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    Our Geocaching Adventure





    A couple days ago, the children and I had a couple hours of time to fill between school and dinner.  It was a sunny day, far too nice to stay indoors, but I wasn't in the mood for a playground.  So... we decided to go geocaching! What is geocaching, you may ask? Basically, it’s high tech global treasure hunting. A bit more specifically, someone in the world (the hider) hides a treasure (a cache) somewhere in the world, and someone else in the world (the seeker), tries to find it by using their GPS!

     

    Specifically, how does it work? Well, first, he hider creates a cache – usually a small Tupperware-like box (though it can be much smaller – called a microcache), often camouflaged, and fills it with trinkets, a pen, and small pad of paper.  The hider takes the box out to an undisclosed public location and hides it, and then records the coordinates – X(and Y) marks the spot, you know – by using their GPS.  Next, the hider uploads those coordinates to http://www.geocaching.com/ and describes a bit about the cache for the potential seekers: the size, the terrain, the difficulty of hiding spot, perhaps the contents of the box – particularly if the there is a special “prize” for the FTF (first to find), or a “travel bug” (a trackable tag that can be carried from cache to cache), and any clues (which are encrypted as to not spoil the surprise) if the seekers are having difficulty finding the cache. Next, someone else in the world (the seeker), goes online, chooses a cache that’s been hidden nearby, enters the coordinates of that cache into their GPS, and then attempts to find it! Once the seeker finds it, they take a bit of the treasure, leave a bit of new treasure, sign the log (if there is one), re-hide the cache (in the same spot) for the next seeker to find, and then log their find online, along with any extra hints, notes about the condition of the box or the hiding spot for future seekers’ reference.

     

    Adam and I have been geocaching on and off for the last 6 years; and have even hidden a couple ourselves. We’ve taken the kids geocaching on nearly every vacation we’ve been on, ever since they were babies.  It’s a way we’ve been able to reconnect with our love of hiking/climbing/outdoor activities without planning a full-on outdoors camping  hiking trip.  A geocaching trip can be a quick as a half hour stop, or a full day hiking adventure! The fun part for kids is that many caches contain small treasures – bouncy balls, figurines, toys, stickers, even money! I really enjoy the hunt! It’s a great family activity that combines nature, technology, and science, introduces you to new places you’ve never explored, and spans age groups (one trip, we went with both Adam’s grandmother AND our (then baby) daughter; and all had a great time!). 

     

    Yesterday’s seek was our first of the year, and my first time as the only adult on a geocaching trip; meaning, that I was both Captain AND Navigator!  This was also the first time I used the Groundspeak Geocaching app on my iPhone instead of the hand-held GPS.  Wow, what a difference!  Prior to the iPhone, you’d go to your computer before setting out, find a few caches that looked interesting, print off the details (in the event that you need to look at clues or re-read the description, etc.), then painstakingly enter each coordinate into your GPS & set way points. With the iPhone, the GPS, map, compass, and geocaching.com are all combined in one place – so there’s no printing, no entering coordinates – just pick your cache, and start hunting! Makes caching with kids much easier & more fun!

      

    We ended up finding two caches on this trip – the first being a bit more challenging of a find than the second – which was convenient, as by the end of the second one, the kids were wearing down, and it was starting to get chilly outside.  My 5-yo was really into it this time; she knew right where to search, was actively checking the GPS map, and making guesses as to what was in the cache. 

      

    My 2-yo was just excited to be able to run freely outside, through the woods and mud, and get a bonus toy! Both kids have asked me when the next time is that we’ll go out. Myself, I can’t wait until the next sunny afternoon that comes along – it’s just that much fun!

       

     

    To find out more about Geocaching:

    http://www.geocaching.com/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

    Follow Geocaching.com on twitter: http://twitter.com/GoGeocaching 

    Posted: Mar 27 2010, 12:13 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education | Outdoors

    Figuring Out Co-Sleeping and the Family Bed





    I remember the first day we came home from the hospital, a week after the birth of our first child. We walked through the front door, so happy to finally be home! We nearly skipped our way down the hallway, right to our daughter’s newly and beautifully painted & decorated room. Daddy unstrapped the sleeping bundle from her carseat (Stop, read that again. Yes, we moved a peacefully sleeping baby?!) and proudly laid our new baby girl in her new crib. We stood back and smiled our biggest new parent (read: completely clueless nincompoop) smiles down at her.

