Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kelty Carriers On Sale at Amazon 20% off

We've written before about our love for Kelty infant/toddler carriers. We like them so much we own 3 different styles (1 front carrier and 2 framed backpacks) even though we only have one child.

Asha at Parent Hacks tipped us off to Amazon's Annual KeltyKIDS sale where the carriers and accessories can be obtained for 20% or more off. If you were already looking for a new one, this might be a good opportunity. We bought 2 out of 3 of our Keltys second-hand. They're very well made and durable so you can also find nice ones at consignment shops and yard sales.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rise of the Valkyrie: Strong-Willed Moms with Strong-Willed Daughters

If I had to predict in 2007 a topic that wouldn't be present on Baby Toolkit in 2008, it would be parenting girls. As a one boy household, it just seemed entirely out of our sphere.

But life is rarely what we expect... so here's one for all you parents with strong-willed girls out there...

My mom and I have a great relationship and with the notable exception of my teen years- always have. At least as far back as I can remember. A friend recently asked me:
Why do you think you and your mom avoided the natural conflict that so many mothers and daughters share?
My friend's daughter is strong-willed (which is a trait that can be an amazing strength in life) as is my friend. Reprimands and punishments for things like intentionally hurting her younger brother seem more like challenges and inspire outright defiance rather than obedience.

When I thought through her question, I came up with no good answer. As long as I can remember, my mom and I have gotten along. I can remember protesting naps (but staying in my room- glowering- through naptime), but that's about the only conflict I recall. So, I thought maybe it was just my mom (she's one of those magical people who does wonderfully with all kids plus she's a great elementary school teacher).

So when I asked her last night if there was anything special and intentional that set us on the right course, she stifled a laugh:
You bet there was.
Any image I imagined of myself as an innately easy child disappeared back into the realm of fantasy.

When I was around one, my older brother (then 2.5) and I decided to run into a busy street. We didn't listen to my mom and were quite resistant to returning to her. We both promptly received spankings upon being drug back to safety. It was my first. My brother was immediately contrite, but I stuck out my chin and my eyes glimmered with a defiance that said, "Ha! I am a big girl now."

Mom saw trouble on the horizon. Some of her friends were well-entrenched in constant conflict with their young daughters. That night she told Dad "Adrienne is strong-willed" and he would have to discipline me as she didn't want us to fall into a pattern of lifelong conflict.

My mom handled crowd control, manners, and the daily basics of toddler management, my dad was the one who dealt with the major issues. Mom knew that I wanted my dad to think me perfect (as many little girls do) and I would take his reprimands more to heart. He was immediately in charge of establishing/enforcing rules, enacting punishments, and showing disapproval. It must have worked because I was a pretty hassle-free kid after that. I tend to follow the rules or argue against them rather than disobey. It's funny because in retrospect I had no awareness of this discipline arrangement between my parents.

My mom's advice is that if a daughter expresses defiance towards her mother that her major discipline then be administered by her father. This works best when daughters and fathers have good, active relationships.

When I talked to my friend this morning (after emailing my mom's response last night), it looked like the same approach was already showing promise in their household.
Her daughter (after being made to stop hurting her brother) said, "Don't I get a time out?"

"Nope, I'm just writing it down so Daddy can talk to you about it tonight."

"Please don't write it down for Daddy. I don't want him to know I did that. Can I kiss [brother] and make it better?"
While I'm sure the kiss and apology were graciously accepted by her astounded brother, I am sure that our strong-willed toddler girl will still have a sit-down with Daddy tonight.

Other granny-related hacks:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tube Popsicle Hacks: Inspiration from the Freezer

Friday is fast becoming a day of inspiration for me- and it keeps happening in my friend's kitchen.

It turns out my friend is a second-generation practitioner of the cut-the-tube-popsicle-in-half approach (coincidentally featured recently on Parent Hacks).

She didn't however know my mom's practice of running the popsicle under water to seperate it from the plastic wrap. This makes the ice a lot easier for toddlers (and clumsy adults like myself) to push without shooting it across the room.

Another smart friend pointed out that a tube popsicle wrapped in paper towel is a subtle way to apply ice to an injured hand.

We love the electrolyte popsicles (by companies like Pedialyte) for inspiring rehydration during illness (particularly during barf-fests when kids can refuse to eat).

If anyone knows of some freezer pops without high fructose corn syrup, I love to hear about them.

