Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Male Seahorses Experience Pregnancy

The animal kingdom mixes up our gender assumptions about parenting.

Female bald eagles are bigger than the males. Charlotte Ann Kisling, a bird expert and guide in the Klamath Basin, says this is because birds of prey are so fierce that for a female to let a male get behind her and do his thing, she has to know she has nothing to fear from his talons and sharp beak.

Then there are seahorses. Did you know that male seahorses are the ones who carry the pregnancies? Details in this article in Science Daily.

Male Emperor penguin care for their newborns while the mom leaves for a long period to hunt. The regurgitate a watery milky substance and feed it to the newborn penguin. We call that male nursing!

Happy new year! May 2009 bring more gender reversals in the human animal world!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is Shaken Baby Syndrome a Myth?!

Mark Anderson, a writer and a dad, spent months researching this article for Discover Magazine about Shaken Baby Syndrome. The article questions whether Shaken Baby Syndrome really exists or whether innocent parents have actually been accused of--and jailed for--"crimes" they did not commit.

In the article Anderson tells the story of a father in Illinois who was charged with shaking his baby and his wife charged with abuse and neglect. Their infant had been hospitalized three times in two months with seizure-like symptoms and fever. After he went home from the third hospitalization the baby was back in the ER with brain hemorrhaging and the baby was taken away from his parents.

Did his father and mother abuse him?


This baby had a chronic subdural brain hematoma that was not caused by SBS.

The article is thorough and well-researched and carefully presents both sides of a controversial issue. Anderson does not conclude that there is no such thing as SBS. Instead, he documents how mistakes have been made, with tragic consequences to parents and their children. He also explores the research and models being proposed by scientists who are trying to figure out what happens in infant brains and why.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Parenting Advice for Fathers Only

Paul Banas, at, has a great article up about parenting advice for fathers only. The gist of it is this:

Though traditionally books and articles have been geared towards moms, that's changing as Web sites, blogs, and books have begun to address themselves specifically to dads.

He cites the new book, "Caveman's Guide to Baby's First Year," as an example of this new trend. And also mentions our book, "The Baby Bonding Book for Dads," and Armin Brott's book, "The New Father."

Banas suggests to dads, in addition to reading, that they reach out to other men who have experience as fathers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Resource For Moms and Dads who Miscarry

Our writerly friend Katie Allison Granju has started a blog about miscarriage called The Miscarriage Blog.

Here's the link.

Hopefully you won't need it. But if you do ever need it, it's there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Holiday Hard Stuff

[This post was originally an article by Jennifer Margulis in the Ashland Daily Tidings]
“I’m just afraid that this will be the last Christmas that they believe in Santa,” my husband James said sadly. “I just want it to be fun for them. And special.”

These were the first conciliatory words from James all evening. Santa was running late and we were frantically wrapping presents, stuffing stockings, and placing surprise ornaments on the tree. Every time we passed the kitchen table we took a bite of Santa’s cookies. Santa wrote a note in response to 5-year-old Athena’s, thanking her for the cookies, praising her and her siblings for being good, and suggesting our 3-year-old stop sneaking sugar.

Now that our kids were in bed, we adults should have been enjoying these Christmas preparations. But we weren’t. James was having something akin to an anxiety attack, and I was starting to feel like I wanted to cut December 25th out of the calendar.

My foul mood had started earlier in the day, after being awakened at dawn by my children, who were eager to know how many days were left until Christmas, who had a deluge of last minute present requests (after refusing for weeks to hint at what they might want from Santa), and who were all voicing their needs in high-pitched whines.

“I hate Christmas. Next year I’m going away,” I said to them grumpily. “I’m skipping the whole thing.”

“How can you say that?” James asked in a hurt voice when they were out of earshot. “It’s one thing to say it to me, but not to the children. What if I said I didn’t want to celebrate Hanukkah?”

But on Hanukkah, which we celebrate in a haphazard way, there’s no gift giving. Instead, we light candles, sing the traditional Hebrew incantations, and eat traditional foods. This year we had potato latkes and doughnuts dripping in oil. We invited friends over to share the candlelight and the meals. And, as is our custom, we exchanged poems instead of presents. There wasn’t much to do to prepare for each night of Hanukkah except for putting candles into the menorah and cooking. My children didn’t expect hundreds of presents, and since the holiday is as much for me as it is for them, I didn’t worry about whether they’d be happy.

Christmas, on the other hand, was feeling very stressful. It involves a lot of things I don’t like: spending too much money on plastic toys made in China by laborers in substandard factory conditions, wasting paper to wrap presents. No matter how many times we read Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” or “The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree” it always comes down to presents. Christmas Eve we invariably stress: did we buy enough toys? Will the kids be happy?

But maybe the anxiety is really about our own childhood baggage, and since I didn’t celebrate Hanukkah as a child, I don’t have difficult memories associated with it. After my parents divorced they still celebrated Christmas together for the sake of the children. My father would express his anxiety by manically throwing away wrapping paper while we were still opening our gifts. I would have a lump in my throat all morning, awkward around my parents and feeling guilty for something I couldn’t define. And I would feign excessive enthusiasm for each gift, as if showing gratitude would prove to my parents that I was a good child, and perhaps even motivate them to love each other again. The only part of Christmas that I remember without ambivalence was how my dad would awaken early to go to the bagel shop in Newton Centre, coming home with a dozen warm bagels and a tub of hand whipped cream cheese.

For James, an only child, the living room was covered with presents. He has fond memories of the mountains of gifts but his yearly anxiety tells a different story. The Christmases when he was four to nine were the years after his mother, who had a drinking problem, divorced his father so she could live as a single woman in the swinging Seventies. Being a mom was not her first priority. The holidays were like make up time. A few months later, she would go on a cleaning frenzy with a trash bag, picking up each new toy and suggesting he throw it away.

The kids wake us at dawn. “He came! He really came!” They marvel at the bulging stockings and the presents and the day is a success.

I hope their childhood memories won’t be as fraught as mine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More reasons to NAP with your baby (and not to drink coffee)

This article, just in from the New York Times, talks about how napping is beneficial to learning and caffeine isn't. We say any excuse to nap with your baby is a valid one. If your wife is skeptical of why you need to snooze a roo, print this out for her:
Regimens: For the Best Pick-Me-Up, Lie Down

Published: December 1, 2008

Scientists spent a morning training 61 people in motor, perceptual and verbal tasks: tapping a keyboard in a specific sequence, discriminating between shapes on a computer screen and memorizing a list of words. Then the scientists randomly divided the subjects into three groups. The first took a nap from 1 to 3 p.m. At 3, the second group took a 200-milligram caffeine pill, and the third took a placebo. The subjects repeated the tasks they had been taught earlier and were scored by researchers who did not know which group they were in.

Those who had caffeine had worse motor skills than those who napped or had a placebo. In the perceptual task, the nappers did significantly better than either the caffeine or placebo group. On the verbal test, nappers were best by a wide margin, and the caffeine consumers did no better than those given a placebo. Despite their mediocre performance, caffeine takers consistently reported less sleepiness than the others.

“People think they’re smarter on caffeine,” said Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. “But this study is a strong argument for taking a nap instead of having a cup of coffee.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Golden Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This baby gets our vote for cutest in the world, being the brand new niece in the family but it was her older sister's birthday we were celebrating Thanksgiving weekend and we altered a version of a golden cake recipe that came out so well it was gobbled down in no time.

Totally Yummy Golden Cake Sweetened With Xylitol and Agave:
2 1/2 cups white cake flour
1 cups whole wheat flour (we added some wheat germ for good measure)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup xylitol
1 cup agave nectar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 cups whole milk organic yogurt (traditional recipes use sour cream)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter 2 (9- by 2-inch) round cake pans.

Mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and xylitol in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Then add the agave. Then the eggs and finally the vanilla and the yogurt. Add the flour mixture by hand and beat until smooth.

