Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fun with the I Am T-Pain Microphone

This video is hilarious! It is a little girl singing jingle bells. Well, it is a creative interpretation of the song anyway - she goes into some freestyle rap. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You may want to visit your local strip club before naming your baby

As I was reading this funny post (the article it links to is a must-read), I started wondering just how certain names ended up with certain connotations. Are there really hundreds of strippers in the world with names like Candi and Destini? Did some baby name guru create a list of names that would forever be associated with this profession? Regardless where these stereotypes came from, it does provide a pretty funny read. Makes me wonder what my kids' names are associated with...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Toys you may want to avoid this Christmas

Before you go shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, if you have babies or young children you should first view ConnPIRG's annual unsafe toys list Connecticut. The ConnPIRG group does independent safety testing of toys and releases a list each year of toys to avoid due to potential hazards.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Truly a mental health issue or just bad parenting?

Watching the video about a Florida elementary school student makes it hard to believe she could have been an enraged ball of fury to the point of assaulting a police officer and being arrested. Sadly, however, that is the case.( Florida Police Subdue 9-Year-Old Girl With Pepper Spray - ABC News) According to the mother, the child has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and needs to take medication, which she may have missed that day. While many people are quick to fault the police response, I think the entire diagnosis is suspect. It is NOT normal to diagnose such a serious psychiatric disorder in a young child. According to the paperwork provided by the mother on the news, it appears the girl was diagnosed in 2009, when she would have been around 7 years old. Something just doesn't seem right here. Perhaps there is more going on in the household that is causing these behaviors. Or perhaps there is a parenting issue that led this child's mother to search for a cure in the form of medication, instead of in the form of rules, consequences, and discipline. Whatever the reason for this child's outburst, it is clear that the person who diagnosed schizophrenia in a 7 year old child owes all of us an explanation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Khloe Kardashian learns the birds and bees

It is quite a day for intersting articles! I came across this gem :Khloe Kardashian wants kids, but 'it's so hard'. The article quotes Khloe as she talks about never knowing about ovulation, or the fact that there is only a limited time to get pregnant each month. Seriously? Having had my own fertility struggles, I sympathize with anyone who is having a hard time getting pregnant. I know that the Kardashian sisters aren't exactly famous for their brainpower, but I really could not believe that a woman would not understand her own body. Was Kris too busy teaching her daughters the ins and outs of plastic surgery to be bothered with a little thing like ovulation? Did these kids take a middle school health class? Unbelievable. I know that Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom have been married 2 years now (a major success in Hollywood), but if their schedules don't allow them to be together long enough at a stretch to be able to make a baby, just how do they plan to raise one?

Increased numbers of parents are putting your child at risk

In an article published today (More parents think it's safer to delay vaccines), researchers discuss their findings that 1 in 10 parents are idiots who think they know more than decades of medical researchers. That's right - 1 in 10 parents are opting out of traditional vaccine schedules. Don't think this will impact you? Consider this- a newborn's body can't yet fight off diseases such as measles, and is too young to be vaccinated against them. Coming into contact with an unvaccinated child who has picked up the illness could make your baby seriously ill. The Rubella virus can have devastating consequences for pregnant women, including causing miscarriage or serious harm to the fetus. Don't mess around- vaccines are not some government conspiracy. They exist to protect all of us - especially our infants and unborn children.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pregnant? Don's eat canteloupe!!!

A listeria outbreak has now been linked to deaths across the country. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause many symptoms, but the biggest danger is stillbirth in pregnant women. The reason that pregnant women are advised not to eat cold cuts and deli meat is due to the possibility of listeria bacteria in those items. Now, listeria has been found in canteloupe that was shipped around the country. No matter where you live, if you are pregnant, DO NOT EAT IT. If you have a craving, find something else to satisfy it. This is dangerous for your baby.

Maryland proposes ban on crib bumpers

In a bold stance against infant asphyxiation, Maryland has proposed a complete ban on crib bumpers. Read all about it here: Maryland proposes ban on crib bumpers. In theory, this is a good idea. However, I worry that, in the absence of crib bumpers, well-meaning parents will put pillows or other dangerous soft items in cribs. This law could potentially cause more deaths, rather than preventing them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Harris Teeter triple coupons - not worth it

I excitedly ran over to Harris Teeter with my coupon organizer packed and ready to go. It's triple coupon week, so I was hoping to save some big money by using my coupons on the items that were on sale. For a few items the deals were pretty good. I ended up with some Fiber One and Nature Valley bars that were very cheap. The Green Giant vegetables were on sale for $1.25 each. I had a coupon for 80 cents off 4 boxes. I grabbed the 4 boxes and assumed my coupon would triple to $2.40. However, that didn't happen. The coupon only took off $1.25 - the value of 1 of the boxes. Still an OK deal, but not what should have happened. I have reviewed their coupon policy online and could not find anything to explain this. It is very disappointing. I can understand them not giving cash back if the multiplied coupon would be worth more than the actual item, but in this case I had to buy 4 items to get the discount, so the remaining money should have come off the other items.

Harris Teeter recently started a policy of not doubling any coupons that say "do not double or triple". In the past, however, they doubled or tripled everything regardless of whether it contained that statement. (I assume Harris Teeter, not the manufacturers, ate the difference.) With this latest coupon hassle, I now am reminded why I usually shop at their competition. Lowes Foods, and even Walmart and Target, have better prices and less hassle in the form of imaginary "deals". I will be sticking with them in the future.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Military dads meet their babies for the first time

It is hard, as a mother, to imagine giving birth and bringing a new baby home while my husband is deployed on the other side of the world. It is even harder to watch this video of 2 men surprising their wives and meeting their new babies for the first time without crying!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jewish baby and children's gifts - not so hard to find

I am not Jewish, but I have friends of many races and religions and I try to purchase culturally-appropriate gifts when possible. In my time spent attending an international boarding school, I had the opportunity to learn about many different cultures, and I still find it fascinating to learn about others' traditions and celebrations. I also try to avoid purchasing items that can cause offense. For example, in most Italian-American households, bringing a housewarming gift that includes a jar of tomato sauce would be considered an insult.

Since I came across this website, I thought I would share it in case there are others who are scratching their heads trying to find an appropriate gift for a new Jewish baby or child. While many of the items shown are not religious or culturally-specific, even if you order a baby blanket or other item, your friends will appreciate your efforts to honor their religion and culture with your choice of gift purchase. One cute gift, which is probably only appropriate if you have a solid knowledge of Hebrew, is a pacifier that can be personalized with Hebrew letters.

