Category Archives: DC Moms Expert Series

On loss, prematurity & early labor

November is Prematurity Awareness Month &  according to the March of Dimes, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely in this country. That figure really surprised me but I’m not sure why it did. I went into labor at 35 weeks with my oldest, for no reason that anyone could figure out, and she was born hours into the first day of my 36th week. We were tremendously lucky that she was born healthy and was able to go home with us on time but we all know someone who has been touched quite seriously by prematurity. Personally, I have a few very good friends who each have lost a child before going full term and one who had a premature baby a few months ago. I would imagine we all have been touched by prematurity at some point.

The beautiful Bowen family.

The beautiful Bowen family.

Today I’m proud to share with you an interview with Tiffany Bowen. Tiffany is a local DC area mom who also happens to be married to Redskins Captain Stephen Bowen. Despite having all the resources available to her  during her pregnancy with twins Stephen and Skyler, Tiffany faced a tremendous loss. My interview with her today is a recap of our totally honest and really insightful conversation over a great lunch a few weeks ago.

Eight years into parenting, I can tell you one thing for certain and that is: I am quite certain that it’s Murphy’s Law for Moms that the shit hits the fan when your partner is traveling. In Tiffany’s case, she abruptly went into labor with her twins at 24 weeks, with a 2 year old at home, when her husband was out of town.

During our lunch, Tiffany explained that 24 weeks is the first week a baby is viable outside the womb and when she went into labor, she was given the option of doing anything to keep her babies alive or letting nature take its course.

Just consider even facing that decision for one minute.

Tiffany wanted to do what could be done to save the lives of her twin baby boys and so her path began.  In the end, she lost one son, Skyler, after 10 days and her other son, Stephen, is now a happy, thriving two-year old. While this was happening, she had a two-year old daughter at home. She spoke so candidly and openly about this experience.

As I drove to our lunch, I considered many of the hurdles and challenges facing parents who have a very premature child. Every story and experience is different but I had to imagine that many of the feelings that come with this horrible experience must be the same.  One thing that struck me must be this overwhelming feeling of guilt or responsibility facing a mother in early labor, even though others can look in and recognize it is beyond her control. I asked Tiffany about this. She said she of course felt guilty and was searching for answers, noting that she never drank in pregnancy, she took care of herself, and she had access to excellent medical care and despite all of it, her body still went into labor. When I asked her what advice she has for other mothers in this situation, she quickly recommended counseling for both parents and even sometimes for a sibling if they’re old enough. She also said that if you are spiritual, you have to pray. In the end, there is no explanation for why her body went into labor and there can be unexplained causes of prematurity. I would think not having answers can make a difficult situation even more stressful.

Then I asked her what it’s like for her when people ask her how many kids she has, something else I considered on my drive to our lunch. I wondered what I would say and how just being asked a simple question must surely be a painful reminder for many many families of a horrible loss. She noted that she still struggles but when asked, she responds that she has three kids and one is deceased. She said he lived for 10 days before he died, she wants to honor his time. Knowing that others can be awkward and unsure of what to say when faced with someone in grief, I pointedly asked her about that experience and she was very honest and said it was horrible for her when people acted like it didn’t happen or suggested that one kid replaces another with the “Thank God you had twins” comment or “God Knows Best.”  She said another comment that she doesn’t care for is “God needed an angel.” Her response? “I needed my child more than God needed an Angel.”

Bottom line, Tiffany’s advice is the best thing you can say is “I’m here for you, what do you need” or “I’m so sorry this happened.” And for family and friends to insist on helping, even if it means dropping off meals.

I asked her about her marriage and how stressful this must have been for her and her husband. Again, her honesty amazed me. She noted that everyone doesn’t grieve the same way and said her husband cried once and she wanted him to keep on crying. She said for a few months, she couldn’t listen to TV or music, she just wanted silence. One day, they were driving somewhere and her husband turned on the radio and she was furious, she couldn’t believe he could just turn on the radio but her way of grieving just was not his way. In addition to losing her son, she also lost her Grandmother and her mom to muscular dystrophy, in the span of just a few months.

