Monday, May 22, 2017

5 Newborn Gear Essentials

When you're having a baby, you quickly learn that babies aren't just tiny bundles of squishy joy. They come with a whole heck of a lot of equipment. Expensive equipment. Equipment that you use for a few months and then move on to something even bigger more expensive and more short term.

I remember sending out an email to all my friends with kids, asking what exactly it was I needed for said tiny squishy, did I really need a pack n play, and what kind of swaddles were best?

3 kids later, here's my best advice to gear up for a newborn.

You can live without a lot of stuff, but that equipment was developed for a reason! Its super super helpful, and even if you use it for a short time, it may be worth the investment.

Buy what you need, as you need it. No sense buying toddler equipment when you just have a newborn. As your kid grows, you'll know what you need to get!

1) Bassinet. I used the Arm's Reach Mini CoSleeper for my first two kiddos. It was great because it was small, like a bassinet, but it attached to the bed and was arranged just so, so as to be able to easily reach in and get baby for a middle of the night feeding session or three. I used a pack n play bassinet feature with my third, and it worked just fine. I breast fed and bottle fed, and I was glad to have baby in the room next to me either way.

2) Baby Carrier. I've said it before and I'll say it again! Get yourself one or two baby carriers! As you know, I had many a carrier, and I was glad I had different types for different situations. By my second kid, I was mostly only using a soft structured carrier (my beloved Tula) for convenience, but I loved the ring sling for when they were tiny or for quick carries at home. This was seriously a life saver while living overseas and trying to transport 3 little ones via public transportation!

3) Swaddles. You really only need a good swaddle blanket or two, but I also loved those swaddles that zipped up because baby couldn't wriggle out of it. Studies say you're only supposed to keep baby in the swaddle for about 4 months, but I have friends who used them longer. It really helped my active baby fall asleep.

4) Swing that also goes side to side. I had a lot of mom guilt over this one! I remember that with my active first born, this was at times the only way she would fall asleep! I remember laying, exhausted, on the couch, reading a Dr. Sears book while my baby slept peacefully in the swing. Dr. Sears was going on about the dangers of using devices for "mechanical mothering" and I burst into tears! I was SO tired! And baby was FINALLY sleeping! I let go of the guilt and decided that however we all got the most sleep was the way to go. She was not soothed by the front to back motion, only the side to side motion.

5) Fuzzy mat or blanket. I loved having somewhere to put baby and I used this for each kid frequently. It was easy to move around the house and pack for travel.

As long as I had my baby carrier, a large swaddle blanket, and a few diapers, I was good to go!

Love anything I missed? Comment and let me know what newborn gear you couldn't live without!

Friday, September 18, 2015

4 Things to Know if You Want an Unmedicated Birth

Note: This post is written for those who desire to have a natural, unmedicated birth. Its not meant to shame anyone for having their baby a different way, whether by choice or circumstance. 

This one time, my brother was born in the back of a car on the way to the hospital. And I was there for most of it. To this day I have a very vivid memory of that event and I was concerned that my births would be as quick as my mom's with my brother and I (maybe I should have my mom do a guest post and tell his birth story?).

Remember that time when Lucy was born? And then Addy? And then Jack? Their births did not happen like I thought they would, and each was as different as could be.

When I was pregnant with Lucy, I wanted a natural birth. I researched and studied birth techniques. I attended an overly informative Bradley-ish type class. I made my husband, God bless him, suffer through pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding classes. I practiced my mental calming techniques and breathing exercises. I watched, "The Business of Being Born" and other beautiful natural birth videos. I thought my birth experience would be like that.

And then I was in labor. For over 24 hours. At some point I remember thinking, "I'm done, I quit! This baby is just going to have to stay in and I'll try another day when I have more energy. Are there any stories of mothers stopping labor when they're already to the pushing stage? Maybe I'll be the first and set the record."

