Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sugar, get the HFCS out of my kitchen!!

I never thought I'd be reading the sides of food packages to MAKE SURE that they contain sugar - the real stuff. Not corn syrup. Not sacchrine. Not aspartame (yuck!!!). And, certainly not High Fructose Corn Syrup, a truly terrible invention that has oozed its way into practically every food item you can think of.

HFCS, as its known around our house, is worse than just empty calories. It actually goes further to harm your system by not registering a feeling of 'fullness' when you eat usually causing you to eat more. Or drink more Coke.

Go on - check your pantry, fridge and freezer - you'll be shocked how many foods contain HFCS. Heinz ketchup, waffles, pasta sauce, bread....on and on...its nearly impossible to avoid it. And, all those packages that catch your eye with 'Sugar Free', yep, its usually HFCS instead. I avoid them like the plague and search for that fattening (yes, but at least I know what I'm eating) SUGARY foods.

Interestingly (though not surprisingly), HFCS..
Currently, HFCS remains an almost uniquely American phenomenon.

In Europe, whilst HFCS is not specifically banned, the greater availability of cane sugar over maize would make it uneconomical to produce it there. American HFCS cannot usually be imported to the European Union because of the European Union's moratorium on the production and sale of genetically modified products.

Finnish study - TV causes sleep problems for kids

Children who passively watch television programmes geared for adults have a greater risk of sleep disturbances. According to a study carried out by the University of Tampere, families with children should not leave the TV on continuously.

What's your sign, baby?

A story on NPR this morning highlighted the trend in the US for more parents using sign language to communicate with their pre-verbal ones. Its a frustrating time for parents and children when the babies reach an age that they try to communicate needs and wants, but simply can't. Evidently, children learn more hand gestures and movements much earlier than how to make the mouth, tongue, vocal chords coordinate to make words.

I can see us approaching that stage with Peanut, too.

At Gymboree, where we go to play once a week, there are also baby sign classes that start as early as just a few months old! And, here in Coppell, the local Kindermusik also teaches a baby sign class.

Peanut & I went to a preview of the Korner Kottage Kindermusik class one day at the library. We went through a mini-lesson which included learning signs for 'the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.' Not very useful. However, useful were 'its time to clean-up' and 'jumping' and 'stop'. Ideas like 'please' and 'thank you' seemed a bit too abstract for me when we still haven't mastered 'milk' or 'sleep'. The instructor made several claims about the benefits of baby sign that I also found difficult to believe:
  • raise child's IQ !! (how on earth would you know?!)
  • learn words faster - a signing baby has vocab of 20 or more signs at 12 mos
Maybe....even ABC News had a story supporting the higher IQ theory....

Alex is one of 140 sign language babies followed by researchers for the past 16 years as part of a long-term study on the effects of signing with babies.

These days, Alex is an A student who is outgoing and involved in athletics. Acredolo says children like Alex, who've learned sign language at an early age, seem to be high achievers.

Acredolo says when these children had their IQs tested at 8 years old, they scored an average of 12 points higher than the control group. She says the same children also achieved higher-than-average scores on their SATs.

Though we haven't followed 'real' baby signs, we do have a few of our own around the house with Peanut. One of the most effective ones has been rubbing her palms together at the table to let us know when she is done eating. We also have signs for brushing teeth ( imitation of tooth brush on teeth) and water (action like bringing cup to mouth).

Here are the official signs based on American Sign Language for many toddler interesting words! And a link to Baby Signs with plenty of other resources.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Giant Turtle moves into our backyard

Its Peanut's new/used sandbox! We filled up last night and Peanut quickly stuck her hands in. her papa was having as much fun with the sandwheel :-)

I'd been told about a woman who runs a consignment biz out of her home for these types of toys. I paid $16 for Peanut's Little Tikes turtle box, they retail for around $40 - 60. She had even replaced the eyes on it :-)

She has the whole collection in her backyard in Flower Mound - very close to Sprout's supermarket! Some of the outdoor stuff was quite faded from being out in the sun, but looked to be in decent condition. For the indoor toys like kitchens, workbenches, cash registers, etc, she often gets all the accessories from the manufacturer.

I just haven't figured out yet how to come to terms with having such big pieces of plastic filling up our yard! But, if Peanut enjoys them then it doesn't really matter what they look like. What I like about finding this consignor is that there is a bit of a recycling element to buying from her. We're helping to reuse something someone else has outgrown and then when we're done, we can trade it in with her and pass it around again.

Don't email her, she doesn't check her email -- call her if you want to make an appointment.

