Tuesday, August 28, 2007

old times, and harbringers of the season

August 28, 2007 - Tuesday

old times, and harbringers of the season
Current mood: nostalgic

Wow, it's rather like old times here! (Except I am pregnant, typing on a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet, I drive a minivan, am waiting for my 3 1/2 year old to wake up and I don't actually live here anymore. . . yeah. . .) But it really is a deja vu experience. I'm at the studio, hanging out in the control room while Billy works, listening while I quietly do my own thing here on the couch. (Used to be reading a book or knitting, these days I check my email and blog. . . hmm. . .)

I've done a fair bit of the "carseat shuffle" today: I installed Littleman's seat in the van, swapped cars with Billy, swapped back, removed Littleman's seat from the van, removed Sweetcheeks' seat and installed it in my Mom's car, and soon I should put Littleman's seat back into the van. All this is due to a series of appointments, and fun activities for the boys. Anyhow Littleman has been here at the studio today, and he finally fell asleep for a much-needed nap just before I arrived to pick him up. Sweetcheeks is staying the night with my Mom, so I am free to veg out here on the studio couch until Littleman finally wakes up.

It's pretty nice, actually. (Not to mention I am not wearing myself out doing dishes or laundry right now!) I get to see my husband. :) And I get to talk to adults. Cool.

* * *

Lately I have begun hearing the geese, again. Almost as soon as the rain started showing up and the 100 degree+ temperatures calmed down a bit, I started hearing them outside in the evenings. Sunday evening I saw a big, beautiful V-formation of honking geese sail across the sky. Then today, on my way to the studio from my prenatal appointment I stopped at Starbucks- and discovered that the pumpkin spice latte has returned. Geese, pumpkin spice lattes, and temps in the 80s. . . sure signs that Fall is right around the corner. Rejoice!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Preschool Homeschooling

August 27, 2007 - Monday

Preschool Homeschooling
Current mood: rejuvenated

I sat down to write a bit about preschool homeschooling- mostly in response to pressure from family members to "focus", "get serious", "make a plan" or "get on the ball with this homeschooling thing". After all, wouldn't Littleman be in Pre-K by now? Shouldn't he be learning to read? You have to have some sort of schedule or plan to teach these skills! (Littleman's my oldest, and he's 3 1/2). I ended up getting into it this afternoon, and enjoying my train of thought. Here's what I wrote, mostly unedited- please keep in mind that, although I have a bachelor's degree in education, I am by no means an expert and what I have to say stems from my own personal research and interest.

At the bottom are some articles I think you might find interesting, that help explain a little about my homeschooling approach right now. Through my training in college, my hands-on experience with kids, my own research and reading which is constantly ongoing and my experience thus far with our wonderful boys, my condensed philosophy for early-childhood education advocates a hands-off, open-ended, play-based curriculum set in the context of a rich, stimulating environment.

Simply put, we provide a nurturing, interesting environment in which the boys can explore their world and the ideas they encounter- and we facilitate them when they want to explore further. That doesn't mean we can't talk about math or phonics, or tell him where things are on the globe, or help him practice writing- it's great to help him explore whatever interests him (that we feel is appropriate, of course). But focusing too soon on "lessons" or setting down a "schedule" can be have a negative effect at this young age. It's not developmentally appropriate for preschool kids to be working at the kinds of activities commonly associated with "school". The best possible thing we as parents and teachers can do for our preschoolers is to:

1) provide a rich environment, full of interesting people and experiences, and interesting, sensorial materials- and facilitate their exploration
2) model a love of learning, a zest for life and a love of reading
3) support and encourage a sense of creativity, imagination and exploration (play!)
4) teach them how to be good people, and (more important) model that behavior
5) love them

Most of the time, basic elementary education flows naturally from this base. Kids learn to read by reading. They learn math by working with numbers in their own lives. Parents do not have to create lessons to slip into daily life- the lessons are already there. They don't have to worry about having "school" at home. Life experiences are far more stimulating and memorable than any "lesson" concocted by an adult to make them "learn" something. This is not idealistic babble. For thousands of educators all over the world, it works. It is supported by piles of research on how children develop and learn. It's one of the reasons public schools fail our students.

As the boys get older, we may very well find that they enjoy more formal lessons. We may find that they work better that way in some subjects. That's perfectly fine! But please understand, there is no reason at all to be considering it now. It is simply too early- a bright, inquiring mind needs nurturing at this age, but not honing- not yet. Now is the time to build a love of creativity and new ideas, building the base from which later learning may spring.

As far as preschool for Littleman goes, he's not even old enough to be in an "official" GA pre-K program yet- his age group, if they are going to preschool at all, are mostly getting used to being away from home and are learning how to play nicely. In Pre-K, they're still mostly learning how to function in a classroom setting. Much of the boost provided to students by early learning in a preschool setting is not academic, it is logistical and emotional. They learn how to be separated from their families, segregated into peer groups, how to be quiet, line up, sit still, raise their hands, "share". . . basically how to please their teachers. Any "academics" are very basic: letter and number identification, sorting and matching, colors and shapes, that sort of thing. Littleman already knows most of it. And even this simple level of "academics" is controversial- many educators believe that it's still too early for formal instruction, and that the statistical benefits are merely a reflection of Pre-K grads being more conditioned to a public school environment than kids entering kindegarten without having had any out-of-home schooling before. (I make sure Littleman and Sweetcheeks get the benefits of some out-of-home classes without the drawbacks of too-much-too-early academics).

[Please excuse my gratuitous bragging on my children for a moment- after all, the targeted audience (Littleman's adoring family) totally agree with me here! LOL]

If you doubt what I am doing, simply look at Littleman. He impresses anyone he encounters with his self-confidence, intelligence, knowledge, vocabulary, diction, good manners (most of the time), self-sufficiency, creativity. . . the list goes on. Obviously some of this comes naturally to him, like his good looks and high energy. ;) But what I do, and what you do naturally, has definitely nurtured these characteristics in him and encouraged them to flower. He is way ahead of the game! And Mr. Sweetcheeks is the same way. They are doing great.

