Thursday, June 30, 2005

My baby pushes a shopping cart...

Don't you just hate pushing those shopping carts they have at the stores? You know the ones that are metal, squeak and the wheels have a mind of their own. Aisles always seem too small for them too don't they?

Of course we hate them but our children absolutely love them. I think it's really that they love being like mom and dad. Imitate, imitate, imitate... or as my son would say, "Mom, she's copying me again." But a child copies us because that is the way they learn, so I guess it really shouldn't be a surprising thing to see our children love those little kid strollers or shopping carts.

Recently, my neighbor had a yard sale and actually gave my 1 year old a shopping cart. It's one of those yellow ones with an orange seat by Little Tykes. This thing is great, very durable and sturdy too. She pushes that thing all throughout the house. You can find anything that she finds laying around in her shopping cart too. Wonder if she thinks that's how I shop, something I see I pick up and place in the cart. It's neat watching her pick up and drop back the items.

She loves the seat because that's where her dolls or teddy bears go and she stands there saying hello to them as she drives the cart around the room. She tells me, "Bye momma,"
as she exits the room.

Of course just having one cart may not be a good thing when you have a slightly older sibling that wants to play house with it. You will have the sharing war when one is playing and the other thinks it is her turn. Remember the phrase, "Mine?" Well, I hear that daily over this little shopping cart.

Right now this device is a play toy but later I plan on using it to teach my babies math and shopping. Once they get older I will have toy foods with prices and give them pretend money and we will shop. I'll give them a shopping list to get certain things or count certain things. See, learning doesn't have to be straight from the book, it can even be fun.

I had lost my phone one night and couldn't find it. I found it in her shopping cart. Thankfully I had someone call because I wouldn't have thought of looking there.

The only problem right now is where we put the shopping cart. If it is not put up and in the middle of the night I walk through the darkened hallway running into the cart and I stub my toe. Boy does that hurt. The positive thing is it will keep your toddler busy for hours on end and if you are lucky you can teach them a few things before it's time to retire the shopping cart. Oh and these carts don't have to wait in line or try fitting through tiny aisle, granted it must fit through small hallways and around brothers and sisters.

What is Attachment Parenting?

The attachment parenting theory is a method of parenting which advocates immediate and continued bonding between parent and child from the moment of birth. Parents who practice attachment parenting bond immediately and intensely with baby as soon as he or she is born and continue to do so. The baby is kept with the mother in her room at all times while mother and baby are in the hospital, as much as is possible. After mother and baby go home from the hospital, this intense and constant bonding continues between the parents and the baby.

Parents who practice attachment parenting believe that a child's needs for constant care and attention do not stop when it is bedtime or when the child reaches a certain age. They believe that, through constant bonding with their child, they are uniquely in tune with their child's needs and will be able to respond immediately and appropriately. Accordingly, parents who practice attachment parenting follow their child's cues to determine what the child needs. If the baby cries, he or she will be held and cuddled and will not be left to cry. When parents move around the house or outside the house, baby is carried in a sling attached to one of his or her parents, so that baby is still held close to the parent's body at all times. Baby is breastfed exclusively and on demand for the full first six months of baby's life. Baby is allowed to continue breastfeeding until he or she signals that he or she is ready to give up, often long after the first year. Parents who practice attachment parenting homeschool their children in order to maintain the parental bond and be available to their children 24 hours a day.

Parents who practice attachment parenting also believe that a child's needs continue 24 hours a day and do not stop at bedtime. Accordingly, these parents practice what is called "co-sleeping" once their child is born. The parents and child share a bed for sleeping each night and continue to do so unless and until the child signals a different need. Advocates of attachment parenting believe that this is a sacrifice parents happily accept for this period of their lives.

The attachment parenting theory has drawn a lot of criticism from groups who believe that attachment parenting discourages the development of independence and autonomy. Critics say that babies who experience attachment parenting grow up to be spoiled children with blurred boundaries and an inability to self-soothe. These children will grow up needing constant reassurance and attention from their parents and will be poorly socialized to the outside world.

Proponents of the attachment parenting theory, however, point out that teaching a child to live with separateness from his or her parents by having him or her sleep alone, letting him or her cry or ending breastfeeding before the child seems to be ready, does not guarantee that the child will grow up to be mature and independent. In fact, they say, when a baby's needs are not met as a child, this is what creates a condition of constant neediness and dependence as an adult. Parents who practice attachment parenting argue that they do teach their children autonomy and independence, but do so by different means. These parents say that they learn to recognize their child's attempts at independence as the child grows. For example, they may regard unruliness and stubborn refusal to follow instructions not as defiance, but as a sign of the child asserting his or her independence. They say that autonomy and independence can be encouraged in many ways along the child's developmental path, such as by allowing the child to pick out his or her own clothes, even if they do not match, and supporting the child's efforts at exploration of the world around him or her.

Benefits of Baby Games

All the standard baby games we play with our babies are not just fun and games. They serve a very important purpose in a baby's development. Simple baby games like peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake and This Little Piggy teach children that the world is a safe place, teach hand to eye coordination and teach increased body awareness.

Here are a few simple, favorite baby games that have been around for ages, along with an explanation of some of the things they teach baby:

Peek-A-Boo: Playing peek-a-boo is not just something that will make your baby smile, coo and laugh, although it will certainly do that, too. Playing peek-a-boo teaches your baby something very important. By playing peek-a-boo, your baby learns that just because he or she cannot see something or someone, that does not mean the object or person does not still exist or is not still nearby. Baby also learns that, just because something or someone is gone temporarily, that does not mean the object or person will not return. These lessons become especially important when baby hits around nine months of age. At around nine months, babies may begin to experience separation anxiety. They may begin to fear that, when mommy or daddy leaves, he or she is not coming back. Playing peek-a-boo during baby's early, formative months helps baby to learn that, although mommy and daddy sometimes have to leave, they will always be coming back. This can also be played by hiding one of baby's favorite toys under a blanket, and then revealing the toy.

Pat-A-Cake: If you have never played pat-a-cake with a baby before, this one is fun and easy. Simply hold baby's hands in your own and clap them together while singing, "Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man, bake me a cake as fast as you can." Then move on to the second verse. While circling baby's hands around each other (kind of like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever), sing, "Pat it and roll it and mark it with a B." Now, for the big finish. While singing, "Then throw it in the oven for baby and me!" Emphasis is on the word "throw" while gently flinging baby's hands out to the side in a throwing motion. This game teaches baby to clap and also teaches hand to eye coordination.

This Little Piggy: This Little Piggy is a fun, tickling game. Starting with baby's big toe, wiggle it gently and move from toe to toe while reciting, "This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef for supper, this little piggy had none, and THIS little piggy cried, 'Wee, wee, wee!' all the way home!" Babies absolutely love this game and you will surely get lots of laughs and giggles. In addition, babies, who are now quickly becoming aware of their hands, will have the opportunity to discover their feet and toes.

Another hint when playing baby games: At times, when you stop playing the game, you may notice your baby lean forward or toward you. Experts say this is your baby's way of asking you to play the game again. When you respond by repeating the game, experts believe this helps baby gain confidence in his or her communication skills.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Toddler's Haircuts

One thing we can usually count on as parents is the struggle that comes with trying to perform regular grooming tasks for our babies and toddlers. I have a son who is just over two years old, and it is a challenge to get him to sit or stand still and cooperate as I attempt to wash his hands, brush his teeth, comb his hair, cut his nails, etc. When he knows it's time to do one of these things, he reacts in one of two ways. He either runs away and hides somewhere in the house, or he immediately starts kicking and screaming. He hates going through any of those grooming rituals, but I would have to say that he hates getting his hair cut even more.

He's one of those kids whose hair grows very quickly. I like to keep it cut short, especially in this summer weather, so we're looking at haircuts for him every 2 months or so. I tried giving him a home haircut first, but I botched it up so badly that I decided to just bite the bullet and take him to a professional barber. In my area, there are a couple of shops that cater specifically to children; they don't take adult appointments at all. One of the shops looked pretty inviting. They had smaller chairs, televisions and DVD players at each station, a large waiting room filled with colorful toys, and stylists who were specially trained to deal with children. I decided to take my son there despite the hefty $40 price tag for a simple cut.

The session started off well enough. We were 15 minutes early, so my son kept himself busy in the play area for during that time. When it was our turn, I discovered that my son was too small to sit in the chair by himself, so I had to squeeze in so he could sit on my lap. The stylist put a colorful Mickey Mouse smock around both of us, which my son loved. The stylist then put a cartoon DVD in, pulled out her scissors, and started to cut. That's when my son flipped out.

He started screaming and crying like I had never heard him do before. Once I got him calmed down, the stylist tried again, but to no avail. My son just started screaming again. The stylist said that if I could just hold him still, she could still cut his hair. So I did my best to keep my son from wriggling around too much. What followed was an agonizing 20 minutes of tears and loud wails. In the end, his hair got cut. It didn't look too bad, considering the circumstances, but I still decided not to go back to that place.

My son has had four additional haircuts since that time (each at a different place). He's getting a little better, but it's still a big hassle to go through. Hopefully he grows out of this haircut-hating stage soon!

