Saturday, January 30, 2010

Li'l Inspirations Review

I enjoy supporting small businesses that are created and owned by fellow mommies. Not only does it fit with my ethics when it comes to the economy, but these businesses almost always are more sensitive to the needs of their customers. The products are typically made with love and quality, and if there is an issue, the service provided typically is better than doing businesses with large box stores. I think that this is because the owner personally is held responsible for any product that she sells. Instead of "It's such-and-such cooperation at fault" the owner of the business has to take personal responsibility. Another reason I believe this is true, is because most mommies begin their business in order to fulfill the needs of other families. Their children, and obstacles that they have encountered while raising their families, have inspired their products and business.

Such is the case with Li'l Inspirations Custom Embroidered Gifts. Owner Sandra Kircher began this unique business in 1992 when she had trouble finding an appropriate keepsake blanket for her children to love and snuggle. To remedy this problem, she began selling a line of soft baby items. The name Li'l Inspirations refers to the inspiration that she got for the business from her children.

For this review, Li'l Inspirations provided me with a sample of their Baby Security Blanket Gift Set, which is Kircher's own product design. The gift set was in the style of the Monkey Baby Blanket, and was personalized with our baby's last name embroidered in lavender with Brody Script style lettering. I wanted to do this review because as an expectant mother, I understand what it is like to be looking for that perfect, soft, lovable item that will sooth my baby. I will do a follow up review when the baby arrives, to give her opinion of the security blanket as well.

When the gift set arrived, it was packaged in an organza gift bag. The set includes the security blanket with a matching rattle. The rattle is the kind that can be secured to Baby's wrist or ankle by a hook and loop closure. Inside the organza bag, the rattle was cleverly attached to the arm of the animal on the security blanket. The presentation was very nice, and I would have no problem including this in a gift basket, or using as a sole gift, for a baby shower or other special occasion (such as a first birthday, baptism etc.)

The size of the blanket itself is impressive. Most of the blankets that I have seen that are similar to this style, are really quite small comparatively. The animal that sits on the top of the blanket includes not only the head, but also the arms, which is another feature that sets the product apart from similar styled items. This security blanket truly is like having a stuffed animal and a soft blanket all in one item.

Another feature about the animal portion of the blanket, is that all of the facial components are embroidered on. There are no hard parts such as eyes or a nose that could potentially fall of (or be bitten off in those ornery toddler years!) and pose a choking hazzard. This may seem like a small thing to consider, but when Jonah was born, he demonstrated to me just how important it is. He had received a doggie stuffed animal that had a hard nose and eyes. When he was a couple months old, I left him in his bouncey seat with this dog while I went to the bathroom. When I came back, I noticed he had something in his mouth! It was the nose that had somehow come off of the dog's face! If I had waited a few more seconds to return, who knows what may have happened. So this is a real safety issue that Li'l Inspirations took into considering when designing this product.

The body, or blanket portion, of the animal is very soft to touch. The front is made with minky fabric and the back is satin. I like that the minky is 100% velboa, which is extremely durable and "forgiving" as well as soft and fuzzy. Velboa is a wonderfully soft fabric that is tough enough to withstand the wear and tear that infants and children can give it (dragging on the floor, throwing over the side of the stroller, tugging, and even stroking it while falling asleep can really wear on a fabric!) The satin lends a nice contrast on the back, and the two fabrics are nicely seamed together.For the personalization, I requested that the baby's last name be used. This is a good option if you would like to personalize a gift or an item, but aren't sure of what the first name will be. Some parents don't name their baby until after the birth, or they want the gender to be a surprise and have two names picked out. I also think this is a good security measure. If you are at a store or a crowded public area, and your child has their first name on an item they are carrying, then a dangerous stranger could easily learn their name while looking at the item. A child is much more likely to respond to a stranger calling out her first name, then a stranger who is calling out her last name. Yet personalized items are not only endearing keepsakes, but also practical. If your child should leave the item at playgroup or daycare, it is easily identifiable as theirs and can be returned. It is also an option to personalize it with a monogram or with initials.

The embroidery on the personalization is good quality. There aren't any loose threads hanging from it, as I've seen in other personalized items. There is a great selection of colors on the ordering webpage, that range from very bright and vibrant to soft and delicate. The lettering is easy to read, and is a very good size. While I expected the personalization to be an area that this review would be critical of (as most often with personalized products, the personalization leaves me disappointed,) I was extremely pleased with the quality and the lettering.

One final touch that really brought the gift set together was that the rattle was made with the same fabrics as the blanket. The front of the wristband is made from the same quality minky fabric, and the back of the band is satin. The satin on the band didn't perfectly match the satin on the blanket in color, but that is a small detail that I only noticed when pairing the two for pictures. One thing that I did note was that the hook and loop closure was very large and went to the edges of the wristband. I am wondering if this will irritate or scratch the baby's skin when she wears it on her wrist, as it does make the edge somewhat stiff and scratchy on that portion of the band.

