no apologies for the cuteness

With holidays comes adorable Easter dresses.

Bonus if they are dressed alike because what can be more adorable…

…especially when the darlings are at an age where they can’t really complain and protest. Actually at this age they LOVE it! So seize it while you can.

It’s a very narrow window of time when you can truly get away with such cuteness…

…and enjoy the total cooperation; because it’s fun that we are all dressed the same!

Remember that when the day comes (and it WILL come) when the kids look at these memories and then back at you wondering out loud, “What the hell were you thinking, Mom?!

Then you smile back at them because you have no apologies for such cuteness and you are absolutely certain that someday they will do it to their children too.

Scroll back to the top if you don’t believe me.

viva tutte le famiglie!

“No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed….procreation ‘must be an act of love’, saying: ‘You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that’s how it should be. …I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog. ..The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

Thus speaks iconic fashion designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana…

Domenico Dolce (left) and Stefano Gabbana at their latest ‘Mamma’ catwalk show (AFP)

because, you know, coming off of their triumphant Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015 “Viva la Mama” show, where they celebrate moms, motherhood  and the family, they are also experts on family and parenting…as two men who have never been parents…ever…are.

I remember when I knew everything about parenting and raising up children…I was 18 and I was certain a family member was absolutely doing it all wrong while dealing with their strong-willed 3 year old. Being the expert that I was, I made sure they knew…and everyone else. Fast forward nine years later, I was dealing with my own strong willed 3 year old child and I realized that I would have absolutely bitch slapped 18 year old me if she was there in that moment telling me what to do.

Absolutely.

Positively.

Sometimes we need to just keep our expert opinions to ourselves.

Here’s the thing Signori Dolce and Gabbana, you are correct in that everyone is entitled to their own opinion…no matter how ridiculous in my humble opinion. I am a woman in a traditional marriage with my darling husband with our family (which you apparently celebrate). Four of our perfectly wonderful children were conceived by us in the, ahem, conventional way, carried 8 months or more and after relatively easy, short labors, delivered into our arms. Our 5th child, also conceived in love, but by means of “chemistry”, as you define it by a man and woman struggling with infertility. He grew for scarcely 6 months in another woman’s womb (his biological mother’s) and as god, fate, timing or whatever force of nature would have, he, soon after his birth, became my child…my husband’s child…our son…our daughters little brother. Our son made of flesh, blood, bones, a brain, a heart, a soul…not a plastic child but absolutely a real child…very much real for the last thirteen years.

Your opinions, whether from the heart or flippant, I find to be hurtful and insulting. I understand that they are in defense of “traditional families” whatever that is supposed to mean to the majority of thinking people all over the world in 2015. Families today, in my neighborhood, my workplace, my city, my state, my country, literally all over the world can be defined as a mother and father and children, or a mother and mother and children, or a father and father and child, or a child and aunt and uncle, or foster parents and children…and on and on and on. Children are conceived in love by intercourse and in a laboratory, via IVF, via surrogate or sperm or egg donor. And children are adopted. While you have been designing and creating fashion for more than 30 years, the last 25 years as an RN in the NICU I have been privileged to witness the creation of more families than I can possibly keep count…families with straight parents, married parents, co-habitating parents, separated parents, divorced parents, single parents, gay parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, parents who struggled for years and years with infertility, parents welcoming a total oops in spite of the best birth control out there, jailed parents, addicted parents…name it and I will confirm for you that yes, those kind of parents too…all parents to real, living and breathing children…no matter how they were conceived…children, all part of a family…perhaps not your kind of family but still, nonetheless, a part of a family.

Yes, Signore Gabbana, we do need to “respect the ideas of others”. Here is mine…

A child conceived via IVF, born to another woman calls me Mom and is very real, very natural and absolutely my child. Everyone is entitled to express their own opinion no matter how ridiculous. But a living, breathing, loving human child remains, always, real…

and at 13 sometimes too real!

Viva il bambino sintetico!

Viva la famiglia!

Viva tutte le famiglie!

 

parental supervision advised

Recent events in the education of my favorite son have proven to be pretty exciting these days. Last month, after months and months of planning, preparation, education and communication our school district went live going digital with over 23,000 Panasonic 3E tablets issued to all the students in the district to be utilized in the classroom and for students in grades 4-8 to take home with parental permission and high school, well, I don’t know because I have no student in high school. But based on what I’m seeing in social media world, high school students are taking their devices home.

