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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to best prepare your babysitter -- Guest post

a baby sitter's dream come true - extra pacis in the utensil drawer!

So, the time has come. It's either your first time leaving your baby with a baby sitter or perhaps it is the first time with a new baby sitter. All of the families I have sat for over the course of my life have either been neighbors, people I worked with at the daycare center where I was a teen, or friends/coworkers of my parents. In that case, you and your child(ren) might be familiar with this person already. Even so, I highly recommend having a "get to know you" night BEFORE the night you're going out. Have your sitter come over, play some games, read some books, watch the bedtime routine, etc. 

Here are a few different categories and scenarios that should be talked about/made known between parent and sitter.

1) How to prepare their bottle. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed, show your sitter how you make the bottles. If you breastfeed, feel comfortable enough to leave frozen milk with the instructions to just hold the baggie of milk under hot water until it begins to thaw and warm up. I've found this is helpful for moms who feed directly from the source and only pump occasionally to have backup for when they do want to go out. The first baby I ever watched who was breastfed was like this - she rarely took bottles so mom rarely pumped. Since breast milk lasts upwards of six months in the freezer, it was easier for her to pump whenever she had time and freeze it rather than worry about having to pump that day. 

If you formula feed, either prepare a few bottles ahead of time to be left in the fridge or show your sitter how to make the formula. With my niece, they used room temperature nursery water mixed with formula so her bottles were made at every feeding as they didn't need to be warmed up. It's also a good idea for your sitter to know formula making instructions on the off chance they need to make a bottle or two should the need arise. 

2) Know what solids to feed. Under six months, babies usually aren't on any kind of solid schedule that a baby sitter would need to know, but if your child is on solids and will need them, jot down a quick set of instructions for your sitter to refer to when the time comes to heat it up!

3) Lovies. These. Are. Huge. If your child has a special blanket or animal-blanket head, make sure your sitter knows how important this is. Lovies will come in handy when baby is over tired or ready for bed or just wants a cuddle. If your baby uses a pacifier, do your best to make sure there are a couple of spare ones lying around. Trust me, I KNOW how hard this is. Especially when you get babies who like to participate in the Pacifier Throwing Olympics. As long as there is one spare paci that your sitter can lay their hand on in a moment of need, you're good. 

4) Bedtime routine. This one is important for a couple of reasons - sometimes, babies (and toddlers) don't want the same routine their parents use from someone who isn't mommy or daddy. I've run into this a few times. Any attempt to put them down the way mom or dad does results in fussing, back arching, arm waving annoyance. In my experience, the parents I sit for have always been lenient about this. With one little one, who didn't have a sitter until she was 7 months old, I used to have to lay on her parents' bed with her and snuggle her up close to me with her pacifier like she was side-lying to nurse (which is what she did with mama in the middle of the night). Her face had to be smushed into my arm or my chest while she sucked on her pacifier while I rocked her back and forth sideways on the bed. If I didn't do it this way, bedtime was a nightmare. Said child is now 3 and as long as I tuck her in tightly and give her lots of face kisses, she'll happily go down. Heck, she even ASKS for bed when she's tired now! However, at seven and eight months old, while dad could happily plop her in her crib with her favorite blanket and pacifier, she never accepted that from me. And I was okay with that, as was mom. 

If you are a proponent of any type of crying it out, understand that this might be unsettling for your sitter. It's not that your sitter doesn't trust you or is questioning your parenting abilities. Trust me. I'm all for parenting the best or most effective way for your child. After all, you know them best. But sometimes, depending on the cry, I physically get anxious listening to a child cry. It's like I'm not sure if this is how they sound for mom and dad and I'm worried that they're crying a different cry and I worry that I'm doing it wrong. In cases like these (and depending on how well I know the parents/how comfortable I am with knowing their boundaries) I'll either sit in the room and rock the crib or I'll sit next to their bed and sing quiet lullabies. I do my best to never take them out of their bed once they are in it if that's not what mom and dad do, but I also know that they might be feeling anxious because mom and dad didn't put them down and I want them to know that everything is okay and they are okay. If your child is older and this is an issue of terrible twos or threes and it's become something of a power struggle, make sure to let your sitter know. For me, personally, when I know this is a boundaries pushing issue on the part of the child, I'm more at ease with listening to them voice their displeasure. Sometimes, depending on their language skill, you hear some pretty hilarious things come out of their mouths!