Judy Moore

972-539-4563 or 469 233 4050


( i think the photos here look better than the toys did in real life)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The classics are always fun

Whenever we go visit my mom, she has taken the time to dig up some of my old baby clothes and toys for Peanut. Its a nice way for us to recall my childhood - what I was doing when I wore the little woolen dress or poncho from Spain, how I used to carry the teddy bear around with me everywhere and other memories attached to the clothes & toys.

Here are some photos of what Peanut played with last time - anyone remember these?!

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Monday, May 15, 2006

More Babies in Finland = Good, Less Babies in US = Good, huh?

On Mother's Day some news about who should have babies when:
Minister of Health and Social Services Liisa Hyssälä feels that Finnish couples are waiting too long before starting families.

"If the first child is born when the mother is around 30 years old, many families end up not having as many children as they had planned," she said.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic the big story has been a drop in pregnancies - at least among more affluent women, reports the Washington Post:

Poor women in America are increasingly likely to have unwanted pregnancies, whereas relatively affluent women are succeeding more and more in getting pregnant only when they want to, according to a study analyzing federal statistics.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Not welcome: Itsy-Bitsy Spiders and other creepy crawlies

The pest control man told us its the height of bug season in North Texas now. Its been pretty quiet around our place - a few silverfish in the bathrooms, a spider here & there, one cockroach scuttling about the garage, but otherwise not many multi-legged unwanted guests around.

One of the joys of living in Finland was that we simply did not have any household bugs to worry about unless you count the mosquitoes and flies that came in the open windows during summer. And, I don't. Having grown up in Florida and other Southern states, flying cockroaches, fleas, healthy sized spiders and other things that give me the hibbie-gibbies (sp??) count.

But with Peanut around, I was a bit hesitant to just ring up the pest control guys to come spray their poisons where she now plays. Even though our pediatrician said they are safe and the pest control companies claim to be safe. A few alternatives from a playgroup friend -

There are some pest control companies who claim to be safer than the traditional ones:
Sterling Pest control and All Safe Pest Control.

In the end, we called Curtis Pest Control here in Coppell to spray just the outdoor perimeter of the house. I figured if we can stop them at the door, we don't have to have the poisons indoors and can just help any crawlies inside to an untimely early death.

The guy who came out was extremely knowledgable about what chemicals he was using, how they worked and what the local insect population was like. We talked with him for a long time as he explained the spray is made from an extract of an African daisy that is specially concocted into tiny microcapsules to penetrate the exoskeleten of bugs to release the poison. They don't dissolve in rainwater and are effective for several months. The capsules supposedly won't enter the human system unless ingested.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Congrats SAHM - you get a raise! recently decided stay-at-home-moms deserve a raise to $134,121 annually (up from 2005's salary of $131,471). They even have a nifty calculator to help you figure out your worth as you sit down for your salary negotiation.....oh...we don't get to do that....we get paid out in slobbery kisses and heads heavy from sleep resting on our shoulders. Ahhhh - those are hard to price out.

The Wall Street Journal is one of many media sources to discuss the latest raise for the stay-at-home-mom:
Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard, dismissed the survey as "silly." "The calculation isn't for what anyone would pay an individual," Prof. Goldin said. "Nor is it for exactly what the individual does. It is for what the person claims they are doing during a long day -- CEO, psychologist, etc. And what exactly is the salary for the CEO of a business that shows no profits and sells no services or goods? I think it is probably zero."
But, what's really the point of a SAHM salary survey? Is it that people need to have a $$$ tied to what they do to feel social worth? Do some have to justify staying at home to their working partners? Is it so hard for women to leave behind the work force, titles/positions of power, control over their own paychecks that something like this rekindles those feelings?

Taking a different angle, according to an MSN Money article, the 'hidden cost' of SAHM can be rather high:
Cost of giving up a career: $1 million
She uses herself, a writer (ahem), as an example of what happens when women decide to leave the workforce. Most not only forfeit their income, but also retirement savings, pension and other benefits. All told, Crittenden says, she gave up about $700,000. Shocking? Yes. Unlikely? Nope. Economists say that the stay-at-home parent who relinquishes a career may lose about $1 million over the years.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Which side of THIS debate are you on: to dope or not to dope?

Oh the many ways to slice & dice the parenting community - here's another hot one:

Do you give your baby/child Benedryl when you fly to help them sleep/stay calm?

Baby Center recently ran a poll on the topic with results showing 20% of respondents had, while another 20% would consider it.

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal highlights why this is a topic likely to have parents sitting on opposite sides of the room:

The controversy seems to arise more from differences in parenting philosophies than safety concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't have a position on the matter, and individual pediatricians vary in their views. "If you asked 100 pediatricians, you'd get 20 strongly in favor, 60 who didn't think about it much, and 20 strongly opposed," says Richard Gorman, past chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' National Committee on Drugs. "Good doctors can disagree about this, just as thoughtful parents can disagree."

