Friday, June 30, 2006
While some argue that babies don't need an elaborate first celebration, I think its as much for the parents as it is for the birthday baby. I was really excited to reach this milestone and wanted to throw a party to commemorate. I realize Peanut won't remember any of it, but we will and it was a special day for us, too.
The format was fairly similar for each celebration:
> around 2 hours, usually in the early afternoon
> first some time to socialize, babies play in the center of the room
> about 1/2 hr into the party, some people begin to check out the finger foods
> at about the half way point, baby is strapped into high chair, special birthday hat and bib are put on and parents come out with the small baby cake, we all sing and baby hesitantly digs in as we wait to see how much ends up in the hair, ears and covering baby's face :-)
> separate cake served for guests
> then its present opening time
> and soon after everyone trickles out the door with goody bag in hand
We went to themed parties (Elmo, lady bug, First Birthday animals), parties at the park under a pavillion and parties held at Gymboree. Some more elaborate than others, but for all, clearly a good deal of planning went into them.
Invitations and thank-you cards were usually coordinated to match the themes. Some cards were store-bought and handwritten, others self-designed and computer printed and a few even specially designed and professionally printed with the birthday baby's picture.
Goody bags lined up by the door contained surprises like rubber duckies, notepads, photo albums, picture frame magnets, books, rubber balls and other small gifts. Peanut gave a pinwheel and some sidewalk chalk to her guests. I wonder where the whole goody bag thing got its start? Someone in our group even suggested making an agreement next year to just skip them!
A bonus from the parties was that we got to know the dads better over several rounds of cake and ice cream though there usually only a handful of fathers at the events.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
We're starting to see many of the same people out on our walks. Its a wonderful mix of cultures and languages that crosses our path.
There is the older Indian man who sits on the bench overlooking the duck pond in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. He is there with his palms resting on his knees early to greet the sun and in the evenings to bid it farewell. He always takes a moment away from his peaceful gazing to wave to Peanut - or gently admonish her parents for having her out in such heat!
There are very slender and quick-paced the Chinese (Taiwanese?) grandparents who are trying to keep their active 2 year old granddaughter in the stoller all the way to the park. "Baby" and Ni-hao are all I understand of grandmother's quick comments. Grandfather speaks some English. The little girl always excitedly waves at Peanut and explains how she is going to play on the monkey bars.
A couple of Korean ladies are often out for a speed-walk wearing their outdoor hats with broad sun-blocking lids. A group of Spanish-speaking women also briskly walk by as they get in their morning exercise. Sometimes an older Indian couple ambles by - this pair is dressed more traditionally with the woman wearing a sari and both sporting chappul-sandals.
Two younger Finnish women are out with their strollers usually just 15 mins ahead or behind us. They walk fast with a sense of purpose and true to the stereotype, never say hello or even make eye contact if we pass.
Of course, we also come across many English-speaking neighbors with dogs, strollers, bikes and smiles as they jog by.
I'm glad for the diversity of our neighborhood and excited for Peanut to get to know people of different backgrounds and cultures as she grows up. The 'melting pot' idea is such a cliche, but certainly compared to Helsinki, there is a wider array of people just in our area who look as if they truly are comfortable here.
Monday, June 26, 2006
We finally made it out on a Saturday morning to the Coppell Farmer's Market. It was a small affair with many of the vendors selling the same produce - green beans, onions, blueberries, okra, potatoes, among other farm goods. I also peeked in on the herb seller and bread stand. But, the shining star to us was the grass-fed farm goods from the clean, natural and happy Rehoboth Ranch.
The ground lamb was made into small meatballs that Peanut gobbled down like nothing else! It was truly tasty and delicious. Mr. Hutchins had sworn that the whole chicken from his farm would be the best chicken ever to cross our lips; it was good, but not earth shattering.
Last weekend, he was there again with a couple of his girls. All three wore long denim dresses and long pigtails down their back or twirled up in buns. According to their brochure, the girls are just a small sampling of their 12 (!) children!
The beautiful story of Rehoboth is found in Genesis 26. Rehoboth is a place where “…the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land…” We thank God for His gracious blessings during this past year.
