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  • Mom Blogger and Burn Victim Survivor, Stephanie Nielson, Shares thoughts on Motherhood

    As a Stay at Home Mom I am always looking for inspirational stories about mothering to inspire and motivate me to be a better mom. The other day I noticed a story about an amazing woman, Stephanie Nielson, who survived a plane crash with her husband, Christian Nielson, in 2008. Both Stephanie and her husband were badly burned by the fire from the plane explosion, with Stephanie sustaining burns of over 80% her body.

    Stephanie was put in a medically induced coma for 10 weeks to survive the burns. Today she is alive and well as a mother of 5, but not without daily physical challenges and pain and scars from the accident, including significant burn scars on her face and hands.

    Stephanie has a Mommy Blog called the NieNie Dialogues which she started before accident in 2005 as a 23 year old wife and mother of four. She continued with her blog after her accident when she could use her hands again to type and even published a memior about her experience, “Heaven is Here” in April 2012, the same day her fifth child, Charlotte, was born.

    Recently Stephanie was the keynote speaker at a RootsTech Conference, a family history and technology conference. She spoke about the importance of documenting your lives.

    "Document your families," she said. "Document your life. You may not have been through a plane crash, but you do have a story. Everyone has a story, and it needs to be told."

    She also spoke about the preciousness of motherhood and how being a mother to her children was the driving factor in her survival and recovery from her accident. However her path to health and recovery was not easy.

    “Each day, when I was in this excruciating, horrible pain, doctors and nurses would change my bandages, sometimes twice a week, and I still couldn't move on my own," Nielsen said. "Each day I was so discouraged. Each day I became a little more depressed, and my dream of being that mother I've always wanted to be my entire life was disappearing."

    When her kids first saw her after she awoke from her coma, she said they expected to see their mother the way she used to look and were shocked and frightened to find her disfigured and badly scarred. Her daughter, Jane, took one look at her and was too frightened to look at her again.

    "After the visit I pretty much cried that entire day and night and weeks and days that followed," Nielsen said. "I decided that I never wanted to be a mother again. But as the days went on, I thought a lot about our meeting. I think that meeting was both horrible as it was inspiring. I wanted my job back."

    Gradually she was able to get that job back of being a hands-on mother again. She was also able to get pregnant again and have another baby with her husband which was a dream of hers since before the crash.

    Stephanie encouraged those at the conference to capture memories and document their family’s lives. It does not have to be through blogging as she does, but any tangible way – through scrapbooking, journaling, audio – and to never stop doing so. She told the people at the RootsTech conference that these documented memories will be a gift for their children and future generations.

    "You are here today because you love your family, because you want a connection with your descendants," Nielsen said. "I encourage you to find stories with your loved ones that can help you develop an attitude of gratitude for the ones who came before you. We are all survivors of something."

    This story inspired me not only to begin to scrapbook and start putting together those family albums and wall photo collages I have been promising myself to do since I first gave birth to my son 11 years ago, but also to take the time to actively appreciate my kids and the gift of motherhood more.

    As Stephanie says, motherhood is “a job” and one that we are privileged to have. It’s not an easy job, but it can be a very fulfilling one and meaningful one if we take the time to appreciate the small moments of each day and to develop an attitude of gratitude. By taking the time to document and savor these experiences we help both ourselves be more joyful and grateful in our lives and provide our children with a wealth of experience, love and learnings to pass to future generations.

    Like many of us, I am one of those moms who takes a lot of photos and captures a lot of images of my kids on my cellphone. We have literally thousands of photos stored on our computer of our children through every stage of their lives and then some – film is cheap, right? I am good about passing along a quick photo of my kids to grandparents and relatives or even a short video clip. However I have not been good about taking the time to put together something meaningful and accessible with all those photos for my immediate family, so we can enjoy the best of these cherished images on a daily basis and be reminded of the special moments we have had together in our lives.

    There is a wealth of goodness in each day and we don’t need to be in a plane crash or to be a burn victim to begin to understand the messages that Stephanie’s inspirational story tells us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday to do lists and the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the daily demands of parenting. Just taking a step back and altering our perspective a little to look for the light and goodness of each day and even just to be grateful for our physical abilities to be a mom, is something most of us can take to heart. I know I can.

