Thursday, February 10, 2011

We have moved!

Monkey Butt Junction has moved to Word Press! Please click here to go to the new site, and be sure to update your bookmarks.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Raised by the Internet...and my heart.

This month's theme in the Carnival of Natural Parenting is "Parenting Essentials: I cannot imagine parenting without __________." For me, the answer was at my fingertips.

Everything I know about being a mom I learned from the Internet.  Almost.

When I felt my very first pregnancy symptoms, I raced to Dr. Google. When it came time to prepare for baby's arrival, I consulted baby message boards. As I readied myself for Jack's birth, I packed my hospital bag while consulting a list I found on the web. After my son arrived, I consulted the Internet for every little sniffle and cry. I routinely checked out baby milestone guidelines to make sure that he was progressing on track. I will admit to typing the phrase "is green newborn poop normal?" into Google. More than once. (Although I won't own up to making any comparisons by using a Google image search).  When 2010's rash of baby recalls hit - everything from strollers to cribs to teething tablets - I checked the 'net for the latest data on what products were safe and what was recalled. And if I needed a fast answer to something, a simple "Hey, parents, I have a question" post on Facebook brought all kinds of answers right to my inbox. And how else would I fall in with the crunchy, whole foods, cloth diapering, amber necklace wearing crowd that I love so dearly?  God knows my real-life crew find that nuts, but my Internet tribe is right with me.

How on Earth did people manage to have children before the Internet? I can't imagine parenting without it, yet it wasn't long ago that everything I've described here would have been classified as fanciful science fiction.

The old phrase that "it takes a village to raise a child" is certainly true. Our ancestors - heck, our parents - often had close families, friends and neighbors they could turn to when they had problems, questions, concerns or insecurities. The answers may not have been as fast as Google, but they were given with love and concern, and backed by experience. While I couldn't tell you the first name of a single person on my block, my mom grew up knowing the names and families of every child in her whole neighborhood. We've lost a lot of that community closeness, that knowledge base that people before our generation relied upon so heavily. In some ways, this big new world is okay: Google doesn't mind if you ask it about how to soothe a baby at 2:30 a.m.; Aunt Edna, on the other hand, probably wouldn't appreciate the late night call.  But the Internet can't say, "hey mama, you are doing great but I think you need a little rest. Let me rock the boy for an hour while you get a nap." We miss out on some very special things without that kind of a village.

The Internet also brings with it lots of bad advice, and lots of viewpoints that conflict with my own. My Google searches on sleep advice showed me that an awful lot of parents believe in letting a baby cry it out.  Some give the method fancy names, and some even back it with scientific studies, but to me it just sounds like letting my baby cry and ignoring his needs.That just doesn't sit well with me.  The Internet is my guide, but my heart is my filter.

It's a whole new world, and I'm so grateful for my Internet village.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Surf: Food Scares Me, and Other Good Reads

I haven't gone to the gym this week because of this tenacious cough that I can't seem to shake, but the cosmos seem to have conspired to bring me a lot of written reminders on healthy eating.

15 Health Food Impostors - A list of healthy sounding foods that really aren't, along with a nice list of alternatives for each.

The Color of Trouble is a nice summary of the concerns associated with artificial colors in food.

Just so I can beat the high fructose corn syrup drum a little harder, I present you with this article on the Corn Refiners Association attempt to sway bloggers. Old news, but nevertheless a good summary of the primary objections to HFCS.

Right after the approval of GMO alfalfa, we now have approval for genetically engineered sugar beets. Keep on shopping organic!

Eat Wild is a wonderful resource for locating and learning about grass-fed meat and dairy.

Enough on food. Time Magazine has this wonderful short called Why Spoiled Babies Grow Up To Be Smarter, Kinder Kids. While I disagree with the use of the word "spoiled," I love the article itself.

If you live in my part of the country, you spent a lot of time mid-week digging out from underneath a ridiculous amount of snow. The Big Green Purse has a great list of eco-friendly ways to de-ice your driveway. Even the nongreen among us can appreciate alternatives that will reduce the schlepping of residue into the house from salt-covered snow boots.

Better late than never, we are beginning our foray into baby sign language. I've found that this site has a nice introduction to some basic signs (including videos for people like me who have a very hard time with written directions). I'd love to hear from parents who have had success with teaching sign language to their children.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Revisiting the ring sling with a toddler

When Jack was just a wee one, I bought a ring sling so I could wear him when we went out and about. I drank the Dr. Sears Kool-aid on the benefits of babywearing, and I mean that with no disrespect at all: I loved the idea of having Jack close to me, and after reading about the benefits of wearing a newborn, I saw no reason not to do so. Proponents of babywearing agree that wearing a newborn is comforting to the baby, and it is widely accepted that worn babies cry less. Dr. Sears suggests that worn babies learn more because they have more opportunity to observe and interact with their mothers. Because Jack was a winter baby, wearing him meant having him close for warmth, and it allowed me to keep him safe from the germy hands of strangers that just can't seem to keep away from a ridiculously cute baby. Overall, it was a great experience that we both benefited from.