I was extremely pleased to find a company that has personalized items that are such high quality. I am very critical in my reviews, and I take them very seriously. I put the items to the test and look at every detail and stitch. I can say with confidence that you won't find an item such as this at the mall or in the baby section of a department store. You might find a similar item, but it will be about the same price with less quality. The personalization and the quality of the embroidery, for me, just make the package complete.

If you would like to see the full line of baby items, handkerchiefs, and wedding items, visit their website at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Transitioning to the Big Boy Bed

As you might know, when Jonah's crib was recalled a couple months ago we converted it into the toddler bed. Jonah isn't quite ready to sleep in the bed yet, so he's been sleeping in his pack n play. Also, there is a rail that goes across the front of the bed, and we are missing a screw for it. I don't want him to sleep in the toddler bed full time until the rail is installed. I think it will make the frame a bit more sturdy, and it will keep him from falling in his sleep.

But, we have been taking the opportunity to make a very gradual transition. Jonah is extremely attached to his bedtime routine. Both for nap, and for night time. I don't think that it would have been possible to suddenly switch him into the toddler bed.

When we first started the transition, we would simply read Jonah his story, and sing him his three lullabyes, just as we have every night since he came home from the hospital. Then, instead of putting him in his bed, we would give him his paci and his blanket, and lay him in the toddler bed. This was only for a couple of seconds. We would lay him down, and then pick him back up and place him in his pack n play. We started to lengthen the amount of time that we let him lay in the bed.

Now, we will read him his story, and then place him in the bed with the lights out for his lullabyes. After his lullabyes, we sit for a few minutes, quiet and still. We had to gradually lengthen the time of this as well. We started with just a pause between lullabyes and taking him to his pack n play, but now he will lay in the bed until he gets pretty droopy eyed.

The next step will be to let him fall asleep in the bed, but I am holding off on that. I am not sure how we are going to do it. I think I will install the rail, and then for nap I will sit with him until he falls asleep in the bed, and try to leave without waking him up. If he wakes up then I will put him back in his pack n play, but at least he will have fallen asleep in the bed. We'll start with nap, and work our way into night time since he is a little more picky about the night time routine.

I'm very pleased with how smoothly this is going. The gradual transition is working out nicely. So far there have been no tears over the toddler bed (from either Jonah or Mommy and Daddy!) So we're hoping that this method will keep it tear free! I'm also planning on getting him to give up the paci soon after he is fully in the toddler bed, but I think that one major change at a time in sleep routines is more than enough for him to handle!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Homemade Play Dough

My sister decided that this year she was going to give all homemade gifts for Christmas. I really admire her for this, and think that I might do the same thing next year. I already have found lots of fun projects for fun gifts that will be more meaningful than just something I ran out and bought. Not to mention it is more eco-friendly.

The gift that she gave to Jonah was homemade play dough. I love this stuff. We used to make it all the time when we were kids, but Christi always did better than me. When I make it, my colors are rather dull and muted, but she gets beautiful vibrant colors every time.

I was wondering if Jonah is ready for play dough. He likes to throw things. A lot. I just imagined bits of red and blue being ground into the white carpet. I wasn't concerned about him eating it, because this stuff is completely safe to eat. It tastes really bad, but it's harmless to ingest.

I have a plastic table cloth that I use for major art activities, like when we painted the pumpkin for Halloween (which I completely meant to blog about, but I had forgotten) or when I am feeling really brave and let him "body" paint. I spread that out underneath his chair, and tried to get all carpet within his throwing radius covered. I presented him with the four colorful tubs. I only allow him to play with one color at a time, but he gets to choose the color. He immediately pulled the blue tub towards him.

He really enjoyed the playdough. He thought it was hillarious to squish it in his fists and to dig his fingers into it. He especially liked putting his thumb into it.

He also soon figured out how to break it up into smaller globs. These globs were inevitably flung to the floor.

Because of the throwing, I thought I should mix it up a bit to keep his interest for a bit longer. I let him choose a different color (he chose red) and I added a tool into the mix. I showed him how to use the rolling pin to press the dough flat, but he had other ideas for what it should be used for. The handles are perfect for poking holes!
The activity lasted for almost a half hour. I was extremely impressed by how long he was attentive to it! Play dough has most certainly been added to our list of quick and easy activities that get us through long days!

