Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Blog Changes

As I'm sure you've noticed if you've spent any time visiting my blog, I have sorely neglected it ever since 2013 began. With a baby quickly turning into an individual person instead of a lump, my time to sit and blog just went away. Plus, quick posts on Facebook were so quick and easy that soon they became the norm. However, I love the idea of a dynamic scrapbook so I'm not giving up this blog. Plus, if you're at all familiar with Facebook you know that it's a pain in the butt to hunt for old posts. Thus, one of my 2014 goals is to update this blog using my Facebook timeline. It will be tedious, no doubt, but I know I won't regret taking the time. Plus, whenever I get around to making physical scrapbooks (because I still definitely want to make those too), gathering the details from the blog will be much easier than from Facebook. Since I'll be back-dating my posts to keep them in chronological order, I will do my best to post a digest-style update from time to time, just in case you'd like to go back and see what you may have missed.

Here are my blog-related 2014 goals:

1. Update the blog with the major events in the Blueberry's life from my Facebook timeline and picture files.

2. Start writing product reviews, particularly concerning cloth diapers, books, and toys.

3. Share some parenting tips that have helped us survive the past year and a half.

4. Blog at least twice a week, even if it's just to share a random toddler-musing.

5. Build good habits so I can stick with them for the most part when the Blueberry's little brother arrives in May!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cuddling with Auntie

During my auntie's recent visit to our house for the holidays, she and the Blueberry spent oodles of time cuddling on the couch. It was a little chilly (re: frigid for the girl from Hawaii), but I think the Blueberry was mostly motivated by the cuddle time than the cold. I swear that boy still makes a great baby space heater.

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Cuddling sometimes became nap time.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Another year of exciting things are coming our way, but more on that later. The Blueberry did not make it up till midnight, but he made it pretty close. My husband, aunt and I did manage to stay up till midnight though I was very tempted to go to bed when the Blueberry did.

Earlier that evening, we went to see the Symphony of Lights, which is an annual event in Howard County put on by Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard County General Hospital. Running for most of December, it consists of more than 70 lighted displays, some animated and you can walk or drive through the grounds for a fee that benefits the hospital foundation.

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On New Year's Eve a special event called Midnight at 7, targeted particularly at families with young children, was held. There were a few food and other vendors on the grounds and you could walk through the light exhibit with your stroller. The culmination of the evening was a fireworks display at 7pm. Definitely a cute idea, but it was freezing! In the 20s at least, but the Blueberry didn't seem to mind.

My husband wasn't quite as prepared so we bought this cute elf hat for him.
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Unfortunately, I didn't take too many pictures because my camera battery died but I did manage to capture one nice picture of the fireworks.
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The Blueberry wasn't too impressed but the fireworks, but neither was I. One of these years we'll get brave enough to take him to see the big show on the Nation Mall. One of these days...maybe when he's old enough to drive.

Happy New Year to you and your family. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Anniversary Night

Today was our seventh wedding anniversary. Thanks to my auntie's generous offer to babysit, my husband and I went out for a nice dinner sans the Blueberry. When we returned home, since we were all dressed up and the Blueberry was still awake, I decided we should take a nice family picture with the tree in the background.

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However, it took about 50 shots to get one just right because the Blueberry wasn't really in the mood.

First he just wanted to look at the tree.
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Then he decided he was tired.
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He wanted to thrash about a bit.
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And by a bit, I mean a lot.
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Then we were back to tired.
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Finally, just as we were about to give up, he looked up and smiled.
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Thank goodness. Time to call it a night.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Back to the Library - The Thank You Bear Series

Greetings, Folks! It's only been nearly two and a half months since my last post. I know this entire year I haven't been the greatest with blogging--it's been so easy to become lazy and just rely upon Facebook to share pictures and special moments with family and friends. However, I love the ability to share more in the form of a blog post, as well as stuff that not all of my Facebook friends are particularly interested in. Thus, I'm not abandoning my blogs. I just have to figure out how to get back on schedule.

My excuse for my latest blogging absence is another move! Given that it was my fourth move in three years, you'd of thought that I'd have everything down pat, but somehow with the Blueberry it was much much more. We're still settling in, but are about 95% unpacked. Unfortunately, that 5% doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

My husband's work took us from Northern Virginia to Central Maryland. So far it's been fantastic. I could go on and on about how we love that there are more than two major roads, how there are continuous sidewalks, and a wealth of family-friendly things to do. But I didn't log on to gush about our new home, so maybe I'll do a moving update a little later. Maybe. One of the biggest perks for the Blueberry and I is all the things we can walk to. Farmers markets, parks, play lots, grocery stores, a major mall, and TWO libraries! This month we've been to the library several times and discovered a new series that was made for me. (The Blueberry seems to like it a lot too, but I love, love, love it!) Naturally it's about a bear.

