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. :)