5) Boundaries within the house. A friend pointed out, when I asked for ideas for this post, that her bedroom is off limits even to her own kids. This is important to know. As referenced back in the bedtime category, a lot of bedtime routines often take place on mom or dad's bed. Whether it's story reading or rocking a baby to sleep, sometimes mom and dad's room offers an extra level of comfort when they're not there. Same with animals. If you have animals that don't like random people in the house and are more comfortable being kept in a room by themselves, make sure to alert your sitter to the fact that the cats are in the bedroom and prefer to stay in there. Also, don't be afraid to add a pet task on to your sitter's list of tasks for an evening! If an animal needs to be fed or watered or let out, your sitter should have no issue with this. Especially if the kids can help and it turns into an activity that kills a few minutes in those "will it ever be time for bed?" moments when kids start to get overtired and cranky. Most parents give their sitters free reign of the kitchen and pantry. However, if there is something you have that is needed for the next night's dinner or lunch the next day, just stick a post it note on it or tell the sitter what it's for. This also helps when little fingers know what's in the green bowl in the fridge and try to get inside of it!

6) Electronics. This one can be tricky, at times. Especially if a child has misbehaved during the week and has lost privileges. If that happens (and you think your child might try and get the sitter to let him or her use the device), it's best to put it away before the sitter arrives. Even if it's something that the sitter might use after the children go to bed (like the Wii or the television remote controls), if it's put away before the sitter arrives, they can play dumb when asked to use said device. Often times, I've had parents text me to let me know where they've hidden things after they've left so the kids don't know that I know where it is. This way, it ends the tantrums of "Please please please? We don't have to tell mommy!". And yes, this has happened more times than I can count. In fact, I remember trying it with my own sitters! Being able to say "Mom put it away before I got here! I don't know where it is!" is a really easy way to diffuse the situation. 

If you have a limit on screen time for your children, make sure your sitter knows. Sometimes, allowances can be made on a Saturday night. During the holidays, I've often brought movies with me (like Charlie Brown, for example) for the kids and I to watch. I also usually bring popcorn and we snuggle on the couch and eat popcorn and watch the movie. But I always check with mom or dad first before I arrive with a treat. 

As an example of a treat, (and I realize that this only applies to sitters who have been with your family for years and love your kids like part of the family), two Christmases ago, I went to Target and got P and C (who were 5 and 3) each a set of Santa forks and spoons, a Christmas themed bowl, and a Christmas cup from the bargain bin. Then I got a blank card and wrote to them as their Elf on the Shelf. I had talked to their mom earlier in the week who had said that they'd been having great behaviors lately so when I arrived with the presents, I told the kids that I had woken up that morning and their Elf had left them presents at my house. Later, while I was changing the baby for bed, I hear P whispering to the Elf, thanking him for her presents and telling him how much she loved him. 

7) Illness & Medication. If your child is sick and needs antibiotics or pain relievers, write down the dosage on a piece of scrap paper for quick review. Also make sure your sitter knows the best way to get your child to take their medicine. From droppers, to spoons, to medicine pacis, to syringes ... each child has their own preference and it'll help your sitter out a lot to know each child's preference. While I never give medicine without permission, either before mom and dad leave or after they leave through text or call, it's good to know where things are in case the need arises. That way, when you're out, you don't have to try and remember where you left the Tylenol the last time somebody needed it. 