But I did it, I pushed that baby out without any pain medication! There were many times during my labor experience that I thought about an epidural and had I been in a hospital rather than a birth center, probably would have gotten one. My labor was long, and I was in hard labor and transition for about 10 hours with 3 1/2 hours of pushing, and I'm sure that hospital staff would have encouraged other medical interventions (i.e. pitocin, suction, c-section, etc). Later I thought, "That was really hard. But doable".

(Sidenote: I'm not against epidurals AT ALL, and am thankful they exist to help women during labor. I chose not to get one during my first birth because I was terrified of being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down (seriously, even my arm falling asleep almost sends me into a panic attack). All that to say, this isn't a judgement on those who get epidurals. Especially because when I went into labor with my third I was desperate for an epidural from the beginning, even though I was going to have a c-section! Girl, however you have that baby, you rock!)

My point is:

1) A natural, unmedicated labor and birth is hard, but doable. Women have been doing this for thousands of years, so you can do it too. (And if you need or end up choosing to have other medical interventions, they're available to you.) Its hard, it may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but you can do it.

2) If you end up with an epidural, it does not mean you're weak or a failure; there is no shame or judgement there. If you're hoping and planning for a natural, unmedicated birth, but end up having an epidural, medical interventions, or a c-section, you need to know that you're not a failure. I hear so many stories of moms who feel incredibly disappointed with their birth experience, or like they failed themselves or their baby in some way because their birth didn't turn out like they planned. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else: You. Are. Not. A. Failure. Don't put all your hopes and expectations on a certain birth experience. Think about how you will feel and respond if things don't go according to plan or if your expectations aren't met. Hold loosely the desire for a natural birth, and then embrace what actually happens.

3) Don't be afraid of the pain. Giving birth is painful, but the pain is productive. It means that your body is doing what its supposed to do,  getting ready to have your baby. Don't be afraid of it, learn how to work through it and manage it.

4) If you're serious about having an unmedicated birth, get serious about preparing yourself. Having gone through an unmedicated birth (with lots of pain), and later an unmedicated labor (hardly any pain or discomfort, so relaxed that I didn't realize I was in true labor until the very end) that ended in a c-section, I would strongly recommend that if you desire to have an unmedicated birth that you take a good labor class (like the Bradley method or Hypnobirthing) and prepare yourself for laboring. Its a little like running a marathon, and you wouldn't want to go into that without training, would you? Yes, your body will do what it needs to do, but you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared: have breathing and pain management techniques and have a support person or team around you. You can always get an epidural once you're in labor, but if you would rather not have one you will be as prepared as possible.

Giving birth is a beautiful thing, no matter how you do it! Giving birth without pain medication is difficult, but you can do it!

Have you had a natural birth experience? Have anything to add?

Linked up at the Weekend Wind-Down Linkup Party!
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Became a Mom

One of my oldest and dearest friends is pregnant with her first baby and rather than just inundate her with information, I thought I'd inundate you all. Because babies.

I really loved this series of posts from moms all over the blogosphere, and I appreciated what these moms of kids a little older than mine had to say. Hearing what other moms said made me think about what I wish I had known when I was pregnant with my first baby. Not that I'm at all an expert, obviously I'm only 3 years into this. And I really only know about parenting my own kids. I'm sure one day I'll look back on this and think, "Oh Kacie, you were so naive". But as I'm parenting my third child, I'm much more relaxed and wish I was this laid back I had just my first.

1. Get ready for a constant new normal. Not just a new normal that arrives with the arrival with a baby, but one that constantly adjusts as the baby grows. Just as you figure it out, something changes and you have to refigure it out. Adjusting isn't a one time event, its a fluid motion.

2. Having "just one" kid is hard work! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't compare yourself to others with more than one. When you have your first child you have a vertical learning curve; you're getting to know your baby and yourself as a parent. Plus, babies are A LOT of work! A whole lot of wonderful but a lot of work too, the way they rely on you for every need and prefer not to sleep as much as you'd like.

