Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Baby summer skin care

We've got plenty o'sunshine here in Texas; maybe a little too much to let Peanut out without sun protection.

So far, I've got her an sunhat that is supposed to block out harmful rays and a few bottles of the 'pink' sunscreen. We've tried on a few pairs of baby sunglasses at the store, but they usually last a few seconds on her face before she rips them off!

But, a story on ABC asks why the best UVA protection is not available in the US:

But there's good news. Lotions that contain the ingredients Oxybenzone, Titanium Dioxide or Parsol 1789 block out some UVA rays.

Doctors say a chemical called Mexoryl offers even better protection.

One brand that has it is L'Oreal Ombrelle 45 for kids and infants. It can be found either in Canada or Europe.

To keep protected at the beach and pool, some opt for a layer of protective clothing:

Skype IS the future

While way too many technologies overhype themselves and how they will make our lives 'easier, better, cheaper, faster...etc', Skype really really does.

I had one of those 'the future really is here' moments yesterday as we had a live video/audio call on the computer between our house and Peanut's grandparents in Florida. It was like we were living the commercial where the grandparents coo at the grandbaby miles and miles away.

We started using Skype back in Finland to keep in touch with family in the Netherlands and the US. The audio quality was always amazing - crisp and sometimes even clearer than on our real phones.

Now, they have rolled out the beta version of the video call. Both parties just need a simple $25 webcam on their ends and you're ready to roll. To get the grandparents set up, peanut's papa sent them a short email with instructions on how to download the latest version. They didn't run into any problems and using the program is so intuitive, we were looking at each other in our nightgowns and morning hair in no time :-)

It is just like they've been promising! Peanut's grandparents just loved it. Instead of keeping the webcam static on us sitting here, I let Peanut loose and followed her around the room with the cam that way they can see what all she's up to. I suspect we'll soon have to set up a regular broadcast schedule and some sort of Peanut show :-) I'll have to figure out if Skype supports conference video calls.

Oh! the cost of all of this -- $0! Skype is free!!

Bring on the Straws and Straw Cups

The other weekend Peanut had her first taste of Mexican food at our local Cozymel's. She nibbled on some chicken mama had and really enjoyed the black beans, fajita shells, cheese and guacamole. I had forgotten her sippy cup so we asked the waiter for a child's menu drink cup with some water.

It was one of the sturdy disposable cups with a straw. Papa did some sucking through the straw imitations for Peanut and then we let her try. At first, it just kinda sat in her mouth. Then she started puckering her mouth around the straw and managed to pull up some water!

This week, I picked up a couple of 'straw cups' from Walmart to see how she would react to those. A friend highly recommended them and I can see why. No spill, the straws fold away to keep clean, and many of the cups can be cooled in the fridge to keep the drinks cold.

Peanut has also taken to her cup. I've never given her any food or drink in the car since I can't reach her when I drive, but today she had her straw cup and happily sipped away. When we reached the park, the cup was nearly empty!

Relief for little thumb (finger) suckers

Peanut discovered her thumb when she was just two weeks old. Ever since she hasn't been interested in any sort of pacifier or bottle. In the beginning, we were pretty opposed to her sucking her thumb and tried to switch her over to a pacifier, but she had none of it.

After we accepted the thumb, I came to really appreciate Peanut's ability to calm herself when upset or to lull herself to sleep by sucking on it. We never had to search for, sterilize or in the middle of the night re-insert a pacifier.

Even now at 11 mos, Peanut still loves her thumb. She tends to suck on it when she's hungy, tired, overwhelmed or when she's teething.

My main concern has been how her little thumbs look after a day of sucking....sometimes they are quite red and sometimes the skin gets chapped. I usually then dab a bit of Lanisoh on them. I figure if it works for breastfeeding moms to keep delicate skin conditioned and its OK for babies to put into their mouth, why not. A few Lanisoh treatments gets Peanut's thumbs back in shape.

Flying with children - words to cause anxiety for any traveller

whether its you as the parent, or your fellow passengers. We all know the feeling when little ones enter the plane especially for a long-haul flight. But, with today's travel options and families sprinkled across continents, air travel with children simply happens.

This summer we will also be flying trans-Atlantic with Peanut and with her so active nowadays, it will be a neccessary evil.

