Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mom: Toddler Stats at 19 Months

Susan is officially closer to 2 than she is 1.  And once she reaches 2, I will probably update her stats a little less often (like maybe every three months).  She is having a huge developmental spurt, both in terms of her fine motor skills and her gross motor skills.  It is so amazing to watch this transformation.  I mean, we see her every day and even we can tell just how much she has changed from the previous week.  So we can imagine what it must be like for family members who only see her every few weeks.

We are really enjoying Fall around here.  It used to be my third favorite season (with winter in dead last) but now I would have to say that it is tied with spring for number 2.  Duke had its first Bye weekend at the beginning of the month so we enjoyed a fun family weekend and rode on the Pumpkin Patch Express at the Museum.  This Sunday, we are taking Susan to the State Fair with Uncle Philip and his main squeeze, Meagan. And then the Halloween festivities will begin.  The Cooks are coming, my parents will be here, and so will Philip and Meagan.  Susan will have quite the posse accompanying her at the 5.5 houses she will be trick or treating at.  After Halloween, Chris and I will get to enjoy THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS of Susan-free fun while she is off having a blast in Tupelo with my parents.  And let's face it - Thanksgiving and Christmas are really right around the corner.  And you know I am already planning for them!  We have lots of fun planned for the Cook family so stay tuned.

Weight:  Probably around 31 pounds.  She had a little tummy bug two weeks ago that really affected her appetite so I don't think she has gained any this month.

Height:  Just by looking at her, we can tell she has gotten taller so I would say somewhere around 35.5 inches?  She does not really fit on the changing table anymore but oh well.

Teeth:  18!  That's right folks - our 19 month old only has two more teeth to go.  And our biggest hope is that they are here by Christmas. Or at the very least her second birthday so that we can put all of this behind us.  Because yes, these molars take FOREVER to erupt and are more painful then the rest of them combined!

Clothing Size:  2T

Shoe Size:  7

Sleeping:  Oh how I miss sleep.  These molars must be really painful.  And they look painful.  I mean, everyone just take a second and feel your own molars.  Now imagine those big ol teeth erupting into your gums.  Would you be able to sleep after the Advil wears off?  So some mornings (last week) our little one was waking up very unhappy at the crack crack of dawn, aka between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  Every. single. morning.  Thankfully, she would also go back to sleep after a little breakfast and advil around 7 or 7:30.  But man, when she slept until 5:30 a.m. yesterday and today, Chris and I were doing the happy dance.  Nothing like waking up at 4 a.m. to let you appreciate 5:30 a.m.

Diaper Size: 6

Favorite Toys:  Books are still number one.  We go to the library every couple of weeks and get a new set and she loves it.  She also loves her Mega Blocks (mostly she loves to take the bag and dump all the blocks out).  She loves to "col col" (color) upstairs in the Play Room where her table and chairs are.  And That Damn Truck has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity lately as she loves to ride it (scoot around) downstairs on it.

Likes:  She likes to climb stairs whenever she has the opportunity, which is not a lot at our house.  We have a huge staircase that is pretty steep so we have gates at the top and bottom.  But she loves to climb them at my parents or outside on our back deck.  This is lovingly referred to as "stair duty" which got its name when I would climb the stairs at my grandparents house back in the day.  She also loves to go to our neighborhood park and swing, slide down the slide and climb the various ladders.  She likes to request songs now, so sometimes she will say "Row Row song" and start dancing or if you are singing a song she doesn't want to hear, she will say "No Star song."

Dislikes:  Susan does not like to leave the park.  She also does not like when we have to body block her from doing some dangerous activity, which is predominately sneaking off to climb into her booster seat at the kitchen table.  Many a fit and tantrum have been thrown over that but the newness seems to have worn off.  Either that, or the firmly worded message from her parents has finally sunk in.