Bake until a knife in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. When the cake cools, add your favorite chocolate frosting, preferably with melted organic milk chocolate in it.We decorated the cake with some jelly beans, 'cause that was all we had on hand.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Writer Looking For Some Dads to Interview

Has your kids’ dad done anything truly out of the ordinary to make himself a great dad? I’m looking for specific stories. For instance, one dad dug through a dumpster looking for presents that got accidentally thrown away. The stories can be sweet, heroic, or just funny. The catch is that I’m looking for stories that involve kids 6 or under. I’m trying to clear a little wiggle room with my editor so I can use stories about kids who are a little older. If you have a story you’d like to share, can you please email me at

If I’m able to use your story, the article would be a really neat surprise gift for Father’s Day!


Jody Mace
Freelance Writer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Call for Submissions: Dads in Academia

Call for Submissions

The editors of Dads in Academia: Male Voices In and Out of the Ivory Tower invite contributions for an interdisciplinary collection of creative nonfiction essays on the rewards and challenges of being both a father and an academic. Much recent discussion about the juxtaposition of parenthood and the academy has focused on the difficulties that female professors face when they choose to become mothers. Books like Mama, PhD, edited by Caroline Grant and Elrena Evans, depict the oftentimes bleak prospects of merging the two endeavors. This collection welcomes the masculine voice into this lively and provocative dialogue. Further, Dads in Academia creates a space for male professors to describe their own experiences of balancing the demands and desires of two worlds that have changed notably throughout the past few decades: fatherhood and academia.

We encourage contributors to consider the changing cultural perceptions, representations, and expectations associated with fatherhood, and to explore the impact of such changes on their identities as teachers and scholars. Increasingly, fathers are taking on a more intense role with regard to child-rearing than ever before. How do today’s male academics view their participation in the parenting process? How is this changing the nature of the job? Has the evolving role of the father in contemporary society changed the job itself?

We also welcome essays that focus on how the evolution of fatherhood is changing the face of academia. Have we seen any concrete changes on college campuses to encourage the “professor as interactive father” schemata? What is the climate like for male professors who “want it all”? Are they able to balance fatherhood and the road to tenure? What gives?

Mary Ruth Marotte, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Graduate Studies in English at the University of Central Arkansas, where she specializes in women’s studies and critical theory. Her book, Captive Bodies: American Women Writers Redefine Pregnancy and Childbirth, was released by Demeter Press in October 2008. She lives in Conway, AR with her husband and three children.

Paige Martin Reynolds, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas. Her specializations include Shakespeare, British Renaissance Drama, Performance Studies, and Elizabeth I. She has written articles published or forthcoming in SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, ANQ: American Notes and Queries, and 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era. She lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and daughter.

Deadline: March 1, 2009

Length: 1,500 to 4,000 words.

Format: Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. Please include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and a short bio on the last page.

Send submissions electronically to: Mary Ruth Marrotte, mrmarotte [at]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Five Ways to Make a Baby Smile

A new article about how to make a baby smile by James di Properzio is up at In case you don't feel like clicking over there, we're taking the liberty to post it here:
Much has been made of the importance of a baby’s smile, and cross-cultural studies show that all human babies smile at about the same age, 3-5 months. As a father, this is one of the best ways to connect, because it’s gratifying to see them smile, and they will pay rapt attention, and start looking forward to your stimulating company. All it really takes are the simplest tricks, and a total lack of inhibition—at least around babies. Here are five ways for dads to make a baby smile, and probably even guffaw.

1. Pretend to sneeze: For some reason, this is like Saturday Night Live for babies. Ham it up, acting like you’re really going to have a big sneeze—the baby will stare at you, riveted, maybe even looking worried. Then fake sneeze in the most ridiculous way you can—try channeling one of the Three Stooges. Even very young babies you might have thought to be pre-humor will crack up. In fact, that look of worry suggests that the anticipation, and the catharsis at your fake sneeze, are probably what makes it so funny—that’s the basic structure of all jokes, and this is the first one they really get.

2. Toes in Beard: While the baby is on her back, pick up her feet and stick her toes right into your beard, combing them through with swooping motions like you’re trying to remove tangles. Don’t forget to look surprised and exclaim “Toes in beard!” as if the baby were doing something alarming to you. If/when you don’t have a beard, sideburns work fine; in a pinch, even you hair, if you’re not too fussy about your ‘do. Five-o’clock shadow is also good for tickling the bottoms of the toes and feet, and as a variation you can pretend to shave with the baby’s feet. Anything that involves the feet being on your face is good for them, including hiding your eyes behind the feet and then saying “Hey, where’d he go?” while trying to look around.

3. Neck attack: While holding baby, turn your head and get right in there to kiss the baby’s neck repeatedly, making loud smacking and snortling noises. Works even better with a little stubble, which tickles. This is one of the few tricks that work from earliest babyhood until they’re old enough to make you knock it off, like around ten.

4. Stinky feet: While the baby is on his back, hold up one foot and say, “Let’s see if this foot is clean.” (Once the baby is talking, you can ask instead, which adds to the fun.) Smell the foot, rolling your eyes around as if considering carefully, and say, “Oh, yeah, what a nice clean foot!” Then pick up the other one, ask if this one is clean, put your nose up to it and immediately howl “Oh, stinky!” Once they can talk, they’ll ask you to do this one over and over, like 25 times. My 7-year-old, whose feet really do get stinky by now, is still trying to get me to do it again, even though I’ve been refusing for years.

5. Chicken surprise: when the baby is old enough to sit up in a bouncy seat or high chair, get directly behind them, put both hands on your sides and flap your elbows behind your back like chicken wings. Walk slowly from side to side where the baby can’t quite turn enough to see you, making quiet bock-bock noises. When you get to one end and the baby finally sees you swoop in and peck at the nape of their neck with your nose, excitedly rattling off, “Bock! Bock-bock-bock-bockawk!” Repeat, headed in the other direction.

All of these shticks will have their rapt attention, and they’ll be begging for more once they can communicate. You, of course, will get tired of it after a few minutes, but it’s always nice to feel like you left them wanting more, and with very young children, the more you do it, the funnier it gets.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baby, You're Home--Great Article on Home Birth in the NYT

There's a long detailed article on home birth in the New York Times "Home and Garden" section. It's really inspiring. We say to all expectant couples -- consider a home birth. They are on the rise, even in New York City, and the people who are having them are onto something: birth doesn't need to be a medicalized and invasive experience.

Even if you have your baby in the hospital, try to stay home as long as you can. Don't go in until your wife literally feels that she cannot bear the pain one more second. That way, they'll be kind and attentive to you in the hospital and they won't try to hurry the labor along.

We have a friend who called her midwife and said her water broke. Her midwife said, "rent two movies, and watch them all the way through, then call me back and we'll see if you're ready to come to the hospital." They did. The laboring wife doesn't remember anything about the movies, but she was so far along when she got to the hospital that she was treated like royalty.

If you want to read more about home birth, here's an article about home birth in western Massachusetts by Jennifer Margulis, first published in Valley Kids:
Pregnant? Consider Having Your Baby at Home

Special to Valley Kids

GREENFIELD — When Florence-resident Kirsten Kowalski-Lane got pregnant with her second child, she decided she wanted to try having a home birth. Her son, William, was born in Cooley-Dickinson Hospital, which is down the street from her house. Her son’s birth went well. “The midwives were lovely,” Kowalski-Lane, who is the Director of the Parenting Center in Northampton—a drop-in center that offers support for children of parents ages 0-5—remembers, “Everything was very normal.”

But, despite the fact that she had no complaints about the hospital or her birth attendants, Kowalski-Lane knew that she wanted to do things differently the second time. “I realized how much of the birth I was in control of,” she explains, “I could have had him anywhere.” This realization, that birth was a normal, natural process that needed no drastic medical intervention, encouraged Kowalski-Lane to consider alternative s to a conventional hospital birth. In addition, she did not like the hit or miss way it was the midwife or doctor on call at the hospital who would deliver her baby. “I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with the person or people who delivered my child,” she continues, “a closer relationship.”

