Saturday, March 23, 2013

Last post

Spring has sprung and my new website is in full bloom.  

When I came up with the idea for Beyond The Crib five years ago, I was looking for an outlet for my writing talents.  I was a mom with a few little ones and I enjoyed participating in online conversations about parenting.  Over the years, I cultivated a national network of moms and families with whom I still remain very close.  At various times, Beyond The Crib has been a blog, a product review site, and a local parenting forum, but somehow these never felt complete to me. 

I am now the mother to eight children, ranging in age from 17 to one year.  If my two teenage daughters have taught me anything, it is that the journey beyond the crib doesn't end when they are out of diapers. They need us every day, and the challenges they face are far different and come at them faster than they did for me.  As moms we might worry that we are not guiding them correctly, but one thing I have come to realize is that no one judges us as hard as we judge ourselves.  June Cleaver may have been the perfect mom in the perfect little family in her perfect little house.  In reality, life is not perfect, and there are dishes in my sink that I need to tend to. 

I became serious about blogging when Linus was diagnosed with Plagiocephaly and needed to wear a cranial molding orthosis for a few months.  This is when "Adventures From Beyond The Crib" was started.  I used this format to chronicle the time Linus spent wearing his helmet while taking whimsical pictures of him in different situations.

After Linus graduated from his helmet, I continued blogging about parenting, my kids, and life with a large family.  It is now time for Beyond The Crib to evolve into something larger. 
The new site is intended to be a community resource for parents bringing together my experiences with those of my peers.  I hope you will find it useful and become an active participant. 

Please come follow my new website:

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celebrations and Holidays

Two nights ago a blog post by Rage Against the Minivan popped up in my Facebook news feed.  The author, Kristen, implored, "Let's bring the holidays down a notch."  As the night grew on, more and more of my friends were sharing this post, usually preceded with "let's stop celebrating everything" or "Amen."  As for myself, I tend to go all out when it comes to celebrations. 

I love holidays, parties, and just about any celebration.  I am hooked on Pinterest.  Plus, I am guilty of taking hundreds of food pictures which I then upload to Instagram and post to Facebook and Pinterest!  I send goodie bags to school sometimes too, but I swear I didn't invent those darn colorful cellophane bags filled with candy, and stickers and other assorted knick knacks.

There are a few things I refuse to do.  I will never have an Elf on the Shelf.  I have been using the threat of invisible elves since my oldest was little - and it works.  I don't need to worry about crafting the escapades of a little plastic elf every night.  Some people even create funny, more adult situations and post the pictures on Facebook.  Sometimes, I think the elf is more for the parents then the kids.

My kids roped guilted me into celebrating St. Nicholas Day when they went to preschool with the nuns.  They were told to leave their shoes out and they would receive coins and chocolates (which they interpreted as chocolate coins) in their shoes.  Do you know how hard it is to find chocolate coins in the middle of the night?  It would have helped if the kids had given me fair warning and not just put their shoes out before bed expecting St. Nicholas to come.  I spent a small fortune on those little mesh bags filled with chocolate coins.  When they came asking me for hay, I knew I was in trouble, but there I was sending my husband out to Walmart in the middle of a snow storm because the three kings were coming that night.  I was young and foolish then.  Guess whose kids do not celebrate either of these holiday anymore?  

This year was the first year I didn't spend hours gluing masks and capes on lollypops or melting crayons into little mottled hearts.  My kids wanted Fun Dip - little pouches of green and red sugar that dyed their classmates mouths rainbow colors for hours.  Josie had cute handmade Valentines, with a lollypop, of course.  A plethora of goodie bags as well as a cool clear cylindrical tube filled with gumballs all made their way to my house.  I like handmade Valentines the best.  Who doesn't love a construction paper heart glued to a doily?  I was told by my kids that every Valentine needs to have a piece of candy attached.  I teased them and told them I was going to buy pretzels instead.  Yes, I have been THAT house on Halloween.

