Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring, Swimsuits, & Safety

Welcome to Spring!

When Lydia was 4 months old, we began baby swimming classes. We take classes at U.S. Swim Academy in Coral Springs, FL. Its a mommy and me format, where one parent accompanies his/her child in the water. Each session is 30 minutes, with about 5 students per class. We teach the babies different skills through music and movement. While it's fun to meet other mothers, get in the water, and bond with our children, what is most important is to learn some basic swimming skills. They work on floating on their backs, falling into the water and swimming back to the wall, blowing bubbles, holding their breath, and so many other important concepts. Lydia took to the water so quickly because I started so young. She's very comfortable and calm, which I think helps her to learn. Here's a video of me and Lydia at swim that I'd like to share. This activity teaches the children that if they fall in, they should immediately turn around and cling to the wall.

As a special education teacher working primarily with children who have moderate to severe disabilities, I do have some experience with children who are near-drown victims. Between that and attending swim lessons, you realize how scary drowning can be, especially living in a state like Florida. Even if you don't have a pool or you don't live on the water, you never know what can happen at a friend, family member, or neighbor's home in just a few short minutes of your child being unsupervised. I decided to look up a few drowning statistics released by the Center for Disease Control:
  • 1 in 4 fatal drowning accidents involve children under 14.
  • In 2005, of all children 1 to 4 years old, almost 30% died from drowning. Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
  • For every child that dies, another 4 are treated in emergency rooms for submersion-related accidents, some of which cause permanent brain damage.
  • From 2005 to 2007, there was an average of 283 fatal drownings for children 5 and under per year. An additional 2,100 were treated in the emergency room for submersion-related injuries.
  • Children under 1 year most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, or toilets. Among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occur in residential swimming pools. Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than 5 minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

Some safety suggestions made by the Center for Disease Control include:
  • Always assign a designated adult to watch children in swimming pools. Be sure to avoid engaging in distracting activities (reading, talking on the phone, etc.) while watching children.
  • Install a fence at least 4 ft high around all sides of your swimming pool.
  • Remove all toys from the pool after swimming so children are not tempted to retrieve toys at a later time.
My personal belief is that once you think a child can swim well, randomly throw him/her in the pool fully-clothed to make sure the child can swim to the edge and get out of the pool. That way you know your child is really safe.

Enjoy spring with your family, whether it's still snowing where you live or warm and sunny like it is by me!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Product Tester or Mommy??

I have learned that sometimes as a mom, you buy way too many things because you want to see what will work best for you. So here are my experiences thus far to share with you!

Cloth Diapers:

I was lucky with this one...I am really happy with my Gro Baby Diapers. The great thing about them is that you can use the disposable, biodegradable insert or the cloth insert. However, I have learned that she doesn't do well through the night with the cloth insert, so we use the biodegradable ones every night. I was fortunate enough to purchase my diapers when Gro Baby was having a Seconds sale, so we got a great deal!!


Like most naive new parents, I purchased two Bjorn-type carriers (from Chicco and Infantino).  I know there's all types of research now indicating that this style of carrier is not good for your baby's physical development, but I don't think carrying them for a few hours here and there in one of those carriers is really that detrimental. The babies love them!

I have a Baby Balboa Sling, which I do like, but my shoulders do get sore after about an hour of carrying her. It's probably because the weight isn't distributed very well. However, I like that she can lie down, sit up, and do the hip carry.

Today I actually purchased a My Baby Nest, which would probably be great for some babies, but I have to return it. Why? Because when Lydia faces forward (which was kinda the appeal), she can't suck her thumb, so she was frustrated. She was also trying to basically leap out of it to reach for things, which made it feel not as secure as it should be.

A few weeks ago, I thought I ordered a Mei Tai through Dittany Baby, but apparently something got messed up, and my order was not filled. I communicated with customer service today, and I think it will be sent shortly. I'm excited about this item. I think it will be a good fit for us.

I'd really love an ERGO Baby Carrier. Right now, Piece of Me is having an ERGO giveaway. I hope to win it!!

I also have two strollers (one travel system, one umbrella stroller). I use those when I have to carry a lot of stuff.

Feeding utensils:

Because Lydia is breastfed, I didn't have to worry too much about bottles. The only ones I used were the Medela with the slow flow nipples.

After winning a thinkbaby bottle/sippy cup conversion set, I decided today to purchase the thinkbaby feeding set. It was a bit pricey, but I liked the different sized containers and that they are supposed to be so safe for baby. The only real downfall is that they are not microwave-safe, so I'll have to heat up her food on the stove or heat up in another container in the microwave and transfer. The lids make storage easy, and the spoon, fork, and cup are perfect for Lydia to grow into!

I'd also like to purchase some bamboo utensils, but this is certainly not a priority.

