New Parent Advice

A family friend is having a baby soon and her mom is compiling a book with advice from other moms. Well, I have more advice than I know what to do with. WAY more than a note card will hold. Does that make me an expert? Oh hell no. Just another Momma trying to figure it out.

{Find your tribe} Don’t over think this one. It doesn’t need to be women in real life who subscribe to your parenting beliefs 100%. Find a blogger who you like, explore a local FB group or even an older mom from your place of worship. I have a few tribes: one of Facebook with a group of friends in real life and strangers I joined when I was pregnant, one on Facebook with local moms and then from that group a smaller group of moms who meet monthly and chat weekly. I also read a few blogs and half read some parenting books. These ‘relationships’ take time to find, but they are so worth it. To have a second opinion, to learn about their past experiences as a mom, to have an ADULT conversation – those are invaluable.

{No one has the answers} You will most likely find your tribe by asking questions about their experience. What a cry means, how to wean, when to sleep train … but that’s they have – EXPERIENCE. They don’t have the answers. Which leads me to the next tip.

{While you are learning to be a parent, your baby is learning how to be baby} Each baby is different and no one knows that baby like you do. And while you are trying to figure out how to be a mom, that baby is learning how to be a baby. Sometimes they will cry just because they are crying. Not because they need a bottle or a diaper change. Trust your gut and understand no one has the answers. Not you, not your partner, not your tribe and certainly not your baby!

{Buy a nightgown for the baby} This is a very small thing that makes a huge difference. Before you go to the hospital, buy (and pack) as many of these nightgowns as you can. They save time and energy, especially in the middle of the night when they wake up every 4 minutes with a wet diaper.  And while you are at it –

{Buy a swaddles} I was not the master swaddler in the family, so these pre-swaddled swaddles (is that at thing?) saved me. Pack those too!

{Baby blues is real} My parting advice might be the most important. The ‘baby blues’ are real. You just carried a baby in your belly for 9 months and then delivered a tiny human only to be sent home at 2 days (if you are lucky) to raise said human being into a functioning member of society. You are super woman! But that doesn’t mean you have to be super woman all the time. If you are feeling out of sorts or sad, talk to your doctor. I did and my little antidepressant makes me (yes, 4 years later) and better mom.

What advice do you have for parents-to-be?

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Dear Mike: My 4 Year Old!

Dearest Mikey,

You are 4. FOUR! I am not sure what surprises me more, that fact that you are 4 or I am the momma of a 4 year old. I have been thinking about this letter for a few weeks but didn’t start it until today because I am not sure how to sum up your year as a 3 year old in a short letter. But I will certainly try.

{Personality} You, my little love, have personality oozing out of your ears! You greet everyone you meet, stranger or animal or bug. You seem to be perfecting your physical comedy these days. When you do something and it gets a laugh you do it over and over (and over). I think Daddy and I are most proud of your manners. We work on instilling that and it seems to be working.  You have your ‘moments’ like every 3 year old, but you bounce back pretty quickly. I get the impress you are a people pleaser.  While you are pretty independent about doing things your way, you never shy away from getting into a lap or offering an unsolicited hug.

{Interests} When you are into something, you are INTO something. This year it has been mostly Halloween things (skeletons specifically), super heroes (Batman specifically) and Transformers Rescue Bots. More recently you have been interested in space and watch shuttle launches on YouTube with Daddy.

You still love reading and lately you have been asking Daddy or me to ‘say the words’ while you turn the pages. Miss Amy at school says sometimes she finds you sitting in the reading corner just flipping pages. Another thing that warms my heart is your love for music. Your playlist is always on in the car and I can hear you singing parts of ‘My Shot’ from Hamilton or ‘Take it All Back’ by Judah and the Lion. You are having the best time dancing, shaking your booty (as you say) and clapping (not quite to the beat). You always ask us to join in and we happily oblige.

You saw your first movie in the theater this year – Sing – and you LOVED it! Perhaps it was the popcorn and candy we fed you to keep you focused, but regardless, we look forward to more movie theater trips in the coming year.