Convincing her husband Jon Lane and her family was not as easy. “It was a good month that Jon needed to think about it,” says Kowalski-Lane, whose baby, Grace Margaret Anne Lane, was born at home on May 17th, 2002. The couple met twice with the River Valley Midwives, a group of home birth midwives that has been delivering babies in the Valley since the late 1970s. Although they initially hid the fact that they had decided to have a home birth from Jon’s family (and from Kirsten’s older sister who is a doctor), Jon’s grandmother was thrilled when she found out her great grand child was born at home. “She told us that she was born at home, and she turned out just fine,” explains Kowalski-Lane. “Now Jon is very proud that we did this. He tells everyone!”

Like Kirsten Kowalski-Lane, many Valley women are deciding to have their babies at home. According to Terri Nash, the River Valley midwife who caught Grace, there are 6 home birth midwives in active practice and approximately 50 babies born at home here in the Valley each year. In Massachusetts 1-2% of all babies born, approximately 800 babies in total, are born at home.

“The number one reason that we get is that it feels right to women,” explains Nash who is a Certified Professional Midwife, or CPM. “It is natural. Women do not menstruate or procreate in the hospital...Why should they have their baby there?”

Home birth midwives, Nash explains, work closely with area hospitals. They exercise great caution and, if anything goes wrong during labor, they accompany their clients to the hospital and stay with them, as their advocates, during the birth. But, although they have a “cooperative relationship with...local nurse midwives and hospitals,” according to Nash, home birth midwives do things differently from obstetric nurses, midwives, and doctors. Prenatal visits are an hour long, some take place in the client’s own home, parents have access to a lending library of books and videos about birth, and the midwives come as soon as the mother starts labor or feels the need to have them there. They stay with the new mother and baby for 3-4 hours after the birth, and they follow up with postpartum visits at the client’s home 1 day and 2 days later and office check-ups 1 week , 3 weeks, and 6 weeks later.

“They lead you through the process,” reiterates Kowalski-Lane, who was impressed by how the River Valley Midwives took their time with her and treated her with interest and respect. “Even though I had already had a baby, I appreciated it. You don’t feel like part of a factory.”

The first time Kowalski-Lane met Terri Nash and Jharna Harvey-Amai, she sensed their approach was different. “I felt so good in their presence,” remembers Kowalski-Lane , “I wasn’t even under their care but I felt cared for.”

During her pre-natal visits the connection Kowalski-Lane felt with her midwives deepened, “They were really interested in who I am. They wanted to really get to know me,” says Kowalski-Lane who remembers one time when she arrived to an appointment late and stressed out. “My blood pressure was high,” she says, “I had been rushing around.” Nash invited her to sit down, made her a cup of tea, and gave her a head and neck massage. When her blood pressure was measured again it was back within normal levels.

Even some Valley health care providers are themselves choosing to have their babies at home. “Up to a third of the people who come to are practice are health care professionals,” says Nash, who remembers one birth that was progressing slowly. The father, a doctor, and the mother, a nurse practitioner, had been laboring for several hours. When Nash checked she realized that the baby’s head was asynclinic, or tilted, and that the position of the head was obstructing labor. She instructed the mother to walk up and down the stairs, which she did, with her husband by her side. The head resolved and the labor progressed quickly after that.

Nash remembers the husband’s surprise that the difficulty could be resolved so easily with so little intervention: “He said, ‘oh my god! Why didn’t I learn this in medical school?!’”

Other techniques that home birth midwives use to avoid medical intervention work just as well. If a woman is 14 days past her due date American doctors will induce labor using potentially harmful drugs or hormones, like pitocin, to get labor started. The River Valley Midwives use a different technique. “We have had 98% success with a combination of herbs and acupuncture,” says Nash, who explains that the first-time mother will go into labor, on average, ten days past her due date, a fact that means that she only has a four-day window before medical procedures are recommended. Instead of sending a client to the hospital, River Valley Midwives refers their clients to local acupuncturists to get labor started. One acupucturist, Amy Mager, has five children, four of whom were born at home. “If those [the herbs and the acupuncture] do not work, then we kick in with castor oil...and we have had a 100% success rate,” says Nash.

The cost of a home birth? Less than half of a typical hospital birth. “More and more insurance companies are covering home births,” says Nash, “because they are realizing how much cheaper it is.” River Valley Midwives charges a universal fee of $2,800 which, if paid by 36 weeks, is reduced to $2,300, and they are willing to make private arrangements with clients who have financial difficulties. A conventional hospital birth costs about $5,000, often more, depending on the interventions.

“I'm saddened by the stories of women who had hospital births and have negative feelings about their birth experience,” says Kirsten Kowalski-Lane. “My advice to women in general is to realize that birth is normal and safe. It's your experience, make it what you want it to be. Home birth is the optimal, it's how we should be treated.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Resources for Dads Dealing with Miscarriage

If you're an expectant father and your wife has a miscarriage, how do you deal with it? Miscarriage is sad for everyone and you may be so busy helping your wife get through the bleeding, D & C (if she needs to have one), and disappointment, that you conveniently stay out of touch with your own feelings of sadness. It turns out there are a lot of articles on the Web written by dads for dads who are going through that kind of hurt.

Here are some of the most popular links we found:
A Father's Perspective at Pregnancy and Baby: A sad, sweet article about the sadness one dad feels when he finds out his wife has lost their baby.

Miscarriage: A Father Speaks at the Fatherhood Institute: Another first-person account of losing a baby to miscarriage.

Dealing with Miscarriage at is not our favorite site for information (and tends to be a lot less accurate than Wikipedia, for instance) but this article by Wayne Parker is pretty helpful and thorough.

Miscarriages: Men Grieve Too at ask Mr. Dad: some practical advice for dads dealing with miscarriage.
Have you dealt with miscarriage? What helped you get through it? We'd love for you to share your story with us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More on Elie's Story

Here's an update about Elie, the baby we blogged about back in March, who was diagnosed with VCFS after she was born. This post is written by her mom, our friend Holly Smith:
What a difference a day makes—or, in this case, a couple of months.

After grappling with Elie’s VCFS diagnosis, we were brought back down to earth: In June, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a chronic, potentially fatal condition where the pressure in the vessels leading to and from the lungs is too high. Although they’re making tremendous strides in treating PH, the reality is that most people with PH die of PH.

So, in my darker moments (of which there are many), I'm terrified that Elie will die. Horrified. Paralyzed. Literally unable to breathe from the stress of it.


In other moments, I stand back and remember that she has as good a chance of beating PH as anyone else. The advances in treatment are coming fast and furious.

Even better, we learned at Elie’s angioplasty last week that her PH seems to be confined to just her left lung (something that’s practically unheard of).

If this continues to be the case, it could truly be a game-changer. Even if Elie needs to have her left lung removed someday, she could conceivably live a full, productive life with just one lung.

Honestly, when we got that news, it felt like the governor calling at one minute ‘til midnight. That’s how huge it was.

I even cajoled our PH doc into dropping the clinical-detachment crap and giving us a “Rah, rah!” before we checked out of the ICU after the angioplasty. It was a small victory, but we’ll take anything we can get for our “win” column.

Anyway, I have to believe that she'll make it. I really, really do. Because I can barely function during those times when I ponder her death; it truly makes the floor drop out from under me.

I'm trying so hard to live in the moment, as they say, but it's tough. I was holding Elie the other day, listening to the radio, when "Happy Together" came on. One moment, I was singing, "I can't see me loving nobody but you for all my life" to her, and the next, I was sobbing.

It's an overwhelming dance to do.

However things go, I’ll continue posting updates to (search under “EliesPage”); I’m praying ferociously that it’ll be all good news from now on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

NYT: Stay-at-Home Dad Loses 30 Pounds

There is a sweet as-told-to piece in the New York Times about how Aron Ward, a dad of three in south central Pennsylvania decides to stay home during his 3rd son's first year and loses 30 pounds taking his son out for walks and activities.

The full text is here.

