Saturday, July 31, 2010

Repurpose Project Number One: DIY Clove and Orange Hand Soap

As I've mentioned many times, I am trying to replace our icky toxic products with safer ones. I've banished anti-bacterial hand soap from the house, but I'm sure there are still plenty of gross ingredients in our cheapo store brand. Months back, I saw a post at Safe Mama about how to make your own hand soap, and I have been itching to try it every since. I am really a lazy person at heart - not at all a "Do It Yourself-er" - but something about this called out to me. Maybe it is because I wash my hands a billion times a day and refilling that pump gets expensive. Maybe it's my inner Jan Levinson (no longer Gould) - wanting to concoct delicious smelling things. Soap is so much easier than candles. Where IS that Hunter CD?

If you are too lazy to click on the Safe Mama link above, here is the recipe provided for Lavender & Sweet Orange Hand Soap:
  • 6 ounces distilled or filtered water
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash, 5.3-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 3)1 Tsp – Tablespoon Lavender Castille Soap (you can adjust this amount to how much soapiness you prefer)
  • 8-10 drops of sweet orange essential oil
  • Shake gently, the end. (You’ll want to give the bottle a brief shake before each use to remix the oils evenly… nothing crazy just a one, two shake will do it)
You need a foamer pump, so I took an empty bottle of Earth Mama Angel Baby Angel Shampoo (I just bought a new bottle) and added my ingredients.

Dr. Bronner - Organic Castile Soap Unscented Baby-Mild, 32 fl oz liquid Instead of the Lavender Castille Soap, I used  Dr. Bronner - Organic Castile Soap Unscented Baby-Mild and I added Clove Essential Oil and Sweet Orange Pure Essential Oil. It's probably more of a fall scent than a summer one, but I think it smells DELICIOUS. In fact, I keep taking breaks to sniff my palm as I right this. (Please take a moment to picture this. Do I look creepy? Then you're imagining it correctly. )


Friday, July 30, 2010

Non-toxic Toys for Toddlers: iPlay Nest and Stack Buckets

Nest and Stack BucketsNate's FIRST birthday is less than two weeks away, so I've been doing some toy research for the occasion. Nate loves to put small objects into bigger ones and bang things together, so I've had my eye on iPlay's Nest and Stack Buckets for awhile. I was so excited to find that they were included on a list (from The Soft Landing) of iPlay toys that are BPA, PVC and phthalate-free. I also checked them out on Good Guide where they scored a 10 for safety and were one of the highest overall scoring stacking toys. SOLD.

I ordered them with every intention of keeping the box sealed until his birthday. They were delivered and I lasted all of two hours before I broke them open. I have no will power. It seems that no matter how many toys we own, they get boring so fast! And we really haven't had many toy newcomers in awhile. So we needed some fresh (toy) blood.

I'm really happy with the collection. As the box says - it's like two toys in one. You can build a two foot tall tower from the nesting buckets AND you can turn the largest bucket into a shape sorter. Nate definitely likes the toy (his eyes lit up last time I brought it out), but I think it will be even better as he gets older. He's not up to the tower building stage or the shape sorter stage yet. Demolition though...he has that down. I build, he destroys. What a little boy. 

He also likes putting anything he can find into his new bucket. That's how I clean my floors now. I just sit Nate down with his bucket and goes to work picking up little bits of food and trash that have fallen on the ground. I'm working on a mop attachment to his diaper so he can really clean the kitchen floor.  It's never too early to begin chores, right?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little Pluot Eater

I bought pluots today. PLUOTS. I just like saying it. Try it, it's fun. Pluots. I had the nerve to try to cut one up for Nate. He would have none of that. He wanted the entire thing. I handed it over and he devoured it.
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Baby Sign of the Week: WASHING MACHINE

As I've mentioned before, Nate is quite enamored with the washing machine. We have to visit it at least a few times a day so that Nate can stand on it, touch it, look inside it and turn the knobs. It does not go over well when requests to see the washing machine are denied.

It is difficult to describe the sign for WASHING MACHINE using words, so check it out here in pictures. Here's Nate's version, which is a bit modified:

At least it gives me motivation to actually do a load of wash.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ferber Round Two Update

We began Ferberizing again over the weekend. Nate had finished his course of antibiotics and was basically snot free. He's teething...but he always seems to be teething. We figured it was either go back to Ferber or sleep in forty minute increments for the rest of eternity.

