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2009 October | giggle blogs | giggle Blogs

Archive: October 2009

October 31, 2009

Preparing Emotionally for Labor

There is only a certain amount of actual preparation to do for birth; particularly when you factor in the very busy schedules of today’s busy expectant parents. There are books out there that suggest a strict regime of what to do’s to prepare for delivery…often creating a sense of overwhelm, and then nothing is done! Rather, pick and choose a few things that feel right to you, that help you feel good inside and out about this impending birth.

Emotional Preparation:
• Human beings tend to worry and fret and focus on what-if; this is not helpful. It creates more anxiety, hence more fear. Every time you notice your mind becoming a ticker tape of concerns, STOP, take a big deep breath, sending a rush of oxygenated blood to the baby and releasing pent up tension from your body. This requires some awareness on your part, which is an important part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy as well as an important ingredient later as a new parent…start practicing now.

• Take 5 minutes a day to tune into this growing baby. It could be sitting in your favorite chair, inside or outside, with a cup of tea or a small notebook to jot down your thoughts. You could simply close your eyes for a few minutes and put your attention inward, focusing on your breathing — breathe in calm and confidence, and exhale anxiety and concern…very easy to do and takes only a couple of minutes out of your day. Again, many women think that to derive benefit, they need to spend hours, not so, something is better than nothing, and both of you will benefit.

• Talk with your partner. When couples carve out time prenatally to prepare for what I consider to be the biggest event of their lives, it makes a difference. Tell them what worries you and what you anticipate needing in labor. Go out on dates, sleep in, go to the movies, take walks, sip tea in bookstores…whatever it is that you enjoy doing together, stock up on it! Newborns do one thing: inhale you whole! Invest in each other now; it will help to hold you over during the early days of parenting.

October 30, 2009

Working with Available Light

As mentioned last week, direct sunlight is far from ideal in taking great photographs.  Direct sunlight generally causes harsh shadowing under your subject’s eyes, and decreased tonal range in your photographs.  Entire regions of your scene will likely be “blown out” and color will not be rich.

It is far better to shoot in shade, early or late in the day, or on overcast days.  One of the first things you’ll notice, however, is that your photographs may be blurry due to lack of light. This is when it is really handy to have a camera, digital or film, that allows you to make manual adjustments.

A pleasing exposure fundamentally is a function of 4 things:  available light, shutter speed, aperture (F-stop), and film speed.  Shutter speed is how quickly the shutter opens and closes with each press of the button.  The quicker the shutter speed, the better able to stop action without blurring, but the brighter the light required.  Aperture is basically the size of the opening when the shutter opens.  The smaller the opening, the greater the depth of field, but the brighter the light you need.  Film speed is how sensitive to light the film is.  If the film is relatively insensitive (low ISO number), the brighter the light you’ll need.  Film which is more sensitive to light (higher ISO number) requires less light.

When you are shooting outside in lower light conditions, you can adjust shutter speed, aperture, and film speed in order to create great exposures. If light is really low, for instance, you can set your aperture to shoot “wide open” in order to decrease your light needs.  You can also slow down your shutter to have the same effect.  You could also use a film which is more light sensitive, or, with a digital camera, choose a ISO setting which requires less light.

You need to evaluate which characteristics of the photograph are the most important to you.  Are you taking pictures of your child playing soccer, so you need a really fast shutter speed to capture the action without blurring?  In that case, sacrificing some depth of field with a more open aperture, or choosing a more light sensitive film (ISO 400 versus ISO 100, for instance) may be the thing to do.  Are you taking a photograph of 10 family members in your backyard and want to make sure everyone is in focus?  In this case you would want to maximize your depth of field by closing up your aperture.  In order to be able to do that, you might need to shoot with less sensitive film and/or decrease your shutter speed.  The later is probably fine to do as stopping action in a stationary group shot can be accomplished with a slower shutter speed.

There are always trade offs involved.  The beauty of digital is that you can experiment with different combinations of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and know instantly whether you like each combination.  With film, you need to wait to see the results, and might not remember exactly what you did in each circumstance.

October 29, 2009

Old School Halloween

Be warned – here it comes, the “old guy” bit about how it was so different when we were kids, blah, blah, blah.  Walking to school uphill in the snow (both ways) and all that.  But it was different back then, right? 

