From the sketchbook: Here is how I keep Perry warm in a car seat on the coldest of winter days. This approach makes sure there is very little between the baby and the harness that holds him in and safe. Can you spot the embellishment that Harlan added?
What a winter this has been in Boston! For Valentine’s Day, we are not only going to have several feet of snow on the ground, but the weather is going to get below zero with wind chills well below zero throughout the day. Adding a two month-old to this equation of snow + cold could result in a whole lot of being stuck inside, especially since our daily lives involve walking without an easy way to pop a baby quickly into a heated car. I spend at least half an hour a day outside with Perry, and here is how I keep him warm:
The first thing you should know is that I carry Perry around in a carrier. More specifically, I wear him in a Baby K’Tan, a type of wrap that goes on quickly and easily, and gives its own insulating layer. If he were older, I would use an Ergo, a type of soft structured carrier that distributes weight better on my hips. I find that wearing him close to me allows him to benefit from my body heat, and I prefer this to putting him in a stroller with a snowsuit and lots of blankets.
I get started with regular old Perry wearing his normal cotton outfits—usually pants and a onesie. If the weather is above 30 degrees, this is usually all I need. I just make sure I have something fairly warm, like fleece booties on his feet. If it is a bit colder, say in the 20’s, I might just go with a fleece one-piece outfit, again making sure his feet have something warm on them. But when it is in the teens or below, I pop him into a fleece suit (not a full snowsuit) before I put him in the wrap. No matter the scenario above, I put a warm winter cap on his head. My favorite is from Hanna Andersson, because it fully covers his ears and head, and then ties under his chin to keep it securely in place no matter how his head moves.
Once he is suited up, I pop him into the wrap, making any adjustments needed to make sure he fits comfortably given the extra bulk. On fleece suit days, I put the hood over his winter hat, and I pay careful attention to make sure his airways are clear.
The last step is to put a coat over both of us. I am very lucky because I own a special coat made precisely to be worn over a baby in a carrier. It has an extra panel that zips into the coat to make room for Perry, and has a little flap that can entirely enclose him in the coat, or be left open. The flap allows breathing room while protecting his face from cold and wind, and the coat is designed so that he can be worn on front or an older baby could be worn on the back during milder cold. That said, I have seen people zip a baby in a carrier inside a generously sized coat. I can, for instance, zip my husband’s coat over me and Perry, no problem.
Well, today I jogged 2 miles on a treadmill. For the second time. I am 2 months postpartum and definitely have the belly to prove it. There are a lot of things I do not like about my body at this moment in time, and even though I want to be kind to myself I do not want that kindness to turn into passive acceptance. This is my second time around, and I definitely never put in the time and effort to restore my body the first time around. I know how much this dragged me down: the time wasted feeling bad about the way I looked, the lack of energy because I was out-of-shape.
My husband–who is the tall, athletic type–had been looking for an endurance event to challenge himself in his own fitness journey. He found an 11 mile trail run and signed up. You may guess where this is going. I have sheepishly signed on, terrified of my own ability to go from a freshly postpartum mother who hasn’t run in years to someone who can dash of 11 miles through mud and woods in a mere 14 weeks. I have never enjoyed running, finding it tedious and uncomfortable. Heck, I was the statistician on my high school’s cross country team. Nonetheless, I found a couch to half-marathon plan on a running site dedicated to women. With my husband’s assurance that he would watch the baby while I ran, I began the plan this week.
The overall approach to the plan is to mix walking and running intervals in the early weeks to build up the stamina to do the runs. The first day was a 2 mile walk/run interval and I shocked myself by doing the whole thing at a very slow jog. I mean, 14 minute miles slow. Still, I felt elated. I had never believed that I could actually run 2 miles. I am not sure if I have ever run that far in my life.
Today I repeated that hurculean task. My legs ache the way that a fit person’s might after, say, a half marathon. But I did it. I persisted. I kept with a pace slow enough that I knew the only barrier to completion was in my head. And I persevered.
