Tuesday, April 27, 2010

For or against?

We are having a party at our house this weekend and a couple of issues have come up ... let's take a poll!

1. Are you for or against plastic playground equipment in your backyard?

I'm not really talking about big swing sets because, a) sometimes you inherit one in a move, or b) they are a much longer term investment. Rather, I'm talking about the plastic forts / slides / playhouses.

I was initially against them and classified them in the 'unnecessary kid gear' category. It seemed to be one of those things you could drop $75-100 on and not get your money's worth. Then, our Girl developed an obsession with slides and thoroughly enjoys the small plastic slides at school and Grammy's house.

Does the novelty wear off if it's in your own back yard? Is it a god-send for play date entertainment?

2. Do you like to attend parties with or without your kids?

We've had a Cinco de Mayo party for several years running. Last year, with a 5-month-old, the party turned into a family affair and our friends were invited to bring their kids. It was a lot of fun and a lot of craziness!

My rationale FOR bringing kids: a) I like to see our friends and I don't want them to have to pay for a sitter to come to our party, and b) It's fun to see all the kids together because it doesn't happen very often.

Now, I'm wondering ... would it be a lot more fun / relaxing to NOT bring kids? Not from my planning standpoint, but from a guest-enjoyment-perspective. Maybe parents are looking for opportunities to get out of the house without their kids? (I know I do sometimes).

What's your vote?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Can I buy you a gift?

I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all of your thoughts and tips regarding the sleeping situation.

You (collectively) really are the best.

I wrote the last post a few days before it posted and, wouldn't you know it, I had already formulated some plans by the time the weekend rolled around. Your thoughts helped encourage me to move forward!

So, in no particular order, this is our current approach:

1. Kept the ghetto black out shades. They are not helping with naps, but have at least helped us avoid the issue of light outside at bedtime.

2. Moved back bedtime to 7:00pm. As a few people posted, there are some theories about moving bedtime UP to get a later wake-up time. I think a lot of this comes from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which I am a big fan of. Truth be told, though, Girly's bedtime just simply could not be moved earlier than 6:30pm. That would have been ridiculous. I made the decision to just bump it back by 30 minutes (instead of gradually) and to give it a whole week before I judged whether it was working. (Did I already mention that we had kind of toyed with this earlier and I didn't think it worked? I don't think I gave it a fair try.)

3. Added a little pillow to her crib. In true ridiculous fashion, I was rushing around on Friday evening cutting up an old pillowcase and hand sewing a new pillowcase because I was convinced it would help.

4. I downloaded an Ocean Waves for Baby CD from iTunes. I have a tiny iPod stereo that I put in her room and play the ocean sounds continuously all night. (The iTunes reviews said this is a great choice because there aren't any seagull or boat sounds, just waves. Never would have occurred to me to check.) It is good white noise.

The scientist in me would say that I should have tried each approach on it's own to see if it worked. But, in my desperation, I just decided to throw all the spaghetti at the wall and see what stuck.

So, what stuck?

Saturday and Sunday mornings were a slight improvement, but Monday and Tuesday mornings were almost blissful. She slept until 6:45 and 6:30am and I practically had to physically restrain myself from going in and checking on her to make sure she wasn't dead.

Granted, we had a really busy weekend and her naps were sub-par, but I am hoping for a positive trend.

The best outcome of all is that, this morning, she clapped and laughed when I came to get her out of her crib, instead of screaming bloody murder.

I had missed those morning babbles and they are oh. so. sweet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sleep props

Ok ... seeking advice.

In an effort to cut down on the 5am wakings, I am seeking any and all tips for keeping your kid quiet in their crib!

We have two loveys (fondly named "Dee-dee") that are a great comfort, but, alas, do not encourage Girly to go back to sleep. As a side note, now that she has clearly declared her preference for two particular loveys, I am ordering a spare of each while I can still find them.

In just the last week, I've started putting a soft book in her crib when I go in to check on her before I head to bed. The first early morning I think it distracted her a bit, but not so sure that it does anymore.

