Saturday, July 31, 2010

Parent Proof

Yep - darts with daddy.
Safety net

Since my mind's been wiped and, in general, has been a bit hazy all year long, forgive me if I start to repeat myself in blog posts.  I've had lots of blog post ideas swimming around in my head all year and often did not have the time or internet access to post promptly while those ideas were fresh in my head.  So, onto parent proofing the house.  I recall last spring, while I was still pregnant, a friend's sister coming over to our house.  She took one look at our house and nearly had a panic attack just thinking of all the "necessary" changes we would need to make to our home in order for it to be safe for a baby/toddler/new person.  Let me walk you through our home and discuss the "changes" we actually made.  I read a book (well, actually listened to the audio book while driving in the car, but I digress) called "Free Range Kids" by Lenore Skenazy.  She has been dubbed the worst parent in America and wears this title proudly.  The reason she wears said title proudly is because the title is ridiculous and, of course, untrue.  She allowed her son to ride the subway by himself, to let him figure out how to get around, because he asked her to.  She let him go.  She let him figure things out.  Terrible, I know (note the sarcasm).  Skenazy cites research having to do with the actual rate of child abduction (quite low, but well publicized), the occurrence of razor blades in apples on Halloween (never actually happened, just theorized by Dear Abby), and other widely believed scare tactics designed to get people at most vulnerable points in life (for parents) to buy more stuff.

Where's the chalk?

We'll start with the obvious - stairs.  We did get a gate for the top of our stairs, which turned out to be the most dangerous item in our home.  Our stairs have a metal railing on one side and a wall on the other, but without making modifications, we were having difficulty finding a gate that would be truly secure at the top of these stairs.  We bought one that was designed to screw into the metal railing only to find that it was too tall as it was an "extra tall" top of stairs gate.  We returned it.  We also bought a pressure mounted gate with this in mind for the top of the other stairs (sprially and scary to all except for we who live here and love it to bits) and office entrance.  As it turned out, that one was too wide for that area upstairs.  We did measure.  Anywho, we tried the pressure mounted gate at the top of our stairs and would squeeze it in there and once Cecelia was on the move (crawling) she was obsessed with it.  All she wanted to do was go to the gate.  I swear if there was no gate there I don't think it would have occurred to her to approach the top of the stairs but that was a gamble that even I was not willing to take.  Once she was pulling up, the gate was even more desirable as it was just the right size for her to hold on to and rock.  Now, we removed her from the site of potential danger.  But once, and I was right next to her, she was too fast.  I had decided that if supervised, she could stand at the gate because my thinking was that she would get it out of her system, all this gate loving, and move on to some other part of the house to be obsessed with.  She pushed and she pulled and she pushed and she pulled and the gate gave way.  I hate the gate.  I promptly decided that the pack and play we never use was just the right size to blockade the top of the stairs and has resided there ever since.  This was my first thought before getting any gates, but we thought we'd try it out.  Now, a pack and play might not work in every home, but for us, it has been the perfect fit.  We can move it easily, but Cece can not move it easily.  She can still see through it when someone is coming up the stairs (fun) and she can still stand up near it with no chance of it being used as a sled for the stairs.
Working on my core muscles.

As for the other stairs (spirally), there are two ends to contend with - the bottom and the top.  At the bottom, I wanted Cece to experiment with climbing stairs so originally there were no impediments.  And experiment she did.  She was able to get up and promptly would try to get back down by sitting on her bottom.  Mom fail.  So, the toy box moved to blockade the bottom of the stairs.  We have since moved it out of the way to practice climbing stairs and back again when Cece is playing.  Did I mention we practice on these stairs and she is a master spiral stair climber.  I'm right behind her when she does this, don't worry.  At the top of the stairs, we've utilized that lovely pressure mounted gate leaning against the doorway since it's too wide, but once Cece could stand she would have just pulled it on top of herself anyway.  What I found is much more effective, if we're up there for an extended period of time, is to use the printer cart.  Our computer printer is on a rolling cart from IKEA.  It's carpeted and does not roll at all easily (i.e. Cece cannot move it) but easily enough for me to slide it in front of the doorway/top of stairs gap.  It is just shy of the width of the opening, but perfect for blocking access.

