Sunday, October 29, 2006

Book Review: Toilet Training the Brazelton Way

Unlike my last book review, I've actually read this book, and, incidentally, don't I just read the most interesting books? So while the review is refreshingly not half-assed, the book kind of is.

This is a good book for anyone who has not yet begun toilet training his or her first child. It gives you lots of advice on how to ease into the process and go about the whole annoying business with a lot of patience and a really long time line. However, it is also useful if you are deep into the potty training process. So deep, in fact, that according to some grandmothers you are a good year behind schedule. In such a situation, it is really good at pointing out every single mistake you made, each time you put too much pressure on your poor bladder-challenged child, and all the long-term damage you may have caused in your unreasonable haste. Really, you are a horrible mother. Whatever gave you the idea that you should reproduce?

This book does have some positive things in its favor. First off, it's really short. Second, it gave me the suggestion to put my kid on the toilet backwards, facing the wall. Genius! No more precarious situations with me squatting and trying to balance both my weight and that of a squirmy little boy who is convinced he will fall in and be flushed away. Finally, it's given me a little more freedom to back off and take the trainee's lead. He's making sloooooooooooow progress and I'm trying not to lose my mind.

This definitely is not a magic bullet, train your kid in a weekend kind of book. But, if you and the kid are headed into the bathroom and you know you'll be in there so long you decide to bring an overnight bag and a cold beverage, it's the perfect size to use as a coaster on the edge of the bathtub.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Fall!

Once upon a time, I used to subscribe to Martha Stewart's magazine and do things like take cake decorating classes and attend cooking lessons taught by actual chefs in actual restaurant kitchens. Restaurants that did not serve chicken tenders and fries, even. I had a cute and quirky little house, with a kitchen I would give my right pinkie finger to have again, and I had a lot of fun decorating it in my own amateur way. Those days are gone. I now live in a crappy little house, and most decorating attempts are quickly nullified by Ethan The Tornado (more like a dust storm, but you get the picture). Still, I always try to put a few pretty things out when it starts feeling like fall. Today was the day.

To top it off, Mr. Tornado and I spent the morning making candy corn cookies for his preschool's Halloween party tomorrow. We had a great time, he couldn't have been cuter, and it helped with my constant guilt about him not getting enough of my attention since he became The Middle Child. The recipe is out of the October issue of Parent's magazine.

So, even though it's supposed to be 90 degrees tomorrow, at our house, it will officially be fall.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's A Girl Thing...Unfortunately

Of all the fun things about being a girl, and there are many, one of the most amusing is everything having to do with fashion. Especially when other people are wearing the clothes and you get to be the scathing critic. Come on, how many of us watch the Oscars just to see what the stars are wearing? And while we all love to admire those who look beautiful and perfectly put together, it's way more fun when someone shows up looking ridiculous. There are entire magazines and web sites, not to mention cackling Joan Rivers and her talented daughter, to this very subject. It's definitely a girl thing, and a fun one at that.

So the other night when I first caught my 6 year old daughter and my sister leafing through the pages of In Style, deciding who looked pretty and who didn't, I thought it was a very cute, very sweet bonding moment between a little girl and her aunt. I was amused to see Julia, who has recently become very opinionated about her own wardrobe, have smart comments to make on the pictures in the magazine, as well. I always wanted a girly girl and I've definitely got one, at least as far as clothes go.

An instant later, though, I was hit with the realization that this is how young girls start being exposed to the very media images that we know are behind the rise in eating disorders, poor body image, and low self-esteem that many young girls (and girls at an increasingly younger age) are experiencing. I've watched enough Dr. Phil to know that these are not things to be taken lightly. Unfortunatley, I've got my own baggage as far as body image and self-esteem go, and so it is importnat to me to set a healthy example for Julia. At the very least, I want her never to feel inferior because of her size or what she looks like. Luckily, that hasn't been an issue for her and I hope it never becomes one. What's more, it is also vital to me to raise children who can see beyond the superficiality they are surrounded by (do kids really need to be wearing $100 jeans and having plastic surgery before they graduate high school? In my little corner of the world, apparently they do) and judge people by their personalitlies and actions, not by their clothes.

