Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tricks for Getting Sleep in the Newborn Months

BabyCenter moms tell you all their tricks for squeezing in more zzzzs during those crazy newborn months:

"In the morning, stay in your PJs and keep going back to bed until you get enough sleep - even if that means you don't get up until noon!"

"My husband and I slept in shifts. After feeding the baby around 10 p.m., I went to sleep and my husband stayed up and put him to bed. Since I was breastfeeding, I was the one who needed to get up at 2 or 4 a.m. to feed him, so my husband slept through that. I felt better with that extra two hours I got early in the night."

"Sleep when the baby sleeps except for one nap. Use that time to do dishes and laundry."

"Buy a baby swing. They are wonderful for those late nights when your baby is either crying or won't sleep. Strap her in and you know she's safe — then you can catch some zz's on the couch next to her."

"Once I made up my mind that I wasn't going to get any sleep that night, it made it easier to cope. It was when I obsessed about getting sleep that I had problems dealing with the lack of sleep."

"If your partner's habits (restlessness, snoring) keep you from sleeping, ask him to sleep somewhere else for awhile."

"Don't wait until nighttime to catch up on sleep, because that's when your baby wants to be up. I slept at least once during the day when my baby napped, and that made all the difference between being a nice mommy and a mean mommy."

"The first four nights were the hardest, getting up every two hours to go into another room to feed the baby, hoping she wouldn't wake when I laid her down. The fifth night, I took her to bed with me, and we both slept like a dream. Now I enjoy eight hours of sleep a night."

Baby sleep: Seven tips
Seven great tips from parents and experts for getting your baby to sleep.

"Have a lot of pillows for comfort — even if you don't get a lot of sleep, it feels good."

"Don't worry about getting the dishes done or cooking dinner. I lost out on so much sleep because I was trying to keep my house together, and by the time I was ready to lie down, guess who was awake."

"Get someone else to watch the baby while you nap, even if you have to pay a babysitter."

"I've learned after three children not to worry too much if my baby doesn't want to eat every three hours. If her last feeding was at 11 p.m. and she sleeps until 4 a.m., then the best thing to do is enjoy the sleep while you can."

"When all else fails, put a blanket (not a comforter, but a flat blanket) on the floor and lie down with your baby. You will get some sleep — maybe not the most comfortable sleep, but sleep nonetheless."

"My husband gets up with the baby first, changing her and comforting her, which gives me time to prepare for breastfeeding (waking up a little, using the restroom, and getting a glass of water). He has been a great help!"

"Catnapping works wonders for new moms. Set an alarm for 15 or 20 minutes. You'll be surprised how much it helps to close your eyes for even a short period of time."

"At night, put the baby down in a separate room and turn the monitor low enough so you can hear a cry but not grunts and whines."

"My nurse advised me to take six-hour shifts with my husband. That way, each of us got some solid sleep. Once we started doing that, we both felt better."

"You know how they always tell you "Sleep when your baby sleeps"? Well, I tried, but I was so overtired and anxious about being a new mother that I couldn't sleep! My doctor prescribed a sleeping pill, and it really helped me get the rest I needed."

For me:
For baby #1, I needed to turn the monitor down because he grunted and made a lot of noise, waking me up every 10 minutes. The car seat was a great place for him too because he would feel snuggled and I sometimes got 3-4 hours of sleep in a row.
For baby #2, the car seat and swing were great in getting me consistent sleep as mentioned before. In the mornings I brought the baby to bed with me to nurse and we would nap for another hour or two. I don't move much when I sleep, so I was comfortable with this arrangement (there is always a concern the parent will squash the baby in their sleep) and it got some extra sleep during those early months. I also started a bedtime routine early on (after 2 weeks of observing what time the baby went down for his deep sleep), and adjusted it as he got older and his needs changed. Once he got use to the routine, I was slowly able to move his bedtime up so by 5 months he was going to bed between 7-8pm like his older brother.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forget the Joneses Holiday Boot Camp Starts MONDAY

I have decided to join this blog forum to see how I can save $ and spend quality time with my young family. I look forward to reading from other participants as well. You can join too!

