Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category


Bug Spray for Babies

My ineffective bug spray

My ineffective bug spray

Since you’ve all been so helpful with recommendations for other summer products, I have another item to ask about.

I’m a bug magnet. If you’re looking for a chemical-free bug spray, just stand next to me. It’s yet to be seen if Franci inherited my bug-loving composition, but I figure I should have some baby-friendly bug spray on hand just in case.

Even with essential oil insect repellents,  I’m worried Frances will ingest more than her share (her hands and clothes spend more time in her mouth than out these days). My home-made spray contains the following oils: citronella, cedar, peppermint and lemongrass. Not only is the smell overwhelming, but it doesn’t even work!

What baby-safe insect repellent do you recommend? If you make your own, what oils work best?

Sunscreen Woes

Fun in the sun

Fun in the sun

Frances loves swimming, so we’ve been hitting the pool pretty regularly this summer. I’m a bit paranoid about her getting a sunburn since her skin is still that perfect newborn white, so I try to keep her in the shade and slather her with plenty of sunscreen. I’m running into some problems with the sunscreen, however, and it’s driving me crazy!

Episencial Sunny Screen SPF 35 is so difficult to apply, and Franci isn’t happy about it. I make sure to put it on before we even leave the house so we’re not trying to do it pool side, but it still doesn’t absorb by the time we get to the pool. So there she is, sticky and white as a ghost with streaks all over, and once she’s wet she becomes as slippery as a greased watermelon! I’m afraid she’s going to slip through my fingers.

My annoyance doesn’t end when we leave the pool because it’s so hard to wash the sunscreen off of her. Even with lots of soap and water, I find bits of sunscreen on her for days. It leaves me wondering if I should just use conventional sunscreen if I have to wash it off after every use anyway.

Are there any baby sunscreens out there that are safe and effective but won’t drive me crazy? What sunscreen do you use on your kids?

Stockpiling

Some people might call my husband and me hoarders, but we prefer the term “stockpilers”. We don’t save old newspapers or have 20 cats, and you probably wouldn’t know we had a stockpiling problem if you came to our house. One look in our garage betrays us, however. For every open case of toilet paper, there’s an unopened one behind it.

My freezer four months later

My freezer four months later

Things got a little worse as my pregnancy progressed. I read too much into the advice to “freeze some meals” and froze 100 dinners instead. And that’s not including the frozen lunches I stashed in the deep freeze! I also made sure our pantry had triples of everything we use, as if I would never set foot in a grocery store again. Since I like to cook, and I go to the store weekly for fresh produce, I make dinner most days and the freezer and pantry remain overflowing.

I finally decided to do something about our overstock because things are going to start expiring. And like Joy and Rebecca, I loathe to waste anything! I got sick last week because I refused to throw away a hard boiled egg that was questionable! Actually, what finally pushed me into this commitment is the motivation to save for a down payment on a house. Our current rental is too small for the three of us, and we hope to have another kid soon. Unless we want to drive each other crazy, we need more than one bedroom.

Rebecca, with her tales of eating on less than the cost of an iPhone plan, gave me the idea. I need some accountability. If I decide to write about it, maybe it will actually happen. So once a month I’m going to update you on my progress. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll manage to curb my shopping and beauty product addiction as well.

I hope you’ll provide me with lots of advice in the comments!

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy EatersFrench Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’m into French Parenting books. As a reformed picky eater, I’m fascinated by the topic of food and kids. Frances still has two months before she tries her first bite, and I still can’t help but read all about it!

In French Kids Eat Everything, Le Billon and her French husband decide to leave Vancouver, B.C. and take their two young daughters to spend a year in the village where he grew up. They found that it was impossible to fit in to their new home without adopting French eating habits, so that’s how the story begins.

Once again, I was drooling over the menus fed to even the youngest children at the state run daycare. The emphasis of each meal is to socialize, try new foods, savor each flavor and learn proper table etiquette. Since the French eat so slowly, and all the food is delicious and nutritious, obesity rates are 3% in children (versus 20% in the US).

One thing I liked about French Kids Eat Everything is that the lessons are good for adults too. When Le Billon talks about the pervasiveness of snacking in North America, I had to take a hard look at my own habits. I never used to be such a snacker, but I fell into a routine of “6 small meals a day” and too many of those “meals” are sweet and not savory. I think the biggest problem with the small meals is that I never feel satiated, which leads to more snacking. If I go out for breakfast or lunch I’ve noticed that I don’t snack as much later in the day, probably because I eat more than I would for that meal at home. I think it’s time for me to start eating more food, less frequently.

At the end of the book, Le Billon and her family move back to Vancouver and realize how French she and her daughters became. The saddest part of the book was when her older daughter came home from elementary school crying because she couldn’t possibly savor her lunch in the 10 minutes allowed at school.

