Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Home-Made Baby Food

Makin' baby food: Round 3. With an active toddler and an over-active pre-schooler running around, it can be hard to remember why I would go to the trouble again (although really it isn't that much trouble). A recent report on the news, however, helped remind me why I've lugged out the steamer basket and the blender again: Of over 400 baby and snack products tested by an independent lab, 85% were contaminated with lead, including products by Gerber, Beech Nut, and Earth's Best. (It is important to note that the products are contaminated during the processing (I would guess from the equipment), but because processing plants will often process many foods for many different brands, any product from an implicated brand could be suspect, and organic and conventional brands alike are affected.) But besides the assurance that I'm not slowly poisoning my baby with lead-laced products, I just happen to like everything about home-made baby food. It smells better (a waft from those jars is enough to put your head in the toilet), it tastes betters, I can make sure I'm using the freshest ingredients ensuring optimum nutrition, and E's meals are limited only by my imagination and his discriminating palate. For example, today E sampled eggplant with roasted bell peppers (orange ones). Go look for that in the Gerber aisle! (He loved it, by the way).

Also, apparently the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its recommendations about introducing solids. You can read the report here. It basically states that if you are going to get a food allergy, you're going to get it no matter when you were first introduced to the food. I had read a few years ago that delaying solids until 6 months does reduce the risk of food allergy, but that after that, it makes no difference (although the reason that I delayed solids until six months is that prior to that, any solid food will decrease baby's ability to absorb iron, increasing their risk for iron-deficiency anemia).  Exclusively breastfed babies have the most protection from food allergies, with the greatest benefits seen in those children who are at risk for food allergies (one parent or one sibling with a food allergy).

If you are interested in making home-made baby food, here's a site that I have found very helpful. My baby cubes have also held up through three children and are still going strong. I've had to throw some away because the lids wouldn't close, but I think that for the price, it's a great deal.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hanna Sale!

Hanna Andersson, Swedish maker of children's clothes, is having their big, big, twice a year sale. We LOVE their organic long-johns (pajamas) and their Swedish moccasins (slippers). Everything I've ever bought from there is top quality, and they seem to wash better than any other brand. They also last longer on my kids than any other brand. The way the clothes are cut makes them roomy without looking too big. I can't really afford their clothes except when they are on sale, but they are having sales more and more these days, and have introduced some of their best-selling items at "Very Gud" prices.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Things I Love This Week

My Vera Bradley Diaper bag (mine is black)
I have been saving and searching for at least a year for the right diaper bag. I needed something big enough to take diapers for multiple children, but easy to carry around. For day trips, I keep a fully stocked, huge diaper bag in the car, and carry around just one bag that isn't too heavy to keep just one or two diapers per child, some wipes, a paci, my nursing cover, and the usual things you find in a purse (sunglasses, lip balm, wallet, etc). So I wanted something that looks like a purse, but is actually a diaper bag. Needless to say, it took forever to find what I was looking for, but when I saw it in the store, I knew it was the one for me! I love, love, love it! And because it's Vera Bradley, I know it will hold up to a lot of wear and tear.

Cozy Plush Microwavable Toys by Intelex
These soft toys are filled with lavender and are fully microwavable and are so soothing to my kids. You just heat for two minutes and they are just right and not too hot. Plus they're just so darn cute! During the cold winter months, I would warm these up and set them in the kids' carseats before we got in the car. Then the kids would hold them to keep nice and toasty until the car got warmed up. I would heat them up to warm up little beds so they were nice and warm to crawl into. But even now during the hot, hot summer months, I use E's. His bed is right by the AC vent and the mattress gets COLD, and I still don't like to cover him with a blanket for fear that he'll get tangled in it or get it wrapped around his head. So I just warm up his little puppy for him to hold onto (He is one for clutching and hugging things), and the lavender aroma from the real, dried lavender inside is so calming for him, I think it helps him to sleep.

My Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover.
Over the course of three long-term breastfeeding children, I've tried several different brands of nursing cover, as some have disappeared in the wash. This one is by far my favorite. The Bebe Au Lait (and Hooter Hider) provide great coverage without being overwhelming. The terry cloth pocket detail is genius...great for both spit up, and housing pacifiers or nursing pads, etc. while nursing. Of the many brands I've tried, this has the best rigid neckline. It is the only one that will stay over for me while nursing a wiggly baby.

Baby Cubes
Making baby food: round three. I have certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of my baby cubes, and they are as dependable as ever. BPA-free, microwave safe, and stackable, these allow me to freeze up lots of purees in handy, 1-oz portions and pull out just what I need. The attached lid means no searching. These are easy to clean (I hand wash) and so far have not stained.