Nov 21 (my youngest is 7mo old today!)
Camp was supposed to start Nov 15, but I never got an email like I thought I would. So I grabbed a couple of minutes today and looked "boot camp" on and found some postings. We are supposed to create a holiday budget with an example spreadsheet the author created. I keep our household budget on an excel program and I created a projected budget for completing house projects, but I never thought about creating the same system for holiday expenses. Perhaps this is because I don't have a regular list of expenses. We have a fake tree, we don't buy a lot of gifts for ourselves or the kids (the oldest is 2 years old) and I don't buy extra decorations until after the holidays when they are clearanced at 75%. Sometimes the best deals come around the holiday, like Glen Ivy Day Spa gift cards, $75 for $100. So I tend to stock up for the year (as presents for the holidays or special occasions like birthdays and mother's day). We only buy presents for our close family and a few friends. This year I am also making presents like flannel pajama bottoms, jam, jewelry, and decorative ornaments. So I am hoping to make the holidays more affordable and special by making my own crafts (although finding the time with 2 kids might be the real holiday challenge for me). However, since I signed up for the holiday boot camp, I will attempt to create a spreadsheet anyway.

Waiting for Superman? Not so Much.

"Waiting for Superman" presents a very biased view of education and charter schools. A colleague presented this article to me which shows a more neutral explanation of what's happening in education and what "Waiting for Superman" is not showing us.

Ordinarily, documentaries about education attract little attention, and seldom, if ever, reach neighborhood movie theaters. Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” is different. It arrived in late September with the biggest publicity splash I have ever seen for a documentary. Not only was it the subject of major stories in Time and New York, but it was featured twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was the centerpiece of several days of programming by NBC, including an interview with President Obama.

Two other films expounding the same arguments—The Lottery and The Cartel—were released in the late spring, but they received far less attention than Guggenheim’s film. His reputation as the director of the Academy Award–winning An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming, contributed to the anticipation surrounding Waiting for “Superman,” but the media frenzy suggested something more. Guggenheim presents the popularized version of an account of American public education that is promoted by some of the nation’s most powerful figures and institutions.

The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit.

The Cartel maintains that we must not only create more charter schools, but provide vouchers so that children can flee incompetent public schools and attend private schools. There, we are led to believe, teachers will be caring and highly skilled (unlike the lazy dullards in public schools); the schools will have high expectations and test scores will soar; and all children will succeed academically, regardless of their circumstances. The Lottery echoes the main story line of Waiting for “Superman”: it is about children who are desperate to avoid the New York City public schools and eager to win a spot in a shiny new charter school in Harlem.

The movie asserts a central thesis in today’s school reform discussion: the idea that teachers are the most important factor determining student achievement. But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools.

But the same body of research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.

Guggenheim skirts the issue of poverty by showing only families that are intact and dedicated to helping their children succeed. One of the children he follows is raised by a doting grandmother; two have single mothers who are relentless in seeking better education for them; two of them live with a mother and father. Nothing is said about children whose families are not available, for whatever reason, to support them, or about children who are homeless, or children with special needs. Nor is there any reference to the many charter schools that enroll disproportionately small numbers of children who are English-language learners or have disabilities.

The film never acknowledges that charter schools were created mainly at the instigation of Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997. Shanker had the idea in 1988 that a group of public school teachers would ask their colleagues for permission to create a small school that would focus on the neediest students, those who had dropped out and those who were disengaged from school and likely to drop out. He sold the idea as a way to open schools that would collaborate with public schools and help motivate disengaged students. In 1993, Shanker turned against the charter school idea when he realized that for-profit organizations saw it as a business opportunity and were advancing an agenda of school privatization. Michelle Rhee gained her teaching experience in Baltimore as an employee of Education Alternatives, Inc., one of the first of the for-profit operations.

It bears mentioning that nations with high-performing school systems—whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do. Fewer than 5 percent of children in Finland live in poverty, as compared to 20 percent in the United States. Those who insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that only teachers matter, prefer to ignore such contrasts.

If we are serious about improving our schools, we will take steps to improve our teacher force, as Finland and other nations have done. That would mean better screening to select the best candidates, higher salaries, better support and mentoring systems, and better working conditions. Guggenheim complains that only one in 2,500 teachers loses his or her teaching certificate, but fails to mention that 50 percent of those who enter teaching leave within five years, mostly because of poor working conditions, lack of adequate resources, and the stress of dealing with difficult children and disrespectful parents. Some who leave “fire themselves”; others were fired before they got tenure. We should also insist that only highly experienced teachers become principals (the “head teacher” in the school), not retired businessmen and military personnel. Every school should have a curriculum that includes a full range of studies, not just basic skills. And if we really are intent on school improvement, we must reduce the appalling rates of child poverty that impede success in school and in life.