Here is the recipe for the dough, although I am not sure what my sister's secret is to getting such bright colors.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
3 cups water
2 Tbl vegetable oil
1 Tbl Cream of Tartar
drops of food coloring

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it becomes dough-y and it is hard to move the spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Place on wax paper and knead for one minute. Place into a plastic zip top bag or a tupperware container.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Early Interventions Screening

We've been keeping a close eye on Jonah's development ever since he was admitted to the hospital a year ago for failure to thrive. Not only has his physical development, such as weight and height, been closely monitored, but also his cognitive and motor development. It did not take him long to catch up, physically. At his appointment in December, we were thrilled to hear that both his height and weight were in the 25th percentile. This may seem like he's a scrawny shrimp, but it was music ringing in our ears.

However, his motor skills were in the 1st percentile and he seemed to be having delays in speech and other areas of cognition. I called our early intervention office and discussed having him screened. He was put on a waiting list, but I was told that if he didn't make any progress, I should call them and they would get him in sooner.

Last Monday, I made the call. It seemed that his language had actually regressed. He went from having three words, "Momom" "Daddy" and "yum" to having none. From thirteen signs down to the three that related to his basic needs- potty, eat, and milk. He had turned to using only two phonemes in babble. "dadada" and "aaaaah" are all that we would hear from him. I played several games with him to make it easier for him to hear and repeat different verbal noises. Although he enjoys the games, they have not seemed to help. He does make an effort to repeat the sounds during the games, but he will not spontaneously babble them. He also has not progressed at all towards walking, and I realized that one of his biggest problems is that he cannot stand unassisted or keep his balance for even a fraction of a second. So, I started to play some balance games and some games/exercises to strengthen his legs. They also have not seemed to help a whole lot.

So I called them and gave them an update on his lack of progress. They were able to schedule him for a screening on Thursday. The woman came to our house, and watched him play for about twenty minutes. Then she asked me tons of questions. She asked me what he eats, how often he gets free play, how his pregnancy and birth went. She asked me about his other developmental milestones like sitting and crawling. She asked about how he gets around if he doesn't walk, and about different things that he does or doesn't do. She watched him move around for a while, crawling, walking on his knees, and cruising. She was able to get him to climb up onto the couch, which I had no idea that he could do.

Then she sat on the floor to play with him while I filled out a little questionare about my concerns for his development. I really liked that she used his own familiar toys for the screening. She gave him the best chances at succeeding for each task, and then worked into more difficult situations from there. She tried to have him stack two blocks,which I knew he wouldn't do. I was surprised that he didn't line them up, because that is what he usually does. She did notice him lining up his other toys in the beginning of the appointment. She tried to have him "help" her pick up by putting items into his basket. She was looking for him to put three to six items in before he started to take them back out or lose interest. He focuses on one item, though. Putting the same object into the basket then taking it out, putting it in then taking it out, over and over. She also noticed him spinning his lids. We keep lids from containers such as orange juice or cottage cheese etc, because Jonah loves to sort them and put them in drawers/cabinets. He also likes to spin them. She noticed he throws things almost impulsively, more than is developmentally appropriate. He also bangs them together more than is appropriate for his age.

There were a slew of other items that she went through. Some he couldn't do and others that he could, like turning pages of the book and looking when his name is called, but it seemed like most of them he couldn't. He is most delayed in his expressive language and verbal skills. He is the best at sorting, and his attention (he'll "read" a book from cover to cover several times, for several minutes)

The screening is only to see if the child qualifies for further testing and further programs through the Help Me Grow Early Interventions program. It was not really to give us any answers as to what is wrong etc. She has put in the referral to see a panel of specialists, who will determine exactly what areas he is delayed in, why he is delayed in those areas, and what our plan of action should be for those delays. I will be getting a call from the center this week, and they will tell me what my options are for dates. It takes three to four weeks before they can see new clients.She said that this week they were just finishing scheduling the first week of February.

We will also be seeing an audiologist, to test his hearing. Although it is very obvious that he can hear- he responds to music as well as understands the meanings of words- there may be fluid in his ears causing the sounds to be muffled. If this is happening, then he may not be able to distinguish individual phonemes well enough to produce them properly. There could also be an issue with his inner ear, causing both the speech delay as well as his balance problems.

And finally, we will be seeing an occupational therapist for his hips. It is evident that there is something wrong with his hips, causing his feet to be turned in to an extreme. When he crawls, he lifts his knees up and out to the sides. I had never thought of this as anything more than his own quirky variation of crawling. There are hundreds of ways that kids crawl, so I never thought it was important to bring up to the pediatrician. And she, of course, has never seen him crawl (I don't let him on the floor at the doctor's office for fear of germs.) She had mentioned when we first started seeing her that his feet were turned because of his hips, and usually it would correct itself or could not be corrected until he got a little bigger.

And thus opens yet another chapter of specialists and doctors. I am extremely relieved that there are plans underway to help him. I firmly believe that the earlier we get him help in these areas, the easier they will be to get back on track.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snow Day Activity

This morning as I was bringing the dog back inside, I realized that it was a comfortable temperature. Cold, yes. But not the extreme cold that we've been experiencing. Just the right kind of cold to bundle up and build a snowman. I thought that I should bring Jonah out to play in the snow for a few minutes, and the realization hit me that Jonah has no snowsuit, or really any good clothes for playing in the snow. It had just been overlooked. No snowsuit, no boots... no snow play.