When is a pillow OK in the crib? She is still so wiggly and spins around in her crib all night, so she doesn't sleep with a large blanket. I can't imagine a pillow would really make much difference, but I've read testimonials elsewhere and I'm desperate, people.

In case you were wondering, the black out shades don't seem to be doing diddly squat. I'm glad I didn't invest in real shades. We've been using the ghetto fleece blankets tucked around the shades, just like frat days.

What are your thoughts on a special alarm clock that signals your kid when it is OK to wake up? There are several versions out there ... this Kid'Sleep version looks cute. I'm pretty sure she is too young at 16 months to comprehend, but I think she is smart and I also think a $40 investment in my future sanity could be warranted. If I just knew that there might be an end to the 5am wakings (before she is 17), I might deal better.

I realize that the lowest tech solution would be to let her cry in her crib until the appropriate wake-up time. Let me tell you that this is not working. We have been doing that for at least 2 weeks and she is still up 5-6 nights out of 7 at about 5:20am, and the remaining nights it might be 5:45am. It is a sad day when sleeping until 6:30am sounds like heaven.

I fear we may just have an early riser and we'll just have to get used to it for the time being. If there is an alternative solution, though, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunshine and Muffins

Nope. No cryptic or clever meaning behind this. Just simply that we've been enjoying the sunshine and I made some muffins.

The weather just all of a sudden became beautiful and warm. Dare I say too warm? No, I dare-n't. I do hope we get a true spring, but I'll take this over snow any day.

In the sudden-ness of the sunshine, I realized that we didn't have any outside toys. Since our days are now filled with pleas for "ow-side", "ow-side", "OW-SIDE!!", we made a quick dash to Target for some balls and sidewalk chalk. The chalk is mostly for eating, of course.

I also had to dig out the sunscreen and, as expected, it is even more challenging to lotion up a squirmy 16-month-old than a slightly-less-squirmy baby. I also realized the Girly is continuing with her protest of all hats and things hat-like, so I had to get creative with protecting her head.

Last year, she would tolerate a sun hat and we really didn't spend all that much time outside in the sun, what with the napping and breastfeeding around the clock. This year, though, her hair is almost always in pigtails and I worry about her scalp burning. I like our California Baby sunscreen, but it really doesn't work for her scalp. I needed something quick and grabbed the Banana Boat Kids spray sunscreen at Costco. I have enough to spray the scalps of a gaggle of children - come on over. I had a little bit of buyer's remorse about possibly not choosing the 'safest' sunscreen (see Safe Mama's list here), but then I had to get over it because a burnt scalp is far worse.

Also, note to self: If there is a Child #2, work harder on getting them to wear hats.

As for the sunglasses, Girly's eyes are bright blue and I notice her squinting. I am terrible at wearing sunglasses (they just never look right on my face. Tips??), but I really would like her to wear some. I got some at Target that are on an elastic band with velcro in the back. Umm, FAIL. Any good ones that your kids will wear?

As for the muffins, these are a good (pretty healthy) treat. I got the recipe from Mark Bittman's blog, which always has delicious sounding stuff.

Here is the original post. Be sure to click through to the Minimalist column and read it for extra tips and pointers, including the comments. I made them as written with canned pumpkin the first time because it is so easy. Truthfully, I thought they were just so-so, but Girly loved them. Next time I will jazz them up with some spices and a more flavorful fruit/veggie. I even wonder if peaches or strawberries would work? Maybe too liquidy ...

Whole Wheat Muffins
Published: February 5, 2010

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, more for greasing tins

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, preferably pastry flour (keep your whole wheat flour in the freezer)

3/4 to 1 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed or puréed banana, sweet potato, apple, zucchini, cooked or canned pumpkin, or other fruits or vegetables

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup buttermilk (I uses this buttermilk powder so I always have it on hand. Just mix with water! You can find it at any grocery store, I bet.)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease two 6-cup muffin tins or fill with liners. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, banana, egg and buttermilk. Fold wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined.