We know its unavoidable that children will get fussy, tired, cranky and cry. I like the parent's rule about flying I read somewhere on another blog:
Its not that your child has to be absolutely still & quiet; your child just needest to be a bit quieter and stiller than the loudest one on board :-)

Here is an excellent list of ideas and insights when preparing for you trip, checking in, boarding, surviving on board, deplaning, handling customs& immigration areas and more from a flight attendant with 13 years of experience:
Flying with Children

She also suggests:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Don't skimp on the diaper wipes

So, our cheap diaper experiment is going really well. The Target diapers are currently wrapped around Peanut and, like most things Target, are most similar to the big brands is their appearance even sporting a recognized character, the CareBears. Since Target gear has a way of not always making it in the long run, its fortunate the use of the diapers is very short.

But, big mistake to think I could switch to a generic diaper wipe even if it claims to be a duplicate of the brand name. Poor Peanut's tushie can tell the difference and she's now recovering from a bit of irritation which I'm sure have been caused by the cheapy wipes. Don't do it.

Pssst, this one is Just Between Friends

It seems like you can always catch a big consignment sale! Coming up is the franchised Just Between Friends sale. These events must a big business for the organizers. In this show, consignors get to keep 70%, ie, organizers get 30% of sales price + $10 consignor fee. Not too bad!

I never made it to the mega Divine Consign, but did check out the mini, local Rockinghorse sale. It was rather small and the pickings were slim and kinda scattered here & there. But, the location could not be beat - just down the street from us. Peanut did get a set of Megablocks for $2 and a few summer play outfits for $4 - $6 so it wasn't a complete wash.

Fortunately for me & Peanut, Just Between Friends has an event in Denton April 21 - 22. The energy required to get there will be minimal since its close by :-)

They also feature a First Time Moms early shop-a-thon.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Antibiotics in infancy linked to asthma risk

Antibiotics in infancy linked to asthma risk
Exposure to a single course of antibiotics appeared to double the asthma risk, their study found. And, the risk seems to grow for every additional course of antibiotics taken within the first year of life, the report found.

However, the authors emphasized that while they observed an association between the use of antibiotics and the development of asthma, they did not establish a definitive, causal link between the two.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Also on the agenda, how to fund education in Texas?

I'm not as well versed in this story as I'd like to be, but Texas is looking at a major overhaul of how education is funded in the state.

Currently, schools depend mainly on property taxes. In a simplification - this led to issued with poorer areas having poorer schools and lower quality of education. To ameliorate this problem 'Robin Hood' legislation was enacted to shift funds from wealthier areas to those with lower property taxes. But, I think the name says alot about how people feel about that (steal from the rich...) In 2004, the Texas State Supreme court ruled this type of funding unconstitutional.

This has led to a special legislative session called by Gov Rick Perry.

While lawmakers want to lower sky-high property taxes, they have stalemated repeatedly on how to replace that revenue – about $6 billion – with other taxes. Meanwhile, Mr. Dewhurst wants new money for schools, while Mr. Perry opposes raising taxes to pay for such reforms.

The two Republican leaders did unite on one issue: They both opposed a plan being circulated in the House that would usurp the state’s entire $4.5 billion surplus to lower property taxes, at least temporarily, without an offsetting tax bill. The plan would drop business and residential property taxes about 12 percent, and lawmakers could go home and tackle longer-term solutions when they return for the regular session in January.

“I recognize there are some folks who view our $4 billion-plus budget surplus as money that can be used to buy tickets for the fast train out of town,” Mr. Perry said, but he warned it would be a mistake. “We need to look at the long-term solution here, not just a short-term, quick fix.”

In the Coppell Independent School District, we pay very high property taxes to maintain the school system so I'm very curious to see how this pans out:
2003-2004 (per AEIS)
According to the state's most recently released (2003-04) Academic Indicator System (AEIS) report, the district's financial data is as follows:

Expenditure Per-Pupil $7,793
Total Budget $77,075,698
Percent Distribution of Revenue
Local 87.9 %
State 10.4 %
Federal 1.8 %

Tax Rate/$100 Assessed Valuation $1.735

CISD’s Recapture Payment (“Robin Hood”) was $26,198,913

Note: The AEIS report is released in January based on the previous year's data.