I celebrate Pi day with my nerd husband and math loving kids.  They love math.  I enjoy pie.  It works for all of us.  Who doesn't need an excuse to eat pie?  Last year, we celebrated Platypus day, complete with Platypus cakes.  Opening ceremonies for the Olympics were celebrated with finger foods and Olympic torches.  It is an excuse to have fun and make memories.  Someday, my kids will think back and remember the afternoon I sent them out to play while I iced Twinkies with green frosting and added cookie tails and candy eyes.  I will always remember the excitement gleaming in their eyes.

St. Patrick's Day is about wearing green (if we have something green AND if it's clean.)  My son takes this to extremes.  He has this one pair of green pants that must be magical, because they have fit him for years, which he pairs with a green shirt and a green baseball cap.  One year I found him stringing green beads on a cord so he could have a green necklace too.  The Shamrock cupcakes I had hoped on baking last weekend never happened.  Maybe, next year.  No Leprechaun has ever set foot in our house and the kids have never looked for him.  Two days later, on St. Joseph's Day, we eat pastries.  I am an Italian girl.

The Easter Bunny visits and leaves a basket of chocolate goodness (which I do enjoy sampling).  Sometimes he throws in a stuffed animal or bubbles, or chalk.  Eight colorful Easter baskets look great lined up on the mantle.  I found a few ideas on Pinterest that I hope on trying this year. I like cutting out shapes and creating fun banners to hang on the fireplace.  I used to have an Easter tree, until all my ornaments met an untimely death. We have a lot of fun using food dye, rubber bands, crayons, and six to eight dozen hard boiled eggs.  If we are dying that many eggs, we need to make it fun.  I think I may need to research a few new ways to serve hard boiled eggs this year.

I understand where Kristen's exasperation is coming from.  I was overwhelmed all those years ago as I dug through the snow to find some grass underneath to leave for the three kings and their camels.  Kristen's essay spread like wildfire - people either agreed wholeheartedly or were offended.  I simply saw this post as a mom's plea for support, not a demand to stop celebrating.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lean In

After a morning of packing snacks, brushing hair, and locating lost folders, the kids were finally on the bus. The door had barely closed when my phone started ringing. "Were you watching the news this morning? You need to go out and buy Lean In, for yourself and for your daughters."

I had caught bits and pieces of the interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in between conversations with my little ones.  Every morning, once the house is quiet, as quiet as it can get with a one year old, I will start catching up on the news and current events of the day.

Without having the chance to read Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I quickly perused my "go-to" news sites.  “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and men ran half our homes,” writes Sandberg.  She says that women are being overlooked for positions due to poor negotiating shills and a lack of confidence.  She feels women are responsible for why men dominate at the highest levels of corporate and political leadership.  Sandberg believes one of the main reasons women don't "lean in" is because of children and family, even if the woman does not have children yet.  This causes them to look for flexible positions which will provide reduced responsibilities in preparation for the future.

I have been reading many responses to Sandberg.  Bloggers, especially some mom bloggers, seem to have taken offense.  By leaning in to their careers, is Sandberg telling women to lean away from family?  In some respects, yes, she is.  If you look back at my life and choices there should not be any question as to which direction I am leaning.  Certain people, who shall remain nameless, have gone out of their way to tell me that I am not successful because I do not work outside of the home.  They have gone as far as to tell me that I am wasting my college degree and that I am not worthy of having nice things because I am not going to an office.  I am wondering if that was the reason for my early morning phone call?  Did they miss the big picture?

Sandberg's intention is to encourage people to lean in to overcome obstacles to achieve a goal.  When I received Josie's diagnoses I leaned in to my computer screen to do as much research as I could so that I could be her best advocate.  Bedrest, pre-term labor, and parenting a micro-preemie caused me to lean in to the uncertainty and fear that came with not knowing what the next day would bring.  I lean in as far as I can reach as I stand my ground when dealing with editors.  I have learned that the more I lean in, the more others start leaning in with me.

How do you lean in?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Open House 2013

Open House is my favorite day of the school year.  I love to visit all the classrooms, read the essays hung up around the rooms, and read the letters my little ones have stuck in their desks for me.  

My favorite this year was Alice's description of her favorite place in our community. 

She loves gymnastics as much as her big sister.