Now if they can only create stores for other niches. Maybe someone should create a store called "Culturally appropriate gifts for clueless Americans".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Justin Bieber wants to have babies

In this article, Justin Bieber describes his plan to get married and start having babies by the time he is 25. Maybe it is because he is so smitten with Selena Gomez, who he recently admitted is his girlfriend. Either way, let's hope that Justin decides to get a formal education and stop acting like a spoiled little brat before he starts trying to breed. You need to grow up BEFORE you have the babies, kid.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kate Hudson's father calls her a spoiled brat

Remember when Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino's father threw him under the bus in the press and filed a lawsuit against him? For once, a real celebrity is also dealing with daddy issues. Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, grew up with Kurt Russell as her father figure, though he is not her biological dad. Her real dad has now come out of the woodwork to publicly call her out for being a spoiled brat who doesn't call her grandmother: Kate Hudson's dad: 'She is a spoiled brat'. What better time to embarass your child into calling her ailing grandmother - suffering from Alzheimer's, no less - right around Grandparents Day. Come on Kate, "man up"!

The resilience of toddlers

My toddler son never ceases to amaze me. When it comes to any kind of life change, I am a baby myself. Whether it is switching jobs, buying a new car, or just changing something about my routine, I really get thrown out of whack. (This is why I could sympathize so well with the children with autism that I used to work with.) I just like routines. Up until recently, I thought my children were the same way.

A few months ago, we moved into a new house. The new one is much more practical for our family, and has large rooms for the kids and a great backyard . However, though we have moved several times before, to my son only one place was "home". The first night, I put him in his crib, braced myself, and waited for the screams. To my surprise, none came. Each night after, I waited for things to sink in and for him to throw a massive tantrum, but to my surprise and relief, nothing happened. He was just the same happy kid he has always been. Just in a new house.

As much as I am shocked that the move caused so little disruption in my toddler's life, I am also a little disappointed. If he can really bounce back this easily from changes in his normal daily routine, I guess he isn't so much like me after all.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MDA Labor Day Telethon 2011

I am very torn over whether to donate this year to the MDA telethon. I have been donating to help "Jerry's Kids" every year since I was a kid. But according to many reports, Jerry Lewis was fired from MDA this year. The telethon was shortened from 21 hours to 6, and the lack of Jerry's presence was definitely felt in the brief time I watched the telethon tonight. I know that helping sick kids needs to happen regardless of the front man, but I still want to know more about what has gone on behind the scenes at MDA. Until Jerry speaks publicly at a press conference or otherwise, I am holding onto my check for now. There are plenty of other worthy charities in need right now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Can I get some syrup with that?

Of all places, a mother gave birth yesterday in a Waffle House parking lot. Apparently they will be holding the child's baptism at Bojangles and 1st birthday party at Chik-fil-a.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm having a moment....

This is what I like to call a Mommy time-out. After an afternoon at home with the kids, I am at my wits end. Nobody is listening - even my little guy is giving me attitude. My daughter is adjusting to not taking naps anymore, so she is a little she-devil. While I am not going to ever snap and do something crazy, I was just very close to putting a ridiculously oversized Minnie Mouse toy and a sit-and-spin straight in the trash outside. Before I threw away my children's favorite possessions, I decided to instead walk away and take some deep breaths. They are safely located in another room where I can see them, but I am removed from their company and taking a breather. No matter the age of your children, even when they are infants, it is helpful as a mother to be able to recognize when you just need a moment - and to take it when you need it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

If you have any older kids to shop for...

If you are looking for a birthday gift idea for an older child (or maybe are starting Christmas shopping early), I came across some books that are truly amazing. There is a whole series of "Uncover Books" that essentially allow you to dissect a person, animal, car, dinosaur, etc. by turning each page. Every turn of a page gets you a layer deeper into a model embedded in the book. These books are great for inspiring learning in a unique and fun way. I actually found them when my daughter picked out the "Uncover a Frog" book at the Peabody Museum at Yale University in CT on a recent vacation. Even at her young age, she was excited about this book, and I love that it will grow with her. As she learns to read, she will eventually be able to read the book and learn more of the facts and figures it provides.

Here are links to some of the books in this series:

Who's going to know it's expired?

I was horrified during a recent conversation with someone who I thought, up until this point, was reasonably intelligent and understanding of issues surrounding infant safety. The conversation was regarding a mutual friend who is looking for a used infant car seat.

Me: "If she keeps asking around, she can probably find one from someone that she knows. She just needs to check the date and make sure it isn't expired."

Formerly Intelligent Person: "Even if it's expired, what does it matter? Who's going to know if it's expired?"

Me: "What are you, crazy? Don't you know that the expiration date is on there because the materials that make up the car seat start to break down, and after a certain number of years it isn't as safe anymore?"

Formerly Intelligent Person: (clearly thinking I am full of it) "Whatever, it's not that big a deal."

Well, folks, it is that big a deal. Car seat safety guidelines exist to keep babies and children safe. They aren't just some scam to get people to keep buying new baby products. Even the Cadillac of Britax car seats starts to lose its ability to keep your child safe after a certain amount of time. The general rule on car seats is that they expire 6 years from the manufacturing date, which you can find on the bottom of the seat. As I learned with my Peg Perego, though, some seats expire after only 5 years or less. This is why it is very important to read the manual for your specific year and model of car seat.

Please don't share the mindset of Formerly Intelligent Person. Take care seat expiration dates seriously. It is your job to keep your baby or child safe. If it means spending a little more money on a safe car seat, and a little less on cute baby outfits, it is worth it. I speak from experience. As I may have blogged about previously, a friend was killed several years ago in a terrible car wreck. Her infant daughter survived- she had some injuries, but she was saved by her car seat. I shudder to think what would have happened if this friend had purchased an older, expired car seat. The family that my friend left behind had enough tragedy to cope with...her choice of car seat not only saved her baby, but also helped to provide her family with some comfort.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing your kids (and yourself) for a hurricane

In case you have been living under a rock all week, or are still hung up on the earthquake earlier this week, I will let you know that there is a large hurricane heading toward the East Coast of the U.S. Hurricane Irene is roughly the size of Texas, and it is heading right toward the North Carolina shore, where it will land as either a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. People are panicking all along the coast, as it is expected to head up I-95 and into New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Here in the Carolinas, people are used to hurricanes. Many people already keep hurricane kits in their homes, or have already purchased generators, simply because hurricane season is just part of life in this part of the country. Talking to family and friends in the Northeast, however, is quite perplexing. There seem to be 2 major reactions: 1) People who are completely freaking out, stockpiling canned peas like the world is coming to an end; and 2) People who appear to be in denial, who are doing no hurricane preparations and just hoping the whole thing blows out to sea.

Get real, folks. This hurricane is coming, and it is a big one. If Manhattan takes a direct hit, we could see devastation of Katrina proportions. If you aren't taking this hurricane seriously, and you have children, you are an idiot. It is your responsibility to keep your children safe, and that includes being appropriately prepared for hurricanes or any other natural disaster that you can reasonably predict.

Depending on the age of your child, you will have different needs. The general rule is that you should have a gallon of water available per person per day for at least 3-4 days in your home. If you have an infant, even if he or she is breast fed, you should stock up even more, and purchase some powdered formula and bottles as a back-up. If for some reason you are injured in the storm and can't breastfeed, at least you will have something to feed your baby. (Without power, any extra breast milk stored in your fridge or freezer will quickly become unsafe for use.) Also consider other infant items that you regularly use- be sure to have at least 3-4 days worth of diapers, wipes, and diaper cream on hand, in case power is out and stores are closed. When the tornadoes hit my area in April, many drug and grocery stores were closed for almost a week after the storm.