* * *
Here are a few articles- these are excellent!


(note that this educator defines a child's "early years" as ages 4 - 7)


a few random notes

August 27, 2007 - Monday

a few random notes
Current mood: groggy

Yay for some rain!
Boo to power outages that screw up my clock and make me late.
Yay for a healthy pregnancy so far!
Boo to heartburn.
Yay for my first nap in weeks!
Boo to dirty dishes and laundry that therefore didn't get done.
Yay for a nice meal out with Billy's family!
Boo to me forgetting to stop by the grocery store on the way home.

I will have to get creative for breakfast again tomorrow, since we are still out of milk and are getting low on eggs. No fresh fruit left, either. Muffins or biscuits? Oatmeal? There might be enough eggs to make breakfast sandwitches again. . . We are normally a cold cereal or bagels kind of a group in the mornings.

The animated ad at the top of this page right now is hypnotizing me.

I had other things to say, but I really am drawing a total blank right now. I apologize. Maybe tomorrow I can blog during the day when I am more awake. . .? Perhaps? In the meantime, please excuse this loopy, tedious exercise in futility. :P OK. Off to bed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

an ebay listing, birthday, Cabbage Patch, minivan and writing. . .

August 23, 2007 - Thursday

an ebay listing, birthday, Cabbage Patch, minivan and writing. . .
Current mood: amused

First of all, this is a hoot (read the whole description):
She has a blog too:

Second of all, Mr. Sweetcheeks' birthday party will be the second weekend of September. I am delaying it in hope of (somewhat) cooler weather. More on that as soon as details are nailed down.

As usual, I had all sorts of ideas for blog entries that popped into my head over the past couple days. . . I never write them down, and they flee my neurons just as quickly as they arrived.

I will mention that Grandma and I took the boys up to Cleveland GA, for a visit to the world-famous Babyland General Hospital. . . the birthplace of Cabbage Patch dolls. (LOL) It is mind-bogglingly cheesy, and really rather cute. Other than the price tag for one of the Cabbage Patch "originals", the whole thing is pretty sweet and unpretentious. The boys were amused, and it was fun to take advantage of this bit of local color. I let Littleman choose a babydoll to "adopt". (One of the mass-produced, inexpensive "toy" Cabbage Patch dolls- I simply can't stomach spending $100+ for any doll. . .) He wanted a boy doll, and decided to christen it "John Jeremy". (I was explaining ways that people choose names for their babies, and mentioned that sometimes they use names of people they know and admire, such as older family members or other people they look up to. Littleman liked that idea. He immediately liked "Jeremy" because of our friend Jeremy, whom the boys adore. Littleman chose "John" after his Grandpa. I threw the names out there amongst a bunch of possibilities, but the selection and arrangement of the name was all Littleman's idea). I'd been unsure whether the boys would enjoy a babydoll, even though they are of an age that typically enjoys all sorts of imaginative play and imitative roleplaying. However, they both seem to enjoy having the doll around. I figure it was a nice outing, and perhaps the doll will come in handy when the new baby comes along. They might enjoy role playing some baby care, to feel more included when I am spending so much time taking care of the new infant. (Well one can hope, right??) Anyway, if you have young children and are near the area, the Babyland Hospital is fairly cute and has free admission. (Must leave through the gift shop though- of course!) I can't really say it's worth any major field trip, unless you are a rabid Cabbage Patch fan. And if total cheesiness makes you want to vomit, stay far, far away. ;) Grandma and the boys certainly enjoyed themselves.

On another note, we have now finally embraced the inevitable and purchased a minivan! I am actually quite excited about it- I have nothing at all against minivans, and they are perfectly designed for our current needs. We ended up finding a very nice used Honda Odyssey- it's even a color I like! We are all quite pleased with it and can't wait for our next family road trip. Even better- we do not have to go to the trouble of listing the old sedan for sale, since it turns out Billy's folks are in the market for a smaller car. So everyone is happy! :)

So often, by the time I find time to sit down and blog, my brain is so fried from the day that I feel rather useless in the writing department. So once again, this has been a bare-bones report, and I sincerely hope I am not boring you all to tears. However I am struggling right now simply to make coherent sentences, and my pregnant heartburn is threatening my gullet. Time to chew some antacids and get ready for bed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

a poem (not mine)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

a poem (not mine)
Current mood: restless

A poem from Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion:
(Lovely, though as usual it loses something in print. . . half the beauty is in the delivery, it seems).

A Poem for Helen Marie

A summer night and you and paradise
Around your head, the universe has hung its lights
So lovely, and so full of grace
I raise my hand and touch your face.

I believe in impulse in all that is green
Believe in the foolish vision that comes out true
Believe that all that is essential is unseen
And for this lifetime, I believe in you.

All of the lovers and the love they made
Nothing that was between them was a mistake
All that we did for love's sake was not wasted
And will never fade

All who have loved will be forever young
And walk in grandeur on a summer night along the avenue.
They live in every song that is sung
In every painting of pure light, in every pas de deux.

Love that shines from every star
Love reflected in the silver moon.
It is not here, but it's not far.
Not yet, but it will be here soon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quick Casserole

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quick Casserole
Current mood: full

Tonight I needed to use up some meat and vegetables in the fridge, and I need things that are quick and pretty easy. (I picked two very simple recipes, but even so by the time I could sit down my feet were KILLING me). I ended up with a squash casserole (a standard of mine- my grandmother's recipe) and a 50s-era ground beef casserole, which I spruced up a little. We haven't tasted the squash casserole yet, but the ground beef casserole was a big hit! Littleman kept whining that he didn't waaant casserole. . . but when he tasted it, he happily ate the whole bowl. (Sweetcheeks, of course, just gobbled it right up and had seconds. . . geez, that kid can eat!) Littleman told me that it was "kind of like chicken pot pie" - which, I can tell you, is high praise indeed! LOL.