Also make sure that your sitter knows where your thermometer is and how to use it. Some, like the ear ones, can be tricky. Chances are your sitter won't need it, but it's a good thing to know and have on hand just in case, especially in the winter months. If you have a child who is teething, give your sitter instructions for medication if you medicate for teething pain. For example if the child is just fussy, a popsicle or a teething toy will more than likely suffice. However, if you have a child who teethes badly and ends up in hysterical tears, chewing on their fists or anything else they can get into their mouth, let your sitter know what parameters you follow for giving Tylenol or Advil. In most cases, I'll text mom and say "T's been crying for the last ten minutes and the teething ring isn't working and she won't take the popsicle. I'm going to give her the Advil." This way, mom is up to speed and she can check back with you in twenty or thirty minutes to make sure the meds have worked and your child is comfortable again. 

8) Communication. With the advent of cell phones, it's easier to keep in contact with your sitter. A quick text message and all is well. As a sitter, I try and remember to text mom or dad and let them know that I'm getting ready to put the kids to bed and my cell phone is downstairs on vibrate so if I don't reply right away, don't worry. Sometimes, though, if bedtime is hectic, I forget to text. If you text your sitter and don't hear back in about ten minutes, double check the time. If you know it's bedtime, you won't worry that you haven't heard back. 

The other thing is phone calls from the kids. For some kids, a quick "good night, mommy, I love you!" is enough for them to go to bed without issue. For others, sometimes a phone call does more harm than good. If you have found that it does more harm than good, make sure to let your sitter know. That way, when a child asks to call, the sitter can pretend to call and then tell the child that mommy or daddy couldn't hear their phone and that you can try calling again in a little bit. Nine times out of ten, they're asleep before they remember we never tried calling again. 

As a sitter who loves the children she sits for, know that I will do everything I can to make sure everyone is healthy and happy. Even if that means walking back and forth across the living room with a fussy four month old for an hour or more (been there, done that. Nick Carter helped me out of that jam!) or laying down in a teeny tiny toddler bed to rub a head or a back until they're calm enough for sleep ... if it's something they need to feel comfortable, and it's within reason, I'll do it for them. I've given nebulizer treatments, rocked sick babies for hours, patted backs and given sips of water, held hair while they've thrown up and cleaned up any sicked up mess ... I'm not mom, but I do everything I can the way I know mom would do it because I want them to enjoy their time with me. I want mom and dad to be able to go out and do things without worrying that the kids are freaking out or have tied the babysitter up. 

Oh. One last bit of advice. This is more for the sitter than the parents - no matter how hard they beg, DO NOT AGREE TO PLAY HIDE AND SEEK! They know their house better than you and their little brains will think of spaces you wouldn't even begin to imagine hiding in. Hide and Seek is a surefire way to give yourself a heart attack when 20 minutes have elapsed and you still can't find the three year old and the five year old is laughing her butt off because she knows where he is, but she's not telling you because it's funnier to watch you scramble around trying to find her brother. Not to mention, nobody wants to break out the butter or Crisco to get little heads and hands and feet out of places they really don't fit.


Bridget Frazier is a twenty-something young woman who, over the years, has come to realize that hopes and dreams don't always coincide with reality. Take a journey through what it means to accept what life has given you, to be happy with the blessing bestowed, all while mourning the loss of dreams once passed. Find her at A Sainted Sinner.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Music and Entertainment Connect Autistic Children With the World -- S post

Autism and autism spectrum disorders have created unique challenges for parents for years. These disorders are often misunderstood, which makes it more difficult for parents who want their children to live normal lives. It's very important for people to understand that children with autism have many talents and interests that should be embraced, especially in the process of helping them to adapt. 

Autism and autism spectrum disorders are often misunderstood. Children who have autism spectrum disorders are often thought to have behavioral issues or learning disabilities when the true problem is the fact that they need a learning experience that provides sufficient stimulation. A child who lives with autism has a great chance of living a fulfilling life if they have a learning experience that caters to their talents and abilities. 