Give me a 'C' 'h' 'e' 'e' 'r' - what's that spell? DRAMA

For the past few months, a massive controversy has been brewing at a nearby high school over the cheerleading tryouts.

In Texas, cheerleading is more than just rooting on the team for fun. Its serious. Its social capital. And, its something parents -- and evidently school boards -- are hotly involved in.

The latest follow up story in the Dallas Morning News wraps up the drama.
A flurry of accusations, angry phone calls and threatening e-mails, along with spray-painted expletives and trash strewn in families' yards, have marked a three-month fight that the school board sought to end this week.

On Monday, trustees unanimously reversed their previous decision and reinstated all 33 girls who tried out for the Carroll Senior High School varsity cheerleading squad in December.

They said they upheld a January decision by the principal and superintendent to put all the girls on the squad because of a number of discrepancies and deviations from district policy.

Have stroller, will exercise

Its fabulous that there are so many ways to get out for some mama exercise with stroller and baby. Sometimes the hardest step is finding the motivation just to go out the door.

I'm one of those lazy ones who needs that extra nudge and absolutely loves it once I get moving. In Finland, Peanut & i had to go out almost daily just to get groceries or whatever else we needed. Downtown Tapiola was a 20 min stroll away so I was guaranteed at least 40+ mins of walking. Now, in Dallas, I find I have to make time for that walk.

Fortunately, we live right down the street from the Coppell jogging trail system so that's one "obstacle" out of my way.

A friend clued me into See Mommy Run and now we join her & her little boy twice a week for walk. I like this organization because it doesn't cost anything, has basically no organized activity beyond what your group sets up and just helps you to make that commitment to get somewhere because others are waiting for you. In the summer, I imagine we'll join one of the Mall Walker groups.

Now, Stroller Strides is starting fitness classes in the area as well. I didn't find a price on their website, but assume there is one.
In 50 minutes, you will get a total body workout improving your cardiovascular endurance, your strength and your flexibility. All of our classes are taught by certified instructors, who are also moms! This is not just a stroll around the park but a workout that gets you striding back into shape. Along with walking we use the outdoor environment as our gym by doing intervals of body toning using exercise tubing and the stroller.

On Wed, April 5th, they are offering free intros + giveaways and goodie bags inthe Lewisville/Coppell/Carrollton area:
  • Vista Ridge Mall: 8.30 - 9.30 am
  • Andrew Brown Park East in Coppell: 10 am - 11 am
  • Grapevine Springs Park Preserver: 6 - 8 pm

Then, there's Baby Boot Camp which runs a program at Grapevine Mills Mall in Grapevine. Again, no price on the website as it probably varies by franchise.
Baby Boot Camp stroller-based fitness classes are designed specifically to help moms get fit.It takes the place of a personal trainer at a time in your life when you need one more than ever. Classes combine strength-training exercises with cardiovascular drills. Pilates, yoga and abdominal exercises help improve core strength. The stroller, resistance tubes (and even your child!) are used as an integral part of the workout.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sleep and No-sleep, Again

It seems like the endless story - this month, Peanut sleeps poorly; next month, Peanut sleeps well. In the meantime, papa sleeps as Peanut sleeps and mama usually just sleeps here & there. I asked Peanut's Grandma the other day when would she start sleeping consistently well and she told me "oh, sometime before she goes to school!".

Since Feb, Peanut had a strong case of separation anxiety that naturally flared up in the evening. I couldn't bare to hear her cry so desparately so I began snuggling her down, holding her in my arms until she was asleep and then attempting to deftly, silently, smoothly lower her into her crib. Sometimes it all went well. Often that last inch before the mattress her eyes fluttered opened followed by a big wail. Back to the chair we went.

Then, she began waking & crying at night. Papa would bring her to our bed and we'd all snuggle down for the rest of the night. Often I thought it was the sweetest thing to have our whole family in bed together. But, when Peanut couldn't settle down or got comfortable in a position that left one of us hanging off the side of the bed, it wasn't so nice.

This week, it was time to try "sleep training" aka a bit of crying. Wednesday was horrible. Mama cried and could barely sleep herself. I went through an on-going inner debate of being there for Peanut when she needs me and helping her to fall asleep on her own (but she's only a baby!!!).

