Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring training

So here we are. Another couple weeks have passed. Work is busy-busy-busy. It's spring in Brooklyn. And Mlle. Parker is doing great.

Nearing 17 pounds, she has started eating solids. No surprise, she loves food and has not turned down the banana, avocado or sweet potato we've offered. It, and she, is hilarious. 
She really enjoyed my piece in the Times this week, 36 Hours on the Left Bank, and now wants to go to Paris. But first, we're going to warm up with a long weekend in Puerto Rico.

I miss writing and exercising. I miss going out for cocktails with friends. I miss being lazy and not having to think about things. But I am so in love and can't imagine life any other way.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Picnic in Provence

Elizabeth Bard. I can’t decide if she’s my idol or maybe my lucky talisman.

Years and years ago, before Paris ever happened, but after I had started a book proposal (then a guide to New York’s best sweets), I heard about Elizabeth’s book, Lunch in Paris. Then I met this guy at a New York house party, who would go on to be one of my best friends in Paris, who just so happened to be subletting his Canal Saint-Martin apartment from this American journalist/author… Elizabeth Bard. I took that to be my first omen.

Within a year, I was living in Paris, Lunch in Paris long since devoured and revered. My book proposal had evolved to include Paris and eventually I got to meet Elizabeth at one of her readings. As smart and stylish as expected, I was surprised to hear she was leaving Paris to head south to Provence.

In the years since, I’ve modestly kept up with Elizabeth’s life via Facebook and her blog. I (no doubt like all her other fans) wondered if and when the follow-up book would come. And then this past fall, I heard from Elizabeth: would I be interested in reading an advance copy of her sequel, Picnic in Provence?

It was perfect: on maternity leave, bonding with my little Sweet in PJs on the couch, while reading Elizabeth’s travails and triumphs in parenthood. For she had not only given birth to an adorable boy, but she and her husband, Gwendal, started a new business: an ice cream shop! In Provence! Yes, this is her life.

It’s a very thoughtful and thought-provoking account of parenthood. Many of us have certain visions of what it will be like to have a baby. The reality can be quite different, and Elizabeth unflinching, beautifully captures the struggles. She is tender and tough. She is real and honest. And she is so endearing throughout it all.

Beyond parenthood, Picnic in Provence is a fantastic journey through the south of France, an inspiration about following your heart and, of course, a delicious book about love, family and acclimation, complete with killer recipes. Anyone who read Lunch in Paris will love the change of scenery, the deeper story line and the new chapter of Elizabeth’s sweet life.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Vegan Mondays

I did it! For the first time in about six months, I pulled off a Vegan Monday.

It was very intentional. It’s been on my mind for awhile. That and getting back to the gym. The gym will come. For now, I’ll savor the triumph of a day without meat and dairy.

Coffee with almond milk (and I have to say, after six months of using cream in my coffee, the almond milk combo no longer tastes so good, nor does regular milk. I’m ruined.)
Avocado toast

Arugula salad with walnuts and veg
Cliff Bar
Kind Bar
Scharffenberger dark chocolate

Crackers and hummus

I’m back in the swing of work (though it still stresses me out). Getting out for dates with friends again (I went to a performance tonight with a friend; thus the cracker dinner). Andrew and I have even gotten out, just the two of us, a handful of times and we’re starting to travel with Parker. I’m finally about halfway through the book that I started right before Parker was born and has since sat on my nightstand untouched. They’re all small things that make me feel good and “normal" again.

And meanwhile, there’s this little one…

Friday, March 27, 2015

Has ever a better movie been made?

Well, if I had to pick my all-time favorite, I might have to go with Sixteen Candles. But The Breakfast Club is pretty close to perfect. And in celebration of its 30th anniversary, the John Hughes masterpiece is being re-released this weekend at a theater near you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The working world

It’s been four weeks now that I’ve been back in the working world. The adult world. The land of normalcy. It has not been easy. The pressure and stress of getting to work on time, home on time, doing good work at the office, leaving Parker at home, the balance and rhythm of it all—no, not easy.

But as my mantra has been since Parker was born: one day at a time.

And with that, it is getting easier. Parker is doing wonderfully with our nanny. They clearly love each other and it’s so reassuring knowing that Parker is having a good day, every day, while I’m at the office.

She’s starting to notice everything. Her feet and Milo are her current obsessions.

She’s nearly sleeping through the night. I’m going to give up the “dream feed”—when I wake her to nurse at 11:30pm, the idea being that it will sate her until dawn—and in a few weeks when she reaches six months, I’ll hopefully also stop pumping in the middle of the night. When she and I are both going to bed and waking up at normal hours, without any middle-of-the-night sessions, it will be a whole new ballgame.

And then I can take up with some of my old habits. Namely, exercising and writing.

