Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Time Out Spot

If you’ve ever watched Super Nanny, you know that Jo Frost is a magician when coming to getting children to behave. One of her most used techniques is the establishment of a “naughty spot,” where she puts kids into time out to help teach them to behave. Her naught spots have taken form of a time-out stool, time-out stairs, or even a time-out beanbag. Well, now Baby Bella has a time-out spot! Super Nanny, I think you’re going to have to do some shopping at Baby Bella…

Why time-outs? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends time-outs as an effective form of discipline for some very good reasons. They caution against spanking, pointing to evidence that suggests that spanking can lead to increased aggression and anger in children and can undermine their ability to handle their anger as adults. Time-outs, on the other hand, teach children to take time to calm their body down so that they can make good choices. Indeed, I use time-outs as part of my parenting repertoire with James and I have seen them make a huge difference. I find they are especially important when he and I are really starting to butt heads and we both need a chance to gain some perspective.

The following recommendations are usually given for making a time out the most effective:

1. Decide on 3 or 4 behaviors are most important to change. These are the behaviors that will lead to a time-out. For James, we have established that that he will take a time-out if starts using disrespectful or grumpy words with us.

2. Choose a time-out spot (and with the new “time-out spot” from Baby Bella, this spot can be anywhere. And, even better, you can take it with you on trips so that you can have a time-out spot wherever you go! )

3. When your child engages in the problem behavior, give a one warning. Then use as few words as possible to explain what your little one did wrong. Ask her to go to the time-out spot. Take her there if needed.

4. Set a timer for the number of minutes your child should be in time-out. A child should spend as many minutes in time-out as she is old (so James would spend five minutes in time-out because he is 5 years old).

5. If your child gets off the spot, gently put her back. It’s generally recommended that you do *not* talk to your child as you do this, as your child probably wants attention from you at this point and if you give it to her, she’s likely to keep getting off the spot to get the attention. Most importantly, *remain calm and keep emotions out of it!* This is probably the hardest part. Restart the timer each time you put your child back. If you are consistent, it should only take a few times of doing this before your child learns to stay on the spot.

6. Once your child has remained on the spot for the amount of time required, the time-out is done. When the timer goes off, remind your child that you love her, and have her go back to playing. Discuss the behavior later, as needed.

Now that you’ve got the run-down on time-outs, all you need is the time-out spot from Baby Bella! What are you waiting for?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Into The Future

We wanted to let you know that Baby Bella Mama is going to be changing a bit, starting next month. I’ve loved getting my blogging legs here at Baby Bella Mama, but I’m moving into the future with a brand new blog. I’ll still be blogging at Baby Bella Mama occasionally, but the posts will mainly be about the awesome products at Baby Bella, with parenting tidbits thrown into the mix every now and then. I’ll continue to share my parenting adventures over at my new blog, Live Out Loud, and that blog will have a few new additions, including a broader focus and family pictures. If you liked this blog, I hope you’ll come find me at In the meantime, give those babies of yours a hug and buy them lots of good stuff at Baby Bella! :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Top Ten Baby and Toddler Books

I *love* to read. My mom read all the time and so I think my love of reading is woven into the very fabric of who I am. And just as my mom loved to read to me, I love to read to my own children. It gives me such joy to see James sounding out his first words and to see Kasia smile at the bright pictures inside of books. Of course, I also love books in my job as a pediatric speech therapist, where we use the fun sounding repetitive books to help children learn to use words. A really good baby and toddler book is like a good song… rhythmic and predictable, so that children love to listen and, as they listen, they begin to pick out words within the patterns. Eventually, of course, children begin to “read” their favorite books right along with you. Good stuff. So, without further ado, I give you my top 10 favorite books for infants and toddlers. Enjoy!

1. Sheep in a Jeep
by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple

2. Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown

3. Going to Bed Book
by Sandra Boynton

4. Blue Hat Green Hat
by Sandra Boynton

5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you See?
by Eric Carle

6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle

7. Guess How Much I Love You?
by Sam McBratney

8. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
by Bill Martin

9. Please Baby Please
by Spike and Tanya Lee Lewis

10. Hand Hand Fingers Thumb
by Al Perkins

Friday, June 4, 2010


I would like to be a perfect mom. I really, really would. It would be so nice. Life would be so simple. But it’s probably not all that realistic of a goal, as much as I wish otherwise. So rather than constantly trying to swim upstream, I’m starting to think that maybe I need to just accept that there are some things that I will simply *never* be good at. To help with this new goal, I thought I’d make a list of things that I am just not good at and probably never will be. Here’s what I’ve got so far. I am no good at…

* Tolerating the noise of the morning before my first cup of coffee
* Participating in unstructured free play for longer than 22 seconds
* Keeping track of my keys while managing to carry a baby and hold a 5-year-old’s hand in the parking lot
* Being a patient and loving mother in the middle of the night (and I define “patient and loving” very loosely. As in “not having the urge to smack anything or anyone when woken up from a sound sleep.”)
* Making any dinner that requires more than five ingredients or more than 10 minutes of preparation
* Keeping my cell phone out of water (washing machines, toilets, puddles)
* Getting the previous size clothes out of my children’s closets before they are in the next size
* Keeping the plants watered
* Letting my husband parent in his own way without parenting “advice” (a.k.a. orders) from me
* Finding perspective on long rainy days
* Getting the clean clothes from the laundry baskets into drawers before needing the laundry baskets for the next week’s laundry
* Keeping myself from being annoyed when I’m interrupted for the 12th time when trying to type a list of things that I’m not good at
* Forgiving myself for being annoyed when I am interrupted for the 12th when trying to type a list of things that I’m not good at

What says you?
What aspects of mothering do you find challenging?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Giveaway - Haute Tots Gift Certificate

I told you all about my Mother’s Day - "Just Another Day in Paradise", now you tell me about yours! Did it measure up to your expectations? What was your favorite part about the day? Did you get anything good?
Share your Mother’s Day with me by commenting on this post and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for a $20.00 gift certificate to Haute Tots. What’s that again, you ask? Haute Tots is where you go when your Baby Bella is starting to grow up! Check it out at; when you visit the website, you’ll find the same unique quality you’ve come to enjoy in Baby Bella, but the toys, gifts and clothing are chosen your toddler and preschooler rather than for your baby.
When you comment on this post, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is June 14th. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review - Bebe Au Lait Magnetic Bib

Kasia and I were very excited to try out the Bebe Au Lait Reversible Double Bib this month. The bib is touted as a “mealtime revolution” because is “totally reversible, with a possibility of four sides,” which “allows for a super clean feeding every time, even when busy moms and dads haven’t had a chance to wash it.” Now if that isn’t the bib for us, I don’t know what is. Busy mom? Check. Disdain of laundry? Check. Bring it on, bib. Bring it on.

We got the bib in the mail right before lunchtime and put it on immediately. Kasia looked pretty darn sweet in her new bib. I do love the Bebe Au Lait styles—always a bit funky with a twist of cute on the side. Kasia liked the bib right away because it fastened in front, with magnets, which meant that I didn’t have to pull it over her head or tie/snap it behind her neck. She’s at that age where she really hates things being pulled over her head, so this was a definite bonus. I also liked the fact that the Bebe Aut Lait Bib was bigger than most bibs, making it easier to keep her shirt clean overall. The only drawback we found during that first mealtime was that the bib didn’t fit snugly around her neck. Instead, it left a gap between her neck and the collar of her shirt where food could (and did) get on the shirt. Because the bib closed with magnets that had to be placed right over each other in precise spots, the bib wasn’t really adjustable around the neck, so there was no good way to close this gap.

We used the bib a few more times before we had to wash it. Just as advertised, there were many more clean surfaces on the Bebe Aut Lait Bib than there are on traditional bibs, so I got to use it longer before washing it. Who wouldn’t love that? I also enjoyed the terry cloth backing on the bib, which I used as a washcloth to wipe down Kasia’s face the last time we used the bib before washing it. When it was really messy, I washed the bib and dried it… and then I went to fold laundry the next day (what? I didn’t fold laundry the same day I washed it? A real shocker, I know). Because it had sat in the dryer for a day, the bib had lost its form and was rather wrinkled, which I didn’t like at first (despite the fact that I *hate* ironing and all other things laundry-related, I also hate wrinkles. Yes, it’s hard to be me sometimes). But the bib actually straightened out pretty quickly with no major hassle (and certainly no iron). It did shrink a bit in the wash/dryer, but this turned out to be a good thing because there was no longer a gap in coverage between Kasia’s neck and shirt collar! Problem solved. We’ve been enjoying the multi-surface bib ever since.