There is a clash of ideas occurring in education right now between those who believe that public education is not only a fundamental right but a vital public service, akin to the public provision of police, fire protection, parks, and public libraries, and those who believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. Waiting for “Superman” is a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the “free market” and privatization. It raises important questions, but all of the answers it offers require a transfer of public funds to the private sector. The stock market crash of 2008 should suffice to remind us that the managers of the private sector do not have a monopoly on success.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bill Gates - What I've Learned About Great Teachers

I found it interesting that Bill Gates learned "teachings hard." But says that teachers are not improving overtime. And after going over all these cool things he "taught" his kids, he didn't explain how he was going to modify these cool things for students who were ELL, RSP or SDC. How he plans to adjust his lesson in case of disruptions, lack of student materials (like pencils), daily procedures, and discipline. Or how schools were going to pay for all those wonderful field trips he took his own kids and how we are going to make sure all classrooms have access to the technology he found useful. And I'm not really sure how he came to the conclusion that it's the teachers who have gotten worse over time. He doesn't explain what research or observations he's made, other than to say the inner city kids are dropping out and it is a crisis.
I believe there are other parts to the education system that are being overlooked. Administrators (including district personel) and parents. Administrators control the money flow and create the community environment with their leadership. Parents are role models and are part of the educational process. I'm surprised that these documentaries and studies coming out lately only look at teachers. If a teacher had as much power as these videos and articles give them credit for, I think the education system would be a lot better off.

What I've Learned About Great Teachers |

"In almost every area of human endeavor, the practice improves over time," says Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. "That hasn't been the case for teaching." This month, Gates is sounding the alarm about public education in Waiting for "Superman," a new documentary from An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim. "He has this amazing capacity to drill really, really deep," Guggenheim says of Gates. "He has an infectious curiosity." PARADE sat down with the software mogul turned philanthropist to talk about the movie, the American education system, and his own school days.

PARADE: Why did you decide to appear in Waiting for "Superman"?
BG: Our foundation has picked education as a priority in the United States, and we've spent over $4 billion on various projects. So when I heard that somebody who's done great documentaries was doing one on education, my interest was to share some thoughts and say, "Hey, don't get too depressed."

PARADE: Depressed? Do you think people will find the film pessimistic?
BG: Most people don't realize how bad the situation really has become. They think, Geez, if half the kids in the inner city were really dropping out, wouldn't somebody declare a crisis? The movie shows how bad the system is, and that's a downer. But you also see that there are great schools, and kids in the inner city can succeed. So that's a very hopeful thing.

PARADE: In the documentary, experts say there are too many bad teachers in America and not enough great ones. Why is that?
BG: Very little is invested in understanding great teaching. We've never had a meaningful evaluation system that identifies the dimensions of great teachers so we can transfer the skills to others. The Gates Foundation has learned that two questions can predict how much kids learn: "Does your teacher use class time well?" and, "When you're confused, does your teacher help you get straightened out?"

PARADE: As a student, did you have one teacher who really influenced you?
BG: I went to a public school through sixth grade, and being good at tests wasn't cool. Then my parents switched me to the Lakeside School [a private school in Seattle]. A teacher there, Mr. Anderson, was pairing people up by ability for a geography quiz, and he put me with this kid I didn't think was very clever. I thought, Wait, he thinks I'm the same as this kid? Man, oh, man, there's something wrong.

PARADE: How did you turn yourself into a different kind of student?
BG: When I was in eighth grade, I scored the best in the state on a math exam. After that, my math teacher let me go off and do independent study and computer stuff. I also became good at relating to adults. When I'd meet a teacher, I'd say, "Hey, tell me your 10 favorite books." I'd read them, and then I could talk to the teachers about something they knew a lot about.

PARADE: You and Melinda have three school-age kids. Are you involved in their education?
BG: Last year our family traveled for three months, and we did some home-schooling. I taught math and science. We went to the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator in Switzerland. We went to a toilet-paper factory, a garbage dump, an aircraft carrier, and a coal plant. I also found great educational material on the Web, including short videos at

PARADE: What did you learn from working with your kids?
BG: Teaching's hard! You need different skills: positive reinforcement, keeping students from getting bored, commanding their attention in a certain way. I'd be better at teaching the college-level stuff.