Ground Beef Casserole
(including my changes)

1/2 lb. ground beef (I used chuck)
1/2 lb. ground bison
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cans cream of chicken soup (did I mention I found this recipe in an old church fundraiser cookbook?)
1/2 can kernel corn, with liquid
1/2 can green beans, with liquid (the recipe simply called for one can mixed veggies, but I didn't have one)
approx. 1/2 cup chopped fresh celery
approx. 1 cup fresh sweet bell peppers (I used red and green) chopped fine
1 pkg. beef or chicken flavored Ramen noodles (I used beef)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic, saute until softened.
- Add ground meat. Just brown the meat- it's not necessary to cook it through.
- Meanwhile, break apart dry Ramen noodles into a casserole dish. Lightly sprinkle in just a touch of the seasoning packet, and discard the rest.
- Add the cream of chicken soup and the rest of the vegetables to the Ramen noodles.
- Dump the meat, onion and garlic mixture into the casserole dish with the noodles and veggies and mix all ingredients well.

- Bake in the 350 degree oven for one hour.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cloth Diaper Primer

Here is some basic information for those interested in cloth diapers:

Kit's Quickie Cloth Diaper Primer

Prefolds- These are the classic flat, rectangular cloth diapers that most people think of when they think "cloth diapers". They have a slight learning curve, since you have to learn how to fold and fasten them onto the baby. Also, they require a cover. They're my favorite newborn diapers because they are absorbent and most of all, cheap. Newborns go through a LOT of diapers, so you want to have plenty on hand or else you might find yourself doing laundry a lot more often than you'd like. Also, they're great for burp cloths and eventually, cleaning cloths. Prefolds are usually cotton (sometimes hemp) and come in bleached (most common) or unbleached. CPFs (Chinese Prefolds) and IPFs (Indian Prefolds) are what I think are highest quality. Prefolds generally come in several sizes: Preemie, Infant, Regular and Premium (same size but premiums are thicker), and Toddler. Most children only ever need infants and premiums. I ordered our prefolds from www.mtdiaperstore.com- great customer service and very good prices. Lots of places sell prefolds.

Kissaluvs size 0- These are infant fitted diapers. A fitted diaper is "baby shaped", like a disposable, and fastens on with velcro or snaps. (Kissaluvs use snaps). Fitted diapers also need a cover. Kissaluvs are relatively inexpensive, but cost more than prefolds. They are soft, very simple to use and are darned cute. Kissaluvs are not as absorbent as prefolds, though. Kissaluvs are readily available from retail sources for cloth diapers. Try checking the websites I list at the end, and check www.kissaluvs.com. Other good (probably better) fitteds for newborns are Muttaqins and Bijou Baby Gear diapers.

Covers- There are many different choices for covers to go over the diapers. The cover will be waterproof or at least water resistant, and will be pull-on or "wrap style" (like disposables- fastened with velcro or snaps). For a newborn, you want several- at least 8 or so. Covers with gussets at the legs are good for containing runny newborn poops. Cheap is good, and I like Proraps- they are cheap, easy to find and they get the job done. I really like Imse Vimse Bumpy Day covers too, though- not as cheap but much nicer feeling. The Bumpy covers do wick moisture however, if the diaper underneath is too soaked. I like fleece covers because they are very breathable- good for keeping away diaper rash. They also wick if the diaper is soaked, even more than the Bumpys. Fleece can be rather bulky. My favorite fleece covers are Sugarpeas. All these covers should be available at retail sources for cloth diapers. Fleece covers can also be custom made by some WAHMs ("Work At Home Moms") who make cloth diapers.

Other diapering needs-
Wipes: cloth or disposable. I use cloth wipes which I bought from various WAHMs. If you use cloth, plain water is fine or you can mix or purchase a wipes solution to wet them with.

Diaper fasteners: for prefolds. I recommend Snappis. No more pins!

Diaper pail: any old flip-top trash can will do, or get a Diaper Champ. There is no need to use a "wet pail" method- just toss the diapers in the dry pail, then throw them in the wash when you're ready.

Diaper pail liners: use trash bags, or get reusable waterproof bags. I use cheap, washable waterproof drawstring bags from the camping section at Target.

Diaper rash cream: if you'd rather not stain the diapers too much, avoid creams that have fish oils in them. Our favorite diaper rash remedies are Burt's Bees Baby Bee diaper cream, Triple Paste and Aquaphor. All a bit pricey, but all work really well. (Especially Triple Paste).

Laundry Detergent: I know, no-brainer- but some detergents leave buildup on diapers, which can make them stinky and cause diaper rash. (Hemp diapers are particularly susceptible to buildup). What works for you will depend on how hard or soft your water is, how much detergent you use and how sensitive your baby's skin is. Many people have good results with plain old regular Tide detergent, if they use only 1/2 the recommended amount. I get great results with the Publix store brand Free and Clear detergent, using 1/2 capfull for a full load. You might need more for hard water. The way to check for buildup is to put clean diapers in a hot water wash (no detergent at all), let it agitate a couple minutes and then look at the water. If there are soap bubbles, then there is detergent buildup. Wash them with plain water until the bubbles are all gone, and start using less detergent. If diapers come out of the dryer not smelling quite clean, then you are not using enough detergent. Oh and never use fabric softener on diapers! Talk about buildup! This may all sound confusing, but I promise, washing the diapers is really no big deal.

Fleece liners: Optional. Microfleece wicks moisture away from baby's skin- so fleece liners are used inside the diaper against baby's skin to keep him/her dry. They're great, especially if you're trying to ward off rash. They can be purchased from cloth diaper retailers, or buy microfleece by the yard and cut out your own. Fleece is like felt when you cut it- it won't unravel.

Doublers: Optional. A doubler is an insert for a diaper that increases the diaper's absorbency. They may or may not have a stay-dry fleece layer on top. If you have a "super-soaker" baby (or less absorbent diapers), you may need doublers.

