If there's one little device that's indispensible in our house, it's our son's night light. Forget Halloween. Every night would be spooky without it. But when I realized we keep his light on over 11 hours each night, I wondered how much energy we were wasting.After going online, I found out Kellan's night light uses less energy than a night light that uses a regular light bulb since it's a LED - or light emitting diode - night light. Each LED is supposed to last about 50,000 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (download more information from DOE about LEDs). LEDs are now used everywhere from street lights to refrigerators. The technology is continuing to improve so look for more dependably efficient LEDs in the future. In the meantime, check out this list of well-designed, eco-friendly night lights.
October 2010 Archives
Whenever my husband is away, I tend to feel a little bit of panic that I'm in charge 24-hours a day. So I compensate with elaborate planning. Erik was gone on a five-day photography trip and I wanted to fill up Kellan's waking hours with places to go and things to do. It's not like our routine changes that much when Erik is gone, but I do make sure I have one tired kid on my hands by the end of the day. It makes bedtime so much easier.
We played with friends, visited the Children's Museum, took walks, made crafts and ran errands. One morning we went to
But after three days packed with activities, Kellan woke up one morning and just wanted to stay in his pajamas and play with his cars all morning. So much for going swimming, but it made me realize unstructured time is vital. I shouldn't have to run him ragged.
It definitely felt good after a busy day to hear Kellan snoring softly in his bed so I could finally read a book or watch a chick flick on cable. But I shouldn't be afraid to have a day that's a complete blank slate. It's not a waste of time to "do nothing" and just enjoy each other's company. Besides, all that running around made me just as tired as he was!How do you cope when your partner is away?
I recently had the opportunity to help chaperone Kellan's class trip to the pumpkin patch at a nearby farm. Our house is beginning to feel like a pumpkin patch now that we keep getting more pumpkins, but I suppose a big part of the season is to decorate the house with colorful gourds and pumpkins!
We drove to the farm with Kellan's teacher and two other students and it's fun to see how excited kids get when they ride in someone else's car. It's almost like taking the train for the first time. Once we arrived at the pumpkin patch, I realized the wisdom of having all the kids wear their bright yellow school t-shirts. There were several school groups so the teachers counted heads often and all the adults made sure no yellow-shirted preschooler was wandering alone.
Pumpkins were the main attraction - we learned about the twelve different varieties grown on the farm - but we also got to touch newborn chicks, docile goats, and a couple of friendly puppies. All the kids picked their own pumpkins and got to ride in the hay wagon. Then we fed them snacks and let them literally chase each other until it was time to go.It was definitely hard to keep track of all the little ones, but my fresh perspective as a parent on a field trip makes me love these outings all over again!
I have a friend who is expecting her first child next month. Since she and her husband are not finding out the sex of the baby, they tried to get gender neutral baby gear. However, their second-hand infant car seat is bright pink, so I offered her our old gender-neutral car seat cover as a second option.
When I took our old car seat out of storage, I remembered another friend telling me that car seats have expiration dates. Apparently the plastic can degrade over time and the seat may not meet the most current government safety standards. That got me thinking about our infant car seat. If we end up not needing it again before the expiration date is up, is it recyclable? Thankfully the short answer is yes, but it's not always easy.
The good news is car seats are 90% recyclable. The bad news is many recycling facilities are not equipped to handle car seats. A big part of the problem is the time-consuming work of disassembling each seat. Despite the difficulty, more and more communities are setting up car seat recycling drives. I live in a city that established a car seat recycling program in 2007. Now cities from Morristown, New Jersey to Park City, Utah have started car seat programs. If you can't find a recycling program near you, you can call your recycling company to find out if it's possible to organize a car seat recycling drive. Sounds daunting, but if you can rally friends to pitch in, it could be an amazing opportunity for your community.
Now that Kellan is in the swing of things at school, I am bracing for his first cold of the season. Kids in his class are already sneezing and sniffling, and teachers are busy wiping noses and reminding students to wash their hands.
A few nights ago, Kellan had a slight fever and I wondered if he should stay home from school the next day. Thankfully once morning rolled around, his temperature was back to normal and he felt fine. Sometimes it's hard to know when to keep your child home from school or daycare, but here are the five sure signs that your child should take the day off.