Talk to Your Babies

by Christina VanGinkel

Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I realized the young mother in the aisle next to me was a friend of my daughters. The last time I had seen her she was expecting the baby she was now holding, but that had been early on in her pregnancy, and if I had not known she was pregnant, I never would have guessed it.

She was holding her daughter, now eighteen months old, and was talking to her, carrying on a full-fledged conversation. When she turned and saw me, she immediately introduced me to her daughter, which her daughter responded to by giving me a big grin then tucking her head into her mom's shoulder. Her husband was with her, and she handed their daughter to him,

We chatted for a few minutes as our groceries were being scanned and bagged, then parted with me telling her that my daughter was coming home this week for the long holiday weekend. I was able to relay this information because even though my daughter and her family travel for work, we talk daily on the phone.

I sometimes forget how grown up my older children are. Even though I am officially a grandmother, I still think of them as just children themselves. Upon further reflection though, I am reminded not only are they grown, but they are quite well adjusted grownups also. Like my daughter's friend in the store, and my daughter herself, they seemed to have grasped this motherhood thing quite well. They are vocal about having their husbands help with the child rearing; they treat their children well, and enjoy spending time with them, clearly shown by how well they interact with them.

Thinking back, I reminisced with myself my early years as a young mother, of not always seeming to have someone to share the trials and tribulations of a screaming infant, especially when my husband was on a late shift at the foundry, where he worked at in the early years of our marriage. However, as soon as he got home, he would take the babies and tell me to take time for myself. I would head outside if it was summer and take a walk, read a book, whatever, If it was winter and too cold to go out, I would lock myself in the bathroom and take a hot bath, all the while he would take care of the kids for an hour or so while I regained my sanity. We were both talkers, and were able to relay to each other what it was needed from each other.

I partly credit my daughter being such a good mom with the fact of how we did raise her. Even though we were young parents, we were consistent with our discipline, talking to our kids about why they were being punished, and we talked to our kids about why they were being praised. We talked to them! We loved them, and we were not afraid to tell them so. This in turn let them grow into the well-adjusted, confident adults they are today.

Talk to your babies and toddlers today, and keep talking to them as they get older, and use some of that talking to let them know how much you love them. It does not cost a thing and you will be thankful later on when they grow up and still call you to talk, because it is just the normal thing to do!

Finding a sitter for your baby

Leaving your newborn with a babysitter for the first time can be a difficult experience. If you don't have a close friend or family member available to watch your baby, how do you go about finding a reliable babysitter that you can trust? Here are some tips:

-- Ask around. Word of mouth referrals are a great way to find babysitters. Ask other parents or friends about the sitters they use. If you are looking for a full time sitter while you go to work, that may be harder to find-- you may need to post an ad in the newspaper for a nanny or check online for some of the many nanny and babysitter referral websites.

-- Post an ad at a local college. The great thing about college students is that most of them will drive to your house. College students may charge a bit more per hour than say, the 13 year old girl next door, but you can feel confident that your baby is in the hands of a more mature sitter (great if you're a worry wart, like me).

-- Check references. Don't leave your baby with a stranger until you have checked his or her references out thoroughly. An experienced nanny should provide you with a resume and a list of references. For college students or younger sitters, ask for the name of one or two previous charges and call them to make sure that the sitter was reliable.

One you do find a sitter, remember the following:

-- Invite the sitter over ahead of time to meet your baby. Also, take the time to show the sitter around your house, where you keep things, etc.

-- Ask the sitter beforehand what he or she charges per hour. You would be surprised at the vast range that babysitters charge. While younger sitters may be happy with five dollars or less per per hour, college students may ask for upwards of ten dollars per hour. Professional nannies will usually charge you a more substantial daily fee.

-- Leave your cell phone number with the sitter (as well as the number of the place you are going to in case your cell doesn't work).

-- Leave the phone number for your baby's pediatrician in case of an emergency.

-- Leave instructions for feeding the baby and baby's sleep schedule. In fact, if you are leaving your baby for the entire day, it's best to give your sitter a rough outline of a typical day for your baby. Don't expert your sitter to follow it to the tee, but it will give him or her idea of what
your baby's usual schedule is.

Preparing your baby for a day away from you:

If you rarely leave your baby's side, the first time away may be difficult for the both of you. Prepare your baby by leaving him or her with a sitter for an hour or so the first few times. You can gradually work up to leaving baby for longer periods of time as he or she gets used to the babysitter.

Finally, take the time to find a sitter that both you and your baby love and trust-- so you can get away and still have some peace of mind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

When to Let Baby Cry

What do you do if you have tried everything and baby is still crying? If you lay baby down for a nap and he or she begins to cry, should you pick the baby up? Experts say, not necessarily so. The truth is, there are times when your baby NEEDS to cry. If you know your baby is dry, well-fed and is not in pain, then there are times when the very best thing you can do for your baby is to let him or her vent frustration.

Crying is a normal and natural part of a baby's world. Crying helps baby to develop strong, healthy lungs. It also helps baby to vent frustration that he or she cannot yet put into words. Babies cry for a number of reasons. Your baby may be crying because he or she is overly tired. Your baby may cry because he or she feels frustrated. Your baby may cry because he or she is just not in a great mood and needs to block out the world for a little while.

When it comes to babies crying, particularly at nap time or bed time, experts offer the following suggestions:

1. First, make sure there is no outside reason baby is crying. In other words, make sure baby is well-fed, clean, dry and comfortable. Make sure also that your baby is not in physical pain.

2. If you are sure no outside conditions are responsible for baby's fussy mood, spend a few minutes rocking, cuddling and comforting baby so he or she knows you are there for him or for her.

3. Carry baby into the nursery and gently lay him or her down in the crib. Make sure baby is comfortable and that he or she is not too cold or too warm.

4. Walk away and monitor baby's activity from another room with the use of a baby monitor.

5. If baby begins to cry, let him or her cry for ten to fifteen minutes. This is okay. Baby knows you love him or her and will not feel abandoned. Crying is sometimes cathartic and relaxing for babies, just as it is for adults, and a good cry before falling asleep may be just what baby needs. Normally, baby will fall asleep within ten or fifteen minutes.

6. After ten or fifteen minutes, if baby is still crying, go back into the nursery, pick baby up and again rock, cuddle, snuggle and comfort your baby for a few minutes. Then, lay baby back down in the crib, again make sure he or she is comfortable and walk away.

At first, it may take several rounds of ten to fifteen minute crying intervals followed by a few minutes of comforting activity before your baby learns that, when he or she is put into his or her crib, it is time for sleep. However, be assured that baby will quickly catch on and, for the most part, will fall asleep with a minimal amount of tears and fuss.

Remember, too, that tears are a natural part of baby's life and are a normal part of baby's development and self-expression. You may notice a pattern with your baby. For example, many babies cry for a short period of time at around the same time each day, in the late afternoon. This is the normal result of having had a baby's version of a long, hard day. Love and comfort your baby as best you can, but learn to allow some tears to flow. You will not be doing yourself, or your baby, any favors if you never allow baby to cry.

Why is Baby Crying?

For new parents, hearing the sound of your baby crying is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences you can have. Here is this helpless, tiny little person who cannot tell you what is bothering him or her. All you know is, he or she does NOT seem to be happy, and it is your job as a parent to turn the situation around.

Babies cry for a variety of reasons. They cry when they are hungry, they cry when their diapers need changing and they cry when they are in pain. These are things you, as a parent, can and must do something about. If you are a new parent and your baby is crying, you may be frantic and wondering what to do. Don't panic. Crying is a normal part of baby's routine. As a parent, the first thing you should do is to determine why your baby is crying.

There are several things you can do to assess the reason for your baby's tears. First, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is baby hungry? When is the last time baby ate? It is important to be aware of your baby's eating schedule, including the intervals between eating and the amount baby usually eats. This way, you can relax and rest assured that baby is probably not hungry if very little time has passed since baby's last feeding and if baby ate the usual amount. If it is unlikely that baby could be crying due to hunger, move on to the next question.

2. Is baby dry? If your baby is crying for seemingly no reason and if he or she just recently finished eating, then the first step is to check baby's diaper. When baby is crying, a cursory look at the diaper may not be enough. You may need to really get in there and be absolutely sure that baby's diaper is clean, dry and comfortable. Check to be sure that it is not affixed too loosely or too tightly and that baby's clothes are not too binding.

3. Is baby in pain? If baby is dry and comfortable, the next step is to determine whether baby might be in pain. Baby's sometimes scratch themselves or poke themselves in the eye while trying to work out the kinks of body coordination. Check to make sure baby doesn't have a scratch or injury that needs attending to. Keep baby's fingernails and toenails clipped to avoid such injuries.

4. Is baby comfortable? Baby's have the same likes and dislikes as far as temperatures as big people do. Make sure baby is not under dressed or over dressed for the weather. Make sure baby has adequate covers, not too little and not too much.

5. Is baby sick? Has baby been displaying any signs of illness, such as a fever or spitting up or passing gas an unusual amount? If so, baby may not be feeling well. If you think it may be a simple tummy ache, burping and rocking baby may calm him or her. Otherwise, you may wish to contact your pediatrician.

