Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Felt Pouf Mobile

I decided to make a mobile to hang over the changing table.  Initially, I thought I'd make a homemade version of the ugly doll mobile I saw at compassionate comfort's blog.  However, I hit a creative wall and didn't have any creatures I wanted to make out of felt.  Instead, I turned to a Japanese craft book for felt.
In the book, they used stacks of small felt pieces to make 3-dimensional "poufs" that reminded me of the tissue paper flowers I already have hanging above the crib.  I decided to make miniature felt poufs for the mobile to mirror the large paper ones hanging over the crib.
I couldn't read the book's directions since they were in Japanese, so I figured out my own way of sewing the felt together.  I'll cover this in tomorrow's tutorial for the mobile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saving money when shopping for baby clothes

Last month I wrote about my exploration of children's consignment stores in Seattle, but how much can it save you?  Being the first in my family to have a baby, I wasn't sure that I'd have anyone to hand clothes down to me so I felt the need to stock up on baby clothes, but the prices can be quite steep.  Since my initial frenzy of buying basics like onesies and footed pajamas, my friends with baby girls have very generously passed on beautiful clothes to me.  This is, of course, the best way to stock your baby's wardrobe if you're lucky.  Now, when I'm at the consignment store, I try to find the best deals possible.
Some examples are shown above.  The first tunic/dress is from Tea.  If you were to buy this new, it would cost approximately $29 or so.  The middle romper is from Hanna Andersen and would probably cost $20 or more new.  The last is from Oilily, the priciest of the three brands, and would run probably $40 new. That would be a total of $89 or so plus tax.  Because these were gently worn by someone else's baby and also off-season (end of summer sale) at the store, this cost me less than $15 total.  That's a savings of over $75 or 84% off retail!  Of course, if you have an aversion to used clothing, you could probably buy these 3 pieces in more generic versions new at the sale rack at Carter's, but aren't these just adorable?  I'm also hoping, I'll be able to trade them in at a good deal for more clothes down the line.
  Another alternative to consignment stores, are outlet stores.  Thanks to Seattle Moms Deal Finder, I found out that Kate Quinn Organics has an outlet store and showroom close by in Kirkland.  Even better, they had a summer special where items were buy one, get one half off.  The regular price of a pants and top would be around $44.00.  Pants by themselves would cost around $30.  For the 3 pants and 1 top above, you'd spend over $100 retail.  At the outlet, most pants and shirts were marked down to $7-12.  With the buy one, get one 1/2 off deal, I spent around $20 for the items above and they were brand new.  Some were even from the current season of clothing - not that the baby will care.  That's a savings of $80 or 80% off retail!  Also, if the baby ends up not using them, I may be able to sell them for more at consignment if they still have the tags attached.
   Again, you could spend even less if you went to a thrift store, a regular consignment shop, or found a mega sale at places like Carter's.  However, if you can't resist getting a few adorable name brand outfits for baby, it's good to know you can do it and still save some money.  After all, the baby will probably only be wearing it a handful of times.  Now, I need to figure out the best system of organization so all these cute clothes actually get worn when baby comes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Retrospective: Our first year in Seattle

In preparation for moving over to a computer with a smaller hard drive, I've been trying to streamline my iphoto library, which is somewhere around 45 gb!  I was deep in 2008 today, and inadvertantly went into 2009 as well.  Here are some highlights from our first year in Seattle.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tutorial: Re-covering dining room chairs

 Now that I can't think of what else to do to the nursery, I finally faced a project I meant to start several weeks ago - re-covering the dining room chairs.  Here's a rough tutorial if you're interested in trying this at home:

1.  Examine your chairs to see how to separate the seat from the chair.  On ours, there was a screw on either side connecting the seat to the rest of the chair.

2.  Separate the seat from the rest of the chair and measure it to determine how much fabric you'll need to buy.  (I did a rough estimate and bought 3 yards of upholstery fabric, which was more than enough to cover 6 chairs.)

3.  Choose a fabric to cover the chairs.  I decided I wanted something less itchy than the original herringbone wool and I also didn't want to spend a lot of money since I wasn't sure how good I'd be at re-covering the chairs.  I bought more of a japanese floral print that only cost $6.99/yard at IKEA that I had previously used to make a pillow cover.