Here's an excerpt:
My wife would probably say that I took good care of the boys that year but that I could have done a little better with the housework. On the days I had Jackson alone, I was always on the go with him. He wasn’t much of a napper, so I’d walk the mall with him in the stroller. I dropped 30 pounds in that year. In the summer I had all three boys, which was a little difficult because of the age differences and their different interests.

By last October, I was ready to start looking for work. I thought that I had taken Jackson a long way, and I felt confident that the little guy would do O.K. in day care at that point.

Anita is now director of claims for Rite Aid, but she had worked for Nationwide at one time and suggested that I interview with the company. She thought that I might enjoy the insurance field. I scheduled an interview and hired a baby sitter for a couple of hours.

Nationwide hired me last December, and I started there in January. I analyze the risk of offering insurance on certain properties and calculate the premium to charge. This helps agents determine if it’s worth it to offer property insurance to a retailer, for example. I work with about 13 insurance agents. The job has a lot of diversity, and I like the people aspect.

Still, it was hard leaving Jackson with someone else that first day. I can relate to how mothers who return to work must feel. He and I bonded that year. But by the end of his first week in day care, Jackson didn’t want to leave when I went to pick him up.

I’m glad to be back at work, but I miss the baby. It’s hard not knowing his routine, but I know he’s being well taken care of. I also miss walking the mall with him. I’ve put on a few pounds since I’ve returned to work. I’ve also stayed friends with a couple of the guys in the stay-at-home dads group, and our families get together occasionally. I don’t know one of them who would trade for the world the experience of being at home with their kids.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Being Treated Like a Second-Class Parent

My son's preschool celebrated his birthday today, and both parents are supposed to come in for an hour, and bring fruit salad. So I dropped him off, bought fruit, made fruit salad, and brought it back; my wife had chaperoned a field trip for our daughter and couldn't get back on time. I explained this to the teacher and she said, "Oh, no; this is terrible! The father sometimes doesn't come, but never the mother! He would be the only one not to have his mother there." She said it sadly, not chidingly. Not interested in entertaining this sexist nonsense, I patiently explained that my son would be fine with that--now, where shall I put the fruit salad? The teacher said she would wait for my wife, or postpone it--I was not willing to have wasted my morning when I had other things to do, and discouraged this idea. Then she started calling my daughter's teacher to get my wife sent over, pronto; in the end, I called my wife and, hearing that she was on her way home anyway, asked her just to come over so that we could get on with it, even if it meant waiting another 20 minutes to start.

I've been treated as a second-class parent any number of ways in my nine years of parenting, but this time seemed less like a habitual assumption, as is usually the case, and more about the essence of mothers and fathers. The teacher told me the mother should be there for what she called the birth story--I assumed that meant the story of the labor, our home birth with midwives, all of which involved me, as far as I remember. But it turned out to be a dilute fairy tale about "before you were born" and sliding down rainbows to Earth--and into your mother's arms.

Part of why this makes me so mad is that, truth be told, it's not always easy for me to feel like I'm a good parent. I don't have a well-worn mold to fall into, and in the everyday chaos of parenting, I wonder at the end of every day how I could have done better. But I am certainly a very committed, fully engaged parent, and not some sort of back-up parent. After I showed up and brought the fruit salad, she made it clear that I was optional in the celebration of his birth, while his mother was essential. In the vaguely Christian feel of the celebration, I felt like Joseph--a benevolent figure who may have been there for the birth, but not exactly a parent like Mary.

Sure, I didn't carry my kids to term, and hardly envy my wife that. But my idea of myself as a father since then is that I have been as essential as my, er, contribution was to get the pregnancy started. As fathers, we're only less important if we choose to believe in myths like the one at the preschool, and give ourselves a smaller role in our children's lives. Like many dads today, I've chosen to have my children land in my arms, in my care as much as their mother's. If we can resist the myths and prejudices and make our own choices, the next generation will have a strong image of father's role, and maybe it won't be such an uphill battle.

Stranger Anxiety-Parents and Babies Both Get It

Some new parents don't want anyone to hold their baby. We understand this. It's a primal urge, perhaps, to want to protect your child from strangers and even the smell of someone else's cologne on your infant can raise hackles on the back of your neck. But other parents aren't uptight about the baby making the rounds and going from one admirer's arms to another, which is their prerogative as well, and which makes for easy family gatherings and a more relaxed mom and dad.

Once the baby gets bigger, he starts to have opinions about who's holding him. He starts to associate love and safety with mom and dad and gets anxious around strangers. Most experts agree that this is a sign of healthy attachment the baby has for his caregiver. So when your son starts to squawk when you hand him over to a fawning admirer, know it's because he feels safer with you than anyone else in the world (and don't force him to remain in someone else's arms, which will just make the anxiety worse).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BEST AGAVE-SWEETENED, WHOLE WHEAT LEMON CAKE EVER – a healthier version of more traditional recipes

This cake is a great hit at parties with grown-ups and kids alike. You can make it a bit lighter by substituting some white flour for the whole wheat flour, or make it healthier (for babies and toddlers) by adding a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast, a tablespoon of wheat germ, and a tablespoon of kelp before measuring out the flour. The lemon and butter add such strong flavor that the cake can also accommodate other kinds of flour—experiment with using a few tablespoons of oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, or barley flour to keep things interesting and to mix up the grains a bit.

If you've never cooked with whole wheat flour and agave and are unsure, try using 1/2 the "weird stuff" the recipe calls for and the rest your normal flour/sugar as a way to convert your baking over to healthier alternatives. Ditto for the xylitol in the glaze.

2 cups whole wheat flour (see note above)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups agave
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 large organic lemon
1 cup plain yogurt (more traditional recipes call for sour cream)

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from the lemon you grated for the zest)
1 cup xylitol or powdered turbinado sugar (put raw cane sugar in the blender to make it into a healthier version of confectioners sugar) or a combination of both

Preheat oven to 325°. Generously butter and flour a cake pan.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside.

Cream the butter, and slowly pour in the agave. Then beat in the eggs and add the lemon zest.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients alternately with yogurt.

Bake at 325 for 55 to 65 minutes. The cake is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make the glaze: combine all the ingredients in a bowl, blending until smooth and drizzle the glaze onto the cake.

Monday, October 20, 2008

At Home Dad Barred From Play Group

Triplets Dad posted about this article in the Surrey Now newspaper. A part-time stay-at-home dad in Surrey, British Columbia, and his part-time stay-at-home wife joined a play group. When he finally had time to attend an event, the door was closed in his face and he was told he was not welcomed because he was a dad. Here's the original article:
Moms club to Surrey dad: we 'hate to discriminate, but...'
Father and son get boot

Ted Colley
Surrey Now

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sorry, no dads.

That's the message a Clayton Hills father got when he tried to join the activities of the Cloverdale Mommy & Me Meetup group.

Rick Kaselj is a registered kinesiologist and father of Cole, his infant son. A relative newcomer to Surrey, Kaselj was looking for opportunities to meet people in his neighbourhood when he discovered the group online.

"My wife and I just had our first child. She works days and I work evenings, so I'm a part-time stay-at-home dad. I found this group online two or three months ago and signed up."

Since then, Kaselj said, he's been getting the emails sent out to group members announcing events the organizers have put together for members and their children.

Other commitments meant he didn't have time to attend any events until recently, but when he expressed interest in joining in on the fun, the door was slammed shut.

"I received an email this morning or last night saying I'm not welcome," Kaselj said.

"I was hoping to participate with them, but I'm not welcome because I'm a dad."

The email, signed Cloverdale Mothers Group, apologetically informed Kaselj that more than half of the members want the group to be for mothers only.

"I hate to discriminate," the author went on, "but hope you can understand when it comes to the security of our children and especially since you have not been able to attend a meetup."

Kaselj wonders why something wasn't said earlier when he first joined online and is really puzzled about the reference to the security of the other members' children.

"I'm not sure what that means," he said.

"All that time I'm getting their emails, then all of a sudden, it's a problem."