No, we didn't turn it on...

Onto chemicals and other Mr. Yuck sticker worthy items!  One simple solution is to get rid of all the chemical cleaners in your home.  We try to clean with only natural items like vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, lemon, etc.  Past that, we keep cleaners (even those natural ones) in a caddy in the outdoor closet that Cece does not have access to.  In the kitchen, everything that was under the cabinet (soap, dishwasher detergent, etc) was moved to the cabinet above the sink (well out of reach of Cece, and Jeff and I :) and moved all tupperware and storage type containers under the sink.  This is one of Cecelia's favorite places to explore, so why deny her the pleasure?  Pots and pans are also at baby-level and there are drawers next to the refrigerator with paper plates that she can pull out and have a ball with as well as plastic utensils and straws that she adores.  She enjoys pulling items out of our recycling bin which does reside in the kitchen, so we make sure things are well rinsed.  I've begun to just turn the trash can around so that the open end is facing the wall.  It's still easy enough to deposit trash, but (at the moment anyway) a conundrum not worth the time to a one year old.  Similarly, metal mixing bowls are on the bottom shelf of a wire rack and cookbooks are accessible for her to peruse.  Because...why not?
Sorting plastic and glass
Mrs. Clean

We did remove our table cloth because Cecelia, being the problem solver she is, realized that if something was on the table, all she had to was a swift magic trick to get it back down again.

Power tools are a must.
Navigating the bridges of life

As for sharp corners, we moved our coffee table out of the center of the room.  Our fireplace offers a fun challenge.  There is one REALLY sharp corner and edge, so we took a body pillow and laid it around the edge of the fireplace while Cecelia was learning to crawl.  Once she was steady, we removed the pillow.  Because Cecelia has always had the fireplace there, it's no longer such a novelty.  She does, at times, like to play with the mesh, or touch the edge, but she's never tried to crawl in (yet) and she's never knocked her noggin on that edge.  I'm not ruling it out as a possibility in life, but I think because she's been around it, it's a non-issue.  We did remove the fireplace tools because, well, who needs the weaponry, am I right?  Same thing with the tv stand edges and corners - pillows do wonders.

I was told there would be candy in this basket.

The bathroom is one of Cecelia's favorite places to hang out.  Under the sink there, I've made sure there are plenty of things for her to pull out and explore and anything I wouldn't want her near is either above the sink, completely gone, or way in the back blocked by all the fun baskets in the front.  She loves brushes.
Yes, please.
But I needed it!

We don't have any locks on drawers or cabinet doors.  I figure cause and effect - she opens a drawer, she learns how a drawer opens.  She closes a drawer, she learns how a drawer closes.  She pinches her fingers, she learns not to stick her fingers in a drawer and close it.  Cause and effect.
Mom, this is NOT amusing.

And, everyone's favorite: electrical outlets.  We don't have outlet covers.  Why?  They are plastic (bad for you and bad for the environment) and one friend told me that they could be a choking hazard.  I can guarantee that if we had outlet covers, Cecelia would make it her mission to pry them out.  Then she steps on them, ouch, the outlet would be uncovered anyway, etc.  Now, I'm going to be blunt here - if you don't give your child a metal object that he/she can stick into an outlet, then there should be no problems.  If you do give your child a fork, knife, metal coin (penny, nickel, dime, quarter), or other small metal object, then they might stick it in an outlet.  Don't let them do that.  Keep all coins (another choking hazard) out of reach and same thing with metal cutlery and voila problem solved.

I'll just plug this in here...

I'm sure that I'm forgetting some other "essential" baby proofing products - there are so many out there, baby knee pads...don't even get me started...but off the top of my head, this is how we evaluated our home.  Another thing to think about is your individual child and your individual family.  For example, I observed when Cece was learning to sit and once she became more steady.  I would seat her with cushioning around her on the side she might roll to.  When she started to crawl, I could see if she was likely to bobble or how steady she was, and likewise, with pulling up and, now, walking.  I am certain that new challenges will surface and it is important to keep your child safe.  But, it is also important not to bubble-wrap them and assume that you can protect them from everything.  If children aren't given the opportunity to explore when they want and need to, they'll find a way.  It's in their nature, and it's an important learning process.  You also need to know your tolerance level.  If you won't be able to handle having EVERY container pulled out, then you should probably lock that cabinet drawer.  Know yourself and know your kid.
Just add bubble wrap.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mind Wipe

