Real Life Sunday, Feb 1 2015 

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Midwest Mary is about real life. What we eat, wear, feel, and do as well as what inspires us. Everyday life rarely is a Hallmark picture, perfect card. We humans are flawed, so what we do and say is not often perfect. Although, that shouldn’t prevent us from striving to be all we hope to be.

My daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren recently came over for lunch. It was the first time we all got together since my newest grandchildren were born at the beginning of the month – my daughters had babies a week apart.

My vision was for us to sit around the table on this cold winter day enjoying steaming bowls of homemade lentil soup, pizza rolls, and fresh, crisp salad topped off with homemade cookies. After lunch, we’d move to the family room and soak in all that delightful babiness.

With four little ones under two, that didn’t happen. Someone was always, sleeping, crying, spitting up, wiggling, running off, eating, or needing a diaper change. We took turns grabbing a bite to eat and shuffling kids. Not what I envisioned, but heavenly.

And that’s everyday life.

(Photo: Tyler, Mary with Isabella and Nathan, Daniel)

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Laugh Like a Baby Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 

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Who can resist a laughing baby? Even when toddlers are naughty, their exuberance sparks the same in us. Life is good, and they don’t hold back on expressing that joy.

Babies find humor in the simple things. We can play peek-a-boo non-stop. For some reason our appearance and disappearance is hilarious.

What fascinates me is how early in life they know what is funny and how to be funny. Our little Samantha laughed at my husband when she was only three weeks old. She knew even then that Papa was being silly.

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And how clever they are at such young ages. My daughter, Erin, and I were talking on the phone when 17 month-old Tyler vanished. They were in their home with all doors closed and locked, but she could not find him anywhere. She called his name repeatedly. He did not respond.

We became increasingly more concerned. We feared he was stuck or hurt somewhere.

Finally, she found Tyler hiding behind the couch. He burst into a huge belly laugh when he saw her frantic face. He was very proud of how well he hid from his mommy and how he scared her to pieces. He took advantage of her being distracted on the phone. Maybe next time she will think about that before taking her attention away from him.

And then last Saturday, while playing on the floor with my other 17 month-old grandson, Daniel, he took a large mouthful of water from his sippy cup and proceeded to spit it out into my hair. I screamed and jumped. He burst into laughter. This little guy knew exactly how to tease his nana and how much fun that would be.

Babies are innately happy and playful. Somehow, even little ones know early on how to get a reaction out of grown-ups.  They enjoy surprising us. Most of all they love to laugh.

Our world is pretty stressed out right now. There is tension all around. Sure, we need to pay attention and take the many problems seriously.

But we also need to stop from time-to-time and put our troubles aside. Smiling, laughing, and playing are good for us. A happy break here and there helps to get us through the tough stuff.

(Photos: Daniel, 17 months-old; Samantha, 3 weeks-old and Marshall)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Little Eyewear Friday, Jul 11 2014 

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Cool toddlers in shades are not just fashion statements. They are eye-essential.

Vision care experts urge awareness of the dangers of overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays on little eyes. They say that prevention is imperative because damage is accumulative and  irreversible.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal. (July 8, 2014), children’s eyes cannot filter UV light as effectively as adults, which make them especially vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. Lighter colored eyes are even more susceptible.

It’s particularly important to protect young eyes near the water, sand, and snow. These substances reflect the UV light making their effect more intense. A severe sunburn to the eyes can result in temporary vision loss, increased risk for cataracts later in life, macular degeneration, or even cancer.

The recommendation is for children to wear sunglasses that block close to 100% of the entire UV spectrum all year-round.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Photo: Daniel, date unknown)

Personal Energy Tuesday, May 13 2014 

Notice how babies gravitate toward some people and not others? It doesn’t mean that person is good or bad. It’s how they feel about their energy.

Mother’s Day I was very ill. I had allergy and asthma symptoms for weeks that continued to worsen. When I arrived at my daughter and son-in-laws home, I sunk into their couch.

Normally my grandsons are all over me. They know how much I love them and are eager to eat that up. To my surprise and disappointment, they didn’t come to me. They didn’t even recognize me. It was as if my energy was so different, so diminished, they didn’t know it was Nana.

Actually, when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I appeared decades older, grayer. That evening I went to urgent care and learned I had pneumonia in both lungs.

As adults, perhaps in a less obvious way, we also are aware of other peoples’ energy, especially if it is unusual. Sometimes we are surprised if we instantly feel an attraction or dislike toward someone. Most likely, we are reacting to their personal energy.