Diaper bag: I include this to mention that you will need a larger one than most folks, since cloth diapers take up more room than disposables do. Or, use disposables when out and about.

That about covers what I'd recommend for cloth diapering an infant. There are loads more diapering options, but personally I think it's better to wait for those until baby can wear a size medium in diapers- babies just grow out of the newborn and small sizes too quickly for more expensive diapers to be worth it. But once in a size medium, it's fun to find what other kinds of cloth diapers work best for you. Which brings us to. . .

Older Babies and Toddlers:
Prefolds- you already know about these. They're still what makes the bulk of our stash. Once baby makes firmer poops, a fastener is not entirely necessary- some people just trifold the diaper and lay it in a wrap-style cover, then put the cover on.
Contour or "Prefitted" diapers- need a cover. These are a cross between prefolds and fitted diapers- they are contoured to fit baby (so no folding), but they do not have snaps or velcro. You can use pins or a snappi, just like prefolds. They are usually simple, inexpensive diapers.
Fitted Diapers- need a cover. Kissaluvs are an example, but many find that those aren't great for older babies. There are an astonishing array of fitted diapers available, mostly from WAHM cloth diaper websites. They can be made of cotton, hemp, bamboo, in a variety of fabrics- hemp is popular because it is super-absorbant. They come in different sizes and fasten with velcro or snaps. Babies are shaped differently, so some "brands" of fitted diaper will fit your baby better than others do.
Note: some fitted diapers are a "one-size" system- one size of diaper fits your baby from birth to potty training. This can be very simple and economical, IF the diaper fits your bay's shape well. A popular one-size system with good reviews is Motherease (www.mother-ease.com). Another option are "two-size" systems- a popular one are Sugarpeas diapers.
Pocket Diapers- these are shaped, like a fitted, but do not need a cover. They do need an insert or "stuffer". Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer and a microfleece (or other stay-dry fabric) inner layer. In between these layers makes a "pocket" in which you stuff something absorbent (the insert or "stuffer"). You can purchase special stuffers or simply use microfiber towels from the automotive section of Target or WalMart. Pocket diapers secure with snaps or velcro, and when stuffed they make an "all-in-one" diaper that is just as simple to put on as a disposable. These are extremely popular, and the most popular pockets are Fuzzibunz, which are readily available. Other easy options are Bumgenius (available in a one-size option), Swaddlebees, Happy Heineys and Drybees- but there are lots of different kinds.
AIOs- "All In Ones". These are like pockets, but you don't have to stuff them. They are usually the most expensive cloth diapers, but are the simplest to use. They are truly "all-in-one- waterproof layer on the outside, absorbent inner lined with a stay-dry layer inside. The absorbent inner might be all built in (simplest, but takes a long time to dry!) or might snap in, so that it dries faster. I have Very Baby and Lucy's Hope Chest AIOs, which are nice, but I prefer pockets.
Covers- again, there are a ton of options. In order from most to least waterproof, yet least to most breathable, some fabrics used are: PUL, nylon, wool & fleece. My favorite covers are wool, though they require separate washing by hand. Fleece is super-breathable too, but might wick if the diaper is soaked. PUL is breathable enough for most babies, and is very waterproof. I recommend Bummis Super Whisper Wraps- and they come in cute prints too!
Other stuff- a mini sprayer that hooks up to your toilet, for spraying off poopy diapers. MUCH nicer than the "dunk and swish" technique! And possibly flushable rice paper liners- some people swear by these for dumping poop with no mess.

I guess that covers older babies. We use mostly prefolds and some fitteds during the day, pockets and AIOs when out and about. At night it's super-absorbent fitteds with an Aristocrat brand wool cover. AIOs and pre-stuffed pockets are also excellent for other caregivers, preschool, or nursery staff who need a no-brainer diaper. I like fitteds or prefolds with a wool or fleece cover because my babies are rash-prone, and that's very breathable.

Some good cloth diaper retail websites:
* www.naturalbabies.com
* www.lilbunz.com
* www.kellyscloset.com
* www.punkinbutt.com
* www.thebabymarketplace.com
* www.mtdiaperstore.com
* www.chooseydiapers.com
* www.cottonbabies.com
* www.babysenchantedgarden.com
* www.emibeans.com
and there are more. . .

A few great WAHM cloth diaper sites:
* www.lucyshopechest.com
* www.righteousbaby.com
* www.daisy-doodles.com
* www.snap-ez.com
* kindheartedwomen.com
* www.thebabyblanket.com
* www.loveybums.com
* www.sugarbums.com
* www.fullmoonbabygear.com
and that's just the beginning. . .

Some good websites for info on cloth diapering:
* www.windsorpeak.com/dc/dcboard.php
These are the forums for the Baby Bargains book. Check out the "Butts" forum. This is where I have learned just about everything I know about cloth diapers. There is a "CD 101" thread, you can search past threads for specific keywords, and you can join and ask questions- everyone is very helpful!
* www.mothering.com/discussions
Again, forums where you can find answers to cloth diapering questions. These forums also discuss lots of other aspects of natural parenting- they're great but I don't visit them, because they are big and I get sucked in!
* www.realdiaperassociation.org
A pro-cloth diaper organization's site with loads of useful information
* www.diaperpin.com/home.asp
More than you ever wanted to know about cloth diapers! Also very useful CD product reviews
* diaperpages.com
A mom's cloth diaper info site
* www.thediaperhyena.com
All kinds of great info, including a pictorial on folding cloth diapers
* www.dy-dee.com/html/Folding/folding.html
More help folding prefolds
* http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/basics.htm
TONS of useful information- especially on washing and detergents

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

baby names, first haircut and toy recalls

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

baby names, first haircut and toy recalls
Current mood: uncomfortable

Ok ok, everyone- NO, we do not yet know what we are going to name the new baby. But because there is so much interest, I will provide the current short list of possible names. Keep in mind that 1) this list is totally subject to change, 2) we will probably disregard any feedback we get on names :P , and 3) we will almost certainly reserve our final decision until we've actually met the little guy.