Time with Kids is Well Spent

by Christina VanGinkel

My grandson is turning two this coming month. His party is scheduled for this upcoming holiday weekend as that is when my daughter and her family will be home. The food is decided upon, decorations purchased, and the cake is ordered. Sounds like I am all finished. Wait! My husband and I do not have a present for him yet. I have had some ideas, and I am always good at suggesting gifts for others to buy their kids and grandkids, yet I honestly do not have a clue as to what to give him.

Early on this year, we had decided, with my daughter's input, to purchase him a big boy bed. We will sometime in the coming months get him one, but they are only going to be at their house for a few days this month. Travel for work takes them all over the United States, and while our grandson is not yet in school, she travels with him as much as she can. Because they travel so much also, we want to get him something that he can take with him, something that will travel well. In the past, we have given him a Doodle Board, a My First LeapPad, and numerous books. We did buy him, I almost forgot, a set of four Mighty Movers board books on Diggers and Dumpers, Cars, Farm equipment, and Emergency vehicles. We still want to get him something besides the books though and we are undecided.

My daughter has suggested clothing, and we will purchase him needed jeans and his newly favorite big boy underwear. She also suggested that instead of getting one more thing to clog up his toy box, that we just spend time with him. Smart daughter we have raised! Therefore, time is it. We will forgo any big gift, and spend as much time with him over the extended weekend as we can. Grandpa can give him rides on the bike and me, well, as grandma; I am always set to spend some quality time snuggling with this miniature love in my life reading the very books we already purchased. A trip to the lake is also an idea, as my daughter has informed us he has taken to the water like a fish. Whether fishing or swimming, he loves being by and in the water.

Since he was very little, his grandpa and him have created their very own ritual also. In addition, I am sure that will be a part of their time together. They lie on the living room floor, beneath the ceiling fan, and pretend to throw grandpas hat into the 'cyclone'. I remember telling my husband that he should not be throwing things into the fan, that it was dangerous...I am the family worrier...until he pointedly demonstrated that they never come near the fan. It is simply a grandpa and a grandson, flat on their backs, side by sides, pretending. When they last visited about six weeks ago, the first thing he did when coming into the living room was to lie down on the floor and holler for grandpa to give him his hat! They learn so much when they are this little. We want him to learn how very much we love him!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Boo-Boo Bunny

by Christina VanGinkel

I was looking online for a simple gift to create for an upcoming baby shower I will be attending. I am crocheting a blanket as my gift, but thought it would be fun to include another handcrafted item if I could come up with something simple. Not only did I find the perfect add along to the crocheted blanket, it also reminded me of another gift I could include, one that I had not thought of in years, but would act as both a nice decoration on the package and be useful later on. A Boo-Boo Bunny! Not to be confused with the ones that an ice cube is stuck inside of, these are similar, but are really just the bunny's head shape, and you just soak them and freeze, so there is no chance the ice will fall out, etc. I always liked these because they were so easy to use, and convenient. Even though I recall receiving, some very strange looks when a friend opened my freezer, and I had these entire frozen little bunny heads made out of washcloths inside!

Simple to make and the supplies are so inexpensive you will find yourself making a whole litter of them. Each bunny requires one washcloth and a piece of ribbon. Eyes and nose can be embroidered if desired, and a small tail fashioned from a cotton ball or sewn from scrap fabric and filled with a washable polyester stuffing.

The basic part of the bunny is extremely easy. Simply take a washcloth and fold so that two opposing corners meet. If done correctly the washcloth will now look like a triangle. Starting at the peak of the triangle, roll approximately three to four times depending on the thickness, once you have completed the roll, fold the washcloth in half. While folded, grip washcloth in middle, and tie with ribbon to secure. You will now be able to visualize the 'bunny'. Eyes and nose can be embroidered in place, and a small tail can be placed on backside. While some of the bunnies I have seen have had a cotton ball just glued on, I always take a small amount of scrap fabric, cut a circle, fill with polyester stuffing, sew closed into the shape of a small ball, and sew on the backside for a tail. Some of you may wonder why you would put a bunny tail on the backside of what is more or less just the bunny head and I always wondered that too. However, when I made one without, all my kids asked me where the tail was, so I went back and put a tail on it.

These washcloth bunnies can then be soaked and placed into the freezer for a soothing relief for those owies all toddlers are sure to encounter. I even use to pop one or two in a Ziploc bag, already frozen, and take with me every time I headed out the door to the park. Even when my kids did not really need them, they would ask for them on the way home to use to cool off.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Going to a Restaurant With Young Children

Having young children all but guarantees that you will face different challenges every day. Some of these challenges will be major, such as dealing with illnesses; others will be minor, such as dealing with bickering over toys. A lot of challenges with children come when we take them out in public. When we are at home, we can relax the rules a little bit. Our kids can run around, scream, jump on the furniture, and do a whole bunch of other things that we would never dream of letting them do outside the home. Being out in public means children need to be on their best behavior, or pretty close to it. This is especially true when we take our young children out to eat at restaurants.

Clearly, if we go to a fast food chain such as McDonald's or Burger King, we don't have to be as strict regarding the children's behavior. But when we go to sit-down restaurants, even when they are billed as "family restaurants," we owe it to the other patrons to try to keep our children relatively calm and quiet. There are several ways we can go about doing this.

If your child is still a baby, then you probably won't have anything to worry about. You can count on her sleeping for a good portion of the time, and you can have a bottle ready for when she wakes up. Babies are usually pretty content to just sit in their removable car seats while mom and dad dine. If your baby does start crying, please don't just ignore her. That can be very annoying for other diners. Instead, pick her up and do all the same things you would do at home to soothe her. If your baby doesn't seem to want to stop, one parent ought to walk her around outside the restaurant. The other parent can continue eating, and then get the remainder of the food boxed up to go. It might sound like a drastic thing to do, but the other patrons will be grateful to you.

Dealing with toddlers in restaurants can be a little trickier. If you have a picky eater in your brood, you might want to try feeding her a favorite meal before you go to the restaurant. Then when you are out to eat, you can just order a side dish or dessert for your child that you know she will eat. This is much easier than engaging in public battles over eating all her vegetables or cleaning her plate.

Toddlers will also require some light entertainment. Many family restaurants have crayons and coloring sheets for the young ones, but I wouldn't absolutely count on it. Bring your own crayons and coloring books from home, or bring some other favorite toys or books. It would be best to bring quiet toys rather than ones that blare music, electronic noises, or computerized voices that could disturb other diners. You should do everything you can to help your child remain entertained throughout the hour-long meal.

Just because you have children, it doesn't mean you can't go to restaurants anymore. By following these tips, you can help make your next restaurant visit a good one!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Baby Diapering Products I Wish Had Been Invented Sooner

by Leanne Phillips

As a brand new grandma, I am learning that there are about a bazillion new baby products on the market. Most of them are products that I wish had been invented much sooner. I look at most of these new products, which provide the answers to the moans and groans I had when raising my own children, and think to myself, "This is so simple! Why, oh why didn't someone think of this before?" New moms and dads today have it better (and a little easier) than at any other time. Here are a couple of the great new baby diapering products on the market now that I wish had been around back in the day. New moms and dads should be sure to have these two items in the nursery!

The Diaper Genie: This amazing product makes changing diapers almost fun! Okay, I'm exaggerating here, but it certainly makes diaper changing sessions a lot more tolerable. The Diaper Genie was invented in the mid-1990's, too late for me, but perfected just in time for you! This amazing device eliminates nasty odors from the nursery and makes getting rid of disposable diapers a lot less unpleasant. The idea is a simple one, as all the best ideas usually are. Inside the Diaper Genie receptacle is a long plastic trash bag. You open the top of the Diaper Genie and place the offending disposable diaper into the receptacle, pushing it down into the receptacle until you hear a click. You then close the lid and twist the top. As you twist, the diaper is sealed away into a section of the trash bag down below, and the receptacle is readied for another diaper to be inserted at the top. When the Diaper Genie is filled, you simply open it and pull out the trash bag, which is by now a long sausage-link of sealed diapers. No mess, no smell--you toss the whole thing into the outside trash.

The Baby Wipe Warmer: Baby wipes were a great invention in and of themselves. They mean less laundry and a lot less mess. You simply use them once and toss them in the trash. However, this new development in baby wipe technology takes baby wipes to the next level and means a lot more comfort for your baby. The idea is a simple one. The baby wipe warmer is a covered receptacle that plugs into an electrical outlet and works much like a hot plate. The baby wipes are then taken out of their original packaging and placed in the warmer. The result? No more freezing cold wet wipes on baby's little bottom. The baby wipes come out of the warmer nice and warm and ready to use. One drawback is that the baby wipes seem to dry out a little sooner, especially as you work your way down to the bottom of the stack. Be sure to shop around and find the warmer that will work best for you. Also, make sure to keep the lid closed tightly in between uses to preserve moisture and keep the wipes from drying out.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips

Baby Development: Second Half of the First Year

Many exciting things will be going on in the second half of a baby's first year of life. Babies always develop at different rates and speeds, so please be aware that any chart is only to be used with the awareness that if a baby is ahead of or behind what the charts say should be occurring, it is just a normal happening and he or she will be reaching milestones when ready.