  • Surprise Babies are Surprisingly Common

    Although most pregnancy test news is welcome/expected/ long hoped far, not all are. In fact according to recent statistics it is estimated that almost half, 49%, of all pregnancies are unplanned in the United States.

    Most American families want two children. The average American woman spends five years pregnant, nursing and postpartum or trying to become pregnant. The next three decades she tries to avoid unintentional pregnancy. By age 45 half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and 30% will have had an abortion.

    Personally I find these statistics very surprising. We all hear about unplanned teenage pregnancy, the “bonus baby” in the family with two kids or the “miracle baby” for the mom who suddenly gets pregnant in her 40’s after adopting two babies thinking she was not biologically capable of having a child with her husband. But who knew that what seemed like the exceptional unplanned pregnancy, is actually a normal and common occurrence, even if everyone is not admitting their child, or the timing/spacing of their child, was unplanned.

    Being a mom of three children I often get the question, “was your third baby planned?” It’s usually posed by people I don’t know well or virtual strangers who believe it’s a perfectly OK benign question to ask. I suppose anytime you go over the average two kids per family, you are assumed to have a surprise baby. I am also continually amazed by how many people readily admit that their third baby was not planned and came as “on its own” or “out of nowhere.” I have yet to encounter a parent who says that they regret that surprise child or that it has not impacted their life in some positive and unexpected way although many will admit they “have their hands full” or “it took an adjustment period” to regulate their lives.

    Although we welcomed every child in our family, we did not “plan” their exact birth timing (although all were born in November somehow) and were pleasantly surprised each time the test came back with a positive blue line. There are ways to be pretty bulletproof when you are really done having children and many couples over 40 who are “sure” they want to be done, have utilized multiple methods to insure they don’t have any more additions to their brood. Sometimes I think the ones that don’t use multiple foolproof methods may not be convinced they are truly done and are leaving a small window to fate or chance to decide if another child is part of their family’s destiny.

    My advice to women everywhere who get pregnant unexpectedly and who choose to keep their baby, is to feel better knowing you are not alone in having an unplanned pregnancy and that having another child in your family can be a truly positive experience. Yes all babies are hard work and expensive, but hard work isn’t always a bad thing and you learn as you go, even when life throws you a curve ball. Half of American moms have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, although you may not hear about it. Also I would venture to guess that the majority of those moms are happy to have the surprise child (even if it was a shock initially and took a little warming up to) and grew to love them every bit as much as any “planned” children they might have had.

    Life does not always go according to plan, but wouldn’t it be boring if “The Plan” never changed and was so predictable. There is always something good than can come out of a surprise or a challenge. A miracle baby may be just what you need in your life and future.

  • Oreos are More Addictive than Drugs

    Did you ever find yourself opening a new package of Oreo Cookies just to find that you simply could not stop eatting them? One to two Oreos turned into 5-6 and then some and the desire to eat more just increased? Well turns out you are not alone and it turns out there is good scientific data out there to explain why.

    A new study by students at Connecticut College found that when rats ate Oreo cookies they activiated more neurons in the rats’ brain (in their pleasure centers) than hard addictive drugs such as cocaine or morphine.

    Neuroscience Professor Joseph Schroeder said in in a school press release, “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do.” He continued, “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

    Jamie Honohun, the student behind the research, said she was interested in exploring how foods with high fat and sugar content contritube to obesity that in prevalent in low-income communities. She concluded that the risk was higher because of there low price point.

    “Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability, said Jamie Honohun.

    I’m sure if they did a study on pregnant rats, they would probably find an even higher correlation to addiction to sugar cravings as many pregnant women do once they get past the throws of morning sickness.

    On a more comical note, the study did find that the Oreo lab rats would break open the cookie and “eat the middle first” much like we do.

  • Congratulations To Pregnant Actress Morena Baccarin

    Congratulations to Actress Morena Baccarin, 33 and her husband director/writer Austi Chick who are expecting their first child together. Baccarin and Chick wed in November 2011.

    Baccarin, who plays Jessica Brody on Homeland, the hit Showtime series, is currently in production for the show’s third season.

    Baccarin recently was named one of PEOPLE’s 2013 Most Beautiful. She said recently, however, that she was very low-maintenance on her beauty regime and wears no makeup.

