Mrs. Sell's Blog of Household Management

Archive for the category “baby”

How to order kids’ drinks at Starbucks

I’m not usually a big Starbucks fan; their coffee is way too bitter and burnt-tasting to me. But every autumn and winter, they come out with the Pumpkin Spice latte, the Peppermint mocha, and the Caramel Brulée, Eggnog and Gingerbread lattes, so I indulge myself for a few months before abandoning them in January.

This year, instead of leaving my toddler to watch me drink a specialty coffee every time we go grocery shopping, I decided to let her get her own little beverage, and I had to learn a whole new side of Starbucks.

The biggest hurdle to overcome at Starbucks is caffeine. While caffeine is not, in and of itself, necessarily harmful to children, children hyped up on caffeine are at a much higher risk of being murdered by their parents after six days of sleeplessness. So anything with caffeine is out, at least for the next several years.

The other problems include size/expense, like how much I’m willing to pay for a drink for a tiny person who will likely only drink half of it, and temperature, which is something that didn’t occur to me at all initially.

So I did a little research, and came up with some good-to-know info for keeping your kids in expensive drinks.

How to buy your kids drinks at Starbucks:

1) Check out the kids’ menu. The Starbucks website lists a couple of very basic, simple drinks for the extremely picky child. There are two milk drinks (regular cold milk, and a steamer, which is warmed, frothed milk with syrup of your choice in it for flavor), and three apple drinks (cold apple juice, warm apple juice, and the caramel apple cider, which is warm apple juice with caramel syrup in it).

2) Ask for a couple of off-menu options: the short size and kids’ temperature. A Starbucks tall is twelve ounces, and some drinks don’t come any smaller. But for a lot of drinks, you can get a little 8-ounce cup for a little cheaper. And if your child is too small to really understand hot drinks, you can ask for kids’ temperature, which is a little hotter than lukewarm and won’t burn your little one’s mouth.

3) Avoid caffeine. Starbucks has gotten better about indicating on the menu which things have caffeine, but sometimes it’s not so easy to tell. Here’s a general list of Starbucks drinks that won’t turn your little angel into a complete spazz (anymore than they already are):

  • Steamers (warmed milk with some syrup for flavor. If you get a flavored drink, you can get the same syrup for your kid!), or just plain steamed milk, charmingly called a babyccino.
  • Apple juice or cider, cold or warm, with caramel syrup if desired.
  • Frappuccinos with the word ‘crème‘ in them. These don’t have coffee in them, although a couple have trace amounts of caffeine from chocolate. If you want a flavor that doesn’t have the word crème in it, ask for a syrup crème Frappuccino with your desired flavor.
  • Hot chocolate and peppermint hot chocolate (Starbucks hot chocolate is pretty dark, so if your kids wants a milder hot chocolate, buy a chocolate milk from the cooler and have the barista warm it for you).
  • Herbal teas. Anything that says black, green or chai is going to have caffeine in it, but there are some teas that are caffeine free: Passion Tea, Vanilla Rooibos, Calm and Refresh. Hint: the one called ‘Awake’ has caffeine.
  • Smoothies (available in Chocolate, Orange Mango and Strawberry).
  • Things from the cooler case: there are some bottled milks, juices, and waters. You can even soup these up by having them warmed or adding syrups to the juices and sparkling water for an Italian soda!

With a little effort, your trip to Starbucks can become a luxurious, relaxing experience for both you and your child!


I am 1 in 4


1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage or stillbirth.

For more information and support for your own or a loved one’s loss, please visit:

Facts About Miscarriage

Remembering Our Babies

Saying Goodbye (in the UK)

Carly Marie Project Heal (in Australia; formerly August 19th – Day of Hope)

My story here:

Pregnancy Loss

Pregnancy loss

When I was pregnant with my first child, I waited until 12 weeks to tell almost everyone (my husband knew, of course, and I think we told my parents). This is fairly standard procedure, since around 1 in 5 pregnancies is lost to miscarriage, most in the first trimester. So, the logic goes, if you don’t tell anybody that you’re pregnant, then you don’t have to go around announcing the miscarriage to everyone if the baby is lost. Pregnancy books are replete with horror stories about the woman who immediately told everyone she was pregnant, then suffered a miscarriage, and for months had people asking after the baby, not having heard that it was lost.

