Friday, November 30, 2007

FYI -Product recalls (again and again and again...)

Pacifiers that choke, confetti that is full of lead, toys that kill, jewelry that is full of lead, clothes that strangle -nope I'm not making this stuff up (I'm not that imaginative). Take a look at this site for the latest recall info put out by the US Govt.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ooo la la... Little Man's Paris wishes

Paris seems to be a paradise of shopping. I found some very nice things for the Little Man -take a look:

This is an awesome bookshelf that doubles as a good house or garage for all those lost toys

If I had seen this cute crib when Little Man was smaller I definitely would have snagged it (look at the heart border)
This big and little chair set would look very good for a reading room and at 99 Euro it is a bargain!
I've got more to post for tomorrow -stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Toys: What's in the Bag

We have been traveling like maniacs lately and we aren't the only ones. It seems like a lot of our friends are also going to travel with their little ones (yeah!). So I've been getting a lot of questions lately and one of these has been "what should we take?"

I'll take this as a good opportunity to share with you the Little Man's bag of toy goodies with explanation:

  1. cloth embroidered bag -it is distinctively for baby, doesn't make noise like plastic, can be washed when too dirty and has a draw string to keep it all in. I've left this bag on a plane before (by accident because we were trying to get to a connecting flight) and when we arrived in our new plane we realized we forgot and begged the crew to call and see if they could find it. The desk agent said, "People loose toys all the time -we really can't tell what stuff is yours." When I described the bag they found it straight away and drove it to our new flight -this is why it pays to have this bag (or any other distinctive bag)! Purchased at Fragonard in Paris.
  2. Toy plane -comes with lights and sound for when they need to be distracted. Can be purchased on almost any flight (trust me it is worth the money)
  3. Matryoshka dolls (aka nesting dolls) -any cheap set will do. If you're in Moscow they will cost you about 10 US Dollars or less on the street. They are good for playing where is the paper wad or for making a rattle. Take only 2 dolls so that you can keep track of the pieces.
  4. Soft small ugly ball -once you get to your destination or any open space you can watch them run around
  5. Magna Doodle -or any magnetic board for quiet and no mess fun. Show them how to draw or play tic tac toe
  6. Small board books -if all else fails have them pick out stuff and invent their own story
  7. Giotto Bebe crayons - these little wooden crayons beat the pants off of traditional crayons because they don't melt (good for when you go to the Middle East or anywhere else with strong sun). The color is better and it comes with a sharpener that really works. Can be purchased in Italy. If you can't get them then take only 3 crayons -red, blue and yellow so that you can avoid too much of a mess and to keep track of them.
  8. Clay (or play dough) -when all else fails make a little worms and then use these cheap fake scissors to cut them up with.
  9. A bus or car -anything with wheels because children like to push things around (hey, better this than you right?)
  10. A cheap pencil case (with zipper) to keep cheap pads of paper from your hotel and the crayons. This is also a good distraction to see a toddler try and open the zipper.
Remember to keep a magic number (7, 10 or what ever number) of things in the bag so that you don't leave any toys behind and so that your child can count out how many things go in and how many go out.

I've shown you mine now tell me what would you pack?

This stinks! Baby Changing Stations

In this day and age you would think that every public bathroom would have a baby changing station in both the mens' and womens' bathrooms -especially in AIRPORTS! Don't get me wrong, I love it and prefer it if there are family rooms but sometimes those are all taken (or not even offered).

Here is my BAD list of airports that don't offer equal rights in baby changing stations (not too surprisingly these are also nightmare airports because of the long lines and slow employees):
JFK Airport, NYC
Naples International Airport, Italy

Anyone else have one to add?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Allergies or Eczema?

This is Part 2 of my conversation with my sister-in-law Nicole about my niece Claudia, who has severe allergies to peanuts. She's the first in my family to have such severe allergies to nuts. In this part I asked Nicole how she found out it was an allergy and not some other ailment. I think you'll find this very interesting.

We had such a hard time identifying Claudia’s food allergies. When we called the doctor to ask what we can do about it, he said the magic word “ECZEMA.” We had to change the clothes detergent, use only non-soap based bars, change shampoo, use cream to keep the skin moist, etc, etc. Many of those things we already did and I felt like we got nowhere with his advice. So we became detectives and basically kept track of everything she ate, washing detergents, etc. Her problem was mostly at night; she could not fall asleep because of the itch on her back. She looked like she was scratched by a cat. I have no idea how she reached in some areas of her backside. She was 2 years old at the time. For about 3-4 months it affected us terribly. We had to stay with her at night rubbing her back for hours.

It was one day that it occurred to us that she drank a LOT of milk before bedtime, after bath. Sure enough, after the story and ten minutes into her nap she would wake up scratching like crazy. I called the doctor and complained about her skin again, and also mentioned that when she was about 24 months old her face became swollen when she tried a homemade mayonnaise. At the time I gave her Benadryl and immediately the swelling on her face disappeared. It was scary but I suspected the homemade mayo may have had something in it (like peanut oil) that Claudia might be sensitive to. The person who made it said it didn’t have any peanuts. But his kitchen was not nut free and it could have been contaminated by other nuts. Our own house was not nut free at the time. Usually people say they have no peanuts in the food but do not think of other nuts like pistachios, cashews, etc.