The name will be some combination (a first name and a middle name) from our short list:


(And YES, Sage is actually a boy name. It is now used for girls as well, but it remains gender neutral).

I also like Peregrin, but I think it's out. :)

* * *
Mr. Sweetcheeks finally got his first haircut! (sniff). I asked them to preserve the curls though, and they did a great job I think. The new cut is very cute. Not as short as we do Littleman's! He was great for the stylist- perfectly content to watch Elmo while she worked. I think he appreciates that his hair no longer gets in his eyes or gets caught in the carseat straps, and it also tangles less. I still haven't fixed our camera (MUST remember to do that!) So I had to pick up a disposable camera to preserve the memories. :) Now if I can only get it developed before I lose the darn thing. . .

* * *
I am really getting irritated by these toy recalls. Luckily, the only ones we've had so far were wooden Thomas trains- we just don't have that many plastic toys. (These recalls only strengthen my prejudices against plastic and character toys. . .) It really makes one think twice about buying anything that was made in China. I am on the fence still about one of Sweetcheeks' upcoming birthday gifts- we are considering an accessory for the train table since Sweetcheeks has been really enjoying it lately, but as far as I know all the Thomas stuff is still made in China. Can we really trust it? Lead in the paint is not something I want to fool around with. I have been paying a lot more attention to where things are manufactured, lately.

I STILL have not been able to locate two items that we own that were part of the Thomas trains recall. Lord knows where they've ended up- I hope I find them soon!

Monday, August 13, 2007

forgetting, a busy week and kids' classes

Monday, August 13, 2007

forgetting, a busy week and kids’ classes
Current mood: hungry

I was folding diapers after putting the boys to bed, and thought of something I wanted to look up online. I went downstairs to grab my laptop, made a brief detour to feed the cat and dog, came back upstairs and realized I've completely forgotten what it was I wanted to look up. I have tried everything I can think of to remember- no luck.

Anyway, it has been a busy week. Littleman spent a lot of time with Grandma, Grandpa, his Auntie and cousins. They went to Stone Mountain, and swimming, and he spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa's. Thursday we all met up (Billy too!) in Helen, GA to go tubing. It was brutally hot outside, but surprisingly pleasant down on the river. It really was nice- we'll go again sometime! Sweetcheeks spent the night with my Mom one night, and went with me to pre-register for Montessori school! We have decided to send Sweetcheeks to the same Montessori program that Littleman went to for a year. Luckily, they had a 2-day slot available with our favorite teacher. :) So we are all excited about that! I think Sweetcheeks will feel proud to have his own special activity to go do. Also this past week, Littleman got to go to work with Daddy one day, and we had guests for dinner on Friday, which was really nice. This upcoming week looks like it will be nearly as busy!

I am struggling to decide on a class for Littleman to take. He would like to continue at the Montessori school, but they do not offer part-time classes for his age group. (2 days a week is what we prefer). He did enjoy his classes at The Little Gym, but seems a bit lukewarm on the idea of continuing them. He seems uninterested in the idea of art or music classes, or martial arts (which I think he's still a bit too young for anyway). I do not want to send him to a preschool program that's basically glorified babysitting, but I'm not looking for a structured pre-K program either. However I do think he would benefit from something away from me, that was fun and that he could feel proud of. Ideally, it would be something I can drop him off for and have time to go run a few errands before he was ready to be picked up- so really, the 1-hr Little Gym classes are a bit too short.

The upshot of that little ramble: Do any of you have any suggestions? (He'll be 4 in October).

I guess I really should sign off- tomorrow is a busy day, with phone calls to make, paperwork to complete for the Montessori school and for my hospital pre-registration, a trip to the post office and probably Sweetcheeks' very first haircut! (Don't worry, I'm not going to have them cut it short like Littleman's- I'll want to preserve the curls). :) I should go to bed.

Monday, August 6, 2007

no kids, good service and cloth diapers

Monday, August 06, 2007

no kids, good service and cloth diapers
Current mood: relaxed

Wow, so I left this afternoon with both boys in the car and no naps having been had by anyone (grrrr), and I came home this evening child-free and ready for a quiet evening! No, I didn't abandon them on a doorstep somewhere- my mom has Sweetcheeks overnight, and then Billy said that Littleman could hang out at the studio for the rest of the evening. I'll have them back soon of course, but in the meantime I hardly know what to do with myself!! I'm blogging and catching up on a few e-mails, then I'll get some office work done, and finally have a nice long, quiet hot shower. Maybe I'll even get to read tonight! Ahh. :)

To top it off, I had stopped at Chick Fil'A for a wrap sandwitch and some fries (since I never get fries with the kids), and the wait was a little long. I hardly noticed- I was looking for something decent to listen to on the radio- but apparently it was too long because when I got to the window the manager gave me my food free, and apologized for the wait! Cool. Service like that makes me loyal. :) And now I have had my pregnant mama fast food fix for now! (Less likely that I will be tempted to stop with the kids in tow).

I'll end this evening with a couple cloth diapering links:
- The Real Diaper Association
A non-profit association to promote cloth diapers. Lots of great information!

- Emi Bean's
An online store selling a nice variety of cloth diapers and accessories, plus a bunch of other cool stuff. The WAHM who runs it is located here in the Atlanta area, and if you e-mail her she can usually meet up for product demonstrations- to look at different kinds of cloth diapers, for instance. I found out by e-mailing her to ask, and she was very prompt and pleasant with her reply. I'm glad to find a local resource I can point interested mamas (and daddies) to! Up till today I didn't know of anyplace local to see modern cloth diapers (except my house!).

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Baby Gear Guide!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Baby Gear Guide!
Current mood: calm

Kit's Big Guide to Baby Gear Through the First Year:
(Just in case you'd like some ideas on what to buy, borrow or steal)

Books I Really Used:
(for before pregnancy and afterwards)-
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler -useful information on tracking your cycles, for the purpose of getting pregnant or avoiding conception.