Finland ranks at top, US at bottom of infant mortality survey


American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

The report, which analyzed data from governments, research institutions and international agencies, found higher newborn death rates among U.S. minorities and disadvantaged groups. For African-Americans, the mortality rate is nearly double that of the United States as a whole, with 9.3 deaths per 1,000 births.

Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, said the report card "illustrates the direct line between the status of mothers and the status of their children."

Monday, May 08, 2006

How come no one warned us about the 1 year old tantrums?

Is it because they are still nothing compared to the 'terrible twos' and everything else that lies ahead?

Peanut has got opinions - I want to walk now (we just sit down for dinner at a restaurant), I want back into the pool (swim class just ended), I want to wander into the creek (when a perfectly appealing jungle gym is in the opposite direction), I want to continue pulling the cats tail (when the cat has already growled and swatted her hand)... and when mama or papa try to suggest something contrary - watch out!

Peanut cries, she arches back strong and sudden, she swats at mama or papa - even pulls our hair, she throws her arms down on the ground, and sometimes even gets into a classic baby tantrum position of beating the ground.

This from our usually easy going and sweet girl! Amazing! I'm sure we'll look back fondly on these easy tantrums one day :-)

Any advice from those of you who have been there?!

Maarit makes list of Cool Names for 2006

at least according to the BabyZone e-newsletter:

Origin: Finnish
Meaning: Pearl
Why we like it: Call it the Ikea effect, but suddenly Scandinavian names are sounding very bright and modern to us.

Other cool girl names:

For boys there were names like:

Dallas Gets Lush!

Lush, my favorite handmade bodycare & cosmetics shop, opened up in Dallas this weekend! As part of the expansion of NorthPark mall - the first mall mall - Lush brought its fragrant goodies here.

Blessed/cursed with naturally curly hair, I'm always on the lookout for haircare products that soothe the lockes. Over 5 years ago, another curly friend of mine who lived in Seattle at the time and had found Lush in Canada passed along the secrets of Trichomania solid shampoo and Coolaulin conditioner to me. They are simply magic in all weather conditions and climates!

I saw some chatter on the Lush BB about products for babies and imagine that Peanut would enjoy bathing in some of their soothing, natural scents.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Is your baby a Baby Einstein?

Sure, we all secretly (and some not so secretly) think our own babies are geniuses. And, they all are, aren't they :-)

I've thought alot about the Baby Einstein phenomena during this first year of Peanut's life though we have never owned a BE DVD. In Finland, they did not exist so they didn't really even enter as a possibility until we moved to Texas. By that point, however, I had decided to try and keep the TV off at home during the day. Now, we've lived the first year without having TV viewing as part of our daily routine so its very natural for us to not even think of watching it or having Peanut watch it as a distraction.

Here it seems EVERYONE has and watches BE - they get them as gifts, some buy them, but most parents swear by them: our 4 mo old loves it, our 8 mo old learned baby signs from it, our 12 mo old sings along with it, etc, etc. They buy me time to take a shower, read email, make dinner, etc, etc. I don't know how I would make it through the day without TV....

Since we never had TV in our daily program, Peanut doesn't crave it and I don't even think to turn it on. If I need a few moments of baby-free time, I play some music for her, open a book for her to flip through, dump a pile of blocks on the floor for her to carry to the bathtub and she's just as happy doing those things.

Blogging Baby's post about a Child Advocacy group suing BE was very interesting as are the comments left by other readers:

From the Washington Post: A child-advocacy group is petitioning the federal government to bar the Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby Companies from promoting their products as "educational and beneficial to child development." The group, The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says that claims made by the two companies that their videos "foster toddler's speech and language skills," and otherwise enhance childhood learning are deceptive, since there's no proof, and in fact, television watching "could adversely affect cognitive development if it replaces creative play and interaction with a child's parents and surroundings."

Further Comments on baby consumerism:
I'm not sure that I agree with the ban, but in general I have found the Center to be an excellent source of information about the adverse effects of marketing on children. Have any of you read books such as Juliet Schor's "Born to Buy"? Unfortunately there is ahuge push for cradle-to-grave brand loyalty. Children as young as 6 months have been proven to recognize icons like Elmo, and 18 month-olds can correctly identify brands. It sounds innocuous enough on the surface, but when you start thinking of all the character tie-ins (Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, Dora soups, etc.) it becomes weirdly obvious what is going on in conjunction with your nice, educational programming.