During the seventh month of life, the baby will be quite verbal and "bouncy." He will want to spring up and down when being held in a standing posture. He will not need support when sitting upright as he did in months past. He may seem like an aspiring drummer as he thumps objects on tables, crib, or anywhere else he can reach. He should be able to recognize his name at this point. The baby will begin to show food likes and dislikes around this time. Fine motor skills are starting to be developed during this time period.

It is during the eighth month that you may start seeing a baby trying to stand up holding onto furniture. With the added mobility, be sure the house is "baby proofed" because by the eighth month, the baby will be picking up items that he sees as he begins to cruise around the house. More words are now being understood and he will try to put more syllables together.

It is around the ninth month that the baby will truly become mobile by starting to crawl. He will be able to understand some simple instructions and comments you make, and he knows what "no" means. He will most likely hate getting dressed and bathed.

During the tenth month, the baby will sit down by making himself fall into that position. He will show signs of wanting to walk by taking "steps" while holding onto something. He is now calling out to his parents with his names for them, usually mama and dada. He may be saying another simple word or two.

The baby will at this age will often wave goodbye when someone is leaving the house or room. He may enjoy the baby "games" everyone recognizes such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.

There are many things happening during a baby's eleventh and twelfth months. These are often the months when the baby will begin to walk, first by holding onto someone else's hand and then alone. It is important to keep in mind that while some babies are walking by their first birthday, many others are not ready for that quite yet. This is perfectly fine and all children develop at their own rate.

These are also the months when the soon-to-be toddler will be able to put things into containers. He is very inquisitive about the things that are going on around him. He is able to play some simple games like rolling a ball back when rolled to him.

He will enjoy being read to at this point and will help to turn the pages while looking at the illustrations. By the twelfth month, the baby will be saying additional words and will understand many other words. He will repeat the same words and will enjoy making numerous sounds.

Developmental Charts: Useful, but Not All-Exclusive

First time parents often turn to books and articles for development charts. On one hand, it is a comfort to see their baby reaching various milestones exactly when he or she is "supposed to" be reaching a certain stage but this is also something to raise concerns. The reason for that is simple: no two babies are alike and they will be developing and reaching milestones at different times.

I did the same thing when my daughter was a baby and always had in mind what the charts suggested would be happening next. Sometimes she was right on schedule, but other times she was early or late for what the "guidelines" listed. As one example, she took her first steps just one day before her first birthday and I remember being pleased that such a big achievement was reached "on schedule."

Development charts can be beneficial if they are sweeping enough to give a range of options, however. With that in mind, these guidelines are to be used as a generalized list and nothing more.

There are not many major milestones in the first month of a baby's life. He or she will be able to watch after objects that are held in front of them. He will also look at someone when they are talking to him and often get very quiet when he hears someone talking.

During the second month, the baby will search for noises that are heard and some sounds besides crying will begin. He may appear to be trying to hold a conversation with his own little baby noises when someone is talking to him. He will probably start smiling during this second month.

During the third month, the baby will be able to hold items that are given to him, but he won't reach for them. He may start pulling at his clothing or blankets that are near him. He can find where noises are coming from and makes many new sounds. The baby will now show signs of recognizing voices and faces of people he knows.

In the fourth month the baby will be able to sit up and control his head, but there will need to be some support for sitting. He will roll to his side if he has been on his back. He enjoys playing with his hands and reaching for things. This is the month in which the hand and eye coordination will begin. Baby likes movement at this stage.

The fifth month may hold some anxiety for parents because the first signs of the baby starting to teeth can begin during this time period. Many objects including hands and feet will go into the baby's mouth. He is able to hold his head upright now.

By the time your baby is in the sixth month, his half year milestone, he will be chewing and biting things. A lot of rolling around is happening and he will be able to clasp small objects. He will be able to hold his own bottle at this point. His sounds are often beginning to sound like words and consist of one syllable. He definitely recognizes mom, dad, and siblings at this point.

When Baby Cries, and Cries, and Cries

By Christina VanGinkel

With a new baby in the house, finding time for you can sometimes be difficult. Normal tasks such as eating, sleeping, showering, or talking on the phone suddenly take on completely new dimensions. Going out to eat or taking in a last minute movie can even seem an impossible task. It does not have to be this way though. While there will be days that no matter what you do, you will be lucky to even make it out of your pajamas, other days will flow as if your life always had this wonderful little person in it.

If you have a support system of family and friends, take advantage of any offerings of help they give. If you are not in a situation where it seems that you can rely on others, take each day as it comes and keep one central thought in mind. Your baby requires three main things; food, love, and care. If you are providing these, your baby is healthy, and your baby is still crying for example, try to take it in stride. Babies will cry, and if you have fed, rocked, checked for a dirty diaper, burped, etc., and the baby is still crying, maybe it is because they just need to cry. If you are unsure about a baby that cries often, definitely check with your family doctor or pediatrician to make sure there are no underlying reasons for baby's tears, but then try to accept the fact that some babies cry just to cry. Too often, I have heard a young mother make a statement that they just did not know what to do, that their baby cries and cries, even when everything is seemingly fine. Chances are the baby is fine. Babies will cry for various unsolved reasons. So what is a mother to do?

Try to find some other mothers of infants close in age to your own, someone who you can commiserate with when all else fails. If the weather permits, head outside. A baby's cries never seem as loud when you are in a wide-open space. Rock or walk with them. If a stroller seems to calm them, use it indoors too. My youngest son spent a large amount of time in his stroller, inside the house. It was one thing that calmed him, and my daughter would push him up and down our small hallway, or I would sit in the rocker and as I rocked, push the stroller back and forth. I have heard of some parents who even bring the car seat in from the vehicle because that is the one place they can get their infant to sleep the best. If you find a method that works, and its safe, use it! If you absolutely need a break, check that all is well, feed them, make sure their diaper is dry, burped, etc., and then settle them down wherever they sleep best, and you go in the next room. You will still hear them cry, but just a room away will muffle the sound a bit. If your husband or other adult is available, hand the infant over and take a break away from baby completely. Ten minutes is longer then you think when it is spent in quiet.

Remind yourself also, that your infant will soon grow out of this stage. Some babies are criers longer than others are, but they do all grow out of it. Best of luck!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

When should you start potty training?

By Victoria Miller

One of the many milestones in your baby's life will be learning to use the toilet. But potty training can be frustrating for both you and your child-- especially if you try to push your child to do it when he or she is not ready. So how do you know when your baby is ready to be potty trained?

Is your child between the age of 2 and 3 years old? Does your child tell you when he/she is wet? Does your child wake up in the morning with a dry diaper or Pull-up? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then your baby may be ready for potty training.

Many parents make the mistake of forcing the potty training issue on a child who is clearly not ready. Some three year old children just aren't ready to be potty trained. If you start potty training too young (I know a mother that started her daughter at 18 months) be prepared for a long and grueling ordeal. Your child must first understand the concept of potty training. If he or she is content sitting in a wet diaper without telling you about it, then he/she is probably not ready.

Other things to consider:

-- To pull up or not to pull up? Many parents start out by using Pull-Ups or Easy-Ups, which are basically just absorbent underpants (very diaper- like, but they pull up and down like underwear). Some children do great with Pull-Ups. Others, like my daughter, fare just as well by going straight to real cotton underpants. Because the Pull-Ups are so absorbent, many children will treat them just like a diaper-- they may not feel discomfort when they are wet. Start out by buying a bag of Pull-Ups and some real big girl or big boy underwear. Many parents like to use both-- and Pull-Ups/Easy-Ups are great for overnight accidents.

-- A portable potty or a potty ring. If you have the space for one, a portable potty is a great way to train your child. Potty rings (which are inserts that you place on your regular toilet) may be a better solution if you lack space or have multiple bathrooms. Look for a fun musical potty or a potty ring that has characters like Blues Clues on it.

-- A book or video about potty training. Children learn well through visuals, so you may find that an aid like a book or video will help your child to understand the concept of potty training. "Too Big for Diapers" by John E. Barrett and "Potty Time" by Bettina Paterson are two popular books that may help you.

-- A reward system. A chart with stickers and a small treat are great incentives and rewards for your child. After he or she uses the potty, put a sticker on the chart (you can buy or make one). After your child earns a few stickers, reward him or her with something special like a favorite snack or a small toy.

Remember, no two children are alike. Don't panic if your child's third birthday is near and he or she is still not potty trained. Your child will let you know when he or she is ready to use the potty on a regular basis. All kids eventually get potty trained!

Stay Safe in the Heat

With summer jumping right in to gear this year with hot, hot, hot temperatures, being alert to how damaging the heat and sun can be should be a priority, and if you have little children, even more so. Not only are they at risk from sunburn, but parents and caregivers need to be extremely diligent about never leaving a child in an area that could potentially become overheated, especially vehicles. In addition, do not rely on cracking a window to keep the air moving. For one thing, a child should never be left unattended, period. The risks there alone are too great! Moreover, a cracked window is not even close to being sufficient air.