In May 2013, we lost our second baby at about 8 weeks. Just like the first time, we had told no one about it. Even my close family didn’t know I was pregnant until we told them that the baby was lost. After that experience, my thoughts about announcing early pregnancy have really changed.

What, really, are the benefits to keeping early pregnancies and miscarriages secret?

1) Some people prefer to grieve in private. Having announced a pregnancy, a subsequent loss must also be announced. Grieving parents often don’t want to talk about it, and having to remember everyone who knows and who must now be informed is too much to deal with.

2) Some people don’t want to cause other people grief. Common or not, pregnancy loss is a sad thing. Some parents don’t want to spread around the grief of losing the baby to everyone they know, especially to other pregnant women. Speaking of which…

3) Pregnant women are almost superstitiously opposed to hearing about miscarriages and other pregnancy loss. Pregnancy forums have many stories from pregnant women who were emotionally traumatized by hearing stories of other women’s pregnancy losses. There is almost the belief that merely hearing about a baby’s death could harm the pregnant woman’s baby, and some people are very emotional about it.

If I may, I would like to submit some reasons why early pregnancies and pregnancy loss should not be a taboo subject.

1) Private grief is grief without support. Many women who have lost babies say they felt very isolated in their grief, as if they were the only one that this had happened to and that no one else could relate to what they were feeling. Given that pregnancy loss is so common (about 1 in 5 pregnancies, or 20%), it is nearly statistically guaranteed that everyone knows multiple people who have lost babies. But as long as those babies and losses are kept secret (outside of the miscarriage community), public awareness and acceptance of the statistics will never occur.

2) A baby’s loss that is never grieved is a baby’s life that was never celebrated. Yes, it is hard to know what to say when someone you know has lost a baby. If you are a relative, you may mourn yourself for the little grandchild/niece/nephew/cousin you never got to know. After my miscarriage, I was sad that during my baby’s 8 weeks of life, no one knew he was there or was happy that he existed. The fact that he lived was only associated with his death. Next time around, I will be shouting my baby’s existence from the rooftops; even if it dies, it won’t have died unnoticed.

3) I understand that while you’re pregnant, the last thing you want to hear about is babies dying. You are completely invested in your baby’s well-being, and even thinking about miscarriage can seem dangerous. But it’s not. Let’s face it: merely hearing stories can not harm a baby in utero. Ignoring pregnancy loss statistics and shunning women who have miscarried doesn’t help the pregnant woman at all, and it can cause significant harm to the woman who has miscarried. Your pregnancy can not be jinxed by sitting near a woman who has recently lost a baby in the doctor’s waiting room. Helping a friend grieve a lost baby will not hurt the one inside of you. And given the numbers, someday you may be grateful for sympathy in your own grief.

Those who are historically minded will recall that up until a few decades ago, breast cancer was an absolutely taboo subject. Women who had breast cancer certainly did not talk about it, and even treatment and surgery were kept secret. That is, until a few well-known women decided to go public with their experiences with breast cancer. Now, while a breast cancer diagnosis is still a scary thing, no woman needs to feel like she has to go through it alone. She understands that she is one of many, and that there is support if she needs it.

The percentage of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer is about 12%. The percentage of women who will undergo a pregnancy loss is about 30%. I believe that it is time to stop hiding pregnancy loss. It is not shameful; it doesn’t mean that you are not a woman. If you have lost a pregnancy, you have joined an enormous group of women, and their families, who have undergone the same thing, many whom you probably know.

It is not easy to be open about a miscarriage. In addition to having lost a beloved child, you may also be experiencing guilt, depression and hopelessness. You may not want to talk about the baby, but you may be overwhelmed every time you see a pregnant woman or a new baby. Uninformed people may ask you if you did something wrong to cause the miscarriage, or say other hurtful things.

