Our Beautiful Christmas Tradition

Our Beautiful Christmas Tradition

Every year, our family has a beautiful experience where we travel to cut down a tree from a Christmas Tree farm. For the last couple of years, we have driven up to Wantage Christmas Tree Farm in North Jersey. We love the drive up there, the location, and the tree selection. 

The experience is always spectacular. This year, Paul had a blast roaming around the land, exploring nature, and selecting trees that he liked. He was intrigued with the dirt roads, grassy land, mountains, and trees. We just roamed and enjoyed our time for a good hour before selecting a tree. 

We chose a beautiful, full, relatively short Douglass Fur tree. Paul helped Dada cut it down, collected part of the trunk that Dada cut off, collected some branches and pine needles, and helped drag it down the moutain. 

Here are some pictures from this beautiful experience:

Thank you for reading! I hope you have a happy day!

Happy 21 Months

Happy 21 Months

Happy Friday! I feel like so much has happened over the course of the last two months. Paul is officially talking, and it has been so incredible to watch his language development progress. He currently tries to say everything we ask him to say, and he has at least 50 words that he uses. Month 19 was all about learning new words and sounds. The day after my last developmental update post, Paul started saying boob, bed, mom, dad, daddy, bread, goodnight, good morning, bus, hi, hey, hello, more, bye bye and grandma. During month 19, he Also started addressing the cats by their own names. He used to call them all Boo Boo, but now he calls them Boo Boo, Owen, and Baby. Throughout month 20, he continued adding more words. He loves to count, so now he says one, two, three, four, five while counting. He says feet, foot, the end, bye bye bus, pasta, kiss, hand, month, nose, eye, eyeball, hair, belly, diaper, ear, book, cup, red, blue, yellow, Matt, up, down, ready, all done, play, table, chair, Monday, chips, food, dinner, water, etc. He is able to point to his facial features and say the words. He is trying to say 2 and 3 word sentences. It’s absolutely incredible. His pretend play has become even more sophisticated now that he has language. He pretends to talk on the phone, and conversations will go like this:

“Hello, well, mama, ok, bye bye”

It’s so adorable.

During month 20, he starting playing with blocks. He loves building them and then saying “timber!” although he says “nimbone!” He also loves completing puzzles. 

Paul sleeps from 730 pm to 700 am in his crib. Most nights he sleeps through the entire night. On the nights that he wakes up, it is because he is thirsty; so Matt gives him a bottle of water and stays in the room until Paul falls back to sleep. I love his sleep schedule. 

Paul naps for 1 to 2 hours a day. The time he falls asleep varies. Usually he falls asleep at 11 am or 1 pm. He still nurses to sleep for nap only. 

Months 19 and 20 were a blast! I’m so excited to see what month 21 brings.

 Thank you for reading, I hope you have a happy day! 

My Search for the Perfect Prenatal Vitamin

My Search for the Perfect Prenatal Vitamin

Good evening and happy Wednesday =D I wrote this back when I was pregnant with Paulie and wanted to share! I hope this helps pregnant mama’s and those trying to become pregnant =)

As a new mom-to-be, I was surprised to discover that the majority of commercially available prenatal vitamins contain ingredients that are considered toxic to humans. For this post, I am focusing on two specific types of toxins: food additives and mercury. FD&C Red #3, Blue #1, Green #3, Yellow #5, and Mercury are just some of the widely used ingredients in both prescription and over the counter prenatal vitamins. As a result of this, I considered discontinuing taking prenatal vitamins completely, but it quickly became apparent that doing so would render me incapable of adequately monitoring my essential nutrient intake solely through careful dieting. While it is incredibly important that pregnant women take prenatal vitamins, it is also essential that we stay informed about the ingredients in our dietary supplements. I am very passionate about early childhood development, and I truly believe that it is possible that toxins found within food and supplements could impact a child’s development. There are two main questions that I ask myself before taking a prenatal vitamin.