At Rehoboth Ranch, our animals graze contentedly on pastures that are not sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. We do not give our beef, lamb, or chicken any steroids, antibiotics, feed additives, appetite enhancers, or other synthetic chemicals. We feed no animal or food by-products to any of our animals. Beef, lamb, and pork processing and packaging are accomplished at a small, slow paced, family owned and operated USDA inspected facility, and each animal is individually scrutinized by an Inspector before and during processing and before and during packaging. The pastured poultry is processed at the ranch in our well equipped, state inspection exempt and registered processing facility which is meticulously run by our family members.
Coppell Farmer's Market
Located in Old Town Coppell at Bethel and Coppell Roads Every Saturday (8 a.m. to sellout)
April 22 through November 18
Sunday, June 25, 2006
This week one of the playgroups that Peanut & I went to dissolved suddenly over some misunderstandings. A friend with two children told me how her playgroup suffered an ugly split when more mother's began having their second child and the group just got too big and unwieldy. Deciding how to form two groups descended into bickering, finger-pointing and all sorts of accusations that had no place among mothers meeting to have fun with their babies.
The other playgroup Peanut & I attend came together rather informally, but we do have a short list of guidelines and an understanding of how the playdates are organized. One person took the role of keeping an address list and meeting calendar which she updates and distributes as needed. From there, everyone has simply volunteered to host playgroups and organize group outtings. We regularly send group emails soliciting advice to sharing information and good deals we've spotted. So far, we've been fortunate to maintain a friendly, cohesive group spirit.
I know we don't like think that a wholesome activity like baby playgroup should be overly regulated and planned for fear of mommy-politics, but the truth of human nature is that when you have a group of people, there will be differences of opinion, parenting styles and expectations. Here are some suggestions from playgroups around the country on how to help avoid some issues:
The folks over at Quaker Oatmeal!
Friday, June 23, 2006
This is just blatantly a copy/paste from DaddyTypes, who always has the scoop:
If you thought that Mutsy strollers were reserved solely for future Scandinavian kings to push around on Spanish beaches, think again. The stroller that Haakon Crown Prince of Norway made famous [around here anyway, never mind that Mutsy's been in business almost as long as Norway's even had a king] is coming to American beaches sometime this year.
Here's what Mutsy reps told a DT reader today who asked about US availability:From: Carlo Verre [XXXXXXXX@mutsy.nl]
Sent: Thursday, June 22, 2006
To: A DT reader who's proactive about managing his vanity Google search results
Subject: RE: A message from Mutsy.com
We are planning to introduce Mutsy before the end of this year, the exact
date will be published on our website.
During our time in Finland, I added some new celebrations to my annual calendar. One familiar holiday I knew from my childhood summers was Juhannus or Midsummer, the Summer Solistice.
Its such a powerful tradition in Finland; anticipated as anxiously as Christmas or New Year's Eve, it marks the real start of summer. For many it kicks off their 4 week summer holidays. Finns flee the cities for the sea and lakeshores to eat, drink, drink, drink, sauna, drink, sauna, drink, and build blazing bonfires. The one in the photo is from our summer cabin on Lake Koitere.
Its a really joyous occasion, but sadly, each year, the combination of too much alcohol and water mean the last Midsummer for too many.
This year in Dallas, I wasn't even quite sure which day Midsummer feel on. Its not printed on the calendars. No one even notices it. I feel that my summer is somehow off kilter....so, I am looking forward to a proper 4th of July celebration to set it right again.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
More than half of Finnish households have made plans for their summer holiday. On average, the households plan to spend 1,600 euros (about 2,000 USD) on their holiday, according to a Nordic survey conducted by Nordea at the end of May. More than 1,000 Finns were interviewed in the survey.That seems like a large amount of money to spend by families who are staying in Finland. I imagine most of them will go to their family summer cottages where life can be relatively inexpensive or similar to the cost of staying home. There maybe some special outtings and some sightseeing, but I don't know where the additional spending may take place.The majority of Finnish households plan to spend their holiday in Finland. Every tenth household is planning to travel in the other Nordic countries and nearly every third household in other European countries. Finns travel abroad distinctly less often than people in the other Nordic countries.
Then again, its an average so perhaps the costs of travel to European countries is bringing the figure up overall.