SkylersGift_logo187x136It’s what Tiffany has since done with her grief that I think deserves some real attention. While she was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital with her sons, she began to learn that many people can’t afford to bury their babies and she was struck with the very real pain that mothers must feel if they leave the hospital without their baby and they can’t even leave with the baby’s remains. It was news to me that there are mass cremations for premature babies when the parents cannot afford a burial. Tiffany and her husband have since started Skyler’s Gift, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping support families during this time of loss by paying for the baby’s funeral.

Tiffany explained that though it’s been around for just over a year, they’ve already assisted with the burials of 30 babies and were March of Dimes ambassadors last year due to the amount of money they raised for the organization.  She can rattle off chilling facts and figures, like the average cost for a baby’s burial is $1500 and large companies in the United States want to give grants to organizations helping babies but for babies who survive, not for babies who have died, meanwhile the health and viability of Tiffany’s important work through Skyler’s Gift ultimately relies on grants from organizations, along with donations from individuals.

Tiffany is a passionate advocate for families facing loss in prematurity and for prematurity research. The way she has channeled her grief into action is really inspiring. You can read more details about her story here. November 17 is World Prematurity Day and while organizations around the country work to draw attention to this issue, I hope you’ll consider donating to Skyler’s Gift. Every single bit helps.

What spending time with Tiffany does is remind me of the power of a mother and how motivated we all are to do whatever we can to protect our babies. I’m inspired by her strength and passion. You can follow Tiffany on Twitter here or even better, support the organization by attending the second annual Skyler’s Gift Bowl-A-Thon in downtown DC at Lucky Strike in May. By purchasing a ticket, you’ll be supporting Skyler’s Gift and have the chance to bowl with NFL players. This is a great way for football fans to hang out with some of their favorite players while supporting such a great local cause, including individual ticket prices or corporate donations.

Thanks to Tiffany for her honest and tireless work for families across the country.

 

Pick your poison: Tips for Throwing a Kid or Adult Halloween Party

For anyone planning a Halloween Party…for adults…for kids….for your kid’s class at school….I’m reposting this interview  – I thought Amy had some really great ideas and tried a few in my daughter’s first grade class party last year and had so much fun!—————————————————————————-

Look, I might not love the over-crowded pumpkin patches in our area, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love Halloween. I actually really love Halloween.

Beautiful display from MarthaStewart.com Photo Credit: Johnny Miller

And many of you know I love a good theme, so what better time of year to throw a creative party, than now? For today’s WM expert series, I spent some time with Amy O’Brien, a local mom, co-founder of an amazing area boutique catering company, Foodie Event, and Halloween-party hostess extraordinaire. Amy and her business partner, Suzanne, actually realized the opportunity they had to start their own catering company based on the growing success and feedback from their annual Halloween parties. So for some original, creative and fun ideas to throw your own bash this year or in future years, read on.

Q: Tell us about your Halloween parties in, let’s call it, the early years because I know they have since evolved from one party to two parties.

Yes. Initially I put together a Halloween party for kids and adults and that eventually grew into a nightmare because it became too big. There were just too many kids. After some time, I broke it up into two parties, one for the kids and one for adults. This also helps the adults stay longer because when your kids are there, so many people tear out of the party so early in the night to get home to put the kids to bed.

Q: Totally agree. So tell us how you organize and plan for a kids Hallowen Party.

This does look really cute

I like to throw the kids party the Saturday before Halloween. And I firmly believe a kids party should last 90  minutes. I’ve found that a 2-hour kids party is suicide. After 90 minutes they just get tired. I organize the flow of the party well in advance, so I know each step and what game comes next. After the kids have some time for free play and admiring costumes after arriving, I move into a couple of games. One game that’s always a big hit is the donut on a string. Think of it like a clothesline of donuts, with each donut  hanging at different levels, and the kids have their hands behind their backs while they eat these little donuts. The first one done is obviously the victor and it’s a hilarious game to watch all these kids participate in with their costumes on. I also like to do it in 2 waves which makes it more fun for the kids because they then cheer their other friends on. Other games that are classic party favorites are pin the nose on the pumpkin and the beanbag toss into the cauldron. Another idea is to blow up orange balloons and black balloons, stick glitter or small prizes in the balloons before blowing them up, and then tape  them in the shape of an orange pumpkin or black spider to the wall. If you are doing the black spider version, I like to affix streamers to the balloons for the spider’s legs. Each kid then gets a pin and gets to pop the balloon. If they pop a glitter balloon, it’s a fabulous colorful explosion but they get to pop another until they get a surprise. Bottom line is, I’d plan for about 3 games for a 90 minute party.

