Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recalls, recalls, recalls.

Either this has been a record year for baby product recalls, or I simply never paid attention to these recalls before Jack was born. Since December, we have been through stroller recalls (amputation risk), crib recalls (entrapment/injury risk), OTC baby cold and cough medicine recalls (quality control issues), toy and high chair recalls (general injury issues), baby sling recalls (suffocation risks), formula recalls (bug parts - gah!)  and now teething tablet recalls (quality control issues).

Before Jack was born, I knew that having a baby was going to be a lot of work.  Parents are more than happy to tell an aching, exhausted, swollen and sore pregnant woman that she should enjoy her rest and relaxation now before the baby comes because once he's born, the eighteen-year rollercoaster of horror really begins.  (Note to parents:  don't do this to pregnant women.  It's just mean.  We all know that when you have a watermelon-sized baby kickboxing your bladder, you really aren't resting, relaxing, or doing anything other than trying to make it through the day without falling down or peeing yourself. Let the poor mom-to-be have her delusions).   Parents were happy to tell me all about the crazy, sleepless nights of the newborn stage.  They shared stories of teething nightmares (as an aside, Jack is working on two more teeth on the top.  For those keeping score at home, that will be six top teeth and two bottom teeth - he's going to be one funny looking Jack O'Lantern if the bottom teeth don't catch up soon).  They told tales of inopportune diaper blowouts and public toddler meltdowns.  New parents, seasoned veterans, and everyone in between were all lining up to regale pregnant me with all of these things which make you realize that whether you believe in God or evolution or something in between, there's a reason that babies so darn cute.

But nobody warned me that I'd have to second-guess every single purchase I made.  No one suggested that the stroller that I spent hours agonizing over - researching, reading the reviews, taking test-drives around Babies-R-Us - could be the next finger deathtrap.  It never occurred to me that what I was giving to my feverish little baby to relieve the aches and pains of his first real sickness would be subject to a vague recall that would make me wonder whether I had done more harm than good in medicating him.  I would never have guessed that I'd listen to the daily news with a fervor I normally reserve for the weeks preceding an election to find out whether I have a potentially unsafe toy/drug/chair/carseat in my house.

As parents, we put our trust in a lot of other people:  our pediatricians, our daycare professionals, the experts who write the parenting books that we spend hours reading and learning from.  With this full year of recalls across the spectrum, it is hard to know who to trust when it comes to the items we buy for our babies.  On the one hand, I want to say that I grew up with lead painted toys, undoubtedly dangerous cribs, and I think I probably had my own set of Jarts by the time I was four, and I think I turned out okay.  But on the other hand, I'm Jack's mom.  I want to give him the whole world and keep him from all harm.

I'd write more, but I have to go hug my baby and wrap him in bubble wrap.  Thanks for reading!


Friday, October 22, 2010

The diagnosis is in.

We've been noticing some changes in Jack lately. When we change his diaper or his clothes, he screams like he is being beaten with a chain. He has started to become discontent with his safe, child-friendly toys, preferring to reach for more dangerous objects like electrical cords and heavy glassware. He's become a total daredevil, and if left unsupervised I'm convinced he will begin BASE jumping off of any surface he can climb onto.  And, rather disturbingly, he has begun to use his toys to stand on to reach high places where (we thought) we had safely stashed our breakables.

What has gotten into our child?

I conferred with the experts, the highest authorities on the matter: I asked other moms. And they all agreed that it could only be one thing, but it was a diagnosis I was unprepared for.

Impending Toddlerhood.

I'll give you a moment to take that in.  It took us by surprise too. Wasn't he just a small, tiny newborn? Wasn't he just this snuggly little thing that fit perfectly in the crook of my arm?

Your toys are lame.  I will dismantle your television now.

I've done some research on Impending Toddlerhood (or, "IT" as we call it) and IT is not a permanent condition.  In all cases, it subsides with the passage of time.  IT too shall pass, as they say.  But in the meantime, we struggle to keep our house in order, to keep Jack safe from himself, and to keep our sanity between all of the "No, Jack!" and "Oh dear GOD, NO JACK!"s. 

