Shannon Keough
The Uncensored Toddler
When it comes to toilet training (or as some prefer to call it, “toilet learning”), people have strong opinions.Judge-y comments are sometimes made: “Oh, Hugo is still in diapers?” observes an acquaintance. “Lennon was all done with that before his first birthday!” She was no doubt referring to her success with “elimination communication.” This early approach to toilet training relies on a parent’s ability to read and recognize the signs that a child needs to eliminate. (This method is... more
Think before you praise
“Good job, Sasha!” enthused a fellow mother at the park as she tailed her preschool-aged daughter up and down the slides. “Great climbing! I’m so proud of you, strong girl!” This was one of the more effusive examples of “positive reinforcement” I’ve witnessed since becoming a parent. But if you spend any time at playgrounds or... more
Restaurants: Enter at your own risk
So, just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to change anything about how you live your life, right?I mean, all the stuff you used to do just needs to be done in a way that includes your little cherubs, who — by definition — do nothing but broaden and enrich the experiences you already enjoy.This is especially true in restaurants... more
Let’s talk about preschool
In preparation for writing this month’s column, I spent considerable time skimming articles online about the benefits of preschool.  And the prevailing wisdom seems to be that preschool probably has the biggest positive impact on kids who don’t have the advantage of super-engaged parents. Preschool for those kids is crucial.But for... more
You’re the Decider
“So, honey, do you want to go to the park now?” Wait: Let’s pause for a moment. Toddlers tend to enjoy going to parks, right? In fact, your toddler (let’s call him Max) this very morning demanded a visit to the park. Of course, you didn’t appreciate his whiny tone, and you reminded him that polite requests can get you far in... more
Bye-bye, Baby on Board
OK, first things first: This is my last ever Baby on Board column! How bittersweet it is to leave behind the world of tiny little babies and all those milestones: The first smile! The first night of uninterrupted sleep! The first time you change a diaper right there in Row 22, Seat C, because the flight attendant won’t let you into... more
What not to say to adoptive parents
I feel a little ashamed that I haven’t written about adoption until now. I think the unrelenting nature of the whole parenthood thing has made me a bit self-absorbed and tunnel vision-y. Curiosity about the world outside my own little pinkeye factory became just another casualty of my stumbling-through-the-dark parenting... more
It’s about to get real
Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby! Whether you’re giving birth or adopting, your life is going to change in a major way with the arrival of that little bundle of magic and tears. Yes, that’s what everyone says; and, yes, it’s a totally boring thing to say. And you won’t understand the profundity of that change... more
Real advice for new moms
Whenever I learn that one of my friends is going to have a baby, I promptly begin to panic on her behalf. “Congratulations!” I yelp, hoping my frozen smile will mask my palpable anxiety. I realize how crappy this is. For one thing, I’m taking someone else’s big life event and making it all about me. Furthermore, can’t I just... more
Avoiding isolation
My son started attending his in-home daycare when he was about 10 months old. The thing about in-home daycare is that there’s a certain “family” element to the whole thing. You might get to know your provider’s partner and children. You might catch glimpses of their family life when you run into them after hours at the nearby ice... more
Make it a better 2017
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was not a banner year. I don’t want to get too specific; we were all there.Sure, it’s tempting to say something Minnesotan — “Oooooh well, that sure was something, huh? Guess it can’t get much worse than that now, can it?”But I can’t summon the energy to fake some sort of Midwestern... more
The perils of scorekeeping
“My marriage is like The Walking Dead, OK? We’re all just trying to get out alive.” — Paula from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.As every new parent will come to realize, bringing home a new baby is weird.Before the baby, you can do your own thing. Tired? Head off to bed — no one’s stopping you! Want some exercise? Trot on down to the neighborhood... more
Let’s give Baby a present
It's time to gather around the crèche, the menorah or the non-denominational dinner table and show Baby what the holidays are all about — spending time with family and friends, honoring our religious/social traditions and getting lots and lots of presents. “What should I get my baby for Christmas... more
Motherhood myths
The mythology surrounding motherhood is something I could seriously do without. From the supposedly “instinctual” nature of mothering to the notion that mothers are meant to suffer with a smile, I’ve had enough. And I’d like to reassure you that you don’t need to let these ideas control your life. Motherhood myths that set... more
A dad's view of postpartum
The postpartum period tends to be all about the baby and the mother — as it should be! But what about the father or co-parent? What’s that experience like? To give you one man’s point of view, I asked my husband, Nick Hook, to provide his take on the topic for this month’s column. Here’s what he had to say: Nick... more
Moving before Baby
I was about six months pregnant with our first child when my husband and I got around to discussing where the baby was going to sleep.“Well, I suppose we could just keep the bassinet in our room,” I said as we paced our cozy, 800-square-foot one-bedroom house.But was that a forever solution? Were we on board with sharing a bedroom with... more
Everybody wants a shady lane
Summer in the Twin Cities is generally pretty glorious. After nine months of wool socks and Seasonal Affective Disorder, we see the sun emerge and suddenly forget the lengthy punishment we endured to get to this season of no coats.But there can be too much of a good thing, and yes, that even includes the summer sun.Whether we're... more