Milestones:  She is saying complete sentences and loves to repeat every thing we say.  She seems to learn a new word every day.  She can count, which is what we taught her to help her be patient while she waited in her booster seat the 2.5 seconds for us to bring her food to her.  Her current counting sequence is "2, 3, 5."  She is still learning new animal sounds.  The cow says moo, the sheep says baa, the lion says roar, the snake says sssss, the duck says quack quack, the horse says neigh and this weekend, she learned what a turkey is and that the turkey says gobble gobble ("gah gah").  She is understanding concepts.  For example, she will walk into the dark bathroom and say "dark" and then point to the light switch and say "On."

We have also been three weeks "incident free."  That means she isn't biting anymore!  We are so relieved.  I guess it could still happen again but it is a relief to pick her up and not have to hear about any incidents.

Favorite Memory This Month:  The Pumpkin Patch Express.  We all love the Museum of Life and Science in Durham and have taken full advantage of our membership.  Susan loves to ride the Choo Choo, walk the Dinosaur Trail to see all the "Ninos" (Dinos), and she really loves the Farmyard.  The Museum also has special seasonal events like the Pumpkin Patch Express in October and Santa Train in December.  Members get to buy their tickets early.  We picked the first weekend in October because that was Duke's Bye weekend.  We have been reading about Pumpkins and Halloween with Susan since mid-September.  She loves Five Little Pumpkins, Happy Pumpkin Day Mouse, Clifford's First Halloween and Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch.  She points to all the "Pumpkas" and can even point and say "Ghost" when we read Five Little Pumpkins.   So she knew exactly what the pumpkins were as the train stopped at the pumpkin patch.  She was a little overwhelmed but we picked out a pumpkin and decorated it with stickers.  Then we played games.  Susan loved playing the ring toss with the spider.  We even got temporary tattoos.  It was a really fun day and I can't wait to do Santa Train in December.

Riding on the Pumpkin Patch Express!
Entering the pumpkin patch

Action shot - very difficult to get this busy 19 month old to slow down!
Does everyone see my pumpka?
Decorating the bag was as much fun as decorating the pumpkas!
Playing Halloween Corn Hole with Dada
Having a blast with the Spider Toss
I bet I can hold all three if I try!
Temporary tattoo!
Family Photo Op
Time to leave - we had a great time!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dad: The disturbing body image trend among girls

According to a number of eating disorder experts, there is a disturbing new body image trend among girls and young women seeking to emulate the physiques of wafer-thin supermodels and television personalities. In trying to reach a new “standard” of attractiveness, girls are now focusing their attempts at dieting and exercise to achieve a benchmark known as the “thigh gap.” The thigh gap refers to how much space – if any – a woman has between her upper thighs. The more space inside that triangle, the thinner the girl and, so the thinking goes, the more attractive she is.

The problem is that this particular region of a woman’s body is affected by a number of factors outside of body fat, specifically the width of the pelvis and angle of the femurs, two things that cannot be altered without some insane surgical procedure that I’m certain is illegal in most countries. Aspiring for this so-called thigh gap is an impossible goal for most and presents a number of health concerns for those attempting it. Sadly, however, the concept of thigh gap is nothing new. It has taken many forms over the years, focusing on the girth of various body parts and how reaching a certain measurement, number on a scale or body-part-to-body-part-ratio is proof that a person – man or woman – is certifiably attractive.

The first time I heard of such a thing was in my first high school English class, taught by a woman who, for the sake of pseudo-anonymity, I will call Mrs. H. The image I remember of her was a woman in her mid to late 40s who probably lived a bit of a wild streak in her youth and had settled on the noble profession of giving life advice to high-schoolers and poorly masking it as teaching.

Ms. H had three things she liked to talk about: 1) her high school ex-boyfriend who her parents couldn’t stand because he drove a motorcycle and smoked cigarettes; 2) how she meditated every morning with her cat in her lap, and how we should all do the same; and 3) how once upon a time she had a “diamond shape.” The diamond shape, Ms. H told our class of impressionable high school freshmen, was a measure of a woman’s physical perfection. If when a woman stood with her feet together, the contour of her legs opened at three specific spots to form a diamond – between the ankles, top of the calves and between her upper thighs – she had a perfect figure.

