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Posts Tagged ‘durham’

Finger-Painting with Toddlers: Life is More Fulfilling Outside the Lines

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By, Daphne

Reflecting back to my own childhood, I have a distinct memory from my three-year-old preschool class. We were all given large letters to color, and on my page was the letter “R.” I chose the color red, and in my mind, my work was perfect; the edges of my letter were intact without the slightest stray scribble. I was completely content in my perfect expression of art until Brad, the kid next to me, took his brown crayon and make a huge mark that extended from inside my red letter, crossed the boundaries of the line, and finally violated the clean white space of the paper that was not meant for any coloring. It could be said that I overreacted, but I felt the only appropriate action to take was to grab a black crayon and destroy my beautiful, red “R.”

Further reflection about this memory could say quite a bit about my wish to control the environment around me, an indication that the budding creativity of my own children might challenge my comfort level. Perhaps the brown mark across my paper could have been developed into a beautiful tree over my letter? My creative vision at the time was limited, though, and I could only see that my work was destroyed.

Son, Andrew, fingerpainting

Son, Andrew, fingerpainting

Those who have seen my house can easily confirm that I am not a neat freak. Clutter is well nourished in my home; I tolerate scattered books and toys better than most. However, the story of the letter “R” revisits me when it comes to doing artwork with my children. With my son, the challenge has been that he would want help with coloring a picture, so I would help. I would choose my color, pick a section, and all would be well until I realized that I was supposed to be okay with him coloring on my, I mean his, artwork. Fortunately, as the years have passed, my son has become happy for us to each color pictures beside each other, allowing me to control the environment of my own artwork.

The medium of art expression that I have avoided the most is finger painting. Yes, children’s paint is washable, but somehow it will not only move beyond the boundaries of lines on the paper but also find a way to use children’s hands to hitchhike onto the table, clothes, hair, and sometimes even the floor and wall. Of course, the moment will come when my child wants help from me, and the risky feeling of paint on my fingers that could be transferred to anything else I touch gives me a greater awareness that even I, in a moment of distraction, might not be able to keep my own art inside the square corners of the paper.

For me to be able to help my child with finger-painting, I have to accept the reality that art is messy, it can be cleaned up, and that my child and I will recover no matter where the paint ends up residing. I almost forgot – it should be fun!

Daughter, Elaine, fingerpainting

Daughter, Elaine, fingerpainting

Today I finally opened up the finger paints I bought for my daughter months ago. I took the risk of letting her have fun, fully aware of the disorder that would result from her joy. At fist, she hesitated. Maybe she was also worried about a mess? Oh no, I didn’t want her to feel limited by a fear of paint going everywhere. I dipped my finer in the paint and demonstrated. She following my example and enjoyed herself by painting five pictures! By the time she was finished, the total damage was paint on her hands, my hands, her pajamas, and the table. That was it! We had fun creating art together, and all of the mess was easily cleaned up!

Perhaps not all mothers have as much difficulty with finger painting as I do, but I do think most mothers can relate to having their children push them outside of their level of comfort. Of course, there is a balance, and sometimes it’s important to maintain order. However, I’ve learned that the situations where our children push us just past our limits can be good lessons for how we view life. This can apply to our career choices, our social activities, and even our value system.

Perhaps the safe career isn’t the most rewarding? Perhaps the risk of starting a new activity and meeting new people will bring a greater depth and enjoyment to life? Perhaps one of the rules of life you have always followed should be reevaluated to determine if it still fits into your value system?

Since I gave birth to my first child, I have tackled all three of those questions. My career goals have changed, but I feel a much deeper sense of satisfaction with my new career direction. I have joined many new social groups and have only found more appreciation of life with getting to know more people. For my value system, I have learned to listen more closely to what is in my heart rather seeking out popular values that are not meaningful for me. Hopefully now that I have survived finger painting, I will be able to accept even more of the joys waiting for me outside the lines of the letter “R.”

Parenting Skills Begin in High School

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

By, Daphne

When I first met my newborn son, I initially felt that any parenting challenges would settle into a predicable routine. There is so much advice out there about soothing the young baby and disciplining the toddler. While some of the tips and suggestions from magazines, books, friends, family, and online communities have been helpful, I finally realized that some of my parenting difficulties could be helped by what I learned in high school.

