Friday, July 25, 2008

C is for Childproofing

Yeah, you knew that was coming....

If you have a family, than at some point in your life you have had to, or will have to, childproof! Even if you have teenagers, well, in 10-20 years, you just may find yourself childproofing anyway, for grandkids. And for many people, childproofing for pets. So, buck up folks, grin and bear it, you're gonna have to childproof!

Having come from a family with many siblings, and having babysat a lot when I was a youth, and being in the habit of immediately childproofing any room I enter, I feel I have a good grasp on this childproofing thing. I don't think you need to hire a professional to do it, either.

I like to work my way from the bottom, up. Little kids, toddlers, and babies, (and short, weiner dogs) have a different viewpoint of a room than we do, especially babies who are rolling and crawling. Remove any item that is small enough to fit in a child's mouth. No, you don't have to actually insert an object into the child's mouth to see if it can fit or not. In fact, I have here a very handy measuring tool--I even peeled the little remaining fragments of toilet paper off for this picture. Yup--a toilet paper tube! If you can barely squeeze something in, than baby can probably barely squeeze it into their mouth. Keep small objects put away in hard-to-open containers, and up high, out of child's reach.

Older children may get pretty bummed about not being allowed to play with smaller toys, like Legos, because there is a little one about. I have taken this into consideration, too. Fortunately, with little toddlers and babies, they take a nap or two during the day. That's the time to get smaller toys out for older siblings--with the understanding that they know they will need to scour the floor and pick up everything before baby gets out of bed.

Most people know to put outlet plugs in so that baby is unable to stick something into the electrical outlets. If you are unable to keeps cords concealed than you'll have to teach your child not to touch, and keep an eye on them.

Here are two plastic outlet plugs. They are sold at any store that sells baby-proofing paraphanelia. The white c-shaped object at the top is one of my favorite childproofing objects: a door jam. It is made of foam and is to be put up high on a door (I put it at the top) and it keeps doors from being shut (or slammed by older siblings) and smashing little fingers. I have only been able to find these at The Burlington Coat Factory's Baby Depot. I bet you could find them somewhere online, as well.

Okay, back to the floor here, and I really do get on my hands and knees to make sure the area is clear. Okay, and you've put in outlet plugs. Now, do you really have to remove everything from tables and countertops and put those drawer and cabinet locks and latches on everything? No!! You don't! Just the ones you don't want the baby into! I purposefully leave some of my kitchen cabinets without them and that's where I keep my Rubbermaid, Tupperware, and metal and plastic bowls. And not all drawers need the latches either, like where you keep your towels and large mixing spoons.

Some kids figure out how to open the latches and locks. For this reason I recommend that you ALWAYS store cleaning supplies and anything poisonous/hazardous up high in a room not frequented as often as others; laundry rooms are a great place.

With furniture, anything that can tip over, will probably get tipped over. I once had a cute little corner shelf and at the top was my very expensive, very detailed, and very fragile cake decoration from the top my wedding cake. Baby #2 crawled over one day and you can guess what happened....

Keep cords from blinds out of reach or make sure they are cut, that there's no loops for a child to get strangled in (scary). If a can of soda-pop can fit through, a baby's head could get stuck, is a good rule of thumb.

Baby gates work well for completely keeping baby out of certain areas, but you'll have to configure which kind you want and the installation. And, you may have a child who's a climber, one who can scale any kind of vertical surface.

There are so many "what-if's" that I could throw in here. Really, you just have to watch your children and go from there.

For instance, this child used the changing table (to the right, not really visible) to climb up and reach the closet shelf to obtain the baby powder. (His lungs are fine, by the way).

The more children (or grandchildren) you have the more potential childproofing tangents you face. Our fourth child took an interest in something that the older three had not. We use dowels in our sliding glass doors and window tracks so that they can't be opened by outsiders. You can imagine my surprise when one morning, my little guy, about 18 months old then, runs up to me weilding a bostaff (see Guess I overlooked that three times too many.

Sometimes you have to childproof the child from themself. Yes, this
is actual fecal matter, on my daughter's hands and legs, from her very own diaper. Sadly, this scene was one that I happened upon many times. Eventually I did what we moms do best--improvise! I found a pair of pants, without snaps at the crotch, that I could hike up to her armpits and put baby-safety pins all around the waist.

You can be a childproofing champion! Just take it from the top, by starting at the bottom. Your little ones' safety depends on it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. You'll be surprised when one day you walk into someone's home and find yourself first checking out their floor, not their pictures, paintings, fine-home furninshings. Nope, you'll be looking at that floor. And, I'm here to tell you that's okay!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

B is for Babysitters...

I've heard many first-time parents say that they would never hire a babysitter. There are some pretty scary stories out there about babysitters from you-know-where and horrible things that they did to the kids. Sad, very sad. But, don't lose hope friends: there are good babysitters out there! I have had the priveledge of employing some.

First off, if you really think that you can never trust another person to watch your child, then you might be in for a long, exhausting journey. My own husband, when we were newer parents, also said that he didn't ever want anyone watching our kids, unless it was someone from our immediate families. But hey, people move, get jobs, retire, maybe move again. We had the convenience of living near immediate family for only a year or two. Even if family is right there, there may indeed come a time when you need to go somewhere and a family member is not available.

We, though we are loving parents, need a break from our children some times--and that's okay. I say that you may be in for a long exhausting journey because, "You can't draw water from an empty well"--we need time to refuel ourselves. I am a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn't mean I stay at home ALL the time :) !!

*Married people--take your spouse out WITHOUT the kids. Regularly. I've seen marriages fail because the husband and wife simply stopped dating, maybe some because they were too scared to hire a babysitter.

*Single parents--you need time away from the kids as well, take it!