2. Fill muffin tins or liners; bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until muffins are puffed and turning golden brown on top. Serve warm if possible.

Yield: 12 (regular sized) muffins. I made mini muffins and it makes a ton.

Finally, if I was a betting girl, I would bet that our daughter will be a huge fan of popsicles. I think some of these molds might be in order so I can make a healthy version with blended fruit and yogurt.

I probably should taste them first, though, just to make sure they are OK.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Accidental parenting

It's in one of my parenting books - oh, there are so many - but I like the idea. I don't know the exact definition, but it's something about the choices you make as a parent, without intention or planning, that result in a habit or pattern for your child.

I think it can result in 'good' or 'bad' outcomes.

Let's start with the good. OK?

I was recently telling a friend about how useful our Pack n' Play has been. I wasn't sure if we wanted or needed one and I couldn't imagine how we would use it. Fast forward 16 months and it is probably the most-used baby item in our house. We have used it everyday, often multiple times a day, since Girly was born.

We had it on the first floor of our house as a changing table and occasional napping spot for months and months. Then, when it was no longer safe to leave Girly in the middle of our bed in the mornings, we moved her to the Pack n' Play (her "house") to entertain herself while we got ready in the mornings. There are toys and books that always stay in her house and she has generally been content to play in there for 20-30 minutes until someone is ready to take her downstairs for a morning snack. We are just reaching the point now where she is less happy to be contained, but she'll still usually tolerate it if I'm in the shower and Sesame Street is on.

I guess my point is that we apparently created the expectation that she should hang out and be happy in her house while we got ready in the mornings and it has served us well.

Now, for the bad.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I BEG TO DIFFER.

I know I've moaned and groaned about the 5am wakings and, a couple of weeks ago, those wakings migrated into the 4's. For the first time ever, I brought Girly into my bed to try to get some more sleep. Huz was sick and sleeping in the guest room and I didn't want her crying to wake him up. She snuggled up with me and slept for 2 more hours. It wasn't optimal quality sleep, but it was far better than a screaming child or back and forth to her room. And guess what? We did it the next night and the night after that.

Uh oh.

Truthfully, I liked the snuggling. I know it won't last forever and it feels good to know that your child is so comforted by you. BUT. As much as you may think, "Oh, one time won't really make a difference" - it sure does.

We 'fixed it' with some good ol' crying-it-out. Not fun, but effective. We had been through similar situations before and dealt with them in the same way. My memory is short, I guess, because I sure didn't nip it in the bud this time. I guess I felt like this must be something new and different because she was older, but sometimes the rusty tools in your tool kit work just fine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is it still called dining?

People ... please tell me your tips and tricks for eating out with your kids.

I must say that we didn't take full advantage of the baby-is-portable-and-sleeping-in-her-bucket stage. It was cold outside at that stage. And I was kind of a homebody. And then, before I knew it, that stage was over.

We have recently attempted a few outings with Girly because the weather has been so beautiful and the first thought that crosses our minds is "Drinks on a patio!" (Some things from your college days just remain a part of you).

We get there early (like, barely 5:00pm).

I try to order something for Girly to eat as soon as the waitperson comes by. (As an aside - do you feel it is necessary / appropriate to order food for your kids to eat at the restaurant? Or is it OK to bring stuff? Aside from allergy issues, I felt I should order something. BUT - she never eats it. Money down the drain.)

I used to order whatever I wanted, and now I tend to order food that tastes good cold.

From now on, I will ask for the bill as soon as our food comes - just in case.

I fully admit that I become stressed more easily than the average person. I am finding, though, that eating out with Girly just isn't enjoyable. We shove our food in our faces and try constantly to entertain her and keep her quiet, all the while trying to get her to eat something that has a minuscule of nutritional value. It isn't that she behaves badly, but I think I just worry that she is on the verge of a meltdown at all times and I can't relax and enjoy the Drinks On The Patio.

You?? How do you handle this??