The kids wrote descriptions of themselves on the front of these fish.  We needed to guess who was who and then fish to find out.

It wasn't too hard.  Alice is the only one with five sisters, two brothers, who loves gymnastics in her class!

The first graders were learning about volcanoes.

  They worked hard to create their volcanoes out of papier mache.  How exciting to watch it erupt!

We are big Eric Carle fans at our house.  I hope to be able to bring the kids to the Eric Carle Museum this summer.  I love the lesson Lucie learned - sometimes you have to search for good friends, but it's worth it when you find them."  I know that Lucie has found some very good friends at school.  I hope all my children learn this valuable lesson.

Evan's favorite subject is art and he talks about becoming an art teacher like Mr. Lumia.

I am already looking forward to next year's Open House!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Honorable Mention

Do you think children should receive an trophy just for showing up?  I cannot tell you how many medals, trophies, and ribbons adorn my home, but how many of those awards were deserved?  Is it really worth celebrating 10th place or giving an Honorable Mention to everyone who shows up?

Two weeks ago, Evan attended the district-wide science fair.  He had an amazing project about Roller Coasters.  He worked for weeks with Pierre discussing the physics behind roller coasters.  Together, they built a roller coaster model to run marbles through while Evan learned how to calculate different mathematical formulas.

At the award ceremony, his name was called for "Honorable Mention."  I could see the excitement in his face as he went up to get his gold ribbon.  After he sat down, I could see his mind starting to figure things out.  There were countless 3rd Place, 2nd Place, and 1st Place projects.  By the time the award ceremony was over, everyone was either holding a gold Honorable Mention" or a medal with a slip of paper allowing them to go on to the Dutchess County Science Fair.  The smile was no longer there.  He was not proud of himself anymore.

As we left the ceremony, he looked at me and demanded an honest answer to his question.  "Did everyone get an award?"

With my answer, his gold ribbon turned into a consolation prize.  It didn't mean anything to him.  Just looking at his ribbon made him feel like it should have said, "Sorry, better luck next time" instead of "Honorable Mention."

I understand that they want to get the kids excited about being in the science fair, but what happened to having one winner in each grouping - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place?  Why does each kid need to walk out of the science fair with a ribbon?

Maybe most kids don't look too much into it.  They proudly display their ribbon and feel a sense of pride.

I explained to Evan that the ribbon was to honor his hard work.  He deserved recognition of a job well done.    None of that worked.  In his mind, all the ribbon represented was that he showed up that day, and he was right.

After looking at the judges' comments, I saw that he became a little nervous under pressure.  He stumbled a bit on his words and forgot the formulas.  He's ten.  It happens.

Not every kid needs an trophy to say they played soccer, showed up for a dance competition, or ran a race.  Not everyone who goes to the Olympics receives a medal.  Doesn't that 1st Place award mean more when only one person wins?  

My son is an amazing young man and he doesn't need a ribbon to prove it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Facebook Giveaway!

Did you know that Beyond the Crib is on Facebook?  Beyond the Crib is slowly evolving  and branching out to also become a community resource for parents, bringing together my experiences with those of my peers.  I hope you will find it useful and become and active participant.

Now, not only can you find me here and on Facebook, but look for me on Twitter and Pinterest too!  I can't wait to share more of my thoughts and ideas with you.

Come LIKE Beyond The Crib's Facebook page and join in the conversation.  Once I receive 100 likes, everyone who has liked the page is automatically entered in to win a $10 gift card to Target.  If you refer a friend, please let me know.  Each referral earns you one extra chance to win.  I have many more exciting giveaways lined up in the coming months.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from Beyond the Crib!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Parents of Preemies Day 2013

Everyone knows about Linus, my micropreemie, and the inspiration for this blog, but Linus was not my first experience with the NICU.  Evan was born in June 2002 at 34 weeks and 5 days at a hospital not equipped with a NICU.  After 2 days in labor at 8 centimeters dilated, all it took was 10 minutes of Pitocin to jump start my labor.  My obstetrician, who thought he could run to grab a bite to eat was called before he even made it to the parking lot.

