Making Mountains

Posted by savannahkase on March 29, 2018 in Personal |

I decided months ago that I would give up sugar and grains for Lent. That may sound extreme, or like not a big deal, depending on your perspective. I was inspired by a group of parents from my son’s preschool class who jointly undertook Whole30 in January – thirty days without sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, or caffeine. I don’t eat much meat, so that regime seemed out of reach for me. I have given up sugar for Lent the past ten years or so, and always find it to be a useful reset for my insatiable sweet tooth. By contrast, living without grains seemed impossible, which is precisely why I thought I should try it.

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Sealed With a Kiss

Posted by savannahkase on March 19, 2018 in Advice, Research, Working Mom |

I read a lot of parenting books.  I like books, and I trust books.  I read friends’ blogs for fun, and I Google questions in a pinch, but when I want to learn something, I look in a book (something I have in common with Super Why).  So when I learned I was pregnant with my first child, I immediately asked my doctor what book I should get to learn how to raise it.  My doctor just laughed.  “If there was one right way to raise a child,” she told me, “everyone would be doing it and millions of parenting books would not exist.”

With no parenting bible to guide me, I have been working my way through a library of child-rearing books over the last six years.  I have read more than one hundred, and generally find one or two aspects of each that I hold onto and incorporate into my repertoire.  For example, Harvey Karp’s “5 S’s” helped me avoid feeling frantic when my newborn was crying.  Charlotte Kasl’s “If the Buddha Had Kids” gave me a sense of perspective of parenting as a marathon, not a sprint.

Visiting my parents earlier this year, I came across an autographed copy of Ron Taffel’s “Parenting By Heart” in my mom’s library.  It was the subtitle that made me pick it up: “How to Be in Charge, Stay Connecting, and Instill Your Values, When it Feels Like You’ve Got Only 15 Minutes a Day,” but it was the subtitle of Chapter 10 that prompted me to read it: “How to use bribery, threats and other ‘dirty’ tricks to help your child become a better person.”  The book was published in 1991, and throughout the author laments the “good old days” before TV ads targeted at kids (when was that?) and Nintendo.  I imagine the second edition, released in 2002, makes the point that all of Dr. Taffel’s advice is even more relevant in the age of smartphones and social media.  [Although his tip to “put on your walkman” when siblings start fighting is likely less effective when you just slip in your earbuds.] Read more…

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From the Mouths of Babes

Posted by savannahkase on March 7, 2018 in Lessons From Little Ones, Parenting, Personal |

“Ships are safe in the harbor but that’s not what ships were made for.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“Attitude determines altitude.”

Since becoming a mother, however, I have been unable to find a motivating mantra that fits my new reality. Now my priority is keeping my little ships safe; the thought of them sailing beyond the harbor of our home terrifies me. I have also become more risk-adverse in my personal and professional life. I need job security, good health insurance, and workplace flexibilities that allow me to support and enjoy my family. And while I try to remain upbeat, it is easy to become impatient or overwhelmed. My default motto has become, “One day at a time,” but that is not how I want to live my life (figuratively, at least).

Last Sunday morning, my kind husband whisked our two younger children downstairs so I could sleep in. But it was not to be, as a few minutes later I heard my five-year-old at our bedroom door. “Do you want to come cuddle?” I asked him.

“I ALWAYS want to cuddle you,” he enthusiastically replied. He seemed puzzled when I told him I hoped he’d always feel that way.

My son began to tell me about a dream he’d had, in which he was a superhero saving the day.  After recounting his dreamland adventures, my son turned to me, “I think everyone is kind of a superhero, don’t you?” Read more…

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Carry-on Baggage: My Top 10 Tips For Air Travel With Tots

Posted by savannahkase on January 12, 2018 in Advice, Parenting |

Cambodia with 2 under 3 – totally worth the trip!

All three of my children have taken a cross-country or cross-continent flight before they were two months old, and each has racked up more than 10,000 miles before they turned one (too bad we can’t get flight rewards for babies!). My husband and I aren’t gluttons for punishment or out to prove anything. We simply wanted our kids to meet their grandparents, located in California and Port Elizabeth, South Africa. And while I was nervous about our first flight with our first child (almost five years ago), I can honestly say that I look forward to air travel with my three small kids. We are taking off for a double-layover trip to southern California tomorrow and I am excited for the quality time together.

There is nothing special about my husband and me or our kids. Anyone can enjoy flying with small children, if you have the right mindset and supplies. I also think it’s great to introduce kids to air travel early, but it’s never too late to start. Three years ago, I posted tips for flying with infants, and still stand by that long list. Below is a summary of my best advice for flying with kids under five (because once they are six or older, screens and snacks are basically all you need). Read more…

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Happy Holidays!

Posted by savannahkase on December 25, 2017 in Personal |

I hope you and yours are enjoying a very Merry Christmas, or at least, rejoicing in a day off work.  I am sending my best wishes for a wonderful celebration with family and friends, and for a New Year full of blessings.  But I did not send any holiday cards.