Thursday, we tucked Peanut in with Pooh Bear and the cries quickly faded away. Today, there has hardly been a whimper.

Maybe Peanut just needed a little friend to share the bed with her.

One, two, three - een, twee, drie - yksi, kaksi, kolme

With our various backgrounds we want Peanut to feel comfortable in our home cultures and languages so we had decided to raise her bilingual in English (our "speak to each other" home language) and Dutch (speak with papa and his family). While we lived in Helsinki, the thought was that she would then pick-up Finnish from the environment and when she started daycare.

Then, we moved to Dallas and life has been a whirlwind of activity since. Only recently have we started discussing adding Finnish back into her little life.

By chance, we are surrounded by many opportunities to make it naturally part of her language exposure. Peanut & I occassionally make it to the Mamma-kerho meetings and playgroups with other Finnish moms & kiddies. Our home is a stone's throw away from a number of playparks frequented by the same. And, the Suomi-Koulu of Texas has a baby class we could join. And, of course, Peanut's mama is at home with her and could add Finnish there.

There are many resources out there telling us we can do it and Peanut can do it. Now, we are just sorting out what's the right way for us.

Anyone else out there have experiences or advice to share??

Bicultural/Bilingual Families

Babycenter Multilingual BB

Heritage Park - tulips, swings, goldfish & fountain

This week, we were introduced to the somewhat hidden away Heritage Park in Grapevine. What a treat!

The playground has two playsets - one a mini-version for truly little ones (like Peanut) and the other for 'advanced' players (ie, 2+) - there are swings, a merry-go-round and large trees shading picnic tables and grassy spots.

Right next to the playpark is the Botanical Garden filled now with blooming tulips, pansies and other early spring delights. A fountain with open edges quickly drew the little ones in for splashing until their clothes were drenched. It was a lovely sunny day so everyone dried as we strolled further to see the koi fish and green expanse of lawn perfect for toddling.

Peanut had a blast and slept so soundly after a few hours of fresh air and outdoor excitement.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This week, we're going cheap

Further on the subject of baby tushies and what covers them, this week I've decided to experiment with generic, store-brand diapers.

Afterall, they are just getting tossed and as long as they've done their duty, does it really matter if there are cute Seasame Street or Disney characters printed on them. As a matter of fact, those pictures have puzzled me for some time. I mean, Peanut can't see them. I could care less about them. And, if Peanut did see them, do I really want her attracted to the waistband of her diaper?! Who are they printed on there for, I wonder?

So, first round goes to the Albertson brand since they had a bonus bargain sale last week. A pack for $4.99. When I took them out, they looked remarkably like Pampers - same stretchy sides, same 'velcro-like' tabs, same pale purple figurines dancing around on them. Though, like most knock-offs, I immediately noticed that they were thinner everywhere, a little less stretchie and well, just felt cheaper.

Peanut did not notice a thing. She happily pranced around in them. They stayed on just fine. They did what they were supposed to do just fine. Even at night. My only issue was that they were a bit on the small side. I bought a "4" just like I usually do in the Pampers Cruisers.

Next up -- Kroger brand. These are built more like Huggies. Much less design - only a purple waistband with kitty-cat (or puppy)paw prints - but plenty of puff. Because of the Albertson experience, I went big. No surprise, they are a bit on the large side :-) But, again, working well. Peanut happy. Mama happy.

Here's some other views

Research: Multiple Births May Prevent Some Cancers

From YLE News -

An academic dissertation to be presented on Friday asserts that giving birth to many children can protect women from the risk of gynaecological cancers.

The key findings of Marianne Hinkula's dissertation are that women who have given birth to at least 5 children have a 40 percent lower risk of developing breast, endometrial or ovarian cancer. The thesis argues that this is due to levels of hormonal activity.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Get yourself some library storytime!

Peanut and I have been enjoying the Baby & Me Storytime at the Coppell public library. Its a free session though requires advance sign-up. During the six week session we sing the same selection of songs so that babies become familiar with them. There are also quick readings of children's books interspersed into the songs.

