Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I am so thankful that I live in the South...

About a year ago I moved to the South from the Northeast. My husband and I decided to try living someplace new where the weather and people were nicer, since neither of us had ever lived anywhere else. Yesterday, I was heading home from work when, about 2 miles from my house, my tire suddenly went flat. I pulled over into the nearest parking lot and immediately wanted to kick myself for not renewing our AAA membership yet this year. I started to call my husband and began freaking out, realizing I had no idea what to do. (I wouldn't even know where to begin to change a tire, and I had no idea until later on that I even had a spare.) Suddenly a man in a large SUV pulled up next to me, rolled down his window, and said "Hey, I have a compressor in my car if you want me to try and reinflate the tire." I was so happy to see him! He spent quite a bit of time reinflating my tire and trying to find the leak. When the tire was full, I tried to give him $20 for his trouble. He flat out refused to take it. He said "I have done enough bad things in my life that I really need some good graces to help me get in those pearly gates. " With that, he got in his car and I thought he was going to continue going about his business after I pulled out of the parking lot. Instead, he followed me. We got about a mile down the road and he started flashing his headlights at me. I again pulled into the nearest parking lot and he got out with the compressor. My tire was already flat again! At that point we realized I should head straight to the tire shop where I had purchased the tires only about 2-3 months ago. It was not far from my house, so if I could get the car there at least I could walk home. This kind man spent another 10 minutes inflating the tire. Then he said "This tire is leaking air as fast as I am putting it in. If you hurry, you should be able to make it to the tire shop." He kept the compressor plugged into the tire until I was ready to hit the gas and get out of there. I felt like a Nascar driver for a minute, as he unplugged the compressor and jumped out of the way as soon as I said "Go!". I continued down the road and just barely made it to the tire place. This nice man followed me there too and, when he saw that I had arrived OK, he waved and drove away. I never even got his name. So THANK YOU, to that wonderful gentleman who helped me yesterday. I will certainly return the favor someday when I can help another person in need.

Perhaps the funniest part of the story? When he stopped the 2nd time to reinflate the tires, I said "Good thing I live in the South. Nobody ever would have stopped to help me in the Northeast." His reply? "I am originally from Pennsylvania!" Even us Northerners become nicer when we head south I guess!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Easy Recipe for Busy Moms

With Thanksgiving approaching, here is a creative turkey recipe for use with Crock Pots just in time for cool fall nights!

Cranberry-Apple Turkey Breast

2 tsp butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 large apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup cranberry sauce
1 Tbs poultry seasoning
2 cups seasoned crumb-style stuffing
4 turkey cutlets

Combine the butter, chicken broth, apple, onion, celery, cranberry sauce, poultry seasoning and stuffing. Place 3 tablespoons of stuffing mix on each turkey cutlet. Roll up and tie. Place in slow cooker.
Cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours.

You can find more great recipes on various websites. As I try them, I will post more. As I have said before, I can't cook (good thing I married a man who knows his way around a kitchen), but I am trying to get better!

Is there a gene for being terrible with money?

Seriously. We all know someone like this...they cry and complain about money in all social conversations, yet they just planned their next trip to Las Vegas, justifying it because "It's a deal!". Or maybe their child is showing up to play dates in clothing that is stained and too small, but they are talking about the new furniture they plan to finance to update their living room. It isn't that these people aren't genuinely concerned about money...they just can't figure out how they are shooting down their personal finances with poor decisions in everyday life.

Perhaps the biggest issue for many people is figuring out what is essential, and what is recreational. It is hard for me to imagine personally, but there are many mothers out there who consider things like getting manicures and pedicures to be necessities, even if it means being late on a daycare bill and jeopardizing their child's access to quality childcare. We have been raised as a society to think that we should have everything we want, right now, and worry about paying for things later. The flaw in this way of thinking, of course, is evident in our country's current financial crisis. So many people overextended themselves to pay for the new car, the big house, etc. that the markets couldn't keep up when these people couldn't afford to pay their bills.

Many experts have stated that a fix for the financial mindset in America would be to require financial education starting at a young age in all schools. I read a great article about this in either Smart Money or Money Magazine a few months back (I can't remember which), but the most interesting point was that some financial experts actually think we should discourage schools from offering financial education, because some people may feel that they know all they need to know about finances and be reluctant to seek help from an expert. That point of view seems self-serving to the financial experts, and does not help anyone. We desperately need more financial education, starting young, in our schools. Until that time, children are going to continue to need to learn about finances from their parents. This means that all of us need to demonstrate better management of money, and teach children the fundamental principles of saving and spending.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Concerned about speech and communication development?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has some very informative fact sheets and guidelines that describe typical and atypical speech and communication development. One great page on infant and toddler communication milestones is located at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/speechandlanguage.asp#mychild. At this link, you can answer a series of questions in an interactive checklist to help you to determine if your child is on track.

Aside from these useful fact sheets, there is also some very interesting statistical information on this site. For example:
The prevalence of speech sound disorder in young children is 8 to 9 percent. By the first grade, roughly 5 percent of children have noticeable speech disorders; the majority of these speech disorders have no known cause.

I recommend this site for parents even if you do not have any concerns about your infant or child's development, as it will help you to understand what some fellow parents and some of your child's classmates may be going through.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oprah, where are you???

Clearly, our nation's leaders have not figured out how to fix the economy. President Bush thought his stimulus checks would get things headed in the right direction, but that doesn't appear to have happened. Even our most prominent financial minds say we are in a recession, and the outlook just isn't good. Maybe a new president will be able to come up with a way to fix things, but we will just have to wait too long for that to happen. We need someone with influence who can get things done. We need someone with financial resources to help to improve this economy. We need someone who can help to create jobs for displaced workers. We need Oprah Winfrey.

I know this sounds far-fetched, but hear me out. Oprah is consistently ranked as one of the richest and most influential women in the world. Between her talk show, magazine, and various other endeavors, she made $275 million just last year. She has made a name for herself in philanthropic circles as well through her foundation and charitable giving. Perhaps the most well-known example was her car giveaway in 2004 that provided brand new Pontiac cars to over 250 people who could not otherwise afford them. While the cars were donated by Pontiac, Oprah herself received almost all of the credit in the media and she became even more of an inspiration to less fortunate individuals.

Oprah could help the economy immensely by giving away more of her money in ways that will benefit Americans. Sure, her Angel Network is building schools to allow underpriveliged children from all over the world to obtain an education. I am not suggesting that this is not a worthy or important endeavor. However, I believe that she also needs to focus more on helping those here in the United States. With a small percentage of her assets, she can do a world of good for American families who are struggling.