Don't go overboard people and neglect the kids and leave them in daycare longer than your common sense tells you. Just FYI.

Okay, okay. This blog is getting too long. My tips for finding and hiring good sitters are these:

1. Get referrals from good friends who are themselves parents!

2. Take the time to interview your sitters. Some questions you may want to ask:
a. Why do you like babysitting?
b. How much experience do you have?
c. What special training have you had that better assists you in your babysitting?
d. What kinds of games/activities do you like to do with the children you babysit?
e. Can you change a diaper?
f. (Most importantly) What is your rate?
*If you are worried about the answers given or, more importantly, how they were given, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and move on to someone else.

3. Try a sitter out, while you're at home! Maybe you've got a project to do around the house, but you don't want your kids in the way. Have the babysitter there to tend the children and keep them out of your hair. The kids don't have to know that you didn't go anywhere, because than they might just keep bugging you.

4. With teenage babysitters, if possible, pick them up from their houses. I find this is the perfect time to explain the gameplan for the night, "dinner is in the oven, feed the kids at 6pm, no more tv for them tonight, etc..." Also, it gives you an opportunity to meet his/her parents to see if they know and care that their child is babysitting for you.

5. Write down the gameplan--what things to be done and the times they should take place. If you make it too detailed they might be inclined to ignore the list or skim it. Some people are strong audio-learners, make sure you explain the gameplan. Some are better at visual-learning, a reason you write everything down. Either way--it's good for them to have everything written down, like a checklist.

6. Have your cell-phone number(s) written down in more than one location and show them to the sitter. Also a good idea to have the number for the poison control center and the number of a good neighbor/friend/family that lives close by. We have our cell-phone numbers on the home phone's speed dial.

7. Walk the babysitter through the house and show them where everything that's relevant to their job is. If you can, make meal prep time as minimal as possible for them--you hired a babysitter not a chef, remember? Other helps might be to have pajamas already layed out, as well as other things from your child's nighttime ritual (favorite book, blanket, stuffed animal, etc....)

8. Get feedback from the sitter on how they thought the night went.

9. (*Really important)---Get feedback from your kids on how they thought the night went.

10. Consider forming a babysitting co-op with good friends--a great way to save money!

I hope that your "Adventures in Babysitting" are smooth-sailing. Like I mentioned before, there are some great babysitters out there. Be careful and confident and you will find them!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A is for Amish [friendship bread]

Throughout the last 10-12 years I have been many times the recipient of Amish friendship bread starters. Maybe you've seen them? Gallon-sized ziploc bags of gooey, whitish stuff, each accompanied by a sheet of paper (plain or fancy) with directions on what to do with this, uh, glop. Ten days of directions before you can even bake the glop and eat it. What friend, first off, would make you wait ten days for anything?

Ten or so years ago I didn't know much about sourdough starters and breads and such so when I received my first bag of Amish friendship bread starter I was quite skeptical about why I'd want to eat something that had been fermenting for several days. I had even more reason to be skeptical because I received that first bag from my sister-in-law. I have to admit, I questioned her motives. (That bag ended up in the garbage; thankfully my relationship with my sister-in-law did not).

I have to say that I do love the directions that accompany the bag, most days you're just supposed to mush the bag. What a fun word, "mush." I guess "mash" or "smoosh" or "squish" just sounded too violent and in order to keep us friends from pounding the poor bag to death, we are instructed to "mush" the bag.

On day 5 you add flour, sugar, and milk. Then, you get to mush some more. Well, when you get to day 10 is when you discover that you have to have friends in order to keep the starter going. After adding more flour, sugar, and milk, then you have to divide up the mixture into four parts: 1 to bake your bread, and 3 to give away (you can save one of those for yourself if you feel like keeping up on the mushing). I think I've received the Amish friendship bread starter six or seven times and that means I should have passed it on to anywhere from 12-21 friends (depending on if I kept some for myself); I think I've given it to two friends total. I actually do have more than two friends, I just seemed to have kept forgetting to bring a bag of glop to someone and the bags ended up sitting on the countertop going unmushed for days. Into the garbage they went.

The few times that I've actually taken the time to bake my remaining portion have been tastily rewarded. To the glop you end up adding: vegetable oil, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, eggs, milk, a small box of vanilla pudding mix, cinnamon, and salt. The bread is soft with a flaky, chewy cinnamony crust.

The puzzler is, what kind of Amish did this starter come from that they would include a box of vanilla pudding mix in the recipe? What Amish people have boxes of vanilla pudding mix? Maybe that's the equivalent of a junkie in jail, paying off a guard to get him some drugs. [Amish person to tourist] "Psst, you brother. Come hither. Whilst thou hastily run up yonder road to the nearest grocer and fetch me a box of vanilla pudding mix?"

With the three extra bags that you must pass off to people to keep the starters (and the friendships?) alive, I can't help but compare this to the other fun things we pass off to friends, like colds and other illnesses. You know, I catch a cold, "Great, now I'm stuck with this!" I get a bag of glop, "Great, now I'm stuck with this!" Hey, that's what friends are for!

Well, if you ever have the privelege of receiving an Amish friendship bread starter I hope you have a fun time mushing it, possibly baking it, and possibly sharing it. Spread the love (and the mushing!)

Introducing some ABC's of momming and homemaking

To keep things of interest for myself (and hopefully you) I have decided that I will use each letter of the alphabet to start different topics and to help me brainstorm. I know in my title I used the non-word "momming." That's basically my take on parenting; I thought it sounded more fun than the word "mothering." Plus I think of "mother" as a term for very tight-laced, tight-lipped women who like to discipline and clean all the time. (Don't get me wrong--disciplining and cleaning are important--I just prefer to not do them all day long!)

Anyway--Let the ABC's begin!