Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sleep Baby Sleep

Trouble getting sleep?  Baby cries whenever you put her in bed and leave the room?  Hoping to find a way to teach your infant to sleep without all the fuss?

First off, know that this is but one of the MANY new skills that your child is working on, and that he will learn this in his own time.  And even when he does learn to go to sleep on his own, there will be times needing extra help again (when vacationing, feeling sick, uncomfortable from teething, working on a new skill such as walking, experiencing separation anxiety, etc).

This may be the #1 most common "problem" for parents in the US, and a source for tons of books and advice for how to "fix" it.  I believe the true source for the disconnect is that our lifestyle is simply not compatible with a baby's natural instincts, which is to be close to mom and dad at ALL times.  That doesn't mean that co-sleeping or wearing the baby is the only answer (though it can be done safely-- parents should be aware that somewhere down the line they will want to have their own space, and the child will need to go through the same steps to get there).

Much of this is age dependent.  Newborns through about 3 months of age can't be expected to follow any kind of pattern, and all cries should be attended to.  This is the time for bonding, feeling safe and secure, needs being met.  In these early months, the chance your baby needs food or diaper-change at any given hour are really high, so you may as well be close at hand

At around 4-5 months of age is when I recommend starting a true bedtime (and nap time) routine for baby in his own crib and room.  This is about the earliest he can be expected to learn the patterns and feel safe without you immediately there.  
Remember, your child's desire to be next to you even in sleep is completely NATURAL, and actually a very good survival instinct!

Helping baby learn to sleep on her own 

- Anticipate sleepy times, don't let baby get overtired.  The stress from missing nap or bedtimes may lead to restlessness.  Look for classic signs like yawning, rubbing eyes, and crankiness.

- Create and stick to a pre-sleeping routine that follows a predictable schedule and pattern.  For example 6pm dinner, 6:30pm bath, 7pm books, 7:30pm soft music and cuddles before laying down to sleep at 8pm.

- Make sure baby's basic needs are taken care of ahead of time (diaper changed, well fed, burped).

- Keep lights dim, voices and activity mellow for about 30 minutes before naps and 1 hour before bedtime.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why Portland is the BEST

Is Portland the right city for you?
I love Portland.  It's by far my favorite city to live, play, work, and raise a family.  I can say from personal experience of having lived in many other cities on both coasts and in between that this is the best place to be.

I know many people who are seriously considering relocating to the Pacific Northwest.  They are drawn for a variety of reasons, and here are just a few:  

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuffed Peppers with Moroccan flavors

Wow, I served my family a vegan meal for dinner tonight!
(Note-- we're not even vegetarian)

As you may expect, it was super healthy, packed with nutrients, and completely balanced.  However, we were surprised at how filling and satisfying it was.

Living in Portland means high exposure to lots of alternative types of dining experiences, including vegetarian/vegan.  We used to live near the Blossoming Lotus, which is a well known completely vegan restaurant.  We first stopped by on a whim on one of our too-lazy-to-cook evenings, and got hooked on the complex interplay of textures, flavors, and fresh produce.

It seems the lack of meat as a protein is a great incentive to get creative with your ingredients.  Usually the meat-free protein comes from beans, tofu (soybean), seitan (wheat gluten), or nuts.  There is a much shorter prep time, and no worries about the dangers of being undercooked.

What I made tonight, and completely made up as I went, was stuffed peppers with a twist.  While definitely a savory dish, the fruit and the cinnamon give it a sweet taste as well.

See recipe below if you want to try it for yourself, it's too delicious not to share!

Moroccan Inspired Stuffed Peppers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sign Language for Babies

Teach your baby to sign.  You'll be so glad you did!

If there's one thing I recommend parents teach their infants besides how to eat, sleep, and snuggle with you, it's this.  Sign language is the best form of communication for babies and toddlers who aren't fully verbal yet, and it makes them smarter too!

Babies are more clever than you might think.  In the first year of life they go from crying anxiously for their every need to toddlers who are anticipating the day and interacting with others.  During this time their brains are primed for soaking up knowledge about this strange and marvelous new world.