So, what to do? Do I put an end to Julia and her aunt having a great time looking at the cool clothes in order to teach Julia a lesson? This time, I decided not to. With a few veiled comments to Tannaz, we quickly got on the same page. The conversation was focused more on the clothes than the people wearing them, which I think is appropriate. And the opinions of this particular precinct of the Fashion Police were overwhelmingly more positive than nasty. Good and good. Still, this is something I will continue to quietly keep my eye on because I'd hate for Julia to internalize the notion that she has to look like one of the airbrushed models in the magazine. So when we watch Dancing With The Stars I may point out that the dancers are hard workers and athletic, in addition to noticing how silly the headdresses always look.

Is it just me or did being 6 used to be a lot more simple?

Monday, October 16, 2006

He's Leaving Me: The Sleep Post

Call me pathetic, call me sappy, call me whatever you want (ok, not that!) but I'm not one of those moms who just gushes with glee every time her child meets a milestone, celebrates a birthday, and shows obvious signs of growing up. I've been known to cry when putting away the clothes my babies have outgrown. Of course, I'm thrilled and blessed to know that my children are healthy and developing normally, but a part of me wants to keep them babies forever, and I seem to have a lot of trouble keeping that part quiet. After all, in my own nutty family, any signs of independence were immediately honed in on with laser precision and squashed lest they run rampant and ruin not just my life but my entire devastated family's.

So, while most parents would be glad to have their sweet infant sleeping in his own room at night, my heart is breaking jut a bit that my little roommate has moved on to bigger and better things: namely, sleeping through the night in his very own crib, much too far away from his doting mommy.

We didn't come by this momentous occasion easily. Unlike Ethan The Wonder Baby, up to now Brady has preferred to fall asleep with a boob in his mouth, or at the very least in extremely close proximity. Contrary to the advice to put babies down when they're sleepy but still awake, we'd have to put him down dead asleep and then pray he didn't wake up. Always a light sleeper, recently he'd started waking up when we'd come into our bedroom, several hours after he'd already gone down. So we started putting him down in his own crib at the beginning of the night and then moving him when we were going to sleep, so he'd be close by for night time feedings. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't. Overall, our system has been somewhat chaotic, usually leading to long nights of me trying to get him to go to sleep, succeeding long enough to start some night time chores (dishes, school lunches, etc.), only to have him wake up 30 minutes later, and to have to start the process over again. This does not make for a relaxing evening.

Even though I'm generally against letting babies "cry it out" in order to go to sleep, I knew the time had come for Mr. Bunch. Let me be clear: I hate this method and would never ever ever recommend it for a newborn or young infant. I did it with my older kids, however, and knew I'd have to this time as well. Friday night turned out to be the night. We finally got everyone to bed and were all but passed out on the couch. Ray had just returned from a business trip and I was pretty immobile with a bad backache. So when Brady started crying a half hour after he went to sleep, no one was exactly jumping up to soothe him. We let him go a while, and pretty soon 30 minutes had passed. Eventually I reasoned that it would do more harm than good to go get him. The last thing I want to do is reinforce the crying by rewarding it with a loving visit from Mommy and her portable dairy. I'm proud to say that our son didn't go down without a fight. After a while the screams turned to whimpers and he finally went to sleep after the worst hour I've had since he was born. Of course, I hated myself, just like I had the nights when I let Julia and Ethan cry themselves to sleep. For the record, Brady cried more than Ethan and less than Julia.

The real test of the sleep torture method actually comes the night following the torture. If it worked, the baby will get himself to sleep with considerably less crying than the previous night. For example, it took Julia 3 nights to get herself to sleep without crying at all. I'm happy to report that for Brady, it was pretty much an instant success. Saturday night he went to sleep with barely a whimper. But the true miracle came early this morning. He'd woken up sometime before 5 a.m., when he usually does to eat. t took me a while to wake up and get my act together to go take care of him and by the time I did, he had fallen back to sleep!!!! A few whimpers and he was out, with no cuddles, milk or parental intervention. Woo hoo!

