Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fun With Cheerios

Aias never really liked Cheerios when he was a baby, but lately they've been all the rage around here.  Evidently the Cheerio + pipe cleaner combination is the most fun ever.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Mixing Bowls > Toys

Sometimes I wonder why we even buy toys.  These mixing bowls I bought from Winners like 5 years ago are the most popular "toy" in the house as of late.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why It's Fair for Some Kids to Get More Help Than Others

A few days ago I was attending a kid-related activity with Aias and of course, there were a few other moms there.  As the kids played, the moms and I were chatting casually.  We didn't know each other very well, so the conversation didn't seem likely to get very deep, but at some point one of the moms suddenly expressed her discomfort with the idea of her child someday attending public school with kids who had learning or other disabilities. She said she felt for the families of these children, but she didn't think it was "fair" for those kids to be in the same classroom as her child, "taking resources" away from her child and the other "normal" children.  She said  she thought those "other" kids would need extra help and it would mean less one-on-one attention and help for her own child.  She said "I don't think it's fair for some kids to get extra help and for some to just have to get by on their own."

Now, hold on to your pitchforks for a second.  I realize these are some pretty harsh things for this mother to have said. This wasn't a beastly horrible witch of a woman who was saying these things because she is just plain mean; I could hear from the tone of her voice that she felt horrible for saying these things but was literally worried for her own child.

After the mother said these things, she looked at the other mothers for some sort of validation or support.  My response, which actually comforted her, was basically this:

As far as some kids getting extra help and some kids "just getting by on their own," I actually think that's more than fair. Let me explain.

Take a look at these glasses of water:

Let's pretend that each one of those glasses is a child. 

Let's also pretend that the space inside the glass represents full capacity of preparedness for school, life, or knowledge.  In other words, full potential. 

Finally, the water in the glass represents the unit of preparedness: a full glass means a child is meeting their full potential.  An empty glass means the child is in need of a lot of extra "water" to hit full potential. 

Ideally, all children will eventually have a full glass and will hit their maximum potential.  In fact, let's say that's the overall goal of families, educators, etc. 

If your child is the child on the far left, where the glass is nearly full... they don't really need that much more specialized help.  If your child is the middle glass, they have certainly done a lot on their own, but they do need a bit of help.  If your child is the one on the far right, it will take a lot of help to get your child to a completely full glass.

The goal is not to count minutes and seconds that are spent with a child, giving them extra help, in an effort to make things "fair." The goal is to get all children so that their glasses are completely full.  The child on the left will not need anywhere near as much help as the child on the far right.  But in the end, hopefully all of these children end up with a full glass.

If all children end up with full glasses in the end, that's what's fair.  It would make no sense to fill the glass on the left up completely and to keep pouring, watching the water pour out onto the table, when you could pour some of that water into the glass on the far right.

In the end, as long as everyone's glass is full, families and educators have done their jobs.

I know this is oversimplifying. I know not all kids have the same exact level of potential.  I also know that parenting and education are not as simple as filling up glasses of water.   I only hope that this sort of explains why some kids get a little more help than other kids. Basically, it's because they need it more.  If we make sure our educators are there to give that extra help for everyone, no one will be missing out on their fair share.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hazelwood Necklaces: Read About Them, And Win One!

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I'm pretty skeptical, but I'm still totally fascinated and intrigued by alternative health methods.  I'm particularly interested when it comes to methods that could potentially serve as an alternative to putting pharmaceuticals on/in small children and babies.  For example, when Aias was younger, we tried out an amber teething necklace.  It was totally precious but I could never be sure as to whether or not it actually alleviated Aias's teething pain.  Nevertheless, he wore it because it was really cute. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn't.