I hate the process and love it at the same time. The hate part? I don't have a thick skin when it comes to Nate crying out for me. I want to go to him and make everything better. It physically hurts me to hear him scream and cry. But the problem is - I can't make everything better. He NEEDS to get used to going back to sleep without my assistance or the three of us will never get a good night's sleep. Ugh. I so wish I could just nurse him or rock him to sleep and then he would sleep the entire night through like when he was three months old. But it doesn't work that way for us. Does it sound like I'm trying to convince myself? I guess I am, because after four nights there is still a good amount of crying. Not for long periods, but frequently (usually every one to three hours).

The love part? I do see improvement. He cries for a minute or two when we initially put him down to sleep, but he settles down very quickly. Those few minutes of pain absolutely beat rocking and rocking and rocking over twenty pounds and thirty inches of baby. Then doing it again forty minutes later. And then an hour later. And get the idea. And I have hope. The second night he slept for a stretch of over six hours, which he hasn't done in forever. And although he wakes frequently, we usually don't have to go in at all - he settles down before the first time increment is up.

Hopefully we'll continue to see improvement. And hopefully he won't get sick again for awhile. Now we have to tackle those naps...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What We're Reading: How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?Truthfully we aren't reading very much these days. Nate is less interested in sitting calmly on my lap and more interested in speed crawling to the nearest off limits zone while he giggles maniacally. When he does sit on my lap at bedtime he usually insists on holding the book himself while refusing to let me look at it at all. Luckily I have most of our bedtime books memorized, so I recite the story as he chews on the cover. I know I must be patient - this phase will pass, but I miss that part of our bedtime routine.

So, I have decided to share the newest book in our collection: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Nate received it this weekend as an early birthday gift from our good friends. The illustrations are warm and rich and the story is a perfect fit for our constant nighttime woes.

To answer the title question, each page features the possibility of a dinosaur acting out in full-on bedtime toddler mode.

"How does a dinosaur say good night when Mama comes in to turn off the light?"
"Does he swing his neck from side to side?"
"Does he fall on the top of his covers and cry?"
"No, dinosaurs don't.
They don't even try.
They give a big kiss."
"They turn out the light."

Well, you get the idea. It turns out that dinosaurs are extremely well behaved at bedtime and go to sleep like sweet little boys and girls. It's adorable. Now if Nate would only sit still for the lesson...

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Sing Along CD That Won't Make You Want to Stab Your Ears With a Kiddie Spork

As I've mentioned before, we have had a lot of trouble with Nate's sleeping, including daytime naps. A few months ago I was at the point where I would drive around for HOURS just to get the kid to nap. It was awful and mercifully we have moved on from that point. But during those HOURS and at a million different times in between we have listened almost exclusively to the same CD in the car - Fisher Price Little People: Sing Along Favorites. I picked it up when Nate was a newborn because I only knew a few lullabies/kids songs and I needed new material. This was nice and long with twenty-one tracks. Many are familiar classics (Ants Go Marching, B-I-N-G-O) but others I had never heard before (Teddy Bears Picnic, Apples & Bananas).

Fisher Price Little People: Sing Along Favorites
Nate absolutely loves this CD. If he is fussy in the car, I turn it on and he immediately cheers up. The effect is always immediate and amazing. I love the power of music. What's really funny to me is that even when he was much younger it had an effect. 

I didn't even realize he paid any attention to music at six, seven months. But then we started listening to music while we ate at home. While we only listen to this album (do we say "album" anymore??? well, I do!) in the car, it is also in my itunes library on the home computer. So we started listening to the library on shuffle during mealtimes and he would absolutely notice when a "car" song randomly started playing. He had the same reaction then as he does now. He will stop whatever he's doing (usually smearing avocado in his hair or throwing his bananas on the floor) and look at me with this mixture of confusion and pleasant surprise. "But mom - this is a car song, what is it doing playing NOW? IN THE DINING ROOM?!"

The crazy thing about this CD, given the amount Dave and I have listened to it, is that we aren't sick of it. I think we all know how annoying kids music can be - particularly when little kids are actually singing. I don't know if children are singing on this album, or if the artists are some strange adults masquerading as kids but the result is very pleasant.  We actually enjoy it.

