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How Much Stuff Do We Really Need?

February 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Julie Davidson

by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

You know how when you go on a trip, you pack what you need, what you think you need, and then anything else that fits in your luggage?

Packing for your stay at the hospital is a little different than packing for a tropical island getaway. You’ll kinda’ sorta’ be on an island. One where only new parents and tiny babies are allowed. No drinks with fancy umbrellas in them, but there’ll be plenty of cups filled to the rim with ice chips.

I packed for three days, never realizing I’d stay for four. There’s something so unappealing about the drab hospital gowns, so it makes sense if you want to take your own comfy pj’s. But you may not actually get a chance to wear them. Think about all the photos you see with moms holding their newborns. Notice any stylish stuff from Victoria’s Secret? Nope. It’s usually that faded blueish-gray cotton getup the hospital provides.

Makeup? With waves of happy tears coming every few hours, it’ll just run. What’s worse? Going without makeup or looking like you got socked in both eyes? And your baby is so not concerned with whether or not you’re wearing lipstick. Or Chanel Number 5. Or blingy earrings.

Take the curling iron if you feel like it, but with your hormones slightly out of whack, you’ll be sporting occasional beads of sweat. That equals a few days of not-so-great hair. Barrettes, scrunchies, and gobs of hair gel may do the trick. Or do nothing, and use post-delivery as an excuse to go au natural. Who’d dare tell a new mom she looks bad?

And really, who doesn’t love picking out baby outfits? We are total suckers for anything that’s made for anyone who weighs less than 10 pounds. Picking out the outfits for the baby was like dressing a rock star. Is blue too predictable? Should I put that matching hat on his head? Is a plain outfit okay, or will he like a print?

I had brought a few different outfits, but every one of them swallowed him. It took easily half an hour to choose three different baby blankets to take to the hospital. In the end, I begged the staff to let me take him home in the one he was swaddled in at the hospital. The one with thinning fabric and faded colors that had undoubtedly been worn by hundreds of babies before him.

It seems like you never really know the exact amount to take. It’s a lot like how we live our lives: what we need, what we think we need, and anything else that fits.

What Is Normal Language Development?

February 18, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD

Once we as parents establish that our child is healthy, our next worry relates to our child’s normal development.

We carefully examine the pediatrician’s growth charts, exclaim with joy at the first smile, and call the grandparents when our child takes her first step.

Of course there is a broad spectrum of normal. In the case of my own three children, for example, first steps were taken at 11, 12, and 14 months.

Language development also represents a series of major milestones. And again, although there’s still a definite spectrum of normal, it’s reasonable for parents to have a general idea of when certain language gains should appear, in order to look into possible interventions, if necessary.

Most children begin vocalizations with “babbling.” This occurs at around four to six months of age. They tend to make many repetitive sounds, like “baba,” “mama,” and “dada.” Interestingly, these first sounds are consistent no matter what language is spoken in the home.

By 7 to 12 months, many children are able to form a few one- and two-syllable words, such as “no” or “car” and can ask for each parent by name with “mama” and “dada.”

At 12 to 15 months, children produce many different sounds in their language attempts and imitate sounds said to them by family members. They can also understand and follow simple one-step directions: “Give me the toy.”

By the age of two, children can have up to 50 words in their repertoire and start to put simple words together: “Want cookie.” They can name body parts and familiar objects. They can also follow two-step commands. Their diction may not always be intelligible, particularly to people who aren’t with them regularly. I distinctly remember having to interpret what my children were trying to say when my mother was visiting from out of town.

There is no definite cause for alarm if your child is not verbalizing this much by age two, because some children are better able to communicate their needs through gestures.

Between the ages of two and three, parents often witness a major expansion in their child’s speech. They begin to form simple sentences, can identify colors, and understand descriptive concepts (big versus little). Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 75 percent of their child’s speech by age three.

Is there anything that we as parents can do to enhance our child’s language development? Well, as you might imagine, the best way for a child to learn to speak is to hear speech around them. There is actually data for this. Many studies have demonstrated that children who are spoken to the most develop the greatest “lexical diversity,” have the broadest receptive and expressive vocabularies, and the quickest cognitive development compared with those children who were spoken to the least.