The time between comforting a baby to sleep and quietly slipping out of the room can be the most stressful, fearful, and hopeful experience of a parent’s day. As you step away from the bed, you move as carefully as possible, making sure not to bump into a creaking place on the wall or step on a musical toy that might make the slightest or loudest sound. Movement must be precise yet purposeful to make it out of the room successfully. The lurking punishment of a crying baby keeps your fear alive, much like the fear of high school detention for getting caught without a hall pass. If you have any experience with sneaking down a restricted hallway during lunchtime in school, you’ve already fine-tuned a silent tread. In addition, the stress management skills you learned in each second of hallway fear will now help you keep calm when you hear the sounds of your baby possibly waking up, seeing you, and loudly requesting that you remain in the room for a longer period of time.

As your child grows somewhat older, you will enter a stage when you want to enjoy sweet foods and candies that you would prefer not to share with your exclusively organic fed little one. Some of us have better personal discipline than others, but I know I like to experience some type of sugary treat several times a day. The challenge is that children have a shockingly well-developed ear for candy wrappers at an early age. Complicating the task further is the fact that some toddlers can even smell scents such as chocolate on your breath after you’ve managed to successfully fulfill your sweet tooth’s needs. Luckily, those of us who spent years eating candy in class daily already know all the tricks for keeping our sugary secrets private. Unwrapping candy before school was the best strategy for removing the noise risk to eating candy during class. Now, the same concept can be applied by transferring all candy to cloth or zip-lock bags. While teachers weren’t checking the smell of anyone’s breath, they may have noticed the rhythmic movement of gum being chewed. Limit talking after sneaking any sweets to avoid having your toddler discover your secret.

The most desperate moment for any parent can be when your child is frantically searching for a toy that you know for sure is never going to be found. It didn’t seem like it would be missed at the time, but this overlooked entertainment purchase from three years ago has suddenly become the only teddy bear that loved him or the only toy xylophone that will express the music of her heart. Once again, you must search through the high school compartment of your brain and now think of a time when you didn’t have an assignment turned in on time. It’s not that you lied about the reason for the lateness, but you did want your situation to be convincing to your teacher. Perhaps you embellished or even fabricated entire details about what occupied your time when you should have been working on the school project. Now, as your child looks at you with faith that you will solve the case of the missing, loved toy, you find those story-enhancing skills from years ago to be most helpful. Again, it’s not that you completely lie to your child – or maybe you do, but the goal is to keep everyone happy. True, you might not actually know a little girl who had no toys or if she received your child’s loved possession when you donated it to charity, but a personalized aspect about the destination of your preschooler’s now retired teddy bear or xylophone sure helps take the focus off of what she lost.

Parenting is difficult, and we all run into challenges regularly. Though it does seem that solutions to our adjustments to living with children are hidden behind days of research, sometimes the answers have always been with us. Just take a moment to reflect, and you will find some of your own problem-solving patterns from your past to apply to today.

What if my baby isn’t developing normally?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

By, Daphne

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, like many, I found myself dreaming of how my dedicated mothering would result in a perfect child. I was careful to leave room for my imagined child’s own choices and interests and various other characteristics that would make him a unique person. My goal was not to control him but to give him the best start in life through love, attention, security, good nutrition, exposure to educational experiences, and unending patience. It’s easy to plan on meeting every need when the challenge of the live baby hasn’t yet arrived. Without realizing it, I linked his ability to develop into a well-adjusted individual to my ability to adequately mother him, and I hadn’t even met him yet.

Many of the usual tasks on the perfect baby checklist were tackled: balanced diet during pregnancy, natural

Andrew and Daphne just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

Andrew and Daphne just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

childbirth, breastfeeding, babywearing, lots of direct attention, and organic baby food. Despite my morning sickness resulting in the loss of 16 pounds, I did my best to eat healthy foods. Of course, the all-too-common story of a planned natural childbirth turning into a C-section happened to me. I not only had an epidural but general anesthesia as well. Luckily, my dedicated support system helped me through my breastfeeding challenges, allowing me to nurse my son well beyond the first year. I scheduled time into every day to play games and engage him with other activities that focused on his development, and by the time I started my son on solid foods, I was sure I had made up for his difficult birth with all the breastfeeding, babywearing and organic foods. Clearly, my careful mothering was, in fact, making my baby perfect!

It wasn’t until my son was close to three years old that I started to question if his little quirks were a sign of a larger developmental concern. Some of his unique interests during his first few years included an unusual fascination with wires, shoestrings, and any other string he discovered; staring at escalators for long periods of time; and an intense attraction to flowing water, such as drinking water fountains, running water hoses, the kitchen sink sprayer, and the larger water displays at malls. I know a lot of kids are attracted to water, but my son only wanted to stare at the running water rather than play with it, and he would shriek as if his life was being taken away if we either stopped the running water or took him away from it. I didn’t know that all of these interests fell under the category of visual stimulation.