The bottom line: A mealtime revolution? That might be a stretch. But it *is*a handy, uniquely-styled bib that you and your baby will both enjoy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Top 10 Quotations about Mothers

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~ Elizabeth Stone

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
~ Jewish proverb

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.
~ Tenneva Jordan

“I know how to do anything - I'm a Mom.” ~ Roseanne Barr

It was my mother who gave me my voice. She did this, I know now, by clearing a space where my words could fall, grow, then find their way to others. ~ Paula Giddings

Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate. ~ Charlotte Gray

"I'd like to be the ideal mother, but I'm too busy raising my kids."
~ Unknown

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary. ~ Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. ~ Unknown

And remember that behind every successful a basket of dirty laundry. ~ Unknown

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just Another Day In Paradise

My Mother’s Day wasn’t perfect. The weekend brought rain and snot. At one point, I found myself huddled in a car with a crying, snotty Kasia and a crying, cold James, watching the soccer game that James was supposed to be playing in (I kind of deserved this, since I had completely underestimated how cold it was—it is NOT supposed to be 35 degrees in May—and had forgotten to bring gloves or a hat for James). I didn’t get to sleep in on Mother’s Day, as I’ve learned that me sleeping in only leads to a grumpy husband who didn’t get enough sleep, and then no-one is happy. So I got up with the kids, bright and early. I didn’t get the tulips I wanted, even though I sent my husband an e-mail that said, “FYI, I like tulips.” Apparently the message was too subtle. I changed my outfit twice before going to church and still had massive amounts of snot on my shirt when we arrived. We ate out at restaurant for lunch, but between a squirmy baby who had missed her nap and a hyper 5 year old who literally *jumped* out of his chair four times, I didn’t get to eat my food until it was cold. There was laundry to be done, a house to be cleaned, and dinner to be made. And nobody else volunteered to take over those duties.

So, my Mother’s Day wasn’t perfect. But I chose to love it anyway.

I chose to love it because I know full well that there are too many women who ache to be mothers and are struggling on their journey to get there. Woman who will spend Mother’s day trying desperately to forget that the one thing they want—to have a baby to snuggle and kiss and rock to sleep at night—seems to be only a distant dream that will never become a reality. Women who have lost babies who were part of them, if only for the briefest moment in time. I know this because I was one of those women. And so I chose to love the snot and the tears and the laundry and the chaos because they are part and parcel of this amazing gift called motherhood.

I chose to love it because my son has another mother, his Ethiopian first mother, who didn’t get to see him jump off of chairs today. As grateful as I am for the joy that this amazing little boy brings into my life and as much as it physically takes my breath away when I think about the prospect of not having him here, I will never forget that my joy comes at the expense of another mother’s loss. I wish I could reach out to his first mother to tell her that James is safe, and he is happy, and he is loved. Oh, how he is loved. But I can’t. And so I chose to love the day and this boy and all his energy to honor the sacrifice his birthmother made. And I chose to love the day because I am heartbreakingly aware of how, with just the smallest twist of fate, I would not have had the chance to hug this little boy and watch him jump off chairs, and see him grow up before my eyes.

I chose to love it because, all over the world, there are mothers who can’t feed their children or keep them warm or keep them sheltered from the rain. On my Mother’s Day, I got to give my children food without thinking twice about how I would make this happen. I got to clothe them, and when they were cold, we got to snuggle in a car, protected from the rain. And when they were sick, I got to wipe their noses with a clean cloth and give them medicine to ease their pain and tuck them into warm beds. I got to give them warm bathes and clean clothes. I got to keep them safe. So I chose to love the day because I know how extraordinarily lucky I am to be able to give those gifts to my children and how many mothers would do anything to be able to do these simple things for theirs.

I chose to love the day anyway because behind the joys of motherhood, there is a sadness that always lingers in the shadows. I miss my mom. I miss her smile and oh, how I miss her voice. Her voice, the one that had the ability to make me feel safe and warm and loved all over. I miss that feeling, the one of complete and utter unconditional love that only a mom can evoke. I miss her profoundly and deeply and achingly. And yet the grief is bittersweet. The bitterness is obvious. The sweetness is the clarity that such a loss brings about the brevity of life. That clarity shapes my days. I chose to love the day because I truly understand, down to my very core, that these moments with my children are excruciatingly, breathtakingly brief.

So I chose to love my Mother’s Day. It wasn’t perfect. But it was full of moments that were oh-so-sweet. I woke up to James spontaneously shouting, “Happy Mothers’ Day!” with no one to remind him to do so (remember, my husband was still sleeping). My baby girl woke up and smiled at me with her two new teeth peeking out. My husband presented me with a Dairy Queen cake which I had also requested (okay, so truth be told, my e-mail actually read: “FYI I like tulips and Dairy Queen cake.” He just went for the cake part instead of the tulips part). I felt my mom’s presence in church. At dinner that night, James insisted I get the first piece of cake and crawled over into my lap to give me a kiss. I got to hug my children and watch them play and to put them to bed with full bellies, clean pajamas, and warm blankets. My day wasn’t perfect. But it was more than I deserved. And it was more than enough.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Not Just Mothers

It’s almost Mother’s Day! Lately, I’ve been thinking about this whole motherhood thing and how vast of a job it really is. As I pondered this, it struck me that we’re not “just” mothers.

We are CEOs, balancing finances and organizing supply acquisition; coordinating schedules and multi-tasking household chores; negotiating with babysitters, daycares, pediatricians and principals; fearlessly taking on those who challenge what we know to be best in order to protect that which we are building.

We are magicians, waving our magic wand to make lost pacifiers and Transformers and car keys appear out of thin air.

We are superwomen, using our powers of good to heal bumped heads and skinned knees with a single kiss.

We are musicians, singing our children to sleep at night and making up silly songs to elicit smiles.

We are keepers of tradition, taking the customs that we learned from our parents and passing them on to our own children in the hopes that they will do the same.

We are chefs, infusing our family’s food with love.

We are teachers, patiently bestowing upon our children the skills they will need to be successful in life.

We are historians, carefully documenting family milestones in pictures and journals, scrapbooks and photo albums.

We are coaches, guiding our children and cheering them on as they learn to take their first steps, say their first words, and make their first friends.

We are engineers, meticulously designing paper airplanes and cardboard box dollhouses, Lego towers and Popsicle stick mansions.

We are lawyers, defending our children’s rights and advocating for justice to a world that sometimes just does not make sense.

We are counselors, helping our children learn to manage their emotions, soothing their bruised egos, teaching them how to negotiate life, and standing by them as they discover and find ways to love who they are.

We are artists, coloring and gluing and cutting alongside our children.

We are executive assistant, seamlessly weaving together schedules of play dates and T-ball games, pediatrician visits and soccer practice, park outings and school concerts.

We are police officers, enforcing bedtimes and healthy food choices, card game rules and quiet zones.

We are nurses, triaging our children’s wounds, taking temperatures and giving Tylenol, keeping bedside vigils all through the night.

We are weavers of dreams, suppliers of hope, and fountains of love. And we are so much more.

This Mother’s Day, take the time to celebrate all you do and all you are. You deserve it. :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Giveaway - Robeez Soft Soled Shoes

Does anyone else have a mini-crush on Jamie Oliver of the Food Revolution? I know he’s not the cutest man ever but his passion for food makes me drool a little bit. It’s also inspired me to try to be a better mom and get my kids eating healthier. Not that we eat all that terribly, mind you. But life gets busy and sometimes I find myself reverting to Happy Meals and Ritz packs more often than I would like. So I’m on the lookout for new ideas for healthy kid snacks. Comment on this post with an idea for a healthy snack for kids and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for a pair of Robeez soft soled shoes!

Robeez are adorable little shoes that are made specifically for wee ones. Their super soft soles allow the shoes to fit gently around babies’ feet so that babies can wear shoes but still have the flexibility needed for their developing feet. Kasia and I tried them out last month; you can see my review here: Robeez Review.

When you comment, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is May 17th. Good luck and happy spring!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review - BabyLegs

Kasia and I got to try out BabyLegs this month. BabyLegs are adorable leg warmers for babies and kids; Baby Bella carries them in a huge variety of styles and colors. BabyLegs can be worn under pants to add an extra layer of warmth, under skirts as a substitute for tights, or even on arms!

Kasia and I enjoyed our BabyLegs. We mainly used them when we were heading outdoors for walks in the stroller or the baby carrier. Kasia’s pants tend to ride up around her calves and I wanted something to keep her ankles warmer during these times. BabyLegs worked beautifully. They were very easy to put on prior to heading outside and I loved that BabyLegs could be pulled down around her toes to keep her feet warm at first, but up around her ankles if I felt like she was getting too warm. And if it was really chilly out, I pulled the BabyLegs down around her feet and topped them off with a pair of Robeez. Love it!