4.  Use the old fabric as a pattern to make your new covers.  When I bought the fabric, I thought it would just be a matter of cutting out 6 pieces (1 per chair) and stapling them on.  Then I looked more closely at the chairs and realized the fabric had a seam and was made of 2 pieces of fabric - yikes!  Taking off the old fabric was tricky and it involved using a screwdriver and pliers to rip out at least 50 staples.  (Thanks to my husband for doing most of that work.)  I decided to take off just one cover to use as a template, rather than spend the time removing all of them.

5.  Use kraft paper to make a pattern using the old cover as your guide.  I gave myself roughly a 1/2 inch border to account for seams and the fact that I planned on putting the new covers over the old ones.  In addition to the pattern for the top, I needed to cut out a long strip of fabric for the sides of the cushion.  I decided it was easier to just measure the dimensions, rather than cutting out a pattern for that portion since it was basically a long rectangle. 

6.  Use your pattern to cut your fabric.  I was able to cut 3 chair tops across the width of the fabric and was also able to cut the long strips across the width as well.  I cut out one set and sewed it together to make sure my pattern was correct before cutting out the other 5 sets.  To speed this up, I folded the fabric over so I could cut 2 chair tops at a time.  I somehow lost count and ended up cutting an extra one.  I used pinking shears to cut the strips of fabric to prevent too much fraying, and used one strip as my template for the others.  (It's tedious measuring a 50 inch straight line!)

7.  If your cushion consists of multiple pieces of fabric, pin them together and then sew it together.  The trickiest part was sewing around the curved edges.

8.  Before you start stapling the fabric to the new cushion, make sure it is centered.  (I didn't do that with the first one, so my seam is a little lop-sided).  Alternate stapling the sides and do the corners last.  The staple gun I'd borrowed for the task wasn't powerful enough, but my husband suggested I just pound the staples flat using a hammer, which worked out.

9.  Re-attach the newly covered seats to the chair.  Before I could do this, I also needed to poke a hole in the new cover for the screws to fit through.  I just used a small pair of scissors and the screw to do this.
The newly covered chair looked almost as well-tailored a the old one, which was good enough for me!  Not bad for my first try.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: Practical Tips

Medina has a nice re-cap at the end for those who want the Cliffs Notes version:

- Leave the baby alone at first
- Take in an extra 300 calories a day
- Eat fruits and veggies
- Do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day
- Reduce the stress in your life
- Have a social structure of support (friends, family, other parents - PEPS

- Check-in with your spouse twice a day
- Schedule sex regularly
- Develop the empathy reflex with your partner
- Reconcile deliberately
- Balance the housework load
- Address your sticking points (see John and Julie Gottman)

Smart Baby: Seeds and Soil
- breast feed for one year
- talk to your baby a lot - describe everything you see
- create a creative space
- play opposite day (see Ellen Galinsky)
- make play plans (Tools of the Mind)
- don't hyper parent
- take a critical look at your own behavior - and make changes as needed
- reward hard work (vs. talent or intelligence)
- trade for digital time (with time reading a book, etc...)

Happy Baby: Seeds and Soil
- chart your child's emotional landscape (make a list)
- help your child make friends of the same age
- speculate on another's point of view (to help children also practice seeing things from someone else's perspective)
- read together
- develop an empathy reflex with your children
- practice verbalizing your feelings
- save up for 10 years of music lessons
- guide your child toward a $50,000 career

Moral Baby
- have clear, reasonable, and unambiguous rules
- deliver rules in a consistently warm and accepting environment
- reinforce good behaviors with praise
- explain the rationale behind rules
- punishments should be firm, immediate, reliable, safe, and tolerant

Brain Rules for Baby: Moral Baby

According to research, kids are consciously lying by the age of three.  By 4 years old, they will about once every 2 hours.  By the age of 6, the frequency of lies will increase to once very 90 minutes. 