And the mind wipes (this term is not from MIB, but rather from the Artemis Fowl series which I am reading...and loving now) are complete.  Yesterday, I held 4 week old Anna and had that moment that I saw play out so many times when others held Cece at this age and younger where I thought to myself...I don't remember Cece ever having been this small.  And she was.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Baby Accessible

I never gave much thought to the accommodations of many places as regarding family-friendliness prior to having a baby myself.  The first time these particular thoughts crossed my mind was when I went out to lunch with friends of ours who had recently had their first baby.  His dad took him to the restroom to change his diaper, but returned to the table because the restroom did not have a changing table facility.  And so, the baby's mom took him instead.  I remember thinking to myself, well, in today's world, there should be a changing table in the men's room too.  What if dad had been out to lunch or dinner with baby by himself?

When I had a baby of my own and was confronted with such realities on a daily basis, it was quite eye opening.  I wanted to share some of what I found in regards to the family friendliness of different facilities and what makes them more (or less) family friendly.  Any time there is a family restroom, that is generally best because mom or dad can take baby there, any time that family restroom also has a chair for nursing even better.  And the all star is most impressive.  In the world of malls, Neshaminy (surprisingly) has the best facility - they have a whole suite!  The first time I went to Neshaminy Mall with Cecelia was in the morning for a One Fit Mama class and I went to the women's restroom and was appalled to find it had no changing table and it was quite difficult to navigate a stroller even into the restroom.  An employee who just happened to be in there (thank goodness) informed me that there was a (really nice) family restroom area.  I found it after class to check it out.  There were two family restrooms with changing tables, two changing tables outside the family restrooms, and a nursing room with three or four chairs.  Impressive.  Another good feature was the door-less-ness of this area, so you don't have to maneuver opening a door while either backing up with a stroller or pushing one forward.  Neshaminy gets the all-star in my book.  Montgomery Mall also has door-less restrooms, but are more traditional in that there are bathroom stalls and then a changing table at the far end.  The changing table is very nice and built in with a pad and a dispenser to lay down a paper liner.  Tricky thing here is getting your stroller all the way to the end - can't even imagine if the restroom was full and I have run into the situation where others are waiting since there is one changing table per bathroom.  As a mom of an EC baby, I even prefer to have the changing table as a drop down inside the handicapped stall so that you can discreetly undress baby, potty baby, and re-dress without having to go in and out of a stall.  Willow Grove mall's bathrooms have a door making them least friendly in the mall department.

Ikea has a super friendly set up, which is no surprise because it's Ikea and they're pretty awesome at most things.  They have a nursing room and changing table connected to a kid-friendly sized bathroom.  Only thing is, again, that there's one chair to nurse in, one changing table, and one bathroom, so there could be a line if it's a particularly family busy day.  Whole Foods has a nursing bathroom with a comfy chair in the corner and also has a changing table.  Now the trick is, I can't remember which one - one has it and one doesn't and I'm thinking of North Wales and Jenkintown - will have to check back about that.  Babies R Us, not surprisingly, also has a pretty good set up with a nursing room with comfy seating and two changing tables.  This is entirely separate from the bathroom, which is good in some ways but a minus for an EC mom.  Fortunately, there is also a changing table in the bathroom as well.

Another surprise to me was places that were just plain lacking a changing table.  It seems like a pretty inexpensive addition to make a place all the more appealing to a person with kids.  Off the top of my head, the park in Horsham where we had Cece's birthday, Everybody's Playground, has no changing table in the bathroom.  Also Baja Fresh (random, I know, but fresh in my mind).  And our condo association pool, where they indicate you must take baby to the bathroom to change a diaper.  Well, guess what - until they put in a changing table, I'm not taking her there to change her diaper.

I've gotten quite adept with changing her on my lap when needed, but to the chagrin of anyone who's witnessed the phenomenon and think Cece's going to launch off my lap and crack her skull.  She's totally fine and we've done it a million (well probably not a million..) times.  I realize that you don't always need a changing table to change a baby, but it is nice.  I do wish that so many weren't made of plastic, but I'm not sure what the best alternative would be there.