Take the idea of the car giveaway, for example. General Motors in its worst financial shape ever. The company is considering closing factories and laying off thousands of people. Why is this company in such bad shape? Ask your neighbor who drives the Hyundai, or the friend driving a Toyota. Foreign cars dominate the American market, and little has been done by the government to encourage consumers to buy American. Oprah could help to bail out GM while also doing great work to help American families. Imagine if Oprah were to purchase 10,000 GM vehicles. If, for example, she purchased Chevrolet Aveos at roughly $15,000 apiece, she would be spending $150 million. GM brings in roughly $170 million per year currently in auto sales. Thus she would, with one act, effectively almost double their yearly profit. This wouldn't necessarily save the company, but it would buy some time to develop new products, restructure, and get a good plan together to become more profitable without having to lay off more workers or ship jobs overseas.

Now where should the cars go? The middle class. Each car should be given to an individual who has been laid off and had a car repossessed or lost their home within the past year. This would help these people to have transportation to look for a new job or perhaps to sell another vehicle and give up a car payment that they have been struggling to pay. This would help these people, American workers, to get back on their feet.

The next part of my plan for Oprah to save the US economy simply involves marketing. We have all seen the tremendous power of her product recommendations through her book club and other "must-haves" such as Spanx. What if Oprah started a segment called "The best products made in the U.S.A." and started to regularly hype clothing, cars, jewelry, cosmetics, and other products that are made in America? People would almost certainly start buying- Oprah can make anything cool! Who better to lead the American people to take back their own economy?

While this article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, I hope it has stimulated some brain cells and made you think more about the influence one person can have. Imagine the impact many of us can have if we start to do things to help one another? We're not all bringing in $275 million per year, but we certainly can do our part to help those who have been hit by these tough economic times and to put our money back into our own country. I, for one, am making every effort possible to buy American-made products and purchase stock in American companies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bowls for kids who like to throw things

My daughter loves to "decorate" the floor with her food. She finds it hilarious to throw a full plate of food on the floor and say "All done!". We tried to find bowls or plates that would suction cup to the tray of the high chair, but I looked around and found nothing but poor reviews on many of the products I was thinking of buying. For example, I got really excited when I got the One Step Ahead catalog in the mail and saw a spoon that had a cord attached with a suction cup to attach it to the high chair. I thought this would be great, since my daughter developed a good arm and could throw a spoon clear across the kitchen by 12 months. However, all of the reviews on their site said that it was terrible and never stayed put. I was hesitant to buy any of the suction type bowls because it seemed like a great idea that proved disappointing in most cases.

While shopping in one day, I came across the Munchkin Snack n Serve Bowls. They were pretty cheap, so I figured I would give them a try since nothing could be worse than what we had at the time. (We were using Gerber bowls which, though wonderful for infant feeding, are too easy for older babies to toss across the room.) From the first time that we tried them I was hooked. They stayed put, even when my daughter was angrily trying to pry them off of the high chair. The secret is a small tab that has to be lifted to be able to get her bowl to release from the high chair. If I try to lift the bowl without lifting the tab first, even I have a hard time and my daughter laughs as the bowl moves around the tray, still stuck.

These bowls are great especially for morning cereal as your baby or toddler practices use of their own spoon. I haven't found much use for the lids, except for storing sliced or diced fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. We don't generally reheat or save her leftover food, as I am too worried about the potential for bacteria growth when her spoon or fingers (and therefore saliva) has already been in the food. If you are less paranoid than me, you may find the lids to be even more useful.

The bowls also come in some bright and funky colors. This may be a turnoff to some who prefer all of their baby items to be in shades of pastel, but I encourage you to get beyond that and just give them a try. Our bowls have been through the dishwasher (top rack) countless times and still work just as well. Overall I am very impressed with the Munchkin brand. I used to think it was very low-budget and not really pay it any mind, but I have really warmed up to the brand.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Concerned about autism in your infant or toddler?

Here is some great general information from a fact sheet from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

What is autism?

Autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females.

What are some common signs of autism?

There are three distinctive behaviors that characterize autism. Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.

The hallmark feature of autism is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice symptoms of autism in their child. As early as infancy, a baby with autism may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with autism may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

Children with autism may fail to respond to their name and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior. They lack empathy.
Many children with autism engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of “I” or “me.” Children with autism don’t know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.

Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged.

Children with autism appear to have a higher than normal risk for certain co-existing conditions, including fragile X syndrome (which causes mental retardation), tuberous sclerosis (in which tumors grow on the brain), epileptic seizures, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder. For reasons that are still unclear, about 20 to 30 percent of children with autism develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. While people with schizophrenia may show some autistic-like behavior, their symptoms usually do not appear until the late teens or early adulthood. Most people with schizophrenia also have hallucinations and delusions, which are not found in autism.

How is autism diagnosed?

Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Doctors rely on a core group of behaviors to alert them to the possibility of a diagnosis of autism. These behaviors are:
impaired ability to make friends with peers
impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

Doctors will often use a questionnaire or other screening instrument to gather information about a child’s development and behavior. Some screening instruments rely solely on parent observations; others rely on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If screening instruments indicate the possibility of autism, doctors will ask for a more comprehensive evaluation.

Autism is a complex disorder. A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose children with ASDs. The team members will conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing. Because hearing problems can cause behaviors that could be mistaken for autism, children with delayed speech development should also have their hearing tested. After a thorough evaluation, the team usually meets with parents to explain the results of the evaluation and present the diagnosis.

Children with some symptoms of autism, but not enough to be diagnosed with classical autism, are often diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Children with autistic behaviors but well-developed language skills are often diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Children who develop normally and then suddenly deteriorate between the ages of 3 to 10 years and show marked autistic behaviors may be diagnosed with childhood disintegrative disorder. Girls with autistic symptoms may be suffering from Rett syndrome, a sex-linked genetic disorder characterized by social withdrawal, regressed language skills, and hand wringing.

What causes autism?

Scientists aren’t certain what causes autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with autism have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with autism have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest that autism could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how neurons communicate with each other. While these findings are intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study. The theory that parental practices are responsible for autism has now been disproved.

What role does inheritance play?

Recent studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism. In families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second child with the disorder is approximately 5 percent, or one in 20. This is greater than the risk for the general population. Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to this increased susceptibility. In some cases, parents and other relatives of an autistic child show mild impairments in social and communicative skills or engage in repetitive behaviors. Evidence also suggests that some emotional disorders, such as manic depression, occur more frequently than average in the families of people with autism.

Do symptoms of autism change over time?

For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems. Parents of these children should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed.

How is autism treated?

There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

Educational/behavioral interventions: Therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills. Family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with autism often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with an autistic child.

Medications: Doctors often prescribe an antidepressant medication to handle symptoms of anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anti-psychotic medications are used to treat severe behavioral problems. Seizures can be treated with one or more of the anticonvulsant drugs. Stimulant drugs, such as those used for children with attention deficit disorder (ADD), are sometimes used effectively to help decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Other therapies: There are a number of controversial therapies or interventions available for autistic children, but few, if any, are supported by scientific studies. Parents should use caution before adopting any of these treatments.