If your children are old enough to understand that a hurricane is coming, try prepping them factually. Don't try to tell them that nothing is happening. Kids are perceptive, and will feel more nervous if they feel that you are lying to them. Explain that a hurricane is like a thunderstorm that has a lot of extra wind. Because of this wind, it is not safe to be outside, because tree branches and other items can blow around and possibly hurt someone. Warn them that the power may go out, and suggest some board games/toys/puzzles that they can play with that do not require electricity. Most of all, reassure them that a parent's job is to keep their children safe, and that you will keep them safe during the storm.

I will be praying for everyone along the coast. Irene is coming, there is no question. I just hope that she is merciful, and that nobody is injured or killed by this storm.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good news for Oregon babies!

I was happy to find this today: Hospitals take 'hard stop' on early elective C-sections, inductions. A majority of Oregon hospitals have now agreed to refuse to perform elective inductions or elective C-sections before 39 weeks. Why is this a good thing? The key word here is "elective". Many mothers are scheduling inductions or C-sections for selfish reasons, risking the health and development of their babies for trivial reasons. The one that really bothers me the most is looking at parenting websites around December and seeing the lengths that women will go to avoid having babies on Christmas. (Yes, let's risk little Jayden's lung development so he won't share his birthday with Jesus. Great idea.) I am glad that this agreement will do what many selfish mothers are unable to do- protect the health and safety of innocent babies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playdating other families

I was intrigued by this article regarding parents meeting other parents. It discusses the need for parents to have other parents as friends, to share tips and companionship and prevent isolation. As I explained in a previous post, sometimes you meet other mothers or parents who you think you may want to befriend but, for various reasons, you may not want to continue to pursue a relationship. The article provides some great advice on both making new friends and cutting ties when it isn't working.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who's Tap Shoes?

I had a very funny, "who's on first" type of exchange with my daughter in the car this morning. I mentioned that we are going to go to lunch with some of her friends tomorrow, after we all go to the local dancewear store. The dance school season starts in a couple weeks, and I told her that we need to go get tap shoes before we go to lunch. The conversation afterward went like this:
Daughter: "Who's tap shoes?"
Me: "Yours."
Daughter: "No, who's tap shoes?"
Me: "Yours. They are for you."
Daughter: (getting upset) "No, I want to know who's tap shoes!"
Me: "I told you. They are for you. We are getting them for you."
Daughter: "But I want to know who's tap shoes!"
Me: (Finally realizing she is asking who's and not whose tap shoes) "Oh, do you think tap shoes is a person?"
Daughter: (Smiling) "Yes. Who is it?"

This is when I had to explain what her tap shoes were. It gave me quite a chuckle as I started my day. Just another example of the funny things kids say!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Market fears and shopping guilt

Though we were away on vacation for the past week, it was hard to avoid all of the reports of the stock market turmoil. Bad news on the U.S. credit rating caused a widespread fear of a longer recession ahead. Investors are panicked, selling stocks left and right to try to avoid further losses. Younger investors are afraid to invest in the stock market altogether. In short, a little bit of fear snowballed into a whole lot of fear, which is like a growing fungus on the toes of our economy, just when we were trying to dip them into the pool of increased prosperity and positive outlook.

What I am trying to say, through this unusual (and maybe a little gross) metaphor, is that people are worried about money right now. I recognize this. So, while I may be in a situation in which I am more secure and less worried than other people right now, I am thinking twice before spending money on trivial things. With millions of people out of work and worried about feeding their families or preventing their homes from foreclosure, I feel a little guilty spending $20 on a tacky Halloween decoration.

For the time being, I am going to continue to talk about great items and recommend products that I am buying. But, I will focus more on sharing coupon codes for baby and children's websites and writing about some of the great deals that I find. For those of you who are in a comfortable financial position right now, I am also going to provide more information on charities and ways to give back to the community. It is never too early to teach your children about the many ways they can help others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spend too much now, regret it later



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.

This is what my son looked like after bath last night, wrapped in his towel...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coupon and great deal on diapers and wipes - today and tomorrow only!

I just went to Babies R Us to stock up on diapers and wipes, and got an incredible deal. Today they emailed coupons for $8 off boxes of Pampers diapers and $3 off Pampers wipes. This can be piggy-backed onto the ongoing sale that is giving half off a box of wipes if you buy a box of diapers. You can also use one manufacturer's coupon per item - so I used a coupon that I had for $3 off a box of wipes and another for $1.50 off a box of diapers. In total, I ended up with a discount of over $20! This was well worth the trip. The deal is only good for July 22 and 23rd.

Wonder how the extreme couponers do it?

In CNN Money's Tips from extreme couponing pros - Jul. 22, 2011, you can see an overview of suggestions given by coupon pros. A lot of this seems to be common knowledge, but it may be helpful for some.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's amazing how the kids take over...

Today I was speaking with a friend who is celebrating his 6th wedding anniversary this week. He and his wife are fairly young, and have no children. (I would never pry, so I don't know whether this is by choice or not.) Anyway, he is actually taking off the day of his anniversary, as he does every year, so that he and his wife can do something special.

This was just fascinating to me- and a little depressing at the same time. My husband and I have been together for 10 years, and married for most of those years. Our anniversary used to be a major event, but as children came, we gradually pushed the day aside. Now it is eclipsed by our son's birthday, which is only 3 days before. I know that couples who do not have children miss out on all of the love and adventure that children can bring. But sometimes, I do wish that it would be possible for my spouse and I to take a day or 2 and spend time together, talking only about "grown-up stuff". However, it is just impossible. When we do have a free moment together, like in the calm, quiet evenings after the kids are in bed, all discussion inevitably focuses on child-related issues. So, while I wouldn't trade my kids for anything, in some ways I do envy those couples who are childless by choice and are able to focus more on each other. One day when my kids are older and off on their own, however, I know that I will miss these days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Working or Staying Home - A Required Choice

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 these 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. In some cases, even family members are unfit to help with childcare duties. 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. In this unpredictable economy, many couples are fearful of giving up one job in case the other spouse is laid off. 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.

I must also add that I am fortunate enough to have found a workplace and supervisor who make every effort to aid in work/life balance and allow a reasonable amount of flexibility. This is after suffering through 3 years in a workplace that was anti-mothers and outright discriminated against parents of young children in their hiring practices. I was relieved and overjoyed to find a workplace that understands if my child is sick and I need to work from home, or if I need to leave early to see my child's school concert. So if you are stuck in a workplace that is making it harder for you to balance work and family, I suggest that you keep looking for other options. Eventually you may find the right workplace that makes you feel better about having to work all day and be away from your children, and still allows you to spend quality time with them.