Nursing Bras:

I purchased one Medela bra while pregnant to wear at night. I still wear this sometimes.

I initially got professionally measured, and when I found out that I'm now a 34F/G, I thought my only option was to spend $60+ per bra. I got two to start with (one for day, one for night). These bras worked well, but were definitely high-end. The staff at The Bra Boutique were great and really helped to size the bras for me.

I purchased a few bras at Motherhood Maternity, but they did not fit properly, so I had to return them. The real downfall is that the sizes they have in the store are very limited, so you have to order and return through the mail just to try larger sizes.

However, I recently learned that Bravado bras are great!  I even purchased one for my friend who is expecting in May. I'm excited to share this great find with her.

Baby Food:

Initially, I wanted to make all my own food. Lydia didn't seem too thrilled with everything I made, so I tried Yummy in My Tummy. They make all organic baby/toddler food that comes chilled/frozen. Plus, the food comes in reusable containers, so I can make my own food and refill them. The store is about 15 minutes from my house. Great find!

I won a giveaway for Sprout baby food. Lydia seems to like this food the most. It was created by Tyler Florence, and I can tell you first hand it smells and tastes really good! There are so many flavor combinations.

I  also tried the Happy Baby Food. This food comes frozen, but they also make organic snacks, such as yogurt melts and crunchies. I'd like to try these when Lydia is ready.

That's a pretty good overview of all my product testing thus far. I'm sure I'll have some updates soon. Any products you absolutely love that I have not mentioned? Anything that didn't work for your family?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just one garbage bag!

I've always been fairly aware of the need to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. When I worked in a local public school, I used to hate how much paper was wasted. I used to keep a large paper bag in my classroom to bring home all of my paper for recycling, and sometimes some of the other teachers would contribute. The amount of unnecessary waste in just one school is unbelievable.

This week, we did the most amazing thing. Between my husband and me, we only filled ONE GARBAGE BAG with waste. That probably doesn't sound like anything too noteworthy, but if you think about how much garbage one accumulates in just a day, it's pretty awesome. We've been recycling everything imaginable (we actually have more stuff in our recycle bins than we do our garbage can). Just as important is our "compost."

When asked, I always tell people that I compost, but I never actually did. Here's sorta my composting evolution...

I used to just put everything food-related down the garbage disposal.

Then I started collecting it in a bowl on the counter. When I accumulated a bunch, I'd put it in a blender with some water, and make a nasty puree. I'd take this puree and pour it over my herb/veggie garden in my backyard. I'm sure this made my soil nutrient-rich, but it destroyed my somewhat-decent Black & Decker blender.

After that, I just started tossing all of my food scraps into my garden (after collecting them in this ceramic "compost" container I got at TJ Maxx). This seems to work okay, but it's still not quite right....

Then I came across this "How to Compost" post at Mommy Has to Work. I'm starting to collect what I need to begin this process properly. I'll post photos of my garden and my compost bin once they are both up and running. I'm excited about maintaining my garden so naturally.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Career + Mommyhood = New Perspective

I've been a special education teacher for about 8 years now. I currently work as co-director (my new title) of Abi's Place in South Florida. I am well-researched and knowledgeable about my field. I know about child development, available services, IEPs, how to creatively write and address goals, behavior modification, etc.

I think not being a mother when I began my career was actually helpful. It didn't allow me to get TOO drawn in to parents' stories. Becoming a mother has changed that. We had this amazing mom come to the school yesterday, and she wanted nothing more for her daughter to attend our school next year. When we told her she was accepted, she had tears in her eyes. A similar situation happened about a month ago with another family. I used to be all about the children and what I could do for them. Sometimes it was about the families, too...but now so much of it is about the families. We recently opened our doors to a therapy center, so they can provide children with services at Abi's Place in the afternoons. A seven-month old baby girl was getting some physical therapy yesterday. It made me think about...what if Lydia needed that now? What if I had to take her for physical therapy or speech therapy or any number of doctors (neurologists, gastrointerologists, etc.)? It would just be heart-breaking.

However, what I still struggle to relate to is when parents don't advocate for their children. When they don't educate themselves on their child's disability and how to best meet their child's needs. I just can't relate... Your child just becomes such a part of could you not want to better your life together?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

To Cover or Not to Cover?

People have mixed views regarding covering up while breastfeeding. For me, I cover up when in public places where I may not feel completely comfortable, but I am slowly learning to feel comfortable in more places, so I don't need to cover as often. I have known people who felt 'offended' by women just whipping out a boob and feeding their kids in public. While I have learned over time that it isn't offensive (I used to be not nearly as open-minded), I wouldn't want someone else to develop a negative opinion of breastfeeding for that reason alone.

