Monday, January 31, 2011

too much, too soon, too fast erodes families

Last fall, William J. Doherty, professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, gave a public talk at St. Olaf College in town on "Discovering families." I didn't make it, but today I could read about it in Northfield Hospital & Clinics FamilyHealth Winter Newsletter that he spoke about how today's parents are more involved than ever before; however, that may not be all to our benefit. Apparently we're paying a significant cost for the lack of unstructured family time:

"He cited research that found over the last 30 years extra-curricular activities for children have increased while unstructured time and family time have both waned. Family time takes a back seat, and couples' time really takes a back seat. The result? Forty-one percent of kids say they are stressed out most of the time."

Sounds familiar? His books, among them  The Intentional Family and Take Bake Your Kids, sound interesting; anyone read them?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

oh, the bachelorette ways of eating

Sometimes I get really nostalgic for mealtimes as a single. Not just the peace and quiet and being able to read the paper at breakfast, but with the quick ease meals could be prepared and cleaned up after. When heating up a tortilla, adding some rice, beans, cheese, and salsa was enough. When even a pita sandwich could constitute dinner.

As soon as Leighton and I moved in together, I wanted us to have real meals together. Now with Lilly it somehow feels like they've gotten to be even more of a thing. There's more thinking and planning going into what we have for dinner each day, and then all the preps and the onerous cleaning up after. I know I could ask Leighton, but at the end of the day, having been with Lilly all day, I somehow prefer the kitchen to more play.

That said, I do sometimes feel chained to the kitchen counter from four till eight at night.

And then there's the sense I should include her more and not just when she asks to help. But, you know, encourage her to help out, bake with me, cut veggies together, and so on.

Now, a lot of moms blog about all the baking and craft making they enjoy doing with their kids: Not going to be me. My baking consists of apple cake based on my mom's recipe or Betty Crocker assisted brownies. I did make that one kind of Christmas cookies for the holiday, the Hershey Kisses. And while it was absolutely endearing to see Lilly unwrap the kisses and sort the chocolate and wrapping paper into different bowls with such focused concentration, the part I thought would be really fun for her, putting the kisses on the half-baked cookies, was just really stressful, because of course the baking sheets were hot from the oven and Leighton and I were both terrified she'd get burned. But we survived, no burns, and the cookies were yummy and her favorite kind over the holidays, and since I didn't get around to baking them till Christmas eve (I know), they were really chewy and yummy the entire holiday season (see?!).

It's been a goal of mine to bake bread for about ten years now, and I still haven't gotten around to it, but I do make a delicious pizza. I've been thinking that would be a really fun thing for Lilly to help with, and when I finally got around to doing it with her last week, it was fun for her, but not so fun for me. Firstly, she was very impatient during the dough making, so instead of kneading it for the good amount of time it requires, I just added more flour, and so the crust didn't turn out as thin and crisp as we like it, though not too bad either. Second, in the name of speediness and lack of ingredients, it ended up really basic: tomato puree with basil and oregano, fried onion, cut up ham (leftovers from the very tasty spiral cut ham we had for Christmas) and shredded cheese with some capers drizzled on top. But she loved it and ate lots and it was, truly, very fun to see her try rolling out the dough, smearing the puree on, adding ham, and then cheese on to it.

It wasn't as yummy as the ones I made last summer with fresh veggies and herbs from the garden:

But we agreed it was worth it.

(Recipe below.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

how to find a job as the stay-at-home mom of a toddler

We're beginning to freak out around here. After I left my tenured academic position when Lilly was born, I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship from an organization for non-fiction writers, which, added on to Leighton's student loan, has been sufficient to sustain us -- till now. We have about three-four months to live off of, and no income in sight. Leighton's still working on his thesis with plans on submitting this spring. In addition, he's applying for jobs like crazy, a process that started last fall when we returned from Europe, but no luck yet.

It's really discouraging and scary, the lack of jobs to apply for and the numerous rejections for positions he's way overqualified for.

One of us HAS to find income, and since my book on feminist porn is still being reviewed by a publisher in Norway, I can't count on any income from that direction either.

So I've begun to look and apply for jobs. First step was figuring out how my background and qualifications can translate into something applicable in a non-academic position.