Andrew just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

Andrew just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

Developmentally, just before my son turned three, I noticed that he didn’t seem to understand what I was saying as much as other kids. Still, he had a great vocabulary. I figured he was okay if he could talk. My pediatrician and his daycare providers also assured me that they had no concerns. After checking off all of his milestones on developmental checklists, I was certain he must be fine.

Finally, about a month after my son’s third birthday, I realized that there was a clear difference between his communication skills compared to his peers. I had to use specific phrases and vocabulary for him to understand me, and he just didn’t seem as aware as other kids. I took him to Project Enlightenment for a developmental screening, and then he was referred to the public school system. The school system met with my husband and me several times, observed my son, and finally completed a formal developmental evaluation. The whole process took six months, but at the end of it, we found out what was going on with our son: autism.

How did I feel? Devastated! I was trampled by the news of my obvious failure at mothering. With all of my hard work and effort, I was supposed to have a perfect child. If he had a diagnosis as horrifying as autism, I felt I must have missed some essential ingredient in my recipe for being the ideal mother. For years I had met other women who had kids with autism. Not knowing my situation, I had always felt so bad for those mothers; I admired how they appeared to have a positive perspective of life when their children faced so many challenges. Now I was one of those mothers, and I didn’t feel positive at all!

It took time to grieve the loss of the child I imagined, the child I thought I knew. Knowing that social skills are so closely tied to a fulfilling life, I wondered how my son could find a place in society with a diagnosed social disorder. Would he be the “weird” kid? Would he be bullied? I had always had the impression he was so smart, and now I was being told he was cognitively delayed. Would he always be delayed, struggling to keep up with his peers? People on the spectrum are known for having trouble understanding humor. Would I not be able to laugh and tell jokes with my son? He seemed to enjoy humor, but maybe it would go away? Would he be able to go to college? Get married? Have his own life?

Andrew and Daphne just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

Andrew and Daphne just after he was diagnosed with autism - Crickett Photography

My son, Andrew, was diagnosed with autism two-and-a-half years ago. How do I feel now? First, he is really funny – and in an annoying way like any other six-year-old, making his humor somewhat typical for his age.

He still struggles with some academics but manages to perform on grade-level. Though he’s in a special education kindergarten class, he is doing the same work as other kindergarteners in regular classes, and he will likely be in a regular 1st grade class next year. Andrew is smart, creative, skilled at art, good at solving real life problem. He has friends, enjoys going places, loves and protects his younger sister, voluntarily gives me hugs, and is very inquisitive. I enjoy spending time with him and am fascinated with who he is as a person.

We have been so lucky that all of his preschool teachers and his current teacher are absolutely awesome. Every teacher has taken the time to get to know him and find strategies to work around his challenges. I am so hopeful that he will continue to have such dedicated and talented educators throughout his future school years.

Andrew does have some challenges. The motivation is not always there when he has to complete tasks he does not like. Some concepts are difficult for him, and his fine motor skills are inconsistent. In addition, his stimulatory behavior involves making odd sounds while running around. If he starts to “stim” in public, people do look at him oddly, knowing something must be different about him. I am hopeful that he will be able to embrace more socially compatible outlets for stimulatory expression as he gets older.

I’m not going to say I wouldn’t change a thing about him, as I notice many other people say that about their disabled kids, but I also won’t say there’s nothing I would change about myself. I think it’s okay to admit we would like for things to be different while simultaneously working on accepting people and ourselves as we are. I do appreciate everything about my son: the good, the bad, and the lessons he and I learn from his challenges. We will both grow as people by working together.

Daphne's Son - Andrew

What do I recommend for parents who are worried about their babies or toddlers? We all constantly hear and read the message that babies develop differently. Developmental milestones have a wide window of time for when they should be mastered, and anytime in that window is acceptable. It’s good to find out exactly how late is okay for your baby to master a skill. With this knowledge, you are able to remain somewhat more calm if everyone else’s baby is sitting up at six months if you know your baby still has as couple more months to be on target for that milestone.