Being a mom with a stroller made me all the more aware of the wheelchair accessiblity or lack thereof of many places.  It also made me grateful that I had the option to sling my baby rather than using the stroller all the time.  While in a department store in the mall or at Target or Kohls for example, (oh - Kohl's also has a chair in the bathroom for nursing - purposes as does Macy's) it is much easier to navigate the racks with baby in a sling instead of a stroller.  You can't even get through the aisles with a stroller, so I have a tough time imagining what that might be like in a wheelchair.

Throughout the post, I've mentioned places where one might nurse a baby as well.  When Cece first arrived, I was very conscientious of being discreet while nursing in public.  I've gotten to the point, personally, where I find it more discreet to just feed her when needed (which isn't often in public at this point anyway).  She covered the area better than any cover might and most people do not realize what is happening unless they are waiting for me to feed my baby.  With that said, it is nice for places to offer a private and comfortable area for mothers, especially when baby is young and might eat for 45 minutes or more.  To sum up those places: Ikea, Whole Foods, Babies R Us, Neshaminy Mall, any Motherhood Maternity store, really any store with a fitting room, Kohl's bathroom, Macy's bathroom (both of these were just a regular chair in the corner - better than nothing), any department store with a "waiting room" just inside the bathroom - with a comfy couch or chair.  And really, remember you can nurse your baby law.

And thus finishes my rant - this is a post that had been brewing in my brain for quite some time and I'm glad to have "gotten it down".  Hopefully it is a help to someone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walk This Way

Cecelia has made the very gradual move from baby to toddler as she toddles all over the house now.  She's always been a mover and a shaker, but yesterday was the first time I'd say she walked more than crawled.  She even walked the entire length of our home.  Now, we're in a 2 bedroom condo, but still - impressive nonetheless!  I'll do my best to upload video of this phenom.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Cece

On Saturday, we celebrated Cecelia's 1st Birthday at Everybody's Playground.  Even though it was a hot day, there was a nice breeze under the pavilion.  Cecelia made her grand entrance from the trail because she and daddy walked to the party.

Cecelia's cake was double chocolate zuchinni cake and she loved every bite of it.


and family were able to join us for the festivities.

Cecelia didn't really like mommy's idea for the balloons the day after the party. 

But she warmed up to the idea.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Neutralizer

I had to look up the official name of the device used in Men In Black to erase memories of alien encounters.  While yours were not alien encounters, dear daughter...or at least I don't think addition to erasing the memory of your mom-mom, daddy was not spared either.  Upon reading yesterday's post, he commented that he had forgotten that we used to have to wear you in the sling to fall asleep and then lower you into your crib, sling and all, lifting it up over head to deposit you to (fingers crossed) continue napping.  Thank goodness you outgrew that particular preference because while you still fit quite well in the sling to ride on a hip, front, or back, you are by no means small enough to squish in there in the cradle carry that you once did.

Which reminded me of the first time I left you for an extended period of time.  Daddy wanted to have you all to himself, so while I could have brought you with me to the baby shower I went to (which I'm sure would have delighted everyone there), you stayed with Daddy instead.  At that time, Daddy wanted nothing to do with wearing the sling.  Even though I got reversible ones so that he could still look manly with the plain brown or the (better than flowers) polka dots.  But no - he said he didn't need it.  I offered to show him how it worked since you did NEED it so very often on my watch, but he was determined.  I returned home to a scene much like this one.


Do we need further explanation?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear Daughter

Dear Cecelia,

Today you turn one.  Right now you are next to me on the floor pulling all the papers out of a basket; a task sure to drive your father crazy.  You very much enjoy opening drawers, cabinets, purses, wallets, etc. and pulling out every item you can get your chubby hands on - you do not limit yourself to those places - you've also been known to reach into the recycling bin (ok) and trash can (not ok) to extricate items.