    “When I’m not working I’m definitely a no makeup girl. The most I ever do is a little tinted moisturizer and a little mascara and blush.”

    This -no-nonsense beauty routine will come in handy one Baccarrin becomes a new mom!

    We wish her and her husband all the best!

  • Happy Mother’s Day!

    Whether you are pregnant today and expecting your first baby or you are a veteran mom to other children, we are all touched by Mother’s Day. This is a good day to focus on all the best of motherhood because anyone who’s been a mom knows we have earned it! Motherhood is not for wimps, there is nothing simple about carrying and birthing a child and nothing simple about taking care of a newborn, a toddler, a big kid or a teenager. Motherhood changes us for life, hopefully for the better.

    Motherhood teaches us to be more giving, more caring, more patient and a lot less selfish. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves with the love we have to give to another dependant human being. Oftentimes the things we used to strive for and hold in the highest regard, might come second to taking care of a child, or are put on hold. Motherhood shifts everything; it gives us a new perspective.

    After I had my first child, I made the decision to shift my career focus. True my career was important to me but I also wanted to nurse my baby and pump milk for my baby when I was in the office or at home on a conference call. Due to this decision I didn’t go after certain opportunities that presented itself in my corporate career as I knew this nursing decision would not be well accepted or compatible with some of the areas where I wanted to advance my career. Maybe today, ten years later, this would be more possible, but still not easy.

    I don’t hold myself up for the model of making the perfect choices, but this is just an example of the kind of tough choices mothers are faced with everyday. There is a lot of trade-offs and juggling that goes on to make it all work and to balance all the areas in our lives and our relationships. For this reason, our priorities take a major re-evaluation as our time and energies are needed with our baby, toddler or older child. Personally I was lucky to be able to shift my career to an online business that has been very fulfilling. But like every mom, it is a juggling act to hit the right balance every day. We all do our best and challenge ourselves to do better.

    Although work will always be important to me and an important part of who I am, my kids are my lifeline. They are the ones I look at with pride as they learn and grow and mature and have their daily (or hourly) ups and downs. I am grateful to experience Motherhood and all it has taught me about love and living each day the best we can.

  • Maternity Leave Policy Around The World -- US Is Not The Best.

    Have you ever wondered what the maternity or parental leave policies are in the rest of the world? If you are in the United States, then there is a 95% chance that it is better than what you are currently getting.

    In fact, about 2/3rds of the countries in the world pay out 100% of your salary for a given period of time. May of these countries have the government picking up the bill, according to the International Labour Organization

    Most countries allow for paid leave for 12 to 16 weeks. Australia allows for up to 1 year but it comes at the price of not being paid. The US hits the norm at 12 weeks but that too is without any guaranteed pay.

    Studies have shown that there are benefits to keeping new parents happy by retaining them through leave. It often costs as much as 50 to 200% of an employees salary to replace them. Google extended their leave policy from 3 months to 5 and the new mother fallout rate dropped by half.

    While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay for a new parent's time off to spend with their child, it does end up making good economic sense for the employer with the added benefit of having a happier family.