Netflix for new parents
I never had such an appreciation for “the little things” in life until I had a brand-new baby in the house. In other words, when you haven’t had more than two consecutive hours of sleep in the last two months, you’ll appreciate anything that makes your life even slightly easier (dry shampoo, Bite Squad gift cards) or that takes... more
Don’t book the cheapest flight
When I think about traveling with small children, I’m often reminded of the title of a David Foster Wallace book — A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Travel with kids can be tough. It can be frustrating. It can also be fun and entertaining if you approach the trip with the right mindset: “I’m open to change and I can see... more
You don't have to nest
The nesting instinct is a much-discussed phenomenon of pregnancy. Evidently, it’s totally common for pregnant women to get a huge burst of energy during the second trimester — or the last few days before giving birth (or both) — because we’re anxious to ensure that everything is “just so” for the arrival of our newborn. “... more
The invisible mother
Everyone loves you when you’re pregnant. (Well, maybe not everyone — there are those militant anti-breeders who will shoot you disgusted looks when you deign to enter Five Watt Coffee, distended abdomen in tow.) But in general no matter how lousy you might feel, you can count on friends and strangers alike to smile at you approvingly and... more
Why you NEED a date night!
I wrote about childcare in a previous column — when to start looking for it (ideally about five years before you get pregnant or adopt your child), why you need it (so you can get work done) and how you should feel about it (not guilty).What strikes me now is how utilitarian this view is. And I don’t think it’s just me; when I talk to... more
It's about you, too
The hospital tour guide stopped next to a bank of windows, behind which stood a darkened room filled with folding chairs, empty boxes and definitely no babies. “This is the nursery,” he announced, smirking. Some prospective patients laughed nervously; others chuckled knowingly. “Yeah, we don’t ship babies away to the... more
Does the toy make the baby?
If you Google “best toys for babies,” you’ll come up with more than 37 million results. The offerings are varied and extensive, including a $23 NogginStik rattle — “not just a toy, a tool for laying mental growth foundation” — and a melodic snail that promises to “enhance sensory awareness, visual skills and hand-eye coordination.” ... more
Home for the holidays?
“Of course I’m going home for the holidays!” said my friend with a look of disbelief. Not travel back east to visit her parents and extended family? Never! How could I even imply such a thing? Hats off to her for being so committed to the traditions of her family. However, I wondered if she’d factored in the reality of... more
Milestones no one talks about
New parents tend to get a bit obsessed with milestones. Starting from the first time Baby smiles or rolls over to that very first step, many parents tend to observe their kids with one eye on the calendar. “Harper is 6 months old now — shouldn’t she be sitting up unassisted?” I’d like to urge you to let go of your... more
Postpartum survival 101
One day, you’re a woman with a job, a social life and the option of sleeping without interruption until your alarm goes off. The next, you’re a mother, suddenly responsible for ensuring the well-being of a small human who can’t turn himself over or support his own head. It’s beautiful and profound — but also pretty terrifying.... more
(Really) good reads for parents
“Oh great," you’re probably thinking. “Homework.” This is often how I feel when someone insists I read such-and-such parenting book. “When exactly am I supposed to read that?” I want to ask. I have two little kids; I work; I haven’t even started Breaking Bad. However, if you’re a reader like me, there will probably come a... more
Good day sunshine
As a lifelong Minneapolis resident, I’m a big fan of summer in the Twin Cities. When I was growing up, summer meant long days at the Richfield pool, bike rides around Lake Nokomis and visits to Dairy Queen after my soccer games at Pearl Park. And when I eventually reached adulthood, summers took on new significance — the best... more
Baby meets the great outdoors
My in-laws live in rural Maine, and this means ample opportunities for outdoor fun when we visit. One time, when my daughter was about 2½ and my son was around 8 months old, we decided to take them on a hike. We read about a relatively easy trail that meandered through a forest before ending with the great reveal of a... more
Learning to pay attention
“Your form is perfect,” said my dance instructor as he analyzed my pliés. “But it’s frozen. You need to bring yourself to the movement.” I used to take an entry-level modern dance class every week. I started these classes as an absolute beginner, with no formal dance experience. My instructor, John Munger, was a local dance legend,... more
A better pregnancy
I am by no means an expert on pregnancy, and I am most certainly not an obstetrician, midwife or lactation consultant. I am, however, a mother who’s been through two very different pregnancies and postpartum periods, and there are certain bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. So — for those of you who are pregnant right now — what... more
Choosing the breast pump for you
Ah, the joy of preparing for a new baby! Stockpiling tiny sleepers, making lists of names, picking out adorable crib sheets and … researching breast pumps! OK, so maybe contemplating breast pumps isn’t at the top of your list of fun things to do during your third trimester. Maybe you don’t know if you really need one. Maybe you’re... more
Making mom friends
“I wonder what Lori’s been up to?” I thought as I scrolled, zombie-like, through my Facebook feed. “I haven’t seen much from her on here lately.”I met Lori at a mom-and-baby class when my daughter was about 6 months old. “She looks cool,” I thought as I admired Lori’s well-worn motorcycle boots and her “stormy grey” Chewbeads.Lori and I... more
Back to normal?