Top 100 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy
This really helped me sort out my "education philosophy" and pointed me in the direction of texts and curriculum that will complement my family and my needs. It also showed great advice on identifying your child's learning style. And it just made me think about things that hadn't occurred to me before, even though I was homeschooled. This is worth the price for any parent, though, simply for the list of quality "real" books (both fiction and non-fiction) in the back, that would be a great complement to any education, whether private school, homeschool, or public school.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe-
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew....
                -Eugene Field

My grandmother used to read this poem to my mother when she was a little girl. Eugene Field was known for his lighthearted verses, especially for children. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod is a fanciful poem that captures the essnece of dreamland. It's one of our favorites. I happened to find an ex-library copy in good condition, with lovely illustrations by Barbara Cooney:
Wynken and Blynken represent two little sleepy eyes, and Nod is the sleepy little head, nodding off to sleep. Such a sweet poem. I highly recommend that you check it out! And for some really cool trivia about this poem and its author, check out its wikipedia page, and the author's wikipedia page. It turns out that Eugene Field's father, Rosewell Martin Field, was the lawyer who represented the famous Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom.
If you liked Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, check out this reprint other poems by Eugene Field, here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On My Bookshelf

As always, I have too many books going at once. Amazon is the only store where I make any regular purchases, except for maybe the grocery store. I wish that I could write a review of each book that I read, but I simply don't have time, so here's a list of books currently laying around my house with creases in the spines:

Homeschool Topics:
A Charlotte Mason Companion
Top 100 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum
The Well-Adjusted Child

Toddler/Prescool Activities:
The Toddler's Busy Book
Look What You Can Make with Paper Plates
The Yoga Zoo Adventure
Before Five in a Row

Devil in the Milk
Real Food
The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood

Mother Food
The Imunobiology of Human Milk
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers

Square Foot Gardening

It's ridiculous,  I know. I have a problem. But that's not as ridiculous as the books waiting to be read:

The Baby Bond
Infant Massage
The Winter Harvest Handbook
The New Organic Grower
Four-Season Harvest
Gardening When it Counts
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control
Pottenger's Cats
Wild Fermentation
Preserving Food without Canning of Freezing
Better Late than Early
What's Going On In There?
The River Cottage Family cookbook
Nutrition and Physical Degernation
Home Learning Year-by-Year
Help for the Harried Home Schooler
Bringing Up Boys

As I said: I have a problem.

Can I just say that Amazon Marketplace rocks! It has led me to discover a new love of mine: used books! The more written in and underlined, the better I think! I love the charm and character of a used book. It is like a glimpse into the life an unknown friend, and we're somehow connected by our interest in the same book. The fact that I can usually find used books for pennies is a happy bonus.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Child's Garden

I have two cherry "Tumbling Tom" tomatoes (one red and one yellow) that I grew from seed planted in $3.00 Lowe's all-purpose buckets on my back patio. The stems are heavy with little green fruits, and my kids and I go to look at them every day, eager for them to ripen. We have little red strawberries ripening in a strawberry pot, and several blueberry bushes with their very first crop of blueberries. They are ripening three or four at a time, and we go pick them and eat them together. I have a poor, suffering raspberry bush which is still in its original container and has yet to be planted, but it is giving me fruits despite its neglect. My oldest daughter, R, picks the ripe raspberries before anyone else has a chance. I also have yet to bring a single sugar snap pea into the house, because she eats them straight off the vine. The other day, she said to me, "It's fun to pick our food when it's ready." At that moment, nothing could have delighted my heart more. I love gardening, and have secretly been hoping that my kids would take an interest in it, too. I never mention gardening because I know if they feel forced to like it, they'll end up hating it. Instead, I just try to let them approach me about it. They'll just be playing the yard, and I'll be digging or weeding, and they come to see what I'm up to, and before I know it, they are digging the holes for my squash seedlings and wanting to see how much the plants have grown over night.

I feel that gardening is the most wonderful hobby to share with children. It is full of important lessons. Not just about where their food really comes from, but also lessons about patience, consistency, and hard work. There is no such thing as instant gratification in's all about work up front and delayed reward. Gardening also teaches lessons about planning and working towards a goal. But gardening is more, even than that. It is a subject that directly relates to learning in all areas: young children can learn directly about the weather and how it affects the earth, they can learn basic math by counting how many seedlings you've transplanted, or the number of days until the harvest. They can learn about ecosystems, bugs and birds, predators and prey. Older children can learn about germination, photosynthesis, plant reproduction, even genetics, all by toodling around in the garden. They can practice geometry by helping to build raised beds. Gardening even provides lessons for the right lobe of the brain! I recently read about an idea of a "nature notebook"....a little pad of paper on which children can draw pictures of flowers or bugs they've seen, write descriptions, then take them home and look them up. Even though my girls can't draw very well now, I think they would enjoy that.
Many of my gardening plans have not come to fruition this year, but I'm learning all the time, so hopefully next year will be a very productive one. But big or small, I'm just glad that I can share it with my children.