I knew there was an issue as the ob was closely watching the rise and fall of my baby's chest as he was being measured in the baby warmer.  I heard something about grunting and calling a pediatrician.  Soon, my little guy was whisked down the hall to wait for a consult with the pediatrician on call.  I wanted to get on down to where the baby was.  After a quick shower and a very large ice pack, I waddled myself down the hallway to a little room off of the nursery where my baby was surrounded by nurses and a pediatrician I did not know.  She told my husband and I that our baby was having difficulty breathing and that they had tried, unsuccessfully to give him an IV.  They had even tried inserting it in his little head.  I just wanted to pick him up and snuggle.  Instead, I sat next to his bed waiting for transport to come take my baby to another hospital.

The pediatrician wanted to know the baby's name.  We hadn't decided yet.  I knew his middle name would be Dean.  We were waiting to name him until we saw him.  He was either going to be Nathaniel or Evan.  The pediatrician put in her vote for Nathaniel.  We also shared the name our children had voted on: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!  The transport nurse had a good chuckle.  Soon it was time to watch my baby being transported out of the hospital while I waddled back to my room.

I kept asking when I would be allowed to leave.  I was not staying at this hospital if my baby was across town at another.  My ob told me that the minimum was 6 hours, BUT my swelling needed to subside considerably before he would discharge me.

I love those gloves filled with water and frozen after I give birth.  They make the perfect ice packs.  I iced and rested and tried to pretend that my baby was just down the hall and not miles away.  Soon, my 6 hours were up and I was allowed to leave, but not until I filled out the birth certificate papers and named our son.  We finally decided on Evan, which means young warrior.

It was now after 10pm and we were in our car, on our way to see our boy.  We arrived at the NICU and scrubbed in.  Our lovely transport nurse was there taking care of him.  I was able to nurse Evan and help give him his first bath.  There was a room that we could stay in, reserved for situations like this.  I didn't leave the NICU for 3 days.  Evan had a few ups and downs and he was discharged with an apnea monitor after 10 days.

We are very blessed.

Happy Parents of Preemies Day 2013.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Earlier this week Evan took Mattie, our very exuberant Labrador Retriever, out for a walk.  He set off before school, filled with responsibility and pride, with the leash and a bag for waste.  As he walked down our road, he saw another man walking his dog.  Mattie must have become very excited.  She pulled and ran, thinking she had found a new friend.  Evan held tight to the leash as they approached our neighbor and his dog, probably with a big smile on his face.  With just a few words, that smile was wiped clear away.  Our neighbor looked at my 10 year old son and said, "Keep your filthy dog away from me."  Evan came home with his head hung low.  He no longer had a spring in his step.  How dare this man talk that way to my boy?  I can't understand why people treat their neighbors this way.

When we were planning on buying a house, I couldn't wait to become a part of a neighborhood.  I had candy coated dreams of sipping lemonade on the front lawn with my neighbors as we watched our children play from dawn to dusk.  We would drop cookies and casseroles off at each others doorsteps to celebrate babies and to bring comfort during hard times.  There would always be someone to help out a few steps away.  There would be block parties and community Easter egg hunts.  We would never be alone because we were surrounded by friends.

I guess I didn't do enough research, because that does not exist, at least not in my neighborhood.  Where are Lorelai and Rory Gilmore?  I want to live in Stars Hollow.  Everyone is in each others business, sometimes a little too much, but always in a good way.

I have birthed babies, buried babies, gone through good times and bad without much acknowledgement from my neighbors.  Every time someone new moves in, I try my hardest.  I bring over cookies and try to strike up conversation.  I have made a few friends, but there doesn't seem to be a sense of neighborhood.  Maybe I live on the wrong side of our horseshoe shaped lane.  There are more families with small children around the horseshoe.  I guess the grass always looks greener on the other side.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great families in my neighborhood.  There are the neighbors from up the block who brought over a huge tray of Penne ala Vodka when Linus was in the NICU and the neighbors further up who are very generous with their hand-me-downs.  There is the boy up the block who is one of Katie's best friends and a bunch of little girls on the other side of the horseshoe who are playmates of Alice and Lucie.