The stages of moral development
1.  First, kids are just trying to avoid punishment
2.  Then, they start to consider the social consequences of actions (peer acceptance)
3.  Finally, they begin to make decisions based on moral principles - parent will need to help guide kids to this 3rd stage

How to support the development of a conscience (or moral awareness)
1.  Provide clear, consistent rules and rewards that are realistic
     - The hard part: be warm and accepting when administering rules
     - Praise kids when they follow the rules (reinforcing positive behavior)
     - Praise the absence of a bad behavior
2.  Provide swift punishment, and be firm and consistent
     - The hard part: administer it in a warm atmosphere - what does that mean?  (My husband's suggestion is to not look at it as punishing, but as enforcing boundaries)
     - Punishment by application: Let them make mistakes and learn from them
     - Punishment by removal: giving a timeout
3.  Explain the rules: When punishing, make sure you explain why immediately so they understand why they are being punished - this helps kids internalize the morality you are teaching them

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crafts of the week

I've been spending some time every week crafting with friends and by myself.  This week, I finally got around to turning some cute alphabet fabric I found at Pacific Fabrics into a simple blanket.  I was inspired by a Purl Bee project, but made some modifications.  Instead of using fleece, I used some flannel I had left over from another project.  I also sewed the rickrack on in the same way I'd been attaching ribbons to taggie blankets since I didn't have excess fabric to work with.  I'm happy with how it turned out even though the rick rack wasn't quite centered.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The soil for a happy baby

A strong bond or attachment between baby and parent is important for them to grow up happy and leads to less emotional conflict, more empathy, and better grades.  How parents deal with their child's emotional life has the greatest effect on their future happiness.

6 Parental Behaviors for Dealing with Emotions
1.  A demanding but warm parenting style (authoritative) that involves good communication with your children
     a.  Responsive: give kids support, warmth, and acceptance; communicate affection (rather than rejection)
     b.  Demanding: control behavior by making and enforcing rules consistently; clearly explain rules and encourage independence while still complying with family values

2.  Comfort with your own emotions: setting an example for kids so they can learn to be comfortable with theirs

3.  Tracking your child's emotions (watch, listen and respond) without smothering or helicoptering

4.  Verbalizing emotions: Be able to label your feelings and teach your child to label theirs - this teaches self-soothing which helps them focus and have successful relationships
     a.  Surprisingly, studying music for at least 10 years starting before the age of 7 can help children more easily recognize emotional cues

5.  Running towards emotions - parents who do this:
     a.  Don't judge emotions
     b.  Acknowledge the reflexive nature of emotions (rather than denying/ignoring their existence)
     c.  Know that behavior is a choice, but an emotion is not - help kids to understand that they have a choice in how they express their emotions
     d.  See a crisis as a teachable moment

6.  Two tons of empathy: verbalize a child's feelings, validate them, and show you understand  - this works because empathy calms people down

Next up: a moral baby...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The seeds for a happy baby

When we say we want our kids to be happy - what does that mean?  I think it has different meanings for different parents.  I think for my parents, it meant that some day we would all be doctors making a good living, which didn't happen much to their disappointment.

Here are three different types of happiness:
1.  Emotional (I think this is the kind that's most popular with the non-Asian/tiger mom parenting crowd - i.e. most of non-immigrant America.)
2.  Moral (I think this is the kind my grandmother always wishes me, since she prays for me every Sunday in church.)
3.  Judgemental (meaning being happy about or for something)

Where does happiness come from?  George Vaillant, a psychologist, researched this topic and his answer:  "The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."  Friendships, or close relationships with family and friends, are the best predictor of happiness.

Other behaviors that predict happiness:
1.  Altruistic acts
2.  Making lists of things for which you are grateful (I started doing this in high school - my current list is on the main page of the blog and is called my "Living Like Weasels" list after the Annie Dillard essay.)
3.  Cultivating an "attitude of gratitude"
4.  Sharing new experiences with someone close to you
5.  Readily forgiving the people that are close to you, rather than holding a grudge

Monday, August 08, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The soil for a smart baby

If only 50% of IQ is genetic, that means that what we do as parents to nurture our children DOES make a difference!  However, before anyone's brain can focus on learning, they must feel safe in their environment.  This is good to remember as a teacher too.  If kids are worried about the teacher getting angry, they can't focus on learning. 

4 Basic Parenting Actions
1.  Breastfeeding: Breast milk contains important salts and vitamins.  It can prevent ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections.  Breastfed babies, on average, score higher on cognitive tests and get better grades, especially in in reading and writing.  Some ingredients that breast milk has that are needed by baby are taurine (amino acid needed for neural development) and omega-3 fatty acids.