Despite the pain, the only way for the public to become informed is for informed people to spread knowledge. Be open about your pregnancy loss. You do not have to go into medical details, but inform yourself about the reasons (or lack of) for miscarriage. Be able to tell people what the risk factors are, and the statistics. Celebrate your baby’s short life. Help other women grieve.

Because most miscarriages are due to factors beyond our control, awareness can’t lead to reduced incidences of miscarriage. But what it can do is provide support and acceptance for women and families who have lost babies, letting them know that they are not alone, and reducing the stigma attached to pregnancy loss.

I’ve written this about three weeks after we lost our baby. I don’t know when I’ll publish it. But I do want to mention some pregnancy loss resources, as well as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, which occurs in October and specifically on October 15. A website that I found helpful is

To the mothers and families: You are not alone.

To the babies: You are not forgotten.

Baby Sell, May 2013

baby sell may 2013

Baby gates are AMAZING!

A baby gate was not something that I initially anticipated needing. We don’t have any stairs or accesses to dangerous spots, and we never considered the kitchen to be out of bounds. Plus, our daughter has always disliked being confined, and we generally let her go wherever she wants, as long as she stays out of trouble. Most of the gates I had seen her over $50 anyway, and I certainly wasn’t going to pay that kind of money for something that seemed so extraneous.

Then we decided to potty train our daughter, and I read John Rosemond’s Toilet Training Without Tantrums. I love pretty much all of John Rosemond’s books. He approaches child-rearing in a common-sense, old-fashioned manner, based on what has worked for the majority of people in the past. Some of his books are kinda repetitive, so I have just a basic set of A Family of Value, the Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children, Making the ‘Terrible’ Two Terrific, and Toilet Training Without Tantrums.

I decided to start the potty training while my husband was travelling on business for a month. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and could devote myself fully to cleaning up messes if necessary, especially if it took a long time for her to get it. You never really know with potty training; the kid could get it in a day, or it could take weeks. So I tried to prepare for the worst; I went ahead and stocked up on food and supplies in case we were stuck at home for a couple weeks.

Two of the recommendations for kids who struggle with potty training were a small timer and a baby gate. If necessary, the parent can set the timer to go off at likely times when the child should need to use the potty, whether the child realizes it or not. And if a child is particularly stubborn (especially older children), and the parent knows that the child understands the concept but simply refuses to use the potty, the gate can be used to confine the child in the bathroom, with his potty, toys and books, until he decides to use the potty.

Fortunately, my daughter had the potty 95% figured out by the second day, so I didn’t have to resort to either of those measures. But I found some other great uses for the baby gate!

Now, I don’t advocate blocking children into a room for hours at a time merely to avoid some annoyance. Toddlers and children need as much freedom as possible to explore and learn, and confinement doesn’t aid that. But in certain circumstances and for relatively short periods, having a child-free zone in your house can be a wonderful thing.

I started out putting the baby gate in the door to our bedroom, essentially gating our daughter OUT of one room, as opposed to IN to one room. I had put several boxes in there for sorting and organizing, and I didn’t want her undoing all my work. Even after I put the gate up, I didn’t immediately spend a lot of time in there where she couldn’t get to me. Most of the time I was out in the living room, and she didn’t need to be in our bedroom at all. Eventually she got used to the gate, and wouldn’t fuss if I went in there for short periods of time to do things like fold laundry or make the bed.

Once she had the potty training pretty well down, we decided it was (long past) time to teach her to put herself to sleep, and we started using the gate at nap times and bed times in the door to her room. When she gets ready for bed, we put the gate up, then do the book-reading routine in her room with her. Then we tell her it’s time for her to go to sleep in her bed, that she has a potty in the room if she needs it, and we’ll be right in the other room if she needs something. Whether she accepts this peacefully (10% of the time) or shrieks in outrage (90% of the time), we at least get some time alone without a toddler crawling all over us. Every five minutes or so, if she’s still upset, we go over and matter-of-factly repeat the reality of the situation to her. She usually decides to entertain herself after 5 or 10 minutes, and often falls asleep in her bed with a book.

During the day, I put the gate back in the door to our room so I can do things like fold laundry, use the phone, or just lie down without being walked on. The cat also appreciates a safe place where he can sleep without being jabbed with sticks and toys.