So, in the absence of an underlying language disorder, good parenting is the key to creating a well-spoken child. Spend time with your child. Read to her, play with her, and involve her in whatever you’re doing!

Over the Moon, Baby

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Julie Davidson

by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

Add this to the list of “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Okay, so most of us have heard of whooping it up for out-of-town bachelorette parties, destination weddings, and honeymoons. And if you were lucky, you convinced your parents to let you pack the family van full of underage high-school girlfriends and head to Florida for spring break. And now there are babymoons! No, not moons in the shape of an infant. Nope. Babymoons are getaways that expecting couples take for some R&R and pampering. Sort of like one last trip without kids underfoot.

I’ll bet you can think of a million reasons not to take a babymoon. For starters, the cost. Hate to break it to you, but as soon as you decide to have kids, you take an oath of poverty. Maybe you won’t be broke, but kids (with the exception of Justin Beiber, Honey Boo Boo, and any of the Kardashian clan) won’t make you richer.

Or maybe you don’t think you can afford the time away. Once you add kids to the mix, you always have a time deficit. Parents are constantly blowing things off to squeeze something else in. Just think of a babymoon as your first attempt to test your time-squeezing skills.

So it could come down to the fact that you don’t want to be far from your doctor. Totally understandable. But lots of cities have lots of doctors. Granted, hearing the simultaneous high-pitched ring of slot machines in Vegas or a live Mariachi band tableside in Guadalajara during your first trimester doesn’t sound all that appealing. But what’s to say you have to go far away? The idea is to go somewhere and just enjoy each other. Like on your honeymoon. Unless you had a major spat in the hotel lobby—then not like the honeymoon.

And there’s the guilt-ridden who won’t take a trip because it seems too self-indulgent. Run the numbers. One kid alone could easily have you changing more than 3,000 diapers (don’t dispute it, I’m trying to help you here), missing more than 100 hours of sleep, and driving more than 10,000 miles before they turn 18. Still feel guilty?

No worries. You will still take trips once your baby arrives. To Wal-Mart, the grocery store, the pediatrician, the park, playgroup, any drive-thru you can find, the zoo, the bouncy house, and day care. Sure, you’ll be able to take a trip without kids again. Just as soon as they turn 18. And you’re done paying for their braces. And the house. And out of state college tuition. And the van that broke down on their trip to Florida for spring break. Your bags are packed, right?

Say Cheese

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Julie Davidson

by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilara. Celebrities are just like us, right? Okay, they’re all women. And they’ve all had babies. And they all posed nude while pregnant. So much for the list of similarities.

No one asked me to pose nude when I was pregnant. I’m not pregnant now, but sadly, I have a belly. So where’s the sexy? Who took the sexy? Now take a look at a semi-naked pregnant woman. I mean if the occasion presents itself. There’s something striking and sexy about it. Okay, maybe it’s just the fact that she isn’t wearing any clothes. Or maybe it’s because it’s not the kind of naked like on a naughty website kind of naked.

It could be the attitude that makes it easier to be photographed without clothes on. I don’t know where it comes from, but it seems like you have a boost in confidence when you get pregnant. It starts out like Ahhh yes, I’m going to be somebody’s mom. By the eighth month, it feels a bit more like, Yeah, I’m gonna be a mom, and you’re not the boss of me!

Of course it’s entirely possible that women bare their bods when they’re expecting because it’s virtually the only time you can get away with it. It’s no big secret that pregnant women get a pass on things. From opening doors to giving up good seats, people tend to dote on women who are obviously pregnant. So perhaps the thinking is She’s carrying a baby—give her what she wants.

There’s also the possibility that hormones make you do it. Oh please, we blame everything from PMS to poor diet to menopause on them, so why not bare belly shots too? It would be totally acceptable to credit your hormones for keeping you in a perpetual state of euphoria. Those little buggers might very well be in there telling you that you can and should do anything.

