Category Archives: Kids

Kid and Car Saftey: A Reminder About the Dangers of Kids Playing (or Sleeping) in Cars

According to an article from last year’s Momlogic Newsletter, 23 U.S. children died by mid-summer, 2010,  in hot cars.  Many of them were incidents in which the parent/care taker forgot the child was in the car upon arriving at their destination…and the kiddo remained in the car for hours (or minutes) thereafter and perished in the heat of what can basically become an oven on wheels.

As mentioned in the Momlogic article, approximately 36 American children die every year in hot cars.  And according to a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, a car’s interior can heat up by 40 degrees within an hour–even if it’s a relatively cool day outside.  It all has to do with the size and shape of the car and whether or not the sun is out…plus the fact that the car’s windows act like a circumferential set of inward-facing magnifying glasses.

According to this article on the National Weather Service website, “Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.”

***Follow any of the links above to learn more, especially additional hints about kids and car safety.

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Filed under family, From One Mother to Another, General Health, Kids, travelling with kids

Google Doodle: The Wizard of Oz

As a little girl, I loved watching the Wizard of Oz once a year when it was re-broadcast in our viewing area.  I seem to think it was around Halloween when it would come on.

This morning, I was greeted by the following Google doodle:

Seeing this artistic rendition and having recently come across a watered-down version of the story to read to my kids (the flying monkeys and bad witches still have the potential to scare my kids at their ages) reminded me of the wonder of just how easily children can slip into imaginary lands, simply by way of suggestion.  The imagery and storyline offered in the Wizard of Oz provide an awesome springboard for kids to learn some pretty darned valuable lessons, all while experiencing otherwise logically implausible creatures, Technicolor backdrops and some good ol’ magic:  perseverance pays off; loyalty trumps almost all other things when it comes to friendship; courage, love and intelligence are all more related than we might sometimes tend to believe.

Thank you Google, for this lovely reminder of a 71-year-old American icon.  I can’t wait to watch the movie with my own kids, some day.

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Filed under family, friendship, holidays, Kids

Keeping Baby Close: The Importance of High-Touch Parenting

Today, at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, some intriguing (but not really startling) data will be presented at the annual Brain Development and Learning Conference: mothers who touch their babies more often can alter their offspring’s genetic expression and foster calmer babies who will grow up to be increasingly nurturing parents.  For those of us in the childbirth education arena, this is not surprising in the least.

For years, folks who promote safe, gentle birthing practices also tend to favor gentle parenting practices.  High-touch infant care falls under this category.  Famed pediatrician/author Dr. Sears calls it Attachment Parenting.  Others call it Kangaroo Mother Care (a philosophy which is often only thought of as being used with premies or newborns but can, in fact, be carried on throughout infancy).  Others, still:  Baby wearing.

The basic idea?  Keep your baby close by, offer skin-to-skin contact as a means of warming and/or comforting, bonding, teaching your child that you are there for her for the most basic of needs and that you are a tender, loving resource.

When our three kids were infants, we did the same thing I see thousands of other new parents doing:  we hauled our kids around in their detachable infant cars as if we were carrying around a utilitarian bucket of potatoes.  Because, let’s face it:  it’s easier, right?  No buckling and unbuckling the five-point harness every time we got in and out of the car.  No disturbing baby when he’s asleep in his bucket.

My friend who is an awesome mama, prenatal yoga instructor and doula, practiced baby wearing reverently with her two boys in their infancy.  As I observed her–always showing up with her little one snuggled into a wrap on her chest (or hip, as the baby grew) I pondered the realities:  doesn’t her back ever get sore?  Doesn’t she sometimes want her own space?

I imagine, the answer might have sometimes been ‘yes.’  But I also know that Gloria has a bond with her children like none other and was able to put aside the short term gains of her own comfort for the long term gains of what baby wearing likely fostered in the bond between mother and child.  And, I imagine, many “baby wearers” will tell you that they are comfortable wearing their babies–especially if fit with an appropriate sling/baby carrier.

Heres the thing:  with physical closeness comes psychological closeness, and you can bet those two boys of Gloria’s learned to trust their mama for their every need, early on.  Do kids who weren’t kept close as infants not trust their parents?  No, not necessarily.  But there are degrees of trust and psychological closeness and, where on that scale do you think a kiddo falls, who was kept close to his/her parents as an infant?  Just think of the inherent message baby wearing…attachment parenting…kangaroo care…sends:

“I am here for you.  Always.  Your well-being is so important to me that I will make sure I am close by to recognize when you need something.  You are not alone.”