    Country Length of Leave % of Wages
    Afghanistan 90 days 100
    Algeria 14 weeks 100
    Angola 90 days 100
    Antigua/Barbuda 13 weeks 60
    Argentina 90 days 100
    Australia 1 year 0
    Austria 16 weeks 100
    Bahamas 8 weeks 100
    Bahrain 45 days 100
    Bangladesh 12 weeks 100
    Barbados 12 weeks 100
    Belarus 126 days 100
    Belgium 15 weeks 82
    Belize 12 weeks 80
    Benin 14 weeks 100
    Bolivia 60 days 100
    Botswana 12 weeks 25
    Brazil 120 days 100
    Bulgaria 120-180 days 100
    Burkina Faso 14 weeks 100
    Burundi 12 weeks 50
    Cambodia 90 days 50
    Cameroon 14 weeks 100
    Canada 1 year 60
    Central African Rep. 14 weeks 50
    Chad 14 weeks 50
    Chile 18 weeks 100
    China 90 days 100
    Colombia 12 weeks 100
    Comoros 14 weeks 100
    Congo 15 weeks 100
    Costa Rica 4 months 100
    Côte d'Ivoire 14 weeks 100
    Cuba 18 weeks 100
    Cyprus 16 weeks 75
    Dem. Rep. of the Congo 14 weeks 67
    Denmark 18 weeks 100
    Dominica 12 weeks 60
    Dominican Republic 12 weeks 100
    Ecuador 12 weeks 100
    Egypt 50 days 100
    El Salvador 12 weeks 75
    Equatorial Guinea 12 weeks 75
    Ethiopia 90 days 100
    Finland 105 days 80
    France 16-26 weeks 100
    Gabon 14 weeks 100
    Germany 14 weeks 100
    Ghana 12 weeks 50
    Greece 16 weeks 75
    Grenada 3 months 100
    Guatemala 12 weeks 100
    Guinea 14 weeks 100
    Guinea-Bissau 60 days 100
    Guyana 13 weeks 70
    Haiti 12 weeks 100
    Honduras 10 weeks 100
    Hungary 24 weeks 100
    India 12 weeks 100
    Indonesia 3 months 100
    Iran 90 days 66.7
    Iraq 62 days 100
    Ireland 14 weeks 70
    Israel 12 weeks 75
    Italy 5 months 80
    Jamaica 12 weeks 100
    Japan 14 weeks 60
    Jordan 10 weeks 100
    Kenya 2 months 100
    Korea, Republic of 60 days 100
    Kuwait 70 days 100
    Laos 90 days 100
    Lebanon 40 days 100
    Lesotho 12 weeks 0
    Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 50 days 50
    Liechtenstein 8 weeks 80
    Luxembourg 16 weeks 100
    Madagascar 14 weeks 100
    Malaysia 60 days 100
    Mali 14 weeks 100
    Malta 13 weeks 100
    Mauritania 14 weeks 100
    Mauritius 12 weeks 100
    Mexico 12 weeks 100
    Morocco 12 weeks 100
    Mozambique 60 days 100
    Myanmar 12 weeks 66.7
    Nepal 52 days 100
    Netherlands 16 weeks 100
    New Zealand 14 weeks 0
    Nicaragua 12 weeks 60
    Niger 14 weeks 50
    Nigeria 12 weeks 50
    Norway 18 weeks 100
    Pakistan 12 weeks 100
    Panama 14 weeks 100
    Papua New Guinea 6 weeks 0
    Paraguay 12 weeks 50
    Peru 90 days 100
    Philippines 60 days 100
    Poland 16-18 weeks 100
    Portugal 98 days 100
    Qatar 40-60 days 100
    Romania 112 days 50
    Russia 140 days 100
    Rwanda 12 weeks 67
    Saint Lucia 13 weeks 65
    Sao Tome/Principe 70 days 100
    Saudi Arabia 10 weeks 50 or 100
    Senegal 14 weeks 100
    Singapore 8 weeks 100
    Solomon Islands 12 weeks 25
    Somalia 14 weeks 50
    South Africa 12 weeks 45
    Spain 16 weeks 100
    Sri Lanka 12 weeks 100
    Sudan 8 weeks 100
    Swaziland 12 weeks 0
    Sweden 14 weeks 75%
    Switzerland 8 weeks 100
    Syria 75 days 100
    Tanzania 12 weeks 100
    Thailand 90 days 100
    The Gambia 12 weeks 100
    Togo 14 weeks 100
    Trinidad/Tobago 13 weeks 100
    Tunisia 30 days 67
    Turkey 12 weeks 66.7
    Uganda 8 weeks 100
    Ukraine 126 days 100
    United Arab Emirates 45 days 100
    United Kingdom 14-18 weeks 90
    United States 12 weeks 0
    Uruguay 12 weeks 100
    Venezuela 18 weeks 100
    Viet Nam 4-6 months 100
    Yemen 60 days 100
    Zambia 12 weeks 100
    Zimbabwe 90 days 60
  • Looking For A Satisfying And Healthy Pregnancy Snack? Try An Avocado!

    Avocados are one of those foods that everyone in my house can enjoy without complaining. Avocados are available and tasty year round thanks to growing in various regions including California, Florida, Mexico and Chile. My finicky 8 year old daughter will eat them sliced up any day of the week and positively gleams when she sees them on her plate, as if I slaved in the kitchen to prepare something extra special for her. As a toddler she would stuff them to her mouth so quickly that they would end up smeared all over her face and hands while perched in her highchair. We joked that her creamy smooth complexion was result of her daily avocado facial masks during mealtime.