I’ve been at my pre-pregnancy weight for months now. Which is great, but somewhat meaningless. Your body just changes when you have a baby. My belly is droopy and crepey and unless I invest in pilates or barre classes to tighten that shit up, which I don’t see myself doing, it might just stay like that. Forever. I’m trying to wean myself from my truck driver diet, but I’m also trying to enjoy it while I’m still breastfeeding and can get away with such gluttony. But I figure if I can get back to the gym and yoga in the meantime, so I can start feeling strong again, I will be halfway there.

And I want to write about all of these experiences! NY Mag is doing some great writing about pregnancy and parenthood these days. I have a book proposal that I started a year ago and needs a shot of love or risks withering on the vine. But I have yet to find any substantial chunk of time to focus on it. In time, in time…right??

I’m also excited to date my husband again. He has been my rock these past few months and I am in awe of how my love for him keeps growing. Like, how did he happen to me? How was he not taken already? He’s a dreamboat. He makes me feel reassured, normal, optimistic, safe and comforted about everything. I love just being with him, and it’s been fun watching The Wire, Mad Men and House of Cards during these long, cold winter months. But I’m hoping to get out on the town with him a little more—dinners, drinks and romantic times, oh yes.

It’s feeling a bit like a new dawn. Other parents say we're entering a golden period with Parker. From 5-12 months, or 6-8, depending who you ask. But the promise of even more fun and sweetness sounds pretty great. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Vegan Mondays

They’re coming back. Soon. Really.

When Parker was born, all semblance of days and diet went out the window. For nearly five months now, I’ve been eating like a truck driver. It’s been blissful and shameful and, at the end of the day, entirely unsustainable.

But hey, other than when you’re breastfeeding, when else are you told to consume an extra 500 calories a day? But knowing that in the coming months Parker herself will move onto solids, I need to return to a more reasonable diet.

No more quarter-pound cookies.

Or double orders at the diner.

No more boxes of chocolate. Demolished in a day. Or big, doughy doughnuts…
…lots and lots of doughnuts.

With my impressive diet, Parker has been plumping out quite nicely. She’s suddenly about the heft of a six-month-old, one week shy of her fifth-month birthday. 

I think I’m going to trade in the cookies and cakes so I can nibble on her legs and belly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Baby Comes Home giveaway

One of the jokes Andrew and I shared when bringing Parker home from the hospital was, “What the?! They’re really letting us take her? They trust that we know what we’re doing? Because we don’t!”

Bringing home a newborn is scary. You have to figure out breastfeeding and nutrition, diaper changing and dressing, bathing and hygiene, sleeping patterns and needs, all on limited amounts of sleep. Even little things, like getting a onesie over their head or clipping their itty-bitty but razor-sharp nails are fraught with uncertainty and fear.

Coincidentally, I received Baby Comes Home, a new book by pediatric specialist Dr. Paul Roumeliotis while on maternity leave. I’ve read plenty of parenting books over the past six months, but what I like about Dr. Paul’s approach is his public health background and belief in how much influence you can have on your baby’s developing brain simply by loving her and fostering a nurturing relationship. He calls it the "Science of TLC.” The book is not so much a manual but an overview of all the things you should know and be prepared for. Here, Dr. Paul responded to a few of my personal questions.

I love your approach of a loving home being the foundation for a healthy baby. Can you explain a little about the “Science of TLC”?

TLC—tender loving care—is not a new concept; we always suspected it was important, and now we have the science to prove it. Studies on the effect of brain development (the wiring or sculpting of the brain) by the lack of bonding, healthy relationships, and nurturing during the first few year of life have shown rather worrisome results. Up until now, it was very clear that lack of bonding and nurturing in babies can result in long-term psychological and mental conditions. It is now apparent that this neglect can exacerbate or even cause chronic physical illness such as diabetes and heart disease even decades later. 

In addition, the aspects of a child’s development that are interfered with, play a role in a child’s future learning and socializing skills, and ultimately their ability to reach their full potential as adults. So, investing in a child’s early support not only assures proper mental, emotional, and psychological development at the time, but is also a form of chronic disease prevention. The reason I purposefully chose to cover the first 18 months is because this is the period during which the brain growth and development is very active and, consequently, vulnerable.

What are the simplest ways of expressing love so you know your baby is benefiting from your internal feelings?

It does not cost anything to respond to, nurture, caress, and give your baby as much attention as you can. Connecting and interacting with baby and establishing a relationship are easy to do and the pleasure you will get back is priceless. At the same time, baby’s brain is feverishly developing and growing well. Soothing baby when upset is one of the most important things to do. Reading to baby, making eye contact, playing, and giving loving attention are quite easy to do, virtually anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances. So remember: infant-parent and infant-caregiver relationships and connections do not cost anything, yet there is so much return!

In the four months I’ve been home with Parker, I’ve probably had 18,162 nightmares flash through my mind of all the terrible things that could happen. What do you think are actually the most overlooked safety issues and the ones that can be most easily avoided?