Super politically correct and/or conscientious parents should be warned...there are some questionable moments. Alice the Camel is the biggest offender: the "kids" refer to the middle eastern (I couldn't tell you which country) inspired music as "MYSTEEEERIOUS music." And the lesson from Alice the Camel is that a horse is simply a camel with no humps. Hmph. Nice biology lesson. There's also something going on with Sally (or is it Maggie?) "behind the barn, down on her knees" in Polly Wolly Doodle. Hmmm.

A word (or several) about Fisher-Price
I have to say that part of me really doesn't want to recommend any products from Fisher-Price. I don't think they're the anti-christ or anything, but from everything I've read (for example, see here at and
here at it appears that they refuse to give anyone information about what's in their toys (materials/chemical-wise). So when concerned parents, like myself, want information regarding BPA, pvc, phthalates, etc, we are simply told something to the effect of "EVERYTHING'S SAFE! We comply with strict safety standards."

Well, that's not enough because (A) the current federal law doesn't protect our little ones, which is why The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010  was introduced in the House last week; and (B) through some agreement, Mattel (parent company of F-P) is not even required to have their products tested by a third party for compliance. They do all of their testing in-house. Yeah, I'm not going to trust the word of a company that has been at the center of lead recalls and still has no appreciation for transparency.

That said, Fisher-Price toys continue to tempt me. I see them on the shelves and they look so fun. Nate has a few that he has received as gifts and he just loves them. I've decided to let him keep them because he loves them so much, I can't find any information regarding their possible toxicity and he doesn't suck on any of them. Life's a series of compromises, right?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer in Manhattan

Nate just told me a joke here and it was hysterical. All of his jokes are. He's quite the wit.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Safer Alternative to the Classic Rubber Ducky: Boon Odd Ducks

Odd Ducks JaneEvery kid needs a rubber ducky for the bath. But there are two problems with the classic rubber duck: (1) most have holes in the bottom and (2) most are made of pvc.

What's wrong with a little hole, you ask? Well the hole allows water into the duck. But the problem is, even if you squish out all the water, the inside is not going to get dry. It becomes a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. My mom told me she squished some water out of my nephew's duck and BLACK stuff came spurting out. Gross.

What's wrong with PVC? I'll let someone who really knows what they're talking about tell you here at thesoftlanding blog.

So in our search for a better alternative we found Boon Odd Ducks. They're a collection of funny shaped, colorful ducks and Nate absolutely loves the two he has - Squish & Jane. Nate plays with them every night and often wants to bring one from the bath to his bedroom. And most importantly they are PVC free!

Boon Inc Bath Toy Combo Pack Splat and Water BugsWe love Boon. In fact our entire bath toy collection is Boon. We also have Splat and Water Bugs. Splat is a a floating target with rings and Water Bugs is a set of three bugs with a net.  Nate like to suck on them, throw them overboard and put them in his Sassy Soft Touch Rinse Cup . Can I get through one toy post without talking about Sassy?!

And another great thing - all of these toys can double as pool toys.  You'd be surprised at how challenging it is to get the ring on the target in the vast waters of a kiddie pool - fun for the whole family. Which is much better than fun for the Hole Family, whoever they are:

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Sometimes (often), as I sit in the dark in Nate's room rocking him back to sleep, I look down at his innocent sleeping face, I inhale his sweet baby breath and I have the irresistible urge to kiss him. Even though I know it may wake him, I have to do it. Even if it took me twenty minutes to rock him back to sleep. Like an addict, I just cannot resist that plump little cheek. For that split second after I give in to the urge, I hold my breath wondering if I've screwed up and brought him out of sleep land. Just now, when I kissed him it did not wake him up. And in response to the touch to his cheek, I was rewarded with the tiniest of little sleep smiles. I love this creature. I cannot believe I helped create something so beautiful.

Baby Sign of the Week: AVOCADO

My husband: lawyer by day, hand model by ...earlier in the day. In honor of Nate's favorite food, Dave is signing AVOCADO. Twist your dominant hand into the curve of your other hand, like you're making guacamole.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Search of Natural Teething Remedies: Chamomile & Cloves

I took Nate back to the pediatrician today because after six days of being on antibiotics, we thought his ear infection wasn't healing. But it turns out that the ear infection is much better. The constant ear scratching (so bad that he keeps cutting open the skin around his ears), biting, crib gnawing, Klingon-ness, sleeplessness and general misery can all be attributed to teething - not the ear infection. Oh teething, you formidable foe.