I can't cook - but I am trying

OK, I am not the greatest cook. There was one time in my life where I truly created a meal that would please even the most discriminating palate, a meal so great that the stars must have aligned perfectly to allow it to happen. This took place on Valentine's Day in 2004. Seriously, this was the last - and only - great meal I have every cooked. My husband was shocked to come home to a meal of assorted canapes, beer battered coconut shrimp, sliced beef in a red wine and dried cherry glaze, and banana and vanilla wafer pudding. All of this was made from scratch by me. To this day I don't know how I did it. When I confidently decided to follow up a week later with a fettucnie in a broccoli alfredo sauce, I managed to turn the broccoli alfredo sauce into broccoli soup! My poor husband had to come home and add flour and fix my sauce, realizing that this attempt at cooking dinner was a miserable failure. And I haven't had a shining moment of cooking since.

The only decent meals I have managed to cook have been using Crock Pots, because sticking a bunch of things in there and letting them simmer for hours is kind of hard to screw up. My favorite thing to cook in there is pork tenderloin with sliced onions cooked in apple cider. (Don't knock it until you try it!)

Here is a Sweet and Sour Chicken slow cooker recipe from Kraft that I haven't been brave enough to try yet:

Prep Time:10 min
Total Time:8 hr 10 min
Makes:6 servings
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled, sliced
1 medium celery stalk, sliced
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1-1/2 lb.), cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup KRAFT CATALINA Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. grated gingerroot
1 can (8 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained, liquid reserved
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 medium green pepper, sliced
1 medium red pepper, sliced
4-1/2 cups hot cooked rice
PLACE onions, carrots and celery in slow cooker; top with chicken.
ADD combined brown sugar, dressing, soy sauce and ginger. Cover with lid.
COOK on LOW for 7 to 8 hours (or on HIGH for 3-1/2 to 4 hours). During last 30 min. of cooking time, increase to HIGH. Stir cornstarch into reserved pineapple liquid; add to slow cooker along with the pineapple and peppers. Cook 30 min. or until peppers are crisp-tender and sauce is thickened. Serve over the rice.

If you make this, can you please send me a taste? I love sweet and sour chicken, which is why if I mess this recipe up I will be very disappointed. Guess I will have to leave this recipe on my husband's pillow as a little hint...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Car seat shopping? Britax is actually made in the USA!

Are you in a market for a new carseat? I can't say enough good things about my Britax Marathon. Even with a pretty tall child, it is sturdy, appears to be comfortable for her, and has held up very well. Recently we had some car issues and my husband had to move one of them (we have 2) back and forth several times between his car and a rental car. It was actually very easy for him to do- and he has virtually no patience!

Britax carseats are made right here in the United States. At a time when our economy is terrible and we are relying so much on foreign-made products, it is nice to know that such a highly rated product is made in America.

Recession? Embrace it!

Here is a great article called "10 Reasons to Love a Recession" from MSN. It is a great view on the recession that seems to have hit so many households in the US.

Though I have not been feeling particularly strained by these economic times yet, I know that it will affect all of us at some point. Things will likely get worse before they get better. So take a look at the article, and maybe share with us some of your own reasons to love a recession.

I would add: Friends coming over for the evening. More and more it seems that people are staying in on the weekends with good wine and good friends. To me, this is a much more cozy way to spend an evening and enjoy some time with your spouse and friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gone fo' too long!

Wow, it has been a long time since my last post. The weather warmed up, we started making it outside to play, and before long time has really flown by. There are lots of great summer products for me to tell you about....real soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Is this an April Fool's joke?

New Kids on the Block are getting back together?!?!?!? Is this a crazy April Fool's joke or is it really happening? Our kids can't even imagine the NKOTB-mania that existed back in the day when we were young, screaming adolescents. This really makes me wish I would be in NYC on Friday morning- I would gladly stand outside the Today Show studios at 5 a.m. if it meant I might be able to see my boys back together?

Which brings the question....who's your favorite New Kid?

*Gold star for the day to anyone who knows what movie that came from!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Work vs. Staying Home: Why do we have to choose?

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have come a long way in terms of child-rearing. Fathers are often much more involved in raising their children, and many stereotypes regarding the traditional roles of mothers and fathers are becoming less prevalent. Why is it, then, that there is still such a divide between mothers who stay home and those who work?

In recent years, the development of hidden "nanny-cams" has flooded the internet and news programs with images of abusive or inadequate caregivers who appeared to have experience with children and stellar references. Finding suitable, quality childcare is very difficult, especially with the added paranoia that nanny-cam incidents have caused. Many, if not most, mothers would prefer to rear their own children, without depending on help from potentially unfit strangers. However, for many women, staying home is not an option. Financial burdens require many households to earn two incomes just to pay the bills, requiring many mothers to work. Some women have worked to establish successful careers, and feel that giving them up would take away a piece of their identity and in turn negatively impact their home life.

Regardless of the reason, the fact that mothers have to choose between working and raising their children is quite disheartening. Women have made many successful strides in the workplace that have put us on a great track to achieve equality with men. Yet we are hampered by the issues that arise when we become mothers. Some workplaces have accomodated the unique needs of mothers by allowing for telecommuting and flexible scheduling options, but these types of positions are hard to come by. Why is it that more workplaces have not stepped up to the plate? Flexibility in work scheduling allows a parent to have the best of both worlds: a successful career AND priceless time with his/her children. There is clearly a need for such arrangements. Just look at the number of "work from home" advertisements in most parenting magazines, or the number of mothers who choose to sell products from companies such as the Pampered Chef or Tupperware.

How can we make our voices heard and advocate for generally accepted standards for flexibility in the workplace? Are their organizations currently in existence that are already doing this type of work? If you are out there, please add a comment to tell us about your work. I will be happy to feature you in a future post.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The things kids say...

My daughter generally seems to repeat and learn words well. However, sometimes she seems to be making up her own words for things. It really makes we wonder whether she is hearing us incorrectly or if her stubborn personality is just taking over. Her newest misnomer? Spoon. Up until recently, she was saying "spoon" when she wanted one or when one was presented to her. However, within the past 2 weeks she decided that the correct word for "spoon" is actually "boom-boom". If you mention the word "spoon" to her, she responds with "boom-boom", so it is clear that she still retains the understanding of the word. She still says "bowl" correctly, but "spoon" has been banished from her vocabulary. No matter how much we try to correct her, she seems to have just decided that the word "spoon" does not work for her. So for the foreseeable future she will be eating her breakfast with a "boom-boom" and my husband and I will be left shaking our heads.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is my child developing appropriately?

