December 17, 2006

Faster and Faster

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:12 am by emmasmom

Emma’s vocabulary is growing so quickly now! I’m constantly amazed and proud of how many words she can say/communicate to us.

Words she can say: Mama, Dada, Papa, hi, bye-bye, uh-oh, dog, baba (bottle), bird, baby (bird and baby were learned in the past 2 days!) thank you (sounds like “tah-ooo”), I love you (sounds like “ahboo”) 

Words or meanings she can communicate: dog (she barks), fish (she opens and closes her mouth mimicking a fish. This can mean the animal fish or Gold*fish crackers), thirsty (smacks her lips together), “cheers!” (she holds out her cup to you), “drink my drink, please” (she holds out her cup and smacks her lips together as if drinking), hungry (obviously, every babe has a way to communicate this!), sleepy (she sometimes will say “nigh” for night-night, but usually lays her head on a pillow or on your lap), “turn the music on!” (she points to the radio and dances). I know there are a million other things she communicates to us on a daily basis, but that’s all I can think of now. I’ll just keep adding them as I remember them or as they come about.

I can’t believe that in 4 short weeks we’ll discover who this child is that I’m carrying. We’ve narrowed down the names to Elijah Gabriel and Savannah Emily or Savannah Kaleigh (or Kaylee, depending on if Jared gets his way with spelling). I’m sure we’ll change our minds again before this little one enters the outside world, which is strange because with Emma we knew immediately what her name would be; Emma Grace was our favorite name and we chose it before we conceived her. It’s such a strange feeling to stand back and realize that we don’t know anything about this child other than how much we love him or her.

****Back after a little break****

Today has been a trying day for the entire family. I’ve been out of sorts since waking up with a head/neck/backache and a major knot in my shoulder. I’m also seriously overwhelmed tonight at the thought of going through another pregnancy, labor and delivery and the first few months with a newborn. My c-section with Emma was terrible and we’ll try like mad to avoid another one. We’ll be using hypnobirthing again (it worked wonders for pain last time – no meds needed for the 8 hours I labored!) and Nina will let me go until 42 weeks before we even discuss induction. I dread the evil pitocin!!!

That’s enough negative thoughts for tonight. I’m going to see if Jared has gotten Em to sleep yet so we can pop some popcorn and watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I think this is only the 3rd movie we’ve seen since before Emma was born. Holy crow, we need some couple time.

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December 15, 2006

Ugly Xmas Sweater Fun

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:45 am by emmasmom

Today, it started.

Erin and I went shopping for materials to construct our Ugly Christmas Sweaters for the party on Sunday. I’m using an old red sweater of Jared’s as my base and so many awesome bits and pieces of xmas doodads and thingamajigs that I’m sure to win the coveted trophy for “Most Ugly Christmas Sweater of 2006”. Around the cuffs are hand sewed white faux fur taken from old stockings, around the bottom is gold garland, and in the center is an xmas tree made with real pine! Okay, it’s the fake stuff you use to wrap around the pole of a fake tree to fill in the gaps, but it looks real is so super 3-D that I can barely stand it! I’ve sewn a gold star (also taken from a stocking) and plan on salvaging as many odds and ends from Mom’s house tomorrow as possible.

Phew! This little mama is ready to zonk out. Tomorrow will be filled with a midwife appointment, a trip to the mall for Emma to see the official Santa for the first time, xmas card making and more Ugly Sweater decorating. I can’t wait to hear Bean’s heartbeat again and set up our appointment for the big sonogram!!!

December 13, 2006

Core Beliefs

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:17 pm by emmasmom

 

What is Attachment Parenting?

by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

Attachment parenting, to put it most simply, is believing what we know in our heart to be true. And if we do that, we find that we trust the child. We trust him in these ways:

  • We trust that he is doing the very best he can at every given moment, given all of his experiences up to that time.
     
  • We trust that though he may be small in size, he is as fully human as we are, and as deserving as we are to have his needs taken seriously.
     
  • We trust that he has been born innocent, loving, and trusting. We do not need to “turn him around”, to teach him that life is difficult, or train him to be a loving human being – he is that at birth and all we need to do is celebrate that, and support and sustain it.
     
  • We don’t have to give him lessons about life – life brings its own lessons and its own frustrations.
     
