Saturday, May 4, 2013

Stranger Danger

For a very long time, I had major social anxiety which I believe resulted in what my mom told me in order to instill stranger danger in me as a child. When I was 4 or 5, my mom told me that if I talked to strangers, that I would be taken away, dressed as a boy, have bad things be done to me and never see her again. As a child given this information, I needed to know what qualified as a stranger and my mom  told me that a stranger is "anyone you don't know." That's pretty darn terrifying for a child! From then on, I never spoke to anyone I didn't know and that included kids since I over-generalized and had no idea who the bad people who would take me away would be. Then when I was about 6, my grandmother got a divorce from my "Pop-Pop Ray" (who I later learned was abusive) and was only told that "Pop-Pop Ray is now a stranger. If you ever see him anywhere, don't talk to him and never go anywhere with him." Well if someone who was once family could become a stranger, who on earth could I trust??? At the bank, where the tellers gave lollipops to the kids, I would burst into tears and refuse that candy because those tellers were strangers, and I once turned my best friend's mom down for a ride home from school and opted to walk home since I figured I had no idea what kind of person she really was. It took me a very long time to get comfortable in situations where there are many people around and I actually had panic attacks in any groups of people, including school. Even now, I don't fully trust anyone and always carry pepper spray on me just in case.

Given the barriers that social phobias caused for me, I am now questioning how to best teach my dear J about strangers. Yes, there are crazy people and sadly, child abductions do happen. BUT what my mother told me when I was a young child clearly scared the living daylights out of me and I do not want to give him the fears that I had. Right now, he is almost 2 years old and still either holds my hand everywhere we go if he is walking OR rides in a shopping cart or stroller always under my watchful eye. So him being taken by anyone isn't something that's possible right now; however, I am aware that J will not always be willing to hold my hand and someday he may not even want to walk anywhere near me in public places. When that happens, how do I stress that people can be dangerous without making him fear everyone as I've always done? Some amount of fear is good but not to the extreme that mine was...I think. Further, at what age do I even broach the subject of strangers?

Any suggestions from my readers?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

91 Pounds Down, 44 To Go...

At this point in time, I just have to blog about something major. I may not be exactly where I want to be weight-wise, but I'm proud of my 91 pound weight loss!!! Here's some before and after pictures...
This was me in the summer of 2011, only months after J was born.

                                 And here I am now...91 lbs lighter and feeling great!!!

Over this journey, I have learned so much more about myself. In the past, I was an all-or-nothing person when it came to food. I only ate "good" or "bad" and there was no in-between. Either I was "on track" and wanted to eat and exercise perfectly or I was "off track" and ate pretty much anything I saw (of course mostly fatty, greasy foods). Now that I'm 30 years old, I realize that I don't need to be perfect and as a mom of a tot, I don't have time for that. Do I aim to eat as well as I can? Of course I do. I aim for 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day, lots of water, and whole grains over unrefined grains; but I have my moments where I splurge on the less than favorable foods. I still eat Hamburger Helper or processed foods in the occasion that my father-in-law makes that and I don't feel like cooking a separate meal, then I just add in a serving or two of vegetables with it to fill myself up. I have some weeks when I walk all over the place and also work out 5 days at the local Y, but there are other ones when I am not as active. AND I'm okay with this. I've learned that if I am going to be a healthier person, I have to let this fit into my lifestyle and accept that I'm human; I'm going to crave "bad food" and as long as I eat what I want in moderation and track it, and am active when I can be, I'll be moving toward a healthier weight. In the meantime, I feel happy and confident, and I know that I'm doing the best that I can for myself.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Cow's Milk is for Baby Cows"

Lately, there is a battle between those who are anti-cowmilk and those who are pro-cowmilk. From what I've seen, people seem to see things in black and white as they do most things. The anti-milk group is known for saying, "Cow's milk is for baby cows" and points out the fact that our species is the only one that drinks milk from another species. In nature, animals nurse their young then when weaned those animals drink water and eat whatever it is that their species eat. Even baby cows can only drink straight from the tap and if they drink homogenized milk, they would die (this fact came from a farmer whom I spoke to). From research, I've read on a few websites that most humans can only digest lactose for the first few years of life in order to digest their mother's milk then gradually develop lactose intolerance. That fact is something that I can relate to as both my husband and I have problems digesting dairy, and in my case it is a recent issue. Many people who are against cow's milk also say that milk is not even a necessary beverage as the nutrients found in milk can be digested via a healthy, varied diet.