Talking with Leighton and friends has been helpful in figuring this out. I love to read and learn and then communicate just what that is to others in writing or through talking. And I'm good at processing a lot of material quickly before distilling the main points. Most importantly, I want what I do to matter. I want to read and write about stuff that is important to a lot of people, not just a couple of scholars.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

party with kids

I have fond memories from when I was a kid of being with my parents at their parties. I loved how their friends would come over with their kids, and how after dinner, the kids would play in the family room while the adults would drink and dance and be merry. I just loved seeing them all festive and happy, enjoying themselves, taking a break from the nagging routine of everyday life.

We hosted a Norwegian Christmas tree party this past weekend and it was such a blast for so many reasons. Firstly, it was a thrill for me to share this tradition with friends here, dancing and singing around the tree singing songs. But lo and behold, with about a dozen kids at our tiny (850 sq. ft.) house, all of a sudden, no child was in sight and the adults got to talk and enjoy their snacks and drinks while all the kids--except for one tiny baby who apparently was content sleeping in whose ever arms--played happily in Lilly's room.

It was am amazing experience. Not only may dance parties soon be in sight, I got to feel like an adult person at a party, all dressed up, and no snot streaks to show (runny noses on kids seem a fixture of winter).

This was an important milestone for us. Since we can't afford to pay someone to watch Lilly, we barely get a date and that night I felt like I was on a date with Leighton at a real party with good friends. What a treat; I hope there are more in store in the near future.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

with child's sleep: no cry, some cry, or let cry?

It's a constant issue in conversations with fellow parents when it comes to their children's sleep; do we never if at all possible let the child cry, or just some, or do we have the child cry it all out and be done with it. What do you think? What works best for you, in your experience? Should the child be trained to self-sooth so as to fall asleep on his/her own? Or should we expect to be there for the child's sleep, even if it implies driving for-seemingly-ever to help the child nap. And is it ok to have your child collapse at night in your arms while you're watching a movie, because frankly, you're not feeling much like putting the child down for bed (especially if it implies lying there for a good hour or so).

I've set up a quick poll (see linked to the right) and would love to hear your opinion. And if you have the time, I would really appreciate receiving your comments in response to my questions for my Sleep Question book, which I will include below.

Since becoming a mom two and a half years ago, sleep has been a constant thing on my mind. How do I get my baby to sleep? And then to stay asleep? How do I find enough sleep? How do I handle this with my husband? And so on and on. I launched my current book project, The Sleep Question,  a collection of interviews with fellow moms (and some dads) of young children about their experiences with sleep a year ago or so, and I'm still looking for more stories. I've conducted in-person interviews with people I could reach, but would love to hear from more people, near and far away.

Feel free to respond either in the comment section to this post or via email to agsabo[at] I'll change all names in the final manuscript, but feel free to leave out or change names yourself in what you submit to me.

  • Please state the ages of yourself and your child(ren) and say a little bit about yourself (especially as you might find relevant to a discussion about the way you sleep/nighttime parent)

  • Did you have any preconceived ideas about the child’s sleep (sleep arrangement) prior to birth?
    [Had you thought about how you thought things would be, had you planned where the child would sleep?]

  • How did it go? What did you do? Naps, nights (where and when)
  • Then? Now? What have characterized different stages? Nap and bedtime routines?
  • Did you ever feel like a human pillow for your child’s naps? If so, under what circumstances, how often, for how long?
  • Have you nursed your child, if so, how has that affected your sleep arrangements? If you have not nursed, how do you think that has affected your sleep situation?
  • Has your child ever struggled to sleep (falling asleep, staying asleep)? If so, when and for what reasons, do you think? How long did the difficult stretch last, what helped you and the child get through and over it?
  • What different strategies did you try?
  • How has your own sleep been (from before pregnancy, through it, till now)?
  • How has the relationship to your spouse or co-parent been? Do you feel you can share the responsibility of sleep parenting?
  • How have you or how do you intend to balance work/staying at home/child care and how do you think that has or will affect your sleep parenting (has or will someone else be putting your child down for naps, night)?
  • What books have you read about this topic, and have they been helpful or not?
  • If you have two children or more, how have experiences with your first child affected the sleep arrangements with your other child(ren)?
    • Did you change anything?
    • Do the children seem to relate differently to sleep? If so, how?
  • What would you do differently (or the same) if you have another child?
  • What do you like, dislike about your sleep arrangements?

  • Do you remember the first time you paused to think about your child’s sleep?
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