Unfortunately, being a 14-year-old boy already soaking up every bit of high school knowledge I could, I believed her. I’m sure my female classmates did the same, and I assume many of them went home that afternoon and looked in the mirror, only to discover that, sadly, they didn’t have Ms. H’s coveted diamond shape and were, thus, imperfect. Meanwhile, I added “diamond shape” to my ever-increasing list of things I thought made a girl “hot.”

It didn’t occur to me until many years later how screwed up this was. Here was this grown woman telling a room full of 14 and 15-year-old boys and girls – who, by the way, were starting to deal with their own insecurities about their bodies – that if a woman wasn’t genetically predisposed to having this arbitrary measure of sex appeal, then she wasn’t perfect and probably never would be. If my daughter ever comes home from school telling me her teacher said something like that, my response will be, “Well your teacher is full of sh*t,” followed by the immediate scheduling of a parent-teacher conference.

The thigh gap measure has gained national attention recently because of how social media has perpetuated the standard among females. A quick Twitter search of “thigh gap” revealed a handful of tweets by women (nay, girls) either bragging that they had achieved thigh gap status or lamenting that their thighs still touched. Several of their followers either congratulated them or told them to keep working at it.

Social media, however, is not the problem. While Twitter and other sites make it is easier to track such trends and document the shocking regularity in which they are accepted and pursued by America’s youth, these arbitrary standards of attractiveness have always been prevalent. Furthermore, they’re not exclusive among girls. They’re the teasers on magazine covers (“Add two inches to your biceps in a week!”), and they’re the slow-motion beach scenes on television, rife with narrow hips and six packs. They can be passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, father to son, mother to son and father to daughter; from sister to sister, brother to brother, and so on. Perhaps this very instant, a teacher trying to show how hip she is telling a room full of high-schoolers how hot she used to be and how, if they’re lucky, they might someday be too.

Parents can’t possibly shield their children from being bombarded by products and images extolling the aesthetic virtues of straight blonde hair, Schwarzenegger-esque deltoids or a proportionate bust-waist-hip ratio. My daughter is only 18 months old, and my wife and I already fear for the day she comes home crying because somebody said her nose is too big, or that her ankles are fat, or whatever terrible insults come out of the mouths of children who reach that challenging time in their lives where they begin to notice such things.

What parents can do, however, is instill in their children from a very young age that what they think of themselves is far more valuable than what others think, and that they should define beauty for themselves and not look to the latest edition of Cosmo or the dozens of muscle magazines out there to define it for them. The people on magazine covers and television aren’t real … yes, as people they’re real, but the final product portrayed in print or on the screen is the result of hours of photography, makeup, digital alterations and who knows what other tricks of the trade.

I’m not immune to any of this, and I imagine few people are. My wife and I both work out regularly, which is motivated, to some degree, by a vanity-driven desire to look good for each other. But when talking about these things in front of our daughter, we try to be conscious of how we present it. I don’t want her to think the entire purpose of exercise is to look good for others, and that by lifting weights my end goal is to look like The Rock. I simply hope to impart to her that it’s more important to be healthy than thin, that it’s better to be strong than “ripped,” and that a boy (or girl) who doesn’t want to talk to her because her thighs are a little wider than (s)he’d like is a person on whom she shouldn’t waste her time.

I hope we can teach her that her personal concept of beauty should be entirely her own and not influenced by what she sees on the magazine stands, so that one day when her friends stand around and compare who can see the most daylight between their thighs, she’ll just laugh because, frankly, who cares?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mom: Tips for Surviving Cold Season with an Infant/Toddler

The cold and flu season is upon us.  With a kid in daycare, I am approaching this season with a strong sense of foreboding.  Last year, I caught every cold Susan brought home, had a couple of sinus infections, and experienced my finest hour overnight in the hospital as a result of a skull fracture and concussion.  The latter was not caused by a cold (instead by the stomach bug she brought home), but the rest were all rhinovirus-related. 

