The Importance of Good Public Communication

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This post is a co-authored piece by me and my 7-year-old daughters.

Good Public Communication

Mommy: Where we live in Texas, we're not accustomed to cold weather. 100 degree days in the summer, we can handle. We know how to stay cool and safe. 32 degree days with precipitation? That's not within our realm of competence. We don't know how to drive on the ice. Our cities don't possess the equipment to render roads safe. Call us wimpy. My children's safety comes first.

J: This morning, we were getting rushed to be ready for school on time. Well, it happened that when we were almost at the front of the drop-off line, the news told us that all of RRISD was closed for a 2-hour delay. They were supposed to tell us that at 6:00 in the morning.

M: And it was 7:34. Super late, actually.

Mommy: Hearing about the delay on the news, I stopped and asked the teacher supervising the kids entering school if she knew what was going on. She said that her mom had called to tell her about the delayed opening. I asked whether I should just take the kids home with me and she said she would.

M: The car skidded when we were about to turn out of the loop. We were super-upset and mad at our school.

J: The skid was real creepy

M: Creepy. Right.

Mommy: The whole point of school delays is to keep kids safe by minimizing traffic during dangerous road conditions.

M: Well, that didn't happen today.

Mommy: I'm so disappointed in the school district. School starts at 7:45. The school district has a policy of announcing delays by 6:00 am. The RRISD website was down this morning, so I checked the local news. Austin ISD announced their delay at a reasonable time. I received a text about the delay at 7:44 from our school district. The email with the same announcement arrived at 7:49. I'm unimpressed.

As one friend put it, “I'm grossed out by how the schools are behaving. Are they just being stubborn? At what cost?”

As I'm typing this post, I receive an email from work. At 8:16 am. After about 1/4 of my team decided for ourselves that driving in wasn't worth the risk

Due to worsening road and weather conditions, The University of Texas at Austin will be closed until noon today.Students, faculty and staff who are already on campus or on their way to campus will still be able to enter their offices or classrooms even before the university is officially open for operations. They should make a personal decision on what is best for their safety.Decisions about delays and closure are made based on the best available information officials have at the tine. At 3:00 AM, the forecast and predictions indicated a safe opening. Weather conditions have changed, and we are now delaying campus opening to promote the safety of staff, faculty and students.

Okay, Central Texas. I'm not impressed.

M: *giggle* I like! It's funny!

Update 9:22 am: Just got a call from RRISD declaring all schools closed for the day. Even more disappointed than before. At least they apologized: “We sincerely apologize for the late decision… Please know that it was not our intent to put students, parents or staff in harm's way.” Too little, too late?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J, who are budding writers. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

 

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Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

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This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old
L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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SMSs From the NICU

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Our twins Rahul and Leila were born at 31 weeks gestation, in Hong Kong, where I temporarily moved from Chengdu for their birth and initial care. Only my husband Maher, and I were allowed to visit the babies in the NICU.

2 weeks after they were born Maher returned to work in Chengdu. He would fly into HK every Friday evening though, for the weekend.

These are some of the messages I sent to him, Houda (my mother-in-law), and my parents from the hospital over the next month. I was only allowed to send messages from outside the NICU unit. Some days I couldn’t get myself to go out and leave the babies alone any longer than I already did, so I’d sneak into one of the breastfeeding cubicles that were set apart from the rooms where the babies were, and I’d secretly turn on my phone for a couple of minutes, scramble to send a quick update to Maher in Chengdu, and to the grandparents who were at the apartment with me in HK.

They were recovered from Houda’s phone well after we had returned to Chengdu. Unfortunately, the dates were not saved.

Rahul came home after 3 weeks in the NICU, Leila after 6.


Leila is better. They will start feeding her again soon. She weighs 1480 (kg). Not aspirating undigested milk anymore. No stool yet though. Rahul is fine. Quite sleepy this morning.

They started feeding Leila again at 10 am. [There was a fear that Leila had caught a dangerous infection in her gut so they briefly stopped feeding her.]

Rahul is 1910 (kg) now, and he is difficult with me on the breast! Doesn’t eat and then when he does it takes ages to burp him:) Leila is tolerating the milk rather well. She ate from the bottle again very well. Still no stool though. 36 hours now. Can you see if you can buy baby monitors to keep near the baby with a system so I can hear them in my room if they cry. [Rahul was going home soon.]

Leila is doing good. Big bowel opening this morning Eating 13-14ml now.

