The Best Easter Egg Hunts

 

Easter Collage

This year is totally different from last year – after a fake-out warm week, we’re back down to below freezing!!! The good thing about Easter Egg Hunts though, although they’re usually outside, is that they’re over in about 2 minutes (if you’re not organizing it yourself, of course). But, that same pro can turn into a con if the hunt is not handled correctly. Nobody wants to see older kids with brimming baskets and tiny toddlers in tears who weren’t even able to grab a single egg. And I cannot believe we hear stories every year of kids getting hurt or trampled when parents go crazy.

This year we got 2 egg hunts due to interstate travel visiting the grandparents that weekend. But since I have a 5 year old, we’ve got a few years experience. Let me share what we’ve found works best:

  1. Completely separate egg hunt areas by age group. Preschoolers hunt in one spot, bigger kids in another (and if you can break it down even further to 3 or 4 different areas by age group – even better!). The bonus here is that you can lay all the eggs in plain sight for the little ones without worrying the bigger kids will scoop them up first. And you can make the hunt a nice challenge for the older kids.
  2. Sometimes you just don’t have an easy way to create separate areas. For example, we went to a hunt in one small town that was using their large village green. However, they helped solve the problem by having the big kids go to the far end of the field, while the little ones stayed close, with the goal of meeting in the middle.
  3. An egg limit! If the eggs are filled, post a rule of no more than, say, 10 eggs per person to ensure all kids get some. Repeat, repeat, have the kids repeat, repeat again, and make signs. That should ensure at least 60% follow the rule…
  4. Even better than an egg limit? Empty eggs!! If you take away the greed factor – where it doesn’t really matter how many eggs you pick up – kids are generally better behaved and more likely to let a little one take that last egg. Have all the kids turn in their eggs at the end of the hunt by dumping them in a big box, and then hand out pre-packed, identical goodie bags to everyone!

Remember: your local Easter egg hunt is not The Hunger Games.

 

 

I’m a Guest Blogger – E-Time Rules (in both senses)

Creative Geekery is doing a series on Screen Time Rules (how different families manage television and other forms of digital entertainment in their families) and I am so thrilled to be her first guest blogger! Come read how the ThinkerMommy family allots E-time here:

http://creative-geekery.com/family-screen-time-rules-thinkermommy-com-style/

Warning: we do sometimes exceed the AAP’s recommendations for E-time.

Random picture found on my iPhone after O had played with it

Found on my iPhone after O had played with it

A Random Question About Chickens and Snow

Ryan-ryan-chickens

The other day I started wondering what you do with your backyard chickens when it starts to snow? Do they just stay in their coop for weeks or months? If so, how do you clean it? Do they need climate control or did nature enable them to withstand the cold on their own? I mean, I do see other birds outside in nature during the winter. So many questions! But first, let me recite the specific train of thought that led me down this particular oddball path…

My husband has always dreamed about having a little farm: some chickens, a goat or two and food crops for personal use. Maybe it’s because he is the one person who took the Garden State nickname of his birthplace to heart or maybe he just EIEIO-verdosed as a kid, but the dream lives on. He’s also just a little obsessed with chickens in general; when we went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon, at least a quarter of the photos on our camera were of chickens. Somehow our marriage survived. :)

Ok, fast forward to a few years ago when I read an article that it’s actually totally legal to own backyard chickens in New York City and Brooklyn. That sparked a lot of research, but, in the end, nothing happened – probably because we got pregnant with our first baby (and she was way cuter than a chicken).

Then, my sister & her family moved to Vermont and bought a house with enough acreage to make keeping chickens a serious possibility and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re interested in doing so. Inevitably on visits down there, my husband and brother-in-law get to talking about chickens (and all other outdoorsy, hunting, fishing, blah, blah, stuff). On top of that, my sister has embarked on an eternal crusade to convince us to join them in the Green Mountain State permanently. After months of brainwashing, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I must have begun to think about what our life would be as Vermonters, which would obviously involve chickens.

