Monday, December 21, 2009

Marriage, Parenting & Stress - Jan. Mtg

This recent article inspired January's mtg topic. While I consider myself fortunate to have a steadfast partner in my life, I personally know that child can cause even a good marriage to be a stressful one at moments. I'm trying to get someone from Providence to facilitate, but if not, I'm sure we can learn from each other.

Let's talk,

Thursday, January 14th at noon
Portland Building, 3rd Floor - Blazed Alder Room

If a new baby has caused some marital stress, here's some help
By Paige Parker, The Oregonian
December 16, 2009, 4:15AM

Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian

Sometimes with a newborn, it's not only the baby who winds up crying.
Take a happy marriage. Now add a tiny baby. You'll get a blissful marriage, yes?

Not always. About two-thirds of all new parents say they're unsatisfied with their marriage in the first year of their baby's life.

Roles change. Time tightens. Sex, dear? Dear? Are you asleep?

Given the stress, it's a wonder anyone stays married. In fact, one out of four married couples get divorced within five years of a baby's birth.

Seattle relationship researcher and clinical psychologist John Gottman found decreased marital satisfaction could be predicted by a husband's negativity toward his wife; his expression of disappointment in the marriage; and either partner describing their life as chaotic.

Gottman and his wife, fellow clinical psychologist Julie Gottman, wrote, "And Baby Makes Three" (Three Rivers Press, $13.95 paperback, 272 pages), a guide to marriage preservation for new parents. They also developed a class, Bringing Home Baby, offered locally by Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Providence will offer the three-week course to parents of children under age 1 beginning Jan. 24, and again beginning May 2. Classes last two hours. For more: Providence Resource Line at 503-574-6595.

There are ways to overcome problems, even when the baby is cranky. We talked to instructor Amy Wesson about some of the marital pitfalls of parenthood and advice to ease the transition.

Why does having a baby strain a marriage?
People are shocked at how much their life shifts from "what we want to do" to "what we need to do." In particular, the lack of sleep complicates things. If a body lacks food and sleep, it is not capable of performing on its best level. You pretty much fall back on whatever gets you through the moment, and that's going to be different for two humans.

About month four, mothers have a drop in their overall marital satisfaction. For fathers, it's between nine and 12 months. The difference in when that dip happens causes problems and makes it difficult to support each other.
So, if we know marriages tend to falter in the first months after a baby's birth, why not offer classes to strengthen the marriage before the baby is born? Why wait until after?
We do a lot of prep before pregnancy. Parents see a medical doctor, they're reading books. Then it kind of drops off.

Good childbirth prep classes usually end with some information on how you'll feel those first few months and give a realistic picture.

But there's only so much a couple can take in before the baby comes.
What do the problems look like?
Communication is what you need, and that is one of the first things to go when you're running on bare bones. Things are snappier and quicker. In times of stress, we take each other apart.

Gottman says there are four warning signs. Things tend to be more negative than positive. Then, there are the four horsemen: either or both partners engage in criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling. One or both partners feels "flooded" or overwhelmed by the way their partner raises complaints, and your body kicks into a fight-or-flight response. The fourth sign is that repair attempts fail.
How can couples ward off trouble?
Build the base and the foundation of your house through learning about each other. Continue to look for what's good in your partner, and consciously choose to turn toward your partner when he or she makes a bid or a request for attention. Each time, you have the option to be rude, ignore it, or to come at the bid from a positive place and see what your partner is really trying to tell you. You need to fill your house with positive things, and say them, not just think them. Bring up difficult topics with a softened start-up -- gently. Accept your partner's influence.

We know conflict arises. It's about recognizing it and working through it. People don't really fix that, but you get better at it.

De-escalating a conflict

Here's a sample of what John and Julie Gottman recommend couples say to de-escalate a conflict, to recover from one or just to apologize.

"That hurt my feelings."

"My reactions were too extreme."

"How can I make things better?"

"Let's compromise here."

"I think your point of view makes sense."

"Can I have a kiss?"

"Can we take a break?"

"This is important to me. Please listen."

"I might be wrong here."

"Let's agree to disagree here."

"That's a good point."

"I understand."