However, it is tough to feel sorry for yourself when your kid is suffering so much.  And I say that because we, the adults, can take Nyquil, Dayquil, Sudafed, Robitussin or whatever we need to treat the symptoms that are making us feel so yucky.  What can your infant/toddler take?  NOTHING. Well almost nothing.  Really there are no cold medicines that a child under four can take, but there are a few things you can do for your kid to help her feel a little more comfortable, especially at night.

1.       Vapo Rub.  We actually used an entire jar of this stuff last winter.  After a few days of a runny nose, your child will likely develop a cough.  It is so pitiful to hear your baby coughing all night through the monitor.  So whether your sweet little one sleeps in footie pajamas or regular pajamas, if they have a cough (or you think might start coughing), rub vapo rub on his feet and cover his feet with socks or footie pajamas.  Also slather some vapo rub on his chest too. But putting it on his feet and covering his feet up is what will help the most with the cough. Why does this work? I don't know. Probably science.

2.     Prop his crib.  We used some of our old yearbooks (two or three) to prop Susan’s mattress in her crib.  Her crib basically stayed propped all winter.  Sometimes in the night, she would reverse herself (position herself "downhill" so to speak).  We could tell because she would start hacking and coughing suddenly in the middle of the night.  One of us (Chris) would then go upstairs to turn her back "uphill."  She never really woke up during these rotations, and they were essential if we wanted to go back to sleep.

3.      Johnson and Johnson Soothing Vapor Bath.  This stuff was great for bath time.  It just helped make her feel comfortable.

4.      Humidifier.  There is a lot of debate about cold air v. warm air humidifiers.  My advice is this:  if your kid is still in the crib (and will probably be in the crib for a little longer), go ahead and get a warm air humidifier.  We used Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier all last winter.  I liked it because I could also add Vapo Steam to the water (1/2 tbsp.) to help her room stay nice and mentholy.  We kept it on the floor in the middle of her room.  It was quiet and worked great.  We will use it again this winter, unless it looks like she is about to climb out of her crib.  Then we will switch to the cold air humidifier.  We used a cold air humidifier this summer (the warm air really does warm their bedroom up too), and it was obvious that the warm air was much better for congestion.  It was just more effective.  

5.      Saline spray and snozzle.  Hopefully you saved your snot sucker that the hospital sent home with you.  Susan has a love-hate relationship with this thing.  Sometimes she is very patient and puts up no fuss.  Other times, she screams and flails as if I were pulling her toenails off one by one (diva).  Typically with colds, we spray one shot of saline spray into each nostril, count to five, and then snot suck.  Sometimes this works out better than others.

6.     Be sure to have lots of tissues handy.  We also ended up buying a couple of bulk boxes of the good Kleenex with lotion and sent them for her classroom.  All those infants just looked so pitiful with their raw noses, and those terrible cardboard tissues weren’t making it any better.  So be sure to have a couple of the really soft Kleenex with Lotion or Puffs with Lotion tissues ready for cold season.  The tissues are for the parents too, but mostly you will want to keep a couple in your pockets, purse, car, etc., because your little one will be a faucet of snot.

7.     Water (or Pedialyte).  Hopefully your little one likes water.  It's Susan's other drink when she isn’t enjoying “molk” at mealtimes.  Keeping your bebe hydrated during a cold is essential.  I would steer clear of sugary juices and stick with water.  Or you can mix a sippee cup with half water, half Pedialyte.  But keep baby hydrated.  It will help get rid of that cold faster.

Lastly, if this will be your first winter with sweet baby, you will want to watch for ear infections.  First major colds can often lead to the first ear infection.  Symptoms will range from grabbing ears, to screaming bloody murder when lying flat (like a diaper change), general crankiness and fever.  It’s pitiful but if your sweet one does end up with an infection, you will be thankful for those antibiotics that help her feel better. 

And for parents, seriously do a lot of hand washing, for you and for baby.  It really will help.  And go ahead and start taking your Vitamin C supplement.  We are.