I believe that parental care is best for infants and small children, but especially if you are a full-time stay-at-home mom, sometimes you just need a break from being pawed and climbed on. A gate is great because the child can still see you, and you can easily step over it as you move through the house.

I ended up purchasing the Evenflo Position and Lock Gate for about $10 from Wal-Mart. (Mine is neither pink nor blue, but a neutral wood color.) It’s perfect for what we need. It uses pressure to stay in place, so there’s no damage to the door frame, and it’s easy to move around. Pressure-mounted models are not safe for top-of-stairs use, though, so if you need to guard a staircase you’ll have to invest in a screw-in gate. My daughter has only worked it loose once, and that was after several cumulative days of yanking on it. If you reset it every day, if should hold fine.

Who needs a ‘straw cleaner’?

If you have little kids, you do.

I first heard of a straw cleaner while reading the reviews for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. (Go there right now and read them. It will enrich your life.)

Feel better? Okay, continuing with original topic.

At first I thought, ‘Who needs a brush for cleaning straws? Aren’t straws plastic and disposable?’ Some reviewers said they loved the straw cleaner for their fancy, reusable glass straws, and I figured that wasn’t really me, so didn’t think any thing more about it.

Until I encountered this:

purple Playtex water bottle

This is my daughter’s water bottle. It’s by Playtex, she has them in two colors, and I love them. They have easy-grab handles, the lid snaps over to keep them from spilling, and it taught her to drink from a straw (very handy when we’re in a restaurant and the only thing we have for her to drink is a glass of water). They also come apart into four pieces for easy cleaning – at least until you get to the straw part.

Despite my attempts to use them just for water in between meals, sometimes they were the only thing available and she used them while she ate. And a toddler drinking means one thing: backwash.  (This is why I didn’t want them used with food, but whatever.)

So then I was faced with a straw full of crud, which is completely disgusting, especially considered how long it must have been there. Initially I used a toothpick to scrape around inside and got most of it off, but was still grossed out by the problem. I didn’t want to give up the water bottles, but straws really have to be clean, you know?

Epiphany: I could order one of those fancy straw cleaners! I couldn’t remember which one I had seen initially, so I just searched for ‘straw cleaner’ on Amazon, and found that someone had read my mind.

straw cleaner1

Enter the OXO Tot Straw and Sippy Cup Top Cleaning Set. (OXO has the most BRILLIANT stuff.) This amazing set has the straw cleaner, a lid-thread-and-general-tiny-areas cleaner, and a pick-style cleaner for the tiny holes in the lids of your traditional sippy cup.

The straw cleaner is 4 1/2″ long, 2″ of which is bristle. There’s even a little plastic knob on the end to keep the metal from sticking you! It’s plenty long enough to reach through a sippy-cup straw, and might even go through a regular straw if you attack from both ends.

The general cleaner is for all the little crevices and crannies you find in sippy cup lids, the threads on screw-on tops, and even parts for your breast pump. I haven’t gotten much use out of it yet, but am not complaining that it was included with the other two pieces.

The pick-style cleaner is a stroke of genius. Most ‘regular’ sippy cups these days have a series of tiny holes in the mouthpiece through which the drink is dispensed. You could easily use a toothpick to clean these out, but this pick is handy and reusable.

The only con I can find to these tools is that they seem a little delicate. The pick cleaner bends very easily, and all of the brush surfaces are very soft. Truthfully, this is just fine given what you’re cleaning with these. You’re not scrubbing out a baked-on casserole, so as long as you’re washing your sippy cups frequently (which you should be), it should only take a gentle poke and a light scrub to get off the food bits.

This set definitely goes on my list of must-haves for any new parent.

Make your own baby food: simple ideas

Making your own baby food is great: it’s generally cheaper than buying the packaged stuff, and you know exactly what goes into it, so you can put in the freshest stuff you can find. You can introduce ‘adult’ foods much more easily, too; a lot of packaged baby food is based on the premise that babies will only eat a small variety of fairly bland foods. In reality, babies will eat pretty much anything an adult will, especially if their parents do.

