Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baby Sign of the Week: AIRPLANE!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What We're Reading: Tails

TailsI stumbled upon one of Nate's absolute favorite daytime reads at BuyBuy Baby a few months ago - Tails by Matthew Van Fleet. It is a wonderfully interactive board book. It has a little something for everyone - different textured tails, flaps to open, big thick slide-out panels, tails that actual wag via sturdy pull tabs, tons of animals. There is even a scratch and sniff tail. (If that isn't a softball for the comments section, I don't know what is.) 

I have to be honest and tell you that both foxes have lost their waggable tails and the pig is left swatting flies with a stump (all signs of love!). A little scotch tape should make them all like new. Not to worry - I've saved all the amputated tails in neat little pile for when I finally remember to buy the tape.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby - The Basics

I knew I wanted to use American Sign Language (ASL) with my baby before I was even pregnant. I don't know where I first heard of using it with babies, but something about sign language has always appealed to me. It may have to do with all of the fantastic work that's done with primates (I was an anthropology major in undergrad) or the fact that my girlfriend and I would pretend we were deaf at clubs in college to get ugly guys to leave us alone (our interpreter would explain that we danced by feeling the bass). So when Nate came along, I jumped at the chance to find out more about signing.

My primary goal in using sign language with Nate is to enable him to be able to communicate with us before he's able to speak. Not only is it cool, but it's supposed to minimize frustration and promote bonding. That's enough for me, but I also discovered that there are a ton of other benefits. Hearing babies who sign tend to have much bigger vocabularies, higher IQs, develop both sides of their brain at a higher rate and do better at reading and spelling.

How do you sign with your baby? Well, basically, it's a way of incorporating signs into your conversations with your baby. You can use just a few signs (or hundreds) and if you are consistent your baby will eventually be able to communicate with you by signing back to you before they are able to speak. Make sure you always say the word while you are signing it, because you want your baby to connect the spoken word to the sign and the meaning. Here are some examples  - you can sign MILK (squeeze your first like you're milking a cow) as you're nursing or giving him a bottle and say "don't you like your milk?"; sign MORE (tap your finger tips together) after you've given her some food and ask her if she would like some more; when he looks up at that ceiling fan you can say "yes that's a FAN" while making the sign (point your finger up and move it in a circle). Here's a picture of Nate signing FAN:

There are tons of books, websites and classes devoted to teaching you how to sign with your baby. I started with Nate when he was four months, (but you can start much later and still get all the benefits) using Baby Signing 1-2-3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age. I also went to the free classes at the library. 

Once your baby starts signing back, it is absolutely amazing. As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), Nate made his first sign MORE at 10 months. He can now tell me when he wants more of something, but he also uses it as a general "I want  that" statement. It is much more preferable to grunting and pointing (although there is plenty of that too). Shortly after, he started signing FAN, which was not surprising since he has been obsessed with the ceiling fans all of his life. He has now added WASHING MACHINE (click here for the sign) of all things to his regular repertoire and HAT (pat your head twice). Occasionally he'll sign other things when he sees me do it, but they haven't made it as regulars yet.

The drawbacks? Well contrary to popular belief, it won't take your baby longer to talk (as long as you always speak while signing). You may, however, have to explain 50 to 60 times a day that yes, the washing machine is over there, but no, Mommy is not doing any laundry today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Snack on the Go: Baby Mum Mum

Hot Kid Baby Mum-Mum Original Rice Rusk, 24-Count Rusks (Pack of 6)Now that Nate has a somewhat stable nap schedule that doesn't include the stroller, I like to make the most of those windows in between naps and get out of the house. This often means eating and/or snacking on the go. At ten and a half months, Nate is now facing forward in the big boy stroller and I feel limited in what I can give him when I'm not doling it out piece by piece. He's not at the point where I can give him a cup of cheerios and stroll about the neighborhood. So the ideal snack is something he can hold and munch. If we arrive where we're going without looking like a pie was thrown in his face, even better. While I like the Earth's Best Organic Teething Biscuits (Nate loves the wheat ones), they get everywhere and the mush dries into a caked on mess pretty quickly. So I was so pleased when my friend turned me onto Organic Baby Mum-Mum Rice Rusks.  They melt in the mouth, so I'm not so worried about choking and they're fun to eat. They come in packs of two and Nate always signs for MORE after he eats the first one. Truth be told, my husband thinks they are disgusting (my friend and I disagree and think they're fun to eat), but Nate likes them and that's all that matters, isn't it?  We've only had the original flavor, but I'm keeping my eye out the other flavors, like Banana & Rice.

We need more options though! What's your child's favorite snack on the go? 