So instead of going outside to play in the snow, I brought a bit of the snow inside! I wasn't sure what Jonah's reaction would be to the snow, so for this first time I used just a small baking pan. In the future, I will probably use a larger sensory tub.

I filled the baking pan with snow from our back yard and placed it on the tile floor, with a towel underneath. For further mess management, I had a towel nearby ready for action.

At first, I just presented Jonah with the snow in the container, and encouraged him to put his hands into it and explore it. He enthusiastically reached into the container, and then waited a moment, and soon recoiled. I encouraged him to try again. I showed him how to "tickle" it with his fingers, and how to pick it up and crumble it. At each attempt, he would turn and crawl away as quickly as possible. It was clear that he did not enjoy the snow!In an attempt to save the activity that I had planned for the day, I gathered a few small toys to put into the snow, as well as some orange juice lids and a spoon that he could use to dig and scoop the snow. I sat down and started playing with the toys in the snow, and eventually he came to see what I was doing. He decided to give the snow a second chance, and he actually seemed to enjoy it with his figures.
One of the things he did that I thought was interesting, is he used his figures to poke holes into the snow. He's been really interested in poking holes into things. When we play with playdough, he uses the "tools" to poke holes as well.I showed him how to use the spoon to scoop the snow into the lids. He tried, but his coordination is still off. He enjoyed digging through the snow with the spoon, as well as scooping it onto his pants!Jonah played with the snow for about a half an hour- until the snow turned to slush! This will definitely be an activity that we revisit during the days that are too cold to go outside!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


On Monday, my midwife wrote the orders for me to have a twenty week ultrasound. I was a little nervous about the timeline, because Thursday would be my 20 week mark. I wasn't sure how long in advance these need to be scheduled, but I was imagining at least a week or two, and we are leaving for Arizona at the end of this month. I was anticipating needing to wait until after the trip, and my concern was that they wouldn't be able to get the measurements needed at that point.

The first number that I called was for the office that my midwife recommended. My fingers were crossed that they would accept our insurance. The office is a stand-alone facility, not related to any hospital or doctor's practice. I knew they'd be less confrontational about a homebirther coming in for a scan than a hospital would. If my midwife has been sending her clients there, then they are obviously familiar with the scenario. It was a huge bonus that their scans are done in 3D. I have never had a 3D scan before, and I think they are on a fine line between really cool, and a little creepy. I have only ever seen the still shots taken from them, but I've heard that seeing them live, with the baby moving etc, it is truly an experience. I was hoping we'd be able to get in. But alas, they do not accept our insurance. To pay out of pocket would be more than we can afford right now, especially for something that our insurance would cover if we just have the scan done elsewhere.

So, I called the number on the back of my insurance card, and asked the representative where I could go to have the scan done. She was very nice and polite. She gave me two numbers- one that is near Daryl's office, and one that is near our home. It would be better for Daryl to go to the one near his office, so I called there first. I waited on hold for a few minutes, and was greeted by someone who sounded like they hadn't had their morning coffee yet. She promptly transferred me to a scheduling service. Whatever happened to offices scheduling their own appointments? The woman at the scheduling service transferred me to Toledo Hospital. This is the conversation that I had with the woman there:

Me: I need to schedule an ultrasound for a 20 week anatomy scan in pregnancy
Lady: Okay... are you calling for a patient?
Me:No, I am the patient.
Lady: Are you calling from a doctor's office?
Me: No, I'm calling from my home.
Lady: Who's your doctor?
Me: My general practitionor is Dr. ____ but I do not have an OB/GYN. I'm seeing a midwife.
Lady: Yes, but who is the DOCTOR.
Me: There isn't one
Lady: There *has* to be.
Me: No, I am seeing a certified nurse midwife. She has physicians who she consults, but no one oversees her.
Lady: You're saying that you only see this midwife and no doctor
Me (getting irritated): Yes ma'am, She is a certified nurse midwife and I have an order here from her for an ultrasound, and I'd like to schedule it because you are the only facility that accepts my insurance.
Lady: Well, we don't *accept* appointments made by the patient, they need to be made by a doctor, so I suggest you find a doctor at this point.

I am not sure if she was simply unfamiliar with the situation, but she came off as being extremely rude and condescending. After being transferred quite a few more times, and talking to a lot more people, I finally figured out that there is one hospital that would allow me to make an appointment and accepts our insurance. So much for "choice" eh? When I called that hospital, I was transferred BACK to the scheduling agency. The woman on the phone just laughed and says that it's usually a circular trip around the phone circuits. Yeah, funny for her, but I just wasted my entire morning while my one year old systematically removed all of the red ornaments off of the christmas tree, because I was stuck on the phone.