Kasia also wore the BabyLegs under dresses and we discovered that this is when BabyLegs are at their very best. Not only did they keep Kasia’s legs warm, but they protected her knees when she was crawling around. Plus they made diaper changes super easy. And they were SO darn cute. My only regret was that we didn’t get a pair of cream BabyLegs in addition to the darling Neapolitan ones we got. The Neopolitan ones jazzed up pink dresses, but I would have like to have pair of BabyLegs that were even more versatile and could go with any outfit.

I should mention that prior to trying out BabyLegs with Kasia, I was concerned that they would be too tight for her. BabyLegs are “one size fits most” and the standard size is designed to fit newborns to size 10. Still, Kasia isn’t like “most” girls…as I’ve previously mentioned, she is a wee bit bigger than most. One time when she was about 4 months old, I put her in socks that were a bit too small. I didn’t realize this until I took the socks off and discovered a bright red ring around her ankle, which is still apparent today (and yes, I still feel guilty today). So I was a bit worried that the same thing might happen with BabyLegs. It didn’t. We’ve worn the BabyLegs up to three hours at a time with no major incidents. Whew!

The bottom line: BabyLegs make a fun fashion statement and help keep kids warm all at the same time.

A note from Baby Bella: We are having a GREAT promotion on BabyLegs right now... Buy two, get one free!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random musings from a tired mom

It’s been a crazy week in our house. We’re having our floors redone (goodbye 1970, hello 2010!). I’m super excited about the new floors but not so in love with the process of actually getting them redone. Nothing says craziness like having the refrigerator and stove in the middle of your living room. As a result, I haven’t had a lot of time to form many coherent thoughts about motherhood recently. I have, however, taken notice of some of the random questions that have flittered through my mind over the past few days. Here’s a sampling.

*Is the gassiness that awakens Kasia in middle of the night due to the chocolate I am eating? If so, does that mean I have to choose between good quality sleep and chocolate? And if so, does anyone know how to do this?

*Is it possible to get arrested for pumping while driving? And if I do get pulled over for inattentive driving, will I also get a citation for indecent exposure?

*Did my parents sneak candy from my Easter baskets, too? How did I not know this?

*Will these children of mine ever understand how much I love them? Did my own mom love me this much? And how did I not know *this*?

*Is it considered bad form to watch Dancing With the Stars with James when Kasia takes her nap? Does it change your answer if I tell you that, when we went to vote for our local city council, James answered a man’s question about who he was going to vote for by saying “Kate Gosslin” ?

*Why can I never remember to cut my children’s nails while they are sleeping?

*How do those other moms get their baby girls looking so snappily dressed? Do they do it on the first try or are they secretly changing their babies’ outfits a few times before leaving the house? And which is the worse of two evils: Going out in public with a sadly dressed, frumpy little baby girl or subjecting said baby girl to four outfit changes while I try to get it right?

*Why on earth did we wait so long to get the darkening curtains for James’ room?

*How bad is it, really, to bribe my son with a Happy Meal to keep him quiet during a phone call for work?

*Why, oh why, do my children insist on waking up early only on those days when we could sleep in late?

*How long is too long to go without shaving my legs? Does the answer change if I only wear long pants?

*When is Kasia going to get some teeth? And, when she does, will she bite me while nursing? And if she does, how much will that hurt?

*How did I forget how hard it is to change the poopy diaper of a baby who just wants to flip over and crawl away?

*How did I get so lucky? What did I do to deserve this? And how can I get the time warp I’m in to slow down so it doesn’t go so fast? :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 10 Mommy Mood Lifters

Hands down, I’m a way better mom when I’m in a good mood. And yet motherhood is ripe with situations that can get anyone down (cranky kids, messy houses, those unending, every growing, stinking piles of laundry). Even the most Zen mothers get a little frazzled sometimes, right? With that in mind, here are my top 10 ways to find your way from cranky to cheerful.

1. Do a little dance.
When we start getting a bit grumpy with each other in our house, I turn on the 90s radio station and James and I dance for at least one song. It’s really hard to refrain from smiling while dancing to Manic Monday. Especially when it’s me that’s doing the dancing.

2. Reach out and touch someone. Or poke someone.
Ma Bell had it right. When feeling down, it never hurts to pick up the phone. These days, firing up the computer and taking a quick spin through the land of facebook works just as well. The day last winter when I was stuck inside with sick kids and no car was saved by the empathy bestowed upon me by my facebook friends.

3. Strike a pose.
James’ very wise 4K teacher recently began doing Yoga with the class as a transition into the day. James asked me if we could do some at home. Thanks to the advent of Youtube, I was able to quickly find an online demonstration of Yoga for kids. A little bit of Downward-Facing Dog is good for everyone involved.

4. Take a break.
I used to feel guilty about taking breaks from my kids. Truth be told, I sometimes still do. But I’m learning that I am a much better mom when I get little moments of peace sprinkled throughout my day. If Andy’s home, I’ll ask him to take the kids for 30 minutes or so. If he’s not, I’ll ask James to find something quiet to do in a different room for a bit while Kasia naps. Then I will sit and do something, anything, other than that-which-needs-to-be-done (i.e, no cleaning, returning phone calls for work, folding clothes). Even 15 minutes of quiet reading is enough to re-charge my batteries and bring me back into my happy mommy zone.

5. Go outside.
Sure, this is an easy one now that spring is upon us. But even in the dead of winter, this suggestion is a literally a breath of fresh air that often brings with it a quick change in attitude.

6. Adjust your expectations.
Goals are good. I love goals. Especially the kind that I can put on pretty color coded charts and check off when I’m done. But sometimes my goals get in the way of a good day. When I find myself frustrated that I’m not getting things done as fast as I want to, sometimes I step back and return to just the basics with the kids: feed ‘em, clothe ‘em, and and keep ‘em safe. I allow this to be enough, if just for one day. Pizza and paper plates work wonderfully on days like this.

7. Clear a surface.
Okay, I totally stole this one from Gretchen Rubin over at She writes that one of her happiness mantras is that outward calm brings inward calm. True enough--when I’m feeling grouchy, it’s often because my environment is really messy. Clearing off just one surface (usually my kitchen counters) brings an instant boost of happiness.

8. Chocolate.
Mmmmm, chocolate.

9. Find something to laugh about.
Our little family was cranky for no good reason last night. To make matters worse, James decided to try out my razor. On his thumb. After we stopped the bleeding (now there’s a phrase I had hoped I would never utter as a mother), we bandaged it up really well. I thought we were in the clear until I heard James gasp. Thinking that his thumb was bleeding again, I hurried over to him. Only to find that his distress was not due to any new blood loss but was instead a result of the discovery that he could no longer make the number “4” with his hand (because his bandaged thumb stuck out instead of being able to bend in). I’m not sure why he felt the need to make the number 4 (nor am I sure why it did not worry him that he couldn’t make the numbers 1,2, or 3), but it was enough to make me start laughing out loud. Disaster averted. Mood lifted.

10. Snap a picture.
Get out a camera and document the craziness of the day. Capture the crying faces, the spilled milk, the piles of laundry. A camera has a way of adding perspective. As you take the pictures, remind yourself that one day—too soon—you will look at those very pictures and wish that you could go back, if just for a moment. Then put away the camera and enjoy what’s right in front of you. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Choices, Choices

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been extolling the virtues of my new favorite parenting book, Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, for quite some time now. We started using the method of parenting described in this book a few months ago now, when James’ 4 year old tantrums were rapidly spiraling out of control. At the time, I recognized that his behaviors were likely a response to the arrival of his baby sister; toward that end, we put some important strategies in place to address his feelings and help him feel more loved (see my State of the Household: Part 3 post for more details). But we desperately needed a method for helping resolve some of the daily eruptions that were quickly weaving their way into the fabric of our lives. Enter Love and Logic. Without a doubt, this method of parenting has had a huge impact on our little family. Andy and I are finally on the same page of the same parenting book (a feat that is not easily accomplished). James’ extreme tantrums are all but gone. Love and Logic strategies are simple, yet can have a profound impact. With that in mind, here are the steps we took to bring more peace to our house.

Step 1: Stop the lectures. Allow children to fail and let the consequences speak for themselves.
One of the major tenets behind Love and Logic is to let children experience consequences now, when they are young and the consequences are minor. In other words, rather than prevent children from failing, encourage failure! Encourage failure? This simple phrase is enough to let any good parent gasp in horror. And yet it’s exactly what we did. Rather than say no, we said yes.