I am still looking for Stars Hollow.  If you find it, let me know.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Is there a specific age or grade level that can accurately rate the adeptness of a babysitter?

When my older girls were little, I hired our seventh grade neighbor to babysit for us when we went out.  Seventh grade equals 12 or 13 years old.  I had no problem trusting her with the care and well-being of my four and two year old daughters.  I, myself, started babysitting in seventh grade.  I started out as a mother's helper.  The mom worked from home in a basement office, while I was upstairs with her 2 (and eventually 3) children.  Eventually, I graduated to watching them at night when she would go out to dinner with her husband.

Seventh grade seemed just right to me, but then I started to get to know tweens and teenagers, my own included.  Age does not equal maturity or responsibility.  I have one daughter, who until fairly recently, would only be allowed to babysit if I was sure my other daughter was home too.  Those who know us may be surprised to find out which was the one I was uneasy about. I won't divulge that secret, now that I have two very competent babysitters, both together and on their own.

Recently, a 39 year old mom from New Cannan, Connecticut was arrested for leaving her four children, ages 13, 10, 4, and 1.5, home unattended.  To me, that seems very well attended.  Most 13 year old girls and boys are more than competent to be left home to babysit for their siblings or neighborhood children.  Unfortunately, that was not the case with this girl.  The four year old was able to get out of the house and cross the street to a neighbor's yard.  The neighbor called the police who found the children "home alone."   Upon returning home, the mother was charged with "risk of injury to a minor."

Who is at fault in this situation?  The mother?  The teenager?  The neighbor?  Obviously, the teen was not paying enough attention to her siblings if she did not notice one slip out the door.  Then again, this four year old might be a little escape artist.  Maybe, the mom should look into installing a few locks out of the preschooler's reach.  The neighbor could have taken the child back home and spoken with the teen and her mother when she returned instead of calling the police.

This story could have ended badly.  The child could have gotten hurt, or worse.

A few months ago, there was an episode of "Good Luck, Charlie" where the toddler, Charlie, under the supervision of her older brothers, walks out of the house and visits the neighbor.  The neighbor immediately called the child's father and then played games with the little girl until he arrived to bring her back home. In the end it was all a big joke, everyone laughs, cue the happy music, "Good Luck Charlie!"

Times have definitely changed since I was 13, and children wandering out alone and in the street can lead to many dangerous situations.  Do you think that this mother should be charged with neglect for leaving her 13 year old daughter home to watch her siblings?  At what age do you think someone becomes qualified to babysit?

Friday, March 1, 2013


The postpartum period is an interesting roller coaster ride.  You can be happy one minute and a raving lunatic the next.  I will swear up and down that I am very good when I am pregnant, but I don't know if I can say the same thing about the postpartum period.  I have vague memories of telling my husband to pack a suitcase, as well as a slight recollection of throwing plates.  I hope you won't hold any of that against me.  Please tell me that you also became hormonal messes who did things totally out of character when you were postpartum.

The postpartum period on top of grieving is another thing.  Your hormones are going crazy causing hot flashes and sweating one moment and chills the next.  Your milk comes in and there isn't a baby waiting to be fed.  It's bad enough that you cry at the drop of a hat, but you can't stop crying because you are dealing with the reality of your new title - bereaved parent.

I have a confession to make..  To this day, I do not watch anything on USA Network, which, unfortunately, happens to be my husband's favorite.  We used to watch Burn Notice, Psych, and Royal Pains every week - every week when I was pregnant with Bennett.  For some reason, I associate USA Network and those shows with losing Bennett.  Back in 2010, the new seasons were going to be premiering in June when Bennett was due.  I figured Pierre and I would be curled up on the couch, baby on my chest, watching these shows while I nursed.  Royal Pains was about two brothers - one named Evan.  Every time we watched that show I imagined my two boys, as adults, working together, and being best friends.  When I lost Bennett, I couldn't watch that show again.  At first, I would get vehemently angry with my husband when he watched these shows.  How could he watch a show about two brothers when Evan's brother was dead?  One of the other shows on USA featured an actress (who shall not be named, since I've never been fond of her) who was pregnant at the same time as me and had her baby right around my due date.  Every time I looked at her, I would lose it.  Wouldn't you know that this was my husband's new favorite show.  I couldn't watch anything that had the little USA logo on the right hand corner of the screen.  Just seeing it brought me right back to losing my son.  I still don't enjoy any of those shows, but they don't bring about the same reaction anymore.

