Friday, 28 November 2008

Home made toys: color in a bottle

Lucas has a fascination with water bottles. He is drawn to them because he sees us drinking and wants to put his mouth on them too. He also likes making the water swish back and forth inside.

We saved one of the thicker plastic ones, filled it up about half way and threw a few sequins of different colors inside.

Bottle and water and colors galore!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Keeping in touch like it's 2008

Friends and family who live far away want to see the baby. And I want to show off his new tooth, how he stands, the way he laughs. Thanks to Skype we have been able to talk and use video for free for some time now. Still, trying to talk the grandparents through installing it can take some time. Slate has an installation guide for Skype that the uninitiated can follow.

Gmail voice and video essentially works the same way. I prefer it since it seems like less of a commitment: no need to open up a different program to see who's online to have a quick little video conf. The installation process is pretty self explanatory - but I'm still waiting for my mother to catch on.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Feeding time at the zoo

Feeding the monkeys and pandas might be neater that what goes down at our house during meals.

We let Lucas feed himself. He loves it, and he gets about 85% of the food in his mouth. We move things along with a long handle spoon, getting a few mouthfuls in there. This also works well for us, giving us free hands to eat ourselves.

Lilsugar posted research that shows that letting babies feed themselves develops hand eye coordination and works towards a developing a healthy relationship with food.

Lunchtime becomes a happy event for everyone, albeit insanely messy. But that can be cleaned up... over time.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

5 things worth a trip to Ikea

Once you step inside Ikea you buy more than you intended and spend a lot more time you thought you would. That's the magic these Swedes developed.

Here are five useful and inexpensive things:

1. Set of colorful bowls, ideal for your kiddy's first meals (unless you're off plastic).

2. Beautiful, fun, quilt covers (unless you don't do comforters. This is turning out to be a very controversial list).

3. Baby proofing. They have almost everything you need (I'm sure we're all into baby proofing).

4. Big plastic storage box for the toys astray your living room floor.

5. The Ikea body lotion, shampoo and toothpaste smell lovely and get the job done.

Good luck navigating the kitchen utensil section... that's how they always get you!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Guilty pleasure read

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor used to write for Whose Line is it Anyway; then she had a kid and wrote Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay.

As far as parenting books go, this isn't one of the most informational. OK, it has no useful information. As a parent I disagree with most of the things she feels passionately about: I like my Bugaboo, I don't think nursing "hurts like a rhesus monkey biting your nipples" and I am looking forward to throwing my son a rocking first birthday party.

The book talks about motherhood with honesty and humor. Sadly, my husband has also had to come up with an answer to "Does it bother you that I haven't waxed in eighteen months?"

To Stefanie's credit, though, I didn't feel like she was admonishing or shaming me for how I raise my child, which automatically awards her the "Most Respectful Baby Book" award. Sippy Cups, with its simple and neat narrative style, is funny and embarrasingly relatable.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Happy weekend

Happy weekend everyone! (Meaning husband Wynn, only PanchuMom reader for now). Very much looking forward to quality time with my boys and an occasional me-time, ie, a shower longer than 3 minutes... I might even do a hair mask, and that takes about 10 minutes.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

One hand recipes: Pasta with portobellos, ham and peas

One hand recipes are my attempt at cooking food that doesn't come frozen in a box while looking after a very mobile little attention hog. In an ideal world, they would be cooked with one hand, while the other dangles rattles, emails and has a relaxed conversation with my husband.

For now, I am content with ideas for meals that require the least amount of time and effort, and where some of the ingredients can be prepared (chopped, stir fried, etc) ahead of time, ie during baby naps.

Ingredients, serves two people:
Whole wheat pasta (bowties, ziti or the like)
1/3 cup ham, cut into small squares 
2/3 cup portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp olive oil
a handful of grated parmesan
a few twigs of fresh thyme (dry works as well) 
seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg 

Prepare pasta as per package instructions. While pasta cooks, add olive oil to a pan. When it's warm, add the mushrooms. Cook until they are tender. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Add the ham. Drain the pasta, reserving a tiny bit of the cooking liquid. Add pasta to the ingredients in the pan. Add the cream and the peas. Stir until everything is creamy. Add parmesan cheese and serve.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Homemade Toys: Crinkly Socks

My six month old critter is interested in everything. He wants to touch and suck on everything around him. Once he becomes familiar with an object, once he has learned about it and it no longer presents the most stimulation for his little developing mind, he is ready to move on.