1. Fever - If your child has a fever of 100 degrees F. (37.7 degrees C.) or higher, he should probably stay at home. Make sure he's drinking plenty of fluids. Fevers can signal a viral infection, so if the fever spikes or goes on for more than a day, check in with your pediatrician.
2. Vomiting - This seems like a no brainer, but even if your child seems to feel better after vomiting, you should keep her home and make sure she does not become dehydrated. If she has trouble keeping liquids down, offer small sips frequently instead of insisting she finishes a whole cup.
3. Sore Throat - If your child says his throat hurts it could be allergies, but if he has other symptoms such as a fever, swollen glands, or upset stomach you should see your doctor for a strep test.
4. Diarrhea - This is a fairly common problem for toddlers and preschoolers, but if your child develops other symptoms, like a fever or nausea, or if she has three or more loose stools in one day, you should keep her home and check with your doctor to make sure it's not an infection. It is also important to make sure your child is hydrated.
5. Red eyes - Your child may have allergies, but if the eyes are bright pink and become stuck shut because of a yellowish-green discharge, that sounds like conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, which is highly contagious. You will definitely want to see your pediatrician for the right treatment.
A day home with a sick child can throw any parent for a loop, but try not to worry if the symptoms aren't serious and try to be extra patient with your little one while you make the best of a bad situation. I actually have some fond memories of my mom spending time with me while I was sick.
I took Kellan to the grocery store with me and while we were in the cereal aisle, he pointed to a box of Barbara's Peanut Butter Puffins. The cereal section can be a place where battle lines are drawn and tantrums are thrown, so grocery shopping isn't really an errand I do with my preschooler if I can help it.
That being said, I was addicted to this cereal when I was pregnant because it is absolutely delicious. I am not exaggerating when I say I finished off a box every couple of days. It's also relatively low in sugar (6 grams per serving) so I gave in pretty easily.
As soon as we got home, Kellan wanted to dig in. Not only did he want a bowl of Puffins, but he wanted it to look exactly like the picture on the box, with raspberries floating in the bowl. By some good fortune I had fresh raspberries at home. Sweet! Kellan had that look on his face that said he wasn't going to take the news well if we didn't have raspberries. When he sat down to eat his cereal, he wanted to look at the box while he ate (the picture above was not staged, he really wanted to eat like that!).Then he asked me why the raspberries didn't float like the cereal. We talked about how heavier things sink and lighter things float. I told him we could experiment later with some of his bath toys. So even though I bought a box of cereal to avoid a freak-out at the grocery store, it did end up allowing us to have a meaningful conversation. Plus, I now have a tasty bowl of cereal to look forward to in the morning.
Just yesterday I complained to my husband how we seem to be getting more junk mail. I thought with the credit crisis and slow retail sales there would be less credit card offers and merchant catalogs crowding our mailbox. Too bad we still get several pieces of junk mail each day. While we recycle what we can, it would be better if companies would stop us sending them altogether.
I did some research and found out there are free services like Catalog Choice and 41pounds.org that let you stop unwanted mail. You can stop catalogs and mailings you already receive and you can prevent companies from sharing your name and address. There have been numerous times I have bought something online, like a baby product, and all of a sudden I get catalogs from similar retailers. It may be helpful when you actually have a baby, but you don't need to know about discount diapers for ten years!It doesn't take long to sign up and you are helping to prevent more waste from entering our landfills. Do you have other methods to stop junk mail?
We walk a lot as a family. Part of the reason is we have an energetic child and it's a great way for him to exert some of that energy, but we also just like being outside. My favorite walk is in our neighborhood and surrounding woods because it doesn't require driving anywhere and it's a familiar routine. However, I learned how something familiar can still deliver surprises.