Going digital is every where. It’s now and it’s real and it is in pretty much every workplace setting…whether we like it or not. It only makes sense that we equip and educate our children…all of our children. Of course pretty much every child out there is tech savvy already with a strong selfie game by the time they are two. But for those who do not have access at home, here is an opportunity and it is exciting. At least I think so.

For months and months before the big day, our school district was informing us what was coming. Regular discussions and presentations were at school board meetings. Information was being sent home, updated on school web sites and the school district web site. The local paper published articles regularly as well. Teachers were discussing at back to school nights and individual teacher conferences what was to come. There were parent meetings with members of school board, faculty and Panasonic offered all over the district where parents could have the opportunity to ask more questions, actually see the devices and even play with them late last year. Up until the big Go Live day schools regularly sent home updates via flyers, monthly newsletters, emails and robo-calls. Our kids had assemblies talking about the Big Day and, at least under our Big Top, we heard about it from our very excited student. Technology was coming to our schools. A parent had to be literally living under a rock not to know what was coming. We knew under The Big Top since before last year at this time that this was coming…and we could not wait.

Then the day came just last month and Ta-Da!!!

We opted to give Daniel permission to bring his home on weekends and the day that he received his device because we wanted to see it too! As Daniel started it up, he carefully explained to us the dos and the don’ts of caring for and operating his tablet/laptop. He basically recited nearly verbatim the clear handout (with pictures) in English and Spanish that was sent home to the parents. We praised the boy on his care for his device to which he shrugged reminding us that we told him he has to take good care of his technology always.

Don’t you just love it when your kids actually listen to you and do what you say?

Me too.

Also, he added, Mrs. B. spent a great deal of time prepping his class with the basics of their tablets/laptops. Thank goodness because Mom and Dad appreciate his prompting as we get ourselves acquainted with it too.

So six weeks later, the local paper wonders how the students are doing with their devices and discovers that cracked screens from students stepping on the devices…as they are getting out of bed is the biggest reported problem. No actual numbers are reported, but the district assures that it is small number comparatively.

Of course the comments immediately flood the paper’s social media sites because people are clearly upset about this…this is a big deal. Comments pour in all mostly pointing fingers at schools, the school district and teachers because clearly THEY are not being responsible. One parent loudly, shrilly complains that the schools had not adequately prepped parents and students for this. Schools are not teaching her children safety and and responsibility. Technology is important but some parents don’t want their kids to use it or access it….she expresses these comments via Facebook using her iPhone. And the “amen corner” chimes in.

But here is a novel idea…How about parents take responsibility to teach their children to take care of all the technology devices they use and what websites their children access?…Yes, I asked that.

Why does this remind me so much of sex education with our kids and parents of my kids’ friends suddenly realizing that when their kids are 12 that OMG, the school is going to talk to them about their changing bodies and maybe sex and they are just kids and OMG!!! They are going to talk to them about that!!! We haven’t even had THE TALK because they’re just babies and OMG!!!

It’s simple to suggest that parents need to take responsibility here. It is too simple. Parents, who clearly are tech-savvy enough to shrilly comment all over social media of the evils of tech in their child’s school and tech being forced upon their child via their iPhone should be able to pass on some of that to their kids. Given the fact that most toddlers I know seem pretty adept navigating mommy’s smart phone or their own tablet to play games or watch Frozen for the jabillionth time, I would imagine the small group of #MUSDgoingdigitalconcerns parents have kids who are savvy enough…the leader of their group has a high school aged child who I imagine is quite busy on twitter, tumblr and kik. Shame on her for not passing on info to her mom who claims having no knowledge until December 2014…and since mom chose to judge my parenting when we engaged in a thoughtful debate on this subject…shame on mom for not being on top of her child’s school activities as well as perhaps her child’s online activity.

As another parent expressed: I am a bit concerned as to why the children/ kids/teens are allowed to “go to bed” with their tablets. It is a learning device, a digital book if you will…. parents should be supervising the usage of these things, the tablet should be put in a backpack or put away on the table or something, these items should not be being broken and used as a baby sitting device.

Disagree all you want, but truth of the matter is the parents need to step up and be responsible for their kids actions.

