Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post - Music and Child Development

Music provides a fantastic way to challenge kids’ developing brains while giving them space to express themselves. Whether it is through a basic rhythm class or private cello lessons, there are a number of fantastic ways to open up the world of music to your child.

Music and the Child Brain

For years, people have believed that music can help young minds. That’s probably why you see mothers playing Mozart to their pregnant bellies. Recently, researchers at Concordia University uncovered that starting music education before age seven is ideal.

In a study of adults with the same musical background but different starting ages, study authors found that musicians who “began musical training before age seven” had more white matter connecting the halves of the brain. Musicians who started their musical training after age seven had brains which more closely resembled non-musicians.

The study tested motor skills that were not music related and demonstrated that early musicians seemed to have an advantage. This “suggests that the benefits of early music training extend beyond the ability to play an instrument.” But in the end, researchers concluded that “while starting early may help you express your genius, it probably won’t make you a genius.”

Ways to Get Your Kids Involved

For parents who want to unlock the benefits of music exposure for their children, there a number of fun possibilities. There is, of course, the traditional option of private music instruction in a classical instrument like the violin, piano or guitar. As kids’ skills improve, they can also play in youth orchestras and in bands with their friends.

For children who love active play, try a dance and creative movement class. If your little one is a want-to-be rock star, enroll him or her in voice lessons or help them learn to sing online. If, on the other hand, your child is still too young to begin formal musical training, there are also many rhythm classes which parents can enjoy with their babies and toddlers. These are all great options for exposing children to music and helping them grow.

Keeping a Balance

It is important to keep a balanced approach when encouraging kids to play music. Learning an instrument requires discipline and focus. So it is key to make sure that children are having a good time and finding opportunities to exercise their new skills. Find opportunities for them to display their growing ability with friends and family, and this can encourage kids to continue pursuing their instruments.  

Music is an amazing tool to enhance a child’s growth and development. While it won’t make them more intelligent, learning music can unlock more of a child’s natural potential and help to connect pathways in the brain.
Jessica Socheski is a freelance writer who loves discovering ways to help kids grow. You can follow her on Google+.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five Reasons Why You Don't Want a "Good" Baby . . . at least not all the time!

Few things frustrate me more than being asked if I have a "good" baby. I know that most people are wondering if I have a baby who sleeps through the night/naps well, doesn't cry often, keeps himself entertained, etc. but it irks me that somehow my baby isn't "good" if he doesn't fit those parameters.  Especially since those traits may make a baby more convenient, but they have nothing to do with how "good" of a person that baby is.  Just because a baby might have more needs than another or is more expressive about those needs, it doesn't mean that baby is "bad." In fact, it just might be better to have a baby who is decidedly inconvenient and not "good."

1.  Babies who aren't "good" wake up a lot . . . and that makes them less vulnerable to SIDS.

Babies are designed to wake up often for good reason.  SIDS is actually related to a baby's inability to rouse easily or detect a build up of carbon dioxide in their blood.  Now, the general mainstream medical consensus is that babies are safest on their backs in their own beds, but other medical experts have suggested that babies may be safest when with co-sleeping with their sober, non-smoking mothers.  In fact, SIDS rates have continued to stay low despite a rise in safe co-sleeping.  This might have to do with the increase in breastfeeding rates among co-sleeping mothers as much as anything else, but the fact remains that while "good" babies might let their mothers have more uninterrupted sleep, babies who aren't so good (or aren't good all the time) actually demonstrate that they have a good arousal instinct and that is a definite positive!  Besides, there are sweet, snuggly times to be had when babies are awake, sleepily nursing, and snuggling with you that mamas of babies who sleep all the time, just don't get.

2.  Babies who aren't "good" cry a lot . . . and that means they are attached enough to want to communicate and believe that you will respond to their cries.

We all know people who are more verbal about what is going on with them than others.  Babies are just little people.  So, some of them will cry more than others because some of them just have more they want to say.  Some babies also just have more to communicate.  No matter how much or how little your baby cries at night or during the day, it is good because your baby is communicating (even if it doesn't seem that way at two a.m.).  The fact that your baby consistently is communicating with you about his or her needs is a positive thing.  It proves that your baby trusts you enough to tell you about what's going on with her/him.  By responding to your baby's cries, you are forming a trusting, attached relationship with your baby.  This might not mean your baby stops crying right away or that your baby cries less, but it does mean that your baby believes that you are going to respond to his or her needs.  When that baby grows up this will translate into words.  For example, my eldest baby cried a lot, and now, when he is sick, he still talks a lot.  He's just the kind of person who feels things very strongly and he needs to talk about his emotions to process them.  Because of the relationship we've been forming since his very first newborn baby cries, we have a very open communication line and I hope that honest communication continues for years to come.