{Daddy’s Surgery} Daddy had a big surgery this year that kept him in the hospital for over a week. You stayed home with Grandma and Charlie and you were SUCH a trooper. Your kindness and empathy were so obvious during his recovery time. You helped bring him things to drink and constantly wanted to kiss his boo boo. Even weeks later you were asking to see his scar and asked if it was all better. Perhaps you will be a doctor or a nurse!

{Preschool} I was a little nervous about you starting preschool – you will learn that changes is harder on Daddy and me than it is on you. But you walked right in with your dinosaur backpack and Batman lunchbox. Your teacher, Miss Amy, has been such a blessing for you (and us!). You even met your best friend, Ben, at preschool! You boys are so adorable together – everyone says you are little old men together. You are learning a ton, we can barely keep up with you. You can even say the Pledge of Allegiance, which I find really impressive.

{Milestones} I feel like I should make note of your milestones since I have 100% slacked on your baby book. There is actually a good chance I didn’t buy one. BUT … you are potty trained! I won’t go into the details that might embarrass future Mike, but it was a bit of a challenge for a few days, then it all worked out.

You now sleep in a big boy bed that you helped Daddy put together. You sneak out every few nights to come see what you are missing, but a few minutes with one of us in your bed does the trick. You also had your first trip to the dentist and you really did well and liked it. The second trip 6 months later was not as fun (not even close), but each trip resulted in a clean bill of dental health.

Well my love bug. You are 4! Practically an old man. I have a feeling this is going to be your best year yet. Daddy and I are so proud of you and the boy you are growing into. You have the best of both of us. Happy Birthday!

I’ll eat you up, I love you so,

Momma xoxo

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Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week

cleft lip, cleft palate
Since it’s Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week my sister-in-law Rachel asked to do a guest post about their journey and I was more than happy to give her the space to do so. I know from watching their journey for the past 7 months I have learned a TON and I hope you will too.

 

The morning of June 13th was the same as every other morning except we were excited to see our little baby on the big screen that day. It was time for her anatomy scan, where they look her from head to toe and tell us she is perfect and we, the proud, beaming parents, post the grainy black and white picture that most can’t translate into a baby.  After all, we had made it past the dreaded first trimester with a healthy and active baby and had no reason to believe this day would be anything but fun!

Wrong.

I hopped up on the table, got all settled in and let my belly hang out as the tech plopped the warm goo on it. The baby looked great but …I noticed immediately her profile looked different than her big sister’s. I couldn’t figure out what was right below her nose. Despite that, I was not all that worried. This was my second pregnancy, and I was pretty good at reading sonograms. I assumed it was something else just in the way, something that was no big deal. Towards the end, I asked the technician what was under the baby’s nose.

Her response was, “I don’t know”.

Umm … what??

The correct response, or at least the one I was expecting, was that it was a non-issue, like the umbilical cord or something else just floating around, right?

Cue the panic. I started throwing questions at her faster than she can answer. The calm, cool, and collected mom disappeared and was quickly replaced by a much less calm, cool and collected Mama Bear. I need to know what was going on with our baby RIGHT NOW. “You will see the doctor in a few minutes and she should be able to answer these questions.” The OB was also not sure what was wrong with our baby, but was pretty confident it was not a cleft. And yet, she wanted a second opinion.

A few days later we were sent for a level 2 sonogram with a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. There was entirely too much time in between appointments, and I sat and conjured up all sorts of horrible and scary things that could be wrong with our sweet baby. This was the baby that we waited for and never imagined would come as quickly as she did; the one we were head over heels in love with – our second rainbow baby. This is not the way things are supposed to go. And this was not fair. I was sick with worry and questions but had no answers. What if this baby, the one we begged God for, wasn’t going to be able to stay? What if people were mean and didn’t accept her differences? And the big one, what if I was not strong enough to handle all that may be yet to come? I had no doubt in my mind that this little girl was a warrior but I worried that I was not the warrior momma she needed.