A few days ago we took an early evening walk in the woods, with Kellan leading the way on his balance bike. My husband Erik got into birding a few of years ago and now it seems he never goes on any outing without his binoculars. I sometimes tease him about this, but I can appreciate why people become birders. Not only are birds beautiful, but it gives you new perspective on where you are. Anyway, we don't normally see anything out of the ordinary in our own woods, but we both noticed a sound at the same time. It sounded like hooting. Then we heard it again. Yes, it definitely sounded like an owl.So while I rushed after Kellan, who was getting far ahead of us, Erik stayed put and started searching the trees. I convinced Kellan to backtrack (which is no easy task, by the way) and when we reached Erik, he had spotted a Great Horned Owl high in a Douglas fir. He sat down on the ground, had Kellan stand in front of him so they were at about the same eye level, and helped Kellan see the owl through the binoculars. It actually took me longer to spot the owl in the tree, but once I did, it was impressive. It almost seemed like he was looking at us too. Unfortunately, Erik didn't bring the camera with the telephoto lens so don't have a picture of the owl, but it was memorable for us to observe the owl together. We felt like we welcomed a special guest into the neighborhood.
There's a very good reason we don't own pets. We just can't handle it right now. When Kellan asks us for a pet we tell him now isn't a good time. He has a little stuffed cat named Guff that used to belong to my husband when he was a little boy. Sometimes Guff sits on the table and Kellan pretends to feed him. We may not be ready for a pet, but it seems like Kellan is!
Yesterday we found a caterpillar near our front door. "Oooh,Fuzzy Wuzzy is here!" exclaimed Kellan. That's what we call banded woolly bear caterpillars. Then he got busy building a nest for his newfound friend. When it was time to go inside the house Kellan wanted to bring the caterpillar in to live with us. I told him the caterpillar belonged outside, he insisted that Fuzzy Wuzzy wanted to live in his dump truck. Kellan argued for a little bit but gave up when I told him Fuzzy Wuzzy's mother would miss him if he didn't return home. Kellan would never stand between a caterpillar and its mother so that was the end of that.
I did some research on banded woolly bear caterpillars and it turns out you can keep them inside your house. Apparently you can raise them in glass jars until they hibernate, spin cocoons in spring and emerge as Isabella tiger moths a few weeks later. Well, now I know! I'm still not sure we can even commit to the care and feeding of a caterpillar, but maybe we need to start somewhere!Do you have pets or are you commitment-averse like us?
I've mentioned that I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween, but do I think carving pumpkins is the best part of the holiday. My carving skills are definitely lacking, but I still think it's worth the struggle. Pumpkins are also the ultimate Earth-friendly decoration since they are easily compostable.
After you scoop out the inside of your pumpkin, you should separate the seeds. Compost the gooey insides and save the seeds to roast later for a delicious snack. From everything I've heard and read, carving pumpkins aren't as tasty as other pumpkin varieties for cooking so you don't have to feel bad about composting the flesh.
Once Halloween is over, you can compost the rest of your pumpkin. Make sure to clean out any wax inside, or better yet, use a glass votive or dish to save you the trouble. Cut or break apart your jack o' lantern before you throw it in the compost pile since it can get moldy if left whole. If your pumpkins tend to get moldy before Halloween comes around, wait to carve your pumpkins closer to the holiday. (That's what we intend to do. I'll repost a picture of our pumpkins once they are carved.) Also, keeping your pumpkins away from direct sunlight or rain will help them stay fresher, longer. There are ways to preserve pumpkins using bleach solutions, but that won't allow you to safely compost your jack o' lantern.If you don't have a home compost pile, you can always start one since dry leaves are in abundance this time of year, or find out from your city's waste management company if there are programs to compost pumpkins for you.
You'd think that after a certain age, my son would know better than to eat soap bubbles. Unfortunately, for me, that's not the case. Kellan loves "playing pretend" while he's soaking in the tub and one of his favorite games is playing ice cream shop. He loads up bubbles in his plastic cups and then proceeds to lick the bubbles like an ice cream cone. No matter how many times I try to stop him and explain that it's yucky to eat soap bubbles, he replies, "But I have to!" I'd laugh if the thought of eating soap wasn't so gross. I used to think shaving cream looked like frosting but I never actually tried to eat it!