(for during Pregnancy)-
- The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine -a funny, enjoyable read that is loaded with good information.
- Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B Curtis -it's fun to track the development of your baby in the womb each week as it happens.
- What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff -very useful as a reference book to look up specific questions, but boring (and unnecessary) to read cover to cover. Also, not good for the hypochondriacs!
- Yoga For Pregnancy by Sandra Jordan -good postpartum, too
- Baby Bargains by Alan & Denise Fields -excellent information on all kinds of baby gear- I used this book a ton. If my lists here are helpful to you, check out this book!

(for postpartum and the first year)-
- the reading material from the prenatal class and the hospital -clear, to the point, very helpful stuff
- The Girlfriend's Guide to the First Year by Vicki Iovine -again funny and enjoyable! Focuses on what happens to Mom postpartum- which is extremely helpful, as most books don't even mention some of this stuff.
- What to Expect The First Year by Heidi Murkoff -again, good as a reference
- Your Baby's First Year by Steven P. Shelov -this is good because it has tons of information, and most likely follows what your pediatrician would tell you. (AAP recommendations). The manual your baby didn't come with.
- Amy Spangler's Guide to Breastfeeding by Amy Spangler -This book was indispensable for me. Concise, very clear and practical breastfeeding info.
- The Complete Book of Massage by Clare Maxwell-Hudson -great for Mom, (and Dad!) and has infant massage techniques too, with good photos. It is my favorite massage book.
- Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian -really cool
- Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Janet Zand, Robert Rountree & Rachel Walton Positively fabulous baby and child home medical reference. Offers information on natural and traditional remedies as well as conventional modern care. Lets you decide what fits best in each situation. A must have.
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp -Absolutely indispensable to me in the early months with a colicky, high-maintenance baby. I hear there is a video, too.
- The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley -The best "sleep training" book I've found, should you want to try it. I feel it is a good middle ground between the "attachment parenting" technique (see Nighttime Parenting by William Sears) and "cry it out" (see On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, or the book by Ferber), both of which are also popular methods of dealing with sleep problems.
- How To Raise a Brighter Child by Joan Beck -a bit outdated, but still has great information on early learning and a bit on discipline that's good.
- The Healthy Baby Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel -I used this a lot once Simon started in on solid foods, and I like it. There are other good books out there on this subject, too- for instance I hear that Super Baby Food is good.
And an honorable mention: Mothering magazine. I love this magazine!

(for the baby)-
- Happy Baby Colors (or similar)
- Baby Faces (or similar- a real hit, from very early)
- Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (a classic)
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (also a classic)
- Touch and Feel Wild Animals (or similar)
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (another classic)
- Global Babies (pretty cool)
Basically, board books with bright, simple pictures are good. Texture and interactive books (like Pat the Bunny) are great. Rhyming and repetitive books are good for language development. If you speak a foreign language, get books in that language as well as books in English.

Gear I've found useful in the first year:
(note: by the second baby, I'd fine-tuned my preferences a little. Where applicable, items marked with a * are things that were just as indispensable the second time around.)

* Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat with LATCH (I hear the Safeseat is now preferable to the Snugride)
- Snap-and-Go stroller frame (Kolcraft makes something similar)- note: I used the heck out of this with the first baby- the only reason we didn't use it the 2nd time around was because I always reached for the double stroller, or a baby carrier instead.
- Baby Bjorn front carrier, *Patapum carrier (we use the heck out of the Patapum)
* Arm's Reach Co-sleeper (GREAT!) - I have the "mini"
* Pack and Play playpen
* crib
- infant swing, and/or vibrating bouncy seat or infant seat
* Baby Trend High Chair
- sling (love mine -www.hotslings.com -just be sure to get the right size!)
- jumper seat
- Silver Cross Camden stroller (best "all-around" single stroller we've found so far)
* Britax Roundabout convertible carseat with LATCH (still VERY happy with this)
* Kelty Expedition backpack child carrier (fabulous for hiking)
- Buggy Bagg shopping cart cover or similar (also good for restaurant high chairs when baby is still fairly small)
- and I would have liked to have had an "activity center" (blanket for the floor with toys suspended above)

Breastfeeding stuff I've found useful (other than yourself and your baby, which is all that's truly necessary):

- Luxe Boppy pillow (has a removable washable cover, which is handy). I hear the "Breast Friend" nursing pillow is also good. I used this all the time the first time around.
* Lansinoh lanolin cream for your nipples (I don't know if I'd have made it through those first few weeks without this!)
* rocker-glider and gliding ottoman with nursing stool (expensive, but nice if you can swing it)
- a clock or watch near where you nurse, to time feedings if you want
* snacks and lots of water for you

If you wish to pump and feed breastmilk in bottles, (which can be very handy):
- Medela Pump-in-Style electric breast pump (expensive new. check out second-hand ones on ebay- Medela says you shouldn't use a second-hand consumer breast pump, but all the nurses and lactation consultants I've talked to say that it's OK. My pump came from Goodwill. Just get new tubing and attachments).
- extra set of attachments for Medela pump (a lactation consultant at the hospital might give these to you- by the way you should ask to see a lactation consultant while you are there, even if you feel you have a handle on things)
- car adapter or battery pack for Medela pump
- a set of 4-oz bottles and nipples (you may have to try different kinds of nipples to find out what works for your baby)
- breastmilk freezer bags
- bottle brush
- drying rack for bottles, nipples and pump attachments

* some good nursing bras- check out Medela bras, and the Bravado nursing bra or YES! bra- and get a professional fitting after your milk comes in
- a cover-up for nursing in public, if you are so inclined, or some *nursing shirts- check out www.motherwear.com and www.expressiva.com
* breast pads (I prefer natural washable ones- especially wool-backed, some moms much prefer disposable)
- a good book on breastfeeding (see book list)
- a friendly lactation consultant's phone number (or the number of a trusted friend experienced with breastfeeding)
* www.kellymom.com (fabulous! So helpful)
- some ibuprofen and some patience! (It gets WAAY easier, I promise!)