My nostalgic memory of Halloween is combing the local (and not so local) neighborhoods in a very methodical manner (mixed in with some minor mischief) to secure as much candy until we had to get home, otherwise known as curfew (do kids still have those?).  We carried pillow cases because any other bags were just too small and flimsy to carry the immense load of candy we intended on hauling back home.  We walked miles and miles so you’d better figure out how to have sneakers as part of your costume.  Kids dressed as ghosts, Dracula, generic sports stars and other homemade heroes.  Lots of fake blood and almost no store bought costumes.  Perhaps even a roll of Charmin or two stuffed into that pillowcase.  Am I remembering that correctly?

Now admittedly, when I was younger we were in a bit of the suburbs (the Oakland Hills to be exact) and so it was probably different even then for “city kids” as my son now is living in the concrete jungle of Manhattan.  But still, I feel a bit old as I read the swine flu fears of parents surrounding Halloween on Twitter and Facebook.  You can’t exactly TP a high-rise (or can you?) but maybe my old bones are just longing for some old suburban Halloween-ism.  Maybe some faithful readers will post some photos of some good old fashioned Halloween fun in 2009.

How will your kids carry their Halloween loot?  Got to be the pillowcase, right?

October 29, 2009

Sometimes, Simple is Just Best.

I love our latest addition of holiday toys, these traditional craftsman wooden animal toys. What makes them especially lovely is that they pull off traditional baby design without losing any modern day sense of fun or responsibility! Fabulous yet exceedingly simple animal shapes, great bright colors, functional hand carve-outs – not to mention eco-friendly and healthy!



Made of 100% post-industrial recycled wood residual (plus sustainable solid wood wheels), this toy collection is handcrafted in the United States and painted with non-toxic, no-VOC paints. And for any of you that aren’t parents out there, the simple handle carve-outs are “grasps” incorporated into each animal’s design to make these easy for little hands during playtime. We used to see this wood design in early century toys all of the time. I’m seriously tickled to see traditional done so contemporary. My vote is that these toys are heirloom quality and will be passed down for generations to come. Hats off to this great collection; perfect for holiday gift giving this year – and beyond!

October 28, 2009

Screen-Based Media

The recent announcement by Disney that they would provide refunds to customers who had purchased Baby Einstein products from 2006 on has fanned the flames of the controversy surrounding “baby TV.” Should we let our babies watch TV at all?   Is all baby TV the same or are there actually distinct alternatives? What are the socially responsible ways to use TV? Since the Kaiser foundation has reported that more the 90% of US households use TV with their babies, I certainly hope we parents are finding sensible ways to use the medium. My personal view is that screen based media is an important part of our world; it is a powerful tool and there are positive ways for our babies to observe, play with, explore and interact with some types of children’s media. My own personal experience with my children is that used in moderation, of course, TV can be used in positive ways. That is why Stephen Gass and I co-created what we believe to be a healthy alternative for baby tv viewing – - eebee’s adventures – - which has been called the “un-Baby Einstein” by the Chicago Tribune. eebee DVDs are not only about the minutes of viewing time but the hours and hours of play and exploration before, during and after the viewing. eebee is a catalyst for real world play and exploration. That is why eebee’s Adventures are the only DVDs carried by a discerning store such as giggle.

Here is an excerpt from the eebee blog that was posted yesterday:

Imagine you’re smiling, laughing, talking, singing or playing a simple game with your baby-and your parenting skills are questioned simply because your playful interactions are a result of something you were watching on TV?

Recent headlines on the topic of “baby TV,” most of which damned Baby Einstein specifically, and, by association, all baby media, and by further association all parents who ever used or even thought of using a baby video with their child, would lead you to believe that all screen time is harmful or simply a waste of time. Others, including many academic and child development voices, argue that baby TV is not a black and white proposition. New research suggests that appropriately designed content can result in learning as well as in increases in real world interactions. It also challenges the somewhat simplistic assumption that if we just turned off the TV all would be right in the world of parenting and child growth and development.

Back in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatricians issued a statement recommending no TV for children under the age of 2. Their concern was based on the lack of research about babies and TV and a fear that TV viewing would take away from critical real-world social and physical interactions. This was followed by some studies that attempted to draw connections between early TV viewing and later learning problems. Many of these studies have been refuted. The most recent research indicates what parents already know: CONTENT MATTERS. The real issues are ones of moderation-making sure that you limit the amount of screen time; content-looking for programming that a baby is capable of not only attending to but understanding; and context-using TV like any other developmental experience for your child…talk about it, describe it, play along and use it as a scaffold for interaction. Damning the medium itself does not help us to understand how, when and why it might be an effective tool. We live in a highly media and screen-centric world. Our goal is to better understand the effective and responsible role of media in all of our lives…and we know now that what’s on the screen and how it’s presented can and does make a difference. That’s what we need to focus on.