At any rate, I got the appointment, which is all that really matters. Not only did I get an appointment, but to my surprise they had an opening for the very next morning. It was very early, 7:30, but if I didn't take that slot then I would have had to wait well over a month to get in. I took it!

Everything looks just perfect with the baby. She is measuring a little small, but the tech said it's nothing to worry about, some babies are just small. Everything else was right on track for a 20 week fetus. She was curled up into a tight little ball, with her head facing down. This was a little inconvenient, but we were able to get all of the measurements and diagnostic shots that we needed. One thing that this position was good for, was getting a shot between the legs. If you haven't figured out from my pronouns yet, we are going to be blessed with a little girl!

Here are a few really crummy pictures. I don't have the patience to work with the scanner, so I took a picture of the pictures. Also, because of the position of the baby, it was really hard to get a good profile shot. This is what we got!

Friday, January 8, 2010

G Diapers: A First Impression

We have been looking for an alternative to disposable diapers for our trip to Arizona. I do believe that there is a time and a place for everything in this world, including disposable diapers. Vacations that include a plane trip are one of them. Carrying cloth diapers on a plane is not impossible, but it is more of an inconvenience. Not to mention, part of the vacation would be spent doing diaper laundry at some point. We have attempted to travel with our cloth before, and it was just too much of a hassle to worry about.

We started to use Seventh Generation chlorine free diapers for traveling. These are a little better than other disposables, as far as the amounts of chemicals and perfumes. But there is still the guilt of putting them into the landfills. Even though the package says they are biodegradable, I've heard that it can still take 500 years for them to break down.

Elimination communication (EC) is a good alternative to use when we are at home, or visiting family where we have few distractions, and where Jonah is comfortable, but it isn't 100% reliable. Especially when we are out in public, or when we are in an unfamiliar setting.

I finally decided to cave into the trend. We would try G Diapers for this trip. We haven't tried them yet, because my first thoughts about them when they came out were "what's the point?" They are basically a cloth cover, with a disposable inside. It seemed like a more expensive alternative that yielded the same results. As an alternative to cloth, I still feel the same way. I would rather use a cloth insert with a cloth cover. Period.

As an alternative to disposables, there is still little difference. Whether you flush them or toss them, these disposable inserts are still put into our system of waste removal. They are still out there, floating in our sea of trash alongside other disposable diapers. And as a bonus, you still have to do laundry, to wash the covers. One big difference in your options of disposal, however, is that these liners are compostable. You can take the liners (only the wet ones- the poopy ones still need to be flushed or tossed, after you put the poop in the potty of course!) and put them into your compost pile, and they will break back down into the soil. That's a very cool option for us, once we find our own house so that we can have a compost bin.

There's also the thought that they still take energy and cause pollution just from the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping process. With cloth diapers, this effect only happens once with each batch of diapers that parents buy, because it can be used over and over and over again. With any kind of disposable item, the parents are buying the products repeatedly- once or twice a week! That really adds up.

But they are still desirable to us over disposables. First of all, they are the same cost as the brand that we were buying. The covers added a bit more onto the cost, but because we bought the startup kit on clearance, we were able to get four covers along with the liners for just $4 more than the brand of disposables that we would hae bought. That's $1 per cover! And since Jonah is sizing up in his covers anyway, we were ready to buy new covers. These can be used with our cloth as well, so I think the extra cost of the covers is negligable for us at this time.

The covers themselves are a nice feature. The whole cover is a cotton fabric. The PUL liner (which makes it waterproof) snaps in, and kind of acts as a hamock for the disposable liner to sit in. The elastic is also cloth. No where, in this cover design, does the synthetic PUL fabric touch my son's bottom. This is very different from our other cloth covers, and quite frankly I really like it.

Also, the liners don't contain any plastics or perfumes. So we are relatively guilt free of putting these next to our baby's most sensitive parts. If we are in a situation where we would be using disposable diapers anyway, I would much rather use these.

Of course, before I put my faith into these diapers and trust them to keep my son (and my lap) dry during our plane ride to Arizona, we are giving them a test run. We are trying them out as I type, and I will be updating on how well they work for us.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Update on Baby Bean

Today, we had our second prenatal midwife's appointment. I was reluctant to go. The snow coming down on top of our freshly shoveled driveway was enough to keep us home from music class this morning, so I was not looking forward to making the drive into Michigan in the afternoon.

I was already running late when I went to clear the snow off of the car. Luckily since it had all fallen this morning, it was super light and easy to push off. My mother in law had agreed to watch Jonah during his nap time, so all I had to do was give Jonah his lunch and have him ready to go down for his nap. Of course my mother in law was running late in getting home. You'd think that I'd learn to tell her a time that is fifteen minutes earlier than when I truly need her.