It's very exciting to watch him as he goes around learning, but it makes the toy situation bizarre for us. Lucas will really be into something, then two days later, not have time in his schedule for it. Many overpriced toys later we are starting to invent everything and anything for him to play with. Our latest invention? A colorful sock with one of those really noise crinkly plastic bags inside. Another option would be putting cellophane inside the sock. Sow up the top, and voilà! A colorful, noisy, soft toy that will keep him happy for another few minutes while I finish this post.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Nursing pads

Nursing for many months is both wonderful (for those who like it) and riddled with varied little inconveniences. For instance, the need to constantly wear nursing pads: solution and new problem. Problem - the outer plastic layer of the disposable pads doesn't let nipples breath enough, which can lead to the dreaded cracked and sore nipples. Enter the solution - the washable nursing pads.

Medela makes lovely cotton pads. Cotton breathes. I've been using pads for several months and they work pretty well; they need to be changed as often as the disposable ones. The pads come with a useful little mesh bag for the washing machine. Plus, it's environmentally friendly I guess.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Little lamb had a garden

Mandana Sadat is an Iranian illustrator and writer. Her book The Garden of Babai has been published in Spanish, Italian and French editions, all of them with the text in Persian on the opposite page (unfortunately, it has not yet been published in English).

This book tells the story of Babaï, a lonely little lamb who decides to grow a garden, inviting all sorts of wildlife to his plot of land. This finally becomes the drawing of a beautiful tapestry.

The Babaï book is not a board book, so it has now graduated to the taller shelves, out of reach of Lucas's hands (and sucking). At around four months, before he was so dexterous with his chubby little fingers, we used to read it a lot. He loved it because the book is comprised of one plain page with only text on it, but upon turning it, the next is full of color and drawings. The pictures are in very rich earthy tones, with deep burgundy reds and clean lines, which really caught Lucas's attention. He would get very excited when we turned to the page and he saw the animals, in colors so intense they seem to have texture.

Madana Sadat has written and illustrated Mi León, edited in Spanish and the original French versions. She has also illustrated Jorge Elías's Winter Afternoon, which can be found in a bilingual English/Spanish edition.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Little feet

For our baby shower my mother in law gave us a pair of Robeez. At the time I said, "great, thanks", and threw them in the box of things that seemed so big my child wouldn't need them for a long time. Six months later, we are loving the Robeez and can't imagine life without them (as seems to be the case with every valuable baby product).

Lucas isn't walking yet, but he grabs on to things and pulls himself up. At first, brilliant as I am, I had him just in socks. Since he slipped I spent hours a day holding my arms like a net, just in cases (Love Actually fans?). Robeez were designed to let moms and dads relax their arms.

They are made of soft leather, which prevents slipping and makes them soft and comfortable enough for the little kids to feel like they're just wearing another type of sock instead of harder and uncomfortable shoes. The elastic around the ankle makes my life easier since they slip on nicely, and, unlike most socks, don't slip off the first time Lucas cricket-style rubs his legs.

There are warmer weather models and shoes for more seriously walking rugrats. Robeez are everywhere, they even have them at babyGap (for a few pennies more).

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Hangover notes, ie, emotion coaching

My wild night yesterday was actually a lecture on emotion coaching for parents. Every time the professor addressed "parents" I wanted to raise my hand "me, me, me, I have a baby, I'm a parent!". The novelty has not yet worn off.

The lecturer began by delineating what "emotion" refers to. An emotion is basically something we feel as a product of our interpretation of reality. Emotions inform us of the world around us, they help us evaluate and understand it, and they prepare us for acting in the world.