For my daughter, I have used a combination of packaged foods and homemade foods. I generally used Sprout Baby Food, which I love, not because it’s organic, but because there are no artificial ingredients or additives. For the Level 1 Roasted Sweet Potatoes, the ingredients list read ‘sweet potatoes.’ Some have some water added, usually the ones with rice or something that requires some cooking in water, and some have ascorbic acid as well. But compared to ingredients list that are mostly unpronounceable chemicals, these get my vote.

I have also used the Sprout food as inspiration for making my own baby food. For example, I never would have thought to combine Carrot, Apple, and Mango, but it’s really good and easy to make yourself. The Peach Pumpkin Pie with Graham gave me the idea to crush graham crackers up and mix them with fruit for a healthy, delicious dessert. I know that sounds cliched, but the Roasted Bananas and Mango (unfortunately no longer produced, but still available from some sellers) was so good, I would have gladly had it for dessert. I also started adding seasonings like pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and nutmeg to my daughter’s food to educate her palate.

I love the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen le Billon. It is a comprehensive look at how the French are taught to eat from an early age; their cultural attitude toward food is as different from Americans’ as night and day. The French don’t eat emotionally, don’t use food as rewards or bribes, and don’t eat between meals. They know how to introduce all types of foods to their children and how to experience food not just as tasting ‘good or bad,’ but as a wide variety of flavors, textures and scents, some more pleasant than others, but all to be enjoyed for their own unique characteristics.

Mme. le Billon divides the book into ten ‘rules’ for eating, but makes sure to incorporate the spirit behind each rule, so that eating is not just by rote, but a wonderful, sensual experience. And she takes the reader from the first vegetable soup given to French babies in their bottles all the way through childhood dining experiences. She lists recipes and great ideas for what to puree for your baby. To be honest, this book completely changed the way that I view food and eating, and I hope to train my daughter with these good habits. Children mimic their parents, and eating is no exception. If you have bad food habits, it will be very difficult to teach your children otherwise. French Kids Eat Everything is a wonderful guide to making eating a fun, healthy, life-long passion.


Christmas books for kids

Last time I did Christmas books for babies, and decided to milk the topic into two posts: Christmas books for babies and for kids. Here are the kids’ books:

christmas story golden book

Golden Books The Christmas Story

This is a Golden Book classic; I read this when I was a kid, and now I have it for my baby. This is the nativity story, nearly straight out of the Bible. Phrases have been adjusted for clarity, but sometimes it feels like you’re reading the King James Version. The pictures are beautiful: detailed, richly colored, almost Renaissance-style art. This one will be read again and again. My only complaint with this version is that they changed the font slightly; there used to be illumination-style letters at the beginnings of the pages, and they have gotten rid of most of those. If you can, try to find an older edition at a used-bookstore or online.

night before christmas golden book

Golden Books The Night Before Christmas

This is another Golden Book classic. It has the complete text of Clement C. Moore’s poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and the illustrations are from 1949, so they are pretty traditional. Warning: if you are like the Amazon reviewer who had an heart attack over this edition, be aware that on the page with the line ‘The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth / And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath’ THERE IS IN FACT A PICTURE OF SANTA WITH A PIPE AND SMOKE AROUND HIM. Just like it says in the poem. Yes. If you prefer sanitized illustrations that don’t match the words, get another edition. Ignoring history only leads to disaster. I’m just saying.

animals' christmas eve golden bookGolden Books The Animals’ Christmas Eve

I had not seen this book before, and was very pleasantly surprised at how good it is. This one has modern, but very nice illustrations, and good rhyme about the animals at the first Christmas, counting up from one to twelve.

little christmas elf golden book

Golden Books The Little Christmas Elf

This is a Santa-style Christmas story. A little elf works in Santa’s workshop, and learns a story about perseverance and hard work. It’s pretty cute; there are many mediocre children’s books out there, and this one is actually decent.

poky little puppy first christmas golden book

The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas

I remember when The Poky Little Puppy was just a simple little book with a lot of repetition, a very simple plot, and pretty flat characters. Now it’s a whole universe of characters and experiences, and this is one of those iterations. If you love the Poky Little Puppy, you will enjoy hearing about his family, new friends, and first Christmas. Otherwise, take it or leave it.