If James didn’t want to wear a coat in 30 degree weather (“It’s sunny out, mom!”), we said, “okay.” When he got cold, we empathized and he learned. If James wanted to open the creamer at a restaurant, we said, “Okay. But remember we don’t waste food. So if you open it, you’ll need to use the whole thing.” When he realized that he didn’t actually like creamer, we empathized. But we still made him drink the whole thing. And he learned. When he didn’t want to us to pour him any milk for lunchtime, we said, “Okay.” When he was thirsty 20 minutes later, we told him that he could have a drink at snack after rest time, as usual. He protested that he simply could not wait that long. He was sooooooooo thirsty. We empathized. He learned. When he wanted to sniff the ground Cayenne pepper, well… I did warn him that it was not wise. I actually took the pepper away. But when it spilled a couple days later, he took a sniff before I could blink. When the tears started to fall, I empathized with his pain and helped him wash out his nose. And oh, did he learn from that one.

It’s hard to let our little ones fail. Our job as parents is to protect them and help them succeed. To let them make poor choices and then stand back and watch them experience the results runs counter to our natural tendencies to protect and defend at all costs. And yet I have learned how incredibly important it really is. Letting our children make their own decisions gives them some semblance of control and reduces power struggles. More importantly, it teaches them to choose wisely, to learn from their mistakes, and to listen to themselves, rather than outside influences. Who wouldn’t want their children to learn those lessons?

Step 2: Change demands into choices. Any experienced parent knows the value of offering choices. Children love to exert their power by making a choice. Prior to reading Fey and Cline’s book, I already had a habit of speaking in choices whenever I thought it was possible (Do you want the red cup or the blue one? Are you going to wear your Spider man shoes or your white ones? Did you want your sandwich in two parts or in five?). But there were still many times when I issued commands rather than questions (Stop banging your fork on the table, please. Don’t throw the ball around your sister. It’s time to get of the tub, please. Yes, now. Right now. Get.Out.Of.The.Tub. NOW). Fey and Cline’s book helped me realized that there was still a choice being made in these situations and that it was wise to present it as such. Instead of telling a child what *not* to do or what he *has* to do, Fey and Cline recommend giving choices that explain what the child *can* do.

So, “Stop banging your fork” becomes, “You are welcome to use your fork properly here at the table in the kitchen with us, or you could take your plate and fork to the table in the dining room where I can’t hear you bang.” And, “Don’t throw the ball near your sister” becomes “Would you like to sit down on the floor and play in the living room next to your sister or would you like to take the ball outside to play?” And “No, you can’t stay in the tub any longer; you need to get out of the tub NOW” becomes (deep breath of calm here) “Well, I guess you can choose to get out of the tub as asked or you can stay in the tub and play for longer and then take showers for the rest of the week so that we can turn off the water and get you out faster when we need you to be done.”

Each of these choices is offered in a nice, easy-going tone without frustration, reprimand, or sarcasm (this was the hardest part for me—I do so love my “mommy” tone). One also has to be careful not to turn a choice into a threat. Saying “You can stop throwing that ball or you can go to your room” isn’t really a choice; it’s a punitive statement in disguise. When framing my choices, I often had to stop and think for a minute before offering up the choices. But it’s amazing how many choices I found when I took the time to be creative.

It’s worth noting that James certainly chose the choice I didn’t expect at times. One time he actually did move to the dining room table instead of staying with us in the kitchen. After about five minute alone, he asked if he could come back with us; we welcomed his return. When I offered him the choice about staying in the tub and taking showers the rest of the week or getting out of the tub when asked, he chose to stay in the tub for a while longer. I did not enjoy having to wait the extra time for him to get out of the tub at his own leisure that night (I wanted to watch Survivor!). But I did enjoy the quick convenience of showers for the rest of that week. And as it turned out, James took showers for a week, decided he didn’t like them after all, and then returned to the tub. He has since chosen to get out of the tub when asked, each time.

Now, the wise parent who reads this will quickly surmise that there will be times when their independent child will simply refuse to make a choice. What then? Fey and Cline write that there is always an unstated third choice: either the child makes a choice or the parent does. If James doesn’t make a choice, we make it for him. We only had to do this a few times before he learned that he was much better off making his own choices than have us choose for him.

When we first implemented these strategies, we were met with resistance. At that time, resistance from James was often accompanied by yelling or hitting (anything to provoke a reaction from one of us). When we offered a choice, James wouldn’t make one. When we chose for him, he became angry. If this happened, we offered the following words of wisdom for him: “Hmmm, it looks like you need some time to calm down.” And then the following choice: “Would you like to walk to your room, or would you like us to carry you?” (And yes, we had to carry him the first few times). Then: “Would you like your door open or your door shut?” If he was still yelling or hitting, we told him—gently, calmly, lovingly—that it looked like he was choosing to have the door shut.

I won’t kid you, it wasn’t pretty at first. He yelled. He threw things. He broke things. (I pause here to note that I had previously tried other strategies to calm him down. I tried hugging him, I tried talking to him, I tried having him hit pillows to get his anger out, I tried taking away privileges. None of it worked). When he finally calmed down, we opened up the door and told him – gently, calmly, lovingly—that it looked like he was ready to have the door open. He was asked to wait in his room for 5 minutes, calmly, and then come out. When he came out, he was welcomed back into the main rooms of the house, given a hug, and the day moved on as if nothing happened. (Although he did have to pay for anything that had been broken and clean up his room if he had thrown things).

The first couple days of this were, to put it lightly, tough. But it’s always the darkest before the dawn. Here I drew from my knowledge base from working with children at my job: when dealing with extinguishing challenging behaviors, the behaviors often escalate to a fever pitch just before they are gone. Sure enough, after just a couple days of consistently and gently implementing these strategies, the extreme behaviors decreased as quickly as they had increased. Now-a-days, James still has to go to his room to calm himself down at times, but he almost always chooses to walk there and he most always chooses to have the door open. In fact, he’s discovered that he enjoys turning on the radio while he is in his room and he emerges from his room a much a calmer boy. We have gone nearly 30 days without any extreme behaviors. Yippee, Skippee!

Step 3: Follow through, follow through, follow through. Step 1 and Step 2 won’t work without careful adherence to Step 3. Enforce consequences. Follow through with choices. Calmly, gently, lovingly. Step 3 is the most simple one, but the most crucial of all.
That’s it. It seems so simple, but as Leonardo de Vinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The simplicity of this approach makes it easy to remember in the face of a grumpy preschooler. It also makes it relatively easy to get on the same page with your parenting partner. But the simplicity is also deceptive. This approach is really rather sophisticated and thoughtful at the same time. It allows us to be coaches for our children, not drill sergeants. It teaches our children to control their own impulses, to take responsibility for their actions, and to experience their consequences and learn from them. And that, my friends, is anything but simple.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Giveaway - Visual Timer

Spring has sprung! It’s enough to put a spring in your step and a song in your heart. And speaking of songs, this month’s top ten was all about baby songs. Comment on this post with either your favorite song from my top 10 list or another toddler song/fingerplay and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for a visual timer!

This nifty little timer is a must in our household because it let James actually *see* how much time is left (see my milkjuice post for one example of how we put it to use). It’s great for helping children develop a sense of time and sense of independence. We don’t get through one day without using ours!

When you comment, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is April 12th. Good luck and happy spring!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review - Robeez Soft Soled Shoes

When my sister Kate informed me that my task this month was to review Robeez shoes, I knew right away that this was one task I was going to enjoy. Robeez are adorable little shoes that are made specifically for little ones. Their super soft soles allow the shoes to fit gently around babies’ feet so that babies can wear shoes but still have the flexibility needed for their developing feet.

Kate had given me a pair of Robeez shoes as a gift when James was just a little guy and I clearly remember how invaluable they became way back then. I was excited to put them to the test with Kasia as well. Sure enough, I enjoyed Robeez just as much the second time around. As with pretty much everything Baby Bella carries, Robeez are darling. And they come in a huge variety of delectable designs for both boys and girls.

Their charm is only part of the package, though. Most of their appeal lies in the fact that they are very practical. I think one of the best parts of Robeez is that they stay put. Baby socks are cute, but they have a nasty little habit of wiggling off within, oh, about 30 seconds of putting them on babies’ feet. This is especially true for my “little” Kasia, who weighed in at over 20 pounds at six months old. To put in perspective, she’s in 12 month clothes at 7 months old. And at her 6 month visit, the doctor smiled and said, “well, at least she’s back on the charts now,” in reference to the fact that she was literally off the charts for weight at her 4 month check up. So my “little” girl has rather large calves for a baby her age. Socks simply do not stay on her feet. Because they fit around her ankles rather than her calves, Robeez stay on.

I love Robeez because they can be worn with socks (thereby keeping socks on) or without socks (thereby eliminating the need for socks all together). They are great for spring weather when it’s warm enough to let Kasia have bare feet in the house but cool enough for me to want to have something to slip on her feet when we take her outside for a walk. Robeez are much easier to put on a wiggly baby than either traditional shoes or socks.