Email requests for comment sent to Fiona, the group's organizer remained unanswered as the Now went to press Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saying Thank You

Recently my friend Kris Bordessa (author of a great book for parents and educators called "Team Challenges") posted a comment on Facebook that she felt like people underuse the two small words "thank you." That got me thinking about saying thank you. Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of thank you notes-- I grumpily think they waste trees and are sort of an insincere formality most of the time--but I do think feeling, acting, and expressing appreciation is really important.

So yesterday after my daughter's friend's mom sent her home from a nice playdate with a loaf of zucchini bread that we all enjoyed, we sat at the table together and wrote her a thank you note. The act of writing it collectively--and talking about kindness and gratitude--brought our family together and the girls both wrote nice notes of their own on the card.

Here's what Kris had to say when I emailed her to thank *HER* for inspiring us to say thank you:
I think it's a really good lesson for kids - and adults - to be appreciative, even of the little things. I get very grouchy when people ask me for favors and then can't even bother with a quick thank you. So, my FB comment was spurred by negative feelings, but it is something that I've taken to heart. I've even started sending thank you notes to businesses who have great employees. It's way too easy to simply complain when there's a problem, but I think it's nice to say the good stuff, too! With this economy, and all of the negativity in the world right now, I think a little good juju goes a long way.
Thank you for reading this post.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't (Always) Trust Your Doctor

You know yourself and your baby better than anyone, and you may find that what you think is the right thing to do is not always what the doctor tells you to do.

If you live in a big city, you may have to wait 45 minutes to an hour (or longer) for a Well Baby Check-up. This happened to us in Atlanta and by the time the doctor saw us our baby, long overdue for a nap, had screamed herself hoarse. The doctor looked in her ears and said she had an ear infection, and prescribed antibiotics and "something for the pain."

She didn't have an ear infection. She didn't need anything for the pain. She was tired. She needed to not be at the doctor's!

We filled the prescription and hightailed back to the crib. And found Robert S. Mendolsohn's masterful, readable, smart book called How to Raise a Healthy Child ... in spite of your doctor.

Mendolsohn points out that babies are often misdiagnosed as having ear infections from crying.

He also says that in Europe ear infections aren't usually treated.

We disposed of the unnecessary antibiotics and pain meds and that was the last Well Baby Check-up we ever took our baby to.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How Many Minutes Do You Spend With Your Baby?

Forget playing. Forget peek-a-boo. Just try to put in the time. (Kid on the back drooling while you do the dishes counts).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dads on Facebook

Have you noticed that the women you see on Facebook who have kids post pictures with their children but the dads on Facebook post pictures of themselves sans children?


Co-author James di Properzio decided to buck the trend. In his Facebook picture he's featured with his daughter.

Co-author Jennifer Margulis decided to participate in the cliché. Her picture has all three children in it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tainted Milk

It's been all over the news this week -- on the radio, in the newspapers, on TV -- that over six thousand children in China are sick from drinking tainted milk products. Here's a relatively in-depth story about it from the AP, posted on MSNBC (a news organization with a conservative, pro-business, pro-vaccine slant).

What's the moral of the story here? Don't feed your baby "products." Feed your baby food. We all know that human breast milk is best for babies. If your wife can't breast feed, you can still make your own substitute milk or use goat milk supplemented with other real whole food that babies can tolerate and digest.

But formula companies would have us think that they have the magic elixir and without it our babies won't grow up to be healthy. The opposite is actually true and China is a case in point. Don't be fooled by the formula companies and the billions they spend in advertising and brainwashing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Older Dads = Higher Chance of Bipolar Disease

A Swedish study reported on in the Health section of the New York Times links the age of the father with the frequency of bipolar disease in offspring. The New York Times article is here. Some highlights:
Researchers examined health records of more than 7 million people, identified over 13,400 with bipolar disease (who they matched with 5 controls), and divided fathers into 5-year age categories starting at age 20.

After adjusting for other factors (like a history of mental illness), they found consistently increasing risk as the fathers aged.

Fathers aged 55 and older had the highest risk of having children with bipolar disease.

Advanced paternal age has also been linked to higher rates of autism and schizophrenia in adult children.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pregnant Mom Bloggers Wanted For Freelance Writing Gig

This was forwarded to us from Jamie Pearson, the Travel Savvy Mom of fame for hanging out her skivvies to dry. Underwear aside, it looks like a fun opportunity for a pregnant writer mama:
One of my clients (a biotech company located in Mountain View) is looking to hire a small group of women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy for a freelance (writing) project. Ideally, we are looking at freelance writers who also are bloggers (meaning, have their own, personal blogs that talk about parenting).

If you are pregnant, in your first trimester of pregnancy and have a personal blog... and take freelance work, please send me an email with your contact information and a link to your personal blog/sites.

We are also looking to hire women outside of Silicon Valley - so feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who fits this description.

This is going to be an incredibly cool freelance assignment (and yes, it pays!!!)..... so please let me know if you are interested in learning more.

Thanks so much!
Jill Asher

Jill Asher
Co-Founder, Silicon Valley Moms Group
Follow Me On Twitter! SVMOM

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gee Your Baby Smells Terrific

When our son was not yet two, I took him on a work trip to Ohio. I was giving two presentations at a 3-day writing retreat with a group of other writer mamas who are all part of an on-line invitation only listserv. “Airplane, vroom, vroom,” Etani started saying a few weeks before we left.

We both bonded with my formerly cyberspace-only friends. Marjorie read him a book about a mouse who drives a truck over and over again, saying that she missed her little boy (whom she had been happy to leave at home) and Jody regaled him with a complicated story about a Funky Hippo who leaves his watering hole in search of disco dancing dudes. The elaborate plot—and their subsequent search for the Funky Hippo (“Do you think he’s by those bushes?” Jody would ask. “Yah!” Etani would shriek)—kept him from fussing during the 2-hour car ride back to the airport.

“I miss Etani,” Jody emailed the day after she returned to her two children, ages 7 and 11, in South Carolina. “I don’t know how I’m going to survive a whole year without seeing him.”

Being with a small child is tactile and immediate. There is something about having them close to you—their little hands holding yours, their little lips giving you kisses—that is so primal and immediate. I understood exactly what Jody meant. When I'm away, I miss my children in a visceral way.

One of the things that helps us bond to these small creatures who steal our hearts is their smell. When they are small, babies smell like baking bread and sweet milk. Their natural body odors and skin oils make you want to cuddle up to them. I have a picture of my husband opening his mouth to eat up my daughter (whose head was almost small enough to fit between his teeth) when she was three weeks old. Infants and babies naturally smell delicious.

Which is why it's a good idea not to become obsessive about washing your newborn or toddler.

How to clean a newborn:
1. Skip daily bathing: spot clean often but avoid giving them a bath a day as this dries out and irritates sensitive skin.
2. Don't use chemicals on your baby: A lot of what is put in baby products is actually toxic. Learn to read the labels and avoid products with ingredients you can't pronounce.
3. Only put on your baby's skin what you'd put in his mouth: A baby's skin absorbs the lotions and creams you use on it and takes it into the body. Use only products with ingredients so natural that they are okay for your baby's body to "eat." The best choice is organic olive oil or avocado oil for moisturizer and warm water for washing. Newborns don't need to be bathed with soap more than once every week or two.
4. Skip baby wipes: even the "natural" ones can cause diaper rash and irritation. Instead, use a clean wash cloth and warm water to clean up diaper mess.
A week after we came home a letter arrived in the mail from Etani. It was from the Funky Hippo. He found the disco dancing dudes. And left his conventional soap back at the old watering hole.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to School Pencils

All pencils aren't created equal.

ForestEthics has a ranking system for pencil-making companies and only two are on the A-list.

These two companies, according to ForestEthics, do not clear cut forests and are not destroying the Sierra Nevadas in their pencil making.

So, when you go to purchase pencils, buy from either ForestChoice or Greenline Paper Company, NOT from any of the others.