Besides these obvious risks, the summer sun and heat can make other everyday objects hazardous to small children. If your toddler is walking, be sure to put shoes on him or her, as pavement can be hot enough to burn their small soles. Playground equipment can become hot enough to burn skin. Be sure to check any surfaces before allowing children to play. Car seat buckles, even the seats themselves, depending on the covering, can get hot enough to burn an infant's or small child's skin. Common, everyday objects can become potential sources of burns under the hot summer sun, so be cautious with what your children touch or sit on.

Make sure to keep your little ones hydrated also. Always carry water and juices with you, even if you think you will be able to purchase something where you are heading. Vehicles break down, traffic happens, and before you know it, both your kids and you can become dehydrated.

I am always astonished by the reports each year of children being injured or even dying from being left in a vehicle. Even on a day when the outside air temperatures are not very hot, the temperatures inside of vehicles can rise to an unsafe hotness. Yet every year, a parent, or caregiver imagines that just a minute to run back to answer a phone, or run into the store for just a moment is ok, that the vehicle will not get that hot. Never, ever risk it, and you will not have to find out through terrible circumstances just how hot it can be.

Imagine a mother who leaves a newborn sleeping peacefully in his or her car seat. With the vehicle doors wide open for air movement, and while she just sits a bit away while she chats with another adult at a park, everything appears safe. Imagine her horror when a few minutes later she realizes her friend's elementary age child has closed the doors on her car. In those few short minutes, the temperature has skyrocketed inside that vehicle and her infant who was sleeping peacefully is no longer breathing.

Do not let that terror be something that you experience. Never leave an infant or child unattended. Do not run back to answer the ringing phone, and do not run in somewhere just for a minute assuming that as long as your little ones are strapped in to their car seats they are safe. Children are unpredictable as are the circumstances that can change around them. Keep them safe.

What is in a Name?

By Christina VanGinkel

Choosing a name for your newborn is easy for some, difficult for others, and downright impossible for a few. I have even heard of infants leaving the hospital with no name yet listed on the birth certificate. Different reasons exist across the board for why a certain name was chosen. It may be a grandparent's name revisited, or some other well-loved adult. It could be a revival of a name that has a lot of ethnic reasoning behind it. It could have been picked out of a search through baby name books because of the meaning it represents. Some parents follow trends, and name their child from the group of popular names that always changes from year to year. And, sometimes a name is just picked, after much thought and deliberation between the parents, from a list that is constantly changing, in search of the perfect name for their child to live with the rest of his or her life.

My daughter wanted her son to be named after her husband, making him a junior. It so happened that her husband's middle name was also her grandpa's and her brother's middle name, so the naming of her son was even more inspired than she had ever thought it would be. She knew that she would name a son after her husband before she knew who her husband was or if she would ever have a child for sure. I do not think she was ever clear in her mind of a girl's name, other than to inform me that she would not be naming a daughter the name I had wished to name her. That was before my husband got to the nurses before me and made sure she was listed as Rebecca instead of Reva, like in the soap opera Guiding Light. My daughter has informed me countless times that she would not let me name anything, and she is forever grateful that her dad was there to name her!

Anyway, upon her son's birth, to differentiate between the two, they took to calling him by the initials that stood for his first name and the acronym junior. Hence, DJ was his name. As he reached 18 months of age, they made a concerted effort to tell him his 'real name' and he can proudly recite his full legal name now when asked.

So imagine her surprise when she had phoned me the other day and said that DJ had something to tell me. He was going to recite his full name, as he had been doing so for her for several weeks. He got on the phone, and when I asked him his name, he proudly told me his name was Ichabod! Ichabod? Yes, you heard right. His daddy had been calling him that in a playful way, asking him if his name was Ichabod, to which DJ would reply, 'No Daddy" and then recite his name in full correctly. Somewhere along this timeframe, little DJ developed a sense of humor, or should I say defined his sense of humor, and renamed himself with this delightfully silly name.

We all know its a phase, or so we hope, but in the meanwhile, the last few days he will not tell you his name when asked without first teasing you a bit that his name is Ichabod. I bet you my daughter's list of dream names for her firstborn never included Ichabod!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Maternity Clothes, Then and Now

By Christina VanGinkel

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, the very first thing I did was go out and buy myself maternity clothes. You know the pants with the stretch panel in front big enough to house three pregnant women, let alone one small person not even into her second trimester. Along with several pairs of these, I also bought matching shirts with cute sayings like 'baby on board', and 'eating for two' with an arrow graphic pointing down.

Today, while maternity clothes still exist in numerous shapes and forms, oftentimes women continue to wear regular clothes with slight modifications. My daughter for example only owned a few items of traditional maternity clothes. She did not work outside of the house, so no elaborate wardrobe was required, yet she always looked stylish when dressed for the day. At five feet five and approximately ninety-nine pounds when she is not pregnant, a friend of mine asked me how in the world she found clothes to fit her when she was pregnant if she did not purchase much maternity wear.

She had a closet full of hip hugging fashions to start, which traditionally hang low below the belly. Before she was in her final stages of pregnancy and needed the support, she usually went bare bellied below her tops. Again, many of her tops were free flowing. Snug on top, with a wide bottom, most not only fit her until she was at her largest towards the end of her pregnancy, they also worked well to conceal her belly. For her baby shower she wanted an outfit that was both comfortable and stylish. She was six weeks away from delivering, and did browse the maternity racks to start, but ended up purchasing a pair of Capri's is a size that was larger than her regular size, but not much, and in a style that was tapered so they did not look large on her elsewhere. The waist was not technically a hip hugger, but it was low enough, and in a fabric that was soft and givable, that she simply buttoned them below her belly. She matched these with a sleeveless top that buttoned down the front, again is a style that was tapered across the top. The armholes were a bit big, but nothing that was so large she was uncomfortable wearing, and from below the chest down, the top was free flowing, made to be cool and airy in the heat of the summer, and perfect for flowing over her pregnant belly.

For around the house, she lived the majority of her pregnancy is soft waistband shorts or pajama bottoms made of cotton with a drawstring waist and available in enough different fabrics that she never felt like she was still in her pajamas from the night before. T-shirts of various colors mostly robbed from my closet or her husbands rounded out her day-to-day clothes. While this is not an acceptable choice for every pregnant woman, it worked for her. She could not justify spending a large amount of money on a wardrobe when she would only wear it for a few months. She made do with what she had, along with a few sensible additions.

Monday, June 20, 2005

5 Baby Shower Game Ideas

A baby shower is a wonderful time to honor a new mom or mom-to-be, shower her with gifts, and surround her with the love and support of friends and family members. A tradition of silly games has become something most people do at baby showers; games break the ice, add comic relief, and often bring the guests of the shower closer together. If you are planning a baby shower for a special new mom in your life, following are a few ideas for baby shower games.

1. Pins in rice. For this game, buy a package of very small safety pins, usually less than an inch long, and a package of uncooked rice. Fill a small bowl about half-way full with the uncooked rice and then sprinkle about 20-25 closed safety pins into the bowl. Mix the pins evenly into the rice. Have guests sit in a circle and one at a time, each guest must pick up pins out of the rice while blindfolded. This is a surprisingly difficult game as the pins feel much like the rice. The other guests will laugh when they see a pin in the blindfolded guest's hand, but realize she doesn't recognize the feel. Whoever picks out the most pins wins.

2. Guess the baby food. Purchase 6-8 jars of baby food, all the same size and of varying flavors. Cover each jar with aluminum foil and then attach a piece of paper to each jar with a number written on it. Distribute plastic spoons and a sheet of paper to each guest. Jars should be passed around the room and guests will write the number of the jar as well as their guess as to which flavor baby food they've tasted. At the end, take the foil off the jars and give a prize to the person who had the most correct guesses.

3. Guess the baby picture. This is a fun game for guests of all ages. When you send out shower invitations, encourage each guest to bring a baby picture of himself or herself. At the shower, arrange all pictures on a bulletin board with corresponding numbers. Much like the baby food games, guests will be given a sheet of paper where they can look at the photos, list the numbers and guess which baby picture belongs to whom. Give a prize to the person with the most correct guesses.

4. Waistline circumference. For this game, pass a roll of ribbon and a pair of scissors around the room to each guest. The mom-to-be should stand or sit in the middle of the room and each guest must cut a piece of ribbon they think will perfectly reach around the pregnant mom's expanded waistline. Each guest can then try to wrap the ribbon around the mom's waist. This is a funny game where everyone is usually wrong. Give a prize to the guest who has the closest guess.

5. Baby songs. In this game, guests will be given three minutes and a sheet of paper where they must write down as many songs as they can think of with the word "baby" in the title. Whoever guesses the most songs (real songs) wins.

Scent of a Newborn

The baby scent is something that can hardly be described adequately, but that everyone who has ever held and smelled a newborn baby will understand. Newborn babies are fresh and untainted, pure and precious. To describe the scent, one would have to use words such as new, clean, unspoiled and delicious. While babies are fully capable of emitting odors which repel us, the scent of a fresh baby wrapped in a blanket and cooing or sleeping soundly is a scent that can weaken the knees of the most hardened adult.