When she was about 2 years old the doctor gave her a RAST test, by taking a blood sample. The results of the blood test proved that her body response was an elevated level of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) when she ate milk, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts and some tree nuts. The nurse I talked to told me to avoid those foods to prevent the itch on her skin. What am I supposed to feed a 2 year old who needs close to 500 mg calcium a day? Luckily, Claudia liked cheese and yogurt and she had no external reactions from eating them. To this day she likes spinach,rice, fish and chicken which are high in calcium.

Anyway, a little after she turned 3 we got her tested again. This time we asked her pediatrician for an allergy specialist where Claudia was given the Skin Prick Test. The test lasts awhile. It was terrible. She cried the whole time and screamed, “Mommy, help me”; I had to hold her arms so she could not touch her back. She reacted to peanuts and tree nuts violently. The other foods seemed to cause no harm. Hallelujah! For half a year we had a nightmare in our hands. No bread, no milk, eggs, etc. I made her 3rd birthday cake wheat, egg, milk AND soy free. I learned how to make wheat free pizza, pasta and she developed well. These days she can eat almost anything; I am a happy mom, except when we go to birthday parties, or when we travel, or when she gets candy from her best friend who is Chinese and can eat peanuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she wanted to.

We’ve never had any anaphylactic shock, but we do carry Epipens (epinephrine injection) everywhere we go. Also, we carry Benadryl (antihistamine) when we travel by plane, attend parties or play dates. Claudia is aware of her allergy and she tells everybody who gives her food about it. We are used to it now but for others it is very easy to forget, especially when she looks and acts as normal and energetic as she is.

Do any of you (my dear readers) have questions for Nicole? Feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sick of Chinese products

Another terrible story of bad or dangerous products coming from China are popping up daily. From date rape drug dots to salmonella laden food additives -when will this madness end?

I'll tell you when -when we stop buying cheap crap. Let's face it: the only reason most of us have this stuff is because the price is very attractive (even if the quality is dubious). We really need to start considering the longterm effects of buying cheap stuff from manufacturers who are looking to cut all corners -even at the risk of your child's health. So stop buying!

I can hear you already -"So what do we do now? Whittle our own toys?" That might not be such a bad idea after all. Did you know you can whittle a bar of soap? Also, if you go to a craft store there are millions of ideas for toys. Did you know that they sell clay that dries -you and your child can make your own actions figures/dolls/cars.

One of my fondest memories from childhood is when I made a doll house from a cardboard box -with an attached shoe box garage too! It is about time we start using our imaginations -show your children that things can be made instead of bought. This lesson will serve them well later in life after all not all things worth having are purchased.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Flying with Nuts -Part 1

A big thank you to my my sister-in-law who submitted this article. It is important enough that I think we should all be keenly aware what our children or their friends might be or are allergic to. Unfortunately, allergies can be life threatening. We count ourselves lucky because Claudia has never had an anaphylactic shock.

About a month ago we traveled to Romania to visit my Romanian side of the family and to introduce my husband to my relatives. Our daughter Claudia, age 4, is a veteran flyer by now, she has been traveling extensively since she was 1 1/2 years old.

I never thought of my daughter’s food allergy as a handicap or anything, but when trying to book through Orbitz I realized they have no options for people with life threatening allergies. They are concerned with vegan, low fat, low calories, etc. Their computer system needs to be updated to present times, when more and more people have diet restrictions because of health hazards; the diet preferences based on culture and religion, while important, are not as significant as having to avoid allergens in such a confined space as the passenger cabin of an airplane.

We had a scare on the Delta flight coming back home to US. From the start, the crew looked less than promising. From Bucharest to New York the flight is 10.5 hours long. We took crackers and a few other snacks for our daughter, just in case. The first snack served by the airline was peanuts. Bad for us, but a lot of people like peanuts. We politely refused the little packets of peanuts and told the flight attendants that our daughter is highly allergic and we will not have any.

Delta flight attendants are aware of the growing peanut allergy problem and the airline even has a policy of “safe buffer”. To make a long story short, it works like this: on another flight which served peanuts, the passengers in the row in front of us and we were spared of the peanut snack. But this was not the case on the return flight to New York. Smelling the peanuts around us, my heart pounded and I tried not to look worried; both my husband and I were watching my daughter’s face in case any sign of rash or swelling appeared around her eyes or neck. Finally the air cleared and we waited patiently for our next meal. For Claudia we chose a simple and safe dish: pasta.