You keep us on our toes.  But let us begin at the beginning.  One year ago today you rocketed into the world storming the walls of our lives on Bastille Day.  And you didn't have to do that - we would have let you in the front door.  Your entrance was perfect and fast, much like yourself.  As you were being examined, one of the first pictures we have of you is you stretching out and scrunching up your face, squinting your eyes as if to say, "It is much too early for these bright lights" - from the first moment of your arrival you displayed so much personality.

I've seen this wake up stretch with your lips pouted and your face scrunched time and time again and it is one of my favorite things.  There are so many favorite things, it's hard to list them all - but I will try.  Now then, back to the fast - you started letting me know somewhat early on July 14, 2009 that you'd be gracing us with your presence (which should have been a clue that you were and still are a very early riser).  I labored at home with you and in between contractions ate a huge breakfast, washed the sheets, the dishes, and let your father sleep in.  Not much has changed since then in those departments, except that your dad sleeps in because he does such an awesome job helping out when you wake up during his "shift" 1am-5am.  (and - you've now moved on to pulling out poker chips and playing cards - your dad taught you how to play Texas Hold 'Em yesterday)  We went to the hospital and 2-3 hours later you were in my arms.

 Love at first sight.  And boy did I feel great - this parenting was going to be a breeze (foreshadowing).  In the hospital you slept and accepted visitors, you ate when you felt like it (not much has changed there either) and did your business.  Before you were here, I never realized just how obsessed I would become with your bowel movements.  In the hospital and for a week or so after, you have to count them to make sure baby (i.e. you) is getting enough to eat and I wanted to make sure we were doing everything RIGHT.  (And you've abandoned the poker chips to come to me and complain that I'm not paying attention to I will take a break and do so - save)

And we're back - you've had your one year doctor's check-up and I've been told by several people how awful I am for scheduling your doctor's appointment on your birthday, but guess what - you got your Polio shot (and that's all you got) and you didn't make a peep - didn't phase you at all - that's my girl!!

So, where were we?  Right - bowel movements.  I realized my adoration of your mere ability to go when I started to tell a friend who is not yet in the kid stage about your being a little backed up...then I backed up and thought to myself - does she want to know this?  Probably not - and didn't say anything.  Overall it was a good reflection for me.  And in terms of those bowel movements - you've been using the potty since you were 6 days old.

A friend told us about Elimination Communication and you were a pro right away - now, we still use diapers, but you go on the potty most times and since you've started eating solids, you've only had wet diapers, not "dirty" ones.  You learned the sign for potty and signaled it to us a few times.  It looks a lot like you're waving, so then others started waving back and ever since you've stopped signaling for the potty and instead wave at anyone who will give you the time of day (which is quite a few people!).

And I'll get off of that tangent and back to our timeline.  When you came home from the hospital, we weren't always sure what you wanted, but you always seemed to want something!  Most times I tried to feed you, and that personality came roaring out because if that was not what you wanted, you'd smack me and scream some more.  One of your daddy's favorite stories of your first days is when he was trying to get you to sleep and you screamed, and screamed, and screamed, and finally you started punching him - you always were quite coordinated!  He gave you a voice letting me know that you were telling him to give you back to "her" (me) and "We're. not. friends. any. more!"

You loved (and still do) your sling.  It saved my behind many a day as it was, for a while, the only way you'd fall asleep.  And you needed to sleep - on that topic.  As a mom, before you got here, I thought I knew exactly what I would do in any given situation.  The reality was far different than I ever could have imagined and that gave me an incredible perspective on the human experience and the parenting experience more specifically.  Now, someone will relate a story of how someone does something with their kid and isn't that awful/crazy/unsafe/fill in the blank.  I, now, always maintain that you don't know until you're there what you might do.  And that is specific to that kid, that parent, that family.  They decide what they do.  And we decide what we do.  To elaborate.  Before you arrived, I thought you couldn't possibly sleep in our bed because, well, that's just not safe.  I was a part of a group of moms where everyone else did and thought to myself - how dangerous, how terrible.  I knew that I had found the best alternative - a co-sleeper, a bassinet that fits right next to the bed, so you're there, but you're not in the unsafe, fluffy blankets, pillows all over the place bed.  Well - you had a different plan altogether.  You would prefer to be in constant contact either touching skin, or feeling the breath move in and out of my body.  Once I decided to try to nurse you in bed, to practice, to try it out - I fell asleep, you fell asleep, and when I woke up - you were fine, still sleeping in fact, and I was fine, and we never turned back.