1. Does the pill contain any food additives?

Researchers have been publishing studies concluding that food additives may be contributing to ADHD in children since the early 1990’s. After conducting a study on two groups of children, Bateman (2004) concluded “that the effect of food additives on behavior occurs independently of pre-existing hyperactive behavior.” The behaviors of both groups of children (those who were diagnosed with ADHD and those who did not exhibit characteristics of any behavioral disorder) significantly changed after the additives were removed from their diet. According to Tuormaa (1994), the reason for these “subtle or exaggerated behavioral changes” is most likely due to the impact that food additives have on neurotransmitter release (which is essential for brain function). Weiss (2012) noted this response made by the FDA Food Advisory Committee in 2011: “For certain susceptible children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other problem behaviors, the data suggests that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

Color additives are a type of food additive that is found in many food items (often found in foods targeted towards children), and is also found in most prenatal vitamins. With all of the evidence linking food additives to ADHD in children, it is alarming that I have not been able to find studies focusing on the impact (or lack of) that color additives have on pregnancy and the developing fetus. I have noticed that many times, the color additive is not listed as an ingredient on the brand’s box; and it was not until I called each company to talk to a representative that I discovered that I was taking a vitamin that contained color additives.

2. Where is the DHA extracted from?

DHA is an Omega 3 fatty acid that is essential to a baby’s brain development. Many vitamins extract DHA from fish, which would be acceptable if they extracted DHA from fish that do not contain high levels of mercury.  Mercury is highly toxic and could negatively impact the development of a fetus. Oken (2008) concluded that children born to women who consumed fish with high levels of Mercury during pregnancy had “lower developmental test scores at age 3 years.”

When I first started searching for prenatal vitamins that contain DHA, I noticed that many brands would extract DHA from sources other than fish. However, the box often times does not indicate the entire source of where they extract the DHA from. For example, CitraNatal Harmony says on the box that 40% of the DHA is extracted from a plant. What about the other 60%? When I spoke to a representative, I discovered that the other 60% is from a synthetic DHA. Prenate says that they extract 100% of their DHA from fish, but what kind of fish? When I spoke to a representative, he was unsure of what type of fish it was extracted from. With the possibility that mercury will impact a developing fetus, my goal has been to find a vitamin with DHA that is extracted from fish with low mercury levels or solely from plants.

It is a major issue that brands are regularly offering misleading information and not thoroughly labeling the ingredients found within their products. Since boxes may fail to provide accurate information about the ingredients, I recommend to always call and ask a representative these two very important questions so that women are aware of what they are consuming. 

References

Bateman B., Warner J O., Hutchinson E., Dean T., Rowlandson P., Gant C., Grundy J., Fitzgerald C., Stevenson J. (2004). The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Retrieved from http://adc.bmj.com/content/89/6/506.full.pdf+html

Tuormaa T. (2004). The Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Health: A Review of the Literature with Special Emphasis on Childhood Hyperactivity. Retrieved from http://www.natural-knowhow.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Additives-and-child-hyperactivity-article.pdf

Weiss B. (2012). Synthetic Food Colors and Neurobehavioral Hazards: The View from Environmental Health Research. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernard_Weiss/publication/51650459_Synthetic_food_colors_and_neurobehavioral_hazards_the_view_from_environmental_health_research/links/0912f50c000252a10c000000.pdf

Oken E., Radesky J., Wright R., Bellinger D., Amarasiriwardena C., Kleinman K., Hu H., Gillman M. (2008). Maternal Fish Intake during Pregnancy, Blood Mercury Levels, and Child Cognition at Age 3 Years in a US Cohort. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/10/1171.full.pdf+html

Poor Latch, Bloody Nipples, and Insufficient Milk Supply? This May Be the Resolvable Reason Why.

Poor Latch, Bloody Nipples, and Insufficient Milk Supply? This May Be the Resolvable Reason Why.