Most parents ask themselves this question at some point. It is difficult to resist the urge to compare your child to others around the same age, which can cause unnecessary stress. Doctors and experts drill it into our heads that infants and children all develop at varying rates, and that there is a broad range of what is considered "normal" development. However, there are still some general guidelines as to what types of skills are developed at which ages, and this can be a useful way to help to determine if you should be concerned about your child's development. The Talaris Research Institute has come up with a great timeline that provides suggested ranges for the development of various social, cognitive, motor, and other skills from birth through age 5. To view this timeline, visit http://www.talaris.org/5ways. Keep in mind that these are suggested guidelines. If you are concerned about your child's development, consult his or her pediatrician or another health care professional.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Maybe I should give her a mop?

Anyone that knows me would never describe me as a clean freak. Though I like things to be clean, clutter tends to rule my house. From the time my daughter started to crawl, though, I started working hard to keep my home's floors clean. As potty time started creeping up on us, I also started obsessing over the cleanliness of our bathrooms. Typically I use my Swiffer to clean the floors and Lysol Wipes or some other similar type of product to clean all other surfaces. Usually when I clean my daughter just watches and laughs. She finds it hilarious when I am bending down to scrub something or pushing the Swiffer or a broom around the room. It hadn't occured to me, though, just how far her imitation skills would go.

Our computer desk chair has several metal bars on the bottom that attach to wheels. The tops of the bars are typically dust traps, and I often forget about cleaning this chair. Today, my daughter was playing with a baby wipe as she often does, washing her hands and face and putting it on her head. Without warning, she walked over to the desk chair and started cleaning the bottom bars and wheels with the baby wipe! At one point she paused, looked at one stubborn spot, scratched at it with her nails, and wiped over it again, just as she has seen me do countless times. She actually cleaned the whole bottom of the chair- and did a good job! Needless to say, I was pretty impressed. Now if I could only teach her to clean a toilet...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Car Seat Safety Guide

Shopping for a car seat? Want to make sure your car seat is installed properly? Check out this publication from the American Academy of Pediatrics, entitled "Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2008". It describes many of the currently popular car seats and provides information on proper installation. It also provides price range information, which can be useful if you are shopping around and comparing prices of different brands. Here is the link:
You can also order copies of this guide in paper format, though I believe there may be a charge.

Friday, February 8, 2008

SIDS Prevention Guidelines from NICHD

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has released a publication entitled "Safe Sleep For Your Baby" with advice designed to help you to reduce your child's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Here is an excerpt from that publication:

Safe Sleep Top 10
  1. Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night. The back sleep position is the safest, and every sleep time counts.
  2. Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet. Never place your baby to sleep on pillows, quilts, sheepskins, or other soft surfaces.
  3. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area. Don't use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, and pillow-like crib bumpers in your baby's sleep area, and keep any other items away from your baby's face.
  4. Do not allow smoking around your baby. Don't smoke before or after the birth of your baby, and don't let others smoke around your baby.
  5. Keep your baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep. Your baby should not sleep in a bed or on a couch or armchair with adults or other children, but he or she can sleep in the same room as you. If you bring the baby into bed with you to breastfeed, put him or her back in a separate sleep area, such as a bassinet, crib, cradle, or a bedside cosleeper (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) when finished.
  6. Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing the infant down to sleep, but don't force the baby to take it. (If you are breastfeeding your baby, wait until your child is 1 month old or is used to breastfeeding before using a pacifier.)
  7. Do not let your baby overheat during sleep. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing, and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  8. Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS because most have not been tested for effectiveness or safety.
  9. Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you have questions about using monitors for other conditions talk to your health care provider.
  10. Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on your baby's head: provide "Tummy Time" when your baby is awake and someone is watching; change the direction that your baby lies in the crib from one week to the next; and avoid too much time in car seats, carriers, and bouncers.

For more information about the NICHD "Back to Sleep" campaign, visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why you should support PBS...

Public television is responsible for development and broadcasting of many wonderful programs, including my daughter's favorite, Sesame Street. Here is an excerpt from the PBS mission statement from their site:

PBS is a media enterprise that serves 355 public noncommercial television stations and reaches nearly 73 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is a leading provider of digital learning content for pre-K-12 educators, and offers a broad array of other educational services.

Believe it or not, public television stations are supported in very small part by the government. Their main sources of funding include membership, local station fundraising, and purchases through the ShopPBS.org site. There are many great products for children and adults, and their prices are reasonable. There are very few other channels that do such a great job of providing education children's programming, and I strongly encourage you to support public television. Don't see anything on the site that you would like to purchase? Consider becoming a member of your local station or making a one-time donation. OK, I'm done preaching now...time for Elmo's World...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Trying to Conceive? Why you may want to drop a few pounds...

Research has shown that obese women may not only have difficulty conceiving, but they may also be more likely to suffer certain pregnancy-related complications. Being significantly overweight during pregnancy can increase your risk of the following:
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (i.e. high blood pressure)
  • Higher rates of C-Sections, including increased risk of post-operative complications
  • Increased risk of anaesthesia complications
If you are overweight and thinking about conceiving, consult your health care provider to establish a healthy weight-loss program.

If you are already pregnant and overweight, talk to your health care provider about developing a plan for exercise and healthy eating throughout the remainder of your pregnancy. It can be dangerous to diet and exercise for weight loss during pregnancy without proper medical supervision, so consult your doctor before starting to exercise or changing your eating habits.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Another frightening reason to breastfeed

Check out this article on the MSNBC site:

Researchers have found a potentially harmful chemical in the packaging used for many baby formulas and other products. Currently, some politicians are pushing for stronger regulation of these and other chemicals. Groups that are closely tied to baby formula makers stress that we do not yet have any reason to think that the trace amounts used in packing are harming our babies, but these groups have a vested interest in keeping consumers happy and interested in buying their products. I will continue to follow this research and keep you posted as new peer-reviewed journal articles are published. In the meantime, this finding may encourage more women to consider breastfeeding. (I am not a breastfeeding "preacher" like many women, as my own experience proved to be very challenging and I had to supplement with formula.) However, this new finding may prompt some women to give it a try who might not otherwise have had an interest.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Little Dancing Queen

From just about the time my daughter was born, she loved to dance. Even at a few months old, she was incredibly good at keeping a beat and swaying to music. As she got older and could move around better, she became increasingly interested in swaying, head nodding, clapping to a beat, and even what I like to call "rump shaking"(sorry, cheesy 90's reference, I know). She has gotten to the point where she will even dance to the melody of everyday noises like the blended, food processor, and even electric toothbrushes. To her, the world is full of music.