3. Its perfectly okay not to enjoy every moment, but do embrace the big picture. The days are long but the years are short as they say. It may feel like forever when you're in the thick of it, but one day you may look back and realize how quickly it has gone.

4. Its okay to not enjoy or be good at parenting every stage of childhood. Children grow. So do we. Child care workers and teachers focus on an age group that they prefer, and it makes sense that in parenting we may enjoy or be better at certain stages than others.

5. When in doubt, choose connection. Connecting with my child, getting close to her and offering her love she won't get elsewhere: that's my job as a mom. When all else fails, get down on their level, wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them.

6. I recently heard someone say, "Don't forget to parent the child you have, not the child you want." Parent towards your child's needs and love them as they are, rather than as you wish that they would be (i.e. less strong willed, smarter, not ADHD etc).

7. Remember that character is what matters in the long term. Parent for the person you want your child to be in the long term future.

8. No matter what choice you make, someone won't like it. And no matter what you choose, some mom will judge you for choosing the opposite of what they chose. Just stay calm and carry on. You can't please everyone, and when it comes to parenting your child, you know best.

9. Trust your mom instinct. Seriously, trust yourself. You're the expert on your child.

10. Two words: Self care. For me, self care is not just about getting a pedicure every few weeks or exercising regularly, but its also taking care of myself on a daily basis (like putting on lipstick, wearing earrings, getting out of yoga pants into jeans that make me feel cute). It may not be those same things for you, but find something that helps you feel like a woman on a daily basis. You may not feel like it but just trust me on this one. It makes a difference.

Have anything to add? What do you wish you had known before you became a parent?

Linked up at the Shine Blog Hop

Saturday, August 15, 2015

So About China

I wrote this post waaaay back in the day before I left for America and didn't get a chance to publish it before my trip. So its a little outdated on the stories but I wanted to share this information in case you have a burning desire to learn more about China. 

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do some exploring in the city. My brother and cousin who were visiting, the hubs, Jack, Addy, and I trekked across the city in the rain in an attempt to see some museums. In a rookie move I forgot to check the days that the museums were open and the first museum we got to was closed on Mondays. I'm so frustrated with myself, because I checked the website later and there it was, plain as day, "Closed on Mondays". In English. Probably Chinese too but I can't use the excuse that I couldn't understand what it said. Not to be discouraged, the boys were happy to find a small restaurant selling questionable meat on a stick and steamed buns.

We finally got a taxi and headed across the city yet again to check out the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Museum, full of posters from the last century, especially the Cultural Revolution. This was especially interesting to me since I just finished reading "Life and Death in Shanghai" by Nien Cheng, the autobiography of a woman who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured in the 1960s all because she had ties with the West. The book helped me understand China's recent history and gave me compassion for the Chinese people. Its hard to believe the effect that the events of that time had on an entire generation of people. Many cultural behaviors we see now (getting things through your personal connections, only looking out for yourself in public settings thus the pushing and shoving in any crowded situation, the one child policy that created a generation of "little emperors") are a result of the cultural and social upheaval of that time period. I'm no historian and perhaps thats not completely accurate but it does seem like the entire modern culture was shaped by the things that took place.

There are several other books on my list to read before I leave China. Unfortunately it can take me months to finish one book these days, as opposed to a day or two in my past (read pre-kids) life. Besides reading the amazing Lisa Snow novels, here's whats on my list:

Insepctor Chen series (by Qiu Xiaolong-I've read "A Case of Two Cities)
The Good Earth Triology (by Pearl S. Buck)
Stateless in Shanghai (by Lillian Willens)
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (by Leslie T. Chang)
Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century (by Orville Schell and John Delury)
China Airborne (by James Fallows)
The Ugly American (by Eugene Burdick)
Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love (by Xinran)
1421: The Year China Was Discovered (by Gavin Menzies)

Honorable mentions to Last Train Home and Somewhere Between documentaries.

And I'm sure there are many more, but these are a good place to start.

Have you read any of these? Have anything to add to the list? I'd love to know!