It gets easier though, right?  Once he's a toddler I'm sure everything will be just fine.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Music is important.

I have a wonderful friend who is a music teacher in a local public high school. She eats, breathes and sleeps her job, and you can tell that her students adore her. She is a whirlwind of energy, and she truly inspires. Nearly every year her school faces drastic budget cuts that threaten her program, and I hear her making a plea to the voters in her community to let their voices be heard about the importance of music education.

I'm sad that there is any question about the importance of music education. I can't imagine what my high school experience would have been without band.

In early high school, I wasn't a band geek by any means. I was second-to-last chair, mostly because playing the trumpet just didn't interest me. I never practiced, and even during band class I Just went through the motions. And then something changed (I, um, had a crush on a boy in band) and I decided I wanted to make an effort to be a better trumpet player. I practiced. I worked hard. I dedicated my study halls and even after school time to trumpet playing, and I saw the results. I began to enjoy playing, and before long I was signing up for the pit band, for the show choir band, for jazz ensemble, for all kinds of solo and ensemble performances, and even bands outside of school. I picked up a secondary instrument, the French horn. I taught myself piano. I even joined a drum and bugle corps for one season.

These experiences changed my life. They taught me things that history class, English class, math class - all important in their own rights - never could.

I learned that I could accomplish a lot if I worked hard at it. That lesson got me through four years of college and three years of law school.

I learned how to plan. Between my band obligations, Academic Decathlon, and the general requirements of school, I had a lot on my plate and a lot of scheduling conflicts to manage.

I learned that I can work very, very hard. To this day, nothing I have experienced compares to the hard work of the drum & bugle corps. No matter what challenge I face in life, I can compare it to my drum & bugle corps days and my new challenge seems like a walk in the park.

I learned that high school isn't all bad. Like many teenagers, I had a really, really hard time in high school. It wasn't the "best days of my life" as my mom had promised; it was quite the opposite. Being in band gave me a place. It gave me an identity, something that I so desperately needed.

I don't play my trumpet or my French horn anymore. I occasionally play the piano, when given the opportunity. But even though the actual music didn't endure, the lessons I learned certainly did.

Maybe it is because of all of this that Jack has a lot of musical toys. Xylophones, maracas, a tambourine, countless music boxes. Cymbals. It is no secret that I delight in the joy that he takes with exploring these toys, and I certainly plan on giving him the opportunity to pursue music education early on. And while I hope he picks up the piano, guitar, trumpet, violin, drums, whatever instrument he chooses like the next Mozart, even more than that I hope he learns all of the really important lessons that music education provides. I think he will.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why I love our state parks

I will forever be grateful to my mom for raising me to have a great appreciation of our state parks. Every spring we would go and buy our park sticker that allowed us admission to the state parks for the entire year. We usually frequented Pike Lake State Park because of its beautiful hiking trails, great playground area and nice beach, but occasionally we'd venture upstate to any one of dozens of other parks.

I'm so happy to carry on this tradition with my own family. Our Jeep proudly wears the 2010 state park sticker, and today we took advantage of our beautiful fall weather to hike around Mirror Lake State Park. We chose the perfect weekend to enjoy the fall colors.

One of the nice things about having an early riser for a baby is that we were awake, showered, breakfasted, and ready to hike long before most people were awake.  We didn't see a single soul for much of our hike despite the fact that I couldn't imagine a more perfect day for hiking.

While some of the park trails are actually wheelchair accessible and would have been fine to take a baby stroller on, Dan put Jack in his harness carrier so we could explore more of the park.  Jack loved it.

We definitely saw some amazing sights as we hiked.  We didn't have a timetable or anywhere that we had to be, so we could just take our time and take in the beauty that surrounded us.

Can you believe this tree?  Wow!
Jack had a wonderful time exploring nature in his own little way.  Walks like this will be more valuable to him as he grows up and can better understand the lessons of the forest, but we made an effort to give him some good experiences.  He certainly had a great time - he was whooping and flapping his arms for much of our hike.

I loved being able to get so close to these beautiful rock formations that are the signature feature of my beloved Wisconsin Dells.  Someday when Jack is old enough to canoe with us we'll canoe Mirror Lake and see the rocks from the water, too.  There are some amazing outcroppings that can only be appreciated completely from the lake itself.