I'm actually trying to create my own cover with a more breathable fabric, some cinching on the bottom, and a neck thing that won't strangle you when tightened. In the mean time, I found this information on someone else's blog:

Free Udder Covers (just pay $10 shipping). They normally cost $32.00 but you can use the coupon code Family2010 at checkout and the amount will be automatically deducted. The coupon will work on any item in their store. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

What if we never questioned modern-day practices?

I stared a bit of a controversy last night on Facebook. I wrote how excited I was about trying out my new purchase: Gro Baby Diapers! My sister volunteered her opinion, which she is entitled to, regarding the "trendiness" of cloth diapers, to which I responded:

By definition, a trend is something that's new and generally doesn't last very long. Disposable diapers weren't really mainstream until the 1950s, and already cloth are making a come back. So, if anything, the disposable diaper is the trend, when you consider diapers have been around since modern man walked the earth (documented since the Egyptian times, I just learned through my quickie research).

A few other valuable comments made by myself and others included:

Jennifer said: If anything is a trend, it is parents taking the time to educate themselves about the decisions they make. Most parents don't think of disposables as a decision, but rather as the default. They have only been around for 25-30 years as a viable option for full-time diapering and they have come a long way. Perhaps disposables are a trend that is finally passing.

I said: McDonalds - go through a drive-thru, grab your drink, entree, side dish, dessert in convenient disposable containers with disposable silverware. You don't have to go to the store, turn on your stove, or wash a dish. Brilliant, right?? We should eat it every day, right?? The same is true of disposable diapers, jarred baby food, baby formula, etc. - they are fairly effortless...but is it BEST? Is McD's BEST just because it's convenient?

I said:  All I really have to say is this, when making a decision for your family, what is most important to do is make sure that it's an ACTIVE decision because you've actually thought about your options and chosen what is best for you collectively.

It's like religion...people blindly follow religions because they don't take the time to analyze how different components fit into their lives, how they really feel, or what they actually believe. I don't want to follow blindly because it's the "trend" or because someone else says it's "best." I want to feel informed and go from there.

So to continue with this idea of "accepting modern-day practices without questioning them," consider the following.

Slavery would still exist in this country.

Women would not have the right to vote, go to college, own property, hold real jobs, or have abortions.

People would frequently die from things like snake bites and polio, and pregnant women would be given thalidomide.

We wouldn't have electricity, telephones, computers, televisions, radios, etc.

Necessity may be the mother of invention - but it takes informed consumers to figure out what we actually need and want to purchase.

P.S. I think I have already fallen in love with our new diapers!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Giveaway Winner

About 2 weeks ago, I decided to search the web for giveaways. I feel like I have entered a million of them!  I won two great products that I want to share.

The first is a Thinkbaby bottle that converts into a sippy cup that I won on Clementine NW:

The second is this awesome Diaper Tote from Baby Star that I won from Happy Hour Mom:

I also reviewed the Simplisse Breast Pump on Blacktating!

So excited about these great products that I got for free!!

When did 'luxury' and 'convenience' become synonyms?

Since Lydia's birth, I have gone to many baby stores and attended multiple consignment sales, and I keep seeing the same thing - products for sale that we know aren't best for our children.

Last week, I attended the Lolliposh Upscale Consignment sale. I like the idea of consignment. When we follow the old "reduce, reuse, recycle" philosophy, consignment fits right in! I have no need for this anymore, so I will re-sell it to someone else at a reduced cost so that person can benefit from its use. Great idea! This sale was a good way to get some higher-end clothing at a lower price, buy the typical stroller, bouncer, pack n' play, baby gear every American woman imagines her child needs. But for the moms who are looking for something beyond just the modern was a bit disappointing. Everything was so middle-of-the-road. They had vendors there, but they were selling creams to remove baby fat or headbands for children. No organic baby food vendors (even though there's a great baby food store near me: Yummy in my Tummy) or babywearing vendors or other eco-friendly products. It was like the used version of Babies R Us. Again, great for some families who appreciate the one-stop shopping experience. But made me ask myself the question "When did 'luxury' and 'convenience' become synonyms?" which leads me to ask the ultimate question: Is this what is best for my child or is this what modern-day woman has determined to be a convenient luxury?

Consider these two ads:

The ad on the left contains a family, "splurging" on a night out together, going to their favorite burger joint. The word "let's" is a contraction - let us. "Us,"a collective unit, spending time together. The ad on the right shows a woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a new hat box. She didn't have to race home from her shopping trip because "dinner" would be on the table. She can afford to by the frozen TV dinner instead of preparing her family a real meal. These WERE the luxury items at one point in time. Now, they exist purely for convenience. They serve to allow one family member to sit in his room playing video games, eating frozen garbage, while the others are sitting on the couch, eating their low-end meat and watching whatever "reality" shows we're fed (yes, I fall victim to this sorta thing more often than I should. Not really fast food, but sitting around, eating some junk, watching reality TV).

