Alpha Mom parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:12:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Earth Hour Candle Craft Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:07:52 +0000

On Saturday evening, March 28th, we celebrate Earth Hour by turning off the lights for one hour starting at 8:30 pm local time until 9:30pm. You can show your commitment to our planet by joining in this annual celebration. Here is a fun little candle craft so you will be ready when the lights go out!

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

This clever little process transfers a drawing onto a candle.

Supplies needed for this candle craft:

wax paper
hair dryer
white tissue paper

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

Directions for this Candle Craft:

Step One: First, cut a piece of white tissue paper the width of your candle and just long enough for ends to meet when wrapped around the candle.

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

Step Two: Carefully draw on the tissue paper with markers. Make the drawing colorful!

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

Step Three: Cut a piece of wax paper that fits around the candle. Allow some extra to serve as a handle.  First wrap the colored tissue paper around the candle. Next wrap the wax paper over the tissue paper. Hold with the extra wax paper. Use a hair dryer on hot to slightly melt the tissue paper into the candle.  It gets hot so it helps to wear a glove to protect your fingers. You will see a slight gloss and color change. Don’t let the candle get wet and drippy. Just heat it enough to attach the tissue paper. Give it a try on a small area and you will get the hang of it.

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

Step Four: Once you are finished remove wax paper and  you have an amazing candle to celebrate Earth Hour.

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

Don’t forget to put it into a candle holder to make it safe!

Earth Day Candle Craft by Cindy Hopper for

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Lesson Learned: All Apologies Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:31:09 +0000

Years ago, Chris Jordan wrote what is perhaps one of my favorite posts here at Alpha Mom. It’s called Seven Rules On How To Apologize and I wish we could make it required reading for the human race. Apologizing is hard for everyone, and near-impossible for some. I don’t know whether admitting wrong-doing is just too uncomfortable for people, or compassion is lacking, or what, but the apology often feels like a lost art, to me.

Recently we had a situation where a teacher behaved in an inappropriate manner towards one of my teenagers, and I am typing this very slowly because when I say, “in an inappropriate manner” what I really mean is “in a harsh, demeaning, and soul-shredding way in front of a room filled with other students,” and we are still dealing with the fallout. No kid wants to be the target of a teacher’s rage, of course. For a sensitive, struggling kid to be dressed down by a beloved teacher 1) for something that, as it turned out, wasn’t even true and 2) in front of others was… well, I got to deal with the sadness and bewilderment in the aftermath, and it wasn’t pretty. Color my kid crushed.

Color this Mama Bear furious.

There’s a delicate dance to be done, here. My kids are in high school. My helicopter only lands on the lawn there in case of emergency, y’know? I felt like this was an emergency. From where I was sitting, not only had a huge injustice been served to my child, it had come at the worst possible time and with a cascade of terrible results—said child not only felt returning to that particular class was impossible, but of course the teacher involved is also the advisor for several other activities which my kid was now willing to give up, rather than have to deal with this teacher ever again. None of these options were practical, of course. And yes, in a perfect world my teenager could self-advocate and work towards a resolution, but in this case it was all too overwhelming, so I did step in… first with email, assuming that the teacher had something else entirely going on and this incident was a “collateral damage” sort of situation, giving the teacher ample opportunity to apologize and backtrack and gracefully recover. My email was initially ignored, then the response came basically assuring me that my child deserved exactly what had happened. Which… yeah, no. No child—no human being—deserved what had happened here, and the information on which this supposed “deserved” incident was predicated was still incorrect. So I escalated up a level, which led to a meeting at school where I was assured the matter would be addressed. [Small factoid that may or may not be relevant: As part of this particular cluster-you-know-what of events, something had happened which is in fact a prosecutable offense, if I should choose to lodge a complaint with the school. Regardless of any he-said/she-said, all involved school staff knew that if this was not resolved, I could make things very difficult for the teacher.]