    Avocados are one of those foods that don’t take a lot of preparation to taste good. You can slice them up for sandwiches are salads. You can puree them for a healthy smoothie or throw them in cooked dishes. Avocados are so versatile with a mild flavor and smooth texture that they compliment just about anything from chips, salad, poultry, fish or beef. Whether you are a meat-eater, fish veggie or a vegan, avocados are usually allowed on the menu.

    Odd fact – although you will usually find avocados stacked next to the vegetables in the grocery store, they are actually a fruit. Avocados are native to South and Central America. The two most common varieties are Hass and Fuerte and over 90 percent of the nation’s avocados are the Hass variety from California. Florida produces the Fuerte varieties that are larger and have more water and less fat than the Hasses.

    Avocados are a suburb healthy treat for anyone and especially good for curbing that afternoon snack attack that many pregnant women often feel in even greater force than the rest of humanity and that a carrot or celery stick just won’t satisfy (although maybe when dipped in some salty guacamole). Although a medium avocado has about 30 grams of fat, it’s mostly the monounsaturated “good fat” that boosts good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. A typical serving of avocados is about 1 ounce, which is approximately 3 slices and only 5 grams of “good” fat. Avocados are also a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that is good for the eyes.

    Popular Super Bowl Treat:

    The Hass Avocado Board estimates that over 71 million pounds of the purple-black Hass avocados will be consumed during this year’s Super Bowl parties. That equates to more than 27 feel of avocados, enough to cover an entire football field “end zone to end zone.” We can assume that most of those avocados will be consumed in the form of guacamole dip.

    The most important element in making really good guacamole is using very good, ripe avocados. To find just the right ripeness, press the outside of the avocado gently. If there is a little bit of give, then the avocado is perfectly ripe. If it is hard, it is not ready and if there is too much give, then the avocado is probably too ripe and will not taste good. If you have your “perfect” ripe avocados, all you really need is salt and lime juice (lemon juice is also good if you don’t have a lime). The other good ingredients to add are cilantro, chiles, onion and tomato. However if you are prone to morning sickness, simpler is better, just use the ingredients that don’t make you avert your ever powerful nose during pregnancy (although many pregnant women swear that spicier is better when they are expecting).

    Here’s a good recipe I found with these very ingredients which serves 2-4. Double or triple for larger servings and adjust the chiles portion of the recipe for your level of preferred spiciness.

    Prep time: 10 minutes,

    INGREDIENTS

    2 ripe avocados

    1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)

    1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced

    2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped

    1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice

    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

    A dash of freshly grated black pepper

    1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped

    Garnish with red radishes or jicama. Serve with tortilla chips.

    METHOD

    1 Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.

    2 Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. (Don't overdo it! The guacamole should be a little chunky.) Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.

    Chilling tomatoes hurts their flavor, so don't chop the tomatoes or add to the guacamole until ready to serve.

    Remember that much of this is done to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.

    3 Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

    4 Just before serving chop the tomato; add to the guacamole and mix.

    Refrigeration Tips:

    Only refrigerate ripe avocados as unripe ones will not ripen in the cold. You can store ripe avocados in the refrigerator up to 5 days. If you store too long, the flesh will darken and turn into flavorless mush.

    Pureed avocados can be stored in the freezer up to 4 months for use in dips, sauces and spreads. Make sure you place pureed avocados in an airtight container leaving about an inch of head space. Also, for better flavor add a tablespoon of lime or lemon for each avocado you blend in your blender.

    So go for that guacamole dip without guilt this Super Bowl Sunday, it’s good for you and your baby and yummy to boot!

  • Learning To Say “NO”, Everyone Mom and Expecting Mom’s Right and Prerogative!

    This week I was out sick with some version of the flu. Admittedly I got a flu shot a few months ago, so I’m not positive it was the flu, but it was not pleasant and had me coughing and sneezing in my bed for most of the week. I can only imagine that it would have been ten times worse if I had not gotten the flu shot. So at this point I am at a loss with how to qualify it, do I say “I have the flu” and provoke everyone’s sympathy and judgment (for assuming I did not get a flu shot) or just go with the generic “I’m sick” description to include any and everything and maybe leave some doubt as to how sick I truly am. The short and long of it is that I am really sick and should not be around the general public coughing and sneezing involuntarily and generally spreading my germs to innocent children, parents, preschool teachers and strangers alike.