I’m not certain, but have heard that cats leave the room of a dying person, even one they love. That change of energy either disturbs them or they feel the person they knew is no longer there.

Dogs are the opposite. Our favorite family dog, Lois Lane, is in town. She spent the past few weeks close to me. She snuggles, often with a paw or her face on my leg. When I am in a coughing fit, Lois stares at me, alert and ready to assist. If an outsider comes near me, she gently nudges between us.

Quantum physics says that atoms are force-fields emitting waves of electrical energy. Since we consist of atoms, and all of them are continuously emitting and absorbing light and energy, our energy field changes depending on our circumstances. That’s why we feel agitated, drained, excited, or happy when we are in certain places or with certain people.

My recovery will take a good amount of time, but I need to build my energy level as quickly as possible so the little guys will again feel comfortable with me. I need to submerge myself in a restful, peaceful environment to heal and rejuvenate. And I’m going to do that. I want my Nana energy back.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Nana Loves You Friday, May 2 2014 

Do you talk baby talk?

When I talk to my little grandsons, I speak in the Third Person. I say things like, “Look what Nana has for you.” I don’t know why I do that. I wouldn’t call myself by name with an adult. I’m not going to tell my husband that Mary wants to run to the store or say to an employer that Mary wants a raise.

Perhaps it is because I want my grandsons to know my name. Nothing warms my heart more than to hear them call me Nana in their sweet voices. But according to linguists, I shouldn’t do that. Babies need to learn to use the pronouns “I” and “me” correctly. Language is confusing enough without us speaking incorrectly.

Talking in high-pitched voices though, is OK. Babies seem to respond positively when we speak to them in happy tones more so than in adult language. Elongating consonants and vowels in what is known as “parentese,” such as saying, “Heeeeeloooo there hooooneyyyyy,” and all the bright, happy facial expressions we use, actually makes an impression on their brains. Studies show that it helps them learn the words quicker.

Mostly, we just need to keep talking to them while smiling and making eye contact. That’s how they learn to imitate the sounds they hear. They also like repetition. Repeating common words such as “mama” and “dada” helps to spur language development. We also can imitate the sounds they make. In general, the more we talk to them, the faster they will learn.

Some people get carried away and use that “goo-goo, gaga baby talk” to their children. Experts say that although talking down to them in a silly way does not help them, it won’t prevent or delay their speech either.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Smile and Say, “Cheese” Friday, Feb 21 2014 

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I don’t know why this photo is so funny, but you can’t tell me you didn’t laugh. I wanted to make you smile because it’s one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. Putting on that happy face benefits us physically, emotionally, and even socially.

Students who smiled in their college yearbook photo were five times less likely to be divorced decades later, according to a DePauw University study. The study didn’t reveal if the former students are happily married, but married they are, and chances are, they really are happy in some small way because they smile. And when someone smiles at us, we usually smile back, so their spouses are smiling too, making it one big happy-fest.

Our bodies physically react when we smile. Blood pressure and heart rate lowers, which reduces stress. Endorphins and serotonin are released and act like an anti-depressant enhancing our mood, reducing pain, boosting our immunity, and increasing productivity. All of these things result in a longer life by as much as seven years compared to those who don’t smile. In addition, everyone around us acquires those benefits because our smile makes them smile.

Smiles are good for business too. People who smile tend to earn more money as smiles encourage trust and display confidence. We naturally like to do business with happy people.

What’s more,  smiles are like little face lifts. They actually make us look younger and more attractive.

So read those funny papers, watch that comedy, think of your joke, and put on a great big smile. It’s a quick and inexpensive means to a healthier, happier life.

(Photo by Erin Lukasiewicz)

 

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

More Than a Headband Tuesday, Feb 18 2014 

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Just prior to my grandson’s first birthday, we celebrated the completion of him wearing a cranial remolding orthosis for plagiocephaly, an asymmetric distortion of the head. Daniel was a beautiful baby, perfect in our eyes, right from the beginning, but the correction has enhanced his looks and may promote better health with his features now symmetrically aligned.

Plagiocephaly is a fairly common condition today. The skull deformation may be the result of a number of factors before, during, or after birth. Most common is the placement of babies on their backs to prevent SIDS which can flatten the soft bones in the back of their heads. “Tummy time” is encouraged to help prevent this.

Daniel’ head was flatter on one side possibly because of a combination of genetics and a difficult birth. This made it challenging for him to hold up his head and do the necessary tummy time. Correcting the shape of his head with the device not only rounded out the flat side, but it also helped align his eyes and ears. The alignment should allow for better use of corrective eye glasses and sunglasses in the future and also wearing a hat. In addition, limited studies show that when eyes and ears are symmetric, vision and hearing may be improved.