A few months ago, one of my favourite people (that I will continue to mention again and again) And Mommy Makes 3 introduced me to the idea of hazelwood necklaces being used to soothe or relieve symptoms or various ailments such as joint paints, digestion disorders, dental pains, and some skin disorders.  Some of these ailments include:

- arthritis
- osteoarthritis
- gastric reflux
- heartburn
- constipation
- baby teething
- tooth decay
- cavities
- acne
- eczema
- psoriasis

Of course, I had to look into this.  I contacted Pure Hazelwood and asked to review this product, and they were so kind to have not only sent me a sample to review, but to offer a necklace to not one but TWO lucky readers.  

Now please remember, I'm skeptical by nature.  I also would never in a million years say something good about a product on here just because someone sent me one for free. I'm always going to be honest and 100% open with you guys always.  So here it goes: I was actually really surprised as I researched hazelwood necklaces.  You see, when you try to research amber necklaces, you get a whole lot of nothing when it comes to "the facts." Hazelwood is a little different... you see, the idea behind why hazelwood products help is that they create an alkaline environment in your body which may help prevent and appease many of the symptoms caused by acidosis.  This isn't something a magical earth fairy came up with, it's actually science.  For whatever reason, this is what hazelwood does. 

A little bit of visible "proof" is that from what I understand, the more acid you have in your body, the shorter life span your necklace will have (I'm not sure if this means acid that can be detected in your blood, urine, or both).  If you have a serious acid related issue, your necklace will often only last 3 months and you will literally see the necklace turning black from working so hard.  If you have a mild issue but still have lots of acid in your body, it may last 6 months.  If you have a relatively balanced pH, your necklace will literally stay the original colour it came in (because it isn't working toward adjusting an already "just fine" pH).  You can then wear it forever and it won't turn black. 

Interesting, right?  I sure think so.

Here's what's even more interesting: I've spoken with half a dozen friends who have tried this product and they all swear it worked for themselves or their children, specifically for eczema.  Now, these are people I totally trust, who are logical, scientific thinkers.  In fact, one of them had a baby daughter with pretty severe eczema, used the necklace, the eczema cleared, and then she took the necklace off and within 24 hours the eczema returned.  Guess what happened when she put the necklace back on the child? Yep.  It went away.  

Here's another testimonial:

“My little one now has 16 teeth and I never had to give her any medication for teething. Plus I’ve been off cortisone for my eczema since I started using the Hazelwood products.”

If you check out the Pure Hazelwood website, there are dozens of other positive testimonials (of course), but I strongly suggest you do some research yourself.  I think you'll actually be really surprised at how many completely rational, non-conspiracy-theory-believing, non-magical-fairy-believing people have found great success with this product.

Here's a little mini-testimonial for you as well.  When I got this product in the mail, it interested me because for over 4 weeks Aias had some dry skin around one of his eyes.  We went to the doctor a few times, and they simply said "it's a bit of ezcema." We tried to keep washing it, moisturizing it, leaving it alone, putting some benadryl on it, and nothing made it go away.  It looked terrible and I swear every parent thought I was taking him around with pink eye or something.  When my necklace arrived he was hesitant to wear it so I waited until he was asleep and slipped it on.  I slipped it on and in the morning the mystery dry skin was gone.   Did the necklace help? Who knows.  Would I put it on again if the dry skin came back? Absolutely.

Wishing I wasn't taking his photo, but there's the necklace!
I think this product is worth a try for ANYONE that has any of the issues above, particularly eczema.   The product is harmless, natural, beautiful, and inexpensive.  If your small child has eczema, maybe there's a chance a simple necklace can alleviate the frustration and pain for them instead of something more expensive and potentially full of chemicals. 

If you'd like to try if for yourself, check out the website, and of course, enter to win one below from Pure Hazelwood!

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Laptop Lunches Bento-Ware Lunch Boxes: Check Them Out, and Win a $25 Gift Card!

Where do I even begin talking about Laptop Lunches Bento-Ware... let's just say, I've known about and loved these for what feels like forever.  A few years ago a friend of mine was absolutely obsessed with a blog about bento lunches and would fill her online journal with pictures of her own meal creations.  It seems no matter what you choose to have for your meal, these lunch boxes make your food look like art!  Anyone with a passion for food and all-things-cute will agree that these lunch boxes are incredibly awesome.  I feel like this is one of those products that needs to be seen first, so before I continue... PICTURES!