I bet if you ask anyone who’s had kids if they struck a nudie preggers pose in front of their mirror fresh after a shower, they’d say yes. We’re women. We turn our feet almost full circle in the mirror when we try on shoes! It’s part of our routine to look at our boobs, butts, and bellies. Being pregnant gives us that much more of them to look at.

And really, no worries if People magazine doesn’t ask you to pose for them. There’re lots of people who’ll see you naked during delivery.

Go the F*#@ to Sleep

January 17, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Cheryl Wu, MD

My son, like most children his age, makes delaying going to bed an Olympic event. He’s persistent, untiring, incredibly creative, and keeps the prize squarely in his mind’s eye: going to sleep as late as humanly possible. He will delay everything. He will beg to play downstairs a little while longer. He will make sure to stack his train tracks just SO when it’s time to clean up. He will take forever to go upstairs (he is likely the inventor of the world’s most varied footsteps climbing a 26-step staircase). He will find every excuse to not go in the bath (it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s not enough water, it’s too much water, he needs two washcloths, he needs more bath salt). He’ll run around naked after his bath. He’ll pick out four books to read and insist on reading them in a certain order. Then after lights out, he’ll ask me to tell him more stories. Then when I tell him (often repeatedly) that he needs to go to sleep, he tells me, “Mommy, it’s so hard to go to sleep!” as he gets into various yoga headstand positions. Koi, in short, embodies the opposite of sleep. The bedtime routine works out beautifully in my household—he knows EXACTLY what comes next, so he knows that he can delay bedtime by a significant amount of time if he delays each step just enough to not get him in trouble.

So the other night, after I finally got Koi to turn off the lights (I’m not allowed to turn off the lights in my own house), after reading him two books, one of them twice, he begged me to tell him a story. Now, when I tell my son stories, he imagines himself right into them; he tells Goldilocks to not break the chair, Cinderella to run fast when the clock strikes 12 (in my version, when she gets to the castle, she decides marriage is not for her and enrolls instead in grad school to get her PhD), and the Ugly Duckling that he’s beautiful on the inside. It’s really pretty endearing. It’s the development of a human mind and its vast capacity for imagination, blossoming before my very eyes. I know I need to nurture that, but not at freaking 10 to 9.

So that night, I said to Koi, “What story do you want to hear?” He, of course, didn’t miss a beat; “What stories do you have?” I said, “Well, the only story I have is a boring one—you get that or nothing.” He thought about it and decided that a boring story is better than none at all. So I started telling him this entirely made-up story:

“A mouse was really, really hungry, and he’s craving rice. He found this enormous warehouse full of grains of rice. He was super excited and got to work. He went into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile.”

After about the sixth repeat, Koi exclaimed somewhat giddily, “Wow, that’s a lot of rice!” I said, “Yeah, this mouse was really, really hungry. So…he went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went right back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile.”

Koi stopped me again, “It’s the same thing over and over, Mom!” I said, “Well, there’s a LOT of rice in the big warehouse. So he went back into the house, took a grain of rice…” Koi interrupted me again, “Mommy I think the owner just came back, and he’s really mad when he saw the mouse, and yelled, ‘Why are you stealing my rice?’”

I said, “No, the owner’s on a month-long sabbatical in Europe with his family. He just left two days ago, so he won’t be back for another 28 days. So the mouse went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back…”

Koi stopped me yet again (I mean, can a mom finish telling a story around here?), and said, “Mommy, there are all these people walking by, and they can see the mouse taking the rice!” I said, “Nah, this little mouse is pretty smart—he made sure to use the side door, and the pile was out back, so there are very few people walking around, and they can’t see him anyway because it’s getting dark. So…the little mouse went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back in the house, took a grain of…”

Koi was now yelling, “Mom! This is so boring! Why does he need so much rice? The pile must be so big now!” I said, “Well, you wanted to hear a story; winter’s coming up, so he needs to store up a lot of rice. And besides, grains of rice are so small that it’s not that big a pile yet. Wait, let me tell you what happens next: the mouse went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. THEN, [acting like it was a turning point in the story] he went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it….”

