Monday, February 27, 2006

Organic food for healthy baby

Organic diet reduces pesticide levels in children's bodies

"Whether that is important in terms of health effects remains to be seen," Lu added, noting that scientists don't know exactly how the pesticides affect the body over time.

There is evidence that they're dangerous, said Dr. Nathan M. Graber, a fellow in pediatric environmental health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "We know that at high doses, these pesticides can cause serious symptoms because they are toxic to the nervous system," he said, adding that there's "sound scientific reasoning" suggesting that low doses can hurt the developing brain.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Miffy (Nijntje) Museum Opens in Holland!

Knowing how much Peanut loves the little bunny, this one is sure to be on our itinerary next time we visit Opa and Oma, who also live close by to Miffy mecca!

Dick Bruna Huis

Meanwhile Daddy Types almost checks it out and ponders the similarity of Miffy and Hello Kitty...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

EC, IPT, etc by any other name would smell just as sweet?

Thanks to the wonders of playgroups, I was encouraged to start something with Peanut that's been at the back of my mind for some time.

Known most recently as EC - Elimination Communication or IPT - Infant Potty Training, the idea is the same. Getting your baby to use a potty rather than diapers from what conventional wisdom would consider an early, early, early stage.

My first brush with the concept came a few years ago when a friend of mine was holding her little son over a toilet during one visit. Though I don't recall his exact age, he was clearly less than a year old. My friend is from India and matter of factly says that's just the way its done. Diapers are hard to come by and you certainly don't find them in the villages....

Then I'd heard the fuss about EC in the news several months ago. And, now, thanks to one of our playgroup mamas, I've gained a mountain of information and guidance on how to do this myself. A few key web resources:

Infant Potty Training
Late Starters

Though after reading my own baby book and talking to my mom, I think Late Starters may be a misnomer. She had noted in my baby book that I started using the potty at 11 mos and another Finnish friend confirmed her sister's baby had been potty trained at 12 mos. Much literature about EC references the practice in countries like India and China, but overlooks that it seems to have been a commonplace occurance in European countries as well. I wonder how it is nowadays in Finland? or the Netherlands?

It seems a significant shift has occured in the past generations pushing children into diapers for longer periods of time (hmmm, could the diaper industry have anything to do with it??!!) and now a small resurgance is afoot. I sense that potty training takes a large time commitment and the growing number of American stay at home moms (or dads) is making young potty training possible.

As for us, Peanut and I are on week two. We had a slow start just getting to know 'how' we make this work. Then we had four days marked with some successes. Today was a dud. It'll be a journey and I believe that it will be like most things we've tried to teach Peanut; one day she'll just decide that she now knows how to do this and will demonstrate her skill with accuracy :-) (I hope)!

Taking gDiapers for a test drive

Touted by someone more clever than me as the 'hybrid' diaper, gDiapers combine the eco-friendliness of cloth with the convenience of disposable.

With statistics like this is make you mull over your choice, I decided to give gDiapers a test drive.
There is only one thing to do with a disposable diaper once soiled: throw it out. That means every one of the 18-23 billion diapers sold annually goes directly into a landfill somewhere in America. That’s a staggering 3.5 million tons of poop and plastic going into the ground…each year. It’s no wonder disposable diapers are the 3rd largest single consumer item in our waste system – following newspapers and beverage containers.

I simply ordered the starter kit online. Service and delivery were extremely prompt. Several emails along the way let me know where my order was.

Frankly, I was pretty eager to get the kit. As soon as it arrived, I had Peanut at her changing spot to try out her new g-gear.

Assembly was pretty staight forward. I had the most difficulties with getting the g-pants on Peanut. I had gone for Medium since she's about 17 lbs now, but a little skinny-mini. Still I noticed the pants pinching her little thighs while in the waist she had a gap. Over the next day or so, I got better at it, but I don't think they ever fit her perfectly.

The g-pants were admittedly adorable - they also had a 'baby-got-back' effect that was v. cute.

My next challenge was spotting when they needed a change. With Peanut's usual Pampers I can see/feel them swell up when she wets them. No visible hints with the g-Diapers so I had go more by the clock. Soon I felt it had been long enough -- time to check and flush.

I was nervous about the ability of our toilet to handle the load so I did double-flushes in the beginning. No prob. Then I did a few single flushes. No prob - the first times. Then we had a back-up.... we live in a house that's less than 10 years old, but as I had earlier suspected the flush was a bit weak.

Shaking out the g-Diaper was easy enough, swirling was no hassle.