Natures Answer - Chamomile Flowers Alcohol Free Extract - 1 fl ozSo the doctor recommended oil of cloves again and mentioned some others ideas as well, including Chamomile Extract that you deliver by dropper into the mouth. I went to Vitamin World, where the incredibly helpful salesman told me that they didn't have any. Of course, I found them on the shelf.  Unfortunately they only had the kind with alcohol, and I wanted the alcohol free version. Not that part of me doesn't want to ply him with booze so I can get my first decent night of sleep in weeks, but having worked for NYC Children's Services, I think I'd prefer he stay out of foster care. No luck at GNC either - for the chamomile or the cloves.

So I continued my quest for the chamomile & cloves online and found a lot of information about actually giving Chamomile tea (rather than the extract) to your teething baby including this article at Discovery Health that recommends soaking a cloth in tea and putting it in the freezer. I think I will try that tomorrow because giving the tea to him in his cup did not go over so well.

Teething Tabs 125 tabsI am so tempted to use Hyland's Teething Tabs. Parents rave about them, but our pediatrician (I sure do quote her a lot, don't I?) recommends against them because belladonna (the poison nightshade) is the active ingredient. I might need to rethink Hyland's if Nate keeps trying to teeth on my shoulders. I'm beginning to look like a friend of Marv Albert's. And the standard Orajel that my mom won't stop pushing is out of the question. Use of Orajel seems to be universally recommended against by pediatricians because of the dangers in numbing areas of the mouth and throat that would prevent the baby from swallowing. I think this would then create a danger for choking on their own saliva. I'd rather have the welts on my shoulder than risk that. Wish us luck...

10/23/10 update: Hyland's Tablets recalled for belladonna toxicity. I feel ill. Should have listened to my pediatrician. Read about the recall here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baby Signing Tip: Keep an Eye Out for Approximations

Dave and I just realized that Nate has been signing AIRPLANE for quite some time...he just does it a little differently. Instead of extending the pinkie and thumb, he just extends the forefinger - which we mistook as pointing. We realized that he was signing airplane when we spoke about one indoors and he made the sign. He clearly wasn't pointing at the plane in the sky indoors, he was signing!

Apparently this is a common approximation. In What Do You See? of the Signing Smart series (fantastic interactive books for babies which show a simple sentence along with a picture of both a baby and an adult making the sign), the baby makes the AIRPLANE sign using only the forefinger as well. I better keep my eyes peeled for more signs!
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What We're Reading: Silly Dogs

Silly DogsNate is in full out dog obsession right now. And he also really enjoys interactive books with things to touch and tabs to pull. So I borrowed Silly Dogs by Gandee Vasan from the library and it is a HUGE hit. It's a small book with only five pages, but Nate could look at Little Stretch (who "loves to play fetch") all day long. He lifts the tab up and signs DOG by hitting his chest. So precious. It's so funny, sometimes you just never can guess what books they'll love. I don't think I would have bought this in the store if I happened upon it.

DogThe book I did purchase when I happened upon it in the store was another Matthew Van Fleet book. Dog is just as great as Tails. Lots of fun to read, lots of dogs to "pet" and even a dog that lifts his leg to pee (with the help of a sturdy pull tab). Gotta love that!

"Bark dog,
Howl dog,
Sniff the tree,
All dogs poop,
All dogs pee"

Mercifully, there is no pile pictured under the "all dogs poop" golden retriever puppy. Although, on second thought, it does seem like a rather unfortunate missed opportunity for another one of Van Fleet's scratch and sniff stickers.

PS Check out other blog posts about reading to children here at She's also hosting a great book giveaway!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baby Signing Tip: It's Not Too Late to Start!

Did you know that it's not too late to start signing with your baby or toddler?  Although you can start as early as four months, older babies and toddlers can reap the benefits of using sign language too. In fact, the older they are, the quicker they will pick it up.

Think it's too time consuming? Guess what - you're probably already using sign language with your baby.  You've taught them how to wave hello & goodbye right? Well that's using your hands to send a message. And it's that easy. To start signing,  just incorporate a few signs into your everyday conversations. MILK (squeeze hand like milking a cow) and ALL DONE (hold hands up, palms facing you and then turn your hands out showing your palms to your baby) are great signs to start with!

Are Your Baby's Toys Safe?