I buy natural bath products so that makes me feel a little bit better. I make sure the products don't contain sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). After a bad bout of dermatitis, I learned it can be a skin irritant. SLS is a common ingredient in liquid soap, shampoo, and even toothpaste because it 's an effective detergent and foaming agent. There has been debate over its link to cancer but I've been more concerned about its stronger link to skin problems.For now I've put bubble baths on hold. Kellan quickly created new games to play while in the tub; ones that don't involve eating anything. Hopefully we can bring the bubbles back before he gets too old to enjoy them properly. I'm not the only mom dealing with this am I?
You don't have to be the parent of a newborn to feel the unfocused haze of a bad night's sleep. As parents, we tend to focus on how well (or not) our children sleep, but often put our own sleep issues on the back burner. For the past couple of weeks, my husband and I have complained to each other about how tired we've felt. I find that when I'm tired, not only do I have less energy to keep up with Kellan, but I have less patience to deal with him when he's having a bad day.
Erik and I have fallen into a cycle of poor sleep routines. Some helpful habits we were aware of, like avoiding caffeine well before bedtime and exercising regularly, but other factors that contribute to sleep deprivation surprised us. These five tips can help any sleepy parent get back on track to a good night's sleep.
1. Avoid staring at the computer screen before bedtime.
Erik and I are both guilty of checking Facebook, sending emails, and reading the latest news stories just before we turn off the lights. We even use our mobile devices for our last minute Internet fix and that's no good. Backlit screens like televisions and computers stimulate rather than relax our brains. We are much better off reading a printed book or magazine.
2. Get into bed only when you are ready to sleep.
If you are having an especially difficult time getting to sleep, consider getting into bed only when you are ready to turn off the lights and actually sleep. Save reading, scheduling the next day, or having in-depth conversations with your partner for another room and not right before you try to get some shut-eye.
3. Keep your bedroom dark and the temperature cool.
If you have a digital alarm clock, make sure you turn the face away from you. If you have a TV in your bedroom, turn off your cable box and anything else that emits light. Keep your room cool and well ventilated. We sleep with a ceiling fan on most nights. Even the white noise of the fan turning helps me drift off.
4. Sleep at about the same time each night and follow a relaxing ritual.
As parents, we bathe our children and read them books to get them in sleep
mode, but those very same habits can help us as well. If a warm bath relaxes
you, try it before bedtime. Figure out how much sleep you need to feel
refreshed and make sure you turn out the lights in plenty of time to get the rest
5. Don't agonize over not being able to sleep.
If you feel like you've been tossing and turning for more than 15 or 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something that will help you feel sleepy. This doesn't mean cleaning your hall closet. Maybe the next time I have trouble sleeping, I can take another crack at reading Crime and Punishment.
And if you think you might have a more serious problem than just an occasional bad night's sleep, you should visit your doctor.
I am the worst when it comes to Halloween enthusiasm. My husband calls me the Halloween Grinch. I don't get enthusiastic about costumes, buying candy or decorating the house. Even as a kid I stopped trick-or-treating after fifth grade. Give me Thanksgiving and Christmas any day!
Well, this bad attitude must stop because now I have a kid who is aware of Halloween and the fun surrounding it. So in order to make Halloween more meaningful to me, I've decided to look for ways to make it eco-friendly. I'm going to make Kellan's costume rather than buying something. I'll try to piece together items we have on hand and fill out the rest at a fabric or craft store. One idea I had was a pirate's costume. Rather than buying one of those fancy feathered hats and a pirate coat, I'll put Kellan in a striped t-shirt and put a red bandana on his head (we did a little preview and practiced the "pirate face"). I can make an eye patch out of felt and elastic. I'll finish it off with black sweatpants and an old pillowcase with a skull and crossbones painted or ironed on. I think that's a pretty decent costume for a three-year-old. If you are not crafty, you should check out consignment shops for second hand costumes. It's another form of recycling and a great way to save money. Also, check out NGKids for some cool, out of the ordinary home-made costume ideas.
I also like the idea of not using masks. Face paint is fun for kids and much safer. Make sure your face paint is safe to use. You can go green by using petroleum- and paraben-free products or whipping up your own at home. You can make DIY face paint with cold cream, water, cornstarch, and food coloring. As with anything you put on your child's face, it's best to do a patch test a few days in advance to make sure it won't irritate his/her skin.Share your own green Halloween ideas in the comments!