A report in the 2001 issue of Travel Weekly showed that in the US:
The big spenders in this regard are families with only older children – they spend more per diem and more overall. Last year, these consumers spent, on average, nearly $213 per day, and their total average travel expenditure for the year was $2,767. Families with small children had the lowest annual travel expenditure, $2,103, but their per diem spending compares favorably, at a little more than $191 daily.
Families with no children at home spent a healthy $2,679 on travel last year, but their per diem costs were the lowest of the group, at just over $157 daily
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Fritz Park in Irving has a shaded nook dedicated to the aptly named Fritz Park Petting Zoo.
We had a fantastic time visiting it with some playgroup friends. On the Tuesday morning we were there, we shared the zoo only with a well-behaved group of elementary school-aged visitors and a handful of other strollers. Arriving just in time for the 10 am opening meant we had plenty of morning shade and time to visit all the farm residents.
Peanut demanded release from her stroller as soon as we approached the cow. She eagerly approached him and I'm sure even 'moo'd' a hello. Unlike the animals we tried to see during our recent zoo trip, the petting farm animals were easy to spot as their cages were on the right level with big spaces in the fencing.
We even walked into the actual 'petting' area with goats who are rotated out during the day so the same ones aren't overly loved by tiny visitors.
It was great for Peanut to see live goats, sheep, chickens + chicks, a donkey, a peacock, pigs, a turkey and even a deer (though its space seemed cruelly small). I often wonder what children think all those animals in their books and toys are since most of us are so far removed from farms and livestock. Yet, they persist as stand-bys in virtually every child's early toy collection.
There was much more to take advantage of than we did - little cottages available for birthday parties, coloring, picnic tables and then the rest of Fritz Park with its extensive playground, water garden and walking trails.
Monday, June 19, 2006
We had a mellow Father's Day yesterday as Peanut was recovering from a fever. She sported special, hand-made, designer (read: mama went to Michael's and decorated) shirts all day long with messages like "Papa's Girl", "I love my dad" and "My papa rocks!". Luckily there were three shirts because by day's end she had had all off & on :-)
Peanut's papa had dreamed of a breakfast at IHOP for Father's Day. I'm not exactly sure what he expected from IHOP, but being Dutch I suspect it was something similar to the mega-pancake houses you can enjoy in the Netherlands. There you get such pannekoeken delights as cheese and bacon pancakes...ohh...so good! IHOP is not exactly that, but off we went! Unfortunately, many others had pancake plans and the guests were spilling out into the parking lot. We decided to pass and enjoyed some treats back at home.
While we were out, my dad had left us a message. He's already in Finland enjoying the summery shores of Lake Koitere near Ilomantsi where our summer cottage is. Lovely sunset, perfectly still waters, sauna heating, freshly caught perch frying....and amazing temperatures of 80F. We miss it already! He just finished his prostate cancer radiation treatments last week and was on a plane bound for 'home' as soon as humanly possible. Now we wish him a beautiful Finnish summer to help recuperate and repair his mind, body and soul.
He's also planning to film some of the surrounding wildlife for Peanut - the diving birds nesting under the sauna, the seagulls, the island mice and those soothing birches swaying in the breeze. I'm so happy that Peanut will also get many years with him to learn about the joys of nature - just like he unveiled to me and my sister.
When Peanut was born, I started out by using my Marimekko backpack as the diaper bag. In Finland, where Peanut's Mutsy stroller and the heel-toe-express were our main method of transportation, it was the easiest bag to use. We were always long distances from home so the bag had it all. My hands remained free, the backpack easily went everywhere and it didn't have cutesy flowers, teddy bears or frills on it. Indeed, it was just black.
But, it would get heavy (yes, I know, a result of the amount of crap I loaded into it) and made my shoulders ache. My wallet didn't fit in the front. It just had one big inside pocket so finding stuff was a hassle.
When we moved to Dallas, I was moving Peanut in and out of the car all the time. I didn't need to have kit&kaboodle with me on every trip. I was also a bit wiser as to what we really needed to have with us. So, I wanted to try something new. I started pulling bags out of my closet still convinced that I didn't need a 'diaper bag' just a bag to carry diapers!