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The Thank You Bear series is a five book series by Greg Foley. The first, Thank Your Bear is a sweet story with teaches that you should have confidence in yourself and trust your own instincts. (That's kinda loaded for a kid's book, I thought, but it's done amazing well.) Basically, Bear find something that he thinks will be perfect for his best friend Mouse. The other animals scoff at his present, more or less saying that it is a worthless thing. By the time Bear sees Mouse, he's full of self doubt, but Mouse loves it. The illustration is simple but adorable. With only a few lines per page, it's perfect to hold the Blueberry's attention and love of page-turning. This book appears to be available in hard cover, paperback, and board book. I'm definitely planning on adding a copy to our collection.

Next is Don't Worry Bear. In this tale another of Bear's friends is introduced--Caterpillar. When Caterpillar disappears inside his cocoon for what seems like ages, Bear worries. Caterpillar (from inside the coccoon) and the other animals reassure Bear that Caterpillar is quite all right, but Bear worries. Then suddenly, the cocoon is empty. Another cute story. Not quite as poignant as Thank You Bear, but definitely a warm and fuzzy read.

Next is Good Luck Bear. Similar to the first book, Bear along with his good friend Mouse embark on a task that the other animals think is impossible, silly, or otherwise not worthwhile. Just as they become disappointed, they do even better than their goal. Self-confidence is reinforced. Another touching story.

Finally, we read I Miss You Mouse, which is the Blueberry's absolute favorite. No doubt this is because it is a lift-the-flap book. I was so impressed how gentle the Blueberry is with this book, even though the paper is much thinner than most of his other beginning peek-a-boo books. He also is quite partial to red, which makes it easy to spot this book even when Mommy buries it in a stack of library books. Unlike the other stories, this book tells the tale of Mouse as he looks for Bear. Though we only see Bear in a few pages at the end of the story, I found this story quite charming, even though it's a bit sad when Mouse despairs that he might not find Bear. The theme of friendship is stronger than ever in this book. I also liked that for once the other animals aren't perceived as mean or otherwise uncaring. Definitely this book and the first are the tops of the series that we've read so far.

The last book in the series is called Make a Wish Bear, which we haven't borrowed yet. I paged through it at the library and decided to wait a bit because it's a wintery story and reading about snow when it's 90 degrees out rather depresses me. Greg Foley also has a stand-alone children's book called Purple Little Bird and two-book series featuring a character named Wiloughby. We'll likely be checking those out soon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Are We Smarter Than Our Parents? Likely, Not. But Why Did They Do Such Stupid Things?

My husband has this saying that may not be original, but rings true: "We won't make the same mistakes our parents did; instead, we'll make all new ones." As a new parent, it's a near-daily struggle to wade through all the advice and "research" available to help us raise our new little one. Until recently, I hadn't encountered much of the "when you (or your husband) were little, we did X," nor the accompanying suggestion that such methods must have been "right." Living hundreds to thousands of miles from relatives has a few perks, I guess. However, in the just last few months, especially as my son has really begun developing new skills, that changed and I've heard quite a number of anecdotes about how I or my husband did this or that at such and such an age and/or what the corresponding parent did in response. Indeed, many of these stories are cute, heartwarming, and/or of interest. For example, knowing when my husband got his first tooth, rolled over, or learn to crawl might give me a rough idea when the Blueberry might do the same things. A story about how I used to hide my shoes in my toy box is cute. However, less helpful and frankly quite perplexing are the tales of which baby commercial baby food I was fed or how alcohol diaper wipes were used constantly for the antiseptic/sanitizing purpose of preventing diaper rash!

If you've done any research on babies on how to raise a child in the last ten years, you know that the recommendations are very different than when we were raised. Formula is no longer king. Putting the baby to sleep on his tummy is a huge no-no. Making your own baby food is easy. Organic or minimally processed ready-made food is ubiquitous and cool. Avoiding the use of harsh chemicals on a baby's skin is a must. Drugs, including those by prescription, are potentially dangerous and to be avoided whenever possible. In efforts to explain and excuse the sins of our parents' generation, it's said "this is all we knew at the time", "this is what was recommended by the doctor," and so forth. I've said this myself numerous times as I try not to judge parents who raised now-healthy, intelligent children. But I can't help but wonder, especially with things I find so incredible (like putting a baby in laundry basket in lieu of a car seat), what were our parents thinking? Didn't they question the advice they were given? Didn't they have any common sense?

I suspect that one of the biggest changes in parenting and lifestyles in general in recent years is that we question more and have more information at our fingertips. Commercial products are no longer magical things. Instead, we question what we eat, put on our bodies, and even the air we breathe due to our cars or the power plant down the road. But it doesn't seem like our parents did that. Brand loyalty and dogmatic belief in their chosen method of parenting seem to have been the order of the day.