As a parent, it is our role to help children learn how to understand, interpret and cope with their emotions. This is called emotion coaching in John Gottman's Raising and Emotional Intilligent Child. Gottman's book is a pleasurable and informative read. It has anecdotal examples that help clarify his outline for helping children develop their emotional individuality.

The four steps of emotion coaching are:
1. Become aware of the emotion.
2. Recognize the emotion, name it and recognize its intensity.
3. Investigate the origin of the emotion, why it's there, what caused it.
4. Brainstorm possible solutions/plans of action . Select best one.

The lecturer did a lovely job of explaining the parent's role in helping children through these stages. Gottman's book does a remarkable job as well.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Mom gone wild

I am going out tonight. Wynn is staying with Lucas. They will handle dinner, bath and sleeping all by themselves.

"Ooh, freedom! Thank you, sweetheart."

"Wait, are you sure, should we do this?"

I say both things at the same time.

Wynn is encouraging and insistent.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Can you relate?

Somewhere between the loss of personal space and ownership of your time you learn to laugh.

Diary of an unedited mum

Jools Oliver's book, Minus Nine to One: Diary of an Honest Mum, leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you love the Olivers, exclamation points and emails.

The book narrates Jools and Jamie's journey from trying to conceive their first child, getting pregnant with their second daughter and throughout the older kid's first year.

Jools could have used a more opinionated editor. The book reads like a (long) email. She has a fondness for exclamation points! When she can't conjure up the words to describe a situation she tries to resolve it by adding emphasis. This surely gets her point across better than words would!

As with everything Jamie Oliver, the book includes beautiful photographs, only here it's less about the food and more about their family. Although... there is a photo that bothered me. It is meant to be of Jools and Jamie having dinner on the night they inadvertedly conceived their second child. Why would they invite a photographer to dinner the night they had sex for the first time postpartum? Ours was a lot more casual, intimate and careful.

This book does not contain any useful information for pregnant moms looking to benefit from someone else's experience; nor is it a particularly enjoyable read. Then why did I read it start to finish in two days? I actually am obsessed with everything Jamie Oliver, and I am a sucker for nice pictures, especially when they offer an inside look into someone's family life. So while this book is not particularly informational or well written, it is sure to please the voyeur in all of us.

Friday, 7 November 2008

I love the Ergo too

Every blog out there raves about the ERGObaby.

I bought it.

My life is a before and after.

The ERGObaby carrier’s ergonomic design supports a correct sitting position for the baby’s hip, pelvis and spine growth. It disperses most of the baby’s weight between the hips and thighs and helps prevent compression of the spine. The ERGObaby carrier also alleviates physical stress for the parent by balancing the baby’s weight to parents’ hips and shoulders. It has three carrying positions: front (baby facing in), hip and back (for older babies and toddlers).

We had the BabyBjörn before this (comparison chart here). I was carrying 3 and a half month old Lucas in the BabyBjörn around the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid and (very infomercial), thought to myself "there has to be a better way!" My shoulders hurt so much I felt I could relate to the weeping mother in the Guernica. (I shouldn't even say this, the pain conveyed by that mother is so unbearably profound.) Yet, you get my point. After a lot of research, we decided on the Ergo. I laughed at the demonstration video made by an Ergo fan (until I realized she was selling it on her website). Mocking aside, it convinced me.

When we first received it Lucas was still a bit young for it (we probably should have used the infant insert). He could sit in it, but his legs weren't long enough for his knees to reach the edge, so he was a bit uncomfortable. Now he loves it. We love carrying him in it too. The hip support is amazing, the shoulder pads are very well padded. We can carry Lucas around for long periods of time without being in pain. Putting it on is easy - for me. Wynn needs help, since he isn't flexible enough to strap the shoulder bands together by himself. We have yet to try it with a newborn baby (we used a sling) so I can't comment on it as an infant carrier. But for anyone hoping to comfortably and happily carry a heavier baby, the Ergo is amazing. At first I though Lucas would mind not being able to look out, as he could with the BabyBjörn, but he seems perfectly happy to turn his head and look. Granted, he is a cuddly little kid... but so are we.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

What's Spanish for MYOB?