So, to answer the questions you didn’t know you had, apparently chickens do need heating if their coop will get below freezing. According to this article at BackyardChickens.com, if you’re on a shoestring budget, you can fill the coop with straw for hens to burrow into when it gets cold, or set up an electric heater for a small coop. They recommend at least partially covering the chicken run too to provide protection against the elements.

I also read that tolerance for snow really just depends on the personality of the hens in your flock. In this forum post, also on BackyardChickens.com (great site!), some people said their chickens walked around in 5 inches of snow with no complaints and others said their flock flat out refused to leave the coop. Really interesting!

There you have it. I hope this one day aids someone in a bar trivia game or a Jeopardy question. And for that, you are welcome. :)

beware the chickens

Future birthday gift for my husband?

Ending Breastfeeding, Weaning Mommy

I read a lot about breastfeeding before having both my babies but I don’t remember seeing much about the weaning period beyond: “Stop when you’re ready to stop,” “Gradually decrease the number of nursing sessions,” or the less helpful, “Just breastfeed as long as possible.” Well, Bugaboo is over a year old and certainly showing no signs of stopping, but mama is ready. So what now?

We’ve been nursing before naps and at bedtime, often (unfortunately) in the middle of the night too. Skipping nursing sessions usually only works if my husband is home. If I’m holding him, Bug literally pulls the neck of my shirt to try to cram his head in, face first. In less desperate moments, he just sticks his (usually cold) hands down the neck of my shirt. I get the message loud and clear: nurse now or your shirts will never be acceptable to wear out in public again! (Yeah, he knows my kryptonite).

Sure, you say, I just need to buck up and let him cry a little. It won’t really last very long and he’ll get over it. But here’s the kicker – when I do give in and nurse my baby, my toddler actually, I always get the same reaction: his eyelids flutter, his eyes roll back a little, and he breathes out a tiny moan of total pleasure along with a deep sigh as though I’d been starving him for days and broke his fast with a 5 star dessert. He is so completely content and it’s the simplest thing I could possibly do – really I just sit there and enjoy a few minutes of uninterrupted reading time. I don’t usually feel the typical “mommy guilt,” but that does it. Why on earth would I take nursing away from him?

Because I want my boobs back, for one. Because I have a bunch of very cute non-nursing bras waiting for me. Because my son very slowly increases the pressure with his teeth so that by the end of many nursing sessions, I have four well-defined marks around my nipple. Because I’m scared he’ll still be nursing years from now (I have no problem with moms who nurse older kids, I just don’t want to do it myself). And because I want to sleep through the night for once!

It turns out none of those reasons are good enough to break the spell my son has on me, though. I still haven’t done much proactively to wean my son. I guess I’m really hoping my son will just decide on his own that he’s done with nursing and it’ll be a nice, peaceful transition. That happens sometimes, right?

Potty Training Tip – Beware the Fancy Diapers!

toddler upsidedown $

Beware the fancy diapers!

I thought we were doing my daughter a favor by getting her the really soft disposable diapers. Sure they were more expensive, but she was our firstborn, our baby! I gathered up all my diaper samples from the various baby expos I’d attended and did a complete, almost scientific, brand test. Some of the diapers leaked on us, some were so papery they crinkled every time she moved and I worried the rustling would be loud enough to disturb her sleep (yes, I was paranoid), and some just seemed really scratchy. Didn’t we love our daughter enough to spend a few extra dollars to prevent an itchy and uncomfortable feeling that we wouldn’t put up with ourselves? Well, when you put it that way…

I later discovered our fancy disposable diaper brand also had a loyalty rewards program with some pretty cool “free” stuff we could earn (with points from our purchases) and I’m a huge sucker for that kind of stuff. So that, plus the fact we had no complaints (no rashes, etc), kept us from switching brands as she got older. We did eventually get a big plastic Little Tikes grocery cart for “free” which I still find totally awesome (please do not reply with logic about how with all the extra money we could have saved by buying cheaper diapers we could have bought 10 grocery carts – I don’t want to hear it. It was free I tell you, free!!).

cart 076

It was free I tell you, free!! (doll not included)