On the other fence, a lot of people grew up drinking cow's milk and see it as something worth continuing to drink and to give their children. Heck, cow's milk is creamy and tasty and we all know it is chock full of calcium and vitamin D. Basic argument is that a doctor or pediatrician wouldn't recommend dairy milk if it weren't good. More commonly, people who drink cow's milk purchase homogenized milk in the store, but there are more "natural" individuals who prefer raw milk (unpasteurized) milk, saying that it is easier to digest and more healthy.

When it comes to the two sides of things, I go both ways. Considering the fact that there are so many milks on the market (almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, etc) and the digestive issues that hubby and I have with milk, the two of us drink vanilla almond milk. It can be pricey, however, I'm a serious couponer, so I have yet to pay full price for almond milk. Our son J does get whole milk but he gets lactose free because he's always had dairy issues and lactose free doesn't present a problem for him. I will say that I prefer organic milk over non-organic because of rBGH as well as hormones found in non-organic; I also found that organic milk just tastes better. Further, my personal belief is that kids are developing earlier and there are more health problems due to hormones and chemicals in foods we buy in the supermarket nowadays. Others have tried telling me that children don't need cow's milk but I feel that the fat in whole milk is better for my tot who sometimes goes days barely eating anything; it is the days when J eats next to nothing that I am comforted knowing he's getting protein, fat, and other vitamins and minerals from his milk. Someday, J probably will be drinking almond milk along with his mama and daddy but in the meantime I'm happier giving him organic lactose free milk that meets his nutritional requirements.

What are your thoughts on dairy milk vs non-dairy diets?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To Juice or Not To Juice...that is the question

When it comes to "experts" a.k.a. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) as well as nutritionists, giving juice to a baby or toddler is a no-no. Juice does not have much nutritional value and honestly, there is more nutrition in a fresh piece of fruit than a cup of juice; not to mention, juice is loaded with lots of sugar and kids today consume way more sugar than necessary. I believe the recommendation is no more than 4 ounces of juice for little under the age of 4. I actually am not a fan of juice myself; I'm more of a water drinker as I find juice too sickeningly sweet. I've worked in the childcare industry for many years and know many children personally who refuse to drink water and only drink juice because they were introduced to the sweet drink early in life. Not to mention, childhood obsesity is at an all-time high, so I can understand a reason to limit or not give juice at all.

 Having a son who was labeled as overweight at 12 months old, I actually did not give him a single taste of juice until he was 18 months old and so sick that he refused to eat or drink a thing. Then, I put a splash (probably about a tablespoon or so) of white grape juice into his (9 oz size) sippy cup of water; J sucked that down dry and asked for more. For awhile, the rule was no juice unless J got sick because he's very picky when sick and having a child who is hydrated and not suffering from low blood sugar matters to me. Since then, I have loosened up a tad. J still mainly drinks water plus his 16 oz of Lactaid whole milk on a daily basis but if he is thirsty and has already had a lot of water and his milk, I give a splash of juice in his water. The way I see it, a tiny bit of juice does not contain much sugar and gives him some variety of flavor. The only other time we give juice is when we go out to eat since restaurants don't carry lactose free milk; in those instances I ask the server for a kid cup with mostly water and a splash of juice. They're always happy to comply and that ensures my little guy doesn't feel left out when Mama gives up her usual water for some iced tea and when Daddy has soda.

Once again, this is a personal matter but I do believe that my loosening up a small degree is good. J doesn't drink juice on a daily basis and he's slimmed down a lot, so I know he is a healthy guy. I'm curious to hear when my readers started giving juice and if their kids are water drinkers at all. :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Graco MySize70 Review

A few weeks ago, I purchased a Graco MySize70 carseat at the local Babies 'R Us. Now that I've been using the seat for a little bit, I thought it'd be good to share my thoughts on it. First of all, I chose this carseat because I needed something narrow enough to fit in the mid-size SUV rental that I am currently driving (I drive a mini-van so if it fits into the mid-size it'll fit in there) and was pleasantly surprised to find it fit perfectly. If you're in doubt, most Babies 'R Us locations have staff who will walk to your car with a display seat and let you try it in your car to be sure it can fit. While narrow enough to fit in the seat, this carseat still is roomy enough for my very big boy and has amazingly high rear-facing and front-facing specs. Babies, infants and toddlers 4-40 lbs and up to 40" can rear-face and toddlers and children 40-70 lbs and up to 50" can forward-face with the harness. That means this seat should last most children from birth until early preschool years when the parents is ready to switch to a booster seat. Even though my son is off the charts for his size, this carseat will undoubtably last him a long time. This makes me incredibly happy since a harnessed carseat is undoubtably safer than a seatbelt positioning booster.