I’m sorry #MUSDgoingdigitalconcerns mom but all of your apples and oranges and slippery slope arguments fall flat. We were prepped. We were given ample time and the forums to express questions and concerns. Our kids have been educated in class on the care of their devices and safety. We have been repeatedly also informed of basic device care and safety for our children while using their devices. Ultimately we as parents must choose to continue to support, encourage and educate ourselves and our children of the care of their devices and safety…as responsible parents do. Like sex education, or morality, or basic respect for people, animals, places and things, ultimately this is the job of the parent, including you, #MUSDgoingdigitalconcerns mom, to be present, be aware and teach our kids proper respect for things given to them. If your kid was irresponsible enough to take the device to bed to be “doing homework” and crack the screen, I imagine that you are engaging with me on the Bulletin’s Facebook page via your iPhone with a cracked screen.

Yes, I went there. You question my own parenting in our back and forth discussion implying that I don’t care for my child’s safety I think it’s fair.

Ultimately, it is one of MUSD’s students who pretty much said what needed to be said: I personally think the tablets are awesome if used correctly. I have never been more productive. I am a senior in high school and the tablets have allowed for me to get a lot of small assignments done between passing classes, allowing me to reduce my workload at home. Also, in applying to colleges it’s really nice to have all the materials necessary at my fingertips. During lunch and brunch I fill out scholarship applications-something I had to wait to do until I got home to my computer before. Although I use my tablet for the intended use of improving my educational experience, I am highly aware of their misuse. I have classmates who got their tablets and downloaded games immediately and only waste their time. My peers are extremely careless when it comes to their tablets so it’s no surprise to me that so many are broken. I don’t think the tablets are the problem. The problem is the students’ individual negligence towards them. Whether we like it or not our future will be ruled by technology so it is really great that MUSD is giving us this advantage over the students of other districts. Of course there are going to be problems with the tablets, but learning to deal with them is exactly the type of ‘real-life’ application every body claims to want in their education.

and then a teacher, I know personally, who admittedly struggled with the going digital process shared: I have so enjoyed the last few days with the students having their own computers. I guess I wasn’t surprised things have gone so smoothly, since we were towards the end and most of the bugs had been worked out. The kids have amazed me not with how much further ahead of me they were, which I expected, but how much they were willing to help each other out. I did find I had much to teach them (especially about word processing), but for much of the time my job is to just stay out of their way. They also are taking a whole new interest in completing their work and behaving in class. I realize this won’t last, but you can’t fault me for enjoying it while I can…

Back it up #MUSDgoingdigitalconcerns mom. You sit down and focus on your kid’s safety and use and care of their digital device and I will with mine.

 

parenting NICU style

Wa-ay back when I was a nursing student, one of my professors shared a cautionary tale about patients and medical abbreviations. A nurse, preparing to assess her patient, sets down her clipboard. While she is carefully assessing her patient, the patient spies his name on her clipboard with the word “SOB” next to it. What followed, the professor shared, was more than awkward for nurse and patient.

In case you didn’t already know, “SOB” is a medical abbreviation for shortness of breath. The nurse’s patient had emphysema and indeed was struggling with shortness of breath. He might have also been an SoB too…then again, he might have been an all around nice guy. Who knows?

There were many takeaways for us to learn from that scenario that the professor shared. For me, the biggest one was to not let my patients or loved ones see my shift notes. I keep them in my pocket.

This lesson came to mind the other day while reading through one of the micropreemie parenting forums I participate in. A parent shared her frustration of over-hearing her baby’s nurse share with the nurse taking over her baby’s care that she had been crying. Not understanding what that had to do with anything, she vented that they should not be worried about her because their job is to take care of her baby. Who cares if she was crying? The NICU nurse in me wanted to comment as to why the nurses might have been talking about her during their hand-off report. The NICU parent in me knew that she just needed to vent because for many micropreemie parents, there are few, if any, safe places to vent off some of the tears, fears, pain, frustrations and anger that is life as a parent in the NICU.

As a parent in the NICU, I know too well that feeling of being watched over, scrutinized even. In the NICU where Daniel was, where I also worked, parents had access to the bedside chart and were more than welcome to look at it. It was not uncommon to see a note or more about Bill or myself visiting Daniel. Weird to be under a microscope and analyzed in that way…especially because we already felt intense pressure from social workers, family and friends who questioned our motives to want to be Daniel’s family. Stir in the fact that a number of my own colleagues were against our plans (and quite vocal about it) and my being called into my manager’s office a couple of times because staff and administration had a number of concerns about my wanting to adopt a patient in the unit because something like this had never happened at that hospital before. “People might think we are ‘giving babies away at Good Sam’!” 