Click to read the rest of this baby tv post (www.eebee.com).

October 27, 2009

Helpful Resource: Paging Dr. Greene

One of the stars of the green parenting world stopped by Q Collection Junior last week – Dr. Alan Greene (noted author, Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford’s School of Medicine and Pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital).  Dr Greene’s work is focused on improving children’s health by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals in our homes.  He has written several best-selling books and has been in the press a lot recently (Today Show, Time magazine, etc).

We share the same mission as Dr. Greene and thought we’d highlight some of his work and point you toward a few particularly interesting resources.

Here is a video of Dr. Greene discussing the health considerations of chemicals in our nurseries and homes.

His books include:

Feeding Baby Green:  The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond (2009)

  • Called the “Al Gore of Parenting” by Parenting Magazine, Dr Alan Greene’s follow up to his best-selling book provides the definitive guide for making nutritionally-sound decisions for their children.  It offers parents green choices for feeding children from when they are in the womb through toddler years.
  • Watch a video of Dr Greene introducing his book, Feeding Baby Green, by clicking through here.

Raising Baby Green:  The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Care (2007)

  • Winner of the Nautilus Book Awards Gold Metal for “Best Parenting Book of the Year”
  • Greene gives parents healthy and eco-friendly options for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Everything from choosing the best diapers to selecting nontoxic nursery paint and organic baby food is offered.

Q Collection Junior will be hosting another leader in this field in a few weeks – Michael Greene, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH).  I will pass along his thoughts as well.

As always, we welcome your comments.

October 26, 2009

Oh Crap, the Kidcatcher!

We’re always on the lookout for new movies to watch.  The Little Man doesn’t get a lot of leeway in the TV department given the dearth of decent choices out there.  What happened to Looney Tunes, Superfriends and Fraggle Rock?  Plus, TV turns your brain to mush.  Even Alec Baldwin knows that.  Anything beyond Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or sports (if yours truly is deciding) generally gets a swift veto.

 That said, we don’t want to raise a child devoid of all pop culture knowledge.  How would he ever play Trivial Pursuit?  A delicate system of checks and balances to say the least. 

 We discovered a while back that old movies could be a great supplement to the Disney and Pixar offering of the modern era.  Classics such as Mary Poppins, Herbie the Love Bug and even Pippy Longstockings (I never really realized how very strange that movie is until I watched it as an adult). 

 There have been some mistakes to say the least.  One day, when the Little Man was about 5 ¼ (as he likes to say) we popped in another classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  We thought we were in for a trip down memory lane with Dick Van Dyke.  Little did we know that it was more a trip down Elm Street and might as well as had Freddy Krueger driving old Mr. Bang Bang. Kidcatcher

 Everyone goes along swimmingly until they land in Vulgaria and the Kidcatcher starts running around scooping up kids and throwing them in a cage.  You know how this story ends.  Movie off, crying child and nightmares for six months that still linger to this day.  Nice work Dad.

 Anyway, we’re still fans of the old movies, we’ve just learned to screen them before the family showing.  Even if you think you remember the movie, you might have repressed your own fearful memories of the Kidcatcher.  Drop a comment with your family movie choice gone wrong.

October 24, 2009


Taga_StrollerGreat bicycles are my kind of design – art that functions.  In recent years, many have argued that great strollers have been inspired by great bicycles.  An amazing company out of the Netherlands is arguing – “why not be both?”

Introducing Taga.  The winner of the 2009 Red Dot Award, their “be moved” tagline delivers on the promise.  Part bicycle, part uber-modern stroller (not to mention for an infant, a toddler, perhaps two – or even in a wagon vs. a bicycle seat?!), Taga is the definition of great design.

Check out this so-called “multifunctional urban vehicle uniquely designed to suit the needs of today’s parents and children”  ( www.taga.nl ).   The only part hard to love is the price – at least for now will keep this smart solution the lucky privilege of fewer urbanites than I hope we’ll see in months and years to come.