It was, of course, more work than a Pampers change. I had to hold Peanut still longer and then suffered the unexpected side effect of her following me to watch it never seems like a good idea to get a baby excited about what the toilet can do :-) I had a pre-loaded g-Diaper ready to switch out so that was easy - with two pairs of g-pants and 4 liners.

I haven't yet gone for a refill and I haven't yet figured out the cost comparasion because we weren't 100% sold on the idea.

a great unintended benefit was the interest Peanut had in the boxes which the g-Diapers shipped in. It was actually the first time she started putting objects inside something (the g-Diapers box!) and carrying them around :-)

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Finnish students opt for English

From the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper a story on the growing predominance of English as top foreign language chioce in Finnish schools:

The position of English as the first foreign language taught at Finnish schools has strengthened at the expense of others since 2000. More than 90 percent of pupils in comprehensive school take English as their "A-language".

Thursday, February 16, 2006

What do you do: Natural cures vs. strong drugs

From YLE News in Finland....

A debate is brewing over the use of strong drugs in treating children's ailments. Many parents are turning to more natural remedies to find relief for their children. For their part, doctors support the use of medical alternatives in minor medical cases, but they say that potent medicines will always have a role in treating more serious diseases.

To my own surprise, with Peanut I've found myself leaning towards exploring the natural options in many areas. A few examples.
> I've opted to look to organic foods and produce when I prepare her food - especially in meats. Though I haven't done any indepth research, I have the sense that many pesticides & chemicals are used in argiculture nowadays. As a baby, Peanut eats proportionally more veggies & fruits than we do so I worry about it all passing to her little developing system.
> I would rather avoid medications until they are truly neccessary. The few times Peanut has had a fever, I waited until she showed discomfort before giving her a fever reducer.
> For bathtime, we're trying California Baby products because their supposed to be gentler for her and in the making.

The Nature Child (Luonnonlapsi) organization referenced in the article has a lengthy list of links to natural baby sites by topic.

And for you, little madame, on the menu tonight....

Peanut just enjoyed her first real restaurant meal at Red Lobster a few days shy of her 10 month birthday.

It was a family-friendly place where we pulled her high chair up to the table and rolled out her TinyDiner portable place mat from Kiddopotamus. The place mat was also out for its first meal and worked wonderfully. Peanut was very curious about and tried to pull it up from the table, but as soon as the newness passed she let it lay flat. The catch-all trough was one of the best features - though there was still plenty of baby mess under the table when we left.

Peanut began the evening with an appetizer of Cherrios and sliced banana (not from Red Lobster :-) )

Then the main entrees came from mama's plate - some grilled flounder, steamed broccoli and carrots and bits of baked potato with grated cheddar cheese. I thought they might be a bit salty for her so we gave her some extra water. Next time, I'll request the veggies sans seasoning.

Alas - no dessert for any of us!

Our Peanut - the baby bouillon

Peanut just loves bath time. When we start running the bath water she starts squealing in delight, banging on the side of the tub and standing on her tip-toes just to see the water gushing in.

Since bath is in the evenings, it often comes right after dinner.

The last few nights, I've felt like we are cooking up a pot of baby stew and Peanut is the baby bouillon cube as pieces of carrot, rice, fish and whatever else was on her dinner table float around the tub and the water changes shades.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Miffy's (Nijntje's) grandparents are dead

Peanut loves Miffy (Nijntje). Miffy is a the brainchild of Dutch author Dick Bruna. Because I am Dutch, I use the Dutch language version of Miffy books to make Peanut familiar with my mother tongue. The books are ideal for night time stories. They are about 20 pages thick and on every right page you have a drawing and every left page approx 4 lines of text to read out. Miffy is an approx 4 years old rabbit girl and the pictures are drawn with very simple lines and bright primary colors.

We only have 4 books or so, so I know these stories very well by now. We also have a DVD with Miffy episodes. As I read and watch Miffy with Peanut, I learn more about Miffy. Here's what I have found out:

1. Miffy's grandparents are dead
It struck me that the book "Grandma and grandpa Bunny" ("Oma en opa Pluis") is written entirely in past tense. The book talks about grandma and grandpa and what they liked in past tense. This must mean they are dead. As Peanut starts to understand the world more and more, I am starting to feel increasingly apprehensive about reading this story. Peanut's grandparents are very much alive and I want her to think of them as such.

Actually, browsing the Miffy web site a bit more, we find proof that Miffy's grandma is dead, because the story "Dear Grandma Bunny" ("Lieve Oma Pluis") is actually about grandma's grave.