Many youths who live with autism have trouble communicating with others in traditional ways. However, they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves through writing, composing or performing music and creating unique artwork. Many who have an autism spectrum disorder feel more comfortable with online interactions than in-person interactions.

Journaling is a good form of self-expression for those who have difficulties communicating with others. This is sometimes a good way for autistic children to work through issues that are troubling them without having to open up and talk to people. Writing also helps children to express feelings to others when they have difficulty doing so verbally. Technology is a useful tool for autistic youths who have creative hobbies. The latest technology makes it easier for kids to share their love for their hobby of choice with others. There are many online communities for people with autism to share their work.

For one example of how important technology has become for those with autism to express themselves, in Alabama, a fourth-grade boy with autism found that his iPad had been stolen. He had used his iPad to compose music, keep a journal and organize photos taken on family trips. Because of this, he was very upset when the device was stolen. This news story had a happy ending when the iPad was recovered with all of the child's important photos and other content intact.

Some autistic children who are especially dedicated to music enjoy composing their own pieces or new arrangements of old favorites. There are many programs and apps available that make it easier for musically gifted kids to share their work. Some children with autism spectrum disorders have a unique gift for mastering new songs and playing new instruments with little need for instruction.

Any child who has an autism spectrum disorder could benefit from a unique care plan tailored to his or her individual needs. Therapists who closely work with autistic children and their families understand the importance of specialized care and how it contributes to a child's positive development. Lindsey Stone is an example of a therapist who helps parents and community members see to the needs of children living with autism spectrum disorders. A more specialized approach not only helps children develop skills related to their interests and talents but also makes learning much easier.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gaining 50 pounds proves nothing to no one

So, more than a year after the Maria Kang debacle, I wake up to this on my newsfeed.

"Woman packs on 50 pounds to prove 'no excuses' for being overweight"

Apparently, a while back, Katie Hopkins decided she was tired of having people tell her she was "lucky to be thin" and blaming their obesity on things other than themselves. She got so tired of it that she decided to eat 6,500 calories a day until she gained 50 pounds, just to show that it's only caloric intake and lack of exercise that makes people fat.

The only thing her "experiment" proves to me is that Katie Hopkins likes to fat shame. A lot. So much that she would undertake a drastic change in daily habits--one that made her cry because she thinks eating that much is so disgusting--so that she could continue to fat shame. It's that important to her.

And, honestly, it's totally off the mark.

All Hopkins did with this little foray into the world of overweight was prove that she, as an individual, with a normal metabolism, no physical or mental ailments that would beleaguer her weight control, enough money to afford a good diet, her genetic makeup and a bunch of other individual factors that make her a candidate for weight control success--would be overweight if she ate larger quantities of food than her body is used to.

I'm pretty sure science proved that already, first of all.

And secondly, proving that you personally eating a lot makes you personally gain weight says absolutely nothing about the rest of the population. To get all academia, it's not replicable and it's not generalizable.

So, congratulations on making yourself cry and force feeding yourself to gain weight so that you could then go back to your normal diet, lose the weight, and continue to fat shame--now in your mind, justified.

Hopkins has also said, "I don't believe you can be fat and happy."

To which I point her to this Tumblr.

Maybe Hopkins can't be fat and happy. She proved that to herself (unnecessarily since she already knew that about herself), but just because she doesn't like the extra weight and had to put massive effort into gaining it does not make that true for literally anybody else on the planet.

We are all different.

Hopkins, of course, is going to lose the weight in three months time by again drastically altering her diet and upping her exercise levels.

And that's great. But it doesn't prove that other people can do it.

It only proves that you can.

So, now, you're not just a random ignorant person making other people feel bad because you lack empathy and education about the different factors in obesity. Now you're an active participant in tearing people down to make yourself feel better about your life, willpower, cultural situation and genetics.