    We took a few photographs that first day home, right as we laid her in her crib. What a big bed for a little baby, we thought. Oh, doesn’t she look precious? And then… the arms started shooting out, the legs started kicking, the eyes cracked open, her face started twisting up, and then… the wail.

    What!? We looked at each other; concern & confusion reflected on our faces. What was wrong?

    Surely she could feel & appreciate all the obvious effort that went into planning for her arrival, and drift happily off to sleep in her princess’ palace (oh yes, the wallpaper we picked out did say princess), while we proudly watched from above? I mean, babies sleep a lot. In their cribs. Right?

    Now it wasn’t that we hadn’t experienced her crying in the last week. We had. In fact, we’d been told by the nurse that our baby seemed to cry A LOT (See: Colic… another post, another time). But, we’d assumed she cried so much in the hospital because she was in THE HOSPITAL, with bilirubin lights, isolettes, nurses & doctors poking and testing, SNS (supplemental nursing system) & formula & breast pump ministrations at every turn. Heck, I felt like crying myself. But once she was HOME, well… how can she not be happy in her own bed? A baby’s bed: extra-firm mattress, completely & plastic-encased dust-mite protective covered, no extra padding (per the instructions to avoid SIDS, of course), no blankets (also to avoid the dreaded SIDS), enclosed with bars. Wasn’t that doing it for her? Come on now, we followed the baby proofing bedding steps to the letter! Okay, maybe the crib mattress wasn’t that comfortable (I’d never want to sleep on it, personally), but, the MOBILE? Surely that would help. It was black, white, and bold primary colors – just what we’d read babies like! We turned it on, and waited, hopeful. Nope. She squirmed, and wailed, and was, well, obviously extremely displeased with being placed where we’d placed her. I picked her up. On to plan B.

    Now, to be honest, our plan A wasn’t just baby sleeping in a crib in a separate room. We DID have Arms-Reach co-sleeper too, because, from my research while pregnant, I determined that I wanted my baby to be close at hand for nursing at night. And, in general, I felt like I liked the idea of co-sleeping (small letters), though not necessarily CO-SLEEPING (you know, the kind of thing that hippies do, where you give up all your personal space to your kid, and where you’re irresponsibly endangering them by obliviously rolling over on them in your sleep - hey, I've come far since then).

    In reality, once we started co-sleeping, I wanted the easy access; I found it extremely difficult to sleep when I couldn’t hear her/see her breathe whenever I opened my eyes, yet the converse of that reality was the equally present and looming SIDS worry in every magazine & pamphlet I’d read, (further encouraged by the constant urging and requesting of my mother to put baby back in the bassinette, on her BACK after I finished nursing her, and clucks of disapproval as I created a space next to me on the hospital bed for her to sleep with me), that kept me from fully launching into CO-SLEEPING (big letters).

    Anyhow, after about three weeks of night after night of struggling out of bed (I had a c-section) every 3 hours (to the alarm because my daughter had severe jaundice at birth due to AB/O incompatibility, so I was instructed to wake her every 3 hrs to nurse once home [for the first 8 weeks], so we wouldn’t have to return to the hospital again), picking baby up out of the co-sleeper, walking to her room, changing her diaper, sitting in the rocking chair in a sleep-deprived stupor to set up the SNS with correct amount of formula, accurately taped to my nipple and safety pinned to my sleeve, latch her on for nursing attempt, burping her, switching sides (mostly to wake her up from her jaundice-induced super-drowsiness), changing her diaper again, rocking her till she was asleep, trying to lay her down, having her wake up, rocking her, nursing, changing diaper again, trying to lay her down again, I sat bewildered and frustrated and just plain tired in the rocking chair sometime in the middle of the night. You know that time of night when even the crickets don’t make noise anymore. This is the new mother hour. Man, it was lonely and quiet and dark and all I wanted was to be asleep like the little baby in my arms. But, awake I was, sitting straight up in a chair (because, you know, that’s how I’d been taught to breastfeed, and if I tried to move to put baby in her crib or co-sleeper, she’d wake, so I just sat & tried to fall asleep that way, only, didn’t want to fall deeply asleep in the event that I might fall out of the chair). So there I was, reading & re-reading Dr. Sears Baby Book, trying to think of why this nighttime stuff was just. So. Hard. When suddenly, bleary-eyed, I stumbled on a page about the side-lying nursing position. To this day, I owe Martha Sears a debt of gratitude. After processing the drawing a few times, I felt a ray of hope. Maybe I could sleep, if I tried this CO-SLEEPING? I shed my boppy and three other positioning pillows & blankets and brought baby (and the book, for reference) into bed, re-latched her on while LYING DOWN and… she fell asleep. (Asleep! Thank you universe - my baby is asleep IN A BED.) And here I was, actually LYING DOWN. And would you believe folks, I fell asleep. And when I awoke, I realized that I hadn’t rolled over on my baby. No, in fact, she was still peacefully sleeping beside me.