And speaking of children and gardens, check out A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (you know, that guy who wrote Treasure Island). It's a collection of wonderful poems for children, usually with beautiful illustrations. I happen to love the illustrations by Tasha Tudor, but there are so many different versions that you can find something to suit any taste.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Post at Last:

Ahhh, updates. There has been so much going on that I don't even know where to begin! I have been finding it hard to make time for updates (or computer time in general), but tonight my darling E decided to take a two-hour break from sleeping, and now mommy is awake even though he has peacefully returned to dreamland. First of all, a topic of interest to all parents that I've been trying to research: SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). While reading the book, The Truth About Children's Health, I read, for the first time, about the "toxic gas theory". Basically, chemicals in the flame retardents on baby mattresses (arsenic, phosphorous, and antimony) react with a fungus S. Brevicaulis that commonly grows in mattresses, and when brought to blood/body temperature creates what is essentially a toxic nerve gas (either phosphine, arsine, or stibine). This theory asserts that the reason the risk of SIDS essentially disappears after twelve months is because babies can usually stand by this age: the gas gives them a headache, they wake up, and stand up. This would also explain why the Back to Sleep Campaign was so successful in lowering SIDS death rates, but the death rate has now leveled off. It would also explain why they now say that using a fan in the room lowers the incidents of SIDS. It also explains why the risk of SIDS increases with each child (second children are more at risk than first children, third more at risk than second, etc..), because parents typically save and reuse the baby mattress, and the fungus is going to be more prevelant in an older mattress. But what I find to be the most compelling is this: in the early '90's, a chemist named T.J. Sprott advised the government of New Zealand that they begin recommending all infants sleep on mattresses wrapped in a food-grade polypropylene cover. New Zealand took the advise, and at the time of the writing of The Truth About Children's Health, of the more than 100,000 babies who slept on wrapped mattresses, not a single one died of SIDS (it has been estimated now that more than 200,000 babies have slept on wrapped mattresses...still no SIDS deaths). This was at a time when the SIDS death rate in New Zealand was just over 1 per 1,000 live births, so there should have been around 100 SIDS deaths. But there weren't. A British study found no link between baby mattresses and SIDS, but a German study confirmed the toxic gas theory. Go figure. I can't find how the studies were controlled, whether they were using used or new mattresses, etc, so I guess it comes down to who you think is smarter: Germans or Brtis. (just kidding!) It is important to note that babies have died from SIDS in their carseats, swings, while bedsharing on the parents' mattress, and on sofas....ALL of these things are treated with the same chemicals as baby mattresses, and all of them are subject to the growth of the same fungus. I can recall from my childhood stories of a babies who died mysteriously in their swings or carseats.
A note about vaccinations: it has been found that more than half of all SIDS babies had been recently vaccinated. While this doesn't conclude causation, it does provide a clue: vaccinations typically make babies run a fever, with a peak body temperature 24-48 hours after vaccination. An elevated body temperature would heat the mattress, cause the molecules to move faster, turn into gas, and rise at a higher rate, creating a larger dose of nerve gas. This peaks my interest about the link between autism and vaccinations as well. How many times have we heard a devastated parent report that their beautiful, healthy baby was vaccinated, went to sleep feverish, slept for hours, and when they woke up, the parent knew that "something was wrong"? While I am not convinced that vaccinations themselves cause autism, too many parents can trace their child's sudden altered behavior and delayed development back to the day of vaccination for there to not be some kind of correlation. I learned from reading Freakonomics that the truth is often right in front of us, and not always what it seems.
The last thing to talk about on this topic is the mattress cover that the New Zealand government now recommends. It is called the BabeSafe mattress cover, and yes, I bought one. It cost me $40, I bought it directly from New Zealand, and shipping was free. Here is the website through which I bought mine:
Eve's Best , and here is Eve's blog about SIDS preventions where you can learn more about the Toxic Gas Theory. I know, even after you read everything, you'll probably still have a little voice in the back of your mind that says, "is all this for real? Is someone just trying to make money off of parent's fear and others' unspeakable misfortune?" That little voice is still in my head, even as my little E sleep peacefully on his wrapped mattress. And the conclusion I have come to is this: maybe, but I don't care. I can't find anything illogical about the toxic gas theory. It just makes sense to me. I feel the cover IS a tad pricey, but once I received it, I can tell you that this is a very high quality cover: very thick and durable. Also, once it is on the mattress properly, it makes no noise when E rolls over on it, and I can't even tell it's on there. In fact, with the "under blanket" that is recommended you use with it (I use a 100% cotton bath towel), I think the mattress is now more comfortable for E. I can't find a reason not to use it. And if I have blown forty bucks, well, then I have. But I sleep better knowing E sleeps on a wrapped mattress, and sometimes the placebo is the best painkiller.
If you are wary that anything could combine to produce a deadly gas, I suggest that you Google what happens when you mix bleach and ammonia, two common household cleaning agents (do NOT attempt to mix them for any reason! I'll save you the trouble of actually Googling: it's deadly!)

I just want to add that T.J. Sprott stressed the importance of using only 100% cotton synthetic fibers such as polyester.
Finally, I leave you with one website that I highly recommend you read. It puts this whole debate in a much clearer, more concise manner than I ever could:
Baby's Bedding: Is it Creating Toxic Nerve Gas?