We truly had a wonderful time.  By the time we were heading back to our car, other groups were starting to make their way to the trails.  Parents with children, couples, a guide-led tour.  While it was nice to have the trail to ourselves for so long, it was great to see other people taking advantage of this beautiful setting.

What an amazing day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

And the winner is...

First of all, thank you to everyone who found Monkey Butt Junction thanks to this giveaway! It is great to see so many new readers and to interact with you on the blog/Facebook/Twitter.

Second, a huge thank you to Inspired by Finn for sponsoring the giveaway. I just ordered this new amber necklace for Jack today and I am way, way excited about getting it:

And finally, congrats to our winner, Jessie, who posted the winning comment:

Both my girls, and most of my friends have your mulit colored necklace with small round beads. We love them. Just purchased one for my new momma friend and she is so happy. Thanks!

Jessie - you'll have an email shortly with instructions for claiming your prize!  You'll have 48 hours to claim your prize, otherwise we'll draw a new winner.

Thanks to everyone who participated! 


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moms and dads can be bullies too.

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about bullying. After the death of Tyler Clementi, Ellen DeGeneres released a poignant video plea for bullied kids to look for help.  Bloggers have lit up the blogosphere with heartfelt stories of their own experiences as victims of bullying.  Too many of us have our own stories of being afraid of what cruelty the next school day had in store for us.  We as adults know that bullying hurts.  We know that bullying can crush a child's spirit and damage their psyche, and in the worst cases, lead them to such despair that death becomes a welcome release.  Yet the bullying continues.  Bullies have moms and dads, they have peers and caregivers.  They have teachers.  They have someone in their lives who knows what they are doing to others, and yet for some reason these children carry on their campaigns of cruelty against others.  Why?

Any question involving the "why" of the human psyche could never be answered in a textbook, much less a blog.  But I do have one observation: there are an awful lot of bullies out there in the grown-up world, too.

Children learn by the examples they see.  Moms and dads, take a look at yourselves:  What is the example you are setting for your children?

I need to turn to another tragedy to make my point.  On Wednesday, October 6, 2010, an infant boy named Joshua died.  He had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left side of his heart was critically underdeveloped.  At a few days old, Joshua underwent a circumcision - which, right or wrong, is an extremely common procedure in the United States - and he died when his heart gave out less than a day later.  Joshua's mother blogged about the circumcision experience, how there was some trouble with stopping the bleeding, and that she questioned whether circumcision was the right decision.  Hours later, his heart stopped beating.  Despite aggressive efforts to resuscitate him, he passed.  The horror of infant death is something that anyone with a shred of humanity couldn't wish upon another human being.

Yet when Joshua's mother reached out to her blog readers on the Internet, along with wave after wave of sympathy and shared sorrow, she received attacks.  Horrible attacks.  Sickening attacks, from self-proclaimed "intactivists" - those who strongly believe that circumcision is an unnecessary act of cruelty.

Words like these:

“My heart sure doesn't break for her. On the contrary, she got exactly what she deserved. If every baby who was mutilated died, it might put a stop to the practice. This so-called tragedy is good publicity for outlawing genital mutilation. I hope she feels guilty for the rest of her miserable life & my sympathy for her is ZERO.

My God.  I can't imagine having that sort of venom for another human being; particularly not one who is in the throes of the deepest despair and most horrific suffering imaginable.  And that wasn't a rogue comment.  The Twitterverse and intactivist sites were abuzz with so many more, but I don't have the stomach to reprint them here.

Is that not bullying in perhaps its most extreme form?

Moms, do you love your children so much that you won't circumcise them, but you don't love them enough to be a good example of a decent human being?  Is that really your message?  Is that what your children see when they look to you?

I'm not against the intactivist message at all (and I truly realize that not all intactivists are behind this type of bullying), but there is a time and a place to share a lesson, and this wasn't it.  The only thing that needed to be shared with this mother is compassion and sympathy for her loss.

May Joshua's mother find peace in this dark time.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If you're happy and you know it, say "Da Da!"

