.

The dogs sniffed hopefully at the open cheese packet on the counter.

And of course, Penny was awake and wanted to be held.

Cut to now, the stove begs to be wiped down -- making macaroni and cheese with only one hand is messier than I thought it would be.  The sheet and mattress-cover in the dryer beg to be returned safely to the bed after this morning's epic diaper explosion that shamed them so.  The dogs beg to be taken out to play. The refrigerator begs for groceries.  My hair begs for a shower.

This moment, my baby sleeps peacefully on my lap in the office.  Such a beautiful being restricts one of my arms from reaching the computer keyboard and I can type those emails about half as fast.  Guess I'll listen to voicemails from Friday.  I've only logged 2 hours of work today so far.

I've drafted this post mostly by dictation on my iPhone, feeding the Blogger mobile app with spoken words while I nurse or eat or, what a novel idea, sneak away to the bathroom.

I'm not looking for pity, or even help.  I know I could probably get someone to watch Penny on Mondays for me so I could get more accomplished... But I'm just not willing to be away from her more days of the week than I am with her, at least for as long as I can get away with it.  I think I've said this before.

I'm just new at this.  Kudos to all the moms out there who do this well.  A constant reminder that there are other women out there who have days like this offers me more solace than I could write.

I'd be happy to help you with that packet of cheese powder...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Opportunity

Click the icon for more information about this amazing exercise in writing and invitation to community!  Here goes...

 Five Minute Friday


Knock knock.

Who's there?


Opportunity who?

Job Opportunity.
Investment Opportunity.
Opportunity to travel, meet new people, see amazing things.
Opportunity to take risks.  Or not.

Life is full of them, preceding every decision is an opportunity.  I'm thankful for most of the ones I've taken.  I almost passed up the chance to go out with my husband for the first time, what if I had said no?  My career planted when I accepted a small job opportunity the summer I graduated from high school.  

I regret some opportunities I passed up.  Man, I wish I would have studied abroad during college, or gone farther away at least.  And I could have gone sky diving a couple years ago, before husband, before baby.

Tonight -- no party, no cake, no singing.  No crazy adventure.  Just my husband and I taking the opportunity to have a nice dinner together.   Ringing in '29' seizing some alone time and conversation.  These days I'm finding more often than not that the greatest opportunity I have is to pass up others so that I can spend time with my family.  Turning down the great opportunities of old often means I get to seize the greatest moments of all.  Funny how that works!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Penny Jane: Five Months Old

Penelope in the snow!
Five months old.   13 pounds 7 ounces.  She giggles without being tickled, and laughs the hardest when she's on her back looking up at a silly singing grownup who is gently bouncing the mattress beneath her to the beat.  She blows bubbles and spits on purpose, making the "raspberry" sound.  She finally pushes herself up with her arms during Tummy Time and now rolls from her back to her side in her sleep.  It is looking like she's going to flip over any day now.  At her first Christmas, she loved crumpling and chewing used wrapping paper.  She grabs things with her hands, forcefully and on purpose, and can even use her tiny fingers to remove the pacifier from her mouth and put it right back.  It is delightful when she randomly yells excited exclamations.  The car seat has become less of a cozy sleepy place and more of a confining burden to her, so we change out the hanging toys on a regular basis to keep her entertained while we drive.  She went through about a week of intense biting while nursing, but somehow stopped (thank goodness).  Her hair is growing in, the sprouting peach fuzz grew into tall soft locks that stand straight up, brown like mommy's and daddy's.  Her eye lashes have filled in too. She looks across the room and watches people and especially loves watching us get ready in the morning.  Hates the hair dryer.  Loves chewing on her own feet.  Her face shows intense concentration and contemplation as she examines anything you put in front of her.  Still sleeps in our room and prefers cuddling in the big bed over laying by herself in her porta-crib, but she did take one nap in her nursery crib.  She feels robust when you hold her, solid, no longer fragile.   She can sometimes sit by herself for ten seconds or so before tumbling.  "The Wheels On the Bus" is her jam.

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