2. Miffy is growing up in almost entirely female environment
The Miffy stories have a largely female cast. In the stories I have seen, Miffy has met her grandpa and has one male bear friend. All other cast members are implicitly or explicitly female. What does this mean? The male sex has been eliminated from Bunny land? One can only speculate about the reasons for this - and no, I wont go there. Point is, I want Peanut to understand that almost half of the global population is male and they are not (all) alien or scary and it is ok to love your daddy and to fall in love with a man later on in life.

3. Miffy is probably growing up in a Calvinistic Christian family
In the story "Nijntje in luilekkerland" which is not listed on the web site, Nijntje is daydreaming about "luilekkerland", a land where it rains candy, the pavement is made of chocolate, children don't have to clean up after themselves and can go to bed at the same time as adults. She concludes her daydreams that living in such a place probably is not fun in the long run and she might turn into a spoiled and fat rabbit. It is better to be normal, eat your porridge and be healthy.

I grew up in a Calvinistic Christian family and the story seems to me to be communicating those values to Peanut. It is up to you if you think this is appropriate to communicate to your child. I'd like Peanut to be able to enjoy herself without burdening her with a feeling of guilt or sin at a young age. Also, the comment about being fat may communicate a negative bias towards obese people.

4. Miffy is growing up in an environment with established role expectations
Miffy's mother is a stay-at-home mom who takes care of Miffy and does household chores. Miffy's aunt appears to be single and fills her days with baking cookies and organizing parties. Miffy's grandma loves to knit. In "Miffy goes to stay" we get to know the mother of Miffy's friend, who is also at home.

So essentially Miffy's role models are all female and all occupy themselves with household chores and children. Now, I respect women who chose to do this, but I also believe that we live in an age where this is a choice, not fate. I think it would be good for Miffy to have role models of adults who do other things, female and male. This would extend to Peanut as well.

5. At 4 years old, Miffy is supposed to be independent
In "Miffy goes to stay" ("Nijntje gaat logeren"). Miffy gets on the bus alone to go and visit her friend. I don't know about you, but I would not feel comfortable putting a 4-year old child on public transport by herself/himself.

In one of the Miffy movies, Miffy and her friends go camping by themselves without adult supervision. Again, I would not feel comfortable with that.

Is Miffy really teaching Peanut to expect to be this independent? Don't Miffy's parents care? Or is Miffy's mommy so busy with her household chores that she doesn't mind if Miffy is out of the way for a bit? You know, maybe before Miffy's daddy comes home? I guess with Miffy's parents being rabbits, they can always have a new litter :)

Honestly, I wrote this posting more in jest than as a serious complaint or accusation. But as I wrote this, I did start to wonder if these subtle messages in the Miffy books affect the development of children. Any comments / ideas?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ding Dong .... Cha-Ching!

I'm getting a bit hesitant to open my door when the doorbell rings.

It seems everytime I do, there is someone new on the doorstep asking us to support them with a small donation of some sort for their very good cause.

So far, I've:
> bought lottery tickets for a private school fundraiser
> bought a case of bottled water to help the local high school choir go to New York City
> offered to sponsor a March of Dimes guy who works at the local supermarket
> donated a bag of clothing to the local animal shelter for a thrift sale
> looked for canned goods to give to the local Boy Scouts!
> still waiting for someone to come sell me Girl Scout Cookies :-)

Obviously I think supporting local philathorpy and activities is a good thing (or else I'm just an easy target!). I like to see my community thrive and offer help for those in need.

We also very voluntarily made a donation to the local NPR affiliate (KERA, 90.1) because we listen to it virtually all day. This we did happily.

Unlike the TV tax we had to pay in Finland - no choice there - grumble, grumble. The TV police come to your door if you haven't registered yourself and started making payments. It used to make me so angry every quarter when the bill came for the tax...I know the logic was that only those who use the service (ie, TV) paid for YLE programming, but I was angered by the lack of choice. Maybe I didn't want to support the type of programming they provided.

In Finland, it seemed that only large multinational organizations were collecting donations - Greenpeace, the Red Cross, Plan, among others had youthful representatives on busy street corners trying to stop passers-by. They always seemed to have a binder with a ready presentation to convince you of their cause. Only then did they ask for some funds.

Perhaps the tax man took care of collecting and distributing funds for the school programs, handicapped, and others in need. Again, no choice on my part. Just a large chunk of my earnings filtered away.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

my shower buddy - the Exersaucer

We had only heard rumors and whispers about exersaucers while we were in Finland. I never actually saw one there - i guess they haven't made the leap across the pond. Several of my friends swore by them: "our baby loves it! she can play in it for hours". Another called them a waste of money. The online reveiws were raving.