Q: I love those ideas, especially the donut on the string one. Now how about food and decorations?

Keep it simple. I keep the food out the whole time and fill glass cylinders with pirates booty, goldfish and then have a simple cupcake theme. Then I like to end the party with a costume parade and the adults can all watch and cheer on the parade. One year we also had a “Haunted Hike” in our back yard. Different parents were dressed up in costume and would hide scattered around the backyard and then would hop out and make scary noises as the kids came by, like hissing like a snake or howling like a Werewolf. We told them spooky scary stories as we walked through the backyard. The kids loved it and it’s so fun for the adults because kids will believe anything. As for decorations, I usually make my own and supplement with things from Target or Oriental Trading. You can also find a lot at the Dollar Tree on Rockville Pike next to the Trader Joes. There’s so much you can do with just draping cheap white sheets, putting out test tubes to make a Mad Scientist Lab and throwing a crow in a tree.

Q: Love those ideas. Now let’s move on to the adult themed party. Tell us about your adult-only Halloween party from last year because I am sure you aren’t divulging your secrets for this year’s party. And let’s start with invitations – paper or electronic?

So last year the theme was Studio 54 which was really fun because there is a certain mystique to the theme.  I’ve also found that you need a theme for adults because everyone wants something to latch onto. Plus they know you are serious about dressing up when you assign a theme to the party. Parties are what I do, so I just don’t care for electronic invitations. I am always going to head to Paper Source and make my own paper invitations. And the prices are so reasonable at Paper Source, I think I got 200 invites with reply cards for $200. The iconic theme of Studio 54 was “Throw caution to the wind and glitter in the air,” so much to the chagrin of many adults, of course I added gold glitter to invitations. But really – when do we as adults ever get invites with glitter?

Q: I absolutely love it – and totally agree that paper invites are the way to go. So how did you decorate and what sort of food did you serve, Halloween themed or Studio 54 themed?

For decorations, we made some trips to our favorite Value Village for period furniture. So ended up with a little black sofa for one corner, a pit of pillows area with fur, end tables with fondue on them, and 2 gold square tables with finger foods. In terms of food, we stuck with the 70s theme, not the Halloween theme. We did Halloween food the year before but decided it was macabre and ugly. Obviously we aren’t into drugs, but well, we were throwing a Studio 54 party, so we served food on mirrored trays and then took it a step further. We cut pixie sticks, then dumped them in lines on a mirrored tray and passed it around for people, like it was coke. Obviously we had a huge disco ball hanging in my back yard which is still there and I made a playlist to flow with the night. The cocktail hour was chill music, think Olivia Newton John and Barry White and then as the night progressed, we slowly moved through the 70s and 80s to more current music so everyone was really dancing.  What we found is that people didn’t really eat much of the heavier foods so this year we are sticking to more of a dessert theme. And I’ll tip my hat – the theme of this year’s party is Gods and Goddesses.

 

 

 

Why wouldn’t you throw a 70s theme party – you know the Village People will show up

Q: Okay. I love it. The pixie sticks on mirrored trays is absolutely hilarious. And this year’s theme is so creative. Tell us about your business that you’ve recently started, Foodie Event.

 

 

 

Sure. It’s a custom catering and event design business that I started with my friend Suzanne. We are very hands on, we like to meet with our clients to get a vibe on what kind of party they are looking for and then we take it from  there with the food and design. It’s a lot of fun and really did emerge because we realized we were always the people in our group of friends who were throwing the parties.

Make sure you “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with the fun, tricks and treats. Awesome. Thank you to Amy for her great advice today and unfortunately, Amy’s entire computer crashed before we met and she lost her pictures, which is why I don’t have pictures from Amy’s parties included in today’s post. Surely I’m not the only one who is disappointed to miss a shot of that disco ball hanging in her yard and those mirrored trays. Happy Halloween party-throwing everyone!