I went small. I tried an old travel sling bag. Diapers went where guide books used to. Diaper wipes tucked in next to them. Antiseptic hand cleaner where I used to keep the next roll of film. A small spoon and jar of baby food took the place of travel snacks. It was OK, but I really had more stuff than a bag like that was designed to hold. It bulged big and bulky on my side. When I leaned over to pick Peanut up out of the car, it would slide down and things would tumbled out. Not working.
Back to Marimekko! I then tried a tote bag I had in the closet. It was cute, all my stuff fit, it was summery! But, it was just one giant hole again where it was impossible to sort anything quickly. Peanut's sippy cups would topple over and leak......this experiment lasted about 3 weeks.
Mother's Day was approaching. I figured it was about time I caved in and bought something called a 'diaper bag'. After being overwhelmed by the mountains of choices out there, I settled on a sling tote from Fluerville. Ahhhhhh..... I should've done this a loooonnnng time ago. Not too many pockets on the inside - just four - just right. Two outside pockets - one with fleece lining great for sunglasses and a mini-pockets so I can actually find my cell phone! Great caribiner key chain clip. Nifty o-rings to drape off stroller handles. Plastic exterior. A detachable and padded shoulder strap. Not too big. Not too small.
It was even once mistaken for a purse!!!!!
Round 1 (ding!): Cats
Round 2 (ding!): Peanut aged 6 mos - just started crawling and pulling herself up on furniture. Cats looking very surprised when they are suddenly roused from a nap on the edge of the bed by little hands reaching up for them. Still very easy to escape.
Round 3 (ding!): Peanut aged 9 mos - getting more confident in her walking. Can now chase cats and loves to try and pet them. Mama & papa desparately try to teach concept of 'gentle' pets. Peanut doesn't always get it. Cats don't always run away. Peanut gets her first swipe from grabbing sleepy cats paws. Cat gets in trouble. Mama spends hours a day rescuing cats by moving them to bedroom which is gated off from Peanut.
Round 4 (ding!): Peanut aged 12 mos - in llloooovvveee with the cats. Luckily one cat enjoys (or at least doesn't mind terribly) the full on body-slam hugs. When he's done, he wiggles out of her grasp and heads to the next room. Other cat is a bit more unsocial and stays out of Peanut's way most of the time. On occassion, Peanut finds him, corners him and usually ends up getting scratched. Mama & papa get upset at cat as swipes are too frequently at Peanut's face. Papa wants to know if we can get cat declawed or have him permanently sedated.
Round 5 (coming up!): Its hard to know how to keep a warm relationship between Peanut and the cats. It seems neither party really yet understands how to behave with the other. Peanut has gotten pretty good with the gentle pets, though she still likes to try to pull on cat paws or to show she knows where their eyes are.
Our kitties were our little ones before Peanut came along, but now they have to take the back seat. I see they are still confused and notice their behavior changing from the overly loving kitties to more hesitant ones.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Babies should not be Band-Aids. They are not toys or props or accessories. If a woman cannot support herself, she should not have a right to have a child just because her best friend has one. Some may disagree and say it's her "choice," but, as in Sally's case, the choice does affect us all. We all pay for the piece of a young man she wanted to keep – a man who will most likely never pay one dime in child support because he's a heavy drug user and cannot keep a job and because he never wanted this child to begin with.
I do agree with her premise that parents (mothers and fathers) do have to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of them - even when the results is a baby. However, I do take issue with the implication that if you're poor, you have no right to be having children. It can be hard to reach "financial security" if you are stuck in a minimum-wage job or worse.
Compare this opinion piece with an earlier entry I made about a single, unemployed mom of 29 raising her baby in Finland. Especially enlightening about the difference in cultural views are the comments made to that entry. In Finland, it is a society that is responsible for its children - even when the parents can't or won't be. In the US, its your own responsibility and if others deem that you aren't responsible enough, someone out there will suggest you don't have a right!
A friend of mine and her husband just launched their online playground for the mind: Yuva Studio. I just spent a quick evening creating some artwork of my own and its been tickling my mind all day long today. I've been just waiting for Peanut to take her nap so I could back and try some other images!