I'm not convinced it was worth the money for a new one.

When Peanut turned 6 mos when went to Babies R Us to test drive their exersaucers. We placed Peanut in each one, one after the other. She seemed most amused in the Baby Einstein activity center so home it came with us.

Secretly mama and papa were also leaning towards that one, I mean, with a name like Baby Einstein how could it be anything but educational!! It even plays classical music tunes and has animal names in English & Spanish!! The classical music I have to admit is really a nice feature - I mean if its got to make sounds, might as well be something soothing that everyone can enjoy, right?

The first week or so, Peanut had a good time IN the saucer - for about half an hour at a time. Then she wanted out. She was very close to crawling at that age so it was no fun to be tied down. It was enough time usually the unload the dishwasher, cook dinner or take a shower.

Its the last activity that I think the exersaucer has been most used for in our household. Though Peanut hasn't actually been IN the exersaucer much after that first month of use, she loves to cruise around it and climb under it. Its become a permanent fixture in our bathroom and keeps her happy while mama takes a shower.

I wonder how many exersaucers end up in bathrooms? I've seen at one other house already!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ahh... no more bib laundry

Up to now, I'd been using cloth bibs for Peanut. After each meal, they were a complete mess with little chunks of food stuck on them and Peanut's clothes. Her sippy cup drink is still in training phase so often the entire front of her body would be soaked as she dumped the cup on herself and it went right through the bib.

No more!

I finally got a Baby Bjorn Soft Bib for her. Its wonderful and looks so cute! The fit is snug and easily adjustable. It protects more of her than our other bibs did. Easy to clean with just a rinse and always ready for the next meal.

Peanut also likes to fish out the droppings from the catch-all scoop :-)

Available from Target
and many online shops.

More consignment sales -- Rockinghorse in Coppell

Rocking Horse Sale

It looks like if you are into consignment, there is no lack of choice! This one is in Coppell and being promo'd to the Finnish mama community.

Its close by so I think we'll check it out. I was even trying to sort out some clothes to sell, but its tough! Those little itty-bitty baby outfits are too cute and who knows we may need them again or we could pass along to Auntie M .... one day .... maybe ....

Living Hope Church
Coppell, Texas

Spring Dates: March 2-4, 2006

Come shop or consign with us!

We are celebrating our 18th sale!

Consignor price tags are being distributed now.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Threat: No More Private Schools in Finland

A clash is underway within the cabinet on the future of private schools in Finland.

Two weeks ago, the Social Democratic Education Minister proposed that no more permits be issued for private schools.

It is a move which has aroused strong opposition from the Centre and the Christian Democrats.

The debate is focused on four private Christian schools which have applied for extensions for present operating permits, and all of which would have to close their doors under the proposal by the Minister of Education, Antti Kalliomäki.

In addition, it means a red light to expansion plans by two more Christian schools and for the start-up of three new private schools.

The Christian Democrats have begun a battle on behalf of the schools by circulating a petition which has already been signed by about 20 thousand people. Supporters of one private school in the town of Kerava have already delivered a formal appeal to the ministry.

In recent years, Social Democratic education ministers have often been less than enthusiastic about private schools, but permits have been forthcoming anyway. That may be changing. The cabinet can reject applications, even if a school fulfills all the legal requirements.

The schools and their supporters say that the present threat to their existence is more ideological and political than it is economic. Private schools, although they receive some state funding, cost the treasury less than do public schools.

There are close to 70 private schools in Finland. In addition to Christian schools, there are a number of non-religiously oriented schools such as Steiner and Montessori schools, as well as foreign-language schools. Of all primary education pupils in Finland, only about 2% attend private schools.

The cabinet is set to debate the issue late next week.

YLE24, Finnish News Agency

Nordic Walker Sighting

Peanut and I were going to the little pond in our neighborhood to feed the ducks when I heard a familiar 'click, click, click, click' in tune to the footsteps of a 'stick walker'.

I didn't think anything of it until later when I realized I had sighted a Nordic Walker! And, possibly, a Finn!

Nordic Walking is a form of fitness training originating in Finland. Skiing fans wanted a way to keep training during the summer months when there was no snow. It turned into walking with ski poles, of sorts. I never tried, but knew many people in Finland who did. My friend, Maiju, coincidentally just picked up the sport with her husband and blogs about it in a recent post.

Its gaining popularity across Europe and even made it onto CBS watch out, a new fitness craze is on its way.