You are drooling, right?  Let's face it, I don't need to say a whole lot for you to realize that these are great, but since this a product review, I will.  Laptop Lunches Bento-ware are the perfect combination of adorable and practical.  They are made in the USA, they contane no phthalates, BPA, lead, or PVC.  They are dishwasher safe. They come in a huge range of colours.  They have an outer container that acts as a lid for two unlidded containers and they also contain three water-tight containers.  As far as I'm concerned, they are pretty much the perfect lunch box if you like your meal good looking, varied, delicious, and not spilled all over the inside of your bag by lunch time. 

Please remember, this product is for everyone... not just kids!  I sent this lunchbox to work with an adult male, and I also brought this lunchbox to a take-out sushi restaurant and had them put my sushi bento box in it, which they did.   Here are some pictures of the lunch box we chose:

The funky packaging
Ready to look inside...
Trying to keep it slightly-paleo-esque
On the Laptop Lunches website, not only can you get these rad lunch boxes, but you can also get bento carriers and bento accessories to go along with them.  They also sell dividers, food cutters, and more.  Check out the site, and don't forget to enter the giveaway below to win a $25 Gift Certificate!

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Win a RingADingDing! Fun and Simple Teaching Resources Starter Pack

One of my favourite things about the Internet is being able to connect to other parents, child care providers, and educators.  Blogs and Pinterest are great for finding free printables and ideas for activities to use with young children, but not everyone is creative enough to sit down and make their own resources, and more often than not, some people just don't have the time.

In my search for such resources, I came across RingADingDing. Created by Vancouver based child care provider DeeDee Nelson, RingADingDing products are fun and simple teaching resources for ANYONE who is lucky enough to spend time with children... moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, preschool teachers, child care providers, etc. DeeDee designed these activities by hand and brings over 20 years of experience and ideas together in these products, which include songs, games, and activities.  One must simply assemble these pre-designed, pre-printed, and pre-coloured activities and then they are ready for use with children.

DeeDee was kind enough to bring me a Starter Pack to review, and I'm also going to be giving one away to a lucky reader!

The Starter Pack includes a Basics Package and an Activity Deck.  The Basics Package includes 8 Daily activities with props. The alphabet, numbers, the weather, games, and more! Includes four handy high-quality clear ziplock bags for storage, plus one vividly colored popsicle stick for Bumblebee puppet.  The Activity Deck includes 48 fun and simple activities. It is divided into two parts: 24 Sit-Down songs, stories and finger-plays, and 24 Stand-Up pretending and movement activities. You will find a few lovely old-fashioned nursery rhymes along with many new favorites.

Here's what I really like about RingADingDing; while some of these activities and materials may look simple enough to create yourself, they are already laid out for you.  You don't need to get a colour printer, card stock, and sit down and draw.  They are also ideas you may not have had or would not have thought to compile yourself.  All the creativity of coming up with the activities, preparing them, and thinking them through is done for you.  Now, I know lots of people like to make activity packages like these for themselves.  However, if you are like me, you have somewhat limited time and would like to have a package like this kicking around for a day when you are feeling less energetic.  I have many half-completed activity packs laying around, and also several that I've used a dozen times.  When I used my Start Pack with Aias and the child I watch in my home, they were both really pleased to see something brand new and different from what they usually see.  The Activity Deck is also great to stuff into your purse for the playground, or even for when you find yourself standing in a line with a cranky child!

I think this Starter Pack would best benefit a parent or child care provider that is short on time and creativity.  Most of all, I think it would benefit someone who is new to spending time with children.  The Activity Pack, for example, has many familiar songs and rhymes in it. Are they familiar and simple enough? Yes. But have you thought of these songs since you were a child? Probably not!  I remember when I first went to a Mother Goose with Aias and I heard the Itsy Bitsy Spider for the first time; this was a song I'd probably heard a million times in my life, but ages ago, so I barely knew the words!  After hearing it again just once, I knew it like the back of my hand, and now it's one of Aias's favorite songs.  Of course, I needed the inspiration first... that's where this Starter Pack comes in!