I'm back...Literally I'm back in China

Hello you poor, neglected little blog baby. My precious...

Oh wait, did I say that out loud? Well I'm pretty drugged up on a bad case of pneumonia + back-to-China blues + summer is almost over + my house full of friends and family is suddenly just full of us + whine + whine + plus a bad case of feeling sorry for myself.

We had a FANTASTIC time visiting America.

Blue skies, fresh air, driving, car seats, good food, friends, family, Disneyland.

What more can I say?

Unfortunately I didn't bring my computer and didn't get to blogging sans keyboard, thus my sadly neglected little blog. If my blog was a baby and I was its mother, I'm pretty sure social services would not be happy with me (take it from a former foster/adoption social worker).

Anyhoo, I would love to know what you've been reading this summer. Favorite blogs, books, magazines? Cuz I know you have a lot of time for leisure reading. I sure do.

This may be old news but I recently discovered this blog and am loving all her tutorials. She's my hairspiration.

I'm sure everyone in the world knows about this blog but I just discovered her and I'm obsessed. She's helping me get my mojo back.

Also helping me get my mojo back are these ladies.

I'm loving what my friend Monica is posting over at her blog about mom self care.

This summer I took an online phone photography class. I haven't had a lot of chances to practice what I learned since I usually am juggling babies and such but it was really informative and she is a fantastic photographer. She also has an online DSLR course, which I'd love to take if I had a DSLR.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

#ETHAN Project Challenge 1: Friendship

I love that we're starting the #ETHAN project (Enjoy the Here and Now) with a mom friendship challenge.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find motherhood a bit lonely. As a SAHM I'm isolated at home most of the time with my kidlets, and there are days when I don't ever go outside. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm an introvert. What that means for me is that I am energized by connecting with good friends on a deeper level rather than being out chatting up everyone I don't know at a party. Unfortunately, conversations with me while my kids are around sometimes resemble turrets syndrome (and I'm not meaning to offend anyone here).

Friend: So how are you?

Me: I'm doing well (Hey you guys stop! Off the table!). We've been busy (Hey! Don't sit on your sister! Hands out of your diaper!) We're planning to go on a trip (Hey! Where are your pants?) Maybe I should call you back.

Know what I mean?

Add to that the challenge of connecting with folks back at home via Skype or FaceTime and things just get crazy.

When my husband and I started dating, he told me about some advice he had received. Someone told him that when looking for a spouse, look to the right and to the left and find someone who is already running beside you, then run together. In my experience that can apply to friendships too. I used to try to connect with people that I met in all sorts of circumstances (church, running, college, dancing, jobs, etc.) by getting together with them one on one. Like I said, I feel most energized by getting to know someone in individual conversations rather than group settings. Now, I just can't get together for coffee dates with everyone I'd like to, so I've needed to figure out a new normal for maintaining my friendships.

This week I had an opportunity to meet a friend whose son is the same age as my middle daughter. The two of them play together really well, they're two peas in a pod. We met at an indoor playground down the street and sat and drank hot chocolate while they ran and climbed to their hearts content. (and then went home and took really long naps). It was good for my mama's hear to watch my daughter play with her little buddy. I haven't seen kids her age play so well with others, yet these two just love each other. I love that they enjoy each other so much.

And it was also good to connect with my friend, to shoot the breeze and catch up on our daily lives. It was so simple, just sitting together watching our kids play. Yet it was so needed; we each needed the encouragement of a good listener and positive voice in our lives that day. Connecting with my friend didn't need to be anything super involved or extraordinary, it just flowed naturally from what we were already planning to do that day (letting our kids play). We just did it together. 

Will you join me in this summer challenge to Enjoy the Here and Now? 

I'd love to hear about your experience with each challenge! Be sure to comment here or on Facebook by June 10 to be featured in next week's #ETHANproject post! Also check out the #ETHANproject Facebook page to follow all the great bloggers involved in this summer project!