JLo and Marc Anthony are getting divorced

This is quite a surprise- though no relationship breakup in Hollywood should ever be a surprise I guess. According to the statement they released, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony have worked everything out and this is an amicable split, but I am sure there will be more dirt to follow. I wonder- did he cheat on her? Did she cheat on him? Or were the pressures of raising their two beautiful 3 year-old twins, Max and Emme, in the spotlight too much to handle? Sure, having children puts pressure on any relationship. Having twins, and being world-traveling superstars must put a level of stress on a relationship that is just unimaginable for us commoners. I feel sorry for the babies, and hope that somehow things are resolved and this couple gets back together.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Totally Inappropriate Gifts for Pregnant Women

If you are seeking a classy, high-end gift for your pregnant friend or wife, this list probably won't help. But, if you are seeking a funny gift, gag gift, or conversation starter, or are just looking for gifts to avoid, here are some ideas.

  1. Nursing bras. This cringe-worthy gift is practical, but really- is it normal to go bra shopping for a friend?

  2. The Giant Microbes Sperm Cell (Spermatozoon). Description from the store's website: "Our little man's man is the stuff of legends. You can bank on it."

  3. Yes, breast cream is another practical gift. But it is a little creepy to think that someone else is buying cream for your sore boobs.
    (Though this would be a funny shower gift for a woman who is publicly very squeamish about breastfeeding.)

  4. Fitness Magazine

Yes, this was an actual gift received when I was pregnant. What 7 months pregnant woman wants to be told to lose weight?

What do you think? Have you received any other funny pregnancy gifts? Or did anyone, without trying to be funny, buy you a completely inappropriate gift?

Finally, hospitals are taking a stand against elective C-sections

I was happy to read this article today about the changes the state of Louisiana is trying to make at hospitals across the entire state. This push, lead by Lousiana's health department, is in response to the state's consistently poor rankings for neonatal care and mortality and high rate of preterm births. What are the risks associated with preterm birth? Potentially, a whole host of problems ranging from developmental delays to problems with lung and brain development. So, why would someone want to induce labor early or have an early C-section 2 weeks or more before their due date? In many cases, it is simply due to convenience. Maybe they don't want their baby to be born on Christmas, or they are trying to have the baby when there is family in town to care for other children. No matter the reason, the possibility of suffering a little inconvenience is nowhere near as devastating as the possible detriment to the health of the baby. Way to go, Lousiana! Now only 49 more states to go!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New babies are so exciting!

We just got the news that our new little nephew will be born tonight. Although the mom-to-be was scheduled for a C-section in 2 weeks (for medical reasons), the little guy decided tonight is the night! I guess his birthday will be lucky 13. I should have known it was coming. All day I was surrounded by people talking about babies, people expecting babies, and even a mother who had brought her baby to work. It seemed like the universe was trying to tell me something- I guess I should have listened! Isn't there a full moon out tonight? I know it is an old wives tale, but something about the full moon seems to put babies in the mood to come out!

The most fun part of waiting to get the call that my new nephew has been born, of course, is hearing 1) that he is healthy and 2) what they name him. In our family, everyone pretty much refrains from discussing baby names until the baby is born. (It is probably because we are all so opinionated and nobody really wants to hear what we all think of each particular name that is under consideration.) So far, they have gone with very trendy names plucked from the top 10 list from each year of birth. I am very curious to see what this little guy is named!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ways NOT to induce labor - and some ideas to try

There are many old wives' tales about the best ways to naturally induce labor. While research has examined some of these different options, nobody really knows what triggers the onset of labor. As long as your midwife or doctor agrees, and you are close to or beyond your due date, you may want to try some of these options:

  • Drinking Castor Oil

  • Nipple Stimulation

  • Eating Spicy Foods

  • Walking, swimming, or other increased physical activity

  • Take a bumpy car ride

  • Have sexual intercourse

  • Drink red raspberry leaf tea or take red raspberry leaf tablets

  • Acupuncture

In a 2008 study (Murray, Kelsberg, Safranek and Crawford, "Clinical inquiries. Do any folk remedies or herbals help induce labor?", The Journal of Family Practice), researchers found that some methods of natural labor induction may actually be unsafe. Traditional methods which were deemed ineffective and possibly unsafe by the study included:

  • Evening Primrose Oil

  • Black Cohosh

  • Blue Cohosh

Interestingly enough, in its review of other studies, this study found that two methods appeared to be effective in starting labor: Acupuncture and Nipple Stimulation. Castor oil was found to cause nausea and vomiting, but not labor. I guess I know where to start when I am ready to evict my little one! While I could not find recent research data on other methods such as eating spicy foods, I may give them a try as well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pennsylvania restaurant bans babies and kids under 6

Noise Prompts Monroeville Restaurant To Ban Young Kids - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh
Well, I guess that is one restaurant I won't be going to if I travel through western PA. This restaurant owner is tired of noisy babies and children in his establishment, and decided that kids under 6 will not longer be permitted to dine there. I sympathize with his view that many parents allow their children to run hog wild in restaurants. On several occasions, while sitting with my own (quiet, well-behaving) children in restaurants, we have been subjected to screaming and tantruming from other children that went on for an hour or more. However, I think this decision is a poor one, and hope that it hurts his business. Rather than banning all children, this owner should start speaking up when patrons' children are being disruptive and asking them to leave. This would weed out the bad apples and allow parents who are rearing respectful children (or who know enough to get the check and leave when a baby or toddler is screaming) to continue to enjoy this restaurant.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My theory on what really happened to poor little Caylee

Since everyone from Nancy Grace to Kim Kardashian seems to be throwing their opinion out there regarding Casey Anthony, I thought I would share what I think happened. This is based purely on what I have read from various news outlets and conjured up in my mind. I don't know anything more about this case than anyone else, but considering that I have always had a unique way of looking at the world, I might as well offer up this theory.

On the day in question (June 16, 2008), or perhaps the night before, maybe Caylee was killed in a horrible accident. Instead of drowning in the swimming pool, which the defense contended during the trial (and may have been made up based on another inmate's story), I believe that Casey tried to use Chloroform to put Caylee to sleep so she could go out and party. Maybe she even knocked her out and put her in the car to sleep. It is clear that Casey was quite the party girl, and also clear that her parents did not treat her as if they thought she was a good mother. So rather than ask them to watch the baby so she could go out drinking, and being forced to have her terrible parenting skills thrown in her face, perhaps she started looking for a way to keep her daughter safe that would allow her to leave her unattended and avoid letting her parents know what she was up to. So, maybe Casey tried to drug Caylee with chloroform and accidentally overdid it, killing the little girl. Still an accident? Yes. An accident that would put Casey in prison? Absolutely.

I did not feel that George Anthony was believable on the stand. Maybe he molested Casey or maybe he didn't. Maybe he had an affair or maybe he didn't. Either way, it did not seem as if he was telling the whole truth on the stand. I really think the jury didn't trust him. So maybe this really was a horrible accident and Casey enlisted the help of her father, who was formerly in law enforcement, to help cover it up. Maybe she had something to hold over his head as blackmail- such as allegations of incest and molestation. She could have used this to get him to help.