Congratulations, and good luck on your weight loss journey.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moving on from National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day -- Guest Post

One week ago, I logged into Facebook to check on my friends for the day.  After spending only five seconds on the page, I logged out with the realization that I would be unable to cope with myself if I stayed online.  While that sounds a bit over the top, I had forgotten that it was a day of observance, and status messages and articles about the day took me by surprise.    It was either get off the computer, or begin flogging myself over events that were beyond my control. 

In the United States, October 15th marks ‘National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day,’ and it’s the one-day that everyone is cordially required to come forward, and share their stories and feelings about it.  Last week, however, I had no interest in remembering, sharing, or even commiserating with anyone.   I have survived multiple miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and a complicated pregnancy that resulted in a traumatic emergency cesarean section procedure- one that could have been prevented if my doctor hadn’t jumped the gun.   The whole ordeal of pregnancy and loss hits where it counts already.  I don’t want a designated day of observance to remind me of every detail yet again.

Don’t get me wrong.   Loss is a very serious issue that affects over 10% of women trying to conceive, or carry a pregnancy to term.  Miscarriage is more common than you think.  More, despite advances in medicine, thousands of babies die unexpectedly in the first year.  As for healthy babies, we are in the middle of a spectacular boom, and there’s no sign of it slowing any time soon.  So a day like October 15th should be a call for solidarity to those celebrating life, those mourning a loss, and those undergoing fertility treatments. 

But what happens on October 16th?  Or January 1st?  Or on the day your best friend gives birth to a healthy baby?  When your cousin’s son dies from SIDS? Or the fourth time you miscarry? If it’s not on October 15th, or not during Infertility Awareness Week, which occurs in April, no one wants to discuss any of it. 

When I came to the conclusion that I would no longer try for another child a few months ago, I was saddened by the decision at first.  I felt angry at my infertility.  Then I realized that I was okay with that decision, and my heart felt lighter.   I was no longer angry when people announced pregnancies, but genuinely happy for them.   When I met my sister’s newborn last month, I was relaxed, because the baton had been passed to someone else.   I was happy about joining the “No more kids” club, and I began to remember that I am more than a parent, more than a statistic, and much more than what I represented to the medical establishment.   I felt empowered and ready to move on with life.

Yet when October 15th arrived, I suddenly became reminded of the complete loser I was for suffering those many miscarriages.  Worse, I felt like a jerk for not wanting to feel like a loser anymore. I felt like a bad person for wanting to focus on parenting the child I have, rather than grieve the loss of the children I didn’t have.   Then it hit me.  What was supposed to be a day of solidarity and awareness had become a spectacle.  It was as if the world had decided to single us out to point out our shortcomings, our imperfections, our losses, and we were on parade.  Like it or not, it’s ‘Happy Look At Your Faults’ Day!  Step right up, and give us a show!

I get the idea that women everywhere should bond.  However, limiting that show of solidarity to one day, week or month can do more harm than good overall.   While the rest of the world moves on to observe other “National Days” without so much as a blink, the rest of us have to pick up the pieces and start the healing process again. 

My little epiphany from months earlier?  It’s actually somewhat in tact, but only because I decided that self-preservation was better than reopening old wounds.   Logging off and shutting my computer down was the best way for coping that day.   Because of that decision, things hurt a whole lot less on the 16th, 17th, and 18th

Perhaps instead of remaining tacit about pregnancy, and infant loss, save for one day, we should consider moving beyond reserving that token day of observance in favor of just talking about it whenever we need to.   For those of us who have lost, let us commiserate when we’re sad, and let’s applaud when we move forward toward acceptance.  For those who celebrate their pregnancy?   Celebrate it daily!  Why not?  

Let’s talk about these things on October 16th, January 1st, whenever!   Let us be happy for those who have healed from their loss, and let us offer support to those who haven’t.  Let’s do it any day, any time.  Not just when we’re obliged to on October 15th.


Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma.


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