Even with her strong interest in music and dancing, however, not all traditional children's muci seems to interest her. She prefers songs with a lot of guitar, so country music is high on her list. She also loves 80's and early 90's music, especially old school Michael and Janet Jackson. lucky for us, we subscribe to digital cable and can play the 80's, 90's, country, or even hard rock station depending on her mood. When riding in the car, however, I am left with whichever CDs I remember to bring along for the ride. As I have mentioned previously, Garth Brooks and Rascal Flatts are always hits with her. Other artists, however, depend entirely on her mood. I myself prefer to buy compilation CDs. I think I just have artist ADD, because I just can't sit through a whole album by the same artist. I need variety, and I think my daughter does too.

My taste in music varies widely, and sometimes it is hard to find CDs that really mix it up. For current hits, I enjoy the "NOW" series (I think they are up to NOW 53 or something by now). I have also absolutely fallen in love with Monster Ballads. What can I say? Those big hair bands still do it for me.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My Baby Name Prediction for 2008 and 2009

It appears that Nicole Richie may have ignitied a new trend in baby naming with the birth of her daughter, Harlow. Just as Britney Spears added to the popularity of the name Jayden, the publicity surrounding Nicole Richie's pregnancy will surely help to make Harlow more common and popular.

My baby name trend prediction, then, is that Harlow will break into the Top 20 most popular girls' names in 2008. By 2009, I predict that it will be in the top 10. Why, you ask? I don't personally understand the logic, but many women actually strive to give their babies "famous" names. I was amazed at a party a few months back to hear a woman actually bragging about naming her children after reality TV stars that she had admired. She seemed young and naive, and I was amazed to find out that she was actually in her late 20's. I had previously assumed (falsely) that this type of mentality was limited to very young mothers. It amazed me to learn how common naming your child after a celebrity really is.

Now as I have said, I just don't understand it. With all of the celebrity bad behavior that is shown in the media, I would not want to curse my child with a lifetime of association with a potential drug addict, sex film star, or worse. However, trends in baby naming can be traced back for hundreds of years, so I guess there really are many people who intentionally choose to give their children popular names. It will be interesting to see how many people jump on the "Harlow" bandwagon...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thanks for nothing, FTD!

My grandmother's birthday is tomorrow. She lives in another state, and I wanted to send her a gift. I already ordered some cute photo items for her with my daughter's pictures, as well as a bunch of prints. I also wanted to send her some flowers. She will be gone all day on her actual birthday, so I wanted them to arrive today. Otherwise, most sites could not deliver the flowers until Tuesday, and that just seemed too long after her birthday. I shopped around several different flower sites, but it was tough to find one that could deliver today since I was shopping somewhat last-minute. FTD had a nice, reasonably-priced bouquet, and for only a $15 surcharge they could deliver it on a Saturday. I placed the order, charged it to my credit card, and received a confirmation email. I thought it was good to go. Instead, at 9:30 this morning, while I was walking into Gymboree class, my cell phone rang. It was FTD letting me know that my order had not shipped! They did not offer any explanation, but did offer to have a florist-designed bouquet delivered by a local florist. I agreed, since most florist do a great job with these types of arrangements, and at least it would still arrive today. Approximately ten minutes later, my phone rang again. This time, it was FTD letting me know that there was not an FTD florist anywhere near my grandparents' house. This meant that NOTHING could arrive today, and the earliest I could expect any delivery was Tuesday.
Now I was upset and without options. Had FTD let me know this yesterday, I could have easily purchased something from a competitor. Instead, my only option was to wait until Tuesday for the flowers to arrive. I asked if FTD planned to offer me a discount or free service due to this tremendous inconvenience. The customer service rep replied that she could only offer me a 15% discount. "WHAT?!?!?", I responded, "Only a 15% compensation for ruining Grandma's birthday surprise? I don't think so." I calmly, but persistently, explained to the woman that this was unacceptable, and that FTD should be offering me a much better resolution to this problem. I asked to speak to a supervisor.
Fast forward ten minutes. FTD agreed to send a bouquet, on Tuesday, for free. They emailed me a new confirmation and assured me that I will not be charged. So, at least Grandma will be getting some flowers. Unfortunately, they will be arriving days after her birthday, and I will have to let her know they are coming and ruin the surprise so that she doesn't think the flowers were an afterthought. We'll see what they are like when they arrive.
I am now kicking myself for not using another site. I went with FTD because they seemed to be the only ones who could deliver on Saturday without a ridiculously high surcharge. However, in this situation I guess you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rett Syndrome - as seen on American Idol

Last night came a much-anticipated event in my house: the season premiere of American Idol! While there were some great singers and some very funny auditions, the one that really stuck with me was the audition of the young single mother raising a daughter with Rett syndrome. Before her audition was shown, the American Idol folks included clips of her highly impaired daughter. The mother wept as she described her daughter's apparently normal development until the age of two, at which time she began to have difficulties.

This heart-wrenching story saddened parents everywhere. It may also have been a little frightening for some. After all- Rett syndrome isn't a "mainstream" illness like autism that is talked about often in the media. Many individuals had never heard of Rett syndrome before watching the Idol segment last night. So, what exactly is this mysterious disease?

First of all, Rett syndrome has nothing to do with Tourette syndrome. It is not an abbreviation or form of Tourette syndrome, so just put that thought out of your head. Rett syndrome is derived from spontaneous genetic mutations on a particular gene. This means that you can not control or predict whether or not your child will be affected.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has released a fact sheet containing great information on this topic. Here are some excerpts that may be of interest:

What is Rett syndrome?
Rett syndrome is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by normal early development followed by loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, gait abnormalities, seizures, and mental retardation. It affects females almost exclusively. The disorder was identified by Dr. Andreas Rett, an Austrian physician who first described it in a journal article in 1966. It was not until after a second article about the disorder was published in 1983 that the disorder was generally recognized.

The course of Rett syndrome, including the age of onset and the severity of symptoms, varies from child to child. Before the symptoms begin, however, the child appears to grow and develop normally. Then, gradually, mental and physical symptoms appear. Hypotonia (loss of muscle tone) is usually the first symptom. As the syndrome progresses, the child loses purposeful use of her hands and the ability to speak. Other early symptoms may include problems crawling or walking and diminished eye contact. The loss of functional use of the hands is followed by compulsive hand movements such as wringing and washing. The onset of this period of regression is sometimes sudden.

Another symptom, apraxia — the inability to perform motor functions — is perhaps the most severely disabling feature of Rett syndrome, interfering with every body movement, including eye gaze and speech. Individuals with Rett syndrome often exhibit autistic-like behaviors in the early stages. Other symptoms may include toe walking; sleep problems; wide-based gait; teeth grinding and difficulty chewing; slowed growth; seizures; cognitive disabilities; and breathing difficulties while awake such as hyperventilation, apnea (breath holding), and air swallowing.

Is Rett syndrome inherited?
Although Rett syndrome is a genetic disorder — resulting from a faulty gene or genes — less than 1 percent of recorded cases are inherited or passed from one generation to the next. Most cases are sporadic, which means the mutation occurs randomly, mostly during spermatogenesis, and is not inherited.

