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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Hello, fall. It’s me, ever the good student–ready to face September (or at least October) head-on.

Headfirst

You could say I was a little MIA this summer; its been so long since my last post that my computer has stopped recognizing me. I suppose I took most of the summer “off”–if your definition of “off” means taking care of two high-energy preschoolers, making about a thousand picnic lunches, and traipsing around to every beach, park, and wading pool in King County. I have to admit, though, it was super-fun. Exhausting, but super-fun. I am not by nature a summer girl (too bright, too hot, too much pressure to do stuff, too much SPF required), something sun-starved Seattleites tend to find shocking and weird. This year was different. Goofing around and eating countless lime popsicles with a couple of swimsuited cuties at the peak of their twirly-whirly affection and silliness started to change my mind.

Backyard Imps

But just as I was coming around, the weather changed and all the backpacks in the universe came to the front of the stores with a resounding thud. That thud meant it was time to send my eldest to kindergarten and brace her for the shock of being, in her words, “IN school, ALL day, FOREVER…where there is TOO much hustle-and-bustle and TOO much BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and NOT ENOUGH MOM.” How do you argue with that?

I usually love everything about this time of year: cashmere, cords, boots, pencils, Trapper Keepers, turtlenecks, blankets, rain, Oscar movies, books, hot lattes, and brown-liquor beverages. But, like my kindergartener, I am moving more reluctantly toward fall this year. Our summer highlight reel is playing in my mind, as it certainly is in hers, and I suddenly can’t remember why cutting those 400 pb&j sandwiches into squares and lugging all that beach gear and cleaning sand out of the lint trap seemed so annoying at the time.

Fall is not only turtleneck time, it’s buckle-down time, and I’m faithfully back at my computer writing a new book, and drinking my coffee, and trying–like my eldest-to keep my chin up. There are lots of exciting things on deck: lectures, radio interviews, a new parenting title out this spring, fresh ideas bubbling all over the place. I will get into the swing of things, and she will too. But right now, I have to say, I’m yearning for less alarm clocks and school shoes and BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and more barefoot girls in the backyard, calling for another lemonade, another popsicle, another swim. Maybe I’ve become a summer girl after all.

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“No! He wants the OTHER binky!”
“That diaper is too tight!”
“The bath water is too warm!”
“You can’t take her outside in that!”
“What do you mean, you forgot the giraffe?”
“Here, let me do it!”

Sound familiar? In the stressful and overwhelming throes of new babyhood, moms often tell dads the “right” way to do everything from soothing the baby to prepping for a walk around the block. It can be an urge that is almost impossible to resist, especially if she is the primary caregiver and a first-time mom who wants, desperately, to do everything for her child in the best possible way. Moms, we know you mean well and you’re just trying to help. And of course, you have oodles of knowledge to share, especially if you spend more time actively parenting than he does. But be warned of something I’ve seen happen time and again: after being corrected repeatedly, week in and week out, many dads simply give up trying and let you do all the work—because after all, you know best. Soon you might find yourself doing every single bath, meal, and bedtime routine on your own. And more importantly, you might unwittingly keep your partner from the essential experience of finding his own way with his kids (and yes, they do have their own way—different from yours—and it’s okay). And that would be a shame.

Hey, if you’re lucky enough to have a partner in this whole parenting venture, you owe it to yourself and your family to take advantage of it. It’s not only good for you and your partner to each get 1:1 time with your child (and solo time when it’s the other person’s turn), it’s good for the baby, too. If you’re still in the middle of the newborn era, believe me, the time will come when you realize with all your being that it’s much better to share the parenting load—even if you hate the outfit he picked out or don’t think a trip to Home Depot during naptime is such a good idea. In honor of Dad’s Day, maybe try to have that time be now. Let go a little bit. Let him have his own parenting successes and his own disasters, just like you do, and his own chance to bond during all those moments. Left to his own devices, without anyone hovering in the background, dad will probably find his own funny bath time song, his own way of holding junior to calm the crying, his own system for getting the baby’s shoes on in a snap. And get this: YOU might even learn a little something from HIM.

Rob & the girls


To all the dads out there (and the moms who love them), Happy Father’s Day!

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You’ve got to love Seattle, a town where a four-year-old can make 37 bucks (!) in one day at her very first lemonade stand–because it was for a good cause. Piper, my oldest, decided that all proceeds were going to save the snow leopards instead of into her piggy bank. Rather than naming a price, people were asked to pay what they could. In our fair city that meant folks shelled out up to five bucks for a cup of lemonade and an oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie in front of our house. (Thanks, neighbors.)

Lemonade for Leopards


Now, if I was slightly more diabolical, I would use this tactic repeatedly to fund all sorts of household and personal desires. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind. But I’m in the throes of proud parenthood, and I couldn’t possibly. Tempting as that jar of cash has been when the Thai delivery guy comes, it remains safe for the preservation fund.

This enterprise began when Piper read the word “endangered” in a book, which sparked an in-depth discussion and a little research. After determining that snow leopards were her favorite on the endangered list (though honestly, she has previously shown zero interest in them) we talked about ways to help . “I WANT to give them some money…” she said cautiously, “but NOT out of my helping jar.” Fair enough. The lemonade stand was born.