It’s a tradition as sacred as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving (okay, bad example, we didn’t do that either this year, but only because I couldn’t find canned pumpkin in South Africa). Every year, with the arrival of December comes a steady stream of holiday cards from family and friends. As a kid, it was among the most exciting mail we got all year. My mom is one of eight and all of her sisters and brothers sent cards from across the country; it was usually the only time I got to “see” my far-away cousins aside from family reunions. My parents put a lot of time and effort into our holiday cards. My dad would devise an elaborate theme or scene (for example, one year we brought a little Christmas tree and Santa hats to the beach and wrote out, “Merry Christmas from the Sandy Clauses” on the beach) and my mom would painstakingly write out each one and send them to dozens of family and friends. Deciding who would get a holiday card in a given year was a complex undertaking involving multiple variables such as: did they send us a card last year? do we think we have their current address? are we still friends with them? Read more…

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American Exports

Posted by savannahkase on December 7, 2017 in Current Events, Personal |

We are on the tip of the African continent, visiting my in-laws in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After an unexpected death in the family a few months ago, my husband and I decided to come out to throw his extended family an American Thanksgiving. Although the hot weather necessitated some menu modifications (for example, cold potato salad instead of hot mashed potatoes), we had a gorgeous turkey with cranberry sauce and gravy, stuffing, salad, noodle kugel, green beans, and an assortment of pies. My kids made foam turkeys for each place setting and a gingerbread turkey as the centerpiece. As per tradition, we all over ate and enjoyed one another’s company until late into the evening. The South Africans were grateful we had shared our American custom.

The next morning, however, we were horrified to discover that while Thanksgiving remains uniquely American, South Africa – and likely other countries as well – has adopted the more modern U.S. tradition of Black Friday. We happened to be at one of the area’s largest malls on Friday morning (for an animatronic dinosaur exhibition) so had a first-hand experience of the consumption hysteria. People with trolleys ( that’s what they call shopping cart here) loaded with TVs, designer clothes, and new gadgets pushed past each other to scoop up the next “Black Friday” bargain. The shops seemed to encourage this stampede effect by publishing in their ads how many of a certain item would be available at the discounted rate. Read more…

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I’m Not (Just) Tired!

Posted by savannahkase on November 14, 2017 in Parenting, Personal, Work/Life Balance, Working Mom |

Many things change upon becoming a parent, but among the most profound is one’s relationship to sleep. However you previously felt about the inherent human need for rest, having children alters that dramatically – at least for a few years (I’ve heard it gets better, but my oldest is nearly five and my youngest is six months so I’m not there yet!).

As parents, it is easy to attribute every meltdown, shoving incident, or otherwise embarrassing/ unpleasant child behavior to lack of sleep. “Oh, she missed her nap so is acting out.” Or, “he’s had a long day so doesn’t feel like sharing right now.” These excuses may often be true, but the kid won’t admit it. For reasons I may never understand, my kids hate to go to sleep. Even when their utter exhaustion is causing them to stumble and slur their words, they insist that they are “not tired at all!” When I point out that their actions are demonstrating that they are indeed overtired, my children shriek their disagreement as if I had just accused them of being monsters.

I recently discovered that I suffer from the reverse blind spot. I insist on finding reasons for my work blunders, double-scheduling, cooking failures, missed deadlines, messy house, and bad moods. I tell myself (and anyone who will listen) that I have too much on my plate, allergies, a lot of my mind, crazy hormones, frustrating clients, and three small kids. That may all be true, but the root of all that ails and irks me these days is not what I have, but what I don’t have: enough sleep. The trouble is, I have become so accustomed to my sleep-deprived state that I tend to forget what it was like to function on adequate rest. Recently, I have been wondering if my failure to appreciate the effect that a lack of sleep has on me is due, at least in part, to insufficient vocabulary to describe this condition. Read more…

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Half a Year

Posted by savannahkase on October 28, 2017 in Lessons From Little Ones, Parenting, Personal, Second Child |

Celebrating his half-birthday with his first teething biscuit … it was a hit!

My baby is six months old today, and yet I still call him “my newborn.” 183 nights he has slept by my side, but it still startles me to awake to him crying in his co-sleeper. He has learned to roll, grab, sit, smile, and laugh, but we can only guess at the person he will grow up to be. Read more…

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Dark Days

Posted by savannahkase on September 21, 2017 in Current Events, Lessons From Little Ones, Parenting, Personal |

The sun is shining and birds are chirping as leaves float lazily from the canopy of trees surrounding my suburban home. My children shout with glee in the yard and my baby coos in his high chair – three healthy little humans without a care in the world. At the same time, stories of disaster and devastation intertwine with the smells of supper as I listen to the radio while doing the day’s dishes. This month has seen record-breaking hurricanes and chart-topping earthquakes, as well as hydrogen bomb threats, racially-motivated shootings, terrorist attacks, a refugee crisis, several famines, and countless other tragedies occurring simultaneously all over the world. Is it just me, or has the never-ending stream of bad news turned into a flood all of a sudden? My idyllic life bears no hint of the horrors too many on our planet are facing, and yet, their suffering keeps me up at night and gnaws at my happiness. Read more…

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Chalk in the Sand

Posted by savannahkase on September 9, 2017 in Current Events, Lessons From Little Ones, Parenting, Personal |

For the past three weeks, my Facebook feed has been full of cute kids wearing new backpacks holding signs declaring their first day of school. Worn down by the virtual peer pressure, I asked my husband to take “chalkboard portraits” of our kids as they headed off for their respective first days. I felt sad to miss the excitement as my son reunited with his friends for pre-kindergarten and as my daughter set off for her very first day of preschool. But for them, every day is exciting so they were not concerned that I was not present to drop them off or pick them up on that first day. Although I believe it is important to celebrate milestones and emphasize the importance of getting an education, the first-day-of-school photos are not really for our kids’ sake. They are for us, the moms and dads trying to mark a moment in time by drawing a chalk line in the sand. We fawn over the photos with current nostalgia, knowing that we will look back on our little darlings at the end of the school year and marvel over how much they’ve changed. Read more…

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