Baby and Me Storytime - - specifically designed to promote parent/caregiver interaction with baby through finger plays, songs, rhymes and stories to share the love of language and further baby's development. This is a one-on-one program that is designed for children who are not yet walking.

Peanut LOVES itsy-bitsy spider, she even has her own little hand signal for it: she pokes her pointer finger into the palm of her other hand. She does this whenever I say the words 'itsy-bitsy spider' or when she hears the version of the song we have on an English and Dutch children's CD. Its amazing!!

Storytime is also great for just getting us to the library to check out some books.

Many local libraries host similar sessions -- highly recommeneded!!

6 Things I Miss About Helsinki

We've been in Texas now for nearly 6 mos and we've had a terrific time so far.

However, there are few things I wish we could import from Helsinki -
1. Local buses with free passes for babies. Peanut gets ferried around by car most of the time now, but several times a week we still stroll. Sometimes we stroll too far - Peanut gets hungry, mama gets tired or its suddenly much later than it should be. Those moments I long for the awesome public bus service that was available to swiftly and comfortably -- did I mention FOR FREE -- take us home.
2. Coin operated shopping carts In Finland, in order to get a shopping cart, you must insert approx 50 cents - $1.00 in a slot on the shopping cart. This deposit releases it from the chain-system attaching it to other shopping carts. Where this system is really fantastic is that EVERYONE returns their shopping carts to the cart corral because you want your $$ back. This crosses my mind everytime I dodge a shopping cart parked in the middle of the parking lot at Kroger, Tom Thumb, Wal-mart, etc, etc
3. Only mildly violent TV programs. I didn't realize the difference in TV programming until we moved back. Sure, Finland has its share of violent TV, too, but its alot less prevalent. You do trade it out for more sex and nudity, but I'd take explaining that to Peanut any day over death, shootings, fist-fights, stabbings, blowing this that and the other up.
4. Delicious drinking water directly from your tap. No filter needed. It just comes in tasty as can be. Our Brita filter now takes care of it for us here.
5. Subsidized natural gas and electricity. We usually paid around $25.00 every FOUR MONTHS or so for our gas and electricity because it was so heavily subsidized by the State. In reality, we paid for the gas and electricity in many other ways through the high taxes. After gettting our first few bills here in Texas -- Yikes, talk about sticker shock. However, in a country as northern as Finland, its a neccessity not a nicety that everyone is able to stay warm. Plus, as a socialist state, priority number one is to ensure that the community is taken care of.
6. Total REAL online banking system. Nordea bank (and any other large bank in Finland) offered a true online banking system. We had no checks - all payments were scheduled and made electronicly, even when you paid your friend back the 5 EUR for a cup of coffee. Now, I've got a stack of paper bills, envelopes, my checkbook, stamps and return address stickers to coordinate. Plus, I have to remember to pay my bills on time! :-(

Addicted to Cheerios

Peanut is totally addicted to Cheerios. The girl can always find room for a little o in her belly even if all the other food is gone and she's giving signs that she's full.

Just the mention of the word gets her attention!

Last night, she was done flinging her pieces of broccoli off her feeding table and was fidgeting. Her mouth already crumpled into a frown and impatient little baby grunts issuing forth.

Then mama pronounced the magic words -- Would you like some Cherrios?

A ray of enthusiam glows from her now smiling and angelic face. She literally snaps her head around into the direction of the pantry where she knows Cheerios come from. A peaceful baby awaits that Cheerios will be sprinkled onto her plate.

What did parents do before Cheerios!? Was there a time before Cheerios??!! I mean what finger food is more prevelant among the 8 mos old set than these little puffs of oat? So portable. So convient. Spills are no worry - there are no stains!

And with the recommendation of four out of five pediatricians, Cheerios seem to have cemented their place in the lives of our little ones.

Cheerios helps your child develop motor skills and is a good choice for little fingers because the O's are easy to pick up, firm, and resist crumbling.

Cheerios contains 14 essential vitamins and minerals that provide good nutrition.

Cheerios cereal is made with whole grain oats and provides a good source of fiber, an important nutrient for all ages.

Cheerios has only 1 gram of sugar per serving.

Cheerios has no artificial colors or flavors.

Cheerios has been trusted by moms for over 60 years.

Cheerios cereal tastes great and is fun to eat!