"My part of this problem is ..."

"Tell me what you hear me saying."

And here's the Providence Resource Line: 503-574-6595

I've copied the whole article here, because sometimes the links disappear in a few weeks time. 2009/12/if_a_new_baby_has_caused_some.html

New Pediatric Practice

This new office was supported by the Portland Development Commission, and passed along from our friends there. An email was forwarded to the group last week, but the link was bad somehow, my apologies.

If your kids become patients at the Littles practice, please feel free to write a comment her to share your experience with other Moms.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Faith & Family - November 2009 Mtg Notes

November’s CityMamas meeting included a good group of moms to discuss the process/challenges to finding/practicing religious/spiritual faith as a family. Each mom shared a bit about their own experience and thoughts on whether/how/where to go to church. It was really interesting to hear each other’s stories, and there were a lot of commonalities. Here are some of the top mentions:

-Want to provide guidance for life’s big questions such as death (of family member, of pet), create a community
-Left a family church as a teen/young adult, haven’t attended regularly as an adult
-Difference in religious background from spouse/other parent
-Logistics of where to find information/resources and research church – too time consuming
-Cherish weekend family time, don’t want to rush out the door on Sunday too (or put kids’ in childcare again)
-Want to have control over what kids are learning, and yet not indoctrinate – help them find their own opinion

Darcy invited the Rector from her church, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church to join in the conversation. Father Stephen was more eloquent, but here are some highlights:

-We should stop feeling guilty about where we are on our religious/spiritual journey. It’s the experience and journey that matters.
-Focus on creating meaningful family traditions – meal prayer/thanks, community giving/volunteering, special holiday traditions
-Find your own family path, connect with other families (his family made up the “5 Families” with 5 annual traditions alternating at each home, they created traditions that lasted throughout their children’s upbringing and beyond)
-People today want three main things: feel authentic, feel connected to community, feel creative/expressive
-Faith community offers a structure for the safe exploring of life's questions, to become self-reliant in living life and making choices
-Faith community can answer how are our values sustained beyond the family? Values that are not consumer/marketing culture
-How to decide where to go to practice faith? See the door (of the church/religious institution) as a series of practices or rituals, e.g. prayer, not as a "checklist of beliefs"
-Check out web sites for info on churches – you can typically check schedules, which give you a good idea about what they offer. Check bulletins - do they offer interest groups that reflect an openness? Do they offer interest groups that capture your own values and interests?
-Favorite Quote “The joy of God is a person fully alive.” Children exemplify this.

Children’s Books:

What Is God? by Etan Boritzer

What is God? is an eloquent introduction to the ideas behind God and religion, and brings forward complex ideas in a way children will understand. It is written with a simple clarity and beautifully illustrated with just the right blend of seriousness and humor. What is God? compares different religions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism — and their holy books, looks at misunderstandings and arguments among people of different religions, and talks about praying as well as feeling connected to everything in the world. If you want to talk about spirituality with a child, or introduce them to philosophy or religion, or just help them to begin to center themselves and their feelings about the world, this book is a great beginning.
God’s Dream, by Desmond Tutu

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death

Peaceful Piggy Meditation ~ Kerry Lee Maclean

Web sites & Resources:

Grace Memorial Episcopal Church: Located in inner NE, includes family service at 9 the first Sunday of the month, and well known for their summer Grace Art Camp for children.

Please add information about other places of worship on the comments.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Novemeber Mtg - Faith and Family

Apologies about the last minute notice, but I hope since this is our usual meeting time that you will be able to attend.

We chose this topic after a side discussion that Courtney, Lora and I had about the process/challenge of deciding whether/how to choose a faith as a family, and how, even if you don't "practice," you can deal with inevitable questions that kids will pose, like when a family member dies. You probably don't want to be put on the spot by your child, especially if you and your partner don't agree on the answers. If you have traditions, you may want to find ways that work for your family to enjoy them.

This will be an exploratory discussion, and I've invited Rev. Stephen Schneider (Father Stephen) to help facilitate the discussion. His original background is actually in city planning and equity issues, and he spent a decade at the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, which promotes unity among churches/religions. I think you'll find him very friendly and accessible, like he says, there are no right answers to this question.