Since then you have gradually (and I do mean gradually) begun to sleep on your own for longer and longer stretches, but you still spend at least a portion of each night in bed with dad and I and we love having our family close together.  You're a good napper now whereas before you needed to be held to sleep or at the very least be next to a warm body.


 I remember worrying - oh did I worry!  That you would never sleep on your own.  I gained perspective that this, this moment, this closeness, would not, could not last forever, and that I needed to cherish every moment that I got to hold my sweet baby girl, even if I felt I had other, more important (and what could possibly be more important) things to do.  I became a better rested, more relaxed, and just plain better mom as a result of letting things go - I brought a book with me into the room to read while you rested if you wanted to stay in my arms or I tried to rest at the same time myself.  I had finally learned to "sleep when the baby sleeps."  I still hear many moms indicate that that is the only time they can get anything done and I sigh.

And the carseat - your love/hate and mostly hate relationship with your carseat confounded other people.  You did not like it.  And not only that, where most babies fell asleep the moment the wheels hit the pavement, you screamed incessantly.  There were many, many (did I mention many) times that we pulled over and held you and swayed alongside a busy road, or I tried to nurse you and you ate (or smacked me to indicate that was NOT it, lady).  This made getting out of the house a challenge.  Likewise, you despised your stroller.

You would prefer to be carried at all times, preferably in a sling snuggled up next to mom or dad.  Over time you've learned to love both, unless you're just. not. in. the. mood.  Which still happens from time to time and when it does is all the more startling as we're not "used to it" now.
 This picture was taken b/c you were crying like crazy and I wanted to get a picture of that phenomenon, but when you saw the camera, you turned on your smile...faker.

Some changes - you used to spit up after pretty much every meal and now, not a drop.  In fact, the other day we went to visit mom-mom at work and I was tossing you in the air because that makes you a happy girl (I think you'll be an amusement park expert rider like mom).  One of mom-mom's co-workers mentioned that you would spit up and I said no.  Then mom-mom said that you never were one to spit up.  I looked at her a bit incredulously and reminded her of the first four or so months of your life.  She smiled, indicating that she didn't remember any of that.  I reminded her in more details.  Your cuteness has clouded the memories of others.  I'll make it my mission not to be swayed from the true course of your history.  If for no other reason than to let you know about your feisty personality and your determination.

You have always been determined, and it will serve you well in life.  When you were on your back, you wanted to roll over, then you seemed frustrated that you couldn't sit up - until you did, and when you could do that, you wanted to stand, so you did, and then crawl, and cruise, and walk...and I'm sure that in mere moments you'll wake from your nap, and want to run.  You can climb stairs quite expertly, but getting down is a whole other issue.

Your flair for dramatics is unparalleled.  Sometimes you turn it on just to see if we're paying attention.  You play the part of the perfect angel in front of others, which is just fine by me.  When they ask if you're "always this good" I tell the truth.  No.  You are an incredibly good baby.  But not always - see "screaming" "sleeping" "smacking" and "punching" above.  You are independent and strong.  You are funny and adorable.  You are vocal and sweet.  I simply cannot wait to watch you grow up and learn more about the girl and woman you will become.  I just wish it didn't have to happen so fast.  This year has gone by much too quickly.  I was able to take off of teaching school for this first year of your life and I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I am excited to return to work and excited for all of the adventures that you and daddy will have.  You love your daddy so and I love seeing the two of you together and hearing stories about your days with daddy when I am away.  But I will miss you so.  Since you're such an early riser, I know we'll have our mornings together, just you and I.  And since you're such a terrible sleeper, I'm sure we'll see each other quite often in the night.  I love your sleep smiles, your stretches, your laugh, the way you peek your head around a corner to look at daddy or I and giggle with surprise each and every time.  I love holding you and squeezing you tight and giving you millions of kisses.  I love playing with you and reading with you and watching you discover new things - whether it be a bottle in the recycling bin, or the leaves on a tree.  The world is new to you and you're ready to reach out and grab it.  Happy birthday baby girl!  Make it count.

Love, Mommy