All Articles in the Category ‘Parenting’

The View: 5 Truths WhenTraveling With Children

We arrived home late in the day Monday from Central America (hence the near silence around here). My family traveled to Costa Rica where we visited my father, old friends, my family’s ecolodge, and had some real honest-to-goodness time together. I remained essentially unplugged for the 10 days (except for a few brief moments online). Wondrous. Life really feels different without an iPhone in my pocket and a diaper in my purse while on the way to preschool. I didn’t have the iconic stethoscope along either. In the absence of routine and my typical tools, I was reminded that travel and how you deal with it is often about perspective. And optimism.

Time brushes your body differently when you’re out of the country, as if it attains a new temperature. Startling news like the shooting rampage in Arizona or the deeper disappointment in Andrew Wakefield hit me differently than I would have expected. Sometimes what we infer really depends on the view. When sitting in a country without an army, surrounded by family and wide open spaces, priorities came into focus, minutia disappeared, the resume of my life diminished in importance, and tragic news penetrated less deeply. For me, travel was a break from responsibility but also a break from the internet, the demands of the constant worry we can feel when taking care of others or bearing witness to the hydrant stream of ideas and news in the (social) media. While I was in Costa Rica, I really felt like a mom. Singularly at times. We were devoid of deadlines and while in the middle of the rain forest, the distance from technology was vast. Big trees, humid thick breeze, and the bazillions of bugs reminded me that there really was a time before my iPhone, Twitter, and e-mail. There can be time that is slow and uninterrupted.

Let me be clear, travel with children isn’t all rosy and relaxed. Travel with children is just that, travel. It’s not technically vacation. There remains little “down-time.” The diapers still get filled, the tantrums remain rampant, the sicknesses can still appear, and the room is usually crammed. And although travel through the eyes of children enlightens, it also exhausts. Which leads me to these 5 things. Read full post »

2011 Hopes, Dreams, Predictions

One year ago, I published a post about hopes, dreams, and predictions for 2010. Click on that link, there’s a 7 second video worth watching.

While we determined our hopes and predictions, a friend helped me determine the mathematical equation for ranking the likelihood of each coming true. We figured it went something like this: Predictions>hopes>dreams. That is, predictions are most likely to come true, dreams the least.

Here’s the 2010 list of predictions from a night one year ago with friends and neighbors. The results listed thereafter.

2010 PREDICTIONS: “2010 will be easier on all of us than 2009,” “Obama’s reputation will be saved by climate legislation,” “I’ll paint the trim in the house white.”

(No, I don’t think 2010 was easier. I don’t think Obama’s reputation was saved. Instead of painting the trim, we sold the house)

2010 HOPES: “Good health,” “My Dad can retire by 12/31/10,” “My mother-in-law’s cancer treatment is successful.”

(Good health, yes, thank goodness. Yes, her dad retired. Yes, my mom’s treatment has put her into remission for the time being).

2010 DREAMS: “F will be potty trained,” “Obama is as good of a man as we think he is,” “I work less,” “The Chevy Volt will save GM.”

(Yes, F potty trained in January of 2010 (YAHOO). I believe Obama is an amazing man. I worked more, not less. I don’t know about the Volt; the jury is still out. Thoughts?)

We were on, we were off. I do believe we all continued to dream big.

As I ended the year 2010, I was directed to a blog post entitled, “The Myth Of Work Life Balance” by Mitch Joel. I read it more than a week ago and have returned to it in my head many times. I agree with parts, disagree with others.

First things first, anyone who writes about work life balance doesn’t have it. Read full post »

Lice Infestation

I’m not trying to ruin your holidays (or your appetite). I really couldn’t and wouldn’t make this stuff up. But yes, we have had a lice infestation for the holidays. Last Thursday we flew to California to be with family for Christmas. Before that, I was in the midst of typical holiday madness, but I also felt this year, in particular, I’d managed not to get stressed. While in clinic on Wednesday, I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to stress about the to-do list awaiting me at home. The perspective I get while seeing patients often helps me frame my own stress. Compared to a broken arm or a bout of RSV, a packing list is really nothing. My husband was on call on Wednesday, so when I returned home from clinic around 6:30pm, the to-do list was mine alone. I needed to pack the family for the holiday, finish off some writing, wrap some gifts, and find something for dinner while completing the Christmas cards. I had about 12 hours before we needed to leave for the airport. But this is the life of nearly every parent at one time or another, particularly around the holidays. Then it hit.