3.  Babies who aren't "good" don't just lay/sit around and play with their toys . . . they are curious about their world and they want to explore it.

We've all had those moments when we've wanted to just put our babies down and have them keep themselves busy while we finish dinner/pick something up/whatever, and sometimes they may let us, but some babies mostly use that time to get into things, practice their crying communication with you, and generally cause a ruckus.  However, these are all good things!  A baby who isn't very interested in the world around them or who doesn't want to test that you will come running at least part of them time, is not a baby who is very interested in the outside world and that lack of curiosity probably isn't their best trait.  I imagine that if we could interview the mothers of most of the world's greatest inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, we would probably discover that as babies and small children they were incredibly curious and often got themselves into some scrapes because of it.  Whenever my sons are driving me crazy testing my communication line with them from the next room, I just remind myself that Pavlov's mother was probably his first and best test subject.

4.  Babies who aren't "good" don't stay in their car seats all the time; they insist on being held/worn and seeing the world from a higher level.

Risks of leaving your baby in their car seats frequently and shopping with your baby in his/her car seat aside, babies who are not kept in their car seats all the time actually tend to do a little better because they are held more often and get worn in a carrier.  In fact, God bless babies who aren't "good" all the time because they are the reason babywearing was invented and the benefits of babywearing are amazing.  From heart rate/physiological benefits for newborns to social interactions/connections with toddlers, your babies are made to be in your arms or worn and nothing but good comes from it . ..even if it seems inconvenient for you and what you want to get done at times.

5.  Babies who aren't "good" don't listen to what "they" tell you about parenting, they make you learn to listen to your heart and do more research.

You know who "they" are.  "They" are the ones who were asking you whether or not your baby was "good" to begin with.  "They" tell you you need to do XYZ to make your child into a convenient "good" baby or "they" will congratulate you when your baby doesn't cry or make a fuss, but give unsolicited advice when they do.  Babies who aren't "good" don't give a flying fruit what they say and if you let them, they will teach you not to care, either.  Babies who aren't "good" push you to examine who you are as a parent and as a person.  They teach you to make real connections to them and they become the catalyst for you to learn more about them, parenting, and yourself as a person.  Babies who aren't "good" push you to become better than you've ever been before and they teach you where your limitations are.

Babies who aren't "good" all the time are my favorite kind of babies!

Thank you for reading and kiss your "not good all the time" babies for me!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Life After the Rainbow

We had seven losses before our beautiful rainbow was born.  She lights up our lives in ways we didn't know we needed.  We have two beautiful daughters, and they are both such incredible miracles.

However, it isn't all sunshine.  In some ways having our miracle baby makes the pain of losses easier and in other ways having her here makes it all so much harder.  The pain isn't gone.  Having a baby after loss doesn't mean the pain didn't happen.  You can be happy and joyous, yet sad at the same time, and that is completely okay!!

Milestones she reaches are bittersweet.  I love how fast she learns things and how smart she is, but seeing her reminds me I didn't get that with our other children.  It doesn't make the joy at seeing her learn any less, but sometimes it means that it takes time for me to truly feel the joy that used to be so easy when our oldest daughter did these same things.

One thing I have learned through all of this was I needed to forgive myself and let myself have the space and time needed to feel the grief and joy that sometimes feels never ending.  It doesn't mean that I take her for granted, it doesn't mean that I am not so very happy she is alive and thriving, it just means that I am being the best mother I can be, to all my children.

You need to allow yourself to feel all you need.  Pregnancy after so many losses was exhausting.  I was constantly terrified I would wake up one morning and it would all be over, just like the others.  I couldn't let my guard down.  I was terrified to love the baby growing inside me.  I struggled with depression and anxiety, and amplified by hormones I was a mess.

Preparing for a freebirth made me work through the fears I had, which was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  The actual birth was the most powerful I have ever felt, but that simple act wasn't enough to take away all the fear.

As it nears my rainbow's first birthday, I think of all we went through to get her here, and all that I still struggle with.  The upcoming holiday season also makes it all the more apparent.