Who gets Rett syndrome?
Rett syndrome affects one in every 10,000 to 15,000 live female births. It occurs in all racial and ethnic groups worldwide. Prenatal testing is available for families with an affected daughter who has an identified MECP2 mutation. Since the disorder occurs spontaneously in most affected individuals, however, the risk of a family having a second child with the disorder is less than 1 percent.

Genetic testing is also available for sisters of girls with Rett syndrome and an identified MECP2 mutation to determine if they are asymptomatic carriers of the disorder, which is an extremely rare possibility.

Girls have two X chromosomes, but only one is active in any given cell. This means that in a child with Rett syndrome only about half the cells in the nervous system will use the defective gene. Some of the child's brain cells use the healthy gene and express normal amounts of the proteins.
The story is different for boys who have an MECP2 mutation known to cause Rett syndrome in girls. Because boys have only one X chromosome they lack a back-up copy that could compensate for the defective one, and they have no protection from the harmful effects of the disorder. Boys with such a defect die shortly after birth. Different types of mutations in the MECP2 gene can cause mental retardation in boys.

For more information on Rett Syndrome, you can view the full NINDS fact sheet at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Help Your Country and Your Child: Buy Stock in United States Companies

Given the state of the stock market, I thought it would be an appropriate time to emphasize the value of investing in stocks for you and your child's future. Many women are uninterested in stocks, or perhaps just don't know how to begin. Here is a brief overview of reasons to invest, how to get started, and where to turn for more information. I am a completely self-taught investor. I have never taken a business class or had any formal training, but I have read quite a bit and learned how to create my own fairly successful stock portfolio. It is much easier than it seems.

What is the stock market, and why do people buy stock?
When a company is seeking to grow or expand, if it meets certain criteria it has the option of selling shares, or small pieces, of the company. People who own shares of stock, called shareholders, will share in the profits as the company grows. Historically, stocks have generally earned much more money over time than typical savings accounts. The stock market is like a daily auction in which shares of companies are sold to the highest bidders.

Why should I invest in the stock market? Can't I lose money that way?
First of all, it is important to remember that investment in stock does not provide any guarantee of future earnings. The value of an individual stock can fluctuate widely, and on any given day the value may be significantly higher or lower than the price you originally paid per share. Thus, there is a level of risk involved. However, history tends to repeat itself, and historical data has shown consistently that long-term investing in stocks leads to higher returns over time than investments in bank savings accounts.

How can buying stock be patriotic?
Many United States companies are struggling right now. The economy is poor, and stock prices seem to keep dropping. Companies need money to grow, expand, and continue to employ their workers. Thus, in my opinion an investment in United States stock is an investment in the future of our country.

How can I buy stock?
Several companies have now made it easy to purchase stock online with low fees and no account minimums. This means that, in many cases, you can invest as little as $25 or $50 per month. Don't think $25 monthly will add up to much? If you invested $25 per month in the stock market for 10 years, assuming an average annual 9% interest rate, at the end of 10 years you would have roughly $4,100. Most of us can save $25 per month very easily by trimming excess spending. My first suggestion for an investment company would be Sharebuilder.com. However, they were recently acquired by ING Direct and it is unclear if their currently low fees will begin, or if their easy, user-friendly set-up will change. If it does, Ameritrade.com is a highly-rated competitor.

Where can I get more information?
This post was designed as a very general overview and guide. I hope to provide more information as time goes on. In the meantime, there are many great books that will help you to gain a better understanding of stocks and financial management in general.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Golden Globes were awarded today

Does anyone care? Without all of the fanfare and glitz, the awards don't seem to matter.

This strike just needs to end already. I miss my Saturday Night Live! Really, if they show the Peyton Manning episode one more time I am going to put a brick through my TV. Since becoming a parent, it is rare for me to be anywhere other than sitting in front of my TV at 11:30 on Saturdays, and SNL used to be one of the highlights of my weekend (pathetic, I know). I can't take the repeats anymore! TV Execs, are you listening? End this strike- I want my SNL!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Baby-Proof Your Vocabulary

My daughter was ten months old when she first decided to start mimicking sounds and repeating words. This was much sooner than I anticipated, but apparently it is fairly common for infants to start repeating at an early age. However, since we did not expect our daughter to begin talking for quite some time, we did not monitor our use of foul language in front of her.

One day, my husband and I were standing in the laundry room, with him holding the baby. I opened the washing machine and looked at the darks, whites, and delicates he had haphazardly thrown in together and started to complain about his method of doing laundry. He responded with a rather common, two-syllable, two-word expletive- which my daughter instantly repeated! We were so shocked that all we could do was laugh. After all, you don't expect a child to start swearing soon after they learn to crawl!

Thinking this was a one-time repetition of the phrase, we simply vowed to watch our language in front of the baby and start teaching her more appropriate words. Several nights after the initial incident, I was on the phone with my father and holding the baby in my arms. I told him the story of what she had said. As soon as I told him the story, she AGAIN said that phrase and started laughing like crazy! It was at that point that we realized that she wasn't just repeating...our daughter had already started to talk!

Thankfully, since those incidents my daughter's vocabulary has grown, and I don't mean just by four letter words. Someday I guess we will look back and laugh about our swearing baby, but at the time it was more shocking than funny. To those of you who have a young infant or are expecting a child: please, remember this story and vow to refrain from having potty mouth around your baby. Otherwise, like me, you will end up feeling like the trashiest mom on the planet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Information About Parabens

One of my sister-in-laws is literally addicted to following the latest trends. When the Bugaboo stroller craze was at its peak, she had to run out and buy one. She brought her son to baby yoga from the time he was a few weeks old, intentionally gave him a name ranked in the Top 10 Most Popular Baby Names for that year, and faithfully taught him sign language. So it should have been no surprise to me that, in a recent visit to my home, my sister-in-law (we'll call her Trendy Mom) turned up her nose at our bath products and triumphantly announced "In my house, we've gone paraben-free!".

Amazed that my SIL suddenly seemed to understand chemistry (and three-syllable words), I started to investigate the topic on the internet. Sure enough, one of the newest crazes to hit Trendy Mom and her counterparts everywhere is the quest to avoid parabens at all costs. Now, you ask, what exactly is a paraben? Parabens are a family of chemical compounds that are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, baby products, toiletries, and pharmaceuticals to inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Parabens are identified on ingredient labels by several names, including methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and benzylparaben.They have been used for many years and were, until recent years, thought to be very safe for all human beings. Parabens are quickly metabolized by the body, meaning that the body is able to break them down and excrete them in a very short amount of time. In the past, it was widely accepted that, due to the brief amount of time spent in the body, parabens were safe for all products.