While a lot of companies have made great strides with respect to eliminating toxic chemicals in their toys, there are still a lot of mainstream toys with dangerous chemicals in them. The dangers may not be as obvious as bag o' glass, but the threats these chemicals pose to developing brains and bodies is just as dangerous.

Here are some great sites to check the safety of the toys you own and to learn more information about the toxic chemicals often found in toys:

Plan Toys Discount

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Five Must Haves for the First Year

What would a baby blog be without a list of must have products? (Original you say? BAH!) Now that Nate is almost a year old, I'd like to share my short list of things that I've used on an almost daily basis.  In no particular order:

aden + anais Muslin Wraps 4-Pack - Zoo AnimalsAden & Anais Muslin Wraps: Nate started out life as a bigger baby (he weighed 8lbs 13oz at birth), so the typical receiving blankets didn't work for swaddling for very long. I bought these large muslin wraps online, never having seen them in the store, and it ended up being a great move. They come in packs of four, are lightweight, breathable and get softer with washing. I literally use them every single day. I use them on the stroller to shade Nate from the sun and to block out wind and rain. In fact, I have one tied to the front of the stroller at all times to cover his legs in the summer and I use another one on top to block the sun where the visor misses. I call it homeless baby chic. Since Nate hasn't been swaddled in ages, they make a great regular, light weight blanket - Nate loves to chew and snuggle with them. When he was smaller, I also used them to cover the floor for tummy time. Most recently, with the onset of Nate's cold, they have become the world's largest boogie rag. I can't say enough about these blankets. They even come in an organic option if you want to fork over a bit more money.

HoMedics SS-2000 Sound Spa Relaxation Sound Machine with 6 Nature Sounds, SilverSound Machine:  We have a million reasons we why we needed a white noise machine. We live in a two family home under a family of stampeding rhinos. With tempers. And a loud barking dog. PLUS we have our own loud dog. And for months we've had to sneak out of Nate's room once he fell asleep (but hopefully no longer once we return to Ferber after the ear infections clear - fingers crossed). To get out of his room you have to negotiate a slew of creaky floor boards, a door that squeaks occasionally and tiny elves throwing javelins. So we got the HoMedics SS-2000 Sound Spa Relaxation Sound Machine . Lots of nature sounds and the heartbeat mode to choose from. Big knob for changing the volume in the dark and even a timer if you wanted to use it. It's perfect.

Germ Guardian H2000 Manual Ultrasonic HumidifierHumidifier: I think everyone needs one of these, especially in the winter. I got ours when Nate had a crusty nose every morning once the weather turned cool and we started to use the heat. In my opinion, I think it's worth spending a little more for a good one, since it's going into the air the baby is breathing all night long. We got the Germ Guardian H2000 Manual Ultrasonic Humidifier and I couldn't be happier with it. There are no filters to change. You simply fill up the tank with water, turn a knob and you are ready to go. It's not that easy to clean, but truthfully it barely gets dirty. The tiny little blue indicator light makes a great night light too. It's been great to have it during Nate's most recent cold.

Baby Trend Single Snap N' Go StrollerSnap N' Go Stroller: If you drive your baby anywhere on a semi regular basis and you have a travel system YOU NEED a Snap N' Go Stroller. A few different companies make them, but we got ours from Baby Trend. I don't know if there is much of a difference between brands, but I was very happy with ours. The big travel system stroller is great for long walks around the neighborhood. But they generally are pretty bulky and heavy. You want something that you can open and close with one hand while you carry your baby, diaper bag, keys, umbrella and pet monkey in the other. It makes your life so much easier to be able to just pop the infant carrier out of the car and into the lightweight stroller - even if the only place you are going in the beginning is to the pediatrician.

PRIMO EuroBath Pearl White
Primo Baby Bathtub - As I think I've mentioned before, Nate takes a bath every night. He loves them, so we made it part of his bedtime routine. We have the PRIMO Baby Tub and have used it almost every day since his little umbilical cord nub fell off. It's made of polypropylene, which I understand to be a non-toxic material. It's easy to clean and has a great design. One side slopes, which is great for when the baby is little and will just lie there. Now that Nate has turned into a crazy man in the bath he spends most of his time in the "deep end." There's a valve in the bottom for easy draining in the tub. I think we'll continue to use this for some time.

I know every parent has an opinion. What items are on your short list? What things can't you live without? Share!
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