Now there is Cindy Anthony. Yes, it seems clear that she lied on the stand regarding who made the searches for "chloroform" on the family computer. But perhaps it is because she is trying to protect her daughter, not because she knows something. What if George helped Casey dispose of the body and Cindy had no knowledge? What if Cindy simply believes her daughter had something to do with Caylee's death, and that it was an accident, so she was trying to help? Or, even worse, what if Cindy believes that George really did molest Casey- and now she is trying to protect her daughter from prison, since she couldn't protect her from him?

So, what do you think of this for a possible theory?

I love shoe socks!

OK, let's all admit that putting shoes on an infant is a little ridiculous. They can't walk, and they generally hate to wear them. My daughter would scream and cry if we put shoes on her, from the time she was about 6 weeks old. (Of course, now that she can walk, she loves them!) The only point of putting a pair of shoes on a pre-walking baby is to complete an outfit.

Faced with the choice between making my child miserable by putting shoes on her, or making her outfit look less cute by only putting her in socks, I chose to keep my child comfortable and just try to keep her feet out of pictures. However, one day my sister-in-law came to the rescue with what came to be one of my favorite baby inventions: shoe socks! I had never seen them before, and I was so excited to put them on my daughter. I fell in love with them, and had to purchase other styles. I stuck with the Trumpette brand, and found that the socks were high quality, resisted fading, and miraculously stayed on my daughter's feet, even when she was at the stage when she could pull off socks made by other brands.

When my son came along, I was excited to find that there were versions for boys as well. I ran out and purchased socks that looked like skater shoes and ones that looked like sneakers. The boys' shoe socks seem to earn even more compliments from passers-by than the girls'. They are just adorable.

This is such a cute and unique idea. I hope you enjoy them for your little one!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony- not guilty? Did George Anthony do it?

Wow! I am not sure how Baez pulled this one off, but 12 jurors actually did not believe that Casey Anthony killed her daughter Caylee. This is surprising, of course, to most of the rest of the world. It is impossible to imagine any mother living as she did, partying and loving life, knowing that her child had died in a horrible accident. It just doesn't make any sense. Of course, we will never know the whole story. However, I do wonder if the jurors were most turned off by George Anthony. When asked if he had molested Casey, he responded "I would never do something like that to my daughter." To me, that doesn't sound like a typical denial. I know that if most men I know were accused of something like that, their response would be something more along the lines of "I am not a child molester" or "I am not a pervert". So if I was sitting on the jury, it would make me wonder too. And if you don't trust George Anthony, it isn't hard to believe that he really had an affair with a woman who had been helping with the search for Caylee, or that he would use all of his skills learned from years as a police detective to frame his daughter for the murder, or that he would fake a suicide to better sell the story. Then she would be labeled a murderer and nobody would believe her abuse claims. So I have to wonder- Casey was found not guilty, but was she actually innocent?

Friday, July 1, 2011

"My babies disgust me!"

In the latest Octomom drama, Nadya Suleman told InTouch magazine that her babies disgust her, and that her kids are so out of control that she hides in the bathroom for hours and eats lunch on the floor. She also makes references to her terrible financial situation. This is sad on so many levels. First, the fact that she gave birth to so many kids when she already was marginally caring for the ones that she had is just irresponsible. It seems she was just trying to become famous, which she achieved, but not for good reasons. The whole world has been watching the Octomom freak show and just waiting to see how these kids would be raised and how they will turn out. Based on this interview, it is pretty clear that the kids are being neglected. I wish this woman would finally do what she should have done when they were babies- hand them over to the state, let them be adopted into a good home or homes, and get some psychiatric treatment.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Funny and Unique Hostess Gifts

One of the great benefits of being a mom is that it becomes easier to meet other moms. You may make a new friend at a baby yoga class, local coffee shop, or just walking around the neighborhood. This new friend may invite you to dinner parties and other festivities at her house, at which she may be the only person you know.

I am not comfortable in these situations. I find it awkward to strike up conversation with strangers, especially when many of them already know each other. However, one thing I have learned is that bringing an interesting hostess gift or party snack can serve as a great conversation starter. It also really starts you off on the right foot with other partygoers, as they immediately know that you have a sense of humor.

Here are some funny and interesting items that you may want to consider for your next hostess gift:

  • Nautical Wine Sweaters
    I just can't help but look at this little army of wine bottles dressed in sailor sweaters and laugh. It is a ridiculous but cute way to bring a bottle of wine to a party.

  • Bumble Bee Honey Pot - I have this and absolutely love it. You can pair it with some local honey and/or tea for a unique gift.

  • Bud Vase Set
    This unique and inexpensive way to bring flowers is perfect for parties that scientists or people with medical backgrounds will be attending. The rack looks remarkably like a test tube rack seen in many laboratories. You only need 5 stems of flowers. Put food coloring in the water and select unique flowers to make this really special.

  • Pot Clip - This clip attaches right to the rim of your pot. The spoon rests in the hole until you're ready to use it again, so any dripping goes back in the pot. This is a great way to keep counters clean and avoid having a messy spoonrest. Everyone will want to know where you got it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Surprise, Charlie Sheen! Denise Richards adopted a baby girl!

According to reports, Denise Richards has adopted a baby girl. Unlike many other celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Madonna, she chose to adopt an American child. It is wonderful to see a child, born right in this country, adopted into a home with so many resources. I used to work with children who were "in the system" awaiting foster placement or adoption, and it was very sad to see the ones who never were adopted and spent their childhoods in group homes.
However, I do hope that Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards are able to remain civil, and that he will not have a negative influence on baby Eloise. He is the father of the other 2 children, so it is reasonable to expect that he will come into contact with the baby, but I hope that he continues to receive proper treatment and becomes a positive male role model for all 3 girls.

The Spoiled Little Baby List of Suggestions to Keep Your Baby Safe From Older Siblings

One of the most frightening parts of bringing a new baby home is the fear of the response of older siblings. How will they react? What if they hate the baby? What if they love the baby too much and smother her? How will I keep my baby safe from older siblings? These are all valid fears. After all, children - especially very young ones - have a limited understanding of danger and risks to newborn babies.

Depending on your other child(ren)'s age(s), you can take some precautions and safety measures to help ease the transition (and your mind). Here I will share some ideas that have worked for myself and friends who have been through the adjustment of adding to their broods. Some may be more appropriate for preschoolers and school-age children, who have a better cognitive understanding, while others may be useful for all ages. So, here goes:

The Spoiled Little Baby List of Suggestions to Keep Your Baby Safe From Older Siblings

  1. Teach your child this rule: "Only grown-ups pick up babies."

  2. Talk to your child about touching the baby, and explain that everyone has germs that can make little babies sick. This is why we need this rule: "Only touch the covered parts." This is easy for even a 2 year old to remember (worked for mine, with occasional reminders), and will help to keep their hands off of the baby's hands, face, etc.

  3. Consider installing a baby gate on your baby's door (once he or she is sleeping in a crib) or on your own door if baby will be sleeping in your room. This is appropriate if you are worried about your child sneaking in unsupervised and possibly picking up or harming baby.