The specialist was able to confirm almost immediately our little girl had “a cleft lip with possible palate involvement” (cleft palates are almost impossible to diagnose in utero). At first, we were relieved. That was the least scary of the options since it is just a cosmetic fix, right?

Nope. Wrong again.

While it is definitely a “doable diagnosis” and in our case not life threatening, it is not a simple fix. It does not stop with cosmetic surgery on a lip. It means a lot of major surgeries on a very little person, and all the other health risks that can be associated with a cleft. If it is an isolated cleft they can have a range of issues from speech, hearing, and feeding issues. If the cleft is caused from a syndrome, there is an entirely new range of possible health issues. Also, there is a strong possibility children with clefts can pass it on to their children. Our Marcie has a 50% chance of having her own cleft cutie.

You might be wondering where my husband is in all this. He was/is my rock. I cried many tears over dinner those first few weeks, and he just kept loving me and assuring me that everything would be okay – that this was a non-issue, no big deal, something we could definitely handle. SPOILER ALERT: He was right. This WAS doable, we could DEFINITELY handle this and everything IS just fine.

Over the next few weeks, we researched until I am pretty sure we had read everything published on clefts. Google images were terrifying but we couldn’t stop looking at them because we needed to know what to expect.

We met with Dr. Richard Reddett and Clinic Coordinator, Kim Seifert at Johns Hopkins Hospital and we knew instantly we had found our people. We left that appointment with more peace in our hearts than I ever thought possible. We felt like we were part of an unstoppable team, and we were not wrong. They calmed all our fears and worries and assured us they would be with us every step of the way.

Besides the cleft, the remainder of my pregnancy and delivery were normal and uneventful. Our beautiful Marcie arrived late one October night with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and she was perfection. Our hearts soared and we were instantly in love. All of our worries faded the moment we met her. Mom, Dad and Big Sister Mollie were over the moon with our brand new addition.

While her first six months of life have not been uneventful, things could have been much worse. We discovered at her two-week check-up that she had not gained one ounce since delivery. We were immediately admitted to the hospital for testing and observation. The doctors did numerous tests and thankfully, found she was perfectly normal and the solution was nothing major.

Over the next few weeks we monitored her closely, we played with the calorie count and nipple size in her bottle (Dr. Brown’s Specialty Feeding System) and slowly but surely our efforts started paying off. She started regaining her adorable chubby baby look and we all did a happy dance.

www.apphotographymd.com

I do not say this lightly – our pediatrician and cleft team have been our saving grace during our less than graceful times. I was in constant contact with them who, God bless them, always answered me no matter what. They calmed my nerves when I felt like the world was falling down around us and stuck with us, cheering us on.

Surgery time line and details differ from every cleft team/surgeon but this general timeline is pretty common. Our team does lip repair in two stages vs. using a pre-surgical device .

Marcie underwent her first surgery, stage 1 lip repair, aka lip adhesion at 3 months old. The purpose of this surgery is to prepare and stretch the soft tissue of the lip for the final lip repair a few months later.

www.apphotographymd.com
www.apphotographymd.com
www.apphotographymd.com

The second surgery is the final stage lip repair where they undo the work they did during the lip adhesion, remove any extra tissue and close it up. At 6 months old, Marcie has completed her lip repair with simply amazing results.

Next is palate repair, a pretty intense surgery where they move muscle and tissue around her mouth. This will take place in a few months for us. Then she will have some cosmetic work on her bottom lip a few months after that. Since her gum line is affected, she will most likely require bone grafts before the age of 10. As far as we know, this is the bulk of her surgeries but honestly, I haven’t asked beyond that so don’t quote me.

Truth be told, every blog I read prior to giving birth said I would miss her cleft smile once it was gone. I wondered how true that was. Now I can assure you, it is 100% true. I miss her cleft smile everyday but I am also so happy for her and her forever smile. Only a few select people get to have three perfectly amazing smiles in their first 6 months. She has recovered beautifully and as of this week is finally sleeping through the night again (FYI – anesthesia wreaks havoc on a baby’s sleep patterns).