Here's the ForestEthicss report card:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mama, Ph.D. Upcoming Literary Events

Check out one of these upcoming literary events for the new anthology, "Mama Ph.D.," which is a new book that explores the intersection of women and academics (and includes a story by Jennifer Margulis, "Recovering Academic"):
October 11, 7:15pm San Francisco
co-editor Caroline Grant reading (with Literary Mama columnists) at LitCrawl

October 20, 7pm New York City
co-editors Caroline Grant & Elrena Evans, along with contributors Susan O'Doherty and Nicole Cooley reading at Bluestockings Bookstore

October 21, 7:15pm New York City
the same quartet reading at KGB Bar

October 27, 7:30pm San Francisco Public Radio (KALW)
Caroline Grant in conversation with Joan Williams and Mary Ann Mason

November 13, 6pm, Berkeley
Caroline Grant, Lisa Harper, Jennifer Eyre White and Irena Smith reading at University Press Books

February 13, 7pm Chicago
Caroline Grant reading (with other Literary Mama editors) at Women & Children First bookstore

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pregnancy is the Time of Your Life?

Check out Jennifer's essay in the 15th anniversary issue of Fit Pregnancy Magazine. Here's an excerpt:
This Is The Time Of Your Life

Enjoy every moment, even the icky ones. pregnancy flies by faster than you can imagine.

By Jennifer Margulis

There are things nobody tells you: That your belly will itch so much it feels like the prickle is on the inside. That when traffic makes your husband an hour late, you'll have the phone in hand ready to call the police, absolutely positive that he's become a paraplegic in a five-car pileup. That your "morning" sickness will happen at night and last for more than six stomach-churning months, and your husband's breath will smell like rotting meat. Then you'll do a Google search or pick up The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy and realize that the warnings were there all along, but your eyes had skipped over them, that you can't understand what it means to be pregnant until you are throwing up into your purse at the mall. Until, that is, you are living it yourself.

Even then, there are phases of pregnancy you couldn't possibly have anticipated, like when the sidewalk can resemble a comfortable place to nap and how at first you can't tell whether the baby's kicking or you just have indigestion. Nor can anyone really describe to you how your body and heart suddenly will feel full of purpose and promise. How the fact that you're cooking a baby who will undoubtedly have the funny ears that run in your husband's family and the impossibly long eyelashes that run in yours—that you're creating an ancestral DNA of your own!—trumps every annoying, weird symptom that comes along. People forget to mention how this mysterious little person will keep you company every hour of every day, banishing every notion of loneliness for the unforeseeable future, how even though you've yet to meet, you'll love your growing baby with a ferocity that makes Superwoman look wimpy, and how glad you'll be that your body knows how to make eyelashes without consulting you.

At first your pregnancy is a delicious, almost licentious, secret. Then you start to show and find yourself a member of a club that you didn't know existed, part of an underworld of intimacy among moms-to-be and moms-that-are. You are privy to details about other women's labors, the ones that lasted 36 hours and the ones so abrupt that the baby emerged in a shower stall ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Premature Birth

By Jennifer Margulis

When my friend Nora’s son was born the team of doctors went into Code Red. She and her husband Frank only glimpsed the baby before he was whisked away for tests. It looked like one of his lungs was collapsing, the doctors explained. They were so concerned they sent Danny immediately to a larger hospital with a neo-natal intensive care unit. Instead of drinking champagne and counting toes, Frank found himself riding in an ambulance beside his newborn son, who was hooked up to so many life supports you could barely see his tiny self.

“Do ya think it’s possible they cut me open too early?” Nora, who is a doctor herself, asked a few months later. She was ostensibly talking to me but really musing to herself. “Full term babies don’t usually have lung problems. I keep wondering if we got the dates wrong…” Because they were concerned about uterine rupture, the doctors scheduled a C-section for Danny at 38 weeks, two weeks before Nora’s due date. But if the baby’s due date had been miscalculated by two weeks, it might mean that Danny was born at 36 weeks instead of 38.

The difference is not just semantic. A 36-week-old Danny would be considered a preemie. The March of Dimes defines premature birth as any birth occurring before 37 weeks of gestation. And preterm babies often suffer from a host of health problems, the most common caused by premature lung capacity. Disturbingly, the numbers of babies born prematurely in America has been rising steadily in the past ten years.

In 2004 12.5% of live births, or one in eight babies, were premature. That translates into half a million babies. This number is even more striking if we take a longer view: “The incident of preterm birth was 12.1% in 2002, which is up 27% from 1982,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, M.D., an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “The rate is high and it’s rising. It’s going in the wrong direction.”

While doctors and researchers are not exactly sure why, several reasons that premature birth is on the increase have been identified. One major culprit is the use of fertility drugs like Chlomid, which results in a much greater likelihood of becoming pregnant with multiples, and which doctors are prescribing with increasing frequency to help couples conceive.

“Fifty percent of mothers who have a twin gestation have babies born prematurely,” says Durlin Hickok, M.D., who specializes in preterm birth. Hickok also says that African American women are twice as likely to give birth prematurely than white women: “Poverty, poor access to prenatal care, lack of health insurance, low pre-pregnancy weight, and poor lifestyle habits—drinking, smoking, drug use—can all contribute to preterm birth.” Scientists also believe that pregnant women who work long hours standing up, women younger than 17 and older than 35, and women who don’t receive adequate prenatal care are at higher risk.

My friend Sara was carrying twins when her water broke unexpectedly four years ago. She was 41 years old and pregnant after seven years of trying. The doctors wanted to keep the babies in utero as long as possible to allow them more time for their lungs to develop. At 35 weeks, 11 days after she was hospitalized, Sara went into labor. Her son was born weighing 5.5 lbs, her daughter was much smaller. At 3.75 pounds and 14 inches long, Maya could only wear doll’s clothes.

Having her twins in the NICU was the most emotionally devastating and draining experience of her life. “All you want to do is hold those babies and nurse them and have them home,” she told me. “Instead they’re hooked up to bells and whistles and wires and IVs through their heads and IVs through their belly button.”

Frank’s mom came to care for their older son while Nora was in the hospital and Frank stayed at a Ronald MacDonald House nearby. I drove her to see Danny. He looked big and healthy compared to the micro-preemies who weighed only one or two pounds, tiny babies in heated incubators whose lives, for whatever reason, started too soon.

A version of this post was originally published in the Ashland Daily Tidings

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Leave Babies In The Car

GreatDad has a blog about a man arrested for leaving his 2-year-old in the car alone while he went to see a movie. Last year a 7-month-old baby died of heat exposure after being left by her parents in the car. Juggling full time work and daycare, the parents miscommunicated and didn't realize she was in the car. It was a terrible and tragic accident and it's hard not to feel bad for them, and angry at them too. Here's an excerpt from a KMOV article about the baby's death published September 2007, which has some interesting general statistics:
(KMOV) -- According to police, a 7-month-old girl died from extreme heat after being found in a vehicle in St. Louis on Thursday.

The baby was found around 12:15 p.m. on Thursday in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Washington University School of Medicine.

That's near the intersection of Clayton Ave. and Taylor near Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The mother of the baby is a pediatrician at Barnes Hospital and the father is a researcher at Washington University Medical Center. The names of the baby and the parents are not being released.

Authorities say the baby was left in the car after a miscommunication between the parents. Police say the parents became confused about which one was with the baby.

A witness tells News 4 that a passerby saw the baby in the car and the child was soaked with sweat. Several people then broke the window of the car with a rock to get to the child. They were unable to revive the baby.

We’re told that the baby may have been locked inside the vehicle for three and a half hours. and died due to extreme heat conditions.

Police say their child abuse unit is still investigating but no charges are expected.

