Sock Sack O’ Beans

I know what you’re going to think — “Wait. You’ve been absent HOW LONG and all you’re going to write about is a stupid DIY heating pad? What about the B-A-B-Y?!?!” And you’re more than entitled to have those thoughts. But, let’s just say that it takes all the power in me to write a post at all.

Not saying that I’m that full-blown exhausted that everyone talks about. Sure, tired, but generally speaking I’m doing fine. Got some strong emotions going on that I’m sure I could talk about (no post-partum depression, though, as far as I can tell :-D), but I don’t really feel like wasting time discussing that stuff, either. But my days have been pretty much a sequestered existence consisting of rotating feedings and changings. So, I thought, “I could wallow in the fact that it’s now August (“sweat drops, sweat drops” – anyone? “SNL”/”Cathy”?) or I could finally write a blog post.” So, here I be! Arrrgh.

Yeah. Maybe I am a tad overtired. I’ve had one nap since we brought the baby home. I’m not a big “napper”, but maybe I should take advantage of “free time” while I still can.

Why the HECK is this post about an old sock filled with dried beans? Because I don’t make it out of the house much…I needed a heating pad solution…and I was pretty proud that I made one. Don’t judge. These days, it’s the little things that make me happy.

So, I suppose what I’m getting at is more so the fact that I need a heating pad in the first place. As far as pain goes, I’m usually pretty tough, and wouldn’t have anything on hand for aches and pains. Hey, I felt like I was, in a way, gypped over Hadley’s birth in having a C-section; I didn’t get to experience LABOR and didn’t have much pain (beyond the whole issue of coughing, sneezing, laughing, etc with that darned incision), but I’ll post more on that when I feel good ‘n ready to do so. 😉 Long story short, though, through our trials and triumphs of breastfeeding (also more on that in a future post), I seem to have developed a blocked milk duct.

Funny. Had’s got a blocked tear duct that causes one of his eyes to goober up with yellow stuff (not puss, and ’tis completely normal – believe me, the doc has been consulted as to every inch of his cute lil’ body). Wonder if there’s a connection beyond grammatical. And, now, I’m not leaking yellow goobers.

Anyhoo, being a) quite the independent bugger and b) more than a tad intimidated by the overbearing lactation consultants, I’m determined to handle this issue on my own – unless, of course, it becomes a bigger issue (ie mastitis…an infection…in da booby. Yeah. Let’s hope not, shall we?). So, after researching via books ‘n the interwebs, I found myself filling a cute ol’ sock with dried beans. I wasn’t up for going all Martha Stewart with my sewing machine, so I took the easy way out.

Between using my bean-filled buddy (microwaved for a couple of minutes and wrapped in a kitchen towel), “pressure massaging”, attempting to pump (and feed) more on “that side”, and taking the occasional ibuprofen, I’m hoping that the issue

Otherwise, for those of you who are wondering (and since it’s World Breastfeeding Week), I should say that breastfeeding has been a challenge — and, in some ways, way easier than I had expected (example being – even though Hadley had been given a small bottle right after he was born — due to his size and a necessity to keep his body heat regulated, and the fact that I was getting stitched…er, stapled up — when he was brought back to me in Recovery, he immediately latched on — what a moment!) and in others, purdy darn frustrating (example – let’s just say he doesn’t always latch well, and he’s got a temper AND an impatient streak that make for meltdowns…can’t IMAGINE where he got those traits, hee hee). That’s the nature of breastfeeding, though.

I should shout from the rooftops that I’m terribly lucky. I’ve healed very well, have lost weight VERY quickly (some might say TOO much too fast – I swear I’m eating and trying to drink enough for the both of us, though! And, no worries, my tummy still looks like a satellite image being beamed in from Mars), can almost always get him to settle down for a feeding (even when there are latching issues), am able to pump so Dave (AKA “The Dorky Daddy”, AKA “Best Father and Husband on Earth”) can have some one-on-one time with his little man…and, miracle of miracles, my milk came in before leaving the hospital. The little guy was already starting to gain weight after his first week home, so all appears to be working! And, hey. Isn’t that all that matters? 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading. I promise to write the birth story when I’m up to it, as well as more on breastfeeding. Oh, and for those who are wondering, we’re not using cloth diapers quite yet — not with how quickly this lil’ guy goes through them, and with how few we currently own. Gonna stock up and move onto that next step when things are a tad more, um, solid. One thing at a time, but we’ll get there. Oh, and just so I’m not a completely stingy b-word keeping things from you, here’s the unofficial birth announcement for those of you who may not have heard —

Our wonderful Hadley Allston was born on  
Friday, July 13th at 11:48am via scheduled C-section.
He weighed 10 lbs., 1 3/4 oz and was 22″ in length.

