Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Curious George: The Documentary!

Curious George turns 75 years old this year, and filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki has created the first-ever mixed-media documentary about Curious George: Monkey Business

The question is: Are you aware of the epic background of the creators of Curious George? Let's just say it involves a narrow escape from the Nazis and the Shoah (Holocaust) on makeshift bicycles across Europe with the yet-to-be-published Curious George manuscript in tow! 

If I've piqued your interest, make sure you donate a few dollars to the Kickstarter in support of the documentary: Ema Ryan Yamazaki tells the story of Hans and Margret Rey in this exciting look at one of Asher's favorite characters. 

Not only are you supporting the telling of a vital part of history and the background of one of the world's most beloved monkeys and his creators, you'll also get some exclusive Curious George swag in the process. 

Support Monkey Business

Monday, July 25, 2016

Babywearing: The Boba 4G Carrier Review

Babywearing at the Farmers Market (can you find Asher?)
If you've dreamed of the Swiss Army Knife of baby carriers, I present to you the Boba 4G Carrier: the Original Soft-Structured Infant Carrier (in Tweet, because, well, I'm a social creature).

With Asher, who is now 2.5 years old and who I stopped baby wearing at about a year because mama's back hurt, I started out with a sling and then moved on to a structured carrier that I tried desperately to love but simply couldn't fall head over heels for. Mr. T carried Asher in the beginning in a makeshift moby wrap, but that was never my jam.

In anticipation of the arrival of Little T, I assessed my carrier collection:
  • A homemade "moby" wrap
  • A Catbird Baby structured carrier
  • A MayaWrap sling
  • (We'd had an Ergo carrier, as well, but neither of us cared for it and we donated it to a local baby wearing group so it could get some love.)
After taking a gander at what we had, I realized I needed something more. I needed something that both did more and was super comfortable, and this is where the Boba came in. 

I did a lot of searching on the web, and when I came across this carrier I was breathless. Although, yes, I received this carrier for free for review, it puts the other carriers I've reviewed and purchased to complete and utter shame -- in the best way possible. Why? The features make it the ultimate carrier from birth through the moment this little munchkin decides to run free. 
  • Integrated infant insert to support the littlest little ones
  • The perfect fit for both front and back carry
  • Removable foot straps and sleeping hood customize the ride
  • Purse strap holders
  • Pockets in all the right places
  • Adjustable straps that help you find the right snugness
  • Ergonomic support that never quits
The most attractive features to me were the infant support, because Little T is pretty little still, pockets pockets and more pockets, and adjustable straps that won't make this curvy mama feel like a sausage while she carries (one of the reasons I hate most wraps and carriers). The best pocket is along the base strap, and it's perfectly sized for my iPhone, which means it's always there. The pocket where the sleeping hood lives is another gem, because the hood snaps out, so if you want to use the pocket for something else it's totally yours to play with.

I'm also super jazzed about the foot straps because they keep your growing child from having their legs uncomfortable dangling at your side, and the purse strap holders because, come on, bags slipping down your shoulders isn't fun for anyone. 

Here's some details about all the features that make this fit for just about everybody that needs to wear a baby:

It took a bit of tugging and adjusting the strap that runs along the upper back, but once I got it pulled just right it has made carrying Little T a dream. The other bonus? She falls asleep about two seconds after I put her into the carrier, and I can't seem to figure out what kind of magic this is, but I'm happy it exists because it lets me do something that every mother of two struggles with: give attention to my oldest, super adorable toddler while also holding and caring for my baby. 

Epic. Babywearing. Win! Honestly, this carrier lets me be a better mom, and that is absolutely priceless. 

Have you tried the Boba in any form? Do you have a favorite baby carrier, and, if so, which one and why? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Fat Dad: Book and Nosh Review + Giveaway

[Giveaway at the end of the post!]

I grew up in a house where the Diabetic Diet reigned supreme. I remember measuring cups of green beans hitting the plate off and on my entire childhood, peppered with frequent visits to Red Lobster (mom's favorite for holidays and birthdays), Benitos (a Mexican restaurant) for piled-high plates of beans and cheese, and McDonalds and Sonic for burgers, fries, and drinks with my father's beloved crushed ice. Everyone in my immediate family has battled with weight and diet pretty much our entire lives, and (except for me who has been privileged to always be on the more voluptuous side) has swung between thinness in their younger days to larger waistbands in their 20s and beyond.

My mom and dad never went to the dieting extremes that Dawn Lerman's father did in My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes, but I can relate to growing up in an environment where food obsession was manifest in countless ways — both constructive and destructive.

When I was contacted about reviewing My Fat Dad, I jumped at the chance because from a quick look it seemed like something that would really resonate. Although it became clear that Lerman and I didn't grow up with the same relationship with food, I have to say it was a really fascinating and entertaining read. For the first few chapters I was confused, as Lerman focused largely on her tenuous and tentative relationship with her mom, but as the book went on I understood why she wrote the book the way she did.