This meeting will be held at the Portland Building Room B, second floor

We hope you'll join us...I'll bring some leftover Halloween candy to pawn off :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

urbanMamas working mama lunch - 11/19

See link to a November working mama lunch sponsored by urbanMamas and organized by cityMama Courtney Duke. RSVP in comments at urbanMamas.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oct 7 meeting - NOTES

October 7, 2009
1900 Bldg; Room 7A


Courtney Duke, PBOT (Owen, 4½ )
Kara Fioravanti, PBS (Vicenzo, 3.5; Francesca; 8 mos.)
Lor Lillard, BPS (Dean, almost three!; Fiona, 11 mos)
Darcy Cronin, Water (Kieran 3.8; Makenna (.8)
Rebecca Geisen, Water (Ian 8; Noah 3)
Julia Giesler, PBS (Avery 14; Annie 12)
Dana DeKlyen, PDC (first meeting – welcome!) (Jacob 8; Charlie 4 ½)
Estee Segal (Orion 2.4)

Guest: Abby Coppock, Portland Better Together (

Topic: Volunteering with your family.

Abby from the city’s Portland Better Together gave an overview of the program and ideas for volunteering with kids/families. Portland Better together is on Facebook, become a fan.

Greater Hands on Portland ( ) can set up specific project for cityMamas (or other groups). Good projects for all ages include things for the environment (ivy pulls), parks related projects, gardens; farms; SOLV projects; etc. There are few direct service programs for/to kids due to background heck/liability issues. Other ideas: school supply drives (summer); food drives; volunteering at Schoolhouse Supplies ( ); food box delivery via the food bank (; Sunshine Division (

A great resource is: 211. Information and referral from the County for all different issues. Very helpful.

Members Shared What they Did
Dana DeKlyen’s mom runs a program at the Sunnyside United Methodist church (LINK). Her older son serves meals on Wednesday nights with his grandmother while dad does neighborhood patrol. They are always looking for volunteers and personal items to provide to the customers. These include blankets, socks, travel sizes toiletries, etc.

Courtney’s daycare does a food drive for Neighborhood House in SW Portland ( Courtney had a budget ($50) and went shopping with her son at Safeway. He helped pick out food for “kids that don’t have enough to eat.” When purchasing items for school (in lieu of fundraising obligations), she takes Owen to shop and pick out items. Owen’s grandma volunteers at Neighborhood House and he has visited with her. Have also purchased personal items with him and grandma for Neighborhood House.

Rebecca did some food box deliveries with her older son. Could have been a better experience: long line at food bank, ran out of food boxes, locations a bit odd.

Darcy has done SOLV, hydro-park and other neighborhood clean up, Friends of Trees, etc., activities with her family. Make it routine.

HR Rule re: Volunteering
Abby noted that there is an HR rule that allows 4 hours of volunteering. Here is the link to the HR rule that says volunteerism related to the mission of the bureau is allowed:

Note from Abby re: HR rule – I looked into that resolution (making it the mission of all bureaus to support youth) and it just wasn’t published online anywhere. Attached is the resolution that went to Council, but this isn’t the formal signed version. Laurel Butman (who organized that pilot program) is on vacation until the end of Oct and she will have more info on that. (Courtney will follow up). Attached to these notes is the .pdf of the draft resolution

Ideas for Future

Adpot a Family
Everyone ok with doing adopt a family again. Courtney will submit forms to Salvation Army.

SOLV Beach Clean Up
Make it a beach weekend with camping! Darcy will follow up.

Zenger Farms
Volunteer/tour Zenger Farms (city owned). Estee will follow up.

Drives for Neighborhood House and Sunnyside
All wanted information on drives for things families work on. Post to website (with link/reminder in an email).

The blog is up and running. Most folks still wanted an email to at least remind them to check the blog. We will continue to do so.

Next Meetings
Tentative date: November 4 – Portland Blgd.
Topic: Faith – what do you do? Changed since have kids? Will have a speaker. Details to follow.