  4. Keep all balls and other toys that your child typically throws or kicks in the garage. This will eliminate any potential for baby to accidentally be hit by an errant throw.

  5. Teach your child this rule: "Babies only drink milk. They have no teeth so they can't eat." This will help to discourage your child from trying to share food or drink with his or her sibling.

Just one reason why car seat safety measures are so important

I was saddened to read this story about a 10 month old who was killed yesterday in a car accident: Baby girl dies in Lake Wheeler Road accident - Traffic - The mother was driving her SUV around a curve and overcorrected, overturning the vehicle and sending it into a ditch. Perhaps the saddest part of this is that the tragedy could possibly been prevented. The baby was in a car seat that was not fastened into the car properly, and the straps holding her were too loose. Plus, the window was wide open. When the car turned, the baby was ejected out of the window and the SUV rolled onto her.

This story is awful, and I apologize to those of you pregnant women who may be reading this and weeping. However, let's use this as a reminder to follow all car seat safety rules and commit to keeping our babies safe. It takes a little bit of time to attend a car seat check at your local hospital or fire department, but it is worth it to make sure that your infant is secure and as safe as possible in a vehicle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did the Extreme Couponing show cause a crackdown on super coupon users?

Reading this post from SmartMoney Magazine makes me wonder if the Extreme Couponing show, which highlights coupon users who game the system and get large quantities of items for free, gave retailers a jolt that has now caused a crackdown on coupon policies. Recently, many retailers have changed coupon policies and added limits on number or quanitity of particular coupons that can be redeemed. Last weekend, I loaded up my Coupon Organizer with the Sunday coupons and got ready to hit up Harris Teeter for their coupon special, where they would double coupons up to $1.98 in face value. Unfortunately, I mentioned this to my friend, who keeps more updated on coupon policies at local stores. She informed me that they, too, had recently changed their policies. In the past, they would double or triple (depending on the sale) all coupons up to a specified value. Recently, though, they changed their policy and will not double or triple and coupons that state "Do not double" on them. After talking to my friend, I looked at my stack of planned purchases and realized that most of the coupons were not eligible for doubling. Needless to say, I went to the pool instead of the grocery store.

Who knew that Kmart was doing so much to help a major charity?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the headline "Kmart Marches Into 28th Successful Year of Helping America's Babies". I had no idea that Kmart and the March of Dimes had such a longstanding relationship. Over the course of 28 years, Kmart has raised $98.7 million for the organization, which goes toward prevention of birth defects, prematurity, and infant mortality.

Kudos to Kmart. Even with some of its own financial struggles, it has still managed to be a good corporate citizen and raise funds for a major foundation.

On a side note, I do not support the March of Dimes in many of their fundraising techniques. A couple years ago, a coworker of my husband suffered a stillbirth, and we wanted to do something to honor the baby. We made a donation to the March of Dimes in her name. Within 2-3 weeks, our mailbox was inundated with requests for donations from charities, including many we had never even heard of. There were an average of around 10 requests per day. Now, we have been giving to charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association for years, and never had this type of onslaught. It was pretty clear that the March of Dimes had sold their mailing list.

Since then, we have been receiving regular requests for donations from the March of Dimes almost monthly, though we have never donated another penny (and don't plan to). Some of these requests are marked with red "Second Request" stamps. This really angers me. It seems to be a trick designed to prey on the elderly, who may think it is a bill or a commitment they have made. This tactic is dishonest and fools people into making a donation.

For these reasons, I do not donate to the March of Dimes, though they do good work and provide important programs. I just can't support their tactics.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mariah Carey's twin baby pictures are finally posted!

Well, sort of. Today, Mariah Carey posted a picture on Twitter of baby girl Monroe Cannon at 7 1/2 weeks old. The problem was, the little diva had her hand up to block the camera! All we can see in the shot are a big tuft of dark hair, pink houndstooth blanket, and of course, this spoiled celebrity baby's luxe nursery. This photo was a tease that I am hoping means that a real photo shoot is soon to come. As one of the biggest (and most beautiful) pop stars of all time, and given the fact that Nick Cannon is has an adorable baby-face, it is not surprising that so many people are waiting to see these babies. There has already been an uproar about the unusual choice of names (Monroe and Moroccan). I hope that, when photos are finally released, we do not see a rehashing of the rumors surrounding Suri Cruise that suggested she was adopted, or those surrounding Jayden Federline that said he has fetal alcohol syndrome. For once, I hope that the public can truly be happy for a celebrity who has had a healthy baby (or 2, in this case), and not start hurtful rumors about an innocent baby.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow up to whooping cough and pertussis vaccine post

In a post yesterday, I talked about the importance of vaccinating infants and their caregivers against whooping cough (pertussis). The timing was quite amazing, as today the CDC released new guidelines recommending that pregnant women receive the vaccine in the 3rd trimester, or late in the 2nd trimester. According to the CDC panel, pregnant women and other individuals in the household should all receive the pertussis vaccine to help to create a "cocoon" that will shield the newborn from contracting whooping cough until he or she is old enough to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine for pertussis is given as part of the DtaP shot given at 2, 4, and 6 months. But before the final dose, at 6 months, infants are most at risk of dying from pertussis. That's right, "whooping cough", which sounds so benign, is actually deadly for young infants. Please follow the CDC's advice and make sure that you and your family receive this vaccine. It could save your own baby, or someone else's.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Personalized Beach Towels: A Fun and Practical Children's Gift

I love the quality and softness of these beach towels. My daughter was sent this one as a gift from out-of-state relatives:

It was an extra special present because it came with her name embroidered on it. I loved it because it is very practical, especially since we love to spend a lot of time at the pool in the summer. Aside from the one pictured, there are also many other options to choose from. This list includes some of my favorites:

Truck Towel

Jumbo Shark Towel

Flying Dinosaurs Towel

We have put the towel through the wash many times now and it still has not faded. I am also impressed with the embroidery, as it has not come unwoven or bled into the fabric. Overall, I think it is a great product.

When you are overwhelmed by the crunch of Cheerios on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink...

...just read this cute poem, to remind yourself of what is really important. The author is unknown, but he or she clearly knew something about prioritizing responsibilities when you are a parent.

On Judgement Day

If God should say

"Did you clean your house today?"

I will say

"I did not. I played with my children....and I forgot."

Congratulations on keeping the baby's gender a secret...oh, and on having the baby too!

I am so excited for some friends who just had their first baby yesterday! They are a great couple and I am sure will make great parents. But, it has been a long 9 months for me. No, I was not a surrogate for this couple. I did not have to deal with the discomfort and other symptoms of pregnancy. Nope, the thing that just drove me crazy was not knowing the baby's gender until the birth!

Yes, I know that the gender is not a big deal. What is between the legs is not as important as whether the baby is healthy. But in an age where we have so much availability of immediate access to information and instant gratification, it is unusual to have to be patient and wait in anticipation for months for an answer to a question. This was very hard for me to do, probably harder than I expected. And really, waiting to find out the gender to go on a shopping trip for the little one is hardly something worth stressing over. But the excitement just built in me. It was so fun to wonder whether they would have a little boy or girl. One day, I was sure I could picture them with a boy. The next, I was sure they were having a girl.