In recent years, studies have shown the potential for ill effects of parabens. Some breast cancer studies suggest that parabens may be somehow involved in the formation of tumors. Other studies show that parabens may mimic some effects of the estrogen hormone and have negative consequences on the male reproductive system. I won't get too technical on you, but if you have an interest in reading published research studies, you can view abstracts for free at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed and link to sites that will allow you to purchase full articles. (Some authors will also email you PDF copies of their work if you email them a request. Try emailing the contact person listed on the abstract.)

Now, back to Trendy Mom. She has given up traditional disposable diapers, lotions and baby washes in favor of all-natural, paraben-free organic products for her children. She and her husband have switched from paraben-containing deodorants to all natural versions. In her mind, she has fully jumped on the bandwagon and her family is officially "paraben-free". However, is this really the case?

On her recent visit, I stifled a laugh as I watched Trendy Mom slather her daughter's bottom in Desitin ointment during a diaper change. Apparently she never read the ingredient list on the label and realized that this wonderful, highly-effective product contains a type of paraben. Later, as Trendy Mom hugged and cuddled her infant, I wondered how much of her paraben-containing makeup was rubbing off on the baby's delicate skin.

Parabens are also used as preservatives in many foods, including baked goods, frozen dairy products, fruit juices, jellies and jams, candy, marinated fish products, mustard, mayonnaise, processed vegetables, spicy sauces, and soda pop. My husband and Trendy Mom's husband had gone to the grocery store to pick up items for dinner. Again, I marveled at Trendy Mom's sense of self-importance as she, her husband, and her children gobbled up that non-organic, potentially paraben-containing food without so much as a glance at the ingredient labels.

My message in relaying the story of Trendy Mom is this: get all the facts. We all raise our children differently, and I know that there are many more of you out there who share Trendy Mom's trend-following philosophy. The next time that you decide to modify your parenting philosophy in response to what other parents are doing, take the time to investigate and make an informed decision as to what is best for your family.

Now, to the larger issue of paraben safety. As I mentioned previously, we should all evaluate the facts and make informed decisions before making important lifestyle and parenting decisions. Going entirely paraben-free involves a much larger lifestyle change than simply changing brands of baby lotions and cosmetics. It involves a constant vigilance over your food intake, personal care products, and potential exposure in your environment. Parabens are everywhere.

Here is an excerpt from a 2006 announcement containing the FDA's official position on parabens:
A study published in 2004 (Darbre, in the Journal of Applied Toxicology) detected parabens in breast tumors. The study also discussed this information in the context of the weak estrogen-like properties of parabens and the influence of estrogen on breast cancer. However, the study left several questions unanswered. For example, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue.
FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen. For example, a 1998 study (Routledge et al., in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology) found that the most potent paraben tested in the study, butylparaben, showed from 10,000- to 100,000-fold less activity than naturally occurring estradiol (a form of estrogen). Further, parabens are used at very low levels in cosmetics. In a review of the estrogenic activity of parabens, (Golden et al., in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2005) the author concluded that based on maximum daily exposure estimates, it was implausible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals.
FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public, and will consider its legal options under the authority of the FD&C Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.

If you are truly committed to reducing your family's exposure to parabens, I hope that you have found this blog useful, and I encourage you to follow the latest research on the topic. For now, parabens will remain in my house in moderation until more research findings are published.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The future implications of overspending on your baby

When my daughter was a few months old, a friend introduced me to the joys of shopping with my baby at our local mall. This mall has the most beautiful family restroom I have ever seen....big comfy chairs and a TV to occupy older children, multiple changing stations with attached sinks and garbage bins, and private rooms for breastfeeding. To top it off, it is always extremely clean, and is attended to by cleaning staff almost constantly. Having previously been afraid to leave the house with my baby, I was excited to have a comfortable place to take her. During the day, the mall was never crowded, and I could leisurely stroll around, sip my coffee, and stop to reminisce with older folks about their children. My daughter loved looking around at all of the lights and different colors in store displays and, when she grew tired, would close her eyes and take a nap.

The unfortunate result of all of these trips to the mall was, as you would imagine, a growing number of unnecessary purchases. With your little angel looking up at you from her stroller, it is tough not to imagine the adorable sight of her in every cute little dress and outfit that Gymboree or The Children's Place are selling. (At least it was in my case!) All of this clothing truly was adorable, but her closet became so full that at most she wore every article of clothing only once or twice. That was certainly not the most economical use of my hard-earned money.

Let's take this one step further, and look at the future implications of my out-of-control spending. Assume that I unnecessarily spent approximately $50 per week on baby clothing. (I spent much more than this, but let's assume that most of the clothing was truly needed). This translates into roughly $200 per month on clothing that would be worn once, then put away, given to friends, or sold on consignment for pennies on the dollar. If I had kept that spending up for a year (assuming my husband wouldn't have cancelled my credit cards first), that amounts to $2400 in overindulgence.

Thankfully, this phase only lasted for about four months. The weather improved, and I began taking my baby for walks outside in the fresh air- which, incidentally, are free. However, in that 4 month period, I had spent approximately $800 on clothing that my daughter had barely used. Imagine if I had instead taken that $800 and invested it for her future. Even if I had placed it in a low-yield savings account, assuming a 3% interest rate, in 18 years it would have grown to $1,182. If I had invested that same $800 in the stock market through a 529 plan, assuming an average 9% rate of return, in 18 years it would have grown tax-free to $4,018. Had I stopped to think about this before, I would have gladly traded in some of those adorable dresses for over $4,000 toward my daughter's college expenses.

Is your spending out of control? Try using this free calculator to see the value of saving vs. spending.

Have you overspent on your child? Share your comments below.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Moms of toddlers and older kids- ever miss the old days?

Do you ever miss the days when your child was a precious newborn? Remember the little cord stump that you were afraid to even touch, paranoid that you would knock it off and scar your child for life? How about those tiny little newborn sized diapers that were actually, at one time, a little too big for your baby? Do you miss having a child that actually stays in one place and can not talk back? Ah, those were the days...

Do you ever miss long sleepless nights and nonstop feedings? Do you miss finding spit-up in your hair? Do you miss being strapped to your breast pump like Bessie the cow? Do you miss mustard-colored poop explosions all over your lap? Do you miss holding a colicky baby while he/she screamed for hours in your arms? It's funny how nature works. At the time, those all seem like the most difficult days of your life. In retrospect, they are truly some of the best. If you are an expectant mother reading this blog, I encourage you to revisit the 1st paragraph of this post. If all of those wonderful nostalgic moments did not outweigh the difficult ones, the human race would be long extinct.

Country Music = Baby Soother?

It was our first long car trip with the baby. We had about 10 hours ahead of us, and she was already screaming and fussing in the back seat. My neck and back were sore from bending and contorting to check on her in her rear-facing seat. Already, my husband was ready to turn the car around, head home, and forget about visiting relatives until our daughter turned 30.