Okay, so all these ideas are somewhat scattered. What am I trying to say? The most important thing is to be an INFORMED consumer. Don't by the Graco stroller because someone else did (again, I am a victim of this).  Don't co-sleep because you're "too lazy to train your kid." Don't breastfeed because someone told you that it's best. And don't use formula because breastfeeding requires a genuine effort. MAKE CHOICES!  I do what I do because I make informed decisions.

One other piece of information... Last month, I went to Whole Foods, and saw a package of delicious-looking brownies. However, there were like 12 in a pack. I asked the woman at the bakery if they were sold individually, but they weren't. So, I filled out a comment card asking if they could start selling them individually. I went there today, looked at the comment board, and sure enough my comment was there with feedback - now they sell individual brownies!  I love businesses like Whole Foods that are pretty wide-spread, but still make you feel like you matter as a consumer!

My NEW Blog

Although I already have several blogs, I believe this to be the most important one (at this time in my life anyway). I guess I'll begin with an introduction to who I am. My name is Carrie Wells. I work for a non-profit organization in South Florida -- Abi's Place. We provide educational and therapeutic services to children with disabilities. My role there is somewhat complex and not easy to define. Last year I was the school's lead teacher, but after going on maternity leave, I became the school's grant writer. I am starting to come back to fill many director-type roles, such as evaluations, paperwork, school tours, interviews, mentoring, etc. I am also a graduate-level instructor through the University of Phoenix.

A year ago, I felt very defined by my career. I am also a wife to a wonderful husband named Richard, a pescetarian (and foodie), and a huge fan of MAC Cosmetics. But then something amazing happened... something that changed so many of my beliefs about life and love. I gave birth to my beautiful, healthy, happy daughter Lydia Marie on September 2, 2009.

People always told me that having a child changes you. And while at the core I am still the same dorky girl who got picked last for kickball in elementary school...and the middle-schooler with braces...and the pseudo-goth college freshman at UF, I have been transformed. My mom's friend used the word "softened." I'll take that.

I have always been critical of others, one of my downfalls. But I have learned how to take the idea of being a critic, and make it into something that is meaningful for my family. Becoming a mother has made me think about every moment of my life. Is this the BEST thing I could be doing right now? Am I eating what I should be? How could this conflict have been avoided? Could this be reused/recycled? What can I accomplish today that is meaningful to myself, my family, my community? I hope this blog can be just that.

I became the mother I never knew was in me. Here are some ideas that I very surprisingly have 'attached' myself to:

*Breastfeeding - 6 months already, another 6+ months to go!

*Co-sleeping - I always thought parents who allowed their children to sleep with them were suckers. And for some parents who co-sleep, they are suckers. They do it because they don't want to 'deal with' their child crying or having to get out of bed during the night. I do it for what I believe to be the right reasons - simply put, Lydia is my family. She's a part of me, and I would like to have her by my side until my husband and I feel she's ready to transition to her crib.

*Holding - When Lydia was first born, I used to put her in the car carrier a lot. This is what I had seen other people doing, and she seemed to be sleeping comfortably, so I thought this was okay. But then I thought about carrier. Shouldn't that be left IN THE CAR?! That's when I realized the importance of holding her. Whether using my arms or some other carrying device, I want her close to me. Why push her away now? She has her whole life to gain independence. Now is the time when it's okay to keep her close as often as I believe to be appropriate.

*Organic flow - As an adult, I became very scheduled, mainly for two reasons: 1. I like to believe I am organized, and this aids in my organization. 2. Children with autism are very routinized. They are taught to follow schedules, they tend to be rigid in their thinking and avoid change, and they thrive when provided with consistency. Being around this population for many years, I think I began to cling to some of their tendencies. As a parent, I have made a conscious effort to avoid real scheduling. Of course, we have doctor appointments, I work part-time, I make 'dates' with my friends...but when it comes to sleeping and eating, I like to allow Lydia to let me know when she is ready. Again, she has her entire life to follow rigid schedules...why should she now? Our bodies tell us when we're hungry and sleepy, and we should learn to listen to them. It's when we're deprived of those two things that we generally don't function as well as we could be.

*Healthy eating - This is something I have always tried to do. Yes, I am guilty of eating the occasional frozen meal or big pile of french fries, but I make a good effort to shop at farmer's markets or Whole Foods or Fresh Market or the local fish store. I want to buy organic produce and wild seafood.  I want to know that what I am putting into my body (and the bodies of those who I love) is fresh and flavorful and good for us. Cooking has always been a passion, but I think this has become even more important to me now that I am a mother.

So, that's a little about me. From this point forward, I will probably post more about events I attend, stores or websites I visit, maybe some recipes, and anything else that seems worthwhile and relevant.

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