The horror of such a thing! 

Not fun it was.

If only there was a forum like the one I participate in thirteen years ago!

With most NICUs in the US focused on Family-Centered Care and many hospitals keeping an eye on overall patient and family satisfaction, odds are families are going to be right there during change of shift hand-offs and rounds…unlike the “old” days when I was a baby NICU RN and the unit was closed to family visits and calls during change of shift so that we could focus on the hand-off of patient care.

Being a parent in the NICU is hard. Other people seem to know more about your own baby than you do. They tell you when you may touch them, when you can hold them, feed them, change their diaper. You feel guilt that your baby was born early, that you can’t be at their bedside 24/7, that your other children need you, that your husband needs you, that everything else going on in your life is being ignored. You deal with questions…questions all the time as to why the baby was born early, what did YOU do to cause that, what’s going on currently with the baby, why isn’t the doctors and nurses doing what your co-worker’s nephew’s baby had done to her, why aren’t you at the hospital right now, why aren’t you spending time with your other children because they need you too….and on and on and on. Doctors and nurses and staff either seem to act as though you’re not even there or are hovering not giving you just a quiet moment alone with your baby. And god help you if you break down and cry or yell and scream in the NICU, at home, in church, at the school drop-off, in front of your parents or your in-laws.

NICU parents, am I close?

For what it’s worth, speaking as a NICU RN, when we share with colleagues that mom was crying today, or dad keeps asking the same question repeatedly or the family’s only car broke down or almost anything else family-related it is because the care we give is Family-Centered Care. Our role is to care for the baby first but we also are caring for and supporting the family during one of the most stressful times in their lives as a family…until their baby is a moody teenager. It helps the staff to know that mom is having difficulty producing breast milk or that her mother in law doesn’t want to drive her to the NICU anymore or dad just got laid off or little brother is sick with the flu so that we can better address what the family and the baby needs right now…and what they need to be ready for discharge because, god-willing, discharge will happen sooner than a NICU parent can hope to imagine.

What an amazing day that is when your baby is finally free of every single wire, tube and tape that is attached to his body and you pick him up and hold anytime you want to!

It’s a day that every NICU parent and NICU nurse, doctor, respiratory therapist, social worker and unit coordinator looks forward to as well.

Meanwhile, dear fellow NICU parents, cry if you want to, vent away too, but most of all, hang in there. Your journey is just beginning and this right now is preparing you for the weeks, months and years after the NICU.

 

 

the hardest parts

I have always said that my most favorite age and stage in the lives of each of my children is this one, the one they are in now…except for the adolescence of my first born. Don’t judge. She agrees. It was hard on both of us. And we both lived to tell the tale.

Thank gawd!

But yes, the best part in the lives of my individual children is this part right now when you are asking me what is the best part.

And it is often also the hardest part.

Sharing a moment with one of my grown circus clowns, we discussed just this. We talked about potty training and how she remembers the day I gave up and put her back in diapers because we both weren’t ready. I remember relief and later feeling vindicated when two months down the road she was ready and accident free. She remembers feeling so mad and sad that I put her back in diapers.

OMG, she was 2½! She remembers that!

And sharing a glass or two or more of wine, we recall each age and stage…the big sister worship, the picking on the baby sister, the silly times, the hard times, the scary times, the fun times.

And now here we are, sharing wine together…and she shares what’s going on in her life right now I am wishing we were back in the days of potty training battles because potty training was a lot easier than this is right now. This part where they are grown up and they make mistakes and they deal with consequences and tears and fears and heartbreak and mommy can’t fix it is hard. Too hard sometimes. I could easily dispense my wealth of wisdom telling her what she must do. But in spite of the wine…or because of the wine, I just listen because just listening is what she wants, what she needs the most right now…and hugs and wine and The Kitten Bowl that I dvr’d especially for her.

This parenting gig gets harder and harder I swear. What I wouldn’t give for a little potty training right now…seriously.

Sorry millennial parents! The hardest part of parenting, like the very best part, is the here and the now.

Hang in there.

I am.