As they describe it:
It is an online environment, a creative playground that fosters play, stimulates creativity and encourages sharing. It is where your child explores shapes: makes them larger or smaller; rotates them; and maybe doodles around them to discover its many characteristics.
YUVA consists of five activities: Stamp, Punch, Patch, Doodle and Draw. YUVA offers diverse swatches of shapes as the elements for play — the building blocks for their designs. The activities start out simple: choose a shape and stamp it on the canvas, punch it out of the canvas, our use it as a patch to make mosaics. Then advance to drawing free hand to add complexity to the composition.
They've got free demos! The site is still being further refined and they would love your feedback about your experience.
Here is their Art Gallery with some examples of the art created by Yuva Studio users:
Peanut visited the Dallas Zoo for the first time with a couple of play friends last week. It was a nice, cool less than 90F day so we thought we'd better go before the heat of summer really arrived.
I'm not sure that Peanut knew exactly what this place was or what the creatures behind the cages were, but some of the bigger animals did catch her eye - the elephants, the giraffes, the lions (ie, giant kitty cats) and some of the birds. I think best of all she liked to see the piegons and squirrels - just like the ones we have at home :-)
The Zoo was a stroller-friendly place and not too busy. The only place with a real crowd was the Meridian Cafe where we stopped for lunch. Blissfully air conditioned, but with VERY SLOW service.
A special children's zoo will probably be lots of fun for Peanut & friends once they are a bit older. I was disappointed that the petting zoo part consisted of overly-friendly goats behind a fence and the bunny rabbit held in a box in a zoo employees lap.
We ended the day on the 20-minute monorail ride around the Wilds of Africa. We were in our own compartment with just two other people. Peanut was interested for like 10 minutes; then I had to just try to keep her relatively still. We could have probably skipped on this part or taken the ride when the little ones were still calmer. Also, by this time in the afternoon it was pretty hot and the air didn't really circulate in the monorail carts. Strollers were convienently parked at the boarding ramp where we returned to when the ride was over.
I first saw "Dr. Baby Proofer" (aka Thom Golden) at the Cry Baby Matinee and then again when he was invited to come meet with our playgroup.
We hadn't done too much baby proofing around our home since we've only recently moved in so there wasn't too much stuff to get out of Peanut's way. We had gotten the plastic outlet covers and installed some latches on a few kitchen cabinets.
Dr. Baby Proofer came in with some surprising info:
- those plastic outlet covers are a chocking hazard and kids can easily pull them out (plus parents often forget to put them back!). Better are the sliding outlet covers.
- cabinet latches that let the cabinet open slightly often cause many little fingers to get hurt and are easily operated by toddlers once they see you use them enough! Best are the Tot Lock magnetic locks.
- wooden baby gates are dangerous & they should never open out over a staircase lest a little one open it and topple down the stairs
- no bumpers on the crib - EVER - some chance of strangulation or even suffocation or possible link to SIDS
- infant seats in cars should be used with the handle locked in the down position
- He highly recommended avoiding the "Safety First" brand for all baby proofing products EXCEPT for the Tot Lock magnet locking system for cabinets.
- Care givers (ie, anyone but mom & dad) need an authorization letter signed by you if they need to take your baby to the emergency room. Otherwise, the hospital is legally prevented from taking any action until it becomes a matter of life or death. This seems insane, but is evidently the way it is. Keep a copy of the letter in your diaper bag and in a visible place at home.
His main point was that accidents always happen in the blink of an eye, when you turn your back for just a second -- baby proofing gear is not there to prevent it, simply to give you a few extra seconds to find out what's going on and to personally stop your baby.
Dr. Baby Proofer is happy to come to your home to make recommendations on how to best baby proof your home -- and he'll sell you the gear to do it!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
She was, however, totally fascinated by mama's electric toothbrush. She liked to touch it and hold it while it was on.
So, mama decides to try the electric toothbrush on Peanut. Peanut loved it! Now with her very own toothbrush head with yellow band assigned to her, Peanut gets joyfully gets her teeth (gently) brushed twice a day for the full 3-minutes of the timer!