I am still too uncertain of the outcome to share this publicly. I mean, can I really do it? The mileage cranks up at an incredibly fast pace. Already my next run is supposed to be 3 miles. 3 miles? That is an extra 50% more than I am currently struggling to do. But I have already surprised myself, so maybe I will again. As a sign of my own commitment, I bought expensive running shoes today. I am committed to trying my best to reach this sudden, unexpected goal.
This morning brought out a grumpy 4 year old.
Grumpy because he had to be woken up.
Grumpy because we are still transitioning away from a nap, and his sleep schedule is not well set.
Grumpy because he is not a morning person.
And, grumpy because he did not want to go to school.
“Today is not a school day, it is a special home day!” he asserted, scrunching his nose and narrowing his eyes for dramatic emphasis. “School is not fun. School is boring. School is the stupidest thing ever.” He then draped his entire body on mine and popped his thumb into his mouth, as if daring the world to try and take him away from his momma and his home.
I snuggled him, I talked to him, but it did not really do any good. Deep in my heart, I felt pretty darn ambivalent about sending him off to another long day of preschool (daycare).* Ambivalence can be sniffed out by children, and I am sure he got the idea that he might wear me down. As soon as my schedule featured more flexibility, he began to wheedle and negotiate for more time at home. My husband does not feel this ambivalence. He wants to get H off to school so that he can get on to his work day. He firmly ordered H out of his jammies and into his clothes, and guided him out the door, all while stopping further complaints. H gave me a good-bye kiss and off he went.
Moments like this are not very easy on my momma heart, or any other pieces of my identity. It has taken me 4 years to realize that there would never be an easy stage to dropping my child off with others—nor do I imagine it will get easier as time goes on and he enters elementary, middle, or high school. I don’t imagine that a simple solution lies in keeping him at home. There is so much he gets out of the challenge of being with peers, and his teachers and friends offer tremendous enrichment. And still, there is a part of me—a part that hated school myself, that felt like it was boring and the stupidest thing ever—that just wants to keep him with me forever and always and protect him from school. After all, part of me would rather spend my day with him, and is thrilled that he wants to spend his with me.
On a day like today, I feel a bit sheepish. If I were as clear and level-headed as my husband, I would just as easily guide him out the door. Without that ambivalent mother, snuggling him and asking him about why he didn’t want to go to school, my son would head out the door with more confidence of his own. And, if I felt clearer on my own career trajectory and purpose, I would not feel as ambivalent. His uncertainty is, more than anything, a mirror of my own.
There are the times in life when you realize that you need to better support your child, and there are also times when you realize you need to get your own head on straight. I am trying to embrace the fact that this moment, for our family, represents both. I am in a moment of transition in my career, and our family is also in transition. There is a new baby coming, a search for new jobs, a knowledge that we will be moving in half a year. There is a conversation to be had with my little boy to acknowledge these uncertainties and frustrations. But, there is a conversation to be had with myself. I need to allow it to begin.
*Let me be crystal clear: I think preschool is a wonderful experience for 4 and 5 year olds, and something that should be available to all children without fee. Research bears this out. That said, my son is enrolled in a 7-day-a-week, 9-hour day program. He does not spend that full amount of time there, but he does spend at least as much time at school as a kindergartener would. It is a lot … sometimes too much.
Here are my visual checklists for preparing for asthma / flu / cold season. Keep reading below for a more linear version.
If you are like us, you have an assortment of asthma paraphernalia:
- A cheery and squat ProAir inhaler, in cherry red
- An officious-looking orange Flovent inhaler, with cap and dose counter
- But watch out, because we have had two identical Flovent inhalers, with different doses
- A rather elegant and lean Ventolin inhaler, with its pricy dosage counter (why else would it cost 6 times as much to purchase as its simple ProAir cousin?)