Just before our nanny left, she mentioned F was complaining of an itchy scalp. The rest goes something like this:

Me: “Really? F, Lovie, come here, let me look at your head.” Pause. Gulp…….wait for it……..”You’ve got to be kidding me, lice for Christmas.”

F had lice. Yes, we’d received a letter the week prior that a “sibling” of one of the preschoolers had lice. The letter seriously sounded like the stories we hear from others about a “friend” with an STD or a “neighbor’s child” who bites. I figured one of the kids in school really did have lice and yes, the threat was there, but then blew it off and went on with life. New recommendations from the AAP this past fall encouraged schools not to send children home with lice or keep them away from school. I tend to agree with the recommendations as having families leave work and sending kids home seems an enormous interruption for a “non-health issue.” Maybe because of this, I was just about to have a front row seat in a major infestation.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Does this sound like a sitcom? One of our new neighbors was at the door, huge warm smile on her face. She was inviting us to a quick impromptu holiday party next door. Would I like to come? One of the older children had been offered up to watch the kids so I could head over and have a glass of wine. Pâté. Meet the neighbors, embrace the holidays.

I faked it; I smiled. I don’t eat pâté, but the wine sure sounded good. I didn’t tell this holiday-cheer-infused welcoming neighbor what was going on. I mean, when someone is standing in your home, for the first time, meeting your family and offering pâté and wine, do you tell them your child is covered in bugs?

I shut the door, said I would try to make it (that was the truth), and planned my attack. Read full post »


Getting is an important part of our holiday tradition, too, even though most of us over age 18 naturally subscribe to the insight that, “We get far more when giving than when getting gifts.” Children feel differently, of course; when you’re young, holidays and celebrations are all about the getting. Part innocence, part their time and space, part their developmental stage (it’s normal for preschoolers to believe everything is about them); the recipe for being a child includes wanting more toys. But using Santa (or his elves) as a behavioral tool is never going to work. Naughty or nice is a total hoax.

Our maturation from focusing on getting to focusing on giving is the sustenance in this cycle. All in balance, most of us seem to want less material goods as we grow old. Wisdom, aging, or idiocy–you decide. As I age, my Christmas list has started to sound more and more like my mother’s :”time with my children,” towels for the bathroom, and appliances for the kitchen. It all used to sound so lame. Is it my simple understanding of the bank account, the distillation of my limited free time, or something else? Like most, no longer does gift receiving highlight my holiday; what I like most about this time of year is the ultimate sense of anticipation and the giving. As one friend recently said, “It’s hard not to want to spoil your kids.” It’s just so fun to give them things they like and want. Read full post »


I’ve been slightly dented by the bad news I’ve heard this year. In 2010, more parents have told me about losing their jobs, having a hard time paying the bills, losing their health insurance (this makes me insane/incensed!!), and losing their homes while I’ve been in clinic than I ever imagined. I’ve always had the fortune of financial support, either from my family as a child and young adult, or through loans for college and med school. My entire life, I’ve always had a place to sleep. In this down market, I’ve thought more about my good luck than ever before. I still have plenty of educational debt (like most doctors), but previously while living on educational loans or in medical training, I lived paycheck to paycheck. Therefore I didn’t have the luxury to give to charity. Or I didn’t choose to (that’s another way to look at it). Now as I get farther away from my training, I have more opportunity to give.

An utter privilege. Dent remover.