When I checked the lists for developmental red flags, my son never showed any of the major symptoms of autism. Now that I know more about child development, I realize that my son’s receptive language and problems with joint attention were clear indicators of his disorder by eighteen months of age. Receptive language is what your child understands. It is more common for people who have concerns about their child’s language will say their child understands everything but doesn’t say much. The child who understands most of what he hears likely does not have autism. However, if you worry that your child doesn’t understand as much as his peers, you may want to investigate further. Children demonstrate joint attention when they are having trouble with something and look up at you, hoping you will help. A child with autism who struggles with joint attention will continue to stare at the toy while crying, never looking for someone to help. Another form of joint attention is when a child sees something of interest and wants to share it with you by bringing it to you or by pointing at the object.  Children with autism aren’t as aware of you being a separate person and don’t realize you may not already see what they see. While it’s not necessarily a problem if your child doesn’t point right at twelve months of age, within a few months of her birthday, she should be clearly making an attempt to show you what she sees.

What would I do differently if I could start over with my son? My son has improved significantly since receiving intervention starting at three-and-a-half years of age, but earlier intervention is always better. Now I always tell people to follow their gut feeling and to not take too much of a wait and see approach if their child is showing signs of a delay. True, many children do catch up on their own, but testing and possibly some developmental therapy will only help. Both evaluations and therapy are designed to be fun for children; I do not know of any drawbacks to getting a child tested.

Delayed intervention is a loss of the most effective time to make dramatic improvement in a child. Though my son had an age-appropriate vocabulary, he did not talk as much as other children, and I made the mistake of assuming he was just a late talker. I was not aware of the many resources available for determining if he needed help.

Daphne's Son - Andrew

Daphne's Son - Andrew

What resources are available for parents who have developmental concerns about their children? If your child is under three years of age and in Wake County, it is best to contact the Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA). You can call them about any concern you may have, whether your doctor agrees with you or not. Their evaluations are free, and they emphasize that it is better to call them sooner rather than wait and see if your child improves. I personally think it’s best to work with the CDSA before your child turns three because they work very quickly. They come to your house to evaluate and give you the results the same day. Then they arrange for any necessary therapies to take place in your home.

If your child is three years of age or older, the public school system is the only free option available for investigating questions about your child’s development. Though the entire process takes at least six months, if your child does have significant delays, he or she may qualify for free therapy and possibly specialized education through the school system. They have half day and whole day special education preschools.

You may wonder if you should check with your pediatrician before asking any of these services to evaluate your child. Yes, definitely bring up your concerns with your pediatrician; however, don’t wait for his or her permission to proceed if you are worried. Unfortunately, pediatricians’ knowledge and training is mostly focused on medical care, and many of them do not know how to properly address all developmental differences. It is common for pediatricians to miss problems when they could have been detected much sooner. Your child’s development is a place where you are the only expert until you meet with a developmental specialist.

Your Baby's Milestones

Your Baby's Milestones

What if I think my baby or toddler is doing great? Most children are developing normally. Just be sure to take the time to check off developmental milestones as they happen. So many parents share that their children meet developmental goals long before the indicated time on the chart. If your child shows all signs of rapidly growing into a social butterfly, enjoy her! Our children want us to have fun with them, and I definitely enjoy my son!

The Appeal of the Designer Diaper Bag

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

By, Daphne

While I’m planning a post for later in the week about steps to take during pregnancy to improve your early breastfeeding experience, I decided to go ahead and have fun writing about the diaper bags that call my name every time I’m in the store.

For most of my life, I have not been a person who chooses to carry bags. In college, I only carried a wallet and key combination, and I only reluctantly decided to carry a handbag after realizing that having my keys attached to my wallet and addressed license was probably not all that safe.

It wasn’t until I was nine months pregnant and ready to redeem several Christmas gift cards when I finally decided to buy a designer handbag. No woman at 40 weeks wants to shop for new clothes, and I wanted to splurge on myself one last time before my baby arrived. Of course, once I experienced the quality and fashion experience of a designer handbag, I found a way, over time, to build a small collection!

When it came to diaper bags, I was originally certain that the basic, affordable bag would be sufficient. To be honest, my simple bag was all I needed. Actually, I now remember that I had to throw away the first one when a surprise poop during a diaper change spread across the bag, and the stains wouldn’t wipe clean. The strap on the second bag broke after a few months, but it still held all my baby boy’s diapers, clothing, and various other necessities. Four years later, I had a baby girl and still chose a conservatively priced bag that had a slightly feminine look to it. For some reason, I thought that the gender of my baby had to be reflected in the look of the bag that I carried rather seeing the bag as a reflection of my own style. It only occurred to me recently that if my handbag doesn’t need to be gender appropriate to my child, the diaper bag I carry doesn’t need to be boy or girl themed either. Unfortunately, my choice to switch to cloth diapers with my daughter resulted in a broken strap much more quickly. The bag didn’t have a designated hook for a wet bag, and the strap was not strong enough to support the weight of soiled cloth diapers.