If you like all five of the above books, you can purchase them from Amazon as a boxed set called Favorite Little Golden Books for Christmas.

rudolph golden book

Golden Books Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This book was a classic from my childhood. It does not have the illustrations like the movie, but is still adorable, and is a great re-telling of the Rudolph story.

frosty the snowman book

Frosty the Snow Man

This is the classic story of Frosty the Snow Man, based on the song. I love this book because my parents’ record album of the song had illustrations from this edition. It’s such a fun story, and if your baby is too impatient to listen to all the words, like mine is, you can just sing the song to them as they flip the pages. 🙂

berenstain bears meet santa bear

The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear

If you have children, then you must have the Berenstain Bears books. And if you have those, then you must have The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear. It is in the same style as all their other books: at Christmas time, the Bear family learns a lesson about generosity, not being greedy, and helping others. This book was originally published in 1984, and lacks the overtly religious message that the new books have. I tend to prefer the Berenstain Bears book by the original authors, Stan and Jan Berenstain. After they passed on, their son Mike took over writing and illustrating, and he has taken the books in a specifically Christian direction; they are now published by one of the major Christian publishing houses. I like the original ones because they were not shy about teaching moral lessons, but they did not limit themselves to one segment of the religious population. All parents should feel good about reading the original Berenstain Bears to their kids.

norman rockwell christmas book

Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book

This one isn’t designed for kids necessarily, but is a beautiful Christmas book to have in your house. It has a large selection of classic Christmas stories, poems and carols, with Norman Rockwell paintings and illustrations throughout. It’s not really a picture book, but a great way to introduce your kids to timeless Christmas Stories like Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Fir Tree,’ Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus,’ and O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi,’ as well as familiarizing them with Norman Rockwell’s work. As a bonus, eight of the full-page illustrations have removable prints affixed to them, so you can take them out and frame them.

best christmas pageant everThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This is the best Christmas book ever. If you do not have this book, buy it right now, then read it, then read it to your kids, then read it again. When I was growing up, my mom read this to us every year at Christmas time, and now I’m reading it to my daughter. It’s only seven chapters total, so I’m going through and making smaller divisions so that we can read a little bit every day and make it last longer.

That turned out longer than I thought it would, but it’s worth it to get the word out about great books!

Christmas books for babies

I had to make some emergency purchases a few weeks ago when I realised that my daughter didn’t have any Christmas board books! I had some kids’ Christmas books, but nothing she can drag around that fits the season. So I went to Amazon and picked out several, and here they are:

dk touch and feel christmas

Dorling Kindersley Baby Touch and Feel Christmas

What I have always loved about Dorling Kindersley is that, whenever possible, they use real photographs for their illustrations. We have some other Dorling Kindersley Baby Touch and Feel books; they are for the very youngest age set. There is one picture on each page, with the name of the item and a few descriptive words around it. Each picture has either an insert of textured fabric or a bit of shiny paper on it for the baby to feel. They are nice and colorful, and the books themselves are good, sturdy cardboard, with a somewhat slick coating that wipes off pretty easily. I always recommend anything by Dorling Kindersley, and this is no exception.

dk my first christmas board book

Dorling Kindersley My First Christmas Board Book

This is another Dorling Kindersley, for a slightly older age than the previous book. These are more in the style of the Dorling Kindersley Science series for older kids: each page has a theme, and there are captioned photos within that theme. This one has different ornaments, lights, plants, trees, decorations, and many other items for Christmas. My daughter loves to point at the images of the milk and cookies left out for Santa!

baby's christmas golden board book

Baby’s Christmas

This Golden Baby board book turned out to be the surprise favorite. It is illustrated by the same woman who illustrated Baby Dear and The Christmas Story. It is the story of a baby and all the presents he receives for Christmas. It kinda rhymes (especially if you edit a few lines), and the pictures are very detailed and pretty. I don’t know why, but my daughter is obsessed with this book, to the point that I can recite it from memory after owning it for three days. It is bound like the Baby Touch and Feel: thick, coated cardboard covers, easy to hold and clean.

usborne touchy feely nativity

Usborne Touchy-Feely The Nativity

Usborne is a British publisher, and can be very difficult to find in the US, so you might have to look around for them. They have a lot of good educational stuff and other things for kids. I got this one through Amazon from an individual seller. This is a nicely bound and decorated book. Like the DK Baby Touch and Feel, it has plenty of places to feel textures. The sheep are very wooly!