New moms will cuddle their newborn baby, holding him close, breathing in the scent that gives her an emotional response she never thought possible. Perhaps that is part of God's plan for moms to instantly love and protect their newborns; much like a mother dog, cat, or bird will protect her babies, nurture them, clean them, feed them, and sacrifice herself for them, a human mother has an innate instinct that goes above and beyond her love for her baby. When the baby is born, an instant connection is made and the mother is hooked in just moments, though it takes the baby a few months to get to know her. Years later, when a mom finds that her children are roughened teenagers with acne and attitudes, she'll still remember the newborn scent, and at night when they sleep, she'll stroke the foreheads of her teens and remember.

New dads also recognize the newborn scent. Dads have much the same reaction to their newborn as moms, but they won't often admit it! Dads are often extremely shocked at their emotional reaction to being in the delivery room with their wives when the baby is born. Actually seeing the birth gives fathers a connection to the child that is different from the mother's. Fathers have an innate desire to protect and defend, but fathers who've witnessed the birth of their child and hold the helpless infant shortly after birth never forget that initial feeling. Later, when the baby is cleaned and wrapped in a soft blanket, tough, masculine men will cuddle the tiny person and the precious scent will remind him of his duty and his legacy.

Grandparents have a unique attachment to a newborn baby and have an even different perspective in regard to the new baby scent. Grandparents remember when the mom or dad was a tiny infant. Grandparents have the added bonus of breathing in the new baby scent of their own flesh and blood, knowing it came from their own once-precious baby. The love of grandparents is a beautiful thing and the newborn scent can frequently bring tears to the eyes of a grandparent.

Anyone who has had a baby or has spent any time with babies will know that new baby scent. For those without children, it can produce a longing unlike any other. For those with children, it takes us back to a time when we were young, tired, and happy, and when our baby was the center of our universe.

A Little Boys Room

By Christina VanGinkel

My daughter never really had a nursery for her son. Not in the sense that she created a decor that was geared for an infant. She seemed to skip that step and go directly to decorations and furniture that would appeal to the little boy that my grandson is now turning into as he nears two years of age. It was as if she knew that he was destined to be a boy in the truest sense, never stopping for anything other than total exhaustion. Therefore, if she planned to have a room fit for a little boy, she had better do it right away, before he was running around at the speed of lightning, leaving her zero time for anything as frivolous as decorating!

Her only consolation to the infant he started out as, was a crib in the room, but even that is about to be replaced by a twin bed. Furniture in the room consists of a storage unit made out of those small cubbyhole stackable units. Everything from shoes to small toys is kept organized within. A small size closet holds an assortment of clothes that he currently fits into, with a small plastic storage box on each end. One for items that he has outgrown and that she plans to keep. If she goes to put something on him, and he has outgrown it since the last time he has worn it, she knows right where it is going, either into there, or into a small tote on the floor of the closet that is destined for donation. On the opposite side of the closet is another storage box, with clothes in the next size. That way, if she happens upon a sale, or is given a gift that is a size too large, she has a place to put it, that she can easily retrieve items from as he grows into them.

A toy box and a small shelf are also in the room. She is good about swapping out toys as he outgrows them, and does not just keep piling in more. The shelf holds the essentials such as baby wipes, diapers, and lotions. She does not have, and never did have a changing table, not at her house anyways. We had one by us, and as she stayed by us for about the first six months while her husband traveled for work, she used one when he was an infant, but did not feel the need to clutter his small room with one. As he was hard to keep still on ours by the time he was two months old, that was a wise decision.

He does have one more piece of furniture in his room. Grandpa thought that he should have his own recliner, to match Grandpa's. For his second Christmas, when he was barely eighteen months old, Grandpa bought him his very own leather look recliner in miniature, his own private little place to kick his feet up at the end of a long day, when he is all tired out from keeping Mommy on the move!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Picking your Battles with Your Toddlers

By Christina VanGinkel

With all the traveling my daughter and her family do, my grandson has been accustomed to his car seat from day one. He has never been given the opportunity to ride in a vehicle without being strapped securely in his own seat. So imagine my surprise when my daughter informs me that she is having a heck of a time keeping him strapped in these days. She told me that she can be just running up the street to the grocery, barely five minutes in the car, and by the time she gets there, little Houdini is out of the seat. Not only is this illegal, it is potentially dangerous.

The car seat she is using is less than six months old, purchased brand new. Her husband and herself have gone over the straps, adjusted them so that they are snug, without being suffocating, yet so snug that to tighten them anymore would be inhumane. Yet if she takes her eyes off him for one minute, he is completely out of the seat. Every strap is still buckled, yet he is not.

How are they dealing with this? One thing they are doing is trying to see exactly how it is he is getting out, so that if there is anything they can do physically to the seat to keep him where he belongs, they can do it. They also stop the car immediately upon seeing that he is out. They tell him he belongs in his seat, that they are wearing their safety belts, and so must he. They then strap him back in, double check all the straps, and continue on their way. They have also been avoiding driving anywhere with him one parent at a time if possible. This way, while one parent is driving, the other parent can be monitoring his escape techniques. The only problem with that is that he seems to know when he is being watched, and will not attempt to climb out.

All parents will go through trials and errors such as this in the raising of their kids. Some things will be major problems, as this one potentially could be, and other times, the risk is small or nonexistent, yet the stress is huge. Learning to prioritize your battles can be the difference between handling stresses both small and big. Not long ago, my daughter had called to tell me that my adorable angel of a grandson had uttered a word that nearly made her fall over. She was mortified. Where had he heard the word she had no idea. As we all know, it only takes a child once to hear a word for him to repeat it a hundred times! After ignoring him the next ninety-nine times he tried out the word, he soon tired of it and is no longer repeating it. Had she made a big deal out of it in front of him, I can almost guarantee you that he would still be saying it every chance he got. Was he in any imminent danger from saying the unspeakable? None other than my daughter's embarrassment if he happened to say it when a kind elderly person was behind my daughter in a checkout line one day. However, no physical danger existed. She picked these two battles well, fighting the one and ignoring the other. She is learning well!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Learning Toys That Travel Well

By Christina VanGinkel

My grandson is coming for a visit the weekend of July 4. He will turn two a few days after. Ever since he was born, I have loved the idea of being a grandmother, just the thought of spending time with him, playing with him, and showing him new places and things. He is a toddler who truly enjoys company around him, and even the littlest task enchants him. However, as many grandparents will attest to the same, I also like to buy him presents, and if they have learning value, all the better. Earlier this year I purchased him a My First LeapPad Toy. It came with one book, and I bought him one extra.

At first, when we got it home and opened it all up, I was afraid that he was too young to use it, but he quickly mastered holding the attached pen and clicking on the hot spots in each book. Because my daughter and her family travel a great deal of time throughout the year for work, and much of that travel is spent in their car, I try to also pick out things that he can use in small areas. Another toy that he loves is his Fisher Price Doodle Pro. It also has an attached pen for drawing, and a small drawer built in to hold the included stamps. With both of these toys being self-contained, they travel well. They also keep him occupied for long lengths of time.

With this upcoming visit, I have decided to purchase him some new books for the My First LeapPad Toy. This way, he will not become bored with just the two books he has, though my daughter said he never seems to tire of them. I think it has something to do with children of his age loving repetition. The more they repeat a task, the more familiar and comfortable they become with it. My daughter said that she would enjoy a new book or two though, as she is tired of hearing the same ones repeatedly, even if he is not!

The Fisher Price Doodle Pro has one disadvantage as far as I can see. I noticed that different ones have different stamps. However, in order to get the different stamps, you have to purchase a completely new board. It would be nice if they packaged separately the different stamps so those of us buying these, could just purchase them as add-ons. As little as he is, he loves the different shapes, and I know he would love to have more of a choice, but I cannot see buying a new board just to provide him with a variety. Not to mention the wasted space in their already tight travel allotment his toys have been given. As the built in drawer is designed just for the included stamps, they could market add-on variety packs in plastic sleeves that snapped on, or were attached with double-sided tape, to their existing boards. I wonder if I wrote the company they would consider such a thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Swim Diapers

By Christina VanGinkel

My grandson has a love of all water activities. Swimming and fishing both are high on his list of things he loves. Since he was an infant, my daughter has used diapers that are made specifically for use in the water whenever he will be participating in one of these activities. Little Swimmers from Huggies has always been her brand of choice, but numerous brands exist, with some made of fabric. The fabric ones are washable and can be reused, while others are disposable, one-time use diapers, the same as the Little Swimmers.

I remember just letting my kids go bare bottomed at the beach or pool, because if I left a diaper on them, it would quickly swell to the size of a balloon and literally sag down to the ground. It was much easier to let them run around sans diaper and hope and pray they did not decide to go bathroom in the middle of their water play. Thankfully, some mother or father recognized that allowing infants and young toddlers who were not yet potty trained to swim could be a health risk to others in the water. The resulting lines of diapers that both contain any accidents, and do not swell when immersed in water are a wonderful addition to the world of baby basics.