We watched 3 movies, took a nap and played games to pass the time. We got really hungry and we anticipated our next meal with excitement: pizza. The description on the menu said nothing about nuts so we were hopeful Claudia will have a nice meal. When the food came, we were presented with a sandwich instead. We asked the flight attendants (again) about any nuts in the sandwich. I really feel foolish sometime when I keep asking the same question; but I owe it Claudia to make sure her food is safe. Answer being negative, we launched into devouring our sandwiches. My husband and I really liked the bread; it was a gourmet sandwich with blue cheese, tomato and basil on a bread baguette. Very yummy and we felt good to serve it to Claudia as well. However, she is not very keen on blue cheese (neither were some of the other passengers, we heard a few objections about the taste); so she only had a bite of bread before she started complaining about having an itchy mouth. I thought it was because she doesn’t like the blue cheese, she doesn’t even want to eat the bread, so I dismissed her by saying: “It is probably the blue cheese and basil you taste, please try another piece of bread”. At the same time I was pronouncing the words; my brain is processing the ingredients in the sandwich again: cheese, tomato, basil. Almost simultaneously with my husband we screamed the words: “Pesto Sauce!”. Before I go on about the panic that set in and I describe how quickly we found the Benadryl and gave it to her, I will explain the ingredients of pesto sauce, which is used in so many gourmet sandwiches: basil, oil, garlic, parmesan and walnuts or pine nuts. NUTS!! The antihistamine worked like a miracle, the itchiness in Claudia’s mouth stopped; we wrapped our unfinished sandwiches, placed them on a table far from her and waited. The entire experience had exhausted us.

Now I have mixed feelings about Delta. Half the time they were careful. It really matters who takes care of you in the air. The flight attendant’s care on the first flight saved us a lot of stress. The second crew kept giving us snacks and cakes which they had no idea what they’re made of.

If you have a child with allergies, you already know about the stress of flying. If you don’t have food allergies in your family, then enjoy the food, sometimes it can be quite delicious and fun. We love the little packages the airplane food is wrapped in. It is like having a tea party with my daughter every time we fly.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Museum Booty

In case you haven't already guessed I LOVE taking the Little Man to museums. There is nothing like hearing him say an enthusiastic "WOW!" when we enter a room or turn a corner. I love touring around leisurely while he takes it all in or takes a nap (he's really good that way). When we go we always have to have a break at the cafe and then our last stop is ALWAYS the museum shop.

I'm kind of obsessive really. I scour museum shops for cool gifts, postcards and toys for the Little Man. The museums here in Europe do not disappoint. I'll be showing you some of my unique and cool finds in this series, Museum Booty.

My first example is from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I may be a little biased when I say this but I really love what they have done with the museum. The renovations it has undergone have really given it an intimate feel and 'wow' inspiring feeling. Also, it was very easy to go through with a stroller (elevators and very helpful & friendly museum staff).

Now the goods -puzzles. No, I'm not talking about shoddy cardboard, lead paint laden, made in China, poison and/or choke your kid kind of puzzle with cheesy kittens and puppies. I'm talking about a real wood board jigsaw puzzle with some pretty famous paintings. Yup, these little beauties I picked up from the gift shop have Van Gogh's "Portrait of Marcelle Roulin" and "Fishing boats on the beach at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer." Do you know what the MOST ridiculous things about them is? The price! They were less than 3 a piece! And you don't have to worry about them having too many pieces (only 20) nor do you have to worry about it being crushed in luggage.
On a related note and if you can't make it to Amsterdam -no problem! Install the Rijksmuseum way-cool widget on your computer to see their masterpieces (and descriptions!) and you can also order from their online store. Click here for the link.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Oh, I'm angry now!

One of my favorite baby blogs -DaddyTypes has a new post up about a docent at The National Gallery in Washington DC. I have to tell you it makes me very mad to hear that some docent is telling children that,
"Well, there are curators--do you know what that is? art experts who study and know what art is important enough to be in a museum--curators and art historians and other experts who say this is art, and even if it doesn't look like it's about anything and it doesn't make any sense, you just have to bear with it sometimes."
What the %^#@ is that?! Since when do we let Homer Simpson be a docent? Statements like that make art seem like it something for the elite or for the well studied and I have to tell you THAT is the biggest load of BS EVER!Take your child to the local museum* and let them take a look around and don't say a word. You'll notice that they can see and feel art all by themselves -they don't need a docent like the one above to squash their views nor do they need an expert to tell them what art is.

*I do not care if you feel like you are the world's most culturally illiterate parent just DO IT!

By the way, 50 points to the person who can identify the paintings here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Yummy Playground Atlanta

For those of you who need a rest from juggling your little one on long haul flights in and out of Atlanta check out their international concourse -they have a toddler gym with mats! Great place to let off some steam for me and the little one. And catch up on emails too!

If you have a longer layover head out to the Atlanta Zoo it is really a very nice zoo with Pandas. For a super fun place to have a retro meets good old south food go to Agnes & Muriel's Restaurant. Try the sweet potato fries, sangria and gobs of other great food! Atlanta sure is a nice place for a wedding!
[Thanks to Mike & Laura -we had a great time!]