Then came potty training. Or it should have. We passed her second birthday and her third and still my daughter had no problems being wet or poopy. Like no problems whatsoever. She would have stayed in one diaper for the rest of eternity if left to herself. As I scoured potty training guides and parent manuals, many said the first step was for your child to show readiness, meaning discomfort being wet or soiled, or at least notifying you in some way before or after. Of course this is all usually supposed to happen a lot sooner too. We got nothing. I might have tried the “run naked and free until you feel pee dribbling down your leg” method but we have carpet throughout our house so I stuck that in the last resort file. I also read that rushing potty training can seriously backfire (constipation, taking longer to train overall, etc.) so I just kept telling myself, it’d be fine, no one goes to prom in diapers.

minnie potty chair

Our 3rd potty – the self “flusher” that says “hip hip horray” made this one the winner

We decided to move our daughter into Pull-Ups even before she was “ready” to potty train because 1. she was too big for the changing table, 2. we wanted to associate the changing table with babies, like her brother, not big girls like her and 3. we wanted her to get in the habit of pulling her diaper on and off by herself. But we stuck with our expensive brand out of habit. I tried giving O lots of liquids and asking her to try to use the potty every 10 or 15 minutes but she would go in her diaper directly before or after sitting on her potty. I tried demonstrating for her. I even tried a different potty that mounted onto the big toilet. Still no success. I think she knew exactly what I was asking for, but her body wasn’t cooperating; it just hadn’t clicked yet.

CVS brand pull up diapers

CVS brand pull up diapers. AKA not fancy.

Then we went to a CVS I’d never been to before due to a mix-up with a prescription at the pharmacy. I have a secret love for drugstores like Walgreens or Rite Aid; stores where there’s a little bit of everything and you never know what you’ll find, and where there’s always a holiday section filled with cheesy adorable themed knickknacks you don’t need (I always end up buying 1 or 2). While living in Boston, I discovered that very CVS is different, so I’d always wander the aisles whenever I was in a new store or just had time to kill (this is all related, I swear). While wandering this time for new and interesting products I didn’t know I needed, I noticed a super sale on the CVS brand pull-ups and I swear a light bulb clicked on above my head. What if the super plush, super absorbent, fancy diapers were part of the problem? What if she needs a flimsy, cheap diaper to feel that she’s wet and that wet is not good? What if she needs an uncomfortable diaper to motivate her to switch into comfy cotton undies? I still had fears about leakage but the sale was enough to prompt me to give it a try. Wait… what are my design options? Adorable alien monsters and/or pink butterflies? Ok, Sold.

It was like magic. Once we started wearing the cheapy diapers, O started telling us when she wet her diaper. So we started regularly asking her if she had to go, or to just sit and give it a try, and finally she successfully used the potty. I went the bribe route by offering m&ms for every attempt which worked sometimes but O was still going in her diaper frequently. The turning point was when she had 2 total leak-through accidents within 2 days (something that would never have happened in her expensive pull-ups) and suddenly the switch in her brain flipped. She’s been using the potty like a pro ever since. She has actually requested to wear her undies at night too and has stayed dry (5 nights and counting!!).

So there’s my cautionary tale. Should have saved this post for Halloween, haha. Beware!!

4 Reasons All Baby Boys Should Wear Girls Leggings

tight pants collage

So stylish and he doesn’t even know it

I just had an epiphany so I’m going to keep this post short and to the point. Skinny jeans are in for everyone but apparently leggings didn’t make the cut. Whatever man-rules there are about tightness in that general area, I’m sure they don’t apply to a baby in diapers.  So here’s why all baby boys should wear little girls leggings (at least until they start making boys leggings):

baby losing his pants

Losing his pants while getting into mischief

1.   No more rolling up your son’s pants to keep him from tripping on them. And/Or no more pulling up his pants over and over (and over).