October 24, 2009

Pollan For Kids

Michael Pollan’s many books aren’t kid or family specific, but should certainly be read — if you ask me, and you kind of did by reading this — by all people charged with feeding kids (parents, educators), and all kids old enough to understand the concepts. Now he’s come out with a kid-specific book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. It’s billed as a young adult book, but I’ve heard more than a few interested adult eaters say they like it because it is an edited down, shorter version of his “adult” writings, easier to grasp and comprehend. At the very least it’s a great family discussion starter, and not just because it is full of visuals including charts, graphs, and photos. If you don’t have time to read it, or want to hear his kid-specific thoughts, listen to him talk about the new book on WNYC, New York Public Radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show. No time to listen, even? Here are a few choice quotes:

“It needs to be cooked in the schools … As soon as you microwave food, you’re gonna be feeding processed food and processed food, invariably, has high levels of salt, sugar and fat. So I think it has got to be cooked food. It can be all different kinds of things. There is nothing wrong with giving them meat or a hamburger, some things like that, that’s real food. But it has to be really cooked, and obviously, more fresh fruits and vegetables. If we could give our schools another dollar per student per day, those schools can buy food from local farmers, give a tremendous boost to the local food economy and rural economy, and help with the kids’ health.”

And: “We also need to give them a little more time to eat … Look, if you’re giving kids chicken nuggets, tater tots and ten minutes to eat it in, you are basically saying, ‘Here’s how to be a fast food consumer.’ Kids need to sit down at a table with other kids, have a conversation, realize that food is about communion, it’s not just about fueling up, and it’s a really important life skill and daily ritual … I also think we need to do recess before lunch. Because it’s very hard to get kids to sit down if they’re gonna get out to the playground after.”

Food for thought.

October 23, 2009

Ball Play & Exploration

Another classic open-ended material that Whitney loves to explore is balls – - or really anything that rolls. We have all seen our babies fascinated by touching a ball and it taking off to the other side of the room—just batting at them creates dramatic effects (see video at RaisingWhit.com or http://bit.ly/26sGce). Once Whitney could better control her hand movement and ability to grasp and manipulate a ball, she explored bouncing it and making noises with it  (http://bit.ly/1b3him). Once toddling she began to toss it and pronounce “ball” (http://bit.ly/1SuU1t) and eventually she started kicking and throwing.

Again while our babies are mastering the world of balls there is lots happening in their learning and development:

During infancy, babies love just batting balls like they bat at blocks except now there is a big difference in what effects their actions have. Unlike a cube that slides when pushed, a ball rolls.  It moves in a continuous motion for a greater distance, often seeming to be magically alive! The dynamics of moving balls, once learned, will help your child make better predictions of effects and learn the physics of form. The ball also provides unparalleled opportunities for forming a social bond between two people who sit at a distance but feel connected by rolling a ball back and forth.  The distance confirms their separateness; the exchange of rolling confirms their togetherness.  And their turn taking is a precursor to the rules of dialogue and game playing and the concepts of inter-connectedness and fairness.

As toddlers get more sophisticated with their ball explorations they discover that any object can be dropped, but only balls can bounce and roll. The focus for your toddler will most likely be the motion of the ball. A ball gradually rolls to a stop, at first lively, then motionless.  The child eventually learns that some motions are autonomous (a pet hamster) and other motions are indirect (caused by an external action such as a push or toss).  They learn that balls on ramps do not need to be pushed, only released, yet are not alive, and don’t go around obstacles.  By playing with balls and ramps, children learn the subtle differences between the living and the physical worlds.

By two years old, your child will eventually learn the structure of action, that more tilt of a ramp means faster ball speed down (a direct functional relation- MORE tilt yields MORE speed) or inverse relation- more tilt means less distance needed up the ramp to get the ball moving quickly.  Your child will also learn to read space as a symbol of what has not yet happened, but will.  A long drop from a high position means the ball will bounce high.

So take advantage of all this rich exploration ball play affords. Watch for cues from your child that invite you to play. See what ball-action delights your child– the roll across the floor, the drop off the edge of a table, the movement only one way down an incline—and repeat that action yourself. Your response can be slightly slower and more deliberate to emphasize the cause and the effect.  After the play proceeds a few rounds, make a slight variation to see if your child picks up on new variations you can introduce, such as tilting the ramp less to make the ball roll more slowly or making a gap between planks to make the ball drop through. Balls and ramps provide children with a natural laboratory for science and physics – cause and effect, conditional causes, and how to increase or diminish an effect. Be their scientific assistant that helps create and reflect upon the causes and results of their experimentation. To see a host of ideas, eebee’s adventures has a great ball play adventure in its Exploring Real Stuff DVD currently available in stores like giggle or at www.eebee.com.