This is the best time to learn one more super valuable new skill.  There are so many great benefits to be gained from this small investment.  Caregivers can easily work the signs into their ongoing interactions with their little ones, and use them in conjunction (as opposed to in place of) with words.

See this wonderful example of signing between mom and child.

Here's a simple breakdown of the advantages:
1) Your baby will be smarter because of the language stimulation.
2) Baby will be happier once his his needs are communicated effectively.  This means a LOT less frustration, and a lot less crying.
3) Parents will be reassured in knowing what baby wants instead of having to guess.
4) Your toddler will be able to "read" a signing book to himself, and to you.  So darn cute.
5) Your child will make up signs, sparking his creativity.

Examples from our own daughter:
- at 9 months old, telling us when she wants milk, and when she's tired.
- at 12 month old, excitedly signing elephant when she sees them.
- at 13 months, using her all-done sign to let us know when she's full.
- at 15 months old, using the hurt sign after falling down, instead of crying.
- at 16 months, using the potty sign to tell us that she's soiling her diaper (first step in potty training).

Now, to get into more detail about signing and why I am such a strong supporter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Banana Molasses Bread

If you like banana bread, you've GOT to try this variation!  It's the most delicious quick-bread I've ever invented (and first).  I basically merged two different recipes together, then added my own twists such as replacing the egg and changing to whole wheat flour.

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy.

Banana Molasses Bread

Mix together:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 cup oil
- 3/4 cup molasses

In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all of above together, then in a separate bowl mash and mix:
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 2 tablespoons milk

Stir all ingredients together until blended, then pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (toothpick should come out clean).

Serve immediately, or my favorite way- sliced then toasted then topped with cream cheese.  Delicious!  And also healthy as far as desserts go!  See below (thanks to this website where you can calculate nutrition based on ingredients).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Toddler-Proof iPhone

I've done it!  I figured out how to make my iPhone safe and fun for our little toddler to play with.

Here's what was the problem.  

As a baby, our daughter was happy to look into the phone, hold it, and flip it from front to back.  The best apps were those that would hold her attention, make interesting sounds, and not escape when she touched a certain part of the screen.  (see "iPhone apps for babies")

As she grew older, she learned how to hit the "home" button.  The little round button on the bottom of the phone that allowed you to escape any app you were in.  This caused frustration for her when the game would end sooner than expected, leaving me to jump in every few seconds to fix it.  The home button also made my phone vulnerable to her accidentally placing phone calls, moving things around, or even deleting programs.

So I searched high and low for the solution.
I figured all we needed was a way to temporarily block the home button, perhaps with a special case.  Simple, right?  WRONG.
Many google and amazon searches later, I had come up empty handed.  I even visited those phone kiosks at the mall, the Apple store, and the AT&T store.  They all said the same thing: "There's no iphone case that covers the home button, that would make the phone useless!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Toxin-Free Kids

I didn't used to have any concern about the food available in the US.  I believed our regulating bodies of government had our best interests at hand, and that all food on grocery stores shelves were safe for consumption.

My feelings have changed, especially when it comes to feeding my young child.  There is clear evidence that a developing child's brain is highly vulnerable to toxin exposures.  Even those found in everyday goods.  See below for details, and how to keep your kids safe.

For years I ignored the "organic food" section of the store, which appeared simply to be a more expensive version of the same thing.  Why pay more?  It all seemed like a fad, or a ruse that I wasn't going to fall for.  All the while that section just kept growing, with organic labels popping up on all types of food imaginable.

Bella Organic Farm, Sauvie Island

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's NOT Hard to be Healthy

Being in good physical health is so very important to our well being.  In this modern age filled with decadence and convenient shortcuts, it has become too easy to live a dangerously unhealthy lifestyle.  The cause of most of the medical problems US adults are facing today can be directly traced back to poor choices made in food, lifestyle, and activity.  In other words, we are often the cause of our own accelerated mortality.

We hear everyone talking about the problem: high and rising rate of obesity, heart disease, diabetes.
We know about the solution:  sensible balanced diet and exercise.

But all this talk seems to mean little to the masses who would rather try out a quick gimmick to reverse weight loss so they will feel like they look better.  Since when is this only about how we look?  What about what goes on inside our bodies that fuels our minds and guides our lives?