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Favorite Conditioner: Renpure Organics

Renpure Organics Conditioner Moisturizing 13.5 oz.Since I am fairly new to the non-toxic game, I am not up to the point where I can determine the safety of a product by reading the ingredients on the bottle. So, I apologize if my new favorite conditioner has some icky ingredient that will give your baby boy man boobs or something. But if we judge on packaging (I'm a sucker for great packaging) and smell, then Renpure Organics has a fantastic product! According to the label, there are no sulfates, parabens, colors or dyes - and since my beauty routine is sloooowly being remade - this sounds good enough for me. It works well on my former mom hair - turned afro in this heat 'do. And as a bonus, the bottle I bought comes with a rebate for the full purchase price. Which would be a great thing if I could find what I did with that receipt...

What's your favorite "safer" beauty product?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Yellow

The good news: Nate went back to sleep after only a half hour of napping. The bad news: the hot weather is doing weird things to the Huggies tabs and his diaper is now only half on. Also? The waterproof pad that is usually on his mattress is in the dryer after an ugly worked-himself-up-so-much-at-bedtime-he-vomited-episode the other night. As Clubber Lang might say - Prediction: PEE. All over.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What We're Reading: Pajama Time!

Pajama Time!Move over Miss Spider. Nate has a new bedtime favorite: Sandra Boynton's Pajama Time! Boynton's books are quick, silly and full of animals, which is why they have become a favorite in our home. Pajama Time! isn't even one of the best in my opinion, but Nate seems to really like the Dr. Seuss-ish rhythm ("some are pink, some are green, some are the ugliest you've ever seen") and my accompanying OINK whenever a pig pops up (which is often). Nate also really enjoys  Night-Night, Little Pookie, which is only pigs, pretty cute and certainly bedtime appropriate. My Boynton pick would have to go to Blue Hat, Green Hat, as I get to make a fantastic gobble gobble noise (that crazy turkey keeps putting his clothes on all wrong!) on every page, which always makes Nate laugh.  And that is a priceless sound.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit: Eden Organic's BPA Free Cans

Eden Organic Black Beans, 15-Ounce Unit (Pack of 12)I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Bisphenol A (BPA) until I told my sister I was going shopping for teethers for Nate when he was about 3 or 4 months old. She casually mentioned that I needed to make sure that the ones I got were BPA free. Since I didn't know anything about BPA, I went to the computer. When I did a little internet research, I discovered that BPA was a chemical of concern for so many with children because it is believed to effect "the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children" (see National Toxicology Program Findings) as well as cause a number of other significant health problems (see EWG Report from 2007). The FDA had long maintained that BPA was perfectly safe, but earlier this year finally announced it had some concern regarding the chemical (see Safe Mama's coverage of FDA turn around). So it makes sense for my family to try to avoid it when possible and pick safer alternatives.

The frustrating thing about BPA (and part of the concern) is that it is so widespread - in the lining of most cans, in the lids of jars, in plastic polycarbonate containers, even in toilet paper!  So I try to make sure that anything that goes into Nate's mouth is BPA free, in particular the food he eats. It was easier when the only solids he was eating were fruits and veggies. But now that he's onto proteins and finger foods, it's more of a challenge, as I've mentioned before. Nate won't eat any of the meat I have offered him, but luckily he does seem to like beans. I went out and bought all different kinds of the dried beans in bags, but I haven't been able to make it past the buying stage to the rinsing, sorting, soaking overnight and then cooking stage (too much work!). Which was why I am so excited to finally get my hands on canned beans from Eden Organic. According to their label all of their cans are made without BPA in the lining. They're a little more expensive and harder to find (I've only seem them at Whole Foods so far), but the piece of mind is worth it to me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mom Hair

Hello, my name is Amber and I have been haunted by my mom hair. It all started when weeks (or months) ago I was watching the Today Show and they had a piece on "Mom Hair." They kept flashing that teaser promo...DO YOU HAVE MOM HAIR??? To tell you the truth, I don't even remember the content of the story (which I made sure to see after 45 minutes of teasers, news and other stories), but since then I have not been able to get that term out of my head. Mom hair. Because I knew. I knew without seeing the piece that I had it. Nate has been a hair puller for as long as I can remember. As a result, I have been wearing my hair up for as long as I can remember. A quick review of my pictures shows that by the time Nate was three months old I was regularly wearing my hair up in a a ponytail or clip:

Now I have had shorter hair most of my adult life. But my thought was that I could let it grow out and on occasion actually style it and get back a bit of sex appeal lost from birthing that baby. So as the weeks have turned into my months, my hair has gotten longer and longer and more unruly. I mean look at it here, it won't even fit into my clip!