Because of the In-Right Latch System, this carseat has been by far the easiest to install using LATCH than any other carseats I have installed in a vehicle. Not only that, but there are two sets of LATCH belts: one set for rear-facing and one for forward-facing, which means there is no need to re-route a LATCH belt for different types of installations. This makes this seat a dream come true for me since I struggled trying to figure out how to re-route the straps of my J's previous carseat. Like most modern carseats, this one has three levels of recline and you must use the most reclined level for rear-facing. Depending on your actual vehicle seat, you may need to use a pool noodle cut-up or a rolled up towel to make sure the carseat is at the correct angle. For a newborn or infant, it needs to be at a 45 degree angle and for a toddler you can lessen the angle to 30 degrees. When in doubt, get a carseat inspection done by an NHTSA tech (I do that every time, btw) and just google to find one near you.

The one concern I had when I took this carseat out of its box was that the cushioning didn't seem very plush, but that thought has gone out the window since J fell asleep within 5 minutes the very first time he rode in it. Since then, J has fallen asleep 4 other times which tells me that this is one comfy carseat!

Let's talk about harness straps. One drawback is that they are a pain in the butt to tighten. I cannot seem to pull the strap tight enough once I my son is in the seat. To get around that, I tightened it a bit more without him in it then put it on him and buckled and did the pinch test (try and pinch the harness strap by the child's collarbone; if you can pinch it then it is too loose). I only loosen the straps a tiny bit to get J in and out since tightening his harness is a chore. The one factor that does make the tightening issue not as annoying is the adjustable headrest and harness. With a squeeze of a red lever on top of the head rest, you can instantly make the strap level higher or lower; for rear-facing always keep the straps at or below shoulder level. Having the harness set at the appropriate level ensures that there isn't a ton of harness to need to tighten. The harness has also tangled a handful of times, but it is pretty easy to fix and as a more experienced mom now that hasn't frazzled me.

My final favorite feature of the carseat is the integrated cupholder. Our other carseat didn't have one; the carseat had to be attached and could not be used in rear-facing, which meant that J was always dropping his sippy cup when he got tired of holding it or simply forgot he was holding it and then I'd have to do a sippy cup search in the car. Now, no more dropped cups! After buckling J in, I put his sippy cup right into the cup holder and he has a drink within reach when he wants it; now that J is used to this feature of the carseat, he puts the cup back when he is done with it. How great!

All in all, I love this carseat! I would recommend it to anyone looking for a convertible carseat.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's In Your Bag?

I remember the day I registered for a diaper bag back when I was pregnant and my only concerns were that it match the color of my other baby gear (light green) with a have a changing pad inside; that and I didn't want something that cost more than $30 which seemed excessive to me. My choice was an inexpensive Carters diaper bag that seemed to fit that bill. At the time, I did love that bag and Carters is a great brand. Now that I'm a more experienced mom, I've learned that there are many more important factors than that. That said, I switched out the first diaper bag for a much different one. From the time J was a baby, I always packed a lot in the diaper bag which caused the first diaper bag to burst at the seams. Most times I couldn't zip it and after too many times of attempting to, the zipper broke off the bag.

The diaper bag that I switched to when J was close to 1 year of age is a Petunia Picklebottom Boxy Backpack. I do need to preface this with the fact that the MSRP of this style bag is in my humble opinion extremely expensive; however, Baby Steals often has this bag for somewhere between 50-80% off. Baby Steals is a daily deal site with some great products listed at great prices. I was lucky and nabbed the diaper bag for much less than it normally costs, and am so glad I did.

My favorite feature with the boxy backpack is that you can either wear the bag in standard shoulder style or on your back like a backpack. The straps are adjustable for your size, and the diaper bag is nice and spacious inside but doesn't appear huge on the outside. I normally always wear this bag as a backpack which I find easiest. The diaper bag does come with a velcro-attachable changing pad. By the way, whether or not you choose to cloth diaper a big diaper bag is a must have. On days when I'm out and about with J, I don't pack a purse and instead stash my wallet and keys inside the diaper bag. In evenings when I go out alone, I simply switch my wallet and keys to a small purse.