PARADE: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has criticized Waiting for "Superman" for focusing too much on charter schools as a solution. What do you think?
BG: She points out that, on average, charter schools don't do better than other public schools. She's right. But it's a strange point to make: "Hey, they're as bad as we are!" The fact is, we're failing those kids. Ms. Weingarten represents the teachers' union, but say there was a students' union. Might they ask that the dropout rate be lowered? Might they stay at the negotiating table until it was below 50%? We ought to ask kids whether they think the status quo is working.

Waiting for "Superman" has triggered a national debate about the quality of teachers in America. School districts from Washington, D.C., to Washington State are demanding more accountability from teachers, tying salaries to students' performance and firing educators who fail to make the grade.

But teachers -- and their unions -- are pushing back. They argue that struggling teachers should receive additional training, not a dismissal notice. They also contend that students' test scores don't accurately reflect teachers' skills.

"If we measure teachers or students by standardization alone, we're left with a culture of sameness that creates mediocrity -- not equality," says Sarah Brown Wessling, National Teacher of the Year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How You Can Sleep In

I think this article may save my life. I've never done well without sleep and this is helping us to deal with our 2 year old, 6am riser. Many baby articles and magazines deal with trying to get your baby to sleep through the night. But what about your toddler that does sleep through the night, they just wake up really early? This article has some great tips.

If you have a toddler in the family, like I do, chances are you're woken up way too early every morning, roused by the voice of a tiny child who's burning with energy and hungry to boot. And you probably already know that sound machines, room-darkening shades, and bedtime adjustments won't necessarily solve the problem. Young kids are wired to wake up with the sun.

Step 1: Teach Her About Time

The first things your child needs to learn are when it's okay to get out of bed and when it's okay to come wake you up.

By the numbers Put a digital clock in your child's room, then put masking tape over the minutes (so it's less confusing). Tell her, for example, that she can get out of bed and play quietly in her room once there's a 6 on the clock, but she can't leave the room until there's a 7. Too young to recognize numbers? Draw a picture of the right times on a folded index card and place it next to the clock so she can match them.

To a tune If telling time is too difficult, set an alarm clock to play the radio or your child's favorite CD at, say, 7 a.m., suggests Sarah Hansel, a mom in Eldridge, IA. When her 3-year-old twins wake her too early, she brings them back to their room, saying she'll see them when the music starts. "The first couple of times, they cried," she says, "but we stuck to it, and it only took a few days before they got it."

By the half-light Try putting a dim lamp on a timer, so it won't wake your child if she's sleeping. Or check out the Good Nite Lite (; $34.99), a product designed by a dad whose child kept getting up at 5 a.m. It glows like a sun when it's okay to get out of bed and like a moon when it's still nighttime.

Step 2: Keep Him Entertained

Some especially self-reliant children might be able to find ways to amuse themselves, but most will need a little inspiration.

Wake-up-time toys Fill a bin with quiet playthings, such as puzzles and sticker books, and rotate them so there's always something interesting. Explain to your child that these are "special morning toys" that he can play with only before he wakes you up. Then sneak into his room after he's asleep and leave the box waiting for him on the floor.

His own "play" list Make a digital recording of yourself reading your child's favorite stories or singing songs he loves, get an audiobook from the library, or pick up a podcast online. Then show him how to turn on the player himself.

A craft surprise On the weekends, Ridgewood, NJ, mom of four Nicki Bosch puts out the supplies for an easy-to-do craft project. "I tell them that when they wake up, there's going to be a super-secret project in the kitchen for them, and that they can surprise Mommy and Daddy with it once they're done," she says. "They're so excited about it that they go to bed happily the night before, and it affords us at least an extra hour of sleep."

Step 3: Start the Day (Without You)

Since mornings are often hectic anyway, motivate your kid to tackle some getting-ready tasks on her own.

Dressing up Pick out a few outfits that your child can put on herself, and set them out the night before. Tell her she can choose any outfit she wants, but she can't wake you until she's dressed (this will also save you getting-out-the-door time).

Chowing down If your child is usually ravenous when she rises, leave a "wake-up tray" in her room with a bowl of dry cereal and a juice box, as well as an activity to keep her busy.

Invite her in If you try all these strategies and she's still waking up too early, she just may not be ready. Instead, let your child come into your room and play quietly while you doze. Elizabeth Pantley, author of the No-Cry Solution book series, suggests creating a fort in your room by placing a blanket over some furniture, putting a few toys or books inside, and calling it her "morning nest." Got a TV in your room? Turn a fave show on low and let her cuddle up next to you.