- A space-age cylinder that is the chamber for your spacer, with the blue rubber hole in which to insert the inhaler on one end and the strange tube that fits the mask on the other
- A mask that fits the spacer chamber (apparently pediatric masks are required to have some silly animal on them, because ours has an orange duck)
- One of the many, many varieties of nebulizer machines
- The tangle of tubing that fits onto the nebulizer
- The plastic chamber/pot to hold the liquid medicine for the nebulizer. This one is tricky because it is made up of several parts that are REQUIRED to make the nebulizer work:
- A base, usually with little legs
- Perhaps a small piece that fits into the base—this is easily lost but the nebulizer does not work without it
- A lid, that keeps the medicine contained and passes the medicine onto the mask
- The mask that fits with the nebulizer, with yet another silly cartoon animal (a purple elephant or a fish, in this case)
- And let’s not forget the plastic capsules that hold your bronchiodilator (or steroid), with their twist-off ends
- You may even have—as we did once—a solemn brown bottle with a dropper lid so that you could add a bronchiodilator to either a saline solution or your steroid capsule, mixing them in the plastic medicine pot of your nebulizer so that you do not need to big back-to-back nebulizer treatments to get both the steroid and bronchiodilator. This became obsolete for us once we switched to the inhaler + spacer chamber combination
- Those of you dealing with allergy-induced asthma may also have an assortment of allergy medicine. We have:
- An over-the-counter environmental allergy medicine (cytirizine hydrochloride, or generic children’s Zyrtec, in our case, although we have tried Claritin as well)
- Prescription-only singulair
- Children’s Benadryl, for reactions to thinks like bug bites
Is it any wonder that getting organized for asthma season can be difficult? I did not even include in this list the snot suckers, the saline, the tissues, the humidifiers, and all the other goodies that ease congestion but can’t be precisely categorized as asthma medication, nor the thermometers, etc., that go with being sick.
At the start of asthma season, I need to sort through each of the asthma medications with a few goals in mind:
- Is all equipment properly functioning? This means:
- The spacer chamber is intact with no cracks in the section connecting to the mask. Being clean is a bonus
- The masks are all the appropriate size for my child’s current state of development (he actually had an infant-sized mask for his school inhaler…woops)
- The nebulizer machine can still plug in and turn on
- There are no strange kinks in the tubing that would prevent medicine from being used. Bonus points for having a backup set of tubing
- The medicine chamber has all the appropriate components. My vote is for an extra set on hand as well, because these little parts get lost easily in the wash, particularly when your child is sick and you are distracted
- All medicine is well within its expiration date
- You have the correct dosage of all medicines
- There is a sufficient stockpile of medicine to get you through several months
As I go through the medicine, I am sure to get rid of any expired and unused medications. The FDA has information on how to properly dispose of medicine here. I have several steps to try and keep us organized for the upcoming months. For example, I have a system of tracking active prescriptions. I have a special place where I keep any medicine or equipment that I might need to access in the middle of the night while groggy and not thinking clearly (e.g., thermometer, Tylenol, albuterol). I also label medications with the appropriate dose for the appropriate child. But this is content for another post.
How about you? How do you prepare your household for cold/flu/asthma season? Is there anything that I might have missed?
Welcome! My name is Sky, and I am here to cultivate a positive space to connect about issues of parenting. I will use this space to cultivate resources on the issues that touch my life as a parent, infused with my love of illustration. Because I have one young child and another on the way, much of the focus here will be on infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and families with young children. At the same time, I have a special interest in college freshmen (I’ve lived with Harvard freshmen as a residential adviser for 9 years now), and also for asthma (my son began wheezing at 3 months old, and managing chronic asthma is part of our everyday lives). All of these topics will be addressed here.
I bring many lenses to the conversation. Certainly, I write as a mother reflecting on my own needs and priorities, but I am also a researcher, writer, teacher, and artist. I have received a lot of formal training in child development and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I completed a doctorate degree and a postdoctoral fellowship. Prior to that, I was an elementary school teacher in New Mexico. I currently work at Harvard to broker knowledge to policy makers and educational practitioners on issues of early child development, literacy instruction, and literacy assessment. I have published one book on these topics, and another is on the way.
I hope that these multiple identities can bring value to the conversation. And yet, this is my place to reflect, to share, and ultimately to wrestle with the everyday, real-world challenges of nurturing happy and healthy children, parent-to-parent.