Linked up at Grounded and Surrounded

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ex-Pat Life Series Part 5: Acculturation: What's a trashcan go to do with it?

“You know you’ve acculturated when…” is the question I recently asked on a Facebook group for ex-pats. I got a lot of fun answers:

-“You see a crumb on the floor and automatically assume its gecko poop.”
-“You smile (and mean it) when someone says, ‘You are very fat’.”
-“You never feed the monkeys.”
-“You’re conversation doesn’t stop just because the lights go out.”
-“You can bargain in another language at the market and get a good deal.”
-“Brown water from the faucet doesn’t faze you.”
-“Personal space has no meaning.”
-“Your facebook friends post in 12 languages.”

Acculturation is, the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group”. Its something that gradually sneaks up on you and surprises you with its dimming of peculiarities, its normalizing of differences.  One day you’re walking down the street and find yourself questioning the oddness of a hole and torn up sidewalk in the middle of a week day on a busy street in the rain, while vaguely recalling that the same sight a year ago would have sent you into a scathing Facebook status update.

Acculturation is a process of internal change, one of those things that takes time. The longer you live somewhere, the more you adapt and adjust to the customs and culture. Not only that, but the more open you are to new ideas and new experiences, the more flexible your attitude and more positive your outlook, the easier it will be for you to acculturate.

Of course there are always those who don’t seem to acculturate no matter how long they’ve lived overseas. And there are people who, no matter how seasoned a traveler and how optimistic, don’t seem to be able to adjust due to extenuating circumstances.

Last year after our move to China I found myself initially really frustrated by life here. (I still have my “Shang-low” days (as opposed to Shang-“high” days, get it?), but they’re getting further and farther between). There were 2 things in particular that just really irked me about living here: the size of our kitchen trash bin and trash bags, and lack of a garbage disposal. First world problems, I know I know! I knew these were little ticks on the back of world peace type problems, but they were my scapegoat for why I was frustrated. 

“I HATE not having a garbage disposal! How am I supposed to wash dishes? How can we even function like this?”

“I MISS having a large kitchen trash bin! I wish we had brought a stockpile of trash bags, these just don’t hold everything I want to throw out during the day and they always break! It’s so annoying!”

I’m ashamed to admit it now; I know how petty it sounds. Like I said, my kitchen was my scapegoat for the stress of relocation.

One day, upon taking out our kitchen trash yet again, I had an epiphany. I asked myself two questions that empowered me in a stressful situation and shifted my attitude from that day on.

What can I change?

In this situation, I had control! I could find a new, larger trashcan and trash bags, adventure though it may be. I could ask people from the U.S. to bring me trash bags when they visited (er…awkward!). I could find a better garbage situation. Its my kitchen and my trash after all! I could change things if I didn’t like how they were done! I may not be able to change things outside of the walls of my home, but there are things I could change behind them.

What do I need to accept?

There was no way I was going to convince my landlord to install a garbage disposal, really I don’t even know if that’s a thing here. So rather than get frustrated every single time I went to wash a dish (and lets be honest, its not that often), I could choose to accept it and move on. I could learn to do dishes differently. I know that in many countries its not the norm to have garbage disposals and many homes in the States don’t have them, so really this was a luxury that I could easily learn to live without.

These are two SMALL, miniscule even, examples of things to which I needed to adapt. Like I said, I know how petty these things are, and there are things happening in the world that are so SO much worse. In no way do I feel entitled to having a large trash bin or garbage disposal, they were just silly things about my previous lifestyle that required an adjustment.

When moving, especially internationally, sometimes it’s the little things that help make the adjustment just that much easier. Its empowering to take a reality check of your life to determine what is actually in your control, and what is out of your control but you have to live with anyway.

Whether you’re living overseas or in your passport country, the next time you find yourself frustrated by your circumstances, ask yourself what you can change and what you can accept, and watch how your attitude shifts. Hopefully for the better. 

And hopefully you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen sink.

Lived overseas? What bugged you initially and how did you cope?
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