Leila is good. Eating 16-18ml. She had medium size stool last night at 3 am. She seems calm. Belly slightly distended but soft so it is ok. They are aspirating some undigested milk as usual. How is Rahul? [He went home already and was taken care of by his grandmothers teta Houda and nani Varsha.]

Leila is eating 20ml. Digesting well. She is calm right now. Sleeping.

Did Rahul eat and shit? What consistency? [He was at home.]

Leila is ok. Still eating upto 20. I haven’t had the chance to get more info. Rahul had a bath. He was very calm. He weighs 2010. [He went back to the hospital for an ROP Retinopathy of Prematurity test.]

Leila is eating 20 ml every 2 hours like before. She looks bigger. They will weigh her tomorrow. Will ask again if I can hold her. Nothing else.

Maher prefers cousa (zucchini) to chicken. But he likes basela (peas). [Houda trying to decide what to cook one Friday for Maher when he came to HK.]

Leila is good:) Did Rahul eat? Is he calm?

Maher said feed him (Rahul) if he is hungry. Maher has all night to feed him. [A Friday afternoon. Maher came to the hospital to see Leila and would later go home to see Rahul.]

Is he eating now?!

She is good. Eating 20ml. Still a little distended. Weighs 1645.

Leila is much better. Eating 23 ml. After a glycerine tube insert she shat many times in the last day.

She weighs 1665 and is eating 26. Looks good.

She is good. Eating 28 and they want to give her the bottle [as opposed to the feeding tube] a little more often.

Everything is good. He weighs 2705 and should eat between 90 and 120.

She is very good. No tube in her mouth. Everything else same.

She is good. Eating 30 to 35.

Is he eating now? The next time he gets hungry give him some formula pls. Thanks. [I was still at the hospital so couldn’t get him breastmilk in time.]

She is in a crib with no wires. She weighs 1855 and she breast fed really well. She didn’t swallow a lot but sucked well. Prepare a crib for her at home soon

She is good. Same same.

She is ok. Eating 45! Weighing 1935. Temperature is still a little low. [She was in a crib now and had to regulate her own body temperature.]

Rahul and I, day 4 or 5 in the NICU
With Rahul, day 4 or 5 in the NICU
Leila in the NICU, 2 weeks old
Leila in the NICU, 2 weeks old

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Sign Helps with Early Communication

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I’m a huge fan of using Baby Sign, or modified sign language, to help babies communicate with you successfully before they can speak. For us, it reduced the frustrated you-don’t-understand-what-I-want crying by about 80%.

babysignMy daughters, M and J, started using single signs to communicate their needs at the age of 7 months, so my recommendation is to start sign at birth, to get the parents into the habit, if nothing else. I honestly think any time before school-age is fine to start signing. I didn’t get around to it until age 5 months.

Why sign?

It makes life easier!

Infants are ready to communicate well before they have enough control over their vocal tract to produce words. I think most parents have been surprised to discover how much language babies can understand well before they begin to speak. Using Baby Sign allows extremely young children to communicate their needs in a way the adults around them can understand and respond to, cutting down on crying and frustration. There are some studies that indicate that infants exposed to Baby Sign have higher IQs than control subjects, speak earlier, and have larger vocabularies. However, it may simply be that the kind of parents who adopt Baby Sign are the kind who read more to their kids and consistently encourage language development in other ways too.

Do I need to know Sign Language?

No. American Sign Language (ASL) is a fully fledged language that uses hand gestures and facial expressions in the same way that English uses vowels, consonants and intonation. Baby Sign consists of some words from ASL without any of its grammar, and you’ll only learn these words. Unless you expose your child to ASL, your Baby Signing child will not be learning to communicate with the American or Canadian Deaf community in any meaningful way. I presume that there are other Baby Sign systems derived from the sign languages of other parts of the world, but I know nothing about them.

BabySignHow do I start?

Make a squeezing gesture with one fist for "milk."
“Milk”

Starting Baby Sign is easy.

Pick one or two signs to learn, and use them consistently whenever you (or other caregivers) say the word. “Milk,” “eat/food”, “drink” and “more” are great starter words.

You can add more words once your child starts signing back. It’s never too early, and never too late. The benefits are most tangible before your child starts speaking, or when they have a very small vocabulary. You don’t even have to use signs from ASL or Baby Sign books. Make something up and use it consistently within your family. As long as you’re consistent, your child will learn the sign.

It may be a couple of months before you see your child make a sign. Don’t give up! Remember that they’re hearing English for nearly a year before they say a word. Once they are about a year old, they will probably consider it a game to learn new signs.