    The very next thing we did was buy a king size bed.

    So there we were, a CO-SLEEPING family in a king bed with an unused crib, and unused arms reach co-sleeper (though I did realize quickly that it held diapers & wipes for middle-of-the night changes without getting out of bed, very handily! It also prevented the need for a bedrail.) finally getting some rest at night.

    Of course, nap time was another story.

    During the day, we couldn’t put my daughter down; because in the event that she did fall asleep in-arms, she’d immediately wake up as soon as she felt her position move towards horizontal. I tried leaning precariously over the edge of the crib (we got a non-drop side crib; again, I believe nincompoop fits the bill here), my feet off the floor, precariously see-sawing over the bar on my waist to ease baby onto the mattress (which I’d pre-warmed with towels fresh from the drier, per Dr. Sears suggestion), to no avail. The moment she touched down, her eyelids would flutter open & she’d immediately begin protesting. What’s a mom to do?

    Well, I wore her much of the time - once I found the Snugli. (Yes, unfortunate as it may sound to crunchy parents everywhere, the Snugli is what I had because the only place remotely close to us was a Walmart, and the only thing they had remotely like a baby carrying device was a Snugli. So, the Snugli it was.) And the Sungli DID work to help PUT her to sleep – so long as I was doing full deep knee bending squats while singing. So, I was able to get some work done while she slept on me that way. Unfortunately, I could only do standing work; since as soon as I’d stop moving (say, to sit down at my computer, can you imagine?), she’d wake. Being that my job at home required computer time, this wasn’t the most convenient solution. So, there ensued my adventure to get my daughter to lie down for a nap. I tried every way possible to ease her out of the front pack and into her crib, asleep. In fact, some days, I’d spend hours on the Sungli to Crib Transfer, only to have her wake up and start the whole process all over again. I’d have fantasy scenarios as I was walking & bouncing her for hours, where I’d be able to nurse her to sleep by leaning over the bassinette, and then sneak away. Or, somehow climb myself into the crib & do the same (and yes, I DID try that). Unfortunately, none of these ideas worked out so well. Until one day, around four months, (yes, you read that correctly, I endured THREE MONTHS OF THIS) I laid down with her, completely exhausted in the middle of my bed, after myriad of failed nap “put downs” (as Adam & I referred to them), and nursed her to sleep. I had given up. I couldn’t work at home with an infant. I’d just lie in bed staring at the ceiling (I’ve never been able to nap well during the day) whenever she napped. Yet, somehow, between her drifting off to sleep, and myself trying to drift off, bravery (or commonsense) hit me, and I instead decided to roll away. And… she stayed asleep. I cleared the bed of any & all pillows & blankets, turned on the baby monitor, and - blessed be - she stayed asleep. I think I checked on her every 5 minutes that first time, but every day, and every night, for the next three years, my daughter slept in our bed full-time. And I was able to work successfully at my desk while she slept. And man, did life with a new baby get easier.

    Every milestone brought new co-sleeping challenges. We went through plan A, B, C, D, and on through Z over the years. For example, as she began to roll, we put our mattress down on the floor; box springs stored away, and completely baby-proofed the room. Once she was crawling, we taught her how to back off the end of the bed, feet first. Once she was walking, we’d leave the gate up in the doorway.