My kid was called in for an apology, only it violated just about everything on Chris’ excellent list. It was a model of the non-apology. “I am sorry you felt sad,” was repeated several times. “Not that many people heard us,” was, I believe, another part of it. “I was frustrated because…” and so on. I felt my blood pressure rising as it was recounted for me, later. My teen, though, wow, it’s awfully nice to raise people who turn out to be more highly-evolved than yourself, let me tell you. “[Teacher] tried,” my child said, with a shrug. “[He/she] probably got in trouble, so it probably won’t happen again. I can go back to class now, I guess.” But there was a bond and a trust there, before, and it’s been broken. I’m glad my kid is so willing to move on even without the apology that should’ve happened. I choked back my own fury and nodded, congratulating my kiddo on such a pragmatic viewpoint, and trying to convince myself that the slumped shoulders and sadness in my kid’s eyes weren’t really there.

Later that night, one of my teens got upset about something, and while storming around about that, picked a fight with the other one. In very short order everyone was crying and yelling and it was just as delightful as it sounds, I assure you. Finally I snapped at one of them while tending to the other, and yeah, I snapped at the same kid who’d just been through this ordeal at school. Having gotten the other kid calm and situated, I returned to the first kid, who was trying not to cry while saying, “But it’s not fair because I didn’t do anything and you got mad at me!”

It is with shame I must admit that I justified my actions. Even after everything the last few days had wrought, I was That Person. “You did—” and “Why didn’t you—” and the like popped out of my mouth, and I watched as my child got smaller and smaller in response to my words.

I stopped. I tried to catch my breath, which was hard, because my chest hurt.

“Forget everything I just said,” I said, finally. “Listen to me very carefully. I am going to demonstrate what should’ve happened for you at school, and what I should’ve said in the first place. Are you listening?” I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the tear that spilled down my cheek. “Sweetheart, I am so sorry. I behaved badly. I said something I shouldn’t have, and it doesn’t matter why, it only matters that I regret it and I am so, so sorry I hurt you. I hope you can forgive me.”

My teen, my adult-sized child who had been pretending for a few hours that everything was fine, nodded and burst into tears. Finally a choked, “That’s what [Teacher] should’ve said,” came out, and we sat on the floor together, arms around each other, and cried. Because sometimes people you love wound you and don’t make it right again. Because life is hard and often unfair and sometimes it just plain hurts.

Later, we talked about how some people don’t know how to apologize, or how sometimes even people who know how find all kinds of reasons why they don’t need to. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. We’re all doing the best we can, and sometimes other people’s best doesn’t feel very good. We keep going, and we forgive as often as we can, even when maybe it’s not “deserved,” because forgiveness is a gift for ourselves in an attempt to let go of what hurts. Did it all sink in? I have no idea; heck, I’m still working on this, myself.

My plea to the world today: Please learn how to apologize properly. It’s far too easy to break someone with your words; the least you can do is try to fix it when it happens. Better still, be gentle with everyone, and then you won’t have to.

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Dear Former Self, Welcome Back. Tue, 24 Mar 2015 21:23:48 +0000

With my kids with their dad this past weekend, I spent some time with my single-no-kids friend and did all sorts of single-no-kids things.

Remember those?

We wandered aimlessly around New York City, then finally stopped for brunch around 2:30pm.

Yes, my first meal of the day was at 2:30pm.

We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Absolutely no agenda. No plan. No list or responsibilities or obligations.

I still remember feeling so lost when I had my first child, mourning the loss of my former self, wishing and hoping there would be a time when she would be able to make an appearance again.

It’s not something people talk about because there’s a cute baby in the picture and you’re a parent now and well, you just have to suck up the mesh underwear and the lack of sleep and the cling-on attached to your boob.

I liked my work-filled days, 15-17 hours of them sometimes, my microwaved dinners, and impromptu trips to Paris or Japan. I didn’t like rocking a baby to sleep for 3-hours or wearing her on my body non-stop so I could just get a little peace and quiet.

I didn’t necessarily have some sort of “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” expectation when I got pregnant, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel like a stranger in my own body and head.

I was a shell of my former self.

But she –me– has made a comeback, of sorts, with my kids no longer in diapers, all of them able to sleep (mostly), my hands the only body part involved in feeding them. I can crack jokes and poke fun and belt show tunes in my Ethel Merman voice, now for an underage audience who sometimes requires butt-wiping assistance.

I am feeling like Kristen, that Kristen, just now with four kids.