Show me the signs!

I had a leg up because I took ASL classes in college and grad school and had Deaf friends, but I’ve found a number of resources other people have found helpful.

  • Baby Einstein’s My First Signs DVD. My girls continued to pick up new signs from it through age two even though they already had English, Bengali or Spanish words for them. Of course, M and J’s signs looked nothing like the ones modeled on the DVD, but their daycare teacher and I understood them, as did Sissy, which is what mattered. Plus, they just loved the DVD and fell over laughing at some of the puppet shows.
  • Sign with your Baby by Joseph Garcia. It takes a little work to learn the code used in the glossary of signs, but it’s got a great how-to on introducing new signs, combining signs, and just keeping it up.
  • Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. It’s a longer book, but the glossary is very accessible and pretty extensive. It’s good for arming yourself with information about why Baby Sign is beneficial if you’ve got any nay-sayers who need convincing.
  • Baby Signing for Dummies by Jennifer Watson. This is an easy read, with great illustrations of 150 basic signs, which is more than most families need.
  • A helpful website is http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/. This site has a great video dictionary as well as pointers on getting started and a discussion of how Baby Sign differs from American Sign Language.
  • http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/concepts.htm is a list of 100 common signs. Each link takes you to an active demonstration of the sign. The site belongs to a professor of ASL.

In case it’s relevant to someone, here’s the vocabulary list I used:
We started at 5 months with:

At 6 months we added:

By 12 months:

  • Baby
  • Share
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Cold
  • Cereal (M used this one for the first time after she’d been saying the English “cereal” for 4 months! I think it was because Daddy was home from Iraq for a couple of weeks and didn’t understand her, and she was hoping he’d get the sign.)
  • Cookie
  • Drink (J used to think this one was funny and started giggling every time she used it. I have no idea why.)
  • Gentle
  • Play
  • Where is it?/Where’d it go. (My girls always said “Go?” when they used this one)
  • Sleep

In the video below, M and J are 16 months old. No, they still haven’t learned how to sit still at home. These days, they have to save up that effort for school. Note that even while the girls are signing “Baby” at my request, J uses her sign for “Gentle” to tell me what she knows about babies.

What do you think of Baby Sign? Did it work for you? Would you consider trying it out?

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Holiday Greetings

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I love the holidays.  Holiday music, baking opportunities, community events, Christmas lights–all of it makes me smile. I don’t enjoy shopping during the holidays at all, though. The crowds give me headaches, so I’m usually done procuring gifts well before Thanksgiving.

One of my favourite activities at the end of the year is sending out holiday cards. Since becoming a mother, I haven’t been nearly as good at keeping in touch with friends around the world, and our holiday greetings are an annual opportunity to remind the people we care about that we love them. For nearly six years, I maintained a public blog, but there are plenty of folks for whom the blogosphere is a huge mystery. The act of addressing and stamping envelopes, filling them with our family’s good wishes, is very satisfying. I know that Christmas cards end up being a chore for many people, and I’m very glad that I find the whole experience to be fun!

I usually order photo cards with a photo from the year. When my husband is home for the holidays, I send out a family photo, but more often the picture is of our twin daughters alone. After all, my husband and I look pretty much the same year after year. Getting nice family photos is a challenge all its own, and after the first year, I elected to leave it to the professionals. A couple of years ago, we invested in an amazing photo shoot with the talented Brandi Nellis, but most years, we just hit up the Sears or JC Penney photo studio.

Although our nuclear family celebrates Christmas’s religious significance, we have many relatives who are Muslim, several friends who are Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, and many more friends and relatives who are altogether secular. I try to pick a winter-themed photo card rather than a Christmas one, and add a handwritten note to recipients who we know will be celebrating Christmas or Eid, if it happens to fall in the winter.

Along with the photo card, I include a family letter, describing the highlights of our year. The majority of the letter usually ends up being about the children’s interests, milestones and accomplishments. This year, I invited our daughters to make their own contributions to the annual letter, and they each drew a picture and wrote a few sentences about the holiday season this year. It was pretty amazing to see them as excited about reaching out through the mail as I am every year.

How do you handle holiday greetings, and do you include your children in your efforts?

 

Sadia, her husband and their 5-year-old girls, M and J, send their holiday greetings from El Paso, TX, where they have just experienced their first Texas desert snow. Sadia’s husband told her about desert snow during his first tour of duty in Iraq, but it has to be seen to believed.

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