When my husband and I discussed giving to charity this month, we were slightly clueless about how to proceed. With our busy careers and with two young children this year, we haven’t had (or taken) time to volunteer outside of the institutions in which we work. We don’t have any new experiences to help guide where we should give. I’ve given to my schools previously and to organizations that I listen to regularly or have affected my own life. But others–those who reach out to children I don’t know? It dawned on me I should survey the Twitterscape. Lots of communities (read: medicine) remain skeptical about Twitter. I find it an irreplaceable tool in medicine, and in life. My list for its utility flourishes. And I’m not alone; a recent Pew research survey suggests 8% of all Americans use Twitter…

Twitter can offer an incredible marketplace of thought, emotion, opinion, and fact. For those skeptical, yes, it does offer falsehoods, inflation, myth, and blatant un-truths. Just like any other situation–on the street, in the hallway, or at the water cooler–you still have to use your brain when consuming on Twitter. But one great thing about Twitter is that it’s a perfect place to crowdsource. That is, aggregating peoples’ minds and experience to answer a question easily. When I grab my partners in clinic to “eye-ball” a rash or discuss a patient case where I have some indecision, I often tell families “Four eyes are better than two” because most often, it’s true. Even if those two sets of eyes don’t agree, the reasoning for disagreement is entirely useful in making clinical decisions and in guiding families in a plan. Collective insight, wisdom, and experience will always improve advice in health care. And in solving everyday-type problems. Hence crowd-sourcing on Twitter to determine where best to give…

I sent out a tweet a little over a week ago: Read full post »

A Living Mommy-Daddy Will

I’ve been struck by the death of Elizabeth Edwards. I keep coming back to thoughts about her. Like most Americans, on Monday I learned she was advancing to hospice care. After a long day in clinic on Tuesday, spent, I listened to NPR in the car on my commute home. It was dumping rain in Seattle, it was dark, the cars were moving slowly. NPR announced she’d passed away. What? Pause. Swallow. Take a right turn at the light…

I thought she had weeks. Tears welled up in my eyes; I felt caught off guard. I can only imagine the sadness of those who have known her.

I’ve been thinking of her, her children, and her life experience. I don’t know her, so of course my vantage point into her life is one similar to most–I only know what the media shared with me and what she chose to share with the public. I trust her texture is expansive and far more pronounced in person. I know so little about her, but I have heard her story and it is memorable. I am taken by her death likely because so often, she was identified as a mother.

Today in NYT’s Motherlode blog, Lisa Belkin writes about Ms Edward’s “Dying Letter,” a letter she composed for her children as she faced her mortality. People magazine reported on the letter while the Edwards family was on the campaign trail. I suspect like any letter from a mother, her letter is filled with story, memory, advice, wisdom, and legacy. Fortunately, we’ll never know. Only her children will.

But it got me thinking. Why don’t we all write this? Why don’t we all share, journal, and jot down our thoughts and ideas for our children before we face a mortal diagnosis or worse, an unexpected death. Why not collect thoughts/ideas/moments in time throughout our lives for our children. After I wrote a letter to F last year for his preschool emergency preparedness, I felt better. I know that if today an earthquake occurred while my son was at school, that while separated, he’d at least have my words and a photo. This task could function like a living will but not for our own end, rather for our childrens’ future. Today, a living-Mommy (or Daddy)-will makes a lot of sense to me, despite the onerous task of composing it.

Does it make sense to you to start an ongoing letter to your children? If you don’t feel like much a writer, how about a list of ideas/wishes/advice placed in bullet points? I suspect if any of us start this, we’ll never regret it. Neither will our children.

Will you do this?