We decided to stop at the next service area (gotta love the New Jersey Turnpike!) to see if the baby needed a change, a bottle, or just a breath of fresh air. In an effort to drown out the noise of my inconsolable baby and calm my racing heart, I turned on the car stereo and hit play on the first CD, which was Garth Brooks Double Live. Instantly, the distinct beginning of "Callin' Baton Rouge" blared over the stereo. As I reached for the fast forward button, I realized that the baby had stopped crying. Panicked that I somehow had caused a seizure with the obnoxious song (paranoid and irrational, I know) I unbuckled my seat belt and dove into the back seat to assess the medical emergency that I was sure the baby was having. To my surprise, she was just sleeping. Happily and contentedly sleeping. And breathing just fine (yes, I checked).

Unsure if this had been some fluke, we decided to try our little Garth Brooks baby soothing remedy later in the trip. Again, she was fussy and agitated even though her belly was full, she had already burped, and her diaper was dry. I started the Garth CD. This time I picked the song "Unanswered Prayers", thinking that it would be more soothing. She just screamed louder. I tried "The River", thinking it would be another less-obnoxious song. No luck. Back to the first song, "Callin' Baton Rouge"....she was almost immediately out like a light.

I don't know why this works, but certain country songs that are nothing like lullabies definitely soothe my child. After experimenting, we realized that other Garth Brooks including "Shameless" and "Friends in Low Places" had the same calming effect on our daughter. Any Rascal Flatts song also has the same effect- she does not discriminate. We now own multiple copies of every Rascal Flatts and Garth Brooks CD that has been released. They are in our cars and all over our house. It sounds a little crazy, but I don't know how we would have made it through the baby stage without that music. We did not believe in popping a pacifier or bottle in the baby's mouth every time she was difficult to console...without this strange little country music soothing remedy I don't know how we would have calmed her down in many situations. She and I both would probably have shed a lot more tears.

Just before typing this, I was trying to put my crabby daughter down for a nap. She was very overtired, and after an hour of dealing with her crying and tantruming, I was exhausted. Finally, she led my into my bedroom and to the CD player where a Rascal Flatts CD constantly resides. I put on the music, and she curled up on the bed and laid her head down. By the end of the first song, she was out like a light.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Research Findings on Vaccine-Autism Link

Today, MSNBC reported that a recent research study concluded that the rise in autism cases in California over the past decade or so was independent of numbers of children given Thimerosol-containing vaccines. Researchers found that the number of children diagnosed with autism continued to climb even after Thimerosol was removed from most childhood vaccines. To read this article, visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22542677/

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Thank goodness for great Dads

My child is fortunate enough to have an amazing father. From the day she was born, when I was lying miserable in a hospital bed suffering the after-effects of preeclampsia, my husband jumped in with his own parenting "sixth sense". Family, friends, and even strangers often comment about how much of a doting and loving father he is. Our child has been sick all week, and I have been feeling pretty terrible myself the last few days. Today, he woke up early with her and fed her breakfast to let me sleep in. Then he took her for a nice long walk to allow me a little time to relax. When they did return, he bore the brunt of all of the various tantrums, messes, and poopisodes, and even handled bath time with minimal help from me.

Ladies, if your baby has a wonderful Daddy...please take a minute today to say "Thank you".

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Diaper Bags- I love the name!

Have you heard of the Nunzia Designs company? No, it is not my company and I do not know any of the owners, employees, etc. (I actually came across their products by accident while shopping for a tote bag. ) I have not yet purchased any of their products and can not speak as to their quality, so you may want to do your own research before purchasing. I just LOVE the fact that Nunzia is their name too!

My Biggest Waste of Money

Now that my child is out of the infant stage, I look back and think about all of the things I thought I absolutely HAD to buy when I was pregnant and preparing for her arrival. Like most other new parents-to-be, we obsessed over things like the crib, carseat, and changing table. For safety and quality reasons, putting so much time and effort into those items was well worth it. However, in retrospect I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation by avoiding some other products altogether.

One of the biggest wastes of money for me personally was on pacifiers. I read all of the SIDS articles and research updates and knew that I should put my newborn to bed with a pacifier to help to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, it never occured to me that I might not need pacifiers for the baby longer than the first few weeks. My daughter wanted nothing to do with her binky, even from the first night home. We never forced it on her, and she just never took a pacifier. It scared me in the beginning, thinking about the possible SIDS risk, but there was no way to get my strong-willed infant to suck on the pacifier for more than about a minute. So where does the waste of money come in? Being the obsessive mother-to-be that I was, I had registered for several kinds of pacifiers...all kinds of brands, shapes, and sizes so that my baby could have a variety of options. Being the spoiled mom-to-be that I was, I was given a huge baby shower in which I received almost every item on my registry. This meant that I was given no less than 20 pacifiers! By the time my baby was born, I did not have the time to return any of them, and I felt guilty about the idea of returning gifts. So I still have all of these pacifiers, waiting for a new baby to come along and use them.

Another big waste of money? Baby shoes. I don't know what possessed me to buy several pairs of adorable sneakers, Uggs, and dress shoes for my newborn! Sometimes she would start to cry as soon as I put them on. Other times, it was just plain annoying to have her shoes getting in the way while I tried to change a diaper. One or 2 pairs of little baby booties would have been fine, but I was out of control with all the shoes!

Stuffed animals were another big waste of money. When I was pregnant, it seemed I fell in love with each and every one that I saw...I probably bought her 10-15 of them. Well, people just love to buy babies stuffed animals. I don't understand it, but it's true. She received at least 20 at my baby shower, and another 8-10 after she was born. Even distant family acquaintances sent her stuffed animal gifts! Had I anticipated that she would receive this many, I probably would have saved the money that I spent on stuffed animals. The ones she received as gifts are beautiful, and just as soft and cuddly as the ones I purchased!

How do I find the best products for my baby?

There are many methods of searching for the best baby products. It really depends in a lot of ways on how you define "the best". Some people think the best products are the most expensive ones. Others think the best products are those which offer the best value. Others choose to rely on recommendations of friends, relatives, acquaintances, websites or books. The bottom line is that, ultimately, what one person considers to be "the best" product may be considered "the worst" by others.

This blog is designed to provide you with the most comprehensive information possible on various baby products and services. Some recommendations will be based on personal experience, and others on my own research or advice of friends and relatives. The price range of all products will vary greatly. I am lucky enough to afford to spoil my child, showering her with love, affection, and, of course, lots of stuff! Sometimes I find that pricey items are worth the cost. Other times, the least expensive option works just fine. I hope that you will find my recommendations and information useful and helpful to you, and I encourage you to thoroughly research every product before purchasing it.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Hello and welcome to the Spoiled Little Baby Blog, your new resource for information on baby products, clothing, and deals. Thanks for stopping by!