It’s inevitable that when your child begins to walk, he’s going to step on his pants. Sometimes my son even did it on purpose. And even if you’re sure you’ve finally got the perfect roll this time, his pant legs are probably going to fall back down in about 5 minutes. Some boys pants have elastic or ribbing at the ankles, but I’ve found they stretch out during wear and even those end up falling over my son’s toes. Crawlers can have problems too: they’ll land a knee on one wide pant leg but won’t let that stop them from moving forward and down goes the trou. Or their pants will wrap over their feet and, while trying to push for momentum on the carpet,  they will simultaneously pull their pants lower and lower. But add leggings and all these problems magically disappear.

2.   Instantly avoid the kick-out-one-leg-the-minute-you-try-to-put-the-other-leg-in-the-pants trick. Often performed on changing tables.

Stretchy cotton shorts help somewhat because you can pull those up pretty far on one leg and still bend the other leg into the remaining hole, but there are no long boy pants on this earth that can prevent my son from Houdini-ing himself out of them before I can get the second leg in. I usually have to put one leg on, then stand my infant son up against me to get the second leg partially on, then half pull half bounce the pants up to his waist, then put him back down flat to try to fix the zipper or snap before he turns himself over. Phew. It’s not easy. Girls leggings, however, are much harder to kick out of (though not impossible, unfortunately). Usually I can get my son’s second leg in while he’s turned the first leg inside out but still hasn’t gotten it completely off his foot – which means I can right the first leg easily and pull the pants over my son’s butt while he’s still flat on the changing table and he’s clothed in seconds instead of minutes.

3.   In the winter, no more cold chills blowing up your son’s pant legs (also noteworthy when in carriers or slings).

When my firstborn was a baby and the weather started turning cool, I noticed how often we were readjusting and pulling her pants back down as we held her. We wore her in a Baby K’Tan wrap carrier a lot and that little bit of fabric pulling her securely towards me was enough to make her pants ride up too. Even sitting down in a shopping cart could expose skin in most pants. But since leggings are tight enough to never fall over her toes, we could put my daughter in pairs that were a little big so that there was more length to prevent ride-up and protect her from the elements without worrying about her tripping over them the minute we got back inside. When my son was born, I’d already learned these lessons.

Even when your baby’s pants don’t ride up, the cold could still be sneaking up around their legs and most boys socks aren’t long enough to significantly combat the problem. Add some leggings, though, and problem solved! Plus you can layer the offending pants over the top of your leggings when the weather gets a little more chilly. P.S. don’t discount full tights either, just think of them as leggings with built in socks – why they don’t make tights for baby boys who have outgrown footie pants I still don’t know.

4.   Boys in tight pants are hipster cool.

Wearing girls pants doesn’t mean you have to parade your son in pink – although, if you do, more power to you. Grab a pair in basic black or better yet, stretchy girls jeggings, and watch your kid rock play group.

Wiggle Monsters at Bedtime

I wonder if it’s just hereditary. My husband always sleeps with his head cocked at an unnatural angle, has a history of talking in his sleep and sometimes sleepwalking (well, more like sleep fixing cars). My parents, on the other hand, always joked I could sleep through an atomic bomb (that ended abruptly when I developed the mommy sixth sense upon having a baby). So it’s definitely Daddy’s fault, let’s just be clear before we begin, haha.

My oldest was always an excellent sleeper as a baby; like right out of a paid infant sleep program infomercial. She went down while still semi-awake, would chatter to herself for a while, and then sleep for 6-8 hours straight. (I know!). So whatever she did after we put her to bed we had no idea except that she would often be completely flipped around in the crib in the morning.

Turns out she must have been turning somersaults all night. Since her transition to a big girl bed, when we’ve become aware of these nightly escapades, it seems that flopping around like crazy, illogically as it sounds, is necessary to calm herself down to sleep. She pushes her butt up in the air so that she’s semi standing on her head, she lays on her back with her legs straight up in the air, she fiddles with her hands, then she flops side to side until she passes out. I’d say it’s restless leg syndrome except it effects her entire body. And she has fits of wiggles punctuating the night too.