Verbatim: Be A Dad

Recently I saw a patient for his 7 year old well child check. He was in the office with his entire family for an evening appointment. My medical assistant got his weight, height, blood pressure, and completed his screening exams. In the hall, she mentioned to me that he said he was going to be a scientist when he grew up. She was charmed (clearly) and I was weak in the knees when I entered the exam room. I mean, endearing and sweet, robust and proactive, his dreams exceeded the typical 7 year old. I suppose I thought this partly because of my path in life (science-y and full of many years of science education). Of course there is nothing ultimately graded about dreaming to be a scientist when compared to dreaming to be an astronaut, a carpenter, a designer, a gardener, a botanist, an artist, or a teacher (this list goes on and on). What we want for children is far wider than their title–what we want is contentment and enjoyment in their career.  Most of us often love when people tell us they want to be “us” when they grow up. It’s affirming, right? One reason you have to be careful from whom you seek career advice. For most, it will often sound a lot like a transcript of what they have done. I’ve been thinking about this since the visit because of what happened next… Read full post »

Wednesday Before Thanksgiving

Be safe today. With travel defining many of our days, this is a day I think about safety every year. Now more than ever because of my kids. Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. The CDC statistics on child passenger safety state that child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants and 54% of toddlers age 1 to  4 year of age. Car and booster seats are an awesome way to protect our kids.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving was changed for me forever while training in pediatrics.

Wait, a warning: this is a slightly morbid thought. So if it will do you no good, don’t read on. I share this only to show you how and why pediatric training and the profession of caring for ill children shapes how and why we pediatricians believe so strongly in preventing illness and injury. Terrible stories are instructive.

One year in residency, I rotated into the pediatric ICU during November. I was on-call the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until middle of the day Thursday. I was taking care of critically ill patients, some who were on the transplant list waiting for organs. I remember as colleagues left for the day on Wednesday afternoon and evening, one doctor mentioned she wasn’t worried. She knew the patients in the ICU were going to get the organs they needed shortly. It was the biggest travel day of the year, she explained, and organs were going to be much more available.

Entirely morbid, and then entirely hopeful, too. Yes, the organs did arrive over the weekend…

The memory of that conversation really stuck with me. I don’t know if it’s true that more organs are available soon after the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (biggest travel day defined) because of travel related accidents, but it comes into my head every year. Makes me double check the car seats, re-examine the buckles, and drive a bit more slowly.

Be safe today, all. Don’t take risks you don’t need to take, and buckle up. Ensure the carseats are properly installed, particularly if you’re putting a seat in a relative’s or a rented car while you travel away from home.

I like this USA Today article with tips about traveling with infants and children, too.

And here’s my take on why I don’t recommend using Benadryl on the plane if you were thinking about throwing it in the travel bag.

Be well. Enjoy time with friends, family, and your Thanksgiving traditions. I am so thankful for all of you…


I did a live radio show for the the AAP’s Healthy Children radio show last week.

Click the above link if you’d like to take a listen or below for individual segments (each about 15 minutes).

My favorite part of the first interview is when I mention magic. Of course, the hard work of raising young kids is simply so worth it. We get so much more than we give. Nothing about this is easy of course, and nothing about this static, either. Take a listen and let me know if what you think.

Work-Life-Balance Issues for Working Parents

Breast Feeding, Working, and Being a Working Moms

Traditions (At Halloween)

I’m big on creating traditions. Wish I had more of them, actually. If Halloween was a day to make resolutions, I would pledge to increase my family traditions. But I’m mixing holidays like metaphors…

Children thrive when expectations are fulfilled (think routine, routine, routine); and traditions can be cement in the routine mold. There is something lovely about repeating an activity to mark the importance of a particular day or particular time of year. I mean, this is what birthday celebrations are all about.

Both of the boys’ birthdays are coming up in the next few weeks. Because of Maryann’s (see her comment) contribution to the blog a couple weeks ago, I’m starting the new tradition of kissing the boys at just the moment they were born. A virtual stamp of time and place. Driving to and from work this week (my down time), my head kept returning to thoughts about the new tradition. A big, wet smoooch that I’m giddy about it; it seems an entirely intimate tradition. Now I’m just sitting around waiting for 1:18pm and 3:11pm to roll around. Maryann, thank you for the idea of this symbolic tradition. I figure his tradition can also serve as an insurance plan, too. I will be exactly where I want to be in those birthday moments: with my boys. Read full post »