Bringing Up Bebe

Last week, I finally finished reading Bringing Up Bebe, the book I was excited to blog about here. (Actually, that’s a record for me as far as how fast I’ve finished a book for my own reading pleasure, lately. A sad fact for a librarian.) And, y’know what? Overall, I’m a fan of the book.

Firstly, I tend to be a fan of progressive writing. That’s my own random terminology, and I don’t mean “ahead of its time” writing (although a clever concept always seems to hook me right into a book: American in Paris raising kids, living a year taking the Bible literally, reading the entire encyclopedia and seeing if one really learns a darn thing, etc). There may be a clearer or more professional way to put it, but a piece that shows the growth or change that takes place in a person over time (especially when there are learning processes happening) is what I mean by “progressive writing.” Sure, overall people can say “This book is about an American woman living in France, learning how to raise her children in a more Parisian way,” but that doesn’t touch the heart of it. Regardless, the manner in which Pamela Druckerman wrote BUB drew me in as much as the facts and research that she undertook to create it.

That being said, we’re brought on a linear journey – from before American Pamela even met her British-born husband, Simon (who is essentially a worldwide resident, quite well adapted to living in and being a part of various cultures) to their foray into parenthood with not one but eventually three children. From pregnancy and labor (it’s definitely not a 2-3 day stay in the hospital, and while breast feeding isn’t frowned upon, it’s not altogether encouraged) to those bumpy first months (when did YOUR child first start “doing his nights”? Between 2-3 months old is the norm in France. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!) to raising an independent, *polite* child while maintaining one’s own identity as a human being, the cultural observations are absolutely fascinating. I found myself bubbling with “I want to try that!!” enthusiasm at points, yet apprehensive at others. And, y’know what? The author was in the same boat, so it’s definitely not a handbook for “how to raise French kids.” And it’s not necessarily a parenting book. It’s as much a book about thinking outside the box and actually *considering* what works and what doesn’t for your family, rather than following the other fishies onto a path of smothering, over-scheduling, and aggrandizing children (such as much of America currently does).

In general, I would say that the motivational “I like how the French do it” moments definitely outweighed the “whoa, wait a minute, seriously?” ones. For example, meals. The book discusses, in depth, the diets of French children and mealtime expectations, such as the diversity of meal planning within every single daycare (many of which are government-run), along with courses. By a certain age, children are completely comfortable sitting at a table, sharing along with the food and conversation (they have learned not to interrupt since no adult will allow it…hmm, imagine; I had an issue with this when I was a child, so the similarity between how the French and my mom and siblings approached this stuck me like a knife…yet, I don’t interrupt). Oh, and there are no “special” mealtimes for kids. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner. No appeasement with food, or snacks in the midst of playtime, or even juice while watching TV. Water, if wanted, but even that’s usually reserved for the meal. But, those meals are full of incredibly healthy, diverse foods (there’s that word again – I only mean that there’s generally a full meal including lots of veggies, and often a cheese course). Oh, and there needn’t be a fuss over whether they finish everything (another “leads to obesity” American trend). They’ll also learn that if they don’t eat what’s offered now, they’ll have to wait for the next meal – nothing special will be made.

What about playtime? I learned as much about Americans as I did French when it came to this bit. Apparently, many (not all) Americans have a tendency to play alongside their children, often stating every little thing they’re doing (“Now we’re playing with a red ball. See the red ball? It’s round. We can roll it.”)…and sometimes bilingually. To them, every moment is a learning experience that they must fill in order to attain some higher IQ or future opportunity. It’s almost like an anxiety that gets transferred, and can be associated with the later “did my kid get into the best preschool” mindsets and leads to over-scheduling (the examples listed in the book are astounding, of real American parents who have signed up 3-year-olds for three different language tutors and a kazillion other activities or have found their way onto sports teams that expect parents to be more actively involved than the kids).  Yes, every moment is a learning experience, but if kids don’t have mental down time or an opportunity to “learn by doing” (what my college once crammed into my head as the “latest” in education – the constructivist approach), particularly independently, a clinging relationship is developed and a society full of needy, oftentimes misbehaved children emerge. When parents put so much pressure onto their children and give them ALL the importance in the world (yes, children are loved in France, but are also taught that they’re no more special than anyone else), the “I’m so great,” spoiled attitude becomes a problem.

Going hand-in-hand with these “too hands-on parents” is the idea that French parents don’t see themselves as just parents. They maintain their own identities. When one visits a French playground, one will see mothers casually chatting with one another. No one is chasing after children (unless they’re an expatriate from another country) or overseeing what type of game the kids will be playing. If you’re unable to keep your child in the sandbox without running off, they see this as a parenting issue – you’re not firm enough with them. It’s not a selfish thing (kids play while you blindly sit and socialize); it’s remembering that mommies need time to be themselves, too. Besides, the kids need to learn socialization with the other children, too. It’s frowned upon if children tattle or if parents stick their noses into social issues, be them at school or the playground. At the same time, parents actually trust what teachers do and don’t expect them to play “police” to fighting kids. Pamela is concerned when she gets a report that her daughter is doing “fine” in school; she expects a complete rundown of behaviors and interactions, as do many Americans. All very eye-opening.