I once went to a Pilates workshop designed to get participants “back in touch” with their postpartum bodies. The women in the class were in the throes of the newborn period — only a month or so postpartum, in most cases. They looked exhausted, but hopeful that things would get better. I was probably about a year into being a mother... more
Food dye fears?
Sonia Walters knew something needed to change. Her two daughters, ages 4 and 7, were experiencing a range of health problems, including cyclic vomiting syndrome (known as CVS), skin rashes, chronic stomachaches and hypoglycemia symptoms, not to mention mood swings and irritability. After several unsuccessful visits to the doctor to... more
Rainbows, butterflies, boredom
“Having a baby will change your life!” people often gush. “The love you’ll feel for your baby is a love like no other!”There’s a lot of truth in these statements, however clichéd they might be. However, amidst the starry-eyed admonitions to “enjoy it now because it goes so fast!” all sorts of uncomfortable truths about parenting are... more
The breastfeeding blues
I was sitting in the special-care nursery a few days after Felix was born, trying in vain to breastfeed my son. My milk hadn’t “come in” yet and he was having trouble latching properly. I turned to my husband, who was sitting beside me. “You know, I’m totally going to try to make breastfeeding work out this time,” I said. “But if he... more
Why we went for a helmet
It’s a common scenario for a new mom out in public — a grandmotherly woman approaches you to ooh and ahh over your baby, usually commenting, “It goes so fast!” On the day in question for me, I was out with my 6-month-old son at the grocery store, fielding the usual comments from a friendly older woman. “What a sweetheart!” she said... more
Baby hits the road
Before I had kids, I had fantasies about what it would be like to travel with them. I saw myself in a stylish-yet-durable wrap dress, my weightless baby perched on a hip as we gazed out over some gorgeous vista in the American Southwest. I used to seek out blogs written by parents who were traveling the world with their young... more
Money changes everything
There’s a picture of me in the early days with my daughter Lydia, clutching my baby and a checkbook with a supremely irritated look on my face. One of the things I remember most from the postpartum period — aside from the endless wails of my colicky baby and the sensation that my insides were constantly about to burst forth from my... more
Just one more bite ...
It’s that time again — time to introduce my baby to the exciting world of solid foods! At least, I wish I felt excited about it. In theory, it’s a momentous time in the life of a baby. My little son, for the first time in his short life, will step away from the familiar world of milk to try his first bites of “real” food. It’s... more
Your post-baby body image
My daughter was about a year old when I went to see Gramma’s Boyfriend, a band featuring local musician Haley Bonar. I’d last seen her perform many months before, when both Haley and I were pregnant. I don’t know her personally, but the fact that we have daughters about the same age made me feel like we had some kind of cosmic bond... more
That's what he said, part 2
When it comes to discussions of all things parenting-related, I can’t help but notice that the focus is almost always on the mother’s perspective. So in honor of Father’s Day this year, I’d like to present Part 2 of my interview series with my husband, Nick, about his experience as a parent. What was it like being at the birth this... more
Learning to let go of ‘mother’s guilt’
“I always imagine good parents teaching their children Spanish, or how to play the flute as soon as little Bri or Megan can sit up. I’ve taught mine how to consume pasta without silverware and zone out in front of the tube.” — Jerry Stahl, “Bad Moments in Parenting,” therumpus.netI wasn’t prepared for the guilt.Even though I’d heard of “... more
Parent-care basics
When signing up for baby-related classes, expectant parents might schedule time to learn about labor and delivery, breastfeeding and basic childcare. But parents-to-be are unlikely to find a class detailing how to take care of themselves after bringing home their new addition. We’re supposed to have “self-care” figured out already, right... more
And then there were two
The idea of having two kids (or more) has always scared me a little. I’m an only child, so the prospect of having just one baby has never seemed “lonely” or “selfish” to me — things I’ve heard applied to the only child situation — just normal. And since I have no personal experience with sibling dynamics, I was concerned about how... more
Winter fun with your baby
It’s no secret that winters in Minnesota are long and cold. If you have a new baby, dragging yourself and your tiny little bundle of joy out into the subzero tundra might seem like an insurmountable task. Getting out of the house can be crucial during these dark months, if only to help preserve your sanity. Plus, if you have an... more
A “centered” pregnancy
Pregnancy can be stressful, and even a little isolating. “I kind of feel like an island,” said a friend of mine recently, who has two children. The physical changes can be troubling—from the nausea and exhaustion that characterize the first trimester for many women to the back pain and “rehearsal” contractions that are common in the... more
That's what he said
I’ve been writing this column for a year now, and every once in awhile it occurs to me how necessarily “mom-centric” it is. “I wonder what Nick (my husband) would say about this?” I often think as I mull over the challenges of the newborn period or choosing a childcare provider.And although we talk about all things baby-related... more
Judge not!