Although Kasia is not yet walking, I clearly remember how wonderful it was to have something simple to throw on James’ feet to let him toddle around outside. Because beginning walkers are not supposed to wear hard soled shoes, Robeez are perfect for babies who are just taking their first steps. Further, you can throw Robeez right in your washing machine to clean them up. They wash up well and last a really, really long time.

The bottom line: A baby and toddler must have, Robeez are both cute and practical. What’s not to love?

Note to Baby Bella Mama readers: Robeez are now at a new lower price! Our new Spring line of Robeez soft soled shoes are coming in a few weeks! Join our mailing list for great deals on the new line!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

State of the Household: Part 3

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but it’s already been six months since my newest bundle of joy landed in my arms. As expected, our lives today barely resemble the lives we led just six short months ago. With that in mind, here’s the status of us.

The Baby: At 6 months old, Kasia has discovered the allure of the forbidden. Now that she’s realized she can get herself around by rolling and pushing herself forward with her tiny little toes, she’s on the prowl for that which she is not allowed to have. Seriously, the girl can be surrounded by bright, entertaining, novel baby toys and she will roll right past them and scoot herself toward James’ matchbox cars, his bowl of cereal, or any visible cords. I’m delighted to see my little girl moving around and I adore her obvious curiosity, but I’m not quite sure I’m prepared for 6 month old who is already breaking the rules.

The Body: Most of my body has returned to pre-baby status. I’ve got a few extra pounds left to lose, but I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really mind. There’s something beautiful about the soft curvature of motherhood. The only exception is this: I happened to sneak a peek at the, ahem, “twins” in the mirror the other day after I had taken a shower. When they are filled with milk, these two make a rather robust and perky duo. Kasia had just nursed, however, and so I got a glimpse of their future state. And girls, it ain’t pretty.

The 5 Year Old: Ah, 5 year old boys. They are tricky beings. When I found out I was pregnant with Kasia, my first reaction was to be concerned about how this tiny little being was going to rock James’ world. After all, James had had us entirely to himself for nearly four and a half years by the time Kasia was born. I fully expected tantrums, sad feelings, a tough transition as he let go of his standing as an only child. Then Kasia was born and… everything was fine. So fine. In retrospect, probably too fine. James was over the moon in love with his sister and oh-so-patient whenever I couldn’t attend to his needs immediately. He was a model big brother. I was stunned. Happy and relieved, but stunned.

Fast forward three months. Behaviors started to emerge. James still doted on his sister, but he began acting out with impatience at the smallest things. Tantrums became more frequent and more extreme. My little love wasn’t as loving toward me anymore; in fact, he was downright rude to me a lot of the time. It took me a while to recognize all of this anger was not anger at all… but sadness… grief as he lost his status as the center of our world. A heavy dose of Love and Logic (Cline and Fey, 2006) did wonders for helping curb some of the tantrums (see my Milkjuice post for some of the Love and Logic strategies we put in place; more on my *favorite parenting book ever* in another post). But as great as Love and Logic was, I recognized that James probably needed an outlet for his feelings as well. We started a “feelings” book and drew pictures of things that made us sad, mad, happy, scared. It was during one of our drawing sessions that James told me that it made him sad when I loved Kasia more than him. And there it was. Despite the fact that I had told him, many, many, many times that I loved him every bit as much as his baby sister, he clearly didn’t see this in my actions. Rather than try, again, to explain that his assertion was false, I gave him a hug and asked him why he thought this to be true. He told me that it was because I rocked and sang to Kasia all the time. I paused… and then offered to rock him at night, too. You should have seen the look of joy on his face. You would think I had offered him the moon. So now I bend and fold his long body into mine as we rock and sing each night before bed. It turns out our rocking sessions are good for me, too. They help me to see past the five year old behavior, around the stubbornness, straight back to the tiny baby boy who I rocked to sleep a thousand times with his curls tucked so sweetly beneath my chin. I do think it’s helping James to feel more loved again, too. As of today, we’ve gone 15 days with no major tantrums (not that I’m counting) and I’ve noticed a substantial shift in his overall attitude toward life and toward me. And last night as he crawled up into my lap to rock, he whispered to me that it was his favorite thing in the whole world. Me too, James. Me too.

The House: I’ve got a dirty little secret. My house isn ‘t as dirty anymore because I’ve hired someone to keep it clean. Actually, that’s a bit of an overstatement. I still do all the laundry, pick up and put away the daily messes my family creates, vacuum our floors a few times a week, and endlessly load and unload the dishwasher. But once a month a cleaning service comes in to do the cleaning that really requires getting down and dirty. They scrub our showers, dust, and scour the floors clean. It’s just enough to keep the house from sinking into the dirty house abyss. Our budget is tight, so hiring a cleaning service means buying virtually no new clothes for myself. But it’s still worth every penny.

The Emotions: Well, it’s March. As a good friend of mine said, March seems to come in like a lion and go out like a lion for me. Or at least that’s been true in the past. In March 2004, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We lost her four agonizingly short months later. Anyone who has lost a parent understands the magnitude of such as loss; it took me years to move past the fear of suddenly losing someone else I loved so deeply. In March of 2005, my son was waiting for us in Ethiopia and we received word that he could be sick. I’ll never forget the feelings of helplessness that came from having a sick baby half way across the world. March of 2007 brought with it an ectopic pregnancy that was both emotionally and physically grueling. Nothing major happened in March of 2008 or 2009, but the previous March happenings had left their scars. For the past couple years, I’ve spent March guarded, like when you tighten your coat around your body and curl into yourself just before you step out into the cold.

No more. This March, I’m no longer looking behind me. Instead, I’m looking at what’s right in front of me: my beautiful baby girl who smiles at me like I am the sun to her Earth, my charismatic 5 year old who has taught me to look at the world in a whole new way, my husband who is on this crazy rollercoaster of a journey through life with me. And I’m looking forward. March is spring. And spring is sun, and warmth, and hope, and joy. So bring it on, March. Bring it on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top 10 Baby Songs

When I’m not working as a mom, I double as a pediatric speech language therapist who works with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. So, no matter what hat I’ve got on, I’m always thinking about the importance of surrounding kids with language. Research has shown that the more language children hear, the earlier children talk and the more advanced their language skills become. One of the very best ways to surround your child with predictable, fun language is to sing to them. Despite the fact that I am not the best at carrying a tune (some would say that this is an understatement), I am always singing with my kids, both at home and at work. Luckily, infants and toddlers don’t have the best discriminating ears! I sing because I know that if I sing with them enough, some of their earliest words and gestures will be to sing along with me. With that in mind, here are my top 10 favorite songs for babies and toddlers.

1. The Itsy Bitsy Spider
To keep this song going, I like to also sing about the GREAT BIG spider.

2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
A great one to add gestures to. Open and shut your hands for twinkle, point up to the sky, shape your hands like a diamond as you sing.

3. Row Your Boat

Kasia love this one. I sit her up on the floor, take her hands, and rock her back and forth as we sing. I sing the first verse as normal and then sing “Rock rock rock your boat/Gently to the shore/And if you see a lion/Don’t forget to roar! And then we roar. :)

4. Wheels on the Bus

Another great one to add actions to. We love to do this one in the bath, so we can swish and hit the water as we do the actions to the song.

5. You Are My Sunshine
James and Kasia both loved this one. We always sing it as we rock to sleep at night. It was one of the very first songs to make Kasia smile.

6. I’m A Little Teapot
Another of Kasia’s favorites right now. I hold her on my lap and lift her up when the song sings “When I get all steamed up” and tip her over when the song instructs me to do so. She rewards me with big smiles each and every time. Plus my arms get a good workout.

7. Rock A Bye Baby
Another good rocking song. The normal end strikes me as a bit too violent, though, so I always sing “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall/And mommy will catch you, cradle and all” instead. James and I would rock to this one for a long time, inserting lots of different people into the song to do the catching at the end.

8. Old MacDonald Had A Farm
The speech therapist in me loves this song because animal sounds are often some of the first sounds kids make, mainly because they are so simple to produce. Moo and baa away.

9. If You’re Happy and You Know It
It’s hard not to smile while singing this song. Plus it’s great for getting kids to imitate actions (which often leads to imitating language!).

10. The Little Green Frog
My all time favorite for eliciting giggles from kids (who doesn’t like to see adults sticking out their tongues while they sing?). And if your kids start singing the song, you get to make really cute little videos like the one of this little girl.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On Being Cool

Now that he’s arrived at the ripe old age of five, James has been doling random insights every now and then. He recently told me that “sledding is fun like eating candy at a basketball game.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. He’s also tried to help me with my culinary skills by advising me that the salads I make would really be much better without the leaves. He has a point.