In the end, I was only four minutes late to the appointment, and the midwife didn't seem to care at all. This is one very nice thing about seeing a homebirthing midwife rather than an OBGYN at a doctor's office. Their schedules aren't as strict. They don't have a line of patients or clients waiting to be seen, nor do they have an agenda for how each appointment needs to be run. I really enjoy this flexibility. Not only am I more calm and relaxed, but I also get the answers that I need. With Jonah's pregnancy, my OB never left time for any questions. I would get to the office about fifteen minutes early, and almost always would be seen a half hour late, and by that time the office was so behind schedule that I practically felt pushed out the door after my blood pressure was taken. I am sure that there are some medical professionals out there who do not treat their patients like this, but that was my experience. Working with a midwife is quite a contrast to that environment!

Everything looked fine with me and Baby. Everything, that is, except of course my blood pressure. My blood pressure during pregnancy is a bit of a concern for me, because in the last trimester with Jonah it was pretty high when compared to my normal blood pressure. I started to swell up, to the point where I was wearing Daryl's flip flops to work because it was the only shoe that would fit my feet. I eventually had to go on bedrest for the end of the pregnancy, and pre-eclampsia was the reason listed for the administering of cervadil while I was in the hospital to have my blood pressure monitored. So here we are, halfway through this pregnancy and my midwife got a very concerned look on her face after taking my blood pressure. Oh great, was all I could think. It turned out to be the opposite. My blood pressure was low. I guess it is true that every pregnancy is different! My normal blood pressure is usually around 110/70. It's pretty consistent when I go for normal phsyicals, and even during the whole first part of Jonah's pregnancy. Today it was 90/52. This explains the dizzy spells and the passing out at work (which ultimately led to my quitting) as well as my insatiable cravings for salt. The midwife prescribed adding more fluids to my daily intake, and she gave me permission to have a little salt on my potatoes if it's what I'm craving.

The baby's heart rate was in the upper 150's, and everything is measuring fine as far as my uterus goes. Although I feel much bigger than I think I should be right now, everything is perfectly in place. Baby had hiccups while we were listening to the heartbeat, which I thought was incredibly adorable.

Finally, I got the paperwork to schedule my ultrasound. Again, this is a huge difference from my experience with Jonah. Although it is a little more work to schedule things like this on my own, it is also nice to be taking more of an active role in how my pregnancy is managed. I actually get to choose where to have my ultrasound. As long as my insurance pays for it. Well, I suppose that I could pay out of pocket too, if I really wanted to go someplace that wasn't covered by them. I could even choose not to have the ultrasound, and that would be okay, as long as there are no complications that would require us to peek in. Daryl and I did opt to have the anatomy scan, because it is important to me to visually see that everything is okay in there. I've had loss before, and even this far along things cook up in my head that make me flat out worry.

But the bottom line, we had a choice. When I was a preschool teacher, there was a huge emphasis on giving the children choices in order to make them feel more empowered in their lives. The idea was that it would give them confidence and self worth. It baffles me that when a woman needs the most confidence, empowerment, and feelings of self worth- when she is preparing to deliver a baby- all of her choices are narrowed down to the point that she really has no choice. I think that giving choice back to women in how their pregnancies are managed, would really change the perception that women have about childbirth.

Tools to Help His Grasp

One of the things that I am working on with Jonah is his ability to scribble or make marks with crayons. This is something that the doctor and the woman from Early Interventions is concerned about, as am I. His ability to grasp and use any kind of utensil effectively (spoons, drumsticks, crayons etc) is decidedly lagging. There are a lot of different products that claim to help toddlers with this, and I thought I'd review a couple of them.

Regular crayons and markers don't work very well with Jonah. He holds them sideways and it's very hard for him to make a mark on the paper with them. I bought him some different products made by Crayola that are designed to "fit into a child's first palm grasp." I like Crayola products, because they are generally good quality, and they guarantee that all of their products are non-toxic and washable. I do not get anything from Crayola for saying that I like their products, it is the honest to gosh truth that for our art projects, I typically will buy Crayola.

The first things that I tried were Crayola's tadoodles crayons and markers. These are plastic holders that are rounded on one end, and have a marker or crayon tip on the other end. They are somewhat egg-shaped. The idea of them is that the young child will grasp the rounded end of the crayon or marker in his palm, and will be able to scribble with it while using the kind of grasp that comes naturally to this age group.