Yes, some of this is a product of divorce and having weekends where I don’t have my children with me so I can. But I think a lot of it is just my kids getting older, their needs changing and thus, my role changing.

Or maybe it’s me finally giving myself permission to be a little selfish.

I don’t know what it was that made me think that gaining a child meant losing myself, but I know that I’m not alone in that line of thought. I envy the women, as criticized as they often are, who keep some semblance of themselves after they have children.

If I could whisper in my own ear ten years ago:

Keep working. Get a babysitter. Find a hobby. Go on date nights. Ask for help. 

And be as much of yourself as you can muster. 

As wonderful as it might seem for you to be the mom you think you should be, your kids need the you that you actually are.

You might not be able to work 15-17 hour days, or take impromptu trips to far-off destinations. But that passion. That spontaneity. 

That’s what makes you their mother. Let them see that person. 

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It’s Not a Mood Swing: Depression During Pregnancy Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:29:28 +0000

Hi Amy,

I have been reading your Pregnancy Week by Week  and it’s been a big help. Your humor really helps me feel less alone.

My question is this: How can you tell what are normal mood swings?

I want to preface this by saying that I would never ever harm myself or my little girl (I am 20 weeks 3 days along). Ever. I am not worried about doing anything crazy, I am just so sick of having these awful thoughts. I’ve never been depressed before, but ever since I got pregnant, whenever I feel down I don’t just feel a little sad- I feel the all out “what’s the point of anything nothing matters, I’m just going to stay in bed and hope I disappear” sort of despair.

I’ve tried talking to my husband, but I’ve just made him so worried for me, and it ends up turning into me reassuring him and pretending I feel better because I don’t want to make things harder for him. He doesn’t try to make me feel worse, but when he tries to cheer me up he tells me how proud of me he is for everything I’m doing, and I just feel this overwhelming guilt on top of the hopelessness that I already feel.

I also haven’t mentioned anything to my doctor, but that’s mostly just because I know I’m not suicidal, and I don’t feel comfortable talking to him about it anyway.

Is there anything I can do to help myself from feeling so awful? I don’t feel like that all the time; I’m usually happy, excited to meet our little girl, and very active. My diet is great, weight gain is healthy, and I work out. I have a lot of good days. But the bad days are horrible, and sometimes they really get in the way.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Ack ack call a doctor call a doctor.

I am not a doctor, so while I obviously am not qualified to make any sort of diagnosis via email and the Internet Tubes, I am going to be blunt and brutal here and say that no, these mood swings do not sound “normal” to me. They sound like prenatal/antenatal depression. Which is a thing that absolutely exists, and sadly does not get talked about enough. One in 10 pregnant women will suffer from some form of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. ONE IN TEN.

What you’re describing — good days mixed with overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt — are all telltale symptoms of a clinical depression, very likely linked to your pregnancy hormones. It’s not something you can control, it’s not something you caused in any way…but it’s not something you can just sort of…mash down and ignore and hope for the best. YOU NEED TO CALL A DOCTOR.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your OB about this, get a new OB, or call your primary care physician or a mental health professional. Stop downplaying your feelings because you’re not suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Not to mention that untreated depression can very much escalate and go on to affect you physically.

It can also lead to pregnancy complications and preterm labor. Yes. Fact.

Which is why you need to TELL SOMEONE (other than your husband) exactly what you wrote here: You’re not just feeling a little down from time to time, you’re veering into “nothing matters” pits of despair, overwhelming guilt, pretending to feel better so you aren’t a burden, unpredictable mood swings despite staying active and working out and having — by all other measures — a healthy, happy, wanted pregnancy.

Again: This isn’t your fault. This is a very common pregnancy symptom that has nothing to do with you or your ability to mother and love your baby. It’s like morning sickness or gestational diabetes, but in your brain chemistry. And while it’s “common” it’s NOT something you can ignore and not talk your doctor about because you feel guilty, silly or embarrassed. You can’t just will yourself out of this, or go on pretending that you’re fine, just fine, I swear I’m fine.

You asked what you can do to help yourself from feeling so awful. You can do that by asking for help from someone qualified to help.

Here is  a list of other resources on prenatal/antenatal depression and anxiety. Read them, use them, then please please please talk to someone in real life about how you’re feeling.