Monday, June 05, 2006
I see it in all the mamas in our playgroups: everyone is looking more slender each week, there is less nursing going on, a crying baby still gets looks of concern, but not confusion/panic, and mamas are even wearing make-up and fixing their hair! We've passed some bump on the learning curve and perhaps are looking for a balance of pre-baby and post-baby life.
I haven't made any efforts to diet or exercise beyond some walking each week and find myself fitting back into most pre-preg clothes -- not all since my hips are now permanently a bit wider :-). The extra weight isn't all gone, but that's OK, I can use a little more padding. But, most importantly, I feel good about my body nowadays. I appreciate the new curves, I understand how to keep my back from hurting and I don't feel the need to be exactly as I was.
Peanut and I have also developed a strong connection so we're both more secure in who's doing what and what it means. I know when she really needs attention and when she's just testing. I can judge when she's headed for trouble to help avert it or to be on hand to deal with the consequences. I know she's a strong little lady who isn't so fragile a little bump will damage her. And, Peanut knows when she needs me, I'm close at hand.
Because we've worked out better how we spend our day, I find a few extra moments in the morning to think about what would be fun to wear, try on some eye-liner and even ... on rare occassions ... put on different earrings or even (gasp!) a necklace!!
These are just small nods to a time before Peanut came. I know that life won't return and I'm not sure what I'd do with it if it did. But, its fun and important to take the time to blend in what you can.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
We just completed a baby swim class with Emler Swim School in Colleyville with a couple of Peanut's other playmates. It was a fun experience for us - she enjoyed playing in the water and I became very comfortable with her in the water which were really my main reasons for joining.
We chose Emler because the baby class there also included some water 'survival' skills - some underwater breath control (ie, not sucking in water), hanging onto the side of the pool and learning to look for mama in case baby falls in. I don't think Peanut's ready to hit the pool by herself, but now I know some fun ways to spend time in the pool with her. Plus she's no longer annoyed by water pouring on her head so shampoo-time is easier and she even enjoys the occassional shower with us.
Seriously, a washing machine. In the middle of highway 121. I was just cruising along and suddenly thought that's odd, there seems to be a big box or something up ahead. Driving past it, I saw that someone was not going to get their Kenmore delivered today.
But, only once have we had to swerve out of our lane to avoid a broken down car. This time on I-65 in the HOV lane. Driving, driving, driving...oh! car! in our lane!! not moving!!! No warning lights, no flags - just saved by fast reflexes and lack of cars in the lane next to us.
Its easy to see where all the trash bags and other rubbish come from - pick up trucks carrying too much cargo that's not tied down going too fast. We've now learned to always move to a different lane when we see such a car ahead.
One of my favorite moves is apparently called a 'Texas Exit'. You drive all the way in the left-hand lane and then seconds before your exit on the right, you just start floating across the lanes you need to cross. No need for a signal - just go! Though this one I can sometimes understand as signage here is usually located immediately before the exit so if you don't know where you're going, its just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing the sign. (Does it sound like I've done this before? Maybe I have, maybe I have.....)
I thought she'd eventually warm up to it. But, after a few days when she was still letting it all pour out of her mouth, I started going through the bag of tricks:
- heat the milk -> no
- slightly heat the milk -> no
- add favorite yogurt to milk -> no
- add LOTS of favorite yogurt to milk resulting in yogurt smoothie -> no
- give milk in sippy cup -> no
- milk in straw cup -> no
- milk in cup just like mama's -> no
- soy milk! -> no
- give milk while Peanut watches her favorite Nijntje video -> a few sips, but no
In the meantime, Peanut gets cheese, cream cheese and yogurt at her meals to make up for all the milk she continues to refuse past her lips. The dr says most breastfed babies tend to protest for a while against milk that doesn't come from where breastfed babies think it should come from. And most will wean themselves entirely between 15 - 18 mos!
I never would have thought I'd be nursing Peanut this long though nowadays she only gets milk in the morning and evenings. She still is very interested at those times unlike at all the other feedings we easily dropped - she never once protested or tried to get mama-milk again during the day. I certainly don't mind the am & pm milks - they take all of 10 mins of my time, give me a chance to snuggle with Peanut and still work wonders in soothing her.
In the meantime, I keep trying to find ways to slip some milk into her - all suggestions welcome!