My grandson has been able to enjoy swimming from his earliest days with my daughter having no fears of his having an accident in the pool, since the legs and waste band of the Little Swimmers are a bit snugger than your average diaper, and will contain most accidents. Their cost is significantly higher than your average diaper, but well worth it for the benefits that they provide poolside. Available in cute designs for girls and boys, no other swimwear is even required, so they actually do double duty in that regard.

The best part of them though is that they do not swell up when the exterior gets wet, but that is also their downfall. Why? Because they are not as absorbent as a typical diaper and care needs to be used when changing a soiled one, as it is often just sitting inside the diaper. Because they do not have tabs, but pull on like a regular pair of underwear, or a Pull-Up, you have to rip the sides to remove the diaper. This can be a trial and error task, as the tear away sides are sometimes hard to rip. If not done efficiently, you end up with a huge mess.

Overall, though, I think they are a wonderful way for infants and toddlers to join in the fun at the lake or pool, without the parents having to worry about when their little bundles might go potty. Water play can again be the fun, stress free activity it was meant to be. Just do not forget to bring along a few sand toys for the little ones, as they will be so comfortable, they will be in no hurry to leave!

Losing that baby weight

The following scenario has happened to many a formerly pregnant woman:

It's been two months or so since you've given birth and you're feeling great. Sure, the weight has been slow to come off, but you're nursing-- so you need extra calories-- and besides, it's only been two months! You're feeling better than you've felt in a long time, you're finally starting to get your energy back and you think you look pretty good to boot. So imagine your horror when you're out for a quick errand sans baby and you run into an acquaintance who blurts out, "So when are you going to have that baby?" And that's all it takes for your self esteem to plummet, causing you to head right for the nearest bag of Oreos.

Losing the pregnancy weight after you have a baby is easier for some than others. It first depends how much weight you gained during the pregnancy. Next, take into consideration the type of delivery you had--if you had a cesarean section, it may be a little harder to lose the weight because your recovery period will be longer. Rumor has it that nursing helps to speed up your metabolism, thus causing faster weight loss, but that has never been my experience. And it's also often true that it gets harder to lose the weight with each successive pregnancy, so if you're first was a breeze that doesn't necessarily mean that after your fifth the weight will come off quite so easily.

So what can you do to speed up the baby-weight-losing process?

Exercise-- even a little. It's hard to find time for yourself when there's a new baby in the house, but this is a must. It's important for you baby that you stay healthy and in good shape, so find at least 30 minutes a day to devote to yourself. Try getting up a half hour before your baby does and go for a walk or hit the treadmill. If baby's sleep schedule is unpredictable and getting up early is out of the question, put Daddy on duty for 30 minutes or ask a friend. Exercise every day and soon it will be a habit and not just a chore.

Skip the processed junk and snacks. It's easier to eat on the run when you have a baby in your arms, but Ding Dongs and potato chips for breakfast isn't a smart dietary move. Of course feeding your baby is your number one priority, but find time to cook for yourself too. You-- remember you? Don't neglect your body by eating fast food junk-- instead stock up on fruits, vegetables, lean meat and poultry and whole grains. And don't forget to drink some milk.

Don't live in maternity clothes. Your maternity clothes are so stretchy and comfortable, but they can also be a detriment if you get too comfy in them. It's easy to forget how overweight you are when you're hiding behind huge maternity clothes. Force yourself to get your regular clothes out when the time is right. Of course, the first few weeks after you give birth you will probably want to wear maternity clothes for comfort. But if your baby is pushing the one year mark, your excuses are over.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Give yourself an appropriate amount of time to lose the weight. Just because your best friend lost her baby weight in a week doesn't mean you will. If you pressure yourself, you'll just become overwhelmed and it will sabotage your weight loss efforts-- so give yourself a break. I mean, come on, you just had a baby for goodness sakes!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Baby's eating habits: The chicken nugget and macaroni and cheese diet

Every day I worry that my baby is hungry. He just doesn't eat! Okay, that's not entirely true. Sure, he'll turn his nose up at a piece of fresh fruit or a plate full of vegetables, but if there's a cookie in sight he'll scarf up every crumb. He'll throw a sippy cup full of milk across the room, but then he'll go to the refrigerator and point eagerly to the apple juice (his way of asking for some).

My little guy is going on a hunger strike, or so it seems. His pediatrician said not to worry--apparently all toddlers go through this stage, but his seems rather extreme in my opinion. My goal is to get one good meal in him throughout the course of the day, but even that's hard sometimes. His favorite foods are chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, but I know he can't eat that three times a day every day!

Sure, once in a while he'll surprise me-- yesterday he ate a half of a banana for a snack and I was thrilled. He'll usually eat watermelon, if I cut it into cubes, and he likes baked beans (which I sometimes mix with black beans for extra fiber). I only buy whole grain bread, so on the rare occasions that he eats a sandwich or a piece of toast, at least it's on whole wheat.

Yes, he will sometimes eat spaghetti with tomato sauce on it and he occasionally will eat little spoonful's of oatmeal from his Daddy's breakfast bowl (he likes to sit on his daddy's lap at meal time, so sometimes he'll pick at whatever is interesting on his dad's plate, even though his own plate has the same foods on it-- for some reason Daddy's just tastes better).

Another sometime food is pancakes-- it depends on his mood if he'll at them or toss the plate onto the floor. Once in a while he'll eat yogurt if he sees his big sister eating it, and pizza will usually get somewhat of a response (sometimes favorable, sometimes not).

So how do I get through the day with this finicky eater? I just offer him a variety of foods and pray for the best. If I try to reason with him, it doesn't work (he's too young to understand) and bribing doesn't work either. Oh, I also make sure to give him a children's multivitamin every day and I'll sometimes give him a fortified nutrition drink.

Because my son's eating habits are so poor, I stopped buying snacks and junk. It seems that every calorie is going to have to count with this kid, so there's no room for foods that don't have at least some nutritional value. Instead of goldfish crackers (a toddler favorite) I give him a cup full of Cheerios and he will actually sit and graze on them. I do offer him fruit every day, although it usually ends up on the floor. And when all else fails I'll cook up some chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese-- the foolproof staples of my baby's diet until he gets through this worrisome phase.

Planning a Baby Shower

Throwing a baby shower for a friend, family member or associate is a wonderful way to shower the new mom with gifts and honor her in the process. Baby showers were originally used as a way to shower a young woman with gifts because she and her young husband could not afford the things they needed for the new baby. Friends and relatives either passed down the baby beds and accessories that they once used, or they built or purchased new ones for the young couple. Baby showers were also a way for older women to gather around and dote on a young mom-to-be and comfort and reassure her about the joys and surprises of motherhood. If you are planning a baby shower for a special young mother-to-be, following are a few things to keep in mind as you plan.

1. Choose a date wisely. The date of the baby shower is best planned during the last month of pregnancy. You don't want to wait too late because babies rarely come exactly when they are expected, but you also don't want to do it too early. The shower should be scheduled when the new mom is on the brink of motherhood, but is also still able to get around with relative ease.

2. Plan the food. A baby shower is all about women getting together, laughing, sharing stories, talking about motherhood and babies, and enjoying food together. A full meal need not be planned, but a baby shower should have lots of special snacks and treats. From cheese, crackers and dip to quiches and fruit salads, plan light food items that can be easily carried or eaten in a plate on the lap. Most importantly, plan a special dessert; either a beautifully decorated cake or a platter of tarts or chocolate covered strawberries. Indulge the mom-to-be and all her doting friends.

3. Plan the activities. Sometimes baby showers include funny games that encourage conversation, laughter and fun for the pregnant mom. Other times the baby shower is focused mainly on mingling and enjoying food together. Regardless of your method of throwing a shower, think about what the new mom will enjoy. If she enjoys games, plan for a few. If she is more reserved and would enjoy simple conversation, forget the games.

4. Gather gift ideas. Many times a mom-to-be will already have an ongoing list of things she needs for the new baby, while seasoned moms often are already well-stocked with the basic necessities. Find out in advance what the new mom will need and share the gift ideas with those invited to the shower. Avoid sending a list, but feel free to give names and locations of stores where the mom is registered, or encourage attendees to phone you for ideas.

5. Include special moments. Some of the most memorable moments at a baby shower can be when friends and family share their own beloved stories and memories about having children. The new mom will be encouraged and will go away from the shower not only showered with gifts, but also with love.

What to do when your baby doesn't talk

It is natural for parents to worry about their baby's development, and one of the areas that causes the most concern is speech development. While most babies will begin to babble or even say simple words such as "Mama" or "Dada" by the time they turn one year old, other babies don't say a word until they are 18 months or even older.

By the time your child is two years old, he or she will likely have a few words in his or her repertoire. By the age of two, most children can say twenty to fifty words and they may even begin to put two or three words together to make simple sentences. By age three, most children can say more complicated sentences and will communicate much more clearly. But what if your child is over the age of two and still isn't doing much more than babbling? It's likely that your child is just taking his or her time, but it can't hurt to start an intervention program if you feel that your child has a speech delay.