Depression in Pregnancy (American Pregnancy Association)

Depression During Pregnancy (

Depression During Pregnancy (Baby Center)

Pre/Antenatal Depression (PANDAS)

Depression During Pregnancy (Postpartum Progress)

The Truth About Prenatal Depression (SheKnows)

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Is Tween the New Toddler? Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:59:16 +0000

For years, I’ve been hearing about this mystical sweet spot in childhood. As folklore has it, it occurs after the tantrum years but before teenage angst and attitude. A period of time when your child is finally somewhat rational and enjoyable and yet still wants to spend time with you.

My oldest daughter is now 10 and I figured I must be be right there. Just as I was about to bask in mother-daughter outings filled with lovely moments of bonding and laughter – she was throwing a fit over the fact that she doesn’t have an Instagram account.

Instead of a sweet spot, I have found my preteen or “tween” daughter on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute she is lovingly pushing her 2 year old brother on the swing and the next moment, she is bursting with giant tears because of some incredible injustice.

In the last few weeks alone, she cried when I killed an ant in the kitchen (instead of setting it free), when we bought the wrong color protractor although she never mentioned having a preference and when her sister got 15 minutes of extra TV while she was on a playdate.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous, I want to laugh but I don’t. Because I know the emotions are very real. It’s almost like the feelings take over her – so suddenly and so dramatically that she can’t contain it. Just like the days when she was a toddler, protesting madly at the outrage of having to wear pants – yes actual pants  – when she left the house.

I often get blindsided. We got frozen yogurt recently and I always remind my kids to not overfill the fishbowl size cups because I need some money left over for their higher education. But this time, my daughter ignored my wishes and filled her cup to the brim with a mountain of yogurt and toppings.

After I had paid close to $20 for our 3 yogurts, I said, “Dylan, you put way too much in your cup.” And she exploded. “I’M SORRY MOMMY. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!!! I DIDN’T MEAN TO! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME…..” And then the tears. She wouldn’t talk to me all the way home and all I could do was sigh and wonder how a fun yogurt outing turned so wrong.

The more I read about and explore the tween years, I realize they are filled with moodiness, volatile moments and pushing boundaries. There are hormonal changes going on and often preteens are as surprised by their emotional outbursts as the parents. Basically, my daughter is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and I just need to catch up.

And I realized I mostly need to calm down. All too often, I resort to yelling because I feel like I’m under attack. So when my daughter starts screaming about not getting to have a last minute sleepover (honestly, I just didn’t have the energy!), I found this advice very helpful…

“Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss it. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down…. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.” (Courtesy of Aha! Parenting)

In the end, we decided to put a future sleepover on the calendar. And that seemed to do the trick. So no, I never did find my sweet spot. What I found instead was very sweet moments intermingled between the challenges in this new frontier. And I’ll take every one of those moments I can get.

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Happy Nowruz! Haft-Seen Printable for Kids Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:06:35 +0000

As you know we’ve been learning a lot about Nowruz (or Norooz), the Persian New Year celebration of Spring. It falls on the 21st of March this year so we put together our first Haft-Seen table. It was a fun learning experience for all of us, especially since I’ve been trying to learn Farsi. Nowruz /Norooz  is a fascinating holiday.  It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years! It’s not necessarily a religious holiday but more of a festival to celebrate spring and hopes for the new year.

Haft-Seen Printable to Celebrate Nowruz (aka Norooz) by Brenda Ponnay for

I created a Haft-Seen table printable to help out the process and that can keep little hands busy as a coloring sheet.

Click to print out your own Haft-Seen table printable here.

Haft-Seen actually means “The Seven S’s” in Farsi.  That doesn’t that mean there are only seven items on the table but there needs to be at minimum seven. Observers also add other items to the table that do not start with the letter S to symbolize spring and hope for the new year. Here is a handy key if you would like to play along: (I’ve copied this directly from Wikipedia and other sources. Please correct me in the comments if I’ve gotten anything wrong.)