It's hard to sit here and type this with Brady in his room, instead of in the co-sleeper he's slept in almost every night of his life. By the way, the Co-Sleeper by Arm's Reach is one of those awesome inventions that allow you to have your cake and eat it too: the baby sleeps right next to you, in a contraption attached to your bed, but you don't have the risks of having the baby actually sleeping in your bed. I used it with all 3 kids and loved it. Anyway, I know he's where he needs to be, and is sleeping better away from us and our tossing and turning and snoring and lights and TV and computer and alarms in the morning. My brain knows all that. But my heart knows that this is just the first step as my last baby grows up, and out, and just a little further away from me. I'll miss him all night. Every night.

Mr. Bunch, on one of his last mornings in his co-sleeper.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


No one would call me a fashion guru (shut up) but it seems I am right about one thing. Remember when I went off about those godawful Crocs that are the current scourge of casual footwear? Well, it seems that Those Who Know agree. Check out one of my favorite blogs. Crocs are not OK.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Future's So Bright....

I gotta wear shades!

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Although I'm not the most observant Jew these days, there's a lot I love about being Jewish. Apart from the joy that accompanies every celebration, the great food (NOT gefilte fish, but the really good stuff), the tradition, the community, all of it, it's just a religion that makes sense to me. Growing up in a traditional Jewish family, I had a pretty extensive Jewish education. And although Hebrew school is as much social as it is educational, if not more so, a lot of what they taught seemed to stick. Add to that my own experience with a pretty observant extended family, and exposure to both Orthodox and Reform Judaism, as well as the Conservative temple that I grew up in, and I know enough about this complex religion to know that it works for me.

Case in point is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. Today. Yom Kippur falls 10 days after the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and is a day where we ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him, and to inscribe us and our loved ones in the book of life for the coming year. Although it involves a 25 hour fast (there are many exemptions to this for those who are pregnant, elderly, nursing and/or infirm) and almost as many hours in a synagogue, it's a good way to start the year. You make your peace with God, the slate is wiped clean, and the new year is yours to do with as you like. Judaism is a religion of freedom and choices, and you alone can direct the course of the coming year.

Here's the clincher about Yom Kippur, and the part that makes it seem so logical to me. While you can pray and fast and earn God's forgiveness, that forgiveness only goes as far as the sins that you've committed against Him. So if you've sinned against another person, you're to use the 10 days before Yom Kippur to find that person, be accountable, and make amends, in the hopes that he or she will forgive you. Only he or she has that power. That's right, even God almighty is powerless to intervene if you've wronged another person. And each person holds a power that God cannot possess: that of forgiving one who's transgressed against him or her. But as you think it through, you realize that if God can forgive us the sins that we commit, knowingly or unknowingly every day, shouldn't we also forgive those who come to us with sincere contrition, bothered by the fact that they may have hurt us, and ask for another chance? Doesn't that act bring us just a little closer to God?

Believe it or not, I hate discussing religion. I think it's so personal, so private, that I hate to talk about it with most people. I hate explaining it, or feeling like I have to defend it. There are parts that I'm not even sure of my own views about, and parts that I feel guilty about, and much I struggle with. In addition, unlike most religions, Jews are discouraged, if not outright forbidden, to proselytize. But observing Yom Kippur is one of the things I love about being Jewish. My observance of this holiday as an adult is a bit different from how my parents observed it as we grew up, and I'm sure it will evolve as my own kids get older. But I don't think contrition and forgiveness are strictly Jewish issues. In fact, if I've offended anyone by anything I've written in this blog, I sincerely apologize.

To all who are fasting, I hope it goes quickly and easily. And may we all be inscribed in the book of life for the year to come.