Of course, as is discussed in the book, it is ultimately easier to try French parenting techniques when one is, in fact, living in France. It’s simply more accepted to do as those around you are. The general observation that arose from this reading, though, is as much “traditional” American as it is currently French; let kids be kids, but be sure that you’re “in charge” and have taught them their place. They must be allowed to play together, to handle confrontation and situations themselves, and not be constantly coddled or followed by adults who are pushing their development (for whatever reason). Simultaneously, the words “please” and “thank you” (as well as “hello” and “goodbye” – just as important as the other two in France) must be imposed, and certain structures [particularly those involving eating and bedtime (although bedtime is a relative term; “parent time” is common, and children can “go to bed” but not go to sleep…seriously, it’s interesting)] are expected. Ebb and flow. Organized chaos within set boundaries. Very thought-provoking.

I know that many American parents are up-in-arms about the book. Well, of course; anything that may seem to argue against your own methods is bound to tick you off. But you also have to read it to understand a) how it’s actually written (not as a “how to manual” and b) it’s not necessarily touting all French methods. The final chapter shows what Pamela has learned and made a part of her family’s life, and what has kept her firmly planted in the land of stars and stripes. Even for folks who aren’t parents, it’s a wonderful writing on the juxtaposition between two very unique, wonderful cultures.

Parisian Parenting

Let me start by saying that I haven’t been too excited about reading parenting books. Even the pregnancy books, while at times enlightening and highly educational (I do need to know this stuff, after all…apparently *wink*), haven’t gotten me excited. In all honesty, the only thing that gets me REALLY excited is the growing belly (although clothes are the devil lately), the occasional “knock-knock” baby’s giving me (yes, I know you’re there!), and the private conversations I get to have with my husband about everything. Oh, and the thoughts of how to decorate the nursery – those are pretty fun, too.

But, when I saw that this story was going to be on “The Today Show” this morning, I immediately said, “Ohhhh, I hope they post a link for that on Facebook so I can see it!” I adore that Dave watched it, and texted me the title of the book that it was based on. I asked him what he thought about it all (I had been a bit of a skeptic when I heard it, assuming they’d skew it in a Tiger Mom direction), and he said that it “sounded really good”. Wow, a glowing recommendation…about a parenting book…from my man. How could I NOT get a tad excited?

Then, I watched the link (which, side note, I Googled). While the article accompanying the video at first admonishes the idea that one culture shouldn’t blatantly state that it’s better at anything (ironic, being Americans), but goes on to recognize that the author writes in a humorous, thoughtful manner (and apparently from an American perspective – being an American in France). Whew, good to know.

                                                   Here’s the video link. Give it a try. 🙂

So, I’ve put the book (entitled Bringing Up Bebe – accent on the “e”s) into my Amazon Baby Wishlist (soon to be my Amazon Baby Registry), although I’m so excited to read it, I may have to purchase it as my “first baby item”. That’s right, we technically haven’t purchased any clothes, books, ANYTHING (other than stuff for the nursery, but I see that more as organization – not fun stuff) for the baby since finding out. I just haven’t found the perfect “first onesie”. Plus, we’ve already been getting awesome hand-me-downs (including my sister’s favorite pregnancy book, which is where I’m getting all my “knowledge” on the ins-and-outs of what’s happening and what will happen), so there’s no point in splurging. Not quite yet. Not if we’re squeezing pennies. (That, and we don’t want stuff for stuff’s sake.)

It’s not that we’re down on American parenting. Heck, it’s what WE had, and we’re (pretty) well-adjusted and (publicly) respectful members of society. But, we’re open to alternate ideas on the subject – anything that may give kids in a 21st century environment greater sensitivity and awareness, and which may make parenting a more connected, less co-dependent situation. After seeing countless American children in my everyday job over the past several years, I’ve seen some wonderful behavior…but I’ve seen absolutely selfish, demanding, relentless behavior. And, I hate to say it, but it’s on the rise. It’s a challenge when trying to teach independent use of the library for future success as young adults and adults, I’ll tell ya that.

So, I’ll be sure to let you know how the book is when I’ve finally received and read it. Heck, that may not be until a month before the baby comes. I foresee that it’ll be hard to put it down for the pregnancy books.

What do YOU think? Are things just fine the way we handle parenting in America? Or, is it right to look for other methods elsewhere? Do tell.