  1. Sabzeh = wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
  2. Samanusweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
  3. Senjed = dried Silverbery oleaster  or wild olive fruit – symbolizing love
  4. Sirgarlic – symbolizing medicine
  5. Sib = apples – symbolizing beauty and health
  6. Somāqsumac fruit – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  7. Serkeh =  vinegar – symbolizing old-age and patience
  8. Sonbol = Hyacinth flower – symbolizing blossoming spring
  9. Sekkeh = Coins -symbolizing prosperity

Some other additional non-“s” items on the table can be:

  1. a candle to light the table – symbolizing sunrise and enlightenment
  2. decorated eggs – symbolizing life or fertility
  3. a koran or holy book
  4. a bowl of goldfish – symbolizing good luck
  5. a mirror – symbolizing cleanliness and self reflection
  6. a crystal bowl of water with an orange floating in it – symbolizing the earth floating in space
  7. rosewater – symbolizing purity and cleanliness

There are more items too but they are more specific to region or religious background. Nowruz is celebrated all over the world so there are many different variations.

Haft-Seen Printable to Celebrate Nowruz (aka Norooz) by Brenda Ponnay for

Maybe you will add your own twist!  Please share if you do.  Happy Nowruz (aka Norooz) !

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Thoughts on the Underscheduled Child Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:06:54 +0000

I’m not sure how I’ve avoided the siren call of extracurricular activities for so long.

Perhaps it’s that my ears have been plugged with memories of my own overscheduled past. Karate, drama, violin, ballet, tennis. Every week day schlepped, albeit happily, to something else.

Or the fear of my plate overflowing, as I’m just barely managing my son’s once weekly hockey practices and games.

And art therapy.

Though, I’m not sure I would count therapy as an activity because then it would be a whole helluva lot cheaper. But hey, there is art involved.

Whatever the cause, the result is that my kids come home from school, do their homework and then play or read or create gigantic messes with glue and cut paper. They hover over gadgets and watch television too. Sometimes at the same time.

I don’t think about it much until the change of seasons, when kids in the neighborhood pack up early for playdates of soccer or softball, ballet lessons or gymnastics and mine are left, again, to their own devices.

Literally and figuratively.

There’s certainly never a dull moment in my home, with Lego castles in constant construction mode and Beanie Boo cardboard communes taking over half the playroom. My oldest is an amazing artist and writer, who’s always creating something, whether it’s a Manga book or kid’s wine out of red food coloring and water.

But now with my younger girls getting older, I think it’s fair they be offered the opportunity to try something beyond chalk drawing on the driveway and scooter races.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I’ve signed them up for ballet and gymnastics. There were violin and piano lessons. Baseball and soccer. They all did plenty of camps last summer. Just ask my bank account.

But nothing ever seemed to grab and hold their interest.

And honestly, I was sick of the managing and scheduling and driving, even in small doses.

When I look back at my own experience as a kid, I realize now that the activities game me a good life, a better life than I had at home. They were my savior from what was a sad, difficult childhood. They gave me the reassurance, the praise, the support, the outlet that I was missing from my family.

I actually think it was healthier for me to be dancing for 8 hours a day or playing in an orchestra all weekend long than being at home with my parents.

But my kids, well, they’re content. Happy.

I’ll always continue to offer them the chance to try something new. I might even give them a little nudge in a one direction or another if I think they might thrive in it. And I’m more than happy to encourage them in whatever it is they might choose.

But maybe for now, at least, they’re getting what they need inside their home.


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Independence For Lunch, One Way Or Another Tue, 17 Mar 2015 15:50:45 +0000

Perhaps my most regrettable failing as a parent (oh, believe you me, there are so very many from which to choose) is my temper. I am not a mellow person. I go from zero to pissed-off in under a second. And it took me years to squelch my knee-jerk hollering when one of my kids was being a complete butthead, because, c’mon, stop being such a butthead! Through more hard work than I should admit, I’ve managed to bring down the volume, but I am still prone to the snap consequence in a moment of pique.

This brings me to my own personal, ongoing internal game of “Would you rather…?” where I’m forever trying to determine whether it’s best to follow through on what I said in the first place or admit that perhaps I was hasty and renege. (Why, yes, it is just super-great being me, why do you ask?)