After 360 degree digital surface imaging of the head with 15 high-resolution cameras, the lightweight helmet was designed specifically for him to allow mild holding pressure to capture and alter the growth. Every two to three weeks, the interior foam of the helmet was shaved to carefully direct the growth to flat regions. Daniel wore the helmet night and day and showed no indication of discomfort from it.

The length of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and a baby’s age. Little can be done after a baby is 12-18 months when the bones have hardened. Insurance often covers the expense if deemed necessary.

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©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Family Time Wednesday, Oct 23 2013 

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There is nothing that makes me happier than to have all of my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren together with me and my husband. It feels so right when the puzzle is complete.

My son and daughter-in-law were just in town and all of the family gathered at our home and for a large extended family dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s. Not only do we all get along, we enjoy each other’s company. We are friends with common goals, interests, and values yet different enough to inspire and spark new ideas and creativity.

And now the littlest members of the family are drawing the greatest attention. My sweet grandsons certainly are the stars of the show as we all ooo and ahhhh over everything they do. Who isn’t delighted at the wonderment of a child or laugh when a baby laughs?

My kids often ask what I want for a birthday or Christmas gift. My response is always the same. What I want most is time with them. Until my daughters had their own children, they thought I just didn’t want them to spend their money. Now they understand that a mother needs time with her children. No matter how old they are, our babies are our babies.

What’s more, I like them. I am so blessed to have children and children-in-law who I admire and respect as well as love to pieces.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Be a Baby Monday, Sep 30 2013 

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My son, Joe, says that life is not complicated. People make it so. I think of his words when I’m running around doing all sorts of things that really don’t need to be done. And spending time with my seven-month-old grandsons reinforces Joe’s words.

We adults are a stressed-out bunch, most of which is our own doing. We can learn a lot from babies. They enjoy life on a basic level. Here are some of the things babies can teach us:

  1. Enjoy the little things. Parents spend a good part of their time removing non-toys from the grasp of little hands. Babies laugh at and enjoy the simplest things. They don’t need expensive clothes, toys, or homes to make them happy, and neither do we.
  2. We don’t need much. A baby’s physical requirements are pretty basic, and ours really aren’t much different.
  3. Love. The most important thing babies want is love. It’s the greatest gift we can give our children and each other.
  4. Happy people make us happy. Babies mirror our emotions. If we frown, they frown. If we smile, they smile. Surrounding ourselves with happy people will make us happier too.
  5. Naps are rejuvenating. A little cat-nap, especially when we are very tired, helps us feel better and be more productive the rest of the day.
  6. Overstimulation is exhausting. Babies melt-down when overstimulated, and that doesn’t change much when we become adults. Most of us immerse ourselves in a mix of intense activity, electronics and people, all of which tires our minds and bodies. We then wonder why we are irritable and ill.
  7. Use your senses. Babies experience life through their senses. They touch, smell, taste, and look at everything. If we take a moment to enjoy things sensually we will appreciate so much more.
  8. A little attention heals boo-boos. When a child falls, we pick them up and kiss their hurt. That immediate, gentle response goes a long way with adults as well.
  9. View life through the eyes of a child. Everything is exciting when viewed through a baby’s eyes. We enjoy experiencing things with a baby in tow because we want to witness their excitement in seeing things for the first time. They help us to remember and appreciate everything once again.
  10. Release your fears and trust all will be well. Babies trust that their needs will be met. Life is so much easier when we aren’t cynical or worried about the terrible things that aren’t likely to ever happen.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Love and Marriage Monday, Jun 3 2013 

My husband, Marshall, tells me he loves me all day, every day. When said with sincerity, those three words are intoxicating. A woman will do anything for a husband who showers her with them.

Marriage has its challenges. No doubt, there will be disagreements, worries, and disappointments in every marriage. But when two people who love, respect, and care for each other align with their goals and work together smoothly, there isn’t anything like it. And that love part is the magic ingredient. Who doesn’t want to love and be loved?

My son-in-law, Steve, and I had an interesting conversation about young girls’ dreams. He was surprised to learn how young we are when we begin to think of marriage and babies. He said it is the furthest thing from the thought-process of young boys.

It is true. Girls dream of being loved and having a family before we even attend school. The ultimate fantasy is to be married to a man who cherishes us.

I feel very blessed to have my little girl dream-come-true.  Everything seems possible when you have that kind of love.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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