2.  Talking to your baby: The more parents talk to their children (even early on), the better they did at reading, spelling, and writing when they start school - and the higher their IQ.  The variety of words spoken, their length, and complexity is nearly as important as the number of words spoken. Giving positive feedback is also important - in the form of interaction (eye contact, imitating, laughter, and facial expressions).  Reward a baby's language attempts with more attention. 
     Start talking to them as soon as they are born.  2,100 words per hour is recommended - which is considered a moderate rate of conversation.  "Parantese" (speaking in a high pitched tone with a sing-song voice) is easier for babies to understand because each word and the sound of each vowel is distinct.    

3.  Guided play: Make time for open-ended play that focuses on impulse control and self-regulation.  This allows for the development of creativity, language, and problem solving.  This also helps to reduce stress, and improves memory and social skills.  One example of this kind of play is mature dramatic play, and a school program called "Tools of the Mind."  (In this program, students make a play plan and they practice pretending in a creative environment.   

4.  Praising effort rather than accomplishment or IQ: High performers are willing to put in the effort to sustain their focus, control impulses, and delay gratification.  Telling kids "their smart" doesn't help them to understand what they need to do to be successful.  They will also begin to see mistakes as failures, rather than something to learn from.  Praising hard work helps kids have a growth-mindset, rather than a fixed mindset.  This will help them to see a mistake as a problem to solve, and will lead to them spending more time working on difficult tasks, rather than giving up when things get challenging.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The seeds of a smart baby

Smart Baby: Seeds

In this section of the book, Medina goes into the history of IQ tests and the study of brains and intelligence.  One thing he covers is the fact that your IQ is not a fixed number, but can vary with your circumstances and environment.  The genetic contribution to intelligens is about 50%.  Medina sees intelligence as more than IQ.  LIke Howard Gardner, he believes there are multiple facets to it.

7 Basic ingredients of Intelligence

Friday, August 05, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Wednesday

After an early morning doctor's appointment, I went to nearby Beacon Hill to a most delicious filipino bakery, Delite.  They were already out of biko (a sweet rice cake with a caramel topping), but I was able to get some banana-q's (plantains rolled in sugar and deep fried) and suman (sticky rice cooked with coconut milk in a banana leaf).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Tuesday

I spent the morning trying to clean and organize the living room a bit in preparation for the new couch being delivered later this week.  Above is the before shot of our coffee table's drawers.  A surprising number of pens had accumulated in both drawers - I think they're all the ones that have gone missing from the kitchen.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: Relationship (Happy Marriage, Happy Baby)

Moving on to the next chapter in the book:

"Parenthood hastens marital decline."  The biggest predictor of marital bliss is whether both partners agreed they wanted to have kids.

The emotional environment of babies affect the development of their nervous system.  Babies are extraordinarily sensitive to what takes place around them and are constantly learning.  They also seek safety.  This was scientifically proven using some remarkably harsh experiments involving rhesus monkeys being taken away from their mothers and given surrogate robotic mothers.  Scientists also discovered that Romanian orphans (in the 1990's) adopted after the age of four months, were not able to fully recover from the stress they had been exposed to.  One effect that stress or hostile environments have on babies is making them unable to regulate their own emotions.  Eventually, they will grow up to demonstrate more aggression and antisocial behavior.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Monday

When I finally got out of bed, Maude was napping in the sunny living room.

Brain Rules for Baby: Pregnancy

Last fall, I went to hear John Medina speak about his book Brain Rules.  That was before I found out I was pregnant.  Now that we're expecting baby Nam, I wanted to read his companion book, Brain Rules for Baby.  I knew my husband would appreciate his advice since he focuses on solutions that are supported with research.  He gave some clear guidelines for what we can do as parents to raise a child that is well-prepared to face the world.  I've included links to his website too.

Medina de-bunks a lot of myths that aren't supported by research like...
- Playing Mozart to your womb will improve their math scores - all it does is make them more familiar with Mozart
- Playing language DVDs to infants will help expand their vocabulary - they need to hear and interact with an actual person speaking the language!
- Telling your children their smart will help them gain confidence - this one's the kicker for me as I often see this as a teacher and know from experience that kids who "think" they are smart aren't always willing to work when they face a challenge, versus kids who learn early on that working hard is what brings success!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Sunday

I'm in week 36 of my first pregnancy.  I'm glad I've made this far and hope it continues to go as well as it has been.  It feels like a bit of a waiting game now, although I'm sure there are still plenty of things I need to do.