This is preface to explaining that after a particularly difficult week, my particularly… erm… challenged-in-the-gratitude-department teenager was, I felt, being even more challenging than usual, and I… snapped. The good news is that I didn’t yell. (Yay me!) The bad news is that in my knee-jerk response to undesirable behavior I heard the following pop out of my mouth: “And you need to plan to get up early enough tomorrow to pack your own lunch. This is a service I provide for you out of the kindness of my heart and you’re clearly old enough to handle it yourself and have no appreciation for when I do it, so you’re on your own.”

Um. Whoops?

Because on the one hand: I finally had packing lunches down to a manageable science, plus I am still keeping tabs on my daughter managing adequate nutrition, and it was a very sudden pronouncement. On the other hand: This child is nearly 17, and what I said is true—she can handle it, so why should I continue doing a thankless job she can do herself?

I did the internal debate over going back on what I’d said. I decided the edict would stand, even knowing that might mean biting my tongue through some choices I didn’t love witnessing.

It’s only been two days, but I’d say be hard-pressed to tell you which one of us is struggling with this more.

On the first day, someone (not naming any names here…) was clearly spoiling for a power struggle. I could practically picture the “How inept and oppositional do I need to be before she rescues me…?” thought bubble over her head. I tried to think calming thoughts while I packed lunches for my husband and son. I made sandwiches; I selected fruit; I put treats in tiny containers and cut up veggies while picturing myself relaxing on a sandy beach with a good book. I kept my face neutral as my daughter raced around, running late as she so often does, and paused to stare inside the pantry as if it might suddenly grow sandwiches. I didn’t say anything… until—a minute before the bus was to arrive—she reached into the pantry and grabbed a single protein bar.

“That’s not lunch,” I said, trying to keep my voice light.

“I know,” she said. “I’ll buy lunch today. This is just a snack.”

“I’m not paying for school lunch,” I said, still working to stay very neutral. “If you buy, you pay. There’s plenty of food here. And you don’t even like school lunch.”

She shrugged. “They have pizza. I’ll figure it out,” she said. And she left.

I managed to bite back the question for several hours after she arrived home that day, but finally it escaped: “So, hey, what’d you have for lunch today?”

“I bummed off of A.,” she replied. “She didn’t want the second half of her sandwich so she gave it to me.”

So, lunch, Day 1: Half a sandwich and a protein bar. Fabulous.

I may have suggested she pack the next day’s lunch the night before. You know, just to save time because mornings tend to be hectic. “Nah, why would I do that?” Breezy. Maddening. I let it drop.

The next morning she was in front of the pantry again (seeking the magical sandwich dispenser, one assumes), only this time she was still in her pajamas.

“Please finish getting ready and then deal with your lunch,” I said.

“But if I get ready first I won’t have time to make lunch,” she protested.

“But if you make lunch but miss the bus, that’s not any better.” (Note to self: Don’t try to use logic on a kid with ADHD before the meds kick in.) She considered this, then wandered back upstairs to get ready… but not before watching me pack her brother’s lunch and asking me to just “toss a banana in my bag, too, while you’re right there?” (I obliged.) Two minutes before the bus came, I heard rustling in the pantry.

“What’re you packing?” I called, from my office. I heard giggling and the zip of her lunch bag. I couldn’t help it; I went into the kitchen and as soon as I appeared, she burst into full-pealed laughter. “Please show me what’s in your bag.” She rolled her eyes and unzipped to reveal her banana had been joined by… the remaining half a loaf of bread, the jar of sunbutter, our honey-filled bear bottle, and a butter knife.

So many words fought among themselves to pop out of my mouth. SO VERY MANY WORDS. I looked at her. She looked at me. In my head, I reminded myself that experience is the best teacher and problem solving is a skill cultivated by doing. I sighed. “Please don’t lose that knife,” I said, finally. She grinned, triumphant.

“I won’t,” she said.

I know it’s wrong, but I kind of can’t wait to see what she packs tomorrow.

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Can This Pediatrician Relationship Be Saved? Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:34:04 +0000

Dear Amy,

I’m writing because I’m at my wits end. I have a 1.5 year old little girl. She was small when she was born (5lbs 8oz full term) and she’s been growing steadily since birth but has flattened out a little over the last few months.

She eats pretty well but can be picky and immediately stops eating the minute she feels unwell- this winter has been a battle as every two weeks she got an ear infection or a cold- nothing serious but enough to make her want to drink every meal and forget about things that are high in protein and she absolutely hates Pediasure.