Like Le Billon, I realize that I’m ultimately American in my cooking habits. I might use fresh ingredients and French recipes, but I also have a freezer full of frozen meals. I often cook a double batch so I can freeze half, which seems to be the opposite of what the French do. I also won’t turn up my nose at food offered to me, just because it’s not “meal time”. To my American sensibilities, that’s just rude.

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After a full summer day at the park, my children arrive home then coated in sand and cracker crumbs…and often partially wet from running through the fountains, but it’s far easier to clean them up then the entire house. They are then gloriously hungry, tired and ready for bed (Even if the summer sun is still pouring in their bedroom windows at 8pm.)

So what have I found to be the most important items in our bag for summer afternoons at the park?

1. Snacks. If I pack twice as much food as I think my kids can possibly eat, it’s not nearly enough. So I throw in an extra bag of carrot sticks and a bonus box of crackers and hope for the best.

2. Cups. I’m too lazy to fill up water bottles these days so we bring a stack of cups and let the kids fill them up at the drinking fountain. These also double as sand toys when needed.

3. Sunscreen. Even though it’s more expensive, I have opted for the small containers of sun screen just so that I can stash them in my purse, in the car, and in the park bag.

4. Swimsuits. Our favorite summer parks have water features that can keep my kids occupied for hours.

5. Towels. These will possibly be totally soppy, sandy, and disgusting by the end of the day, but it’s nice to have them on hand.

6. Dry clothes. Having a couple of outfits on hand prevents yogurt spillage from being a deal breaker.

7. Band aids. Somehow this small piece of flexible plastic seems to convince my children that their wounds are instantly healed.

8. Plastic containers. OLd sour cream tubs make fantastic sand castles and are much smaller and easier to pack than sand buckets.

9. Mom gear. If I am going to spend six hours at the park, I have to remember those items that will keep me content. For me it’s almonds and chocolate, sunglasses, a charged cell phone, and maybe even a book.

10. Friends. O.K….these don’t really fit in a beach bag, but having a few friends for a casual playdate make the entire experience so much more fun. Children get to see their buddies and parents get a chance to celebrate the victories and failure of parenting. (Hopefully while laughing hysterically at both.)

Have I missed any key components? Are you packing cloth diapers, wipes, and other baby gear at this point as well?

Thumbs vs. Pacifiers

When Frances was 3 weeks old we started giving her a pacifier. Even as brand new parents we could tell she needed to comfort suck, and feeding on demand was giving her a lactose overload. She would gladly take the pacifier but as soon as she’d start to relax the pacifier would fall out of her mouth and she’d start crying again. After a few days we tired of this game and stopped. I was reading the archives and saw that Joy had better luck with pacifiers.

Thumb Sucking Practice

Thumb Sucking Practice

In the absence of a pacifier, Frances continued sucking on her whole fist to self-sooth. This produced a sound so loud, I swear you could hear it next door. I don’t think she was happy with it either. I half-heartedly tried to show her how to suck her thumb a few times, but I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I mean, it’s just a bad habit to have to break later, right?

Well, her grandmother thought it might be time to try the thumb again and Frances took to it right away (although it was a few days before she mastered it). Now she happily sucks away when she’s falling asleep and is sleeping even longer stretches at night. Are we going to live to regret this?

Did you encourage your baby to use a pacifier or suck her thumb?

White Noise Apps

Now that Francis is sleeping more at night, she’s having a harder time falling asleep for her nap.  Unless I’m carrying her around on my back, she fights sleep no matter how tired she is.  I didn’t mind too much until I hurt my back and carrying her meant my back never had a chance to heal.  Since a well rested baby is a happy baby, I needed to find another solution.

It wasn’t until another mom at my breastfeeding support group brought it up that I was reminded about white noise.  Of course!  Later that day when Frances started rubbing her eyes and getting inconsolably fussy that I downloaded a white noise app on my phone and gave it a whirl.  Let’s just say it worked like magic.

So far she only likes two of the sounds available on TMSOFT’s free White Noise Lite, and I wonder if it’s worth it to upgrade to the paid version.  Or maybe I should try a different app?

Do you use white noise apps to calm your fussy baby?  What app do you like best?

How can you make Father’s Day special for a new dad while you’re sleep-deprived and have no time to shop? Honestly, I don’t even really remember our first Father’s day celebration as a new family, but after consulting my husband, these are the things he was most wanting back in those early days of parenthood.

Framed photos. Snap a couple shots of baby with dad (and grandpa too, if he lives close), print them out, and slip them into frames for an easy, but special, gift. If you have more time on your hands, make a bound photo book online.

A personalized picnic. Whether it’s gourmet potato chips or homemade pasta salad, your fellow has a few special entrees that may not cross the dinner table on a regular basis. Pick them up, pack them up, and head out for a hike..or just an afternoon at the park.
Date for father's day
A date. Every dad (and mom!) deserves some time off. Create a homemade gift certificate for an afternoon or evening out. Do a babysitting trade or perhaps leave your tot with family so the two of you can hit all of his favorite pre-baby hang-outs. (The picture above is of a special date we had six months ago. We hiked the same trail we took on our first date!)