  • We recognize that in a very beautiful way, our child teaches us – if we listen – what love is.1
     
  • We understand that if a child “misbehaves”, instead of reacting to the behavior, we should always examine what has been taking place in his life: what stresses, frustrations or frightening, confusing, or difficult situations he has just experienced. We also need to examine whether we have brought about any of these experiences, intentionally or not. It is our job to be responsive parents, meeting the needs of our child; it is not the child’s job to meet our needs for a quiet and perfectly well-behaved child.
     
  • We understand that It is unfair and unrealistic to expect a child to behave perfectly at all times; after all, no adult can do this either. Yet behind all punishment is the unstated expectation that a child can and should behave perfectly at all times; there is no leeway.
     
  • We see that so-called “bad behavior” is in reality nothing more than the child’s attempt to communicate an important need in the best way he can, given the present circumstances and all of his prior experience. “Misbehavior” is a signal to us that important needs are not being met. – by us or by others in the child’s life. We should not ignore that behavior any more than we should ignore the sound of a smoke detector. We should instead see “bad behavior” as an opportunity – an opportunity to reevaluate our own behavior, to learn about our child’s needs, and to meet those needs in the best way possible.

As Albert Einstein wrote, “Behind every difficulty lies an opportunity.” This is true in general, but it is profoundly true in parenting. For example, if a child chases a ball into the road, that is an opportunity to teach him safety measures by practicing for similar situations in the future. The parent could ask the child to purposely throw the ball into the road, then come to the parent and report the situation. In this way, the real lesson can be learned: it is the parent who needs to spend more time teaching safety, not the child who should somehow have known this information, and obviously does not yet know. Punishment is the most damaging response: it is unfair, upsetting, and confusing, and distracts the child from the learning that needs to take place. Instead we should give gentle, respectful instruction at the time the behavior occurs – this is exactly when the child can relate it to his life. In this way the best learning can take place.

Through attachment parenting, children learn to trust themselves, understand themselves, and eventually will be able to use their time as adults in a meaningful and creative way, rather than spending it in an attempt to deal with past childhood hurts, in a way that hurts themselves or others. If an adult has no need to deal with the past, he can live fully in the present.

As the Golden Rule suggests, attachment parenting is parenting the child the way we wish we had been treated in childhood, the way we wish we were treated by everyone now, and the way we want our grandchildren to be treated. With attachment parenting, we are giving an example of love and trust.

Our children deserve to learn what compassion is, and they learn that most of all by our example. If our children do not learn compassion from us, when will they learn it? The bottom line is that all children behave as well as they are treated – by their parents and by everyone else in their life.

Dr. Elliott Barker is a Canadian psychiatrist and the Director of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children. He describes attachment parenting as having these two facets:

  • Being willing and able to put yourself in your child’s shoes in order to correctly identify his/her feelings.
  • Being willing and able to behave toward your child in ways which take those feelings into account.

In short, attachment parenting is loving and trusting our children. If we can do that, they will be able to trust us and in turn, trust others and be trustworthy persons themselves. The educator John Holt once said that everything he wrote could be summed up in two words: “trust children”. This is the most precious gift we can give as parents.

Crying It Out

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:12 pm by emmasmom

Harvard Researchers Say Children Need

Touching and Attention


by Alvin Powell,
Contributing Writer, Harvard Gazette

America’s “let them cry” attitude toward children may lead to more fears and tears among adults, according to two Harvard Medical School researchers.Instead of letting infants cry, American parents should keep their babies close, console them when they cry, and bring them to bed with them, where they’ll feel safe, according to Michael Commons and Patrice Miller, researchers at the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.The pair examined child-rearing practices here and in other cultures and say the widespread American practice of putting babies in separate beds – even separate rooms – and not responding to their cries may lead to more incidents of post-traumatic stress and panic disorders among American adults.The early stress due to separation causes changes in infant brains that makes future adults more susceptible to stress in their lives, say Commons and Miller.

“Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently,” Commons said. “It changes the nervous system so they’re sensitive to future trauma.”

Their work is unique because it takes a cross-disciplinary approach, examining brain function, emotional learning in infants, and cultural differences, according to Charles R. Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute at Florida State University and editor of The Journal of Traumatology.

“It is very unusual but extremely important to find this kind of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research report,” Figley said. “It accounts for cross-cultural differences in children’s emotional response and their ability to cope with stress, including traumatic stress.”

Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently. It changes the nervous system so they’re sensitive to future trauma.

– Dr. Michael Commons,
Dept of Psychiatry, Harvard

Figley said their work illuminates a route of further study and could have implications for everything from parents’ efforts to intellectually stimulate infants to painful practices such as circumcision.Commons has been a lecturer and research associate at the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry since 1987 and is a member of the Department’s Program in Psychiatry and the Law.Miller has been a research associate at Harvard Medical School’s Program in Psychiatry and the Law since 1994 and an assistant professor of psychology at Salem State College since 1993. She received master’s and doctorate degrees in education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The pair say that American child-rearing practices are influenced by fears that children will grow up dependent. But parents are on the wrong track. Physical contact and reassurance will make children more secure when they finally head out on their own and make them better able to form their own adult relationships.

“We’ve stressed independence so much that it’s having some very negative side effects,” Miller said.

The two gained the spotlight in February when they presented their ideas at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

In a paper presented at the meeting, Commons and Miller contrasted American child-rearing practices with those of other cultures, particularly the Gusii tribe of Kenya. Gusii mothers sleep with their babies and respond rapidly when the baby cries.

“Gusii mothers watching videotapes of U.S. mothers were upset by how long it took these mothers to respond to infant crying,” Commons and Miller said in their paper on the subject.

The way we are brought up colors our entire society, Commons and Miller say. Americans in general don’t like to be touched and pride themselves on independence to the point of isolation, even when undergoing a difficult or stressful time.

Despite the conventional wisdom that babies should learn to be alone, Miller said she believes many parents “cheat,” keeping the baby in the room with them, at least initially. In addition, once the child can crawl around, she believes many find their way into their parents’ room on their own.

American parents shouldn’t worry about this behavior or be afraid to baby their babies, Commons and Miller said. Parents should feel free to sleep with their infant children, to keep their toddlers nearby, perhaps on a mattress in the same room, and to comfort a baby when it cries.

“There are ways to grow up and be independent without putting babies through this trauma,” Commons said. “My advice is to keep the kids secure so they can grow up and take some risks.”

Besides fears of dependence, other factors have helped form our childrearing practices, including fears that children would interfere with sex if they shared their parents’ room and doctors’ concerns that a baby would be injured by a parent rolling on it if it shared their bed, the pair said. The nation’s growing wealth has helped the trend toward separation by giving families the means to buy larger homes with separate rooms for children.

The result, Commons and Miller said, is a nation that doesn’t like caring for its own children, a violent nation marked by loose, nonphysical relationships.

“I think there’s a real resistance in this culture to caring for children,” Commons said. “Punishment and abandonment has never been a good way to get warm, caring, independent people.”

Jared and I have never been comfortable with letting Emma “cry-it-out” at bedtime or naptimes, and instead have always allowed her to fall asleep safe in our arms. I nursed her to sleep for each and every bedtime and nap until she was about 9 months old, and then rocked or cuddled her to sleep up until now. I don’t plan on doing things any differently in the future, with Em or with Little Bean.

A lot of our family members have opposing viewpoints to this, as well as to every other issue concerning childcare and upbringing. This weekend while at Jared’s childhood home his grandmother (whom I love dearly) brought up the fact that she thinks we’re W-E-I-R-D for never making Emma sit in a playpen and making her entertain herself. (She actually spelled it out like that, to my great amusement). G-ma argued with us that her kids were always made to play in one of those cage-things (my term, not hers) and that they all turned out fine. I rolled my eyes a great deal and bit my tongue and calmly told myself that trying to talk about attachment parenting to the crowd of Jared’s relatives would be like trying to swap personal accounts of great sex with priests and nuns. But, BOY, did I ever let loose when we were safely 450 miles away from the “tough love” family. Thankfully, despite his upbringing, Jared is in full agreement with me that children learn and grow best with loving, nurturing, empathetic parents. He’s the best daddy I’ve ever known and I’m so thankful that our children have him. Obviously, I’m thankful that I have him as well; he successfully backs me up when well-meaning family and friends attempt to tell us we’re doing things wrong by not using “tough love” methods in our childrearing.