Anyways, my concern is not about my daughter, but about our relationship with our pediatrician. When my daughter was born, they made it clear to me at the hospital that her low birth weight was my fault- the doctor told me that “obviously she wasn’t getting good nutrition in utero so now you really need to focus on fattening her up.” That was the first of so many comments about my child’s low weight and now they come from her doctor constantly. When we go to the office, she’s deemed totally healthy except she’s small. At her 1 year check-up, the doctor told me to feed her butter on everything she ate to increase the calories so she would gain more weight. I’ve told him that the babies in my family are smaller and my husband’s side is very small (babies and people). But he continues to prod me about what I’m feeding her every time we go in to the point now that I just feel attacked and on edge. On days that we have pediatrician appointments, I’m a mess. Now he’s ordered blood tests and the results came back normal (albeit the prealbumin levels a bit low) but we’re still getting so much pressure to force feed her ice cream and butter products. If he says to me one more time “focus on high fat high protein foods” I will go insane. What does he think I’m doing?

I don’t doubt that our pediatrician is doing what he thinks is right. He obviously feels that she is too small and that it is important for her to gain weight. However, I’m concerned that his constant attention to her weight is a red herring and that the focus is not just wasting our time and money as a family, but is killing our relationship to our pediatrician and the medical system in general. I’ve spoken to other parents with children of similar size and growth patterns. I had assumed that our pediatrician’s concerns meant that she was an anomaly but I meet parents every day that say their kids were/are the same. Some of them said that they were actually worried but their pediatricians said it wasn’t a big deal.

So here’s my question: Should I change pediatricians? How important is our relationship to this doctor? I never really had a pediatrician as a child or a family physician so I’m concerned that I don’t understand how important this relationship is to my daughter’s health. Is it just a thing where we go in and see the doctor occasionally and grin and bear the fact that we don’t love him? Or will this relationship just get worse over time?

I just can’t help but think that my frustration about the issue is a) now stopping me from being objective and b) not going to get better.

Any advice about pediatrician woes would be much appreciated.

Change pediatricians.

I mean, what else is there to say? Your daughter is fine. She’s just small. Your pediatrician has essentially CONFIRMED that she is fine and is just small thanks to extra check-ups and tests. But clearly his bedside manner is driving you bonkers and that alone is a perfectly justifiable reason to change pediatricians.

What the hospital told you (“it’s your fault”) was complete B.S., and a horrible thing to say to a new mother — who OF COURSE is going to take that deeply to heart and worry that she’s already failed her child for life because AS WE ALL KNOW, people LOVE to tell pregnant women everything and anything they are eating or drinking is wrong and bad and why aren’t they thinking about the baaaaaaaaby instead of their selfish craving for a hot dog.

But I don’t doubt for a second that the hospital said that, because they said essentially the same thing to ME about my 9 lb, 15 oz, full term but not overdue baby. “We have to test his blood sugar,” the nurse told me. “Babies aren’t supposed to be that big.” When I insisted that I’d passed my gestational diabetes test, she actually snorted a laugh at me. “We’ll see,” she said, super condescendingly.

His blood sugar was FINE. He was FINE. He was just BIG.

So I don’t doubt that your daughter is also just fine and you’re doing the best you can to get calories in her, the way parents of picky-but-typical-weight-babies do. (My huge baby gave me more feeding/weight gain stress that EITHER of my two 7-pound babies did, by the way.)

And really, changing pediatricians is not a decision you need to justify to me or anyone else. This guy drives you nuts and won’t drop this one issue and you’re having ANXIETY about visits. Move on, really, and don’t worry about it. I remember feeling so pressured during my first pregnancy to OMG FIND A PEDIATRICIAN and it felt the same as picking a daycare — super momentously important and also permanent, like I wasn’t allowed to change my mind if it didn’t work out.

Ha ha yeah mom-of-three now and I’ve changed pediatricians multiple times. Once because the practice dropped our insurance. Another time because they repeatedly failed to correctly diagnose my child’s UTI and we ended up terrified and at a specialist’s office because of the misdiagnosis. I’ve also switched between doctors within the same practice for a variety of reasons: This doctor thinks Cry It Out is appropriate for newborns and won’t stop suggesting it. That doctor tends to interrupt you a lot and doesn’t fully listen to your questions. That doctor is really chill and I like him while that other doctor gets mad if I tell her that no, sorry, my kids refuse to drink skim or 2% milk so I let them drink whole milk and I’m sticking with that decision, okay, lalalalalala?