I though I'd share my point of view on being healthy.  I've never found it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  People may say that I'm lucky, that it's genetic, that I'm blessed with a good metabolism.  Or even that I suffer and don't eat as much or as pleasurably as I want to.  I can tell you that none of that is true.  Why?  Because I have family members who are obese, and those who are healthy, and the difference between them is clearly the choices they make, the foods they eat, the activities in their day.  Nothing to do with luck.  And about my enjoyment of food?  It is 100% wonderful and satisfying, without ever going hungry or missing any type delicious experience.

As you will see, it is mostly about the food since it's much harder to exercise off extra calories than it is to avoid them in the first place.

Here's how I do it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Home Dreaming

The market is ripe with low interest rates and abundance of homes on the market, an opportunity that has us seriously considering buying our first family home.

I find myself dreaming of things that would make our new place ideal.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

EASY Egg-Free Cupcakes

Baking for vegan?  Got allergies?  What to do about the egg part of the recipe?
What to do when you CAN'T use these?

I needed to make some egg-free cupcakes for a birthday party recently, and after perusing many options and suggestions, I decided to try a few different versions to see how they would turn out.  I did NOT want to make them from scratch, if at all possible.  It turns out you don't have to!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let me tell you all about you

People love to analyze themselves, to figure out why they do things a certain way, what motivates them in everyday life, and what draws them to others.

Moving one step further, people really enjoy it when someone else can give them the answers and fill in the blanks for them.  This I think explains the love of horoscopes and fortune telling.  I was surprised to learn that more than 1/4 of all Americans believe in astrology.  This reality has been highlighted recently with all the buzz about zodiac signs and shifting planets that has been in the news lately (and much talked about).

In case you are one of the last to know, here is the article that explains why the sign you thought you were may not be your true one.  And here is an article (one example of many) that highlights the identity crises that are happening all across the country.

In honor of all this frivolous hubub, I'd like to offer an alternative system for identifying your strengths and characteristics.

Twelve Signs of the Garden
Based on what delicious produce is at its peak of perfection.  What better way to connect with your roots?

Monday, January 10, 2011

How Clean is Your Favorite Restaurant?

While waiting to pick up some take-out food from one of our favorite local restaurants last weekend, my eyes fell upon this most unfortunate sign in the window:

"Public notice
Upon last inspection this establishment 
with the acceptable sanitation standards 
of the Oregon Health Division 
of Sanitation"

A few questions came to my mind:
What?  Was I reading that correctly?
They're still in business?  Is that even legal?
Is my food ready yet?

Funny thing was, I seemed to be the only person who noticed the sign.  I happened to be waiting outside for my order, enjoying the crisp wintery air and the peaceful night.  There was a steady stream of people wandering in for their take-out packages, oblivious to this important public announcement posted right by the door.

When I got home my husband and I did some researching on the topic (over a plate of pad thai...hey we were still hungry!).  Here's what we learned:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Power of Choice

When I was a kid, I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up.  It was a wonderful feeling.  My first big dream was to be a singer.  As a little girl I would perform from my "stage" in the living room and belt out my favorite songs (ah, Dolly Parton) and show off how I could sing my A-B-C's in vibrato (like the opera), which I considered to be very advanced.

As the years passed, my world of possibilities became more limited.  By the time I was a teenager I could feel the pressure to make the right decision for my life's purpose and direction. 

I came to the conclusion that I had two choices:
1) lawyer
2) doctor

For some reason I thought those were the "best" jobs out there.  Even though I knew very little about what either of them would actually entail, let alone what the various other options might be.  After more thought, some very enjoyable science classes, and an inspiring health class, I decided I would be a doctor. 

What had started as a wide open meadow of limitless possibilities, had now evolved into a well defined path leading toward a distinct goal.

This is NOT a story about ending up in the wrong place.
Today I am completely in love with what I do for a living.  Working with kids and their families, learning new things on a daily basis, watching technology advance with the field, and teaching.  It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of these patients lives.