We don’t let Emma cry it out. We hold her until she’s asleep, and occaisonally we bring her into our bed to sleep (although she sleeps longer and more soundly in her own comfy, soft crib surrounding by her music and homemade blankets). We don’t push her to eat what and when we want her to, but allow her to discover her own likes and dislikes. We’ve never made her entertain herself within a 2′ by 3′ box. We let her explore her home and her world to her hearts content, because we’re secure in the knowledge that we’ve set up safe boundaries for her. Sure, our house may be baby-proofed to the point of ugliness, and our living room is lacking all cute or decorative breakables, and…yeah…every room is littered with toys and books, but that’s all okay with us. Unfortunately for us it’s not okay with some of our family members. It’s difficult to always feel like we have to defend ourselves but worth it when I think of the great start we’re giving our daughter.

A family member once commented “I don’t understand why you let Emma run your lives. You should make her live on your schedule, not the other way around. After all, she’s a kid and you’re the parent”. Yes, I’m her parent. Exactly. Which, to me, means that it’s my responsibility and my priviledge to show her as much respect as love. I think that every parent can agree that children need love, but a vast majority of parents that I know (not any of my friends, thank goodness) think that children must earn respect and must bow down in obedience to every whim of their parent. It is my greatest desire to show Emma that we’ve respected her since conception; that we’ve respected her body, her spirit, and her independent mind.

As easy as that was to write in a personal journal, it’s almost impossible to say outloud to family. But I know that there will come a time when it will have to be said. If Bean is a boy, we’ll have to defend our decision never to circumsize our sons, which I know will be an all-out war with some family members (thankfully we’re the only ones who have a say in it!!). I’m not looking forward to any conflict with our dear family members, but it sort of feels like the time is coming to speak up for ourselves and our beliefs towards raising our children.

December 12, 2006

New Journal

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:47 pm by emmasmom

I’ve had this journal sitting here unused/unwritten in since March of 2006 and figured that since I’ve deleted the other journals I needed a new place to write.

 Life has gotten oh so busy that I haven’t had the time to stop and write anything down. I’m in my 14th week of pregnancy and anxiously awaiting our big sonogram in January to discover the gender of Little Bean. I think we’ve come up with some names that we both agree on (which was easier than I thought!!).

Top contender for a son: Elijah Gabriel (ooooh, how I love the name Elijah!).

Top contender for another daughter: Savannah (fill in a middle name). I love the names Maggie (after my Mom, Mary Margaret) and Avery (I taught a little girl with this name back in Fredonia). I’m not sure Jared is thrilled with Maggie but it’s a sentimental name and adorable. Not too sure how well it goes with Savannaht though. Other possible middle names for Savannah include: Hannah, Anna, Banana, and Montana. (Yes, good god, I’m joking. Sort of).

We just returned from a weekend trip to Long Island where we visited Emma’s Noni, Poppi, Aunts Erica and Katelin and cousin Arynn as well as a slew of relatives and friends. We had a fantastic time but it was too short of a visit and the drive was horrendous. I threw up the entire way there (12 hours on the road thanks to many stops and NYC rush hour traffic on a Friday – nice planning by us, huh?) but was better on the way home thanks to much sleep and a sausage biscuit sandwhich from McShouldn’tEatThereButHadToOnTheRoad. When Aunt Claudia sends us pictures I’ll post a bunch from our trip.

Emmie is sleeping so I better jump in the shower and attempt to get dressed today. I wore pj’s to Kindermusik this morning and am really using the whole “I’m pregnant with a toddler” excuse way too much lately to defend my lack of actual outfits. Speaking of outfits, I have to get a shopping trip together with Erin to scout out the tackiest Christmas sweaters in WNY for our first annual Ugly Chrismas Sweater party. Which coincides with our always annual Women of the Russ Family Make Christmas Cookies Party. My mother, her sisters (known as the collective group “The Aunts”), my sisters and cousin Erin and I get together every year and make a bunch of different cookies while listening to holiday music and usually dancing funky steps while the babies run around hopped up on confectioners sugar icing. We make dozens and dozens of my Gram’s sour cream anise cookies and every year I shed a tear over the original recipe that she wrote down, because my name is doodled at the top. My mother took that as a sign that Gram wanted me to have the paper, and it is locked away safely in our fire proof safe as one of my most cherished possessions, only coming out for the cookie party.

Okay, now that the rambling is finished I can hear Miss E rolling around in her crib and I guess the shower has to be a fast one. More to update on later!