If you just learned about your baby’s cleft and are freaking out, take a deep breath. Take it from me and the rest of us Cleft Mommies, it’s not always easy but it is going to be okay and you will definitely adore your sweet baby. You will be their biggest advocate, and you are so much stronger than you feel right now.

My two pieces of advice for new cleft parents:

  1. Choose your pediatrician and cleft team wisely. You will not only need their skilled hands but their full support and calm spirits.
  2. Get off Google Images and join some support groups with real life parents.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

If you want to learn more about clefts here are some of my favorite sites.
Cleftline
Some of my favorite non-profits that help those affected by clefts around the world:
Operation Smile
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Kindness Rocks – Literally

 

I try not to be political on my blog, but stick with me here, there’s a purpose.

Trump just completed his first 100 days in office (which, for the record, was the longest 100 days of my life). And I feel like since the election so many people are looking for ways to counteract the negativity and hate. Whether they are giving money to organizations that the administration speaks out against or national non-profits that have a budget on the chopping block. I will say, despite the reasoning, I love all the local social justice and action going on.

I am pretty active on a local mom’s Facebook group and out of that group an idea for a spin off group was born – Crofton is Kind. The mission is simple, ‘We are a group of parents and community members seeking to foster kindness in our children and our communities’ children. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, Black or White, Gay or Straight, immigrant or native born, Republican or Democrat, a Mom or Dad, Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, or neighbor…as long as you support KINDNESS then we support YOU!’

Someone posted in this group about this really cool initiative going on in Ohio where people paint average rocks and hide them around the community. When they are found, they are shared with others as a way to spread beauty. I really liked the idea because it spans all ages. Here’s the video for some background.

My creative mind was popping and I decided to head to Michaels, take Mikey on a rock hunt, and spread some rock love. Turns out, it was stupid simple and not very expensive (we spent about $12) You need:

  • Rocks (duh) – we found them in our neighborhood, but you can also buy them at a home improvement store or the like
  • Acrylic paint – make sure it has outside use and NOT washable (because, rain)
  • Paint brushes – or sponges, q-tips or fingers!
  • Modge Podge – or something to seal the paint afterwards
  • A note – you can include a note on the rock about what to do next or why you they got the rock. I did our hashtag on a handwritten piece of paper

Now that we have our supplies, let’s rock! (See what I did there?)

If you collected your rocks outside, they need a good scrubbing. Tip: use rocks that are a smooth as possible. Lots of bumps are hard to paint and seal. 

Paint! Make sure if you are doing multiple layers each one is dry before starting the next. You can paint anything that moves you. We did a mix of phrases, shapes and designs. One thing I learned, depending on the age of the kids participating, you might want to paint a bunch of rocks a solid color first, then let them decorate. Getting set up, painting one coat and watching it dry can be excruciating for little ones.

Once you are done painting and your rock is dry, it’s time to seal it. I will be honest, this made me so nervous because I didn’t want to mess up our hard work. BUT – it’s important and if you are 110% sure your rock is dry, you are golden. With the Modge Podge, I just painted a thin layer over the entire rock. When that layer was dry I ‘Modge Podged’ the paper hashtag over the bottom.

Now the other fun part – ‘plant them’! You can leave them on fences, by trees, trashcans, on benches and around playgrounds. Mike REALLY loved this part. He laid them under trees JUST SO. We talked on our walk about how when people find them it will make them smile.

If you paint some rocks or find some, share a picture in the comments!

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Dear Miss MJ: Your Smile

Dear Miss MJ –

Have I written you a letter yet? I must have, I have so many things to tell you! But today the one thing I want to tell you is how much you have been on my mind and my heart. Today, my little love, you are getting your forever smile!

Everyone agrees how strange that is. Before you were born we looked at pictures and researched and tried to know what to expect. Then you arrived and it was like, ‘oh, yep. There’s the cleft lip’. Then after your first surgery we saw you again and thought, ‘oh, yep. They changed it’. They didn’t FIX it, they changed it. You were already uniquely you! And now you are getting another smile.