***This is the independent of opinion of the geek parents at Baby Toolkit. We're not doctors, so go somewhere respectable for actual medical advice. Despite the wisdom of the hacks listed above, we do not promise that anti-freeze blue Fla-vor-ice won't still end up staining your (or your friend's) upholstered kitchen chair. Again, let me offer my heartfelt apologies about that, K-.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Maybe it's some subliminal resentment of the Earth's recent rattling under my family in the middle of the night, but Earth Day snuck (my apologies to British readers, but we just don't use sneaked here) up on me entirely.

Anyway, we all still love the Earth even if it has been waking me up in terror this week.

In honor of Earth Day, I'll reuse and recycle some of our favorite hacks:
Plus, here's a way to show the Earth a little extra love this Earth Day, Mother's Day, and/or Father's Day.

Jim and I have long been supporters and HUGE fans of Heifer Project. So we're asking Baby Toolkit readers to fund some bees and trees through Team Baby Toolkit at Heifer.org.

We would love to have 300 friends (about half our current subscribers) join us in supporting this great cause. If you're interested in participating, you can set up your own team member page and have donations made on your behalf. Did I mention that your contributions are tax deductible in the U.S.?

What better way to tell the Big Mama you love her (especially as she can grow her own flowers)?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Toy Rotation & Rainy Days

Amy's awesome and cost-effective rainy day kit on Mom Advice reminded me that not only tires need rotation. Toys should be rotated too.

Before Ranger's birth, a friend advised me to rotate toys in and out of storage. She would put away toys when her kids' interests waned and pull them out a few weeks later to renewed interest. We adopted this habit with some of Ranger's larger playsets (a Little People castle which he peoples with pudgy plastic farm animals and a Weeble Three Bears set).

I really need to start thinking about toy rotation more now that our house's shared spaces teem with toys that only receive minimal play time. It's also a good way to filter out toys that are no longer age appropriate.

I'm drawn to Hedra's toy library concept at Parent Hacks although it requires organizing one of our house's black hole storage spaces.

What are your solutions?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shake It Up: Local Earthquake

At 4:36 am we awoke to a bit of thunderous outdoor rumbling and indoor shaking. It looks like nothing even fell off our shelves.

Ranger, upon our atypical appearance in his room, said "lights off, blanket on!" He wouldn't abide any nonsense from his slightly dazed, adrenaline-fueled parents. The shaking stopped (with the ground, though not my nervous system) as soon as we went to pick him up. He immediately went back to sleep as if crazed adults burst into his room every early morning.

Anyway, this is a great day to think about your local hazards (we have tornadoes and earthquakes here) and formulate a plan of how you'll react in case of emergency.

Please visit our earlier post on daily habits that contribute to emergency preparedness.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Simple Ideas for Toddler Fun From Megret

Between finishing our taxes and catching up from last week's travels, boredom hasn't been a problem for me lately. Ranger, on the other hand, is pretty ready for some changes in routine.

Megret has posted some great, simple ideas for toddler and kid entertainment that shouldn't be missed. I'll be digging out the pipe cleaners later today.

***This is the independent opinion of the geek parents at Baby Toolkit, (c) 2006-2008.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Camp Baby Questions Answered: Well, Sort Of...

Before I disappeared into the wilds of Camp Baby, I asked for your questions and comments for Johnson & Johnson.

On Thursday morning I got to share your concerns (which were very much in line with my own) to Johnson's executive Susan Nettesheim (former VP of Worldwide R & D for adult skin care, now the VP for Product Stewardship at Johnson & Johnson).

Although the current Director of R & D (Anna Prilusky) and the Manager of Global R & D for Johnson's Science and Technology were listed as panelists on the program, they inexplicably were not present during the conference. Susan Nettesheim fielded the all questions on parabens, phthalates, and dioxane 1,4.

And their answers were much in line with this corporate statement on phthalates. In paraphrase, it all sounded to me like, "Trust Us, We're Experts."

They obviously assumed we would come with some health questions. Prior to our Q & A opportunity, Nettesheim's presentation and that of Dr. Ellen Kurtz, Director of Scientific Affairs, Baby Care Franchise, J & J CPPW, there were plenty of anticipatory statements on the safety of these "carefully selected" substances. For instance, dioxane 1,4 apparently occurs in naturally in peanuts (ergo peanut butter) and although they freely concede that the class of phthalates does have problems they only use the one safe phthalate that is approved for use in the European Union where all products must pass the precautionary principle (which far exceeds US standards).

Phrases like "We have 100 years experience in baby products" were bandied about as were statements about their extensive product testing methods.