    I did find, however, there is a silver lining in this yucky sinus infection I am a victim to. That lining revealed itself with a “get out of jail free” card that I have been using like a madwomen on every single engagement and activity I have been assigned to this week. It has been nice to “just say no” and have no guilt for an entire week of getting out of an overbooked schedule of school volunteering, carpooling, field trips, gym classes, and even social engagements with friends. With the exception of getting my kids out the door in the morning to their respective schools and preschools and aiding with their homework and dinners in the evening, I largely have been at my own disposal for most of the week which has been nothing short of lovely. My husband has pitched in more to let me grab an extra 15 minutes or so of sleep in the morning. He has helped with my 4 year old’s transportation to preschool by re-arranging his business meetings. I opted out of the fieldtrip to the library, lunch with a friend, my scheduled workout at the gym, my hosting of a dinner with friends, a design meeting to redo my bathroom, volunteer ski coaching this weekend and some other volunteering at the school and church. Instead I have enjoyed some much needed time alone to read the news, a novel, a few self help books that I find interesting and insightful, some time to shop online for much needed furniture for the house and a great excuse to go to bed an hour earlier. Even my babysitter the other day took pity on me to do the extra dishes in the sink and vacuum all the kids’ rooms. Overall it’s been a pretty good deal. My mother even called worried about me and telling me “to get to the doctor right away!” I didn’t get to the doctor but I drank in the extra maternal attention and felt loved like child. Just this morning I felt like a real hero trudging to the bus stop with my kids. Wrapped in extra layers of clothes, hair array and clutching tissues in my hand, I greeted my fellow moms with my red nose and rasping voice, evoking sympathy and support from my neighbors for my mere effort of leaving my bed to accompany my kids out the door.

    As a result of this greater restfulness and empowerment to make my own choices of spending time to recuperate I have felt like a better person and a better mom, more grounded than ever before. Why isn’t life always like this? Apart from the annoying hacking cough and nose drops throughout the night so I could breathe, it’s nice feeling more cared for and generally getting out of an overbooked schedule. It’s also nice to do this without feeling any major guilt, my main culprit in life since being a fulltime mom to three little ones and quitting my corporate job.

    My take-away from this experience is that life goes on without me. I am needed and loved for what I can do and the relationships I have, but sometimes I overvalue my importance. I mistakenly feel that if I’m not fully present and perfect for every last demand made on my time, the whole world will collapse and my kids will suffer. The truth is that my kids learn a little more self-reliance when I am not 100% well and present in their lives and a little failure on their part, like forgetting to finish all their homework or practice their piano one week, may result in a lesson well learned- that of learning the ramifications of not doing their part and getting a bad grade or feeling embarrassed for not being prepared for class or a music lesson. The stakes are not high now, they are in elementary school and they can afford a few failures that may protect them from greater failures down the road when they do not have their mom hovering over them to assure they fail at nothing at all.

    I also learned that saying “no” is very empowering. As a mom I often forget that “no” is even an option. Also, since I quit my fulltime demanding corporate job and work for myself , I often feel that I am at everyone’s disposal – any class that needs a last minute volunteer, that’s me. If the 3rd grade teacher needs an extra parent for the field trip, I’m there. If my friend needs me to carpool last minute and take her daughter across town to a girl’s scout meeting in the evening that’s totally inconvenient to my Friday night, sure I can do that! (We’ll just eat dinner a little later!) If my son’s preschool teacher needs someone to pitch in last minute for snack day, I can do it! In order to prove myself the ever mighty mom and community helper, I am generally at anyone’s disposal anytime of the day or week. Being sick has forced me to say “no” and surprisingly no one is angry about it, in fact they are quite sympathetic and caring about my condition. I can really lounge in bed all day and feel good about it. I just got my first full night’s sleep in over a year the other night as I woke up feeling slightly better. Then I thought, “oh no”, I’ll need to go to that PTC at the school tomorrow night and cook for that homeowner’s potluck on Saturday. Maybe I’m still sick enough to stay home?