Jack has officially mastered two "words": Dada and Mama. Or, more realistically, dadadadadadadadada and mamamamammmmmamama. In Jack's world, each word has its own meaning, which we are just starting to fully grasp.

Dada: Dada can mean many things, but it is overall the sound of contentedness.  As in, I'm such a happy baby, I'm warm and safe and secure, and playing, and gosh darnit I'm so tootin' cute. Dadadadadadadada.

Mama:  Mama has its own meaning as well, and it connotes a time of great sorrow and want.  As in, I'm cold and my diaper is full and I'm kind of hungry and my toes are cold because I lost a sock and the parrot just scared me and you just took away that sharp object I just found to play with and I'm tired but I certainly don't want to nap, woe is the baby.  Mamamamamamamamamama.

So, as Dan is quite quick to point out:  Dada = utter happiness.  Mama = infinite sorrow.

Jack wearing his Dada's hat.
Oh well.  My heart still turns into a puddle at that little voice, no matter what he's saying about me.


Monday, October 4, 2010

My very first blog giveaway!

In honor of reaching and surpassing 100 followers on the blog, it is time for my very first blog giveaway, and I am so pleased to say that the giveaway is for one of my favorite must-have baby items: the amber necklace!  Thank you to Inspired By Finn for sponsoring the giveaway!

You've seen the photos of my Jack wearing his amber necklace:

And no doubt you've heard me talk about the benefits of baltic amber.  Baltic amber has natural analgesic properties, and many parents - myself included - have found that babies can benefit from wearing amber while teething.  Jack has had six teeth break through and I very strongly believe that teething has not been the rough ordeal it would have been without the relief that the amber necklace brings.  Plus?  It is adorable.  He looks darling in his necklace, and people comment on it all the time.  An amber teething necklace is, in my opinion, a must-have for teething babies, and they make great gifts for new moms.

So how do you get one of your own?

You can win one this week!  Inspired by Finn is offering the winner one necklace, 14" or smaller, that is in stock on their website.

To enter:

Be sure you follow my blog!  Then, check out Inspired by Finn, and come back here and leave a comment telling me which necklace you'd choose if you were the winner.  That comment will be your official entry.

Additional entries:

You overachievers can get some additional entries by doing the following things - each of these counts as one entry, but you must leave a separate comment on this blog for your entry to count.

1.  Follow Monkey Butt Junction on Twitter - @mbjunction
2.  Tweet "Enter to win an amber teething necklace from Inspired by Finn and @MBJunction!" You can tweet this once per day for an entry throughout the duration of the contest (but remember to come back here and leave a comment so your entry can be counted!)
3.  "Like" Monkey Butt Junction on Facebook
4.  "Like" Inspired by Finn on Facebook

That's all you need to do to enter!  We'll choose a winner on Friday, October 8, 2010.

Contest Rules:  You can enter between now and 12:00 noon Central Time on Friday, October 8, 2010.  The winner will be selected randomly on Friday, October 8, 2010 and notified in a new post.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond and claim their prize; if the prize is not claimed within that time, a new winner will be selected.  The contest is open to residents of the United States only.  Good luck!

As if that isn't enough, by "liking" Inspired by Finn on Facebook, you can save money on your order with Inspired by Finn!  (Although no purchase is necessary for the contest.)

To save 20%, be sure to "like" Inspired by Finn, and enter the code "FB20" when you check out on their website.
To save 25%, be sure to "like" Inspired by Finn AND use the "Suggest to Friends" link to share the site with others.  Enter the code "FB25" when you check out on their website to get this discount.

I have recommended amber from Inspired by Finn since Jack was just a few months old, when this blog was brand new and long before I was thinking about blog giveaways.  Thank you to Inspired by Finn for sponsoring this great contest - I can't say enough positive things about these necklaces.


Friday, October 1, 2010

You're so vain...

As I'm sure you know, I think my little boy is pretty special.  I  think he's the cutest, sweetest, most handsome, most loving little boy a mom could ever ask for.  I could spend all day just looking at him and kissing his sweet little face.

I'm not the only one who feels that way about Jack:

He seriously spent a full hour last night admiring the cute little fella in the mirror. Once again, who needs toys?