It's about finding my voice again.
What I also love is my ability to define what, where, and when I do my work.  Without this power, the joy is much harder to come by.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Love Shopping From Home

Let's say you want a garlic press.  You're tired of holding those little cloves of garlic on the cutting board while you mince them.  You want a nice one that works well and is comfortable to hold.  You don't need it right this moment, but it would be nice to have it soon, so that it's handy when the urge to make stir fry strikes.
Oxo SteeL Garlic Press, Stainless
So you wait until the weekend when you have some free time, get in the car and drive 20 minutes to your store of choice (Target perhaps), try for a close parking spot but fail because everyone else shops on Saturdays too, walk about a mile's worth circling the store for not just the item you want, but other departments of interest too (might as well, while you here...), wait in line to check out, pay for your cart full of stuff (half of which you probably didn't actually need), run through the rain back to your car, and drive the 20 minutes back home.


Pop online (Amazon, for example), type "garlic press," search through the results for your perfect fit and price, see that a hundred+ reviewers have given this product an average of 4.5/5 stars, click in into your virtual cart, then find the lovely item on your doorstep a few days later.

Is there any contest here?

The (Bad) News

I literally grew up watching the evening news.  As young as I can remember, I would perk up when hearing the theme music.  I would mimic my father as he stood before the TV screen unconsciously stroking his mustache, carefully studying the events unfolding.  Each night we gladly welcomed Dan Rather into our home (we "knew" him way back when he was a local news reporter).

I carried on this tradition when I left home for college and beyond.  My day didn't seem complete without a nightly recap of the latest events from one of the trusted anchors.  Even with the availability of online news articles, I kept up my ritual, enjoying the tidy 30 minute package of stories, conversation, and video footage that brought it all to life.

It's been many months now since I stopped watching the news, and I know I am much happier because of it.

Why did I stop?
Because it's mostly bad news!  Bad in more than one way.
1) For some reason it's the rare but horrible things that happen in the world which qualify as newsworthy.  Threats, murders, accidents, disasters, and scandals get top billing.
2) Stories are sensationalized, with snippets made to grab your attention rather than deliver true substance.  "Coming up, an amazing new discovery that will add years to your life..."  or "the hidden danger inside your own home that could be making you sick..."  The answers to these teasers are almost always a fairly boring one, that put in the right context isn't actually a breakthrough at all.
3) Because of the need to report the latest updates about headline stories, the shows are often repetitive.  Think of day #xxx of the BP oil disaster and you get my point.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Perfect Winter Drink

I've just come up with the most delicious drink that's also very simple to make and perfect for those cold winter evenings.  I must share it with the world!

The taste is familiar, hot spiced apple cider, but the formula is new.  Simply warm up a cup of cider, and plop in a bag of Tazo's sweet cinnamon spice tea!  It's so brilliant, I don't know why I didn't think of is sooner!

I bet this would work with red wine too, also known as mulled wine or "Glogg."

Happy 2011 everyone!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Feeding Your Baby

As a pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), I agree with and follow the vast majority of guidelines put forth by the AAP.  As a woman of science and a mom, I can see how some of the advice and policies are based less on researched evidence and more on tradition.

One of the BIG areas that I feel needs changing is that of starting baby on solid foods.

Why is this important to me, and why should it be important to all parents out there?
*  You may be restricting your children from a wide world of delicious foods.
*  This may cause them to grow up with a narrow selection of taste preferences.
*  This leads many parents to panic and give their child whatever they will eat, often resulting in too many starches and sweets.
*  This may contribute to unhealthy feeding habits, which could be a source for overweight and obesity issues.
*  This may also be a cause for our leading nutritional deficiency, iron.

Here are some of the steps TRADITIONALLY put forth: 
(see example here
- Wait until baby is 4-6 months of age, and watch for signs of readiness (sitting upright, lack of tongue thrust, watching you eat or grabbing food from your plate).
- Start with just rice cereal for a month or two.
- Next give one new food per week, so that you watch for signs of allergic reaction.  These should be cooked pureed fruits or vegetables.
- Next try meats (still only one new food per week).
- Give 100% fruit juice to drink, limiting to 4-6 oz per day.
- Delay eggs until after 1 year of age.  Delay peanut products until even later.

Do these sound familiar?  Many pediatricians are still offering this advice, even though MUCH of it is outdated and inconsistent with current scientific findings.