According to a child advocacy group called Kids in Cars says in:

2007 22 children died

2006 29 children died

2005 43 children died

This is the 12th fatality of a child in a hot vehicle in Missouri since 1998, according to a research meteorologist who specializes in the dynamics of how sealed cars heat in the sun.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Free For One Year Olds

With the price of gas as high as it is and the cost of food skyrocketing, we wonder how anyone buys anything anymore (perhaps thanks to Mr. Visa and Mrs. Mastercard?). That's the great thing about babies -- they don't care if what they are wearing is new or a hand-me-down (wait until they turn 9, this all changes). Even if you are dying to get a closet full of new stuff, you may find yourself unable to buy, buy, buy given the downturn in the economy. The good news is, as we mention in The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, most of the best things to do with babies are free or cost next to nothing. Here are some ideas of free things for dads to do with one year olds:
1. Go to the pet store. Even younger babies get really excited about kittens and puppies and every kid likes to watch goldfish. If you don't have a pet store nearby, go give some love to the closest animal shelter.
2. The local wading pool. Ours costs less than $1. Babies love it.
3. Go for a hike. Walk in-town or discover a new spot in nature. Bring another dad and baby along for company.
4. Go to the library. Even when they are too young to read, babies soon discover that there are plenty of board books to drool on and crawl around space to escape from at the library.
5. Visit family (and leave the baby with the MIL while you go for a run or get coffee).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Book for Dads to Buy Their Wives

You want your wife to have this book. Believe us. It's called Hump, and it's by Kimberly Ford and it's about having sex (what's that?) after becoming a parent.

There's all sorts of good stuff in this book, including a chapter on vibrators and another on erotic dancing (stretch marks and C-section scars and all).

Here's the Web site (it's gorgeous, prepare for envy):

Kimberly will be attending something like 30 house parties across the United States and she'll be in Ashland, Oregon on Thursday, August 14th. This one is women only (sorry guys. Send your wives!). If you want to be invited, contact Jennifer Margulis (at professormargulis [at] for details.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Disturbing Article on MSNBC

A recent article on kids and health on MSNBC reports that doctors are suggesting children as young as eight years old start taking cholesterol lowering drugs. We find this really disturbing and bizarre -- part of a growing trend in America to medicalize everything about our children's childhoods and treat every problem with drugs.

When drugs are given to children the people who stand to gain the most are the drug companies who profit from every sale.

When we were in Niger, West Africa for a year we had two kinds of health insurance. Neither would pay for the only malaria preventive medicine that was safe for our family (our son has a rare genetic condition, a G6PD deficiency (also known as favism) and he cannot take quinine-based drugs of any kind; I had a violently bad reaction to mefloquine, the anti-malarial of choice even though mosquitoes are resistant to it these days) even though the insurance companies would have been responsible if any of us contracted malaria. The pills we took cost $5 a pill and needed to be taken daily and we paid out of pocket for them until we realized that we were spending more than $1000 beyond what the Fulbright Fellowship stipend was giving us and that we simply didn't have the money. Then we stopped taking any malaria preventative medication. There's a lot wrong with America's health care system -- our inability to pay for needed medication and the recommendation that children take drugs for high cholesterol are two good examples of that.

Let's give our kids fresh air, exercise, and a healthy diet that does not include any processed foods or high cholesterol foods. Let's support organic farmers not irresponsible drug companies. Let's not give 8-year-olds cholesterol lowering medication. Okay?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Baby Bonding Book featured in Texas Family

This was taken by doing Apple's neat trick of holding down the control-shift-and the #4 keys at the same time to take a snapshot of the screen. Since it's illegible (but it looks cool, doesn't it?), here's what the review says:
The Baby Bonding
Book for Dads
James di Properzio and
Jennifer Margulis
“The Baby Bonding Book for Dads” is
a helpful guide for any new dad who
feels lost parenting a newborn. With
information on bonding, diapering,
napping, going places, and even on
how to carry a baby, this “instruction
manual” provides fathers with
invaluable insight into everyday living
and what matters most in caring for a
baby from birth. Authored by James
di Properzio, a father of three, with
his wife, Jennifer Margulis, it offers
firsthand advice beginning with the
delivery room experience. Filled with
helpful information and beautiful
pictures by Christopher Briscoe, this
guide is a must-have for any new dad.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

F A T H E R ' S
D A Y !!

Breakfast in bed, framed photos, calls to long distance grandpas, a walk in the woods, lots of horizontal play time with your spouse ... here's to wishing everyone a happy Father's Day! (even if it is a Hallmark holiday designed to sell greeting cards...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A round up of book-related Web news

You can now see the inside of the book (and read parts of it online) at Willow Creek Press.

Kathy Sena has a review of the book up at Ground Reports.

Blonde Mom Blog, one of our favorites, has a great post about dads up at her site (and is doing a book giveaway, click on over there for details).

You can read Jennifer Margulis's article all about Treesorts in Takilma, Oregon at Travel Savvy Mom's cool new Website. Jamie Pearson's blog about kids and travel is hilarious so check it out too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Picture Time

An excerpt from a chapter of the Baby Bonding Book for Dads called "Picture Time":
If you're the one in the house who takes the pictures, you'll soon find that there are lots of pictures of the baby, and of the baby and your wife, but almost none of the baby and you. This is often the dad's place: looking in on the action, wanting to record it all, but not in the picture. But to bond with your baby you need to get into the frame, so to speak...
Though some of us think fondly that there was no Father's Day (or Mother's Day) a hundred years ago, a good present for a new dad is a photo shoot. If your budget allows for it, have a professional take pictures of dad and baby (moms can be in them too). If you're feeling the squeeze of the economy, despite that incentive check, set up a photo shoot at home and take the pictures yourself.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Savvy Housewife Book Give Away

Win a free copy of the book by leaving a comment on the Savvy Housewife's new sassy blog.

Or, if you don't want a free book, read Jennifer Margulis's latest (and penultimate) column in the Ashland Daily Tidings and see if you can figure out what's so controversial about writing about Wildlife Images, an animal rehabilitation center (and an amazing day trip for kids) in southern Oregon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"An Informative, Practical, and Never Condescending Guide"

Meagan Francis writes about the Baby Bonding Book for Dads in her column, "Mama-Rama," in the Michigan Noise today. She calls the book "An informative, practical, and never condescending guide to bonding with your baby..." and includes a Q & A that she did with co-authors James di Properzio and Jennifer Margulis. Here's an excerpt:
Meagan: Does a bonded father make a better husband or partner?

Jennifer: There's no question that having an engaged partner makes for easier parenting for both the mom and the dad. I'd argue that equal, bonded co-parenting also raises children's self-esteem, sets an example for future generations and is an all-round good thing. In fact, a recent scientific study in Sweden, that included an extensive literature review, revealed that boys who have actively engaged fathers have fewer behavior problems and girls have fewer psychological problems.

Parenting should involve both parents and should be a shared task. I hope that we are ready to move past the idea that it is the woman's role to be the caregiver and the man's role to be the provider. In our family James and I are both caregivers (though I tend to be the stricter one!) and we are both providers.

Meagan: I think a lot of expecting dads are afraid that having a baby is going to negatively affect their lives (loss of freedom, strained relationship with their wives, etc). We often hear about the negative side, but what are some really cool things about being a father?

James: You know, the coolest thing is that the side of you that never grows up ... can indulge in all the fun things from childhood all over again, except this time it's on your terms. Not only is this fun with the things you really loved as a kid and can do just the same way or better, but also with the ones that your parents messed up: you can now do them in your own way, and get the chance to finally have them just the way you want, which is healing, plus you know you're way cooler than your parents ever were.
Win a free book by leaving a comment on Meagan's blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What About Stepdads?

A press release from the Council on Contemporary Families sets the facts straight about stepdads. Here's what they have to say:
Stepdads are fathers too:

* About 17 percent of America's children live in stepfamily households.

* There are five times as many stepfathers as stepmothers.

* More than 40 percent of all marriages are remarriages, and one-third of all marriages in America bring a stepfamily into existence.

* More than half of Americans today have been, are now, or will eventually be in some form of stepfamily during their lives.

Stepfamilies not new: Far from being non-traditional, stepfamilies were until recently one of the most common family forms in history, due to higher mortality rates in the past. The United States has many notable stepfathers. George Washington, the father of our country, was a stepfather to Martha's children. Dr. Seuss was a stepfather, as was the famous baby doctor, Dr. Spock. Meriwether Lewis, the great explorer, also had a stepfather, as did Booker T. Washington. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford had stepfathers who adopted them.