Kid Clothes….for a Bargain?

If you are anything like moi, you love clothes but you absolutely can’t stand spending much money on kid’s clothes. If so, today’s post is for you.  Today’s post is also for anyone who enjoys supporting small local, female-owned businesses or is looking to be inspired by two women who started a new career path after having their children.

GAB site logoBut back to the kids clothes. Look, I love beautiful patterns and stylish kid outfits just as much as the next person. It seems I suffer from either needing a sink that pours only Spray’N’Wash or maybe I’m too practical, but I look at beautiful clothes and think about how quickly my child will ruin that item. Especially if it’s white.

I begrudgingly confess they do take after moi on this one.

C’est vrai. Much as I love to blame their flaws on Mr. WM.

If you, too, have children who will find a way to spill but also love to put them in designer duds, I’m thrilled to feature GeorgieAnnaBella today on WM. It is an upscale online children’s consignment boutique founded by two local DC area moms. They sell new children’s clothes, shoes and accessories, gently “pre-loved” high-end items, and unique gifts….all at huge savings.  In addition to selling these items, they also provide parents of growing children (ages newborn through high school) a convenient way to resell their children’s clothing. When consigning, parents have the option to receive cash back, in-store credit, or donate profits to a charity of their choice.

This appeals to the fashionista-recessionista in all of us. I’ve been known to find myself on a bargain shopper’s high for weeks.

In case you’re wondering how this business idea came about, here’s a peek: Owners, Colleen Cavanagh and Cristina Khalaf, met at Our Lady of Victory School in DC five years ago.  After working together on many school auctions and other projects related to their kids, they decided to enter the business world.  They formed a partnership and named the business after their children; George, Anna, and Isabella.

George, Anna and Isabella, the namesakes of the store!

George, Anna and Isabella, the namesakes of the store!

Before the business started, Colleen was voluntarily organizing the Our Lady of Victory School uniform exchange. She often heard from parents that they had gently used items such as winter apparel, Sunday best outfits, shoes, etc. that they wished to pass along but didn’t know where to go.  Cristina was looking for space for a children’s retail shop in the Palisades.  Together they decided to start an online children’s consignment boutique.

Colleen and Cristina formed a partnership on Oct. 1, 2012. They got to work constructing their website, collecting items for donation, and after a month of tireless efforts, were ready to launch the site.  As with any new business, they are continually learning the ropes; which brands sell quickest, how to utilize social media, what products are in demand, etc.  Over the past 6 months, they have met many new people, gained a greater appreciation for the US Postal Service, become tax experts for small businesses, and all the while being surrounded by beautiful children’s clothes.

I applaud them for taking a leap, starting a new business and offering a great resource for area parents!

One their site, you’ll find an excellent combination of items, ranging from designer duds at reduced prices to really unique baby shower gift ideas or the more practical – tags for your kid’s goggles (how quickly will the first pair get lost at the pool this weekend, right?). Here’s a closer peek:

Taggoggles:  These are a must have for any parent of a child who swims.  These “tags help identify your child’s goggles.  No more lost goggles this swim season…great birthday gift for a summer swimmer!  

 Upscale clothing:  We hand select each item posted on our site.  All items are the current fashion trend, clean, free of stains and tears, and ready to wear.   Currently some of our “hot” brands include Oillily, (no longer available for purchase in the US), Lilly Pulitzer (Lilly passed away recently making her items even more popular), Jacadi (an extremely high priced brand with a local store in Tysons Mall) and many other boutique brands from France, England, and Italy.

And exciting news for all WM readers! Colleen and Cristina would like to offer Wired Momma Blog readers a free Taggoggle of their choice when they order at $50 or more of merchandise from the site. They will even deliver purchases to customers in the DC area.

So please, support your own love of fabulous bargains and clothes along with two area business moms and women at the same time by shopping at georgieannabella.

As always, be sure to hit “Like” on the old Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with the fun.