Feeding items for "solids":
* lots of bibs
* lots of washcloths (just get cheapy ones from Target or similar)
* little plastic bowls (with lids is nice)
* little plastic spoons (I prefer the Take and Toss kind, which I wash and reuse)
- a mesh teether-feeder or two (like the Baby-Safe Feeder)- these are great!!
* sippy-cups (you may have to try a few to see what your baby likes. We use Nuby, Playtex and Take and Toss. We've used Avent, but they are a pain).
- a dishwasher basket for sippy-cup valves and other small items, if you are so inclined
* a baby food mill for grinding food, or a food processor or blender for pureeing food
* a steamer for fruits and veggies
- ice cube trays to freeze baby food in Tablespoon-size portions (for quick and easy meal preparation later on)
- a book with nutritional information, preparation techniques, suggested ages to introduce different foods, etc. is useful too (see book list)
* a highchair (see gear list)
- a dog to clean up after the baby, when baby starts self-feeding and throwing food around (or use a cheapo plastic shower curtain on the floor under the high chair- but there will still be a mess!)
* FOOD, of course. Your pediatrician will have recommendations. I prefer organic, when possible.
* a Snack Trap snack cup for finger foods like cheerios

Clothing items:
Now, remember that you will probably get a lot of clothes from other people- new and second-hand. When you do buy some clothes, definitely find some kid consignment shops in your area to check out. You can find new and barely-worn adorable clothes for a fraction of the price you'd pay new.
As baby gets bigger you will have a better idea of what kinds of clothes work best for you, (it's definitely an individual preference kind of thing) but here are a few items I'd recommend you buy to start out with. Beware of buying too much before the baby is born, though- keep all receipts because you could have a preemie, a small tyke or a jumbo baby- you just don't know!

* side-snap Tshirts (for before the cord falls off, and because you'll worry less if you don't have to pull a shirt over that very wobbly little head)
* lots of cotton onesies (Tshirts that snap under the crotch), short and long sleeved, depending on the time of year
* little footed outfits (called "sleepers" I think- great in jersey, terrycloth, velour- anything soft and comfortable) with snaps in the crotch and legs
* little socks that stay on- my absolute favorites are by Trumpette
* a few little hats (the hospital will provide a good one to start)
* some little mitts
- if you like them, some nightgowns with elastic or drawstring bottoms. I didn't use them much after the first 2 weeks, because it's hard to put the baby in a carseat, carrier or swing when they have a gown on. But some mommies swear by them because they do make infant diaper changes very easy.
You will also want some cute outfits to show the little darling off in, but as I mentioned earlier you will probably receive these as gifts. My favorites were some of the footed sleepers, a little pair of overalls, and a little pair of Old Navy jeans to wear with onesies. (Incidentally the sale rack at Old Navy always has really cute stuff for cheap. You may want to check sales at the Gap, Babies R Us, Gymboree and the Children's Place too, amongst other possibilities).
Later, some soft-soled shoes to protect baby's feet as he or she starts walking outdoors. I LOVE Robeez. (Found at Nordstrom, Stride Rite and robeez.com).

Baby Care:
(*all this stuff was just as necessary the second time around)

- tiny nail clippers
- bulb syringe (the squeezy-thing for sucking out spit-up and later, snot)
- some baby wash/shampoo (I liked Aveeno)
- a small bath sponge and/or washcloths
- little hooded bath towels
- an infant bathtub, if you don't have a good sink to bathe the baby in (laundry sinks are GREAT). Mine is a hand-me-down plastic tub which is OK. There are also inflatable bath tubs, bath "hammocks" and the Eurotub, which is big but has great reviews.
- rubbing alcohol and Q-tips for the umbilical cord, if recommended
- diaper rash cream (Experiment to find what works for you- I have tried tons of different kinds, and the best for us is Triple Paste. You have to request it at the pharmacy counter, but it is not prescription. Burt's Bees, Boudreaux's Butt Paste and Aquaphor also work well for us).
- vaseline (all sorts of uses)
- digital thermometer
- baby lotion (and/or Burt's Bees baby massage oil)
- diapers (cloth or disposable- I use cloth, and it's GREAT!)
- diaper wipes (cloth or disposable- cloth wipes are recommended, at least for infants. They are gentler on baby's skin. They work better, too!) Good sources for cloth wipes are: simonscustomcloth.com, littlelounginglizards.com and lucyshopechest.com (or make your own!)
- Hyland's homeopathic tablets- definitely for teething, and I also found the colic tabs to be very helpful. (better than Mylicon drops, in my opinion).
- infant tylenol drops (just in case- very good to have on hand)
- also useful: Orajel, saline nose drops, Baby Vicks Vapo-Rub, Bach's Rescue Remedy (for you) and Neosporin
- a cool mist humidifier or a vaporizer is very handy
- later, a tiny toothbrush, a "gum massager" (fits on your finger) or just a washcloth and safe-to-swallow tooth gel (start using this every day as soon as a tooth appears) Start good habits (yours and theirs!) early.
- baby sunscreen for later (after 6 months)
- A pediatrician you love, with a 24-hr number to call with health questions. I interviewed lots of pediatricians to find one I was really comfortable with, who shared my philosophy on baby and child medical care.