Accidents can happen in an instant and, at times, a baby's stage of development takes us by surprise. For example, although a 4-month-old baby cannot yet crawl or walk, she can roll over and fall off a changing table and even down nearby un-gated stairs. So it's important not to assume that baby cannot get into an accident, and to NEVER leave a baby unattended. It is a good idea to baby-proof your home before baby arrives and to ensure that there are no hazards. One of the other places where accidents can happen is when visiting a friend or relative's house who does not have kids and thus is not baby-safe.

I live in Brooklyn. What safety issues are different for city babies than those in the suburbs or country?

I have lived and worked in both city (including suburbs) and rural or country areas. For children under two, I think the safety issues are the same because most are indoor risks. However, we do know from epidemiologic studies that motor vehicle, pedestrian and work-related accidents tend to occur more in rural areas. So as a children get older and spend more time outdoors, parents need to be particularly attentive on the roads and around the home. Having said that, in busy city streets, there is also a real risk for car and pedestrian accidents.

I’m in the middle of trying to get Parker on both feeding and sleeping schedules, and it seems every resource I go to offers conflicting advice. What do you think the best thing I can do to get her to sleep through the night? What’s the soundest approach?

For feeding, I talk about a simple approach, which is the 4 by 4. It means that by 4 months of age, a baby should have 4 feeds per 24 hours. This is a good routine to aim for. In older children, I do believe that there should be 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and nothing in between. This is a great way to prevent picky/fussy eating habits.

Sleep routines are more difficult to establish because no two babies are alike and there is no "magic” or “normal” age at which a baby sleeps through the night. I think the best way to establish a bedtime routine is to start as early as possible with a calm and uninterrupted, nightly pre-bedtime ritual, like giving baby a bath, then reading and then putting her to sleep.

Also, because baby's brain sleep stages are immature, shifting from one sleep phase to another may temporarily awaken the baby during the night. In most cases baby will fall back asleep on her own so do not pick her up right away as this may teach her that every time she fusses, she gets picked up. Of course, I do not mean to let baby cry inconsolably.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some recommendations that I describe in my book to help baby develop good sleep habits, which include:

  • As soon as baby is tired put her to bed immediately.
  • Rocking or holding a baby until she falls asleep creates a habit. Soon the baby will need to be held and comforted back to sleep every time she wakes in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid putting baby to bed with a pacifier.
  • Do not put the baby to sleep in your bed.

A good portion of your book is devoted to common illnesses. Do you want to weigh in on the immunization debate? What do you think of the recent measles outbreak?

This is a very important issue as we are in the midst of multiple Measles outbreaks in North America largely due to unvaccinated children, so, yes, I definitely want to weigh in. 

In short, I do not think it is a debate. Clearly, vaccines save lives and represent one of the  most important advances in medicine over the last century. We are hearing a lot about vaccine resistance in the media, yet only 1-2% of parents refuse vaccines and about 10-15% are hesitant. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet, and this a challenge.

I would recommend that parents discuss vaccination with their health care provider and to look at credible sources for information before making any decisions. Personally, when I was training as a pediatrician in the 1980s, I lived through the era when a severe bacteria (Hemophilus Influenza B) was causing illness and even death in many young  children. Since the vaccine was released in 1985, this infection has almost completely disappeared. Immunization is by far one of the most important medical advances, yet many in North America take vaccines for granted because, thanks to vaccines, infections that used to kill or maim millions have been virtually eradicated.

I also believe that if parents refuse vaccinations, they not only put their children at risk, but also can potentially expose others in the community, like young babies and people with  weak immune systems. My approach is that when baby comes home, we do the best for optimal wellness. This "wellness package" includes TLC, home/car safety, proper nutrition and, in the same preventative spirit, I include vaccination as another thing we can do to protect baby and help ensure optimal health and wellness. 

What has surprised or delighted you the most in your 25 years of pediatric research?

What really pleases me is that thanks to vaccines and new antibiotics, we have been able to significantly prevent infectious diseases that once killed and injured countless children. However, what fascinates me the most is the tremendous amount of knowledge that we are getting from our understanding of the human genome. It is not inconceivable that in the near future, we will be able to identify genes that cause lifelong debilitating diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and then correct them so that the children will grow normally without these diseases. This potential is very exciting and I can't wait until we are able to stop these terrible diseases before they even begin!

For any other new parents out there, I'm delighted to offer a Baby Comes Home giveaway. For a chance to get a copy, let me know what special TLC act or routine you've instilled at home in the comments box by Wednesday, March 4.

Thank you for taking the time to share your enlightening advice, Dr. Paul!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love, love, love...

This little girl. (Who's certainly packing on the weight, four months in!)
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Hope you're surrounded by love and happiness. xo