Now that J is a toddler, here is what I pack whenever we go out:

  • 6-10 diapers and a pack of wipes - Sounds excessive, I know, but whenever I have brought only a few diapers J has managed to have constant diarrhea diapers or pees like a racehorse every few minutes.
  • diaper rash cream - When J is in sposies, I bring a tube of Triple Paste and if it cloth, I bring a tube of Grandma El's.
  • a sippy cup of water
  • boogie wipes
  • hand and face wipes
  • a divided snack cup - one compartment for freeze dried fruit, the other for a whole grain snack like cheerios or whole grain goldfish
  • a change of clothing - whenever I forget extra clothes, J spills a drink or food all over himself or leaks through a diaper or just gets messy in some other way
  • 1 or 2 boardbooks, toys, crayola mess free doodle board
  • digital camera for those picture worthy moments
  • my small cosmetic bag with lip gloss 
When J was a newborn/infant, here is what I packed:
  • 6-10 diapers and wipes
  • diaper rash cream
  • 2-3 bottles pre-prepared and in a cooler (J willingly drank cold formula and even now won't drink warm beverages) - you never know when you'll get waylaid and need more bottles than you expected
  • pacifiers
  • pacifier wipes
  • baby toys and board books
  • digital camera
  • 2-3 changes of clothing
  • 2-3 bibs
  • 2 burp cloths
  • Once J was over 6 months of age, I also added:
    • finger food snacks such as Happy Baby puffs 
    • sippy cup of water 
    • baby food pouches
    • baby spoon
If J has a cold or is teething and I have to go out, I do add some other items to my bag such as:
  • Nose Frida Snot Sucker
  • Infant/Children's Acetaminophen or Motrin
  • Camilia homeopathic teething ampules by Boiron
  • Saline Drops or Mist
  • A cold snack such an organic yogurt tube
  • Teething toys
Whatever diaper bag you choose, it's important that it be one you truly like and will be happy toting around for at least 3 years. On average, kids potty train anywhere between ages 2-4 and you'll need a good way to carry their diapers or even changes of underwear and all the other items your child needs. Why not tote around all that stuff in style? Happy shopping!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All About Rear-Facing Carseats

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with new guidelines that a child should remain in a rear-facing carseat until the age of 2 or until a child maxes out height and/or weight limits for rear-facing in their carseat. You can view their statement here:

Many parents were upset about these guidelines stating that a one year old is too tall to be rear-facing in the car and why should that be the case when the state law is one year of age and twenty pounds? Well, to be honest, this guideline was made because rear-facing truly is safest; further, there are European countries where children are rear-facing until the age of 4 and there are lower child mortality and severe injury rates in the case of car accidents. Are there people who still choose to switch their babies at only the age of one? Of course there are. Am I one of them? No, I am not. My J is 22 months old, 34 lbs and a tad over 3 feet tall, and with his carseat that has a 40 lb, 40 inch rear-facing limit, he will probably remain that way until he is closer to the age of 3.

People have made comments like, "But he's so uncomfortable rear-facing," "My parents didn't even have a carseat. I wonder how I lived," and so on. The truth of the matter is I will always put safety first. No, in the 50s and 60s and 70s, people didn't use carseats and guess what....gradually the rate of infant and child mortality in the case of automobile accidents in our country has declined. Physics can explain why rear-facing an infant and toddler is safest when it comes to the car on thecarseatlady blog: You can also see a video that illustrates this here: Crash tests with FF vs RF carseats

As far as comfort goes, children are much more flexible than adults and as a result do not get uncomfortable the way we do. I've seen many tots who bend themselves in half when they play, including my son, and who stretch their legs in a way that they can put their toes in their mouths. You should know that almost all toddlers will have a stage when they hate being in the carseat, not because of comfort, but because they do not like being restrained. Why go in a buckled seat when you can crawl and walk all over the place? When J hit that stage, I started keeping a basket with a variety of toys and books in the car and would give J a few in the car. At red lights, I would switch out his toys so he didn't get bored. I also kept his Wiggles cd in the cd player of the car and sang to that wit him. "I Spy" is also a popular car game for me and J; I keep the headrest off of his captain chair that the carseat it installed in and say, "I spy___" about things we pass so he can look for them.

To be honest, I was debating switching J's carseat to forward-facing on his 2nd birthday until last week when my car was seriously damaged from another driver slamming into the side of it. My entire body was jerked forward and a couple of hours later my back hurt from muscle strain, however, J remained unmoved in his rear-facing carseat and had no idea that an accident had occurred. He only started fussing when we took the time to make the report with the police because he was tired and bored. What happened that day cemented my understanding that rear-facing a carseat really is the best thing, and I replaced the carseat we were using with one that has even higher rear-facing and forward-facing limits.

If you're looking into a carseat with great rear-facing limits, there are many now. Prior to the accident, we used an Evenflo Triumph 65 advanced which has a 37" and 1" below top of carseat rule for height and 40 lb weight limit. With J's crazy tallness, dh and I knew that we needed one with an even bigger height limit. If you google the carseatlady blog, you can find suggestions on all kinds of carseats.