If yourself or someone you know is going to be spending time with kids, I recommend this Starter Pack.  RingADingDing products are high quality and you can tell they were created and packaged with love.

If you are curious about RingADingDing products, enter the giveaway below to win a Starter Pack!
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Little Looster: Learn About It, Love It, Win it!

Potty training over the past few weeks has been pretty interesting.  A huge hurdle for us to overcome has been getting Aias to move from using his beloved IKEA potty chair to using a real toilet.  This hasn't been very fun for Aias because he's short for his age, and our toilet is pretty tall.  We had a few step stools around the house but they had been driving me crazy in the bathroom because they get kicked out of place, tip over, or get deliberately moved by Aias.   Having the square step stools around seemed like a good idea, but it actually made Aias hate the toilet even more. 

The first time I went to And Mommy Makes 3's house I noticed she had an awesome step stool in her bathroom.  It hugged the toilet, didn't easily get kicked out of place, didn't tip over, and seemed pretty toddler proof.  I asked her what this amazing product was, and she answered "The Little Looster."
I was intrigued.

Because it hugs the toilet, the Little Looster makes the toilet seat look a lot less tall and intimidating, and her kids had no problem climbing up onto it to access the potty.  I knew this was something I wanted to test out when it came time to potty train Aias, so I contacted the creator of the Little Looster, Monica Mylet, and asked her if I could review the product and give one away on my blog.  I'm happy to say she agreed!

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Little Looster because Aias was completely, 100%, totally unwilling to sit on the toilet because:

1. "Too tall!"
2. "Fall in!"

The Little Looster in all its glory
While the Little Looster won't make the hole in your toilet seat any smaller, it will make it a lot easier to balance.  Imagine how scary it must be to a little child having to balance themselves over a giant toilet seat with their legs dangling every which way!  It will also make it a lot easier to get to it in the first place.   I'll spare you a picture, but I'm pleased to report that Aias is willing to climb up near the toilet thanks to the Little Looster.  He's not willing to give the poo and pee up to the big toilet just yet but I'm sure that day will come. 

Here is another special benefit to the Little Looster, that may be a bit TMI, but I swear I'm telling you strictly for health purposes!  Because the Little Looster is intended to always stay in place around your toilet, it's not just for kids!  Having this product around your toilet is great for adults because it facilitates the squatting position during elimination.  Having your legs up while you poo is really good for you as it:

- Reduces gas and bloating
- Helps to more efficiently empty your bowels
- Helps reduce constipation

I'm serious, you guys.  Your kid will love it, and it will make your own poos 10x better.  And if you aren't a fan of putting your feet up while you use the toilet, no bother... the Little Looster won't be in your way at all. 

When my Little Looster arrived in the mail, it looked gigantic to me (huge box), and I have a pretty large bathroom (for an apartment).  I've seen it in smaller bathrooms as well, and I promise, it doesn't really take up a lot of space. It's made to fit snugly against your toilet so once it's in place, you won't mind it being there at all.

A million people asked me about it when I posted a photo of it on Facebook, so I know you guys want to win one for yourselves.  Check out the giveaway below to win one, and check out the website if you want to buy one right away!!!  Feel free to ask me any questions about this awesome product in the comments. 
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Why We Don't Pump for the Public: Now You Know, and Knowing is Half the Battle

I have no idea if this post will ever reach the eyes of anyone who would actually benefit from reading it, but for the sake of my sanity, I'm just gonna put this out there.

Blah blah blah public breastfeeding controversy; you know how those comments go.  What I want to address is the simple suggestion that women can/should just pump and bottle feed in public. 