Obviously my husband and I knew we could not possibly have the same sleep luck with a second child. And since I was able to breastfeed Number 2, our sleep routine was necessarily different as well. I learned about his wiggle addiction much earlier. As he’s nursing to sleep, Number 2 has to kick his legs (Has to. I’ve tried holding his legs against me, in a you’re safe and secure way, and he’ll struggle to get his legs free; not because he wants them straight or he’s getting into a comfy position, just to continue kicking). He also has to open and close his hands repeatedly. Usually he’ll grab around a finger or part of my nursing bra but lately he’s been going for skin (ouch!). He’s also been known to repeatedly smack himself in the face with an arm while nursing and almost asleep (not joking). And of course he doesn’t even flinch, self-inflicted face smacking doesn’t wake him up in the slightest, but I drop a blanket softly over his legs and he’s instantly awake. Anyway, he doesn’t stop moving some part of his body until he’s dead asleep and even then I’m convinced he’d still suck forever if he could.

On one level I’m thinking that all this wiggling doesn’t seem to bother my babies so why should I care? I almost want to liken it to the habit of a dog who has to turn exactly 3 circles before laying down on his designated end of the couch to sleep. Just one of those odd things, but if it makes you feel better, go for it. But on another level I’m in the shallow end of irrational paranoia predicting diseases that haven’t even been named yet. My daughter has also recently started having night terrors with no known trigger (you know, where your peaceful child wakes up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder and then fall back asleep like nothing ever happened with no recollection of it the next morning whatsoever? fun stuff).

So I wonder if this restless routine of fighting sleep is somehow related to sleep problems in general (current or future). Or maybe it’s just something lots of kids do? Or, like I said at the beginning, maybe it’s just a way of being that runs in families. I didn’t find much in my searches online. Anyone else have a wiggle monster at bedtime?

Boring Babies

first easter

I was looking at my adorable little lump of baby flesh the other day, wondering when he will start being a little more person-like. My mom laughs at me for this. I love babies, but if I’m totally honest, I think they’re a little boring. Of course it’s not my baby’s job to entertain me, but I just love watching their personalities develop and I’m obsessed about milestones – I look forward to each new milestone like it’s Christmas. I try to enjoy these fleeting baby moments that disappear faster than you can imagine, but I can’t get rid of the “I can’t wait! I can’t wait!” feeling bubbling around inside me.

There’s nothing better than the moment your child really starts talking: being surprised at the words they copy in their babyish tongue and later the actual, independent thoughts that come out of their little mouths (!), listening to them chatter to themselves while playing, and the silly things that make them collapse in giggles (my preschooler still thinks that covering my face with my hair and watching me pffft it away from my face is about the funniest thing on the planet). Almost every day I write down something new or funny my daughter has said.

In second place for the best baby moments of all time, I’ll put the moment they start being mobile. A lot of parents shared sympathetic looks with me when they saw O starting to pulling herself up on chairs and said, “Oh, here comes the hard part – when they start moving around on their own!” Usually I murmur something agreeably, but in my head I’m shouting, “Are you kidding me?! I am SO excited! This is the part I’ve been waiting for!”

I get the sympathetic looks even earlier now. When we’re out and my preschooler is walking next to the stroller, it’s like everyone feels they must warn me of the hell that is assuredly coming now that I have 2 children. If I tried to explain how I really felt, I’d probably come off like an evil scientist rubbing her hands together with a manic smile – “It’s going to be amazing!”  Of course there are also times when I want to rip out my hair in frustration (the tantrums, oh god the tantrums). But they don’t last long, I forget about them just as quickly as my daughter does (squirrel? squirrel? sorry, Pixar joke) and even the worst episodes I’ll look back on one day with a sigh about the “good times.”

So, anyway, I was looking around for information personalities characteristics manifesting in babies. I remember O was just always such a happy baby – she honestly didn’t cry unless she was hungry or tired (even being wet didn’t really bother her, something that has actually backfired now that we’re at potty training time…) – she took a regular 1-2 hour nap twice a day would entertain herself happily for blissful amounts of time. I guess because it was always just so easy to say she was a happy baby, it was easier to feel like I knew her. Now that I don’t have a simple, one word explanation for my second baby’s personality, I’ve been asking myself what Number 2 is really like? Do I know him? What kind of preschooler will he be? The quiet, shy child who hides behind my legs? The kid that runs circles around his parents and never seems to stop moving? Is it too early to know this stuff?