Most recently, I was joyfully singing along with Sid the Science Kid as Sid proclaimed, “I love my mom, my mom is cool.” I playfully turned the words around and sang to James, “You love your mom, your mom is cool.” At which point James informed me in a very matter of fact way, “Actually, mom, Sid’s mom is cool. You’re old.” Sigh. He’s right, of course. I just didn’t know it was so obvious.

Given the astute nature of his recent observations, I thought that perhaps I would interview my son to tap into the wisdom that he had to share. Here’s what he had to say.

What is your name?

How old are you?

Why did God make mommies?
To keep us safe.

Why do parents have kids?
Well, because they want to. If they don’t have kids, they don’t get to see them. And if they don’t get to see them then they don’t get to love them. And it’s good to love kids.

How should parents do their job?

What should they do?
Not take away privileges. Listen to what kids say.

What does your mommy do really well?
She takes care of me. And gives me treats in the car.

What is the one thing you want all the other mommies to know?
Make sure that you listen to your kids ‘cause if they want to say something, it’s important. And make sure they eat healthy so they grow big. That’s it.

Most importantly, what could your mommy do to be more cool?
Let me buy more cool stuff like a Bumblebee helmet or new hockey stick and not make me pay for it. Or dress like a Power Ranger.

Good to know, James. Good to know. :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review - Teething Bling Teething Necklace

When my sister Kate told me that I’d be reviewing Teething Bling this month, my first thought was, “Why would I put a necklace on my baby? That seems a little bit dangerous.” Then I realized that Teething Bling is actually jewelry designed for moms to wear, but babies to play with. Brilliant!

Once I had the concept down, I began to wonder if something designed for a baby to chew on would actually look like real jewelry. When my Teething Bling arrived in the mail, I pulled my chunky coral necklace out of the cute little jewelry pouch in which it came and put it on. My five year old looked up at me and said “Hey, you look pretty, mom!” The next morning, I hung it around my neck before hopping in the car to take Kasia to watch James’ swimming lessons. As my hubby watched me climb in the car, he said, “Did you get a new necklace? I like it!” Later that week at McDonald’s, I noticed other mothers watching me let Kasia chew on the necklace; their looks of slight confusion and concern told me that they were also convinced that the necklace was real jewelry.

Teething Bling actually proved to be pretty practical as well. Kasia didn’t immediately reach for it, but she tugged on it and mouthed it for quite a while when I handed it to her. It was nice to be able to bring along a baby toy by simply hanging it around my neck. Because it was hanging there, I didn’t have to worry about forgetting it, losing it, or having to put it down on some germy surface. After wearing it for a day, I simply washed it up with soap and water and let it air dry. It proved to be a great little addition to the portable toys that I usually bring with to keep Kasia entertained when she has to sit on my lap for any length of time. Plus I got to wear new jewelry!

The bottom line: Teething Bling is a treat for moms that has the added benefit of keeping babies entertained. Puts the fun back in functional.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Giveaway - Trumpette Socks

Snow, snow, go away, come again another day….

It’s February in Wisconsin and that means cabin fever. And oh my, do we have it. We spend our days dreaming of the time when we can go outside and spend hours playing in the warm sunshine. It looks like that day isn’t going to come anytime soon, however. So I’m on the prowl for fun indoor activities and that means that this month’s giveaway is all about keeping kids entertained when they can’t go outside. I pulled out one of my favorites this week when we were stuck inside all day. I set James up with a sink full of soapy water, a big pot, a stirring spoon, measuring cups, and any old spice jars I could find that were almost empty: all the makings for a “soup” making session. He happily measured soap bubbles, sprinkled spices, poured water and stirred up his “soup” for nearly 45 minutes (insert big sigh of relief here).

Comment on this post with one of *your* favorite ideas for indoor entertainment, and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for some cute little Trumpette Bunnies Socks! If I randomly select your comment to win the Trumpette Bunnies socks, you’ll receive them just in time to dress your little one for this year’s Easter holidays.

When you comment, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is March 8th. Good luck and stay warm!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Enough

I’m well aware that I’m a tad bit of a perfectionist. Not in all areas of my life, have you. My car, for example, is in a constant state of messiness. But I strive for perfection in enough areas that it’s sometimes enough to drive me a bit crazy. As a result, I’ve recently been working on letting things be good enough.

For instance, I realized it was going to be Valentine’s Day on, well, Valentine’s Day morning. Oops. The late nature of my realization that the holiday was upon us, combined with a baby with a cold and an energetic 5 year old who is TIRED of being indoors (anyone else more than ready for spring?) made it nearly impossible to do anything for my sweethearts other than tell them that I loved them and whip up some homemade gift certificates. James got one for a “date night” with his mama; my hubby got one for an entire day chore and child free. Cheesy? Yes. But good enough.

And in church that morning, I spent way more time corralling James’ energy and wiping Kasia’s nose than I did actually paying attention to the sermon or singing along with the songs. I would have liked to have left church full of inspiration from the sermon, lulled into a peaceful state of grace from the hymns. But I had to settle for the little lift of spirits that came from the one sentence from the sermon that actually made its way past the child chaos into my consciousness. Not great. But good enough.

And yesterday when I thought about writing this blog post, I had envisioned it as full of sparkling words, insight and humor. Then my husband woke me up this morning to tell me his car had a flat, so he would have to take my car and leave me carless. Then he woke me up a second time to tell me he’d gotten my car stuck in the snow and could I please help him push it out? Then I came back inside to find James awake already; he was none to pleased to find out he would not be going to 4K that day as originally planned. About the same time that he was making his displeasure known, Kasia began crying, coughing, and snotting all at the same time. Needless to say, the time I had to write this post was limited and, as a result, it’s neither particularly insightful nor very funny. And certainly not full of sparkling words. But I guess it’ll just have to be good enough. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Top Ten Things I Learned from My Baby

1. Forgive easily and hold no grudges.
The other day at her 4 month check up, I watched Kasia cough and gag when the physician stuck the tongue depressor down her throat. She fussed and cried at the indignity of it all. Then she blinked and looked up at the physician with a huge smile and cooed at him. The world would be a much gentler place if we all forgave so easily.

2. Take delight in the little things.
Look at that!! My hand opens. And it shuts again. And it opens. And shuts. Can you believe this thing? And ooooooh, there’s my toes!

3. Smile at people.
More often than not, they’ll smile right back.

4. Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, cry when you’re sad.

We’d all be thinner, more rested, and more mentally stable if we only just followed those three simple rules.

5. If you fall seven times, get up eight.
Despite the fact that she’s toppled over countless times, Kasia is still determined to sit up on her own. No frustration, no hurry. Just quiet persistence.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
Kasia has no trouble letting me know if she needs a toy that’s out of her reach, a snuggle, or a bite to eat. We’d probably all be a bit better off if we just told others what we need.

7. Love to learn.
It’s a delight to watch Kasia discover her world; she explores each new thing with such curiosity and wonder. I hope that can follow her lead and never forget to take delight in learning all there is to know about this vast world in which we live.

8. Laugh.
When you do, it brings smiles to the faces of others and joy to the day.

9. When you’re feeling grumpy, take a little nap.
The whole world looks better when you are well rested.

10. Love with all your heart.
Enough said.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Milkjuice, Anyone?

Last night at dinner, James decided that it would be a good idea to mix some orange juice into his milk. He insisted it would be a delicious concoction that he would thoroughly enjoy. My first instinct was to inform him that this was not only gross, but not allowed. After all, I knew very well that he would take one sip of his milkjuice and figure out that he didn’t like it. But instead of saying “no,” I took a deep breath and told him yes, he could go ahead and make up a glass of milkjuice. I also explained that he would have to finish the entire glass of milkjuice if he wanted a snack later that evening. He acknowledged the rules, mixed up his milkjuice, took a big drink, and gagged. Truly stunned that his precious milkjuice was anything but delicious, he turned to me and said, “Mom, this is GROSS!” I took a tiny sip and agreed with him. He then began to plead with me to reverse the “drink it all before snack” rule. I didn’t budge. He cried, took sips, gagged, and made awful faces. Oh how I wanted to save him from his fate. But I didn’t. I held firm. By the end of dinner he had finished off his milkjuice, shuddering as he took his last sip.

For those of you who are now convinced that I am the meanest mommy in the whole world, let me explain my thinking. I’ve recently been inspired by a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline. The idea behind Love and Logic is to pull away from controlling your children (“no, you can NOT mix milk and juice together!”) and move toward letting your children experience the natural consequences of their actions ("Sure, go ahead and mix up a yummy glass of milkjuice! But you’ll need to drink it all because we don’t waste food in this family."). I love this idea because I know full well that controlling parents do not mix well with independent, curious 5 year old boys. My husband and I are classic controlling parents. Left to our own devices, power struggles abound. The idea behind Love and Logic is to avoid power struggles by allowing children make their own decisions (within limits, of course) and experience their own consequences (which, to be fair, still have to be implemented by parents). Since the child is in control of making the decision, the decision is the bad guy, not the parent.