Koi started to beg, “Mommy don’t you have ANOTHER story? What about the Big Bad Wolf? Isn’t he hungry? He’s gonna come and eat the mouse!” I said, “No, he just had Little Red Riding Hood at grandma’s house—he’s good for a while, man. So the mouse went back in the house, took another grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile…”

At this point, Koi finally gave up and groaned. “I don’t want to hear about the mouse anymore!” I said, “Oh, so you want to go to sleep now?” “But it’s so haaaaarrrrd to go to sleep!!! [extreme whining]” “Ok, so the mouse went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside…” “Ok Mommy, I’ll go to sleep now.”

Score: Mom. I actually did a victory dance in my head.

Advice to parents—you can use this story, or any variation thereof, if you have one of these children. Basically, find a super-boring story line, and repeat the same four lines over and over and over again. Set it up so it makes sense that you’re repeating the same four lines: scooping water from the ocean with a spoon works well, as does counting blades of grass on a mountain. Make it with a bit of rhythm, so at least it’s fun for you to say.

Now, if you know how to get my kid in the bathtub in under a minute, please let me know. Til next time, everyone.

Dyslexia: Not Just “Backward Letters”

January 16, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Ann Weiland, MD

One of the most exciting and scary times in a parent’s life is their child’s first day of school. We worry how our child will react and wonder, Will she be happy? Will she make friends? Will she enjoy learning?

It’s a transition time for parents as well. For the first time, we relinquish to another adult the responsibility of teaching our child. We think to ourselves, Will the teacher be kind? Will she model our family values? And most important, Will she bring out my child’s academic potential?

We inspect our child’s papers and homework and compare them with their peers when we volunteer in the classroom. We analyze every scrap of paper we’re presented at teacher conferences, and we listen anxiously to the teacher’s interpretation of our child’s progress.

We want to make sure that things are progressing normally. We don’t want to be overbearing, but deep down, we’ll do anything we can to keep our child from falling behind.

I will never forget, for example, a piece of paper that my daughter Abby brought home several months after starting kindergarten. It was a note she’d written herself with her new friend Tiffany’s phone number. She wanted me to arrange a play date. I remember how proud Abby was at taking the initiative, and how she was literally bouncing up and down begging me to immediately put a call in to Tiffany’s mother.

I remember looking down at the crumpled lined paper, and the blood suddenly draining from my face. All of the numbers were backward! Oh my God! I thought immediately, my child has dyslexia!

Equating backward letters and numbers with a diagnosis of dyslexia is a common misconception. In point of fact, graphic reversals are actually a normal stage in the learning process.

Think about it, what are letters and numbers anyway, but little combinations of lines, curves, and circles? Up until this point in a young child’s life, children have learned that there are many ways to draw things. A triangle has three points, no matter how long each side is. A stick figure is still a person, whether the arms go up or down.

What is a “d” anyway, but a line and a circle stuck together. Why should it matter what side the circle is on? Of course it does matter, and most children do eventually learn to make the important b/d distinction.

Now, this is not to say that dyslexia doesn’t exist. In fact, a true diagnosis of dyslexia is estimated to be present in up to 20 percent of children, or one in five! Signs of dyslexia can be identified at a very early age, even in the preschool years.

Okay, so what is dyslexia anyway? Well, technically speaking, dyslexia is a problem that both children and adults can have with a process called phonemic awareness. So what the heck does that mean?

Phonemic awareness is the process by which a person’s brain converts the squiggles and lines of writing into sounds. This ability is a very complex process, but because it occurs so seamlessly and effortlessly in most of us (at least 80 percent), it’s difficult to believe that anyone could have a problem with it at all.

A dyslexic child’s difficulty with phonemic awareness may manifest with other language problems as well.

For example, some dyslexic children may have experienced a delay in speaking. Children normally say their first words at about one year, followed by phrases by 18 months to two years. In contrast, children with dyslexia may not begin saying their first words until 15 months and may not speak in phrases until after their second birthday.