When someone says something like this, it reminds me of two things. The first thing it reminds me of is how perfect and knowledgeable on matters of parenting I was prior to becoming a parent.  I obviously knew everything, then, right?  The second thing it reminds me of is every single time I looked at an action being performed, that I had never done in my life, and totally criticized the action in my mind. For example, I used to think it was REALLY stupid for people to be walking their bikes on the sidewalk of a busy road I lived on. "They are supposed to be on the road, how annoying!" I said.  Then one day, I had to bike home.  Biking down that road was really screamingly dangerous and scary. What did I do? I walked my bike on the sidewalk.  Suddenly I totally understood why someone would do it.

When people make comments like "women can/should just pump and bottle feed in public" I can chalk it up to two things.

1. General douchebaggery
2. Genuine lack of knowledge on the subject (dare I say, ignorance?)

I want to give people the benefit of the doubt here and go with number 2.  So I'm going to take care of this for you, if you are genuinely curious why someone wouldn't just pump breast milk and put it in a bottle and feed their baby that way instead of subjecting themselves to all the potential drama that public breastfeeding can bring.

I'm going to explain now, and I'm going to talk to you as though you've never had a child and know nothing about breastfeeding.  Bear with me.

The Question: Why don't women just pump and bottle feed in public?

The Answer: Some women DO just pump and bottle feed in public.  Some women are able to do this, and/or they want to do this. So if you are wondering this because yourself / your cousin / your friend / a lady you saw once does it, then rest assured, some women DO just pump and bottle feed in public. I know.

Some women can't / don't want to pump and bottle feed in public for a number of reasons.

Let's start off with some basic knowledge you will need to understand why.  Breastmilk production operates under a supply and demand system.  The more the baby nurses at the breast, the more milk is made.  The opposite is also true.  This isn't the same as pumping; pumping is different.  Babies are very efficient at drawing out milk and encouraging milk production, while even the most effective and expensive breast pump is not nearly as effective.

During the first several weeks, a baby must nurse like crazy to increase and ensure milk production.  Even ONE meal at the bottle can have serious long term results to breastfeeding success.  Because of this, lactation consultants, doctors, and mothers often encourage new parents to not pump AT ALL during the first 4-6 weeks.  There are two reasons for this:

1.  To ensure the body produces lots and lots of milk (enough milk)
2.  So that the baby doesn't get what is called "nipple confusion."  This is when a breastfed baby gets used to a bottle to the point that they don't want to latch onto the breast.

I know, I know... yourself/ your cousin / your friend / a lady you once saw gave their baby a bottle a million times during the first 6-8 weeks and there was no damage.  It happens, sometimes. Not all people are as lucky. 

If you are in public and you see a woman with a 6-8 week old baby (or obviously younger) and she's nursing in public, it's probably for one of the reasons above.

If you see a woman nursing in public and the child is older, it's probably for one of these reasons:

1.  Pumping almost always results in less milk than just allowing the child to nurse from the breast.  Some women can't really get much milk (if any) if they pump, but they can nurse just fine. 

2.  Sometimes babies won't use a bottle, PERIOD.  Aias is an example of this. Goodness knows I would have loved to have given him pumped milk in a bottle every once in a while, but my child would NOT drink from a bottle.  He absolutely refused.  He physically would not (or could not) do it.  I actually had a freezer full of pumped milk at one point and it was uesless because he wouldn't take it from a bottle.

3.  Breastmilk is much harder to take care of when you are out.  It doesn't have as long a "shelf life" as formula. You can't just leave it in a bag all day while you wait around to use it.  It spoils.  It's a pain in the butt to travel with it, too.

Finally, I just want to add... babies scream and fuss and create a scene when they are hungry.  If someone is nursing their child in public, at least their child isn't screaming.  If they were to just wait until they got home, you'd have the unpleasant experience of listening to their child wail.  You can look away from a nursing person, it's much harder to deafen yourself to a screaming child.

So now you know a few reasons why it isn't as simple as "pump and feed from a bottle in public."   If you fell into the category of "genuine ignorance" before, now you don't have to feel uninformed. If you are still bothered by it and still feel like women should just pump and bottle feed in public, your concern can now only be filed under general douchebaggery.

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