I also ponder the messages being sent to a baby who spends a ton of her time in her infant car seat:

“My convenience is more important than your being comforted.  I hold you (literally) at arm’s length because it is easier for me.  I will take you with me according to my schedule (as opposed to being home for baby’s nap time–thus avoiding the concern about removing a sleeping baby from her car seat) rather than one that is more advantageous for you.”

I know I am simplifying things here.  But really, when you consider implied messages contained in our daily actions, the messages we send can be deafening, and are sometimes different from that which we’d really like to be relaying.

I recently learned about a new product hitting the markets…designed for a similar rural population as the one I wrote about, here.  In an earnest attempt to create a life-saving product for premature babies born in developing countries  a product has been developed called the Embrace–a sleeping bag-looking “portable incubator” with a pocket in the back for an inserted heat pack.

I applaud the Stanford researchers who’ve come up with this, and their aggressive goal of saving hundreds of thousands of teeny tiny lives at $25 a pop (this is an entrepreneurial effort).  But I also have to wonder, what about good-old skin-to-skin contact?  Studies have repeatedly shown that babies’ body temperatures (and heart rate, breathing rate and blood sugar levels) remain more stable when held skin-to-skin vs. when placed in an incubator.  Would the money otherwise spent in R&D, developing new and newer baby warming technology be better spent on community health education campaigns, instead?  What do you think?

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Filed under Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Mommy and Motherhood, pregnancy

Exploring Cultures: The Indian Caste System

Abandoning my original planned topic, I feel compelled to refer you to this blog post about the Indian caste system.

Why?  Because I find it fascinating.  And because I couldn’t imagine our children being born into a system in which they would have absolutely no chance to become anything other than the most lowly members of their culture.

Just last night, I prepared a huge Indian feast for our family and Kate, our visiting teenage neighbor/friend who will be here with us from Montana for the summer.  This was Kate’s first Indian meal.  Her first taste of curries and dal and khorma and spicy paratha.  I dressed myself in scarves, toe ring, anklets, etc. to “play the part” of an Indian hostess, and Ellie helped out by retrieving red stick-on dots for us to wear on our foreheads–the stickers we used to label prices on garage sale items last year.

I was careful to look up the “red dot” before dinner, so I could explain to the family about its purpose and intent.  We weren’t making fun.  I made that clear to our children.  We were learning about one of the many other cultures we’re gladly being exposed to since our move to the SF Bay area.  Call it a cultural immersion lesson.

This morning, while preparing to write a post, I found this article about the Indian caste system–a system of delineating citizens into predetermined groups, ranging from priests to “untouchables.”

The thing I don’t understand about the Indian caste system is the idea that a person is born into a certain caste because of the degree to which he or she obeyed the laws of the dharma (righteous living) in his/her previous life.  At the same time, caste membership (probably not the right word, here) is passed down from one generation to the next.  So, if I understand correctly, an Untouchable woman–Untouchable being the lowest segment of the population, so low in fact, that it isn’t actually even considered part of the caste system– could spend her entire life being as pious as the greatest of saints, and still her child would be born an Untouchable–worthy only of growing up to become an agricultural field worker,  a toilet cleaner or dead animal retriever.  Perhaps, however, her spirit would be reincarnated into a higher group.

I’m hoping someone who knows far more about this system than I, will happen upon this post and shed some light for us all.

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Filed under cultures, family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Religion

Gettin’ Back into the Kitchen: A Mother’s Gastronomic Success Story

Once upon a time, I really loved to cook.  So much so, that for several years running, I received for Christmas an annual subscription to Cooking Light Magazine, and its partner, Cooking Light Annual Recipes Cookbooks from my mother-in-law and mom, respectively.  I took Indian cooking classes and French wine tasting classes while still living in Pittsburgh.  I hosted dinner parties for which I’d pleasantly spend the preceding twenty-four hours chopping, sauteing and baking the meal’s components I hoped to nurture my guests with.

Then, our daughter was born.  And a son.  And another son.