As Jack got a little bigger and the newborn carry holds were no longer suitable, I retired my ring sling. There are ways to wear a six month old in a ring sling, but I could never get the hang of them without my husband's assistance, and I felt silly asking him for help all of the time. My gorgeous sling sat in Jack's closet for seven months and my babywearing days seemed to be behind me.

Then last weekend, as Jack was still struggling to get over a tenacious cold and cough, I remembered the ring sling. His cold had made him clingy, and I was worried about taking him out among people when he wasn't feeling his best. The ring sling sounded like a great solution: I could keep him close to me for comfort while shielding him from the coughs and sneezes of the general public. Now that he's a toddler, I could use some of the other carry positions, like the very comfortable hip carry.

I gave the sling a try, and my cranky, sick little man babbled his contentedness as we walked around the house and posed in the mirror. I wore him in the ring sling on two outings last weekend, and he and I both loved it. It gave him the comfort he needed while giving him the freedom to look around and enjoy a higher perspective than he gets sitting in a stroller.

The benefits of wearing a newborn are well-documented, but after that experience I began researching whether there were benefits of babywearing that are specific to toddlers. Obviously, Jack and I were both enriched from our experience, but our anecdote isn't a complete picture. I asked some toddler-wearing mamas what other benefits they experienced from wearing their toddlers and the answers I got really reinforced my decision to begin wearing Jack again. Among the reasons cited for wearing a toddler:

1. Safety - toddlers are beginning to learn mobile independence, and their moves aren't always predictable. A worn toddler is securely bound to his parent, and won't be able to dart into a crowd or a dangerous situation.

2. Maneuverability - strollers can be really unwieldy to navigate in crowds or close quarters. A worn toddler can move with his parent with much greater ease.

3. Observation - a worn toddler views the world from nearly an adult's-eye-view. Toddlers are naturally curious, and a worn toddler can observe adult interactions and tasks from a perspective that a stroller or the floor won't offer.

4. Verbal skills - a worn toddler is very close to every conversation that mom has, giving him the opportunity to listen more closely to the cadence of words during this vital language acquisition period.

5. Security from overstimulation - Toddlers love to stay busy, but when they get tired and overstimulated, they can get upset and frustrated. Holding a toddler close in a sling or carrier gives him security and seclusion and can help to short-circuit an overstimulation meltdown.

I have plans to wear Jack more when we go out this weekend. I'm glad I had the opportunity to revisit the benefits of wearing him.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Reason No. 43 to love cloth diapers.

I'm actually a little afraid to put this diaper on Jack.   I'm not sure that I can handle the amount of cute that will be present in that combination.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This is a judgmental post: Toddlers and TVs

I was perusing a parenting message board today, and some parents of toddlers were commiserating about how difficult it is to eat at a restaurant now that they have a mobile and inquisitive child. I'm thankful that Jack isn't quite to the point where dinner out is an all-out screamfest, but clearly the behavior that the parents were describing wasn't out of the ordinary: trying to stand in the high chair, yelling inappropriately and throwing food were all common experiences. Toddlers like to explore and expand their boundaries through vocalization and physical play. Requiring them to sit quietly for a meal really is asking a lot, and I'd never judge the parents who say that they prefer to stay home because eating at a restaurant is far more work than it is an enjoyable experience.

One mom chimed in with a response that met with some favor on the message board, but which made me raise an eyebrow: she said that they kept their toddler amused by bringing along a portable DVD player to the restaurant. Her daughter would sit for at least thirty minutes if she had a movie to watch.

I was astounded. Television has little place in a young child's life, but it has no place at a restaurant. Yet that mom wasn't alone in her thought - this article suggests that a portable DVD player can make a restaurant outing with a toddler "very enjoyable."

Maybe I'll eat my words on this. Maybe the moms of older toddlers are reading this post and shaking their heads at my naivety. Maybe six months from now I'll be heading to Target, heart filled with shame, to buy our own portable DVD player. Or, maybe it really is ridiculous to plug your kid into some electronic entertainment at every opportunity.

I totally realize that I write this from an ivory tower. My toddler likes to explore, but he is a new toddler: he isn't at the age where he needs to assert his independence much, and I know that may change someday soon. But even when he is two, or three, I won't expect him to sit quietly at the dinner table while my husband and I carry on among ourselves. Jack is a member of our family and dinner time is a time that we are together as a family. When we are out for dinner, we play games with Jack at the dinner table. We make maracas out of salt shakers, we play peek a boo with menus. We talk about the colors and shapes and patterns of the restaurant decor. We play with the toys that we've brought. We share our food with him (TGIFriday's Dragonfire Chicken is Jack's favorite restaurant meal). And we never, ever pick a quiet restaurant for dinner: the more boisterous and busy the place, the more acceptable an occasional squeal of excitement will be. Dan and I get our adult conversations in too, but we always, always include Jack. We keep him engaged. We enjoy him.

This has been a Judgmental Post from Monkey Butt Junction.

For some smart, non-electronic ways to keep your toddler busy during dinner, check out this list of suggestions.

Study: Increased television watching in toddlers is linked to struggles in school