December 2 – Social Lunch out at location to be determined

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oct 7 meeting - volunteering with your family

cityMamas ~

Our next meeting is Wednesday, October 7 @ 12:00 at the 1900 Bldg., Room 7A. We will be talking about volunteering with our families. I found some links that were interesting. I will bring a few hard copies. A representative from Better Together will also attend.

Hands on Portland has some family volunteering opportunities.

See you October 7.

Courtney, Darcy and Lora

Monday, September 21, 2009

REMINDER: cityMamas Family Meet Up - Sunday, September 27

Join us with your family [INCLUDING THE KID(S)] and friends at HopWorks @ 2944 SE Powell Blvd ( Sunday, September 27; 4:00 - 7:00. Lora, Courtney and Darcy will supply the first pitcher of beer, lemonade and basket of fries to share.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Notes from Sep's "Back to School" Mtg

I tried to post this as a comment to the mtg announcement, but it was too long to allow it. I'll just start tagged the NOTES so that you can find them easily. Have a great weekend!

cityMamas’ Affinity Group
September 2, 2009
12:00 – 1:30
Portland Development Commission – Commission Room

The meeting was hosted by Estee Segal and Lisa Gramp, who are both working mothers at PDC. Thanks!

Brief introductions and check-ins about what we’re dealing with lately.

There were three “panelists” brought in to share their perspective on the topic of School Choice, Olivia, Marlys and Julie. All of the moms happen to live in N/NE, despite trying to more moms from other areas. Below are the questions we made beforehand, and most were covered, but not necessarily in this order:

  • Can you tell us a bit about your family, like how old are your kids and what neighborhood you live in?
  • What research did you do to learn about your school options?
  • Did you feel like you had a choice? What recommendations do you have for parents whose neighborhood school has a bad reputation?
  • What factors were most important to you in choosing a school (location, test scores, diversity, special focus)?
  • What's most important now that your kids are in school; good principal, teachers, ratio, etc? Are you happy with the school?
  • Is joining the PTA the best way to get involved in your school? Are there other mechanisms for getting involved? Is fundraising key? Or legislative lobbying?
  • What do you wish you would have known earlier? Or still want to learn?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

cityMamas Family Meet Up - Sunday, September 27

Join us with your family (and friends) at HopWorks @ 2944 SE Powell Blvd ( Sunday, September 27; 4:00 - 7:00. Lora, Courtney and Darcy will supply the first pitcher of beer, lemonade and basket of fries to share.

November 4th Meeting CHANGED TO OCTOBER 7th

The November 4th meeting has CHANGED TO OCTOBER 7th and will still be at the 1900 Bldg, Room 7A.
The focus of the meeting will be volunteering. Abby Coppet from City of Portland Better Together ( will attend the meeting. She will also bring someone from Hands on Portland ( to talk about current family friendly volunteer opportunities and to determine if we want them to organize something just for cityMamas. We will also discuss if we want to adopt another family for the holiday season. See you then.

Monday, August 31, 2009

September Mtg - "Back to School"

Ready or not, September is here!

The next CityMamas mtg will be held this Wednesday, Sep 2nd at the Portland Development Commission, (222 NW 5th Ave and Davis in old town), in the Commission Room near the lobby. As usual, this will be a brown bag lunch, starting at about n oon.

We will have a panel with a few moms with children who have recently started school in Portland (one at a neighborhood school, one at a charter school.) We hope they will be able to impart their wisdom and experience around selecting a school for their child and give pointers to those of us who have that decision coming up in the near future.

Here are two articles on the topic:

School Choice Today, pg 12

How to Find a Great School

Please feel free to share comments and articles related to this meeting via the new blog!

CityMamas Blog

Welcome to the CityMamas blog!

We hope you will "follow" us and contribute often. Any member of the group is welcome to get posting rights, just email Darcy,, with your personal email.

We plan to use this blog to get out info about upcoming meetings and follow up afterward with extra articles and comments, and generally share resources. Mindy will lead the way with sharing recipes regularly, and if you have something you'd like to share, please do! This will be a place for us to connect, especially with moms who work outside of downtown or just can't make the meetings.

Views shared here will be our personal perspectives, not representing the City. This won't be all business, but we do want to be thoughtful and respectful of our differences.