Living in Spain and having a small child make you come in contact with a respected and well established institution: the old woman. She is a grandmother many times over who knows things. Among them, how to raise your child. She sees you on the street and tells you if your baby is too warm, and how can you even think of bringing him outdoors in this weather, it is not good for him, such a pity that he should have to be out. In winter and fall, she points out that only idiots bring babies out of the house, you should at least put a hat on him. Think you can politely ask her to mind her own business? Be ready for a drawn out conversation (other people around might weigh in).

They can also tell you if your kid is hungry, spoiled (you hold him too much) or in a bad mood. They will work out the nursing vs formula feeding conundrum for you, but they need to see you doing either of the two to bring it up - they don't get all up in your grill out of the blue, for crying out loud, how much can you expect from these women?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama and my son

Two people that made me very happy.

Lately, Lucas has been waking up at about 2 or 3 in the morning and staying up for about an hour. He is actually sleepy when this happens, but for some reason instead of falling back asleep he rolls around, sits up, falls back very groggy... during all this fun, I try to remember that he really is such a great kid and will eventually fall back asleep, and my husband is not sleeping out of calculated revenge but because he has to get up in a few hours to go to work, and if I were to wake him he would come and hang out with me and we would wonder together why some of us would think it was not the right time for sleeping. But not last night!

And in new mom lingo, "slept through the night" means he only woke up to nurse (twice) and fell right back to sleep. This was my first source of happiness this morning.

The other was when Wynn whispered (not to wake the still sleeping critter) that Obama had been elected. Best morning ever! This is looking to be a very good day.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Infant Massage

When Lucas was a month old we started going to an Infant Massage class. If anything, it was a treat to have something scheduled twice a week, to see other moms and babies, and to have a trained coach for our many new mom questions.

Seriously, though, we both loved the class. Lucas really got into it. To this day, he thinks getting his legs massaged is one of the funniest things that could happen.

Our massage teacher is of the Vimala McClure school. Besides teaching us the massage technique, she taught us about the philosophy behind it, which, in a nutshell, centers on respecting your baby and learning how to listen to him.
Vimala McClure's book explains the massage technique, complete with illustrations, and gently encourages the reader to build trusting and loving relationship with his baby. Of all the parenting books, it is one of the most respectful, ie, it details a parenting philosophy without threatening dissenters with unhappy children, problematic childhoods, maladjustment, family discord, unearthly juvenile horrors and dreadful adulthood- and, oh, yes, guilt.

At first, I gave Lucas a massage daily. Now, between the cold weather and Lucas twisting and crawling it happens less frequently. I feel guilty because it really is so good for him; and that because of my laziness we are both missing out. And then I give him a massage, and although it is not as complete as they were when he was littler and less mobile, I am always surprised and so happy to see how much he enjoys it. He still laughs when I massage his legs; he looks up at me and smiles, relaxed, enjoying.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Beyond Maisy

Brilliant children's book writer and illustrator Lucy Cousins, of Maisy fame, created Hooray for Fish!. Lucas and I are having a lot of fun with this book. The illustrations follow the classic Maisy lines and colors, which are always so luminous and happy. Little Fish introduces us to all his fishy friends.

This book reads like a lively little poem, and the fish almost beg you to call on them in funny voices. I have an image of Lucy Cousins surrounded in her studio with a hundred drawings of fish, bright and funny, choosing her favorites, inviting them to the book. Lucas enjoys the colors and the rythm as I read. Later, while I struggle with his twisting shenanigans on the changing table I find myself recalling "curly whirly, twisty twirtly". We smile.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

I will try this out

Hello my new little blog that Wynn set up for me. This might be fun! I'm excited. I'm also hungry. And I yelled at Wynn for not finding the cheese (men never find things - it bothers me). But now I have egg wraps (with cheese) in front of me. I will eat. I will play with my pretty new blog later.

Hello World!!!!

Here's the first PanchuMom test-post.

Rubber duckies and plenty more to come!