Along the same lines, we recently implemented a new bedtime plan. Like most families, we do a snack-bath-bed routine. Like many 5 year olds, James had started resisting along the way. He dawdled over snack, resisted brushing his teeth, took his own sweet time getting on his pjs, and cried if he didn’t get to play a bit before bed. All along the way, Andy and I were constantly giving instructions (drink your milk, eat your snack, get back in your chair, stop getting out of your chair, brush your teeth, take your clothes off, come back in the bathroom, brush your teeth, hurry up, stop shooting baskets with your clothes and the laundry chute, get in the tub!)

Searching for a way to give James some control over the process, limit the parental nagging, and yet still get him in bed before 10 pm, I happened upon the idea of a visual timer. These nifty little devices actually let children *see* how much time is left by slowing decreasing the amount of red color on the clock. When the red is gone, the time is up. After getting a visual timer and showing it to James, I explained to him that he had 45 minutes for snack and bath. If he got done with snack, toothbrushing, bath, and pjs with red left on the clock, he could use whatever red (time) he had left to play before bed. I then set the clock, put him in charge of deciding when to have snack and when to have bath, and didn’t give him any more instructions. It seems so simple, but it’s been so effective. The first few times, I had to bite my tongue to keep from reminding him that he needed to hurry up during snack if he wanted to have time for bath (oh, how I do love to control!). I had to resist telling him that his goofing around before getting in the tub would lead to a very short play time. And I did endure some tears the first few nights when he ran out of time. But then, miraculously, it began to work! I now see James sneaking a peek at the clock when he is eating snack so that he can judge how much time he has left. He stays in his seat for snack (most of the time) and moves pretty quickly through tooth brushing , bath and PJs (usually). Most nights, he has a good amount of time left to play. And he willingly climbs into bed for books when the timer goes off.

So I’m beginning to buy into this Love and Logic stuff. It’s nice to have fewer power struggles, and it’s such a joy to see James begin to make his own thoughtful decisions.

And I even got to try some milkjuice.

A note from Baby Bella:
We were so inspired by Becca's (aka Baby Bella Mama) blog, that we have decided to bring the visual timers she mentioned above into our product line. We are expecting them next week and are now taking PRE-ORDERS! And Baby Bella Mama readers get a special bonus... order before February 15th and receive 10% off your timer!
Use coupon code TIMER in the checkout to receive this discount.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review - Hooter Hiders Nursing Cover

I received the Hooter Hider (a.k.a. Bebe au Lait nursing cover) as a gift when I was still in the hospital with Kasia. I distinctly remember wondering what it was and why I would ever want to use it. Although the fabric was cute, it looked like a strange apron that stuck out at the top. I remained dubious even after my sister Kate explained the purpose of the Hooter Hider. And then I tried to nurse in public without it. My squirmy newborn kept knocking off the blanket that I had so carefully placed on my shoulder. Breast-feeding was new to both of us and although Kasia was always a good nurser, she required my assistance latching on when she was a teeny tiny baby. I found it rather tricky to keep her and my private parts hidden under the blanket while also trying to assist her as she latched on and began eating. And even after she was latched on, I was bothered that I couldn’t see her while she was nursing to check on how she was doing. I wished I had some way to keep the blanket on me, see Kasia, and nurse her all at the same time…. and then I remembered the Hooter Hider.

The Hooter Hider is a clever little contraption that is designed to hide your hooters while also allowing you to keep an eye on your baby as she eats. It’s a light-weight blanket that you can wear around your neck a bit like an apron. The best part about it is that it is designed so that the neckline curves out to allow you to peek down at your little one as she eats. You can see your baby but no one can see your hooters. And because you are “wearing” the blanket, there is no need to constantly adjust it and no worries about baby pulling it off. It solved all of our nursing in public problems immediately. I also appreciated that the fabric was light-weight so that Kasia didn’t get too warm during the summer months when she was first born and I *loved* the fact that was machine washable so I could just throw it in with her clothes when it got dirty.

The bottom line: A unique yet practical baby gift that will make nursing in public easier for any new mom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Giveaway - Rockabye Baby CD

Discipline, behavior management, getting ‘em to do what you want them to do. No matter what you call it, every parent faces it. I’m looking for new ideas, so this month’s give-away is a call for behavior management ideas. Tried and true or original, wacky or boring… it doesn’t matter to me, just give me what you’ve got!

Comment on this post with an idea for helping teach children what is and is not okay, and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for a Rockabye Baby CD. Baby Bella carries a wide variety of these CDs, each of which has a good number of rocks songs that have been transformed into instrumental lullabies. To see my review of the Rockabye Baby CDs click on this link:
Rockabye Baby CD Review

When you comment, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is February 8th. Good luck!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guilty Much?

At approximately 5:56 this morning, James woke me up to declare that he would enjoy a warm bowl of macaroni and cheese for breakfast. Absurdly, I felt a little guilty when I informed him that no, we would be sticking with cheerios and milk. Which got me thinking about mother’s guilt. Lately, I’ve been noticing lately that I feel guilty a lot of the time. Some the guilty feelings are probably well earned. Like when I snap at James because I am feeling rushed to get out the door in the morning. Or when I forget to feed the cats for the second day in a row (this has only happened once, I promise). Or when I realize that I should have changed Kasia an hour earlier because she has now peed through her diaper (this has happened more than once, unfortunately).

But I also tend to spend a lot of time feeling guilty for no good reason. A lot of it has to do the object of my attention. I feel guilty when I’m paying attention to James because I’m not giving Kasia any attention. Guilty when I’m playing attention to Kasia because James has to entertain himself. Guilty when I’ve got Kasia on my lap while I’m reading to James because then they are each only getting half of my attention. Guilty when I’m cleaning the house because then neither of them is getting any attention from me at all (I’m pretty sure that only a mother can feel guilty while cleaning). Guilty when I am folding laundry and watching TV at night after bedtime because I’m not paying attention to my husband (aka Andy). Guilty when the house is clean, the laundry is done, the kids are sleeping and I’m hanging out with Andy because the cats didn’t get enough attention (er, make that ANY attention) during the day. Guilty at work because I feel like I should be with my children. Guilty at home because I feel like I should be working.

Tuesday mornings are usually the closest I get to guilt-free. James is happy at 4K, Andy is busy working, Kasia usually naps, and I am able to catch up on household chores and stay in touch with work via e-mail and voicemail. Every once in a while I even sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy a guilt free half an hour with the ladies at The View. But then I realize I’m enjoying myself without my children and husband and feel—you guessed it—a wee bit guilty. Seriously, what is with the guilt?!?

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, because when I googled “mother’s guilt,” I got 5,430,000 results. That’s a lot of guilt. Where does it come from? My “research” tells me that women often feel responsible for everyone and all of their feelings. Hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar. Another source informs me that some mothers are perfectionists who believe that they should be able to do everything for everyone all the time, perfectly. That we feel that if we only we could get it right, there would be no tears, no feeling of boredom, no arguments, no worry. No guilt. Oh boy, I think I just figured out that I sometimes interpret my guilty feelings as proof that I am doing something wrong, which only serves to make me feel… guilty. If that’s not a vicious cycle, I don’t know what is.

I’m smart enough to know that most of these guilty feelings aren’t productive. They distract me from paying attention to what is right in front of me. If I’m feeling guilty, I’m not having fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m tolerating the moment, not enjoying it. And I don’t want to tolerate my life, I want to *live* my life. So perhaps the way to assuage some of this guilt is to do just that: live each moment for what it is. No judgment. No worrying about what else I should be doing. When I’m hanging out with James, I need to concentrate on being with him, to enjoy his silliness and his beautiful 4 year old perspective on the world (that would be the perspective from which it’s still perfectly acceptable to wake up at 5:56 and ask for macaroni and cheese). When I’m with Kasia, I need to soak up her baby smell, revel in the sight of her sweet little hands, take in the softness of her delicate baby skin and let myself sink into the feeling that the whole world is made up of such things.

Tackling the guilt also reaches beyond those moments that are easy to enjoy without guilt. It extends into those less than perfect moments, the ones when I am sure I am doing it all wrong and will somehow damage my children in the process. During those times , the “perfect mom” reel in my head goes a little something like this: A good mom would hold her baby all the time, would never have a 4 year old who still throws tantrums, would never make her crying baby wait while finishing up supper, would have a magically clean house while still managing to have perfectly entertained children, would never wish her children would go to sleep so she could watch Grey’s Anatomy, would always know just what to do in each moment, would never disagree with her husband about how to parent, would never having feelings of boredom, anger, regret… the list goes on. Guilt has a sneaky way of intruding when I’m not meeting any one of these expectations. Sheesh, no wonder I feel guilty so often! Letting go of this type of guilt requires a tolerance of imperfection, an acknowledgement that it will never be just the way I think it should be, a step back from my need to make sure everyone is okay and everything is under control at all times. It still involves sinking into the moment, but this time it requires an acceptance of the moment just how it is, not how I think it should be.