    I now realize how silly this all is. Does it really take coming down with the flu where I am not physically able to do as much to figure out that “no” is a word we are all capable of using when we need to/want to. Although it is good and admirable to pitch in over and beyond the call of duty now and then, it should not be a habit. Just being a mom is going beyond the call of duty every single day and just because we don’t get a paycheck or a pat on the back for that all consuming, most important job in the world, does not mean we don’t get to say “no” when we feel like it and take time out to refuel before we really are physically sick and emotionally drained. “No” is a privilege and a right we should remember to employ anytime we need to as it will allow us to draw boundaries to protect ourselves and make our own voluntary decisions more wholeheartedly. It also allows our “yeses” to be more real, more enjoyed and more purposeful. Yes, we do still have the right to choose what we do and don’t want to do, just maybe not when it comes to helping our kid in the bathroom!

    Pregnancy is great time to gain experience at saying “no” if that’s something you need a little more practice at doing. Pregnancy affords you all kinds of luxuries you can and should take advantage of – like a more doting partner, unfamiliar men opening doors for you and giving up their bus seats. Morning sickness is no picnic, but it does afford you the right to say “no” to your well meaning family members who want you to attend a certain family wedding across the country or participate in the weekly family potluck. It even allows you the privilege of saying “no” to your employer regarding working overtime, travel or working at all. You have your doctor’s permission if need be to enforce that “no” to guard your health and that of your developing baby’s. Believe me, those “no’s” are worthwhile and will be excellent practice for you when you are a mom and find yourself becoming a professional juggler more often than not. If you want to be a really good mom, learn your “nos” now and make it a useful word in your vocabulary. Your friends and loved ones may be a little shocked at first if they are not used to hearing you say it, but it gets easier over time for them and you. My 4 year old knows about this magic word already and I guess he sees it works for him from time to time as he keeps using it unabashedly, maybe I should take some lessons from him!

  • Chely Wright and Wife Expecting Twins!

    Country singer Chely Wright and her wife, Lauren Blitzer-Wright, are expecting twins this summer.

    The couple, who married in August 2011, made the announcement on Howard Bragman's YouTube series, Gwissues, Wednesday.

    The babies are due in July, but Wright, who is carrying them, expects she'll have to deliver a month early, as is common with twin births.

    "We're excited to be parents," she told Bragman. "We hope we don't mess it up too badly."

    Congratulations to the happy couple, we wish them all the best!

  • It’s Safe for Pregnant Women to Receive a Flu Shot, New Study Confirms

    You’ve probably heard how bad the flu is this year with the particularly strong strain of the H3N2 virus. People tend to be sicker for longer periods of time and with stronger symptoms than normal. Already 47 states have reported widespread cases and the number of infected are rising fast.

    “We’re seeing people, very high fever, often they’re laying down curled up, looking very unwell,” Dr. Michele Hayek reports with North Atlanta Urgent Care.

    Apart from washing your hands frequently, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the virus is to get vaccinated now. “It still offers a lot of immunity even getting it this time of the year,” Dr. Hayek says. “So, I would still definitely recommend getting a flu shot.”

    A new large study released by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday confirms that it is safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot. The research found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of losing a fetus and may prevent some deaths. Research shows that getting the flu while pregnant increases the risk if fetal death.

    "This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women," said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center.

    The new study was led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It tracked pregnancies in Norway in 2009 and 2010 during an international epidemic of a new swine flu strain.

    The study focused on more than 113,000 pregnancies. Of those, 492 ended in the death of the fetus. The researchers calculated that the risk of fetal death was nearly twice as high for women who weren't vaccinated as it was in vaccinated mothers.

    The study also showed that infants picked up protection for the virus when their mother’s were vaccinated while pregnant. Infants cannot receive the flu shot until 6 months of age, so getting early protection is a huge benefit to protecting their health.

    Influenza germs can live on a surface up to eight hours and also can be breathed in when someone coughs or sneezes and the virus is airborne.

    Doctors recommend kids scrub their hands long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Also, everyone should try to keep their hands away from their mouth, nose and eyes. Of course this is next to impossible for babies and young children, so the next best thing is to vaccinate.

    “There is a long-standing concern about giving any medicine to a pregnant woman. But this study should ease any worries about the flu shot,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "The vaccine is safe," she said.

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