As you know, we've taken a crunchy-natural approach to raising the Blueberry. I breastfeed, cloth diaper, avoid as many chemicals as possible, and serve my son mostly organic homemade baby food. All of these things are choices I've made based upon available information, financial means, and lifestyle choices. In no way do I think they're the ideal/perfect way to raise a child. Nor do I think he'll necessarily be any healthier or smarter than the child raised on formula and Gerber jarred foods. While I think my choices are smart ones, I believe I'm aware of the consequences of such choices. For example, by not formula feeding my child was not provided with extra iron. Current research asserts that babies are born with a certain amount of iron reserves and such reserves are depleted around 6 months. Breast milk has less iron than formula, however it is absorbed more easily so it might be a wash. Moreover, the medical conclusion that babies need X amount of iron might be incorrect assuming they child is otherwise growing and healthy. My choice in exclusive breastfeeding was based foremost upon convenience and the belief that something naturally produced to sustain a baby by the same body that grew him in 9 months was highly preferable to powdery stuff containing God-knows-what made in a factory in China. By making my own food, I am taking what I can get at the grocery store in terms of freshness. By purchasing organic and providing a variety of fruits and vegetables, I might be buying pears from Chile or mangoes from Mexico. The evils of processed food are arguably tempered by the fact that the processing might begin with much fresher vegetables than I can buy as I have not found a good farmers' market near me. By cloth diapering, I trade avoidance of man-made chemicals for the risks of occasional ammonia or bacterial buildup due to my wash routine (in which I've chosen to depend upon commercial soap). I clean mostly with baking soda, vinegar and water, but don't kid myself that they're as powerful in germ-killing as bleach. In short, I've made my choices, know at least some of their weaknesses, and investigate alternatives regularly.

I don't hear any of that inquiry or trace of doubt in the vast majority of the stories from our parents' generation. Were they not taught to question? The surely must have been given the monumental political chances that occurred in their lifetime, even in the years before they had children. Or is it simply that time has allowed memories to become rosier than the actual events? Or that their children are now successful adults serves as some objective proof of good choices? Maybe in 20 or 30 years, I'll be telling my children what I used to do in the same holier-than-thou manner way I've had advice given or stories recounted. But I hope not. I don't consider myself any more humble than most, but I always hope I keep questioning and looking for new ways to do things. For now, I'll do my best to take what I can from these anecdotes, which are likely well-meaning. I'll try not to roll my eyes or snap when I'm told that there must have been something special in jarred baby food chicken that made the baby want to eat it (with the obvious suggestion that I'm stupid for feeding my child organic chicken rather than the processed stuff).

Monday, May 20, 2013

VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker

The Blueberry received the VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker as a Christmas present and I must say that it's proven to be an exceptionally versatile toy. The colorful panel detaches from the walker part and makes a great floor toy, complete with carry-handle. Lights and music engaged the baby at first, then soon he moved on to spinning the gears, closing then opening the little shutter to play "peek-a-boo" with a hen, shaking the phone rattle, and playing with the connected shapes.

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When he began pulling up, the wide handle of the walker part was perfect for him to grab onto--provided an adult was stabilizing the device. Otherwise, it would simply tip over. When I bought a couple other walkers, I realized how great the VTech wide design was as the Blueberry cannot yet pull himself up on the much narrow handles of this one by Playskool or this one by Fisher Price. These other two walkers have the advantage of converting to ride on toys, which means he will hopefully get use of them as a toddler, but they're not suited for pulling up on now. The VTech walker also has two "speed" settings on the wheels, which the other two lack.

It took the Blueberry at least a couple weeks after learning to pull up before he grasped the concept of forward movement. He would jump up and down, but that was it. After much practice with Mommy and Daddy leading him about the apartment like a marionette, the Blueberry finally managed it on his own. Even on the lower "speed" settings on the toy, until the Blueberry gained more balance, a parent had to stabilize the walker and move it very slowly forward or it would roll right from under him. Finally, this morning he managed it on his own!

In this video, here's the Blueberry walking on his own with the walker. He still has some work to do in the balance area as he face-planted a number of times as he started to tire (or when he became distracted by things such as track lighting), but he's definitely on his way to getting about on his own!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

In going through the drafts folder, I found this mini book review which just needed a picture and some links. I must confess that Mom has been buying books like crazy at consignment sales where they're often just a couple dollars for multiple books and we haven't been to our local library in months. As the weather becomes consistently nicer, hopefully the Blueberry and I will start making regular trips.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff (New York: HarperCollins, 1991) is from the same author as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie which we read last June and very much enjoyed. In this story, rather than a cute little mouse, the visiting animal is a huge moose. Tempted into the home by a boy who offers him a muffin, the moose soon makes himself quite at home, asking for the boy's mom's special blackberry jam, then more muffins. When the boy agrees to make more muffins, a trip to the store is first required and naturally the moose wants to go along. However, first the moose needs a sweater, then needs to sew a button, then make finger puppets and so on. It's quite hilarious with colorful illustrations to engage any early reader.