Yes, looking back at it now I know I sounded a little bit crazy.  I take that back, I was a lot crazy and totally irrational.  I am very lucky to have a very understanding husband, who deserves to watch whatever he wants on TV tonight.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

24 Weeks, 5 Days

Linus was anxious to get here.  He must have known how my empty arms ached since his brothers left me a year before.

Feisty!  The neonatal doctor attending the birth called him feisty.  There was hope.

He was so delicate and fragile at only 1 pound, 8 ounces.  His skin was so thin, it was almost translucent.  I wasn't allowed to pick him up and hold him.  Instead, I was instructed how to place my hands on his small body using a firm touch.  I often wondered if he was crying, but was too weak to make a sound.

Strong!  The nurses said he was strong.  They placed him in his little nest, but he was always struggling to get out.  They used beanbags to hold him in place.  Still, he managed to scoot and move around.

Every day I asked if it was the day I could hold Linus.  Finally, the day came and the sweet nurses helped untangle all of the wires and tubes.  I think he was in my arms for less than 30 seconds before he needed to be put back in his incubator.  He was already over one month old, and it was the first time I was able to kiss the top of his tiny head.

Linus pulled the vent out twice.  Second time was a charm, because he graduated to the CPAP.   The nurses and PA were sweet enough take video and then send it to my phone, so I could finally see my sweet boy's face without anything in the way.

My little escape artist was always on the move.  One day the nurses found him with his head up against the portholes.  They took his picture and framed it for me.

Linus did great with his bottle, and I made sure I was there to feed him at least once a day.  There was never a day that I was not at the NICU - even the day Katie had strep and I was told to stay home.  I drove to the hospital so I could get his laundry and look at him from afar.

I looked forward to the day when the doctor would schedule "the meeting."  When the day came, I could barely contain myself.  We were so close to bringing Linus home.

After passing his car seat test, we were ready to go.  I took in all the noises and smells, but I knew I would never forget.  I could hear those beeps and alarms in my sleep by this point.  The smell of hospital soap brings me right back to sitting next to Linus' bed with my hand stretched through the porthole, resting firmly on his back.

On March 10, our family will join with Graham's Foundation and nearly 13 million other families who have traveled a similar journey to celebrate the Second Annual Parents of Preemies Day.  This day honors the courageous parents and caregivers of these tiny little ones.  Please visit their Facebook page for more information about events in your area and on the web.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Top 5 Oscar Moments of 2013

Top 5 Oscar Moments of 2013 (according to me)

1.  Seeing how excited the kids were to watch the pre-show/awards ceremony.  Never did I think that watching the Oscars would trump Jessie or Austin and Ally!

2.  Calculating the difference in height between Kristen Chenoweth and Adele with my 11 year old.

3.  Receiving my Oscar night gift bag filled with Albuterol, diapers, and forgotten homework assignments.

4. Dragging sleeping children off to bed so then I actually had space on the couch to sit, not that I had the opportunity to watch the show for any extended period of time.

And the highlight of my night:

 5. Actually getting to sit and watch the tribute to the Oscar winning musicals from this decade (Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables), thanks to the sleeping children.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coming off of Hiatus

Time to dust the cobwebs off the blog.  My hiatus is over.  I haven't been spending my free time sitting eating bonbons while getting a mani/pedi. I have been very hard at work on my new website, which should be up and running soon (with a little nagging on my part - the husband is the computer geek in this relationship.)

If you haven't been over to Beyond the Crib over on Facebook, come join the conversation.  When I receive 100 likes, I will randomly select one of my Facebook followers to receive a $10 Target gift card.

Great to see everyone again!  I can't wait to introduce you to my new "baby," Beyond the Crib!