Our current pede practice has eight different doctors. I see us now as having a relationship with the practice and not necessarily with any specific doctor. I trust that I can always get an appointment if my boys are sick. They will be operating on time and will bill our insurance correctly and fill out forms when we need them. My kids will get their vaccinations as needed and the doctors and nurses will work hard to make visits as pleasant and non-scary as possible. And they will give me good advice and recommendations without making me feel defensive, judged or panicky.

Your doctor isn’t working out on that last one.  Go back to the parents of other fine-just-small babies and children and ask for pediatrician recommendations. Stick up for yourself and your own instincts.

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St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit Fri, 13 Mar 2015 14:13:33 +0000

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a cute, but easy-for-a-weekday-morning breakfast for the whole family. Arrange eggs and toast on a plate along with and a composed fruit salad, then add a little extra Irish symbolism in the form of a “spinach shamrock.”

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

For each plate you are making you will need:

  • eggs
  • half an English muffin
  • a few spinach leaves
  • strawberries
  • Clementine wedges
  • mango
  • green grapes
  • blueberries
  • red or purple grapes
  • a small heart shape cookie cutter and/or kitchen shears

Here’s how you put it together:


St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

We’re going to start by cutting the pieces to make the shamrock. I’m assuming you don’t have a shamrock cookie cutter sitting in a kitchen drawer, but if you do, feel free to use that to cut a shamrock out of a spinach leaf. If that’s you, go ahead and skip this next part.

For the rest of us, there are two other ways to assemble the spinach shamrock. I used a mini heart cutter to cut three shapes from individual spinach leaves.


St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

Spinach is not as easy to cut with a cookie cutter as some other materials. I found that I needed to press down hard with the palm of my hand and really put some weight behind it. Wiggling it back and forth across the cutting board while I was pressing also helped.


St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

I still had trouble getting all the way through with a few of my spinach leaves though (especially over the center stem), so for those I just snipped the uncut part with kitchen shears, using the indentation from the cookie cutter as a guide.


St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

If you don’t have a heart cutter either, you can cut the shapes by hand. Carefully fold a spinach leaf in half, then cut a half heart shape with the shears. I found that the spinach leaves tended to crack a little using this method, but it wasn’t noticeable on the finished plate.


St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

Next, toast half an English muffing and scramble an egg. Put the egg on the muffin, then assemble the hearts to make a shamrock as shown up above. I used a leftover spinach stem for the shamrock stem.

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit by Wendy Copley for

Finally, put a few rows of fruit on the plate to make a rainbow: strawberry, orange, mango, green grape, blueberries, then red grapes. Even better, if you have a bit of extra time before school have your kid arrange the fruit. I made three rows, but you could do more or less depending on your child’s appetite.

Now, I know some of you are reading this right now and thinking, “Are you kidding me? She just told me to buy six kinds of fruit and then used three bites of each one on the plate! This woman is cray-cray.” I get it! That would be craziness. But I’ve got you covered! While you’ve got all that fruit out, use it to make a super quick fruit salad. Chop up a bunch of the strawberries and the rest of the mango, then peel a few more of those clementines and throw them in a bowl. Add a few big handfuls of the grapes and the blueberries and give it a stir.

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast: Shamrock Eggs with Rainbow Fruit

Voila! Rainbow fruit salad! Pack some of it into a small container and throw it in your kid’s lunch box and now you are the fun mom or dad who makes a St. Patrick’s day breakfast and lunch. Woo hoo! Go you! Plus you have a healthy pre-dinner snack or something to put next to a frozen waffle or a piece of toast at breakfast tomorrow morning.

Or, you can do it the other way around. Instead of buying each type of fruit individually, grab a container of fruit salad from the grocery store deli and pull pieces of fruit out of that to make your rainbow. It will save you a few minutes in the morning and I promise your kids won’t notice if one of the colors is missing from their rainbows.

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