Other Important and Just Useful Stuff:
(* just about all this stuff was just as great the second time around)
- lots of laundry baskets (for laundry, toys, blankets, whatever- even works as a moses basket when baby is really tiny!)
- Diaper Champ diaper pail (uses garbage bags or liners, so no special refills to buy!)
- lots of flannel receiving blankets
- a fleece receiving blanket or two
- crib bedding- fitted sheets and a mattress pad are all that's really necessary, but I love my crib bumper and skirt. No need for a quilt, except maybe for playing on the floor or to hang on the wall
- a sheepskin, if you are so inclined (My second baby has one, and it's awesome!)
- an unbreakable crib mirror
- a CD player and some music
[I love the Kenny Loggins CD "All The Pretty Ponies", Enya CDs are lovely, my Simon loves Nicollette Larson's "Sleep Baby Sleep", we also use Norah Jones, Bach, Beethoven, a great CD called "Celtic Odyssey", and Simon and Garfunkel. We also listen to public radio, but use anything you and baby like! (a friend of mine swears by the Beatles' "Revolver")]
- a crib mobile, and an interesting mobile for over the changing table
- speaking of changing table, I recommend getting a dresser for the nursery and putting a padded vinyl pad on top, instead of buying a separate changing table. Just make sure it will be a comfortable height. Why spend money on a changing table?
- a stuffed animal or other "lovey" (don't worry too much about buying toys- you will probably get them whether you want them or not!)
- more cloth diapers for burp cloths etc
- a pacifier, if you are so inclined, and a "mam" clip to keep it handy (you may have to try several kinds of pacifier to find what your baby likes. Once you find it, buy a bunch!)
- a nightlight
- a baby monitor- even if you don't need it for around the house, it allows you to take a shower while baby is napping, without worry
- a rearview mirror for in the car, so you can see baby in the rear-facing car seat while you are driving
- vinyl static-cling see-through car window stickers to keep the sun out of baby's eyes if necessary (the suction-cup kind are a hazard in a crash)
- a good diaper bag- it can be an actual diaper bag or a backpack, or whatever works- I prefer one with lots of pockets and a strap that STAYS on your shoulder
- a portable changing pad (will probably come with the diaper bag)
- a soft bristled baby hairbrush. This is handy for it's intended use, but also it is a fascinating object for babies.
- you may want to use Dreft detergent for the baby clothes at first. Another good laundry detergent is Charlie's Soap- I use this on cloth diapers. It's all natural and biodegradable, though a few babies are sensitive to it so watch out for that. And don't use fabric softener on baby stuff!
- interlocking plastic links to attach toys to the crib, high chair, stroller, wherever
- honorable mention for HABA wooden teethers and rattles- love these!
- a baby memory book and/or photo album, if you are so inclined- I love "Baby Time- A Fast, Fun Keepsake Album", because it is easier to keep up with.
- a good camera. If you are a picture-taker, consider a digital one- you will save money on film and developing, and it makes it easy to share pictures with friends and family (assuming you have a computer!)
- baby gates, electric outlet covers, cabinet locks, etc. When babyproofing the house, I found it good to crawl around to see what looks enticing and what is in reach. Once you baby-proof, invite a friend with a curious toddler over to visit. Follow the toddler around, and you will quickly discover what you missed!
- some friends with babies. If you don't have some already, make some! It's super helpful to compare notes, gripe with, swap moral support and spend time with others who are in the same boat as you. You'll need adult conversation with people who won't mind your baby obsession. (And yes, you will be obsessed!)
- other help: nearby relatives, a doula, babysitters, a housecleaner- any and all help that you can afford (and tolerate!) is good. You NEED some help- so go ahead and ask! (This is an example of "do as I say, not as I do"- we all need the help, but some of us need to work on asking for it!) Gift certificates for doulas or housecleaners make great baby shower gifts! (tell Grandma)
- as baby gets older, you may want to look into fun classes to do together: infant swim classes for instance, and "mommy and me" classes of all kinds- movement, play, music. . . check a local YMCA or Gymboree center, "The Little Gym", and local parks and recreation classes for options.

- for cloth diaper users, I have tons of suggestions and recommendations. I could probably talk your ear off. Suffice it to say, they have come a LOOONG way from the days of pins and rubber pants!

Some final notes:
Remember, this doesn't have to cost the moon! Hand-me-downs and gifts are great, the library is wonderful, and when it's time to buy always check thrift stores, consignment stores, craigslist and ebay! You'd be amazed what you can find. Finally, sales racks and outlet stores are good places to find deals, especially on clothing. Good luck, and enjoy!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

baby facts, and registries

Saturday, August 04, 2007

baby facts, and registries
Current mood: happy

Here's some fun facts I found about baby boy on the way:


Your Due Date Is Friday, November 23, 2007

Your conception date was most likely Friday, March 02, 2007
You are in Week 25 of your pregnancy
and your baby is 23 weeks old.
Your Third Trimester will begin 8/24/2007
169 days down, 111 to go!

Fun Birthday Facts

* Your baby's birthstone will be Yellow Topaz (Fidelity)
* Your baby's Astrological Sign will be Sagittarius
* Your baby's Flower is Chrysanthemum or Chrysanthemum (Dark Blue, Red and Yellow)
* Your baby will be born in the Chinese Year of The Pig
* This time next year your baby will be 37 Weeks Old!
* Your baby will start kindergarten in 2013, be old enough to drive a car in 2023, finish high school in 2026, and will graduate from college with the class of 2030, give or take a year. Can you imagine?

* * *

I don't know if we're going to have a baby shower. . . there's so much stuff we don't need, LOL! I'm telling people to bring me a meal if they want to help after the baby is born, or come wash my dishes or play with the older boys, or just donate to babyman's new savings account. However there are a few things we could use, so I put them on a Babies R Us registry. www.babiesrus.com - click on "Baby Registry" and then search for me or Billy. You'll have to know our real name. I love making registries. :P

* * *

I love shopping for baby shower gifts, too! We're going to Olga's baby shower tomorrow, and picked up a few things today. What fun, even though I usually stick with the less cute essentials. I put SO much time and thought into baby stuff, that it's always fun to apply what I've learned in order to help someone out. I even have a whole list I've put together on baby stuff- hmm, I should post it to this blog! I'll do that later. Right now, I just realized it is now 8pm and Sweetcheeks is still napping. Geez! I'd better get him up or else I'll have a very early wake up call tomorrow morning! He needs to eat dinner.

Schedule? Bah!! (at least these days!)