Of course, they happily announced yesterday that they gave birth to a baby boy. It was very exciting news, which of course would have been equally exciting if it were a girl. But since the baby's gender was a surprise, I think among our circle of friends the birth was more anticipated. When we received word of the baby's birth, it was like we were all let in on a big, important secret.

My point in this long-winded explanation is that keeping the baby's gender a secret can be fun, especially in an age where most parents-to-be rely on an ultrasound to tell them the gender by 20 weeks. Though we kept the gender a secret for our first born up until my baby shower, we did find out, and went through the whole pregnancy knowing that it would be a girl. In hindsight, it would have been very tough not knowing, but it would have been even more fun to keep the gender a secret even from ourselves. If you are thinking about this option, I don't think you will regret it. Some people may impatiently give you a hard time, but in the end it will be a fun surprise for everyone!

Does your school-age child have asthma?

The "Everyone Breathe" grants program is now open for applications. You are eligible to apply if you are the parent or guardian of a child in grades K-12 who has asthma. Winners receive a $2,500 savings bond for their child, and a $5,000 for their child's school to implement asthma education and care related activities. The deadline for the application is July 29, 2011, so you have about a month to put something together. Writing and putting together a grant proposal can be stressful, but as long as you are diligent about following the directions, it is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. If you learn about the grant here and end up submitting a successful application, please let me know. This is a great program, and I would love to know that I made a difference in the life of children with asthma!

Whooping Cough Making a Comeback- Why you need to vaccinate your baby

This post from a hospital blog provides some important details on the number of Whooping Cough cases and their increase across the country as parents forgo vaccinations: Whooping Cough Making a Comeback. The message is clear. 1) If you are an adult and are a parent, teacher, grandparent, or other caregiver, you should get a booster shot, even if you were vaccinated as a child. 2) This is one of many illnesses making a comeback because of the Jenny McCarthy-caused paranoia about vaccinnations. Vaccinate your child- so you don't put yours or mine at risk!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Caring for your infant's mouth and understanding teething

This article, reviewed by the Faculty at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, provides some great information about teeth development and formation in infants, as well has advice on how to care for your baby's mouth and teeth as they start to come in:
Your Infant's Mouth Article Infants Colgate® Oral Care Information Infants & Children
It also includes some tips on purchasing and monitoring pacifier use. One important safety tip that every parent and caregiver should know: Never fasten a pacifier on a string or necklace around a child's neck- he or she could accidentally be strangled.

Help babies with a quick vote

Have you ever heard of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia? Neither did I, before I discovered this group. CDH is a birth defect that causes the diaphragm to not close properly, shifting organs and causing a host of problems for babies. The condition is very rare, but leads to devastating outcomes and many surgeries for the babies. Information about one CDH baby's heartbreaking story and about how to vote in an online contest to raise money to help these babies and their families is located here.

Creating a quick, authentic Italian tomato sauce

My husband and I had quite a laugh the other night. He was searching through recipes online and somehow came across a recipe for "Real authentic Italian tomato sauce". Considering that he and I are both of Italian descent (him directly, me a few generations ago) this was intriguing. He then proceeded to tell me the list of ingredients. Oregano and marjoram were included, and no basil or parsley! What??? What kind of self-respecting Italian came up with this recipe? Please, if you come across this recipe or a similar one, run far away!

To make a really authentic Italian-style tomato sauce, you need:
Chopped Onion
Olive Oil
Tomatoes (either fresh or crushed tomatoes in a can)
Fennel Seeds
Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper
*Sugar if desired

Start by browning the garlic in olive oil. Then add your onions, then tomatoes and all of the other seasonings to taste. If you like a meat sauce, brown your sausage or other meat separately before adding it to the sauce. That's it! Making a red sauce is one of the least complicated things there is. AND it is perfectly freezable- I suggest making a large pot, seasoning to your desired taste, and freezing some for later use. When you are ready to make some macaroni, just empty the frozen sauce into a pan and add a small amount of water. Or freeze the sauce in plastic containers and all you will have to do is add some water and put it in the microwave.

This makes a quick and easy dinner when you are in a hurry. You just need to put on some water to boil and make your favorite kind of pasta, and dinner is ready! If you have a child who does not like tomato sauce, it is very easy to separate out some pasta before adding the tomato sauce to serve him or her plain pasta with butter and/or grated cheese.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Target recalls more booster seats

Target announced this week that it is recalling more booster seats. These seats were sold under the Circo brand and cost around $10-13. They are blue and green and have a white strap. The seats can come unbuckled, so they are not considered safe for children.

As you can see in a previous post, I purchased one of these seats when my daughter was around 2. However, I never felt comfortable putting her in it. We did not have a problem with the buckle detaching, but the seat did not feel very sturdy. As you can see, we ended up giving the seat to her doll. She uses it to feed her doll, or to put the doll in to join us at the dinner table.

While this is a creative use of the recalled product for now, it ultimately needs to be returned to Target. The store is giving a full refund to all who purchased the product. These need to be off the "after-market" to prevent a well-intentioned parent from purchasing a used one and putting their child in it, only to have the buckle open the child fall to the floor. Please take these recalls seriously.

Strollers as a status symbol? WTF?!

Have you ever seen Paris Hilton's custom pink Bentley? As with many things in this culture of excess, it seems that manufacturers and retailers just keep coming up with new and innovative ways to make high-end items even more expensive. Creating a custom, pricier option of one of the most expensive cars in the world is one way to do it. Creating an endless supply of new lines of upgraded strollers is another.

The main function of a stroller is to safely transport a baby or child from one place to another. A secondary function is of course as a storage vessel for diaper bags, bottles, or other items. Some strollers have unique features such as iPod hookups and speakers or one-handed folding, but in general they all have wheels and are designed to hold an infant.

Despite the uniformity of their functions, strollers are available at a variety of price points. If you are very trendy and feel that a custom stroller is important, then by all means get a Bugaboo. If you are looking for a high-quality product and not as concerned with having something that no other mother on your block does, then there are many other excellent options for you to choose from. All of which will, at some point, be pooped on, drooled on, and have milk spilled on them.

Thank goodness for daycares with internet cameras!

I was always 100% against the daycare idea. Actually, even after putting my own children in daycare, I am still not sure I love the idea of my children spending more time with strangers all day than they do with me. It is hard to drop off a child every day and know that the only precious time you will enjoy with him or her that day is during the morning rush to get ready for work and school, and in the evening during the dinner, bath, and bedtime routine.

I have been very fortunate to never be in a position where I could not be home with my infant in the early months. My earliest exposure to the daycare experience was when my son was 6 months old and started part-time daycare so I could ease back into my work routine. Even at 6 months, it was hard to leave him. He was still receiving breast milk, so my days were a complicated mess of pumping and preparing bottles in the morning, dropping off my baby and hoping he didn't cry when I left, getting in the car and hoping I didn't cry when I left, getting through the work day in between pumping sessions, heading back to daycare at the end of the day, and rounding out the night with feedings, bottle washing, baths, and bedtime.