The thing I found odd about this book was that it tells the entire Christmas story without ever mentioning God or any kind of religious context.The only mention of the supernatural was an angel who appeared to the shepherds, who tells them to go see the baby Jesus, but not why. I understand that many people do not want to bring their children up in a religion, but it is very weird to read the story of the beginning of one of the world’s major religions and not mention anything about God, or who Jesus was, or that he was anything other than some random baby. Small children probably won’t pick up on it, but it bugged me that there was no reason given for the travel to Bethlehem, or why Jesus was special, or why the shepherds and wise men were looking for him in the first place. Ultimately, if you want to tell your kids the Nativity story without any mention of religion whatsoever, then this is your book.

Stay tuned next time for Christmas books for bigger kids!


Baby naps

I just read an article called ‘Changing from Two Naps to One’ on Just the Facts Baby, and realised that some people put way more thought into their baby’s napping schedule than I ever have.

The article recommends at what age to switch baby from two naps per day to one, and has checklists to determine whether or not your child is ready.

I will just have to wonder whether or not this article would have changed what has always been my policy for my baby, which is ‘when she’s tired, she sleeps.’

That’s not to say that she’s not on a schedule, because she is. It just doesn’t necessarily follow a clock as an adult understands it.

I have always felt a little guilty, because my baby has never been on a ‘traditional’ sleep schedule, at least as far as bedtime goes. Part of the reason for that is that, due to space restrictions, she has always slept in our room, if not our bed. So it’s hard to put her to sleep before we turn out the light, because as long as the light’s on, she wants to know what’s going on. Also, because my husband often gets home late from work, if I stuck to a traditional seven or eight o’clock bedtime, she would only see her dad on weekends.

Right now, her schedule is roughly this:

sometime between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.: wake up

sometime between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.: nap, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours (timing depends on how early she got up)

sometime between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.: go to sleep

She usually wakes up a few times during the night, but doesn’t nurse anymore between bedtime and breakfast, so I just lie down with her and she goes back to sleep. Quite often, her mornings alternate: if she gets up at seven one morning, she’ll sleep til nine the next, then early again, etc. She hasn’t had a morning nap for months (she’s almost fourteen months old).

I suppose if you were super-organised, this so-called schedule would drive you crazy. Fortunately, I have a laid-back personality in general, so this works well for us. It gives us leeway, especially on the weekends, to be able to go out and be able to delay her naps, or let her nap in the car. She’s really good at that; she can catch a good 30 minutes or so in the car seat, mid-afternoon, and be recharged until bedtime.

I think it would be extremely frustrating to try to force a baby to sleep on a strict schedule. In my experience, my baby isn’t necessarily tired at the same time each day, so it would be futile to put her down. As John Rosemond says, going to sleep is one of the three things it is impossible to force a person to do (the others are eat and use the toilet; hence some of the most common parent-child conflicts). I just keep an eye on my daughter, bearing in mind when she last slept, and put her down when she’s tired. And she sleeps until she’s not tired anymore, then gets up.

It’s possible that when we have more children, I won’t be able to be as relaxed about nap times, but this works for us now. The most important thing is that you do what works for you and your baby, no matter what other people are doing. If your baby needs a strict sleeping schedule, then be glad that you can make plans and be able to count on some free time at the same time every day. But if your baby’s schedule runs more on his biological clock than the one on the wall, then be glad that you can be flexible and that your baby can tolerate missing a nap or two. Bottom line is there are pros and cons to each, and it’ll benefit you to be thankful for the pros and put the cons in perspective.