I was surprised by their responses and by their absolute confidence in the vetted safety of their products. Lots of people work at corporations, but these people (particularly the scientists) seemed to be true believers in their products, methodologies, and intentions. They don't just stand behind their products, they use them on their own children and give them to their friends and families. They did not seem to understand how we could have ongoing concerns in the face of their experience and research. Their responses to our probing incredulity seemed to me to be sincerely laced with tinges of confusion and hurt. The J & J employees we met seem to have strong pride of ownership in their products, so consumer uncertainty are taken as statements on their professional and personal integrity.

After the session ended, I felt like I should try again to communicate our concerns. I approached Susan Nettesheim during the break (thanks so much Stephanie for allowing my intrusion into your conversation already in progress). I told her about your questions and handed her a print copy of them to read later. It seemed important that someone in authority at Johnson's know that these are the questions naturally arising from online parents.

I mentioned that our generation (raised watching two-person garage startups like Apple and Microsoft outpace large, established organizations like IBM) tended to accept new companies more readily than previous generations and to view their products as innovative and improved. I added that the phrase "trust us" seems to intensify our skepticism rather than relieve it.

Susan Nettesheim pointed out that natural doesn't equate safe (a point I readily concede) and that we probably wouldn't be wise to purchase pharmaceuticals made in a garage startup (which, although true, is a little funny to me in light of the startup history (circa 1876) of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lily). Nettesheim also stated that J & J would hate to replace an existing, vetted, chemical they trust with a new one that may have unknown health consequences.

In and after the session, I specifically requested future production of unscented baby products (J&J currently only offers a few under their Aveeno line) as phthalates are most often found in fragrances. Apparently, J & J feels that the psychological effects of the scents are so strong that they are deeply reluctant to forgo the fragrances. As a child who didn't use their classic pink lotion because of sensitive skin, I reiterated that they're missing a market of people who dislike and/or cannot use scented products (including families with allergies and asthma). The cynic in me thinks that their dedication to fragrance may be a subtle but powerful form of branding as scent memories have overwhelming influence on decision making, but sometimes my inner cynic is paranoid.

Stephanie from about.com emphasized a need for transparency. I agreed, and stated that J & J needs to offer accessible scientific defenses when one of their ingredient falls under suspicion. For instance, the information of how much dioxane 1,4 by ppm (parts per million) is present in peanut butter would give me a scale to evaluate their safety claims. If peanut butter is around 20 ppm, then J & J's Watermelon Explosion Kids Shampoo at 10 ppm doesn't worry me as much, but if peanut butter is more like 0.5 ppm or less, I'm still pretty bothered. It's not enough to say that it's present in common foods and substances. I'm sure I've had trace amounts of lead in my drinking water, but that doesn't mean I want add a little lead to Ranger's breakfast cereal.

J & J also emphasized that most scientific tests study ingestion of the chemical compounds which is a more direct exposure than topical application. A recent study on phthalates in infant urine published in Pediatrics (Feb. 2008), however, suggests that topical exposure to baby products is a valid and growing health concern.

Later in the day, bloggers met in a smaller focus groups of 18 or 19 led and documented by one of J & J's many public relations/marketing firms. I repeated much of what I had said earlier to Susan Nettesheim and tried to say that J & J could earn our trust by producing a few unscented J & J branded products that don't use chemicals under scrutiny. To offer such alternative products would let consumers know they understand our fears and (even if they disagree with the science behind those fears) they will meet our needs as we see fit. Other moms asked that these products be made affordable. We were told the president of the company was in the room, but as the executives present (and there were many) were not introduced, I don't know which J & J company was represented in that manner.

Oh, and anastasiav, it turns out that although while J & J owns Baby Center, they leave it (like many of their companies) under independent governance and exert no editorial or advertising influence. They bought it when it fell into bankruptcy many years ago, but they want it to be able to facilitate open discourse.

Sorry about the length of this post, but there was no simple, succinct answer at Camp Baby. On an instinctual level, I liked the Johnson's people and particularly appreciate the time Susan Nettesheim took to talk with me. I don't think our Johnson's product use will change from periodic use of Original Desitin (which smells ghastly and probably involves no phthalates) and their lightly scented Foaming Shampoo (which we don't use every bathtime).

***This is the independent opinion of the geek parents at BabyToolkit.com, (c) 2006-2008. We aren't experts at this. Adrienne accepted an all-expenses paid 3 day trip to New Jersey from Johnson & Johnson's to Camp Baby a gathering of blogging moms and women influencing mom bloggers.