Guess what I will say when I see you again? Oh. Yep. They changed it.

But they can’t change the spunky, resiliant, outspoken (without speaking) you.

I love you MJ!

Aunt Jay Jay

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Accidentally Co-Sleeping

Here is my dirty secret – S. and I don’t sleep in the same bed anymore. And it’s not because we don’t love each other, it’s because we DO love each other. And sleep. We really love sleep. So when it comes time to go to sleep we go our separate ways to snore, toss and turn and get up 10 times to pee in peace. Turns out we aren’t the only ones channel Lucy and Ricky Ricardo when the sun goes down. Research is showing it is more common than you think. So don’t worry. Our marriage is perfectly fine!

But even though I fall asleep alone (or with a beagle) I am not waking up alone.

Most nights between 1am and 3am Mikey finds his way into bed with me. When I am awake enough to ask him why he says something like ‘I miss you’ or ‘I want to ‘nuggle’. While most parenting books and blogs will advise me to walk him back to his bed, I simply lift up the covers and scoot over. Sometimes he curls into a ball and digs his toenails into my back. Sometimes he asks me to turn on the TV (which I don’t). But I never regret letting him in my bed for a few hours before we start our day.

Sometimes I wake up before he does and I watch him twitch and sleep with his face smooshed in the pillow. Sometimes he wakes up before me and wakes me up so he can watch Peppa Pig or Dora the Explorer. Sometimes I wake up and he is eager to chat about random things like who is picking him up from school or what toy he wants to take to show his teacher. Sometimes he wakes up and is mad at the world for no reason. But no matter what, when he ‘sneaks’ into bed with me he knows I will be there in morning.

One day I will wake up and he won’t be in my bed and that’s okay too. But until then, I will always scoot over and make room for him and be there to ‘nuggle for a few hours.

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Happy Birthday Miss Mollie

 

Dearest Mols –

Happy Birthday sweet 4 year old! You have had quite a year haven’t you! Do you know my favorite part? Watching you become a big sister. It seems like you were born specifically to have a little sister. Your Momma shares so many pictures of the two of you that melt my heart. I bet as the years go on you will have a bond like no other.

You know what else melts my heart? You and Mikey, of course. I will always remember our morning at the ‘duck park’ when Mike was too nervous to run across the playground ‘shaky bridge and you confidently ran up, grabbed his hand and helped him across. That was such a fun morning – feeding the ducks, racing down the slide then coming back to our house for fun on the deck.

You are growing into a kind, funny girl Miss Mollie. You always have a story and a laugh for me. Plus you have quite a fashion sense – all of those things will get you far in life my dear. So, in honor of your 4th birthday, here are FOUR things I love about you right now:

Your giggle that makes your shoulders shoot up like you have a secret that you find hilarious.

Your love of all things Disney Princesses, specifically Ariel because I love her too!

Your adventurous nature – soccer, ballet, RIDING A UNICORN! You are up for anything.

You’re so kind with everyone you meet and everyone in your life – including Marcie and Mike.

Happy birthday sweet Mollie!

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Thoughts on Women’s Day from Sonjara’s CEO

Reposted with permission from Sonjara’s blog. I’ve worked for Sonjara off and on for a few years and have always admired Siobhan Green, the Co-Owner and CEO. I thought it was important to share her thoughts on Women’s Day. 

Sonjara was founded as a way to keep one woman – me – in the workforce, while also allowing my husband and I to raise our children the way we wanted to. As a result, we created a workplace with values focusing on supporting the whole person – embracing their gender, age, race, ethnicity, and outside responsibilities (such as parenting or school). Using what we call “radical flexibility”, we focus on productivity as our true measurement of performance.

I never wanted to be an entrepreneur when thinking about career goals. Dedicated to international development, I always saw myself as an employee – for non-profits or government providing ICT4D [Information and Communications Technologies for Development] services. But life intervened. My former company, while having wonderful policies, was unable to overrule the decisions of my direct boss when it came to work-life balance, especially related to having a newborn. Without really thinking it through, I quit and my boss panicked. Ultimately my boss hired me as a freelancer until he found a replacement and Sonjara was born.