Both of her parents are Jewish, and both grew up in a post-Holocaust world with parents uniquely obsessed with classic Jewish food. However, whereas her actress mom grew up with an "eat to live" mindset, her advertising guru of a father grew up with a "live to eat" mindset. The author, Lerman, subsequently found herself obsessed with food — cooking it, baking it, understanding how it fits into specific diets, how it could save her dad, how it could comfort her sister, and more.

Unlike me, however, Lerman managed to end up with a pretty healthy relationship with food, thanks to her grandmother "Beauty," who taught her how to make just about anything and everything. Lerman ended up seeing the world through food. I didn't learn how to make anything growing up, so my relationship with food has always been tense, with binges (and starvation periods when I was a teen) and purges of the things that I love. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I started to really explore and understand food in the way that Lerman did her whole life. I learned that steak didn't have to be overcooked, vegetables didn't always come out of a can, and the microwave wasn't necessarily my best friend. (Honestly, I think becoming kosher saved me and my health, because fast food was my BFF most of my life.)

Food, for Lerman, was a source of nurturing and healing when it came to her relationship with her parents and sister and grandparents, and that's something I so admire. I honestly think that the more a child grows up understanding and experimenting with food, the more healthy their overall relationship with food and the more there is a balance between "live to eat" and "eat to live," and I think Lerman's a really powerful example of that reality.

My Fat Dad really takes you on a food journey, both her obese father's journey and battle with food in the fast-paced world of advertising and her own journey to understand and explore all of the food options the world has to offer.

The most unique thing about this book is that each chapter ends with a few recipes based on conversations and events in the chapter. Lerman has created a cookbook based on stories, which is, let's be honest, what healthy relationship with food looks like (if years of watching countless hours of the Food Network has taught me anything). She has recipes for everyone, from a classic borscht to a No Bake Pecan Pie and Healing Mushroom Miso Soup.

I chose to focus on Peanut Butter Love—the Best Flourless Blondie recipe from a chapter where Lerman talks about her relationship with her sister and how she used to bring or send treats to her sister, who was traveling and acting in "Annie" (because their mom wasn't focused on food/treats). Lerman made blondies and other sweet treats for her sister, and that was one of the ways that the two of them were able to bond across the miles between them. Here's the recipe (and they really are to die for):

  • 16 ounces natural, no sugar added peanut butter
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup original soy milk or nondairy milk of choice ( I use ones that have about 7 grams of sugar per serving)
  • 1 ripe banana, mushed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup dark, semisweet chocolate chips
  • Butter or oil for greasing the pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, and mushed banana. Mush it all up and combine well. Then mix in the beaten eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Mix together until well blended and smooth. Stir in half the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch-square Pyrex dish. Scatter the remaining chips on top.

Bake for 55 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure the edges do not get too brown. If the top looks very brown, cover with foil and bake for the remaining 40 minutes. Cool and serve.

Note: Mine got a little too brown because I got distracted with the baby ... I recommend cooking for 15 minutes and covering with foil for blondies that aren't so brown. 

GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post and let me know what your relationship with food was like growing up. I'll pick one winner at random on July 19, 2016, to receive a copy of this book. 

Rules: Open to U.S. residents only. Must comment to be entered. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Night and Day: Giving Birth in Israel vs. the USA

With my newest little one approaching her four-week birthday and my five-week maternity leave about to end, I suppose it's time to sit down and put fingers to keys to share what the labor and birthing process was like with Little T. So here goes!

You can read the first and second part series of what it was like giving birth to Asher in Israel at Hadassah Ein Kerem here on the blog for some perspective, as well. Also, here's a look at the place where I gave birth.

I was really nervous about what labor and delivery were going to look like with Little T. After the nightmare horror show I experienced with Asher in Israel, I reiterated a million times to Mr. T what I was and was not willing to deal with. I had limits, and I was setting those limits with the nurses and doctors. I wasn't going to pursue 45 hours of labor only to have a painful c-section again. It wasn't going to happen. I was down for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian), and I was committed to it because I didn't want to deal with the recovery of a c-section again, even knowing that the months-long recovery I had with Asher was a fluke caused by an infection that wouldn't heal.

Starting on Monday, June 6, I got concerned that I was leaking amniotic fluid, so the nurse sent me to the hospital. After a checkup and Asher being super concerned with mommy in the hospital bed, we were sent on our way with everything looking fine. On Tuesday, with my inlaws on their way into the country, I started having mild contractions. They were steady, but mild, so I didn't think I was heading into active labor. I was waiting for the magical moment my water would break like it did with Asher, which is what sent me into active labor. So I pushed through the contractions and life went on.

Then, on Wednesday, the contractions got more severe and closer together while Mr. T and I were out to lunch with my inlaws. After lunch, we made the executive decision to head to the hospital, because it felt like this was the real deal. We got there and after a few hours of tests, they decided to admit me around 6 p.m. I got a very large labor and delivery room complete with a super-amazing jacuzzi tub and actual chairs and a fold-out bed so Mr. T could stick around (in Israel, husbands aren't allowed to stay over at the hospital), and we settled in for the night. I was on constant monitoring, but unlike my experience in Israel, the two devices attached to my mid-section (one for the baby's heart rate and one for contractions) stayed in place magically instead of slipping and falling all over the place every time I moved. I couldn't handle laying down in the bed, so I was up on my feet the whole of the laboring process.