    After her brother was born, we all shared the king bed (we never even set up the crib for my son), which presented its own set of unique challenges (like, keeping two-year-old asleep when newborn noisily wakes and starts to root). But in spite of the challenges, and occasional sleepless nights, and bed reaarrangements, we kept on keeping on co-sleeping, because... it worked. Until one day, just after turning three, my daughter, the very same one who would never be put down, asked to start off the night in “her” bed (which was a full size mattress on the floor. From that point on, she'd start off in her room, then would join us sometime in the middle of the night. Once my son was around 18 months, we added a twin size mattress along side of her full size mattress, and the two of them have co-slept for the last year and a half.

    So...what’s the moral of my story? Well, my bed sharing babies were far happier, far more rested babies than when not bed sharing. My co-sleeping self was far more relaxed once I brought baby to bed than when I was getting up every three hours to nurse in a rocking chair (and then trying unsuccessfully to replace baby in her crib), or, when she was (in the very rare occurance) asleep in another room, and I’d still be waking every half hour to check on her. And though we had to work through some less than restful nights of elbows in the rib cage and feet in the small of our backs, my co-sleeping husband and I loved the morning time waking up with the kiddos. And, my co-sleeping children are well-rested, happy, and so close to each other, and to us. I'm not sure I can attribute all of this to co-sleeping, but I CAN say that sharing sleep with our children as babies and young toddlers had far more benefits than drawbacks for me. I wouldn’t change the experience, and only wish I’d have figured it out sooner – doing so certainly would have made those first few weeks with my first newborn much easier!

    If you’re thinking about co-sleeping, I encourage you to do some research! Find out why sleep sharing is so good for babies and moms. For information on co-sleeping, bed sharing, and the family bed, and how to share sleep with your baby safely, visit these fabulous sites:

    PhD In Parenting: Co-Sleeping Safely

    Dr Sears: Sleeping Safely With Your Baby

    KellyMom.com: The Family Bed

    Dr. Jay Gordon: Safe Cosleeping

    And, please tell me your co-sleeping stories!

    Posted: Mar 23 2010, 20:11 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    Dalylight Saving Time





    So here we are once again, “Springing forward” with our clocks, and wreaking havoc with our circadian rhythms.  In my personal experience, children respond the least well to DST, or, perhaps it’s that we adults don’t like to take things slowly, and wish kids could just “get” the concept of moving the clocks means going to bed/getting up earlier.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could gradually ease into DST – say, moving each day back by 8 minutes and 57 seconds for the week preceding?  Okay, maybe not.  

    But as it is, I find the Spring forward part of the time changes particularly difficult: Bam! Wake up earlier! Slam! Go to bed earlier! No one really responds well.  I find myself wandering around in a haze in the mornings for a week or so, and unable to fall asleep in the evening.  For the children, nap, bedtime, and waketime become so much more dramatic.

     

    After a particularly irritable day yesterday (granted, it has been raining here for the last three days), I decided to research a bit, to find out the reasons behind Daylight Saving Time. Really, I guess I was looking for someone to blame. 

     

    Anyhow, the idea of Summer Time/Daylight Saving Time was first introduced by George Vernon Hudson in 1895. I’d imagine he’s no longer alive for me to give a piece of my mind. Harumph. It was first implemented during World War in an effort to conserve coal for war production (the theory being that by taking advantage of the greater hours of daylight in the Spring & Summer for work, less coal would be burned in the evenings, as people would be sleeping).  In 2007, due to the passing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, four extra weeks were added to extend Daylight Saving Time - extending our previously observed DST of 1st Sunday in April – Last Sunday in October to where it stands now: The second Sunday in March – the first Sunday in November. Again, in an effort to further reduce energy consumption. While that theory of energy saving by DST still holds today, it doesn’t seem to be an open & shut case.  Wikipedia indicates that “recent research is limited and reports contradictory results” linking actual energy reduction to DST implementation.  Also that, “several studies have suggested DST increases motor fuel consumption”.

     

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course I appreciate the extra “daytime” as the days naturally lengthen; it helps us wake with the sun, spend more time in the sun during the day, and thereby increase our ability to produce all-important Vitamin D, and improve our mood and health overall.  And certainly, if there are energy savings to be had by through the implementation of DST, then I’m all for its continuation. Yet, I wish there were a more gradual transition, particularly for the children.  Because when it comes right down to it, it’s just not easy explaining to a 2-year old, who “isn’t tired yet”, that they need to go to bed an hour earlier than they are used to because we moved the clocks forward in order that we may help reduce our country’s energy consumption by 1%. Yeah. On these first few evenings after the time change, I’m temped to go the way of Hawaii (and parts of Arizona), and not observe Daylight Saving Time at all.