An Ipad. My husband claims that this gizmo is extremely practical for fathers taking the 3-5am shift. Sitting in the rocking chair while watching sports highlights made those late nights infinitely more bearable. This seems to be the least sentimental and the most expensive item on my idea list, and yet it is the thing that my husband most adores.

Do you have special Father’s Day traditions in your family? Any glorious gift ideas to share with the rest of us?

Our sloping backyard is full of lilies, winding paths, and decorative rocks without any space for swings or a trampoline. In the past my kids have found it hard to run spend hours in the garden without breaking into whining fits.

This summer, a few simple tricks have changed the entire dynamic.
Involving Kids in the garden
Adopting a plant: The kids each got to select a few special flowers and one apple tree each from a nursery this spring. They helped with transplanting the new additions and have been very excited about watering and watching as blooms appear. Sometimes just asking them to go check on their plant is enough to get them outside, where they become distracted enough by blue jays and beetles to stay outside. (The picture above is from four years ago when my son was happy to drag his monster trucks through the garden for hours.)

Hunting for treasure: At thrift stores I pick up loads of colorful marbles or trickets and then hide them all over the back yard. The kids spend extended periods of time searching for loot (each having their own territory to avoid turf wars) and then hang out on the deck comparing and trading their treasures. When they later forget about said loot, I collect it from the corners of their bedroom and hold another treasure hunt!

Picnicking with popsicles: Sometimes just offering them a home blended popsicle (full of hidden vegetables and healthy fruits) is enough to get them out in the backyard.
Fairy House
Building fairy houses: Gathering up moss, twigs, and tiny flowers for fairy domiciles is something that can capture my children’s attention for hours. One house can easily start a fairy sub-development, which means that I get more time to garden!
A child's garden spot
Making a personalized garden spot: As you can see, at our old house, my son’s favorite spot was always in a tree. I haven’t done this yet at our new house, but am planning on letting each of my kids pick a special place in the garden that they can make their own. We can put down a stepping stone for them to sit on, ring it with the shells we collect from the beach at Grandma’s house, and finish by planting some of their favorites nearby. I would be happily willing to put cheezy gnomes, dragonflies or other such garden art if it meant they were excited about their garden spot.

Running through the sprinkler: Okay…this actually might not work in my garden, since the kids may have to hurdle over day lilies to get a good pace up, but maybe this will be possible someday!

Blowing bubbles: A classic! Use a homemade bubble solution recipe to make your own stuff. It’s such an obvious idea that I often forget it!

Moving worms: I know this sounds slightly weird, but my kids love digging in dirt, finding worms, and then moving them to their favorite plants. Since they know worms help break up soil and make room for roots to grow, they are certain that this is hugely beneficial to their adopted plants. (I’m not sure it’s beneficial for the worms…)
Bug scavenger hunt
Doing a bug scavenger hunt: This doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but giving young children a list of four different bugs and letting them search under rocks and bushes can take a very long time. (Again, this translates to hours of watering/weed pulling) Also, no bugs have to be caught and kept in glass jars…only to die tragic deaths later on when we all forget about them.
Sweet peas
Eating straight out of the garden: I don’t expect to get a harvest of sweet peas, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, because I know they’ll be consumed before they ever make it to the kitchen. It is a thrill for my kids to literally eat the fruits of their labors and wonder at how much better garden food tastes than anything we buy in the store. That’s enough to get them back out there next spring!

Have you make a science out of getting your kids involved in gardening? What other tips do you have to help get your people in the garden for hours on end?

Looking for a simple, thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day this year?

The Pearhead Canvas Print Set is such a great idea! If you have multiple children, you can have each make a print, or simply make one print for each member of the family. The canvases come already primed with brightly colored paint, ready for you to make your prints! At just 19.59, this is a terrific gift that you can display for years! (And if you have more time than money, you could easily do this yourself by buying supplies at a local craft store.)

If you’re as overwhelmed by framing as the rest of us, digital frames like this Coby Widescreen Digital Frame for about $25, can help you spend less time printing and framing and more time watching all your favorite images flip by. Disclaimer..this is NOT greener than a traditional frame, but more practical for families with limited time and growing kids.

Let your child make a stepping stone for mom for less than $12! (and it may be even less expensive if you hunt down the materials at a hardware store.) Midwest Products Kids Garden Stepping Stone Kit is just $11.00 and will be a fun memento tucked in amongst the zucchini and cucumbers in your veggie patch.

(Shameless marketing plug coming…) For moms-to-be, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is a fantastic gift. It’s currently on sale for about $8.00 on amazon and is packed with recipes for homemade baby food, green product recommendations,and facts about buying and caring for cloth diapers. We’re completely biased, but it’s the book we both wish we would have had as expectant mothers.

What is the best Mother’s Day gift you have ever received? We hope that this year you at least have the time to put your feet up, sip a bit of tea, and maybe even enjoy something as decadent as an afternoon nap.

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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