The first three weeks of breastfeeding were completely disheartening and discouraging. Breastfeeding is something that I thought would come naturally to me, but at that time, it was for me the most difficult part of being a new mother. I find that there are two components to breastfeeding, the emotional and the physical. Emotionally, I have an innate desire to nourish my baby with my milk from my breast, so when I was faced with the necessity to both supplement with formula and pump my milk and feed him with a bottle, I felt like a complete failure. Then, there is the physical component where I just want my baby to be nourished, even if the nourishment does not come from me. I just want what is best for my son.

My husband and I met with two lactation specialists during the two days that we spent at the hospital after the birth of my son. We had issues with latching from the beginning, which caused my baby to lose 10 ounces during our hospital stay. It was devastating to us. Both specialists said that he had a posterior tongue tie as well as a lip tie. The lip tie was preventing him from opening his mouth wide enough to latch on correctly and the posterior tongue tie was preventing him from maneuvering his tongue correctly to efficiently remove milk from me. The poor latch caused breastfeeding to be painful and he would try to drink for up to four hours at a time every 30 to 60 minutes because of his inability to remove milk from me.

The two lactation specialists presented me with three options: to continue trying to breastfeed with the lip and posterior tongue tie, to get the tongue tie and lip tie released with a laser by going to see a dentist, or to get the lip tie and posterior tongue tie released with surgical scissors by an ears, nose, and throat doctor. I tried to continue breastfeeding with the ties for three weeks, but I felt defeated. He was constantly hungry, I was in pain, my nipples were bleeding and my ducts were always clogged which as a result prevented my milk supply from increasing. We found ourselves supplementing with one to two bottles a day and I had to pump directly after breastfeeding to unclog my ducts. Since his appetite was increasing and I was already unable to satisfy his hunger, I decided to make an appointment with the ears, nose, and throat doctor.

Going into the office, I was very hesitant about the procedure. The doctor spent a lot of time with us during the consultation explaining everything we would need to know and answering our questions. We felt comfortable with her, so we decided to get the procedure done. She did not use any anesthetics. The procedure lasted about three minutes. She cut the lip tie, and she made four cuts underneath his tongue. To me, there was a lot of blood, but he stopped crying almost instantly. The doctor then spent time with us working on his latch, and there was an immediate noticable difference. For the first time, breastfeeding was painless. He chugged until he was satisfied and he passed out for the first time after 30 minutes of nursing. I cried with delight–this was the first time I was able to satisfy my son’s hunger; it was the first time my milk ducts were not clogged; and to my delight–no more bloody nipples! 

For seven days following the procedure we had to massage the area to ensure that it did not heal back into the tongue tie. If you are having difficulty with breastfeeding; if its painful, if your bleeding, if your ducts are clogging, if your baby is never satisfied, he may have a tongue and/or lip tie. There are different types of ties, but they all impact a baby’s ability to eat efficiently. I highly recommend taking him to an ears, nose, and throat doctor who can perform a frenulectomy.

Three and a half months following the procedure, my breasts were producing enough milk that I was able to discontinue supplementing with formula and solely exclusively breastfeed. My son cluster fed for hours each day which increased my body’s supply. Now, my son is twenty months old and we are enjoying every minute of extended breastfeeding. Our journey with breastfeeding has been incredible. 

Happy 19 Months

Happy 19 Months

Good afternoon and happy Thursday! Paul bear is 19 months old today, and this will officially be the last monthly update. My focus going forward will be sharing activities that foster his development. Month 18 was spectacular; here are some of the milestones Paul has reached:

  • He holds books correctly; flips page by page; identifies front cover and back cover; identifies words and illustrations; and tries to read!
  • He falls asleep in his crib without nursing at night and sleeps from 7:30pm to 6am.
  • He has acquired a lot more language and he tries to say every word we ask him to say.
  • He puts on his shorts and pants and tries to pull them up and down.
  • He walks up and down any step holding onto the railing.
  • He still loves to pretend to cook and do chores
  • He gives good morning and good night kisses to everyone; including the cats.
  • He independently gives kisses when someone has a boo boo or is sad and He asks for kisses when he has a boo or is sad.
  • He LOVES snuggling.
  • Daytime nursing has increased because we weaned before bedtime and nighttime nursing.
  • He shakes his head yes and says NAH when he wants something.
  • He jokes!! When I say something like, “do we eat cat food?” He says “noooo”
  • When I say I love you, he looks at me and makes kissing gestures.
  • He loves imitating mama and dada and always wants to do chores like washing the dishes, doing laundry, and putting his toys away! Thank you Paul for helping keep our home clean =)
  • He is super strong; he can climb up almost anything at the park, and he can do pull ups and hold himself up on the monkey bars for longer than I can. We go to the playground everyday to work on his gross motor skills and strength.
  • He has become more interested in art; we are working on his fine motor skills through coloring, gluing, ripping paper, etc.
  • He loves books; he points to words when he reads.
  • He can make some animal sounds; he can make the sounds horses, sheeps, owls, cows and dogs when asked.
  • He can identify the colors: red, blue, orange, green and purple.
  • He understands the prepositions behind, in front of, under, on top, in, out, etc.
  • He calls all women and girls “mamas”, all men “dadas”, all girls and boys “boys”.
  • His canine teeth are growing in, and he has been in so much pain. On days he is teething, nap is a no go. It’s okay though, it means extra snuggles for mama and dada!

These are some of the milestones Paul has reached this month =) Thank you for reading! I hope you have a happy Friday =D

Activity of the Day: Object Permanence and Memorization Fun

Activity of the Day: Object Permanence and Memorization Fun

Good evening and happy Monday! Today, Paulie had so much fun engaging in an activity that really enhances his cognitive development. The activity involves placing an item underneath a bowl and asking the child to find the item. This is not a new activity for Paul; when he was younger, I used to place an object under one of two bowls. Now that he is older, I use three bowls. Paul watches me place the object under one of the bowls, and then he watches me mix them. The way I line them up varies. After I mix them, I ask him, “where did the (for example) ball go?” and then he looks for it. After we engage in the activity for a while, I add another object; so now he has to remember where two objects are. He watches me place one object under one bowl, the other object under another bowl, watches me mix the bowls, and then looks for the item that I ask him to find. This activity offers a great opportunity to enhance language development. Use as much language as possible. Explain what you are doing; what he is doing; and use as many descriptive words as possible. The language that we used during this activity was: yellow, ball, under, red, bowl, red, triangle, smaller, larger, bigger, mix, mixing, mixed, round, circle, over, in, out, ridges, bumpy, smooth, watch, lift, find, etc.

Here are some pictures! =D

Thank you so much for reading! I hope that you have a happy day! =D

Activity of the Day: Playing with Rice

Activity of the Day: Playing with Rice

Good afternoon and happy Thursday! As an early childhood educator, placing rice in the sensory table was always one of my favorite activities to do with the children. For such a simple activity, so much learning can occur so long as it is facilitated =) Today, Paul played with dry rice for the first time, and he had so much fun learning through this sensory activity! 

Sensory develoment 

  • He manipulated the rice by squeezing it with his hand, pinching it with his fingers, rubbing it on the floor with his hands, and using other tools such as bowls, measuring cups, and blocks to manipulate the rice with. 
  • He also felt the rice as I poured it on his hands and hid his hands underneath the rice. 
  • He picked and swiped the rice to find my hand, as well as other objects, hidden in the rice. 

Language Development

  • We used the following words during this activity: grain, hard, small, slippery, dump, pour, drop, rub, hide, hiden, cover, slip, a lot, a little, add, subtract, etc 
  • I used the following commands and questions: pick it up with your fingers, squeeze it with your hands, rub the rice between your hands, rub the rice on the floor with your hands, where are the shapes, where is my hand, where is your hand, use the scoop to scoop the rice into the bowl, etc. 
  • the goal is the expose Paul to as much language as possible. 