Granted, Piper is a little young for the business side of things. Money flew about, she spent much of her time dancing around the sidewalk, and when she was reminded of her purpose, she screamed “SAVE THE SNOW LEOPARDS!” so loudly that people crossed the street to get away from us. But still. My heart nearly burst.

Now, I don’t claim to have a kid who is any less self-absorbed or greedy for material things than the next. But I felt like this lemonade stand was not only a personal parenting milestone, it was one small step toward something good growing inside my daughter: a glimmer of the idea of a larger world, where other people (and animals) have needs, too.

For more information on helping snow leopards, visit
http://www.snowleopard.org/
http://www.zoo.org/Page.aspx?pid=276

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We are very excited to announce that Kerry has been asked to become a spokesperson for all Free Clear® laundry detergent! Since we love the product and they love our book, it has been a very fortuitous match…and we are working together to reach out to new moms with reassuring advice from experienced parents. Keep an eye out for the all coupon (in the book), Kerry on TV (national and regional) and coming Facebook webinars! And, as always, thanks for all of your comments and support.

Please also take a moment to check out Kerry’s tips and Q&A with new moms here: www.facebook.com/all-laundry

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Is it just me, or do you sometimes want to cackle maniacally when people stop you as you’re out with your baby, toddler, or preschooler (lugging all their stuff, catering to their every whim) to say, “Oh savor these early years…they go by so fast!”

“Really? Do they really go by so fast?” I want to reply, a bit too loudly. “DO THEY?” Because sometimes (a lot of the time) these early years actually seem to go painfully–nay, excruciatingly–slow. If that warp-speed thing that strangers on the sidewalk seem to believe is ever going to kick in, I wish it would start already.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. I have chosen to structure my life in order to spend a great deal of time with them and I enjoy it, mostly. And sure, there are moments when I look at my almost-five year old and can’t believe how big she’s become. But I don’t imagine I will ever describe the last five years of my life as “going so fast.” No, I would say I have been aware of every single day of it and not one of those days has raced past me.

Maybe it will seem different when I’m older and farther along in this parenting venture (as the comment-makers often are), and I’m looking back on these early years with my kids. I can imagine how by the time my children are in their twenties or thirties (let’s not even talk about how old I will be by then), I will miss them fiercely, feel sentimental about their youth, and these first few years will seem like a blink of an eye. But today? Today when I am changing diapers, solving irrational disputes, driving here and there, rescuing lost Polly Pockets from the toilet, listening to Raffi, tripping over all the stepstools, struggling to answer esoteric questions, and cutting the ten-thousandth crust off the ten-thousandth sandwich? Today it seems many things: hard, rewarding, frustrating, exhausting, exhilarating, eye-opening, hilarious, painful, glorious, heart-wrenching, messy.

But fast? Not so much.

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Unless you truly believe a certain magazine’s claim that “Stars Are Just Like US!,” it’s probably difficult to imagine those well-styled celeb parents having any of the same concerns, insights, or ups and downs as we regular moms and dads have. I mean, if they can be red-carpet ready four weeks after giving birth, can they really exist on the same parenting planet as the rest of us? That’s why it was such a kick to come across this Letterman clip of Jennifer Garner talking about motherhood, and specifically about how differently she and hubby Ben Affleck parent their second child versus their first. When Letterman opines that he’s envious of her chance to have a second baby, because he imagines that that’s when you learn to parent in a more relaxed way, Jen lights up in agreement. “Oh, if we could all just be second time parents–the first time around!” she proclaims. Hey, she’s practically quoting our book cover! Thanks, Jennifer, for being our celebrity spokesperson…even if you didn’t know it. Here’s hoping she picks up a few dozen copies of the book for the many other new moms in Hollywood .

Check out from 6:07 – 6:42.


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The Dark Side

In case you haven’t heard, even Darth Vadar was a parent. Now, it’s a matter of fact that he had some power issues, but who’s to say that having kids didn’t help push him closer to the Dark Side.

No one tells you that the intense love you have for your newborn can also reveal emotions that are hard to believe possible… and not the nice ones. Everyone is different of course (and, yes,  babies communicate through crying)  but a screaming inconsolable baby can deliver even the strongest souls into a place they’d rather not be. Anger, frustration – even rage – can occur when the perfect storm of lack of sleep, lack of experience and piercing screams come together. And, to make it worse,  very few people want to talk about it. But you’re all probably familiar with those classes and brochures that talk about “the dangers of shaking your baby…” Of course we’re all simply astounded to even contemplate the notion, but there’s a reason they all mention it.

The best advice we can think of for new parents starting out is to have a plan to give yourself a break. Babies don’t care if you put them down, safely, and go outside/away. It won’t break some deep bond between you and your child. There is nothing wrong – repeat it to yourself again and again if you have to – with admitting that you are at the end of your rope for the moment. 5 minutes of time somewhere where you can’t hear the crying is a balm, and you’ll be surprised how, after a bit of practice, it becomes so obvious in its simplicity. And you never know… your baby may just fall asleep while you’re out there.

Have you ever been to “that place” as a parent? If so, what did you learn that you could pass on to those about to venture there? Did you have any problems recognizing the feelings, or was it your significant other that went there? Is the thought of putting down your crying baby just unfathomable? Please share and let those new parents know that they’re not alone.

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