So today I decided enough was enough. My BFF reminded me that before Nate was born I had feared I would turn into one of those moms who let themselves go completely. Well I manage to shower and put on some makeup most days, and since I take Nate out everyday I get dressed at some point. Sure, I no longer get those regular mani/pedis but I need to be able to walk outside my home without the shame of MOM HAIR. So I walked into a nearby salon and had her chop it. AHHHHH....Sigh of relief. I didn't have her dry and style save time and money. But I think I already love it. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Now I can turn my attention to equally pressing issues like World Peace.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Food Thief

It's the end of the week and we have no food in the house. I've resorted to eating Nate's baby crackers while he naps. It feels wrong, but they're quite good and there is something satifsying about biting off Big Bird's beak. If he keeps sleeping, I might attack his puffs next...

Anyone else stealing baby food?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Three Safer Sunscreens Tried: Episencial Sunny Sunscreen Wins

As part of my efforts to overhaul the products we use, I did a lot of research before buying the first sunscreen our baby would wear. I ended up purchasing three over the past couple of months: California Baby SPF 30 +, Burt's Bees Sunscreen SPF 30, and Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35. California Baby and Episencial scored well in the Environmental Working Group sunscreen guide, but Burt's Bees was rated a "4" putting it in the middle "caution" category.

At first California Baby seemed pretty thick, which I hear is normal for safer sunscreens. But I've gotten used to it, and I kind of like slathering the thick lotion on Nate, because it just feels like it will work. I've used about 3/4 of the tube and although we haven't been hanging out at the beach for hours, I think it works well. It has a bit of a metallic sheen too, which makes it easy to see where you have already applied it.

Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35 - 4 oz.For all of my research, Burt's Bees was more of an impulse buy and is definitely my least favorite due to the toothpaste consistency and super gross, dry feeling it leaves on your hands. I think I used it once. Episencial is my newest purchase, and so far I give it two thumbs up. You get more for your money and it goes on very smooth. It's far more liquidy than the California Baby and seems to protect just as well.
Oh, and I should also share that I got the Badger SPF 15 Sunblock Lip Balm. I thought it would go on more like chapstick, so I am extremely glad I happened to check the mirror before I took Nate out for a stroll. I looked like I had put white lipstick on. Super hot.

7/13/10 Update: After using almost the entire bottle of Episencial Sunny Suncreen, it is definitely my favorite as far as consistency, price and protection goes!

6/8/11 Update: Episencial is still my favorite, by far. Episencial, California Baby and Badger all made EWG's Best Beach & Sport Sunscreen list for 2011. I also discovered Badger SPF 15 Sunscreen Lip Balm Stick  doesn't leave you with white lips and goes on smoothly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Newborn Supply List

I  have some close girlfriends that are expecting for the first time. Everyone fancies themselves an expert once they've had a baby. So with my girlfriends in mind, here is my non-expert "expert" opinion of some random things that are good to already have on hand once you come home from the hospital:

For Baby
  • gauze and A&D ointment (for circumsized boys, but can be used for diaper cream if you have a girl!)
  • cotton balls & rubbing alcohol (to clean the umbilical cord stump)
  • thermometer and appropriate lube (my rectal thermometer says only to use a water based lube)
  • small multi use pads, like the smaller version of these Babies R Us multi-use pads (I used them to line the changing pad cover because Nate liked to have a fecal explosion everyday for the first 4 months)
  • different types of BPA FREE pacifiers (babies will take to one kind but not another) -  this one has always intrigued me, but I never tried it. Nate never actually took to any really well.
  • laundry hamper (you won't believe the amount of laundry you will go through)
  • 2 covers for your changing pad, so you'll always have a clean one
  • baby nail scissors (their little fingernails are like razors, and I could never use the clippers without cutting Nate's skin)
  • mitts (to cover above mentioned Freddy Kruger hands)
  • dry wipes (this is more optional - I got used to them in the hospital and when you first get home the baby seems too pure to use real baby wipes on  - you just wet the wipes with water)
  • lots of soft washclothes (good for so many things: drying their butt after you wipe them, covering the penis so you don't get peed on, cleaning up spit up, sponge baths)
  • soap (I orginally used the Johnson & Johnson's, but would now advise against that. Nate had mild eczema and our pediatrician said J&J actually makes babies prone to eczema. We switched to Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Baby Shampoo & Body Wash, which I absolutely love, but it's expensive. All traces of the eczema are gone. Our Dr. recommended plain white Dove or Ivory bar soap.)