Parenting.com had this article about the 9 traits researchers believe babies inherit and which reveal themselves from birth and over their first few months of life. But no mater what type of personality your child has, the article states, knowing this “you can help him realize his full potential by providing him with the opportunity to experience and discover what best suits him.” The traits are:

  1. Activity level
  2. Regularity
  3. Sociability
  4. Adaptability
  5. Intensity
  6. Disposition
  7. Distractibility
  8. Persistence
  9. Sensitivity

Going through these with Number 2:

  1. high activity level definitely – he’s bouncing at every available moment and wants to be entertained 24/7. We’re lucky to get 5 minutes of self entertaining
  2. pretty regular in his eating and sleeping habits
  3. he’s not around a lot of other people since we’ve been winter shut-ins but he definitely has moments when he wants his mommy and no one else (like the minute I take him from Daddy or Mimi, he stops crying)
  4. he seems to tolerate changes pretty well: falling asleep in places other than his crib, accepting new foods, etc
  5. very intense. He goes from laughing to omg-I’m-going-to-die-of-hunger screaming in 1 second flat
  6. it’s fairly easy to get him to smile but he also seems to be an observer. Especially if his sister is in eyesight, he’s always watching her and mirroring her emotions.
  7. I would have said very distractible earlier, but lately he’s been having clear favorites/interests and voicing his displeasure when things are taken from him.
  8. I’d say not very persistent. He seems to get easily frustrated when he can’t reach a toy but this might change once he can move around better.
  9. He is fussy but I’m not sure whether it’s because he’s sensitive to his environment

I’m still not sure how to collect all that information into a single word or even a basic idea about what it means for Number 2’s personality, but it did give me lots to think about. The article on Parenting.com concludes, “In the end, it’s your perceptions and reactions to his traits and behavior that will go a long way toward shaping your baby into a happy, well-adjusted child…”  Absolutely.

Our New Baby Boy!

Oren Calloway
7 pounds, 1 ounce &  21 inches


Infant Sleep Safety – Only 31% of Blogs Contain Correct Info!

I received a newsletter update from BabyCenter.com with a link to a story about infant sleep safety and thought I’d check it out:

“According to a study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, Google internet searches related to infant sleep safety often do not reflect AAP recommendations.”

By the way, AAP stands for American Academy of Pediatrics. The article continues that:

“Blogs, retail product reviews, and individuals’ websites most often provided incorrect information on infant sleep safety. Blogs were only about 31 percent accurate.”

Wow. And even only 80% of government websites were accurate – that’s really scary. But this definitely motivated me to try to get some more correct info out there in cyberspace!

Unfortunately, the article posted at BabyCenter.com left out a key piece of information – where parents SHOULD look for correct information about sleep safety for their babies!!!

Luckily, a quick search on The Journal of Pediatrics website allowed me to locate the original article abstract which contains this info:

“Dr. Moon suggests the following websites as good starting places for infant sleep safety information: Health Finder (www.healthfinder.gov), Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus), and Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch/HONcode).”

And of course, I would assume the AAP website itself and their sister site HealthyChildren.org (both of which I found are much easier to navigate).

But just so we’re all clear, here are the updated Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines (taken from this article on the AAP website and this article from the Healthy Children site):

  1. Always put your baby on their back to sleep (I’ll always remember the campaign slogan I saw in a subway train once: “Face up to wake up.”)
  2. Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep. Also do NOT put baby to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, waterbeds, pillows, or cushions.
  3. Don’t put anything in the bed with your baby. That means NO: blankets, soft objects, toys, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, quilts, pillows, comforters, sheepskins or loose bedding
  4. Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  5. Don’t allow smoking around your baby
  6. The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
  7. Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS
  8. Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  9. Once again, Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
  10. Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  11. Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  12. Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Here’s to sweet dreams for everyone.

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