And remember, on those days when you're desperate, you can always resort to pure, unadulterated bribery. Once when we knew we were going to have a particularly late night, we told our early-rising 2-year-old we'd give her ice cream for breakfast if she stayed in her room until 7 a.m. It worked!
Is Your Child Ready for Morning "Alone" Time?

Yes if...

* During the day, he can play quietly by himself for 20 to 40 minutes if you're on the computer, making dinner, or taking a shower.

* She understands it's okay to wake you if she gets hurt or something spills, but it's not okay to surprise you by cooking breakfast.

* He's able to wait for things, such as when you tell him he can have dessert in five minutes.

* She can follow multistep directions, and her preschool teacher or other caretaker describes her as a rule follower.

* He wants to do "big kid" things.

No if...

* He thinks it's funny to turn on the appliances or leave the house when you're not looking.

* She has separation issues and cries or gets anxious when you leave the room.

* He has trouble with self-control. If you tell him to eat his sandwich before his cookie, what will he do when you leave the room?

* She has trouble playing by herself.

* His preschool teacher or caretaker describes him as "demanding" or "mischievous."

But here's what you may not know: Just because your kid's awake doesn't mean you have to be. Experts say that, depending on their temperament and maturity level, many kids are able to fend for themselves in the morning, at least for a short time, by age 3. In fact, even some 2-year-olds can play quietly in their rooms. You've simply got to train them.

My sister-in-law, who has four children, has done just that. Her littlest ones, ages 4 and 2, know they can't leave their rooms until there's a 7 on the clock. Then they find bowls of dry cereal waiting on the kitchen table. Tiny stickers show them which buttons to press on the remote control to fire up their favorite movie. And Mom, blissfully, sleeps until 8 a.m.

To get to that point, you'll have to do a bit of work, and take some precautions. Most important, says Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411, before you start, ask yourself: Do I trust my child when my back is turned? Think about whether she always follows instructions - and so might be ready for a little more independence - or tends to get into mischief, in which case it might be best to wait. Make sure you childproof the area where your early bird will be, and that she understands it's okay to wake you in an emergency. Then let the training begin.

"Consistency is the main thing," advises Lawrence Shapiro, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Norwalk, CT, and author of A Parent's Guide to Getting Kids Out of the Family Bed. "Try it three or four times, and most kids will learn to love it."

The benefits, he adds, won't only be yours. "This is not just about Mom and Dad sleeping for another hour," Shapiro says. "It's about giving your child a chance to learn how to entertain himself, how to make breakfast. That's good for him."


Tips for the Under-2 Crowd

If your baby is still in a crib, you obviously aren't going to be setting up morning craft projects. But there are a few things parents of tiny ones can do to get a little more shut-eye:

Don't rush to get her If your baby wakes up early and she's not crying, leave her in the crib, says Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu, M.D. "She may drift back to sleep or at least entertain herself until it's a more reasonable hour."

Turn off the monitor Or at least turn it down. If he wakes and starts playing, you don't need to hear every coo and squeal. Unless your room is very far from your baby's, you're going to hear him when he really needs you.

Trade off with dad Why are you both losing sleep? Even if you can take turns only on weekends, that one morning of extra sleep can make a difference.

Find an early-morning sitter When you really need to catch up on your zzz's, ask Mom or another relative to spend the night and wake up with the kids. Or hire a sitter to arrive at 6 or 7 a.m., then go back to sleep for an hour or two.

Use clip-on crib toys... From simple plastic mirrors to elaborate activity centers, there are dozens of toys that attach securely to crib rails. "A musical toy with a button a baby can push over and over is great entertainment," says Dr. Shu. (Be sure to take down hanging mobiles, which can be dangerous once your child can sit up.)

...and inside-the-crib toys Once your child is 1, you can sneak in and leave a few age-appropriate toys inside the crib, Dr. Brown says, as long as they have no small pieces and your child can't stack them and climb out. Try soft blocks, a baby doll, or board books (great for reading and hurling over the rail). Rotate the toys so your baby will always have something new.

Put a playpen in your room If your baby isn't happy unless you're nearby, set up a play yard in your room and fill it with a few favorite toys. Practice during the day first, then once he's comfortable, try it in the morning - while you snooze a little longer.