For Mom

Bigger Things/For the Home
  • bouncy seat AND swing (I thought I wouldn't need both in our small home, but I did. They are life savers when you have tried everything and you just want the baby to SLEEP!)
  • rechargeable batteries (you will spend hundreds of dollars on C & D batteries if you don't go rechargeable - totally worth the investment)
  • diaper pail (I really like my Diaper Genie II Elite Pail System)
  • thick blanket for tummy time on the floor
  • Natural Hand Sanitizer (I was a huge germaphope in the beginning, and it's easier to have a bottle of sanitizer in every room than to make everyone keep washing their hands. But I've read that there are some dangers with certain sanitizer ingredients. I really like BabyGanics Alchohol Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer, and  Cleanwell Natural Hand Sanitzer has received good reviews.
  • Stain remover (I wish I could recommend a less toxic option, but I use Zout, which works really well on poop and baby food. Unfortunately, I found BabyGanics Stain, Stain, Go Away Stain & Odor Remover to be a waste of time & money.)
  • Fragrance free laundry detergent (I like Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent) 
  • Baby carrier (I'm a big fan of babywearing and all of the benefits that come with it. Whether you plan to "wear" your baby or not, I think most moms find themselves holding the baby a ton in the beginning, and it's really great to have free hands to get things done around the house...or maybe even feed/take care of yourself (!).  I know a lot of people like the baby slings, but if you get one, you have to be very careful because there have been infant deaths associated with the use of slings. I liked my standard BABYBJĂ–RN Baby Carrier , but I always wanted the Ergo Baby Carrier , which is supposed to be so comfortable on the back and even comes in an organic option. I also liked my Moby Wrap , but it's not for everyone. You have a lot of options for positions, but it can be complicated learning how to wrap it properly. Also might be too much fabric for a mom of shorter stature.
  • mobile (I bought two fancy ones, but Nate always loved the simple one that came with the pack n' play - just three boring bears and a wind up version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

Resources (I'm a big fan of books, but remember to take everything you read with a grain of salt - info can get outdated quickly, may not be right for your family, or can just be plain old stupid)

Everyone's different, but these are the things that really helped me out. Hey, expert parents - anything to add to the list?

Find eco-friendly and organic items for newborns at Nubius Organics!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What We're Reading: Miss Spider

Miss Spider's Tea Party: The Counting BookWe read to Nate before every nap and bedtime, and plenty in between as well. I'm thrilled that so far we have imparted (brainwashed?) our love of reading onto Nate. But lately, Mr. Opinionated will only accept one story before bedtime: Miss Spider's Tea Party: The Counting Book. Poor Miss Spider just wants some friends to come over for tea, but none of the other bugs want to risk being lunch. The pictures are vivid and gorgeous and the story timeless (don't judge a book by its cover). This is an abridged board book version of Miss Spider's Tea Party, which I find more fun to read to my 3 1/2 yr old nephew, since he's less likely to want to rip the book apart and eat it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Dear Nathaniel,

You're 10 months old now! The entire world has changed for you in the last month. You can now sit up on your own  (using an adorable backing up manuever), you can pull yourself up to standing (which you do compulsively, no matter how tired you are), and you can communicate in a whole host of new ways - more on that in a minute. Your father and I can't get enough of you. You are adorable - although sometimes that can be difficult to see when you are arching your back and throwing a temper tantrum - and already have a wonderful sense of humor. It's so fun to see your personality take shape as you grow into the child you are becoming.

After 6 months of consistently using ASL, you have finally started to sign back! This opens up a whole world of communication between us, and I couldn't be more excited. A couple of weeks ago, we were driving upstate to see your grandparents, and I was feeding you some puffs to tide you over before lunch. And right before my eyes, you put your little hands together and signaled for MORE! MORE puffs! Since then you have expanded your use of "more" beyond food - to include requests for MORE books, MORE airplanes in the sky, MORE "Da Da" ....everything is MORE MORE MORE. You also use "more" when you want something different, as in "more something else." Using "more" along with finger pointing, grunting and shaking your head "no" really lets me know what you want. I can't always give it to you (enter temper tantrum), but it's fantastic that you can tell me. Your other consistent sign is "FAN" - no surprise since the ceiling fans in the house were your first love. So basically everything in the house is either MORE, FAN or "Da Da." You love your Da Da!

As I mentioned before, I already see your sense of humor emerging. You think it's quite funny to fake cough, belly buttons amuse you, and funny faces continue to make you giggle. And of course, a well timed funny face within a game of peek a boo can be quite hilarious. Unfortunately, the one thing you did not find amusing was when Da Da put you in the giant cardboard box.

I can't wait to see what you do next, Nate. Let's hope it includes taking long naps. Where DID those naps of yours go? Too much going on your world to nap, I suppose.
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