The problem with these is that the bottoms are weighted. The side that the child is supposed to grasp, is always on the bottom, facing the table, and the marker or crayon tip is always pointing upwards. Jonah can't correctly grasp the utensils himself. I have to turn it the correct direction and hand it to him. This is especially a nuisance with the marker version. When he does try to pick them up, he gets marker all over his hands and when I try to hand them to him I get marker all over mine. Another downside of the markers is that they are made to look like little animals. The animals are cute, but they have big eyes and big ears. The marker tip is shorter than the eyes and ears on the animals. Even when Jonah is grasping them the correct way, it is difficult for him to make marks on the paper. The other parts of the animal usually get in the way, and he ends up scribbling with the frog's eye instead of the green marker tip.

In his stocking for Christmas, I had put some triangular markers. These are supposed to be easier to grasp than traditional markers or crayons, becuase the flat sides give the child a bigger grip.

While Jonah definitely had an easier time scribbling with these than he did the Tadoodles, they were still very messy. The marker tips on these are also flat, and there are no caps, just as the Tadoodles. You have to press the markers down in order to "activate" them. This sounds like a pretty good idea. No caps to create a choking hazzard or to get lost, and the flat tips are less enticing for little ones to put into their mouths. The amount of dye that comes out of the tips once it is activated though, is way too much. We might as well have put paint on the paper and let him smear it around, because that is basically what these markers did. When he would make marks on the paper, if he touched it or tried to mark with another marker, the dye would smear all over his hands and arms. On the few occasions that he did get curious and want to touch the marker tips and put them in his mouth (as toddlers often do with art supplies) the mess was incredible! And this is coming from a mother who frequently lets her child body paint!

Despite the mess, Jonah had fun, and I do have to say that Crayola came through on their product being washable in this case. Every smudge and smear wiped up with plain water, both on the counter as well as on Jonah. He was able to mark on his paper with these utensils better than any other that we've tried. I think I will probably try the jumbo triangular crayons next, and hopefully they won't be so messy. I had originally thought that the markers were crayons when I bought them for his stocking, but I hadn't read the box well enough. When I got them home and noticed that they were markers, I decided to give them a try anyway just to see how well Jonah would handle them.
Most of the marks that you see on the paper in these pictures were made by me, to demonstrate to Jonah how to make the marks on the paper. I was very pleased though that during this art time, I was able to get him to make both dots as well as scribbled lines on the paper. You can see in the pictures that he is now trying to follow my demonstration in grasping the utensil and putting it to the paper, which is much better than previous attempts! We are hoping that practicing scribbling like this will help him in other areas that require similar fine motor skills. We aren't expecting him to pick up the markers and create detailed pictures, but are just looking for fun ways to practice the same skills that he needs in other areas of his development.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ringing in the New Year, by Ringing Out the Cloth

Since Jonah's staph infection cropped up a few months ago, he has not been using his cloth diapers. We unknowingly contaminated all of his diapers with the infectious bacteria, before we even knew that he had a staph infection. He got the infection from wearing Luvs diapers while on vacation, in a pinch. I tried disinfecting the diapers with everything I could think of- first the natural remedies: Tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and vinegar. Then the less natural remedies, but still "diaper safe," such as borax. Finally, after none of these got the bacteria out (as was proved by the infected rash cropping back up on Jonah's bum) I took drastic measures and soaked them in bleach. Yes, big "no-no" I know, but I was SOOO desperate to get rid of this infection! It didn't work.

Someone told me about a natural cleaning product called Bac-out, made by Bio Kleen. It is labeled as a stain remover and odor eliminator, but the way that it removes stains and odors is by killing the bacteria that causes them. After reading tons of reviews on this stuff, all of which claimed bac-out worked miracles on cloth diapers, I ordered some. Because of the holiday season, the delivery took a while and my box arrived on December 30th. So, on New Years Eve, I carried out my plan for a last ditch effort on salvaging my precious cloth.

I found a large bucket, into which I poured a cup of bac-out and two pots of boiling water. I added my diapers and let them soak for about a half hour. I had to work in small batches, because of the size of the bucket as well as the amount of water that I was able to boil at once. After each batch of diapers was soaked, they went into the washer. Once I had enough soaked diapers for a load, the diapers were washed as usual, with Tiny Bubbles detergent, and for security's sake, I added quite a bit of tea tree oil to the rinse. I ended up doing two loads of diaper laundry this way, washing each load four times each in the washer. As the ball was dropping at midnight, I was just finishing up our diaper laundry.

The results remain to be seen. Jonah is in his cloth once again today. We are all very happy to have the cloth diapers back. I am feeling less guilty about the amount of waste we are throwing into the landfill, Daryl is happy to not need to buy diapers this week, and Jonah genuinely seems more comfortable in his cloth. When I put the first diaper on him this morning, he got this funny grin on his face, and then did this cute little tush wiggle. He was always pulling at the disposables, and seemed uncomfortable in them, as if they itched him or just felt bad on his skin. I'm also hoping that our elimination communication will be set back on track with the cloth diapers. We have been having some setbacks recently which I think were caused by the disposables.