Seven years of parenthood later, I am beginning to find myself in the kitchen again–and not always to throw together the most banal meal possible–a frozen pizza with a side of warmed up, frozen peas.  I’d love to say I’m cracking a cookbook every day and whipping up extraordinary meals with all locally grown goods, but on gymnastics and swim class days, brief supper prep still reigns supreme.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the local farmer’s markets and specialty food shops are enough to inspire anyone–especially me.  Last night’s dinner consisted of sautéed onion, garlic, organic baby  spinach and plump Romano tomatoes tossed over bucatini pasta and topped with Old By seasoned, pan seared scallops.  YUM.

Also, being a habitual banana saver, I recently discovered eleven dark brown bananas in the freezer that were all but demanding usage (in the form of taking up too much freezer space).  Having found this banana bread recipe, I altered and increased it, accommodating ten out of the eleven bananas, making it dairy free, chocolate-lovers delectable, and overall accomplishing gustatory success.  Here’s how it went down:

Kimmelin’s version of Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups chevre, softened
2 cups fine-grained baker’s sugar
1 cup turbinado sugar (“Sugar in the Raw”)
10 large ripe bananas, mashed
~ 2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract
6 eggs, slightly beaten
4 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
75g of high quality dark chocolate (75% cacao or higher)

Directions:

1. Cream the goat’s cheese and sugars. Blend in the bananas, vanilla and eggs.

2. Whisk together the dry ingredients.

3.  Chop chocolate roughly–into small shards  (smaller than dime-sized)

4. Add to the bread mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate pieces.  DO NOT OVER MIX so as to avoid ending up with dry bread.  Pour into greased pans. (you can use ~ 3 9×5 loaf pans, or put into muffin cups–muffin cups require approx. 1/2 – 1/3 the baking time as the loaf pans.

5. Bake at 350F. Check on the bread after 18 minutes, if baking in muffin tins, or 35 minutes if using bread loaf pans ( loaf pans may take up to 60 minutes). Banana bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the banana bread in the pan for 10 minutes then cool completely on a wire rack.

ENJOY~

Note:  I’m planning to use one of my loaves of bread for a celebratory End of School breakfast tomorrow–sliced and prepared as french toast.  Double YUM!!!

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Filed under family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood

Lamaze International Organization’s Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keeping Mothers and Babies Together After Birth

Amy Romano, a Certified Nurse Midwife, mother of two and multiple venue contributor to Lamaze publications, including the blog Science and Sensibility is a fantastic example of a woman on a mission.  In short, she is working to make improvements to the maternity care system in our country.

Amy recently invited me to participate in a Bloggers Carnival regarding the Lamaze International organization’s sixth Healthy Birth PracticeKeep Mother and Baby Together (following birth): It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding

This particular topic reminds me of the dozens of conversations I’ve been involved in–with my own students and with childbirth education colleagues of mine– regarding how to maintain mother-baby contact following a cesarean section birth.

The research on this issue is crystal clear:  babies do better in the first minutes, hours and days, the more time they spend in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers.  Their breathing and heart rates remain more stable.  Their body temperatures fluctuate less.  Ditto for their blood sugar levels.  They cry less and they nurse and sleep better, too.

In her wildly successful book, A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, birth activist Henci Goer pulls together data from multiple national and international studies that all report similar findings with newborn decreased APGAR scores, respiratory rate variability and poor oxygenation, in the event of a cesarean birth.  Basically, a baby born by c-section loses out on the pressures associated with a normal, vaginal birth–pressures that result in massaging and squeezing excess amniotic fluid from her lungs, enabling improved air flow and oxygenation.

So, if a baby born by c-section is already three times as likely to suffer breathing difficulties than his vaginal birth equivalent, why would we would make it common practice to separate mom and baby seconds after the birth, when maintaining mother-baby skin-to-skin contact improves the very functions threatened by the cesarean process?  Is it not equally possible for someone (dad/partner/nurse/doula/etc./etc.) to lift away mom’s hospital gown and help hold baby skin-to-skin on mom’s chest while the cesarean procedure is completed, thus helping to stabilize the infant in the moments following his birth?