There’s a great scene in Paula Bomer’s novel Nine Months when the main character, Sonia, is grilled by a friend about her choice in preschool.Sonia: “Tom and Mike go to Open Arms Nursery. That little place down Atlantic.” [Her friend reacts with a look of alarm.] “My theory is, it’s preschool. It doesn’t matter so much. As long as they’... more
Baby on Board
“I can’t believe how many of my friends keep having babies—and then act like it’s a good thing!” One of my Facebook friends had posted a lengthy rant that enumerated the many reasons people should stop having kids: war, famine, explosive population growth, guaranteed heartbreak, and so on. “Uh oh,” I thought.I’d been feeling kind of... more
Up all night?
For the parents of a new baby, sleep—or lack thereof—is a serious issue. “Sleep now, while you still can!” wrote a coworker in my office baby shower card. “I haven’t had a full night of sleep since my daughter was born 18 months ago,” confided an acquaintance on Facebook in response to a question about sleep training. “Have you written... more
Postpartum style
“I walked around the house wearing the comforter off our bed—as a clothing item—more often than I would like to admit.”“My son is eight months old. It took me until last month to finally find time to get a haircut!”“Most of the time I was sitting at home in my underwear and a tank top.”This is some of the feedback I received from... more
Summer fun with your baby
After the winter that would not end, most Minnesotans are probably extra motivated to get out and take advantage of the summer months. But if you have a new baby in your life, you might be wondering if summer will ever be the same. Maybe you like to spend your summers taking long bikes around the city, or maybe you are more of a “beer on... more
Working parents/successful childcare
When my daughter was born, I was ambivalent about returning to work. I’d spent three years as a writer for a big corporation and while I enjoyed my job, I wasn’t so sure about going back. My manager, who I loved, had exited the company shortly before I left on maternity leave, and my future at work seemed dicey. Who would be my new boss... more
Bon Appetit!
“Starting solids” is one of the bigger milestones during your baby’s first year. After months of only breast- or bottle-feeding your little one, the day will finally arrive when you pop her into a high chair and introduce her to an exciting new world of mashed bananas and pureed sweet potatoes.The transition to solid foods can be both... more
Surviving colic
Images of new mothers with their babies are typically idyllic and calm—for example, a radiant young woman with a blowout and a serene smile cradling a sleeping infant in her arms like a mini baguette. Of course, the reality of a life with a newborn is usually quite different, especially if your little one is exhibiting signs of colic.... more
Postpartum fitness
“So, I assume you’ve gotten right back into your old Pilates routine, huh?” I was about six weeks postpartum, and meeting a friend for lunch. I stared at her with disbelief. Pilates routine? Was she kidding? She was, in fact. Herself the mother of three grown children, my friend was intimately familiar with the challenges of... more
Breast is best
“How’s breastfeeding going?” asked the facilitator of my “new mom” class. Eight of us were sitting in a circle with our newborns. Clad in nursing covers to hide the evidence (except for me and one other mother), we were all attempting to breastfeed our babies.“Breastfeeding challenges are one of the most common things new mothers face,”... more
A certain kind of birth
“Imagine your ideal childbirth experience,” said the instructor at my Preparing for Childbirth class. “Now, throw all those ideas out the window.” The class went on to cover the stages of labor, support techniques, and common interventions. But ultimately, it seemed the class had been designed to convey a particular message: that “... more
The big sleep
// Help is on the way for your baby’s sleep challenges //As any new parent can tell you, getting your baby to sleep can be hard. And it doesn’t help the morale of an exhausted parent when the first question from every well-meaning friend seems to be, “Is she sleeping through the night?”  Many people turn... more