The only conclusion that I can make as of now, about the bac-out, is that it made the diapers smell amazing once they were cleaned. It has a very pleasant lime scent (the main ingredient is lime extract.) I have the feeling that this will become one of my main cleaning staples in our household. Both for diapers and for general cleaning usage!

We will know in a couple of days if the staph infection is out of the diapers. I really wish that we had another way to tell besides just putting the diapers on Jonah's bum and hoping that the terrible rash stays away! We will be using g-diapers rather than completely disposable diapers for our upcoming trip to Arizona, as well as if we find that our diapers were not completely disinfected from the staph infection!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Morning: The Big Dissappointment

I was really excited for this year's Christmas morning to come around. On Christmas Eve, I dutifully wrapped presents and stuffed stockings. We went out to eat a special Christmas Eve dinner with Daryl's family, and got home just in time for Jonah's bedtime. He posed for a few pictures in his spiffy new Christmas PJ's, I read to him How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and tucked him in bed. I know that he's only one, but Jonah is old enough to understand when he is getting new toys, and when there is something special happening. I was really excited to see him open up his gifts in the morning.

Daryl and I decided before we even had children, that our Christmas gifts would be relatively low-key. A stocking, and one or two really nice gifts that the children will appreciate. We're hoping that this will take some of the commercialism out of the gift-getting process, and teach our children to accept gifts graciously and with appreciation. So while Jonah didn't have a ton of things to open (from us- the grandparents are a different story!) I was still excited to see him dig into his stocking and tear into the wrapping paper. This year, Jonah is old enough to understand opening gifts, and one of his favorite things to do is to take stuff out of bags and containers. I made opening his stocking into a little game. Some of the stocking items were wrapped, but the idea was for him to pull everything out and put it back in. We play this game ALL the time with other containers. I thought it would be a big hit.

Well, Christmas morning arrived, and Jonah was up with the sun. Thank goodness for us, Jonah is still young enough that Daddy and Mommy have a chance to make coffee before Christmas begins! In our living room, I had placed both Jonah's stocking and the dog's stocking. Yes, we give the dog a stocking, but it is just a small one with some special doggie treats and a new toy. We set the boys loose in the living room, encouraging them to explore the stockings in the middle of the room. "What's this over here?" We asked Jonah. "This bright red thing! This wasn't here last night! What's in there?" Paddington the dog tore into his. It was a frenzy of squeaks and wrapping paper, and then the little fur ball ran off with his freshly unwrapped new toy. Jonah on the other hand, did not want to look at his stocking. He promptly crawled to his toy box, and chose one of his old shaker bottles to play with.

"Jonah! Mommy has a sack, and there's stuff in here!!!" I demonstrated the game that I had planned out so well- taking items out of the stocking with great emphasis, and putting them back in. "Jonah! Come play 'take it out' with Mommy!" Nope. Jonah did not want to play with Mommy. We took the stocking over to him. He touched the fuzzy top and giggled, then went back to the shaker bottle. Daryl held it up and pulled the top item out halfway. Yogurt melts. The ultimate treat for Jonah! Okay, so that got his attention. He pulled the yogurt melts out of the bag and clung to them. We tried to entice him with the other items. Boats for the tub? Nope! New crayola markers? Nah. Small books? Nada. Nothing but the sugary treats would interest this child.

So Daryl decided to see if he would open up his "big" gift from Mommy and Daddy. We were really excited to see him play with this toy. It is a Fisherprice Colorflash Laptop. The box says that it is for children age 3 and up, but we read the reviews and a lot of people said that their one year old just loved it. There are no small parts for him to choke on, and all he has to do is push the keys to get the screen to light up and play music. We chose this for him because Jonah loves our laptops. He loves to push the keys. He also loves to take the keys off. My keyboard is currently missing a fully functional " and E key because he has taken them of. They work if I hit them hard enough repeatedly, but we wanted to find something that he could play with the keys, and not be able to destroy anything. This little laptop has keys that he can push, and get results from pushing them, but he cannot break it! Perfect!

So Daryl sat with Jonah in his lap, holding the big silver box. He showed Jonah where the paper would tear. Jonah pushed it off his lap, and squirmed away, again to play with his old toys. Eventually, Daryl did convince him that what was in the silver package was more interesting than the yogurt melts.
In the end, Daryl and I ended up opening Jonah's presents that day. He played with a few of the books, and his new shapes puzzle, while we were opening the other gifts. But in general, Jonah was not interested in anything that anyone had to offer him, until our guests left. The day after Christmas was much more enjoyable for him. He sat and explored all of his new books and toys. I am not sure if Jonah was just overwhelmed by the chaos of the morning, especially when we went upstairs to join the rest of Daryl's family, or if he just needed to be given a little time to get used to the idea of these new items. I'm thinking that everyone, including me and Daryl, had too high of expectations for the morning.