Now that I’ve had some time to look at the higher quality diaper bags, I wish I would have made the investment sooner. First, some of these bags are actually machine washable. That would have changed the outcome of my first diaper storage tragedy. All of the bags that caught my interest have a hook that is strong enough to support the weight of a wet bag. Clearly, much more thought has gone into these baby supply accessories, as the options for storage appear to be endless. Every unzipped section reveals many smaller compartments to store unlimited child-related necessities. I know in the early days, I needed separate spaces for Lansinoh, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, extra baby clothes, sometimes an extra shirt for me - babies are messy, water and snacks for me, and anything that would have been in my handbag. Later I had to add snacks and drinks for my toddler. Finally, these baby supply totes hardly look like diaper bags at all. The designer understands that the diaper bag doubles as your handbag for a period of time as well. Beyond the diaper years, they can easily be carried as handbags or office bags on their own, completely independent of an accompanying baby. I like the style of the designer diaper bags so much that I want to buy one just for my personal school and office use!

Today I looked at three bags I have considered for purchase:

The Petunia Pickle Bottom Toffee Roll Boxy Backpack’s fabric caught my attention immediately. It’s

Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack

Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack

absolutely beautiful! Exciting features include a built in changing pad that unfolds out of a zippered section on the side. I like the flexibility of carrying it as a backpack or as a shoulder bag. The backpack option would be most appreciated when trying to chase an excited toddler! My only disappointment with this bag is that Velcro holds the cover closed. This noise violation can be a hazard when trying to maintain a tranquil atmosphere around a sleeping baby. Fortunately, most of the other Boxy Backpacks have magnet closures.

Timi and Leslie Dawn Bag in Cloud Blue

Timi and Leslie Dawn Bag in Cloud Blue

The classiest style is the Timi & Leslie Dawn in Cloud Blue. A unique feature of this bag is a set of straps that attach it to a stroller, and I appreciate a smaller matching purse that comes with the bag that includes credit cards slots and a zippered pocket. This allows you to have a separate purse while knowing it can easily be stored inside the diaper bag. The best feature, however, is that no one would ever suspect you are carrying a baby accessory. It truly is a great fashion choice!

My absolute favorite choice is the Ju-Ju-Be Be All Bag in Coral Kiss! This bag has a fun, bright fabric, and it is machine washable! The interior antimicrobial lining is a light color to help with visibility of the contents, and the storage options are endless! The compartments on the sides for baby bottles are stretchy, easily

Ju-Ju-Be Be All Diaper Bag in Coral Kiss

Ju-Ju-Be Be All Diaper Bag in Coral Kiss

accommodating my water bottles, and the tags indicate that the bag is large enough for a laptop, allowing me to consider purchasing it to store my school needs. I could keep diapers and books in it at the same time!

Of course diaper bags are not at the top of the list for what you need most for your baby, and any bag will store your little one’s belongings. However, if you are in a position where you could spend more to tote around your baby supplies, go for it! The quality and advantages are worth the money. Have fun and be fashionable!

Heather from Smartmomma reviews the Ju Ju Be BFF Diaper Bag

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Heather reviews the different features and benefits of owning the Ju Ju Be BFF Diaper Bag.

Smartmomma.com gives an overview of Pocket Diapers

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Heather from Smartmomma goes gives an overview of Pocket Diapers. Rumparooz One Size Diapers, Fuzzi Bunz One Size Pocket Diapers, and bumGenius 4.0 One Size Cloth Diapers are discussed.

Heather from Smartmomma goes over All In One Cloth Diapers

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Heather talks about the features and benefits of All In One Cloth Diapers. Bum Genius Organic One Size All In One Diapers and Bummis Easy Fit Diapers are discussed.

Heather from Smartmomma reviews the Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack!

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Heather goes over the various features of the Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack diaper bag.

Heather talks about the secrets of Cloth Diapers and Poop

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Heather from Smartmomma discusses the use of diaper liners and diaper sprayers, which make dealing with poop and cloth diapers much easier!

Caring for your Cloth Diapers

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Heather from Smartmomma reviews how to care for your cloth diapers. Reusable pail liners, diaper sprayers, odor removers, and cloth diaper detergent are discussed.

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