Dropping my infant off was difficult, but I know that it could have been worse. At 6 months, I already had a handle on his personality, and he had become somewhat predictable in his behavior. Some friends who had to return to work and start their infants in daycare at 6 weeks old were not so lucky. They barely had a chance to bond with their babies before handing them off. Knowing that I was better off than some mothers at least made the inital days of daycare more tolerable.

The absolute best part of the experience of putting my baby in daycare, though, was that I chose a daycare with webcams. These cameras are on a secure, password-protected site, and allow parents to watch their children all day. Our daycare had 2 cameras in each classroom, 1 of which was over the cribs in the infant room. This allowed me to watch my little guy all day, including checking on his sleeping and eating habits. Of course, it decreased my productivity at work, but for the sake of my mental health it was worth it. The daycare charged slightly higher rates than others in the area, most likely due to the cost of the camera service, but it was well worth it for the peace of mind.

One day, my son was sitting on the floor playing with some toys. He was tired, but fighting it because he wanted to play. Eventually, I received a text from a friend who worked at the daycare telling me to check the camera and be prepared to laugh. There was my son, sprawled in the middle of the carpet, sleeping soundly with the toys strewn all around him. It looked like he had a hard night of partying and was passed out drunk. Of course, I was able to grab a screen shot of this and save the picture to share with him when he gets older and wants to know all about his early days in daycare.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Protecting your infant or toddler from driveway and outdoor hazards

I was unnerved this morning to read the stories of 2 young California toddlers who died over Father's Day weekend after being run over by their fathers, in their driveways, in separate incidents. One was an 18 month old toddler who was walking, and the other was an 11 month old who was crawling and apparently not yet walking. The also brings up memories of a similar story last fall in North Carolina in which an 18 month old girl was run over by her father in the driveway as he attempted to connect his SUV to a trailer.

None of these fathers were charged as of yet, and all signs are that each incident was in itself a tragic accident. In all 3 cases, none of the fathers knew that their children were outside, and the adult inside the home was unaware as well. This is the ultimate tragedy for all of these families- especially the fathers, who are likely blaming themselves.

Every situation was different, and I don't know how the children in each incident were able to go out into their driveways unnoticed. However, I can understand how it happened. My daughter was around 18 months old and had never opened a door on her own. One morning, my husband and I were in the kitchen with her, and she walked away toward the front door. I heard what sounded like the door opening and went running- and there she was, out the door and walking on the front lawn. It was a frightening experience, but also a good wake up call. That day, I went right out and purchased a Home Safety Kit, including child proof door knob covers for every exterior door in the house, to prevent her from making another surprise escape.

Try as you might, you can't always anticipate and protect your child from every possible danger that exists. However, there are things that you can do to help prevent this type of tragedy from occuring in your own home, including:

  • Create a safe baby room or area in your home that includes outlet covers on all electrical outlets, window locks and window coverings too high for baby to reach on all windows, and baby gates on any doorways. Adjustable Locking Straps can be used for any glass doors or lazy susan type cabinets. In this space, tether all furniture to the wall with Anti-Tip Furniture Straps and keep only baby-safe toys in reach. This way, if you have to put your toddler down for a minute to run to the bathroom or tend to another child, you know you are putting them in the safest place possible.

  • Purchase childproof door knob covers. These are fairly inexpensive, but will prevent little hands from being able to open a door and sneak out unnoticed.

  • Install outlet covers on all of the electrical outlets in your home as soon as your baby is mobile. Even a crawler can get to an outlet if you turn your back for just a second.

  • Regularly inspect your home for safety issues. Crawl around on the floor so you can see everything from child height.

I hope that, when reading the stories of these awful tragedies, you do not assume that these families did not have safety mechanisms in place to keep their children in the house. Sometimes, despite every precaution, unsafe situations occur and accidents happen. The absolute best way to know that your baby or toddler will not slip out of the house and into the path of a moving vehicle is to ensure that he or she remains in your sight, or that of another responsible adult, at all times.

On a positive note, the family from North Carolina who lost their daughter to a driveway accident decided to honor her memory by working with the Ronald McDonald House to donate funds to create a waiting room for families of children in pediatric intensive care at the children's hospital that treated her. Though they have suffered this immense loss, they are working to raise awareness and help other families who are coping with injured or sick children. I hope that it is helping them to heal. I also pray that no other family ever has to suffer a driveway tragedy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Advice on preparing your child for a sibling

One of the most stressful components of preparing for the birth of your second child is preparing the older sibling for the arrival of a new baby. Despite what is shown on TV, not all kids are excited to become a big brother or big sister. Like you, they fear the unknown, and depending on their age they may have a very limited understanding of what is about to happen. There are some things you can try to help prepare your child for a sibling. Some ideas may work for some children and not others. Of course, you know your child's personality better than anyone, so take a look at this list and try some of the ideas that you think he/she may respond well to.

  1. Read books or watch videos about childbirth. Even at a very young age, my oldest understood and enjoyed watching birth videos on Discovery Health.

  2. Look through baby pictures of your older child with him/her, especially those that were taken right after birth or in the hospital. I created a photo book for my child that included the messy pictures taken of her right at birth, as well as pictures of various family members holding her soon after she was born.

  3. Take your child on a tour of the hospital where you plan to give birth. Most hospitals regularly arrange tours of their labor and delivery units. Since your older child will likely be in the care of friends or relatives while you are in the hospital, this will give him/her a chance to see exactly where you and the new baby will be.

  4. Review baby names together. My oldest named her younger sibling "Elvis". It certainly was not the name we ended up giving him, but it did give her something special to share with everyone.

  5. If you are comfortable doing this, allow your child to be part of the final baby name decision. Consider narrowing your name choices down to 2 that you like, and allowing the big brother or big sister to choose the name and tell the family.

  6. Purchase a realistic baby doll and use it to allow your child to practice the rules to follow in interacting with a baby (such as "touch only his/her feet", "don't try to pick him/her up", etc.). You can also use the doll to help your child practice ways in which he/she can help you take care of the baby (such as handing you diaper rash cream or diapers from the diaper stacker or changing the changing pad cover.

  7. Practice sharing. Depending on your child's age, this may include inviting children over for play dates and helping your child learn to share his toys.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that will make your older child instantly adore his/her sibling without any rivalry or jealousy, but rest assured that eventually they will grow to love each other. Hopefully these tips will help to ease the transition as your family expands.

Where can I buy items listed on the Spoiled Little Baby Diaper Bag Checklist?

Previously I posted a checklist of the things that I think everyone should carry in their diaper bag. Here are some suggestions of unique products to purchase for your diaper bag as you complete the checklist. The photos below include links in case you would like to purchase any of the items.

  • Pacifiers

  • Diaper cream

Burp Cloths

  • Blanket or nursing cover

  • Disposable changing pads