What to do:

Consult with your pediatrician. Your baby's doctor may suggest a course of action that includes a hearing test or a speech therapy program. In addition, if your child had frequent ear infections as an infant, he or she may need ear tube surgery. Many children with a history of ear infections need to have tubes put in their ears to drain out excess fluid, and you may find that your child's hearing improves after this procedure is performed. Your doctor is the best judge as to whether your baby needs ear tube surgery.

If your baby's hearing is tested and there is no hearing loss, contact a speech therapist or a local agency to have your baby evaluated. Most insurance plans will cover the cost of a speech therapist, but check your plan to make sure. If there is a local intervention agency in your area, your child may qualify for free services-- and often the speech therapist will come to your home each week to work with your child. Your baby may have to be re-evaluated at the age of three, to see if he or she still qualifies for free services.

Things to do at home:

Read to your child often. Simple, repetitive books are best for young babies and toddlers. Ask your child questions about the storybooks and point out simple objects. Even if your child doesn't respond, he or she will be listening to you.

Buy some flash cards and use them with your child on a daily basis. The Baby Einstein Company makes a wonderful set of interactive flash cards that include additional activities that you can do together once your child can say the words.

Play sing-a-long music while you're in the car with your baby. The songs will become familiar to your child and he or she may even try to sing along.

Give your child as much one on one attention as you can every day. The more you talk with you child, the more he or she will learn.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Baby Showers

By Christina VanGinkel

With a hectic schedule, I often complain when I am invited to yet another party, with the one exception being baby showers. I do not know what it is, but I actually get a small thrill when I open an invitation to one. Part of the delight is that it means I get to go pick out something to give both the mother and baby.

As I am an avid crochet devotee, sometimes the shopping expedition is to the yarn department, where I can choose from a wide variety of soft yarns suitable for blankets, bonnets, booties, or a sweater. A handmade gift is always suitable for a baby shower gift, it just depends on if I will have the time to make something. I often make blankets with the intention that they will be used for the next baby shower I may be invited too, but they usually end up being given away before I have a chance to use them for a shower gift.

Other times the excursion may land me in the toy department where I can select a baby toy, or the layette section where I can literally lose track of time perusing all the tiny outfits and accessories such as onesies, receiving blankets, sleepers, tiny hats and booties, fleece blankets, and more.

Wrapping the gifts is just as much fun. Thankfully, there is a dollar store near where I live, and for just a few dollars, I am able to wrap up a gift complete with frilly bows!

One recent baby shower I was invited to I was asked by two good friends if I would like to go together with them on a gift. By pooling our funds, we were able to purchase a larger gift and assemble an assortment of smaller items in a nice wicker basket. We ended up buying a deluxe bouncy chair that had a built in vibration motor to soothe baby. It also had a built in toy across the handle that both lit up and played music. The basket contained a pack of newborn onesies, a matching pack of receiving blankets, two sleepers, several different bottles of lotions and soaps. The basket itself was one that would be able to be used in the nursery for holding diapers, extra blankets, or even to stash a few toys in.

Besides all of this, we also put together a small gift for the mother. We knew she loved to read mysteries, so we got her two new paperbacks, along with a box of her favorite tea and a new mug. We put a note inside reminding her to put her feet up when baby napped and continue to take pleasure in her favorite pastime of reading and enjoying a soothing cup of tea. I think we all got as much pleasure from seeing her open our gifts as she did from receiving them.

The more I think about why I enjoy baby showers; I have come to realize it is a perfect reason to get together with friends I do not always have time to see. We can sit and chat with no phones or email intruding, usually with a cup of coffee, tea, punch, and even a dessert or two. We can share some of what we have learned as mothers and grandmothers, with the new mother-to-be, and we usually end up sharing a few stories of our own children's births. Friendships are both formed and nurtured, and what better than that for an excuse for a get together.

A Voice for Babies Around the World

I recently watched the movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events." This film covers the first three of Lemony Snickets's books and is quite thought-provoking. The film tells the story of the three Bauedelaire children- Violet, a 14-year old girl, Klaus, her 12-year old younger brother, and Sunny, a baby- who are orphaned when their parents perish in a fire. The fire also burns their lovely home to the ground so the children have nowhere to go. The film shows how Count Olaf, a strange man, tries to get the children's fortune by first making himself their guardian and then trying to marry Violet. The movie has lovely sets, and the children, as well as the other characters, are most engaging. It's an unusual film.

One of the highlights of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is the baby, Sunny. The children are presented as Violet, the inventor, Klaus, the reader, and Sunny, the biter. Sunny is always dressed in an elaborate dressy costume; it's a long pink dress with ribbons. Sunny is shown biting a number of objects and humans, and in one scene she is shown hanging by her teeth from a table, her feet dangling in the air. Scrabble tiles are shown with pieces bitten off by Sunny, and Klaus is shown throwing a wooden spindle to her to bite, as one would throw a toy to a dog.

Sunny cannot speak English in the film, but she does speak baby gibberish. Subtitles tell what she supposedly is trying to say; the phrases are mostly sarcastic, comedic lines. This is a problem with babies worldwide; they try to communicate but are oft misunderstood. In fact, a main theme of the film is that children in general are not listened to by adults, and that adults miss what children are trying to make them understand. Throughout the film, the Bauedelaire children know that Count Olaf is trying to kill them to get their fortune, but none of the adults such as Mr. Poe the bank officer listen to them.

While watching the film, I thought of the many children throughout the world, in foster care, in abusive situations, in danger for their lives, who are trying to make someone understand their situations, or are afraid to even mention their situations. The Bauedelaire children are rescued at the end of the film, but their situation is not really resolved, leading to sequels no doubt. Babies like Sunny are especially at a disadvantage since infants cannot talk about mistreatment; they just have to suffer through abuse without a voice of their own. Usually child abuse is a hidden problem, and although babies cannot talk about it and might not even remember it later on, severe psychological damage can be done.

Brad Pitt recently visited Africa, and his visit was televised as he talked with Diane Sawyer. Pitt seemed very sincere in wanting to draw attention to the plight of African children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic and civil wars. Over 10 million orphans, and an estimate of over 25 million in years to come, are there. Those numbers are staggering. What must it be like for babies and children to have no one to comfort them, to guide them, to nourish them?

Pitt told of one boy in a hospital bed whose face lit up with joy because he touched him on the chest. Touch is an important part of proper growth for babies, and scores of babies growing up without someone to hold them, rock them, and hug them will surely result in disaster later on. Psychological experiments were done in English orphanages by John Bowlby in the mid 20th century. Caretakers there were told to refrain from touching certain infants to see what impact that would have on the babies. Some of the babies died; they stopped eating and crying, and others did not develop properly. Bowlby concluded that babies who do not form attachments to or bond with an adult will have personality problems in the future. This is known as maternal attachment since most babies bond with their mothers first. Touch is now known to be an essential for normal infant development and in many hospitals premature babies are stroked and massaged, since it is known that this causes more rapid weight gain and healthy development.

Certainly the millions of African orphans need touch and hugging and bonding with adults, as do many other unfortunate babies and children around the world. Although many good-hearted people want to help out, money alone will not solve the problem. Brad Pitt has made a good start to bringing this problem to the world's attention. Who else will help?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Can you afford to stay home with your baby?

One of the dilemmas that many new mothers face is the decision of whether to stay home with their newborn baby or return to the workforce after their maternity leave. If finances are not an issue, then it may just boil down to what your preference is (perhaps you love your job and aren't ready to give it up). Other women, however, may feel as though they can't possibly quit their job because their family needs the money.

If you're part of the latter group, but really want to stay home with your baby, have you considered how much it actually costs you to go to work? Tack on a fat daycare bill and you may soon find that it's barely worth it for you to go back to your job. Here are some things to consider before you give your boss your return to work date:

-- Commuting expenses. Unless you have a company paid chauffeur that picks you up and drives you to work each day, it likely costs you money to get to the office. Add up expenses like car payments, gas, tolls, and parking.

-- Business attire and dry cleaning bills. Unless you work in a uniform, you probably have to buy suitable work clothes every so often. Figure out how much per month you spend on clothing (it's probably more than you think). Add up your monthly dry cleaning expenses as well-- they can really sneak up on you and become a considerable expense.

-- Lunches out and office gift contributions. You can always brown bag your lunch to save a few bucks, but there's always those group lunch outings that pop up (they can get costly). And don't forget the frequent collections to pitch in for gifts for coworkers. All of this stuff adds up.

-- Daycare costs. If you're going back to work, someone's going to have to watch your little one. Unless you have a friend or relative that is willing to watch your child for free, you may have a rude awakening when you start to look into daycare costs. Daycare for a newborn baby is extremely expensive. Add this new expense in and see how much of your paycheck you'll have left.

--Tax breaks if you quit. If you do decide to quit your job, your family may be in a lower tax bracket without your salary. Consider this when figuring out the financial pros and cons of leaving your job.

Also, make sure that you take the maximum amount of time off that you can once your baby is born (as long as you work for an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius, you're eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act). While you may have been positive that you wanted to return to work after the birth of your baby, you may change your tune after spending 12 weeks with your new little one.
If that's the case, do a little math to determine just how big of a chunk comes out of your paycheck. You may find that becoming a stay at home mom is more rewarding than any other job you've ever had.