Nurses came in and out, constantly assessing how I was feeling and how the baby was feeling. They asked me at every step of the process what I wanted to do, and when Mr. T and I needed to discuss, they left us to it. The giant privacy curtain at the door gave us a sense of, well, privacy, and we felt in control of the entire process every step of the way. I made it clear that I wasn't going to go through two days of labor, and we created a plan.

Late in the evening, when it came time to choose "yes" or "no" to the epidural, I opted to give the jacuzzi tub a try to see if it would calm the painful contractions. Although it was an awesome tub, it didn't ease anything. I did, however, think it was amazing that the monitors they had attached to me allowed me to move freely wherever I wanted to go -- including into the tub.

After the tub failure, we went for the epidural around 12:30 a.m. The woman who did the epidural was ... I can't even describe her ... amazing. She was quick, it was about 2 minutes of pain, and then I was at ease. I slept for a few hours and they gave me petocin, so I slept a few more hours. In order to not bother me throughout those few hours, they put a cuff on my arm to monitor my blood pressure every 15 minutes, which I thought was pretty thoughtful. Yes, it was annoying to have something inflating and deflating on my arm, but less annoying than a nurse coming in to constantly wake me up and take my blood pressure.

Early in the morning, the doctors and nurses starting coming in more regularly to check and see how far I was dilated. We were all amazed at the process because by the morning I was at 9 cm, which is a measurement I never even got to with Asher. As the shifts changed, doctors came and introduced themselves and nurses did the same. Everyone was incredibly pleasant, coming in and doing what they needed and leaving promptly to give us space and privacy. There was no screaming, no arguing, no miscommunications, no confusion.

Around 8 a.m., I was at 9.5 cm and the epidural had all but ceased working. I felt like I was being launched to the ceiling every time I had a contraction, and I couldn't speak or move afterward. I kind of felt like I was dying, and I was screaming pretty loudly, so they called to have the epidural topped off. After that, the nurses and doctor on call and I decided it was time to start pushing.

Now, with the epidural topped off, I was on cloud 9. I couldn't feel a darn thing, so I asked the nurse about how long pushing normally takes, since this whole vaginal birth thing was novel to me. She said it can take one to two hours, to which I replied "how about 15 minutes?" and she laughed. Challenge accepted!

At 8:48 a.m., I began pushing. The doctors and nurses were shocked at how quickly it was going. Now, because I couldn't feel anything, I had no clue how hard I was pushing, so I just went for it. After a mere 14 minutes, there she was.

They held her up for me, and my response was shock. "It's a baby! A little baby!"

They all laughed, saying "What did you expect?"

The cord was cut and she was placed on my chest, the perfect little blob that had caused me so much grief for so many months. After a few hours of bonding and measurements with an amazing nurse who crafted Little T a hat with a bow, we were off to our recovery room. A bit smaller than the labor and delivery room, the recovery room was quiet, private, and had a huge bathroom that made moving around nice and easy. We could see the mountains from our window, and there was another pull-out bed for Tuvia to sleep in. The fridge down the hall was stocked with milk, juice, soda, and pudding (all kosher), and every room and hallway had a Keurig coffee machine for making tea and coffee. We ordered some kosher food from the deli through the hospital (they have a deal with the kosher deli) and spent the next 24 hours bonding, recovering, and trying to get some rest.

The next day, we were back at home, I was on my feet, and all of my expectations for labor and birth had been turned on their heads.

Now, I'm sure that language had something to do with the terrible experience I had giving birth in Israel, but considering I had a Hebrew-speaking doula and a husband whose Hebrew is pretty fluent, I can't attribute much of the terrifying ordeal in Israel to language. I just think that it's a country that misunderstands its people and the needs of its patients. Having Mr. T there with me throughout the whole process was unbelievably vital. Although we were only in the hospital one night after the baby's birth, having him there in the middle of the night so he could hold the baby so I could move around or go to the bathroom was life-changing. In Israel, he had to leave every night and go sleep wherever he could find space. I think in Israel the assumption is that people have so many kids that dads just don't need to be there because they're taking care of the kids, or maybe even that they don't want to be there. Also the cooperation of the doctors and nurses with what I wanted was clutch. I felt understood, respected, and like the focus of the experience. In Israel, I felt like I was a body on a bed that wasn't allowed to have opinions. The midwives and doctors fought and argued for what the correct plan of action was; I was merely a passive attendee at the birth of Asher. When it came to recovery, in the U.S. it was all about bonding and making sure that baby and I were comfortable, and most importantly, together immediately -- even with a c-section. Although there is a nursery at the hospital, they put the baby with the mother and practically insist on that bonding time. You can ask for the nursery if you want, but it's small and you won't find many babies in there. In Israel, they insisted on the baby being in the nursery. Even when we moved to the baby hotel, they just assumed we'd want to ditch our baby and go take a nap. What's up with that?

I could go on and on and on, but the experiences were night and day. They really couldn't have been more different. Will I have more children? Who knows. Will I have more children in Israel? Definitely not. I couldn't fathom or stomach going through what I went through with Asher ever again.