Baby carrying – African-style

Whenever my daughter and I go out, I am often asked about the way I’m carrying her: namely, tied to my back with a beach towel. I learned the method from watching YouTube videos of African women carrying their babies, and I’ve decided to combine all of the videos and what I’ve learned into one place so everyone else can see how to do it.

I have carried my baby in a beach towel since she was about four months old and was able to hold her head up by herself. I don’t know how to adapt this method to babies who can’t support their own heads; if anybody knows, please fill me in!

This is the primary video I used to learn how to do this. It shows a woman from Ghana using a kanga to wear her baby.

The first thing you need is something to carry your baby with. I use a beach towel, because it is long enough to go around me and the baby, and it is thin enough to be a little cooler and to stay tucked. I think a bath towel would be too small and too thick to be comfortable, although it can be done, as you can see in this video from South Africa:

In the other videos you see women using kangas, which are large, thin pieces of cloth used as clothing, head covers, baby slings and general parcel carrier.

Next, you need to center your baby on your back. This is really easy with practice, especially once your baby learns the drill, but you might want a spotter when you’re learning. The best way is to lean over (way over at first) so your baby is lying on his stomach with his legs around your waist. You can reach one hand around and support the baby under his bottom.

Now is when you’ll probably need someone to keep a hand on the baby, because you’re going to need both of your hands to put the towel around him. You want to grab the top corners of your towel and bring the towel around the baby as if you were putting on a sweater. For a small baby, place the towel above his arms, just under his neck. For larger babies, you can put it below the baby’s arms so that he can move around a little more.

Here‘s a video of a small baby wrapped securely:

Which way you wrap the front is up to you; I usually bring the left side around the front of my body, just above the bust, then wrap the right side around on top. Here’s the part which seems improbable: instead of tying, you will now fold/roll the towel down to hold it. You can see this in the videos: the top end is merely tucked/folded down with the rest of the towel. I know, it seems loose, but it is secure if you do it right. Practice does make perfect with this, too, and you can practice this part without a baby at all. Just wrap the towel around yourself as if you have just stepped out of the shower, and instead of tying, place the two top edges of the towel parallel to each other, then roll them down.

This was the part that was hardest for me at first, but once you do it, you will feel how it is supposed to go. And if it does start to slip, you will feel it immediately. I’ve had my towel loosen a couple of times when I first started doing this, and I felt it before my baby could even begin to fall.

It seems counter-intuitive to wrap the top first, but it’s actually more secure this way. The baby should be resting on your hips, and the top of the towel is holding his upper body up. The lower end is just for a little more security. Truthfully, if your kid was big enough, you could dispense with the lower end completely and they can hang on with their legs.

Once the top is secure, you can stand up more straight and adjust the baby as you wrap the lower half. This is something else you will get a feel for with practice. Just grab the lower half of the towel and bring it up under the baby’s bottom, drawing the ends to the front as you do so. Bring one end of the towel up and wrap it around your body, just under the bust this time, then bring the other end around and tuck in it, just like the top. Depending on how big your baby is, you can bring his little legs either straight around your body, or let them dangle at the knees. You can see examples of both of these on this post at the Gypsy Momma blog.

Voila! Your baby should be wrapped securely to your back, and now you can go do dishes, or make the beds, or go hiking, or whatever else was impossible to do carrying a baby in your arms.

There are many, many baby carriers on the market, designed for front-carry, back-carry, side-carry, and everything in between, and they usually cost a pretty penny. I myself loved my Moby Wrap when my daughter was tiny, and carried her around on my front all the time. But when she got too big and heavy to carry on my chest, I switched to the beach towel and have never regretted it. From what I can tell, you can use this method to carry a child as long as you are strong enough to lift them and the towel will still fit. You don’t have to worry about buying the right size carrier to fit you or the baby; the towel gets adjusted every time you put it on. This kid is pretty big, and his mother can still get him on. You can also see how his legs dangle at the knees:

For more of my thoughts on carrying a baby in a beach towel, and for more info on baby wearing, head over to Gypsy Momma: A Rough Guide to Travel With Babies.

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