Fine motor development 

  • He is using his hands and fingers to manipulate the rice and tools. 

Cognitive development 

  • He engaged in pretend play =) he pretended that he was eating and cooking with the rice. He served us both rice in bowls and said “num num” and pretended to eat it. He even used utensils! 
  • He followed the commands and thought about the questions I asked.
  • He is practicing two step commands, such as “pick up the rice with your hand and eat it.”

Here are some pictures: 

Activity of the Day: Making Banana Bread

Activity of the Day: Making Banana Bread

Happy Tuesday! Today, Paul had so much fun learning through making, tasting, smelling, and exploring all of the ingredients needed for baking Banana bread. 

Language Development 

  • The following academic language was used during this activity: add, plus, subtract, minus,  more, less, bigger, larger, smaller, equal, first, second, third, then, last, finally, solid,  liquid, etc
  • The following language was also used: soft, wet, warm, hot, cold, hard, stick, butter, eggs, one, two, cups, measuring cup, bowl, flour, rise, sugar, sweet, stick, sticky, salt, salty, nits,  pecans, crumble, mash, fork, masher, mashed, pour, dump, mix, batter, in, on top, pre heat, oven, oven mit, rough, smooth, grainy, soft, etc

Sensory develoment 

  • He felt the difference between a cold stick of butter and hot melted butter. 
  • He felt the difference between a banana and mashed bananas. 
  • He felt the texture of flour, sugar, salt, egg shells, and the batter. 

Fine motor development 

  • He manipulated all of the ingredients and tools with a his fingers and hands.

Cognitive Develoment 

  • Practicing following one step, two step, and three step commands such as “pick up the spoon and scoop the sugar into the bowl”

This was a fun activity that strengthened Paul’s language, sensory, cognitive, fine motor, culinary and mathematical skills. Here are some pictures =)

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you have a happy day =)

Activity of the Day: Making and Manipulating Mud

Activity of the Day: Making and Manipulating Mud

Happy Sunday! Today, Paul had lots of fun learning through making mud and getting dirty! 

Sensory Development 

  • Paul touched and explored the dirt in four phases. First he explored the dirt before we added water; then watched and felt the dirt as it turned into mud as we added the water; then played with the mud while it was wet; and then  explored the mud after it was completely dried up and hard from the sun. 

Language Development

  • During this activity, I used as much language as possible. We used the following words: dirt, dry, soft, dirty, gritty, mud, muddy, dump, add, pour, water, wet, sticky, heavy, light, sunlight, hot, dried, hard, etc.

Fine Motor Development 

  • Paul used multiple grips and grasps to manipulate the dirt, mud, and tools that were used during this activity.

Cognitive Develoment

  • Paul learned how the state of dirt changes to mud when water is added; and how mud hardens when it is exposed to sunlight.

Here are some pictures;

Activity of the Day: Learning Mathematical Concepts through the Manipulation of Blocks

Activity of the Day: Learning Mathematical Concepts through the Manipulation of Blocks

As a early childhood educator, the constructive play area is an essential center in my classroom because it provides children with mathematical learning opportunities through the manipulation of blocks. In this center, children play with abstract geometrical shapes to create a structure using their imagination. During this play, students develop a foundation for spatial reasoning, spacial orientation (knowing how to get around; mapping), number sense (estimating, counting, understanding the meaning of the words many, few, less and more), geometric thinking (generalizing shapes across contexts by creating, manipulating, and drawing shapes), spacial visualization (using a mental image to manipulate imagined movements), problem solving, recognizing attributes of shapes (understanding points and lines), and understanding AB patterns (understanding repetitive and growing patterns strengthens the foundation of algebraic thinking; for example, a repetitive pattern of circle square circle square circle square). 

Paul has officially started building; and he is currently learning how to balance blocks on top of each other. =D Here are some pictures:

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