I'm slowly relaxing and some anxiety is lifting, but I still have a hard time leaving her or her sister with anyone I'm not very very close to.  I still have flashes in my mind of something happening her.

Once you lose a baby, the innocence you had before is gone.  And if you struggled with it before losing a child, it becomes amplified.

During this holiday season and always, please know there are so many places to find support.  Websites such as Unspoken Grief and Stillbirthday, twitter, facebook, in person support groups.  Such a wide variety of support and understanding, so please reach out.  And I am always available, so please send an email ( if you would like information on anything, or even just to talk. 

Just because you've received your miracle doesn't mean your grief stops.  Feel what you need to feel, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering Infertility: Honoring the Child of Your Heart

I'm not sure there is anything more frustrating than trying for a baby. . . especially in a culture that treats the decision to have a baby as some sort of given.  We are encouraged to "plan" our babies and to "try" when our lives are stable and all circumstances are perfectly ready.  So, we wait and we plan that pregnancy for the perfect time .  . . and then we learn that babies, even when planned, come in their own time (and sometimes not at all).  To have all our illusions of control over conception stripped away so thoroughly may be an excellent precursor of what motherhood is like at every stage, but that knowledge is little comfort when you are still trying to make the child of your heart and your dreams incarnate.   I have read about the Himba tribe in Namibia where a child's age is not counted from when the child is born, but from when his or her parents first decided they wanted a child.  So, a child who is ten years in the making is considered ten from the very day s/he was born.  Imagine going through your life knowing not just how long you've been on this earth, but also how much you are wanted and knowing what a struggle your parents had in conceiving you and how dedicated they were to you before you even officially existed.  Imagine those children who were hardest to conceive being the most recognized and celebrated in the community.  Imagine if our culture recognized that we do not all have such easy control of our fertility and we should celebrate those who labored the longest to have their children (however those children end up coming whether through biological, natural conception, fertility treatments, or adoption) by recognizing not only their achievement in getting a child but also their journey to getting that child (whether that child is their first, second, or even third or fifth).

Last month was Pregnancy/Infant Loss month and I saw many beautiful links going across my facebook feed and I am thrilled that a topic that was so taboo that it seemed like no one ever talked about it as recently as ten years ago, is suddenly getting the attention it deserves.  Yet, October was also Infertility Awareness Month and I saw very little about this topic and I've seen very little during its awareness week in April .  I get it; it's a little awkward to talk about it.  Unlike a lost pregnancy or an infant loss where the pain of the loss is easier for everyone to recognize (if not easier for people to talk about), the pain of the loss of the opportunity for life is a lot harder for people to grasp perhaps especially for those who have always gotten pregnant when they wanted to or even without wanting to.  So, I want to take a moment to recognize that the loss of the opportunity to have a baby cuts deeply every single month it happens and even if you aren't being public about your efforts to get pregnant, I want to take this moment to recognize you and to tell you that your journey is just as important as the journey of those who have gotten pregnant while you've been trying.  It seems like only yesterday it was me waiting for my period to restart (for over two years after having my first baby) and then crying in frustration every month there after as I waited for it to stop again proving that I was once again pregnant.  It did not take me as long to get pregnant as it does many other people, but it was long enough for me to fully appreciate and recognize the miracle that my second child is.  While many out there are still trying for their first child or their second child, I now have my youngest son in my arms.  I am forever grateful for that, but my good fortune does not blind me to the painful journey you are still on.  I want you to know that I see you, I recognize you, and I care about you and your journey.  It is my wish that every woman who currently has a child of her heart will also have a child in her arms one day and that child will understand exactly how wanted and blessed s/he is to have been wanted for so long before he/she was in your arms.

I just wanted to take this moment to let you know this.  So, if this is not the month, may it be next month and know that you are not alone.  There are thousands of women out there who struggle along with you.  Some of those women have talked very openly about their own struggles with infertility on this very blog (Kayce has written about this topic often in the past and Amy has written about her very painful journey).  Know that you ARE seen.  You ARE loved.  You ARE NOT failing. And you ARE a mother to a beautiful child of your heart.  I want to honor that and honor you.  May your journey end soon with a child in your arms.

Thanks for reading, 

Monday, November 4, 2013

we are our own worst critic

So often, we as parents see only the ways that we fall short. Its is so true what they say, that we are our own worst critics. So a sweet little video, that I couldn't resist sharing, to show you that maybe what you see, and what our kids see is very different:

A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.

Keep on keeping on, Mamas.