Another hurdle to maintaining close contact between mom and baby following a cesarean is the question of anesthesia.  Depending on the hospital in which a woman is giving birth, it may be very likely a common practice for the woman to receive an IV sedative following her baby’s birth–forcing her into a “twilight” sleep for the remainder of her surgery, and rendering her groggy (and sometimes violently nauseated) for upwards of two hours thereafter.  With mom cast off into la-la land and baby whisked away to the nursery, some mother-baby duos find themselves separated for upwards of two hours after birth–a critical time when skin-to-skin contact would otherwise facilitate stabilization of baby’s vital signs, mother-baby bonding, initiation of nursing (which, by the way, significantly slows mom’s uterine bleeding) and stabilization of the woman’s birth and post-birth hormonal fluctuations.

In the Lamaze classes I taught up in Bozeman, I got to the point that I encouraged expectant parents to ask for several things in the event a cesarean delivery became imminent:

1.  Request baby be placed on mom’s chest following delivery AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and perform any support measures for baby at that location (yes, the anesthesiologist will have his or her space cramped up at the head of the operating table but they can cope if they really want to).

2.  Request that mom NOT be given a sedative of any sort (she will be entirely numb from nipple line down due to a spinal block, anyway) during or following the surgery.  Encourage other relaxation measures if anxiety surrounding surgery should arise:  relaxation breathing, soft music in the OR, partner and/or doula present near mom’s head at all times…

3.  If separation of mom and baby DOES occur for any reason (newborn needing extra resuscitation measures, etc.) request reunion between mom and baby within no more than 30 MINUTES of birth, and make sure baby goes directly to recovery room with mom, rather than to the nursery.

4.  Request two people accompany mom into operating room, such as her spouse/partner and a doula, midwife, friend or other family member so that there is plenty of emotional support and advocacy for maintaining mother-baby contact following birth.

With the national rate of cesareans creeping upwards of 30%, there are a lot of moms and newborn babes out there who are missing out on important minutes and hours of each others’ time…unless educated consumers LIKE YOU start requesting different practices.

Do me a favor, pass the link to this post along to anyone who will at some point, has, or is about to give birth.  Join the conversation.  Make your voice heard.

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Filed under breastfeeding, Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Mommy and Motherhood, politics, pregnancy

Making Memories

This past weekend, my family and I continued our California adventure with multiple, distinct experiences.

From where we are located, we could drive less than twenty miles in any direction and take in more than ten different farmer’s markets.  Now that spring seems to be here to stay, and the strawberries, raspberries, cherries and various and sundry veggies are maturing, a person can find themselves in a sensory Shangri la upon entering their market of choice.

The best part?  Going with the whole family and letting everyone pick something out.  This past weekend, we came home with pluots, berries, cherries, fat red tomatoes (picked at the peak of ripeness), various lettuces, lentil and pumpkin-filled Indian flat bread, and crispy green beans.  What better way to inspire a dinner party with new friends, than perusing the market for fresh food?

On Memorial Day, we headed for Santa Cruz and spent the first half of the day “hiking” (ok, walking along a paved path in the Big Basin Redwood Forest on one of the few trails open to canine companions)

and the afternoon at a dog-friendly beach where kids and puppy equally wore themselves out.  Maisy, our new labradoodle puppy, found no less than fifteen other dogs to romp around with in the sand, and our three kiddos enjoyed dodging waves for hours on end.  By the end of our beach stay, we’d observed a dolphin gliding by offshore, California Sealions lounging on a nearby rock, and a mother and pup sea otter duo floating supine while dining on whatever delectables they found in the surrounding kelp forest.

Dining at a swanky pizza joint in Santa Cruz’s downtown district, we enjoyed people watching from our patio table–at which point Santa Cruz’s reputation for eclectic eccentricity became understandable.

Post-dinner ice cream scoops consumed, we headed home amidst the holiday weekend traffic: kids sandy and sun-kissed, dog heavy on the floor of the car, immobile with satisfied fatigue.  Crawling along the pass between Santa Cruz and San Jose, listening to the soundtrack from Woman on Top, I remembered once again why we are so lucky to be having this California adventure:  it is absolutely the antithesis of life in Montana in so many ways and yet, in many more, it is hardly different:  I am still a stay-at-home mom with big hopes and dreams.  I ache for adventures outside the home come week’s end, and am thankful for a familiar home setting to return to come Sunday evening.  I aim to open our children’s eyes to new and different experiences whenever possible, and also strain to teach them gratitude for the everyday small graces that make up their common world.

I still miss Montana something fierce for all the familiarity  it came to represent for me, but I’m awfully glad to be here, too.

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Filed under family, Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, travelling with kids