Myth of the Bad Stepdad: Yet stepfathers today, unlike the past, get little respect. In fact, stories about "bad" stepfathers circulate so widely that a prominent sociologist and social commentator recently claimed that a woman with children who remarries is committing child abuse! This stunning misuse of social science research is based upon studies that lumped together boyfriends, uncles, grandfathers, and friends of the mother under the category of "stepfather" and found that such men were more likely than the biological father to abuse children. If we limit the category of "stepfather" to those men who have married the mother of their stepchildren, there is little difference between biological fathers and stepfathers in propensity toward child abuse.

Lack of Support for Stepfathers: Most stepfathers provide substantial financial and emotional support for their stepchildren, yet our society offers them little support for doing so. In fact, stepfathers have no rights regarding their stepchildren. Unless they adopt them, stepfathers are considered "legal strangers" to their stepchildren. They cannot legally sign them into the emergency wards of hospitals, they often cannot visit a stepchild in the intensive care unit of a hospital because they are not considered "immediate family" (although they are "allowed" to pay the hospital bills), and they cannot have access to school records of their stepchildren, even if they are the ones helping with the homework every evening.

For kids, loving both Dad and Stepdad is not an either/or issue: Children, especially adolescents, benefit from having close relationships with both their stepfather and their father. Right now this happens about 25% of the time. 35% of the time, youth have a close relationship with their stepfather rather than their father-- and 16% of the time it is the other way around. Sadly, 25% of the time, teens in stepfamilies have neither a close relationship with their stepfather or father. Supporting stepfathers and stepfatherhood is good for families: young people need
all the fathering that they can get.

Being a Stepfather takes extra work: Although studies show that a good relationship with a stepfather is a protective factor for children, very few of us think about the patience and hard work that it takes for stepfathers to win their stepchildren's trust. Stepdads must walk the fine line of being a parental figure in the family without trying to replace the children's biological dad. Even if the biological father has been irresponsible and neglectful, a successful stepfather bite his tongue and does not try to take the father's place. Effective stepfathers develop good relationships with their stepchildren the same way they would develop a relationship with a potential friend -- except that unlike with most friends, they put aside their hurt feelings when their overtures are rejected and make a fresh start at trying to get acquainted every day, for as long as it takes. They spend one-on-one time with the stepchild, especially early in the relationship. And they resist any pressure to "act like a father" when is comes to being the disciplinarian, recognizing that this is a job for the children's mother. Successful stepfathers let the stepchildren choose the pace at which the friendship develops. Loving their stepchildren, they understand that it takes time for their stepchildren to reciprocate.

The best stepfathers are masters at living with delayed gratification. But even the most patient master needs a little appreciation every once in a while. So if you know a stepfather this Father's Day, don't put off any longer telling him how much you value his efforts.

Monday, June 2, 2008

June Pick from Parents and Kids

Along with things like burp armor and morning sickness drinks, Parents and Kids, a regional parenting magazine located in Needham, Massachusetts, lists The Baby Bonding Book for Dads among its June picks. Check out their informative Website, "Wicked Local," and if you live in the Boston area (that would be you, Dad), pick up a copy of the magazine.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alternadad and Mother Words

Hot-off-the-press, that is, the blogosphere, reviews from Neal Pollack, author of the book, Alternadad, and creator of the blog Offsprung, and Kate Hopper of Mother Words (who, in the midst of battling mastitis still found time to read and write an amazingly long and thoughtful blog about the Baby Bonding Book For Dads).

Some excerpts:
Today is Offsprung’s “virtual tour stop” for The Baby Bonding Book For Dads, which exists to help the clueless, emotionally-distant American male achieve a closer relationship with their loin-products. TBBBFD (for short) is a warm, gently funny volume full of tasteful photographs, which places it in sharp contrast with the screaming, fecal-stained nightmare that makes up most of our parenting experience. Still, dads must bond, on their own terms. I offer some suggestions after the bump.

Watch Your Favorite Movie Together. Yes, your favorite movie is Hellboy. Yes, your child will have a decade of nightmares about the “fish man who sounds like Niles from Frasier,” except that they’ll have no idea what Frasier is. Yes, Hellboy himself is a creature from Bosch-land. But at least they’ll know why daddy sits in his basement every night, drinking whiskey, moaning that he’ll “never write a graphic novel that good, ever.”
The list includes goes on to include things like cross peeing and candy bribes. Read it here.

On a more serious note, Kate writes about the different experiences her husband has had bonding with their two children:
I never worried about D bonding with Stella. He was with her in those moments after she was pulled from me, when the neonatologists were checking her vitals. He was with her after they placed her in an isolette and wheeled her up to the Special Care Nursery, where he sat and spoke to her softly through plastic.

Thirty-six hours later, after the call to my room saying that she was in respiratory distress, D was the one who walked next to her through the long tunnel connecting Abbott Northwestern and Children’s Hospitals. He was the one who read to her in the middle of the night and who changed her diaper when the nurses said it was time.

All the while, I was nauseous, spinning in and out of sleep.

Much later, when we finally brought Stella home, D was the one who could calm her. I was often at a loss. Nursing was frustrating on good days and left me in tears on bad days. Since the moment she received bottles in the hospital, she preferred them to breastfeeding. I ended up pumping and pumping, and D gave her bottles at 11 pm and 5 am each day. There was no question that D and Stella bonded—they bonded immediately.

With Zoe, everything has been different. I missed out on an hour with her as I was being sewn up after my C-section, but we have been together almost constantly since then. She would love nothing more than to spend the day nursing and snoozing in my arms. And since she refuses to take a bottle, D hasn’t been able to feed her, to connect with her the way he connected with Stella. Much of the time we are together as a family is divided—he is playing with Stella and I’m nursing Zoe. I imagine that this is the way it is for many families when the mother is breastfeeding: the other partner feels a little left out.

There are so many books out there for expectant mothers—dare I say too many? But there are few that celebrate fatherhood and the special connection a dad can have with his new baby. I think this book helps fill that gap, and it would be a perfect gift for the expectant dads you know. I even found in it some good reminders for me: don’t feel stuck at home with an infant, take the baby with you and get out of the house! I also had forgotten this: that when a baby “turns her face to the side, she’s probably telling you she’s had enough…” Zoe loves to be on the changing table, kicking her feet and smiling, but I forgot this cue and think I’ve been keeping her “playing” long after she’s grown tired. Oops.
Read the entire entry (it's as awesome and well written as the excerpt) here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Study shows active fathers help children's self-esteem

In case you needed more reasons to be involved with your baby, there's actually new scientific evidence from researchers in Sweden that shows that your role in your child's life will make a big difference. Active fathers help their sons have fewer behavioral problems and help their daughters have fewer psychological problems. Here's an excerpt from the Science Daily article. Read the full article here.
Active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, according to a review published in the February issue of Acta Paediatrica.

Swedish researchers also found that regular positive contact reduces criminal behaviour among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills like intelligence, reasoning and language development.

Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.

The researchers are urging healthcare professionals to increase fathers' involvement in their children's healthcare and calling on policy makers to ensure that fathers have the chance to play an active role in their upbringing.

The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied.

The smallest study focused on 17 infants and the largest covered 8,441 individuals ranging from premature babies to 33 year-olds. They included major ongoing research from the USA and UK, together with smaller studies from Sweden and Israel...

No Chance at Having a Father

The children who live at the orphanage, Fraternité Notre Dame, in Niamey, Niger, have no chance at ever having a father, or a parent to bond with. They are well taken care of by a heroic woman named Sister Brigitte and a staff of nannies who never stay long (it's a hard job). The orphanage also gives food to poor people in the community and runs a health clinic as well. The children have enough to eat, they are getting an education, and they have clean clothes to wear (most of the time). But due to the rules of the orphanage, these children cannot be adopted and will never live in a nuclear family or have parents who love them and kiss their little heads a hundred times a day.