    Posted: Mar 15 2010, 11:56 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Seasons | Sleep

    Bringing Nature Indoors with a Nature Table!





    Yesterday, I found myself reading Amber Strocel’s blog and was inspired, as I often am, by her zest for life - and motherhood. In her post from Friday, she introduced me to the concept of a nature table.

     

    Now, it’s been raining here all day; and if you believe the weather report, is supposed to continue for the next three days.  A long rainy weekend with two little kids necessitates an engaging indoor activity! What better activity for a rainy day than creating a nature table?

     

    First, we brought the old craft table down from the attic.  It had recently been retired due to its small size & copious coatings of glue and paint. I couldn’t bear to just throw it out when we replaced it – and good thing – as it’s just the perfect size for its new life of holding little treasures. 

     

    The children covered it with my daughter’s old receiving blanket. It has roses on it & we considered that the first nature-y part of our nature table.

     

    Next up, we scoured our house for items brought in from outside, or things that reminded us of being outside.  It was really interesting to watch my children choose items – the two year old chose a soap dish shaped like a flower.  The five year old chose a flower sun catcher she’d painted. They added flower stickers, a beanie baby worm, two small plants, a painting, a photograph, animal figurines, two plants, and some seeds. 

     

    We assembled the collected items and observed.  As lovely as it looked, we all felt like something was missing.  So…we donned our rain gear & headed out into the deluge! Outside was the real nature we were missing: rocks, leaves, seed pods, pine needles!
     

    A half hour later, soaked to the bone, but happy as clams, we returned with our cold hands full of nature’s gifts:

    We dried off our haul, added it to the table, and came up with this finished work:

    I think it turned out beautifully!  Yet, more importantly, when we were finished, my 5-year-old announced: “This was really fun Mom!”  And truly, that’s all I needed to hear.  Thanks again Amber for inspiring an afternoon of fun, education, and the simple (and free!) wonder and beauty of nature.

    Posted: Mar 13 2010, 17:47 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education

    The First Signs of Spring





    According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the Vernal Equinox occurs this year on March 20th at 1:32 pm. It marks the day of the year when the amount of sun and the amount of darkness are exactly equal. Though, more importantly, the Vernal Equinox signals the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring in our hemisphere!

     

    Here in New Jersey, 16 days out from glorious Spring, we’re already starting to see the first signs that it’s on its way.

    Firstly, it nearly hit 50 degrees!

     

    Now, though the thermometer reads like Spring, we still have snow in our back yard and through the woods. But, out in the front yard, which is Western exposure, we only have one tiny patch remaining:

     

    Our first robin made her appearance a few weeks ago, just as the snow was starting to melt.  I don’t know where they go for the winter, but they surely are the first harbinger of Spring. And just today we lovingly observed the Canada Geese pairing off. 

     

    As for our gardens, the narcissus are well up and heading towards budding. Although, to be fair, they’ve been up since an unseasonably warm day in January, because in New Jersey weather is just weird sometimes (can anyone say snowpocalypse 2010?), and a few days in January felt more like October.

     

    Our tulips are pushing up through the old mulch in a couple of places, and even our daffodils in the back yard (in the shade), are coming up!

     
    Our favorite garden store is open for the season, and yes, we did drive by already, though they don’t have anything much out yet besides mulch.  Wait a week though, and that will change, for sure.  I can’t wait to fill our poor winter bare wine barrel planter with some color!

    Once the snow is completely gone, we’ll be out with rakes to get rid of the old leaves & sticks that have built up on the beds, trim back any branches that didn’t make it through the snow, and put down mulch. Sadly, we lost a rhododendron at the end of the season last year, after nursing it through the summer, so I’ll be replacing that first. I’d like to put in a stone path this year through the front bed, and figure out some low-light, low-growing, green ground cover for the “lawn” part of our tiny back yard.  We'll be installing a new bird (squirrel) feeder in the back, and, trading out our snowman garden flag for one that has spring flowers on it. 

    We just can’t wait for the warmer days of Spring: the return of song birds, the sweet smell of lilacs, the rainbow colors of tulips, and many glorious afternoons spent in the garden!

    Posted: Mar 04 2010, 12:38 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Gardening | Seasons