I’m not making the argument that we shouldn’t be reflective parents, of course. There are times when we all need to step back and think about how we parent and how we could improve. Well-earned feelings of guilt spark us to be better parents. But that doesn’t mean that guilt needs to encroach upon our every day experiences. Such pervasive guilt only serves to detract from effective parenting. I, for one, am a much better parent when I am coming from a place of relaxed confidence, not a place of worried guilt.

Resolving to aim for guilt-free mothering is probably a lot like trying to achieve worry-free mothering: a nice, tidy idea in theory but darn near impossible in reality. And yet I’m compelled to give it a whirl anyway. Anyone want to join me?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top 10 Baby Names of 2009

I love baby names! Prior to Kasia’s arrival, I spent hours poring through baby books to find a unique name that I loved. According the, these are the top 10 baby names that parents chose to give their babies this past year. Because I’m the curious type, I also looked up what each name meant on Enjoy!

Top 10 Girl Names:

1. Isabella, meaning pledged to God
2. Emily, one who is hard-working and industrious
3. Elizabeth, a “traditional and elegant name” meaning pledged to God
4. Ava, meaning bird
5. Olivia, which come from olive or olive tree
6. Chloe, which is a young green shoot in Greek
7. Emma, which means embracing everything
8. Madison, meaning the son of Maud or Matthew
9. Abigail, meaning “my father is joyful”
10. Arianna, which means like silver or holy

Top 10 Boy Names:
1. Aidan, a “young fiery man”
2. Jayden, one who is thankful to God
3. Michael, one who is like the Lord
4. Jacob, he who supplants
5. Ethan, one who is firm and steadfast
6. Andrew, who is masculine, classic and appealing
7. Caden, meaning “spirit of battle”
8. James, also meaning he who supplants
9. Joshua, meaning “God is salvation”
10. Matthew, one who is a gift from God

Thursday, January 7, 2010

State of the Household, Part 2

Happy 2010! A brand new year seems like a good time for another state of the household update. Here’s the status of us.

The baby: Isn’t it amazing what a difference four months can make? Just a bit over four months ago, Kasia was living inside my body. With her every bump and kick, I imagined what life would be like with her. I pictured her little face, imagined holding and feeding her and rocking her. And yet, four months ago, she was still a complete stranger to me. She was my baby, but I didn’t really know her yet. Fast forward just a few short months and she is Kasia. Kasia, my beautiful baby girl who makes my heart dance with joy each time she smiles. Kasia, who is rolling over, reaching for toys, and cooing. Kasia, who laughs with delight at her brother’s funny faces and loud noises. I cannot imagine life, or this family, without her in it. Amazing.

The 4 year old: Of the many joys that this beautiful baby girl brings into our lives, one of my very favorites is watching James interact with her. This rough and tumble, always in action little boy slows down and speaks so gently to his baby sister. He was the first one to make her laugh. He kisses and hugs and loves her. He goes running for the burp cloth whenever she spits up and tries to calm her when she cries. Despite his love for Kasia, though, James has had some tough days recently. It probably didn’t help that we moved to a new house just a couple months after his little sister was born. That’s a lot of change for one little boy. We had some long weeks with lots of 4 year old tears and misbehavior. It finally hit me (duh) that this seemingly independent little boy was desperately in need of some mama snuggles. I had been working hard to try to give him the attention that I knew he needed, but I had overlooked the fact that he not only needed attention, but touch. Since my aha moment, we’ve been snuggling at night, snuggling while reading books, snuggling while watching PBS kids in the morning. It seems to be working because the past week has been a calm one, with the smiles and happy energy I am so used to seeing out of my favorite 4 year old. It’s such a good reminder that, no matter how old we get, we’re always in need of our mother’s loving touch.

The body: I’ve lost all of my baby weight!! Do you hate me? Well, don’t, because I’m lying. I just wanted to see what it would be like to type those words. In reality, I’ve still got a good 10 pounds left to lose. I try to convince myself that it’s because I’m nursing and my body needs those reserves to make good milk for my baby girl. But deep down I know the real reason is simply that I really like to eat. Mmmm, food.

The emotions: Am I the only one to notice that nursing is like a really good happy pill? Whenever I breast-feed Kasia, I can literally feel a wave of calm happiness wash through my body. Google tells me that it’s the oxytocin that is being released. I don’t care what it’s called as long as I keep getting it. Unless I can find a way to bottle up this happy juice, Kasia is going to be nursing until she’s 20. Might be a bit embarrassing for her, but that’s just the price she’ll have to pay for a calm mother.

The house: Despite the fact that we recently moved, the house is in surprisingly good shape. Sure, we still have stacks of boxes in the garage that need to be moved into the house, as well as green and brown carpeting that needs to be replaced inside the house and walls that are screaming out to be painted. Overall, though, most of the stuff we really need has been unpacked and all of the main rooms are set up. After a recent out of town trip, we returned to our new house to realize it finally felt like coming home. And I’m starting to find my groove as a mom again. Moving from one child to two means that the washing machine is run every day (the girl does love to poop!), that mornings and evenings are their own new kind of crazy, and that the floor needs to be picked up at least five times a day when we are home(and this is before Kasia can get out her own toys! Heaven help us when I have two children who are actively able to scatter their own toys throughout the house). And yet I seem to have adapted surprisingly fast to this new reality. It’s getting easier every day, and most days I even kind of like the extra chaos that two kids bring to the household. Of course, that could be the oxytocin talking. :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Review - Wubbanub

Kasia and I got to try out the WubbaNub this month and discovered that we love the WubbaNub! The WubbaNub consists of a Soothie pacifier that is attached to an adorable little animal that is just the right size for little hands to hold. Kasia’s WubbaNub was a precious little pink pony for my precious little pink princess.

To understand the allure of the WubbaNub, one first has to understand the value of a good pacifier. The Soothie brand pacifiers are the ones they give you in the hospital. We had ours for about two weeks after Kasia came home. Then I set it oh-so-carefully on the top of the car while I was putting Kasia in and (you know what’s coming, right?) remembered about 5 miles into the drive that I had forgotten to retrieve it before driving away. Since I had raised James without a pacifier at all, I assumed I didn’t actually need to replace it. Silly me. I soon discovered that for Kasia, a Soothie brand pacifier is the difference between walking her around for 30 minutes before she falls asleep (not rocking—walking)and having her fall asleep within about 30 seconds, in my arms (while I am sitting no less). It is an absolute lifesaver in our house and we never leave home without it.

The WubbaNub takes this life-saving little pacifier to a whole new level. Why? Well, first of all, the WubbaNub just darn cute. And who doesn’t want cute things for cute babies? More than that, though, it’s really a very practical little gadget. I think the best part is that it makes it very easy to find the pacifier when you need it. If you are a mom of a pacifier baby, you know how easy it is to lose those slippery little suckers. Even if you have five of them, they never seem to be easily found when you need them most. Because the pacifier is attached to a stuffed pink pony, we never go more than two minutes without locating it in our house (and chances are good that I would have been more apt to see it sitting on top of my car before driving away as well). At four months, Kasia also likes holding onto it, snuggling it, and exploring it. She’s even managed to get it into her month all on her own during car rides. It’s become a toy, a lovie, and a pacifier all in one.

The only downside to the WubbaNub is that it’s a bit trickier to clean than regular pacifiers. The pacifier doesn’t detach from the stuffed animal and I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe. When I first pulled the WubbaNub out of the package, I was skeptical that I could get it clean enough to feel comfortable using it. But then I read the tag, which suggested washing the WubbaNub with baby’s clothes and letting it air dry. So I did. It came out clean and the stuffed animal dried very quickly. I also sterilized the nuk by holding it in boiling water (yes, I am slightly prone to going overboard when it comes to germ removal) . Because I could just hold onto the stuffed animal, this actually proved to be rather easy. Since then, I’ve washed it with Kasia’s clothes a couple of times when I felt like the stuffed animal was getting dirty. In between those laundry washes, I just wash off the pacifier part with soap and water and let it air dry. The benefits of the WubbaNub far outweigh the bit of extra time it takes to clean it.

The bottom line: We love the WubbaNub! It’s cute, practical, and fun. If a baby you love uses pacifiers, you can’t go wrong with a WubbaNub.