They may have persistent pronunciation problems, with baby talk continuing past the usual time. They may leave off the beginning sounds of words—“lephant” for “elephant,” or they may invert sounds within a word—“aminal” for “animal.”

Another interesting feature is that dyslexic children can be insensitive to rhymes and rhythms and have difficulty recognizing or reciting rhyming words. They may have difficulty using complex words to describe objects and instead use generic terms such as “stuff” or “things” to compensate for an inability to retrieve the proper words.

When dyslexic children reach school age, they may demonstrate difficulty reading common, one-syllable words, such as “bat,” “top,” or “dog.” They rely heavily on non-word clues in picture books. For example, in a book about driving to school, a dyslexic child may read the word “automobile” as simply “car.”

Dyslexic children can have difficulty with sounding out unknown words and have poor spelling and handwriting. Their reading is choppy and labored, and they demonstrate poor reading comprehension. This isn’t due to a lack of intelligence (in fact, many dyslexics have above average to even gifted IQ’s). Rather, the dyslexic child just gets so muddled in his attempts to interpret the sounds of words that their meaning just becomes lost in the shuffle.

Most elementary schools have now instituted tests screening for a child’s phonemic awareness abilities. These include the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). These tests measure particular reading skills, including reading speed, the ability to read nonsense words, and comprehension.

While the DIBELS and the DRA cannot diagnose dyslexia in and of themselves, abnormal findings may offer an indication to more comprehensive testing.

In summary, number and letter reversals by themselves don’t represent a diagnosis of dyslexia and are actually a normal part of the learning process. True dyslexia, on the other hand, is a complex problem where children have difficulties with language in general, which can lead to progressive reading and writing difficulties.

Effective approaches to teaching dyslexic children are available. It’s essential for both parents and educators to recognize the features of dyslexia early on, in order to initiate specific phonemic-based therapies.

Dyslexic children have major potential for success, and we owe it to them to put them on the right path!

Life Gets Blurry

July 30, 2011 by  
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by Julie Davidson

When the boys were babies, I recall having a bathing schedule. I think we bathed them three or four times a week. Somewhere between them being two and seven years old, we kinda got soft on that schedule. I’m not proud of that—just being honest.

They love taking baths ’cause they like to play in the tub and sit in there forever. That’s exactly why we prefer them to take showers. But it’s like pulling teeth to get them to shower. About a month ago, the boys had a friend over after soccer practice. When his mom came to pick him up I told Max it was time to shower, and he defiantly replied, “Again? I just took a shower two weeks ago!” I didn’t even want to look the other mother in the face. Yeah, time to get back to that schedule.

Earlier this week when Max begged to take a bath, I let him. We’d been on vacation, and there was a good chance he’d picked up a fair amount of dirt between here and the Grand Canyon. No sooner did he hop in the tub then we could hear him swishing that water around. My husband told him to keep the water in the tub. More swishing.

“What are you doing in there?” I yelled from the other room.

“I’m getting cleaned up,” he said.

Later that night, my I could hear my husband grumble from the bathroom. The kind of grumble that tells me to brace myself for bad news. Water (murky water) was backed up in the tub. He’s not a plumber, but he knew immediately that something must have gone down the drain. He tried Drano. Didn’t work. He tried to snake the drain. Nope. Then he tried talking to the kid. He asked Max what he did with the washcloth he used. Max said he wasn’t sure. That answer didn’t change much over the next 24 hours. Neither did the standing water in the tub.

Finally, I asked Max if he put the washcloth down the drain. He looked and me and said, “I don’t know. Maybe, but I can’t be sure because Dad put bubbles in the water for me. Things were kinda blurry.”

I could tell he was being honest. And I really love the “blurry” part. How many times have we come across situations in life when things aren’t clear? Marriage. Going back to school. Buying a home. Taking a new job. Dealing with health issues. The list is practically endless. Who knows. Maybe life is one big blurry spot with a few clear moments in between.

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The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.