A few years after I founded Sonjara, my husband Andy was able to join the company full-time and then we started hiring employees. We dedicated ourselves to providing policies and a culture that addressed many of the challenges faced today by women and men who are caregivers. While initially thinking these policies would help primarily women, who still are the primary caregivers of small children, we also found men were even more in need of work options with flexible hours and location and an understanding culture of parenting responsibilities. We then realized that everyone needed and benefited from what we now call “radical flexibility”.

Primarily virtual, Sonjara allows people high levels of control over their personal productivity, by managing where and when they work and giving them a lot of autonomy in how they get their work done. With modern cloud based systems, it is easier now than ever before to support flexibility while maintaining productivity, security and quality. While we see this approach as common sense, it also has the benefit of overcoming many traditional barriers faced by women – and others – in the workplace. At Sonjara, we also are passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs, female IT experts, and female leaders as well as making sure male and female entrepreneurs, IT experts and leaders are aware of unintended biases they may be unwittingly party to. We include gender in our user analyses, evaluation metrics, and design perspectives, and try to make sure data is disaggregated by gender. We try to keep up to date on the latest news on ICTs and gender, and how it intersects with race, class, age, and other factors so that we are not exacerbating existing inequalities by ignoring these differences.

We at Sonjara have decided to not stop our work on this day, but rather to double down on our work to improve the lives of women – our employees, our clients, and our beneficiaries around the world. We salute all those who promote gender equality around the world.

I wish you a Happy Women’s Day!

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Reset My Morning

If you ask me how my morning went I would say, ‘I was not my best self. Not even close’. And I am going to give you a little spoiler here – this post isn’t going to tell you about how I turned it around because I didn’t. There was no touchy-feely apology with Mike where we hugged it out. Nope. I have never been so thankful to drop him off at school.

Mike woke up at 4:30a and, from what I could gather from his fussing and whining, everything I did was wrong. Here are the things I did wrong:

  • Cut his bagel
  • Bring him strawberries and Cheerios
  • Not magically making Peppa Pig appear On Demand
  • Asked him to put his underwear on
  • Not knowing where his Ironman Potatohead went
  • Putting on the wrong Paw Patrol episode

He was just hell on wheels and I had no patience. I am so tired (in general) of telling him to be gentle and to STOP.PUTTING.STUFF.IN.MY.FACE. Helicopters, toys, fingers, feet – everything is within inches of poking my eye out. I yelled. I pointed. I handled everything wrong. And that has to be okay.

I need a timeout. I own it.  I’ll try again when he comes home from school.

And as I am editing this post I realized that I confused two texts between my cleaning lady and my oven repairman. To make a long story short, I had a cleaning crew show up when I am not even close to being picked up and my oven is still broken. It’s only 10am, so this day still has time to turn around. Right? Right.

 

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Birth is Birth is Birth

By now you’ve probably seen the viral text between a momma planning her c-section and a birth photographer where the photographer is essentially shaming the momma for not having an ‘actual birth’. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this is a real text. I have a hard time believing a birth photographer would have this mean and visceral reaction – BUT it has prompted a lot of really cool pictures and articles about c-sections. As a c-section momma I love seeing these images! I really like the Huffington Post’s recent gallery.

Mikey was a planned c-section and I was more than happy about our decision. When our (amazing) OB/GYN said with my PCOS diagnosis and Mike’s growth history he would likely be 10lbs. That was all I needed to know to make my decision. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I pushed and pushed only to have to have an emergency c-section. I wanted Mike’s entry into the world to be as safe and with as less stress for him as possible.

Mommas – you do you. You find what works for you and your baby. Don’t let anyone tell you you ‘picked’ an easy out (pun intended) or that you’re choice was wrong.

Whether you have a vaginal birth, a c-section or pull him out of you ear – I think we can all agree that birth is birth. And in honor of my c-section – here are my favorite images.

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