Summer’s Around the Corner….Helping You Plan

We are less than two months out from summer break – insane, right?  With that in mind, to help you get your creative juices flowing in how best to schedule some fun activities during the dog days of summer, today I bring you a guest post from Amy Suski, local blogger and co-founder of DCMetroMom. The thing is, Amy didn’t just start a blog, she’s gone on to do something many bloggers dream of: publish a book. Amy teamed up with her other DCMetroMom partner, Claudine, and the fabulous Micaela Williamson, formerly of SuperNOVA Mommy fame, to publish Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition. Their book came out earlier this spring and has received tremendous press attention and praise from local parents. And all for good reason. These women are the trifecta of DC-area based kid activity knowledge, not to mention business savvy, social media savvy entrepreneurs who are providing all of us an excellent resource to make our lives easier and more fun. I’m proud to turn the pages of WM over to them today, in Amy’s voice, and introduce you to their book and what you might find in it. With that, I give you Amy:

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Book-CoverIn my twenties, I lived and breathed city life in the District: working on K Street, shopping boutiques, going to the theatre, strolling the art galleries, biking along the Potomac, and dining at trendy restaurants every chance I got.  But while I was busy streaming into the city for work and play, NoVA was sneaking up on me as a happening place to be.

Over the last decade, Northern Virginia has really come into its own and can boast much more than proximity to D.C.  While preserving its historic old towns, gardens, and parklands, Northern Virginia has forged ahead to create its own identity as a terrific family destination all its own with super-fun seasonal events (Spring Egg Hunts, Summer County Fairs, Fall Pumpkin Patches, Winter Festivals), family-friendly performance venues, nature centers, oodles of indoor play-spaces, innovative playgrounds, art studios, interactive museums, farms, and so much more.

With so many new things happening in NoVA I wished for a guide to steer my family on its travels.  Although there were a lot of big name family travel guides for D.C., I couldn’t find a comparable book dedicated to NoVA.  So, after years of living in and exploring the area, I teamed up with Claudine Kurp (co-founder of DCMetroMom.com) and Micaela Williamson, a.k.a., Super NoVA Mommy, to create a guide especially for families living in or visiting NoVA.   Between the three of us we’ve pretty much dragged, chased, and strolled all seven of our kids across the entire area.  As local bloggers we’ve also had unique opportunities to visit and review many terrific activities and performance venues so we feel like we have an insider’s track on helping families find the best that NoVA has to offer.

There are so many reasons to explore NoVA and we hope our new book will help guide families along the way.  Just a few of my personal favorites featured in the book:

+ Carousel and playground at Clemyjontri Park in McLean

+ Tot-rock concerts at Jammin Java in Vienna

+ Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center in Vienna

+ Museum, farm, and gardens at the Mount Vernon Estate

+ Artist studios at Old Town Alexandria’s Torpedo Factor Art Center

+ Art programs for Children at the Greater Reston Arts Center

+ Children’s garden at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria

+ Farm fun at Frying Pan Farm Park and Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum

+ Sprayground parks in Arlington

+ Miniature Train at Burke Lake Park

+ Leesburg Animal Park

+ Marine Corps Museum in Quantico

+ Hiking at Great Falls

+ Super Science Saturdays at Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum in Chantilly

+ National Battlefield Park and Historic Train Depot in Manassas

For hundreds more local attractions, “Top Picks,” “Insider Tips,” seasonal events, and parenting resources get your copy of Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition through Amazon or as an ebook on Kindle, Nook or Smashwords (coming to iBooks soon).  To sign-up for monthly newsletters, updates, and blogs visit www.gotrips.com.

About the author:  Amy Suski and her husband are parents to two sons, a daughter, and a rambunctious boxer dog.  Before motherhood Amy worked in Washington, D.C. as an attorney and is now writing, editing, and volunteering.  She is co-founder of DCMetroMom.com and co-author of Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition.

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Thank you so much Amy for contributing today! I hope everyone will consider supporting these local moms, their book can be purchased for $8.99 on Amazon and it’s well worth it to give yourself a whole host of ideas for lazy summer days! You can also find these lovely ladies on Facebook.

As always, I hope you’ll “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page and if you’d like to contribute a guest post, please email me at wiredmomma@me.com.